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Archive for May 2011

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Changing Teaching and Learning

Sections from column in OnCUE Summer 2011

Change means something different to different people. It depends on each person’s prior knowledge, experience, values, and attitude about what it is they are changing. Teachers may only know what they have been taught. They don’t know what they don’t know. Some people resist change because what they learned at their home, school, or university is what they believe is the right and only way to teach and learn. The world is changing and many of our K-20 institutions are not ready or understand how they fit in the picture to change. Some parents and school boards resist change. At board meetings you may here “If it was good for me than it is good for my child.” Teaching and learning is changing even if educators, parents, and students resist it.

In facilitating change for yourself or as the professional developer for your staff, it would be beneficial to know what concerns individuals have about the change you may be initiating. Here is one chart designed to help schools identify what a student-centered environment looks like.

These are the stages of concern that each of us go through when we are learning a new skill. Consider the people at your school. When it comes to project-based learning, I was surprised to find some younger teachers resistant to taking the time to plan and implement projects. It appears they were not exposed to projects in their teacher education programs. Projects take time and energy that many teachers don't think they have. Every project is different and not all of them work. However, a project that engages students and has them "think" is good. All of this is a process.

Working through the stages helps me. I hope they help you.

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Who dunnit?

I cannot even tell you how exciting it is to work with teachers who are so passionate about teaching and coming up with ways to motivate and engage their students. This last week was like that. I am working at two middle schools in Oakland who just finished testing.  Madison Middle School is preparing for a Math/Science Expo on June 7th. I love this!

It's all about teamwork, collaboration, inquiry, roles and responsibility.

Think CSI. The eighth grade kids came up with the title "CSI Oakland" and we're putting together five crime scenes. Shhhhhh! We cannot let all the crimes out of the bag yet. Think money stolen --- window broken --- locker vandalized and more. We have fourteen suspects. Cannot tell you who they are, but they have mugshots with prison numbers, sour faces, and aliases. Read more

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Learning from Angry Birds

I tried to figure out why I'm hooked on such a silly game. Have you ever played Angry Birds? It's addicting. I keep going back when I have so many other things to do that are more productive. What is it about Angry Birds that hooks me and so many people? Cinematic Trailer of Angry Birds

Angry Birds

I am having trouble getting past level 7 but my 3 year old granddaughter can. Very frustrating! So I keep playing. Not during the day though. I do this at night to calm me down to sleep. You probably wonder how Angry Birds can calm me down. Read more
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Project-Based Learning: Replicating Success

This Edutopia article by Grace Rubinstein gives you tips and strategies how to do project-based learning from a rural school district in Georgia that transformed the way its students learn using the inspiration and mentorship provided by San Diego's High Tech High. Check out the tips and examples from Whitfield Career Academy, in Dalton, Georgia, where they are in their second year of shifting to High Tech High-style project-based learning.

Teachers going through this transformation don't expect their schools to emerge from it looking exactly like High Tech High. Each school has its own unique teachers, students, culture, history, and setting, and its path to change must uniquely match those. Read more
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Getting Back to Learning After Testing

I work with several public middle schools who are in the middle of testing. The mood and morale is awful. Students are complaining of headaches and some are skipping school. Teachers are asking me to help them create projects now so as soon as they stop testing, their students can get back to real learning that is connected to what is relevant to them.

Students need to be part of the design team developing questions about what means something to them. One topic we are working on is a six week project on Global Climate Change. We took a template of an existing project and cloned it. That was easy. Now the hard part.. designing group activities where each child has a role and responsibilities. The product they will create in their group is a 30 second public service announcement (PSA) about a topic involving Global Climate Change.

We brainstormed ideas for activities:
  • class will view a video on Global Climate Change.
  • the class will brainstorm ideas for topics about climate change using Inspiration.
  • students will group by topic (4 to a group).
  • each group will mindmap ideas and questions about their topic. They need to come up with at least ten questions. Refer to Developing Questions for Critical Thinking using Bloom's Revised Taxonomy.The will post their questions around the room and on a comment on the website.
  • group roles could include: researchers, actors, director, camera person, graphic artist, writers.
  • each group will be responsible for a category with questions and answers for the jeopardy game.
  • groups will research their topic on the Internet and find the causes, effects, and how people can change the effects.
  • each student will calculate their carbon footprint.
  • all topics will be pulled together as the jeopardy game and played in class. The jeopardy game will be embedded in SlideShare and the project website.
  • the class will Skype with a local TV meteorologist about weather and the climate. Each group will choose one question to ask and discuss with the meteorologist. the Skype session will be recorded and saved to the website.
  • each group will then write a paragraph (100 words) about their topic and hand it to another group for feedback.  Questions to consider: Is it informative about the topic? Is there a call to action for the audience?
  • each group will use the feedback to create a storyboard with no more than 8 scenes and present to two other groups for feedback and approval.
  • each group will design or find the graphics, costumes, charts, etc. for each scene and practice each scene so the PSA is no more than 30 seconds.
  • each group will film and edit their PSA.
  • groups will show off their PSA to each other.
  • class will showcase their PSAs to school and parents.

This is big. It will take six weeks but these 6th grade students will always remember what they did and be proud of it. My job is in the background. This is too much for a teacher to do alone if they have never done anything like it before. I'm their coach.

This is so much fun. I want to do more. I am working with several other teachers to design different projects, playshops for teachers and more. One cool project is a CSI project. I'm working on that today. I wish learning could be like this everyday where students own it. Teachers are pulled in so many directions and spending months to prepare for tests that impact the school not the child. This is very upsetting to me. It should all be about the child -- the learner.

In the future, we'll look back and shake our heads for taking creativity and critical thinking out of schools for a whole generation of kids.  It's time to bring joy back and make learning relevant to the real world.