Tag Archives: engagement

The Four Question Exercise

I’m currently reading 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life In Our Times by Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel. The book starts out with this four question exercise:

Here are my answers:

Question #1: 20 years ago, I was 17. I had just graduated high school and was off to Rosemont College with an electric word processor with a single sentence screen. Although we had a computer lab, students didn’t go there to write papers. We typed on word processors and wrote things out by hand. We had pay phones in the hallways instead of phones in our rooms. How did I ever survive without a constant line of communication?

20 years from now, the world will be a different place. I have seen so much change in the past 20 years regarding technology, that I cannot even begin to imagine that world in the future. I’m sure everyone will have a smartphone type handheld device and regular computers and laptops will be the dinosaur that my cool word processor had become.

Question #2: Students will need to be tech savvy, problem solvers, cooperative learners, travelers, multi lingual, creative, innovative, and be able to manipulate, sort, and filter an enormous amount of data.

Question #3: There are several learning experiences that I clearly remember. In first grade, the King Tut exhibit was coming to the United States. My teacher immersed us in everything King Tut. We read books, acted out plays, made costumes, and even made toilet paper mummies out of each other. Another was a science fair project in 7th grade. My parents were not the type to do my projects for me, so I was on my own. I loved being in control of my own learning and having choice in it. I didn’t want to do a typical baking soda volcano, so I rigged a pump that spewed spaghetti sauce out of it! I won 3rd place…all on my own.

Question #4: Wow. Learning would be a rich, dynamic experience…it would be what I strive for in my classroom every day. Students would be engaged in their learning..making choices, solving problems, and being leaders. I find it interesting that my most memorable learning experiences as a child were project based and integrated. I learned the most in these situations…I was engaged learning about King Tut and Volcanoes. I firmly believe that engagement is the key to true learning. Why? Because if you aren’t engaged in learning…are you really learning anything?

I think every parent, teacher, and administrator should ask themselves these four questions.  I’m betting the old saying “…the way I was taught was good enough for me…I’m a successful person…” would be quickly squashed.  Go ahead…remember that time you were truly engaged in school and ask yourself if that is how your students feel on a daily basis.  If they don’t, then find that engagement key and unlock the door to true learning for you and your students.

Active Reading: Using Kindle to Engage Learners


I’ve been a reader my whole life…  I think it goes without saying that I love technology as well.  I got my Kindle in early April of 2009.  I was not one of those people who was afraid of the e-reader because it didn’t “smell like a book”. So,  I immediately fell in love with it and found myself reading more than I ever have.  Why?  Because my entire library was accessible.  Any book that I wanted to read was at my fingertips waiting to be read.  I actually read 28 books last summer…  I wasn’t having a contest with myself, it is just what happened.  I would find myself pulling out my kindle any time I had a free moment.  I know for a fact that I would not have read that many books in print form.  Print books are too bulky and heavy, and don’t just slip into my purse.  For me, the Kindle is the ultimate accessory.

For the past year, I’ve used my Kindle in a passive form, flipping the pages while reading the latest in tech ed, great YA fiction, historical fiction, or an engrossing memoir.  I was actively reading in my head by forming questions, thinking about character development, and making predictions.  It was not until the recent 2.5.2 update that this process changed for me…

I have become an active reader with a real product that can be manipulated and used in the future.  What I have always done in my head is now organized, sequenced, and cited allowing me to design lessons, write papers, create tweets, or do whatever I wish with it.   Below is an example of the highlights and notes that I took while reading Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher this past week:



The process is so simple…I can’t believe I haven’t taken advantage of it until now!

  1. Press down on the 5 way controller and push to the right to highlight.
  2. If you want to tweet your highlight, press alt and back arrow after you highlight.
  3. Begin typing to add a note.
  4. Go to http://kindle.amazon.com to view your highlights and notes on your laptop or view them on your kindle under “my notes and highlights”.

The beauty of this are the options that you have online.  You can view your books in flashcard view or book view, while accessing your books and highlights.  You can even view popular highlights by other Kindle users!


I do not read the same anymore. I have documented my learning. I have documented my process of reading and learning. I have shared my learning with others.  Imagine the implications for students….

  • Students thinking about reading while they are reading
  • Students accessing their thoughts online
  • Students sharing their thoughts about reading online, in class, anywhere…
  • Students doing  reading “homework” actively
  • Students engaged in reading
  • Students prepared for discussions with digital notes
  • Students using citations in research correctly because the citation is embedded in the highlight or note they took
  • Students learning from other students and teachers about their reading processes
  • Students logging their reading without leaving the book
  • Students creating a digital portfolio of the novels they have read

The possibilities are endless… with Kindle prices dropping quickly, as well as free apps on droid, blackberry, iphone, ipad, itouch, mac, & pc students will be able to access this technology freely and equally. The tag line on the Amazon Kindle site is:  Read, Review, Remember…what a novel idea! I love the notion of bringing an age old process into the 21st century!