Equitable Opportunities

Image by:  Salvatore

I believe educators want the best for their students.  Teachers need to be able to utilize effective strategies to meet the needs of all students. Differentiated instruction, along with active student participation contribute to overall learning that occurs in an elementary classroom.  Most elementary teachers have around 25 + students in each classroom, ranging from below grade level achievement to gifted.  The strategy that I’m talking about in this post isn’t only for elementary classrooms. I’ve seen it utilized effectively at the middle and even high school levels.

It doesn’t take much time for teachers to find that some students are more willing to answer questions than others. Teachers are generally able to identify these students quickly.  These specific students are more likely to enthusiastically throw their hand in the air to answer a question that a teacher may pose. Experienced teachers understand that some students tend limit their own participation for a variety of reasons.  As an educator, I believe it’s important to allow all students an opportunity to contribute to the classroom.  I’ve found that utilizing equity sticks has improved student participation and learning in my classroom.  The sticks can also be used to group students for cooperative learning opportunities.  I have even used them for a math class, to teach probability concepts. For example: the likelihood that a particular student’s name will randomly be picked out of a jar.

One way to create and then utilize this strategy:

1.)  Grab your classroom roster and a package of large popsicle sticks.

2.)  Write/print out names on each stick.

3.)  Put all of the sticks into some type of jar

4.)  Pose a question and pick out a name.  The “winner” gets to answer the question.

Twitter and Professional Development

I’ve observed and participated in a number of Twitter chats this year.  To be honest, I’ve expected a conversation with individuals who may be part of a PLN that are willing to express their perspectives on education. Scheduled chats generally have moderators and participants are free to express their opinions and may even ask questions aligned with the topic. Constructive debate is sometimes encouraged as educators often question the norm (or are at least not satisfied with the status quo).  At times, resources might be shared and links bookmarked.  While contributing, I share background knowledge and resources that have improved my teaching practice. Generally I come away from the chat with additional resources and ideas that I can practically utilize in the classroom.

General Chat process (informal list)

  • Moderators ask questions / introduces topic(s) to start the chat
  • Participants offer their opinions / experiences on particular topic
  • Affirmations / connections become evident
  • New ideas / resources become available via comments or links
  • Ideas on how to apply newly gained resources / perspectives become evident
  • Participants express interest in next chat topic

Here’s an example:

My latest Twitter experience at #elemchat  followed the above process, yet challenged participants to take purposeful action after the chat.

The topic during this specific night was about social bookmarking.  The moderators did a fine job asking questions and guiding the discussion accordingly.  Background knowledge was expressed by individuals who have had experience using social bookmarks.  Social bookmarking links and student examples were shared during the chat.  Diigo, Delicious, Symballo, Google and Scoop bookmarks (there may have been more, but I’d have to look at the transcript) were all discussed and analyzed during the chat.

One participant even stated:

“Can’t believe all the SB (social bookmarking) sites I was totally unaware of!”

In my opinion, what was said above is intriguing.  Gaining a better understanding of how to practically apply social bookmarking was one of the purposes of the chat.  Not only were participants gaining knowledge, but they were able to find ways to apply learning to improve their own practice.

Approximately half way through the chat, one participant thought that an#elemchat bookmarking site should be created.  Another participant created the bookmark on Diigo and since it’s been created a number of people have added valuable resources that educators can utilize to improve student learning.  My latest chat gave me a sense of how a scheduled chat can transform into a professional development opportunity.  Administrators and educators alike can see the value of Twitter chats.   If you’re on the fence and wondering if an educational chat is actually worth the time and effort, I would recommend getting your feet wet and become an active participant.