Thursday, August 30, 2012

Common Core ELA "Look Fors"

Examining the ELA Common Core Standards closely is a great exercise for teachers and administrators alike. (Read this post for a specific process that helps unpack the standards.) However, once you've examined them, what conjectures can you make about instructional strategies?

After I unpacked the ELA Common Core standards, here are my top 5 "look fors" relative to instruction.

  1. Complex, nonfiction texts are used. Teachers should be using primary sources and other complex nonfiction texts in their classrooms. Textbooks and anthologies should not be the only texts available to students.
  2. Students spend time talking about what they've read. Speaking and listening are honored in the Common Core Standards, and shared dialogue is an excellent way to build meaning from complex texts.
  3. Students begin to read without receiving lots of background knowledge from the teacher. Students have the opportunity to grapple with difficult ideas and concepts without interference from the teacher. Being able to meet the standard means that students can be competent independently.
  4. Reading strategies are mentioned and used, but they are NOT the curriculum! Reading strategies are important, but significant amounts of time should not be wasted on the strategies. Instead, the strategies should be modeled and mentioned at strategic times.
  5. Students gather ideas and information from multiple sources, especially multimedia sources. In today's connected world, reading is much different than in years past. Students need to understand how to "read" websites, videos, and other multimedia sources.
What are your ELA Common Core "look fors?"

CC Photo Credit: Real Apple Core by Roger Karlsson

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Spectrum Between Consumerism and Design

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend some free professional development about iPads and their use in schools. As I'm always willing to learn new things and meet new people, it seemed like a great opportunity. The day began with great anticipation-- until I saw the session titles.

Each session was simply a review of educational apps or management systems. Instead of designing instruction that meets important goals and then determining where the iPad fits in, folks were letting the available apps/content drive the process. Instead of seeing themselves as designers of instruction, most people viewed themselves as consumers of what already exists.

After some reflection, I believe that my experience was a microcosm of a larger problem. Teachers see themselves as consumers, putting lawmakers, publishers, and administration in control. However, teacher are designers. Teachers hold an incredible amount of decision-making power. According to Marzano's work, teachers are the number one school-level factor relative to student achievement.

So, stop choosing off the shelf. Design-- with your end users in mind.

CC Photo Credit: Color Coded Bookshelf by Juhansonin

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Modern Curation: How Does it Change Teaching?

Note: This is cross posted at Smarblog on Education.

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” — John Dewey

Rewind: The old way of curation
In the past, curating resources was relatively easy. Teachers, known fondly to their family and friends as pack rats, filed and saved just about every piece of paper they could find. They crammed worksheets and memos into color-coded files near the back of the classroom.

During my student teaching, there was a teacher who planned to retire in June. I distinctly remember the day she “gave me her files.” This seemed like such a boon! I greedily carried boxes and boxes of endless science articles, ancient TIME magazines and edHelper worksheets to my car. At the time, I thought there was nothing more valuable in the world.
Such collections of valuable resources were not readily available at that time. Teachers were zealous about their materials, and they were even more zealous in protecting them. Therefore, the act of curation in the past was largely individual. (As was the act of teaching in the past. But that’s a different blog post!)

Teachers were left to their own devices to find, aggregate and retain meaningful resources about their practice. This led to overstuffed classrooms with teachers who were constantly wondering,

“Where did I put THAT?”

While the old ways of curation still hold their value, they are far less likely to provide you with a thorough, interactive system for personalized learning. Opening your eyes to the new ways of curation can greatly enhance the tools, tips and strategies at your fingertips.

Fast forward: Modern curation
Today’s curation is completely different. Most importantly, it is highly social. Teachers can share their collections with each other effortlessly, making the quality and quantity of resources available to new teachers and new curators much more robust than in the past.

Tools such as Pinterest, Pearltrees, Twitter and Diigo allow educators to work together to aggregate and share resources. (Check out this example of my favorite videos to use when coaching teachers via my Pinterest board.) While this process still requires a significant time investment, the results are much more powerful, interactive and complete. Also, collections are searchable so you never “lose” anything! As teachers identify, evaluate and organize their resources digitally, they not only make meaning of their lessons, but also enable others to benefit from their hard work. Digital curation invites collaboration that is more powerful than ever before. In essence, we are better together!

What does modern curation mean for teaching?
Modern, digital curation offers teachers a way to share and communicate beyond their individual classrooms, schools and districts. It helps teachers find resources that will meet students “where they are” in today’s “plugged in” society. It also promotes the virtual teamwork that we must model for students, as it is one of the most critical skills our students can learn.

So, if you know a pre-service teacher, ditch the boxes of National Geographic. Instead, share a Pearltree, tweet or Pinterest board!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What if?

Design thinking starts with the phrase "What if?" Using the concept of "designer" when talking about teaching is powerful. Not only does it reframe seemingly insurmountable challenges as "design tensions," but it also forbids the habitual "Yea, but" style thinking that we tend to encounter in most educational systems.

(You may remember my foray into design thinking last January at Educon. Click here to learn more.)

As the beginning of the school year dangerously approaches, I find myself asking more and more "What if?" questions. Although every inquiry does not warrant substantive change, many do. It's this type of incremental change that will reform education, tweak by tweak.

What's your "What if?"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Edcamp On Air Hangout for Organizers

Interested in learning how to run your own Edcamp? Join the Edcamp Foundation on September 19th at 7pm EST for a Google Plus On Air Hangout. Details are embedded below. (Click here if you can't see the embed.) Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Unpacking the Common Core Standards: Why?

As many states begin to transition to the Common Core Standards, I believe it is important to give teachers an opportunity to carefully investigate what's contained within the document itself. (Perhaps the emphasis of reading "primary source" documents in the Common Core has rubbed off on me!) While I've seen lots of commercial programs and packages that promise to "teach" to the Common Core, I think you can get a lot of "bang for your buck" (read: FREE) by having teachers work in teams to identify the different learning levels contained within the document.

To do this activity, simply have teachers identify the verbs related to educational transfer and the verbs related to simple skills. Then have teachers identify the nouns related to big ideas and the nouns related to discrete facts. Where are the patterns? What do you notice? (See the example below.)

Generally, the Common Core standards focus more on transfer and meaning making than many pre-existing state documents.

Giving teachers the opportunity to dissect components of the standard offers many opportunities for synthesis and evaluation. It's about the process, not the product.

So, how are you sharing the Common Core with your teachers?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Importance of Visual Cues

Last week, my good friend got married in Cancun, Mexico. For me, one of the best parts of the destination wedding was the spin class run by Andrejo each morning. (Full disclosure: I LOVE spinning which is best described as riding a bike to nowhere while listening to techno music.)

Andrejo only knew a few English phrases, and most of his instructions were in Spanish. While I took several years of Spanish in high school, I'm far from fluent. In spite of this, it was incredibly easy to follow his 45 minute exercise class.

How, exactly, did he manage to coach me so effectively? Visual cues.

Andrejo used a clear series of visual cues to communicate each move. Every time he prepared to make a change in position or speed, he would point to his eye. (For "watch.") Then he would flash his fingers relative to the hand position (either 1, 2, or 3). Finally, he would should the number of seconds for the interval. (After a sweating through a few intervals, I quickly remembered my Spanish numbers!) Andrejo implemented these cues with incredible consistency, and before long I was following along without error.

Sometimes visual cues can speak volumes. Remember to put clear visual cues into your classroom routines this year. It's well worth the effort!

CC Photo Credit: Blue Eye by Rob Unreall

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Infographics just released a few new infographics that you can generate based on Twitter and Facebook information. Here's one on me. Enjoy! (If you can't see the embedded object below, click HERE.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Edcamp Leadership Recap

Edcamp Leadership was excellent this year. And here's why:
Edcamp Leadership Organizing Team

  1. NOT just apps, apps, apps! Many of the conversations at Edcamp Leadership really focused on practice and pedagogy. One of the most popular sessions was about using innovative strategies to make faculty meetings more interactive and teacher-driven. I was impressed by the high level of conversation in the room and the desire to put hard decisions in the hands of teachers.
  2. Diversity in the schedule... Edcamp Leadership tackled some topics that I haven't seen at an Edcamp before, including teacher retention and change theory. It was refreshing to see these types of topics replace more typical sessions such as Google Apps and flipping the classroom.
  3. Lunch on-site rocked! This was my first Edcamp where lunch was provided on-site (Thank you FEA center!). I really enjoyed continuing and extending the conversation during lunch. The room was abuzz with good conversation.
Thanks to all who attended and contributed. See you next year!


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