Category Archives: Common Core

Partnership for Global Learning Conference 2014

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Dr. Ed Gragert, Craig Perrier (via Skype), and I leading a session on the Lesson For All, a set K-12 units focused on the right of education and the barriers that youth around the world experience when trying to access that right.

VUCA. Anthony Jackson, Vice President of the Asia Society, introduced the Partnership for Global Learning conference with his view of  world we are living in. VUCA: Volatile,  Uncertain,  Complex, and Ambiguous.  With dynamic world leaders like Dr. Tererai Trent, the conference plenary keynote speaker, we are challenged to look beyond barriers to prepare our students for a VUCA future. Born in Zimbabwe and  denied an education, Dr. Trent went on to earn her PhD and now challenges us all to see: It is achievable.

A couple take-aways from this empowering conference:

  • Columbia University is offering a graduate level certificate for educators called GCC,  Global Competence Certificate. Teachers College, Asia Society PGL and World Savvy are the collaborating partners.
  • Leadership is action and not position (Dr. Trent)
  •  3 major shifts in the Common Core ELA Standards  if we look beyond the controversy (Maryann Woods-Murphy in Making the Shift to Global Content Using Big Ideas)
    • Building knowledge though content rich nonfiction
    • Reading, writing, and speaking & listening grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational
    • Regular practice with complex text and its academic language
  • Avoid the risk of the single story by offering a variety of viewpoints and perspectives (Woods-Murphy)
  • There are amazing schools leading the way into the VUCA world. Check out the International Social Studies School Network, ISSN.

I have been part of the moment toward empowering our students though global understanding for years… and for the first time, I felt that we as an education system were really starting to see the value and act.

Information on the Lesson For All,  the presentation we did in the photo above, can be found here. I have written posts about it the past, they can be found here, LFA.

‘The Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning annual conference is dedicated to preparing students to be globally competent and ready for college. The event connects educators, business leaders, policymakers and resource providers to share best practices, build partnerships and advance policies to ensure the next generation is ready to lead in an interconnected world. ‘

Classroom 2.0 LIVE!

What an honor to be chosen as the Featured Teacher for Classroom 2.0 LIVE! If you are interested in Project-based Learning or 21st Century Learning, here is the recording.  Here’s the Livebinder link to all of the projects and resources mentioned in the presentation.

Make sure you visit the Classroom 2.0 LIVE site and check the calendar for upcoming events and archives. They are always a great resource for cutting edge education ideas and resources.

Common Core & Project Based Learning in the Classroom

Off and Running in a Technology Infused, Project-based Learning Classroom!

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Month one: hold on, here we go!

Camp! We returned from our three-day Outdoor Education trip in Wisconsin on Friday, so of course we started talking, writing and then blogging about Camp Timber-lee. Such enthusiasm and detail! Wow…sure pays to find something kids want to write about rather than forcing contrived prompts they don’t connect with.

We started our first Project-based Learning unit with Mrs. Parisi’s class in Long Island, The Denton DynamosUS Government: integrating reading, writing, history, and current events by studying some significant US laws. Students will trace laws back through time by reading and comparing electronic and paper sources. They are in teams of eight, four from the Dynamos and four from our class.  So far we’ve had two joint Skype lessons, and we begin collaborative research in Google Docs on Monday.

Today we meet the Wilderness Classroom team on Google Hangout before they head out on their journey. We will follow Amy Freeman and a team of geologists from UC Berkeley and MIT as they camp, canoe, hike, bike, and dogsled around the world to provide interactive classroom lessons. Here’s their itinerary.

  • Understand how the Slate Islands were formed.
    (September 2013) 
  • Explore the Boreal Forest by dogsled this winter and study a variety of topics including; weather, geology and erosion, watersheds, predator-prey relationships, wolves, the night sky, the physics of dogsledding, Ojibwa culture, Expedition ABC’s, and much more. (January – March 2014)
  • Explore the Amazon Rainforest. Join us as we follow in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt!
    (April – June 2014)

Then there is iEARN, (International Education and Resource Network )…where their motto is “Learning with the world, not just about it.” We will be joining a Learning Circle with classrooms around the world to engage and collaborate in the My Hero Project.

The 100 World Challenge! I’ve written about it before, so click the link for more information. The kids love this weekly challenge, and it really helps develop word choice.

Lastly math. Our district is currently in the process of adapting our math instruction to meet the Common Core Standards. The infusion of MangahighLearnZillion, and Khanacademy  have really helped with re-teaching while allowing me to get quick snapshots of who is getting it and who needs more support. This instant feedback is critical to my teaching as I reflect and adapt to meet the kids where they are. We’re taking our time to make sure the train isn’t going with no one on!

As I add tech tools to my students’ repertoire, I add them to our  Symbaloo page. They have access to this wherever they are. This site will grow and change as we go.

All in all, a great start to the year!

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I almost forgot! Our class song:)

Teaching Word Choice? Nothing better than 100 Word Challenge!

100 word challenge

Tired of reading dull, repetitive prose? Cringe at stunted paragraphs void of  luster and vibrance? Your students need the 100 Word Challenge

“We ask children to write in school but often there is no apparent purpose that they can see other than pleasing their teacher! This can prompt some very reluctant writers in our classrooms. The 100 Word Challenge seeks to address this problem.”

The 100 Word Challenge is a weekly creative prompt for kids under 16 years old. 100 words seemed like a lot to my students today…but after they got started they said things like, “I can’t do it in 100!”, “I have 109 and I can’t take any out!” All I could say was….look for good word choice. Take out the words that don’t add meaning. And they listened! Once they are posted, students all over the world read and comment on them. They may not care that much what I have to say, but they sure love to hear from their peers. Nothing beats an authentic audience.

Let’s see how you do…here’s this week’s prompt:…suddenly I heard a crack… Remember, only 100!

‘The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.’     Ursula K. Le Guin

PBL and the 21st Century Competencies

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PBL for the 21st Century Success: Teaching Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity, looks like another wonderful edition to the Project-based Learning books published through the non-profit Buck Institute for Education (BIE).  Suzy Boss, lead author, and John Larmer, Editor-in-Chief  of BIE, summarized the book in their June 5th webinar. Although it was written for middle and high school, as 5th grade teacher, I think it would work for upper elementary as well. I’ll give a few highlights here, but it is really worth a closer look.

  • Focuses on integrating and explicitly teaching the 21st century competencies, the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication
  • There are chapters that focus on each of the 4Cs that provide:
    • Example projects
    • Classroom ‘Look fors’ that we should be seeing over time to demonstrate learning
    • Infographics that deliberately explain how the Cs can be integrated in every aspect of the project
    • Rubrics to assess the Cs at all of the four stages of the project

In addition, you will find:

  • Research highlights throughout
  • Non-fiction emphasis
  • Alignment with the Common Core and explanations
  • Reflection prompts
  • Tech tips to help support the development of the 4Cs

You will find the webinar archived here.

The book, as well as their introductory PBL books,  can be purchased here.

You can find all of their webinars:

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Gearing Up for Common Core in Math: Vicki Davis with Darren Burris

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Creating Innovators

Creating Innovators

“What you study is not that important. Knowing how to find those things you are interested in is way, way more important. . . . I’ve got this momentum, and the idea is to figure out what interesting opportunities there are around you and use them to get to the next point.” A quote by Kirk Phelps, Product Manager for Apple’s first iPhone, from Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, written by Tony Wagner .

As educators we have to wonder, are we so focused on what we are teaching, that we miss the boat on the things that make a human being resilient and successful in a world that calls forth different skills than it demanded in the factory-driven, company loyalty mindset of the past?  Shouldn’t every person going through our education systems need to develop the capacities to solve problems creatively…in other words to innovate.

The quote above goes on to describe that kind of inquiry as similar to navigating a satellite though space…being interested in one area and going there for a while and then moving on to the next….all in a process of personal integration. This has been my way to learn, so I can say that this type of inquiry cannot be forced by super specific curricular objectives. I see attempts to take the old style of curriculum planning that starts with the standard objectives, and then almost as an after-thought, tries to force in creative problem solving. Can’t happen. What can happen, and what frequently does is my classroom and classrooms all over…is that the structure of the planning is focused on the thinking…the thinking…not the objectives. Then the objectives are put into that structure. The Common Core State Standards are getting some well deserved criticism, but they lend themselves much better to this kind of learning than our previous attempts.

To learn to be innovative, and all the things that go along with that: inquisitive, creative, logical, critical thinking, persistent, resilient… requires some specific conditions. First, it requires freedom to explore and play with the topic. In a school setting, this naturally reflects curriculum, but there are so many possibilities for doing this.  I use Project-based Learning to wed these innovator skills with curriculum. Second, it requires a balance of collaboration and solitude.

Co-founder and teacher of the Phoenix School in Salem, Mass, Betsye Sargent asked me this question about teaching for today’s world, “How does this fit with the current direction education seems to be going? How do we get it to change tracks? If 65% of grade school kids today may be doing work not yet invented (MacArthur Foundation), then the future really isn’t a multiple choice standardized test.”

As the push and pull between testing, curriculum standards, and an ever evolving planet continues…we as educators must become the student the world needs…the innovator. It is in becoming that ourselves that allows us to lead our educational systems, classrooms and students in that direction.

The Future Will Not Be a Multiple Choice Test

Professional Development Discussed by some Ed Rock Stars

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An opportunity to attend a conversation by some of the biggest Rock Stars in Educational PD was something I couldn’t miss. It was truly informative and insightful from all angles of the educational landscape.

During the conversation, Don Buckley, Director of Innovation and Technology at the School of Columbia University, discussed an article from Edutopia, he quotes:

“When teachers receive well-designed professional development, an average of 49 hours spread over six to 12 months, they can increase student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points. On the other hand, one-shot, “drive-by,” or fragmented, “spray-and-pray” workshops lasting 14 hours or less show no statistically significant effect on student learning. Above all, it is most important to remember that effective professional-development programs are job-embedded and provide teachers with five critical elements:” (see those at the end of this post or in the original article).

The panel of thought leaders in the discussion:

Don Buckley, Director of Innovation and Technology at the School at Columbia University, Alice Barr is the Instructional Technology Integrator for Yarmouth High School, Michelle Bourgeois is the Instructional Technology Coordinator at St. Vrain Valley School District, Noble Kelly has been a High School Educator and now founder of Education Beyond Borders, Julie Lindsay is an international educator and co-founder of Flat Classroom, and Sylvia Martinez is President of Generation YES.

Here is the recording from @GETIdeas.org

The five critical elements from Edutopia

  • Collaborative learning: Teachers have opportunities to learn in a supportive community that organizes curriculum across grade levels and subjects.
  • Links between curriculum, assessment, and professional-learning decisions in the context of teaching specific content: Particularly for math and science professional-development programs, research has emphasized the importance of developing math and science content knowledge, as well as pedagogical techniques for the content area (Blank, de las Alas, and Smith, 2008Blank and de las Alas, 2009Heller, Daehler, Wong, Shinohara, and Miratrix, 2012).
  • Active learning: Teachers apply new knowledge and receive feedback, with ongoing data to reflect how teaching practices influence student learning over time.
  • Deeper knowledge of content and how to teach it: Training teachers solely in new techniques and behaviors will not work.
  • Sustained learning, over multiple days and weeks: Professional-development efforts that engage teachers in 30 to 100 hours of learning over six months to one year have been shown to increase student achievement.