Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Time to Turn Up the H.E.A.T.!

During the past 5 years, I have queried classroom teachers, building and district administrators, curriculum leaders, and parent groups about the concept of student engagement. Specifically, I have asked the following question, “Do students make a conscious decision to become engaged in the learning process daily?” To this question, I have received a plethora of responses ranging from “Absolutely; otherwise why would they be in class?” to “I don’t know.” This essential question is further compounded when one considers Herbert Kohl’s book, I Won't Learn From You and Other Thoughts on Creative Maladjustment and his assertion that students who become disengaged and disenfranchised intentionally “not learn” what they are allegedly learning in the classroom.

When students decide, "I won't learn from you," they go into "not-learning" mode. "Not-learning" describes any number of behaviors that a learner uses to keep new information from getting into the brain. Some students put their hands over their ears. Less blatant forms of resisting learning include running a silent monologue to concentrate on which competes with and blocks the voices outside or just becoming passively compliant in the classroom. According to Kohl, “Not learning tends to take place when someone has to deal with unavoidable challenges to his or her personal and family loyalties, integrity and identity. In such situations there are forced choices and no apparent middle ground.”

How big is the problem of “not learning” and/or “lack of student engagement” in our schools? Informal responses from hundreds of professional educators reveal a dismay picture. The average level of student disengagement (i.e., student behavior exemplifying non-attentiveness, silence, apathy, and/or boredom) as self-reported by random classroom teachers and building administrators nationally is highest at the high school level (upwards of 90% student disengagement) followed by the middle school environment (somewhere between 40% to 70% disengagement) . The lowest level of disengagement appears to be at the elementary level (typically 10% to 40% disengagement). Though these numbers may fluctuate from campus to campus and region to region, the point is the lack of student engagement does negatively impact student success in the classroom.

Elevating the level of student engagement should, therefore, be a top priority of all stakeholders vested in the teaching/learning field. At LoTi Digital-Age Schools, elevating the level of student engagement means turning up the H.E.A.T.
H.E.A.T. is an acronym representing Higher order thinking, Engaged learning, Authenticity, and Technology use.

Higher order thinking represents the higher level discrete thinking operations (Bloom) involving application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation and the broader, more all-encompassing complex thinking strategies that depend on a series of steps to reach a conclusion. These complex thinking strategies include problem-solving, creative problem-solving, decision-making, investigation, reflective thinking, experimental inquiry, and inductive/deductive reasoning. (A summary of these strategies appears in the Article Resources.) Classrooms that are generating higher order thinking are engaging students in the content, process, and/or product stages using one of more of these complex thinking strategies.

Engaged learning represents the level in which students are actively involved in the learning process. Are they merely reporting back distilled information to the teacher or are they involved in identifying a problem and finding a solution that possesses both personal and social importance. Engaging the learner extends beyond simple compliant behavior, but moves the learner toward active involvement in the classroom. Students generating their own essential questions relating to the content is one measuring stick used to determine the amount of engagement in a classroom.

Authenticity represents what people might actually do in the real world- real life issues, themes, problems. The degree of authenticity may fluctuate depending on the age and background of the learner; yet all authentic assessments possess the following attributes: Allow for multiple solutions Relate to student’s prior knowledge Have personal meaning Be challenging Employ complex thinking processes. One of the easiest ways to infuse greater authenticity into student learning experiences is by integrating one of more 21st Century Themes into the learning experience. These themes include:
  • Global Awareness,
  • Economic Literacy,
  • Health and Wellness Awareness, and
  • Civic Awareness
Technology use measures whether or not the technology used in the learning experience bolsters the level of student cognition, increases student engagement, and/or paves the way for greater relevance or authenticity relating to the learning experience? If the answer is “Yes” to this question, then the use of various learning technologies ranging from podcasts to online graphing programs is appropriate and highly desired. If the answer is “No”, then the use of technology becomes nothing more than an add-on and is not needed for task completion.

Taken collectively, H.E.A.T provides a context to assess student learning experience at the operational curriculum level serving as a useful set of descriptors for classroom walkthroughs, peer coaching/mentoring interventions, and lesson plan evaluations. By turning up the H.E.A.T., students are given the chance to apply or transfer critical content to contextual situations that involve high levels of engagement, critical thinking, and increased relevance. The result is improved student academic achievement as well as improved classroom climate.


May the LoTi be with you Always!
Chris Moersch

Kohl, Herbert (1987). Leadership for change. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing Company.

83 comments:

  1. As digital learners continue to enter schools, we must challenge students to higher levels of thinking, communication, teamwork and technoloyy use. Being in a Career and Technology Center we have the advantage of hands-on learning, high level technology, and live-work (authenticity).

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  2. As technology becomes more accessible in our classrooms we should work with our teachers to use it to raise the level of student engagement/learning rather than a device to compliment the content.

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  3. I was wondering about levels of engagement by the social class of students. Do students from lower socioeconomic homes have lower levels of engagement? Could this be part of the problem with the learning gap?

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    1. I often wonder this too. I absolutely feel that this has to do with the gap.

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    2. Several of my colleagues and I were wondering the same thing. I also find that the lack of background knowledge that my students possess also derives from their social class and inevitably leads to disengagement.

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    3. Valid point. Lack of background knowledge is directly related to disengagement.

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    4. I agree. The students I teach who come from lower socioeconomic levels have often shown to have a lack of prior knowledge as well as limited vocabulary to help them succeed in school.

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    5. Poor kids in my class need so much more scaffolding and schema-building than their more affluent peers.

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    6. Great expression of our common experiences and conclusions! I also wonder if authenticity includes giving students a space to express their cultural identity and deal with related conflicts they are feeling as part of an inquiry.

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    7. Great expression of our common experiences and conclusions! I also wonder if authenticity includes giving students a space to express their cultural identity and deal with related conflicts they are feeling as part of an inquiry.

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  4. An interesting point was made regarding the social class connection to engagement. I recently had an opportunity to browse the Kaiser Report on the impact of media on 8-18 year olds. There were several findings of gaps by gender and race, and some implications to parent involvement by social and educational background. For long-term benefits, it seems more important than ever that educators provide opportunity for student dialog on internet safety and digital citizenship and responsibility.

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  5. I see the challenge for educators to be...an authentic integration of technology that "super charges" student engagement with relevant and rigorous learning. Bloom and Daggett brought us the notions of higher order thinking and rigor/relevance, respectively. I believe the intentional integration of various technologies "super charge" those ideals of what we know to be the optimal conditions for learning.

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  6. In order to have an authentic integration of technology, I feel as though the teacher needs to be equipped with a variety of lessons and knowledge. The more knoweldge, the more confident I feel i would be. Without the proper training, both student and teacher will see this as a failure.

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    1. I agree! Training and time is needed before we can effectively ise it in the classroom.

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    2. Training is vital....we need time and much time to collaborate.

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  7. Students are coming to schools around the country with such a strong technological background. Schools must stay up to date and provide teachers wth the necessary training and equipment to better prepare students for the 21st century.
    I am excited to gain a better understanding of H.E.A.T which will provide me a resource to be used during classroom observations.

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  8. I have recently received an e-mail with an article in it called " The Three Levels of Learning," by Horacio Sanchez. He says learning can be broken down to 3 basic coponents,"core information, principles & application, and higher level thinking." It seems always a common factor in student learning when people write about it always involves higher level/order thinkingskills. I have found when I observe classes the teachers who pose questions and activities that help develop this area almost always have students engaged in the lesson.

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  10. Bloom's levels of critical thinking have been an influence in education forever. Now, however, we can think of those levels in the technology arena as well. It brings new thinking to me in how I view technology. Engagement is high in the elementary years. Working to bring more critical thinking and technology use to the elementary years is the challenge.

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  11. Planning a H.E.A.T. lesson makes you think differently as an educator. It is much more than looking at the standard and getting the "job done" efficiently. You start seeing yourself as a class member and asking yourself, "How engaged would be if I were the student?" It is a very exciting way to teach.

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  12. The digital native is in the classroom... and for most part, it's not the teacher. LoTI/H.E.A.T. conceptualizes the classroom as a very dynamic, student-center place. It's exciting to see how higher order thinking, engaged learning, authentic connections, and the use of technology blended together become the structure for teaching. As teachers step-it-up to meet the needs of our 21st Century learners, the constructs of LoTI will help engaged teachers and administrators in measuring this transformation.

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  13. Today's educators...as well as all stakeholders...have to fully embrace the mission to prepare our children for THEIR future. I am impressed with teachers and administrators who are THEMSELVES actively engaged and who "naturally" model and create conditions for effective implementation of H.E.A.T. concepts. "Stepping it up" in our schools will have a positive impact in battling the "culture of complacency and sense of entitlement" which Thomas Friedman describes in his book, The World is Flat.

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    1. I agree. The problem is how to get the students to be sold on the same ideas. At the high school level they tend to have tunnel vision and not see beyond the own reality. We need to help them see that the world is larger than their own native area. Real world knowledge is important.

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  14. I was struck by the data you shared concerning student disengagement and its trends. I have now worked at both the HS level and MS level, as a teacher and administrator, and have seen this first hand. Our elementary colleagues do such a nice job of developing lessons with high engagement and practical applications. Then, somehow, as students get older, we shift our focus to content and forget about the learning when in actuality, that is where H.E.A.T. is needed the most. It is a good reminder to us all. Thanks for your blog posting.

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  15. Bravo to you! I am glad to read such insight to students. I agree that all learners may move into the 'I won't learn from you' mode. I am happy to see some of the why reasons of not learning. It is up to me to present lessons in a relevant way so students will want to learn. When I do allow them to choose, learning happens. Just as the learner demonstrates interest and passion so do I as the teacher on the side. I want to be more a guide on the side sharing ideas that will get the learning targets and objectives covered. Then it is easier to share with parents and administrators.

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  16. I was also struck by the fact that students lose interest and become disengaged by middle school. I believe that lessons should have relevancy and technology to keep up with the 21st century. Also lessons have to become more student centered in order for them to be more engaged. Students also have to start being responsible for their own learning.

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  17. The idea that the increased technology use bolsters student cognition and engagement is not a "new idea". I do struggle with the question of are our teachers ready to utilize the technology resources and tools they have access to? It seems that technology is more of an add on in most classrooms and I am hopeful that as a district we can move to a more comprehensive and embedded technology base.

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  18. I am beginning to develop a deep appreciation for the information that I am receiving relevant to H.E.A.T. strategies as well as 21st Century instruction and learning. My caution to embracing various instructional technologies is for the teacher to "continue" using the very best instructional strategies. Teachers must not allow the technological devices to serve as "the teacher". Instead, the technologies should enhance and compliment the instruction that is being delivered as emphasis is placed on high levels of student engagement and fostering higher levels of student thinking. To me, teaching truly becomes an art when balancing best instructional practices infused with technology

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  19. Clearly through engaging learners with the use of technology and presenting lessons that are relative to life, students will begin thinking on a higher level. Students have to be able to connect in some way in order to be open to new information. In today's high tech world, the use of technology is how we are going to keep them actively engaged and wanting more! Learning that is!

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  20. I understand that Technology is a HUGE part of learning. Our students are so tech-savy that sometimes teachers ask them for help. To really get students engaged in a lesson, bring in some use of technology and connect the lesson to real world experiences. This has more meaning for the students in the class and you create a learner for life.

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  21. As one of the Campus Tech Trainers for my district, it is my job to assist the teachers in increasing the HEAT levels of their lessons. The only issue we currently have is really the time constraint. With increased class sizes shorter periods, it is increasingly difficult for teachers to stay on track with the timeline for their curriculum and integrate technology into their lessons. But, by taking the teachers lessons and enhancing just one component with technology, we have been able to get “buy in” from most teachers. This in turn has made it much easier to “turn up the HEAT” at our schools.

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  22. Technology use is definitely not going away. It is essential that teachers embrace the use of technology and let the student do the learning with the use of technology. I have seen cases where the teacher is not technology savvy and the students take over and use technology to do the work. The technology is available, we just need to get the teachers to change the way they approach teaching with technology.

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    1. Not only do we have to get teachers to change their approach, we need to embrace the fact that our students are already immersed in technology; they live and breathe it. What we need to do now is to put all that technology to good use…focus it and make it work FOR us, not against us. Restricting student’s personal technology is a losing battle. We need to embrace it and utilize it.

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    2. Javier Munoz-

      I think changing teachers approach to technology is just one hurdle for incorporating H.E.A.T. more successfully. I also feel that changing a teachers mindset towards technology is a precursor to changing their approach. I sense a stigma with bringing about a new technology program, device and/or approach sometimes because some teachers view it as "another thing to do," especially when said technologies become "mandatory." When training on a new program, I can hear a few sighs in the group as some see it as a waste of time. Essentially, the "I won't learn from you" attitude can be infectious from teacher to student in these regards. Is this attitude/mindset inevitable? IMHO....i don't think so. Can it be remedied? I will join the H.E.A.T. bandwagon to try.

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  23. I think the key in any learning environment is to make the learning opportunities as relevant to the learners’ lives as possible. This does take more planning, but the payoff for having students actually care about what they are learning about is immeasurable. Adding technology into a well thought out lesson just sweetens the pot and makes these learning experiences even richer as the teacher is helping students develop skills need in the 21st Century. Well thought out learning experiences and the use of technology should go hand in hand.

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  24. I agree that once student take on the attitude of I will not learn from you it is very difficult to bring them back.
    Student engagement does negatively impact student success in the classroom. If the students are not engaged in the learning they will not internalize anything.
    Elevating the level of student engagement should be a bit proiority in the classroom.

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  25. It is a challenge in getting student to be "engaged" in the classroom. I beleive that teachers are doing the best they can even though they have several hurdles in fron of them. From recent imigrants, students from one parent homes and English not being their primary language. Even with these challenges they are doing an admirable job in working with them and trying to engaging them.

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  26. Teachers can be given all the technology equipments that is needed to teach the curriculum to their students, but if the teachers are not given the proper taining the equipment is useless.

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    1. I totallly agree. Common planning time is essential and proper training on technology available is equally important.

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  27. As a technology trainer, I think that getting the "HEAT" levels to go up is going to be challenging with our already hectic schedules. This is feasible, but administration has to "buy into it". Nonetheless, if presented in small portions, it will happen. I can't wait to see positive end results.

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    1. It might be a challenge but it is not impossible. If we can get teachers to feel more comfortable about the equipment, the rest comes easy.

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  28. Javier Salazar-

    It is a challenge in getting student to be "engaged" in the classroom. I beleive that teachers are doing the best they can even though they have several hurdles in fron of them. From recent imigrants, students from one parent homes and English not being their primary language. Even with these challenges they are doing an admirable job in working with them and trying to engaging them.

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  29. With all sorts of state testing taking place, it seems like most of the time we are teaching to the test. The H.E.A.T.process is what we need to incorporate in our classrooms to instill life long learning in our children except teachers find that there is not alot of time for planning because of time restraints.

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  30. As an Elementary Campus Trainer we have to increase the H.E.A. T levels of all of our students. This however is a difficult task as we have to teach all students regardless of the language difficulties of recent immigrants with no educational background. Many times, due to these hindrances the child has, other subjects and learning strategies are applied mainly for the child to increase his/her level of comprhension.

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  31. Technology is definitely here and not going away, everyday we see, hear of new gadgets available for our use in everyday life. Being an education institution we should embrace these tools and allow them to further the child's creativeness and therefore see how far this technology generation can go.

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  32. We need to get our administrators, principals excited about technology - the many different ways in which it can be integrated daily in the classroom and in turn, turn up the HEAT.

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  33. Administration at the campus and district level must give the teachers the time needed to collaborate and create these engaging lessons, teach them, and evaluate them to make them work better. They also must realize that this will take time to fully integrate technology into the pedagogical toolbox of each teacher.

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    1. Perfectly said, Walter.

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    2. I agree with you. The standards that need to need to be addressed and the content that needs to be covered takes a lot of time away from adequately implementing good engaging strategies. There is a battle in the classroom between getting through the content, doing everything else teachers have to do and making sure students are engaged in the learning process.

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    3. Hey Walter, my question is, "Where does that time come from?" As an administrator at the building level, it is difficult enough having teachers meet together to work on the day to day affairs. Without adding days to the school year, or adding hours to the school day, I am stumped for where to find the time. Today's teachers are not only responsible for education, but also a lot of the parents' responsibilities. I agree with you that there needs to be time for collaboration and practice, but again, where does that time come from?

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    4. I agree. The ideas are good, but the time needed to put them in place is prohibitive. There is so much time needed.

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    5. I agree, 100%.

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    6. Time is one of the largest concerns!

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  34. Students must be engaged in their own learning.

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    1. Yes, students must decide to be engaged and to achieve learning for themselves. Trying to make the lessons more interesting can interest a student, but learning happens on the students terms.

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  35. Students will be engaged in learning when the teacher is excited about a topic. Technology is great to have in the classroom, but sometimes it doesn't work and the teacher needs to be creative and try something else.

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  36. Time needs to be spent early on in a student's education to convince them (the buy in) that they should be concerned with and engaged in their education, for education's sake and for their own benefit.

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  37. Technology is a wonderful thing and trying to incorporate technology is probably the right thing to do. Finding the correct technology the is useful and productive, can be challenging for some subjects. Having the technology involve higher order thinking along with useful practice is my goal. So much of the technology is just videos to watch, or drill and practice, that it will not achieve the desired goals. There are some interactive software apps that are just starting to become what is needed.

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  38. As teachers, we are constantly trying to make lessons that include HEAT. It is our job to make sure that students are engaged in the learning process and use higher order thinking skills. I always try to challenge my students to achieve their highest potential. It is important that you not only teach the content, but the process of how to solve problems. We need to remember that we are also students and need to learn ways to present information to our students in a way they can relate to it.

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    1. I agree that technology can be great to use in the classroom. It is definitely time consuming trying to figure out what can best be used to enhance your lessons and bring more meaningful experiences inside the classroom.

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    2. I completely agree... I noted in my post below that not only do we need to make sure that they use the higher order thinking skills, but also we need to model the critical questioning that helps drive students toward higher learning. Teaching that process of how to solve problems is something you model before you can expect students to do it on their own.

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  39. Time for collaboration with our colleagues is key!

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  40. Education is a three-leg table...parents, students, and teachers are the legs. Without all three parts working together, the table falls apart. Now matter how much heat is in a lesson, without parents and students valuing education, the lesson is useless.

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  41. When you discuss what engaged learning means, and that it is not, "Merely reporting back distilled information to the teacher," but rather it involves students generating their own critical questions, you cause me to generate some questions. How do you "Turn up the heat" with students who are apprehensive to ask those types of questions? What about students who don't vocalize such questions either due to a lack of confidence or inability? I feel like perhaps the teacher needs to plan her own critical questions in case the students do not rise to the occasion. In either way, it also appears that students need us to model to them this question making process until they start to acquire that ability as their own.

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  42. While I agree that engaging students goes beyond "compliant behavior," most educators assume that the students who are compliant and regurgitate the information are "engaged learners." Although, they are absorbing the information it does not mean that they are utilizing higher order thinking skills. I do wonder if in this modern age of technology if the future generations will be able to utilize higher thinking skills? Or will compliant behavior win time and time again.
    For a student can be actively engaged, and it does not mean that they are using higher order thinking processes.

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  43. I blieve using the LOTI message in my classrooms has stepped up the instruction of my teachers. Where they did not always care about technology devices, suddenly they are clamoring for them. I have definitely noticed less teacher directed lessons and more of asking questions using the word "why".

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  44. Engaging students goes way beyond the student who listens and is always compliant. As someone stated earlier a student can appear to be actively engaged yet they may or may not be using higher order thinking processes.

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  45. Digital natives have really changed the way technology should be utilized in the classroom. Most students know how to use technology. They need to be guided into collaborative lessons with authentic real world relevance. The lessons should promote learning as the students solve real world problems.

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  46. Too many times I observe teachers using technology only as an add-on in lessons. Digital Natives need to use the technology in ways that require them to think critically and use higher level thinking skills in order for true learning to occur.

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  47. As technology emerges into the fabric of the classroom environment I wonder how long it will take for these practice to be truly embedded. It is going to take time for teachers to understand the power of technology.

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  48. I believe we need to try to incorporate as much real life experiences into our teaching content as possible. I recently taught volume and I had the kids work on creating an aquatic center following my lesson.

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    1. I agree about real life experiences. I think I was always questioning my teachers as to where in life I would be using the info we were learning.

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  49. As students continue to enter our classrooms, we must allow them to function at a higher level than we have had in the past. Students must be encouraged to communicate with other students in a collaborative manner. We also must ensure we are utilizing appropriate technology so that the students are able to gain skills they will need in the future.

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  50. Our group was discussing about levels of engagement by the social class of students. We feel that students from lower socioeconomic homes have lower levels of engagement based on our experiences of working in multiple buildings. They don't have the prior knowledge base and their vocabulary is far more deficient than that of their peers at a higher economic statis.
    #RLelementaryspecialists

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    1. This shows the crucial importance of finding ways to connect to those students in an authentic way to be able to engage and motivate them. They can learn- but need to be approached in a different way.

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  51. HEAT really seems to be a compilation of best teaching strategies, that when used consistently increase the effectiveness of instruction by putting the learning in the hands of the students.

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  52. Time and technology constraints in P.E. significantly inhibit H.E.A.T. in our classroom.

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    1. That is always the challenge for the special area teachers!

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    2. Though technology might not always be available in my classroom, HEAT allows for other resources to be applied to make the learning more engaging for students.

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  53. The HEAT rubric reminds me to strive to add more choice and real-world applications to my lessons.

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  54. One of the best experiences I have with HEAT is when the students can create their own collaborative project and make the decisions necessary to publish an authentic How do teachers create this opportunities in their regular education classes?

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