C1W5: From Theory into Practice

How do you use the learning theories in your everyday practice to support student learning?

Are you starting to notice different things in your classroom/school?

I find students are more open minded about what we are learning and why we are learning it (buy in!). I think connecting ideas from class to the real world is the key in constructing knowledge.

On the other hand, I find that standards can be very ‘academic’ and not clear on how they connect to the real world. At times I feel like I need a translator to help me understand what the standard* is saying (in a subject I’ve been teaching for awhile and have academic background in) and then a professional to help me relate said standard to the real world. Perhaps those with PhDs (experts) in writing curriculums and standards need to think more about real world connections too and how those of us who aren’t experts may have trouble making sense of it all?

*I am working on unpacking the NGSS so my views are based on using new standards. It is year 2. School is using the Pearson Elevate Series as a curriculum resource for more support.

Connectivism acknowledges that the half life of knowledge is decreasing and it’s impossible for everyone to experience everything but we can get close by sharing experiences. I think we need more of this, especially when it comes to science teaching and scientific literacy. I don’t know many professionals in the field but I have heard about Skype A Scientist! I am looking forward to using this program soon. I also follow many women in tech/stem/and science communication on Twitter and it is a new world of possibility. They are easy to find when you take notice.

I also think it’s really important for the whole school community to demonstrate using these theories in practice and educating parents and new staff on using them. If a few teachers are using these theories into practice but no one else is, it can lead to backlash from students and their parents, especially when teaching in other cultures. Has this happened to you?

Have you begun modifying what you do in your classroom/school?

I’m trying to look for more and more real world issues to relate to the content that students also can relate to. I’m always looking for activities for students to experience and reflect on. Finally, I want to use more authentic audiences but sometimes I am concerned about how to do this with Child Protection Laws and the internet. How do you and your school find ways to incorporate authentic audiences while still providing child safety?

How has your understanding of learning theories affected your planning and implementation of online learning (if you have been affected by COVID-19)?

From connectivism: keeping lessons and assignments short and sweet without taking away from the meaning or learning, modeling for students what it looks like to discern important from unimportant information, encouraging students to use class connections to answer questions or to add on to ideas. How?

  • use peer feedback to improve work (each student has their own tab on a class shared spreadsheet)
  • use class collaboration to decide on assessment rubric (small groups decide on Hangouts, each group types ideas on class shared Padlet, video conference with whole class to decide on final criteria)
  • encourage students to spend the first few minutes of a lesson reading over Classroom/slideshow learning goals/resources and jotting down any questions they have and then follow up by class video conference. After main greeting and summarized intro, any students with more questions can stay in the conference and the other students can leave and start on their assignments. Students can also post questions to Hangouts for me or better yet, other students to answer!
  • Adding additional instructional videos to Classroom and Hangout for those students who show up late or are absent during virtual class.
  • Emailing absent/late students within the first 10 min of class inviting them to join the lesson.
  • Doing a fun review activity for the first 10min of the lesson like Quizlet Live using their unit vocabulary, Quizizz, or Pear Deck flash cards and then trying them on Gimkit (more than 10min). This gives me time to take ‘attendance’ and to write emails reminding students that we have started the lesson.
  • Using Hangouts and making small groups; students can practice with each other or give feedback. I also check in by voice conference with the different small groups to see if they are using accountable talk while I’m on mute. I let them know beforehand that I’ll be adding myself to their conferences. It’s helpful that other teachers in my grade level are doing the same thing as students are familiar with it.
7 comments to “C1W5: From Theory into Practice”
7 comments to “C1W5: From Theory into Practice”
  1. Hi Melanie, I like how you mapped out your ways of using theory in your teaching practice. You really have a handle on where they’re linked. Was this an easy brainstorm for you or did you have to put a lot of thought into it? My school is just starting online learning due to school closure. I especially like your suggestion of having a soft start to your online lessons and quickly contacting absent students. I will definitely share your idea with the classroom teachers I work with. Thank you for your post! -Holly

    • Hi Holly!

      I had to put a bit of thought in to the brainstorm and thought it easier to show it in a mind map. The verbs used to describe the learning theories and Bloom’s were helpful to make connections. This exercise really showed me that my school uses up to date teaching practices.

      My school also changed its schedule to reflect needs and challenges of virtual learning. It’s still synchronous learning but shorter class times and school day due to concerns about screen time and low activity. We start this new schedule this week. We also sent out surveys to parents, students, and teachers about virtual learning and used the feedback to make some changes like this!

      I’m glad you found something useful. There are many different parts to teaching online but taking it slowly and checking in with others is good start. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Hi Melanie!

    I used to have a PowerPoint for each topic in DP Biology. I think there are a dozen lessons, in the 2-year programme, where I use a more didactic approach. Students, as a matter of fact, can be harsh critics of innovative pedagogy, particularly at the DP level. The high-flyers often want to be told what they need to remember for the exams, including the way they’re expected to respond. I’ve witnessed similar reactions when the focus shifts to Approaches to Learning, Theory of Knowledge and International Mindedness connections, and core elements of the programme which students perceive as peripheral, when in fact, it’s the opposite.

    The closure of campuses and the move towards online learning has forced the hand of schools, particularly teachers. There is no escaping technology now. It would be a shame if, when all is said and done, that schools return to their business as usual.

  3. Hi Melanie.
    I love that you made a mind map of the different learning theories – it is a helpful visual.

    How are your synchronous lessons going? My school decided to have us share mini lessons with the students as short videos via Google Slides, along with assignment directions. We elementary teachers still meet with our students each day, but we just to check in with them and answer any questions they have (we don’t teach the lessons online). Do you know why your school decided to do synchronous lessons?

    • Hi Erika,
      Thank you for your comment!

      Synchronous lessons are going okay. I will start a new unit next week and will switch to a more blended learning approach to encourage students to communicate, collaborate, and share more during the lesson. I find it difficult to get them all engaged and speaking to each other with how my lessons are set up now. And the time goes by so much faster!

      That’s a great idea that your school is doing! I think the elementary teachers at my school are doing something similar where they post the day’s work in the morning and then are available for support. My middle school sent out surveys each week to parents, students, and staff and from the data, it was decided to adjust the school day schedule (a bit shorter with more breaks) but still have synchronous lessons. I think the idea is that it helps to keep students on a schedule and puts more responsibility on them than on their parents (some of which are still working). Most students are adjusting smoothly but they think there is still too much work (over all of their subjects). I really have to focus on only doing the essentials in my next unit, I’m concerned I planned too much!

      How is planning going for you? How do you parents and students feel about the amount of work being assigned each day?

  4. Hi Melanie,
    I like very much how you implemented the theories of connectivity in your teaching practice and how you summerize your practice during virtual learning.
    I think it is always nice to compare around the world, how are other teachers dealing with this situation. Thank you very much for sharing so detailed your teaching practice.
    I found it very helpful the idea of reminding the students with an email that the class has just started and inviting them to join the meeting.
    It is a great way to check on students’ attendance. I
    have a problem online, even when the students are joining later the zoom conference that I have to explain over and over again the instructions and it is annoying. Even I post first the task via seesaw the activity and the expectations, they don’t take enough time to read carefully and they just expect from me to explain over and over the task.
    I will try to take more time, in the beginning, to read through the instructions. I am wondering, do you read them aloud to them or do they read by themself? How much time do you give them for that? The first 10 minutes? I used to explain everything by myself first and then to point out that the detailed instructions are on the seesaw and they could check it anytime.
    What a brilliant idea that your school together with the community of the parents agreed of a different schedule and a shorter time or a shorter session than the 50 minutes. We have for the 4th and 5th graders even 100min zoom meetings in a block.

    I wish you lots of success and if you have any questions about virtual learning, please don’t hesitate to ask me as well as how we are doing in ISB. We made a very useful padlet with ideas and methods for all the classes and subjects in PYP.

  5. Hi Melanie,
    and thank you for the great informational post and for the Mind Map!
    I am wondering how to encourage students, teachers, and parents to be the followers of the Connectivism theory. It feels that we have soo much information, ideas and changes around, that no change feels good for a while. What strategies do you use not to feel overwhelmed by the information coming and how do you organize things, and by looking at the Mind Map I am sure you have the great tips for many of us, who are reading.

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