Define Learning in 100 Words…

Learning is the process of change or growth that comes from life experiences. Intelligence is malleable – what we focus on we will learn. The life long learning that shows up in mission statements is about creating and maintaining a positive attitude to learning. It’s a passion for learning that comes from deep within. Learning because the learner wants to: it is a deliberate and voluntary act. It’s a cycle of motivation, examination, reflection, and growth that continues beyond the classroom door. As a teacher, I create a culture that nurtures a learning mindset – acknowledging that I too am a learner.

5 Ways Parents Inspire Passionate Learning

A few weeks ago, my son had to complete the 3rd grade Habitat Project. He was assigned the desert and did a great job working within a small group to present the life cycle and plant growth in the desert. He was interested in the desert plants and I suggested creating a terrarium. We took advantage of a quiet spring break morning to make it happen.

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The experience inspired my top five ways parents inspire their passionate learners:

  1. Build on their interests or current projects – Ask questions and find out what’s going on in school, on the video game, or in that book they can’t put down. My oldest son asked to play the violin after  learning about Mozart in preschool. I still remember him telling me, “His music is really powerful stuff!” Seven years later, he is still playing and so are my other children.
  2. Find an expert – The world if filled with people passionate people who are willing to share their interests. We found that the local EAA club gives mini classes on aviation on Saturday mornings. After studying gliders at school, the boys loved taking a ride in a small aircraft. Even better, I found two volunteers to visit my classroom!
  3. Indulge their curiosity – My 4th grade daughter wanted to know about Shakespeare when her teacher made a joke about his poetry in class. I could not believe she sat through Romeo and Juliet on Netfix, but decided it was interest enough to plan a trip to Spring Green, WI to see a show at the
  4. Learn together – When my school developed a 1:1 iPad program, my own kids were the best teachers available to show me the potential. As I write now, there is a motion picture being produced in the backyard with my iPad and the neighbor kids. It’s amazing to see what they can do and even more exciting to find out what new things they are going to teach me.
  5. Have fun – My 3rd grader has struggled to become a fluent reader. Some of the best tools we found are things like shaving cream and marshmallows. That kinesthetic activity helps build and strengthen what he is learning.  Yes, it’s a little messy, but it’s worth it to see him focus and enjoy things like spelling words and multiplication facts.

I really like the following infographic from The Michigan Department Of Education because it shows how important parents are to the educational process. If you want to read more check out, “What Research Says About Parent Involvement in Children’s Education In Relation To Academic Achievement.”

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What makes integrating technology worth it?

We are  two years into the 1:1 iPad program. At the start, and even more so today, I believe these are seven things that makes the integration of technology worth the effort:

Enable independence
This has been the biggest “teacher transition” for me. They don’t need me to lecture to them what I know. They have the tool(s) needed to find it out and “know it” for themselves. Instead of a sage I have become a “learning coach.”

Improve communication
Through email, blogs, social media etc. they can create conversations that go well beyond our four walls.

Problem solve
There are plenty of apps and tools that help them problem solve  and the intuitive nature of today’s technology encourages them to “push all the buttons” until they figured out how to get what they want.

The real excitement begins when you have four other students gathered around a desk saying “show me how you did that.” Followed by, “I wonder if we can get it to do…”

Provide storage
We are still looking for the perfect tool, but even with plain old email we can create a place to hold things. This becomes their portfolio of work and can be used to illustrate growth in a skill or subject area.  This is a tool used by lots of teachers, but when the product is digital; It’s not limited to paper, It’s not clutter that I we have to keep in storage, and we can each keep a copy. My need to be organized is fulfilled!

Assist with time management
Their calendar, planner, timer etc. are all on the iPad. It looks a lot like “real life” as we all put due dates on the calendar, set goals, and share events.

Inspires creativity
Students are constantly creating presentations, composing music, viewing art, reviewing literature, conducting research, editing for publication. They become photographers,
movie-makers, and authors instantly.

Makes learning fun
When they don’t know they are learning, when middle school students think they are “playing,” when they get excited to try something new – than learning and teaching are a whole lot of fun!

What am I missing? What makes technology worth integrating in your classroom? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you!