Technology as the accelerator in learning

This post was originally published to MASA Leaders Forum Spring Newsletter (PDF). Since the original posting, I have also included artifacts of the learning experience. Enjoy!

As you look at 1:1 student device implementation plans across MN, equitable access to technology is usually a driving goal.  It’s important.  If our kids do not have access to technology (with high-speed bandwidth) we cannot provide the visionary education of our future.  However, getting devices into the hands of our students is only one piece of the puzzle.  Michael Fullan is quoted as saying, “Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator”.   If we are truly going to get the most bang, for all of our tech spending bucks, we must continue to focus on learning and how technology can support, accelerate and amplify it.

We know that classrooms that solely rely on didactic teaching (one size fits all – I lecture you listen) does not work for all kids. Simply digitizing these classrooms will not improve results either.  While putting content online may provide 24-7 access – if students are still only left to memorize or regurgitate the facts from videos/resources, learning will have very little chance of being deep and lasting.

Student-centered instructional design is a great avenue for learning today with today’s tools.  Below are examples of pedagogical best practices that support learner-centered instruction.

  • Clear learning goals
  • Student choice and voice
  • Assessment of, for, as learning
  • Feedback – student:student,  teacher:student,  student:teacher
  • Collaborative learning groups
  • Active/authentic learning
  • Metacognition

I have had the opportunity to observe many powerful learning experiences, designed by educators, who continue to drive innovation to engage students and deepen learning.  One such story comes to mind from this past fall.  

@ByronDigCit Twitter Profile

Twitter profile @ByronDigCit managed by 8th grade students

In 8th grade, ELA teachers @JanelleGroehler and @Mrs_Ausman4 asked their students “How can we, as 8th graders, educate our community on the importance of a positive digital footprint?”  In collaborative groups, the students selected target audiences and presented their project ideas to a team (teachers, principal, and other students) for feedback.  Once they received the green light, students began working on their project and would conference with their teachers on a bi-weekly basis to receive formative feedback on their projects as well as to check for understanding of lesson outcomes.  All projects would come to life during Digital Citizenship Week in October.  All students were required to research and then advocate for positive footprint for a variety of audiences. Some students presented to elementary students; others presented to high school or middle school students.  One team presented to district parents and another presented to staff.  The social media team created accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share their message and share the work of their fellow students.  Other collaborative projects included a game called “Byron Go” with a digital citizenship theme, the development of an online video game, newsletters to email, creating a coloring book with a story and original artwork for elementary students, and posting public service announcements via Youtube, etc. The culminating event was a project by several student groups that created a school wide retreat with digital footprint theme-based activities for their peers. (ex 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

After the project was complete, students posted their learning artifacts to their ePortfolios and were provided prompts to reflect on their learning.  After observing the work of our students, I believe many of our kids already have resume ready artifacts and experiences as 8th graders! Imagine if these students were able to continue to build upon and master these skills over the next 4-5 years?

While there are were numerous ELA standards embedded and assessed in this project – how well do you think students met the following essential learning outcome?  I can produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. It will be important, as with any innovation, that we don’t get so caught up in the excitement of the innovation, that we forget to assess the learning target(s) we set out to teach our students.

As I reflect on this project, pedagogy clearly was the driver. Educators were able to take their standards and make them come to life for their students.   I observed very high student engagement, especially during the Digital Citizenship Week, when all of the work of our students came to fruition.  Why? Because their work mattered.  Not just to their teachers or classmates but to their local and digital communities.

So what about technology? In what ways did technology accelerate or amplify student learning?  If you were to remove technology from this project, would it have had the same success?  If this project would have been more didactic aka lecture, listen, worksheet, test would it have had the same lasting results? I will let you come to your own conclusions.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe there is a place for lectures, there is a place for worksheets (not packet after packet!), and there are ways to design INCREDIBLE active learning experiences that require no technology at all.  We cannot dismiss the powerful face to face learning strategies that still work today, but we also cannot ignore the opportunities that technology brings to learning either.  It’s about balance and trying to unlock the art and science of today’s teaching and learning!
One final thought –  It’s important to also reflect on the culture of the classroom, school, and district that allowed this powerful learning experience to happen. As with any innovation, there is a degree of risk and uncertainty. What if this fails? Well, what if it doesn’t? Even if it does fail, what does revision 2, 3, 4 look like for our students? Within a culture of learning and innovation, there must be a high degree of trust and transparency between administrators, teachers, and students.  No matter what role we have in education, we must continue to support and foster a culture that allows powerful learning experiences for our students to happen.

My trip to #One91: Reflections of Classroom/School Design

Last Friday, I was fortunate to participate in Google’s ExploreEDU event, held at Burnsville High School in Burnsville MN.  Part of the agenda,  that day, was to take a tour of Burnsville’s new facility.  This was a big draw for me.  I had heard about their career pathways and their newly designed learning spaces… and decided to take the opportunity to see it with my very own eyes!

Career Center

The career center is an integral part of the Career Pathway program.  Whether they are learning about careers/colleges/ or going on Google Expeditions (career AND college) the space is used independently and with classes.  Understanding the students interests and passions are essential to student success within the program.

 

Typical Classroom

Check out this snapshot of a Burnsville classroom.  No more sage on the stage.  Teachers can either stream content to all 6 TVs or students can collaborate with each other using their group TV.  The furniture in classrooms is very flexible and powered. They have floor to ceiling windows and many of the teachers were using the glass to write notes.  It’s also very easy to observe learning activies this way.  Beside every TV was a whiteboard (NOT SMART BOARD) for further STUDENT collaboration/notes/ideation.  Just a side note – Burnsville recently went 1:1 with Chromebooks.  One point of feedback I heard – was the pickup for the devices was 10 minutes long.  Impressive!

Flexible Spaces outside of classrooms

I will be honest, the space outside of the classrooms was pretty cool too.  I really liked that moon shaped sofa, with standing desks or tall stools behind it.  Again, there is an ability to connect to a large TV screen to and give presentations. Check out the cool furniture and use of space!  (Self directed space – that seemed to give students plenty of autonomy)

 

Certified Nursing Assistant Classroom/Lab

Here is a classroom that is used to certify nursing assistants.  It combines the classroom with the “hospital” lab.  Students going down this route would also have to have 20+ hours of clinicals at a local nursing home before receiving their CNA certification.

 

Cafeteria/Kitchen/Culinary Lab

The Cafeteria/Kitchen area had a very upscale feel to it.  Check out the digital signage in the kitchen as well as the large commons area.  I am guestimating 15-20 TVs.  This space is also used by students in the culinary arts pathway and students get to use the professional kitchen as a lab area.

CNC/PLTW/Engineering

And finally, I was very impressed with the CNC/PLTW/Engineering area.  Between the labs, classroom space, and flexible space inside the classroom space – it was amazing!  The students had access to industry standard equipment.  In the last video, we actually stopped by to speak to some students who just helped the local credit union re-brand their company.  How awesome!  I also learned that the credit union was also going to be setting up shop in the high school.

Final Reflections

Within the pathway program the district is being very progressive in trying to continually provide students with:

  • College credit
  • Industry level certifications
  • Student internships
  • Business partnerships (some of these partnerships also provide grant $)

Example of Pathways

One of the roadblocks ( I have heard in the past) is that sometimes these pathways “LOCK” students into a particular path.  That is not the case in Burnsville.  For instance, let’s say that a student has an interest in a health career.  Then, after going through the CNA class, the student decides they really do not like the nursing experience.  Students could select other options like  business administration in health.  See the latest indeed.com job search for the Mayo Clinic as there are so many health careers that are beyond nurses, doctors, ect.  I like this flexibilty. I also assume, they can hop over to another pathway all together!

The big picture to remember- is that Burnsville students are going to have a more real world – authentic learning experiences in high school, BEFORE they decide to go to college or step into a career.  I can not tell you how important this is especially when you consider the success rate of college students, the amount of student debt students may have upon graduating.  (See my past blog post about the parents perspective of innovation)  If students decide to go the career route – they will already have some serious resume experiences and certifications that will give them a “one up” on the competition.

This was incredibly inspiring – as someone who works in education and as a parent! Way to go Burnsville – for paving the way for the future of High Schools in MN!

As Real World Learning Design comes to a close…

This semester,  I designed and facilitated a graduate level course called Real World Learning Design.  It is course 4 in a series of 5 in WSU’s Innovative Instructional Leadership Certificate program.

Lets get real.

Last night, my students presented their findings from the semester.    I have streamed our final presentations  online before, but frankly, that has not been good enough.  We might be lucky to get 1 maybe 2 viewers at any given time.  Just randomly tweeting out YouTube Live links does not automatically equate to an audience.  (and an audience that will remain with you for over 2+ hours)

Picture of presentation

@Mrs_Ausman4 and her students on Digital Citizenship

We discussed, as a class, that “audience” is an important characteristic of  “Real World Learning” design.   I decided, in efforts to model this, to find an authentic audience for our teachers’ presentations. We needed people who cared (beyond our classroom) about what our educators were doing. While we still were streaming this event via YouTube live (for both a digital audience AND to capture and archive the learning artifact) we also had a live f2f audience that included our superintendent, director of curriculum instruction and assessment, our high school principal, instructional coaches, our school board chair, and representatives from higher ed (graduate level prof and teacher prep prof).  These are people who are curious about the work we are doing and genuinely care about what is happening in our classrooms. Presenting work to an authentic audience has a tendency to improve the student’s quality of work (from the elementary student to the grad student).

I will admit, as the RSVPs of attendance started coming in… I also became nervous.The audience also included my peers, my superintendent, my board chair.    Did I do a good enough job to support these educators? What if the presentations do not go well, what does that say about me? About my course design? My facilitation?  That lasted a while… and then I came back to my senses.  I know these teachers. I know the quality of their work. I know the passion for their kids and their profession.  They got this.

Below is the video of their presentations.  It’s over 2 hours long but is so worth the watch.  It is a great artifact for me as well.  It is something I can refer back to later, it is something I can potentially show future students.  It is will serve as an ePortfolio artifact for me.

It’s hard to tell from the video, but as the stories and journeys were unfolding,  there was a certain level of excitement in the room — Both from the other teachers  (this was the first time they heard their classmates present) and the audience.  Now, imagine how you would feel if your superintendent was live tweeting your presentations with comments like below?  I appreciated it immensely!

 

What will be the impact of having the right people in the room, hearing the story of our educators? Time will tell.  But the buzz did not stop last night and the conversation continued today.  Regardless of what happens next, I am very proud of the work of these educators and more importantly the learning experiences they created for our students.  WTG!

My reflections on the course design/facilitation

It sucked.  Yes, I said it.  While my students produced some excellent work  – the course needs some significant improvement.  Below are my reflections for the next go around:

  • Problem 1.  Course design is completely flexible and totally open on day 1 of class.  That means, I have to have all resources, activities, assignments, and proHouston we have a problemgress report templates done before day 1. While there are due dates there still is quite a bit of flexibility for students to do as much or as little as they want, and revise accordingly. (my students love this kind of flexibility) There are flaws to this.  #1 being how do you fix problems of the course, while in the course live and your students are all over the place within the content?  The added online component also makes it difficult to revise in a completely open course.
  • Problem 2. This course lacked s:s collaboration and communication.  While my face to face sessions was some of my best designed so far (One of my personal goals is creating engaging f2f PD) the online collaboration was missing.  There were no discussions between our 3 face to face meetings. As this can be a very complex topic for some educators, there was a need to discuss with others and come to a mutual understanding of RWL.  And with the problem of #1…Trying to schedule a discussion (that was not previously scheduled in an OLL course) was not going to work.
  • Problem 3.  I introduced design thinking in this course.  I LOVE IT.  It was fun to see an activity I did in one of my F2F sessions, tried, applied and tweeted out by my students in MS and HS classes the next week!  However, there was a clear disconnect btw the design thinking activities and the RWL work.  I think it all has to do with timing and  deadlines within the course.  On a positive note, I know what needs fixing and I loved facilitating this work. Could be applicable in multiple areas in my job as prof and dir. of technology!
  • Problem 4. We need a good book. And discuss it.  I have lots of resources but in the course – but I think a book study could be very beneficial.  Right now – I am thinking either Tony Wagners – Most Likely to Succeed or Yong Zhao’s World Class Learners.  If you are aware of any good reads… I would appreciate it!
  • Problem 5. I need to re-evaluate course objectives and make sure course resources/activities are aligned.  Focus on specifically on objective 1 and 3.
    1. Connect students and core content to organizations, professionals, and community members and provide rigorous authentic learning and career/life oriented experiences
    2. Evaluate roles in education where teachers become activators and co-learners who model “learning to learn”
    3. Explore and unpack 21st-century skills and habits of mind to model and foster with today’s learners
    4. Assess the impact of real world design on student learning and motivation
  • IDEA –   Continue to re-evaluate the Mindset, motivation, and self-directed learning course and continue to promote in future courses. We need to come back to that language and discussion often.
  • IDEA – Last night one of my students presented her project which was a series of mini projects.  I actually am wondering if the idea of sprints, could be a great way to take small steps to RWL or even a great way to try something small before going a little deeper with it.  Or be an entirely different path for a user?
  • IDEA – How about streaming the presentation on the districts FB page?  Or maybe even inviting the entire community…. Hmmm.
  • IDEA – Build in a feedback loop for teachers designing their lessons.  Might be beneficial if they have a draft, and they actually pitch the idea to the cohort for feedback.
  • IDEA – I need a PLC.  I have  a PLN, but I am so jealous of educators that have a good support group to discuss learning and strategies around courses.  Now, I am not saying  members of my PLN could not become my PLC but I need to create a support group specific to course design.  You interested? I would be happy to give you feedback on your designs as well.  Let’s not work in silos! Reply to this post or DM me via twitter (@jenhegna). My next course (and FINAL) is Innovative Instructional Leadership…Starts January.
  • Disclaimer – This was attempt #1 of this course so I do have to cut myself a little slack. The first version of anything is not as good as subsequent versions.  With one son’s graduation and my other son’s wedding, bringing on a new building in my district and being short 1 tech at the start of the school year… I was drowning.  But I had to ship what I thought was a decent course.  While I am being very critical of my work (as I should) my feedback from my cohort is very positive.

    “You force reflection and deep thought with your assignments. You don’t tell us what to do, but instead require that we think long enough to tell ourselves. This is true across all courses, but I felt it most in this one.”

  • “Project challenged me to go outside of my comfort zone.”

  • “I thought the result of this course was beneficial to me as a professional and will certainly help my thought processes when meeting the needs or learners.”

  • Now that the reflection is done, I look forward to revising the course into RWL 2.0.  Stay tuned!

    Let the shipping begin

    Image Credit Book Delights – WordPress.com

Design Thinking in Instructional Design

I have been intrigued with design thinking for some time.  Several years ago, we visited Shattuck School’s (Faribault MN) We Create center.  School leaders shared they had created their learning space (oh my it was wonderful) using the design thinking process.  Last year, we took a trip to the Mayo Clinic Center of Innovation and I  learned how they were using the concept to create innovative products/processes/systems/spaces to better serve their patients  Their motto – Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast.

Think Big, Start Slow, Move Fast!

Think Big, Start Slow, Move Fast! – Mayo Clinic Center of Innovation’s motto!

 

What I love the most about design thinking, is the human-centered approach. Through empathy interviews and observations, teams define problems (some not clearly visible) and ideate solutions based on  those findings.  Then, create a prototype of a solution to test with customers.    This process is utilized by all types of companies/organizations  – from health care to entrepreneurs.

This fall,  I am an adjunct prof in a graduate level course called Real World Learning Design.  Realizing that companies/organizations were using this methodology to innovate and solve problems (or create new products)  – I wondered – could I embed this methodology into my course?   I learned that schools were using the approach to redesign learning spaces. Could the same process be used to redesign learning? After all, shouldn’t students be at the center of our instructional design?

So, I did ton of reading over the summer.  First with Tim Brown’s book Change by Design, then with John Spencer and  A.J. Juliani’s book Launch.  I curated a huge bookmark folder of online resources and lurked #DTk12chat.  Then I stumbled on Stanford’s d.school’s Crash Course and other materials!  Having never participated in a design thinking experience, this provided an excellent roadmap to applying it into my course. (not just as a facilitator – but as a learner with my students!) Did I mention they have a creative commons license on their materials? Thank you d.school!

The past 3 weeks, my students (teachers) completed empathy interviews with their students around learning.  The key point to empathy interviews, leave your assumptions and bias at the door.  You need to go into the interview with a “beginner’s mindset” and not lead students into answers.

Teachers also observed their students outside of their classroom . It was eye-opening for some of my teachers to go into other classrooms and to watch their students. For some, they might be more engaged in one classroom – for others – maybe there was an obvious disconnect.  Led to questions… Why?

Fast forward to tonight.  As the stories came out, it was apparent we had quite a few common themes in all of the interviews.  (From grade 2 to high school) The first pic below is what we found as common themes.

2016-10-05-18-51-45

2016-10-05-17-13-09 2016-10-05-17-13-13
2016-10-05-18-52-02

Dear Teachers!

2016-10-05-20-24-49 Design thinking pictures

 

Some improvements I would like to make the next go around:

  • First F2F day, my students need collaborative time to create questions.  (maybe at least 4 common questions).
  • Have students send me at least the first interview for feedback.  Most of my students either recorded videos or podcasts of their videos.  There were times where they would “lead” students to answers and I believe getting feedback would make the experience better for the students
  • On the second f2f day, I need to create time constraints.  We probably spent too much time sharing our empathy maps/findings when we could have spent ideating and creating solutions. I would also like to explore different ideation strategies.  We also did not have time to go in and refine, refine, refine.
  • I am not sure I am happy with the timing.  Some of my students have already started the implementation of the lessons.  But, I still think there are opportunities to interject what is learned into experiences/activities with tweaks.  (I had one student share, how he began to change things already based on what he learned from his students.)
  • I need to either bring norms to the table OR create norms with the class.  Like – No “Ya Buts” when ideating.  Have signals for when people do so.  When other ideas emerge – let people go off and work out ideas.
  • I love the new “learning lab” space in our HS.  I think we should consider making it even more collaborative and functional.

One of my big aha’s is how design thinking is directly correlated with all of the Innovator’s Mindset characteristics.  I feel I have a deeper understanding – especially the traits of empathetic, observant, and problem finders after this teaching/learning experience.

George Couros - 8 Characteristics of the I nnovator's Mindset

George Couros – 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset

 

Next Steps
Teachers will be designing and implementing learning experiences based on their definition of real world learning. They also will have an opportunity to take what they learned through their empathy interviews and implement  (their learning design prototypes) within their students.   They will collect student evidence of learning, get feedback and analyze and present their results.  I can’t wait!

Overall, I am very satisfied with the turnout.  Could it be better – absolutely!  I will definitely be using again in my next course – Innovative Instructional Leadership.

Evidence of Impact:
Here are a few of my student’s blog posts after going through the empathy interview process.  What I value the most about these posts – is their thoughts and desires to get to know their students better, to build upon teacher:student relationships and design better learning student-centered experiences.

 

One last note, since my cohort actually meets in my school – we decided to leave all of our materials up for our other teachers to see and invited them to share their ideas.  (with post-its and all!)  The more transparent we can be with our learning, the more opportunities there are for everyone to learn!

Dear Teachers

Innovation and the 4 PLC questions

PLCs have become a staple in schools across the US.  No matter where you are in your adoption of PLCs – it’s undeniable that there is power in teachers talking about students and learning.  I spent some time with my MN PLN friends Ryan Cox, Kristin Daniels, and Eric Simmons a few month ago talking about this very topic.   We even presented some ideas at the Fall MASA conference and the Ties conference  last year.  But, as I have been reading and discussing George Couros’s book – Innovator’s Mindset – I once again coming back to those 4 questions and ways we can use PLCs to catapult innovation into our classrooms and schools.

Below I have listed the 4 PLC questions and have shared ideas and conversation starters to further explore those questions with innovation.

 

PLC Question #1 – What is it we expect our students to learn?

I think it is important for all of us to think about what it is we want our students to learn in school.  We are accountable to meet certain standards and I think sifting through all of those standards and picking out the critical standards is very important work.    

But is that it?  Are we going to be satisfied with our students leaving our classrooms, grade levels,  and school being proficient only in content?   While we want our students to know content, we have much more responsibility than that to ensure that we are developing today’s and tomorrow’s learners/citizens.  Just knowing stuff, isn’t enough. Once our critical ELO’s are determined, the exciting/transformational innovation can occur when educators take the time to connect core content to real world (job, life, social/emotional, local/global citizenship) experiences.  Identifying subject area critical ELO’s also opens the door to interdisciplinary opportunities.  Students are reading in science and social studies – how can we take advantage of this time to assess reading?  

And finally, what is it our students want to know or are curious about? What are the opportunities to connect content with their interests?

PLC Question 1 - with a twist

Innovation opportunities with PLC question 1

PLC Question #2 – How will we know when they have learned it?

Once we pick our critical ELOs and design learning experiences we need to determine how we will know students understand what we originally set out to teach them.  This question has all to do about assessment and with assessment brings multiple opportunities for innovation.  The first that comes to mind is formative assessment (assessment for learning).  As we apply curriculum, we need to do small checks to see if students understand what we are trying to deliver.   We use this information one of two ways.  We either give students feedback to improve their success OR we alter something in our instruction to better meet the needs of our students.  There are a variety of ways to do formative checks to find what students know.  Technology can also provide an opportunity to innovate formative assessment.  Instead of a one sized fits all system, we can now tailor assessment according to the child’s needs at the child’s pace.

Some of the more recent things that I see that are exciting are technologies that making thinking visible.  Drawing pictures, telling stories, and creating products (go makers!) to showcase what a student knows can be a very rich form of assessment.  Even if a student makes something with their hands, they can take a picture/video and explain their thinking very easily with today’s tech tools.  These thoughts can be shared with parents, other students, and even at a global scale for feedback.   This moment of learning can now used as artifacts  to measure growth over a long period of time.  

Assessment AS learning brings incredible way to innovate assessment – as the student has more ownership of the learning.  Do you provide students with an opportunity to own their learning?   Do they take more time to self assess/reflect on their work?  Do they recognize their strengths  and area where they need to improve?  As we move content into “real world” experiences – I believe it is these types of artifacts and  reflections that can help us understand if students understand the real world skills we are trying to provide them.   I firmly believe – that the ePortfolio IS the assessment of the 21st century.

Assessment for, as, and of learning. Image credit – http://www.edu.gov.on.ca

How will we respond when some students do not learn?

One of my favorite videos is Todd Rose’s Ted Talk – The myth of average.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4  He offers a few critical findings from neuroscience that help us to re-examine assumptions about learning and new strategies to consider when designing learning opportunities for our students. Do you design your content and assessment to the edges or to the average?

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree - it will live its whole life believing it is stupidThere are numerous ways we can begin to innovate when learners do not understand what we are trying to teach them.   First – have you provided flexibility in how a student can meet the assessment you have provided?  As we go down the road of personalization, we need to consider multiple paths to show learning and meet our learning goals.   Universal Design for Learning  offers some powerful strategies for educators to meet the needs of all learners by creating flexible paths to the how, what, and why of learning.  

So often, I see interventions being exactly the same thing that did not work the first time (or second) for students…only MORE of it.  And so the boredom and frustration begins.  How open are you in creating  multiple paths in learning? Do students  have an active role in the decisions about their learning? Will this bring more buy-in to meet the course goals?  

There is no doubt that relationships between the student and teacher can be key here.  The better we know our students, the better we can customize their learning and connect learning to their interests.  Are learner profiles beneficial option to get to know our students quicker?  (last year’s ePortfolio might help too!)  

What about the pace?  If students do not learn, do you fail them – and move them forward, only for the same students to get further behind and never catch up? At what point is this not acceptable?  I realize that there are grade level standards but these are conversations we need to consider to meet our students needs.  

And finally, technology continues to evolve and provide more flexible paths for learners.  Does having content online help our struggling learners by giving them 24/7 access to their teacher?  What technologies provide flexible paths to content?  NewsELA is an example of a website that allows learners to read current events at their reading levels.  

How will we respond when some students already know it?

Designing for the edges not only supports our struggling learners, but also supports the learners who already understand the curriculum.  Essentially,  I see 2 options.  

First option – provide opportunities for students to go deeper with the learning. Technology that taps into student creativity can be fun!  (Enrichment worksheets are not fun)   It’s time to let our students creativity shine!  How do we continue to allow student to go up the blooms ladder?  Can we connect learning to making? Can students design something  they are passionate about?  Maybe they like art, or music, or basketball.  Is there anyway to tie the learning targets to their passions?  Maybe you give students a couple of options, and also allow a “Create your own path” type learning activity/assessment.  Students would need to present their ideas to you and there may need to be some sort of negotiation to determine if that idea is valid.  As I think of innovation – this is the cream of the crop – our students as innovators by implementing original ideas to meet learning goals!    

Option two – Let them move on to the next lesson/unit.  This is one area where blended learning can be of service to teachers and students and allow students to get through the content at their pace (which is much faster than those who struggle).  So what happens if you have students that get through the content quite quickly?  Is there an opportunity for a genius hour type project?   Or maybe there is another path for students to connect their learning to the real life experiences mentioned in question 1?  

So what are your thoughts?  Is innovation with PLCs a viable option?  What ideas do you have to bring innovation to scale in your schools?  What innovative ideas can you share aligned to any (or all) of the 4 PLC questions?

What if?

I have been participating in #ossemooc Innovator’s Mindset book study.  This week’s blog hop challenge asks us to ask ourselves what if?  SO, I decided to play along.  Below are some blue sky questions that may or may not challenge the status quo of school.  I will be honest  – its this kind of stuff that “trips my professional trigger”.   Collaboratively coming up with solutions  to the questions below (and having the time and resources to act on them) would be a professional dream.

 

#ossemooc What If Challenge

#ossemooc What If Challenge

  1. What if the Carnegie unit disappeared from schools?
  2. What if student schedules were interdisciplinary and personalized according to their needs?
  3. What if we focused less on “what you know” and more on “what you can do to improve the world with what you know”?
  4. What if learning experiences outside of school, could be used to meet standards inside of school?
  5. What if our communities had a vested and shared interest in the success of our students and meaningful partnerships  were created to fully leveraged for maximum impact on student learning?
  6. What if higher ed partnered with k12 schools in teacher prep programs?
  7. What if learners had more significant and meaningful input into their educational experience?
  8. What if every educator was connected to a PLC (f2f) and a PLN (digital)?
  9. What if every student was connected to a PLC (f2f) and a PLN (digital)?
  10. What if “Assessment As Learning” trumped “Assessment OF learning”?
  11. What if schools were held accountable by holistic measures… not just standardized tests?
  12. What if every student, that graduated from high school, had significant resume worthy job experiences including internships, community reviewed business plans,  patents, and published work?
  13. What if every student  could articulate their human potential?
  14. What if we had time to ask with students, teachers, administration, board, parents, and community to ask…..What if – to help redefine what school is for?
  15. And more importantly…. What if we had time and resources  to  create solutions and act on those “What if’s”?

So there you have it!  What did I miss? What are your What if’s?  

STOP STEALING DREAMS: Seth Godin (16:57)

 

School vs Learning by George Couros - Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth

School vs Learning by George Couros – Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth

Innovation: A parent’s perspective

I want to take some time to cross post my thoughts from a Voxer post/discussion in the #OSSEMOOC Innovator’s Mindset group.  The conversation really hit home for me – not just as an educator that works in a school system – but as a parent.

My Story. My youngest is a senior this year in a high school, outside of the one I work for,  and is enrolled as a PSEO student in a local community college.  We have had many college discussions. He knows college is the “right thing” to do.  But, he really is unsure of what he wants to go into to.  He is a good student. He gets decent grades, and decent test scores. He knows how to “play school” very well.  He has been accepted to a 4 year state university and plans to attend this next fall.

The problem.   My son has had ZERO self directed authentic learning experiences (in school) that would connect him (and his learning) to any type of career.  ZERO.   He does enjoy his PSEO classes, as I have observed more critical thinking than his HS courses.  But the relevance of what he is learning is still missing.  He simply continues to “play school”.

Within our discussions of college  – we also need to discuss the considerable amount  of debt that will accrue over the next 4 years. The college he has chosen, estimates tuition and housing to run over $17,000 per year.    He has interests but still is not sure.  So, does he go to college undecided? Or does he wait until he knows what he wants to do?   Lets look at the odds.

  1. There is a chance he won’t make it past year 1 of college.   1 in 3 students will not make it to sophomore year.
  2. There is no guarantee of a career in his major of choice after college.  Only 27% of College grads have jobs within their major
  3. And IF he is successful, and graduates with a degree – he will have significant debt. Rates in 2013 say the average was $30,000 – I am doing some calculations and guessing this will be much more for my son. More likely doubled or more.

Consider the changing paradigms of “School” as we know it. (Video below)


Changing Paradigms – Based on Sir Ken Ted Talk

 

What student-centered innovation looks like today. Innovation that is TRULY student-centered can lead to potential careers.  There are a couple of times, within the school I work for,  I have been able to interview our high school students in courses that teachers allowed significant choice and voice in authentic learning.  In both of the examples below – the courses were designed on Hybrid days – where there was blocks of time where students would not need to “report” to class.

Example 1 – In @RyanRadke316 ‘s  child development class, genius hour project where students are able to freely choose a topic of research under child development AND use hybrid days to either go and interview experts in the field and observe the job in action.  One student, after a personal experience, wanted to further study post traumatic stress disorder.  This student was able to use their hybrid days to interview local child psychologists about the topic.  They were able to tour the facility and discuss specific topics about supporting the patients and the job in general.  When I interviewed this student – this experience sealed the deal and they made the decision to enroll in a psychology major in the next fall.

Example 2 – In @rockychat3′s stats class – students had an opportunity to freely study statistics outside of the traditional classroom during hybrid days.  I happened to interview two students who decided to put their stats knowledge to work with a current passion – and analyze basketball stats.  They poured over the data, analyzed, summarized  and would eventually share their findings.  Both girls shared that they did not realize that Math was “Everywhere” and this stats class had opened their eyes to the application of Math.  And one student, shared she would be pursuing a degree in statistics – specifically  sports analytics in the fall.

Not all open ended, student centered, student directed authentic classroom experiences  are going to lead to a career decision. But I can guarantee – interest/decisions in careers are more likely to happen when students have relevant real world learning experiences vs. reading about it in a book, watching a video about it, or practicing fictitious scenarios/problems on paper.

A few weeks ago, I was at a personalized learning summit in January.  Part of the summit included watching a movie called Beyond Measure.   One of the people, int he moview,  said it best when explaining our education system today relating to baseball.

“If learning baseball was like our current education system players would learn about baseball in high school, would create a play about baseball in college, and wouldn’t get in the game until graduate school. “

Questions to consider. Politicians want innovative schools and cry REFORM REFORM REFORM yet still hold schools accountable by test scores. Standards are a mile wide and can be very difficult to go deep with them.  Not to mention – are still organized by “grade levels”. School systems  in public schools still continue to work under a belief system where seat time = learning. And in Minnesota – the Carnegie unit is still king.  At some point, shouldn’t we  recognize EVERY student’s passions and talents? Shouldn’t we give plenty of student directed, authentic experiences in our classes that could spark new passions, talents, and career interests?  Sure we want them to be great readers. We want want them to be great mathematicians. But -so often the way we try to raise their scores is doing the same thing that doesn’t work in the first place. (Just more of it that kills the love of learning). When do we start working on the student’s personal genius, whether it be art, or music, or programming, or carpentry or “Fill in the blank” to land a potential career?

Image credit – career.uconn.edu

What student-centered innovation could look like tomorrow (Warning – idea alert). An interesting and extremely innovative highered idea is the Gap Year. http://uncollege.org/gap-year/ Where students “Take control of their learning” Its an interesting concept and to tell you the truth – would be an awesome senior year opportunity. I know – people may look at this idea and think/say, Ya But, Ya But, Ya But.  And we will find many roadblocks and many obstacles make ideas seem unrealistic.  Should obstacles stand in the way of what is best for kids?

What can parents do? So parents (aka voters and tax payers) when it comes to innovation in education your voice needs to be heard too.  Don’t settle for Ya but. Things are changing quite rapidly in the world of education and more importantly the world of employment.  Even though you have a 13 year internship on how school is done – you need to educate yourself.  When a college and is determined, make sure there are plenty of real world experiences within the core of the school work too.  Politicians need to hear you, as do our  school boards and schools.  Our kids need community members with strong voices and even better –  potential career connections and learning experiences.

These kids TODAY…

In the history of education, our kids TODAY have more opportunities than ever before to connect, learn, and co create new knowledge with other classrooms, organizations, and experts from around the globe.  Through these connections, our kids TODAY, have more opportunities to make an impact in this world and make it a better place for generations to come.

I see a shift in schools, from being solely “dispensers of knowledge” to, instead,  helping students learn how THEY can apply their learning in a real world context.  I see a shift in schools from focusing solely on test scores – to fostering and measuring the whole child.

In my mind, our challenge is “How do we “do school” efficiently to incorporate these shifts and effectively measure success?”  Its going to take a different school system than we have TODAY as we can not continue to add these new shifts to traditional paradigms.

There is never enough time! TODAY, we need to evaluate and challenge how we currently use our time in education. TODAY, we need to create new ways to evaluate and measure student success – beyond the test score.  And TODAY, we need leaders in our schools with a mindset to challenge these traditional paradigms to support and create a better, more efficient way to “do school” in order to support every learner.

Who is up for the challenge TODAY?

I will leave you with this quote – tweeted last week by @justintarte that really hit home in my thinking…  I hope to use this blog in the weeks to come to share ideas of how we can challenge (and ACT upon) these paradigms.  Stay tuned!

Jefferson Quote

 

 

The class of 2020 goes to college

It was the turn of the century.  After schools  thankfully survived  Y2K, many of us  turned to visioning 21st century instruction.  And the class of 2020, was considered to be a monumental milestone on the 21st century edu timeline.

Fast forward to last Friday, April 24, 2014.

Friday was a good day. Wait, Friday was a GREAT day!  Matt Weyers (blog, twitter) and I had the opportunity to go and present Divergent Teaching: 21st century strategies for education to teacher candidates at Winona State University.  We also brought 5 co-presenters from Mr Weyer’s 6th grade class …which happens to be the class of 2020.

Photo Collage from WSU visit

This was a great experience to co present with students.  Each student shared how, within Mr. Weyers classroom, they had created their own online TV series via YouTube,  created a survival guide for the city of Byron in the event of a zombie apocalypse, (Mr Weyers shared that the majority of his students self chose to turn in 10+ page plans and it was some of the best writing he had ever seen) and published their very own book on Amazon.com.  (See student explain the project below) 

 In our small group discussions, students also shared how they had frequent skypes to Argentina, created roller coasters out of paper, and are currently collaborating with their art teacher to create works of art that will be on display in various businesses in Byron.  (works of art will also be based on businesses and the goods/service they supply)

Its was very obvious that learning in Mr. Weyers classroom is fun but more importantly relevant and memorable.  Kids shared how they loved to write and create.

As I reflect on this class of 2020, these are exactly the type of experiences that I would hope they would have.  In these learning environments, kids do not question their teacher “why do we have to learn this?” because their work is authentic. Their audience – authentic.

I decided to ask a few of the teacher candidates, “Are you being prepared to develop learning experiences like this?”  They shared that they have their devices (each is issued a laptop and an iPad)  and  they have a breakout technology class in which they are learning how to use SMART boards and other technologies.  But they had not heard of back channels, Google forms, Google Communities, hangouts, and twitter chats.  All of the teachers at my table knew what  flipped learning was and how it worked, but did not know how to design or apply those types of experiences.

Twitter post via Justin Tarte - https://twitter.com/justintarte/status/455014071897563137I also understood that an invitation went out to almost 200 candidates as well as their professors.  We had 8 or 9 teacher candidates attend.  These were an awesome group of individuals and shared with them that THEY were the teachers we were looking for.  They are not waiting to learn  in a “required” 3 hour workshop or class.  We need teachers who have a growth mindset, who learn from failures to improve their practice. We are looking for teachers who challenge the status quo.  One great way for teachers to learn how to do this is to develop their personal learning network (Sample from Kathy Shrock) and observe and collaborate with teacher leaders  across the state/nation!

Here are 2 blog posts, I stumbled on tonight, by educators who have found value in developing their PLN.

 

If these soon to be teachers are not learning how to develop these learning environments in college – what about student teaching?  Again, each had varying experiences (most did not have any) in designing and applying 21st century instruction due to  the differences in the  schools they were selected to serve.

And finally, I reflected on our own induction of new teachers into the Byron school system.  If new teachers are not prepared for 1:1 iPads, Flipped/hybrid learning, Google Apps for Education, Project-Based Learning, and our new 21st century  strategic plan – how will we do a better job in preparing them to create authentic learning opportunities with these technologies?  It must be incredibly overwhelming for a new teachers to enter into our school system if they have not had formal training in 21st century learning design.   This has really got me thinking and I think there are opportunities…but that will be for a later post.

All in all, I could not express how proud I was of these 6th grade students and of course their teacher – Mr Weyers.  They absolutely loved their experience in this workshop and the overall experience at WSU. The learning opportunity was fantastic  – again –  writing and speaking in front of an authentic audience.  (College cafeteria food was also a big hit!) They were very proud of themselves and could not wait to share with their families and friends what happened that day. It would be great to connect with these students and I have to wonder, 6 years from now, when they are preparing to graduate from Byron if the paths they have chosen were at all shaped by experiences they had in this 6th grade classroom.

We had a few minutes to spare so I asked the students what they learned that day.  They all had varying responses and are going to create a reflective video for me about their experience.  But one student comment really resonated when he responded, “I learned that teaching was a hard job”.  Yes it is. Yes it is!

Steven Strogatz: Doing Math in Public

Dear Math picture

Image via http://shirtoid.com/23501/i-love-math-infinity/

Today I stumbled on a video Steven Stogratz – Doing Math in Public – via Cornell University. I typically don’t watch people talk about math but I find this video very interesting. I happen to be one of those people, who did fairly well in my math courses in high school and even college, but alway had a hard time understanding the application of upper level math. I could work through and solve equations, and  pass tests – but I never understood how I could actually apply it to the real world.

The video then lead me to Steven’s New York Times Blog series, The Elements of Math.  The reaction to his posts, by the public, were very supportive. There  are over 500 comments on his first post – From Fish to Infinity where he also shares why he was writing this series:

“Crazy as it sounds, over the next several weeks… I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject — but this time from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it. So, let’s begin with pre-school…”

Steven then created another 6 part series called Me, Myself, and Math. In which showcases math in real world scenarios. First post shares how math is related to  baby cowlicks and finger prints. I certainly did not understand those things had a mathematical explanation for existence, did you?

Again, the reaction to Steven’s work via blog comments and Twitter is interesting… by many people who are not mathematicians – like yours truly.  He has over 10K followers and shares many references to math in real world situations.  I am not sure where Steven’s resources could by used with K12 students. (I am not a subject matter expert in Math) but it does make  me to wonder… could some of his blog posts, scenarios, tweets lead to opportunities for real world dialog with students?  He is definitely fascinating and has one new follower! 🙂

Check out his Twitter Account – https://twitter.com/stevenstrogatz