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Archive for March 2011

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Creativity in Education

There is a lot of talk about bringing creativity into the standards-based classroom. What does creativity mean to you? Does this mean that a teacher is defining the type of curriculum and classroom environment? Or does it mean that students have a say in what they learn?

I want to challenge you to think way outside the box about this. If we are going to design a learning environment where students are creative critical thinkers that have the skills to be collaborative global citizens and become the best they can be, the focus needs to be on the learner. If we do this, then everything changes: the school, the classroom, teacher education programs, administration, and the relationship with the school with the school community especially the parents.

I was reading today about the number of jobs available and that there are not enough people qualified in the US for high tech talent. Tapan Munroe stated in “It’s a seller’s market in some fields of work” that it is a myth that there aren’t job openings in America. Education is focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to help build these skills, but the US student is just not prepared to fill these jobs. US launched the Common Core standards that are separate skills that do not seem to relate to today’s kids. We have all the standards in My eCoach and teachers match their projects to them. We have people who are adding resources and projects to the standards. Here are two seventh grade Common Core Math standards:

 

Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems.
MATH-RPR.7.3. Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems. Examples: simple interest, tax, markups and markdowns, gratuities and commissions, fees, percent increase and decrease, percent error.
Expressions & Equations
Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic expressions and equations.
MATH-EE.7.3. Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies. For example: If a woman making $25 an hour gets a 10% raise, she will make an additional 1/10 of her salary an hour, or $2.50, for a new salary of $27.50. If you want to place a towel bar 9 3/4 inches long in the center of a door that is 27 1/2 inches wide, you will need to place the bar about 9 inches from each edge; this estimate can be used as a check on the exact computation.

How do you use this in a real-world situation? I asked Ken Bakken who is an eCoach on my team to help some 7th grade teachers create a real-world project that would make sense to students. Percentages can Make and Save you Money

This is still teacher-driven curriculum but it is a step in the right direction. The idea is to make the curriculum real to the learner. What if we tried a different approach where learners were given a problem or concept and they came up with the driving questions? Give them some real-world concepts like…

  • Climate Change
  • Pollution
  • Water Quality
  • The Price of Oil

If you look at one of these concepts, you could probably think of questions that will engage students in amazing discourse. Letting go is good. Let the students brainstorm the questions. Give them the standards and what is expected of them and then let them go again. Let them co-design the activities based on the standards. You provide the structure, the guidelines, and facilitate learning and collaboration. Just watch the creativity take off.

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Brand Yourself

What is your Unique Selling Position (USP)? How do you stand out in a crowd or in social media so you are remarkable and different enough to get noticed by an employer or client?

You can do this by branding yourself. The job market is tough and sending thousands of resumés may not be the right way to get that “job” you want. I am older than most job-seekers but I learned some things about using the tools available to get known. I read this article from AARP and thought I’d share and adapt the tips for you.

  1. Find your passion. It’s all about what you believe in and thinking and looking positive about it. Believe in yourself and what you are doing. If you do, others will too. “Accepting yourself is the most important ingredient in the self-confidence formula.”
  2. Give an elevator speech.Come up with a short 60 second pitch that comes across who you are, what you do best, and why others should believe in you. Make it authentic, strong, and personal and make it stand out from your competition.
  3. Validate your passion.You believe in what you are doing. You are positive about it. Find others that do to. Encourage your believers to share your passion and get the buzz out all over the place. Find your “Google Quotient” using the Online ID Calculator (www.onlineidcalculator.com) to see how many relevant hits your name generates in a web search. Use social media like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter to build your PLN (Personal Learning Network).
  4. Promote your passion. Design business cards that promote you and your brand and give them out to everyone after your elevator speech. Link to your website that promotes you also. Have all of your contact information so people can find you.
  5. Come up with your look. Come up with your look and dress the part. You may have a signature accessory, color, or shoes. Just look as professional as you can with crazy boots or wild glasses.

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Defining Quality Education

President Obama seeks to end the ‘status quo’ of education law. He got it right that schools are struggling to meet the requirements of the act and Duncan said “under the current law, it’s one size fits all. We need to fix this law now so we can close the achievement gap.” We are talking about designing a quality education that measures how students are improving. I’d like to propose a new movement that defines what quality education means. One size does not fit everybody so how do you define one type of education?

Not only do we have to call for more flexibility but be real about where students are. Not every child is ready or right for college. If we compare our students to students in China, India, and Brazil, then maybe we need to look at those students and where they really are based on achievement, prior knowledge, and goals. The students in these countries and others are tracked. We are comparing all of our children on their college bound students: the best of the best.

We measure all of our students…that is… the ones that don’t drop out. We base the tests on standards. The problem with the way state standards and Common Core standards are designed is that they are separate skills that don’t connect to the real world. Tests teach to each standard. This type of assessment is confusing for the test-taker and difficult to design.

Instead of focusing on each standard and how to teach to that standard, I suggest designing real-world projects or activities that meet those standards. You can map your curriculum and standards and even design collaborative projects with other teachers.

The Obama Administration has invested $350 million to support states in their efforts to create more sophisticated assessment systems that measure problem solving and other 21st century skills and that will provide teachers will timely information to help them improve instruction.

So in defining quality education, problem solving and 21st century skills, let’s look at authentic assessment i.e. portfolios. The portfolio is a collection of evidence of learning. Some of the evidence includes tests, essays, presentations, pictures, and reflections.

Questions to reflect on:

How do you measure improvement? How do you design this new type of learning environment that measures success of each student? This is not going to be easy but I’m up to the task. Are you?

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Going to CUE

I’m looking forward to going to the CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference in Palm Springs  (March 16-19) – not just because of the weather. But because of the people — connecting in person with people you know virtually. This is my time to recharge, learn, unlearn, and take some risks. I’m presenting four sessions, so you probably have figured out what I’m doing right now. finding lots of resources and goodies to share.

CUE Conference 2011Come and Get It – Free Stuff to Use Right Away
Thursday 9:30-10:30 in the Oasis 4 of the Convention Center

Digital Storytelling and Web 2.0 Workshop
Thursday 11:30-2:30pm  – registration required
Plaza B Hilton Hotel – Windows Lab

Mobile Technology – Learning on the Go
Friday 11:30 – 11:50
Oasis 1 – Convention Center

Quick Ways you can bring Joy to Learning
Friday 3:30 pm to 3:50 pm
Oasis 1 – Convention Center

I’m putting together a website with lots of resources with a backchannel for participants to share resources. Let me know if you are going and share any presentations you are doing. If you are going to or presenting at a different conference, please share that also.