Category Archives: General Info

Transforming Learning Through 21st Century Skills- Part Two

I finished the book with a true grasp of the topic. The very clear and concise points moved smoothly through the rest of the chapters. There were many opportunities to stop and see where each individual fits in the discussion. Chapter 4 defined and stressed the importance of school culture as it applies to the climate and atmosphere of the school. Six characteristics define a positive school culture. The survey assessment was particularly interesting. Chapter 5 covered setting and achieving goals. One suggestion was a list of energy savers and energy wasters. By visualizing the end result, the process made perfect sense to me. Chapter 6 was perhaps my favorite because it emphasized the need to communicate clearly. It is an essential skill to all aspects of life. Chapter 7 asks the reader to predict possible roadblocks and barriers. Four types of response were discussed and the challenge to identify where the individual fits into the discussion was very enlightening. Chapter 8 asks for the individual to engage support with personal accountability and peer groups. Chapter 9 says to make it real in the classroom and continue learning. There was a very comprehensive collection of resources at the end of the book.

The reflections listed at the end of the chapters appealed to me because they followed up with the ideas presented in the chapter. This allowed me to finish a chapter with reflections and a sense of closure. For me, I wish I had the actual book rather than the digital book. I think keeping the reflections in a journal format would be very appealing; however, the notes I took accomplished the same goal, but not as organized as I would have liked. I enjoyed this format and the focus of the topic. Highly recommended for those who want an excellent overview and guidebook for this important venture in education.

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Transforming Learning through 21st Century Skills

If you are still looking for a general overview and background information on the subject of 21st century education, this is a great resource. It is very clearly organized and easy to read. Chapter 1 deals with the rapid pace of change in the world as it applies to our students. Two statistics jumped out at me. First, the top jobs that our students will be competing for as adults did not exist in 2004. Second, today’s students will have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38. Lydotta and Jill gave personal observations of their children’s experience with technology in the 1980’s. I was reminded of my daughter’s delight with her Speak and Spell – after all, it was so advanced that ET was able to use it to contact his space ship, right?
The authors identified eight of the greatest challenges for educators today. They also defined generations from Baby Boomers to Gen I, and gave a synopsis of the evolution.

Chapter 2 discusses 21st century skills and a model for change. “We do not believe that technology is a must in every 21st century skills learning opportunity.” A rainbow graphic shows the skills that our students will need to master- they look very familiar and incorporate information media and tech skills as one of several components. The chapter ended with a self check- is your classroom a 21st century classroom? Even the most traditional teacher will be delighted to find that they are farther along than they could imagine. The Who Took My Chalk?tm step by step model was then explained. The chapter summary allows the reader to take a moment to make sure that they have the main ideas presented in the text.

Chapter 3 challenges the reader to recognize the need or desire to make changes in their approach. Looking at our own fears and keeping a positive attitude for their suggested 21 days can allow the teacher time to make a few changes and then reflect on the process. The authors also said that keeping the changes and adjustments positive and happy for the teacher is a key approach.

These first three chapters have provided a solid background and foundation for the next section.

Social Networking On Campus…On Purpose!

I have heard a fair share of complaints of children (and teens, well, ages across the board) spending too much time on their phones or on gaming systems and not enough time socializing and engaging in the world around them. Now that we are in this post-modern digital age, it is almost expected that children and teens be connected to their phones, gaming systems, or other digital media. Isn’t that engaging in the world around them as well?

I randomly came across an article encouraging schools to embrace this new age of technology, more specifically through Facebook and Twitter. It seems that we could have the best of both worlds in education…engagement on school campuses through digital social interaction and personal human interaction. The article is on the blog: “Not So Distant Future“, which is focused on libraries, technologies, and schools (this blog has won many awards I might add!) It offers snapshots of studies focusing on using the popular (and FREE!) Facebook and Twitter to engage students in campus events. I agree in this librarian’s take on the fact that educators/administrators worry about the use of social networking will hinder academic progress or social interactions, but should also focus on the opportunity, student reaction, student attendance, and student learning, etc. Junco, one of the researchers, has several articles published on the effects of Twitter and Facebook on many aspects of education.

I think that the studies they reveal could show encouragement and motivation for our school as we have a campus blessed with involved students and many technological opportunities and advocates! Facebook and Twitter are two of the most talked about social networks at school, work, and now on TV it seems…I think we should take a look at the success rate and think about its transition into education. It will happen whether it’s purposely used for school or if a student is updating their Facebook status under the table so the teacher won’t see. Let’s jump on board and see what we can do!

Rethinking How Students Learn: Bob Pearlman on PBL

Bus driver…move…THAT…(school) bus!!!

And reveal the new learning environment of the 21st Century. Is it time for an Extreme Makeover: School Edition? I think so. And so does Bob Pearlman, nationally renowned educational reform consultant.

An example of “connected learning” (see my previous post), this topic is relevant on several levels for me right now. You see, Pearlman is going to speak at Heritage Hall in April regarding project-based learning (I absolutely can’t wait!). I am currently in the midst of dreaming and blueprinting a redesign of our Upper School computer lab. To top it all off, our E21 Team is thrilled about our upcoming road trip to see one of the premier examples of 21st century learning environment (21CLE) in our region – New Tech High at Coppell, Texas.

We all know that students learn best when they are engaged and allowed to do most of the learning on their own. Research has proven such about this generation of students. So what is the best way to accomplish this phenomenon? The successful formula seems to be:  PBL based pedagogy + 21CL environment + performance assessment = meaningful, connected learning.

Pearlman cites a Buck Institute of Education definition of PBL:

PBL is a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.

Sounds intense, doesn’t it? It is. According to Pearlman, PBL activities at New Tech schools usually last 1-3 weeks long. Examples include presenting a plan to Congress solving the oil crisis and inventing a sport that astronauts can play on the moon so they can get exercise. Students usually receive a rubric up front, so they know what amount of work will be required to achieve basic, proficient, or advanced scores.

Here’s an idea I absolutely love…when students finish a PBL unit of study, they present to an external audience. That could mean community experts, parents, Board members, other teachers, peers outside of their own class, or more. And students self-evaluate throughout the project and write a summative reflection on what they learned and how the project can be improved. And, in the spirit of 21CL, why not share with a global audience…online?!? This could be done with a partner classroom, or simply through a blog or Wiki open to the world.

So what about changes to the physical environment? 21CLE’s are large open spaces with mobile furniture. Every student has access to a computer. Tables or desks can be easily moved together for collaboration or “break-out” sessions structured around student “need to knows.” Many 21CLE’s use glass walls or windows to make learning transparent to all students and visiting adults.

The best 21st century schools provide every student with a computer, which increasingly means a laptop in a wireless environment. [Bob Pearlman]

But it’s not just about the technology. It’s the pedagogy behind technology that makes for successful learning in a 21CLE. Students use the laptop to conduct Internet research, Skype with experts, work collaboratively outside of school to construct products of learning (i.e. videos, podcasts, websites), and utilize technology to present their findings. In other words, according to Pearlman, “Students utilize all these [digital] tools to be investigators and producers of knowledge.”

At New Tech High in Coppell the school has adopted new language to refer to students and teachers. They have become “learners” and “facilitators,” respectively. Pearlman goes on to describe the physical landscape of NTH@C, both in the classroom and in hallways & common areas. Because our E21 team will be visiting NTH@C in early April, I will save discussion on these revelations for a future blog post. For now, check out these links to five schools ID’d by Pearlman as “the best of the new learning environments:”

Columbus Signature Academy (Columbus, Indiana)
New Tech High @ Coppell (Coppell, Texas)
The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (Providence, Rhode Island)
High Tech High (San Diego, California)
New Line Learning Academy (Kent, England)

The bottom line: These findings, yet again, suggest that our E21 mission is true. We are on the eve of implementing at a 1:1 laptop program – not based on simply dropping in technology, but based on years of our own research about 1:1 and 21CL. Our program is founded on technology rooted in tried and true pedagogy. By moving forward, we further enable our students to go beyond passive consumption of information and actively CREATE their own knowledge and experience true lifelong learning.

And that is what it’s all about, friends.

Teaching on a “Need to Know” Basis?

Below is an interesting video about how “Connected Learning” is causing a shift in education. It was put together by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, which can be followed on Twitter @DMLCentral. Underneath are some highlights and my reflections. See if you agree…

Material and pace are clearly dictating our nation’s current systematic approach to education. It’s more important to cover as much content in as little amount of time as possible. This inch-deep, mile-wide approach is hurting our kids; we’ve got to allow them to explore learning on a deeper level. I feel so blessed to work at a school that recognizes – and always has – that learning isn’t just about content acquisition.

According to the DML experts in this video, we can do this by starting all learning initiatives in class with an emotional, intellectual, or identity question that inspires a true “need to know” in our students. This kind of approach will not only lead to increased retention of relevant knowledge, but also promotes a passion for learning, in general, among our kids.

Who contributes…and who is ultimately responsible for helping young people survive and thrive and grow up to be curious, engaged citizens?
[Katie Salen, DePaul University Professor]

Education is no longer solely the job of the school. It is a community endeavor; we must all embrace learning together. Schools do not wield knowledge and control learning. By doing so, we instill a notion in our students that learning is a one-time thing that spans 14 years and then you graduate. Learning is, in fact, forever. Let us inspire our students to become self-motivated, lifelong learners.

How can we use these resources to bring people together who want to learn together – and not the model of how can we deliver content more effectively from a single source to many listeners?
[Mimo Ito, Cultural Anthropologist]

The central principle, according to DML, of 21st century learning is CONNECTEDNESS. This ties directly into the modern ideal of open knowledge. “It’s about expertise that’s widely distributed in our society culture…the fact that anybody can help somebody get better at something,” says Ito. Connected learning is a work in progress…and will always be such.

At HH, we are clearly already on the right path…let us stay the course…and help our students reap the rewards of connected learning.

Make them need to know.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Linda Darling-Hammond

Waiting for Superman, movie poster

Did you know? On the 2006 PISA, an assessment of students in 40 countries, the United States ranked 35th in math and 31st in science. Shocking. It makes you wonder why.

Linda Darling-Hammond theorizes about the underachievement of American students:

  • The US educational system moves back and forth, like a pendulum, between polar extremes.
  • Top-performing countries have little external testing and instead emphasize school-based assessments that are open-ended in nature.
  • These top performers are constantly evolving curriculum and assessment, teaching both content and skills.
  • Teachers in those nations have an average of 15-25 hours per week in which they plan their lessons TOGETHER.
  • Students in those nations have longer periods of time to work under the guidance of their teachers on project- and problem-based activities.

Darling-Hammond’s observations made me think. He observations made sense. I especially am keen on the idea of longer class periods (like the “block schedule” many schools use) to allow students a more continuous stream of thought and activity on a given task. I also like the idea of teachers meeting together once a week for an extended period of time to plan interdisciplinary activities. But, 2006 results are far gone now. I was left wondering, are there more recent PISA results – and if so, how did the US do?

Here’s what I found. The 2009 assessment shows that the US has improved in some categories:

  • 14th in reading
  • 17th in science
  • 23rd in math

But in one important statistic, we still fall short. About 18% of American students did not achieve a Level 2 (“literacy”) score in math and reading assessments. Our schools still need change if we are to best prepare our students for their future.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what kind of PISA scores Heritage Hall students would achieve. I have a feeling we’d be knocking it out of the park. And that is exciting, considering that, as a school, we are already embracing changes that will promote our students to think more deeply, express ideas more creatively, and collaborate in innovative ways with our world neighbors.

My Favorite Blog

If you have a spare second I highly recommend Frank Noschese’s “Action-Reaction” teaching reflections blog. Frank is a prominent high school physics teacher who’s extremely thoughtful posts go far beyond physics. Some of his most interesting reflections involve psydoteaching which he defines as

something you realize you’re doing after you’ve attempted a lesson which from the outset looks like it should result in student learning, but upon further reflection, you realize that the very lesson itself was flawed and involved minimal learning.

His “Khan Academy is an Indictment on Education” post was nominated by Edublog for most influential blog in 2011 and his “$2 interactive whiteboard” won the 2010 award for most influential post from Edublog. Whether you are interested in practical technology application, Khan Academy, or standards based grading his posts will make you think.

News: Apple to Enter e-Textbook Market?

The invitation was cryptic, but significant. Could it change the skyline of the U.S. textbook industry? Watch and see.

Apple has a date with the Big Apple. Wednesday the 19th.

Apple announced an education event in the Big Apple scheduled for next week. Speculation is abound that Apple will unveil a new iBooks for education program. Some say it will have an impact that rivals the splash made by iTunes in the music business about a decade ago (CDs are on their last leg, just in case you haven’t noticed).

Many conjecture that the new program will be designed for use on the iPad, and will provide tablet-toting students with weightless e-textbooks that incorporate interactive features.

Walter Isaacson, the official biographer of the late Steve Jobs, was first to hint at this as he cited Jobs’ plan to circumvent state certification of textbooks by making them free to the public on the iPad. In his book, Issacson indicates that Jobs planned to hire textbook writers to create electronic interactive versions for the iPad. Pearson Education has been speculated to be the first major company to cooperate with Apple on such a project.

According to Jordan Golson, an editor for the popular site MacRumors, “It seems likely that Apple will work with existing textbook makers to build interactive iPad editions of existing textbooks, rather than Apple hiring textbook writers directly and offering the content for free. Apple loves to be disruptive, but the company hasn’t turned into a publishing company like Amazon has. Just because Jobs had the idea, doesn’t mean Apple will follow it to the letter.”

While many are speculating on the announcement, Apple remains quiet about the event after the cryptic message. Only one thing is certain…

The education world will be tuned in.

a fly tech tool in the classroom: Shutterfly.com

My favorite tool I have used by far has been Shutterfly. Shutterfly is used in many ways! Primarily for Kindergarten, it is used by parents more than the students. Aside from e-mail, Shutterfly is my line of communication with parents. Updated weekly, our Shutterfly class website contains calendars, photos, videos, curriculum, important info/forms, and general info about our classroom and Lower School as a whole. This password protected site has been invaluable in keeping parents completely connected with what is happening in the classroom.

The kids love taking pictures in class, so it is the best way for me to share them with their families. Through Shutterfly, you can order prints or photo books of the pictures you love! (fees apply via Shutterfly.com) I often receive emails raving about the website and how wonderful it is to get photo and video updates of our classroom!

One of my favorite features, drum roll please….SIGN-UP SHEETS! That’s right, sign-up sheets online. It’s amazing. You don’t have to worry about posting forms outside your door or for parents to find time to sign up for various opportunities in a timely manner. Parents log-in with their own email and have complete access to sign up for volunteer opportunities, conferences, etc whenever they want! I love it and so do the parents!

You can design your own class website however it suits you best. You can put as little or as much information on it. For those that don’t need a website for communicating with parents, it is a great website for kids to design their own websites. Are you a history teacher? Let’s say you have a student studying WWII. He or she could design a [free] website displaying what is learned! Within the website, he or she could have different tabs or pages titled: important battles, key figures, timelines, causes and outcomes, military strategies, etc. Within each section he/she can layout information in a variety of ways. Not to mention, other students could log-in and give feedback on what has been posted. He/she could also upload photos to help share the information.

As far as I can see, there are endless possibilities with Shutterfly! It is a free website, however, should you choose to upgrade, there is a fee good for one year. This gives you more memory storage for video uploads, etc.

What a great way to exemplify the fluencies of 21st century learning…creatively displaying information in such a way that engages others, sparks feedback potential, and a safe and educational way to post info on the internet. Oh the possibilities!

Shutterfly, you get an A+ from our Kindergarten class!

Tech tools

I have used several tech tools in the past couple of years and one that I keep going back to is hippocampus.org. It has short video clips available for all subjects and is geared to regular ed and ap students. I find this website most helpful in introducing new topics or units to my students. The video clips for history provide primary source documents as well as a written version of the audio for students to go back and review without having to re-listen to the entire clip. When I use this website I usually have the students watch three to four video clips within a class period in the MAC lab along with answering questions for each topic. This website could also be used for review before exams or especially final exams and the students could watch the clips at home with access to the internet. 

I have not yet taken advantage of this tool yet, but each educator who registers can create their own hippocampus webpage for their class. This would allow the teacher to post only those clips needed by the teacher instead of the students having to search for them.

A draw back to this website would be that there is no “real action” for the history video clips but rather just a collection of pictures (while still valuable as primary sources). This could cause a decline in student interest without real life action.

http://www.hippocampus.org/