Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cognitive Behavior Therapy - Implications for the Elementary

I need to preface this post with the disclaimer that my understanding of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is limited, and that I am not a therapist. 

Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques may help educators support behavior and character development of elementary students. The National Associate of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists (NACBT) ( states, "Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events.  The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel / act better even if the situation does not change." 

While the NACBT applies this methodology of problem-solving to adolescents, I think that we elementary educators can benefit from understanding this process. CBT is most commonly used when dealing with people who have moved beyond the concrete operations phase of cognitive development. The concrete operations phases typically occurs from age 7-12 (Child Development Institute As children reach the next phase of cognitive development, formal operations, they are able to reason more abstractly. 

I believe that a key piece in building students' ability to manage their behavior and choices comes with the development of empathy. Vygotsky's viewpoint regarding the development of empathy was different from Piaget (The Brain From Top to Bottom "Because young children could not imagine the [physical] viewpoint of someone on the other side of a table, Piaget concluded that they are incapable of empathy. But in later experiments that gave children the same age the chance to imagine social situations rather than spatial ones, the results were quite different." This is a key understanding for elementary educators regarding student behavior, and why I think that parts of CBT are applicable to elementary students as they learn about behavior and choices. 

Elementary students tend to demonstrate organized, logical thought, which consists of concrete problem-solving. When you pair this with empathy development, their ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes, skilled questioning can assist students in exploring alternate solutions to problems, and considering actions and consequences. 

Here are some tenets of CBT which I believe elementary educators can utilize to help students with behavior development (
  • If we are upset about our problems, we have two problems -- the problem, and our upset about it. This often happen with children. Not only are they upset about the problem, but they're upset about being in trouble about the problem.
  • Therapists (in our case, educators) often ask questions.  They also encourage their [students] to ask questions of themselves, like, "How do I really know that those people are laughing at me?"  "Could they be laughing about something else?" 
  • CBT Therapists do not tell their clients what to do -- rather, they teach their clients how to do. Much of behavior development in small children is about learning how to have different responses. This includes planning for and practicing different responses. The least effective response to any problem is to "ignore it."
  • CBT is based on the scientifically supported assumption that most emotional and behavioral reactions are learned.  Therefore, the goal of CBT is to help [students] unlearn their unwanted reactions and to learn a new way of  reacting.  The educational emphasis of CBT has an additional benefit -- it leads to  long term results.  When people understand how and why they are doing well, they know what to do to continue doing well. 
  • Often, we upset ourselves about things when, in fact, the situation isn't like we think it is.  If we knew that, we would not waste our time upsetting ourselves. Therefore, the inductive method encourages us to look at our thoughts as being hypotheses or guesses that can be questioned and tested.  If we find that our hypotheses are incorrect (because we have new information), then we can change our thinking to be in line with how the situation really is.
Even small children want the skills and power to make good choices. At the lowest level, they want to make choices that keep themselves from getting "in trouble." Using good questioning to guide students through problem-solving about scenarios and endings is a solid methodology. I believe this process will support students' cognitive development and promote positive behavior in school.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thank you Jeff Utecht

I had the pleasure of attending an SAI 21st Century Learning training last Monday with guest presenter Jeff Utecht. I wanted to share my learning with teachers in real time, so I took notes on our shared wiki. I was really tickled that several teachers did check in during their planning time and sent e-mail comments to me regarding the notes. As we continue our journey in developing our professional learning network, sharing information and communicating effectively and efficiently continues to seem like information overload for many educators. So, here are the major points from the workshop.

A New Learning Landscape is Developing
  • We live in a society that is always on. We discussed the rescue of the miners in Chile. People could see this anywhere in the world for free via the internet. When did we, as a society, expect this access? At the movies, they don't tell people to turn their cell phones off, but to put them on vibrate. The shift has happened that people will be connected. We blame kids for always being on their cell phone, but it's a shift in society.
  • Seniors today (born in 1993) will never know a time without internet. By 1996, mobile computing/palm pilot has come out. This is the world that they've gown up in.
  • Is there another generation that has created their own global language (shorthand in texting)?
  • By 1999, the first iPod comes out. Our kids will always know digital music - won't know tapes, or even CDs.
  • By 2001, wikipedia comes out. Many kids will never have an entire set of encyclopedias.
  • By 2003, Skype comes out and they'll never have a long-distance bill.
  • By 2005, YouTube redefines media
  • By 2006, kids are called the MySpace, and then the Facebook generation.
  • 500 million users are on Facebook - They went from 400,000 to 500,000 users in under 100 days. This is how the world is. You can either block it or embrace it.
  • Book: Millennials Rising. We're in the middle of an education revolution. There are 300,000 more incoming freshmen across America than the year before. Suicide rates are at an all time low. They believe it's their environment and they're going to fix it. They believe we screwed it up and they're going to fix it. Homocide, violent crimes, and abortion are at an all time low.
  • Digital Natives born 1976-1991 - This is the hardware generation. They grew up with "the stuff" - Atari, computers, the first Nintendo. This time period was when all of the hardware was made. People born in this timeframe are good with the hardware. They can program the blinking lights on the VCR because they're not afraid of pushing buttons on the remote.
  • Web Natives born 1991-2007 -  They don't always know the hardware side of things. They don't always organize their files with folders like the Digital Natives. They are constantly on the web.
  • Mobile Natives 2007-??? - (2007 is the first year that the iPhone came out). These kids will change schools. They live in a time where laptop computers have always outsold desk top computers. They are expected to use the trackpad/touchpad, and the mouse is hard for them (kindergarteners). This generation will expect to be mobile. Go to a computer lab? What's that? They expect to be mobile.
  • 66% of text messages during school comes from parents
  • Idea: Work Life vs. Social Life. There used to be a clear line between our work life and our social life. That line is now blurred. We now answer e-mail at home, send text messages from home, etc. School life and social time - schools are still trying to keep a clear line, when society isn't as much. Should schools be understanding that homework can be done a different way? Should we be blurring these lines?
  • Can students multi-task? Are they able to listen to music, talk, text, and do homework at the same time? Possibly it depends on the level of cognitive work that we're asking them to do. If they are doing low-level tasks, they probably can multi-task with some of these other things and still accomplish their work. 100 questions instead of 50 questions doesn't make something hard, just tedious and boring.
  • Constuctivism - our learning theory
  • Connectivism - an extension of our learning theory "Learning occurs within shifting environments, not entirely under the control of the individual." Examples - Chilean Mine; Oil Spill
  • Bloom's Revised Taxonomy - "Create" is at the top at the pyramid. Create - Evaluate - Analyze - Apply - Understand - Remember. What about kids who jump straight to create without going through the other phases? Are we scaffolding these skills in schools? - "My kids do good stuff, they made a video." Yeah, but did they analyze, etc. along the way?
  • Today's Digital World - Includes: Global Connections, Social Connections, Access to Information

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I read an article today from Mashable Social Media. It relates to my earlier post about our responsibility as adults to teach and model digital citizenship (see link below). As I scanned other topics posted by this group, I realized that this is a blog that I want to follow with RSS on my Google Reader account. If you have blogs that you like to follow, try Google Reader. It's easy to use. RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication." Tools like Google Reader monitor your favorite blogs and websites for updated information. When a new post or article occur, they create a link on your page which lets you know that there's an update, and provides a link for you to read the article. I also use my Google Reader like a bookmark gathering spot. When I find a blog author that I like, rather than bookmarking the page, I add it to my Google Reader. By doing this, I don't have to remember, "Oh yeah, I liked this site... I should go check it again." Google Reader and using RSS is a great way to support your professional learning network.  Happy Collaborating!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Blew It Cards

Honoring innovation and the spirit of trying new things.
Each teacher will receive two "I Blew It" cards. Take risks, try new technologies.
Dream, Think, Lead, ... Act!

Confidentiality and Social Media

Building students' rapport with peers, honoring their integrity, and providing opportunities for them to grow academically, behaviorally, and socially are critical components of the teacher-student relationship. The most effective teachers expertly interweave these components into students' educational experience, all while teaching reading, mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, health, music, art, physical education, and an exhausting list of required subjects and topics.

What happens when our students leave our classrooms? When we've had a long day? When our friends and family "won't believe what happened today?" ... Are we still honoring students' and families' integrity? Ethical integrity deals with the maintenance of a person's "wholeness." While we are bound to standards of confidentiality as it relates to student records, it is the ethical integrity, or professionalism, which should guide our decisions to share a good story.

No member of the professions can
escape these ties to the community
since they constitute the very
reason for the existence of the
professions. Thus, professional
integrity begins with this necessary
responsibility to serve the
fundamental need of the community.



 The following articles are gentle reminders of our enormous responsibility as educators to serve students and their families with professional integrity.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Digital Citizenship

I have been thinking a lot about what the term "digital citizenship" means. Some educators still are wary about social media sites such as Facebook and myspace. As the parent of two high school students, who both use social media networks such as these everyday, the responsibility of teaching these behaviors is critical. I am fortunate that my parents, my husband's parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends are "friends" with my children on these sites. They call me when they notice posts which may be inappropriate. Or, they call my children. Either way, the larger community of caring family and friends serves as observers and teachers. Avoiding these sites does not ultimately shield our children. We can have the most impact be being part of their digital community. This is the most powerful way that we can model responsible "digital citizenship."

The following article reminded me of the enormous responsibility we have in being good role models.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

SmartBoards and Everyday Mathematics

I'm working to incorporate new Web 2.0 learning and our Everyday Mathematics/Chicago Project lesson planning session. The merged Understanding by Design (UbD) framework and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) frameworks that I created as my lesson for the Web 2.0 class is fresh in my mind. UbD TPACK Lesson Planning Framework  Thought Process Flowchart

The mindset shift from a "technocentric" lesson to one where technology supports the content and pedagogy is huge. I think I'm still searching for engaging tools which will help as we transition to EDM. As we incorporate more Web 2.0 instructional practices, we move from "What's out there that I can use?" to "I know a tool which will help students really maximize learning."

Here are a few tools to help: