Monthly Archives: April 2013

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Gearing Up for Common Core in Math: Vicki Davis with Darren Burris

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Creating Innovators

Creating Innovators

“What you study is not that important. Knowing how to find those things you are interested in is way, way more important. . . . I’ve got this momentum, and the idea is to figure out what interesting opportunities there are around you and use them to get to the next point.” A quote by Kirk Phelps, Product Manager for Apple’s first iPhone, from Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, written by Tony Wagner .

As educators we have to wonder, are we so focused on what we are teaching, that we miss the boat on the things that make a human being resilient and successful in a world that calls forth different skills than it demanded in the factory-driven, company loyalty mindset of the past?  Shouldn’t every person going through our education systems need to develop the capacities to solve problems creatively…in other words to innovate.

The quote above goes on to describe that kind of inquiry as similar to navigating a satellite though space…being interested in one area and going there for a while and then moving on to the next….all in a process of personal integration. This has been my way to learn, so I can say that this type of inquiry cannot be forced by super specific curricular objectives. I see attempts to take the old style of curriculum planning that starts with the standard objectives, and then almost as an after-thought, tries to force in creative problem solving. Can’t happen. What can happen, and what frequently does is my classroom and classrooms all over…is that the structure of the planning is focused on the thinking…the thinking…not the objectives. Then the objectives are put into that structure. The Common Core State Standards are getting some well deserved criticism, but they lend themselves much better to this kind of learning than our previous attempts.

To learn to be innovative, and all the things that go along with that: inquisitive, creative, logical, critical thinking, persistent, resilient… requires some specific conditions. First, it requires freedom to explore and play with the topic. In a school setting, this naturally reflects curriculum, but there are so many possibilities for doing this.  I use Project-based Learning to wed these innovator skills with curriculum. Second, it requires a balance of collaboration and solitude.

Co-founder and teacher of the Phoenix School in Salem, Mass, Betsye Sargent asked me this question about teaching for today’s world, “How does this fit with the current direction education seems to be going? How do we get it to change tracks? If 65% of grade school kids today may be doing work not yet invented (MacArthur Foundation), then the future really isn’t a multiple choice standardized test.”

As the push and pull between testing, curriculum standards, and an ever evolving planet continues…we as educators must become the student the world needs…the innovator. It is in becoming that ourselves that allows us to lead our educational systems, classrooms and students in that direction.

The Future Will Not Be a Multiple Choice Test

Lesson For All

kids

Originally posted on iEARN-USA

The Lesson for All is a set of two units focused on the right of education and the barriers that youth around the world experience when trying to access that right. Written by teacher Donna Román, each unit (K-3 and 4-6) has four lessons with multimedia, discussion and modes of assessment. Each lesson is mapped to the Common Core State Standards and the Global Competence Matrix

When Dr. Gragert asked if I would be interested in working on a project he was involved with, I didn’t hesitate. He is a man that I have respected and admired during his leadership as the Executive Director for iEARN, and although I wasn’t familiar with The Global Campaign for Education, United States, I jumped in with both feet.

As I wrote The Lesson For All units, I began to understand the gravity of this issue. What I learned gave me faith in us as human beings. It gave me hope in a more peaceful planet. It brought me fear for girls and women of our world. It pulled me through sadness and grief for lives unable to be fulfilled. But mostly, it filled me with pride to see what we as global leaders, educators, and caring citizens are doing to make this a more stable and humane place for all people of our ever-smaller world.

Here are a few facts to get you thinking:

  • In 1959, the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of a Child, giving children the right of a free education, among other things.
  • In 2000, the United Nations developed The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They are the world’s biggest promise – a global agreement to reduce poverty and human deprivation at historically unprecedented rates through collaborative action by the year 2015. Universal free primary education is among the goals.
  • Significant progress has been made toward the MDGs but has stalled in some areas of the world.

Universal education is an issue that affects all of us on this small planet, and it is one that cannot be ignored as caring and pragmatic human beings. I hope that you too find what is real and possible in your corner of the world as you work through these units with your own classroom.

I will let my class of 10-11 year old students tell you what they thought:

“The United Nations has set a goal of an Education For All by 2015. Well that’s sort of a problem for it already being 2013. I think what needs to happen is to look more closely at the research of places that need the most help.” ~Sophia

“When looking for the reasons some kids are not in school, we have to stop and ask some questions.” ~ Kaylee

“If you didn’t go to school you would feel powerless.”  ~Ian

“When people feel powerless and less protected, they join gangs so they can feel powerful. That’s why some wars start.” ~Ally

“We should educate all kids by not ranking people and thinking that boys need an education more than girls.” ~Kate

“I think education should be free because many families do not have money. Some people have to spend their life in a dump looking for scraps to sell and for food.” ~Justin

“No child deserves to live in a dump.” ~Savion

“THANK YOU SO MUCH UNITED NATIONS!!!!!!” ~Ethan

“An education is a wonderful thing to have, because the place won’t have poverty, people won’t think that they are powerless, everyone will have a stable life, the environment will be good, and the spread of disease will stop.” ~Megha

“So far they are getting way more kids in school than they were in 2000, but there are still millions of kids not in school.” ~Griffin

“I think the goal is possible, actually I know it is possible, but it will be hard work. Some people are stepping up to help. These people are life savers. I hope more people will feel to help. I really hope this goal comes true. The world needs it, and the suffering kids need it to happen ” ~Ally

“Together, everyone can make a difference” ~Griffin

Click here to find the Lesson For All to use in your classroom.

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Genius Hour! Day 1

passion in the classroom

 

My 5th grade class and I completed our first Genius Hour today!

The projects they came up with were as varied as the kids. They actually made quite a bit of progress.

Projects were: learning computer coding, making a mini biosphere, learning about MRI machines, designing websites, creating computer games, designing and creating a dog collar, writing/filming/editing a short movie, learning about Figi by planning an imaginary trip, understanding the parts inside a computer, creating a robot, writing music, designing and building a better violin case, and designing a house.

There was a lot of tech, and then some plain old paper, pencil and tangible materials involved.

They hated to stop when the hour was over. The kids were thrilled to have the principal, George Petmezas, stop by so they could show him what they were doing.  The excitement was palpable. When you feel that in the air, it’s easy to see how true learning happens.

 

 

Professional Development Discussed by some Ed Rock Stars

GETIdeas

An opportunity to attend a conversation by some of the biggest Rock Stars in Educational PD was something I couldn’t miss. It was truly informative and insightful from all angles of the educational landscape.

During the conversation, Don Buckley, Director of Innovation and Technology at the School of Columbia University, discussed an article from Edutopia, he quotes:

“When teachers receive well-designed professional development, an average of 49 hours spread over six to 12 months, they can increase student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points. On the other hand, one-shot, “drive-by,” or fragmented, “spray-and-pray” workshops lasting 14 hours or less show no statistically significant effect on student learning. Above all, it is most important to remember that effective professional-development programs are job-embedded and provide teachers with five critical elements:” (see those at the end of this post or in the original article).

The panel of thought leaders in the discussion:

Don Buckley, Director of Innovation and Technology at the School at Columbia University, Alice Barr is the Instructional Technology Integrator for Yarmouth High School, Michelle Bourgeois is the Instructional Technology Coordinator at St. Vrain Valley School District, Noble Kelly has been a High School Educator and now founder of Education Beyond Borders, Julie Lindsay is an international educator and co-founder of Flat Classroom, and Sylvia Martinez is President of Generation YES.

Here is the recording from @GETIdeas.org

The five critical elements from Edutopia

  • Collaborative learning: Teachers have opportunities to learn in a supportive community that organizes curriculum across grade levels and subjects.
  • Links between curriculum, assessment, and professional-learning decisions in the context of teaching specific content: Particularly for math and science professional-development programs, research has emphasized the importance of developing math and science content knowledge, as well as pedagogical techniques for the content area (Blank, de las Alas, and Smith, 2008Blank and de las Alas, 2009Heller, Daehler, Wong, Shinohara, and Miratrix, 2012).
  • Active learning: Teachers apply new knowledge and receive feedback, with ongoing data to reflect how teaching practices influence student learning over time.
  • Deeper knowledge of content and how to teach it: Training teachers solely in new techniques and behaviors will not work.
  • Sustained learning, over multiple days and weeks: Professional-development efforts that engage teachers in 30 to 100 hours of learning over six months to one year have been shown to increase student achievement.