Dean Simpson

Dean Simpson

Mother, Christian, Friend, Educator, Advocate

Personal Links

View Full Profile →

School of Education and Behavioral Sciences

1-281-649-3240
Monday - Friday
7:30-5:30

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 385 other followers

Will Laptops Save Education?

by Dr. Dawn Wilson, Associate Professor of Instructional Technology

The beginning of a new school year brings renewed energy and new initiatives. Districts work all summer planning for improved ways to increase student achievement and enhance teacher productivity. In Houston, school districts are also rolling out new plans to increase students’ achievement as well as their 21st Century skills.

This year, Houston Independent School District will distribute laptops to every student in 29 of its high school campuses (the final 11 will get them next year) as part of it’s PowerUp initiative. Many other districts are following suit, rolling out 1-1 access to technology for their students either through BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives or district supported technology initiatives.

How will all this technology in the classroom affect learning? Well not at all, unless the teachers have been given the time, tools and support to change their teaching strategies in the classroom. Teaching and learning won’t really improve unless the pedagogy is modified to fit the new teaching environment. Providing digital devices for students is a great first step, but it will just function like an ereader or etextbook (a different way to take in the same information) unless teachers learn how to change to a more student-centered teaching and learning environment.

Problem Solving with TechnologyIn these new classrooms, students should be collaborating as they research content, analyze and synthesize the information and then find a way to represent their learning using these new tools they have at their fingertips. Students can create videos, animations, websites, blog, even tweet to demonstrate what they are learning. No longer do teachers need to create a PowerPoint to deliver content to students telling them everything they need to know, but instead they should be designing and facilitate learning activities that engage students in learning what they need to about the content. Then the fun part starts. The teachers allow the students to use any number of creative ways to demonstrate what they have learned and how this information is relevant today.

How are teachers going to learn this new pedagogy? It is probably not going to happen by attending a summer technology workshop. Instead, teachers need to be given the time to learn from each other. They need to rethink instructional strategies. Peer-coaching and instructional-coaching are both professional development methods which have shown positive effects on teaching, but it requires an investment of time and people. Teachers need time to meet together, share what they are doing, and try new things. Teachers learn best when the learning is targeted (something for their own discipline that they can use right away), scaffolded, and differentiated (don’t we encourage this for our own students learning).

In order for all of this technology to make a difference for students, we need to be sure the needs of our teachers are being addressed in personal and meaningful ways. School districts need to find ways to address the needs of the individual teacher, while also reaching the masses, and teachers need to find ways to invest in themselves and share their successes! When they create a great new technology rich lesson that works – share it with other teachers!

So all you teachers out there…increase your own personal learning community.  Reach out to  teachers on other campuses that teach what you teach! Connect with to others using social media! Partner with another teacher on your campus to learn how to use a new tool with your students. Partner with your students to try something new. Don’t be afraid! Get connected! Make a difference in a student’s life! Make the 2014 school year your most innovative school year yet!

Brain Myths Debunked

Pop culture influences a lot about what we know, or what we think we know, about our brains.

For example:

“We only use 10% of our brains!” or “I’m very artistic, so I am right-brained.  What are you?”

Many times these “facts” are not based on scientific evidence.

Today let’s debunk 7 common myths about the brain:

Be More Awesome

This pep talk is for all the teachers and the students out there….and that means YOU!

“Everybody is a teacher, and everybody is a student….What are YOU teaching the world?”

Thank you Kid President for this great pep talk!

Lectio Divina

prayer

By Dr. Valerie A. Bussell

“Be still and know that I am God” -Psalm 46:10

I recently started a new daily devotional book using the practice of lectio divina. This small book is elegantly and simply titled by the Psalm: Be still and know that I am God.

The first few pages of the book compiled by Amy and Judge Reinhold (yes, the actor!) describe the ancient practice of lectio divina or “sacred reading” which uses scripture and silence to invite and then contemplate God’s presence or voice. While reading, I was reminded how important it is to build Christ-centered quiet and stillness into our increasingly frantic routines – for both our physical and spiritual well-being.

The Christian psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud argues that getting out of the “noise to focus and be still” brings about very practical and physiological benefits like lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system. However, he adds that Christian contemplative prayer is very different from the more generic or New Age practice of meditation in that it focuses on a relationship with God rather than other secondary goals such as health (cited in Be Still, 2007, A. & J. Reinhold).

In terms of spiritual benefits, the book explains that to “rest in the Lord amidst it all” will bring a more intimate relationship with God helping us to stay grounded while engaged in our everyday busyness.  These authors argue that our lives are not going to slow down or become less complicated so we must make deliberate choices to “power down” with God’s Word. This stillness in His Word will bring about a greater sense of personal peace and a stronger trust in the Lord.

We usually start the New Year with several new and healthy intentions. This year, let’s encourage each other towards a more deliberate (mindful) practice of quiet contemplation with God.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:28-29 NIV

Multitasking… or not.

If you’re reading this and checking your Facebook, STOP!

I want to talk to you about multitasking. Nat Geo, of all places, recently brought the issue to light in a brief article on their website, see it here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/131101-multitasking-women-productivity-psychology/

We live in a multitasking culture, right? We all need to juggle multiple things at once, don’t we? That’s just the nature of life these days. But I think maybe what we really want is to get more done in less time, right? So I want to tell you how to accomplish that, and the answer isn’t multitasking.

YOU ACTUALLY CAN’T DO MORE THAN ONE THING AT ONE TIME.

Well, that’s not true, is it? Certainly you can breathe and type at the same time! Certainly you can walk and talk at the same time! Certainly you can take an exam while you nervously tap your foot or twist your hair or chew on your pen!
Your brain (and thus, your body) can do two types of things: conscious and automatic. A conscious process is one that needs you to actively receive and manipulate and respond to information. Like writing a paper, or talking to a friend, or reading an exam. An automatic process is one that your brain basically takes care of for you, in the background. Like breathing, or walking a familiar path, or nervously tapping your foot.

You can do more than one automatic process at a time, and thank goodness! Your brain, in the background, is always doing the things that need to be done to keep you alive, at least. You can also combine automatic and conscious processes – like chewing gum (automatic) while reading this blog (conscious).

The trouble is, you CAN’T do more than one conscious process at a time. You can’t add 345 + 619 at the same time as you read the rest of this sentence. And it’s not about your eyes being occupied! You can’t even add 3 + 6 at the same time you read this sentence. If you were paying close attention to yourself just then, you’ll realize that you stopped – just for a tiny moment – to come up with the answer “9” before you finished reading. That’s what “multitasking” really is – it’s attention switching.

Every time you switch between writing your paper and checking your Facebook, you lose a little bit of time. You also lose a little bit of your “flow.” You have to switch out of academic zone into friend zone, actually take the time to read the post (or send a text, or update twitter, or just see what “dinged” in your email), and then you have to switch your attention back to the paper and get your brain back in academic gear. And hands down, study after study after study finds that you are more productive when you do one thing at a time. So go where you won’t be disturbed, turn off your phone (YES! TURN IT OFF! ALL THE WAY OFF!), and put on something like Antisocial (Mac) or Cold Turkey (PC) so you won’t be disturbed by your Facebook, Twitter, etc. Just do it for 40-60 minutes. Then take a break. Stop studying or writing that paper. Actually pay attention to Facebook or Twitter or your roommate or text your mom back.

Just make sure you have the self discipline to go back to studying at some point!

Developing Strategies and Heart for the Culturally Responsive Classroom

by Dr. Kaye Busiek, Assistant Professor

inclusion

The number of culturally diverse students in American public schools is rising (Davis & Bauman, 2013), and the academic needs of far too many of these students are not being met (Rychly & Graves, 2012).  Consequently, schools need to find ways to prepare curricular and instructional opportunities more effectively for our diverse learners so that more of them can be successful in the future.

 Students are highly influenced by their personal characteristics, experiences, challenges, and choices (Howard-Hamilton, 2000).  The various experiences that students bring to the classroom, such as family beliefs and values, form the foundation of how learning will be perceived and processed by them.  Teachers who respect the differences in their students (i.e., ethnicity, gender, social class, age, religion, geographical origin, race, sexual orientation, and exceptionality) are better able to meet their learning needs.

Culturally responsive behavior is defined by Gay (2002) as “using the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively” (p. 106).  According to Wlodkowski and Ginsberg (1995), students’ motivation for learning cannot be separated from their culture.  Teachers must avoid taking a neutral stance on the culturally diverse make-up of their classroom and instead embrace ways they can weave relevant aspects of students’ lives (e.g., values, traditions, language, learning styles, and relationship norms) into the fabric of their curriculum and pedagogy.

According to Howard-Hamilton (2000), teachers can be more effective if they limit the use of instructional strategies that focus on more traditional, teacher-directed models of teaching and learning (e.g., lecture, grades, and content mastery), replacing it with student-centered, engaged learning opportunities that are meaningful and respectful of their cultural differences.  A culturally responsive teacher regularly utilizes four practices:  (1) empathy and caring, (2) sincere reflection of their own beliefs about people from cultures other than their own, (3) recognition of their own cultural frame of reference, and (4) knowledge acquisition about other cultures (Rychly & Graves, 2012).

Caring and empathetic teachers develop healthy relationships with their students while holding them to a high standard of achievement (Rychly & Graves, 2012).  They demonstrate friendliness, warmth, affection, respect, and security in a family-type environment (Brown, 2011).  At the same time, culturally responsive teachers are assertive—establishing their authority by clearly stating expectations and consistently enforcing rules and policies.  Every student is expected to learn, and underachievement is unacceptable.

In order to respond successfully to the culturally diverse needs of students, teachers need to reflect on their own beliefs about people from other cultures (Rychly & Graves, 2012).  Teachers typically ask students to adapt their learning style to fit the teacher’s instructional style.  Tomlinson and Javius (2012), however, state that teachers should following the “platinum rule” rather than the “golden rule”:  Treat others as they want to be treated.  Teachers would be wise to look first at their instructional resources and practices from the students’ standpoint.  This examination might reveal that traditional practices and material represent the highlights and successes of a society to which they cannot relate (Howard-Hamilton, 2000).  By continuing to maintain status quo, teachers can perpetuate stereotypes and one-sided thinking due to the authoritative position of the classroom teacher.

Once teachers get in touch with their own perceptions and biases about people from other cultures, they must recognize the parameters of their own frame of reference (Rychly & Graves, 2012).  This frame of reference may view students from diverse backgrounds as underachievers who are incapable of achieving at high levels.

Finally, once teachers understand the importance of getting to know the culturally diverse backgrounds of their students, they will need to acquire information that can guide instructional planning, delivery, and assessment.  Surveys, questionnaires, and informal discussions can be utilized to learn about the interests of their students–such as music, art, hobbies, and sports (Rychly & Graves, 2012)—their communication styles, their educational successes and failures of the past, and their learning style preferences.

When teachers commit to curriculum and pedagogy that is culturally responsive, “they are able to move forward in ways that respond to the differences instead of holding all classroom participants to their own standards or views” (Rychly & Graves, 2012, p. 48).   Howard-Hamilton (2000) contends that teachers may need to incorporate more of the following:  cooperative learning, reading selections with a multicultural perspective, and the intentional infusion of diverse opinions and perspectives in class discussions.  Tomlinson and Javius (2012) state that culturally diverse students will benefit when they are allowed to celebrate and showcase their differences, are invited to discuss their similarities, are asked to make meaning in multiple ways, are engaged in rigorous learning opportunities, can make connections to their own lives utilizing authentic products (i.e., letters, projects, and projects), can utilize a wide range of resources (i.e., print, audio, video, Internet), and learn skills for independence and self-direction.  It behooves every educator to seriously consider what steps need to be taken in their educational practice so that every learner can be engaged in continuous, meaningful learning.

 

References

Brown, D. F. (2011).  Urban teachers’ use of culturally responsive management strategies.  Theory into Practice, 42(4), 277-282.

Davis, J. and Bauman, K. (2013).  School enrollment in the United States: 2011.  United States Census Bureau.

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching:  Theory, research, and practice.  New York:  Teachers College Press.

Gay, G. (2002).  Culturally responsive teaching in special education for ethnically diverse students:  Setting the stage.  International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 15(6), 613-629.

Howard-Hamilton (Summer 2000).  Creating a culturally responsive learning environment for African American students.  New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 82, 45-53.

Rajagopal, K. (2011).  Create success:  Unlocking the potential of urban students.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

Rychly & Graves (2012).  Teacher characteristics for culturally responsive pedagogy.  The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education, 14(1), 44-49

Tomlinson & Javis (February 2012).  Teach up for excellence,  Educational Leadership, 69(5), 28-33.

Wlodkowski, R., and Ginsberg, M. B.  (September, 1995). A framework for culturally responsive teaching.  Educational Leadership, 53(1), 17-21.

Santa and the Brain

Have you ever stopped to think about how the magic of our secular Christmas impacts our brain?  At what point does our brain recognize the difference between fact and fiction?  When do we stop believing in Santa and what role does the brain play in this process of development? 

What role does mental time travel, Pavlov’s drooling dogs, cocaine, and neurons have to do with explaining our Christmas brain?!

Check out this recent article posted in The New York Times, Santa on the Brain, by Dr. Kelly Lambert for a more in depth description of how the brain changes as we grow and how that alters our perspective on the magic of Christmas.

Image

image source

Dean Simpson’s Thinking Aloud Again!

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Blog Contributors

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 385 other followers

%d bloggers like this: