Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our Drives

I´ve just started reading Daniel Pink´s latest book, now better than ever with the wonderful little gadget my dear friend Dennis Oliver gave me. During my 45-minute workout I can easily flip pages in my Kindle. Never has it been so pleasant to exercise in two such good companies, the book and my new digital toy! Gratitude apart, I have to say that Daniel Pink´s concepts resonates with what I think and what I see happening with people around me.

He mentions three of our main drives, the biological one - our first drive that made us survive as species, the externa rewards and punishments, our carrots and sticks, and our Third Drive, that intrinsic, transcendent motivation that makes us move beyond and do things out of the common sense.

One example of that is certainly the Ed Tech Team I work with at my school. These guys are just an incredible bunch. They don´t get any external reward, no extra money to do what they do, not the hours they deserve to work on the many projects we have. In fact, they have only 2 administrative hours to perform their roles, but they go way beyond. They spend sleepless nights, have brilliant ideas to tackle our educational issues, they are constan problem solvers, they are teachers supporters, help desk, imaginative, creative souls that have this drive, this intrinsic motivation to think and act, to support and share. Only by understanding the nature of this inner drive we have, we´re able to reach this group´s motivation to be there, only by getting the sense of flow, generosity, commitment, creativity, we get the feeling of what motivates us to step forward is certainly this heuristic tasks we perform that gives us personal self-fullfillment, self-directedness and the recognition of our work by our colleagues.

What would be other examples of drive that are not explained by external rewards and the fear of punishment:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Presentation Skills

Our brains are networks of information.

We like to get information from multiple modes. We like to see materials in different ways. Presentations are related to activating senses.

In good presentations, the audience has a sense where we are going, a sense of structure.

Four Signposts of Presentation Skills Mastery (Jeary, 2004)
  • Unconscious Incompetence - You don´t know what a presentation is or why you should care about improving your skills in this area.
  • Conscious Incompetence - You are aware of presentations skills enough to know that other people have them, but you don´t.
  • Conscious Competence - Most of us are in this skills stage. You have learned some basics and are now putting them into practice. However, you must still pay lots of attention to mechanics & delivery.
  • Unconscious Competence - You have assimilated the skills necessary for maximum effectiveness.
Jeary´s Two-Part Presentation Framework

Degrees of Readiness
  • Technical skills
  • Content knowledge
  • Audience Research
  • Materials, handouts
  • Logistical preparation
Expertise in Delivery

  • Pacing of delivery
  • Dynamism & passion
  • Voice quality
  • Body placement & movement
  • Interaction of above with content
How do you know you are ready
Main points, genre, rhetorical purpose, logistics, time limits

Be careful with humor because of crosscultural issues.
The more you practice, the better.
The power point is not the presentation.

Workshop with Thom Upton

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Reading Brain

Thinking outside the box from our own disciplines.

Children need to read their own thoughts while they read. They have to reach their potential.

There's no such thing as an ideal reading brain.

How does the brain learn something new?
  • Ability to form new connections - neuroplasticity; taking older structures and making new arrangement; each child needs to make these connections to make the reading brain.
  • capacity for "working groups" of neurons to specialize (e.g., pattern recognition). The brain can rearrange itself in multiple ways to read (Bulger, Perfetti & Scneider)
  • capacity for automatization
We teachers need to stop thinking in binary approaches. You don't see things in one way or the other. We need to teach our students to connect the circuits.

The brain takes time. We're pushing our children too fast. There's no reading center in our brains. Concepts in first language are essential platform for concepts and vocabulary in second language.

Reading never just happens.

Everything matters:
  • Visual and auditory development
  • cognitive development
  • Language development
  • Social development
  • Emotional development
Ortographic Parts: Letters/Letter Patterns
Semantic System
Vocabulary development
Semantic breadth and depth
polysemy (multiple meanings) and Semantic flexibility

50% of the early words children learn have multiple meanings. You need to learn from the start the different meanings.

The more activition, the more easily and more quickly, the words are read. How well are the words known?

Word Poverty - economically and educationally disadvantaged children may have one-half the oral language vocabulary that is typical of children from middle-class.

Importance of morphology: orthographic, semantic, and syntactic information (jam, jams, jamming, unjammed). Knowing about morphemes helps with understanding and syntax and ortography.

Morpheme awareness - giving semantic and meaning information.

Syntax Matters - Children need to be prepared for the roles the words play. The more you know about a word, the faster you will read and comprehend that word.

When you're reading, you're putting your circuit together and then something magical happens: there's a moment of pause and all the other info comes together. We need to read fast enough so that we can think their own thoughts (Proust).

The dyslexic brain thinks differently. Many successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. We, as educators, have to learn how to teach them right.

  • Intervention must address:
  • development of each recruited structure (phonemes, syntax)
  • system connections
  • automaticity
  • time to comprehend and think new thoughts
RAVE-O program
The development of representations in all and each process that contributes to reading:
The connections among these processes: (MIM - Many Interesting Meanings - think flexibly about the meanings) bat-batter-hit-batman

The reading brain in a digital age: the children are in this sense of suspended reading action and going in a deeper reading process. They are always going, going, going...We're in a constant battle of getting more information. We're surfers of knowledge.

Socrates: print would give the illusion of truth and create no ambtion in the young beyond the superfluity of knowledge.

We need to be concerned by the development of our deeper reading skills.

We're after deep reading processes. Think through deeply, analyzing, . Developmental process of thinking. A brain with two languages is always better than a brain with one.

      Plenary Session with Dr. Maryanne Wolfe at the TESOL Conference, Boston 2010

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    TESOL 2010 - Howard Gardner's Five Minds For the Future

    Tesol 2010 - howard gardner

    Intelligence - multiple, rather than singular
    The mind is better thought of  as eight or nine different computers in your brain.

    The fourth or fifth country of the world is the country of immigrants.

    What kinds of minds do we need to cultivate in the 21st century?
    Globalization - global brands, electronic money transfer
    The biological revolution - About brains and genes. Everyday we are learning more about the creature we are. If you are going to think about learning in the future, you need to know what is learning in the biological field.
    The digital revolution
    Lifelong learning - If we want to continue working, we need to keep education ourselves.

    The five minds of the future:

    The disciplined mind - Working steadily and improving. Becoming an expert in a profession, craft, art, or end up unemployed or working for someone who is an expert (the task of work). Keeping up.Learning major way of thinking. People think discipline is just learning a lot of stuff. It is a waste of time to memorize things in a subject matter. Learning to think beyond subject matter is never substituted by an electronic device.

    The Synthesizing Mind - scads of information, especially on the web; we need to develop "synthesis 101" for teachers and students;Aristotle was probably the first great synthesizer. With information overload, we have to decide what to pay attention to, what to ignore, put it together in a way that makes sense to you. You have to communicate your synthesis to other people. We need to synthesize ourselves and we need to teach our students how to do that.

    The creating Mind - The mind that breaks new ground, comes up with new solutions, goes beyond the known, thinks outside the box. Creativity involves thinking outside the box, but you cannot be creative unless you have the box (the discipline and the capacity to synthesize)!The secret is to begin to mastering when you are young and the most innovation occurs when people are very young. Creators are willing to take up new things and they don't mind failing. "I regard every defeat as a new opportunity".

    Discipline is going deeply into things and creativity is stretching.
    The Human Sphere (beyond cognitive in usual sense)

    The Respectful Mind - treating other human beings with respect. Diversity is a fact of life with mixed population. Trying to put yourself in other people's place. Not being parochial. Thinking beyond your own skin. (No Cigar category - kiss up, kick down;no bad jokes; not just mere tolerance; respect with too many conditions). Example of Nelson Mandela (watch Invictous).

    The Ethical Mind - One which goes beyond a person as himself/herself. Acting appropriately in different roles.  Responsibilities as a professional and citizen. How does this plya out in a community like school?

    Book: Good Work
    Excellent, expert, disciplined, high quality
    Ethical, socially responsible, moral
    Engaging - meaningful, intrinsically, motivated
    Excellence>>>>Ethics>>>Engagement (ENA instead of DNA)

    Good Work with young people (Book: Making good - study of American Youth) - disturbing results:
    young people know the right thing to do: they want to be good workers, but we can't affort to be ethical now because now it is very competitive with students who are not being fair, cheat...Some day they want to be good workers, not now. We want to be good workers, but don't push us now. Howard and researchers are tyring to promote good work using digital (The good play project - http://www.goodworkproject.org/research/digital.htm)

    Five minds in a Digital Age
    discipline - depth loses out out to breadth
    synthesis - can one organize the deluge of information?
    Creativity - web 2.0 is promising, but many young people are risk averse and carrerist
    Respectful/Ethical - perhaps to inner circle but not necessrily to the wider community, how to become a cyber citizen (questions of digital footprint, identity).

    What are our roles as educators in nurturing the five minds?

    - Awareness of these five minds
    - examples from history or current events
    - Modeling and showing positive examples and bad examples (no cigar - calling attention to the consequences)
    - the five minds don't fit together as a jigsaw. There might be conflict.

    Thoughts for Language Teachers

    - Keep in mind the global, connected world. Learning how to learn.
    - explore the assumptions in the countries of origin of your students and have them share their views of creativity, respect, ethics...
    - Use the web to provide examples from different societies
    - Model the kinds of minds that you admire and that you hope your students to exhibit.

    The first three minds are cognitive (disciplined, synthesize - the box - creating ming . The last two kinds of mind (respectful, ethical) - thinking about our responsibilities.


    Leadership - Attending a Certificate Program in TESOL 2010

    Murphy's 8 roles for Intelligent Leadership:

    1. Selector
    2. Connector
    3. Problem Solver
    4. Evaluator
    5. Negotiator
    6. Healer
    7. Protector
    8. Synergizer
    The first 7 roles are worked on in order to have the synergy of a group in which the parts work best together than when they do it separately.

    Consider this communication ladder that we find in any organization:

    • contempt
    • hostility
    • avoidance
    • indifference
    • contact
    • awareness
    • involvement
    • empathy
    Where do you think you fit? Where are most of your colleagues? How would you help your co-workers to move towards contact, awareness, involvement and empathy?

    Supervision - rooted on the vision that supervisors should "examine" a teacher's classroom looking for "errors". This is historical, and that's why we still have many "snoopervisors".

    Effective Supervision - helping teachers to become reflective, well-informed learners and how we communicate with teachers.

    Three approaches to Supervision:
    1. Directive/informational approach
    2. Collaborative approach
    3. The self-directed approach
    Three barriers to communication with teachers:
    1. Judging behavior
    2. Offering unsolicited solutions
    3. avoiding other's concerns

    Session with MaryAnn Christison

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Google Swirl

    I was just playing with Google's swirl, a nice way to visualize images. It goes after the trend of more dynamic ways of visualization. Not that it is tremendously innovative, but it certainly adds a swirl fun to it.

    Have you tried it? What are your impressions?

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    e-Learning - Don't do This to your Online Students

    More and more I find myself looking for ways, activities, resources that will help me connect with my online students in meaningful ways. It's always a challenge, but when you hit it, the results are extremely rewarding. When you get your students to respond to a challenging, extra activity, heaven. Just like in any classroom, part of the job of learning is on the learner. However, there is that percentage which is teacher-driven. In any setting, students must feel they belong, imagine online!

    This video which I learned about via http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/ , a blog where you certainly will spend, but not waste time, shows exactly what is disconnection, lack of a motivating environment, feeling of isolation, not a teacher presence to guide, facilitate the learning process.Don't Do This to your Students!