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Professional Development

11

Get over it! It's already 2012

How long do we have to be in the 21st century to say we are 21st century teachers? 

Everything has changed because of the Internet. Schools are going wireless, using interactive whiteboards, flipping the classroom, putting in 1:1 solutions — some are even BYOD (Bringing Your Own Device). I see exciting technology yet rarely see innovative teaching and learning. I don’t mean to be harsh here, but  I read Med Karbach’s What Does It Take to be a 21st Century Teacher? and thought I need to write something. It’s all about a culture shift. It’s not just the technology. It’s a mindset.

There are lots of great teachers that don’t use technology. They motivate their students. Students are engaged and love being in their class. Karbach included this image:

To Be

This image says it all to me. It is all about each learner and their own learning potential. Do we tap into it? Teachers mostly teach the way they have been taught. To move to a more collaborative learning environment involves all stakeholders. One teacher in a school can move desks around, have students create learning plans, but this is a whole culture shift that needs to happen.

I am invited to facilitate change at schools all over. Observing teachers, I notice a desperation. They tell me that they want to make a difference; they want to use the technology; but…

Here’s the buts:

  • I have to cover the curriculum.
  • There is such a diverse group in my class.
  • It is so much work to design projects for all my students.
  • Group work is a pain to set up and assess how each student is learning.
  • I’m told to differentiate all my lessons which now takes even longer.
  • My class size was increased by 10 more children.
  • I am so tired each night grading papers, there’s no time left for me.
  • I am spending more time creating video lectures to flip everything.
  • paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.
  • The parents are so demanding that I have to put up homework every night.

 

Do any of these concerns sound like you and your situation?

 

I have an idea. Let’s flip learning. Your students have been 21st century learners most of their lives. They know how to use all of the technology. If they don’t, they figure it out. Why not make them more responsible for their learning? What if…

  • your students create the videos about the content to flip the classroom. Check out Mathtrain.tv where Eric Marcos realized that students learn best from other students.
  • involve your students in lesson design. Be partners in unpacking the standards and designing activities. Children today are very resilient and smart if we give them the chance. Check out this post from Kathleen McClaskey and myself on Personal Learner Profiles and the Common Core.
  • See Think WonderAsk your students to brainstorm and prioritize questions about the topic. This post on Making Just One Change where I interviewed Sara Armstrong helped me understand the importance of inquiry.  Michael Wesch encourages his university students to wonder. Dave Truss shared the opening of their new school The Inquiry Hub where students “learn without boundaries.”
  • Imagine your students building lessons with you as partners in learning.

 

Maybe it’s a matter of letting go and trusting that your students can learn — want to learn. I have a difficult time sitting in a lecture hall myself. When I go to a conference and listen to a great lecture, I learn. But I learn more when I am more involved in the learning process. Sharing. Curating. Discussing. Even arguing a point.

So maybe we need to rethink what a 21st century teacher is. It’s a culture shift. Maybe that teacher is a…
  • partner in learning with their students.
  • facilitator who guides the learning process.
  • an advocate for each learner who has strengths and weaknesses, passions, interests, and aspirations to be whatever they can be.
  • person who realizes they can never know everything so learns to unlearn and learn again.

 

How about some innovative strategies for professional development? Like having students teach teachers how to use the technology. Maybe include students in professional development so you hear their point of view. If this is a culture shift, can one teacher do this alone? I still believe it takes a village idea. We need to involve all stakeholders including the parents. But if you want to make a difference now.. start involving your students — one lesson at a time. Let’s see what happens and share back. Let me know.

2

Personalized Learning @ Colorado Springs SD11

District 11, Colorado Springs

Thought Leader Interview:
Greg Wilborn, Personalized Learning Coordinator

Kathleen McClaskey interviewed Greg Wilborn about District 11, Colorado Springs in Colorado and their journey to personalize learning.

Q. Why personalize learning?

Because we finally CAN!

For the first time in our history, we have the tools and access to resources to allow individual learners the flexibility and freedom to pursue an education centered around their own interests and aptitudes. Educators and philosophers for centuries have yearned for education that is learner centered and molded by the learner as opposed to the factory system. While the desire has been there, the methods have been shackled by the restrictions of human interaction and delivery methods. There is only so much that can be personalized with one facilitator, 20 to 40 learners, and print media and production methods.

Technology is the lever that can move learning to heights yet unseen and now is the time to evolve the approaches and systems to support each and every learner anytime, anywhere.

Personalized learning allows learners to have a wide choice of what they learn, how they learn, when, where, and how they demonstrate their learning. Imagine how many ways learners can approach the subject of civil rights if given the right direction, resources, and coaching. Instead of limiting the subject to the content perspective of a certain time period and location, (i.e. the southern United States from 1960 to 1970) learners can research civil rights globally or locally, related to their own family tree, a historic figure, or throughout history. The research can be done on one of several devices, from many locations, and results can be displayed in a variety of engaging formats and even published for the world to see. Creating (verb) is now the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy and learners can now spend much more time in the act of creating something significant from appropriate content that is of interest to them.

Every learner in every corner of the globe with connectivity can now take courses from the finest learning institutions in the world, collaborate with others, compete for the best jobs, or start their own global business. All with just an inexpensive connected computer device. Those who opt out or are left out may find themselves unable to recover therefore it is morally imperative that leaders transform education and make it accessible to all.

Q. What is your school district’s vision of personalizing learning?

At the heart of the District’s Personalized Learning Vision is the desire to provide all learners with a personalized learning experience enabled by universal access to education through technology, wherever and whenever they choose. The provision of a personalized experience for each individual will drive students’ motivation to learn. They will have the opportunity to work individually, in groups, or as a whole class, locally, nationally and internationally.

The entire district will maximize opportunities for promoting learning and engaging students in exciting and innovative ways. Access to technology resources will be far broader than classrooms; schools’ social areas and the external environments will utilize technology through interactive displays, challenges, streaming information and celebrations of achievement that enhance the academic culture of the district.

The development of a learning platform will allow the learning environment to extend beyond school buildings and traditional opening hours. It will give access to resources, individualized plans, targets, communication tools and achievements for all learners. Online access to schemes of work will allow our learners to plan and think ahead, seeing the progression and connectedness of their learning.

Our digital learning environment will allow learners to engage and collaborate with a wide variety of mentors from global industry and education. This collaboration will enhance the quality of resources available and provide an ‘on demand’ approach that helps build personalized learning pathways.

There will be no single mode of learning throughout District 11; technology will provide flexibility to meet the needs of learners working in different ways. This will be supported by an imaginative approach to school usage, providing a variety of physical learning environments.

A combination of fixed and mobile technologies throughout our schools will be necessary to support this vision but possibly the biggest challenge will be providing access at home in terms of both device and connectivity.

Throughout District 11, technology will be used to deliver a ‘wow’ factor to ignite and stimulate learning. The use of technology across all subjects will become a seamlessly integrated part of the learning experience promoting independent working, creativity, enterprise and lifelong success for our students.

Q. What steps have your principals and teachers taken to create personalized learning environments in their school(s)?

We have launched a comprehensive plan to move all of our schools and classrooms towards personalized learning environments. This enormous endeavor is strategically planned and aligned to the Knoster Model for Change to ensure the greatest chance of success.

Managing Complex Change

Upon completion of the district vision we set up meetings with every principal, walk throughs of their building, administered a School Self Review (http://www.gregorydenby.com/self- review.html) for their leadership team, set up training sessions for team planning and offered planning support along the way. Each school now has a strategic plan created by them, for them and aligned to the district’s vision.

It was crucial to meet each school where they were and to coach them to the creation of a plan that meets the uniqueness of their environment and their journey. With this approach, we were met with mostly enthusiastic involvement and a sense of ownership by the school leadership teams. We have organized our schools (scores of 1-3) based on their own School Self Reviews to determine how ready they are to begin personalizing learning; Due to the role that technology plays in the ability to deliver personalization, schools that are farthest behind are grouped as 1’s. These schools need basic technology upgrades and professional development and lack resources at this time. Schools that have better resources but lack effective utilization are grouped as 2’s, and the schools that are resource rich and just need better understanding and more focused professional development are 3’s. By identifying where schools are in a journey towards personalization, we can then plan accordingly and meet the needs they have to move up a continuum of progress. We utilize Hooper and Rieber’s model of technology adoption in the classroom as a guide to progress.

Evolution

Hooper, S., & Rieber, L. P. (1995). Teaching with technology. In A. C. Ornstein (Ed.), Teaching: Theory into practice, (pp. 154-170). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Given 52 schools one can only imagine the diversity of paths that exist and progress is measured by ensuring small steps are taken each quarter, this is truly a case of eating the elephant one bite at a time. Projects that are in progress now include 1:1 pilots, establishment of standardized teacher tool kits, experimentation with learning platforms, bring your own device initiatives, flipped classrooms, international student to student collaboration, distance learning courses, and a group of Personalized Learning Lead Educators with representation from every school. As a district, we are creating student and teacher skills ladders for the use of technology, a teacher self review, baseline teacher expectations, online professional development, standardized collaborative tools, and a robotic partridge in a pear tree.

Q. How are you preparing and training teachers to move to a learner-centric personalized learning environment?

Teacher ToolsEverything we do is tied back to our Personalized Learning Vision which states that professional development across the District will be a key element in transforming education. As we promote a personalized approach to our students’ education, we will create a system that delivers the same for our teachers. At the center of the system will be integrated self-appraisal. We are in the process of creating an online self review for teachers which they can take as often as they like. This will enable teachers to assess their knowledge and skills online and then link directly through to interactive training and development resources that can be accessed anywhere anytime, as often as needed. Our online professional development system will provide the most effective resources from the highest quality providers, many of whom will be District 11 educators.

The District will develop a Personalized Learning Lead Educator Group that will continuously investigate and promote personalized learning and the integration of the best educational technologies into our classrooms. The areas chosen for development through leading educators will be informed by the needs of the District and individual school’s planning. The Personalized Learning Lead Educator Group will be instrumental in the development of exemplar lessons, demonstration classrooms and ultimately demonstration schools which will be specific to leveled tiers ensuring appropriate differentiation.

The Personalized Learning Lead Educator Group will:

  • Share research.
  • Develop learning resources around their area of expertise.
  • Deliver exemplar lessons that can be viewed by other teachers (live and/or recorded).
  • Explore new and existing technologies.
  • Produce and/or find guidance notes (podcasts, video etc.) in their area of expertise.
  • Develop resources that promote an ‘on demand’ approach to professional development.
  • Use technology to increase the flexibility of professional development e.g., webinars.

 

There are many smaller projects that will support teacher growth throughout the district. Skills ladders for the use of technology are being created for students and teachers. We will shine the spotlight and camera upon exemplar lessons and learning environments and share them via our online professional development system. We are also working hard to provide an equitable teacher tool kit for every learning space while we continue to refine digital collaborative tools for all learners.

Greg WilbornGreg Wilborn
Personalized Learning Coordinator
Colorado Springs SD 11
Twitter: @gwilborn
LinkedIN: Greg Wilborn
1

Inquiry Circles in Action

Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action
by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels

Comprehension and Collaboration is a guide for teachers who want to realize the benefits of well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels lay the foundation for inquiry circles:

  • explain 10 fundamental classroom conditions needed for active, small group learning;
  • profile 19 small-group inquiry circles that bring strategies and principles to life;
  • provide 27 practical lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry;
  • offer how-to instruction for four types of inquiry circles – mini inquiries, cross curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries; and
  • address characteristic management concerns.

 

The authors Harvey and Daniels stress the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding.

“Comprehension is about understanding…Reading is about thinking.” (p. 27)

Inquiry is a process of learning that encourages kids to ask questions, to work together to solve problems, to discover knowledge, and to construct their own meaning, with guidance, rather than lectures, from teachers. The inquiry approach has three key strands (p. 56-57):

  1. “framing school study around questions developed and shaped by kids” which means allowing students’ genuine curiosity about curriculum topics to form the center of teaching;
  2. “handing the brainwork of learning back to the kids” meaning that instead of sitting quietly and receiving the information presented by a teacher, students actively work to construct their own learning experiences and take responsibility for the outcomes; and ultimately,
  3. “focusing on the development of kids’ thinking, first, foremost, and always.”

 

“The Gradual Release of Responsibility” has different stages (p.112):

  • Teacher Modeling: Teacher explains and models a new strategy, thinking aloud in order to demonstrate their thought-process behind the strategy use.
  • Guided Practice: Teacher and students practice the strategy together in shared contexts, constructing meaning through interchange; students gradually take more responsibility for task engagement and completion.
  • Collaborative Practice: Students share thinking process with one another or work in small groups and pairs and reason through text together; the teacher moves between groups, checking in on how things are going.
  • Independent Practice: Students practice using the strategy independently of teacher and other students; students receive regular feedback on their progress.
  • Application of Strategy: Students use the strategy in authentic situations, across a variety of settings, contexts, and disciplines.

“Kids’ questions really matter.” (p. 228)

I recommend this book as prompts for discussions about bringing inquiry-based learning into your classroom and as part of your professional learning communities.

The authors also created DVDs that support their work:

10

18 Predictions for Educational Trends in 2012

Something is happening in education. Do you see it? Education is changing. Textbook companies realized they have to change. Everything is going digital. Many online courses are now open and free. Educating children is different than it was a few years ago. But what does that mean for schools and teaching? Learners are different. Learners are demanding to learn when they want to learn wherever they are and in anyway that works for them. They use new tools that are not allowed in most classrooms. They do it anyway. They are dropping out of school or taking classes online. Parents are looking for alternatives. Learning matters!

Maybe you noticed that students are taking responsibility for learning how to do this or that on their own…that is, mostly outside of school. They need to know something so they google it or ask others. The teacher is no longer the only expert in the class. Teachers have less professional development or access to resources so they are trying to figure things out and still teach to the test. That part has to change. Teachers may not want to change because they only know what they were taught — to be the expert in the class. They are being evaluated by test scores so the pressure is on them. But, even with that, teachers are asking other teachers for help in the next classroom, going online or figuring out things on their own. Some teachers are realizing that their students have the expertise they need especially when it comes to technology. As a coach working with teachers I realized that I had to see how and why everything was changing. I cannot assume that professional development, curriculum design, and instruction will be the same so I had to rethink my coaching and how I support teachers and schools.

2012 Predictions

In doing this, I thought I’d make several predictions on what education could look like and what I’d like to see in 2012:

  1. Teachers understand how each student learns. They use different methods of assessing how each student learns best and along with each learner keep track of their learning.

  2. Assessment is ongoing since learning is not a constant. Learners are collecting evidence of their learning and reflecting on their learning.
  3. Teachers collaborate with teachers that teach the same subject or grade to design or adapt instruction that is individualized. This means instruction is paced to the learning needs of their students so students can pace through the content at different levels based on their learning needs.
  4. Teachers share content and lessons online and realize that it’s not that important to reinvent the wheel or keep content to themselves anymore.
  5. Teachers are no longer the hardest working people in the classroom. They are appreciated as a facilitator or “guide on the side” instead of the only content expert. Teachers are more like a coach encouraging students to find their strengths and go with them.
  6. Learners determine their strengths and weaknesses and share their expertise with other students and teachers.
  7. More instruction is flipped where teachers and/or students find or create and upload lessons as videos or on websites to the Internet so learners learn the content out of school and then do the real work in the classroom.
  8. The classroom can be anywhere at anytime. Learning can happen anywhere. Everyone is a learner and a teacher. More learning is mobile and on mobile devices.
  9. Students have access to what they need when they need it. If a school or district does not have the resources, the learner brings their own device to school. The school represents the real-world and all devices are allowed. Everyone is responsible and trusted.
  10. Homework is different. Learners watch videos and lessons, learn about content, and learn from each other out of school. They take more control of their learning. No more busywork.
  11. Forward thinking IT departments allow YouTube Education, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media so students can use real-world tools in school.
  12. Schools and universities accept prior knowledge, realize that experience matters and students are open to challenge a course or test.
  13. Assessment is not just about test scores. Learners collect and reflect on evidence of learning. Assessment is ongoing and everyone is part of a feedback loop and supporting each other.
  14. Teachers are not evaluated by test scores. They have a coach or mentor and are part of a team that supports each other. Teachers collect evidence of learning in their classroom as an ePortfolio.
  15. Students lead parent conferences with their teachers. They own how they are learning and ask for feedback and help in monitoring their progress.
  16. Teachers, parents, and other learners are part of each learner’s learning team.
  17. Professional development involves more collaboration and support for teachers based on their own needs. Coaching teachers and students involves designing assessment strategies, facilitating collaborative planning sessions and redesigning learning environments, guiding student experts who flip the classroom and create websites for the classroom, and helping behind the scenes with ePortfolio design.
  18. Learning is personalized. Creativity and curiosity is back in the classroom. Learning is passion-driven and joy matters. Learners drive and own their learning.

    These predictions may seem like dreams to you, but I really believe they can happen. It is all about our children — right? We need to teach less so everyone can learn more.

0

The Authentic Learner: Who are you?

Kris De Leon wrote in her article Learning to Trust Myself

Man Thinking“I am starting this blog to help people who are now asking the bigger questions in life – Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?

I often hear people talking about how important it is to be real and authentic. So how do you be authentic when you don’t even know who you are? I asked myself these questions several months ago. I tried very hard to be the upbeat, positive person that everyone seemed to like. Was that really me? Or was I trying to cover up some things about me that I knew people wouldn’t like? Was I just pretending to be someone else just so they’d like me?”

This made me think about what the authentic self is for each of us and what that means as a learner. Each of us learns in different ways depending on our background, our parents, our environment, and so much else. I looked at these questions on Be Authentic and Self-Empowerment and thought “why aren’t we using these same tools to determine who each learner is?”

Here’s a few questions I would look at using or adapting to determine who each child is and their authentic self:

  • Who am I?

  • What is my story?
  • Am I ‘my story’?
  • What is my potential?
  • Where am I stuck?
  • What is my identity?
  • What are my fears?
  • What are my hopes and dreams?
  • What do you enjoy doing most?
  • What concerns do you have about your story now?
  • Is your story really your story or someone else’s?

Young children may not know how to answer these. Their parents may be directing what they need and want without being aware of it. There are other ways to determine how each child learns best: Multiple Intelligences, Universal Design Learning strategies, Learning Styles, etc. I’m not even sure who my authentic self is. I know I love to write and learn from others. I do know that I learn best by doing my own research, brainstorming with others, and taking a chance to try something new. What about you?

If each learner understands who they are and how they learn best, then they can help drive their learning with their teacher. The teacher shouldn’t be the hardest working person in the classroom. That’s what it is now. I coach teachers around the country and see how hard they work. Many teachers work too hard where students should be the ones working the hardest. Learning needs to be hard. Learning means you are learning something new that you don’t know yet. It means you are challenging yourself to reach out of your comfort zone. When you learn that something you didn’t know yet, it is rewarding and powerful.

So what if we spent more time in the early years working with parents and guardians to help students figure out who their authentic self is so they know their authentic learner?

6

Being in the Flow

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.

Flow -- Engaging Students

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.

1

Making Change with Good Questions

Make Just One ChangeToday I’m talking to Sara Armstrong about Good Questions. Before I attended Sara’s session at the Fall CUE conference on Good Questions Good Searching, I thought I was asking good questions. Now I know I wasn’t going deep enough. Sara shared a book, Make Just One Change, that opened her eyes to a new path that is straightforward to help us ask good questions. So I decided to ask Sara about the book, the process, and why it is important to use this process in teaching and learning. Info about the book with discount code if you want to purchase it is at the end of this post.

Q.Why are good questions important?
A. Good questions really help us think deeply about a topic. When we develop a project for PBL, good questions drive the process that kids go through to understand the topic. This processes laid out in Make Just One Change provide specific ways for teachers and kids to think more broadly than in the past — techniques that can be applied in all areas of the curriculum.

Q. Can good questions help students be more responsible for their own learning?
A. By empowering students to get to good questions, we can help them make better choices for good research, they can organize their work, and they will begin to think more critically. Actually students can use this process to determine the path or topic they are pursuing in any curriculum area. And the role of the teacher is vital. The authors, Rothstein and Santana, specify a process to help teachers refine the topic so it is not too broad or too narrow. Teachers, too, get better at their role of posing the main theme for kids to spark their brainstorming aspect to getting to the good questions.

Q. Can teachers use this process with existing curriculum?
A. Yes. Any curriculum. Any time. As we’re trying to instill more responsibility for students, the classroom changes to include more student voice and choice about anything they are learning. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking math concepts, cyberbullying or any topic, students can learn from their peers when they ask each other good questions about the topic. I had trouble with learning geometry and wishes she had had the ability to ask good questions with her peers. When a teacher allows discussions about the topic and asks “how are we going to do it?” students own their learning and are more engaged in the process.

Q. What is the questioning process?
A. The process involves meta-cognitive, divergent, and convergent thinking. Here’s a condense version:

  1. The teacher defines a topic.

  2. Students discuss the rules for brainstorming.
  3. Students brainstorm questions about the topic.
  4. Students prioritize the questions.
  5. Students analyze questions as open or closed and then prioritize those.
  6. Students use the questions to help research, complete their project, and learn the material.
  7. Students and the teacher reflect on the process, what they learned, and what they would do differently next time.

Sara ArmstrongSara highly recommends this book and is designing how to use good questions for good searching and good research. That will definitely be another post. Thank you Sara!

Interested in this book, go to http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/144 and mention sales code MJAP11 for a 20% discount. If you have any questions, you can leave comments here are contact Sara directly at saarmst@telis.org or go to her website (www.sgaconsulting.org)

The authors of Make Just One Change, Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana of the Right Question Institute, shared a new podcast from Harvard Education Press. Harvard EdCast: Make Just One Change.

0

Who are the Experts Now?

Traditional education expects you — the teacher — to be an expert on your content area, collecting and analyzing data, finding relevant resources, designing curriculum, classroom management, differentiating instruction, understanding standards, parent-school communication, and more. I’m overwhelmed just observing this. I work with teachers around the country. It’s the same everywhere. How can one person know and be expected do so much? Teachers in the US are working harder now than ever before and are undervalued and underpaid no matter what people are saying. I see it. I know. They are grading papers when they should be enjoying their families. They are spending their own money on supplies.

Teachers are our heroes. Let’s be real on what teachers can achieve in the current learning environments.

No one can be an expert on so much. No other occupation expects their employees to not only know their field but be expected to teach it and be measured on the success of their clients who are so unique, different, with their own set of gifts and problems and issues. In public schools, there are larger class sizes, less money per student, and a more diverse student body. More new teachers are being assigned to poorer schools without the support they need, and are expected to do more with less. I watch it and just shake my head.

Here’s an idea:

Since each of us including each student has strengths, let’s identify them and use the experts.

Student Experts

  • Have students identify their strengths, their passions, and their interests.

  • Create a student list of experts.
  • Ask students to choose what skills or knowledge they have where they can help others.
  • Put that list on the board.

I am a coach. I work with teachers on their prep time and collaborative planning time. I mentioned to teachers to have students ask three students before you and that sometimes works. One teacher I was working with this week (Tiffany fourth grade teacher at Live Oak Elementary in San Ramon USD, CA) mentioned the idea of student experts. She said when she told students to ask three people before her, they asked their friends who said “I don’t know.” Then they came back and asked her. It just didn’t work. So Tiffany worked with her class to find student experts.

I’ve shared the idea of student experts before, but I think we need them more now than ever. Tiffany’s students are experts on:

  • different technologies

  • lunchtime duties
  • paper monitors
  • different content areas

Think about your classroom. Your students at any age even Kindergarten have strengths and they love to help others. When you teach others, you learn more. When your students teach each other, they learn more. Teachers then don’t need to know everything and how to do everything anymore. They can ask the student as the expert in the classroom to teach and coach them.

Using student experts makes a class stronger. The teacher is more of a facilitator and guides the learning process. It’s pretty awesome.

0

Student-Centered Learning: Changing Teaching

Teachers come to the classroom with life experiences, their experience as a student, and what they learned about being a teacher. Teachers go into teaching to make a difference. Most of their instruction was teacher-centric. They only know what they know and what their mentor or master teacher presents to them.

Teachers have similar Characteristics of Adult Learners. Teachers come with their own beliefs and opinions, are intrinsically motivated, and just like their students have individual differences. Teachers have so much on their plate. If you add another professional development that is not relevant for them, they tune out, grade papers, and may even leave.

TeachersThe most effective approach is to connect with the teachers and what they teach in their classroom. Teachers learn best in the same ways that most students learn best: actively, drawing from prior knowledge, and in a comfortable environment. [source] This is where I see the power of coaching and working with each teacher or a small group of teachers that teach the same units. Let’s say you were asked to coach grade level teams of teachers to create project-based learning activities and integrate technology.

First Meeting

  • Set up collaborative planning time for the teachers. Work with administration to get subs for the first 1/2 day meeting.

  • Do an assessment to determine how teachers teach and learn currently, topics they would like to expand into a project, and the resources available for projects.
  • Set up a website with links to examples, projects, and resources about PBL and send them the link.
  • Ask a teacher leader or administrator to do an assessment of the teachers determining the stage of concern or how each teacher handles change. <Changing Teaching and Learning: CBAM>
  • When you meet during the first meeting, ask teachers to share “how they teach now” and an example of a lesson.
  • Review the pacing guide/curriculum/standards to choose a topic/lesson to design a project.
  • Share some examples of projects around that topic.
  • Ask them how or what they would like to do to change the lesson. Give them time to work together and share ideas.

If this is the first time they have designed project-based learning activities, they need time to learn. This may even be too much to ask of the teachers, but finding time is always a challenge.

[Photo from Playshop at Mid-Pacific Institute - teacher teams collaborating]

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BYOL + PLC = CoP

BYOL means Bring Your Own Laptop. I know I know – acronyms – Why? I’m trying to make a point here. If you have enough resources for each child (BYOL), then you can grow professional learning communities (PLC) with all learners. When you have these communities sprouting up around your district, you build communities of practice (CoP).

Forest Hills Local Schools in Cincinatti, OH launched their laptop program in January 2011. They focused on all 7th grade students who would bring their own computers to school or use the school’s laptops. They decided to start with a pilot program to gather data and learn what works and what didn’t work before they expanded to more grade levels across the district.

Cary HarrodI’ve known Cary Harrod (caryharrod@foresthills.edu), the Instructional Technology Specialist, for many years and knew how persistent she was to get a program like this off the ground. I remember her saying to me several years ago, “it’s all about the kids” and “how do we make change when there aren’t enough resources?”

So after I heard that Forest Hills piloted a BYOL project, I interviewed Cary last week. She shared with me how the district proposed a 1:1, where the district would purchase laptops for all students but that it was cost prohibitive for a district of 7,800 students with 6 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 2 high schools. Two years later (April 2010), they wanted the tech team to come up with something different and we decided to go BYOL. The school board and administration supported it and the technology leads researched existing 1:1 programs. They wanted to focus on digital learning that supports student-centered learning pedagogy.
@1st Centurizing Learning

A critical piece was designing a professional development plan that incorporated 21st century learning. They agreed on the importance of personal learning as the first step towards understanding the shifts occurring in education. They wanted to create a “hothouse” where great ideas begin, new methods of learning are shared and communities are rooted.

The structure included:

  • cultivating a professional learning community (Ning, Twitter, Diigo, Skype, f2f meetings)

  • providing for sustained practice and anytime learning (Ning, Twitter, Diigo, Skype)
  • modeling Inquiry Learning
  • providing coaching
  • modeling effective collaboration
  • developing Theoretical & Practical Understanding.

The district, school board, and the 7th grade administrator, Natasha Adams, developed a partnership with teachers, students, and parents to bring everyone on board. Only a small percentage were resistant. In November 2010, the district has a showcase of projects where teachers set up booths and invited parents. They also set up

CAMPL

Conversations
About
My
Personal
Learning

along with conference style tool workshops after school and on Saturdays. For all families that were included in the BYOL program, there was a mandatory session on the Nuts and Bolts of laptop maintenance and safety. Over 1,000 people attended all of the sessions.

While the professional development began with conversations about the tools, they quickly
began talking about what this will look like in the classroom.

The principal required all teachers to develop their PLN (Personal Learning Network) and read and discussed Tribes by Seth Godin. 40 teachers went through the Partnership for Powerful Learning. Forest Hills TeachersAfter spending a month on how to articulate the move from 20th century to 21st century learning, the teachers brainstormed a list of characteristics of a classroom with good teaching and good learning. They then used the characteristics to transform a 20th century lesson and give it a 21st century bent.

The pilot started with 7th grade with 559 students, 353 brought in a device. There were already 160 laptops available to lend and the rest of the parents provided their children laptops. Now that every 7th grader had a laptop, support at home, and the teachers were ready, they focused on lesson design.

Students used their devices in all subject areas and utilized the many tools available to access, manage and organize information; connect with other students and experts; and create multi-media projects.

Due to the success of the project, the program has expanded, allowing all eighth graders to bring in their own devices. Currently, over 580 students are bringing in their own device. Further expansion will occur in the 2012-2013 school year, when the program moves to grades 9-12 with a possible expansion to the elementary grades in subsequent years.

Links:
Link to BYOL
Nagel Middle School, Forest Hills Local Schools

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