Category Archives: Research & Stats

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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Action Research Complete!

For the past year, three other physics teachers and I have been investigating how explicitly teaching an expert-like approach in problem solving affects students in a modeling based physics classroom. We presented our findings Friday July 20th at Arizona State University and our report is, at last, complete!

We didn’t find anything groundbreaking. Unlike many larger/more popular educational innovations, our conclusions are conservative. Although we believe what we did has the potential to be beneficial to some students, we don’t claim it’s a silver bullet. In fact, we found that for students who didn’t build a strong conceptual understanding in physics, our explicit emphasis on problem solving was not beneficial.

Few people will likely be interested in reading our entire paper (it’s quite long!), but some may be interested in selected parts. I’ve posted our paper, Effects of Emphasizing Intentional Problems Solving here.

Here is our abstract:

Students begin their education in physics as novice problems solvers. Instead of carefully defining a problem, using qualitative models, and planning a method of solution, students often immediately attempt to find the answer to the problem. The result of this lack of methodical approach is that students are not only unable to solve problems, they are unsure of even the basic steps that lead toward solutions. Previous research has shown that intentionally teaching expert-like strategies increases students’ problem solving ability. Other studies have found that Modeling Instruction improves students’ expert-like problem solving ability. This study was initiated to evaluate the impact on students’ problem solving skills through teaching explicit problem solving strategies in addition to Modeling Instruction. There was no conclusive evidence that the gains from the two methods were additive; however, this approach was reported to be beneficial by study participants. There was substantial evidence that without a solid conceptual understanding, expert-like problem solving ability was limited.

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.

Thoughtful Reflection on Khan Academy & Science Ed.

RIP, Textbook O. Mine…

I can see it now. The tombstone will read:

Here lies an ol’ pal, Textbook O. Mine.
Since the 1800’s he worked mighty fine,
but the iPad is here so now we do fear
that he’s reached the end of his line.

College students agreed (see the recent Pearson Foundation study). Almost two-thirds of them believe that tablet devices, like the iPad, will replace the printed textbook in…get this…five years. That’s 2017. This survey produced several more astounding statistics:

  • 1 out of 4 college students in 2012 owns an iPad or similar tablet device; up from 7% a year ago.
  • 17% of high school seniors own an iPad in 2012; quadruple the 2011 figure of 4% ownership.
  • 63% of college – and 69% of high school – students believe that tablet devices will replace textbooks by 2017.
  • 36% of college – and 25% of high school – students plan to buy a tablet device in the next 6 months.
  • 63% of college students are considering the Apple iPad, compared to 26% Kindle Fire and 17% Samsung Galaxy Tab.
  • 70% of college students have used a digital textbook.
  • 58% prefer a digital textbook to a print version; a switch from last year where the same percentage preferred print.
  • According to the survey, the above statistic holds true for high school seniors as well.
  • 90% believe that tablets are a valuable tool in the educational experience.

What do you think about the battle that appears to be imminent between digital and print textbooks? Cast a vote and/or leave an expanded comment below. We want to know what you think.

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.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Richard & Rebecca DuFour

Professional Learning Communities…did your stomach churn when you read that phrase?

Like “21st Century Learning” (see my last post), PLC is one of those buzz words that has been used ad nauseum. And it implies that teachers sharing ideas with one another is a new thing…in fact, it is not a novel modern-day concept at all. Teachers have always depended on each other for support and new ideas. It’s how sharing occurs that is changing.

In Rethinking How Students LearnRichard and Rebecca DuFour explore the role of PLCs in the evolution to a 21st century learning environment. One of the early charges the PLC gurus and the Partnership for 21st Century make is for educators to share knowledge in three ways:

  1. Via face-to-face interaction.
  2. Through “virtual” communications.
  3. By “blended” communications.

In this blog post, I would like to discuss the second method, virtual communications, because I know teachers here on our campus and all over the world already collaborate via face-to-face interaction.

As referenced by the DuFours, Ken Blanchard (2007) writes:

There is no reason that time and distance should keep people from interacting as a team. With proper management and the help of technology, virtual teams can be every bit as productive and rewarding as face-to-face teams.

So, what would a virtual team look like? It could be done locally, but through technology; the Charger Ning is a great example of local virtual sharing. Or your team could be a global group; are you part of the virtual team of educators using the “Twitterverse” to share resources, news, and ideas?

I also love this passage written by the DuFours, which references the ideas of Malcolm Gladwell:

The tipping point is reached when a few key people in the organization who are highly regarded by and connected to others (the Law of the Few) present a compelling argument in a memorable way (the Stickiness Factor) that leads to subtle changes in the conditions of the organizations (the Power of Context).

This has me excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for this team of pioneers and our colleagues. And, I can’t wait to witness the resulting explosion of educational transformation on our campus when crest the “tipping point”.

In fact, I think that’s the tipping point I see now on the virtual horizon…

What Can Computer Science Learn from a Fine Arts Approach to Teaching?

I don’t teach computer science and I don’t teach fine arts – but I found this short study very interesting – and completely applicable to physics (and most other subjects too, I think). The study looks at two apparently similar programs, one in computer science and another in information technology. One is firmly rooted in 20th century learning while the other is embracing new ideas. The study shows that it’s going to take a new paradigm to tackle challenging educational problems (in this case: the gender gap in computer science). The specific & practical recommendations made were intended for computer science teachers, but could easily be extended to most any discipline.

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.

Computational Thinking: A Digital Age Skill for EVERYONE

I just came across this video that really makes me feel good about where we’re going with things on our campus. I just had to share.