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Colorado ASCD's Blog


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  • 24 May 2018 6:57 AM | Lewis (Administrator)

    Until recently, our society was based on the “Gutenberg model.” Our current educational system was designed to support that model. Now, we’re in what can be called the “Google revolution.” Technological advancements are producing societal disruptions that make the familiar Gutenberg approach less and less relevant. Educators now have the job of designing learning environments that can prepare students for a future we can’t even imagine.

    Review Current Environments

    School leaders need to take an in-depth look at the impact that their current school and classroom environments are having on students. Students spend an average of 14,000 hours in the classroom during their K–12 academic career, so the learning environment is an invaluable part of an overall ecosystem that supports teacher effectiveness and student learning experiences.

    In my district’s case, we partnered with a company called MeTEOR Education. We knew we wanted what MeTEOR Education calls a “high-impact learning environment” — a student-centered learning environment that would bolster teacher and student engagement, cooperative learning, and self-directed learning.

     Five Critical Factors

    A major challenge to introducing high-impact learning environments is the lack of a clearly articulated vision. Each district will have its own vision, but there are five elements that are critical components:

    1.       Integrated Technology
    Consider how technologies are going to be leveraged to develop authentic, technology-rich learning frameworks. The thoughtful design of space to account for technology is a must. School leaders must provide appropriate variety and access, and facilitate its universal use by learners and teachers.
     
    2.       Learner Mobility
    Almost every physical space within a school can be used to extend teaching and learning beyond the traditional classroom. Today’s learning environments should accommodate informal learning options, and a properly designed environment can allow students to seamlessly move from space to space as their work changes.
     
    3.       Multiple Modalities
    Teachers and students should be able to organize their respective spaces to accommodate a variety of activities, including working with partners, working on small teams, large-group collaboration, independent work, and teacher-student interaction
     
    4.       Adaptability
    The upside to adaptable classrooms is that they allow you to take advantage of learning opportunities that aren’t always planned. In fact, the location of electrical sockets, casework, and other finishes may unintentionally make it difficult for teachers to veer from the traditional front-facing lecture mode. Therefore, you should also design new spaces to be adaptable.
     
    5.       Dynamic Ergonomics

    Poorly designed seats can negatively impact muscles, soft tissue, nerves, circulatory systems, and respiratory systems. The good news is that with the increased focus on ergonomics among furniture and workspace designers, factoring this component into new learning spaces could be the easiest part of a new design.

    Details Make the Difference

    You may be wondering whether all this effort really makes a difference. For Burnet CISD, it did. The ways in which each school joins the Google revolution are very likely to differ, but incorporating these critical elements into your vision will provide a flexible framework for any initiative.

    Keith McBurnett, Guest Blogger and Burnet CISD Superintendent, is in his sixth year as superintendent of Burnet CISD. In his 24 year career in public education, his service includes public school teacher; assistant principal; principal; and numerous central office positions including assistant superintendent, chief academic officer and deputy superintendent.

    Since being named superintendent, McBurnett has led Burnet CISD to secure over $4 million in grant funding to support a K-8 after school program, pass a $26.75 million bond program to renovate and expand existing campuses and implement numerous programs to increase college and career readiness opportunities for students. In addition, under his leadership, Burnet CISD was named the 2015 HEB Excellence in Education Small School District Award winner for providing innovative educational offerings to students. In 2017 the District was 1 of 22 districts in the State of Texas to be named to the Seventh Annual AP Honor Roll.

  • 12 May 2018 6:11 AM | Lewis (Administrator)
    Why does leadership matter in education? The 2018 ASCD Legislative Agenda begins with the following statement that helps to answer that question:

    Leadership matters for the success of our education system and our students. At the local level, leadership ensures the success of students. At the district level, leaders provide resources, while state leaders provide oversight. And federal government leadership matters in identifying national priorities and promoting equal access to educational opportunities for all students. But it is the involvement of education professionals in the decision making at each of these levels that matters most so that their leadership and expertise inform the policies that support a whole child education for every student. (emphasis added)

    Colorado ASCD focuses on helping teachers develop leadership capacity in the decision-making/policy area through the activities of its Advocacy and Influence Committee. The committee uses CO ASCD’s newsletter, blogs, and tweets to provide members with information about education legislation at the state and national levels, guidance on how to advocate for students and the profession, and ways to participate in decision-making at the school, district and state levels. The committee’s work includes connecting with other organizations in the state to identify advocacy resources and information of interest to CO ASCD members, to co-sponsor events, and to strengthen educator advocacy efforts in the state.

    CO ASCD will also sponsor an annual advocacy event – either face-to-face or online – that will feature policymakers and educators having conversations about education policy issues or helping teachers develop their leadership skills in advocacy and influence.

    Standard V of the Colorado Teacher Quality Standards describes how teachers demonstrate leadership. For a specific take on what teacher leadership looks like in the area of advocacy, you might be interested in the Teacher Leader Model Standards developed in 2008 by the Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium. Domain VII: Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession describes five functions for teacher leaders in this area. You’ll see some similarities with Colorado’s Teacher Quality Standards and some additional details about teacher leadership and advocacy that will help you reflect on your practice in this area.

    If you are interested in developing your leadership skills in advocacy or other areas, consider participating in CO ASCD’s teacher leadership micro-credential. This program will offer participants access to high quality resources and learning experiences for developing teacher leadership knowledge and skills, leverage what teachers already know, and provide opportunities for connecting with experts in the field. Watch the CO ASCD website and social media sites for more information about this program.

  • 12 May 2018 5:50 AM | Lewis (Administrator)
    While working with a group of fifth-graders, we had a wonderful discussion regarding neuroplasticity and how one could change the shape and development of his or her brain. These students already had the basic understanding of how neurons process and store information, and recognized the importance of the synapse. What they didn’t realize was how positive and negative thoughts affect this growth and development of these miraculous neurons and their synaptic junctions.


    What is going on in the brain when one produces positive or negative thoughts?

    Every thought releases some type of chemical. When positive thoughts are generated, cortisol decreases and the brain produces serotonin, creating a feeling of well-being. When serotonin levels are normal, one feels happy, calmer, less anxious, more focused and more emotionally stable (Scaccia, 2017).

    Positive Feelings:

    Daniel Goleman author of “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence” states that the brain has heightened prefrontal activity and positivity resulting in enhanced mental functions such as creative thinking, cognitive flexibility, and even faster processing. Positive emotions widen our span of attention and it also changes our perception and focus on more of the “we” instead of the “me” (Goleman, 2013. pg. 170). And I asked the students, “Isn’t this exactly what we want when working collaboratively with fellow classmates?”

    Looking at the prefrontal cortex, when happy thoughts occur, there is brain growth through the reinforcement and generation of new synapses. The prefrontal cortex allows you to reflect and think about what you are doing at the time, and allows you to control your emotions through your deep limbic brain. Since it allows you to focus, it also gives you time for metacognition (being aware of one’s own thought processes).

    Negative Feelings:

    As our discussion continued, we talked about what happens when someone is anxious, under stress or angry. When stressed, it’s difficult to take in and process new material, yet alone think creatively. “Stress can alter plasticity in the nervous system, particularly in the limbic system” (Sapolsky, 2003). Negative thoughts also reduce activity in the cerebellum, which controls coordination, balance, working relationships with others as well as speed of thought (Marien, 2015).

    The frontal lobe, particularly the prefrontal cortex, decides the amount of attention to pay to something based on its importance and how you feel about it. The more you focus on negativity, the more synapses and neurons you brain will create – supporting your negative thought process. Negative thoughts slow down the brain’s ability to function and it impedes cognition.

    Conclusion:

    The class concluded with a summary on what the students had learned about the power of positive thinking. By thinking positive thoughts, the students came to realize they can enhance their higher-order thinking skills as well as analyze and control their cognitive processes, especially when actively engaged in learning. After a few moments of letting the students process what they just learned, Tony summed it all up by saying, “So, to get better at learning — to improve our thinking – we need to keep our brains happy.”


    Dr. Lou E. Whitaker, Ed. D., Neuro-Education Consultant, has a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University, a Masters in Administration from National-Louis University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Having over 35 years of experience in education, she has been a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and served as the Associate Superintendent for Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She is currently an Educational Consultant for Open Minds Enterprises, EdCenter, Global Center for College & Career Readiness, as well as a consultant for MeTEOR Education.

    Chosen as one of Dr. Pat Wolfe’s Brainy Bunch Members, she has been involved with Dr. Wolfe’s continuous study of the human brain. The Brainy Bunch is a group of educators and health professionals who are passionate about brain development and its impact on learning. On a yearly basis, the group invites two outstanding neuroscientists to meet with them and discuss their latest research developments. Then this renowned group of educators, led by Dr. Wolfe, translate neurological research into classroom practice. Dr. Whitaker understands the importance of keeping abreast of what is going on in neuroscience as well as understanding the importance of data-driven best practice research. These are essential for making a positive impact on our students’ lives.

     

    Bibliography

    Goleman, D. (2013). Focus: The hidden driver of excellence. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

    Marien, P. a. (2015). The linguistic cerebellum. New York, New York: Academic Press.

    Reynolds, S. (2011, August 2). Happy brain, happy life. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from Psychology Today: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/attention

    Sapolsky, R. (2003, November). Stress and plasticity in the limbic system. Neurochemical Research, 28(11), 1735-1742.

    Scaccia, A. (2017, May 18). Serotonin: What you need to know. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin#overview1

  • 27 Apr 2018 10:02 AM | Lewis (Administrator)

    Standardized tests, bullying, grades, peer pressure. The list could go on and on when it comes to things that cause stress in a student’s life. What is happening to the brain neurologically when it’s dealing with stress and how does this affect memory and learning?

    Acute and Chronic Stress

    Acute stress, known as “fight or flight,” is for immediate threats and once the threat passes the body returns to its natural state, homeostasis. A study conducted by the University of California – Berkeley, stated that acute stress “primes the brain for improved performance” (Sanders, 2013).

    Epinephrine and norepinephrine are stress hormones that are produced during acute stress. They also help you think quickly and move fast in an emergency. This is known as eustress (good stress).

    Distress (bad stress) on the other hand, is stress that is prolonged, also called chronic stress. During both eustress and distress, the hormone that is produced is cortisol. However, because distress is prolonged, the cortisol builds up in the body causing several health problems.

    What is Happening during the Initiation of the Stress Response?

    When the brain perceives there is danger, the body takes action. The amygdala, through the hypothalamus, sends out an alarm to the entire body that it needs to prepare for “flight or fight.” Epinephrine and norepinephrine trigger the stress response to act and immediately affects the cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems.

    Your heart rate increases, oxygen rises and is pumped to your muscles, and your senses become much more alert as your body prepares to respond. The digestive, reproductive and immune systems are not needed, so they shut down.

    How Emotion Affects Retention Rates

    Whether the brain pays attention to new information is strongly influenced by the emotion associated with it. Remember, the brain is designed for survival and the thalamus and amygdala ensure that we react quickly to emotionally relevant information (Wolfe, 2010). We remember emotional events much more vividly than other events because of our stress response. Teachers should try and put some “emotional hook” into every lesson. Students will have a much better chance of retaining this information.

    Memory and the Hippocampus

    Learning occurs when neurons repeatedly activate across their synapses. But if there is too much cortisol in the system, memory is impeded (University of California-Irvine, 2008).

    “In the classroom, a student can perceive even a mild stressor to be threatening, initiating the stress response and lessening his or her ability to perform” (Wolfe, pg. 141, 2010).

    When a person experiences prolonged stress, the brain repeats the same responses which cause these neural pathways  to become stronger. Prolonged stress also “short-circuits other neural pathways in the prefrontal cortex” (Levy, 2014). Creativity, memory, and critical thinking are essential for successful learning, and these executive functions are hindered because of prolonged stress (Levy, 2014).

    Conclusion:

    Our stress response needs to be controlled so chronic stress doesn’t take over and destroy our health. Teachers in particular need to understand how stress can affect a student’s learning and memory.

     

    Lou Whitaker, Ed. D.

    Brain Junkie

    About the Author:
    Dr. Lou E. Whitaker has a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University, a Masters in Administration from National-Louis University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Having over 35 years of experience in education, she has been a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and served as the Associate Superintendent for Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She is currently an Educational Consultant for Open Minds Enterprises, EdCenter, Global Center for College & Career Readiness, as well as a consultant for MeTEOR Education.

    Chosen as one of Dr. Pat Wolfe’s Brainy Bunch Members, she has been involved with Dr. Wolfe’s continuous study of the human brain. The Brainy Bunch is a group of educators and health professionals who are passionate about brain development and its impact on learning. On a yearly basis, the group invites two outstanding neuroscientists to meet with them and discuss their latest research developments. Then this renowned group of educators, led by Dr. Wolfe, translate neurological research into classroom practice. Dr. Whitaker understands the importance of keeping abreast of what is going on in neuroscience as well as understanding the importance of data-driven best practice research. These are essential for making a positive impact on our students’ lives.

     

    Bibliography

    Alban, D. (n.d.). Bebrainfit. Retrieved from 12 Effects of chronic stress on your brain: https://bebrainfit.com/effects-chronic-stress-brain/

    Bergland, C. (2013, January 22). Cortisol: Why the “stress hormore” is public enemy no. 1. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1

    LeDoux, j. (1996). The emotional brain. New York, NY, USA: Simon & Schuster.

    Levy, L. (2014, Octover 13). Edudemic Connecting Education & Technology. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from How stress affects the brain during learning: http://www.edudemic.com/stress-affects-brain-learning/

    Mayo Clinic. (2016, Aprl 16). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from Healthy Lifestyle: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

    National Geographic and Sanford University. (2008). Stress; Portrait of a killer. Stanford, CA, USA.

    Sanders, R. (2013, April 16). Researchers find out why some stress is good for you. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from Berkeley News: http://news.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you/

    Sapolsky, R. (1999). Why zebras don’t get ulcers. New York, New York, USA: W. H. Freeman and Company.

    Smith, E. E. (2013, October 29). Social connection makes a better brain. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/social-connection-makes-a-better-brain/280934/

    University of California-Irvine. (2008, March 13). ScienceDaily. Retrieved Novemver 22, 2017, from Short-term stress can affect learning and memory: https://sciencedaily.com/reseases/2008/03/080311182434.htm

    Willis, J. (2017, April 7). Brain-based strategies to reduce test stress. (edutopia) Retrieved November 21, 2017, from edutopia: https://www.edutopia.org/article/brain-based-strategies-reduce-test-stress-judy-willis

    Willis, J. (n.d.). edutopia. Retrieved from Brain-Based Learning: The neuroscience behind stress and science: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/neuroscience-behind-stress-and-learning-judy-willis

    Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain matters 2nd edition. Alexandria, Virginia, USA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • 12 Apr 2018 8:30 AM | Lewis (Administrator)

    It’s the first day of school. Students have the choice between two classroom environments.

    The first classroom has all the desks facing the front of the room where there is whiteboard and a projection screen. The layout supports lecture as the primary mode of instruction. Students have just entered a traditional classroom.

    The second classroom is arranged with an array of seating options, integrated technology, and marker boards around the room. This layout reflects a High Impact Learning Environment™ with flexible furniture, writing surfaces, and technology that support instructors while engaging students in shared learning activities.

    It’s not hard to see that the second classroom environment would be popular. The 21st Century Classroom should provide an environment where students develop foundational soft skills and teachers can become the activators of their student’s learning.

    Moving away from Traditional Classrooms

    The traditional classroom layout can be practical. This layout is effective for traditional instructional methods because it encourages focus on the teacher and the lesson. But are students in this setting developing a real passion for learning?

    A study from the National Training Laboratories found that only about 5 percent of the information delivered through lecture was retained. Compare that with retention rates at 90 percent by students teaching others. The more active the teaching and learning methods, the higher the retention rates.

    High Impact Learning Environments™ incorporate five key components when planning for an active classroom.

    1) Integrated Technology: The integration of technology into the environment is more involved than placing computers in a classroom. Designing environments that support and enhance the use of technology as part of the learning process is critical to increasing student engagement and encouraging students to take ownership over their learning.

    2) Learner Mobility: Today’s learner is mobile. Effective use of mobile technologies allows for an ideal connection between learning environments, where both educators and students can access a multitude of resources to support learning across time and setting.

    3) Adaptability: The design of a space must support current educational delivery methods with an eye to the future. Adaptability in the classroom allows educators to model a different approach to learning and take advantage of learning opportunities that aren’t always planned.

    4) Multiple Modalities: A High Impact Learning Environment is designed so that differential instruction may take place with ease. This means creating spaces, configurations and flexibility to support a variety of learning strengths and styles. All kids are different, and the design of the                                                                        environment should reflect this idea. 

    5) Dynamic Ergonomics: Studies show that between the ages of 5 and 16 a child will spend approximately 15,000 hours sitting down. Humans are made to move and an active learning environment stimulates cognitive development.

    Modern Day, 21st Century Classrooms

    The High Impact Learning Environment™ focuses on student-centered learning. Students who walk into this environment on the first day of school will be walking into a classroom that invites them to be an active participant in the learning process.


    Brandon Hillman, ALEP, VP of Sales, East Region

    Brandon is a passionate industry thought leader and education advocate with over eight years of experience in creating High-impact Learning Environments. He has been with MeTEOR Education since 2013 and in that time has worked with districts across the country on transforming their learning environments in a planned, progressive, and programmatic manner. Brandon is an Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP). This is the Association for Learning Environment’s (formally CEFPI) most comprehensive professional program in the educational facility industry. It is therefore the top industry standard for all professionals engaged in planning, designing, operating, maintaining, and equipping learning environments at all levels of education. His greatest joy comes from spending time with his wife Meghan, and their two sons: Easton and Jameson.

  • 29 Mar 2018 8:00 AM | Lewis (Administrator)
    I’m piloting a new program at my high school called N.E.W. School. The acronym N.E.W. stands for Next Evolution in Work-based Learning. Instead of teaching 9th and 10th grade English, which I’ve done for the last 15 years, I am co-teaching three classes–English, science, and technology. My teaching partner, Marika Neto, and I share 60 students in two adjoining rooms for 3 block periods every other day.

    Instead of teaching the three classes in isolation and shuttling students from English to science to technology. We teach the three classes in concert around big topics. The first unit focused on nutrition, food production, and health. Students read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and conducted labs to learn about the digestive system and what happens in the body when we consume different types of food. They published digital notebooks, recorded podcasts, designed infographics and documented all their work online.

    N.E.W. School is project-based and student-centered. Our goal is to help students see the connections between what they are learning and their lives beyond the classroom. It is only when learning is student-centered, hands-on, inquiry-based, and relevant that students will truly understand, apply, and retain information. Our goal is to cultivate curious, confident learners who can drive the learning and assessment happening in the classroom.

    This is where the design of the classroom space becomes incredibly important. As Marika put it so eloquently, “the first step in creating is creating your learning environment.” As we designed N.E.W. School, we imagined a very different classroom environment. Instead of clunky desks and traditional chairs, we wanted to create a variety of spaces with moveable furniture that allowed for easy collaboration. We wanted our students to move the furniture to create the best learning environment for the task they were working on at that exact moment.

    Too often furniture is a hurdle that must be overcome. Students must move around the furniture, push bulky desks together, and squeeze chairs into uncomfortable positions to work together. The result is a learning environment where furniture impedes learning instead of improving it.

    In N.E.W. School we wanted to ditch traditional one-size-fits-all furniture and embrace variety. Unfortunately, my school board decided not to fund my proposal for alternative furniture. So, we wrote a Donor’s Choose project requesting soft seating and light-weight stools, which was funded. We also turned our classroom into a makerspace and students transformed milk crates into ottomans.

    Despite our creative attempts to introduce alternative seating options, most of our furniture is still the traditional two-seater desks and chairs that were purchased when the school was built almost 20 years ago. However, to be truly effective, the classroom environment must be an extension of the learning philosophy. Both the furniture and curriculum design must strive to place students at the center of learning. Right now, my students are making do with what we have, but the learning environment presents challenges instead of solutions.

     

    Editor’s Note: MeTEOR Education began working with Catlin and Marika on the design and implementation of N.E.W. School 2.0 in the fall of 2016. The result is an environment that supports their educational paradigm to encourage collaboration and student-driven learning.

    About the Author: Catlin Tucker is a Google Certified Teacher, bestselling author, international trainer, and frequent EdTech speaker, who currently teaches in Sonoma County where she was named Teacher of the Year in 2010. Catlin’s first book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12 is a bestseller and her second book Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology was published in June 2015. Her newest book Blended Learning In Action was published in September 2016. Catlin writes the “Techy Teacher” column for ASCD’s Educational Leadership. She is active on Twitter @Catlin_Tucker and writes an internationally ranked education blog at CatlinTucker.com.

  • 8 Mar 2018 8:00 AM | Lewis (Administrator)
    Collaborating productively, thinking critically, communicating effectively and persevering are important competencies students need to master, and an inquiry rich classroom is the perfect learning environment in which to develop them. Inquiry is higher order thinking and problem solving in action. Its power to shift academic ownership from the teacher to the learner is profound and far-reaching, and when effectively implemented, it can create a palpable energy that cannot be duplicated in a teacher-directed, traditional classroom setting.


    Although research supports inquiry’s effectiveness, teacher buy-in comes with growing pains. No longer “in control”, the teacher must commit to becoming a learning facilitator and, in some cases, must demonstrate a willingness to replace lengthy stretches of direct instruction with unfamiliar practices that extend beyond long-established comfort zones. Are we educators willing to take a chance if it means building a richer learning environment for our students?

    I’m convinced that the inquiry process is worthy of consideration. Here is what it entails. A typical inquiry lesson starts with guiding questions that point students in one direction as opposed to another, and time must be devoted to composing appropriately challenging provocations. It also requires the teacher to model question writing so that students can begin to formulate their own higher-level, thought-provoking questions. As they progress through an inquiry lesson, students learn how to search for answers that may or may not be those traditionally identified as “right” or “wrong”. The academic risk taking that is an essential component of the inquiry process often leads to profound and substantive thinking that reaches beyond the scope of the teacher’s initial learning plan. When this occurs, the teacher needs to be prepared to welcome student exploration, as countless learning possibilities exist.


    Written by Jennifer Mattu, Guest Blogger.

  • 1 Mar 2018 6:49 AM | Lewis (Administrator)

    CO ASCD is a bi-partisan educational organization. We believe that uniting and influencing the P-20 educational community to promote excellence for each Colorado learner is key to the development of our students in our state. CO ASCD provides a place for professional growth and educator's voices to be heard using mature discourse, problem solving, and innovation at the highest form for the good of all our children.

    In light of the most recent tragedy in Florida, there is a great debate about what we should do as a nation, as states, and as individual communities regarding the safety of our children. That debate has not skipped my home either. As you are thinking of the children and families you serve day in and day out, as well as the ones you tuck in at night, I would like to ask you to think of the possible solutions from all different angles, different perspectives, including the ones that you cannot even fathom you would ever say yes to implementing. Use that discourse that is ingrained in you as an educator. Use the knowledge you have of childhood development, learning theory, and what other nations do to protect their children to decipher what you believe is the best course of action to take in your school, your community, and our amazing state.

    As you think about what safety means and looks like in our schools, I recommend reading ASCD's Whole Child Initiative that includes six tenets promoting long-term development and success for all children. My eye is drawn to the second tenet, safe, where each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults. To learn more about this tenet, take some time to read the Whole Child Tenet #2 Safe Indicators. Use it as the litmus test for every possible solution as you decide what the best way is to keep Colorado's children safe.

    Jill Lewis, CO ASCD President

  • 22 Feb 2018 8:00 AM | Lewis (Administrator)

    There is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution for creating the ideal learning environment. The multitude of factors ranging from teachers’ teaching styles to community involvement and everything in between necessitate that the ideal learning spaces for a school will vary. However, after almost a decade of working with schools to create their ideal learning environments, we have found that there are 5 essential elements that, when combined, create a high-impact learning environment. Learner mobility is showcased in this breakout space shown in the photo. Students' learning is not confined to the classroom. 

    High-impact learning environments center on the reality that the 21st Century knowledge worker will need extremely high agility and adaptability in order to succeed. They have to be able to assimilate new technologies, adopt new skill sets, and validate information that they are receiving. Sure, you can look up bits and pieces of information online, but effectively sourcing, analyzing, and validating that data – then using it to collaborate with others – is an extremely important soft skill that not all students are acquiring at the K-12 level. And while the physical classroom setting doesn’t necessarily correct this problem, it does support the lifelong learner and his or her future needs.

     A supportive, collaborative, high-impact learning environment includes the following critical elements:

    • ·         Integrated Technology: The integration of technology into the educational environment is more involved than placing computers in a classroom. Integrated technology becomes an integral part of the learning experience in a high-impact learning environment.
    • ·         Learner Mobility: Today’s learner is mobile. Formal and informal learning contexts are now prevalent as a result of pedagogy and technology.
    • ·         Adaptability: The learning facility use is likely to change as often as education changes; therefore, the design of a space must allow owners many options of use.
    • ·         Multiple Modalities: A high-impact learning environment is designed so that differentiated instruction may take place with ease. This means creating spaces, configurations, and flexibility to allow for highly varied learning environments.
    • ·         Dynamic Ergonomics: Humans are made to move and an active learning environment stimulates cognitive development.

    For a more in-depth look at shifting to high-impact learning environments, check out our follow up article here.

     

    Amy Bradley

    Digital Storyteller, MeTEOR Education

    About the Author:

    Amy Bradley has a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics with a minor in Japanese and TESL from the University of Florida. She has TESL certification and worked teaching English language learners at the University of Florida English Language Institute before coming to MeTEOR Education in 2014. At MeTEOR Education, she helps spread the message of High-Impact Learning Environments and Experiences through MeTEOR’s digital pieces and social media sites. In her free time, she enjoys practicing Japanese and sewing.

  • 8 Feb 2018 8:30 AM | Lewis (Administrator)

    It takes a great deal of time and energy to create and maintain a positive culture, but it’s essential for all successful schools. When thinking about what qualities are needed to create a positive school culture, they fall into a top 7 list.

    7. Be on a Mission

    All school communications clearly state what the institution is about …. their mission, vision, purpose, beliefs and objectives. The handbooks, websites, banners, etc. all reflect what the school is and strives to become. Written policies and procedures are reviewed annually to keep the school current.

    6. Stay in the Loop!

    Well-designed forms of communication are critical when creating a positive school culture. This includes everything from the school’s website, phone calls, newsletters, etc. Jill Adams, an Educational Consultant, summed it all up when she wrote, “When educators do not communicate, the public fills in the blanks and sometimes the blanks are not positive or even accurate. Control the message” (Adams, 2014).

    5. Lead the Way!

    There should be numerous opportunities for teachers to take leadership roles within the school and district, such as serving as a department chairperson, professional development coordinator, or curriculum expert. Students should also take leadership roles such as being a school ambassador, student council officers, or student mentors.

    4. Collaborate

    Behavioral expectations are clearly defined and supported by the administration and staff. Support is in place and provides services for students. Robert Sylwester states that there should be a focus shift from classroom management to student-teacher collaboration that improves classroom dynamics and helps develop social skills (Sylwester, 2000).

    3. Help Students Create a “Growth Mindset”

    Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, states that teaching a growth mindset increases motivation and productivity. When students understand that their intelligence isn’t fixed and they can change their intellectual ability, she found that motivation increases and they boost their achievement.

    2. “If you don’t feed the teachers, they’ll eat their students!”

    Schools that have a strong budget for professional development are sending the message that they care about the continuing improvement of their staff. Besides attending conferences and workshops, schools provide in-house PD by creating professional learning communities, peer-to-peer mentoring, etc. But more importantly, the school creates time during the workday for teachers to meet with one another, share what they’re doing, and allows teachers time to assess their effects related to student learning.

    1. Above all … CARE!

    Successful schools embrace racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity and expect inclusion to be a “given.” Having teachers who care, that take time to listen, possess empathy, and demonstrate a positive regard for others have a greater impact on student achievement than those who don’t (Hattie, Pg. 118).

    A school’s culture includes the perceptions, attitudes, relationships, and the unwritten rules that influence every aspect of the school. It is formed by both conscious and unconscious perspectives, values, and practices. As Rex Miller stated, “Culture is the invisible attitudes, values, habits, and behaviors that run the place when you’re not there.” (Miller, pg. 147).

     

    Lou Whitaker, Ed. D.

    Neuro-Education Consultant

    Dr. Lou E Whitaker has a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University, a Masters in Administration from National-Louis University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Having over 35 years of experience in education, she has been a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and served as the Associate Superintendent for Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She is currently an Educational Consultant for Open Minds Enterprises, EdCenter, Global Center for College & Career Readiness, as well as a consultant for MeTEOR Education.

    Chosen as one of Dr. Pat Wolfe’s Brainy Bunch Members, she has been involved with Dr. Wolfe’s continuous study of the human brain. The Brainy Bunch is a group of educators and health professionals who are passionate about brain development and its impact on learning. On a yearly basis, the group invites two outstanding neuroscientists to meet with them and discuss their latest research developments. Then this renowned group of educators, led by Dr. Wolfe, translate neurological research into classroom practice. Dr. Whitaker understands the important of keeping abreast of what is going on in neuroscience as well as understanding the importance of data-driven best practice research. These are essential for making a positive impact on our students’ lives.

     

    Bibliography

    Adams, J. (2014, May 9). Fostering a positive school culture. (Jill Adams, Adams Educational Consulting) Retrieved October 9, 2017, from Blog: www.effectiveteachingpd.com/blog/2014/5/9/fostering-a-positive-school-culture8-best-practices-html

    Bergland, C. (2012, March 7). Enriched environments build better brains. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from Psychology Today: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201203/enriched-environments-build-better-brains

    Diamond, M. &. (1999). Magic tress of the mind. New York, New York, USA: Penguin.

     Dweck, C. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck revisits the ‘growth mindset’. (E. Week, Producer, & Education Week) Retrieved October 8, 2016, from Education Week: www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html

    Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, New York, USA: Routledge.

    Hattie, J. (2013, November 22). Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? John Hattie at TEDxNorrkoping. (TEDxNorrkoping, Producer) Retrieved October 9, 2017, from You Tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzwJXUieDOU&t=547s

    Miller, G. (2010). Visible learning by John Hattie (2009), Summary by Gerry Miller. Tyneside EZA Consultant, Gerry Miller. Tyneside EZA Consultant, Gerry Miller.

    Miller, R. L. (207). Humanizing the education machine. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

    Partnership, T. G. (2013, November 25). School culture. (T. G. Patnership, Producer) Retrieved October 10, 2017, from The Glossary of Education Reform: www.edglossary.org/school-culture/

    Sylwester, R. (2000). A biological brain in a cultural classsroom: Applying biological research to classroom management. Thousand Oaks, CA: Crowin Press.

    Willis, J. (2017). Why teacher education should include neuroscience. (Teachthought, Producer) Retrieved October 8, 2017, from teachthought: www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/why-teacher-education-should-include-neuroscience/

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