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  • Test Blog Test Blog

    • From: Vinay_Kumar
    • Description:

      Test Blog

    • Blog post
    • 5 hours ago
    • Views: 24
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  • 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
    • 6 days ago
    • Views: 94
  • Coming To A Finish Coming To A Finish

    • From: Chris_Arthurs
    • Description:

      For this blog I wanted to reflect upon my experience in past course, current courses, and completing this course for NLU. Since January of 2013 I have been part of NLU and have been enrolled in online courses all terms at that time. My first courses included Health Education focused curriculum, followed by curriculum development course material. The conclusion of this program has focused my mainly towards research development and creation. My final three 4 courses in the program have been research development focused and has been interesting. The main focus for research has focused on Physical Education curriculum including middle school muscular strength and development and formative assessment in the Physical Education setting. These two projects have helped improve my skill and knowledge as an instructor in the courses that I teach in my everyday classes. As we move forward in this course I hope to intertwine these programs in a nice research project of some sort. With that being said, I am also enrolled in a group research based class currently along with this one, and our study is the relation of academic improvement as movement. We have been exploring how students that participated in some sort of movement feel that it improves that ability in school. We have completed a wealth of research toward this topic, which I also believe is relevant towards prior research I have done. It was be interesting, and exciting to complete my course work for the C&I program, and I am excited to see the conclusion of my research projects for both this course, and group course.

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
    • Views: 93
  • 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
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 406
  • 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
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 200
  • 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

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


      • 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:


      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
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 9214
  • The Best of the Week: Volume 1 The Best of the Week: Volume 12

  • Blog Post Blog Post

    • From: Mike_Ward1
    • Description:

      Text Only

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
    • Views: 87
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  • What if we took Google's "Geni What if we took Google's "Genius Hour" into our classrooms?

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      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
    • 4 weeks ago
    • Views: 445
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  • The What & Why of Backchanneli The What & Why of Backchanneling

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      A few years back I spoke at a conference and experienced first hand what a backchannel was. Twitter is probably the best tool to do it. I did write a post on that experience back in November of 2009 and later reposted on my blog, Twitter’s Effect on Presentations and Presenters.

      Backchanneling happens when someone on Twitter uses a hashtag to tweet out to followers what is happening at a conference, or more importantly, what is being said by a speaker at a conference session. THE BACKCHANNEL by Cliff Atkinson is a great book source for understanding the process.

      ISTE 2014 will take place at the end of this week. The numbers of attendees will probably approach 20,000. Although that sounds like a huge number of people, it only represents a very tiny number of educators nationwide who get to attend such national education conferences. The attendance of connected educators however, has had a great effect on the transparency and sharing of these gigantic education events through social media, specifically, Twitter.

      The Twitter Hashtag has played a huge role in sharing out the conference experience. Since most educators will not be attending the ISTE 2014 conference, many who are connected will rely on their connected colleagues, who will attend, to tweet out the happenings of the event. Those tweets will go from the broad events to individual sessions as well. Although ISTE 2014 is one of the most connected of education conferences, backchanneling is becoming evident at even the smaller local education gatherings. It is a key in sharing at local Edcamps

      Conferences have taken notice of this new layer of experience and assign hashtags for the conference, as well as some specific sessions. Experienced connected educators in sessions will make up and share a hashtag on the spot at the beginning of the session. To broadly follow the ISTE conference this year, you need only to create a Twitter column on Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to follow the #ISTE2014 hashtag. There will be several thousand tweets coming out with that hashtag to keep you informed of: personal encounters, celebrity sightings, quotes, new ideas, new products, and even social events taking place. There will be pictures, videos, podcasts, diagrams and graphs. All will be tweeted out with the Hashtag #ISTE2014.

      Probably the most sought-after tweets will be those coming directly from sessions. Thought leaders in education presenting their ideas and having people right in the room tweet out what is being said, as it is being said. This is sharing at its best. If the vast majority of educators cannot experience an education conference first hand this is not a bad second best.

      As a community of connected educators we need to think of our Personal Learning Network members as connected colleagues. Those educators fortunate enough to have any experiences that cannot be afforded to all, and are willing to take the time to share, are truly collaborative colleagues. These hashtagged tweets have a range in the millions. That is a Public Relations Gold for any organization with a successf

      Of course there is a downside. If something does not go well, that is tweeted out as well. It could also be a professional setback for an unprepared presenter. The Twitter Backchannel Buzz could affect the subsequent enthusiasm for any future conference by a particular group. It also underscores those conferences that are attended by the connected community of educators.

      I have always believed that we as educators have a professional and moral obligation to share. In so doing, we can build a stronger and better profession of educators. If you have never done it, try following the backchannel for this year’s ISTE Conference by following the #ISTE2014 hashtag. If you attend the ISTE Conference, tweet out as much important stuff as you encounter using the #ISTE2014 hashtag. We can engage fellow educators in the conferences, which they have been blocked from because of location, money, or even an unawareness of what these conferences have to offer. If we are to better educate our kids, we need to better educate their educators.



    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
    • Views: 208
  • Some Websites Worth Perusing… Some Websites Worth Perusing…

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      In addition to continually looking at the ASCD Edge Blogs, if you have some time this summer (or during the year), you might want to examine the materials found on the following websites:



      Most educators are familiar with Edutopia, but if you are not, there are a wealth of articles, materials, and insights about teaching and learning to be gleaned from its numerous articles and blogs.



      Smart blogs on education provide numerous, interesting articles and commentaries on educational programs and practice. You can sign up to have a Smartbrief (daily articles and commentaries about educational programs and practices) delivered right to your computer every day!

      Another more practical daily smartbrief blog is Accomplished Teacher:




      My own website provides a wealth of ideas and practical information on the kind of education we need for children in a 21st century world and how to implement it.



      Thom Markham is an independent consultant who does work on project- based learning. On his website, you can download several items that support

      project based learning, and also read his blogs about project based learning.



      Bob Pearlman is a long time educator and consultant who uses his website to share information about 21st century educational programs, practices, schools, and opportunities. He provides a wealth of information worth exploring.



      Yong Zhao is a brilliant scholar and educator, on the school of education faculty at the University of Oregon. His focus is on creative thinking and 21st century educational practice. He is a critic of standardized tests and the use of PISA data, and does a lot of work on global education.  His latest book was published in 2012 – World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. This website is not for those interested in specific teaching techniques, but rather how to pursue new directions in education designed to help students do well in a 21st century world.



      These blogs, written by Tom Vander Ark and posted on the Education Week website, focus on how to promote deeper learning in schools.


      Finally, for fun, you might want to look at the ASCD Blog: “25 Signs You Might Be A 21st Century Teacher:




      Elliott Seif is a long time educator, teacher, college professor, curriculum director, author and Understanding by Design trainer. If you are interested in examining his other blogs, go to http://bit.ly/13sMlUZAdditional and related teaching and learning resources and ideas designed to help prepare students to live in a 21st century world can be found on his website:  www.era3learning.org

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 189
  • University Student Dives into University Student Dives into Whole Child

    • From: Richard_Lange
    • Description:

      I teach an on-line graduate course at National Louis University in Chicago to students who are currently teachers and who are seeking to complete their master’s degree. One of the courses the student need to take in a series of three is called, Instructional Decision Making. Although the course has multiple learning goals and objectives, one of the key elements to the course is to engage the student in critical reflective practice to evaluate key understandings, assumptions, rationales, and shifts that underpin one's instructional decision making. The course explores a variety of teaching strategies and appropriate activities for grade school students. Being an on-line course, we do not meet face-to-face but do share the completed assignments with each other in the on-line class forum.


      Select-a-Topic Video Sharing

      For one of the assignments, the students are asked to research and share a presentation, report, video, etc. on a topic related to instructional decision making that was not covered as a part of the course. They are asked to elect a topic that we have not covered and create a lesson/presentation for the class on a selected topic of their choice.  No “list of themes” are given to the student for ideas. They are asked to include a video example of teaching practice or expert opinion on a topic as a part of their presentation. The video could be from a third party source such as the videos they have viewed for the course. It could take the form of a chat session, VideoThread, Prezi, individual video, PowerPoint, etc.

      To my surprise, and delight, one of the students in the class chose to write about the Whole Child Initiative. After grading her Prezi presentation, I sent her a separate email and asked her why she selected this topic. She informed me that she chose the Whole Child Initiative as she felt that in order for her students to be successful in the classroom, teachers need to cater to the whole child, not just one part. She went on to state that when teaching preschool, this is her goal in the classroom. She noted that this mindset changes as the students get older. This was a topic that she had heard of before but did not know much about it. She wanted to learn more in order to implement this concept in her classroom and hopefully encourage other teachers to follow suit.


      What impressed me the most was here very appropriate selection of YouTube clips. Each one was spot on as they gave example for each of the five Whole Child tenants. She was right on the mark. She sums up nicely making note of several ASCD Whole Child Publications and where to find more information at the different websites.


      I asked her if I could show this at our next Illinois ASCD board of directors meeting and she was thrilled and honored to have me do so.I, too, was exited and thought this would be worth sharing as a blog on the EDge.  I look forward to your comments.  Here it is.




    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 222
  • Edcamp at The US DOE Edcamp at The US DOE

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      About a year ago Adam Bellow and I were discussing the possibility and the benefits of doing an Edcamp at the site of the United States Department of Education. Adam had just met with some members of the Department and I was in touch with many of them from the connected educator month committee on which I was serving. Our thought was to have an Edcamp take place in the Department of Ed and have all of the policy makers attend sessions with real, in-the-classroom educators to see, and feel their concerns as educators in regard to what is important in the classroom. We were thinking in terms of #Edcampwhitehouse.

      For those of you who may not be familiar with the Edcamp model of professional development, a brief explanation may be in order. The Edcamp model is a grassroots movement for professional development. Educators assemble at a location with no set agenda for PD sessions. The day starts early with a provided breakfast while everyone collaborates. There is usually a large board with session times and room assignments for each session, but there are no session descriptions. That is what the breakfast collaboration is for. As educators’ discussions emerge and develop there are usually two types of participants, those who know about a subject, and those who want to know about a subject. Either type may put up that subject in a session slot. Both the experts and the novices then will have an opportunity to discuss the topic. Edcamps are more about discussion than presentations. The discussions involve classroom experiences both successful and unsuccessful. Each session provides a safe discussion for educators to explore their understanding of any education topic.

      Both Adam and I thought that this is what the policy makers within the Department of Education need to hear. This is a great way to put educators into the national discussion of education, that so many educators feel has been hijacked by business people and politicians. So, with the help of some key members of the Department of Education, we got the go ahead. The DOE was willing to provide a space and coordination, but the bulk of the organization and planning were to be up to the educators to complete. To me, that meant The Edcamp Foundation under the leadership of Kristen Swanson. The Edcamp Foundation is a volunteer group that helps organize and support Edcamps around the world. This US DOE Edcamp was a perfect opportunity for their leadership. They took on the project without hesitation.

      Since the space at the DOE would have a limited capacity, the attendees needed to be limited as a result. The invitations to all went out on social media to enlist interested educators to enter a lottery for the Edcamp attendance. There was a huge response considering it is on June 6, a weekday. The DOE is closed on weekends. Edcamps are usually a Saturday event. The lottery was held and invitations to attend went out. Many educators at their own expense will be making the pilgrimage.

      The Edcamp will take place this Friday. I truly hope that the people or surroundings that educators will encounter at this event will not intimidate them in any way.

      We are hopeful that most of the participants will be tweeting out their experience. This entire project came as a result of social media and connected educators. It will be that connectedness that gets the experience and feelings of the event participants out to all educators. I look forward to thousands of tweets and many blog posts coming from this event on Friday. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a statement with what educators do, and who educators are to possibly affect change. It is doubtful the President will show up, but at the very least Arne Duncan, The Secretary of Education, should have some level of engagement.

      I often say: To better educate our students, we must first better educate their educators. Friday I will say to better affect change in education, we need first to better affect change in our policy makers.

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 258
  • Leading through Grief Leading through Grief

    • From: Hannah_Gbenro
    • Description:

      This blog is cross-posted from http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/ by @HannahGbenro


      Our morning staff meeting came to a halt as a staff member shared that she visited Facebook on her phone and saw a memorial post on our counselor's Facebook wall. While our principal brought the meeting to a close, our office manager and I went to the office where I called the family. I made it about halfway through the conversation with family before starting to tear up. The family confirmed that our elementary counselor lost her multi-year battle with cancer that morning. Within an hour, the district had a counselor on campus who coordinated a crisis team that spent all week on campus supporting students and staff.

      Below are some lessons I've learned so far about leading through grief.

      Public displays of compassion. This goes for both staff and students.
      -The crisis team taught me that, if people are interested, a staff tribute can be helpful in the grieving process. Our staff decided to invite the whole school to wear pink in honor of our counselor who passed away from cancer. Coincidentally, our monthly potluck was on the same day we wore pink. Beautiful stories of celebration and hope filled the staff room as everyone ate together and honored our counselor in pink.

      -The Giving Tree was one of our counselor's favorite books so one classroom decided to create a giving tree where all students in the school could share what was on their heart.

      Everyone brings their own experiences and feelings. It's important to acknowledge this as we all grieve in different ways.
      -A student had his head down when I went into the lunchroom and I saw he was crying. As I walked the student to our library, where additional counselors were housed, the student shared his mom passed away from cancer two years ago. There are many stories like this, where students or staff experienced loss. These emotions can be stirred up in times of crisis, and it's important we provide avenues for sharing and support.
      -Personally, the day before our counselor passed away, I found out a close relative was diagnosed with the same kind of cancer our counselor had. To take care of myself, I've taken longer walks with my dog and savored more time with family.

      Find joy each day.
      -I was on the playground as students exited from recess the other day. A classroom job is often "door holder". I noticed a kindergarten student going above and beyond his traditional door holder job to console his classmates. "Hug?" he asked each of his peers as they entered from recess. Most kids took him up on the offer. It's moments like this that provide me with joy each day.


      My prioritization of tasks inside/outside of school is still shifting as the needs of our learning community fluctuate. I continue learning each day, and I use this learning to adjust my approach as I lead through grief.

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 401
  • What's Testing Season? What's Testing Season?

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      Recently, the editors of Edutopia were considering a theme for their bloggers to blog about concerning testing. In order to keep things timely, they needed to find out when most schools were being affected by standardized tests. It was a reasonable consideration, worthy of a responsible examination of the subject. It was the question posed to the bloggers however, that set me off about our evolved approach to these standardized tests. When is your Testing Season?

      Every standardized test has a date or two or three that it is to be administered, but the question was not what are the dates of the standardized tests in your school. The idea that any school would have a “testing season” is enough to drive an advocate for authentic learning to skip taking his scheduled life-saving medications in order to stay on task completing a post about this culture of testing that we have allowed to develop. Every state has its own schedule for tests and a list of grades to take them. New York was at one time considering testing from Pre-K to 2nd grade as well all as the other grades. How does anyone get behind testing toddlers? Testing as it stands now begins in New York at 3rd grade. Here is a site that outlines what each state requires for their Standardized testing. Standardized Testing State By State, Standardized Tests Are Here to Stay

      The thing that has really gotten me bothered is this culture change in education. It is no longer about the learning, but rather it is all about the testing. We no longer view the test as an assessment tool of learning to adjust lessons to meet the needs of each student. It has become a means to manipulate data to affect factors beyond that of just student learning. Standardized tests are certainly not the best form of student learning assessment. That seems not to matter however since for whatever the reason, we have had to expand and elevate testing day, or days to The Testing Season.

      I remember a conference that I attended a few years ago where a New York City teacher was complaining that his elementary school dedicated an entire month to nothing being taught except for test preparation. The principal of that school monitored the classes to make sure that this strategy was adhered to by one and all. The most recent change in the testing culture is the need to accommodate the tests with all available technology. Some standardized tests are to now being administered via computers. Many schools provide Internet access to their students and teachers solely through computer labs. The tests however, take precedence over learning during “Testing Season” requiring limiting or even shutting down access to these labs in order to prepare for, and administer these computer delivered standardized tests.

      I guess each season brings us feelings associated with it. From the season of summer we may feel invigorated with warmth and recreation associated with it. The season of winter brings on good feelings of sharing holidays, and hot-chocolate comfort. From the season of Testing we get stress and anxiety for kids and adults. I guess the season of Testing is not the season about which many poems are written.

      Of course teachers will tell you that they are comfortable in setting their students at ease about the tests during “Testing Season”. I often told my students that I had every confidence that they would do very well on any standardized test that they took because their education prepared them for it. That of course was to reduce their stress and build their confidence, but I am glad I did not have a wooden nose. It would have been a dead giveaway.

      Today’s teachers are very stress bound when it comes to these tests. The tests have become less of an assessment of student learning and more of a club or Thor’s hammer for teacher evaluation. Of course teachers are stressed and that is generated to the students for the duration of the “Testing Season”, whether or not the teacher intends for that to happen.

      If teachers could select students for their classes, crafty teachers would always opt for classes with the slower students. Those are the classes that can show the most advancement in “testing season”, making the teacher a shining star. A great teacher with an outstanding class is cursed and possibly deemed inadequate because kids performing at the very top of the scale will show little improvement. Of course, according to the assessments, it must be the teacher’s fault that kids in the 95th percentile did not move at least five points higher. How can there not be stress and anxiety in the “testing season”?

      We may need to research any drop in attendance at schools with stress related illnesses during “testing season”. We do flu shots in the winter season, so maybe we need stress reliever shots in the “testing season”.

      Of course pushing testing into a season has had a great affect on the testing industry and all of its requirements. We need to prepare for “testing season”. We need to test in “testing season”, and we need to develop tools and curriculum for “testing season”. The result of all of this is a billion dollar a year industry and we have yet to develop the “testing season” greeting cards.

      Maybe we should take a step back and assess our assessments. We do not need this testing season. Tests have grown beyond what they were intended for. They were intended for the teacher to gauge student learning in order to adjust lessons to better meet the needs of students. Tests were never designed to become the goal of education at the expense of actual learning.

      This is the part of the post where I should be proposing a thoughtful alternative as a positive spin for this unpopular aspect which has been pushed into American education. Unfortunately, I have no recommendations. I have no ideas that can replace a billion dollar a year idea. Portfolios, individual conferences, and authentic learning projects would all be improvements over standardized testing for student assessment, but they do not provide easily calculated data.

      We as a society have allowed business and politicians to corrupt an assessment tool in order to use it as a money-making device for a select few companies. Education needs to be more transparent, but certainly the best people to administer education should be the educators and not business people or politicians. We need to realign education’s goals on learning and not testing. We do not need a season of testing, but a life of learning.

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 526
  • Language, Cognition and Motor Language, Cognition and Motor Development Through Video Game Play: What Are The Implications For Children With Disabilities?

    • From: Robin_Shobe
    • Description:

      The following is less like a blog, and more of a paper, or game review to be more specific!

      Once Upon A Monster: A Game Review


            Transmedia play lends itself to constructivist approaches to learning (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013) that favor exploration, experimentation and the child as an active participant in creating knowledge (Piaget, 1985; Vygotsky, 1978).  Jenkins (Herr-Stephenson, Alper, Reilly & Jenkins, 2013) suggests that Sesame Street is an example of transmedia done right. The term transmedia means “across media” and encompasses the various types of media and their relationships to one another. Sesame Street uses transmedia to engage children through its television shows, full-length movies, plush toys, board games, live performances, books and interactive video games as well its rich history of research based pedagogy that provides both entertaining and effective learning experiences for children. This game review seeks to demonstrate how the use of transmedia and other learning strategies come together in Warner Bros. and Sesame Street Workshops’ Once Upon A Monster to provide young children educational video game play that also has promising implications for children with disabilities.

      Background on Once Upon A Monster

      Image: Once Upon A Monster/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

             Once Upon A Monster is a single player video game developed by Tim Schaefer of Double Fine Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and the Sesame Street Workshop, in October of 2011.  

      The Sesame Street Workshop was founded by Joan Ganz Cooney and LLoyd Morrisett in the early 1970’s when these pioneers in technology and learning set out to create a television series that would both entertain and educate children. Sesame Street, revolutionary at the time of its inception, incorporated research related to how children learn as the foundation of its content.  Many decades later this television program remains a preferred choice among young children and their parents as well as on the many platforms its content inspires: full-length movies, DVDs, books, video games and more. Jenkins suggests that the,  “… multi-modal, multi-sites nature of many transmedia productions challenge children to use varied textual, visual, and media literacy skills to decode and remix media elements (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013 p. 1).”

      Once Upon A Monster utilizes the Kinect controller created by Microsoft for the Xbox360 video game console.  It is a motion sensing input device that allows the player to control the digital content through a “natural user interface” with the use of gestures and spoken commands.  The Kinect makes use of an infrared projector and camera as well as a special microchip to track the movement of objects and individuals in three dimensions. The player is then allowed hands free control or interaction with the digital content.

      This review provides observations of the video game and its affordances for children with special needs through my lens as a parent of a child with special needs as well as my experience as a speech-language pathologist.

      Game Play

      The Player

      Once Upon a Monster was designed for children ages 3-6 years. My daughter, Anna (not her real name) was eight years old at the time of this review. She presents with a severe language disorder, a coordination disorder, and difficulty sustaining attention.  Although she was slightly older than the targeted audience, video game play in Once Upon A Monster was appropriate for her current language, cognitive and motor skills.

      Set Up

            The Kinect controller recognizes the whole body movements of the player. Using these whole body functional movements such as running in place or jumping, gestures such as pointing and waving and speech, the player enters a simulated world that is animated and includes Sesame Street’s beloved friends- Elmo and Cookie Monster. The Kinect controller, along with other features of this game, allows the player to use their senses: visual, auditory and kinesthetic to immerse themselves in a virtual world. This experience leads to a sense of embodiment for the player; the player then feels and acts as if they are actually in this Sesame Street world and interacting with the characters themselves. Anna demonstrated evidence of this feeling of embodiment when she talked directly to the television, and the characters saying, “This is fun guys!” or “Wait for me!”

      The absence of a hand held game controller, and the use of the players body in its place, made it easy for Anna to quickly learn how to operate the game.  If the task required the character to jump, Anna jumped.  If a task was completed and the digital storybook needed the page turned to begin a new task, Anna used the same gesture of the turning a page in a physical book.

      Anna initially struggled with maintaining the appropriate distance away from the Kinect sensor.  A square on the floor was created with masking tape that then helped her identify the optimal position for game play in front of the Kinect sensor and reduced her initial frustration with the game.   

      Game Play

             Once Upon A Monster, uses digital a storybook format to provide a narrative that imbeds video game play in the form of “mini games”.  A new character named Marco needs help getting to his own birthday party.  Cookie Monster, Elmo and Anna, luckily, were there to help him get there.

             Each chapter of the game offers the player a task to complete that moves the characters closer and closer to the end goal, the birthday party. These tasks have educational underpinnings that engage the player to use their language, cognitive and motor skills.

      The Learning

      Due to Sesame Street’s rich history of using researched based methods for providing content that is both entertaining and educational for young children, Once Upon a Monster is chalk full of sound pedagogical strategies that indeed accomplish this task.  This video game is unique in its use of both transmedia and the Kinect sensor. Does it then lend additional support or considerations for children with disabilities?

      Implications of Video Game play in Once Upon A Monster For Children With Disabilities

      An estimated 49 million children grades K-12 attend the U.S. public schools. Approximately 13% of this population, present with disabilities.  Students with disabilities represent a heterogeneous population in terms of the disabilities they present with as well as the pedagogy used to address their individual needs and provide them with a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Teachers face many challenges educating America’s children both with and without disabilities: shrinking budgets, reduced school calendars, changing standards, increasingly diverse populations and more.  As globalization increases both the demand for and innovation of technology (Freedman, 2005), discussions and research on these technologies and their potential role in adding educational value for our children is increasing.

      One way to consider the affordances that technology offers children with disabilities in the K-12 school setting, is the Universal Design for Learning framework (Rose & Meyer, 2000).  This framework offers three principles for teacher instruction and student learning: multiple means of representation (of content), multiple means of expression (expressing knowledge) and multiple means of engagement.  Looking at the video game Once Upon a Monster through this framework sheds light on its potential to provide a valuable educational experience for children with disabilities.

      Multiple Means of Representation

      Transmedia done well, as Jenkins suggests (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013) offers children multiple points of entry.  Once Upon a Monster offers children the opportunity to play with Elmo and Cookie Monster in a virtual world.  But, children likely have significant experience with these characters long before they play this game through Sesame Street television viewing, its many published books, DVDs, full length movies and even toys or stuffed animals.  It provides children multiple opportunities to learn both from and more importantly with its content.   Children are not blank slates or empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge; instead they are active participants in creating knowledge and learning (Vygotsky, 1985). Anna immediately related to the characters and the virtual Sesame Street world because she entered the game play with existing background knowledge.  She was also familiar with the script of a birthday party from her past experience both having parties of her own as well as attending the parties’ of others.

      Multiple Means of Expression

      Westendorp, et al. (2002) conducted a study that compared 104 children with Learning Disabilities with 104 typically developing children to examine if there were specific relationships between two subsets of gross motor skills (locomotor skills and object-control skills) and different domains of academic performance. Results revealed a statistically significant relationship between gross motor skills (locomotor specifically) and reading; the poorer the reading scores the poorer the gross motor skills. This study and those like it lend support to the idea that the mind and the body have a reciprocal relationship and influence each other thus, embodied learning. Therefore, the embodied learning that is inherent in Once Upon A Monster provides students with disabilities multiple opportunities to work on the motor skills, language and cognitive skills, necessary for later academic success.

       Embodied learning suggests that the physical aspects of our body shape or influences our cognition (Wilson, 2002). Another way to think of it; our motor system influences our cognition in much the same ways that our mind influences our actions (Wilson, 2002).   “All experiences are in some way grounded in the body…” and that, “…embodied experiences can lead to more effective learning (Smallab, 2012 para 1).”

      Once Upon a Monster, with its use of the Kinect sensor, requires players to act out the specific action necessary to complete tasks in the game.  If Marco needs to jump to get over the log, the player needs to jump.  This offers the player an opportunity to imitate or initiate an action while also seeing and and hearing the results of that action, offering the redundancy necessary for accommodating new skills (Piaget, 1959).

      Multiple Means of Engagement

      Anna played the game for three hours, a testament to its ability to engage her.  But, more important, was its ability to motivate her to engage in language, cognitive and learning tasks that were not initially easy for to complete.  She was asked to follow novel complex directions such as, “Dress the monster in the outfit that matches the color of the flag it is holding”. She was asked to engage in complex motor tasks that required her to cross midline, use both of her hands simultaneously or engage in two actions simultaneously such as running in place while reaching to the left and the right to pick flowers for points. She was asked to do cognitive tasks such as sortingt items such as trash for the recycling bin or the landfill.

      In my role as a therapist, I provide the scaffolding or support necessary for children to improve their existing skills or gain new ones.  Vygotsky (1985) refers to this as the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  Providing enough support so that the task is not so hard that it causes frustration or shut down, while also being cautious of providing too much support, so the task becomes too easy and merely practice. This requires a delicate balance to get it “just right” and ensure that the child is indeed learning from the experience.  My observations of Anna suggested that this video game was just right, if not slightly too difficult.  A rule of thumb I commonly use to assess “just right” is often eighty percent accuracy on a task.  Anna was somewhere closer to seventy, and she frequently expressed her frustration to the characters, “I am doing what you say!” or “Wait for me, I need to do it again”. But, the scaffolding and her engagement, unique to this video game play, kept her working on difficult tasks despite her frustration.   Gee (2005) might suggest that Anna’s learning behavior in this game was characteristic of the learning that occurs in well-designed learning environments that share features of video games such as: the ability to customize the experience for the player (learner), the player’s ability to identity with the task, “pleasantly frustrating” experiences, and information that is presented ‘on demand” and “just in time”, among others. It could be argued that Once Upon a Monster was providing her with learning tasks within her ZPD.


             Jenkins suggests that, “In a hunting society, children learn to play with bows and arrows.  In an information society, they learn to play with information (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013 p. 7).” In a therapeutic or educational setting, I argue that Once Upon A Monster offers children with disabilities a quality educational environment built on Sesame Street’s use of transmedia play, its rich history of educational content and use of sound pedagogical strategies for teaching children and its, perhaps accidental, but effective, use of the principles of UDL.


      Anna” playing Once Upon A Monster

      Reference List


      Birchfield, D., & Johnson-Glenberg, M. (2010). A next gen interface for embodied learning: SMALLab and the geological layer cake. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), 2(1), 49-58.

      Bushnell, E. W., & Boudreau, J. P. (1993). Motor development and the mind: The potential role of motor abilities as a determinant of aspects of perceptual development. Child development, 64(4), 1005-1021

      Freidman, T. (2005). The world is flat. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

      Gee, J., P. (2005). Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-Learning and Digital Media, 2(1), 5-16.

      Gee, J., P. (2013).  The Anti-Education Era.  New York: Macmillan.

      Herr-Stephenson, B., Alper, M., Reilly, E. and Jenkins, H. (2013). T is for transmedia: Learning through trans- media play. Los Angeles and New York: USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Available: http://www.annenber- glab.com/viewresearch/46

      Piaget, L. (1985). Equilibrium of cognitive structures: The central problem with intellectual development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

      Piaget, J. (1959). The language and thought of the child (Vol. 5). Psychology.

      Gallese, V., & Sinigaglia, C. (2011).  What is so special about embodied simulation?  Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Retrieved July 18, 2013 from:http://www.unipr.it/arpa/mirror/pubs/pdffiles/Gallese/2011/tics_20111007.pdf.

      Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2000). Universal Design for Learning. Journal of Special Education Technology, 15(1), 67-70.

      Smallab. (2012). Smallab Learning.  Retrieved July 18, 2013 from:http://smallablearning.com/embodied_learning.

      Vygotsky, L. S.(1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

      Westendorp, M., Hartman, E., Houwen, S., Smith, J., & Visscher, C. (2011). The relationship between gross motor skills and academic achievement in children with learning disabilities. Research in developmental disabilities, 32(6), 2773-2779.

      Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition.  Psychometric Bulletin & Review (9) 4.

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 485
  • Assessment and Processes to De Assessment and Processes to Develop Active Learning: Part II

    • From: Adrian_Bertolini
    • Description:

      In Part I I argued that we can’t actually measure learning, the best we can do is infer learning from behaviour demonstrated over time. I pointed out that most of the measurement approaches I have seen used by teachers and schools are poor quality or are based on anecdotal observation that does not allow students to be CLEAR about what is being measured and thus not be responsible for their learning (they become passive rather than active learners).


      If we are to develop students to be active learners then our systems and processes should be designed to encourage and empower a learner centred or learner driven approach. As pointed out at personalizelearning.com learning looks different at different stages from teacher centred to learner centred to learner driven. Active learners take responsibility for their own learners and are able to become highly skilled in what is now known as 21st century skills.

      In this newsletter / blog I want to focus on using rubrics as one tool to assist in formative assessment and developing learner centred learning.

      If we are to move students to a learner centred mindset then a rubric becomes a formative tool first and foremost (and can be used as a summative tool by the teacher). The purpose of the rubric is to distinguish a skill / concept or product so that it becomes distinct for the learner.

      Distinct (adj): “recognizably different in nature from something else of a similar type”

      So what makes something recognizably different from something else?

      You need to be able to articulate what it looks like as well what it is NOT like.

      Human beings do this all the time unconsciously as we grow up. It is part of how we come to understand language. This is a chair. This is not a chair but a couch. This is the colour blue. This is not the colour blue – we call that red.

      What something looks like or NOT like also grows in depth as you develop your capacity and gain mastery to make something distinct.  This colour is not blue but sky blue, or aqua or royal blue. This is foot stool that can be used as a chair.

      Finally, to be able to make something distinct for someone you need to be able to communicate the nature of the distinction in language they would understand and is appropriate to their level of knowledge and understanding. You wouldn’t start talking about colours as master artists would to children with little or no background knowledge of colour. So the language one would use is always appropriate to the people you are communicating with.


      What this means in designing rubrics and formative assessment

      Given the above discussion let’s make formative rubrics and formative assessment distinct.

      1.       A strong formative rubric progressively unpacks and makes distinct what the skill, concept or product looks like to the learner

      I have found that teachers know anecdotally and from personal experience of interacting with learners what the different levels of a skill, concept or product look like – it is in many respects how they come up with a marking schema. In the rubric on questioning below I worked with teachers from Foundation through to year 3 to come up with a rubric that would capture – as concretely as possible – what they identify as the progressive stages of development in their learners ability to ask questions. This rubric is by no means complete but you can quickly see that the statements are all concrete aspects that one can hear or see happening as learning is occurring.


      Aspects of Questioning








      Question or not

      Open or Closed

      Fat or Thin

      Ability to respond to questions



      Can make comments with teacher prompting

      Is able to form a question but sometimes may not be relevant


      Makes relevant comments with teacher prompting


      Asks relevant questions


      Uses questions to get more information


      Makes relevant comments and concrete suggestions

      Asks open-ended questions


      Uses prior knowledge in asking a new question


      Uses vocabulary of topic


      Uses questions to clarify understanding




      Asks fat questions


      Asks questions that expand the conversation




      2.       A rubric by itself is insufficient – it must be supported by discussions and examples which model the different levels

      A strong rubric is supported by examples which model the different levels and continue to make the skill, concept or product distinction. In the above rubric a teacher would need to define what an open (and closed) question is, what makes a comment or question relevant,  what is a fat or thin question, how to ask questions that clarify understanding, etc. If the learners are producing a magazine then you would need to have a range of different magazines available and shown to the learners to discuss how the rubric relates to different aspects of the magazine. .

      In the process of identifying what, in reality, the skill – concept – product would look like or NOT look like the teachers would be articulating the possible approaches and strategies they would be using to progressively develop the learners.

      For example, some of the ways identified by the teachers I worked with on the above rubric were:

                          Encourage learner questions that begin with – who, what, when, where, why?

                          Highlight different and interesting questions asked by learners

                          Prompt questions – what do you want to know?

                          The learners only get to ask 2 questions in a session (so need to think about them)

                          5 Whys

                          Use a Wonder-wall

                          Saying the information you have heard as forming next question

                          Explicit teaching of open ended questions

                          Reference the rubric in class as learners ask questions


      3.       A rubric is a tool to enable students to drive their learning and develop their capacity and mindsets such that they see learning as a progression towards mastery

      Notice how the rubric above is written in positive language applicable to the age group. Rubrics develop the mindset that learners think from. I am interested in developing learners to be meta-cognitive and intrinsically motivated not extrinsically motivated by marks. We want to develop a personal best culture, or in other words, a learning culture that encourages students to put in effort and “compete against themselves” to develop and grow.

      As Jim Knight pointed out:

      “The trouble with deep learning is that it messes with our identity. In their book, Difficult Conversations (Penguin, 1999), Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen define identity as “the story we tell ourselves about who we are and what the future holds for us” (p. 112). It’s a lot to ask to change the story we tell ourselves about who we are. That kind of learning is often painful, and frankly, we’d usually rather avoid it.”

      The more we take away the conversations of good vs bad, better vs worse, and right vs wrong and focus on learners demonstrating their progress in a skill, concept or understanding the more we will build the growth mindsets that Carol Dweck and others identify as critical to developing life-long learners and performers.


      The next two steps along the path of mastery are to co-construct rubrics with the learners and finally have the learners construct the rubrics themselves. These are demonstrations of the learners reflecting on what constitutes progression of skills and how they could demonstrate evidence of progression.


      With regard to progressive formative assessment, the rubric can become a tool which the learners use to see how they are progressing and they can now self-assess and reflect more effectively. Teachers can use the rubric as part of learner observations. If the teachers have a class list with the specific skill statements across the page they can tick off each time they see a student demonstrate the skill. This approach stems from – we can only get an indication that learning has occurred if the behaviours are demonstrated over time.


      For other interesting reading:

                          3 Statements That Describe Rigorous Assessment

                          Assessing Our Way to Creative Thinking

                          How Assessment Can Lead to Deeper Learning

                          Frictionless Formative Assessment with Social Media

                          The Right Questions, The Right Way

                          How do you know if effective teaching is occurring in your school?

                          Formative assessment strategies for success

                          5 Out-Of-The Box Assessment Strategies Every Teacher Should Know



    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 146
  • Assessment and Processes to De Assessment and Processes to Develop Active Learning: Part I

    • From: Adrian_Bertolini
    • Description:

      Learning.jpgHow do we know that a learner has learnt something?

      Is it from one off tests? Is it from their performance in rich learning tasks? Is it from reflection at the end of term as you do your reports? Is it from keep a track of what your students submit?

      How do YOU measure if learning has occurred?

      In most school systems reporting processes require teachers to assign grades or some number measure to indicate children have reached particular knowledge, understandings, or skill standards.

      But does it REALLY indicate that the learner has understood the concepts, has the skills, or even can use the knowledge they have gained?

      My opinion is that you can’t actually measure whether or not learning has occurred. Not until we have the technology to measure the changes in the pattern of neurons and their linkage to one another in each and every individual can we have any definitive idea of whether learning has occurred – and it still may not represent the learning WE want them to learn!

      In reality, we are guessing whether or not a learner has “learnt” something. Some teachers may better than others at guessing. Some teachers and schools have more rigorous approaches to guessing and some don’t. The best we can do is, as an indicator that learning has occurred, is if the student demonstrates a particular behaviour OVER TIME. We then can say that that behaviour indicates they have reached a particular stage of development in that skill or understanding of the material that was covered. This assigning of an interpretation to particular demonstrable behaviour is the BEST we can do at assessing learning.

      This is consistent with what Jim Knight in a recent ASCD post pointed out:

      “We can experience learning in two ways: as surface learning or deep learning. When we experience surface learning, we make minor adjustments or try something out for a while, but we don’t take significant steps forward. Deep learning, on the other hand, is learning that changes our assumptions about how we do what we do. Deep learning gets to the core of who we are, and because deep learning leads to profound change, it really does make a difference.”

      But let’s get real here … are you as a teacher or your school set up to work out whether a student has demonstrated a particular behaviour over time? I have found in working across 300 schools around Australia that very few schools are even thinking from that place – let alone have organised their systems and processes to be able to measure learner behaviour over time. Fewer still have the unpacked what particular behaviour around the attainment of specific learning goals could look like at progressive stages.

      I am writing this to challenge an underlying assumption I have seen held in many schools and by many teachers about what their assessment is telling them. I am NOT saying that you are doing it all wrong – but it is worth exploring the underlying assumptions we hold as educators and educational organisations about what and why we assess. In many ways this line of thought has been sparked by a recent discussion that Dylan Wiliams and David Didau have been having about Formative Assessment. You can read more here, here and here about what they have been debating. It is worth reading just to start thinking.

      You may notice that I am having a little rant in the process of writing – part of this stems from several discussions I have had with different teachers at different schools recently and in the past (Why do we have Grades).

      In my view, if we are to assess for learning we first need to have a clear articulation of what that skill, knowledge or understanding would look like when the learner demonstrates it. In many cases teachers have a fair idea of what it looks like anecdotally. The more experienced and expert a teacher the more they know - by seeing it. Yet I don’t find that this ‘anecdotal knowing’ is converted into clear statements that are available to other learners (whether they are teachers or students).

      What are I do find mostly are summative rubrics with generalized broad statements being used as “formative rubrics” with the hope that the students (and any on lookers) will understand what is meant. For example this aspect of a rubric a teacher created to assess a magazine produced by Grade 3-4 students:


      Needs Improvement



      Labelled and Formatted images were included in each section

      Appropriate, labelled and formatted images were included in each section.

      Appropriate, well-labelled and well-formatted images were included in each section.

      If I was a student looking at those rubric statements above I would be confused as to what would be “appropriate”, “well-labelled” and “well-formatted” images. What is written does not make anything distinct for me.

       I spent a little time with the teacher who wrote the above statements to actually get clear about what she saw – physically on the page - in the magazines her students created that would have her rate the student at the level of  needs improvement, good and excellent. The revised rubric now looks like:


      Needs Improvement



      Labelled and Formatted images were included in each section


      ·         Chosen images are appropriate to the material in each section


      ·         Labels on image described the image and elaborate on a point in the text of that section

      ·         Image is formatted on the page in a way that makes the page esthetically pleasing.

      Notice that we have unpacked what the higher levels of labelled and formatted means in a more accessible way. Appropriate now refers to the subject of the material in each section. The teacher would still have to distinguish particular words used in the rubric, she would still have to model and have examples of what each stage would look like during her classes but the rubric is developmental and much clearer to someone who is not that particular teacher.

      As a piece of homework for you …questioning is one of the critical thinking skills that is key to the development of 21st century learners (or independent learners). If you are a primary / elementary teacher I invite you to unpack what questioning would look like at different levels from Foundation (Prep) through to Grade 6. If you are a high school or secondary teacher unpack what Questioning looks like from Year 7 to 12.

      In the next newsletter / blog I will get more into how good formative rubrics can be used as one tool in the process of supporting student learning as well as how teachers can unpack what a skill or understanding looks like for the purpose of formative assessment (or assessment for learning) – I will use Questioning as an example for this.

      Further readings:

      ·     5 Tips To Help Students Arrive At Their Own Understandings

      ·     Why Assessment for Learning might be wrong, and what to do about it

      ·     Dylan Wiliam’s defence of formative assessment

      ·     The Assessment for Learning debate: does it matter who’s right?

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 150
  • Decoding the Text Types, Part Decoding the Text Types, Part 2: Where Has Expository Writing Gone?

    • From: Scott_Miller1
    • Description:


      When I was in high school, I wrote a lot of expository essays. I mean a lot of expository essays. Through these writing experiences, it became my impression that there were different kinds of expository essays, but that each pretty much had its own blueprint. Furthermore, I came to believe that these types were distinct, self-contained, and that they didn’t really mix with other writing forms. That’s what I was taught. Yet despite all my early work in expository writing, it wasn’t until I became an adult writer that I really came to understand what “expository” actually means. 


      According to Merriam-Webster, the word “expository” is “used to describe writing that is done to explain something.” I’m quite confident that my high school teachers would agree with this definition. That notwithstanding, the Common Core State Writing Standards (CCSWS) are curiously devoid of an “expository” text type. Could this be some kind of editorial oversight? Or is expository writing really gone?


      The answer is neither. Exposition is alive and well. It’s actually thriving as part of the newly defined text types. The CCSWS have simply put it where it belongs in the scheme of writing instruction. The word “expository” refers not to a specific type of writing; rather, it refers to identifiable structures that may exist within multiple types of writing. Consider this excerpt from the CCSWS definition of opinion writing (Appendix A, page 23):


      Although young children are not able to produce fully developed logical arguments, they develop a variety of methods to extend and elaborate their work by providing examples, offering reasons for their assertions, and explaining cause and effect. These kinds of expository structures are steps on the road to argument. (emphasis added)


      This definition alludes to expository structures (specifically cause and effect) within the opinion text type. When I first read this definition, it was a little confusing to me. After all, I had been taught that an expository essay was one thing; a persuasive essay was quite another (and that any essay confusing the two would not score well). 


      But the CCSWS have put all this into a more correct perspective. Persuasive, after all, is not a text type. It’s a purpose for writing. Expository is also not a text type. It refers to structures that can live within multiple text types. Therefore, blending these elements is not a conflict between exclusive writing forms. Understanding this allows us to correct a flawed paradigm and adjust expectations for student writers. 


      Consider the following example: Let’s say a student decides to argue a point in writing. Argument is a text type characterized by identifiable characteristics (a claim, reasons, examples, and evidence). While arguing, the student might use expository structures to defend his claim (explaining causes and effects, reporting observations or outcomes, identifying proven solutions for specific problems, etc.). Depending upon the writing situation, the student may also choose to integrate some persuasive elements into the argument. Persuasion is a writing purpose characterized by an emphasis on credibility, emotions, or self-interest, so purpose and audience are critically important considerations in this decision. At any rate, this hypothetical student could write an argument (text type) wherein his claim is supported by expository structures, and his writing purpose is supported by (appropriate) persuasive elements. 


      Other examples abound to recommend the inclusion of expository structures across the text types: A student begins an historical narrative by explaining the causes and effects that led to World War II. Another student concludes an opinion essay about a specific problem with an exposition of a solution. These are but a few examples. The role of exposition is clearly revealed by the standards themselves and by the specific definitions of the text types provided in Appendix A. Effective exposition within writing forms is also typified in the writing models found in Appendix C.    


      One question remains: Is there still such a thing as a strictly expository essay? The best, most academic answer I can muster is… “sort of.” The CCSWS use the words “informative/explanatory” to define a text type that is similar (the relationship is apparent in that many historical definitions of exposition included both of these words). But the new standards don’t include an “expository” text type. The implication here might be that exposition constitutes a set of structures that pervade multiple text types, thereby defying classification as a text type itself. 


      But isn’t it possible to engineer an entire composition using an expository structure? Sure. But teacher, beware! In practice, this paradigm can be instructionally limiting. When we focus intently on expository structures, we sometimes overemphasize the more concrete and objective aspects of writing (such as organization). We tend to ask more questions like, “What kind of writing is this?” and fewer questions like, “How effective is this writing for the purpose and audience?” To bypass this potential pitfall, it is imperative to use a writing curriculum that addresses each of the six traits consistently within the writing process: ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and voice. This instructional design ensures uniform attention to all of the qualities that make writing effective, even when addressing an assignment that seems to emphasize a specific organizational structure.


      A note about the newly defined informative/explanatory text type: While the new standards separate “informative” and “explanatory” with a slash, these two concepts live harmoniously along a continuum. Informative writing gives facts. Explanatory writing is somewhat more complex, going beyond the simple provision of facts to demonstrate processes, comparisons, and relationships between ideas. While distinctly identifiable, these forms are not separate from one another. For example, a kindergarten teacher might begin by asking students to create an “All About Me Book,” with a picture and a fact on each page (informative). As students become more sophisticated writers, the teacher might ask students to write about the steps to making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (explanatory). The second task is more complex, requiring the use of transition words and a logical sequence (explanatory), but it builds upon students’ ability to articulate individual ideas in writing (informative).   


      To summarize, expository writing has not gone missing, and it’s certainly not dead. It has simply gone home to its proper place within the new standards. So while we may not write as many (strictly) “expository essays” as we used to, good writers can leverage their understanding of expository structures to improve their work in any text type.   


      This is the second in a series of blog posts about the writing text types and how they have been redefined by the Common Core State Standards. Part 1 of the Decoding the Text Types series, One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, explains how the concept of persuasive writing differs from the Common-Core-defined text types, opinion and argument. Later posts in the series will cover the new narrative writing text type and misconceptions about descriptive writing.

      —James Scott Miller, M.Ed., Zaner-Bloser Senior Instructional Consultant and Consulting Author, Strategies for Writers


    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 168
  • Decoding the Text Types, Part Decoding the Text Types, Part 1: One of These Things is Not Like the Others

    • From: Scott_Miller1
    • Description:


      The Common Core Writing Standards are shifting the landscape of writing instruction, articulating rigorous new expectations and emphasizing newly redefined text types. Amidst this sweeping change, educators, publishers, and providers of professional development are scrambling to understand the types of writing that students have to master for college and career readiness: narrative, informative/explanatory, opinion, and argument. 


      Perhaps the biggest change for most writing teachers is the shift toward opinion and argument writing. Despite what you may have heard from some “experts,” page 24 of CCSS Appendix A makes it crystal clear: “Opinion” and “argument” are not simply new words that mean “persuasive.” These three words identify separate, distinct writing concepts.


      Let’s begin with a basic definition for each. According to the Common Core, “persuasive” is not a text type; that is to say it is not a “design” or a “build” for composition. Rather, persuasion is a goal or a purpose for writing. Authors attempting to persuade an audience rely primarily upon credibility and emotion, often leveraging the reader’s sense of self-interest. In a nutshell, persuasion is generally accomplished by changing the way someone feels.


      Argumentation is different. While the assertion of a specific argument can certainly be a purpose for writing, and while an argument can certainly change how a reader feels about a topic, an effective written argument also has distinct characteristics that set it apart from other writing forms. These characteristics define the text type, and, according to the Common Core, they can be observed and directly instructed. An argument begins with a claim. A claim is an assertion that the writer intends to prove is valid. A claim is a specific type of thesis: an opinion that is to some extent objectively defensible (This is the best type of computer for people who travel). A well-constructed argument advances the claim using reasons (It is durable), examples (I have dropped it many times, and it still works), and evidence (Consumer reports gives this model a top score for durability). Notice a key difference between examples and evidence: Evidence tends to be factual information gleaned from sources more informed than the writer himself. 


      According to the Common Core, argument writing instruction is supposed to begin at about 6th grade. Notwithstanding the recommendations of the Common Core, it is highly advisable to begin argument writing instruction when students demonstrate that they are cognitively ready to think a bit more abstractly (to think more “outside” their own experience). With many students, this will occur long before 6th grade. So in accordance with best instructional practices, teachers must observe and assess carefully, determine the developmentally appropriate moment to begin argument writing, and differentiate to meet the needs of students working at different levels of readiness and proficiency. 


      So what are we supposed to be teaching before argument instruction begins? According to the Common Core, opinion writing. This is simply a less sophisticated form of argument writing. It begins with an opinion statement and then supports it with reasons and examples. Opinion writing is often characterized by the lack of an objectively defensible claim and/or a lack of evidence to support the reasons and examples. But opinion writing and argument writing are not entirely separate from one another. These two text types exist on a developmental continuum, so it is possible for writing to exhibit characteristics of both simultaneously. From an instructional perspective, it is less important to identify the type of writing than it is to move students incrementally along the continuum from opinion toward argumentation. As writers develop, their compositions will gradually become less opinion-oriented and more characteristic of a true argument. For example, a first grader might render the opinion, “I like ice cream.” A seventh grader might argue about the same topic beginning with the claim, “Ice cream is unhealthy.” In both cases, the writer takes a position on the topic, but the first grader’s assertion (opinion) is far more subjective. The second example is more typical of a claim that might anchor a written argument, and it is more defensible from an evidentiary perspective.


      Now that we have discussed the essential differences between persuasion, opinion, and argument, we must recognize their interplay in authentic “real world” writing. Think analogously of any car commercial you’ve watched recently. The tag line is probably an opinion, but in some cases, it might be a claim. Reasons to buy the car are provided, and visual examples are likely demonstrated by actors on the screen. Many car companies also cite evidence (J.D. Power and Associates award, Car and Driver’s 10 best list, etc.). But the advertiser also spent a lot of money in an attempt to establish their credibility, appeal to your emotions, and influence you to act in your own self-interest. So the commercial you’re thinking of probably had characteristics of both persuasion and argumentation…like many other “real world” forms of communication. 


      This begs a simple question: If persuasion, opinion, and argument often blend in the real world, why teach them separately? There are two simple answers. First, in order to effectively blend these concepts, students have to master each of them first. To do so requires explicit strategy-based instruction, and many of the proprietary strategies for each form are distinct. Second, the Common Core Standards emphasize the opinion and argument text types for success in college and career. Why? College and career require written expression that is ideationally compelling—writing that argues based upon reasonableness and proof. And because it’s easier to persuade than to argue, students often are better at the former than the latter. From an academic perspective, argument is more challenging. It requires a deeper level of understanding that comes from analysis, research, perspective-taking, and anticipation of counterclaims.


      To summarize, persuasion, opinion, and argument are distinct from one another. For this reason, they require strategy-based direct instruction for student mastery. But this does not mean they exist in mutually exclusive silos. Talented writers develop a commanding mastery of each and then blend them expertly to address specific purposes and audiences. 


      This post originally ran May 7 on SmartBlog on Education and, here on the Zaner-Bloser Blog, is the first in a series of blog posts about the writing text types and how they have been redefined by the Common Core State Standards. Subsequent posts in this Decoding the Text Types series will explain the new narrative and informative/explanatory writing text types and tackle many more of the misconceptions that are out there.


      —James Scott Miller, M.Ed., Zaner-Bloser Senior Instructional Consultant and Consulting Author, Strategies for Writers


    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 265
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