May 10, 2011 Posted by Barbara Bray in 21st Century Skills, Change, Educational Models, Learning Environments, Professional Development
May 1, 2011 Posted by Barbara Bray in 21st Century Skills, Educational Models, Making a Difference, Professional Development
Getting Back to Learning After TestingI 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.
April 20, 2011 Posted by Barbara Bray in 21st Century Skills, Change, Making a Difference, Professional Development, Technology
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.
Creativity in EducationThere is a lot of talk about bringing creativity into the standards-based classroom. What does creativity mean to you? Does this mean that a teacher is defining the type of curriculum and classroom environment? Or does it mean that students have a say in what they learn? I want to challenge you to think way outside the box about this. If we are going to design a learning environment where students are creative critical thinkers that have the skills to be collaborative global citizens and become the best they can be, the focus needs to be on the learner. If we do this, then everything changes: the school, the classroom, teacher education programs, administration, and the relationship with the school with the school community especially the parents. I was reading today about the number of jobs available and that there are not enough people qualified in the US for high tech talent. Tapan Munroe stated in "It's a seller's market in some fields of work" that it is a myth that there aren't job openings in America. Education is focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to help build these skills, but the US student is just not prepared to fill these jobs. US launched the Common Core standards that are separate skills that do not seem to relate to today's kids. We have all the standards in My eCoach and teachers match their projects to them. We have people who are adding resources and projects to the standards. Here are two seventh grade Common Core Math standards:
How do you use this in a real-world situation? I asked Ken Bakken who is an eCoach on my team to help some 7th grade teachers create a real-world project that would make sense to students. Percentages can Make and Save you Money This is still teacher-driven curriculum but it is a step in the right direction. The idea is to make the curriculum real to the learner. What if we tried a different approach where learners were given a problem or concept and they came up with the driving questions? Give them some real-world concepts like...
Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems. MATH-RPR.7.3. Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems. Examples: simple interest, tax, markups and markdowns, gratuities and commissions, fees, percent increase and decrease, percent error. Expressions & Equations Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic expressions and equations. MATH-EE.7.3. Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies. For example: If a woman making $25 an hour gets a 10% raise, she will make an additional 1/10 of her salary an hour, or $2.50, for a new salary of $27.50. If you want to place a towel bar 9 3/4 inches long in the center of a door that is 27 1/2 inches wide, you will need to place the bar about 9 inches from each edge; this estimate can be used as a check on the exact computation.
- Climate Change
- Water Quality
- The Price of Oil
The Educated UnemployableThomas Friedman's article China, Twitter and 20-year-olds vs the Pyramids wrote:
"Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia today are overflowing with the most frustrated cohort in the world — “the educated unemployables.” They have college degrees on paper but really don’t have the skills to make them globally competitive. I was just in Singapore. Its government is obsessed with things as small as how to better teach fractions to third graders."This issue is not the middle East's problem alone. The world is changing and education is not looking at the bigger picture. We are in a global crises everywhere. Young people 15-29 are realizing that their education or lack of it is impacting their ability to get the type of jobs they need to live. They are finding they have a voice: on the Internet. People making sure they are heard: on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Friedman writes:
"The Arab world has 100 million young people today between the ages of 15 and 29, many of them males who do not have the education to get a good job, buy an apartment and get married. That is trouble. Add in rising food prices, and the diffusion of Twitter, Facebook and texting, which finally gives them a voice to talk back to their leaders and directly to each other, and you have a very powerful change engine."What if oil prices rise? They will. It's inevitable. Then food prices. Yes, they will rise too especially if more countries have government turnovers and the people of the country revolt. It is now happening in Algeria. What about developed countries like the United States, the UK, Australia, and Europe. If the unemployment rate does not go down in the US to 8%, the US is going to make some changes maybe not to where we need to go. Also are the numbers correct? What about the 99ers who have been unemployed for over 13 months? We have educated people who have been looking for work for months. Work has changed. Businesses are running slimmer and cutting costs because of the uncertain economy and less cash flow. So things have to change all over. If people 15-29 are educated, use social media, then maybe we need to teach them how to use social media to create businesses and entrepreneurial skills. For those in under-developed countries, this will be a very big challenge. How to create enough jobs or businesses for 100 million people? Oh my!! There just are not enough jobs for everyone. When I look at organizations like Kiva that provide small loans for people around the world who want to start their own businesses, I see hope. Everyone of us has a dream somewhere down deep. We were born as unique individuals who have interests and passions. If we continue to teach the same way we have for hundreds of years, we will continue to get the same products. People looking for work that is not there. It is time to review all this emphasis on testing and standards and question "are we preparing our children for their future?" Our competition is not the school next door. It is China and India. Our children are part of the global marketplace. As long as they believe school as we know it today may prepare them for their future, they are caught in a system that could lead them down a road of failure. Some jobs are definitely needed: doctors, lawyers, engineers. But even if you become a teacher, it does not mean you will be assured there will be a job for you where you want to work. How about teaching how to do projects, create projects, and market your projects? People who have critical thinking skills and are creative how they find solutions will get projects. Jobs where you received benefits and a pension may not be the same anymore. Just having a job now does not give anyone security anymore. We are in a revolution. Education is the key but what it looks like today is not what we need for the world's economy. It is not all about jobs anymore. It is about how we are preparing people for their own survival and how it benefits society or the people in your area. If we start children very young asking questions and being curious about the world, they will come up with solutions. Why not create a project about the climate, the creeks in your area, housing market, or another major issue that impacts your community? Except ask the students to create the project, ask the questions, and own the process. Any project can match standards. Students own the learning when it is relevant and real to them.
February 8, 2011 Posted by Barbara Bray in 21st Century Skills, Change, Educational Models, Learning Environments
The Purpose of EducationThe purpose of education is to provide opportunities for all children to meet their fullest potential. That’s not happening. The dropout rate in the United States is higher than ever. More children are left behind now since the law No Child Left Behind. Now we’re Racing to the Top expecting all children to be at grade level by 2014. Schools are designed the same way they were hundreds of years ago. The teacher is delivering instruction and facts very similar to the lessons they taught with an overhead projector or chalkboard. Schools were designed after the factory model starting in the 1800s. Grouping by age meant a teacher would have more control over their classroom like a manager in a factory behind closed doors. Standards were developed so at each grade level, students at one age would learn skills and attain specific knowledge that would prepare them to move to the next level. Just because one child is at a five year level doesn’t mean that all five year olds think alike or have similar prior knowledge. Each child learns at different rates, and has different learning styles and intelligences. One six year old may be reading and writing fluently where another has never had the opportunity to read at home nor owns books and may not even know the letters of the alphabet. Since No Child Left Behind legislation, instruction is more teacher directed with the focus on increasing scores. Textbook companies created content that taught to the test. Several of the textbook companies own or are closely tied to the testing companies. My dream is for every child to be in control of their own learning. The purpose of education needs to shift to the learner learning in any environment.. Now with digital textbooks, online courses, Web 2.0, social media, and access to everything a learner needs at their fingertips, the purpose of education is changing. We cannot continue to deliver instruction feeding students facts. We need to rethink how to structure learning. Does it have to be at a school? What if students could review what they need to learn by the end of the year and collaborate with their teacher, peers, and parents to design real-world engaging and innovative activities? Students should be able to assess their prior knowledge and be able to challenge a class so they move at their own speed. Let’s redesign schools into learning centers similar to Reggio Emilia schools. Teachers as observers and co-learners. Students ask questions that mean something to them. Everything is inquiry-based. This approach can be adapted for K-20 even if you base it on standards. Students can learn at a higher level if they are motivated. Look at collecting evidence of learning in an ePortfolio posted online and showcasing projects that mean something to the world so students celebrate what they know and do. We can bring joy back to learning and create amazing citizens who collaborate on global projects.
Changing the ParadigmI mentioned Sir Ken Robinson and his talk about "Schools kill Creativity" in my webinar. I just watched this animation where he explains why the current education system is failing our kids. Some questions he brings up:
- why do we need to group students by age anymore?
- why do we need to separate kids into separate subjects?
- why are degrees not a guarantee for jobs?
- why are we not waking up children to what they have inside themselves?
August 24, 2010 Posted by Barbara Bray in 21st Century Skills, Learning Environments, Online Learning Communities
Are we growing less creative?Care2's article Are American children growing less creative? shared Tests since 1990 show a steady decline in the creativity levels of American children, despite the fact that IQ tests indicate they are getting smarter. The focus for the last 9 years has been on increasing student achievement based on standardized tests. Maybe our children are learning how to memorize facts and increasingly doing better on spelling tests and Jeopardy games. Even the TV show "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" encourages students to recall facts. There is no problem-solving, critical thinking or creativity involved in these activities. The 5th graders on this show are stoked when they get the answer right but there is only one right answer. Life doesn't always work that way. What we need are students who come up with the questions and are able to take some risks, find multiple ways to answer any of the questions or solve problems. They need to be able to think on their feet and jump in with new innovative ideas. Who knew even five years ago that people would be listening to mp3 files with an iPod or that cell phones could access the Internet. Email is old school. Now people text, use Facebook and Twitter to communicate. Traditional schools are closing because of so many reasons and, in my opinion, we need to rethink what a school is and redesign our learning environments if we want our students to be productive 21st century citizens.
The Power of We ThinkThe old business model where we own what we create is out of date and does not work anymore. That's why social media like Facebook and Twitter are growing exponentially. Sharing ideas is powerful. You cannot own an idea. I was asked yesterday by a university if they could pay me for an article I wrote to include in a new book for principals. I thought "how cool" but then realized that the little money I would get for an article I wrote is not where I want to make any money. I want to get my ideas out there. Change is tough, takes time, and is very challenging. If we all hold on to the old paradigm of "no - you can't have it. It's mine" then we will never innovate and grow. As soon as I changed my mindset, things started happening for me. I encourage you to rethink your We Think possibilities. I came across this video by Charles Leadbetter that is very interesting and talks about the importance of sharing and creativity. We are in the middle of a revolution and many of us don't know it. Everything is changing. Creativity will win because that is the only way we will succeed in the 21st century.