WHAT ARE EFFECTIVE LEARNERS?


Overview


How do I find and use information to construct meaning and solve problems?


Students and teachers will understand that learning is a lifelong process and that the pace of technological change requires us to focus on learning how to learn, rather than learning specific tools. It is expected that neither students nor teachers will know how to use every available tool, rather that they will be comfortable learning how to use new tools independently.

Independent learning requires that student and teachers are able to evaluate information for authenticity, relevance and bias as well as evaluate tools for applicability and effectiveness. As independent learners, teachers and students will be able to filter out unimportant stimuli and information so that they can focus on the important and useful, to be able to navigate graphical interfaces as well as different types of text and media formats.

Lifelong learners are reflective, they routinely practice metacognition to think about how and why they understand what they do, and they constantly strive to look deeper at their own thinking, processes and practices. Lifelong learners are intrinsically motivated to better understand the world around them and to use that knowledge for self-improvement.

Enduring Understandings


Students will begin to understand:

  1. The necessity, values, and methods of reflecting throughout the information gathering process.
  2. Why and how to effectively search for, evaluate, select, analyze, interpret, and synthesize appropriate information to problem solve.
  3. Bias influences the creation and interpretation of information.
  4. People use their prior knowledge to learn how to build new understandings and deal with any new technologies.


Sample Guiding Question : How do you know information is true?


At the heart of all knowledge and the ability to understand it, is truth. Truth speaks to believability. Truth questions source and credibility. Truth often relies on data analysis and truth can be founded in faith.

This essential question is NOT about technology, but rather it is a question that gets to the core of knowledge.

At an early childhood level, this discussion may result in discussion about adult figures of authority and telling the truth. Later on, in elementary school, this may develop into the first look at collecting evidence within a scientific context, or in discussions about reliable and unreliable digital and text sources. As students get older, this discussion will include online resources, bias, citing sources, data analysis and web queries, religion and faith. For all of these and more, technological tools will be needed/learned but as a tool when appropriate, but not as an end in itself.

Importantly, throughout all of this learning is the habit of conversation on bias. Students need to understand that all knowledge is founded on perspective, motivation, and experience.

As with the other questions, the literacy involving technology is only a part of a higher-order thinking requirement for all 21st century learners.

Focus Questions:


  • How can bias influence and shapes information and interpretation of truth?
  • How does the scientific method help us determine fact? [Science, Social Studies, Math]
  • What makes an expert source authoritative and what factors determine the "level" of expertise? [English, Social Studies, Science, PE/Health, Art]
  • How do faith and trust contribute to our acceptance of ideas as truth? [Social Studies, English, Science, Art]
  • How does previous personal experience shape understanding and belief in new knowledge? [PE/Heath, Science, Math, Social Studies, English, Art]


Learning In Action:


Enduring understanding: How does the scientific method help us determine fact?

Depending on grade level, the scientific method may involve a fair amount of data analysis. Rubrics will be included in this document to assess data analysis skills as well as effective communication of that information.

At this stage, teachers can develop the unit with the end in mind. What do they want students to be able to show at the end that would demonstrate their understanding of the content-specific essential question? The authentic assessment piece would be designed with that end in mind. And the necessary technology skills to accomplish that end would become clear at this point. Technology is brought in, only if it supports the data analysis or experimental method required for this assessment.

If the teacher did not feel comfortable teaching these technology skills then the technology coordinator should brought in to team teach or help. This person also may have even been brought in earlier, at the planning stage.


The example above highlights the very different approach that this embedded curriculum will take. In the past, attempts to integrate technology led to the creation of documents that detailed specific skills and the precise age or grade level at which a student would learn that skill. Also, past models focused on specific software titles like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. These curricula focused on dividing up the IT skills and assigning them to different departments for accomplishment and responsibility.

Occasionally, these skills were/are taught in isolated IT-specific classes - buoyed by a belief that skills learned in this class would be replicated and demonstrated throughout a students' school career. Instead, these students mostly required re-teaching of skills not being able to recall them in real-course context.

Each of the authors of this document have been involved in the creation of these sorts of integrated IT curricula. And each of us has seen them become dust-collecting, dead-weight in our respective schools. People do not use technology this way, so it has not been successful to integrate it into the curriculum that way.

Instead, people use technology as a tool to accomplish tasks. They use it as a tool to research information and to acquire knowledge

They use it when they need it.

It is embedded in their lives. And when a task arises that people need to accomplish, they learn the technology skills that the task requires to get the job done.

This is how technology is used and learned in the real world. It is this model that we are using to foster student technology learning, as well as teacher technology professional development. As tasks become more rich in technology use, so too will the requirements for learning, teaching and assessment.

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Sample Guiding Question: How do I learn best?




Reflection has always been is a powerful tool used to develop as a learner and individual. Today there are so many different ways in which an individual can acquire knowledge, communicate and learn about the world. Understanding yourself and which learning environments and information streams work best for you are important components of successful navigation in this information and learning landscape. Central to this is “learning how to learn” and developing in individuals an awareness of how they learn best and the different tool that are available to them for different informational situations. Growing an understanding about of the various learning strategies they employ and the types of resources they access in order to meet their information and learning needs are crucial elements to growing as learner today.
A new level of reflection is needed of today's students. Students not only need to know where information and guidance can be accessed but they also need to have the reflective ability to ask themselves "How would someone else organize the information I am looking for?" and "How would someones else describe the information I am looking for?". Having an awareness of the different learning styles and strategies that are found among different learners is an important first step to asking different types of questions and approaching a problem from several different perspectives. The "world wide web" is moving in a semantic direction where tags and meta-data will be the key to successful search and navigation of information. Preparation for this future will involve work on critical thinking skills and the ability to describe the terms of search and the questions we have in many different ways. This is an exciting time for the information landscape but never has meta-cognition and critical thinking been more important.
At the elementary school level this can happen organically through classroom conversation and guided reflection. To form solid learning habit students must be asked to think about their own work and thinking processes. Like so many important skills It is only through practice that students can deepen their thinking skills. In middle and high school students can be given self assessments as integrated parts of assignments and projects. By embedding this reflection into the assignment and assessment process we can encourage students to be accountable for their thinking and hopefully become more reflective in the process.
Helping students develop a wide variety range of strategies, positive learning attitudes and effective habits of mind is the shared responsibility of teachers, and is at the core of all curriculum development and delivery.

How I learn best?

  • How do I know?
  • How do I communicate and organize my understanding?

How do I help myself?

  • Where and whom to do I turn when I need help?
  • What is the right question to ask in order to find the right answer?
  • How does the type of problem guide my approach to the solution?
  • How does the language I use in my question affect the answer I come to?

How do I improve myself?

  • When and why do I reflect?


Enduring Understandings



  • Answers to questions, guidance and support can be found in many forms, mediums and connections
  • Reflection is a powerful and self improvement learning tool
  • Multiple intelligences exist in a community of learners
  • Each learner has set of optimal learning conditions and strategies


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Learning in practice:


Thinking and reflection takes time. If we value it and the research that suggests it is fundamental to growing as learner then we must allow for it and build it into our lessons, assignments and assessments. Reflection in its many forms does not have to become a chore to students if we make it a habit and part of the process of learning. Building in time to answer questions that encourage looking at work from different perspectives and then sharing that thinking with others allows students to develop a series of strategies they can call on to improve on what they are creating.
When it comes to learning with technology "learning how to learn" and "knowing where to find help" is crucial to success.