“Rat” Removal and Transformative Learning

In the first chapter of Contemporary Theories of Learning, by K. Illeris, he outlines the four types of learning that individuals can experience: cumulative, assimilative, accommodative, and transformative. The one that peeked my interest and the level that I would like my students to attain is the transformative, as this is where reflection, perspective changing, and thorough learning occurs. Yet, after reading the chapter, I struggled to understand how exactly this would look in the classroom and whether or not it is attainable. Can we expect our students to have these transformative moments as learners? Or is this process that occurs throughout a school career?

I came across an article by K.P. King that deepened my understanding of transformative learning. Although her article emphasized this learning through adult educators’ experiences with technology, it provided insights into what this would look like at the elementary school level. Below is an outline of the stages of transformation as summarized by K.P. King:

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From reflecting on this chart, one idea of what it would look like in the classroom is through genius hour. Through genius hour it is obvious that students experience several moments of uncertainty, but through exploring, reflecting, and problem solving are able to rationalize new ideas that change their perspectives. However, I am still grappling with other examples of how this transformation learning would occur in elementary school children.

Throughout chapter one, another concept that stood out for me was the difference between defense learning and resistance learning. I initially was puzzled with how to distinguish between the two. A student could come to class disengaged because he/she does not understand a concept, or it could be from an earlier event that occurred in his/her day. In the busy and always lacking time day of a teacher, how do we find means to discover whether a student is demonstrating defense or resistance learning?

During the last school year, I read a wonderful book called, You Can’t Teach Through a Rat, by Marvin Berkowitz. Berkowitz acknowledged the idea that students come into classrooms with “their lives,” thus are not always ready to learn and instead can put up defensive learning mechanisms. As teachers, we are responsible to remove, what Berkowitz called “rats” in order for learning to occur, and through the process listed below:

Berkowitz, 2012, pg 17

Berkowitz, 2012, pg 17

Although this may seem like a daunting task, if we ultimately want our students to be active learners, we need to set them up for success. We need to show them that we care not only for them a learner, but also as a person. I think only then can true learning occur.

Illeris, K. (Ed.). (2008). Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists…In Their Own Words. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/alltitles/docDetail.action?docID=10296951 (Introduction, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 14 and 15 [5 and 11].

King, K. P. (2002). A journey of transformation: A model of educators’ learning experiences in educational technology. In J. M. Pettit & R. P. Francis (Eds.). Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Adult Education Research Conference, (pp. 195-200). Retrieved from: http://www.adulterc.org/Proceedings/2002/papers/King.pdf

Berkowitz, M.W. (2012). You Can’t Teach Through a Rat. Boone, NC, USA: Character Development Group Inc.

Reading Between the Lines


Classrooms are filled with a variety of students with different abilities, background knowledge, languages, skill levels, and personalities. All of these factors effect and play an important role in students’ abilities to comprehend stories, information, or articles that they read. With our highly diverse student population, my school and teachers were finding that our students lacked the background knowledge and vocabulary skills to understand, what some may deem as, simple stories. Over the last few years we focused on reciprocal teaching as a way to increase students reading, but also to make students think while reading. We want them to make connections to the stories they read, be able to ask powerful questions, clarify unfamiliar words or phrases, predict character actions, and summarize in their own words what happened and what the most important parts of the story are.

Here’s a student made video briefly explaining how reciprocal teaching works.

Although the ultimate goal is to have students working on these skills independently, at the grade four level, I still find that much teacher intervention is needed to order to ensure the process works effectively. I have found that having props handy makes the role play that much more exciting for the students.

Today, my AP and I were discussing how to improve my students’ reading comprehension skills with our current reading resources available and the ability gaps between students. We brainstormed and came up with the idea of a variety of novel studies happening in my classroom at one time. I haven’t attempted this before but feel it would be a great scaffold for my students, a perfect merger for reciprocal teaching, and the promises of a good concept. But how this would look and how it would function efficiently, well I am still unclear on that. I have the idea of having books on iPads or a way for the students who need to listen to a story, to have that available for them, but I am feeling that I’m still missing key concepts for this to work.

As an educator I am always trying to improve the learning environment for my students, allowing them to be successful and develop the skills necessary. I’m reaching out to other educators now, who can share their experiences with me. Has anyone tried this personally, and if so, what did you find worked and did not work? What were your challenges? What advise can you give to another educator?


Here are a couple resources on reciprocal teaching for those wanting more information:
Reading Rockets
Read, Write, Think
Reading and Learning Strategy
Why Reciprocal Reading?

Who Needs a Dictionary When You Have Google?


“I don’t even understand why we have dictionaries. All you have to do is type a word into the internet and boom, you know what it means.”
“I know, right? It’s so much easier. Any time I don’t know a word, I just type it into my app and it tells me.”
“So true! I wonder why they even made them.”

This was a conversation that I overheard today as my students were eating their snack. I of course had to jump in on the conversation to find out more about how great google or apps are and how obsolete dictionaries are becoming. I asked the group of students a few questions more about how they search for words and how they look words up, and they responded, “You just type in the word and it tells you the answer right away.”
“How do you know it’s right?” I questioned.
“It’s the internet!” They responded, synchronized, as if planned and rehearsed.

It is interesting to think about the children that are growing up these days and the technologies that surround them. With a click of a button they can easily find answers to questions that would have taken us minutes or even hours to find. Is this a better way? Some would say yes, and I would agree. Why spend all that extra time when it seems our time is always limited? Why spend hours when you can find answers in seconds?

This had me thinking about how we use technology today, and if it is limiting our skills or improving them. In terms of the dictionary, without it do kids know how to organize things alphabetically? Are they able to use guide words to help them? These are skills that I would deem important, but are they? When do we use alphabetical organization today?

I often flip and flop in my mind between fundamental skills that technology inhibits, but the ease and access to things that were never possible prior. In order to gain a benefit in one area do we have to sacrifice something else? Or is there a way to balance?

As educators, I feel that we each have enough knowledge and pedagogical skills to make our own decisions. If a target is in your curriculum, obviously you need to cover it, but I suppose the extent into which you delve is your decision. I think we need to remember that some skills are important to us, because it is the way we learned and in the era we grew up in. But things are changing, and children are adapting. I believe it is our duty to adapt as well.



Tonight, I participated in my first #edtechchat. These twitter chats have always frightened me as they are fast-paced, a continuous stream of messages to read and catch up on, and the whole idea of not knowing what is going on and feeling overwhelmed has consistently turned me away from trying them out. I guess you could say it was all in my head. If I expect my students to experiment with new technologies, shouldn’t I model that for them as well? Sometimes you just have to jump in and enjoy the feeling of being uncomfortable. Much to my surprise, after a few minutes of typing away, the nerves went away and I was able to enjoy the ample information being shared. The chat focused on how technology effects writing, with a focus on blogging and other writing platforms, and student collaboration. Here’s a little sample of some of the discussion that took place.

All of this discussion had me thinking about blogging and the purpose of it. In October, I created a classroom blog for my students. I started it as a way for students to share their learning with each other and their parents, like an online journal really. However, now I am wondering if that is good enough? Instead should it be a platform for collaboration? A way for students to connect with others around the globe? Shouldn’t they have the opportunity to blog in a non-academic forum as well?

As professionals, I believe that we constantly need to evaluate and reflect on our practice, and be challenged on our current beliefs and ways. For me this happened tonight, and now is my chance to reconsider the purpose of student blogging.

(For more information on twitter edchats available, check out this link)

Welcome to the World of Twitter


I joined twitter a year ago, lurked around, and abandoned the idea of yet another social media site to maintain. However, in the last few months I delved deeper to understanding what twitter was all about and the immense abilities to connect, learn from, and share ideas with educators all over the world. The capabilities of this site are endless, and although at times I am overwhelmed when I see the never-ending role of tweets that I have missed, I continue to believe that it is an excellent resource for professional development when used in a meaningful way.

Recently, I have surrounded myself with a plethora of educators who are new to twitter and I thought I could offer some personal advise for tips and tricks to navigate through the world of tweeting.

Your Profile Page:
1) Use your real name. There is no need to create a new one.
2) Nobody wants to see a picture of an egg, so please, put a picture of yourself. It does not have to be a glamour shot, but having a picture removes that sense of mystery and uncertainty about an individual.
3) In your bio, provide information about what you teach. Be specific as this will connect you to more educators like yourself. Also, share something personal; things you like to do, hobbies, etc…
4) Unless you have a strong reason to, keep your profile unlocked. Twitter is a public domain and allowing people to read and share your tweets is a great way to connect with individuals you could have otherwise missed.

1) Dedicate at least thirty minutes a day to explore, tweet, and connect with others. The best way to gather a following is to tweet, tweet, tweet!
2) Follow individuals who interest you. Think about the things you are interested in, or the areas where you would like to develop more.
3) If you find a person who either follows a lot of people, or has a lot of followers, look at their profiles. I guarantee you that you will be able to find people to connect with.
4) Retweet all you would like, but also remember to create your own ideas. Remember that people want to learn from you as well, so share the great things that you are learning or doing in your classroom.
5) Be concise! You only have 140 characters so your tweets should be clear and to the point.
6) Use #hashtags! This will also help you to connect and put your ideas, comments, or questions out to the twitter world.
7) Remember whatever you tweet you should feel comfortable saying in front of a student. You are responsible for creating your digital footprint!

Here are some other resources to check out:
10 steps to becoming a twitter master video.
What should a networked educational leader tweet about?
60 dos and don’ts for Twitter newbies.
10 ways teachers can use twitter for professional development.
Essential dos and don’ts for twitter users.