Tag Archives: PBL

21st Century Learning. What exactly is it?

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The buzz about 21st Century Learning is everywhere, but what exactly does it mean? It’s often linked to technology, but that is only a small part.  In fact, much of 21st Century Learning can happen without the use of technology. If technology is available and used in the right way, it can provide powerful tools for authentic learning and integration of 21st Century skills, but unfortunately, that is not always what we see in our classrooms. Purchasing equipment does not automatically create better learning.  We watch our classrooms fill up with technology, but we often see no plan in place to use it to benefit student learning. This requires a change in teaching.  With no change in teaching and learning, computers are often used for mainly word processing and Google searching. As an educator, this concerns me.

Let’s start with what 21st Century Learning means. It is the marriage of content and skill. Teaching content is what we are familiar with in our education systems: learning states and capitals, mathematical equations, historical events, scientific discoveries, and countless others.  21st Century Learning takes that content and makes it relevant. It not only shows learners how that content can be used to solve problems, construct new ideas, and through collaboration, expand that understanding, but it allows them to actually experience that as they learn.

How many school districts have mission statements that refer to educating problem solvers, critical thinkers, and creative minds? How many of them go farther than words and actually do something meaningful to provide that in their classrooms?

Equipping teachers to lead our students’ way in this takes a lot more than buying computers for schools. Before continuing, let’s figure out how to use what we have to further what many of us believe to be true: the world needs empowered critical thinking problem solvers that have the ability to learn collaboratively and create the solutions to problems that we have no way of knowing exist right now. It isn’t as difficult as it seems.

It starts with a unified vision, the development of a plan to create the teaching and learning environment, and the implementation of that plan. Many have led the way. It isn’t a mystery any more. Schools around the country have embraced this and have left their footsteps to follow. It’s just a quick Google search away!

Here’s a related article by George Couros.

One interpretation of 21st century skills.

One interpretation of 21st century skills.

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Off and Running in a Technology Infused, Project-based Learning Classroom!

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Month one: hold on, here we go!

Camp! We returned from our three-day Outdoor Education trip in Wisconsin on Friday, so of course we started talking, writing and then blogging about Camp Timber-lee. Such enthusiasm and detail! Wow…sure pays to find something kids want to write about rather than forcing contrived prompts they don’t connect with.

We started our first Project-based Learning unit with Mrs. Parisi’s class in Long Island, The Denton DynamosUS Government: integrating reading, writing, history, and current events by studying some significant US laws. Students will trace laws back through time by reading and comparing electronic and paper sources. They are in teams of eight, four from the Dynamos and four from our class.  So far we’ve had two joint Skype lessons, and we begin collaborative research in Google Docs on Monday.

Today we meet the Wilderness Classroom team on Google Hangout before they head out on their journey. We will follow Amy Freeman and a team of geologists from UC Berkeley and MIT as they camp, canoe, hike, bike, and dogsled around the world to provide interactive classroom lessons. Here’s their itinerary.

  • Understand how the Slate Islands were formed.
    (September 2013) 
  • Explore the Boreal Forest by dogsled this winter and study a variety of topics including; weather, geology and erosion, watersheds, predator-prey relationships, wolves, the night sky, the physics of dogsledding, Ojibwa culture, Expedition ABC’s, and much more. (January – March 2014)
  • Explore the Amazon Rainforest. Join us as we follow in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt!
    (April – June 2014)

Then there is iEARN, (International Education and Resource Network )…where their motto is “Learning with the world, not just about it.” We will be joining a Learning Circle with classrooms around the world to engage and collaborate in the My Hero Project.

The 100 World Challenge! I’ve written about it before, so click the link for more information. The kids love this weekly challenge, and it really helps develop word choice.

Lastly math. Our district is currently in the process of adapting our math instruction to meet the Common Core Standards. The infusion of MangahighLearnZillion, and Khanacademy  have really helped with re-teaching while allowing me to get quick snapshots of who is getting it and who needs more support. This instant feedback is critical to my teaching as I reflect and adapt to meet the kids where they are. We’re taking our time to make sure the train isn’t going with no one on!

As I add tech tools to my students’ repertoire, I add them to our  Symbaloo page. They have access to this wherever they are. This site will grow and change as we go.

All in all, a great start to the year!

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I almost forgot! Our class song:)

Through the Eyes of an Eagle, by Grade 2

I just have to share this amazing video by our partner school, Mr. Matt McGuire’s Grade 2 class at Kingsclear Consolidated School in New Brunswick, Canada. This song was written, performed and recorded by the class as a culmination of our Eagle Eye to the World Project. It will make your day!

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.

You’re in a Global Project. Now What?

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There are so many great organizations and global collaborative project options, so just jump in! Once you get your feet wet and figure out the terrain, it’s time to make global projects work for you by specifically addressing your curriculum. You’ve opened up your classroom to the world to allow your students to connect and learn with kids all over, but curriculum standards are different around the world. It is easy to make the project not only collaborative, but also individual to suit your needs.

I’ll take a project my class finished recently to demonstrate how to tailor a project to fit your own needs. Using Data to Understand the World was a collaborative project between Illinois, Alaska, Taiwan, Canada, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Australia.  It spanned grades 3-6. On the surface, it was a project to compare geography throughout the world by tracking data (temperature, precipitation and sunlight), and then discussing topics (animals, plants, and land forms). Each participating teacher agreed to provide the data and to participate in a conversation among classes. I could have left it there, but I used the project as a backbone to integrate my curriculum. In our district, the 5th grade curriculum includes:

  1. Ecosystems (Science)
  2. Compare and Contrast (Language Arts)
  3. Informational writing (Language Arts)
  4. Data and graphing (Math)
  5. Culture (Social Studies)

So to address those things, I included these aspects:

  1.  Ecosystems: I used my science text-book as we worked. Then I assigned deeper investigative research on the relationship between sunlight, location to the equator, hemispheres, and the ecosystem.
  2. Compare and Contrast: Students chose two countries to compare and contrast animals and discussed how geographical location effected animal population.
  3. Informational writing: Students chose a country’s plant posting and wrote an informational piece after researching.
  4. Data and graphing: We used the data from around the world each month to graph and chart. We learned about mean, median, mode while comparing the counties and relating that to distance from the equator. I used my math book to teach these lessons while we worked.
  5. Culture: throughout the project, we discussed culture as we Skyped, discussed, interacted with kids and teachers.

In addition, we used edmodo.com as a place for students to interact directly. I taught digital and global citizenship, collaboration, and technology while we worked online.  Schools participated on different levels and to different degrees, so I used that to frame my collaborative connections.

I chose Using Data to Understand the World in this example, but this can be done with any global project. So far this  year, we have worked with iEARN and Flat Classroom, and through kidblog.org. This individualization can be done with any project, so start small. Also, take advantage of the other teachers out there. Educators that are online in global projects are  there to mentor and help as well. There is an amazing network of teachers online that welcome questions with open arms, so don’t be shy! Professional generosity is abundant. Jump in!

Here are some great places to start:

iEARN

Flat Classroom

Global Classroom

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World Education Games: Uniting the World in Learning

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Practice is on! The World Education Games are right around the corner. Compete with 5.5 million students in about 250 counties in Math, Science and/or Literacy.

My class logged in for the first time today and  had a chance to try the practice sessions. They are really excited to participate. The students are matched up randomly for the one minute practice sessions. They are able to move up in difficulty as they play. They are especially excited to see which counties their partners are in. Registration is quick and easy.

Here is some information for anyone with students or children ages 4-18:

What is the World Education Games?

  • The World Education Games is an annual global online challenge to get all students (4-18 years of age) excited about learning, and to give the top students in all schools an opportunity to see how they measure up against the best in the world.
  • Free entry allows all students to get involved and celebrate their education with equal opportunities.
  • Split over three days and focusing on literacy, mathematics and science, the World Education Games is a hugely exciting and engaging way to promote learning and education across the world.
  • Our partners UNICEF and Samsung work with us to promote our key message of Education For All.

How and when can I sign in and begin taking part?

  • The registration period for the World Education Games opened on February 1, 2013. 
  • Registration is FREE, quick and easy and can be done through the website www.worldeducationgames.com.
  • When registering, you will be able to specify whether you are a teacher, parent or student and will be sent log-in details accordingly, by email. As soon as you (or your students) are registered, you can sign in immediately to begin the “warm-up” practice period. During this time, all users will have full access to the three event platforms to prepare for the main days of competition in March.

1 February – The Games platform opens for registrations and the official warm-up period for students begins.
5 March* – World Literacy Day
6 March* – World Math Day
7 March* – World Science Day
22 March – Global award presentations begin with the Official World Education Games Awards Ceremony, to be held in 2013 at the Sydney Opera House.

*Note – events begin as soon as it is the designated start date anywhere in the world. Based on your geographic location, this may be the previous calendar day in your country.

Irish-American Connection

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 8.24.18 AMOur new project with St Joseph’s National School (Scoil Iosaif Naofa) in Kinvara County, Galway, Ireland.  We will be working with  Máire O’Keefe’s class to research a man whose life touched both Ireland and Chicago through his music and his  travels from a Cork County farm during the Great Potato Famine to the Chief of the Chicago Police Department. Join us by following along!

http://francisoneill.wikispaces.com/