Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Designing for End Users- The Best PD


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with teachers from across the country regarding Understanding by Design. During this three day event, one exciting element was added: student interviews. When teaching participants how to design instruction, what could be more important than embracing the students' point of view?

When asking teachers "what worked" at the end of the workshop, participants agreed that the student interviews were one of the most valuable aspects of the training. The concept of design is predicated on  the knowledge that the product or concept will be used by a group of individuals. Zeroing in on the needs of the users is what defines successful design.

How will you consider the needs of your end users this year? Could you interview students in your school? What power would students add to the conversation of successful schooling?

CC Photo Credit: ShureSM58 by laffy4k

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Integrating Technology and UbD

Yesterday I had a lot of fun sharing my love of both Understanding by Design and Technology with a small group of teachers. My agenda and materials are below. Thoughts for improvement are welcome!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Amazing Math Problem Set


Teaching for understanding demands that we present students with authentic problem contexts AS they acquire essential knowledge and skills. Instead of presenting all possible content that students may need in a given situation up front, effective teachers provide students with real world dilemmas and supplement with content along the way. To this end, Dan Meyer has created an excellent set of math problems (CLICK HERE TO CHECK USE THEM) that help teachers provide students with challenging problems. My recommendations for using this set of problems include the following 3 points:

  1. Provide students with problems AT THE BEGINNING of a unit of study. As they struggle to make meaning of the problem, look for misconceptions that you can debunk during the unit of study.
  2. Return to the same problems over and over throughout the unit as this creates "hooks" for new content. For example, say, remember when you couldn't figure out which container would hold more? Well, the best way to figure this out is to use math!
  3. Create a learning environment where students feel comfortable trying out different solutions with their peers. The best problem solvers "fail early and often" so that they can arrive at the best answer more quickly.
If you've used these problems before, feel free to provide feedback in the comments!

CC Photo Credit: Untitled by Aquopshilton

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One Week Until Edcamp Leadership-- Join us!



Who: Educational leaders (teacher leaders, principals, district office folks, etc.)

What: Edcamp Leadership, a free unconference

Where: FEA Conference Center in New Jersey

When: July 26, 2012 from 8am-4pm

Why: It's free. Come out and learn something with us!

How: Get your free tickets and more information HERE.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Edcamp Family Tree

My good friend and colleague, Chrissi Miles, is studying the diffusion of innovation regarding the Edcamp Model. Based on her research, the Edcamp movement has only just begun. Take a look at our family tree below. (If you have any information on our "orphaned" events, please tweet Chrissi!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Better Mornings. Enough Said

"Indeed, learning to use mornings well is, in our distracted world, what separates achievement from madness." ~Laura Vanderkam

If you know me well, you know that I've always been an early riser. My alarm typically goes off sometime around 4:30am, and I prefer to be on the treadmill or weight bench by 5am sharp. When I start working around 8am, I've already exercised, tamed my email inbox, and spent at least 15 quality minutes with my husband cooking breakfast.

Regardless of the job I've had, I've integrated early mornings into my routine. When I was a third grade teacher, I would arrive at school around 7am, long before there were lines at the copy machines or emails from parents. Now, I sneak in my writing and reading before my 8am start.

Recent research has shown that personal willpower is stronger in the morning hours, and I believe it.  Willpower and focus are finite items that we "use up" during the day. As the day progresses, we are more likely to get distracted or gravitate towards less meaningful tasks.

So.... what does this mean for our students? Well, it means that we should prioritize meaningful work in the morning hours. Perhaps we shouldn't spend the first 15 minutes of the day unpacking and listening to announcements. Maybe that can be put off until sometime after 11am. Maybe we should rotate which subjects occur in the morning so that they all get equal attention. In short, students should get right to work and savor those morning productivity hours.

How will this information change the way you organize your instruction?

CC Photo Credit: Alarm Clock by Alan Cleaver

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Being Present in Virtual Spaces


Have you ever been part of a virtual team that accomplished NOTHING? (Yea, me too.) After reflecting upon several of the projects and committees that I've worked on, patterns started to emerge.

Here are my top 3 ways to SQUELCH productive work in the virtual setting:

1. Don't keep an archive or record of progress. When working virtually, you rarely "run into" people with whom you work. If there is not an archive of conversations or a record of progress, people can inadvertently think the project is "dead." Once people feel like "no one's working on the project," they too give up. Regular updates are critical.

2.  Don't acknowledge large contributions. In the virtual space, it is easy to forget how long people spend working on projects. When a sizable chunk of work is completed, it's important to acknowledge it positively. For example, when financial reports are submitted at the nonprofit for which I volunteer, everyone quickly chimes in with words of thanks and acknowledgements. Even if you don't have time to review the work at that moment, a quick "thanks for doing this" message can go a long way.

3. Forget about meetings. Virtual work has to be done on your own time.  While the virtual space is more flexible, it does have deadlines. Meetings via Google + or Skype can help keep everyone on track. They don't have to be long, and you can access many video conference tools right from your phone.

While I'm sure I'll revise these thoughts over time, I felt they were worth sharing now. What do you think?

CC Photo Credit: Time Flies by Neal

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Call for "Uncoverage," not "Coverage"

How many times have you heard a teacher say, "Well, we just have SO MUCH to cover!" Personally, those words reverberate in my brain like nails on a chalkboard. COVERAGE does not work. When we march through content with no greater purpose than exposure, students retain close to nothing. Consider the video embedded below. (Click here if you cannot see the embed.)


Although the video above may make you laugh, it really isn't funny. Our students cannot remember the isolated facts to which they've been exposed. Further, they have attached virtually no meaning to the information they DO remember!

So, how do we fix this problem? First of all, narrow and refine the standards you teach. Identify the standards that students will need both for the test AND in life, and focus on those. Teach deeply. Ask students questions. Encourage debate. Have students engage in adult work. (Yes, ALL of our kids are capable of meaningful, adult work no matter their age!)

Our goal is understanding. Let's get there together.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Feedback via Videocast


If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I work with teachers to help them create strong curricular units that engage students and promote transfer.

Since most of the work that I do with teachers spans across several weeks, it can seem disjointed and disconnected. I wanted a way to connect with teachers between visits. I knew that there would need to be specific feedback and nonverbal cues for this to be successful.

So, I tried using Educreations to narrate my ideas about teachers' units in progress. At first, I started to grow frustrated because teachers weren't using the information to revise and rethink their units. What was I doing wrong?

Well, as it turns out, I forgot that feedback also requires TIME FOR REVISION. About a week ago, the teachers had an entire "work day" to refine and write units. Without any prompting frome me, almost everyone started the session by opening up their feedback videos! Score!

After reviewing the feedback I'd provided (the second or third viewing for many), the units began to improve. The questions that arose were deeper and more pointed than before. Having specific feedback, delivered at an individualized pace, really moved the process forward.

Time is just as important as feedback when it comes to improvement. In the fast paced life of education, that can be easy to forget.

Here is a sample feedback video sequence if you're interested:
FIRST SUBMISSION:

SECOND SUBMISSION:


CC Photo Credit: One Way by Lincolnian

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