Saturday, August 8, 2015

Developing Minds: Tools for the Digital Native

As educators, we have primary and secondary purposes with our students. The primary, and most obvious purpose, is to teach our students content: reading, writing, math, science, social sciences, music and other core and extra curriculum. The secondary, and I would argue equally if not more important purpose, is to grow students into responsible members of society. At the top of this curriculum would be to help students grow and develop their respectful and ethical minds. These are two critical skills that students must have in order to find success at almost any career they might pursue, and to interact well in the world in general.

In identifying the five minds for the future, Howard Gardner defines the respectful mind as, “Responding sympathetically and constructively to differences among individuals and among groups; seeking to understand and work with those who are different, extending beyond mere tolerance and political correctness” (Gardner, 2008).  Additionally, he “call(s) on human beings to accept the differences, learn to live with them, and value those who belong to other cohorts (groups)” (Gardner, 2008). Gardner is describing how humans should act with and about each other, regardless of background, values, culture or ethnicity. The training for respect begins at a very young age as children watch the interactions of adults around them and take their cues for expected behavior from them. Also, children are directly taught about respect in school, by learning and practicing expected respectful behavior with teachers and other adults in school, peers, and other adults involved in school activities. Many schools have prepared lessons solely on what respect looks like, how to be respectful, and how to handle disrespectful interactions. Still, educators also use less direct methods to teach respect as well. These may be even more important than direct instruction because it infuses respect into the “work” environment of school so that it flows more naturally, as it would in a work setting.

Two tools that can be used to help students develop their respectful minds in the classroom are Board Builder on Discovery Education and Glogster. Both of these web tools allow teachers and students to create interactive digital boards that can be used to either support instruction, or to create content. Teachers can use these tools to create boards that students then use as resources or to complete independently (as in a center or for a flipped classroom). One way this tool could be used by teachers to teach respect is to create a board that directly instructs on another culture, a social issue, an environmental issue, or another part of society that the students may not be familiar with. These lessons can foster understanding and students can begin to learn about and respect the differences between themselves and a unique group of people. Activities that develop respect and understanding can be included. Students could also use these tools to create projects that evidence their learning about groups that are different from themselves, problems that society must find solutions for, respect for other organisms on Earth, or unique solutions to social issues of the day. Students can create these independently, or in a group, which requires collaborative work, another situation in which students must practice respect to successfully complete the work.

Gardner’s final of the fifth minds is the ethical mind. Gardner defines the ethical mind as “abstracting crucial features of one’s role at work and one’s role as a citizen and acting consistently with those conceptualizations; striving toward good work and good citizenship” (Gardner, 2008). He goes on to describe the three ways in which work can be good; “work can be good in the sense of being excellent in quality”, “work may be good in the sense of being responsible – taking into account implications for the wider community”, “work may be good in the sense of feeling good – it is engaging and meaningful” (Gardner, 2008). As educators, the ethical mind can seem more difficult to address as getting students to see the value of work can sometimes be difficult. Gardner offers a prescription for this in saying, “Educators can smooth the road to the ethical mind by drawing attention to the other connotations of goodness. Students need to understand why they are learning what they are learning and how this knowledge can be put to constructive uses” (Gardner, 2008). It would seem to be imperative to help students understand how what they are learning in school will not only prepare them for their life after school, but also how it will benefit them in attaining a career that they can consider “good work”. The age old question “Why do I need to know this?” would seem to have more value than educators traditionally consider!

We can again look to the tools of Board Builder and Glogster to not only support instruction that helps develop the ethical mind, but also supports student “work” to practice using the ethical mind. Teachers again can use these tools to provide content and practice for students in the content. These tools provide new and innovative strategies for instruction, which can lead to increased student engagement and participation, demonstrating the need to actively participate in their own education. If they are truly engaged, not passive observers, they can practice the skill of being responsible. Being responsible for your own requirements is a part of ethical behavior, rather than passively letting someone else do what is rightly your job. Students can also create content to demonstrate their learning or report on research or understanding of issues as they relate to ethical or “good” work. Students can see the importance of being active participants in a society and contributing to the overall good. These are lessons that will help them see the part they play in a healthy society and the harm that can be caused when members of a society do not contribute, but only draw on the work of others.

Developing the respectful and ethical mind in students is as important of a job as teaching them traditional curriculum. Whether this instruction is directly through lessons and activities, or indirectly through modeling and experiences, they are critical skills that must be addressed in education. Using web tools such as Board Builder or Glogster can reach our students as the digital natives they are, supporting the development of these minds to help them achieve success in the world beyond school.


Gardner, Howard. (2008). Five minds for the future. Boston, MA. Harvard Buisiness School Publishing.

Newlearninguk's channel. (2009). Glogster in 90 seconds. Retrieved on August 8, 2015 from

Moore, Sam. (2014). Discovery Education board builder. Retrieved on August 8, 2015 from . 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Developing Minds: Growing into Me

Howard Garder describes the Five Minds for the Future in his book by the same name. Here is my reflection on how I can grow and develop those five minds in myself as an educator.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: How to Bring it to Students in Meaningful Instruction

If you walk into any school or any classroom, one of the expectations you will probably notice with have something to do with respect. Respect is incorporated into school and classroom rules, expectations, outcomes and possibly even mission statements. Respect is taught and valued in our education system. It is desired and acknowledged in daily routines. Many people; educators, parents, community members lament that “the problems today exist because students don’t have enough respect.” So the question becomes, how exactly do we instill respect in our students to help them become successful, productive citizens of our society?

Many classrooms and schools attempt to teach respect through implicit instruction, modeling, examples, scenarios and role play. While this is most likely an important part of teaching students what respect is, it certainly isn’t enough by itself. Instead, we should be teaching students what it means to have a “respectful mind”, (Gardner, 2008) by incorporating it into classroom work, activities, and projects. After all, in the work world, we are expected to be able to interact respectfully with our colleagues and fellow employees, so it only makes sense to teach our students to do the same through practice. But how might this actually look in a classroom?

One of the ultimate goals I have this year to help my students gain a better understanding of the respectful mind through collaboration and connections outside of the classroom walls. I use a lot of projects with my students that require them to work collaboratively in groups. This type of work helps them understand that in order to successfully finish a project and develop a high quality product, group members must be respectful of each other and of the process they have to use in working together. I want to extend this experience so that students are working collaboratively with students in other classrooms as well as outside of our school building. Our team, which consists of two literacy teachers, one math teacher, one science, and one social studies teacher, has been working to develop an interdisciplinary unit that will incorporate aspects from all subject areas. Two aspects of the project that will have students working with students beyond their own classroom groups include asynchronous work with partners in a literacy and social studies class to develop an informational flyer about the region they will be studying (encompassing ecosystems and culture of a region of the world) and connecting with a student from that region through blogging.

This project will see students working together with students outside the classroom walls to develop content that fosters a better understanding of another student’s culture. Students will ask questions to get information about the environment and culture of other parts of the world. Students will then engage in virtual discussions through blogging and responses using a site such as Kidblog. Students will be responsible for different pieces of collaborative projects to help develop and understanding of the importance of their role in completion of a group project. Through these activities, we can provide authentic experiences for our students.

Additionally, we would like to use a culminating activity where students apply what they have learned by doing an activity such as Mystery Skype. Through this activity, students can use clues from what they have learned and the work of other groups to determine where in the world the person they are Skyping with is located.

Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay describe a seven step plan for the process of “flattening the classroom” in their interview on  In the taxonomy of global connection, they describe the 5 levels of global connection: Level 1: Intra-connection; within the classroom, level 2: Inter-connection; within the school or district, level 3: Managed global connection, level 4: student to student with teacher management, and level 5: student to student with student management (Future of Education, 2014). So far, I have achieved level 1, within my classroom. With this interdisciplinary unit, we will be able to move to level 2 and level 3 by developing connections with classrooms outside of our school environment, possibly across the world.  By having students make connections with students from other environments and cultures, we will create opportunities for our students to develop understandings about the lives of people around the world. This will foster respect for other cultures through real-world experiences. It will also provide opportunities for students to understand their importance when working with a group who rely on them to complete their portion of a project. Giving students opportunities to see how their choices and actions affect the “good of the group” helps them develop a better understanding of the importance of respect. These activities can also help develop their “ethical mind” through interactions with people from other cultures and being responsible for their part of a group project.
By using projects and activities to provide opportunities for students to practice respect and ethical behavior, we are giving our students real-world experiences for when they leave the world of education and join the world of work. These practice opportunities are more effective than just instructing students in the importance of these skills. If we are to truly equip our students to be successful members of society, our classrooms need to move beyond the classroom walls into the world. With the technologies available today, we have the perfect opportunity to enhance the educational experiences of our students to be more authentic to prepare them as valuable members of the society they live in.


Future of Education. (2014). Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis on “flattening classrooms”. Retrieved from .

Gardner, Howard. (2008). Five minds of the future. Boston, Massachusetts. Harvard Business School Publishing.

Mosca, T. (2015). Mystery skype; Connecting classrooms around the world. Retrieved from .