Seeing Curriculum through a Child’s Eyes

Chaltain, S. (2013, March 5).  Seeing curriculum through a child’s eyes [web log post].  Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/civic_mission/2013/03/_seeing_curriculum_through_a_childs_eyes.html

In this article, the author describes the teaching method at Mission Hill School in Mass.  This school premises its educational model on recognizing students as individual learners with unique learning styles and learning pace.  As such, teachers work with the same students for two years in order to develop a more in-depth and personal knowledge of each student’s learning and to monitor their progress with their individual learning goals.  Moving away from worksheets, regurgitation and memory drills, the school promotes hands-on experience and exploration.  Further, teachers have authority at Mission Hill to help influence and design their curriculum, based on their understanding on the front line as teachers.  The author compares this type of education, which is funded largely on creativity, individuality and flexibility, to his daughter’s education, which is limited to paper and pen activities and so on.  The article also includes a short video on Mission Hill School.  My favorite quote from the video comes from the school principal, who says “If we want children to be inventors, we have to give them opportunities to invent; if we want them to be artists, we give them lots of opportunities to create art; if we want them to be problem-solvers, we give them moments of independence to figure out things for themselves.”  What a refreshing perspective from a school administrator!

I definitely recommend taking a few minutes to read the article and watch the video – both are valuable and inspiring.

If Students Designed Their Own Schools

Chazyvr. (2013, February 13).  If students designed their own schools. Retrieved April 28, 2013 from http://youtu.be/RElUmGI5gLc

This video starts off with a great quote from a student: “It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to help and teach the youth, there is no voice for the youth at all.”  So true!  In the video, we meet nine students who are participating in a self-designed curriculum at a high school in Mass.  The program is a semester-long, and is founded on each student’s personal curiosity.  Each week, a student develops a question regarding something  about which he/she has a personal interest.  Then he/she investigates it and presents his/her findings to the group and invite discussion.  Meanwhile, each student commits to an individual semester-long project, such as learning an instrument, writing a play, and so on.  The program allows for flexibility, creativity, and critical thinking.  Rather than a regurgitation of facts, it emphasizes in-depth learning and individuality.  The results thus far show that the program suits various types of students well, inspiring their passions and enhancing their skills

I thought this video was incredibly interesting and inspiring!  I can imagine how it could motivate even a historically unmotivated or disengaged student; as one students comments “every single person wants to learn about something…everybody is interested in something.”  I feel energized and excited to think about how I could use these program’s concepts in my own teaching.

More Authentic Assessment Requires Collaborative Efforts

Michelle Windell

CA
CO

Boss, S. (2012). The challenge of assessing project-based learning.District Administration, 48(9), 46-50.
This article presents a number of different project-based learning projects from schools around the country. It refers to the Common Core as the impetus for the shift in pedagogy from the old teacher lecturing method to project-based learning. Assessments necessarily must shift to allow students to demonstrate critical thinking and deeper learning. What I like about this article is the suggestion that teachers will collaborate to assess student work, because assessment will require discussion about what good work is. This professional collaboration will (hopefully) extend nationwide and beyond as teachers create online networks for sharing projects, rubrics, and anchor work. In my own experience, I have found that a lack of anchor work (student samples of different rubric ratings) makes for huge discrepancies in teachers’ assessment standards, even within one school setting in which teachers are using the same rubric.

What is the "Race to the Top"?

Parker, Linda

CA
CO
IL

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/fact-sheet-race-top

       Being a non-teacher, I had no idea about the “Race to the Top”.  The above link is to the White House Fact Sheet that discusses the initiative.  This brief, yet informative piece gives the background regarding the need for the initiative, the contest behind the “race”, and it’s resulting in the Common Core standards which many states are adopting.  “Common Core” was quite the buzz, but I didn’t really know what it meant or what it was supposed to do.  Having read this information article, I have a better understanding of the basis for this program.  If all goes according to this plan, our nation’s students will be better prepared and equipped for success in the 21st century.

Assessing 21st Century Skills

White, N. (2012, November 3). Assessing 21st century skills. Innovations in Education- Reflections on Learning. Retrieved from http://d20innovation.d20blogs.org/2012/11/03/assessing-21st-century-skills/

CA
 
Synopsis:
This blog posting is a reflection of Nancy White’s experiences with teaching and assessing 21st Century Skills with her students in Colorado. One point that White makes, that is often times forgotten, is that assessment is not just for the teachers it is also for the students. Assessments give students an idea of their strengths and challenges and as such assessments have to be more than just a way to assign a grade to a student’s work. With the focus on 21st Century Skills, which are already difficult to assess, assessments have to change and the focus cannot continue to be on summative assessments. These skills are ones that are demonstrated through process and cannot be accurately graded with multiple-choice questions. White identifies that for 21st Century Skills assessment, formative is the best way that teachers can track and assess students’ work. She includes a link to the Intel Assessing Projects Database, which allows teachers to access premade assessments for the skill they are focusing on.
Review:
Although the basic idea that is presented in the posting is one that is fairly obvious to most readers now, it is White’s inclusion of examples that makes this posting especially helpful. I also found some of the 21stCentury Skills she discussed were outside of what I have encountered in other articles detailing 21st Century Skills. White includes “Self Direction” and “Invention” with the skills that being developed and assessed with her students. It is possible that I have read these in other articles but they worded differently so they did not have the same impact. Her attention on making the assessments kid friendly was another interesting inclusion. It tied back into her assertion that assessments are for teachers and students so they have to be accessible to both parties. The inclusion of the Intel assessment generator was a nice inclusion because it gives educators a framework to use if they are still having trouble creating their own assessments. 
Posted by Jessica King

Flippin’ out

Shapiro Brian

IL

Tucker, B. (2012). The flipped classroom: Online instruction at home frees class time for learning. Education Next, 12(1), 82-83. Retrieved from http://educationnext.org/files/ednext_20121_BTucker.pdf

Having read several articles about flipped classrooms, I decided to review this article because it functions well as a quick, concise overview of an introduction to flipped classrooms. It begins with a brief history; five years ago, two science teachers in Colorado, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, decided to record some of their lectures to support students who missed class. As is often the case in education, something new grew from this original goal. The teachers received feedback that other students were using the recorded lessons as a way to reinforce the concepts from class, entirely by choice. Since then, these educators have written a book about the flipped classroom and the Khan Academy has posted over 4000 educational videos. Ted TALKS are also a popular choice for online videos that may introduce, or more thoroughly explore, a subject.

Flipping a classroom can be very effective for presenting content—in forms of lectures, demonstrations, etc. If students are watching (at their own pace and with the ability to go back and re-watch as is needed) these lessons as homework, then they can practice the skills in class, with individualized support of the teacher. Teachers also have reported that it is easier to provide remediation and differentiate for advanced students this way. But teachers are careful to point out that it is not the lessons themselves (though they need to be thoughtfully created or chosen) but the way that they are integrated into the classroom that is key to the success and the improvement of practice. Also—that individual teachers should not be expected to purchase the technology needed, except by choice.

Despite the positive experience many teachers and students are having with varying degrees of flipping their classrooms, the article reminds the educational community of several aspects to consider with this revolutionary way of changing classroom practice. The article cautions, “And, in today’s highly polarized political environment, it also runs the risk of being falsely pigeonholed into one of education’s many false dichotomies, such as the age-old pedagogical debate between content knowledge and skills acquisition.” It is something to keep at the forefront of the discussion—that it is another option for creative, effective instruction—not a fix-all. It may work better for some subjects and some lessons within a subject. Also, it is not something to leap into, but to change in incremental, thoughtful ways. Schools need to consider the access to technology that their students have outside of class, as well as how something engaging and special could become tedious if it’s what every teacher is doing, or if the videos are not engaging or of high-quality instruction. The bottom line is it is an exciting practice that teachers/librarians should continue exploring and using in a measured and creative way, combined with the other best practices we are already doing.

The Effects of Technology on Educational Theory and Practice: A 20-Year Perspective


Stefani Wiest
ET-New Trends
IL-Media Literacy
Allen, D. W. (2003). The Effects of Technology on Educational Theory and Practice: A 20-Year Perspective. Computers In The Schools, 20(1/2), 49.
Summary: With the inception of new technologies into the school library setting, the effects of learning strategies introduce both pros and cons to student learning. According to the author, technologies are now often used to manage the process of education, but there can be a lack of technological understanding with both students and teachers. Also, the use and availability of this technology is not only important within the school, but also outside of school hours. Not all students have sufficient computer accessibility during school or after school hours. Because of this discrepancy, some students will enter college with a vast knowledge of computers and technological access while others will have very little experience or understanding. Another issue is that many teachers remain untrained as how to explore the possibilities of computer technologies. Schools also need to find ways to make access easy, comfortable and legal for teachers and students. To enhance a teacher’s knowledge of technologies, some schools have introduced programs, such as student tech teams. The author identifies both pro and cons to this approach.
Evaluation: This article identifies many of the pitfalls regarding access and the understanding of technology now widely used in schools. Although there is a tremendous potential for learning with the use of technology in schools, many of the barriers need to be addressed for technology to be a useful learning tool. Because of the newness of providing students with school computers and the introduction of 21st century skills, education is transitioning into new learning models and behaviors. Students not only need to overcome these barriers but the teaching staff as well.

The Golden Triangle of Development

Shapiro, Brian
ET
Fox, B. E., & Doherty, J. J. (2012). Design to learn, learn to design: Using backward design for information literacy instruction. Communications in Information Literacy, 5(2), 144-155. Retrieved from http://www.comminfolit.org/index.php?journal=cil&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=v5i2p144
The focus of this article is to document and assess the process and product of a group creation: instructional podcasts to teach graduate students information literacy. The group used an assessment first/backwards by design approach (formalized by Wiggins) and a collaborative process, using a team of people with a variety of expertise and experience. The article initially explores the ideological change from instructors choosing what is important to teach to deciding what the students need to be able to do, and then thoughtfully designing an assessment that would show successful acquisition of target skills and knowledge, and only then creating engaging and scaffolded lessons that support the students as they progress in the unit.

After examining the history and reasons for choosing a “backwards by design approach,” authors describe how they worked using “greater intentionality” to design the podcasts, using five key elements. The highlights of these elements are learning outcomes, and the need for true collaboration among people of different disciplines. The learning modules (podcasts) needed, “to provide students with an area of knowledge, information literacy, as well as a particular skill, effective approaches to find and evaluate professional literature” (Fox, Doherty 2012).

The collaborative design team consisted of a librarian team, an instructional designer, a faculty member, and a graphic designer. The workshop’s goal was to familiarize new faculty with a variety of library resources, and highlight how to access and use high quality academic literature. The team allowed student circumstances to guide and restrict the process. For example, many students had full-time jobs, families, etc. and therefore the podcast delivery method is key to allowing people to access the lessons when and where they could.

The authors divided the discussion into three levels of analysis of the process/outcome: things that were done well, things they now better understand, and things that should be done differently in the future. The greatest success was what the authors describe as the “golden triangle” of development—that by intentionally collaborating with a group of experts they were able to accomplish well beyond what any of them would have been able to do alone; the podcasts were well-developed, effective, and aligned to the information literacy standards.

The team reported that they “better understand” the complex process and the huge time commitment necessary to do design and implement a high-quality product/course; they had initially thought it would take three months and it took over nine.

The team learned that for the most effective and high-quality collaborative process, they should have developed a more formal plan and perhaps even have used a project manager to help with deadlines, etc. They also concluded that the people who actually created the podcasts should have been more involved in the design process. Finally, they should have spent more time on the assessment that drove the design; they did not feel that it was as intentionally designed and fleshed out as they would want, ideally. 

A Collaborative Oasis in the Desert

Michelle Windell

CO

Kilker, J. (2012). School and community connections for collaboration and coteaching.Knowledge Quest, 40(4), 38-45.

In this article, the author articulates how she transformed the 1950’s style, hardly used library at her inner-city Phoenix HS into a thriving environment for learning. She tells of her journey to promote collaboration with teachers by reaching out to them and showing them how she could be a valuable resource to them. For example, she would create hotlists of web resources to go along with teachers’ instructional units. Deeper collaborations on lessons ensued, with co-planning and co-teaching, shared assessment duties, and more. Helping teachers become comfortable with technology, first by introducing web 2.0 tools into lessons, and then by offering teacher trainings, moved her solidly into the center of instruction. This librarian helped to link teachers and students to the community in many ways, including arranging evening and weekend field trips to museums and historical sites, and on one occasion, a tour of some sites in a historical novel read by many English classes, with the author serving as docent.



This article helped me to get a sense of how to move forward with putting myself at the center of teaching and learning, one step at a time. Eventually, the momentum will build.

Make Friends with the Principal…S/He’s Lonely at the Top

Michelle Windell

CO

Ray, M. (2013). The same difference.School Library Journal, 59(2), 20-23.

This article is written by a guy who was a TL and is now an administrator. He speaks of his rare but positive relationships with principals while he was a TL, and of how the two jobs have many similarities. Most notably, unless they reach out to teachers, they work in isolation. The author also speaks of how TLs can help principals. Often times principals get a bad rap for policies that aren’t theirs; teachers tend to think of principals as the enemy conspiring some evil plot against them. TLs can help by offering to assist in the presentation of new policies (such as Common Core Standards) and to remind teachers of their availability as a resource. In addition to being of service to teachers and to principals, TLs can share with principals the good work they see going on in classrooms. TLs can help bridge this gap between administration and teachers, and move the whole school forward.

I liked this article because I do tend to generalize the principal’s role as one of District Henchman. I find it empowering that I can move myself to the center of educational reform by forging a new kind of relationship with my administrators.