Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mindmaps from the past.

     Apparently I am a nerd.  I don't consider this to be a bad thing - especially when it comes to my obsession with knowledge.  (Yeah, that sounded pretty nerdy.)  I am also random, am fascinated by a lot of different things, and am easily distracted.  It's probably good that I was a child of the seventies, and not present day, as there would surely be prescription medicine and alphabet letters associated with my academic plan.  It's tough for me to go deep into any single topic, as I tend to discover something else along the way, and divert myself onto another path.
    TED Talks are amazing, and can keep me entertained for hours.  When I was a kid, KYW radio (which my father had mounted on a shelf above the door in the bathroom so he could listen to the news while showering and shaving, I guess....) had a slogan that went "Give us ten minutes and we'll give you the world."  Just enough information to say you know something about it -- not enough information to really be informed.    

    I have to say, though, that most of the time, my head functions more like Clifford Stoll's performance on TED, than KYW.  Believe it or not, there is a science to that randomness.

  •  Inside, outside, upside down.

    For me, the journey of blogging started last September, but the journey to design and frame meaningful and reflective learning started way before that.  Despite my claim that Amazon is an integral part of my PLN, the truth is that I interact professionally in many circles, allowing me to explore -- or be distracted by -- a variety of topics, subjects, and people.  Certainly the blogging gig is tied, tightly, to the folks at Te@chthought, who have added some prompts for the month of April.

    How does writing and reflection play a role in your area of teaching? Share some interesting ways that  you encourage the writing process with your students.

    The reflection and writing process begins with some introspective searching.  Mindmapping is a tool I use frequently to allow students to do some free association and then take a giant step back and think metacognitively about what they've just done.  Today, several students assisted in sorting through some shelves in my room, which contained examples of student work from previous years.  

    Three years ago, the Themes in Lit topic was Happiness, and students were encouraged to mindmap what inspired them and promoted happiness.  I saved a few of them, primarily to remind myself -- and others -- of the obvious diversity in gifted students.  Despite what people may think, there is NO TYPICAL gifted student.  Sure, we can loosely sort many of them into Logical/Mathematical folks and Creative folks, yet even those classifications have subclasses that are pretty diverse.

    Examine the next three mindmaps.  Clearly each student spent a tremendous time reflecting upon their own happiness.  

    AND (this is important) did so, without prompting, in a way that not only demonstrated their understanding, but also actually brought them joy in the individual way they expressed their reflections.

    I have used mind maps since, and  the veterans in my room jump right in now, while the newbies shuffle silently in their seats for a bit before choosing some markers.

    It's abundantly obvious, if I were to tell you that one of these students is more interested in computer science than art, while another thrives in the art studio, and a third is a member of such a diverse number of extracurriculars that she is probably featured in more yearbook club photos than anyone else, that you'd easily be able to identify which map was minded by each.

    Students who start with maps end with quality written reflections.  

    And explicitly encouraging thought demands reflection.  One more case in point:  yesterday I was chatting with a colleague who teaches Honors Physics.  Several of my Themes in Lit kids are in his class, and struggling to comprehend some of the math.  Steve had assigned a quick homework assignment in the form of an "explain the topic to a fourth grader brochure."

    Imagine their surprise when they returned with their finished assignments and were asked to review their work through the 16 habits of mind?

    Guess what?  The kids talked about habits of mind in Physics with Steve, and came and talked about Physics with me.  

    Hmmmm.  Cross-curricular thinking!  Think about that for a while.  Oh, and go watch Clifford Stoll!


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