Monday, March 30, 2015

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few favorite posts from the past few weeks.

1. What Teens are Learning from 'Serial" and Other Podcasts (Flan)- Shares how teachers are using popular podcasts such as Serial to model outcomes expressed in the Common Core.

What do students learn from the experience? “They enjoy it so much that they don’t realize they’re learning at the highest level,” says Alexa Schlechter, a 10th-grade English teacher at Norwalk High School in Connecticut, who had never used a podcast in class before trying “Serial.” Listening to and engaging with “Serial” helps many students address one of the main challenges in developing their analytical skills: getting beyond simple explanations of what happened, and figuring out how and why an event occurred, she says. Poring over text of the transcripts in class to uncover answers, students also develop their critical reading skills, she says.

2. Why Realizing the Full Promise of Education Requires a Fresh Approach (Vangelova)- This is the second of a two-part conversation with Yong Zhao about standards, testing and other core elements of the modern system of education, and the assumptions that may be standing in the way of meeting the real learning needs of all children.

In the alternate vision, individual differences are not flaws to be fixed; the emphasis instead is on helping all students to identify and develop their areas of interest, and to build on their strengths. Standards, curricula and tests would play a very minor role, as tools to be deployed only when they can help a particular student to progress. Learning would be organized around individuals, instead of classes and grades. And rather than looking to schools and teachers to manage students’ learning, we should “give children autonomy, trust that they want to learn, and let them become owners of their learning enterprise.”

3. How Should Learning Be Assessed (Vangelova)- This is the second of a two-part conversation with Yong Zhao about standards, testing and other core elements of the modern system of education, and the assumptions that may be standing in the way of meeting the real learning needs of all children.

Tests are just one form of assessment, he points out, and limited in what they can accurately measure. Important qualities such as creativity, persistence and collaboration, for example, are tricky to measure, because they are individualized and situation- or task-specific (someone may collaborate well in one group setting but not in another). And no test can measure whether children are receiving “a quality learning experience that meets the needs of individual students.”

4. All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking)I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten (Resnick)-  paper argues that the “kindergarten approach to learning” – characterized by a spiraling cycle of Imagine, Create, Play, Share, Reflect, and back to Imagine – is ideally suited to the needs of the 21st century, helping learners develop the creative-thinking skills that are critical to success and satisfaction in today’s society.

5. Stanford’s Most Popular Class Isn’t Computer Science- It’s Something Much More Important (O’Connell)- interesting course imbuing higher eds with the capacity to make important life decisions.
Here's what they learn: gratitude; generosity; self-awareness; adaptability. All reinforced by design thinking-based tools, from a daily gratitude journal to a deck of cards featuring problem-solving techniques. In lieu of a final exam—the class is pass/fail—students present three radically different five-year plans to their peers. Alumni say they still refer back their "odyssey plans"—a term that Evans coined—and revise them as their lives and careers progress.

6. Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system (Garner)-  Finland is pushing an initiative forward to scrap traditional “teaching by subject” in favor of “teaching by topic”.

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

8. Larry Rosenstock- Learning {RE}imagined

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few interesting posts from the past few weeks.

1. How Four Women In An RV Plan to Change Young Girls' Lives (Fast Company)- group of Stanford students who intend to travel across the country this summer to interest girls in design, STEM and the maker movement.

After spending a day helping Stanford’s SparkTruck team coach design and maker workshops for elementary school students in San Francisco last October, students Katie Kirsch and Jenna Leonardo felt inspired. They spent the drive back to campus imagining new ways they could bring design thinking—the creative process of understanding needs, identifying a problem and creating new ways to solve it—to young women’s lives. They asked each other an old motivational prompt: "What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?"

2. New Research on Games and Classroom Practices (Reich)- case studies on the effectiveness of games as an assessment tool

But to have a positive impact on student learning, formative assessment demands information that is both useful and used. Our study documented some of the ways teachers are indeed utilizing games for formative assessment purposes, and the potential value of these uses for these important classroom practices. These case studies explored common features in games that teachers could use for formative assessment. In addition to identifying ways these features are useful to teachers, we also identified many areas for improvement.

3. Slice and Carve: The New Wave of Computer Creativity (NY Time)- how a new wave of machines is bringing precision to the way people make things

4. Noam Chomsky On the Dangers of Standardized Testing
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5. Studio 360- Humza Daes Puts Shame in Your Instagram Game

6. Well-Prepared In Their Own Eyes (Jaschik)- perspective from employers and students on job readiness skills

7. Reinventing High School (Fallows)- see how the CART school in Freson, CA structures learning

I sat with the group while the students talked through progress on their 10-week-long project, the production of a seven-minute video. This year’s theme for the video teams is science fiction. The essential question of their assignment: “How do imagination and technology contribute to our understanding of science, nature, and the human mind? How does the exploration of science and nature encourage us to dream of a better future”?  The soup-to-nuts tasks include writing an original story and script, casting actors, directing, filming, effects, editing, promotion, and presentation. The final package includes a reality-documentary of the entire video production, with its many high points and low points.  A few nights ago, Jim and I watched about half of last year's 22 productions on DVD. The most remarkable part to us were the student-produced documentaries which accompanied each film. The students spoke about how doing this intense work taught them about frustrations, perseverance, teamwork, satisfactions, and a lot of other things we would all like high schoolers to experience.

Make It Stick

Sharing a few highlights from Make It Stick by Peter Brown.

Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow

Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt

In other words, the elements that shape your intellectual abilities lie to a surprising extent within your own control. Understanding that this is so enables you to see failure as a badge of effort and a source of useful information—the need to dig deeper or to try a different strategy

Learning is stronger when it matters, when the abstract is made concrete and personal

Mastery requires both the possession of ready knowledge and the conceptual understanding of how to use it

Just as knowledge amounts to little without the exercise of ingenuity and imagination, creativity absent a sturdy foundation of knowledge builds a shaky house

show that giving feedback strengthens retention more than testing alone does, and, interestingly, some evidence shows that delaying the feedback briefly produces better long-term learning than immediate feedback

In interleaving, you don’t move from a complete practice set of one topic to go to another. You switch before each practice is complete. A friend of ours describes his own experience with this: “I go to a hockey class and we’re learning skating skills, puck handling, shooting, and I notice that I get frustrated because we do a little bit of skating and just when I think I’m getting it, we go to stick handling, and I go home frustrated, saying, ‘Why doesn’t this guy keep letting us do these things until we get it?’ ” This is actually the rare coach who understands that it’s more effective to distribute practice across these different skills than polish each one in turn. The athlete gets frustrated because the learning’s not proceeding quickly, but the next week he will be better at all aspects, the skating, the stick handling, and so on, than if he’d dedicated each session to polishing one skill

Here again we see the two familiar lessons. First, that some difficulties that require more effort and slow down apparent gains—like spacing, interleaving, and mixing up practice—will feel less productive at the time but will more than compensate for that by making the learning stronger, precise, and enduring. Second, that our judgments of what learning strategies work best for us are often mistaken, colored by illusions of mastery

Unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem encourage deep processing of the answer when it is later supplied, creating fertile ground for its encoding, in a way that simply reading the answer cannot

Moreover, people who are taught that learning is a struggle that often involves making errors will go on to exhibit a greater propensity to tackle tough challenges and will tend to see mistakes not as failures but as lessons and turning points along the path to mastery

The qualities of persistence and resiliency, where failure is seen as useful information, underlie successful innovation in every sphere and lie at the core of nearly all successful learning

The central idea here is that expert performance is a product of the quantity and the quality of practice, not of genetic predisposition, and that becoming expert is not beyond the reach of normally gifted people who have the motivation, time, and discipline to pursue it

Embrace the fact that significant learning is often, or even usually, somewhat difficult. You will experience setbacks. These are signs of effort, not of failure. Setbacks come with striving, and striving builds expertise. Effortful learning changes your brain, making new connections, building mental models, increasing your capability. The implication of this is powerful: Your intellectual abilities lie to a large degree within your own control. Knowing that this is so makes the difficulties worth tackling

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives

I am reading Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives.   Usually I share personal highlights upon finishing a book.  However, I really like the following and wanted to immediately share.  The two excerpts remind me about the power informal, organic, subtle, unintended interactions between classroom stakeholders have in pushing thinking.

Instead, we think about how and why people do things.  By not judging, the teacher also positions herself besides rather than above, the student, avoiding an asymmetrical power relationship.

In a dynamic-learning frame, receiving help to find and solve a problem is not a negative event.  In this framework, self-esteem might not be something you have more or less of either.  Perhaps self-esteem is, as Carol Dweck puts it, "a way of experiencing yourself when you are using your resources well."