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Unplugged and What Happened?

I went away last weekend with some women friends and there was no Internet or cell reception. I handled it but didn’t think I could. I actually enjoyed not being connected and played games. I played scrabble face-to-face and not on Facebook. I learned a new game called Quiddler. Then sprinkled in Upwords. We played as soon as we got up and all the way until the wee hours of the night. A marathon of games. While I was gone, I received over a thousand email messages, was added to 35 Google+ circles, was mentioned and linked in several blog posts, missed 3265 tweets, and not sure what else.

So this morning I just saw this Inforgraphic by Kelly Hodgkins on “what happens in 60 seconds on The Internet.”

inforgraphic

— Shut down your Internet for sixty seconds and here’s a sampling of what you will miss:

  • 1500+ blog posts
  • 98,000 new tweets
  • 12,000 new ads on Craigslist
  • 20,000 new posts on Tumblr
  • 600 new videos (25+ hours worth) on YouTube

I bet most of this is spam. I received a lot of spam. I think we are so connected that we almost go through the shakes if we realize we are not connected. A few weeks ago, I answered a poll about which technology can you not live without — Internet, cell phone, TV, Laptop. I chose cell phone. Then when I didn’t have cell reception, I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking “who is writing me? what if I miss something? Did I get a text?”

Barbara Riding the Tricycle

 

After a few hours of playing games, going for a walk, eating a nice dinner, I just enjoyed myself. While we were out at dinner, two of us pulled our phones out to see if we had any bars. We did and quickly checked our email. Does this sound like an addiction? I do have to say I was more relaxed than I had been in a long time. We slept in the next day all the way until 9am. Maybe I need to rethink my life and get a balance so I unplug more. I’m a digital pioneer who’s been plugged in for a long time. I wonder how the digital natives will do without texting. How long would they be able to go? I did use my phone to take pictures.

Thank you Marilyn for taking me away to Aptos and letting me just be. I even rode her tricycle.

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The Flipped Classroom

One thing I heard at ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia that stood out for me was Flipping the Classroom. This is where the teacher publishes their lectures via screen captures using programs like Camtasia, Jing, and Screenr and then posts them on streaming servers like YouTube, SchoolTube, Vimeo, or TeacherTube. Then the teacher grabs the embed code and embeds it into their website or blog. The teacher can also upload documents or other materials that normally are shared during the class time. The classroom is then flipped and used to do the authentic work about the content. Here’s a video of a Chemistry teacher who flipped his classroom.



This means your students have access to laptops or devices that can view the videos at home and in school to refer to the lectures or notes while applying the information. I like the term “Flipped the Classroom” because it helps teachers conceptualize what they are doing.

This could be the first step to blended learning for teachers that may not feel comfortable jumping into the online learning venue. Most students especially high school students have access to the Internet from home or their mobile device. Why not take advantage of these tools and make the learning environment challenging and rigorous? The other thing that is cool about uploading your lessons and content you want your students to learn before class is that you don’t have to reinvent the lesson for each of your classes — it’s up there in the clouds waiting for you. All you have to do is give the link to your students.

How have you Flipped your Classroom? Want to share something cool you saw at ISTE 2011?

Kickstart our discussion on what stood out at ISTE 2011 by adding toSigilt’s Google Form.

For a deeper discussion, use the comment box below.

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Let Go and Let Learning Happen

Barbara Bray writes about teaching and learning. It is about kids, their lives and letting go so they can learn. Stop teaching tools and testing them about facts.

Read more
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Your PLN helps your PLC become a CoP

Learning can happen anywhere at anytime from anyone and anything. Your connections and any information you use are learning experiences that can help you grow personally and professionally. I wrote this article for CUE in 2009 and felt it was appropriate to update it for the ISTE 2011 Conference in 2011.  I’ll be there — very busy but learning so much from the people in my PLN.

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

There is nothing new about PLNs. They are the people and information sources that help you meet your learning goals. Building your PLN means that you not only seek to learn from others but you also help others in the network learn. Anyone can make a contribution. Your PLN can be your most powerful learning tool no matter what the subject. My PLN used to be the people I met face-to-face: the people I worked with, classes I took or taught, friends and family, organizations I joined and the information was what I googled on the Internet, in books, textbooks, or periodicals at the library. Remember how long it used to take to find what you were looking for?

Now my PLN connects me to others and to information in ways I never thought possible a few years ago. I still use Google to search for information but now I can find trends, maps, and even literature reviews. Social networks connect me to friends, work contacts, and friends of friends. I can see what they are doing in Twitter, updates on their conversations and links to new information. Facebook not only updates the status of each of my connections, I can join groups set up by friends and learn from wall posts. Here’s a diagram of some of my PLN:

Personal Learning Network

Use a mindmapping program such as Inspiration or Mindmeister to diagram your own PLN.

So how can your PLN help you build your Professional Learning Community (PLC)?

Your PLN can help you meet your personal and/or professional learning goals. A PLC is where you focus on student learning. Your PLC focuses on a specific problem area of the students in your school. Richard DuFour shares three critical questions that drive the work of the PLC:

  • What do we want each student to learn?
  • How will we know when each student has learned it?
  • How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?

We know a teacher can make a difference to the children in their classroom. However, a school may find many of the children in the entire school are falling through the cracks. The teachers in the school as a PLC can collaborate to improve or restructure how they reach at-risk students. They can analyze student data reviewing patterns and trends. Each teacher can use their PLN to research background information about specific issues brought to light from the data analysis, to ask questions of others in similar situations, to connect with other classrooms for global collaborations, and to share the findings from their PLC.

The PLC becomes a Community of Practice (CoP)

The CoP is where you take what you learned in the PLC and transfer it to practice where teachers can work together to do action research and/or lesson study. The teacher can ask “What does it take for me to change my practice to include this new learning?” This is deep, thoughtful work involving modeling new methodologies, observations from another teacher or coach, reflections on the results and process by asking what worked, what didn’t work.

Your PLN connects you to other professionals and to the information that will help you with your work in your PLC and CoP. Not only will the PLN help you, you can use your PLN to share best practices, blog reflections, and post examples of student work.

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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.

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Learn More. Teach Less.

There is a lot of controversy about professional development especially now when budgets are tight. I haven’t blogged for some time because I have been steaming about what is happening in our schools — for our children. This is their future we are messing with. Okay so here I go. I’m going to rant a little. Are you ready?

I’m a coach. I go into the schools and watch what teachers have to do now. In most states, it’s testing time. Some schools are off this week. For the past 5-6 weeks, teachers have been teaching to the test. I don’t know about you, but to stop everything and teach to the test is outrageous. Is this really for our kids or to keep the school open? Or to really leave every poor child behind? Forget projects. Forget engagement. I know. I know. Accountability. Student data. If the data takes in account more than standardized tests. How about authentic assessment? A collection of evidence of learning.

What do our children need for their future? I can tell you it is not about knowing FACTS and how to answer a multiple choice test. That is unless they want to play Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. The jobs they will need expect them to know how to be creative, innovative, and be able to discern what they find is a fact or an opinion. News is bombarding us on the Internet and TV. Most children have cell phones but they are not allowed to use them in most schools. Why? Why are we so afraid of them. Cell phones are great tools and will become more of a factor in our lives. Just watch! There are more cell phones than landlines now. Students use their cell phone even more than the TV or computer. They rarely read newspapers anymore unless it’s on their phone. How do they know if the information they read online is biased, propaganda, or a big fat lie? We used to teach life skills and connect to real-world activities. We need to change the focus on facts and show students how to use information effectively, find it, evaluate it, and then even publish. I bet the majority of your students use some form of social media like Facebook and Twitter. I bet if you had students use their cell phones in school, they would be able to read, write, and publish using them. Ask them to text each other notes and brainstorm ideas with a mindmap.

Today the focus is on basic skills: math and reading. In some countries, children don’t start school until they are seven. We expect our children to start reading in Kindergarten. I remember when Kindergarten was where kids learned how to socialize. A good friend of mine retired when she was spending more time teaching the kids how to bubble in a bubble for the test then having them sing or dance.

This is a tough time because of the economy. We are focusing on building “High Quality Teachers,” but we take away what teachers need to become effective.  The problem for me is the definition of a “High Quality Teacher.” It is different depending on your bias about testing. Is a “High Quality Teacher” an expert in their content field but have no skills on how to do group kids for teamwork. One of the main characteristics needed in many high paying jobs is teamwork and collaboration.

If we really want our students to understand the concepts in the standards, then let them teach each other — co-design with your students projects that make sense. Students want to make a difference. I bet if we asked our kids to come up with questions about climate change, they would come up with hundreds of questions. Let them take one question and brainstorm more. Then design a public service 30 second movie to broadcast on YouTube. Just imagine how many standards they would meet and understand after a project like this.

Think about a project you did in school as a child, if you did. Then think about what you learned from a standardized test. What do you remember? I know we need some background information, but let’s be more creative about it. I remember making a paper maché relief map in third grade. I don’t remember much of anything else that year.

I cannot sit in a lecture anymore myself. I cannot even imagine children today sitting still for five minutes. Teachers are teaching more and students are learning less. They may get it for the test, but do they retain it?

I’d like to challenge a school or district to try a pilot with several groups of students. Follow them over several years. With one group (your control group), everything is like it is now. Then another group, have them make a movie with their Smart phone, do projects, teach each other. Test the groups the same. I wonder who will retain the information more. I’d love to be part of it. Let me know if you want to try this.