Reflecting on the last eight weeks, I’ve felt that the amount of learning I have done is the most I have acquired in the entire program itself. I began to wonder why I felt this way and the conclusion I have come to is because this is the first time that I have truly contributed so much with such a close group of individuals that we became invested in each other and one another’s growth. It was so much more than a grade this time around. Aside from already receiving the “A” before beginning any assignment, I still felt as though I was giving so much more than I had previously done. I initially attributed this to it being summer and “having more time.” I quickly found out that I did not have more time. Rather, I was enjoying the course work much more and the weekly collaboration between Allison, Colby, Pedro and I. 

 

When entering the CSLE course I thought “I’ve got this in the bag. Kindergarten is the epitome of significant learning environments!” Boy, was I wrong. It is so much more than classroom setup or whether or not you have a kidney table in your room. It’s providing your learners the setting to do authentic learning. It’s allowing them to do the doing and the failing, thus the learning. When reading my SLE you will see how I plan to implement this to continue working towards success with my innovation plan. Creating my learning philosophy allowed me to recognize that the way I teach correlates with the way that I learn. I learn best when I am hands on and deep in the learning, so I want my learners to have that same opportunity. After setting up an environment where my learners will be the most successful, I was able to dabble in creating coursework that would continue to give my students an authentic learning experience. Using a 3 column table and the UbD, equipped me with the knowledge in both creating a course with the end in mind and what exact activities in that course or unit would be a part of it. The comparison graphic that I designed provides a quick and easy reference of which lesson template would be best to use for specific circumstances. In conclusion, building the different components of this course challenged me to revisit my growth mindset and how it has changed. I’ve come to see that it is more than a simple change in vocabulary. It’s receiving the failure that is sure to come and thriving in it.

Taking both courses at the same time allowed me to connect adult learners to my child learners. Regardless of age, we should all want to do the doing and the learning. The connection that my Professional Learning will provide through a SLE is the replication I am doing in my own classroom with my own learners.

Working with such a phenomenal group of individuals has made me a better person and learner. They see my strengths and let me thrive in them, while recognizing my weaknesses and allowing me to work through them. Every meet with my team was an opportunity for me to broaden my horizon...I am guaranteed to walk away with a new idea. I have no doubt that our relationship will flourish throughout the remaining courses.

 
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Dr. Tony Bates said, “You put in the environment for them, but they have to do the learning” (ChangSchool, 2015). This resonated with me because all too often I feel that my students need to take ownership of their own learning experiences...but do not seem to nor does anyone encourage them to. Now, I’ve come to understand that although that feeling is correct and can be shared by others, I, as the teacher, do play a major role in how that occurs. One could reply, “Obviously! You are the teacher!” I now view my responsibility as the facilitator in my student’s learning rather than a provider. As the facilitator, it is my responsibility to provide my students with significant learning environments (SLE) where they can do the learning on their own.

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“Play is an emergent property of the application of rules of the imagination” (TEDxTalks, 2012). According to Merriam-Webster, though, that definition does not reflect the word “play” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). I find it interesting that the one place that includes every word in the English dictionary is putting constraints around us. There lies the problem. My innovation plan focuses majorly on blended learning, but what lies within my blended learning classroom is what matters most. Play-based learning is one component that I want to incorporate within my classroom. Providing my students opportunities to grow and fuel their imagination using play will create a significant learning environment where they will crave learning. I no longer want to be the focal point of my classroom, but the facilitator that guides my students to their own questions and answers. Creating an environment with these crucial aspects will empower my students to learn by doing, learn by exploration and learn to question everything around them.

As with any new idea brought to the table, I face many challenges successfully implementing this new learning environment that I want to give my students. Although I have not been an educator for many years, it has not taken long for me to see that many teachers do not like change. In hindsight, no one likes change. We are creatures of habit. We like things that are predictable and expected. Change rattles our environment and that’s exactly what I set out to do. I expect my administration to be wary of my choices. I plan to address this challenge by slowly emerging my students into the type of environment that I want them to be a part of. For example, my innovation plan has not been completely won over by a lot of other teachers or administration, even though we are already doing some form of blended learning within each of our classrooms. We call it a different name is the only difference. Some refer to it as centers, stations, the daily three or daily five. All of those titles are still a form of blended learning, so if they feel more comfortable calling it any of the previous titles, that’s fine by me. I want to pick and choose my battles strategically. Regardless of what my admin or fellow colleagues call it, it is not the name that matters, it is the environment it’s in and how the learning is taking place. Notice I chose the word learning, not teaching. I believe this is another challenge that awaits me. I’m the teacher, but not teaching? I have no doubt I will be looked down upon and referred to as lazy. I can accept that because I know that I will be giving my students power of their learning. I do not want to be the center of their education, and I’m okay with others not being fond of that. I am fully aware that providing my students with a significant learning environment, and becoming a facilitator instead of a teacher will prove itself in the long run. Slow and steady wins the race. Despite the obstacles I face, I know my purpose is providing my students with the tools and strategies they will be able to forever use in their life, not only within the square footage of my classroom.

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The school that I am at sends out a weekly memo with important dates and reminders that deem important to teachers. One thing that is always on this memo is a bullet point with student-led classrooms next to it. I find this interesting because although it is something that we are reminded weekly to do...I have rarely seen it done. I feel that most of the people on my campus truly believe they are doing this with fidelity, and are not aware of the disconnect between teacher-led and student-led. I have seen multiple times where teachers throw students into station time and call it a student-led classroom. The more I sit back and truly dissect what is happening in their room, I find that it still isn’t student-led. The teacher is giving. The teacher is doing. The teacher is answering. The teacher is exploring. The teacher is grading. The teacher is leading the classroom, not the student. I bring this up because I think if teachers on my campus would see a successfully functioning student-led classroom, then they would be able to manipulate what they are already doing into a better process. I dream of the day where our weekly memo doesn’t have the reminder of creating a student-led classroom because that will be the norm for us all. 

“You put the soil in, but the plants have to do the growing.” states Dr. Tony Bates in his YouTube video synopsis of building effective learning environments (ChangSchool, 2015). I feel that allowing other people to make these types of connections in a more relative and broader aspect will hopefully make them think in a broader fashion. I feel that society upholds the teacher to the highest level, until we are asked to do our job. When the reference is made with agriculture...the farmer tills the land and fertilizes it, but the crops do the growing. Most people would agree with this example and not give much, if any, backlash on it. It becomes unclear to me why when this analogy is used in the education setting that the idea is murky. My approach to gain people’s trust in creating their own significant learning environment in whatever organization they are a part of will be to provide them with resources such as myself and my fellow colleagues in this program. This will show that not only is this working for me in my classroom, but it’s also working for every one of these fellow people world-wide. Lastly, I want to encourage someone who is doubtful of how important creating significant learning environments are to take a look at my why, how and what statements. After reading them, I think they will have a greater understanding of where my heart lies and how I plan to be successful despite any obstacle. These statements combined with a growth mindset will hopefully allow others to think outside of the parameters that we all too often fall into. 

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Although teaching and learning are two very different things, I do believe that they go hand in hand. I would not be practicing what I preach if I thought I learn best in these significant learning environments, but not provide them to my own students. It would be a disservice to do such a thing. SLE is a new concept for myself as a learner, but I want it to be a normal concept for my own students. Teaching kindergarten gives me the opportunity to establish a proper foundation for these tiny humans. I want them to own their learning. I want them to be an active participant in their learning process. I want them to be able to tell me what works for them and what doesn’t with reasons to stand firm on that decision. I want to give them the power they already have by fostering it in a significant learning environment. Both my students and I will be learning together, and I will remind them of that daily. I am a lifelong learner just as I want my students to be. 

For a PDF version of my significant learning environment, click here.

References

ChangSchool. (2015, December 14). Dr. Tony Bates on Building Effective Learning Environments [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xD_sLNGurA 


play. Merriam-Webster.com. (2021). Merriam-Webster.com. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/play


TEDx Talks. (2012, September 13). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM80GXlyX0U


Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (n.d.). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (1st ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 

 
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We are each individual and unique and so is our learning style. Learning should not be something everyone does in the same manner, but rather the learner should find what way(s) they learn best.

Now that I self-promoted my title of teacher to facilitator, I believe that my learning and teaching philosophy are one and the same. I teach the way that I learn best, but the way I learn is always changing and that’s exactly how I want my teaching style to be...ever evolving.

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Constructivism is my current approach to learning. In Harapnuik’s post (Harapnuik, 2017), he describes many key implications that Piaget makes for learning. One point that stuck out to me was that we learn by doing. “This principle (that occurs through the child’s activity) suggests that the teacher’s major task is to provide for the child a wide variety of potentially interesting materials on which them may act,” (Ginsburg & Opper, 1969 p. 221). I found that although we age, we are still children at heart. As a learner, I want to physically do the learning. I want to be the toddler exploring every piece of the world around them. The amount of hands-on knowledge that I receive when I am able to manipulate the learning tools I am provided in my learning environment is far greater than a teacher simply providing and regurgitating information.

Michelle Thompson stated in her TED Talk, “...the learner is at the center of constructivism”(TEDx Talks, 2019). I want to be the center of my own learning. I do not want to take a backseat in my education or have someone else do my learning for me. I am the driver and in control of how I learn with the adequate tools provided for me. Harapnuik describes in another post how learners can be an inquisitivist. I believe that this goes hand in hand with constructivism. “...encouraging adult learners to become like children and enjoy the pleasure of inquisitiveness can be easily facilitated” (Harapnuik, 2009). As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy this kind of learning. I want to ignite the child-like mindset of freedom with my imagination in an adult world. Watching children thrive in that type of environment always sparks my interest in wondering where and why it stopped. We all know children’s brains are like sponges when they are young, but I do believe this type of learning can continue if fostered within an appropriate learning environment. In that same post, Harapnuik shares his view on Discovery Learning. “There is no single correct method or procedure. Allowing for self-directed reasoning and improvising through the learning experience will require the adult learner [to] take full responsibility for their learning” (Harapnuik, 2009). Although Harapnuik is referring to adult learners, I still relate this to any learner of any age at any educational level. As I mentioned in the beginning, I, too, believe that there is not one correct way to learn. Willing to be open to discover new ways of learning will allow myself, as the learner, to grow and flourish as a teacher, learner and human. I have to be willing to fail to see what worked and what didn’t. Failing is the learning because I find what didn’t work, but that does not mean I will stop my approach to learning in that manner. It means I need to view that approach differently, and see how I can make it work for my learning needs. There is never a waste when it comes to my learning. Although it may not be my preferred learning method, there is always a takeaway to any procedure that is presented.

For the past few months I have been exposed to, and I am gaining experience with the COVA approach. Through this approach learners are given choice, ownership and voice through authentic learning opportunities to gain a valuable learning experience. Now, I know all four parts of this approach are important for it to be successful, but I have a favorite that I feel makes me crave learning even more. Authentic learning opportunities are rare and for that reason I find them to be the most important and the most interesting. I enjoy relating what I am learning to my own personal life. I find more appreciation in my learning experience when I am able to do this. I can connect the learning dots and see the bigger picture much more quickly. This in turn allows me to dive deeper into the learning to gain even more knowledge about the content.

“We are living in the age where we no longer are asking if we should use technology to enhance learning but are asking how well are we using technology to enhance learning” (Harapnuik, 2016). Technology has not always been a part of my learning. I do remember a time when the only piece of technology we had in a classroom was the intercom system. Now, there is a piece of technology within fingers reach. Sadly, I have seen technology immersed into my life while learning was simultaneously becoming removed. It wasn’t until recently that I have seen how to effectively fuse the two together where technology is no longer used as a crutch. I have seen the difference in my own personal learning and because of it I am more appreciative of technology being used as a tool rather than a learning strategy.

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When reflecting and connecting on both my learning and teaching philosophy, I have a statement that I hope will sum up my continued journey on both roads. I am a lifelong learner. The growth mindset that I have will allow me to have the open mind that is needed to learn from failure and everyone around me. I remind my own learners in my classroom often that I am a student myself struggling with some of the same things that they struggle with. The awe in their faces quickly allows a connection to be established between teacher and student because together we are both learners. We may be on different journeys and headed in different directions but learners, nonetheless. 

Harapnuik uses four key points in describing and explaining why learning theories are important to understand.  

Dr. Harapnuik describes an evolving new and unique learning theory called inquisitism that is used throughout online courses. The two main focuses of inquisitivism are the removal of fear and the stimulation of inquisitive nature.

Dwayne provides a quick insight to what COVA is and how it will create better learners. Videos and links on this site allow the user to dive deeper into the COVA model and how combining it with a CSLE will result in effective active learning.

Dr. Harapnuik describes Piaget's key implications for learning and how they correlate with the COVA + CSLE model approach. Dwayne explains that the ideas for COVA are not new and have roots in Piaget's ideas.

In this TED talk, Michelle Thompson explains constructivism through different experiences and research. She continues to describe how this learner focused approach will make learning fun for any learner at any age. 

 

Watch my team and I discuss our own learning enivornment and situational factors. Regardless of your title, you will learn something from each of our different prospectives. At the root of our discussion, you will see that we each share a love of creating significant learning environments for all of our learners. 

In a hurry? Enjoy multitasking? Listen to our podcast instead and let us know what you'd like to hear us talk about next.

Learning Environment & Situational Factors to Consider
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Creating my three column table required me to look at outcomes, activities, and assessments and how they should align with foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension/caring, and learning how to learn skills (Fink, n.d.). This was not before developing a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) for the span of a year for my kindergarten learners. As you will read, our BHAG is merely a compound sentence with action verbs implemented, but the thought behind that sentence is where the significance occurs. It took several attempts to create a BHAG that covered everything I wanted my students to gain from this year. I had to take a few steps back and look at a bigger picture for my learners. In the beginning, I was focused on units and TEKS and making sure I was covering everything the curriculum wanted me to. It wasn’t until discussing with a few of my team members that I realized I needed to look at this from a different perspective. My general objective became broader, yet that’s exactly what I was needing to understand and be successful with the three column table and my innovation plan. Having aligned outcomes, activities and assessments, allows for an authentic learning experience with real world application in a significant learning environment. My learners will have the opportunity to make connections based on context instead of content.

 

Learning Enivornment 

Situational Factors

BHAG: Learners will create an ePortfolio to share their work, reflect on their growth and develop their voice in a blended learning environment.

Learning
Outcomes

Learning Activities

Learning assessments

Image by Morgan Housel

Foundational

Learners will examine and explore the fundamental principles of effective blended learning.

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Investigate the fundamentals of ePortfolios through blended learning and begin to develop your own ePortfolio.

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ePortfolio

Discussion

 
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Application

Learners will be able to analyze and communicate why ePortfolios and Blended Learning should be used and how choice contributes to reflective practice.

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Continue building the ePortfolio.

Growth Mindset reflection Seesaw post.

Image by Ed Robertson

ePortfolio

Discussion

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Integration

Learners will be able to articulate and justify who owns the ePortfolio and their learning and how ownership of both of those factors contribute to effective learning.

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Reflection Seesaw post.

Compare and contrast ePortfolios and take home folders.

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ePortfolio

Discussion

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Learners explore and incorporate the social and collaborative role of learning in their own community.

Image by Hush Naidoo

Reflection Seesaw post over community collaboration.

Create a picture describing how this can be used beyond the classroom.

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ePortfolio

Discussion

Human Dimension/Caring

Image by Morgan Housel

Learning How to Learn 

Learners will communicate and collaborate on what helped them promote their learning.

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Finalize your ePortfolio for this year.

Reflection Seesaw post.

Image by Ed Robertson

ePortfolio

Discussion

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If we as facilitators can reverse our way of structuring our students learning, they will always be functioning in a significant learning environment that requires them to do more than just remember and understand. Our learners will be able to create something new with the knowledge we are exposing them to in a learner centered environment. 

References:

Fink, L. D. (2005). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from: https://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf

Godin, S. [TEDxYouth]. (2012, October 16). Stop stealing dreams [video]. Retrieved from [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXpbONjV1Jc]

Harapnuik, D. (2015, August 15). Connecting the dots vs. collecting the dots [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=85XpexQy68g

Comparison chart

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Although there are some very clear differences between to the two designs, they both serve their own purpose in creating a significant learning environment for our learners. Using the appropriate template in correlation with my innovation plan will continue to build self-directed learners with authentic learning opportunities. 

 

Taking into consideration what goals you have for your learners in a course or unit is important when planning using a backwards style design. Doing this allows the facilitator to use the 3 Column Table to first establish where the learners ultimately need to arrive at. I, then, took that table and created my UbD or Understanding by Design template. In this design, I used one part or unit of my 3 Column Table and went in depth on what exactly I wanted my learners to accomplish incorporating desired results, assessment evidence and a learning plan. These components ensure that I, as the guide, ensure that I fully equip my learners to meet their goals. Above, you saw my comparison chart of both designs, it is important to see that regardless of preference or necessity, both designs should empower our learners to own their learning.

 
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References:

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2008). Understanding by design (2nd ed.).
    Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fink, L. D. (2005). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from: https://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf

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Growth Mindset + CSLE


Creating a significant learning environment is important for my innovation plan, but combining these two components with a growth mindset will construct a life-long learner who will not only be successful in a classroom but in the world as well. A growth mindset will aid in helping create a significant learning environment by allowing my learners to seek success in their failures. Providing them a safe environment to do this in will equip them with a skill that will help them get the most out of their learning. 

Growth Mindset Reimagined 


Failing forward is the way that genuine progress and authentic learning takes place. A growth mindset is also a major piece of creating that learning. It is important to recognize that although the power of "yet" is a huge component in that mindset, it still takes more than just one simple word. It takes work and a craving for failure. As a facilitator in my learners journey, I will model this failure in my classroom and allow my learners to recognize that I, myself, am becoming a better learner and leader in my failures. I believe that if they are shown the correct way to "fail" they, too, will respond in the appropriate manner and become independent, authentic, life-long learners.

References:

CSLE2COVA. (2019, April 5). LMD EP20 Growing A Growth Mindset [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/yR7uCZGPZ5k

Dweck, C. S. (n.d.). Mindset.

Einck, C. (2017). Growth mindset affects elementary students (Master's thesis, Northwestern College, Orange City, IA). Retrieved from http://nwcommons.nwciowa.edu/education_masters/39/

Mineola Creative Content. (2017, December 11). Promoting Growth Mindset | Dr. Nagler's Laboratory [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/85ABaggHgw0

Sesame Street. (2014, September 10). Sesame Street: Janelle Monae - Power of Yet [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/XLeUvZvuvAs

Stanford Alumni. (2014, October 9). Developing a Growth Mindset with Carol Dweck [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/hiiEeMN7vbQ

TEDx Talks. (2014, September 12). The power of yet | Carol S Dweck | TEDxNorrköping [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/J-swZaKN2Ic

TEDx Talks. (2018, April 11). The Mindset of a Champion | Carson Byblow | TEDxYouth@AASSofia [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/px9CzSZsa0Y

Trevor Ragan. (2018, October 31). How to Build a Growth Mindset [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7XjFTrPl6o&t=20s