Sunday, April 27, 2014

How my LMS develops a growth mindset in my students

By Sean Federbusch

My motivation and student responsibilities.

All I really care about is connecting with my students, with the intention of developing their knowledge, curiosity and happiness.  The rest of the work I do is what I have to do to get to those moments.

I love that sweet spot, as an educator, where you have an authentic connection with a student and are able to reach them exactly where they need to be meet in order to bridge that gap and extend their learning to the next level.  Like knowing the perfect question to ask, or restating what they said in a way that validates what they noticed, while extending their learning in a way they can still hear.  It is for this reason that I (happily) put in long hours creating lessons, units and resources; I want to connect with my students and extend their learning more than I want to manage my classroom.  All those mundane tasks of teaching seem acceptable only because I have the honor of connecting with others and sharing in their growth.

My classroom requires my students to understanding dozens of online resources and programs.  They are responsible for keeping several journals, such as writing, math and science.  In addition, they have weekly summaries, which dictate the amount of money they earn in our Micro-society.  The summaries are designed to document their understanding of the week's activities.   Their balances over the year (which includes calculations for taxes and desk rentals) indicates a level of participation and provides an accurate level of participation in, and understanding of, the content offered in our class.  Finally, my students are responsible for documenting their growth, achievements and highlights in a digital portfolio.  Now, I understand I am the one who created on this, however, I still marvel at the amount of work my students produce as fifth graders!

The benefits of my Learning Management System

All of this would be impossible with the LMS I use.

Without a central location, which my LMS provides, I would be unable to coordinate all of the activities, responsibilities, expectations, resources, and documentation of growth of my students.  I do not mind taking the time to develop an assignment that includes clear instructions, sample work, rubrics, pictures or videos, resources such as handouts or web sites, and instructions for make up assignments, if it means that next year I do not have redo all that work.  If I know I have that assignment (and all the resources) will ready to assign next year, than I do not mind taking extra time to create it.  In addition, the LMS I use allows me to create groups for the assignment so I can build in my differentiation automatically.

Using this LMS tool (we use EDU 2.0), and the culture of my classroom, I estimate that my students produce 30-50% more work that they did without it.  In addition, the conversations about 'missing' assignments, worksheets or resources I often had in the past, are now rare occurrences. The students (and my trained parents) know reporting 'lost work' will only be greeted with the opportunity for them to print out another copy to complete.  On the other hand, I am amused to see students come in my class asking me to grade what they have recently submitted or bagging about their grades.  They come up to me, holding up their iPad screen, just to show me the beauty of what all A's looks like on their account.  I agree, not because of the result, but because it represents the effort they put into earning it.

Developing a growth mindset

My focus is clear to me: I want my students to take ownership for their learning and understand that a lifetime of learning can only happen successfully with a growth mindset and tools to measure their growth.

I want my students to know that by applying patience, persistence and ownership, the result of success - or intelligence - or growth - or opportunity - whatever you want to call it - will eventually arise. However, this is a stretch for a fifth grader.  They need scaffolding to change their mindset.  Many of them (like many adults) believe that intelligence if fixed and that people are "good at math" or "bad at drawing."  I use reflection, understanding and observation to reveal to them that they all have experiences where they worked hard and then achieved something they had never done.  And I use technology to show them that data can reveal to them that with hard work, comes results.  The tools I use, include but not limited to my LMS, help my students understand that growth can be measured and should be the focus of their learning.

It is my intention to create a classroom where everyone is winning because all of them are playing the game.  In my perfect classroom, they are playing games all the time, with learning and growth embedded in the activities.  When students feel like winners, even when they are failing, and can support peers, even when success appears to come more easily for others, I know I will have done something right.

I know I am far from that goal, but with every year, every activity and every piece of software I integrate, I move closer to that ideal.

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