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Tag: critical-thinking

1

Didn't we do this already?

It’s Sunday and a great time to reflect on the last week. All I can say is that it was a whirlwind. Working 12-14 hours every day on Race to the Top proposals, refining our process, talking to different groups about what is and what isn’t personalized learning. The talk always goes back to technology.

It’s not about the technology. It’s about the philosophy you embrace around personalizing learning.

If it’s all about the learner and starting with them, then everything about teaching and learning changes. Technology supports personalizing learning but should not be the focus.

Just putting technology in teachers’ and learners’ hands doesn’t mean they know how to personalize learning. I remember the early days of technology in schools. I believe the late 80s and early 90s, schools built labs called CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction) such as Computer Curriculum Corporation, Success Maker and others.

Old Computer LabAs a technology consultant during those times, I was asked to help build those labs. Most of these labs were built in high poverty schools in rooms that weren’t made for computers. Even the electricity in some of these older buildings couldn’t handle the capacity. They would string together extension cords from other classrooms and hold them in place with duct tape. In some rooms, we had to step over the cord that was 2 feet high. There were some rooms where they moved the computers next to the heaters. Actually, that didn’t matter, because the heaters didn’t work. I needed the work at that time, and that’s where all the money was going. One lab with 50 computers and the software took all the technology budget. There was no money left for training. Only enough to train a paraprofessional who managed the lab. There was no integration with any curriculum in the classrooms.

I observed these labs. Kids loved them in the beginning because it was new, interactive, and included games. They loved the idea of playing in school. The paraprofessionals collected the data and shared with the administration. Scores were going up. The kids rotated through the lab once or twice a week.

But after about six months, kids started talking about how boring it was. One third grade told me that it didn’t matter how he answered the questions so he just hit any key to make it go to the next screen. Scores were at a plateau then dropping. Dropping all over. All the labs. Everywhere. Few years later, the labs were changed. They took off the headphones and brought in technology teachers. Teachers with credentials. Only issue I saw was that they were prep teachers. This meant that there tended to be very little integration of what was happening in the classroom to what was happening in the labs. I know so many of these fantastic computer teachers who did amazing projects. When I was asked to come in, work with the computer teachers, and help integrate technology into the classrooms. Classroom teachers were so busy teaching the curriculum that they didn’t have time or the energy to take the work in the lab and connect it to the classroom. So once again, the work in the labs stood alone and was mostly focused on building isolated technology skills. But there were some amazing computer teachers and librarians who found ways to integrate the skills with projects happening in the classroom.

So now fast forward to today and learning labs to support blended learning rotations. The labs look similar to the CAI of the past and, yes, the scores are improving.

Rocketship Education

But the real learning that is needed seems to be lost. In some of these environments, the student to teacher ratio has increased because the computers “individualize” the student’s learning and they don’t need as many teachers. Maybe that’s how or why schools are looking at this solution — to save money. Based on algorithms and data, teachers keep track of performance and work with individual students to respond to intervention — to increase scores based on standardized tests. This may sound good to some people, however, to prepare our children for the global workforce, they need different skills then they acquire sitting in front of computers like this. It just cannot be about the scores.

The skills needed for today’s jobs include:

  • collaboration and teamwork
  • problem-solving
  • critical-thinking
  • creativity and innovative thinking
  • choosing and using the appropriate resources for a task
  • building a network of learners locally and globally
  • learning how to learn, unlearn, and relearn

 

Computer labs like the ones some schools are building to blend learning are fitting learning into strict schedules: 20 minutes at one station then move to another station. Real learning doesn’t work that way. We did this already, and it didn’t work. Now we have mobile technology and learning can happen anytime anywhere. Let’s rethink this strategy before we invest millions again into set labs with desktop computers that are just trying to increase scores and use curriculum that adapts to their performance based on algorithms instead of how they learn best.

Personalizing learning needs to be social. It starts with the learner not the technology. Real learning encourages play, creativity, experimenting, taking risks. Learning is supposed to challenge the learner and that cannot happen if they don’t have a stake in it. Learners have a stake in their learning if they have a voice in their learning and are motivated and engaged in the learning. Learners just cannot own and drive their learning when they sit in front of a computer with headphones on clicking through adaptive activities that keep track of their keystrokes.

0

Studio-Based Learning (Interview: Pat Donohue)

After learning about Studio-Based Learning (SBL) from Pat Donohue, I interviewed her to learn about the benefits of this approach and why and how SBL personalizes learning. Pat is inspired by a passion to create engaging environments for learning.

“There is a fundamental problem with public school as it has come to be defined. Confining young adults away from the world has created environments loaded with discipline problems and excruciating boredom. The challenge of the classroom teacher to engage young minds in the real subject matters of life while students are stuck in their chairs was clearly a losing task (see Gatto, 1992).

 

If you watch children or young adults in the natural world, it will not take long to notice two things: they will soon be engaged in some kind of learning borne out of their own curiosity and/or they will be engaged in making fun – usually both. To this day I cannot fathom why education cannot be a replication of this natural tendency of human beings to learn about the life they lead.”

What is Studio-Based Learning?
Studio-based learning in America can be traced back to John Dewey’s Laboratory School in Chicago in the late 1800’s (Lackney, 1999). It was later adopted by North American architectural education and showed up in the University of Oregon Architectural School in 1914. Lackney describes the design studio as, “A type of professional education, traditional in schools of architecture, in which students undertake a design project under the supervision of a master designer. Its setting is the loft-like studio space in which anywhere from twelve to as many as twenty students arrange their own drawing tables, papers, books, pictures, drawings and models. In this space, students spend much of their working lives, at times talking together, but mostly engaged in private, parallel pursuits of the common design task (quoting Schon, 1983).”

Primary concepts that drive studio-based learning include:

  • Students work like apprentices in a common space under the tutelage of a “master.”
  • Students interact when needed with each other on their designs.
  • Students undergo periodic critiques, known as “crits,” of their designs, projects, or products. Crits are for gaining knowledge about your work. They occur student-to-master first and then evolve self-learning crits between peers.
  • It is driven by the pragmatic. The idea is to get your hands in your work, get it done, revise it to perfect it, and self-evaluate the results.
  • Final work or products are presented publicly.

 

Studio-based learning methods were picked up in various iterations in K-12 programs and in universities throughout the 20th Century. The use of SBL educational laboratories died down in 1970s and 1980s but never died-out. Today, SBL is experiencing a revival. The originators of the SBL model we pursue run the Intelligent and Interactive Systems Lab at Auburn University and partners at Washington State University have launched the Online Studio-Based Learning Environment (OSBLE) where instructors from around the country can share their experiences and growing knowledge about the model’s effectiveness.

In 2006, John Seely Brown published a short but hard-hitting article, “Exploring the edge: New Learning Environments for the 21st Century” on the architectural studio model as a foundation for current trends in learning. He explains:

In the architecture studio, for example, all work in progress is made public. As a consequence, every student can see what every other student is doing; every student witnesses the strategies that others use to develop their designs. And there is public critique, typically by the master and perhaps several outside practitioners.

The students not only hear each other’s critiques, but because they were in some sense peripheral participants in the evolution of each other’s work, they also have a moderately nuanced understanding of the design choices and constraints that led to the final result … If you look at the learning outcomes for the architecture studio and Professor Belcher’s physics classes, it is evident that in both environments, students move from ‘learning about’ something to ‘learning to be’ something—a crucial distinction.

I believe studio learning is a preferred environment for our educational system, ideas about: situated learning, collaborative learning, personal learning networks and personal learning environments, mobile computing and its ability to deliver an SBL environment into a learner’s hands, and authentic instruction.

How did you build this passion for experiential learning approaches?
Fifteen years ago, I set out with a Master’s degree in Instructional Technologies to a new professional life, inspired by a passion to create engaging environments for learning. I had been a high school science and English teacher in a central urban school district (Oakland, CA) and a highly rural school district (Lake County, CA).  I set out in 1997 on a path that led me to one year of science and mathematics software production for an educational technology publisher, followed by eight years in STEM education grants – six years as Principle Investigator for a U.S. Department of Education grant serving schools in rural North Dakota and two years as Project Director on a similar National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for rural schools in the six Hawaiian Islands. The North Dakota grant was housed in a Science Center and that experience cemented my love of informal education approaches to learning.

In Hawaii, I left the grant position on the advice of my university colleagues to enter into their Ph.D. program in Communication and Information Sciences. That program introduced me to new research colleagues whom I work with today. Our research focused on instructional models that integrated technology to raise the learning bar in science, mathematics, and computer science. I eventually came to see the most important part of STEM learning is the “E.” Engineering is, more often than not, where the other three fields come together in hands-on applications. We began to look at instructional models that would situate student learning in practice. My colleagues joined with two other universities in a grant to develop and test a model of Studio-Based Learning (SBL). They are now in their second implementation grant of the SBL program through NSF. Multiple universities and instructors around the country have been involved in one or both of the SBL grant work and the results are showing that, in college undergraduate computer science courses,

SBL shows improvement gains for students compared to those in non-SBL courses. I extended the SBL protocol to a pilot program for high school and am now investigating a revision of the model into a “Design Studio” approach that integrates SBL methods into a more robust laboratory of learning experiences.

Cityscape

Designed by Consuelo

What are the findings from neuroscience?
Findings from neuroscience has expanded the picture of what is happening in the studio when learning is occurring. Something I now tell my students that makes them sit up with new attention is,

“every moment we talk here; every day you leave this classroom, you have a new brain.”

The point is, from neuroscience research (c.f., John Medina’s Brain Rules at www.brainrules.net), we know that the neurons in our brain form networks of connections that are in some mysterious way we still don’t understand how we store our learning. That learning is individual and based on the numerous factors that shape our individual connections. We learn constantly. In fact, tell yourself to “stop learning.” It can’t be done. This means that every moment of our lives we are re-forming our connections with every new or evolving thought. New thought; new connections; new brain. I find that brain boggling! And, of course, I want to know more.

Currently, we are designing an evolution of our Instructional Technology department to embrace a studio environment using SBL principles. I am working with colleagues in the Education departments to reformulate our SBL model into a more rigorous approach for all grade levels and all disciplines to personalize learning in educational contexts. That will involve development of mobile learning approaches to the studio experience and it will involve creating physical laboratory spaces on campus where we implement and research this evolving method of instruction.

 

Pat donohuePatricia (Pat) Donohue, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Instructional Technologies
Graduate College of Education, San Francisco State University
President and CEO, Community Learning Research LLC

Pat Donohue teaches instructional design and technologies in the Department of Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University’s Graduate College of Education. She is also President and CEO of Community Learning Research, LLC, a private educational research company located in the Napa Valley, California. She holds a doctorate degree in Communication and Information Sciences from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa and her Master’s in Education: Instructional Technologies degree from San Francisco State University where she currently teaches courses in Foundations of Instructional Design Theory, Learning with Emerging Technologies, and Usability Testing and Formative Evaluation.

Pat worked as a professional development specialist in new technologies and learning for 20 years prior to her current position, eight of which were on federal teacher development grants in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Pat was Principal Investigator for NatureShift, a U.S. Department of Education Technology Innovation Challenge Grant (6.5 yrs.) and interim Project Director for Hawai`i Networked Learning Communities, a National Science Foundation Rural Systemic Initiative grant for the Hawai`i Department of Education (1.5 yrs.). Both grants involved technology integration in cultural contexts into curriculum and instruction and teacher professional development in STEM, history, and language literacy for rurally isolated schools in the Northern plains states and the six Hawaiian Islands. Pat taught high school science and English for six years and has taught several university education courses prior to her current position. She held administrative positions at the University of Hawai`i and at San Francisco State and Sonoma State Universities. For a brief period, she published the Middletown Times Star, a small newspaper in Northern California.

With a lifelong interest in the learning sciences, Pat’s research has covered technology innovations for learning, cultural implications and impacts on learning, and advanced technology environments for collaborative learning. She is currently researching a new pedagogical model based on traditions of Studio-Based Learning and investigating the implementation of that model into mobile learning environments.

Community Learning Research LLC
http://communitylearningresearch.com
Patricia Donohue, PhD, CEO
pjdonohue@gmail.com
011.925.451.7820 (M/SMS)

References

  • Gatto, J. T. (1992) Dumbing Us Down.
  • Lackney, J. A. (1999) A History of the Studio-Based Learning Model.
  • Report of a Workshop on The Scope and Nature of Computational Thinking, Committee for the Workshops on Computational Thinking; National Research Council (2010).
  • Mitchell Resnick (2002) Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age. Chapter 3: pp32-37.
  • Mitchell Resnick (2007) Sowing seeds for a more creative society. ISTE
  • Stephen Cooper, Lance C. Pérez, and Daphne Rainey (2010) K–12 Computational Learning: Enhancing student learning and understanding by combining theories of learning with the computer’s unique attributes. Education, v.53(11) pp 27-29.
  • Hundhausen, C., Narayanan, N., and Crosby, M. (2008) Exploring Studio-Based Instructional Models for Computing Education
2

Curate your own Learning

Social media is behind all of this. You can retweet and curate resources other people have shared. My Scoop-it Making Learning Personal made it all clear to me where we are going with learning. All of us can be curators of our own learning.

Scoop-it: Making Learning Personal

It’s easy to set up your Scoop-it.

Dashboard: Your dashboard keeps track of the activity:

  • Topic of the Day (whoever is the most active)

  • What’s New (your friends who started a new topic)
  • your Curated Topics (you can have as many as you want)
  • Trending Topics (most active topics)
  • Your Community (links to people who you may be following or who are following you or who have the same tags)
  • Your Stats (number of posts and views)
  • Connect to social media (you choose which ones you want to connect to)
  • Link to your profile (keeps track on the progress of your scoop-it and the topics you follow)
  • Curate: Review suggested content and Scoop-it!
    Scoop-it uses the tags you suggested to find sources from other curators. You then either remove the source, discard it (not sure of the difference yet) or Scoop-it! Your latest scoop appears in your Scoop-it which you can use the move feature to move it where you want it on the page.

    Explore: Review what’s new on the 5 topics you follow.
    Scoop-it uses your tags to find resources with the same tags. You can then rescoop any of the resources.

    Another social media tool that lets you curate your learning is Pearltrees that is a social curation community using a visual map. Just signed up so will be learning and sharing more.

    Pearltrees

    This is the first step for learners to own their learning. They get to choose the resources, but I see a problem. It’s easy to just choose anything that maybe relates to your topic. When you do a Google search, the robots and spiders return millions of resources based on your search. Using your tags Scoop-it and Pearltrees retrieve resources where others have used those tags. I’m finding I’m receiving lots of resources that have nothing to do with my tags. So I need to be very discerning and careful about reviewing the resource to make sure it is relevant to my topic.

    Let’s be real. Will young learners really do this well? This is a skill we will need to teach learners. How to be a critical curator!

    I see the need for a personal guide on the side. This is where teachers, librarians, counselors, and peers as student experts could support learners. Been thinking about this for some time. I’m a coach. Designed a coaching community (My eCoach), and see the need for some type of coach, guide or curator to your curating. Even with a guide, learners will need a new skill:

    critical curating skills

0

There You Go -- Being Ridiculous

If you look back ten years (2001), can you ever imagine people walking around talking into their earpiece? or having a smartphone that does everything? At that time, that would be ridiculous or you would think that the person talking to them self was crazy. You probably would have walked a really wide circle around that person. Now lots of people walk and talk into an earpiece or headset. It’s not ridiculous anymore. Right?

I read this article “IDEO: Big Innovation Lives Right on the Edge of Ridiculous Ideas” and it got me thinking. When you visit Google or Apple or other innovative companies, there’s a lot of chaos, playfulness, laughing, and experimenting. They encourage brainstorming lots of ideas even if they seem crazy. You never know when someone will come up with a new idea or tool or app.

The important thing for schools is what results you get from an environment like this. You give permission to play right from the beginning – early childhood. Play is purposeful. Pre-schoolers play real world games like pretending to drive, being a doctor, and imitating what they see D.Bootcamp at Stanfordfrom the adults in their lives. Look at the d.School at Stanford where they are redesigning spaces, bureaucracy, and executive experiences. If you look at IDEO and why they encourage playing at work, you see a hands-off culture where everyone can create and experiment and try lots of different ideas that push boundaries. Many of these ideas may seem ridiculous to others but someone may come up with something amazing. So can this kind of environment work in schools? I say “Why not?”

Think about your classroom where students are part of your team like a start-up company. Look at some of the IDEO examples and think about you and your kids redesigning the space. Tell them to make it playful. Move things around. I like to have an area for kids to sit on bean bag chairs and another space for pacing or for people to stand up. Who knows what kids will come up with if they get to move when they feel like it. Stop forcing kids to be what they’re not.

Have students look at the curriculum with you and take one topic and have them reinvent it so they own it. Tell them to be creative. Come up with a problem they can solve. Let them be ridiculous. They may design a new app or game. If you just let go, you can personalize learning for each child by letting them explore, discover, play.

I remember one of my teachers would come to school dressed up as a famous historical person. That was ridiculous. I loved it and remember it. Now it’s time for kids to have permission to be creative, playful, and ridiculous.

0

Student-Centered Learning: Meaningful Work

Project-based learning that is student-centered works if it is meaningful work. According to the article “Seven Essentials for Project-Based learning” on Education Leadership:

A project is meaningful if it fulfills two criteria. First, students must perceive the work as personally meaningful, as a task that matters and that they want to do well. Second, a meaningful project fulfills an educational purpose. Well-designed and well-implemented project-based learning is meaningful in both ways.

It doesn’t matter the age of the learner, every learner gets more involved in the process if the task at hand means something to them and there is a purpose for their work. Let’s look at purpose.

  • Teacher one gives an assignment for their students to write a paper. Usually, the student hands the finished paper in to the teacher who then spends the evening reading and grading the papers.

  • Teacher two shares a topic or asks students to find a topic that is meaningful to them and write why it is meaningful. Students generate questions about their topic, come up with an opinion piece, and then share their writing with their peers who provided feedback. They use a rubric to grade each other and themselves.

Which do you find more meaningful and engaging?

Wanting to know more
Students come to school curious about the world. They want to know more. If the teacher can let students pursue their interests and what they are curious about, then the classroom changes. How about the teacher bringing in a photo or local topic like a polluted nearby creek and letting students discuss it? Then they could go to the creek, take pictures, do research about the creek, interview water experts, etc. What they could find out is that they can make a difference somehow. They can research the problem, find out how a polluted creek like this one could impact the environment and life in the creek, get the right people involved to clean up the creek, and even pick up trash around the creek themselves.

What about the standards?
When I work with teachers they are told to meet the standards, follow the pacing guide, and use the textbook. When you are moving to a student-centered classroom, you are slowly changing the way you teach. You can still meet the standards and cover most of the curriculum. Instead of trying to “cover” everything, there may be another way to involve your students as co-designers of their learning.

  • Show your students the standards — right from the beginning. Explain that they will need to meet these standards with the project. Projects also cover multiple disciplines. If you focus on creeks for 4th grade (CA Science – Earth Science – Water), then you are also meeting Investigation and Experimentation, Language Arts > Writing Strategies > Research and Technology) and probably more.

  • Tell them that you need their input as co-designers so their learning is more meaningful to them. Mention that you normally teach the lesson like this but would like to have more of a student voice. Have them review the topic, the standards, and come up with questions based on this information.

    Good driving questions help focus the project
    We are all born curious. Most children want to learn something by first asking a question. “Where does rain come from?” “Why does a hummingbird flap its wings so fast?” The questions lead to more questions. If you think about the creek and pollution, maybe some of the questions might be “how did the creek get polluted?” or “why do people throw their trash in the creek?” or “how does the pollution affect the fish and other life in the creek?”

    A good driving question gets to the heart of the topic or problem. The creek is polluted. Life in the creek is impacted. The environment is affected by the pollution. Sometimes a good driving question is a call to action. “What can we do to stop the pollution in the creek?” The other questions asked before supported this question.

    Students working in groups
    This is the piece that teachers find difficult to manage or coordinate. Do you let students choose their groups or group by topic or do you choose the groups for them?

    The first time you ever do a project-based learning activity, be kind to yourself. First time, you choose the groups. Each group will have roles for each person but you decide on the roles. Let them choose who will do what. Some students will take on multiple roles and help each other. Some may not.

    I’m going to go into more detail in later posts about how to set up groups, designing questions, etc. The main thing I wanted to get across in this post was to focus on meaningful work and purposeful projects. If your students, no matter what age, feel they can make a difference, they are more motivated to learn, to share, to write, and to present.

0

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

0

Rethinking 21st Century Skills

Most schools today are not able to make the necessary changes they need to make to be a 21st Century school. It’s not just about technology, teaching, and learning.

Here’s what I see:

    • Schools putting in wifi and maybe enough bandwidth for one device per user.

    • Training teachers on the specific devices and software with a few examples for the classroom.
    • A few schools going 1:1 at school. Very few school-home connections.
    • Very little community and parent involvement at the school.
    • Most funding for 1:1 is soft money with little available for ongoing support.
    • Top down mandates and decisions about types of technology allowed.
    • Firewalls and blocking software that do not give access to most Web 2.0 tools and social media.
    • Focus on increasing student achievement (i.e. raising test scores).
    • Lots of talk about student-centered learning with only pockets of best practices.
    • Cuts in arts, physical education, counseling, libraries, and technology.
    • In-flexible curriculum where students have no say in their interests or passions.
    • No emphasis on the skills and values employers are looking for in their employees. See post.
    • Most educational conferences still focus on testing, technology, and status quo and not on real change in the classroom. Talking about the future is sexy but teachers don’t think it’s doable in their classroom.
    • Teacher education programs are subject-specific silos and tenure-driven organizations. [source]
    • Collaborative planning time, if there is any, is mostly used for lesson plans tied to textbooks and tests.

Change is difficult. Everything is changing around us. Our children are not prepared for today. Just ask your neighbors who have their children who graduated from college who are not able to find work. This is a national crisis. Media and politicians point fingers at schools and teachers as the problems. This is not right. Everything is changing. All of us need to pull together and look at how society is changing. It is all children we are putting at-risk now. Teachers need to be valued instead of blamed for all the ills of society.

I work with public and private schools — high poverty and wealthy schools around the country. Change is slow no matter what type of school.

High poverty schools keep trying different strategies. One year it’s the technology. Another year it’s professional learning communities. After that, something else. The problem with high poverty schools is bigger than one thing. Teacher retention is an issue. Social issues in that community play a big factor. Families in crisis is such a big issue that children get lost in the system. They come to school barely able to function. Teachers can only do so much. Class sizes are too large and many teachers are inexperienced to deal with many of the issues they children face.

With wealthy schools, the test scores tend to be high so parents and teachers don’t see a need to make changes. In fact, there is a concern about taking some risks then seeing scores fall. The issue for these schools is not academic achievement, it’s more of a social issue. The students from wealthier schools have issues they are not talking about: drugs, eating disorders, pregnancies, depression, wrong career choices, children graduating and not finding jobs, etc.

Nothing will happen if the school or district doesn’t support change and talk about the real problems at hand.

Science Leadership AcademyI am looking for schools that really want to make change and address the real issues that are happening with their students, teachers, and the school community. I know a few making some amazing strides where students shine and show entrepreneurial skills like the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Duke School in Durham, North Carolina where the university, teachers and students design innovative curriculum together.

I’m going to look for examples, interview people, rant, yell, shake up some systems. It’s all about our kids now. I challenge myself, you, and all of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s time to plan and develop a vision for local communities so their students can be global citizens of the 21st century.

Are you ready?

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12 Tips for Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning is a style of teaching that is based on asking questions that kids honestly care about and guiding them to find the answers as well as coming up with new questions along the way. Dewey’s description of the four primary interests of the child are still appropriate starting points:

  • the child’s instinctive desire to find things out

  • in conversation, the propensity children have to communicate
  • in construction, their delight in making things
  • in their gifts of artistic expression.

It makes sense to teach this way. However, it takes more than just letting go and letting students choose questions. The first year you implement inquiry-based learning is a big paradigm shift. I put together 12 tips that could help you as you jump into the inquiry-based learning approach.

  1. Plan enough time to pre-plan, plan, and plan again during implementation. Even though inquiry-based learning is student-centered, planning involves much more prep time.

  2. Start with a topic that encourages inquiry. Review your curriculum and choose a topic that you believe will motivate and engage your students.
  3. Choose 20% of your time for inquiry. Some teachers are not ready to convert their entire curriculum to inquiry-based learning. You might want to look at transforming your classroom 20% of the time.
  4. Flip your classroom for this unit. Create a blog or website to host videos and information about the concepts you want students to understand. You can even video and post your lectures. Ask students to review the concepts you posted on their own. Then use classroom time for sharing, collaborating, lab work, research, writing, and production.
  5. Pose real questions. Model open-ended questions where there are no right answers. Consider the following questions about the questions you ask:
    – What do I want to know about this topic?
    – What do I know about my questions?
    – How do I know it?
    – What do I need to know?
    – What could an answer be?

  6. Encourage co-designing the curriculum. Share the standards or performance skills with your students that are to be met during this inquiry-based lesson or unit. Since the unit is student-driven, students can develop what assist in what they plan to learn and own it.
  7. Develop rubric for assessing learning. Invite students to contribute to the development of the rubric. You can start with a few criteria using Rubistar and then ask students to refine and add to the criteria.
  8. Group students for collaborative learning. Divide students into small groups. Encourage each group to develop a driving question that they will work on together, and then let them develop a project based on the question.
  9. Have students collect resources. Students can use Google Docs or a Wiki to collaborate as they collect websites, images, videos, podcasts, documents, etc. that supports the topic. asks more questions, and helps answer their questions.
    – What kinds of resources might help me find the answers?
    – Where do I find the resources?
    – How do I know if the resources are valid?
    – How can you ensure responsibility and authority?
    – What other information is available?

  10. Monitor progress. Share a checklist with the groups and then ask them to refine the checklist to meet each group’s needs. Then refer to the checklist while developing project.
  11. Interpret information. Encourage students to ask these questions about the information they collected:
    – How is this information relevant to my topic?
    – What parts of the information supports my answers and does not support my answers?
    – Does it raise new questions?

  12. Present findings. Have students present to each other and ask for feedback and any other questions that their presentation raises.

Learning begins with the learner. What children know and what they want to learn are the very foundations of learning.

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The 4Cs Gives Students Wings

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children.
One is roots. The other is wings.
Holding Carter Jr.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) and FableVision just released the animated film “Above & Beyond” created by Peter Reynolds to emphasize the value of 21st century skills in education. This original animated film is designed to spark conversations about the essential innovation skills needed for students to be successful – and the U.S. to remain economically viable — in an increasingly challenging global economy.

P21’s nationwide coalition of business and education leaders have spent years creating a framework for integrating 21st Century Skills into education, and are now promoting a bundled subset of skills called the “4Cs”:

  • communication
  • collaboration
  • critical thinking
  • creativity

These skills are cited by industry as the keys to innovation and invention and essential skills for all employees. P21 will use the film, along with an online digital toolkit that includes a downloadable poster and support resources, in a nationwide campaign to make the 4Cs a household term and promote the integration of 4Cs across all subject areas.

New York Times best-selling children’s book author, illustrator and FableVision founder Peter H. Reynolds (The Dot, Ish, The North Star) created Above & Beyond to tell an allegorical story of how the 4Cs help students move beyond foundational “3Rs” to acquire the 21st Century Skills that industry demands.

This animated film tells the story of two school children who compete in the school’s engineering contest – one of whom can’t move beyond the boxed kit – and the other who is an “out of the box” dreamer and visionary. The students join forces – and use communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity to win the race. The allegorical fable helps show that content mastery without the 4Cs skills won’t give students the “wings” required to meet the demands of higher education, career and life in a global society and world economy.

To download a free 4Cs poster, go to www.p21.org/4Cs

For more information on:

Partnership for 21st Century Skills, visit http://www.p21.org/ and connect with P21 on Twitter @P21CentSkills.

FableVision Studios and FableVision Learning, visit www.fablevision.com and connect with FableVision on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

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How Games Prepare Learners to be Leaders

The digital native has been part of the gaming world most of their lives. Can games help prepare them for their future?

From “The Gamer Disposition” by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, I realized that there are multiple characteristics that can also prepare gamers to be leaders in the business and education worlds. The multiplayer online games expect users to be quick, be able to adapt and evolve as games change, and know the rules, tips, and even make the rules as they progress through this new type of social system.

Brown and Thomas share five key attributes as character traits that players bring into their games:

  1. They are bottom-line oriented. Games have embedded assessments where gamers compare with one another where they rank, their title and points, and they share with each other how they can improve their ranking.
  2. They understand the power of diversity. Teamwork is the only way a gamer can work in this social system. They need to talk to each other and determine what strengths each member has on their team so they can improve their score.
  3. They thrive on change. Games are evolving during the game. Gamers have to think on their feet while they make quick decisions and actually have to be in charge of managing change.
  4. They see learning as fun. The fun they experience is learning how to overcome obstacles, seeking out problems and then letting other gamers know the strategies they used to solve the problems.
  5. They marinate on the “edge.” Gamers look for alternative strategies and innovative solutions for a better way to solve problems. They are making it up as it happens so they cannot only understand the game, they can reinvent the game.

Consider in the World of Warcraft, a Guild Master has all the fundamentals of a leader. They create a vision with a set of values that attract others; find and recruit players that fit with their vision; they form apprenticeships for new players; they coordinate and manage how the group is governed; and mediates any disputes.

In ongoing conversations about gamers, the question that keeps rising to the top is “are gamers born or made?” Thomas and Brown reframe that question in the context of the challenges emerging for the 21st century workplace. It really doesn’t matter what skills you have to play a particular game; it is how talented you are in attracting the right people to work with you on your quest.

If we take this a step beyond to education and what classrooms look like today, gamers or those with gamer characteristics are lost and their talents are not tapped. This is the same with teachers who think out of the box, who develop an open environment where there are no right or wrong answers and allow creation of questions that encourage more questions. This is happening in pockets within public and private schools with creative and innovative teachers and administrators who are willing to take some risks that demonstrates that this type of learning environment engages students in the learning process and motivates them to want to learn more.

How do we tap teachers’ and students’ talents?

This post is not about using games in the classroom. It is how to identify the characteristics of gamers and transfer those disciplines to the classroom. A teacher can be more like the Guild Master who runs a democratic environment where there is shared leadership and ownership in what is to be learned. Consider that certain games’ characteristics include non-monetary performance incentives, data transparency, temporary leadership roles that give people the chance to practice their leadership skills – make it easier to be an effective leader. [Hemp, 2008]

One implication for real-world organizations and schools: There may be large and untapped reservoirs of leadership talent that you don’t know you have right in your classroom, school, school community, and the global classroom.

So should we think about these characteristics for future teachers and administrators? Will ongoing assessment strategies look like these games so students rank themselves, compare their results with other students, and work collaboratively to help improve the results?

Maybe the same can be true for collaborative professional development. K-12 and Higher Ed is also in a state of flux. Things are going to change. Why? Because of the economy, job loss, changing demographics, and a huge need for thousands of high quality teachers in the next few years. High quality teachers does not mean teaching to the test. Teacher education institutions can be the playground where the faculty and students do the research and development to design these new learning environments. Let’s rethink what is a school. How about a P/K-20 learning work and play center? Maybe consider the school as the learning center for the community open all hours of the day where all stakeholders are involved in the design and implementation of the curriculum.

Resources

Brown, J., and Thomas, D. The Gamer Disposition. Harvard Business Review. Feb. 14, 2008. Online. Available. March 9, 2008.

Hemp, P. Does your Leadership Strategy include the World of Warcraft? Harvard Business Review. Feb.19, 2008. Online. Available. March 10, 2008.

This post was first posted on Rethinking Learning March, 2008 and even more relevant today.

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