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Tag: PBL

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Mindshift to Learner-Centered Environments

Just putting technology in students’ hands doesn’t make the environment learner-centered. Change takes time. Actually change takes years. When you put a program together and ask teachers to change how they teach in one year, it’s just not going to happen. I put up a Scoop-it on Apps for the Student-Centered Classroom and it became my most popular Scoop-it quickly. Why? Because it’s all about the apps. I have techno-lust. I love new apps and learning about new technology, but really changes in the classroom.

I created other Scoop-its on Creativity, Innovation, and Change and Making Learning Personal that have followers looking for something different than apps. Well, maybe they are looking for apps and tools too, but the ideas for those apps focus on a changing learning environment.

I am very lucky to have coaching jobs where I facilitate change. Yesterday I saw some Aha moments from some of the teachers where they had all day to collaborate and rethink their learning strategies. Live Oak Elementary in San Ramon, CA is a large school with 6-7 teachers at each grade level. So the school provided them subs for the 3rd grade teachers so they could plan and share and learn without interruptions. What a concept!

I just read “10 Big Problems with Lecture-Based Learning” that is targeted for higher ed but applies to all learning environments.
Lecture
The 10 points in this article include…

  1. It’s passive.

  2. It doesn’t engage every learning style.
  3. It facilitates rote learning above all else.
  4. It’s biased.
  5. It precludes discussion.
  6. It’s not the right fit for every subject.
  7. Minimal student feedback.
  8. Not every teacher excels at public speaking.
  9. Not every attention span lasts that long.
  10. It only nurtures a limited range of skill sets.

I suggest reading the article above for more information and just don’t think teachers and professors are going to give up lecturing. Since I said it takes time, we need to rethink how we approach different topics. Student or learner-centered means that learning is personalized for the student. The student drives their learning. It is different than a teacher differentiating learning for each student. When you differentiate instruction, the teacher is working even harder now creating multiple lesson plans for the different types of learners in their classroom. Personalization means the student is curating their learning, finding learning appropriate and relevant learning objects for their topic.

What I suggest is moving slowly to a more learner-centered environment by designing collaborative projects that build in inquiry and student voice and choice. This first project the teachers are creating at Live Oak is still mostly teacher-centric. The teachers are choosing the topic and standards met, designing the driving question, determining groups, roles, tasks, and assessments. Students are working in groups, choosing the types of products. The teachers are creating a collaborative website and link it to their class website. This is the first step toward learner-centered environments.

The power of designing the same project together is that the teachers will do action research on what worked and what didn’t work for each teacher. This feedback will help them design the next project. The mindshift only works if teachers and students are immersed in the process, do the work, see how it works, learn and reflect on the results (not the test scores only) but if students were able to demonstrate evidence of learning and were engaged in the learning process. I think this is cool!

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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.

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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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Innovation Centers for Real-World Learning

I’ve been thinking about the promise of Innovation Centers. These are Community Learning Centers that incorporate K-12 schools, the public library, and a local university and/or community college where learning happens 24/7 with learners of all ages. These centers could be a combination of all of these places and include businesses and non-profits in the area. In some cases, community colleges and senior centers might be involved. In other cases, a preschool might be included in a project. These can also be blended versions where the place is one or all of these sites plus a virtual place to collaborate and learn. I’m going to expand on the virtual place more later.

The idea of an Innovation Center in different parts of the country means that each community can investigate local issues on a global scale. Each Center will include the latest technology and enough bandwidth to handle multiple devices per person. Each Center will be designed by the community to reflect their community. The center is open to all learners but not like a regular school.

One community might address urban gardening and how to feed more people in less space. Another community might address strategies for recycling and reducing trash. All findings will be shared among all Innovation Centers and collaboration will be encouraged.

The goal could be to push the envelope: where learning focuses on real-world projects, problems, and challenges on a global scale. Just imagine identifying a local problem in your area in the US and connect with a school in Africa or Nepal with the same problem. Common problems could be:

  • Lack of clean water

  • Pollution in your area
  • Money managing skills
  • Culture and Community
  • Jobs or Entrpreneurship

Everything will be student-centered and inquiry-based. Teacher roles change. They are co-learners and co-designers with their students and are advisors for a team of learners. As advisors they are with the same learners for several years. Actually the learners are driving the design of the projects and the community. The community is a viable entity that happens anywhere and everywhere. The culture of that community transcends the design of the projects.

Learning will be personalized by personal learner profiles with support from advisors. Each learner and advisor will be encouraged to take risks, question, and use critical-thinking skills to address local problems as collaborative projects. Personal learning goals will meet Common Core Standards and address curriculum requirements of their learning plan. Individuals and teams will meet learning goals as part of each project or re-evaluate the goals as they monitor their progress towards the goal. Each learner will collect evidence of learning in an ePortfolio and share via social media, websites, mobile devices, etc. Or the evidence will be a product, a showcase, an event. This all depends on the designers of the projects — the learners. We may even want to call them something different than learners.

I started thinking about this many years ago and then again recently when I added my idea to the Grand Challenge. If you like this idea, vote here. If you have more ideas for this challenge, please add your comment there and/or here.

I know there are great ideas and innovations out there. It’s all about finding out about them so we can share and learn together.

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Building Community Schools to Save our Children

We are educators. All of us. If one child drops out of school early, the whole community suffers.

We need to create the conditions that value all children especially our at-risk children. In Oakland, I saw how devastating the dropout rate was long ago when I was writing Digital High School grants and mentioned my concern. Young black boys were dropping out before eighth grade and it’s worse now.

Today only 30% of African-American males are graduating from high school in Oakland. This is wrong. We spend more money on prisons than educating our children. This is more than wrong. We need to start early educating, mentoring, and building community to raise our children — all children. Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, who was on the school board and understands the problem was on the panel of Class Action this morning (9/4/11) with Christopher Chatmon and Mitchell Kapor.

If children dropout and there are no jobs even for educated youth, what happens to these boys? Oakland Unified School District is taking action. They formed a task force called African-American Male Achievement with Chris Chatmon taking the lead. They are starting young with community schooling opening the schools and gyms with programs like Math and Science Academies. Mitchell Kapor from the Mitchell Kapor Foundation wrote…

“We will all lose if we persist in doing business as usual. Our state cannot continue to claim the mantle of innovation if we continue to ignore the human capital that exists in our communities. We cannot remain competitive in the global marketplace by investing more in filling up prison and jail cells – with disproportionately more poor people and people of color – than in creating an educated workforce.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/08/ED5L1JD5MR.DTL#ixzz1X0GJpsNx

Oakland Boy DrawingChris Chatmon said on Class Action this morning: “The school system was not set up to meet the needs of black and brown boys. The street culture is stronger than school culture. We need a process of engaging and motivating by taking them through a value education.” Jean Quan is coordinating schools and the community. One big thing is keeping the libraries open.

I love Oakland. I have worked with Oakland schools for years and saw the potential in every child. I am very excited that Oakland Unified School District has this task force and is working with the city and community leaders to make a difference in our children’s lives.

Here’s my take on it:
If we want to keep brown and black boys in schools and help each child reach their fullest potential, schools have to change. The schools still have top-down management issues. Doors are closed. Teachers are lecturing and teaching to the test. I walk through the halls and see kids not connecting and drifting off. They get bored and in trouble. Then it starts spiraling down. Like Chris mentioned: we need to make them co-designers of their learning so it is relevant to them. They not only need more role models, they need to find a purpose, a passion that gives them some hope that their lives will be worth something.

I see these kids. They are smart. But they are told they are not smart. We need to look at what “Smart” means. It is not how well they do on a test. We need to find different methods of assessing what they know and can do. I believe in these kids and am passionate about saving each one. I am only one person but there are more like me out there who want to help make a difference. I have seen the best teaching in Oakland and I work around the country, but teachers are caught in a bureaucratic system that keeps them from innovating. Unless there is a grant, there is no money to help build a new type of curriculum. Unless we “think out of the box”, we continue with the same prescriptive curriculum that does not engage our children.

Idea:

How about creating a K-12 Innovation community school in Oakland where all learning is centered around each child? Each child is part of a team similar to Finland.

Each child is with one teacher for K-3 and this community has parents, mentors, and community members part of the team for that child. Bring in a teacher education program from a local university and create teams Then another teacher can be assigned as advisor from grades 4-8 so there is consistency to monitor progress. Collect artifacts of learning and reflect via portfolios. Design new learning environments that foster creativity and inquiry. For 9-12 each teacher is an advisor for 20 students who guides them in the portfolio process and finds support in the community for internships, shadowing, interviews, building resumés and interviewing skills, and counseling on career and college readiness. Check out my post on Skills and Values Employers Want.

These are just a few ideas that can help all children and especially those at-risk.

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Changing Teaching and Learning

Sections from column in OnCUE Summer 2011

Change means something different to different people. It depends on each person’s prior knowledge, experience, values, and attitude about what it is they are changing. Teachers may only know what they have been taught. They don’t know what they don’t know. Some people resist change because what they learned at their home, school, or university is what they believe is the right and only way to teach and learn. The world is changing and many of our K-20 institutions are not ready or understand how they fit in the picture to change. Some parents and school boards resist change. At board meetings you may here “If it was good for me than it is good for my child.” Teaching and learning is changing even if educators, parents, and students resist it.

In facilitating change for yourself or as the professional developer for your staff, it would be beneficial to know what concerns individuals have about the change you may be initiating. Here is one chart designed to help schools identify what a student-centered environment looks like.

These are the stages of concern that each of us go through when we are learning a new skill. Consider the people at your school. When it comes to project-based learning, I was surprised to find some younger teachers resistant to taking the time to plan and implement projects. It appears they were not exposed to projects in their teacher education programs. Projects take time and energy that many teachers don’t think they have. Every project is different and not all of them work. However, a project that engages students and has them “think” is good. All of this is a process.

Working through the stages helps me. I hope they help you.

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Who dunnit?

I cannot even tell you how exciting it is to work with teachers who are so passionate about teaching and coming up with ways to motivate and engage their students. This last week was like that. I am working at two middle schools in Oakland who just finished testing.  Madison Middle School is preparing for a Math/Science Expo on June 7th. I love this!

It’s all about teamwork, collaboration, inquiry, roles and responsibility.

Think CSI. The eighth grade kids came up with the title “CSI Oakland” and we’re putting together five crime scenes. Shhhhhh! We cannot let all the crimes out of the bag yet. Think money stolen — window broken — locker vandalized and more. We have fourteen suspects. Cannot tell you who they are, but they have mugshots with prison numbers, sour faces, and aliases. Read more

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Project-Based Learning: Replicating Success

This Edutopia article by Grace Rubinstein gives you tips and strategies how to do project-based learning from a rural school district in Georgia that transformed the way its students learn using the inspiration and mentorship provided by San Diego’s High Tech High. Check out the tips and examples from Whitfield Career Academy, in Dalton, Georgia, where they are in their second year of shifting to High Tech High-style project-based learning.

Teachers going through this transformation don’t expect their schools to emerge from it looking exactly like High Tech High. Each school has its own unique teachers, students, culture, history, and setting, and its path to change must uniquely match those. Read more

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Getting Back to Learning After Testing

I work with several public middle schools who are in the middle of testing. The mood and morale is awful. Students are complaining of headaches and some are skipping school. Teachers are asking me to help them create projects now so as soon as they stop testing, their students can get back to real learning that is connected to what is relevant to them.

Students need to be part of the design team developing questions about what means something to them. One topic we are working on is a six week project on Global Climate Change. We took a template of an existing project and cloned it. That was easy. Now the hard part.. designing group activities where each child has a role and responsibilities. The product they will create in their group is a 30 second public service announcement (PSA) about a topic involving Global Climate Change.

We brainstormed ideas for activities:

  • class will view a video on Global Climate Change.
  • the class will brainstorm ideas for topics about climate change using Inspiration.
  • students will group by topic (4 to a group).
  • each group will mindmap ideas and questions about their topic. They need to come up with at least ten questions. Refer to Developing Questions for Critical Thinking using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.The will post their questions around the room and on a comment on the website.
  • group roles could include: researchers, actors, director, camera person, graphic artist, writers.
  • each group will be responsible for a category with questions and answers for the jeopardy game.
  • groups will research their topic on the Internet and find the causes, effects, and how people can change the effects.
  • each student will calculate their carbon footprint.
  • all topics will be pulled together as the jeopardy game and played in class. The jeopardy game will be embedded in SlideShare and the project website.
  • the class will Skype with a local TV meteorologist about weather and the climate. Each group will choose one question to ask and discuss with the meteorologist. the Skype session will be recorded and saved to the website.
  • each group will then write a paragraph (100 words) about their topic and hand it to another group for feedback.  Questions to consider:
    Is it informative about the topic?
    Is there a call to action for the audience?
  • each group will use the feedback to create a storyboard with no more than 8 scenes and present to two other groups for feedback and approval.
  • each group will design or find the graphics, costumes, charts, etc. for each scene and practice each scene so the PSA is no more than 30 seconds.
  • each group will film and edit their PSA.
  • groups will show off their PSA to each other.
  • class will showcase their PSAs to school and parents.

This is big. It will take six weeks but these 6th grade students will always remember what they did and be proud of it. My job is in the background. This is too much for a teacher to do alone if they have never done anything like it before. I’m their coach.

This is so much fun. I want to do more. I am working with several other teachers to design different projects, playshops for teachers and more. One cool project is a CSI project. I’m working on that today. I wish learning could be like this everyday where students own it. Teachers are pulled in so many directions and spending months to prepare for tests that impact the school not the child. This is very upsetting to me. It should all be about the child — the learner.

In the future, we’ll look back and shake our heads for taking creativity and critical thinking out of schools for a whole generation of kids.  It’s time to bring joy back and make learning relevant to the real world.

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Imagine Traveling to Mars

You can do that now. Lucky me! I participated in Dr. David Thornburg‘s session on Learning from the Holodeck at Fall Cue today.

The world’s first educational holodeck is at the pre-K to middle school campus of Colégio Atual, a school in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. The holodeck is a bare room with custom interactive computer software and hardware. Students create challenging missions that use their skills in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects to complete a journey. Middle School students take a simulated trip to Mars in search of evidence for extraterrestrial life. These students are in their school but instead of being seated in rows in a traditional classroom, they are in a special room, the Educational Holodeck.

With the Thornburg Educational Holodeck(tm), large screen displays are used to convincingly create the environment of an interplanetary voyage, where students are allowed to choose their destination for each journey (e.g., Jupiter’s moon, Io). The software is an open source program called Celestia.

The holodeck is a highly engaging example of an environment that is:

  • interactive
  • immersive
  • interdisciplinary
  • innovative
  • interesting

Students join teams based on their interest: culinary, engineering, space, and others to research how to live on the spacecraft over years on their way to Mars and back.

Colégio Atual holodeck has U-shaped tables so team leaders can sit closer to their team members. All the interactive images on the walls are produced by computers. This means, for example, that the room can immediately change from being a spaceship to being a microscopic chamber allowing children to navigate through the human circulatory system – all by changing the room’s software.

The teacher plays the role of mission commander, not as content presenter. Students need to do their own research in order to be successful in this environment.

HyperStudio is being used to coordinate a number of different software applications such as Celestia, Google Earth, a calculator, video chat software, and others.

In addition, the Thornburg Educational Holodeck(tm) project is doing advanced testing of the HyperStudio Player for the iPad as a portable data device on the Educational Holodeck ™.

I want to be on a team using the Holodeck.

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