Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teacher's Role in Challenge Based Learning (Part 2)

The professional development groups at Mercy have continued to focus on the teacher's role in Challenge Based Learning, but teacher absence, and school day cancellations have created some continuity issues for this theme.  Nevertheless, I tried to emphasize a few major points in the part 2 sessions:

1) It is paramount that a shared document should be established by the team at the outset so that they can continue to make progress through the CBL process without needing face-to-face meetings for every step.

2) Group goal setting is a helpful way to initiate the assessment piece of CBL.

3) Teams should not be allowed to "short circuit" the guiding questions phase.  In all my CBL experiences with both students and adults, teams have been tempted to focus too early on solutions or technology.

4) The guiding activities/resources phase is my favorite aspect of CBL.  Teachers can collaborate with teams by encouraging, suggesting, and getting excited by outside of the box research possibilities.

Here are the slides which supported our most recent discussions:

PCG #9 Teacher's Role, Part 2

Slide photo by permission of nikki.jane

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Challenge Based Learning Webinar

Tuesday, I'll be in Cupertino for a live broadcast of an Apple Education webinar on Challenge Based Learning.  I will join three of my CBL mentors, Katie Morrow, Don Henderson and Mark Nichols.  My piece of the presentation is "CBL in Action".  With 2700 registrants as of last week, this is pretty heady stuff.

I can't help but think that it was less than four years ago that I began to investigate educational technology seriously in my own classroom (It all started with podcasting).  Less than two years ago, I taught myself Keynote for making slides.  And only Fall '09, I did my first serious presentation outside of school at Mame36 in Traverse City.

The educational technology trip put me on a career arc I could never have anticipated.  And nothing has been more professionally transformative for me than CBL.

There is still time to register for the webinar (November 30, 10:00 A.M., PST).  However, I've been told that it will be archived after the event.  If I don't royally embarrass myself, this should be a great new experience.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Four Friday Quotes from TED

Lots of people are used to having a spiritual tribe or a church tribe , a work tribe, a community tribe. But now thanks to the internet, the explosion of mass media . . . . Tribes are everywhere. The internet was supposed to homogenize everyone by connecting us all. Instead, what it's allowed is silos of interest. . . .People on the fringes can find each other, connect and go somewhere. . . .What we do for a living now, all of us, I think, is find something worth changing and then assemble tribes that spread the idea [until it] becomes something far bigger than ourselves. It becomes a movement.
Organizations designed around a culture of generosity can achieve enormous effects without an enormous amount of contractual overhead-- a very different model than our default model for large scale group action from the Twentieth Century.

The story that Americans tell, the story upon which the American Dream depends, the story of limitless choice. . .promises so much-- freedom, happiness, success. . . . It's a great story, but when you take a close look, you start to see the holes. . . . Americans have so often tried to disseminate their narrative of choice. . . .but the history book and the daily news tell us it does not always work out that way. No single narrative serves the needs of everyone, everywhere. Moreover, Americans theme selves could benefit from incorporating new perspectives into their own narrative, which have been driving their choices for so long. . . . It brings us so much closer to realizing the full potential of choice, to inspiring the hope and achieving the freedom that choice promises but doesn't always deliver.

There are things that we are enthralled to in education . . . one of them is linearity. It starts here, and you go through a track, and if you do everything right, you will end up set for the rest of your life. . . . We have become obsessed with this linear narrative. . . .[However,] human communities depend on a diversity of talent, not a single conception.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baker's Half-Dozen

There is . . .growing support for experimentation: in March, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, released a draft National Educational Technology Plan that reads a bit like a manifesto for change, proposing among other things that the full force of technology be leveraged to meet “aggressive goals” and “grand” challenges, including increasing the percentage of the population that graduates from college to 60 percent from 39 percent in the next 10 years. What it takes to get there, the report suggests, is a “new kind of R.& D. for education” that encourages bold ideas and “high risk/high gain” endeavors" -- Sara Corbett

These days, the homework I give isn't based on some arbitrary idea of how much work a kid should do 'at home' to reinforce something we did in class, but rather it's a matter of asking the students to do something necessary to prepare themselves for the next class. Homework becomes an act ofpreparation -- and hopefully sparks some anticipation not for seeing what you 'got right or wrong', not for seeing if you can jump through that next hoop, but anticipation for taking part in the next day's discussion, activities, and learning. -- Shelley Blake-Plock

A music minister in a local catholic church in my area was in an
article in our state Arch Diocese publication. He uses an iPad for
all of his sheet music. No more lugging around binders and cases of
music. It is all contained on his iPad which fits nicely on his piano
music rack. -- Gabriella Meyers

I lean toward seeing a future where self-organized learning rules, and that the role of school is to develop the passion, motivation and skills necessary to help kids become amazing learners as opposed to pretty good “knowers.” - Will Richardson

"No one has yet discovered transformative changes in curriculum or pedagogy, especially for inner-city schools, that are (in business lingo) "scalable" -- easily transferable to other schools, where they would predictably produce achievement gains." -- Robert Samuelson

“All power corrupts; Power Point corrupts absolutely." --Edward Tufte

Monday, November 22, 2010

iPad Meets the Supremes

I read with interest a recent piece about the Supreme Court in The Washington Post.  Liberal justice Stephen Breyer was quoted as saying,

"If I'm applying the First Amendment, I have to apply it to a world where there's an Internet, and there's Facebook, and there are movies like ... 'The Social Network,' which I couldn't even understand. . .  ."

The same article described conservative justice Antonin Scalia'suse of technology:

Antonin Scalia told an adoring audience at the Federalist Society convention Thursday night that he not only had an iPod, but does his own downloading. . . . Not only that, but he has an iPad that his staff loads with court work. "I don't have to schlep the briefs around," Scalia said, adding with a laugh, "Oh, it's a brave new world." 

I read this with amusement, because I have observed that some of my most politically liberal friends and colleagues are the most conservative about adopting technology for personal or professional use.  Other than age, have you noticed any other personal attributes that might be associated with willingness or unwilingness to adopt consumer technology?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

PCG #8 The Teacher's Role in Challenge Based Learning (part 1)

We have reached a point at Mercy where many teachers --- if they have not already begun implementing Challenge Based Learning projects-- can see themselves doing so in a coming semester.  Consequently, the time has been ripe to discuss the nuts and bolts of CBL.

We did not get very far-- I can already see that this is going to be a three part roll-out.  But our slow progress was for all the right reasons.  We discussed the CBL launch (How much information to share?) and team formation (Should students choose their own groups?).  And then we had great discussions about the first steps concerning how much direction the students should be given.  Of course at every juncture we are discussing the teacher's role.

More next cycle!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

21st Century Letter of Recommendation

I had a new experience last week which points to the changing nature of my courses and my role in them.  I wrote a college letter of recommendation for a student who would be the first to admit that she did not stand out on conventional testing of the course "material."  Nevertheless, she stood out, as I explained in my letter

We formed a unique sort of collaboration following our time together in the American

Government course. Jill sought me out for a suggestion regarding a web site for hosting
her work and portfolio. I recommended a site another student had used for a CBL. We also
consulted a graphic design teacher in California and were joined in our project by a Mercy art
teacher.  Besides yielding Jill's domain www.-----.com, our
exploration also yielded a special licensing agreement for Creative Commons music between
our high school and Magnatune.

I referenced the student's experience in my course as well-- but almost exclusively in terms of collaborations and projects.

A milestone, I think.
"Untitled Collograph" Frickr Creative Commons photo by Vaultboy

Monday, November 15, 2010

CBL Research Tool

Since the ADE 2010 Summer Institute in July, my Challenge Based Learning team hascontinued to work on our projects-- building resources for educators who wish to earn more about or try CBL.

I decided to draw on my experiences with CBL last year to create a few short video modules on research and media management. My first endeavor was created using past blog & presentation material, Flickr Creative Commons photos, Voila, GarageBand, and Photo to Movie.

Friday, November 12, 2010

PCG #7 Obstacles and Opportunities

I had a peculiar experience with the seventh professional cluster group: Three of our professional development sessions took place before our in-service day.  Two took place afterwards.

The theme for each session was also the same: Obstacles and Opportunities.  However, the pre and post in-service groups took differing approaches.  Prior to in-service, the discussion centered on various ideas, frustrations, and anxieties which sere getting in the way of our development of challenge projects.  After the in-service, the focus concerned the kinds of training and  and logistical support that were desirable for nurturing these projects. Thanks to a very productive in-service day, we had shifted into a problem solving mode. In fact, the latter two sessions helped generate the themes for the next two or three PCGs: "The Teacher's Role in CBL" and "CBL Assessment".  Here are the slides used for the majority of the meetings:

In all five sessions I recommended one of my very favorite cloud applications-- Dropbox which uses cloud computing to enable users to store and share files and folders with others across the Internet using file synchronization" (Wikipedia).  I use three computers each day.  It's wonderful having access to the same files on the desktop of all three computers without the hassle of emailing them to myself or transferring them with external drives.

Have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reflection on Our Mock Election

In a September blog post, I described a collaborative project involving all four sections of tenth grade American Government at our school.  The project would be created from the ground up by four teams in each class:

1) An Election News Feed team which will provide up-to-date election news.

2) A Michigan Election Information Team which will research the candidates and issues.

3) A Fantasy Presidential Campaign Team which will launch an imaginary candidate's quest for the White House.

4) A Mock Election Team which will devise a school mock election from scratch.

An then there was "the wildest feature":
The project teams will be linked to their counterparts in the other three classes and must collaborate online to construct one central project.

The results were rather interesting:

*The single most impressive feature of the project was the creation and administration of the election itself.  The process ran smoothly from beginning to end, and remarkably, the school results were identical to the state-wide general election that took place the same day.

*The fantasy candidacies generated the most excitement and energy, but frankly remained at a superficial level.  Instead of focusing on issues, talking points, or even slogans; the contest focused on biography and looks.

*The wikis were pretty poor.  I blame myself for forcing the students to figure out how to communicate among the four sections in order to coordinate wiki construction.  This prevented the groups from making much progress until the end.  Still, the students in some cases, remained passive and contented to be rather clueless.

*The in-class presentations were quite good.  We avoided death by PowerPoint, and were treated to information about the election as well as serious reflection about the project process itself.  Most of the groups hit all of the criteria laid out in my Election Ten Commandments.

Once again, I bit off a bit more than I could chew by including too many innovations with one venture, but I am confident that the election made a great impression on the kids.  We had lots of fun learning about politics.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Grand In-Service Adventure

We are venturing outside of the box for today's all-staff professional development day.  Inspired by the "big ideas" we generated in our cluster groups last month, we are going to start the day with two minute "pitches."  Those giving the pitches are passionate about an idea they wish to turn into a cross-school challenge project.

These "elevator pitches" will be followed by a Challenge Based Learning "Open House" where those making the pitches can discuss their big idea with prospective teammates.  Who knows how all of this will turn out.

But up to this point in the agenda, the day promises to be  pretty much no-lose.  Whether she attracts a large team or not, a teacher may proceed with her project.  Those not interested in any of the pitches can quietly resume the CBL work which was started in their departments in August. Though there has been some confusion about all the options, I have tried to position the pitches as liberating opportunities, and indeed,  many of us are excited about the day.

The rubber meets the road after the teams have formed.  They will then be tasked with asking some tough questions about their big ideas.  Then the afternoon will be spent wrestling with answers to these questions.  I'm hoping that leads to some great conversations about education.

The counselors and administrators are going to drop in and out of the groups as "facilitators", serving as sounding boards or urging the teams to get back on track.  All the teams are going to meet in our media center so that transparency and networking have a chance to flourish.

I am sure there will be some hiccups-- Such is the nature of true collaboration.  Those of us guiding staff through the day are trying to model the very process we are hoping staff will try with students, so we'll be giving it our best shot!

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Adam Swank

Friday, November 5, 2010

Interdisciplinary Baggage

At a recent professional cluster group meeting (PCG), we were wrestling with the difficulties posed by attempting to develop interdisciplinary Challenge Based Learning projects.

As Gerry, a top science teacher, noted: the term  "interdisciplinary" (or multi-disciplinary) is too freighted with baggage.  It immediately invited one to see obstacles to collaboration, since our curriculum is organized by department courses and we are scheduled into department meetings  

We realized that we preferred idea of joining "cross-school" teams to which we bring our entire skill sets as educated adults.  This point of view allowed us to imagine shedding department labels (e.g., "science teacher") and committing to a commonly held passions with other adults and students.  Then, after crafting a challenge with our cross-school teams, we could weave the project into our course curriculum.  

As another astute educator recently remarked to me, "Language is powerful; change is sneaky."   I think Gerry's observation makes it more likely that we accomplish some dynamic changes to our school curriculum.

"collaborative drawing (detail)" Flickr CC photo courtesy of scalefreenetwork

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Larry as Guru and other Matters

Since school has started I have twice been introduced to new acquaintances as a "tech guru." I don't really mind, but the phrase is a bit loaded, don't you think? On the one hand I kind of deserve it since I have been appointed to spread the mystical vision of CBL this semester. But I also think it categorizes me as off in my la-la land of technology, communing with cyberspace. This notion amuses rather than offends. But I think the implication that I have secret knowledge to share is interesting. Hold this thought.

More obnoxious is being called a "techie." Again, I don't take this as an insult-- I think I just get blurred in with the IT guys. In fact sometimes  folks ask me for help with email, and printers when I really have no clue at all. Last year, a student ran down from the auditorium to see if I could problem solve a projector issue. And this year I was included on a 9th grade Tablet orientation team. In each of these instances, I was next to useless. Admittedly, I am fascinated with some gadgets. I am adept with some software as well as my Macs-- but as far as technology goes, I would describe myself as a generalist. Again, however, naming me "techie" like guru categorizes me as outside the pale.

Now to the point. I think this "guru" thing comes from my confidence developing projects that call for students to leverage technology of their own choosing.  I  "get" the technology and can even suggest they explore particular options. I find this necessary to the way I now teach.  So, I wonder, how much technology should any teacher know in 2010?  Haven't we reached a point in time where a teacher or administrator really must have some working knowledge with the powerful tools which are so integrated into modern life?  But how much is enough? 
"Paramhansa Yoganda " Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Prema01

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ten Education Quotes for Today

"I failed my way to success" 
-- Thomas Edison

"What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge
in pursuit of the child."
--George Bernard Shaw

"Technology: Opening Minds with a New Set of Keys"
-- Anon
"Part of the American myth is that people who are handed the skin of a dead sheep at graduating time think that it will keep their minds alive forever."
-- John Mason Brown
"Nothing is ever achieved without enthusiasm."
--' Ralph Waldo Emerson  

"We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge."
 --John Naisbitt

"The illiterate of the 21st century won't be those who can't read and write but those who can't learn unlearn, and relearn"
--Alvin Toffler

"Schools are among the very few institutions that have remained almost entirely unchanged for most of this century."
-- Judith Aitken 

"Every organisation has to prepare for the abandonment of every thing it does. Be prepared to abandon everything, lest we have to abandon the ship."
--  Peter Drucker

"The principal goal of education is to create [human beings] who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done."
--Jean Piaget

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