Thursday, November 20, 2014

Worth Reading

Passing along a few highlights from the past couple of weeks....

1. 1,021 Reasons Why This Family Built A Computer to Play Minecraft (New Tech City)- dad builds a computer with his two daughters so they can play Minecraft.

Keefe got to spend time with his daughters (and got his other computer back) and they got all the Minecraft they could ever want. The girls also got a useful lesson in building hardware in case they want to put together another computer for the next big video game that comes along.

2. Investigating Authentic Questions (Vincent)- discusses the need to create "driving questions" in the classroom as well as the need to provide space for students to develop their own investigative questions.

Albert Einstein is quoted, “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.".... Remember, the idea is that your students work harder than you. Admittedly, it is a lot of work to put in place contracts, establish procedures, check in with students, model search techniques, and manage resources. While you may not be busy spoon feeding your students, providing the conditions in which they can learn through investigation is a big job.
3. Center For Innovation Wows Board With Design Thinking and Game-Based Learning (Hellman)- updates from Scarsdale's Center for Innovation.  Teachers experiment with Design Thinking  as well as middle school teachers who use games and simulations to extend student thinking.
Games give players permission to take risks that would not be permitted in a traditional academic setting, and inspire students to create, share, mix, modify, curate, critique, and comment on content to which they might otherwise be indifferent. Game-based learning includes group work, interaction and a high degree of student engagement. 
4. Teachers "Showing Up" As Students (Richardson/Stommel)- developing trust through teachers  learning next to their students.
 work extremely hard to keep my own expectations from being the fuel that makes everything go. My only real expectation as a teacher in a learning environment is that students don’t look to me for approval but take full ownership of their own learning. And I work to develop trust by showing up as a student myself. 
5. The Hundred Face Challenge- examining the different ways students went about solving a problem
6. On Hope (Hunt)- making a case for providing an environment where hope, the chance to think, dream big is what is important and that it is OK for plans to fail.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Technology as an either or proposition

Recently I have been part of several meeting where participants tried to paint the integration of technology in schools/classrooms as an either or proposition.  The use of technology was seen as an agent to end to face-to-face interactions and furthermore, that important personal connections would dissipate as access became widespread.

I never understood this caustic view of technology.  I'm not sure if this view stems from fear of change or results from a lack of  understanding on how technology and physical exchanges can coexist in the same learning environment.  Leveraging technology in classrooms and even outside of schools by students does not signal the end of interpersonal skills.  Instead, for example, physical collaboration in the classroom and sharing ideas via an online learning network both hold a place of importance as one constructs knowledge.  The more important and productive discussion should center on how both the physical and virtual worlds can serve as tools students organically access to help construct meaning.

While listening to the either or proposition I thought about NCTE's Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment (benchmarks provided below).  What it means to be literate has been reshaped by the ways in which technology is applied by a community of global users to communicate, collaborate, create and develop.  If we want students to embody NCTE's definition of literacy (personally, I cannot see why not) than the use of technology needs to be embraced.  The conversation should no longer focus on what is lost or at worst doomsday predictions in regards to technology.  The conversation should encourage educators and students to think about what is possible when access and the ability to connect is readily available to all.

Context for NCTE’s 21st Century Literacies Framework
The NCTE definition of 21st century literacies makes it clear that the continued evolution of curriculum, assessment, and teaching practice itself is necessary:

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to
  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few personal favorites from the past few weeks.

1. Why The Best Teachers Don't Give Tests (Kohn)- discusses why testing is flawed and shares more effective ways to gather valuable information about student progress

The most impressive classrooms and curricula are designed to help the teacher know as much as possible about how students are making sense of things. When kids are engaged in meaningful, active learning -- for example, designing extended, interdisciplinary projects -- teachers who watch and listen as those projects are being planned and carried out have access to, and actively interpret, a continuous stream of information about what each student is able to do and where he or she requires help. It would be superfluous to give students a test after the learning is done. We might even say that the more a teacher is inclined to use a test to gauge student progress, the more that tells us something is wrong -- perhaps with the extent of the teacher's informal and informed observation, perhaps with the quality of the tasks, perhaps with the whole model of learning. If, for example, the teacher favors direct instruction, he or she probably won't have much idea what's going on in the students' minds. That will lead naturally to the conclusion that a test is "necessary" to gauge how they're doing.

2. Testing As A Silo/Solo Act:  We Can Do Much Better (Reilly)- points out the disconnect between how we learn and create knowledge compared to the solitary act of testing

Our myopic attention to testing children individually renders them less college and career ready. Our methods are antiquated. Our attention on the individual is at best, romantic. In 2014, we isolate each child and remove the full power of connectivity even as we make the child sit at a computer/tablet in order to read/view the test and record his/her answers. 

Could we be anymore 19th century like?

3. Does Child-Like Thinking Produce Innovative Design (Peterson)- eighty of the fifth through eighth grade students from Nalanda Public School in Mumbai (part of the Clinton Global Initiative), India and sixty experienced design professionals from Seoul, Hong Kong and Copenhagen were brought together to create innovative concepts. The students were asked to design backpacks for students living in Copenhagen, Denmark and their designs were then compared with that of the designers, who had been asked to design a wide range of consumer products.

Judging from the energy and enthusiasm the Mumbai students displayed during their two-hour long design session - children thrive on design challenges. They love to learn new things and translate them into ideas of their own. Their sketches exuded passion and joy, something that can only help them in the future at becoming the very best that they can be in their chosen fields of endeavor.

4. Educators and Entrepreneurs: Get Thee to a Classroom and Observe Students (Hernandez)-  Alexis Wiggins, a veteran high school teacher, shadowed students for two days and recently wrote about her experiences on her father Grant Wiggins’blog. Her headlines: Being a high school student is “exhausting” and “you feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.” The post was read over 800,000 times since it was first published on October 10th and went viral among educators.

5. Eight New Attributes of Modern Educational Leaders (Richardson)- qualities educational leaders show embody/exhibit in the modern age

6. How Students Lead the Learning Experience at Democratic Schools (Vangelova)- insight into how a democratic school such as the Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland functions

The most significant responsibility at the school is that “you are responsible for what you make of your life,” McCaig says. To graduate, students write and defend a thesis that they have “prepared themselves to become effective adults in the larger community.”