Empowering Thinkers

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Around the Bend, Flickr, CC.

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Around the Bend, Flickr, CC.







Been a bit disconnected as of late, summer vacation and all, so I just saw the video about the New Google Drive. The first thing I thought about when seeing it was students learning how to use Drive for uploading files in order to make book trailers at the end of the school year. As time was an issue, one teacher asked that I just tell her students exactly what to do, rather than allowing them to figure out what to do next on their own and explaining the logic behind it all, as I usually do. In all honesty, her request was appropriate because her students would not have had time to finish otherwise, however I realize that this issue is still a problem we need to address. If we want to teach students to think on their own, to see problems and create solutions, we must stop telling them exactly how to get from point A to point B ; we must allow them the opportunity to figure out how to do it on their own! How many times do you say or hear a teacher say, “If they would just follow the directions!” Think about it though, how do you like following other peoples directions? By consistently asking students to just follow the directions, we are taking away their power to think. Actually we’re taking away their power…period.

What does this look like in the real world classroom? This may mean starting a unit with an objective, purpose or essential question. Inquiry and design projects are a great way for students to discover the process on their own…to make the process theirs.

  • Does this mean that students have to figure out how to get from A to Z totally on their own? Absolutely not, but we can ask them to consider how they might get there at the start of a project We might allow then to figure out C to D, etc.
  • Does this mean that there is no place for modeling? Absolutely not! Modeling is highly effective, especially when it’s applicable to model a real world scenario. “This is what I did, because …..” And even more importantly, “I did this first, but it didn’t work so I tried this!”
  • Does this mean that there’s no place for scaffolding? Absolutely not!  Scaffolding is necessary especially for differentiation purposes. Without scaffolding, students may become overly frustrated. However, with too much scaffolding we are not giving them the opportunity to figure it out on their own. In my humble opinion start with as little scaffolding as possible and add it in as necessary.
  • Does this mean that we shouldn’t be using process models, such as inquiry research models, design thinking models, or the scientific method ? Absolutely not, in fact they are imperative, especially for learning how to learn, and transferring the process to other scenarios. What we do have to be careful of not doing is making these processes overly linear. They are drawn in a circle for a reason.
  • Does this mean that everything has to be a big learning project? Absolutely not, of course there is  a need to isolate skills, especially those that students have not achieved proficiently. However, if we give students a lens, a possible purpose, or better yet have them consider why they may need to learn a particular skill, the learning is that much more powerful.

Importantly, reflection is key for students learning how to learn. Ask them: “How do you feel about your progress? What worked and what didn’t? Why did you decide to change what you were doing? What would you do differently next time? Why? What can I do better as a teacher to support you in your learning process?

Could you imagine having to reteach using a technology tool, such as the Google Drive example above, every time the tool makes a change? That’s what we’re doing by not allowing students the understandings necessary to figure out the changes on their own. What I’d rather happen is this:

  • Student A: “Mrs. Schiano, did you see that Google Drive made some changes?
  • Me: “I did, but I haven’t had the chance to play”
  • Student A: “I figured it out. They actually made it better”
  • Student B: “I saw that also. I was having trouble so I typed  tutorial: Google Drive into a Google Search and changed the search tool to last month. I found a a great video that helped me figure it out”
  • Me: “Great. Why don’t you share the video with your class mates in My Big Campus in case they are having trouble also”
  • Student B: “On it!”

Back to reading Me Before You, written by JoJo Moyes. Loving this book!


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