Thursday, June 28, 2012

Top 3 Summer Reading Picks

Looking for a good summer read? Here are my top 3 summer reads. Enjoy!

1. How People Learn by National Academies Press
This is a great FREE download that summaries lots of great research on education. My favorite parts are the great stories and research studies that illuminate best practice.

2. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
I love this look at how gaming can change the way we conceptualize our classrooms and workspaces.

3. Mob Rule Learning by Michele Boule
This book provides a great overview of unconferences and learning from the crowd.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

PDxPLN: My Summer Course

A few weeks ago, Rich Kiker asked me to teach a course for his new program, PDxPLN. (Get it? --> professional development by your personal learning network!)

I will be teaching a course called "Building Brain Friendly Learning Online," and it will explore different instructional techniques that help learners feel comfortable, collaborative, and social while learning online. I've designed the course as a standards-based experience in an effort to promote the mastery of complex competencies by all participants. Check out some preliminary screenshots from my course below.

Many people who I deeply respect are also teaching courses on this project, including Nick Provenzano, Shannon McClintock-Miller, and Steven Anderson. I believe that PDxPLN provides educators a flexible way to learn and explore new ideas about teaching digitally.

My course begins August 6, 2012. If you'd like to register, click HERE. If you want more information, feel free to email me directly or leave a comment on this post. I hope you can join the learning community I've crafted!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Edcamp Hits THE Journal

THE Journal, a journal on education and technology, has featured Edcamp as its cover story for the June/July Issue. The article is titled "DIY Conference" and it has quotes from me, Dan Callahan, Karen Blumberg, and Bill Selak.

Jennifer (the author) did a nice job of capturing the spirit of an Edcamp event, and the article is mostly accurate. If you'd like to read the article, visit THE Journal, sign up for a free account, and download the June/July 2012 edition.

Thanks to THE Journal!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Want to Change the World with Me?

Looking for a new adventure? Well, you may have found it. Grant Wiggins and Denise Wilbur (my amazing bosses) are looking for a new member . We're a relatively small team (less than 20), and everyone is absolutely wonderful, smart, and talented. Honestly, Grant and Denise are two of the most thoughtful, insightful, and competent bosses I've ever had. Although the work's not easy or routine, it is rewarding and inspiring. I've also learned more in the past six months than I have in most of my professional life. The entire job description is available here. If you'd like to ask me questions personally, feel free to email or tweet me.

CC Photo Credit: Justice Legg of America by JD Hancock

Friday, June 15, 2012

Direct Instruction: A Relatively New Evolutionary Phenomenon?

Can we have schools without direct instruction? Probably not. However, it recently occurred to me that "direct instruction" as an evolutionary phenomenon is relatively new. Centuries ago, our forefathers learned through visual and auditory stimuli in the environment,  not teachers or books. Our brains and bodies are wired for this type of "on the go" learning, and it is likely this predisposition that draws us to puzzles, sports, and yard work. (Okay, maybe not yard work...) There are immediate, tangible pieces of evidence that shape our next steps.

I also think that this is why games such as Angry Birds and Doodle Jump are so popular. There are no instructions or directions; you just play. As you put the pieces together and gain momentum, you become immersed and motivated by the situation. Inevitably, you get better. Before you know it, you are pretty darn good.

Recently, I saw two middle school students present their learning about Minecraft. Minecraft is a game where you build shelters by placing blocks strategically in an environment. Everything they learned was "self taught" and they expressed a growing enthusiasm for the game. No one "taught" them how to play, but through lots of trial and error, they garnered a sophisticated understanding of the environment.

Why do these types of activities inspire such focus? How can we replicate these types of open, ended learning activities in our classrooms? What should learning look like in our classrooms? Is direct instruction the most efficient way to develop understanding and strategic thinking?

Perhaps we should embrace our evolutionary heritage and foster learning beyond the classroom walls. What do you think?

CC Photo Credit: Congo's Caper Bots by Jenn and Tony Bot

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Using Socrative to Aid Meaning-Making

I had the great opportunity to spend a few days in Plano, Texas with some outstanding educators.  One of my goals with the group was to give them lots of opportunities to make meaning from the ideas that we were exploring.

As I’ve been dying to use Socrative with a group, this seemed like a perfect opportunity. I logged into my free account with Socrative, generated a room number, and had the participants join my virtual room.

In my opinion, Socrative needs to be used strategically to generate meaning. The best feature for such thinking is the free response/rank activity.

Here’s what the activity looked like:
  • I asked the participants to submit their “burning questions” about the topic at hand.
  • The entire list was visible to them as it was created.
  • Once the questions were in, the participants had to select the most critical question from the entire list.
  • The questions were reordered according to the number of votes logged for each question.
  • In less than 5 minutes, everyone had an opportunity to share their questions and the group decided whic questions to which we would dedicate our time.

By using Socrative, I was able to engage everyone in the room, give everyone a voice in the process, and make them evaluate their priorities. #Win! (Did I mention that Socrative is free and compatible with any device or computer?)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Writing Curricular Units: Is the Template the Means or the End?

I love thinking about curriculum. I love talking about curriculum. I love reviewing units. (Yes, I know that I’m really dorky.) However, I realize that writing curriculum is an exercise in thinking.

Many districts have well-written, coherent curriculum documents that are shared with teachers systematically. However, the goal of writing curriculum isn’t well-written documents or insightful templates. Instead, the goal of writing curriculum is helping ALL students to transfer their learning to rigorous, authentic contexts. High quality evidence of student learning is truly the goal of curriculum.

If you reframe your curricular efforts around student outcomes, how does this change the way you prioritize learning activities? Grades? Everything else?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Edcamp Rap

Yes... there is now an EDCAMP Rap! Thanks to Flocabulary, a really great site for educational materials to engage kids, we can now all rap along to "It's the Edcamp..." Enjoy!


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