How Do You Learn a New Skill on Your Own?

Today is Tech 5 we discussed how to learn new skills on your own. We looked at a completed Excel Spreadsheet that showed the average words per minute on 11/19/2010 and 1/10/2011 for the section.

typing-data

Students came up with the following suggestions to learn something on their own:

  • Search for ‘create a table in excel’ on YouTube
  • Figure it out – Play with the software
  • Click on the help button in Excel

We discussed how it’s often hard to figure out how to do something because you need the vocabulary of the software/program to find what you need to learn to do.

Here is the vocabulary to complete this assignment:

  • Insert a Chart
  • AutoSum: to sup up a row or column
  • Create an equation for the average increase in typing

typing-graph

Many times, having someone show you these skills is the easiest way to learn them, but knowing where to go to figure them out is important as well.

The assignment for next week is to watch the following videos on excel.  We’ll be completing the spreadsheet at the beginning of class.

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How do you learn a new skill?  I like to find experts, but also appreciate finding tutorials online.  I believe that learning is shifting to be a more independent process in this connected world.  An important skill for us to teach our students.

Differentiated Instruction

In Educational Leadership this month, Carol Ann Tomlinson writes about  Differentiated Instruction as a way of giving students ownership of learning. She states:

Differentiation enables teachers to go beyond the question, How can I make sure a student masters a body of information? asking instead, How can I help create a real learner?

There are four elements of DI: trust; fit;voice; and awareness.  Here’s a description of developing awareness:

“Monica Harrold, a 1st grade teacher frequently led her students to analyze a piece of work they were about to begin with a partner or small group.  After she described the task, she’d say, “Now tell me what skills are necessary to do this work really well.” Gradually , her young students became proficient at naming the skills the assignment called for.  Next, she’d ask them to think about which of the necessary skills they had and which ones they’d need to be sure someone else in the group had.  In my observations of Monica’s classroom, it was common to hear a student say, “I can draw and I can write, but I’m not very good at finding information so I’ll need to work with someone else who can do that.”  At age 6, these students were already becoming metacognitively aware.  They were learning to position themselves as successful learners by controlling their working conditions.

In order to empower our students, we must engage them in these metacognitive tasks early and frequently.  As I start to collect the tools of the school of the future, DI is a critical part of that toolbox.

Image from Wes Fryer