Guest Post by Paula Ford @prford5, Kindergarten Teacher,
Manuel De Vargas Elementary School, San Jose, CA
I teach at a STEM school with a focus on Project Based Learning (PBL). We are in the third year of this learning process, with the help of Buck Institute for Education (BIE). Our school serves children who speak over 29 different languages. I always find that fact amazing and inspiring.
For those who are thinking about PBL or just starting it, it is like swimming for the first time. You have no idea if you will sink or swim until you try it. Letting your kids take charge of their learning is a huge risk, but the rewards are tremendous. The excitement is contagious. I am as excited about the learning as they are! This post is in the middle of this PBL, but the kinderkids are excited about sharing their journey.
The Driving Question is:
How is the city and the farm the same and different?
Toy animals are not only a source of comfort for children, they can also provide an opportunity for nationwide collaboration. Kindergarteners will learn about their own community, the city, as well as about life on a farm. The entry event was the book, Town Mouse Country Mouse. We also took a field trip to a farm, to give the children a basic frame of reference for the project. This necessity was made evident on the field trip when the children were asked what animal they thought they would see first on the farm that day. The first answer was, “A hippo.”
After the launch, the children brainstormed what kind of animal they would like to send to a group of kindergarteners in rural Indiana to learn about life on a farm. After much discussion, the children decided to use an actual computer mouse, and turn it into a toy mouse.
This would symbolize that we live in the heart of Silicon Valley, and technology is a part of our everyday lives. Each child made their very own mouse and wrote a letter to their new friend in Indiana asking questions about what it is like where he or she lives. Our field trip to the farm was an asset in helping the children come up with questions for their Indiana friends. Along with the letters and mice, we sent a video introduction of ourselves.
Before long our package was in the mail, and we anxiously awaited to get ours from Indiana. Shortly, a package arrived from Indiana addressed to us. Inside was a handmade toy horse for each child. They explained they chose to make a horse as they travel to and from school by horse and buggy!
In addition, they sent us local homemade Amish wheat bread and Amish apple butter. Finally, there was a letter for each child with a set of questions about life in the city. Some of the questions they asked included: if we have skyscrapers, how we learn at school, how we travel to and from school, what languages we speak, what kinds of clothes we wear, what kinds of job our parents do, what kinds of food we eat, what is the weather like, and what is the ocean like.
After the children had ample opportunity to play with the horses and share their letters with each other, we dove into the project of answering their questions. First, we figured out which questions we already knew the answers to, and we answered those first. Next, we made a list of what we needed to learn. We realized we did not know what a skyscraper was. That was a new vocabulary word.
We proceeded to learn a bit about skyscrapers. The children learned that skyscrapers are buildings at least 40 stories tall. The tallest building in our downtown San Jose is only 23 floors. This is due to height restrictions from the San Jose airport. However, San Francisco has plenty of skyscrapers. The most famous is the Transamerica Pyramid building, which is 48 floors, or 853 feet high. This discussion included learning about what a pyramid is, one of our three-dimensional math standards.
The children decided to make an iMovie to show our friends in Indiana what life is like in the city. We are including a design challenge in our Makerspace since we think that is something unique to our school.
With our big buddies we designed and created catapults to launch candy hearts. Some of the children are also taking iPads home to spend a day at work with a parent. They are going to video document their experience to share with the rest of us, and we will include that experience in our iMovie.
We are currently in the middle of this PBL, and so far it has been a powerful Project Based Learning (PBL) opportunity because it lets children from across the country learn from each other. Collaboration is occurring throughout this PBL as many of the questions received are similar in nature. Reflection can be seen throughout the process, as children reflect on their experiences and verify they are answering the questions that were posed. This PBL puts children in charge of their learning, as it allows for nationwide communication about the different communities in which kindergarteners live.
Stay tuned to find out what happens when we send our responses back to Indiana and receive their responses to us.
I graduated from University of California at Davis with my Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic (BCLAD) multiple subject teaching credential, and have been teaching for over twenty years. I began my career in bilingual education, and then moved to teaching second language learners.
I taught kindergarten, first grade, third grade, and have been a resource teacher for grades transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. The majority of my career has been teaching low-socioeconomic English language learners. Currently, I am teaching kindergarten at Manuel De Vargas Elementary School, and I absolutely love it.
Don’t you think that now is the time to change traditional “sit and get” professional development and move to personal professional learning opportunities? Teachers are learners, too. The “one size fits all” has got to go and micro-credentials provide a process that supports teachers and impacts teaching practice.
Digital Promise has built an innovative system for educators to be recognized for the work they already do with their kids. I feel honored to be involved with the move to micro-credentials for several years and have participated in several of the summits including the latest one January 9 and 10, 2017. As an assessor for the micro-credentials, I have personally seen how teachers are embracing this process. They are documenting and showcasing learning and then getting credit for it or revising what they are doing and submitting again. Teachers want to share the learning happening in their classrooms.
Digital Promise does more than the micro-credentials by providing research, examples, case studies and more. I see the potential of micro-credentials and am honored to be included in this valuable work. The summit started with a charge by Digital Promise CEO Karen Cator @kcator to the participants to help define the work and the need to move beyond defining challenges to actively pursuing solutions for the ecosystem. Notes were compiled by an amazing visual artist from LaneChange Consulting that captured the excitement happening at the summit.
What I learned from this experience and past summits is that there is always more to learn. One thing I was not aware of was a program called Educators Rising. Dan Brown, Co-Director, shared the story of how this program provides opportunities for young people to explore what it means to be a teacher. The micro-credentials embed them in the process where they experience deep learning with a mentor. Wow!
Educator Rising’s mission is to cultivate highly skilled educators by guiding young people on a path to becoming accomplished teachers, beginning in high school and extending through college and into the profession. They just released 5 micro-credentials for young aspiring teachers-to-be. Yes — starting in high school. The 5 micro-credentials they offer can support all teachers:
- Anti-Bias Instruction
- Classroom Culture
- Formative Assessment
- Learner Engagement
Through the micro-credential process, high school and college students are involved in internships with practicing teachers and their learners.
If the micro-credentials help high school and college students explore the teaching profession, then just imagine how they can support teachers and impact future practice. The summit brought educators and organizations together from around the country who are using the micro-credentials.
Kettle Moraine School District (KMSD), located in Wales, Wisconsin, is committed to cultivating academic excellence, citizenship, and personal development in all their students. Pat DeKlotz @pdeklotz, Superintendent of KMSD, along with several educators shared their story how they are embracing the micro-credentials.
Educators at Kettle Moraine School District support the district’s commitment to personalized learning by earning “Deeper Learning” micro-credentials, which support them in empowering their students to think critically and work collaboratively in order to solve real-world problems. Teachers also design and submit micro-credentials for PD credit in their district.
This post is just the beginning of a series of posts that will include stories, strategies, resources, and examples of personal professional learning. I welcome any feedback or comments. Thank you! Barbara
Educators all over the world are sharing just one word that means something to them for 2017 on social media. I thought of several words that meant a lot to me: gratitude, creativity, love, imagination … but they just didn’t encompass everything I want for this year. I started thinking of why I do what I do for education and for kids.
Recently I found a presentation I did over six years ago (November, 2010) “Joy in Learning” with Roxanne Clement (@rclement) for the Global in Education Conference. It brought back a warmth about this concept that I want to share again. I always had this feeling that if we made joy a priority in learning, everything else that was positive would follow. I even wrote a post in 2010 called “Why Joy Matters.” So my one word for 2017 is “Joy.” Today I joined the 30 Day Challenge for Blogging from A.J. Juliani and decided to do my first blog post on “Joy.”
Today, I also came across Akilah Ellison’s (@OrganicLeaderVB) blog post “Joy is Revolutionary” where she asked the question “What do you pile on your plate that brings you joy?” I love this question. She also brought up how it is a delicate balance to keep your balance that includes joy because we tend to put so much on our plates. We also tend to put off “joy” and “fun” because we are all working way too hard. She brought up colors, music, intentional words, and best of all… self-care. Please take a moment to read her post.
Joy is all about what touches your heart. Like Steve Jobs said in a commencement speech in 2005, “Do what makes your heart sing!” Wow!
Consider a Joy Map which is a great way to create more joy and healing in your life. The joy map is designed to help you get in touch with your heart and soul, what makes you tick, and what you love.
When you identify what brings you joy, you have a clearer picture of what motivates you so you can spend your time doing what is most important for you. If you are doing what brings you joy, life is definitely more fun.
I know what “JOY” is for me. It’s that feeling of doing something I’m passionate about. It’s when I cannot wait to jump out of bed to do whatever it is I’m excited about. Wouldn’t that be great if our kids felt like that about learning or when they are in school? What if kids created their own “Joy Map” at the beginning of school and referred or updated it during the year? How can we include more joy in school?
Dean Shareski (@shareski) wrote “Embrace a Culture of Joy” to help educators bring joy to their classrooms everyday.He shares the rationale about why we need to have meaningful conversations about where joy gets left out in schools, as well as to live fulfilling lives—by bringing joy to classrooms each day. He discusses how you can create a sense of community based on relationships between teachers and students. He also has readers discover the importance of wonder and inquiry in making students more engaged in their learning. I highly recommend his book.
I’ll be sharing more about joy in more posts and on social media. We need joy in our lives now more than ever; especially our kids. The focus on academics has not prepared our kids for life and their future. Let’s rethink teaching and learning so all of us have more joy in our lives. Look at the joy Audri shares in his video about his Rube Goldberg Monster Trap when he was 7 years old (2012).
He only had four failures. We need to allow time for taking risks, experimenting, tinkering, giggling, and even being silly. Just imagine if every kid in your class was as excited about learning as Audri showed in this video.
This post is the beginning of my 30 Day Challenge from A.J. Juliani to post at least 1-3 blog posts a week for 30 days. I love that my first post for 2017 is on joy. I hope you enjoy it and welcome your comments.
This visual from Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth makes it easy to interpret and evaluate the change process.* These images visualize the reactions people have during the change process. If the leadership team and others working on transforming their system review this process, they can monitor and consider what needs to be done to get a derailed changed strategy back on track.
Changing or transforming any system especially in education is not an easy thing to do. If you are part of a system that most of us grew up in and are used to, it doesn’t take much to keep your school or district from moving to any new system or changing much at all. The change process is so complex that even if you agree and are working on transforming the system, there may be one piece of the puzzle that is missing that keeps change from happening.
I took each of these elements apart to go a little deeper in the change process.
What if your vision is only your vision and others don’t believe in it? If all stakeholders are not on board or don’t understand what this change means for them, then there is confusion and, possibly, resistance. The idea around student-centered learning IS confusing because multiple organizations and groups have different definitions of what personalization means.
What if we think of learning first?
Our focus for so long has been on teaching, curriculum, assessment, that we forgot why and who we do this for. We need to teach kids, not subjects. It is about each student, teacher or any learner, how they learn best, and providing a learning environment that supports their learning goals. For change to happen, there needs to be a vision with a shared belief system that focuses around each learner. We have to remember that teachers are learners too. Teachers are overwhelmed so we need to step back and see how they can have a voice in the vision for change.
It is much easier for people to continue with the status quo which some refer to as “what we do here.” Change requires people to move out of their comfort zone and try something new. Because of all the mandates, standards, tests, etc., teachers keep getting more on their plate. So some teachers push back when they hear they need to do something on top of all the other things they are doing. Or they may not feel they have the skills needed to change. This can cause anxiety and fear of this change. People may be concerned that they will be the ones responsible and accountable for what happens after they change. This is where teachers need time, training, and ongoing support so they have the skills to make this change.
There has to be an incentive to change. That means that teachers need to see the value of changing how they teach and what’s in it for them. If there are no reasons or incentives, they are bound to be resistant to any change especially if it is just adding more to their plate. Incentives also involve how you build consensus around the vision. I mentioned time under skills. Time is a big one for teachers. They have so much on their plate now but to make any changes, they need the ability to take some risks and not be punished if something they try doesn’t work. It might mean replacing what they do now with a new approach to teaching and learning. Support is another incentive. Look at asking teachers that have changed to mentor others or model what they do so teachers feel supported along the way as they change.
The idea of changing a system can get everyone excited to move it forward or just the opposite: complete resistance. Resources are the necessary things that people feel they will need to carry out the change needed to personalize learning. These resources could be physical resources like technology or funding and emotional resources like coaching and time. Without these resources, teachers and students become frustrated and have a feeling of hopelessness. They can develop a fixed mindset that change will not work for them. The change cannot happen without these resources so some teachers believe “why even attempt to make this change?” Be willing to research existing resources and identify new resources that will be needed to support the change you want to happen.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there.”
Without a clear action plan, people will experience false starts – a sense of being on a treadmill, and not really being able to get any traction or going any where. This is when you invite all stakeholders to include their voice so they have a feeling of ownership. Ask for their input and feedback. All of us are learners and to create and sustain a system that is learner-centered, you need measurable and achievable goals to meet the action plan.
Note: I first posted this article on Personalize Learning, LLC in April, 2015 with input from Kathleen McClaskey around personalized learning. I needed to rewrite and update this post on Rethinking Learning so I could elaborate about changing any system and what that means for teachers and learners of any age.
*——– The graphic at the top by Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) was adapted from the work of Ambrose in Managing Complex Change and from A Framework for Thinking About Systems Change by Timothy P. Knoster, Richard A. Villa, and Jacqueline S. Thousand, that appeared in Restructuring for Caring and Effective Education: Piecing the Puzzle Together. Sylvia graciously gave permission to share this chart that she created using a process called Sketchnoting. Check out her Sketchnotes at https://www.flickr.com/photos/15664662@N02/
Guest blog by JoAnn Jacobs, sixth grade social studies teacher at Mid-Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii
Prior to entering sixth grade, parents fill out a form about their child and feelings about school. Nine times out of ten, the least favorite subject listed is social studies. When I speak to parents at open house, I stress I’m not your typical teacher. There are no textbooks, quizzes, or tests but an environment where we all learn together with respect and trust.
Our final project last year was Global Awareness which lasted from mid-March until the end of May. What the students didn’t realize was that I was leading them along the path from the very beginning. Through the use of inquiry, CNN Daily News, CBS News, YouTube, articles, and numerous other resources, we arrived at the UN2030 Goals. Instead of revealing the goals, I passed out post-it notes and asked students to list issues, be it local or world, they felt would fall into one of the UN2030 categories. Needless to say, they already knew them and realized their significance.
After choosing the issue they felt most strongly about, students formed groups to begin their investigation. One of the questions that continually surfaced was “how can the problem be solved?” We continually discussed and decided bringing awareness would be a good first step. So over the next few weeks we used the design thinking process to develop products which would bring focus to each issue.
In between the design thinking process and sales so many other things happened. Constructing prototypes, accepting criticism, deciding on a final product, defending the choice during a Shark Tank, earning fifteen dollars to purchase supplies while at Walmart, keeping a balance sheet, investigating an agency to receive profits, and construction and preparing for the final sale.
The sale took place during the middle school lunch period with groups divided up over a five day period so individual groups would have one day to explain their cause and sell what they made to students and teachers.
As within every market place, some groups had higher sales than others, but each student was successful in learning about trust, collaboration, and world issues along with how to create and market a product.
The final counting of money in the cash boxes and making donations to various agencies brought not only a sense of accomplishment but an understanding there is still so much for us to do.
JoAnn Jacobs is a sixth grade social studies teacher at Mid-Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. Entering her fortieth year, she looks forward to continually learning with her students and members of her sixth grade team and helping to make the world a better place.
Today is a new day. We are strong. As educators, we have a job ahead of us. Our children need us. The world has changed. You can see that just as it did with Brexit in the UK, it is changing here in the US. Many of us didn’t see it or want to see it coming. I watched the results and just kept shaking my head. How could this happen? I tossed and turned all night. I just know in my heart that we cannot have a world based on fear and hatred. We have to base our world on love and empathy for each other.
It’s our job now to fight for our kids and each other. It’s about love not hate. It’s about caring for each other and not giving up. Pam Lowe (@prlowe91) wrote a post last night on the Currency of Love and shared this quote from @robdelaney: “Sometimes the truth is so simple and delicious it glides like satin across your skin. The currency of love is focused attention.”
Pam responded beautifully with “Focused attention is what we crave in relationships. In it’s absence we feel an empty chasm, that leaves us wanting. We never want our students to feel this.”
Yes, we never want them to feel an empty chasm. It is about being there for each child, friend, or loved one. We need to be the model and not to go low or be angry. Show the world what we are made of. We are strong. Let’s make each classroom a model of a caring and compassionate environment and share each one with the world. Let’s teach our children how to respond thoughtfully and kindly and how they can become the best person they can be.
We need to remember how difficult it was for Martin Luther King, Ghandi, and others who believed that love and kindness wins out over hatred and bullying. They didn’t stop believing. We need to focus our attention on building the relationships around kindness, empathy, and love not hate.
So if a child is bullied, be there for them. Help the bully realize what they are doing and find out why they behave as they do. Help them turn around. Share quotes about kindness and love. Bring in the idea of paying it forward. Read Pam’s post and check out the resources she shared on bullying. I added a few to keep on keeping on with what you believe for all our kids. We need to teach them out to think and become self-directed, independent learners who reach their fullest potentials. We can turn this around only if we work together.
A few resources for teachers and parents:
Teaching Difficult Moments http://www.crlt.umich.edu/multicultural-teaching/difficult-moments
Parent Connection Tip on Working with your Teacher iswc.com/32kIC307910
How One Middle School Teaches Digital Citizenship https://t.co/Ga1qozsq80
Deepen Your Discussion of Document Questions http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol12/1204-vilen.aspx
Teaching for Civic Discussions https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2016/11/03/civic-engage-academic-discussion/
I just had to add this from Lin-Manuel Miranda: Love is Love
When I think about engaging students, I think about Flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
In 1997, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi published this graph that depicts the relationship between the challenges of a task and skills. Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.
Graph of Flow from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29
The center of this graph (where the sectors meet) represents one’s average levels of challenge and skill. The further from the center an experience is, the greater the intensity of that state of being (whether it is flow or anxiety or boredom or relaxation). Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.
Kindergarteners spend more time learning how to take a test than learning how to socialize. Watch children play and challenge themselves. You can see how they are engaged. Play and learning needs to go hand-in-hand. If play is purposeful and challenges the learner, any learner of any age will want to learn.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Conditions of FLOW
Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi identified ten factors one may experience with FLOW:
- Clear goals and expectations
- Deep concentration
- A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness
- Distorted sense of time
- Direct and immediate feedback
- Balance between ability level and challenge
- A sense of personal control over the situation or activity
- Intrinsically rewarding activity
- A lack of awareness of bodily needs
- Absorbed and focused only on activity
How are you experiencing FLOW?
Think about an activity that gets you excited and are passionate about. If you love mountain biking, you probably cannot wait for that time to jump on your bike and take off. If you are working on a project that you are really interested in, you might work right through your lunch and not even know it. If you are part of a team and are valued, it makes you feel important. If the project you are working on is something you want to do or want to learn, then you spend even more time on it than you would in a traditional classroom setting.
How are your students experiencing FLOW in the classroom? Are they? If so, when?
I am a coach. I work with teachers to facilitate moving teaching and learning to student-centered classrooms. This isn’t easy for teachers especially with everything else on their plates. When teachers develop an activity that is student-centered and their students drive and own their learning, the environment changes. The noise level in the classroom gets louder. For some teachers this is bothersome, but that’s just because they are not used to it.
I call it controlled chaos and purposeful play. There’s a buzz going on in the room. When students are working in groups and fully engaged, they enjoy working as a team. Especially if each member of that team has a role and is valued in that role. I’ve seen middle school classrooms change from a group of at-risk students who are not interested in anything to learners who are excited about learning. I’ve seen them stay during lunch or after school to continue to work on projects. Now that’s FLOW!
You can see FLOW happen when students are working in groups or doing individual work. FLOW is personal. Learning needs to be personal. It really is all about the learner.