Monday, April 09, 2007

Simple Shifts Make a Difference

Sometimes, simple shifts make big differences. That's what hit me today when I woke up and it's been running around in my head all day long.

One way that was demonstrated to me was in a conversation with a teacher recently. We had a conversation one day about Pageflakes as a tool for pre-exposure to the learning goals for the day. Typically, this teacher, like many others, would place a list of tasks on the board or on the computer (then projected on a screen) that students must accomplish before the day's learning began. We began to think about using Pageflakes as a tool for pre-exposure to all of the learning planned for the day and she decided to use it for a little while to see what student's reactions would be. When I spoke with her about a week later, she remarked how it was having a positive effect on some of her students who now came into the classroom and saw the entire day's schedule not just a list of tasks to do. Many of these students also have the need to have the day's schedule close at hand to refer back to so they would go to the computer and print out a copy of the schedule and tape it to the corner of their desk. Simple shifts in daily routines had a positive effect on these students. Knowing was what next on the day's agenda provided the big picture that these students needed.

What other simple shifts have gone on that have now become something that we include in our instruction, that can produce powerful results for our students? One simple shift that many teachers made in their classrooms was configuring their desks from rows to clusters. This simple shift meant that students were no longer facing the front or looking at the backs of each others heads. They were now facing each other giving the teacher easier ways of inviting discussion and collaboration. Simple shifts...

Here are a few simple shifts that produce powerful results that I've listed for today - would anyone like to add others? What shifts have you noticed in your own practice? What is the power behind simple shifts? How does intent, value and purpose change as we make simple shifts?
• From full videos that the teacher controlled and showed to the whole class to downloadable video clips that the student can control and access when needed. The impact of this shifts control to the students, enables visual representation of complex concepts and these clips can be embedded into a Word document or PowerPoint for instruction or for individualized use.
• From using crayons, paints, etc. to using software drawing tools to create visual models and simple pictures. The software tools allow many more creative uses to create the visual.
• From surfing the Internet to RSS feeds. When I first started to read blogs, I would go to the links on one person's blog to get to others. Now, I use Bloglines and, at a glance, I know when newly published additions to those blogs have been created. That simple shift has saved lots of time and organized the content that I'm most interested in seeing on a daily basis. In addition to blogs, I also pull in some favorite comics, daily quotes and a feed from a local news station.
• From writing ideas down on pieces of paper to publishing ideas to the web or saving them to my Google docs. Simple I write on the computer and place it on my blog or create documents that I can access without having to have my own personal computer in front of me. Life was often complicated by trying to find those pieces of paper at just the right time. Now, I just simply log in to find it all.
• From publishing to the teacher to publishing to the world. This provides our students with a much more powerful and far reaching audience. This one simple shift is free and can be implemented in about 10 minutes.
• Talking on the phone to talking over Skype with video - this one simple shift made an impact on my youngest daughter who told me one day that she wished we had done this last year, that being able to see us when we talk makes a difference to her and would have helped during her first year away at college.
• From taking notes on paper when using the web to taking notes using Diigo. This simple shifts means that we collect and categorize our notes all in one place and can extract notes from a group of websites easily. I have to keep catching myself when I start to write things down on paper as I visit sites and remind myself that Diigo makes it easier to find these notes later on.
• The NETS standards shifted from beginning with basic skills to beginning with creativity. That simple shift changes the tone and intent of the document and places it squarely in the 21st century.

That's just a few for now. Please add to the list!

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