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  • Jose_Hernandez

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  • Minecraft: Research Product Minecraft: Research Product

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      Earlier this week, a member of my digital network, Brent Coley ( @brentcoley ), shared the following tweet where a student created a Minecraft video that represented a virtual tour of Mission San Diego de Alcala (Wikipedia link):


       

      Link to video outside of tweet.


      I was absolutely blown away by what this 4th grader created and I thought it was a good representation of what a research project product that wasn’t a paper looked like.  I’ve previously blogged about Infographics as a research product and I advocate vociferously for digital product replacement thinking when I work with teachers. If the outcome is building knowledge and demonstrating that students can both investigate a topic and learn from it, whoever said that research had to result in a paper?


      The research standards in the Common Core are usually just the three writing standards associated with Research to Build and Present Knowledge. However, I always lump writing standard six in there as well, as it deals with how writing can be presented in a digital format/presentation. I want to share the fourth-grade-specific Common Core writing standards here, standard seven from the Research Standards, and standard six from the Production and Distribution of Writing section:


      W.4.7. Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.


      W.4.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.


      As you read through the rest of this blog post (and hopefully after you’ve viewed the video), read with these standards as lenses. Ask yourself, “did this student meet the standard?” “Did this student provide evidence of what they know and are able to do within the confines of this standard?”


      In my book, Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?, I describe several questions to ask when assigning digital student work:

      1. What is the learning objective?

      2. Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?

      3. Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task? What additional skills might have to be considered in order to engage this upgrade?

      4. Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?

      5. Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?

      6. Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?


      I wanted to blog about this student’s Minecraft project through the lens of these six considerations, annotating what this fourth grader was able to accomplish.


      • What is the learning objective?

        • The learning objective here was to learn about the Mission San Diego de Alcala. This student had to learn the layout, information about the different areas, and be able to speculate about the people that lived there.

        • This student also had to learn specific information about the founder of the Mission, Father Junipero Serra, as he both introduces the video and then explains several of the artifacts contained within the video.

      • Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?

        • In this case, I believe the learning was enhanced exponentially. Besides the research to build knowledge about the mission, this student had to do a brick by brick recreation to create the video.

        • In the comments section of the video, the student’s father includes information about the student having to develop his own system for creating the texture of the tiles on the roof.

        • This obviously had to be tightly scripted for both production and the narration, so the writing definitely occurred at some point. Everything in the video though is beyond the writing...beyond the end point of the traditional research product.

        • In terms of worth? You tell me. Was this digital upgrade a worthy replacement?

      • Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task?

        • The traditional version of this research would have resulted in a paper, most likely, perhaps a diorama or detailed schematic drawing. In this case, using Minecraft, the detail involved demanded a time-intensive process that resulted in a very professional product. The decisions this student made to develop the detailed depiction all involved discernment and critical thinking in some way. Big time rigor here.

        • Additionally, the student used multiple digital tools to get to the final product: Minecraft to create the representation, an audio tool to record the narration, and a screen-capturing tool to record the video. All of these individually would raise the thinking level of the task because they all represent learning that is above and beyond the expectation of the standard and the traditional version of the research. Together, they represent problem solving nirvana.

      • Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?

        • I get the sense from the comments on the Youtube page that the student engaged in some conversation with his dad to create the video, though I don’t see specific evidence of collaboration or communication.

        • As for creative problem solving, the student’s father references an issue with the roof tiles that the student had to discover a solution too, but the entire video also represents a finished product that is the end product of trial and error thinking. If you’ve ever been in Minecraft, you know that you have to try stuff out and see if it works. Once you discover what works, you build, literally, on it.

        • In terms of creative thinking, there’s so much here. From decisions about the design and interactive elements, to details about Father Serra’s artifacts, to the layout and navigation of the Mission for the viewer of the video, this student had a lot on his plate to think about. The finished product demonstrates extremely high levels of thinking and decision making.

      • Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?

        • This I don’t know. I’m not privy to the project’s parameters or to the population of students that were assigned this project and their access to / equity within digital tools or connected access points.

        • I do know that this student seems to be fairly comfortable creating within the digital realm, which suggests an early affinity / comfort with digital tools at a young age that allows him to demonstrate learning at this level even in the fourth grade.

        • Based on the comments from dad, I’m speculating that this student has no issues with computer / internet access and that it is just a part of his world.

      • Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?

        • Again, since I don’t know anything about what was assigned, I don’t know how much the students contributed to the design of the project.

        • Even if the design of the Mission and its subsequent creation within the Minecraft system was with the help of his father, note that the standard (#6) advocates for “guidance and support from adults.”


      In the book, I also recommend some questions to ask when assessing student work, two of which revolve around how students are reflecting on what they are creating and how they are attributing their source material, both of which are important components of research.


      In this case, there is little evidence of either. I was hoping to learn from where the student found his information. (And I was secretly hoping to discover that he used multiple verified sources.) I was also hoping to learn why he chose to use Minecraft to create his product versus other available web tools. Perhaps eventually this could be added to the Youtube comments. If I were the teacher, I might ask for this as a separate component of the task.


      All in all, though, I must say, that this effort is serendipitous. I’m struck by both the level of quality and the apparent level of learning of this student. I hope that those reading this are understanding that this is what a 21st Century demonstration of learning looks like. This is what is possible when we relinquish the limits of traditional practice. This is what is possible when we begin orbiting the boxes that we’ve asked students to think outside of for decades. This is 21st Century Learning.


      Kudos to this kid and his dad. What they created was future-forward and just plain awesome. I subscribed to their Youtube channel. I can’t wait to see what they will do next!


       


      Follow Mike On Twitter: @fisher1000

      Mike’s Website: Digigogy.com

      Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?


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  • Donald_Jones

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  • Meaningful Learning--An Excell Meaningful Learning--An Excellent Adventure

    • From: Eric_Bernstein
    • Description:

       This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.

       

      Barry Saide, as per usual, is quite on to something with his post "Be Excellent to Each Other" (http://edge.ascd.org/_Be-Excellent-to-Each-Other/blog/6562298/127586.html).  The lesson of “being excellent to each other” is surely one we can learn from inimitable Bill S. Preston, Esquire, & Ted “Theodore” Logan.  Unsurprisingly, Barry beautifully articulates the ways teacher leaders (can and should) practice being excellent.  He also aptly reminds us that, perhaps most importantly, students will do as we do, for better or worse; like Barry (and Bill & Ted), I want that replication to be for the better—and most certainly, being excellent to each other is for the better!

           I’d like to extend the lessons we can learn from Bill & Ted to another pressing aspect of teaching and learning:  engaging students in meaningful learning experiences to build deep and enduring understandings.

           Let’s start with Bill & Ted’s learning experience before their excellent adventure.  This short exchange between Bill, Ted, and Mr. Ryan (their history teacher) from the classic film might (unfortunately) parallel the social studies learning experiences of many students still today:

       

      Mr. Ryan: So, Bill, what you're telling me, essentially, is that Napoleon was a short dead dude.
      Bill: Well, yeah.
      Ted: You totally blew it, dude.
      Mr. Ryan: Ted, stand up.
      Ted: Stand up?
      Mr. Ryan: Yes, son. Stand up.
      [Ted stands]
      Mr. Ryan: Now, who was Joan of Arc?
      Ted: ...Noah's wife?
      ***********
      Mr. Ryan: It seems to me that the only thing you have learned is that Caesar was a salad dressing dude.

         

           Besides pure comedy gold, why did Bill & Ted have such a limited understanding of History?  Allison Zmuda (in the November 2008 issue of Educational Leadership) explained what might contribute to Bill & Ted’s (and so many students like them) problem—that learning is too often about compliance, meticulously “following directions...repeating procedures on cue...and...expertly summarize[ing] other people's ideas” (p. 38) rather than engaged and authentic meaning-making.  Bill & Ted surely do not “function like low-level bureaucrats” who thrive in the compliance-oriented, rote learning environment that exists in too many social studies classrooms today. 

           Zmuda explains that “[w]hen students have meaningful opportunities to understand, they are more likely to wisely use that knowledge in future tasks and situations” and we must provide a space for students to “ask tangential questions, wonder about things that have no space in the curriculum, pursue avenues that are dead ends, and spin their wheels with no apparent breakthrough in sight” for such meaningful understandings to emerge (p. 42).

           In this exchange from later in the movie, we see that Bill & Ted no longer believe “that school is boring, that they are stupid, that it shouldn't feel this hard, and that it has no connection to the real world” (p. 41):

       

      Bill: Mr. Ryan, fellow distinguished classmates, teachers, babes.
      Ted: Our first speaker was born in the year 470 BC. A time when much of the world looked like the cover of the Led Zepplin album 'Houses of the Holy'.
      Bill: We were there. There were many steps and columns, it was most tranquil. (gives a thumbs up.)
      Ted: He is sometimes known as the father of modern thought. He was the teacher of Plato, who was in turn the teacher of Aristotle. And like Ozzy Osborne, was repeatedly accused of corruption of the young.
      (Mr. Ryan watches them with interest.)
      Bill: And since he doesn't speak English, my friend Ted here, is going to interpret for him. (Ted shrugs his consent.) So please welcome, to tell us what he thinks of San Dimas, the most bodacious philosophizer in Ancient Greece…
      Both: Socrates!
      ***********
      Bill: It is indeed a pleasure to introduce to you a gentleman we picked up in Medieval Mongolia in the year 1269.
      Ted: Please welcome, the very excellent barbarian.
      Both: Mr. Genghis Khan.
      Ted: This is a dude who seven hundred years ago totally ravished China. And whom we are told, 2 hours ago, totally ravished Oshmans' Sporting Goods.
      (Bill and Joan of Arc are play fighting.)
      Ted: A most bodacious solider, and general, Ms. Of Arc totally rousted the English from France. And then she turned this dude Gofan, into a kid, and all this by the time she was 17.

       

           By turning their rote history oral report into an excellent adventure, Bill & Ted “find satisfaction during the creation and production of work. Instead of trying to eliminate or cover up mistakes, they...evaluate the source of the error and search for a potential insight about their understanding—or their misunderstanding—of the content, the discipline, or themselves” (Zmuda, 2008, p. 41).

           In addition to Barry’s discussion of the importance of “being excellent to each other,” we should also learn from Bill & Ted that learning should be meaningful and enduring for our students, that it is less about memorizing a series of right answers or factoids and more about a journey with ups and downs, a roller coaster ride filled with fascinating realization, a truly excellent adventure!

       --------

      Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (transcribed script).  Transcribed by S. Kemp.  Retrieved from http://www.angelfire.com/tx3/80schild/bill1.html.

      Zmuda, A. (2008, Nov). Springing into Active Learning. Educational Leadership, 38-42. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Springing-into-Active-Learning.aspx.

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  • Schools Unprepared to Educate Schools Unprepared to Educate Students in the Autism Spectrum for Emerging Opportunities with High-Tech Companies

    • From: Thomas_Armstrong
    • Description:

      I’m seriously concerned that the schools aren’t doing enough (change that:  aren’t doing anything!) to prepare students on the autism spectrum for a range of careers that are beginning to open up for them in the workplace.  So much of recent educational ”reform” has been about preparing our students to be college and career-ready.  If this is true, then we should be focusing on doing everything we can to help prepare students with autism spectrum disorder for new opportunities that are opening up for them.  Educators need to know about an emerging trend in the workplace where high-tech companies are increasingly seeking to hire individuals with autism because their strengths are well-suited to a career in information technology.  I contributed to an article in the October 8, 2013 Wall Street Journal(online) on this new phenomenon, and I’d like in this post to go over some ideas and resources that supplement what was given in that news piece.

      The company that really launched this new trend was a Denmark firm called Specialisterne (”The Specialists”).  They hire workers to look for ”bugs” in computer software.  Their clients have included Microsoft, Oracle, and other top high-tech companies.  Seventy-five percent of Specialisterne’s employees are on the autism spectrum.  Specialisterne has opened up offices around the world, including in the United States.

      The Specialist People Foundation, which owns Specialisterne’s concept and trademark, has launched an initiative to obtain training and employment for one million people with autism. As part of this project, they have begun creating partnerships with other high-tech companies to employ people with autism, including software giant SAP and Computer Aid, Inc, which plans to employ 3% of its workforce with individuals on the autism spectrum.   Two other companies that are also seeking employees on the spectrum include  Freddie Mac, the giant mortgage finance company, which has been advertising for interns with autism, and Semperical, in San Jose, California, which provides software testing and quality assurance services, and advertises on its website: ”Our specialized program unleashes the incredible natural talents of engineers on the autistic spectrum.”

      Another organization that has taken an important role in training and employing people with autism, is  the Plano, Texas firm Nonpareil, which, is a combination training program and software company for young adults on the autism spectrum (photo by Lauren Silverman for NPR depicts trainee at Nonpareil).  Gary Moore, one of the partners of Nonpareil (along with Dan Selic), has a son Andrew who is a junior in high school and is on the spectrum.  “Although [Andrew] can’t tie his shoes or buckle his belt to do a lot of things independently, he can do technology,” Moore says. “He’s a digital native.”  Another group, the Specialists Guild in San Francisco, also trains and finds employment for young people with autism.  Their clients include Benetech, Compass Labs, and Launchpad Toys.

      These new employment trends come in the wake of research findings suggesting that in addition to the difficulties that people with autism have in the areas of social functioning and communication, they also have particular strengths, which up until now haven’t been recognized.  Cambridge University professor Simon Baron-Cohen, for example, points out that people on the spectrum are good at interacting with system rather than people (and these systems include computer programs and other IT systems).

      Laurent Mottron, a University of Montreal scientist has written about the strengths of autism in a recent article in the prestigious British journal Nature, and suggests that if IQ tests such as the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (a highly abstract visual-spatial assessment devoid of social interaction), were used with individuals with autism instead of the standard IQ test (the Weschler Intelligence Scale), their IQ scores would be 30-70 percent higher.  Another ability connected with autism is the capacity to focus on small details, sometimes referred to as ”enhanced perceptual functioning,” which is a valuable trait for searching for small errors in computer code.

      As I said at the beginning of this post, the schools are totally unprepared for this, and the simple reason for that is that special education in the United States has been firmly rooted in a ”deficit” paradigm for the past hundred years - focusing on what kids with special needs can’t do, rather than what they can do.  This is true of both public and private schools.  Perhaps the most renowned person with autism in the world, animal scientist Temple Grandin, in the October 7, 2013 issue of Time Magazine, wrote:  ”I recently spoke to the director of a school for autistic children and she mentioned that the school tries to match a student’s strengths with internship or employment opportunities in the neighborhood.  But when I asked her how the school identified the strengths, she immediately started talking about how they helped students overcome social deficits.  If even the experts can’t stop thinking about what’s wrong, how can anyone expect the families who are dealing with autism to think any differently?”

      I firmly believe that every school that has students with autism (and other special needs) should have a ”strengths specialist” that does nothing but look for abilities, capacities, talents, and gifts in special education students.  This would be a specially trained educator who is familiar with the strength-based literature (only a small part of which was noted above), competence in using a range of formal and informal strength-based assessment tools (see my previous post on seven of these assessment tools), and the capacity to help a student’s  teachers use instructional strategies based on their strengths. They should also be able to find ways to develop a student’s strengths within the school  (such as computer classes) and to serve as a school-community broker, helping to set up internships, apprenticeships, liaisons, and other real-world opportunities where students on the spectrum can be trained and find employment in the workplace.

      A study done at Virginia Commonwealth University, discovered that young adults with autism who received training in specific work fields had an employment rate of 87% compared with 6% for those in the control group who received no such help.  Clearly, this is a call for action to our nation’s public and private schools, and to the field of special education in general, to stop spending so much time focusing on deficits, and start turning your attention on strengths, because that is where the answer lies regarding helping these kids find success in life.

      For more information about the strengths of students with special needs, and specific strategies to help them achieve success, see my book Neurodiversity in the Classroom.

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  • Julie_Kendig

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