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Tag: Professional Development

1

Reflecting on Reflection

Reflection is a powerful tool. Today I woke up and wondered why I haven’t written a post in so long. I paused, thought about it, and realized my life has been spinning the last two months. Usually the words just come to me, but these past months have me working every minute. I am a co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC with Kathleen McClaskey. We are being written into many Race to the Top applications around the country. My eCoach has been approached to support different groups Communities of Practice, so that is growing at the same time. It’s very exciting, but I need to write about ideas that may not be about the work I do. I love to write. These ideas come to me, and I need to put them down. Even if I am working 20 hours a day, I need to stop, pause, and reflect.

So reflecting on reflection came to me. Actually reflecting means capturing the moment when it happens.  Today is the day for me to capture the moment.  First a quote:

Reflection is what allows us to learn from our experiences: it is an
assessment of where we have been and where we want to go next.
~ Kenneth Wolf

For the last two months, Kathleen and I have been writing every day supporting different RTT-D applications. The last week, we have been bombarded with calls from districts and consortiums of districts wanting our support. We are getting requests from schools and organizations from other countries. Today I need to stop and breathe and reflect. I use Gibb’s Model of Reflection:

Gibbs Model of Reflection

What happened?

Kathleen and I developed a model for personalizing learning over a four year period that meets the requirements of the Race to the Top application. We defined the differences between personalization vs differentiation vs individualization and ended up having Porvir in Brazil create an infographic in Portuguese around our chart that we translated in English. We were hired by Grant Wood AEA in Iowa to talk to their superintendents and now are doing a webinar overview, offering an eCourse and webinar series, and setting up a Community of Practice across the state. That was just the beginning. We are getting requests from all around the country and Mumbai, Singapore, and more.

What am a I thinking and feeling?

I am excited about the interest we are getting. Now about my feelings. I haven’t had time to reflect on everything that is happening so fast. This is good. Pausing. Reflecting. I think I got too excited about the interest and stopped thinking about me and what I love to do — write. This also made me think about kids today and all that is on their plates in school — especially middle and high school kids running from class to class in schools with crazy bell schedules. I need time to reflect. I don’t know how kids do it — starting and stopping thinking– thinking in one subject and then jumping into another subject.

Personalizing learning means creating time to reflect, pause, and have flexible schedules that allow for risk-taking and reflection. There is no time for risk-taking or reflection when you are preparing for a test or writing an application.

What’s good and bad about the experience?

Good

Kathleen and I are revisiting and refining our model and process. It is getting better every day. I am excited about what we are coming up with and know there is still lots more to do. Every school, district, teacher, and learner is unique — there is no cookie-cutter answer to meet the needs of everyone involved.

Bad

My feelings are that I’m overwhelmed. Guess that’s the way kids feel daily. I get it. That’s why we are doing what we are doing. School does this same thing to kids that is happening to me right now. Overwhelmed. No time to think about thinking. I say that reflection is very important and needs to be part of every day. Pause. Think. Reflect. Write.

What sense can I make of the situation?

Kathleen and I complement each other. We both bring a lot to the table. I live in California where the education bubble burst some time ago. Professional development budgets crumbled and professional developers fight over the same dollar. I thought this was happening everywhere in the US. Kathleen, who lives in New Hampshire, opened my eyes to what is happening in New Hampshire: competency-based learning in all the high schools and 1:1 iPad schools in the Northeast. We interviewed leaders and transformational teachers and found CESA #1 in Southeastern Wisconsin where Jim Rickabaugh shared how there is co-teaching, learning plans, and learning changing. British Columbia is transforming learning across the province where Dave Truss shared about the Inquiry Hub. So much is happening in other places around the world. Why couldn’t it happen here in my backyard?

It can. It is but in pockets, but not the way I was hoping. Some large corporations are coming in and spouting that they can personalize learning by adapting the curriculum and blending learning with learning labs and algorithms. They can “Personalize” the learning for students. Sorry — but personalizing learning means starting with the learner — changing teacher and learner roles. That’s why we made our chart and had to do what we are doing. We see the importance of knowing how learners learn best using Universal Design for Learning principles which then changes teaching and learning. Motivation — Engagement — Voice. That’s what works. Technology can support this but not be the only thing that personalizes learning.  Whew!!  Pause. Reflect.

What else could I have done?

Take time off every day and pause. I need to stop and reflect every day somehow. When I write, it seems to put everything in perspective for me. I still write my column for CUE, but this site is for me to share my thoughts and findings. I will never go months again without writing something even if it is another reflection about my reflections.

If it arose again, what would I do?

Write on the calendar in big letters: Pause. Reflect today. 

It is important to capture and treasure every moment. This is my learning environment that is personal to me. I forgot that every day I am learning something new. How cool is that?

3

Personalizing ISTE 2012 with My Friends

Barbara Bray avatarI’m on my way to ISTE in San Diego soon. I’m going to be talking about personalizing learning. I’m pulling together my presentations, events, and meetings. I’m pretty excited about seeing many of my friends from around the world. Now here’s my dilemma — I want to spend time with friends but I am planning to network. Some of my friends have contracted me to provide services. I guess I’m what you call a “networker” and “digital friend.” But the boundaries are getting fuzzier and fuzzier because of social media. This is my avatar on the right. Red hair — always smiling. I kind of look like my avatar. The real me may appear a little shorter  :)

I started looking at my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and get it that I’m all over social media. I do love it. I love the connections, learning from friends I’m following and who are in my circles, on Scoopit and Pinterest, connections on LinkedIn, those who share on my FB timeline or in my Twitter feeds. I guess one of the decisions I had to make when creating circles in Google+ is what circles to put people in. I didn’t feel right putting some people in acquaintances because I felt like they were kind of “friends.”

So now I have to think about what is a friend? Who do I call my friends? Actually, most of the same people are popping up as friends or connections across social media. Many of these friends I don’t know but look forward to meet at ISTE. I hope you introduce yourself and say “I’m your friend on …..” That is if you want a hug.

I’m a hugger and networker. See me walking down the exhibit hall and I’m talking to everyone. Meet you the first time, I’ll shake your hand, look you in the eyes, and have a great conversation. Next time, I’ll probably hug you. Can’t help it. That’s me!

So if you hug me back, then we can call each other friends? Nooooo! It’s more than that. Friends and business acquaintances are different. Can you be both? Yes!

MMMmmmmmm……

I only started thinking about this when my social media connections got pretty big and I was scooping this and tweeting that and spending too much time on social media. Social media started taking over. I love connecting to all my friends. Now I’m getting ready for ISTE and will see so many of you — my wonderful friends. But I’m going to ISTE to share my research, my work, and learn from you.

Missing Piece

This time I’m very excited about the prospect of working with others who are researching Personalized Learning and how it can transform education. I’m looking to talk to you, learn from you, and maybe work with you. I have been collaborating with Kathleen McClaskey and set up our own site Personalize Learning. We both believe that learning starts with the learner.  We are getting connected to new “Friends” because of our work around Personalized Learning.

ISTE 2012 ConferenceI hope to see you at ISTE at our sessions. We’re hosting a Birds of a Feather session on Monday  that is mainly interactive by you the participants. You bring the questions, talk about them in small groups, and then share back. We’ll collect the information and share them with you on our website. We are also doing a presentation about Personalized Learning Toolkits  on Tuesday at 3:45 and anticipate lots of feedback and sharing. Kathleen and I have worked very hard on this presentation and hope you find it beneficial. Join us!

So I hope to see lots of my friends in San Diego. I am hooked on social media. Probably will be hugging a few of you. I just have to say thank you to so many of my friends who have been there for me for so many years. I feel very fortunate. It will be fun to see you and meet in person some of my virtual friends for the first time.

Some ways to connect:

Check out my Scoop-its:

 

Contact me via barbara.bray@gmail.com if you want to set up a time to meet at the conference.

2

Personalized Learning @ Colorado Springs SD11

District 11, Colorado Springs

Thought Leader Interview:
Greg Wilborn, Personalized Learning Coordinator

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

Q. Why personalize learning?

Because we finally CAN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Complex Change

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

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

Evolution

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

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

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

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

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

The Personalized Learning Lead Educator Group will:

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

 

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

Greg WilbornGreg Wilborn
Personalized Learning Coordinator
Colorado Springs SD 11
Twitter: @gwilborn
LinkedIN: Greg Wilborn
10

18 Predictions for Educational Trends in 2012

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

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

2012 Predictions

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

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

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

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

15

11 Tips to Personalize Learning

1. Find out how each student learns best.

Each student is unique. Find out each students best learning styles using multiple assessments. Have students create a personal learner profile that identifies how they best learn, their strengths, and their weaknesses.

2. Allow students to choose their topic.

Give students a chance to make decisions about how they learn best. Have students pursue their own interests and something they are passionate about. Make sure they address their strengths and their learning styles. Don’t expect everyone to respond in the same way.

3. Encourage teachers and students to co-design the curriculum.

Review the standards with the students so they understand what they need to know and do. Ask students to brainstorm ideas and topics around the standards and examples of projects, problems, and challenges.

4. Ask lots of questions.

Take one topic and brainstorm open-ended questions that have no one right answer but multiple answers and more questions. Provide a framework for students to engage with new learning by making connections, thinking critically and exploring possibilities. Have them brainstorm questions and then prioritize the questions.

5. Teach less, learn more.

Review the lesson so you are not lecturing or the main expert of the content. Make it so everyone in the class is an expert on something or a great researcher so they can find the information they need. Change the seating arrangements so students are in groups or encourage students to redesign the learning environment. Have students find their strengths and be available to help others. When someone has a question about something, have them ask 3 people that have identified they know the topic before you. Integrate the appropriate technology that encourages publishing, creating, and collaborating with other students.

6. Share how you learn.

Talk about your own learning. You are creating a learning community where you are modeling collaboration, curiosity, and reflection. Be an active participant in the learning community. Opening up about you and what you know about a specific topic encourages discourse among your students.

7. Connect, extend, challenge.

Ask your students to write down and reflect on what they learned, if there was a particular learning experience they enjoyed, what helped and hindered their learning, and what might they do different next time. This can be in the form of a blog or personal online journal.

8. Re-evaluate assessment.

Instead of focusing on standardized tests only to measure progress, create meaningful assessment tasks that allow transfer of learning to other contexts. Have students publish evidence of their learning on the internet for an authentic audience such as a blog or ePortfolio. Place as much value on process and progress as on the final product.

9. Define goals and encourage reflection.

Each student can define their learning goals and develop their personal learning plan. They can refer to their progress towards their goals with ongoing self-evaluation and reflection. Provide opportunities for constructive, specific feedback from you, the student, their peers, and their parents. Student blogs are great tools for reflecting on learning and responding to their peers.

10. Focus on learning, not work.

Make sure you and your students know the reason for every learning experience. Avoid giving worksheets and busy work. Start with the Why they are learning something. Ask questions. Encourage questions. Develop with your students learning experiences that support personalized learning and collaborative group activities.

11. Coordinate student led conferences.

Invite students to lead the conference about them sharing their strengths and weaknesses with their teacher and parents. They also share how learning has progressed, areas for improvement, and the process and product of learning. Evidence of learning and the process can be published to an ePortfolio, a VoiceThread, Glogster, or blog.

0

Student-Centered Learning: Changing Teaching

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

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

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

First Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

2

Failure is No Longer an Option

Think of your students working at their own pace. Teachers are overwhelmed as they try to meet the needs of all their students. With our current one-size-fits-all system, many children are being left behind and dropping out.

A competency-based system means students address standards in the way that meets their needs instead of waiting to learn something when it comes up in a chapter in a textbook or when it is being taught to the whole class. Competency-based pathways are a re-engineering of our education system around learning: a re-engineering designed for success in which failure is no longer an option. Competency-based approaches build upon standard reforms, offering a new value proposition:

By aligning all of our resources (in schools, the community, and online) around student learning to enable students to progress upon mastery, our country can increase productivity in the education system, while simultaneously raising achievement levels overall and reducing the achievement gap.

[Source: Competency-Based Pathways]

So a competency-based system accelerates the pace of learning based upon a student’s abilities, needs, and interests, while other students may require additional support and alternative types of instruction until they master the content. The current system expects proficiency of a standard before advancement while a competency-based system monitors progress in meeting a standard. Competency-based design principles [shortened] from Competency-based Pathways:

Design Principle 1: Students Advance upon Mastery

    • Students advance by demonstration of mastery, not age.
    • Students are appropriately challenging.
    • Students are evaluated on performance.
    • Some students complete courses at different rates than others.

Design Principle 2: Explicit and Measurable Learning Objectives Empower Students

    • The student and teacher relationship changes.

    • Learning becomes modular.
    • Learning goes beyond the classroom and can be anytime, anywhere.

Design Principle 3: Assessment Is Meaningful and a Positive Learning Experience for Students

    • Schools focus on formative assessment.

    • Teachers collaborate to develop understanding of what is an adequate demonstration of proficiency.
    • Skills or concepts are assessed in multiple contexts and multiple ways.
    • Attention on student learning, not student grades.
    • Summative assessments are adaptive and timely.

Design Principle 4: Students Receive Rapid, Differentiated Support

    • Students progress at their own speeds and students that are proceeding more slowly will need more help.

    • Personal learning plans identify learning styles, context, and interventions that are most effective for each student.
    • New specialist roles may develop to provide high quality interventions when students begin to slip behind.
    • Online learning can play an invaluable role in providing feedback to teachers on how students are proceeding.

Design Principle 5: Learning Outcomes Emphasize Include Application and Creation of Knowledge

    • Competencies are designed so that demonstration of mastery includes application of skills and knowledge.

    • Assessment rubrics are explicit in what students must be able to know and do to progress to the next level of study.
    • Examples of student work that demonstrate skills development throughout a learning continuum will help students understand their own progress.
    • Lifelong learning skills designed around students needs, life experiences, and the skills needed for them to be college and career ready.
    • Expanded learning opportunities are developed for students to develop and apply skills as they are earning credit.

Businesses, Universities, Community Colleges, and Technical colleges are looking at competency-based systems for career bound students and job seekers. There is a need to address and accept existing knowledge and skills people have no matter what age.

What about providing a system in K-20 for learners to challenge a course or test? This could actually be a way to move people through a competency-based system where life skills and background knowledge mean something. It will be interesting to follow innovative practices where schools take risks to address each students’ needs and learning styles.

It is time to “think out of the box” where failure is not an option anymore. We cannot leave one child behind. Every child is important. This is their future and right now — today — isn’t looking very promising for them. Schools have to change. We cannot look back anymore and say “if it was good for me, it’s good for my child.” That doesn’t work anymore. The world is different. We tried the “one size fits all” now for a long time. We have more children left behind than ever.

Let’s look at personalizing learning and competency-based system models. How about learning modules that are available when a student needs an answer or a question? How about teachers as personal learning coaches?

I am going to showcase different schools and innovation centers where the focus is on learning and meeting the needs of each student. Are you with me?

I submitted an idea for the Grand Challenge about Designing Creative Learning Environments. Check it out. Vote. Comment. Leave a comment here.

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Middle School Social Skills Curriculum

Sharon EiltsSharon Eilts, sharon.eilts@sesd.org, is a middle school (grades 6-8) special education teacher for students with autism spectrum disorder. I met Sharon through the Google Certified Teacher program. I have been following her discussions on social media about special needs and the use of technology so I wanted to find out more. I asked Sharon some questions about her curriculum where she graciously shared her answers with me so I could share them with you especially since it is Special Education week & Autism & ADHD Awareness month.

Q1: I am really intrigued about your social studies curriculum. Can you give me some background on the curriculum and why you developed it?
A1. Firstly, it’s a social skills curriculum which I started developing because when I was transferred to the middle school, there was no established curriculum there. I learned about the people, like Michelle Garcia Winner, who have well established therapies and interventions as well as CAP (Comprehensive autism program), but I was pretty much on my own. I wanted the kids to be safe, learn how to have friends, not be bullied, and be as independent as I could help make them. I wanted others to see what these kids can do, not what they can’t.

Q2. What are the Touch/Talk/Trust concepts of social distancing, boundaries, and relationship specific behaviors? What types of activities did you use to learn they concepts?
A2. Those are from the Circles I materials. I believe that is an important concept that curriculum teaches. I incorporate a variety of activities, taking concepts from various curricula. We read, discuss, role play, video appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, de sensitize for teasing and name calling, yes do worksheets too. I try to give the students as many opportunities to practice social skills in a safe environment.

Q3. Why did you have the students create comic strips using ComicLife? Were there any surprising outcomes from this activity?
A3. All students are so in tune with technology. It has been part of their lives from the beginning. I wanted the students to create a story that other students might enjoy reading. I also want them to have some anonymity which Comic Life provides. What amazed me was that there were students who had some difficulty expressing their feelings verbally, but who were able to share significant information through this medium.

Q4. What does it mean to be a “Social Thinker?”
A4. Successful social thinkers are those, in my opinion, who can manage the vagaries of complex change. My students with autism cannot which means they are able to navigate the world of consistency, rules, and regularity, but have varying degrees of difficulty with non-verbal communication, sudden unanticipated changes, or situations that cause them great internal stress.

Q5. I feel many of your lessons could benefit all children. Can you share one lesson that you feel could be adapted for all middle school children?
A5. Wow, all of them would work for middle school students. I think the activities which allow students to participate in the projects, project-based learning if you will, would be very beneficial. It give the students the opportunity to be creators of their own learning within a framework, of course. They get the chance to learn how to do things, learning the what along the way through experiences.

Sharon compiled a great list of resources with her curriculum. Here’s a few of the resources:

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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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