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  • What I Learned Lately (WILL 14 What I Learned Lately (WILL 14/15 #1)

    • From: Joshua_Garcia
    • Description:

      What I Learned Lately (WILL 14/15 #1)

      7/29/14

      @Garciaj9Josh

       

      “Way Too Much Time to Think About Data, Part 1.”

       

      For the past few years, I have been hearing the hype of the SBAC and PARCC assessments.  I have been drowned by the controversy of the Common Core.  Unfortunately, the conversation has turned from what is good for kids to what are your politics.  First and foremost, I believe in teaching clear and rigorous standards.  I believe in assessments that match the depth of knowledge of these standards.  I also believe in alignment that will create patterns for all students.  I believe that it is our jobs to facilitate these pieces relentlessly on behalf of our students.  However, more than ever I believe that we must take back our profession and create the systems that will measure student learning.  I know this will be extremely difficult and challenge us at a new level.  The new math problem for us is: (A) x (E) x (Q) = (SS), Access x Equity x Quality = Student Success.  We must relentless provide access to the standards, we must provide equitable supports to students in order to meet these standards and we must ensure there is quality instruction and assessments every day for every child.

       

      Imagine a time when people speak matter-of-factly about our schools success and how dropout rates and the achievement gaps are at all-time low.  This day is fast approaching.  Our teachers are taking their students to new heights locally, national graduation rates are at an all-time high (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/high-school-graduation-rate-hits-40-year-peak-in-the-us/276604/).  In Tacoma, we will see another year of graduation increases.  However, in order to continue our recent successes and maintain continuous improvement, schools in Tacoma and across the nation, must create assessments that support data systems that can be disaggregated and used to systematically measure student growth from year to year.  A systemic approach to conducting data analysis for this purpose requires collaboration and purposeful conversations among teachers.  A data system is a system that all teachers actively participate in and identifying data elements that measure students’ yearly progress in a building.

      Often the most difficult part of grasping how to use a data system to drive instruction is the lack of understanding of the very terms used to define it.  We often assume that we share definitions to many of terms that are used daily basis.  For example, do we have common definitions for formative and summative?    When we measure growth, are we measuring the same standards or different standards?  It is lack of clarity about a common language that can lead to confusion, false positive results, and besieged attempts to find simple solutions for student learning.  Although data systems at the building level can seem overwhelming, they are crucial to provide data that reports student achievement precisely and accurately. To accomplish this goal, our schools will need to foster a culture of professional collaboration, one that provides opportunities for teachers and school leaders to make meaning of key data points and to clear up misconceptions or misinterpretations.  When our entire staffs are committed to examine data and use it to drive instruction, our schools will eliminate waste in the system by setting priorities and dedicating sufficient time and resources that “add value” to instruction and learning.  I believe our efforts to create sustainable change in student achievement can be facilitated through a series of guiding principles:

      • How can an assessment system support sustainable changes in instruction and learning?
      • How do we create a data system that is comprehensive?
      • How do we create a data system that is efficient?

      How do we create data that is constant?

       

      Creating sustainable systemic change requires us to have a clear vision of how the data from our instruction and assessments are not only connected, but more importantly, can’t be separated.  Schools in our district and across the nation at minimum, and hopefully districts, must begin to design systems that are comprehensive (assess all students in a tiered model), efficient (minimizes the loss of instructional time) and constant (developing an assessment cycle that promotes professional conversations).  The vision of the data system must be clear for all employees and students and address local, state and federal mandates. For example, does that data produced in alignment with School Board Policies and benchmarks?  Does it align to state requirements for reporting?  Does that data that is produced align with the reporting requirements of entering college?  In addition, vision statements must address building the capacity (expertise to deliver and analyze the data) of those in the school system (see figure 1).  For example, our schools will need to create capacity by providing time and professional development to staff that allows them to make meaning of the types of assessment that are currently being used and the data that these assessments produce. Without this clarity, the assessment system will cause confusion, frustration, and ultimately a sense of failure.

       

      Figure 1

       

       

       

      At the school level, aligning data with assessments is necessary to ensure that every student’s academic growth is measured in an effective and efficient manner.  Today, we face the daunting challenge of gathering data that proves mastery of mandated academic standards. However, is there such a thing as too much data?  At what point do you examine the number and the quality of assessments that we administer each year at each grade level?  For the past few years I have been talking to educators across the world regarding the use of data.  In an effort to gather data and monitor progress, some educators are administering mini-summative assessments and calling them formative assessments. For example, a classroom teacher may give a common unit exam at the end of the month.  This data maybe recorded and put into a grade, however it is not formative data unless the teacher uses it adjust their upcoming instruction or reteach specific concepts based on the student data that was collected.  Additionally, many will not use this data to drive interventions.  Instead interventions are still based on a subject area, “math” versus specific math standards.  For a classroom teacher it is critical to know the purpose of each assessment and to determine if it appropriate for an assessment to be considered summative.  Questioning how this data is used to drive instruction can help us decide which assessments can be eliminated and which need to be added. 

       

      Collecting data throughout the year to measure progress is essential to developing a comprehensive data system.  Similar to a Response to Intervention model (http://www.rti4success.org/), assessing students using a tiered approach allows educators to determine which students are meeting the standards, for which students more diagnostic information is needed, and how to monitor student learning progress.  An assessment given 3-4 times a year for the purpose of progress monitoring is considered a Tier I assessment.  The Nation Center for Response to Intervention (http://www.rti4success.org/screeningTools) provides numerous examples of Tiered I assessments and gives details on the strengths of each detail.  For those students who are not making sufficient progress as indicated in the Tier I assessment, they should be administered a diagnostic assessment, or a Tier II assessment.  A diagnostic assessment will provide more specific information on specific skill development (http://www.ststesting.com/dra.html).  Finally, based on results from the Tier II assessments, brief assessments that measure specific standards, sub-skills, or learning targets should be administered. Assessments at this level would be considered Tier III assessments. 

      How do we create a data system that is efficient?  Often in our desire to create data and monitor progress, we lose sight of the functionality of the system.  As leaders, examining the balance between effective and efficient is a valuable endeavor that should occur regularly.  Our must continue to examine the added value of any data and eliminate any waste.  What is waste?  Waste in today’s school systems is all those things that don’t provide information critical to improving student achievement.  For every dollar spent on waste is a dollar that is not adding value.  An “Assessment Matrix” needs to be defined at each of our schools and communicated to our staff, students and families.  We must begin by eliminating any assessment that is redundant and that cannot be used to inform instruction.  Start with a simple matrix to begin your analysis.

       

      Assessment Name:

      Content or subject area

      Grade Level/s administered:

      Standards Being Assessed:

      Formative or Summative:

      Frequency:

      Purpose: Diagnose or monitor Progress:

      Will the assessment be used for grading:

      DRA

      Reading

      Grades 3

      Common Core Standards - several

      Formative

      3 times a year

      Diagnostic

      No

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      If assessments are not useful to inform instruction, then they are a waste of instructional time and serve as a potential loss of added value.

      How do we create a data system that is constant?  The need to examine data from year to year is critical to determining student growth.  For years, researchers have examined longitudinal data with mixed results.  In fact, longitudinal data often has weak correlations due to the variations in what is being assessed from year to year.  Within a school there is an opportunity to create consistent data that is gathered constantly.  Many of the Common Core Reading Standards are based on a learning progression, or skill levels and expectations that increase in sophistication from grade to grade.

      The key for classroom teachers and building leaders is to not make assessment decisions in isolation.  Create a data system with input from everyone on the staff, so that for comparison sake, students are using the same assessment. When determining student growth, use fewer tools that are as consistent as possible.  For example, if there is a reading assessment that measures skills from K - 3rd grade (Dibbles), and another one that measures from K - 8th grade, such as a Diagnostic Assessment of Reading (DAR), select the tool that is not only the best quality but also provides accurate and precise data from student achievement from grade level to grade level.  These assessments are especially helpful when students move from level to level (i.e. from elementary to middle and middle to high school).  This type of constant data can give teachers an accurate picture of student skills in the beginning of each school year as well as identify abnormalities in a student’s data history.  This can be done in our regional meetings as well as level meetings.

      Fill in the Blank exercise:

       

      In order to create a learning and instruction data system at ______ School, Principal ______ focused on making sure teachers were having effective conversations about ways to measure student academic growth and effectiveness of instructional strategies.  ________ was often heard saying “teachers and administrators need to start by telling a story of “student growth”.    ________ School implemented the following framework for collecting data and having conversations about student growth.

       

      Prior to school starting each fall, ______would determine each staff members’ percentages of students who have met each respective standard for the upcoming school year, based on the previous year’s end scores.  For example, using state testing data, _____ had ____% of her students met the previous year’s end of the year Main Idea Standard.  At the end of the year, ______ had____% of her students meet the end of the year Main Idea Standard, for a growth of ____%.  This data was needed to determine the baseline and helped measure student growth throughout the year.  Like many schools, ______ School had previously started each year by giving the current year end of the course examination as a pre-assessment.  With this data, decisions about which students were behind were made.  However, these students had not had access to this curriculum, and therefore, in theory should not have been successful on these exams.  The staff at _______ started having honest conversations about the number of students that arrive in their classrooms behind academically, which ones are on target for the grade level standards, and which students had already reached beyond their current grade level standards.  As part of the transformation process, the______ Staff identified the following factors:

       

      • Are the standards from grade level to grade level aligned?  Are the standards part of a learning progression or are new skills being introduced?
      • How many students are coming into the year having met the previous year’s standards?
      • How many students have no data at all?
      • ___________

       

      Grade level teams then determined specific and measureable instructional goals for the first 6 weeks of school for each classroom.  _____ and ________ met with each staff member to review data, set classroom goals, and determine student interventions and enrichment activities.  In week 7 of school, the administrative team members met with each staff to evaluate progress and to determine effectiveness (Effectiveness was measured by meeting 80% or more of the standards). During this time, teams revisited student interventions and established new goals based on the current data.  In week 8, ________ met with district leaders to discuss trends in student growth, support needed, and areas of concern.  The following questions and factors were considered:

       

      1)      Identify classroom, grade level, and school learning target themes.

      2)      Describe the trends for each of the respective classrooms, grade level teams, and the entire school.

      3)      Compare and Contrast these trends to last year’s trends.

      4)      Analyze what themes they saw

      5)      What instructional strategies can we expect teachers, grade level teams or the school to apply in an effort to address the learning target/s

      6)      Speculate what our data will look like at the end of the year

      7)      Predict our summative scores?

      8)      _____________________________

      The cycle above was repeated every nine weeksSchool ________met with each classroom teacher to identify what support was needed and to examine the agreed upon data.  Together the team collected, guided, and monitored data in a systematic fashion. 

      Next, teachers at ________ began sorting and examining each class through a four-group flexible and fluid lens.  The groups were based on those students who are working above standard, those students who have met standard, those students who “nearly missed” the standard, and those students who had “far misses”.  For each group, teachers evaluated data on specific learning targets; identified supports and enrichment opportunities within the classroom and school; and developed (instructional) strategies to employ for each of the different groups. Then teachers would employ ongoing (daily) formative assessments (addressed more deeply in future modules) to address each group’s instructional/learning needs.  In addition, teachers administered and examined mini-summative data to determine student growth (students meeting standard with 80% or more of the standards measured) and adjusted groupings.  Finally teachers met with support teams (principal, ______, interventionist, counselor and ________) to discuss results and refine plans at a minimum of every 7 weeks. The following next steps were considered by the team:

      1)      Identify individual class strand themes.

      2)      Describe the trends for different leveled groups.

      3)      Compare and Contrast these trends to last year’s trends.

      4)      Analyze what themes you see.

      5)      What instructional strategies will you use for each group to address the strand data?

      6)      Speculate what your data will look like at the end of the year.  Predict your summative scores.

      7)      ___________________________________

      Finally, ______ clearly articulated, which resources would be dedicated for staff.  Instructional Coaches, Curriculum Leads, Counselors, Specialists and Principals, all understood their role in providing support to staff.  Some examples of the supports that were considered include:

      1)      Collecting and organizing summative data (end of the course/year exams), and unit exams (teacher created and explicitly based on standards)

      2)      Help in the design and evaluation of daily formative assessments – stems and questions that are directly linked to a standard and match the cognitive demand

      3)      Extended learning opportunities for students – building based

      4)      Targeted and differentiated professional development workshops

      5)      Professional development learning communities

      6)      Coordination and alignment of district service

      7)      ______________________

      The foundation for an effective assessment system is one that is comprehensive, efficient and constant.  By establishing this framework, educators are able to develop a high-functioning data system in which all stakeholders have faith.  When done well, this framework serves as a lever for continuous student growth.   I know we have a long ways to go and many of you have been screaming for this for a while.  I also know that there will be others that just want to wait for the new assessments to address the challenge.  It is not the tools we use which make us good or bad, but rather how will we use the tools.  For me the summer has been filled with numbers and data, more to come…

      Finally From Robert William, “The Call of the Wild”,

      Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,

       Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,

      Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,

       Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?

      Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,

       Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?

      Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;

       Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Scholastic Testing Services.  7/23/13. http://www.ststesting.com/dra.html

      The Atlantic.  First published on 6/6/2013.  http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/high-school-graduation-rate-hits-40-year-peak-in-the-us/276604/

      The National Center for Response to Intervention (7/23/13).  http://www.rti4success.org/screeningTools

      The Northwest Evaluation Association.  http://www.nwea.org/blog/2012/formative-assessment-vs-summative-assessment-results-timing-matters/

       

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  • An Educator's Conference Persp An Educator's Conference Perspective

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      If there is one thing that could be said of what I do professionally it might be that I do get around to many education conferences. This past month I attended two International conferences ISTE14, BLC14 and one Indiana regional conference, the Greater Clark County Schools Conference in Indiana. All of these conferences were outstanding in their offerings to educators. I usually comment on the structure and quality of the conferences, but today I think I need to address the educators who attend these conferences based on some recent observations. What set me to thinking about this post were two separate comments from very different educators.

      A short time after attending ISTE14, I flew to Boston for Alan Novmber’s BLC14 conference. It was there that I saw a keynote by Michael Fullan, a Canadian education researcher and former Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. From that speech my main take-away was that in education today Pedagogy is the foundation and technology is the accelerator. For me that was a statement that was clear, concise, and right on the money.

      After a one-day layover at my home, I was off to the GCCC14. It was the 2nd annual conference created and directed by Brett Clark of the Greater Clark County Schools. I landed in Louisville Kentucky, which is just over the river from my Indiana destination. A GCC educator, JT who was transporting me to my hotel, picked me up. I met JT when he performed the same task last year. He is quite an affable fellow and easy to talk with. On our ride we talked about this year’s conference compared to the last. JT shared a conversation he had with a colleague about the conference. His friend asked if JT was going to be at the “day-long computer training”. Obviously, some Indiana educators did not view the Michael Fullan keynote on livestream. Unfortunately, it is an attitude or a mindset that is shared by more educators than just those in Indiana. Many conferences are viewed as computer training and not education methodology or pedagogy.

      It is the way of learning that should be the focus of education conferences and the goal for the attendees. The technology should always be secondary. We should first explore the place collaboration has in learning before we talk about the tools we need to collaborate. We should explore the need and benefits of communication and understand where and how it benefits students in their everyday lives before we explore the modern tools that enable and enhance communication. We need to understand the differences and the effects between lecture, direct instruction and authentic learning before commit to developing a year’s curriculum. Understanding the need for formative assessment is essential to determining what tools we will use to assess formatively, as well as what adjustments we need to make when we get that information. Let us get a full understanding of summative assessment to determine whether to use tools for testing, or tools for digital portfolio assessments.
      Conferences should be more about the learning first and then balanced out with the tools to make it all happen efficiently and effectively. These conferences are not about computer training, but about learning and education.

      As Chris Lehmann said at the GCCC14 conference, we don’t teach math, English, or social studies, we teach kids. Conferences should not be viewed as computer training, but rather teacher training. They teach teachers the ways of education and all of the necessary, modern tools to enhance authentic learning to attain the teachers’ intended goals. Connecting with the educators from each conference is an additional way of continuing the education discussion beyond the conference. It helps create collegial sources to be called upon at anytime for clarification, validation, new ideas, sources, or just to say hello. It makes no sense whatsoever to meet great people with great ideas at a conference and never to connect with them again.

      Educators should come to conferences eager to learn about their evolving profession. It is not a stagnant profession. There are constant changes and developments that happen at a pace never before experienced in education. We need these conferences to offer a balance of pedagogy, methodology and tools for educators to learn, understand, develop, and evolve. We also need educators to connect in order to live the change and not just experience it at an annual conference. If we are to better educate our kids, we need to better educate their educators.

       

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  • Looking Forward to L2L 2014 Looking Forward to L2L 2014

    • From: Walter_McKenzie
    • Description:

      Once again ASCD leaders from around the world are traveling to the Leader to Leader conference to be held this weekend. Leader to Leader (L2L) is our annual professional development event for those dedicated education professionals who serve in important leadership roles for ASCD Affiliates, Connected Communities, Professional Interest Communities, Student Chapters, and our Emerging Leaders program. Over the five years I have been associated with L2L, it has evolved to be a much more collaborative event with lots of opportunity for networking and learning from one another. The diversity of thought, perspective, experience and expertise is, in my own humble opinion, what makes this conference such a success every year. It’s never the same event twice.

       

      This year we are looking to up the ante again, focusing on the theme of Take Charge Leadership, as we continue to encourage these ASCD leaders to work with one another across their constituent groups and generate new ideas, initiatives and energy that they can take back home and implement in support of the educators they serve. And so the question we ask at the outset of this year’s L2L is, “What do you get when you allow talented, capable minds to self-select groupings and projects that will build their professional capital while providing new value and greater capacity to lead?” We are about to find out.

       

      We look at leadership around eight very specific actions that are nurtured and sustained over time. Beginning our conference work around these actions and then moving into an unconferencing format that allows participants to take charge of their learning sets the tone for the weekend. We are also instituting for the first time Web-based polling that will allow everyone in attendance to vote and comment instantaneously using their mobile devices throughout the three days.  Modeling this as participants provide quantitative and qualitative feedback to one another will provide practice and experience with a tool our leaders can take back with them to their respective, states, provinces and countries.

       

      By the time we wrap up Saturday, everyone will be saturated in new ideas and possibilities. L2L is always an exhausting experience for everyone involved. Exhausting and gratifying. What is most gratifying for us as staff is the number of return participants we have every year, and the highly positive feedback we receive from the conference participant surveys. The truth is, it’s the ASCD Leaders who come and participate who make L2L the success it is. As a membership organization, ASCD could not make the difference it does for educators everywhere without its constituent group leaders. L2L is ASCD’s way of giving back to our leaders in the field, offering them the skills and support to be effective on the ground where it matters most.

       

       

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  • Five Skill Sets For a 21st Cen Five Skill Sets For a 21st Century World and Their Instructional Implications

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      In the face of major societal and technological changes, all students need to be prepared with critical knowledge, skills, and attitudes and behaviors that allow for continued learning and growth beyond high school. In particular, they need to develop critical and creative thinking skills and the skills necessary for finding and processing huge amounts of information. Even with the Common Core standards, our current educational emphases aren’t adequately preparing most students for learning beyond high school – for college, career, military or other future endeavors.

       

      While a critical knowledge base and positive attitudes and behaviors are important for future living, this commentary, along with others I have written in the past (see figure one, below) focuses on five skill sets students must develop if they are to adapt to

       

      Figure One

      Previous ASCD Edge Commentaries about Five Skill Sets

       

      Teaching the Right Skills For a New Age- Inquiry Based Instruction http://bit.ly/vVhpSQ

      Seven Principles for Teaching the Right Skills for a New Age http://bit.ly/yLVZ0M

      Using Inquiry-Research Projects to Teach the Right Skills for a New Age http://bit.ly/tU0RPR

      Six ways to Build Greater Curiosity in Students http://bit.ly/TTKPqO

       

      this new world and examines ten specific strategies to help students learn these skills. The five key skill sets that should be given a laser-like focus in order to prepare students for continuous learning in this new age are the following:

       

      Building Curiosity (Asking Questions, Formulating Problems and Challenges)

      In today’s rapidly changing world, curiosity – interest in and willingness to learn new things – is critically important. Most educators realize that the curiosity of young children seems to lessen as they go through school. Curiosity manifests itself through students demonstrating an interest in and a willingness to try new things and learn new ideas, ask questions, and pose and define problems and challenges.

       

      Information and Data Literacy (Processing Information and Data).

      New technologies that give us instantaneous access to huge amounts of information and data make information and data literacy skills imperative.  Our students need to be able to use many approaches to search for (research) information and data effectively and efficiently, sort through large amounts to find the most useful and relevant, and determine the most reliable and valid information and data. Search engine results, gleaned in less than a second, require the ability to sort through, evaluate, read, and digest multiple information and data genres and formats.

       

      Thoughtfulness (Thinking Deeply and Flexibly).

      All students need to have the ability to think deeply and flexibly in today’s rapidly changing world, and be prepared to take their place as 21st century citizens. They need opportunities to compare and contrast, analyze and interpret, and develop unique relationships among information, data, and ideas. They need to be able to translate information into visual and quantitative data. They need to “think outside the box” and solve problems creatively.

       

      Application (Drawing Conclusions, Applying Learning).

      With so much information, the ability to “pull together” and synthesize information and ideas, form educated opinions backed by argument and evidence, solve complex problems, and determine ways to apply information and ideas to the “outside” world become critical. Summarizing, synthesizing, drawing conclusions, and applying learning to new, novel, and “authentic” situations are all critical for living in a 21st century world.

       

      Communication (Communicating Effectively).

      Effective communication in many forms is extremely important in a world of e-mail, twitter, Facebook, cellphones, Skype, and collaborative projects. Students need opportunities to practice communicating effectively through all types of writing, explaining ideas to others, diverse representations, effectively participating in discussions, and oral presentations.

       

      ------------------------------

       

      Given the importance of these five skills sets, one would think that they would be front and center in our educational discussions. Unfortunately, in today’s educational climate, many of these take a back seat to a relatively small group of skills useful for doing well on standardized tests – namely, the ability to distinguish correct answers in multiple choice questions, to write short pieces coherently, or to state opinions and ideas with evidence from text (Common Core). So, in this commentary, I am suggesting ten simple and easy to use strategies – two for each skill set – that can make a big difference in the ability of students to learn and apply these skills.

       

      Curiosity

      Question Census. Ask students to brainstorm questions that they would like to explore for at least one unit of study. Together develop categories for the questions and then select questions or categories of questions that are the most challenging, interesting, or focused around big ideas. Use these questions to focus student learning and study the unit at hand.

      Student developed challenges-problems. Find someplace in the curriculum where students can develop their own challenges or problems to give to others. Give students a chance to develop puzzles, games, historic or current challenges, math problems, or other challenges and problems, and then have them share these with the rest of the class and see if other students can solve the problems or challenges.

       

      Information-Data Literacy

      Readings-Data search. Either as a homework or in-class assignment in a computer lab, ask students to find one or more readings or data sources that supplement current learning. Help students learn how to use search engines and find and use helpful search terms. Work with students to help them determine which sources of information and data are reliable, then how to read and interpret these meaningfully. If several readings or data sources are found, help students figure out ways to compare and contrast them and find the essential information, ideas, or data in each.

      Close reading.  The Common Core Reading Standards advocate that students do more of the work of reading and teachers do less.  “Close reading” means that students read more deeply as part of their daily activities. Instead of teachers providing answers and “feeding” students, students are asked “text-dependent” questions. Text dependent questions force students to go to the text to give opinions and justify them through the text. Students are asked to “read like a detective”; to read text more than once; to analyze paragraphs sentence by sentence, to consider the nuances of a text, to analyze data sources. “Text” reading becomes much more significant as part of the learning process[i].

       

      This type of reading should be encouraged, but takes time. If we are to foster information and data literacy, students, as often as possible, should be asked to do close reading.

       

      Thoughtfulness:

      Graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are a good way to promote deeper and more flexible thinking. Through a visual analysis, they help students take learning apart (analysis), organize information and data for decision-making, or weave a web of information and ideas. Use graphic organizers to help students extend and deepen student thinking[ii].

      Brainstorming A brainstorming strategy is a good way to help students learn to “think outside the box”. Students are provided with an open-ended problem or challenge that has the potential to have many different types of solutions. They are asked to discover as many alternative ways to solve the problem as they can, and are given four rules around the acronym DOVE to help them with coming up with alternative possibilities: Defer Judgment, Offbeat Ideas encouraged, Vast number of ideas sought, Expand on other people’s ideas. Ask students to work in small groups to come up with as many ideas as they can, with one person acting as the recorder of all the ideas.

       

      After the brainstorm, students share the ideas and make the list as long as possible. They may also be asked to indicate which five ideas are the most logical, the most unusual, the most interesting, and/or the best. Several ideas might be used to try to solve the problem and consider what would happen if the idea were put into practice.

       

      Application

      3-2-1 Reflection. A 3-2-1 Reflection activity is often given at the end of a lesson or specific time period, such as a week, two weeks, or at the end of a unit. You can use this activity to ask students many different questions to discover what they learned and to uncover their thoughts about other aspects of the class: for example, to determine what main ideas students have learned, what questions they still have (good for stimulating curiosity), and what they most enjoyed.

       

      A 3-2-1 activity that supports the development of the five skill sets might look like this: Ask students to write down 3 major ideas and-or principles that they learned, 2 conclusions that they can draw from the learning, and one way they can apply their learning to the outside world[iii].  

      No multiple-choice question test. For at least one time period, abandon the traditional multiple-choice short answer test for a test that requires students to draw conclusions about what they have learned and asks them to apply their learning to a new and novel situation. Performance tasks are good alternatives, as are long essay exams. Consider open book essay exam questions and essay exams where students take home three questions to prepare, and one or two of them are written as an in-class exam[iv].

       

      Communication:

      Five minute explanations. For this activity, students are asked to explain a concept, big idea, understanding, or principle in their own words. They may do it in pairs, giving explanations to each other, or as a writing assignment, or as a presentation to the larger class. This activity may be completed after all or part of a lecture when a teacher has shared a new understanding and wants to determine if students understand what has been presented, or as a study activity at the end of a unit.

       

      A corollary to this activity is that students use an active listening approach – as they work in pairs, one student provides an explanation and the other has to repeat the essence of the explanation in his or her own words. They then switch, and the other student provides an explanation while the first repeats the essence of it in his or her own words.

      Persuasive arguments. In this activity, students are asked to create a persuasive argument in support of a point of view – an opinion about something they are studying. They need to state or write their point of view and provide arguments and evidence that support it. Once they state or write their argument, they can share it with others, either in small groups or in the total class. Persuasive essays are also good ways to introduce debate skills.

       

      ------------------------

       

      There are many additional activities that can be used or adapted to promote the learning of these five skill sets – developing questions for conducting interviews or for going on field trips, wait time to encourage deeper thinking, research projects based on student interests or related to a topic under study, oral presentations, creative problem solving strategies, individual book reflections, on-going, multiple types of writing activities, thinking skill activities, and choice of activities and courses.

       

      In sum, the point of this commentary is that teachers who have limited time for developing some or all of these five sets of skills can do short, relatively easy to implement activities, even occasionally, that can make a big difference in 21st century skill development. These types of activities, represented by the ten examples above, can be especially significant if everyone in the school supports the development of these sets of skills and institutes instructional activities designed to help students learn and refine these skills.

       

      If you are convinced that these skills are important for students to develop, chances are you will think of other activities that you can implement or adapt to promote the learning of these skills. Once you accept the importance of these skills and start thinking about how you can help students develop them, the sky’s the limit. Ironically, teaching these skills can also help students to perform better on the more traditional tests that have currently become so important for measuring classroom and school success.

       

       

                                                                                                              ENDNOTES



      [i] For further insight into text-dependent, close reading based on the Common Core Standards, see Christina Hank, Defining “Deep Reading” and “text-Dependent Questions”, at Turn On Your Brain, http://turnonyourbrain.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/defining-deep-reading-and-text-dependent-questions/

      [ii] There are many sources of information on graphic organizers. One resource is by Vicki Urquhart and Dana Frazee, Teaching Reading in the Content Areas: If Not Me, Then Who? 3rd Edition (2012), Chapter 12. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

      [iii] Many resources are available to help you develop 3-2-1 reflections. One can be found at http://www.facing.org/resources/strategies/3-2-1.

      [iv] As a student, the use of take home questions was my favorite way of being assessed, because I could really take the time to prepare and learn. It changed the nature of assessment from “mystery” to “mastery”.

       

       

       

      Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, social studies teacher, former Professor of Education at Temple University, and Curriculum Director in Bucks County, PA. If you are interested in further examining these five skill sets and ways to implement them, as well as other dimensions of a 21st century education, examine his other commentaries on ASCD Edge or go to his website at  www.era3learning.org

       

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
    • Views: 2344
  • 7 Tips for Re-doing the Studen 7 Tips for Re-doing the Student Re-do Process

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      In grading a recent test, I noticed that the scores were lower than usual.  I questioned if we had spent enough time on the material.  I wondered if I had failed to address the challenging content appropriately.  Was I to blame for the below average scores? Was it time for the dreaded “It’s not you, it’s me” speech.  After wallowing in this short self-blaming, “I stink as a teacher” mode, I decided to do something about it.  I decided to offer my students a re-do.  I love a good old re-do because they are wrapped in hope, second chances, and all things warm and fuzzy.   I think we all could benefit from a do-over every now and then (or every day).  Like the infamous episode where Oprah gave away cars, teachers should give away do-overs in their classrooms.  Every once in a while teachers should say, “here’s a free do-over for you, one for you, one for you…”  The only problem is that there are some drawbacks to the revision process.  Students may take advantage, the revision opportunity may limit the effort put forth on the initial work, and of course the practicality issue (in the real world we do not always get to correct our mistakes).  Lastly, sometimes students don’t follow through and do not participate in the revision process at all.  In the spirit of revision, I have developed a list of 7 strategies to facilitate the process and in turn encourage student participation:



      1.  Assess student interest in revision.

       

      When thinking about assessing interest, an online ad (it has over 20 million views) about gender stereotypes came to mind.  You can watch the entire ad here.  In the ad, there are adolescents that role play physical activities "like a girl" and then they act out the same activities "like a boy".  Unsurprisingly, within the role plays, the girls are portrayed less flatterinly than boys (for example they run less powerfully, swim less aggressively, etc.).  The best part, however is after a discussion of gender stereotypes, the adolescents are asked if they wish for a second chance to do their role plays "differently".  Instead of forcing a do-over, the children are invited to revisit their stereotypically laden gender beliefs.  And you know what-each child participates in the do-over. The big take-away here is that a simple participation request allows for instant participant buy-in and thus increases participation in the revision process.  

       

      2.  Include students as peer reviewers in the process.

       

      Even though teachers are more knowledgeable than students (we are the experts in the classroom), we can learn a great deal from our students.  The “curse of the expert” theory outlines how experts may sabotage learning (they often underestimate the level of task difficulty and overestimate potential performance of novices).  In order to get around this, try to incorporate the help of your students in the revision process.  Students share the same language or jargon, and provide a variety of feedback to help one another improve their work (Cho & MacArthur, 2010).

       

      3.  Consider how to manage time in the revision process.


      If you are not careful, all of your teaching time will turn into revision time.  To avoid this, one educator in an article titled “The utility of a student organized revision day" describes the benefits of designating one class day for student revision (Gill, Ong, & Cleland, 2012).  Another idea that I tend to use-would be to include detailed rubrics so that the students have what they need to get the assignment right the very first time.  A final suggestion would be the use of video to record assignment instructions or tips (Whatley & Ahmad, 2007). The video method is effective because conversational style is often more user-friendly than written/formal style (personalization learning principle).

       

       
      4.  Consider how your feedback influences student revision.

       

      An article titled "What does it take to make a change?" shows the that the type of teacher feedback impacts the likelihood that a student will participate in the revision process (Silver & Lee, 2007).  Specifically, when teachers offer advice about how to improve work quality, this facilitates more revision than other feedback methods (such as praise or criticism).  So, if you tell your student, “I wonder if you can provide more details”,  instead of saying “I like how you use detail in this one part”, the student may be more inclined to revise the work. 

       

      5.  Examine how students view the revision process.

       

      Do you remember Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs?  In general, Maslow described our needs in terms of layers- basic needs had to be met before we could pursue higher order needs.  A Maslow-like theory may explain how students perceive the revision process (Thompson, 1994).  In a paper from the College Composition and Communication conference,  an educator described that in revision,  students attend to basic needs (what is required to pass or not fail the assignment) and then they move on to higher order revising skills (creativity, synthesis, etc.).

       

      6.  Adjust classroom perception of revision.

       

      Students view revision as a reflection of themselves.  One study from the English Teaching Practice and Critique Journal showed that students believed that teacher revision comments indicated they were "careless" (Silver & Lee, 2007). Also, students reported that the teacher feedback lowered their confidence and made them feel angry. My take away from this study is that teachers must work to improve the way students perceive the re-do process. Perhaps reminding students that change is not bad.  Additionally, identifying real-life examples of revision (such as remaking movies or remixing songs) to help students see that revising is a normal part of life.  

       

      7.  Measure the revision process.


      If you decide to offer students a re-do, measuring how well the process works (or not) is useful.  Think about asking the students to provide feedback about their experience with revision.  Typically, students report that revision allows for an increase in knowledge and confidence (Gill, Ong, & Cleland, 2013).  Also, reviewing the grade changes (before and after the revisionn) will offer insight into the usefulness of allowing students to re-do future assignments.  
       





      

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
    • Views: 3947
  • Student/Parent Engagement Student/Parent Engagement

    • From: John_Rimes
    • Description:

      Ok, its been a while and I know there should be more consistency in my writing.  I have made a commitment to share and reflect a minimum of two times per month.  It's the right thing to do!


      My focus this year for my faculty, students, and parents is engagement.  We can't win the game of educating our kids without engaging them and those around them.  I have made it a goal to get 100% student participation in clubs, organizations, activities, or sports.  We have also challenged the parents at our school to commit to spending 5 contact hours at our school.  Through these efforts I hope to have a better relationship with the community and frankly, if it turns out like I expect it to there will be a huge paradigm shift.  


      I believe educators must work to help students meet their needs to be significant, to grow, and make connections. By having a positive attitude, planning, and being NICE, we can make learning fun and challenging.  We can make learning a process kids want to be a part of.  Let me ask you: If you were in a meeting that was not engaging and held no purpose for you, would you get up and leave?  Absolutely!!!  We would check our email or probably go get a snack.  Our students are no different.  We need to realize they may not be engaged and ready to learn 100% of the time.  

      What should we do? 

       

      You gotta like kids and understand how they work.  We need to give them their monies worth each and every time they come through the doors.  I always like to ask the question: If they were not required to come to your class would they still want to be there?   This is also true of our schools.  Well, we will work on it and together we can make a change.  


      We made great strides at my school in my first year as principal, but we have only just begun.  There is much work to do, so stay tuned and I will keep you posted on the progress of year two.

       

      Keep working, reading, and improving your craft.  Remember to keep your students FIRST!!

       

      Follow me on Twitter @coachrimesphd 

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 125
  • Learning From the Ground Up Learning From the Ground Up

    • From: John_Hines
    • Description:

      While we do not often think about it, we can start redesigning schools with the physical space. As I think about how to structure a high school, I see ways to change the school simply with the furnishing. Open spaces, natural light and comfortable seats can all take a school from “cells and bells” to a place of innovation and invention. I have often said that I go onto college campuses and I see how I wish to teach. It is amazing to have open manicured lawns, wooded paths, and some time to be outside. Being at a traditional high school, cooped up inside, it makes me wish I could escape, not stay and learn. If I feel that way, and I had a positive experience at school, I know my students feel the same way.


      Along with how the school is designed, I am interested to see how much schools could become like the best idea companies. Places like Google, Microsoft, and Twitter have to give their employees space to think. Google has become famous for its Genius Hour in which the employees are given time to simply pursue whatever interests them and some of their newest innovations (Google Glass, the Google self driving car) have come from this time. These companies thrive based on how well their employees think. This is how we should be approaching schools. We should treat our students and teachers like thinking, and developing new ideas, was their job. We should give them time to pursue their passions and interests. We have to trust teachers to develop systems and solutions for the issues they face. We then further need to trust students to learn and find passion in learning.


      When we think about public education, it is frustrating that while we want to have schools as a place of learning, growing , innovation and invention we run them like factories. With fixed amounts of credits, minutes and grades, we are trying to mass produce graduates (the all important graduation rate as the critical marker of success) with teachers working on the assembly line. We have this system, not because we think it is the best, but because accountability demands clear criteria to measure (test scores, graduation rates). Free time to generate ideas and follow passions is not as measurable as 3 years of high school science or 55 minutes of Geometry.


      While places like Google see Genius Hour as a way to allow its engineers to follow intellectual endeavors as vital to it continued success and relevance, it is hard to see this becoming part of our public schools in our current high stakes, high accountability climate. There are some educators calling for the changes, to make schools more like our most innovative and productive companies, it has failed to penetrate the average school and is not part of the much of the current popular reform conversation. Less is more is not as prevalent as more is more.

       

      If we are serious about schools being places of idea production, we have to build them to support the creation of ideas. We have also recognize that learning is an organic process, not a mechanical one. We cannot simply speed things up and have students simply learn more in less time, just like we cannot double the fertilizer we put on crops and expect them to grow twice as much in half the time. What we can do is create a set of circumstances, a climate, that can support higher growth. This can be done many ways, but one way that might need to be considered includes natural light and some free time.


      Cross-posted from: http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/2014/07/learning-from-ground-up.html


      Please follow John @jhhines57 or check out his blog at notfillingthepail.blogspot.com


    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 117
  • #WordCrimes #WordCrimes

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      If you haven’t seen the hilarious new video from Weird Al Yankovic, check it out below:


       

      It’s a play on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and paints a picture that all grammarians can relate to.


      I’m sharing it because of its hilarious take on learning proper grammar and conventions and also because of its cleverness and appeal as a parody. I would love to see students experimenting with pop culture in such a way and with all of the web tools at our disposal, we certainly have the means to do so.


      What would a library of student created music videos look like? How could they demonstrate understanding of content through the rewriting of the lyrics to popular songs and their own performances of those songs? How would sharing those student creations with others around the world impact their revisions and additional learning? What additional skills would students learn as they investigated web tools, learned about editing, and applied their new skills for a quality product?


      Viewing this video is far from just entertainment. It opens up cans of worms for me about what students could do to demonstrate learning. I would also like to point out that Weird Al is releasing 8 videos in 8 days around his new album, all of which are clever, full of pop culture references, and demonstrative of a thinking man’s perspective on the world we live in.


      His website is: http://www.weirdal.com/


      I hope you’ll take the time to view some of his other creations for this album. I think that they are spectacularly descriptive of our modern times and clever re-imaginations of popular songs.


      I’d like to thank Jay McTighe for being the first to notice and share the video. Jay’s like the TMZ of the educational horizon and shares stuff long before the rest of us have a chance to notice! Thanks, Jay!




      Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 215
  • Literature Circles: A Student- Literature Circles: A Student-Centered Approach to Literacy

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Why do our students come to school? Yes, yes, of course because they have to, but why else? Is it because of you? Is it because of the mind-bending lectures we give? If you asked Michael Kahn (see his article, “The Seminar”) these questions, he’d tell you that there’s nothing intrinsically special about us or the textbooks.

      No, what makes coming to school “worth it” for Kahn is the collaborative learning experience—or in his words, the “opportunity [for students] to engage in a fantastic dialogue, trialogue, multilogue with a fantastically varied assortment of consciousnesses.”

      There are countless ways we can get students working together, talking and learning from one another, but literature circles are certainly one of the most effective. Not only do they encourage open dialogue, creativity and critical thinking, they also push students to take ownership of their own learning experience.

      What are literature circles?
      When we use literature circles, small groups of student gather for an in-depth discussion of a literary work. To ensure that students have a clear sense of direction and remain focused, each group member is given a specific task. For example, one student may be the designated artist; s/he is responsible for using some form of art to explore a main idea, a theme, or significant scene from the text. Another group member, the wordsmith, might be responsible for documenting important, unusual, or difficult words from the reading. Regardless of each student’s role, each group must collaborate as they read, discuss and critically engage with texts.

      The circles meet regularly, and the discussion roles change at each meeting. When the circle finishes a book, the members decide on a way to showcase their literary work for the rest of the class.


      To give you a better sense of what literature circles are—and aren’t—take a look at the following chart from Bonnie Campbell Hill’s guide, Literature Circles and Response:

      literature_circles_2

      What is the teacher’s role in literature circles?
      As Harvey Daniels explains in his book Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, “the teacher’s main job in literature circles is to not teach.” Instead, teachers use mini-lessons, debriefing sessions and Socratic questioning techniques as they circulate the room, moving from group to group to evaluate student progress. As a facilitator, the teacher is never center-stage. In literature circles, the teacher’s role is supportive, organizational and managerial.

      What is the role of each student?
      There are a number of approaches you can take, but Daniels believes in introducing literature circles by using predefined roles that students take turns fulfilling. Although the terminology used to name the roles may vary, the descriptions remain similar.


      Pam Chandler, a sixth-grade English, reading, and social studies teacher at Sequoia Middle School in Redding, California, defines the roles her students take on in literature circles in this way:

      • Artful artist uses some form of artwork to represent a significant scene or idea from the reading.
      • Literary luminary points out interesting or important passages within the reading.
      • Discussion director writes questions that will lead to discussion by the group.
      • Capable connector finds connections between the reading material and something outside the text, such as a personal experience, a topic studied in another class, or a different work of literature.
      • Word wizard discusses words in the text that are unusual, interesting, or difficult to understand.

      Teachers will want to begin by modeling the various roles within a small group in front of the whole class before sending students out on their own. However, you may be surprised to find out that once students are comfortable with the group-discussion format, you may be able to discontinue these roles altogether.

      How do I evaluate students?
      Literature circles are not intended to “cover material”— they are designed to empower students to take control of their learning experiences, to get them excited about literature, and to help them find creative ways to delve into books. Keeping that in mind, teachers who use literature circles do not use traditional methods of evaluation.

      Because teachers are not at the center of attention, they are better able to engage in “authentic,” real-time assessment. This can include keeping narrative observational logs, performance assessment, checklists, student conferences, group interviews, one-on-one conferences, and the like.

      Keep in mind that evaluation in literature circles is not just the job of the teacher. Just as we require students to take responsibility for their own book selections, topic choices, and reading assignments, we also want them involved in the record-keeping and evaluation activities of literature circles.

      For a more comprehensive discussion of literature circles, check out both Bonnie Campbell Hill’s guide Literature Circles and Response, and Harvey Daniels’s book, Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups.


      download click and clunk 

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 2915
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  • Exercise and the Brain Exercise and the Brain

    • From: Jonathan_Jefferson
    • Description:

      Exercise and the Brain

      By Jonathan Jefferson


      “SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey, MD is the one book that all educators must read to fully understand the inseparable connection between exercise and the brain’s ability to acquire knowledge.  Long before this well structured, research-based book was released in 2008, I had admonished my colleagues that it was a misnomer to equate academic learning and exercise as two separate spheres if for no other reason than that the brain can only receive nourishment through movement.  Movement increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain priming it for the development of new neuron-passage ways.  Recent studies have also shown that coordinated movement (e.g. dance, martial arts, & yoga) are the most effective “steroids” for the brain.


      Why is this topic important?  Far too often we find well-intentioned educators unwittingly act on assumptions which are too detached from prevailing research to be anything but ineffectual.  Having students engage in physical activity before classes and exams is much more beneficial than having them sit quietly and read.  However, the “control freaks” contingency of educators are disinclined to relinquish their illusion of control, which ultimately contributes to the detriment of student performance.  Let us truly put kids first and embrace the maxim of doing what is best for them; not what is most convenient for the adults.


      Dr. Ratey thoroughly shared the success of Naperville Illinois’ school district in his book.  This district is lead by their physical education and wellness program.  On the 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Naperville’s eighth graders placed sixth in the world in math and first in science.  He also reported that in Naperville students are deliberately scheduled for their most difficult classes following physical education class.  This is done to take advantage of their brain’s readiness to learn at that time.  Imagine that; a striving school district actually applying proven research to a successful end.


      I am not surprised that “SPARK” is a best seller.  The research shared explains the benefits of exercise on stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, addiction, hormonal changes, aging, and learning.  There is something for everyone, and acting on the research shared can improve the quality of life for many.

       

      In addition to this fine work, another great read specific to movement and the brain is Math and Movement by Suzy Koontz.

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 179
  • Putting STUDENTS in the center Putting STUDENTS in the center of learning.

    • From: Beth_Brodie
    • Description:
      This is the word cloud from chapter one of my new book, The Trinity of Personalization: A Guide to High School Advisory, Personalized Learning Plans and Student-led Conferences
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 65
    • Not yet rated
  • 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?


    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 433
  • Time-Capsule Teaching Time-Capsule Teaching

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      Have you ever been witness to a time capsule being opened?  If you are not familiar with such events it is very simple. People select items that represent their culture or personal lives, and place them in a container to be sealed up for a long period of time. After a few decades the container is opened up at some sort of ceremony and people look at what was the height of technology, and life, decades ago. I guess we older folks get to appreciate those types of events more than the younger people, because the items in the time capsule usually do not need to be explained to us, as they need to be to the younger generations. I guess the fascination with time capsules is dependent on the apparent and dramatic effect technology has had on the culture represented by the encapsulated items which were selected.

      It is one thing to study and talk about how technology and learning has made great strides in the field of medicine, but it is another conversation entirely when one experiences finding blood-letting tools in a time capsule. It prompts a great conversation that is lost in a textbook version of such events. It usually elicits from the youth questions like “What the hell were they thinking?” Of course the field of Medicine has probably developed faster and in more directions than any other field. I used to do a presentation where I would show a slide of a 19th Century operating room, followed by a picture of an operating room of today. The contrast was inimitable. Since this was a presentation for educators I showed a picture of a 19th Century classroom, followed by a class of today. It was the laughter of the audience that was inimitable at that point. There was little change. The upsetting point here is that if I were to do that presentation again, it would probably still hold true for the slow change in too many American classrooms.

      As I engaged some of my connected colleagues in Edchat last week, we were discussing how the education system pays lip service to asking for innovation in education and for teachers to be innovative, while at the same time putting in place policies and mandates to stifle any such notion a teacher might have.

      I pointed out how we are supposed to be teaching our kids how to be effective, competitive, and educated in the world in which they will live, while using tools for communication, collaboration, and creation that will exist in their world.

      One Connected colleague pointed out that there is one school, or it might even be considered an education franchise school, that prides itself in the fact that it teaches its students without the use of any technology whatsoever. I guess that school franchise really holds 19th and 20th century methodology in very high esteem. Many of us are products of that methodology, so I guess there is a comfort level for some. I do often wonder why an educator’s comfort level should supersede the real world needs of his or her students.

      Looking to the past in education and creating my own mental time capsule, I remember when calculators were not allowed in schools. The slide rule was okay. I remember the blue spirits ditto machine with a hand crank. I remember real Blackboards. I remember fountain pens, the Osmiroid Pen in particular. I remember desks with inkwell holes in the upper right corner. Again I am an old guy and this was my past.

      What would go into an education time capsule today? Maybe a “Cellphones Banned” sign. Possibly, Oregon Trail would go in. Certainly those four computers, covered with dust at the back of the room. Definitely we would include the overhead projector that is now 75 year-old technology. Maybe we should also consider putting “sit and get” methodology in the time capsule. Let’s include the idea of teaching in silos as a concept. What about adding the concept of desks in rows. Why not add the idea of a content expert at the front of the room filling the empty vessels of student minds? This might also be the right place for standardized tests.

      If we were to put all of these things into a capsule to be opened two decades from now, would we ever want to bring any of them back into the class? Maybe, Oregon Trail.

      We need to reach out to those who are still teaching kids from the 20th Century perspective. We need them to commit to being learners again. Learning is ongoing and it must be a way of life for an educator. A relevant educator must continually learn to stay relevant. We can’t have time-capsule teaching in an ever-developing culture. At what point will we stop and look at what we are doing and say, “what the hell were we thinking”?

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 487
  • 14 ways to think about good te 14 ways to think about good teaching: A useful PD exercise

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      Much of my educational career has been spent in teaching or observing teachers. I also had the incredible opportunity of attending many wonderful professional development sessions with outstanding presenters, and working with some amazing educators over many years.

       

      As a result, I have compiled a synthesis of some of the most important things that I have learned about effective teaching along the way. Here are fourteen ways of thinking about teaching that, when part of true self-reflection, can change much of what is being done in the classroom for the better.

       

      These fourteen ways of thinking can be explored with individuals or groups of teachers to raise issues about teaching and learning, focus professional development around some important issues and challenges, and help provide a framework for professional growth over time. They may also be useful as a framework for thinking about teacher evaluation.

       

      Read the descriptions below of my fourteen “ways of thinking” about teaching and learning. Get familiar with them. When you are done, consider doing the exercises at the end of this commentary, or sharing them in PD sessions, in order to better apply them to teaching and learning.

       

      1.     Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

      Teaching is about relationships. Getting to know students helps with planning, motivation, interest, discipline, and effective communication. It is about knowing how students learn, how they think, what blocks their learning, what’s on their minds.

       

      As much as possible, get to know students as individuals, with all their variety of thoughts, passions, ideas, backgrounds, humor, unique qualities. This is especially hard for middle and high school teachers, who have so many students to teach. But it is important that all teachers, whatever their level of teaching, whatever their situation,  take some time during the school year to do activities that build relationships and help to learn about students. There are many ways to both formally and informally do this, such as get-to know-me activities, written self-reflections, observing how students go about solving problems, observing groupwork discussions, making sure students know to ask for help when they are having problems, meeting with students informally after school, or talking with other teachers about specific students (not always problem students).

       

      2.     Plan goals for both the long term and the short term.

      Long term planning should be the force behind short term planning. In other words, plan for what you want your students to accomplish in the long run, and then plan each day so that your students can get closer to your goal. For example, a long-term goal might be to help students become better writers, while the short-term goal is to improve their grammar and vocabulary. A long- term goal might be a unit goal, and each daily lesson plan contributes to the goals of the unit. A long-term goal might be a yearly understanding-based goal, and a unit goal might contribute to the year-long goal.

       

      As most teachers know, this is not easy. There are many obstacles, changes, and detours along the way, depending on what happens each day. The variables are tremendous. But it is always important to consider what you want your students to accomplish over a long period of time (the big goals), and figure out how each day helps them get there.

       

      3.     Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.

      With the emphasis today on standardized test score success, learning academic content and skills become the most important focus for achievement and success. But much recent research suggests that “social-emotional” learning qualities are critical for long term success. Students who don’t see a connection between their effort and learning, are unable to be persistent, lack curiosity and resilience in the face of challenges, cannot work well with others, lack self-responsibility, are unorganized or unable to plan their time well, or lack the ability and willingness to ask for help and support when needed will have a great deal of trouble both in learning and in life. So it is important for teachers to assess these “soft” skills as well as academic and cognitive learning to help students achieve long-term success.

       

      4.     Translate learning goals into meaningful, interesting questions and challenges.

      According to several sources, Richard Feynman, a world-renowned physicist, was “heavily influenced by his father, who encouraged him to ask questions to challenge orthodox thinking”… “[His father] never taught facts so much as questions. He encouraged young Richard to identify not what he knew, but rather what he did not know… What's most important for knowledge is the well asked question”.

       

      Today, in my view, too many teachers have lost the art of helping students focus their learning around meaningful questions. My observations indicate that teachers still most often focus learning around imparting specific subject matter or stating goals in terms of “behavioral” objectives. But what if we thought about our teaching in terms of exploring open-ended questions that are interesting and meaningful to our students? What if we put “essential” questions on the board at the beginning of units and lessons, discussed with our students why they are important and meaningful, and then referred to them throughout the unit? Designed core questions that extended throughout the year? Created meaningful open-ended challenges as starting points for learning? Asked our students to develop essential questions?

       

      One of my favorite questions, used by Kathy Davis, a first grade teacher, is the following:

      What writing is worth reading? Imagine studying different kinds of writing over a long period of time with that question in mind? Another set of questions, worth studying in an American History course, is the following: “What is the American Dream? Where did it come from? Does it still exist?

       

      So here’s something to think about: How can you translate your learning goals and objectives into important, interesting, meaningful questions? How can you use these questions as starting points for learning? For skill development? For making content relevant? How can these questions repeat and recur over time? Become the focus for many learning activities over time?

       

      Much, if not most, important learning and growth starts with curiosity around questions, or perplexities around challenges. Teachers need to reinforce that type of learning, and begin student learning with questions and challenges that stimulate curiosity and interest, and motivate students to learn.

       

      5.     Teach reading (and other forms of literacy) as inquiry, exploration, and research.

      Textbook activities often are treated solely as reading assignments (e.g. Read chapter seven and answer the questions at the end of the chapter). But what if teachers thought of textbooks and other reading materials, especially non-fiction reading, as sources of information designed to help answer questions, build understanding, explore interesting topics, and help find answers to challenges. What if the reading of literature was built around some interesting, significant questions, conflicts and issues? What if students had a chance to choose some of the literature they are asked to read based on their own curiosity? Treating textbooks, literature and other reading resources as a form of inquiry, exploration, curiosity, or research to answer questions helps put reading in an important context, not as a chore.

       

      One simple textbook-non-fiction reading strategy that helps support this approach is the simple SQ3R strategy and its variations. First, students survey the material to be read, looking at headings, key words, difficult passages, pictures and other ancillary materials, and the like.  Next, students turn headings into questions or bring into play previously developed questions to begin to find answers in the materials. Finally, they read and highlight key points, recite learning from the text that answers key questions, and then review and summarize the information that relates to the answers to each question.

       

      6.     Frequently use writing as a key instructional tool.

      Asking students of all ages to continually write in many formats helps them formulate their ideas, organize their thoughts, think clearly and cogently, draw conclusions, self-reflect, and learn how to write position papers, among other things.

       

      Most teachers don’t provide students with enough opportunities to write and reflect on their learning. Opportunities include writing at the beginning of a unit to determine what students know and how they think, daily short written reflections summarizing what they have learned at the end of a class, position papers around an issue discussed in class, research and project reports, analyses and interpretations from reading, frequent self-reflections, and end of unit essays in place of or complementary to traditional tests. Not all writing has to be graded, but carefully choosing writing to provide feedback provides students with significant opportunities for improvement.

       

      7.     Develop “deeper learning”.

      I have always felt that many teachers try to teach much too much content and therefore do not have enough time for getting deeper into subject matter and skill development. Teachers need to think about priorities so that content is most likely to be limited and remembered. For example, the period of history in which the Constitution was developed is a very good time to concentrate on a few key points about the Constitution: the Bill of Rights, the Organization of Government, and the Constitutional “compromise” on slavery. While there are many other issues and facts that might be learned, these are key.

       

      “Deeper learning” also results from analysis, interpretation, or doing something with (applying) the information learned. What if students ended this American history unit by developing their own Constitution for their classroom or school? Or created a new and better Constitution for America? Or simulated the Constitutional Convention and developed a Constitution based on the interests of each of the thirteen states?

       

      8.     Involve and engage ALL students in learning.

      It is surprising how often teachers, especially in middle and secondary teachers, spend little time thinking about how to engage and involve every student on a daily basis. All too frequently, I have observed teachers who ask questions and involve very few students in giving answers; allow students to put their heads down on their desks during a lesson; stand in front of the class instead of walking around to engage students. Many students learn that it is OK to “tune out” of the lesson, and that they will be rewarded just for coming to school that day. Beginning teachers are especially likely to make the mistake of letting students “tune out” of their lessons. Here are some ways to avoid student passivity:

       

      Don’t just stand in front of a group of students. Walk around the room. Catch the eye of students. Watch what they are doing. Gently shake a student who has his or her head on the desk. Call on students who you think are not paying attention.

       

      Begin each class or new learning experience with an engaging “To Do” Activity that students must respond to as they enter your classroom. For example, a “To Do” Activity might begin with writing a short summary of what they were asked to read the night before or finding the answer to a math problem based on the work they did the previous day.

       

      Use “think-pair-share” strategies to involve everyone in exploring significant questions. Here’s how it works. Ask an open-ended question. Then ask each student to write down an answer. Then students pair up with another student to discuss their answer. Finally, teachers call on individual students to share their answer and hopefully begin a discussion.

       

      9.     Bring the outside world into the school and classroom, and the school and classroom into the outside world, and help students apply learning.

      Here’s how I think about schools and the surrounding world: The school world is for learning - the outside world is for living. People don’t live in a school. They go to school to learn. They live in their homes, in their offices, in the environment around them, in the world outside of school. Too often, school becomes an isolated entity unto itself, with little or no connection to the way people live in the outside world. As teachers, we need to remember this and, as often as we can, bring the outside world into the school and the school into the outside world.

       

      How do we do this?

       

      I remember watching Ms Tolliver, an excellent elementary math teacher who made some wonderful professional development tapes, take her fifth grade urban students on a walk through the school neighborhood looking for mathematics concepts and creating mathematics problems (Math Trail). They developed problems and found mathematics around park benches, playgrounds, subway trains, parking meters, building blocks and shapes, maps of the neighborhood, and seven step staircases in Central Park. The math that they were learning in school became real and relevant. Another example: in a local comprehensive urban high school I recently visited, a counselor organized talks in the school by local community members to help students see the variety of careers and lives led by those with similar ethnic backgrounds. Finally, new technologies provide new tools for bring the outside community into the school and the school to the outside community. There are currently many examples on the Internet and on websites of how teachers use Skype and other Internet options to bring in the outside community and world into the school and classroom.

       

      10.  Know when to maintain a strong structure for students and when to “let go”.

      Good teachers know when to provide students with significant learning structure and when to give students greater freedom and self-direction. For example, when students are first learning how to do research, they need more structure – a step-by-step process, good explanations of how to conduct research and use research skills, models of good research products, and guided practice opportunities. Once they have learned and practiced the basic components of research, then they can be given more freedom to work on their own independently. In other words, sometimes students need strong structures, especially when they are first learning how to do something. But, eventually, we need to “let go” and give them freedom to work on their own and make their own mistakes in order to keep getting better at what they are doing. One of the most difficult decisions about teaching is knowing when students need significant structure and when to let go and give them more self-direction.

       

      “Letting go” may also mean giving students greater choice and more options. Giving students the right to select their own books to read should be an important part of a good comprehensive reading program. Allowing students to select their own research question, sometimes within the parameters of a subject area, also gives students greater interest in and responsibility for their research.

       

      11.  Help students to improve, make progress, and get better.

      What does it mean for students to get better at doing something? Understand in a deeper way? What are the most critical changes you would like to see in your students over time? What does it look like when they improve? How will you know when your students have a better understanding of core content? How can you build a student culture of “craftsmanship and understanding” that supports and encourages gradual improvement over time?

       

      Unfortunately, traditional tests and quizzes don’t easily lend themselves to demonstrating improvement and progress in understanding and skill development. Seeking gradual progress and improvement is more likely to occur when students frequently do tasks related to what needs improvement, such as writing, making presentations, conducting research, performing experiments, and organizing learning for understanding. Specific feedback that provides students with specific guidance on what they need to do better is important. Showing models of good work to strive for is very helpful. An approach to teaching and learning that savors and supports gradual progress and improvement can lead to the development of a culture and way of thinking that promotes craftsmanship, deeper understanding, and improvement over time.

       

      12.  Check for understanding - often.

      When I taught many years ago, I was unaware that I needed to frequently check for understanding. This was not good for student learning. This way of thinking has been getting much more play lately, and rightly so. Teachers need to check in frequently with students to see if they are “getting it” – really understanding what they are learning. Many strategies are available for this purpose, such as application oriented math problems, end of lesson summary strategies, such as 3-2-1 (three things I learned from this lesson, two things that were the most interesting, one question I still have); and 10-2 lectures (10 minutes of lecture, 2 minutes of reflection and questions).

       

      13.  Create strong culminating experiences and assessments.

      Unfortunately, end of unit culminating experiences are often multiple choice-short answer tests. What could be less interesting for a student? What could be less relevant? Should the traditional test be the culminating experience of student work and learning?

       

      Consider developing alternatives to traditional tests, even for just some units. How about a field trip to an art museum at the end of a unit so that students can analyze and write about a specific artistic period in greater depth? Perhaps students should write a position paper about a controversial topic in American History or design an experiment as the culmination of a science unit? How about giving students two or three (or more) essay questions several days in advance of a test time to give students time to prepare outlines of answers, from which one or two are selected to be written during a two hour class period? How about giving students interesting open-book (or even open-research) essay questions? Or what about completing an authentic performance task that demonstrates the ability of students to apply their learning to a new situation? These are much more interesting, relevant, and meaningful culminating assessments.

       

      14.  Appropriately use technology as a learning tool.

      There is a tendency to talk about using technology today as if it were something to be automatically incorporated into the learning process. The reality is that technology is often hard to use or apply easily to teaching situations. Technology usage often requires a good deal of staff development, and is costly to implement and maintain.

       

      However, technology, when used appropriately, can be an extremely valuable tool that enables teachers and students to learn more efficiently and effectively. For example, simple technologies, such as Microsoft word and powerpoint are useful for encouraging and editing writing and making presentations. The Internet is a wonderful tool to support research, but students have to learn how to use it carefully, skillfully, and wisely for this purpose. Some of the more complex technologies are useful to promote “gaming” and simulations. “Flipping” uses technology to help students learn basic information outside of school so that teachers can focus on “deeper learning” when students are in class. Some technologies that promote individualized learning through highly structured, engaging learning situations are very helpful to students.

       

      Any of these technology tools, and others, should be used when appropriate to the teacher’s goals and to the learning situation. Technology tools should be used for specific goals when they make learning more efficient, but not when they might deter students from using their minds, thinking through a problem, or reading texts carefully.

       

      Teaching is very complex, much more complex than it is made out to be in the press, in government initiatives, and even in State Departments of Educational directives.  Good teaching is a moving target – goals, children, cultures, teachers,  and conditions vary from state to state, school to school, and even classroom to classroom.

       

      These fourteen ways of thinking about teaching suggest both the complexity of good teaching and the potential common core components that measure good teaching and help teachers improve on what they do. Learning about students, creating a positive learning environment, focusing on both academic and social-emotional goals, building curiosity by focusing on questions, focusing on less content and deeper learning, figuring out ways to engage and involve students, planning both long and short term goals – all of these and more are important elements of an effective teaching-learning process. I hope that an exploration of these components will help teachers and school leaders understand what they must do to improve schools and suggest a way to build a framework for evaluating teaching and improving teaching and learning in the classroom.

       

      An Exercise to Share and Learn from These Fourteen Ways of Thinking

       

      Now that you have read and learned about the fourteen ways of thinking, here is an exercise you can do to help you examine these in greater detail and apply them to your own teaching situation.

       

      Here are the fourteen ways of thinking listed without commentary:

       

      1.     Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

       

      2.     Plan goals for both the long-term and the short term.

       

      3.     Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.

       

      4.     Translate learning goals into meaningful, interesting questions and challenges.

       

      5.     Teach reading (and other forms of literacy) as inquiry, exploration, and research.

       

      6.     Frequently use writing as a key instructional tool.

       

      7.     Develop “deeper learning”.

       

      8.     Involve and engage ALL students in learning.

       

      9.     Bring the outside world into the school and classroom, and the school and classroom into the outside world, and help students apply learning.

       

      10.  Know when to maintain a strong structure for students and when to “let go”.

       

      11.  Help students to improve, make progress and get better.

       

      12.  Check for understanding - often.

       

      13.  Create strong culminating experiences and assessments.

       

      14.  Appropriately use technology as a learning tool.

       

      Some questions to consider: 

      • Do these all make sense to you? What would you add or subtract and why? How would you change the wording to increase clarity and meaning? 
      • Which to you are most important for effective teaching? Least important? 
      • Consider how you apply these to your own teaching situation? Which areas are your strengths? Which are challenges?  
      • If you could pick one or two areas that you currently do really well, what would they be? Which one or two do you need to work on the most? 
      • Can you share what you do well? What do you specifically do that makes one or more of these “ways of thinking” work well for you? 
      • Can you take some time to think about which areas do you most need to work on? Find out what other teachers do who are strong in those areas? Do some research on effectiveness in these areas? Consider one or two changes to your routines that might improve them?

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 6371
  • Through a Two-Dimensional Cube Through a Two-Dimensional Cube: A Philosophy of Education in Action

    • From: Mindy_Keller-Kyriakides
    • Description:

      I find myself returning to a particular moment in one of my classes as an illustration of my philosophy of education. It wasn’t one of those inspirational lessons or fantastic units, either. It was a required, school-wide, test-prep math lesson.

      I’m an English teacher. Let's just say, math isn't my thing.

      In this school-wide initiative, we all did the same reading passage or math problem every day. These were sometimes not available until five minutes before the class and rushed out to teachers.

      On this day, we had this math problem that dealt with the volume of a cube ( or something like that), and we had to figure that out to resolve the larger problem. But the image provided was two-dimensional. It was a letter T, a box that was completely laid flat.

      2D cube.jpgWith a very clear, personal awareness of my non-math aptitude, I was actually a better model for learners that day. First, I had to offer myself some motivation for doing the problem other than the fact that it was required because doing something that way isn’t a motivation. I had to be curious about how to solve the problem.

      Teachers were given the answers, of course. But what good is an answer without wanting to understand where it comes from?

      I thought aloud about how to approach the problem as a learner for a bit and then opened it up for class collaboration, to see what we could do or not do with it. I modeled my thinking, which was probably something along the lines of "Seriously?! There has got to be a way…"


      rebuild cube.jpg
       

      My mind just wasn't getting it, though.  It didn't bother anyone, least of all me, that I didn't have the answer because we often held discussions where I didn't have the answer. That was okay in my class.

      So, we piddled and pondered together, and after a few minutes, a student figured it out (math whiz that he was!) jumped up excitedly and tried to tell us how he'd arrived at the (correct) answer. I didn't follow, so he ran up to the front, grabbed some scissors, cut the paper,

      cut cube.jpg

       

       

       

      and made the cube by folding it over.

      3D cube.jpg

       

       

       

       

      The whole problem rested on this spatial understanding.

      This learning moment exemplifies my philosophy of education.

      Now, I know a lot of people talk about strategies and methods when they discuss their philosophy of education, but I have to wonder what it is that induces those principles--what's behind the decision-making process that compels one to choose a particular strategy or method? Doesn’t our mindset come first?

      Because there was no method or strategy that I used in our cube story. But we learned.

      There were however, several mindsets at work, and I think my philosophy of education seems boils down to mindsets. If the mindset is appropriate, the method or strategy will emerge more naturally. They are (in no particular order): mindfulness, curiosity, creativity, and humility.

      Mindfulness has to do with a state of being in response to or approach to things as a teacher (or a learner).  Whether that is a stellar discussion post from an adult learner or a snarky comment from a teenager face-to-face, I steer away from knee-jerk reactions. Rather, I prefer to take a moment and consider what is actually happening or will happen. I allow the moment to happen--it's being fully present.

      In the cube story, I allowed the moment to happen. Without that mindfulness, I probably would have just glossed over to the answer.  If I attach mindfulness to an action, I would call it allowing. I enjoyed allowing the moment of not knowing, thinking, collaborating, and listening. 

      Curiosity as a mindset played a large role, here--the ability to be curious about things that we might not be interested in or that we might already know a lot about is a game-changer for education. It is a mindset that has helped me in so many ways with students.  For example, I taught Frankenstein every year in AP Lang. While I can certainly say I knew the story and characters inside and out, every year, I would approach the novel with new curiosity. I created a question for myself to answer, generally along the lines of "How is this ages-old novel STILL relevant today?"  And every year, without fail, I'd come up with an answer.

      Curiosity seems to attach to the action of searching. Students need to see us searching.

      Creativity has recently gotten a lot of press, but I'm careful when I say that this mindset is one of the driving forces of my philosophy. I'm not a creative genius or anything, but I know it when I feel it, and I notice when it's not there.

      I don't see it as a "what," though. It's a how. It's a process. It's a blend of willingness and flexibility and exciting discomfort. I want that in learners because that's where they can make some strides as far as autonomy (which they'll need) and in problem-solving.

      The art of brainstorming, collaboration, and sharing all fall under this category, and it seems to be one of the areas where my former students excelled. Though our cube story focused on one person as a catalyst, it was still a collaborative moment. Perhaps creativity can be connected to the action of trusting. Without trusting each other, could we have had this moment?

      The last mindset in my philosophy, humility, was really evident, here, and it certainly played a role in moving the students forward in comprehension. They saw me struggle and succeed. They struggled and succeeded, and we had a positive learning moment. Humility, as an action, could be seen as acknowledging one’s self. I am more open and flexible in my awareness of what I don’t know.

      Side note: I had to laugh, recently, because one of the comments I received on a course evaluation (I facilitate professional development courses for educators) was: "I know more on some topics than the facilitator does."


      I thought--"Damn right, you do! I learned from you! I want to learn from you! That's what it's all about!" Though I'm sure she meant it as a negative, it was actually a sort of positive for me, if only because she saw me as fellow-learner, which was my goal anyway.   

      After the student had shown the class what the heck was going on with cube, you could hear the collective, "AHHHHHH..." followed by the scribbling of the problem resolution.

      We applauded him and ourselves that day. We shared in that moment of curious searching, mindful allowing, creative trusting, and humble acknowledging of ourselves and each other as a community of learners. 

       

      Mirror Site: http://joyfulcollapse.blogspot.com/2014/07/through-two-dimensional-cube-philosophy.html

       

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 187
  • ISTE14 Impressions ISTE14 Impressions

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      This year ISTE put on what appeared to me to be the biggest education extravaganza to date. The number of participants was said to be somewhere between 20 and 22 thousand educators. I never verified that number but based on the food lines it seemed likely to be true.

      Of course there was apparently a huge number of connected educators in attendance. I say apparently, because in reality I don’t believe it was so many. Many connected educators volunteer to do sessions. Many are also bloggers. A natural gathering place for them to gather, interact, and network is at the Bloggers Café, or the PLN Lounge. Twitter has added a whole new dimension to these education conferences where educators connected to other educators through various Social Media can meet up face to face. This enables real-time collaboration with people who have had a virtual relationship with each other for a while. Even if there were a thousand connected educators meeting at the Bloggers Café all at once (and there weren’t), It would seem to those gathered that the entire conference was connected. Of course this ignores the 21,000 other educators who were not connected.

      I guess my take away for this is that being connected networks you with more people to have a good time with, as well as extend collaboration, but a majority of educators have yet to discover this. One would think that would be a lure for more educators to connect, but of course the only people who recognize these benefits are those who are connected. I imagine most of the people reading this blog are connected as well, so I am probably and again spinning my wheels on this subject.

      I found this year’s conference to be a bit overwhelming. To me it seemed that many of the events and some sessions were trying very hard to create an atmosphere that was experienced with smaller numbers from previous conferences. That intimacy however, was lost with the numbers of participants this year. There were some invitation only sessions, as well as paid sessions with smaller numbers that I did find more enjoyable, but again, I attend many conferences and do not view them through the eyes of a new attendee. I might be too critical here.

      I loved the fact that connected educators were actively backchanneling sessions and events. Tweets were flying over the Twitterstream as the #ISTE2014 hashtag trended on Twitter. Photos were much more prevalent in tweets than in past years, because that process has been simplified. That picture process has both good and bad aspects attached to it. It is great to see the session engagement. The pictures from some of the social gatherings however, may paint a slightly distorted view of conferencing by educators. It may give an impression that the social events outweighed the collaboration and interaction. The social events were fun, but it was as much a part of networking as any of the conference.

      The vendor floor was beyond huge this year. It was quite the carnival atmosphere at times. If anyone would benefit from collaboration at these conferences it would be the vendors. There is a great deal of redundancy in education products. I wish more vendors would take a pass on the bells and whistles of their product and talk more about pedagogy and how their products fit in, as well as how they don’t. That requires an educator’s perspective, and not every product designer seeks that out. Those that do seek that perspective however seem to attract me more than the others.

      One vendor had a closed booth with dollar bills being blown around inside. People lined up for a chance to step inside to beat the airflow for the dollars. The attraction was obviously the lure to get folks in, but who paid attention to the product? There were some products that I will address in a subsequent post, which I rarely do. These products were exceptional and should be recognized.

      As ISTE came to a close this year, my reflection was that bigger is not always better. I was also mystified by the choices in keynotes. If one was to judge by the tweets about the keynotes, one was somewhat of a miss, one was on the mark, and one left many wondering why it was a keynote at all. I must admit that I did not view the keynotes in the lecture hall, but on screens in the gathering places in the conference. I enjoy the keynotes better when I can openly comment and yell at the screen if I have to. It would seem that I was not alone in these endeavors.

      It should be noted that ISTE this year did have people’s Twitter handles on their nametags, an innovation. Of course mine was messed up, but who am I to complain? Now I wish they would take another suggestion and do an unconference, or Edcamp segment in the middle of the conference. This would allow educators to further explore those subjects that they learned about in earlier more conventional sessions. It would also break up the “sit and get” mentality of a conference. It would take as little as an hours worth of sessions.

      For as much as we hear that we need and want innovation in education, I would expect to see it first in Education conferences. They are hyped to be conferences led by the innovators in education, but there is little that changes in conferences from year to year. We are still sitting through lectures and presentations with limited audience engagement. We are not yet directing our learning, but attending sessions devised and approved a year in advance. I realize that change is hard and takes time, but our society is demanding that we as educators do it more readily and now. We need to change in order stay relevant. How does an irrelevant education system prepare kids for their future?

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 211
  • The First Letter: A Simple and The First Letter: A Simple and Effective Parent Engagement Strategy

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      parent_engagementImagine being a parent and opening your mailbox sometime in early August and finding a letter from your son or daughter’s new teacher. In the letter, the teacher tells you all about herself, who she is, what she likes to do, how long she has been teaching, what she wants for your child and how you can contact her if you have any questions. You’d feel pretty good about this new teacher, wouldn’t you?

      Parents want to believe that their child is being left in capable and compassionate hands. Students want to believe that their teachers care about them and are happy to have them in class. A brief (and thoroughly unexpected) letter to each student is one of the easiest ways to welcome and reassure parents and students. Below you’ll find a quick guide to help you draft your own letter to parents and students:

      Format for the first letter to parents and students before school starts
      Greeting

      • Personalize the greeting
        Mention the student’s name within the body of the letter

      Content

      • Introduce yourself as the student’s grade level teacher
      • Share a little about your background and education
      • Include the essence of your philosophy of teaching
      • Ask parents to complete an attached questionnaire about their child

      Contact information

      • School email address
      • School phone and extension
      • Best times to contact you
      • If you have a classroom blog or Twitter account, share this with parents
      • Invite parents to visit you in the classroom before school starts

      Letter closing

      • Sign the letter with first and last name


      Example of a before-school-starts letter to parents

      August 1, 2014
      Acme Elementary School
      2220 Yellow Brick Road
      Detroit, MI 48221

      Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith:

      As Jerry’s teacher for the upcoming school year, I am looking forward to getting to know you and working with you.

      I started teaching at Acme Elementary in 2006 and have been here ever since! Prior to this, I studied at University of Michigan where I earned my degree in Elementary Education. After completing my B.A. in 2004, I moved to Tokyo, Japan where I taught English Language Learners, while at the same time pursing my Master in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College’s online program. Living and working abroad was an invaluable experience—not only did it allow me to work with students and hone my craft, it also gave me the opportunity to travel, learn about different cultures, and pursue two of my biggest passions: Japanese art and English Language Learners.

      Just to give you a sense of what both you and Jerry can expect from me this year, I’d like to tell you a bit about our classroom and, very briefly, explain my philosophy of teaching.

      During the first few weeks of school, I plan on setting aside a significant amount of time so that I can get to know Jerry and his classmates better. Every student is unique and has different interests and learning styles. I want to ensure that I spend an adequate amount of time learning about all of my students and having them learn about me. My goal is for our classroom to be a community of learners based on mutual respect for all individual differences. I want both you and Jerry to know that our (not my) classroom is a safe environment where students are encouraged to share, learn from one another, and learn from me—just as I will learn from them.

      If you would, please share information with me about Jerry by completing the enclosed questionnaire so that I may begin to plan to meet his needs and expectations.

      I also want to let you know that you are both welcome to visit our classroom before school begins or at any time during the year. To arrange a meeting, all you have to do is contact me and we’ll set something up!

      Lastly, please subscribe to our classroom blog and Twitter feed. There you will find information about volunteer opportunities, and different ways you can support our classroom. Even if you do not wish to volunteer in the classroom, I would encourage you to follow our class online. I like to post photos and updates about students and all of our classroom activities!

      Enjoy the last few weeks of summer. If you have questions, please contact me in one of the following ways:

      Sincerely,

      Ryan Thomas

      Below you’ll find a series of questions to include in your student questionnaire:

      • What are your child’s interests?
      • What would you like me to know about your child?
      • What are your concerns, if any?
      • What is your child’s attitude towards school?
      • What has been helpful for your child in the past?
      • Think of your child’s favorite teacher. What distinguished him or her from some of your child’s other teachers?
      • How does your child learn best?
      • What additional help might your child need this year? How might I best offer this additional support?
      • What is your child passionate about?
      • What are some of his/her favorite things to do outside of school?
      • Would you like to schedule an informal conference to meet and/or discuss your child? If so, please indicate times that are best for you.

      Photo credit: gbaku / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


      New Call-to-Action
      

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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  • Quiz Tank 4: What's Your Clas Quiz Tank 4: What's Your Classroom's Plagiarizing Potential?

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      As educators, much of our time is spent assessing student needs. Before we can truly help our students, an understanding of our own learning is key.  Thus, near the end of each month, I will offer one short educator quiz to help shed light on where we are and where we wish to go.

       

      If you have topics or research that you would like to include for a future quiz, please email davisj5@mail.uc.edu. If your material is selected, I will include your name and appropriate information with the quiz. If you are interested in taking last months quiz on managing student aggression, you can find it here!

       

      Are you ready to see if plagiarizing may be a potential issue in your classroom?  You may take a brief quiz by answering yes or no to the 5 questions listed below.

      1 Knowing the frequency of plagiarism is important.  Do teachers underestimate how much plagiarism occurs?

      2 A shared idea for what constitues plagiarism may help.  Do teachers and students agree on the definition for plagiarism?

      3 Who is responsible for the plagiarizing issue in schools?  Should the responsibility be placed on the students?

      4 Do you feel that good students would refrain from plagiarizing even if they believed that their peers have plagiarized?

      5 Teachers understand the severity of plagiarism.  Is it true that students don't take plagiarism seriously?

       

      Spoiler Alert:  Exploring Your Results

      This quiz was developed in response to a research article on studnt's perception of plagiarism. If you answered "no" to most of the questions, your understanding of plagiarism is closely aligned with the material reported in the research article. If you answered more questions with "yes", take a look at the answer explanations below.

       

      1Teachers and students overestimate the occurrence of plagiarism. One benefit for teacher overestimation is that it makes them more vigilant in detecting and addressing it.

       

      2 Students often misunderstand the concept. Teachers hold a broader meaning and view it as more serious offense than sdo students.

       

      3 Teachers can contribute to students plagiarism. For instance the probability for plagiarizing increases with the use of a teaching style that lacks rigor or assigning work without implementing an accountability system.

       

      4 The social norm theory explains that when the behavior is normalized by peers (viewed as accepted and adopted), students will participate in the behavior.

       

      5 Students do take it seriously. They feel that the level of seriousness depends on amount of info taken or copied.

       

      Reference

      Fish, R., & Hura, G. (2013). Student's perceptions of plagiarism. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(5), 33-45.

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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  • 5 Ways to Help Students Motiva 5 Ways to Help Students Motivate Themselves

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Student Motivation“I just wish my students cared more.” Most teachers—first-year and veterans alike—have said or at least felt like this at some point. We work hard to motivate our students, but how do we help them motivate themselves? We’ve been reading Larry Ferlazzo’s book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers to Classroom Challenges, and thought we’d share five tips to help your students develop their intrinsic motivation.

      Encourage students to take risks
      Most of us don’t particularly enjoy making mistakes—especially in a public setting. As a result, we often avoid taking on new challenges. So how do we encourage students to stretch themselves and take risks?

      According to Ferlazzo, we can start by skipping general praise. Statements like “Jane, you’re so smart” seem innocuous, even helpful, but in reality, they focus our students’ attention on maintaining their image, not on pushing new boundaries. In lieu of general praise, praise specific actions. Saying things like, “You worked really hard today” or “Your topic sentence communicates the main idea of your paragraph very nicely” can, as Ferlazzo suggests, “make students feel that they are more in control of their success, and that their doing well is less dependent on their ‘natural intelligence.’"

      Build Relationships
      Research continues to find a link between positive teacher-student relationships and academic success. There are many ways we can nurture more meaningful relationships with students, but perhaps the best place to start is with ourselves. Ferlazzo suggests that we take a step back and consider how we think about and speak to our students.

      Using negative language to describe challenging behavior often distorts the way we see it. If we label students who seem unmotivated or disengaged as “stubborn” or “lazy,” then our reaction to these students will be, more often than not, negative. However, if we view that same student as “determined” or “persistent,” we will be more likely to convey respect.

      Use Cooperative Learning
      Lectures are, by their very nature, passive activities. Sure, students may jot down notes or pose occasional questions, but lectures do very little to develop our students’ intrinsic motivation. While Ferlazzo is not suggesting that we ditch lectures altogether, he would encourage us to keep them to a minimum. Instead of delivering lectures, find ways to incorporate cooperative learning into lessons. These can be as basic as "think-pair-share" or as ambitious as problem and project-based learning.

      Set Specific Expectations
      Here's a tip from Robyn Jackson. Very often what looks like student resistance is actually confusion about our vague requests. Consider the difference between the following:

      • “Will you try harder to pay attention in class?”
      • “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”

      You’ll notice how the former not only lacks specific instructions, but does not give the student a clear picture of what you expect from him or her. Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.

      Creating Opportunities for Students to Help Make Decisions
      Most of us are motivated when we feel we have control over our environment. Inviting students to have a voice in classroom decisions—where they sit, what day a test takes place, in what order units are studied, or even where a plant should be placed in the classroom—can help them develop that greater sense of control.

                                                  A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 7659
  • What if we took Google's "Geni What if we took Google's "Genius Hour" into our classrooms?

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      genius_hour
      I’ve been aware of the phrase “genius hour” for a while now, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally took some initiative and Googled it.

      Funny enough, “genius hour” is actually an experiment that began with Google, which allows engineers to spend 20 percent of their time working on any sort of pet project that they want to. The theory behind “genius hour” was this: Allow people to pursue their passions and they will be more productive at work.

      The results of this little experiment speak for themselves: Google found that employees were not only more productive during the 80 percent of the time that they were not working on pet projects, 50% of Google’s innovations—things like Gmail and Google News—were created during this period of free time!  

      What if we took Google’s idea into our classrooms? What if we set aside one hour every week where students could work on anything they wanted?

      It turns out that teachers all over the country are doing this. In my Internet perusal, I came across a number of ways teachers are starting to use “genius hour” in their own classrooms:

      • Joy, a seventh grade teacher, for example, dedicates an entire 80 minute block of time every Monday to “genius hour.” Some students read. Some research. Then, at a designated time, each student presents his or her findings to the rest of the class. Some give oral presentations, others give book talks or post blogs online for their peers to read. Every week, each student creates a goal and then either fills out a self-evaluation or discusses his or her performance during a one-on-one conference with the teacher.
      • Another teacher, Gallit, started by giving his students one hour a week to pursue a project of their choice. After roughly three hours of individualized learning, students are expected to present what they learned to the class. This year, Gallit has tweaked his approach:


      Now, students work on their “genius hour” projects every Friday afternoon and present when they are ready. For some students that will be after one session and for some it will be after six—it all depends on what they are learning and how they want to present. To ensure that students stay on task, Gallit regularly meets with students and has them blog about their progress as well.

      If you’re interested in implementing a “genius hour” in your own classroom, check out this video by teacher and “genius-hour” advocate, Chris Kesler.

       

                                                  



                                              A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel 

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
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