What are technology advance organizers?

An advance organizer is a learning activity that starts a lesson by typically tapping into a student’s prior knowledge. Advance organizers were cited by Robert J. Marzano as one of the techniques in his book, Classroom Instruction That Works. The concept was developed by David Ausubel in 1960, so the thinking at that point likely didn’t include all of the tools we have available today. By adding technology to the mix, you’re utilizing available tools to enhance learning even further. These ideas are encouraged when you already plan to bring in laptops into the classroom for another activity.

  • Learning Map with Inspiration (Graphic Organizer – Concept Map)
  • Quick Google Search (Skimming)
  • Create a KWL Chart in Google Docs to Share (Graphic Organizer)
  • Use Google Moderator to Brainstorm (Expository)
  • Create a Slideshow in iPhoto (Narrative)

Learning Map

Any variety of graphic organizers might be used, but Inspiration software makes it easy to brainstorm ideas and then organize these ideas into a meaningful context chart. This may be done independently at student computers, or as a group with a Promethean board. Let’s say we were teaching a history lesson and had discussed a topic the day before. Today, we might start by summarizing what we had learned yesterday, and drawing a concept map. It might include different factions that had warred, issues they disagreed over, etc. There may be blank spaces and questions raised — and this map becomes a scaffold for teachers to plug-in new knowledge in the day’s lesson.

Quick Google Search

This skimming technique would ask students to quickly research a topic related to the day’s learning… “Tell me all you can find on the civil war. I’ll give you 10 minutes to find as much as you can… read through at least 3 webpages and then we’ll discuss what you find.” While skimming can be done with a book, the added task here of performing a quality search is reinforced each time this organizer is used.

Shared Charts

Using a collaborative tool such as Google Docs, the teacher can provide a template document that mimics a KWL chart. This chart is then used by students in small groups to complete before more formal instruction begins. This takes a full-class collaborative activity, and allows students to focus within their group and then they can share their findings with the rest of the class.

Brainstorm with Moderator

The expository method usually starts with the teacher, not the student. In this advance organizer, a teacher would simply describe new content to be taught. This could be done by speaking, of course, but also through a video or other multimedia presentation. Here, we could use a collaborative discussion tool such as Google Moderator to follow up the expository experience with pertinent questions. These questions would be designed to prepare students’ learning.

“Last year, 615 arrests were made of online sexual predators. These were people who were actively stalking out individuals – many younger – through chatrooms and social websites. Does the number surprise you? Why or why not?”

The answers students give act as an informal assessment strategy for the teacher to know what students may or may not already about the topic at hand.

Narrative with Images

The narrative advance organizer presents new information in the form of a story. This is done by the teacher; this same organizer can be used in closure, when done by the student. Using images to tell a story is a more powerful technique. Images reinforce learning for visual learners and should provide stronger scaffolding. Narratives may also be pre-packaged in a video format. Presented online, the presentation of the video could follow with a discussion forum in an environment such as Moodle.

For more information on Advance Organizers, check out this article from ASCD. For a set of great graphic organizers, check out this resource from Thinkport.