So, What DO they Remember After All of That?

 

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Nearing the end of the fast paced, often crazed, multi-layers of multitasking…planning and grading, teaching and re-teaching…what is it that kids remember of their school year with you? What do they find meaningful and lasting from your time together?

It’s worth stopping to see, because it’s the glue that holds all the rest together.

I had that opportunity when Mrs. Patterson, a retired teacher, took over my 5th grade class when I went to a meeting. She had my students write me a thank you/memory letter. And just what is it that really made an impact after our nine months together? The hours spent putting together that cool project? Those math lessons taught three different ways until they all got it? No…my black boots with the blue zippers!

Here is one comment pulled from each letter.

  • I like when you freak out when something good happens.
  • You are not grumpy, like if someone says a word to you, you won’t shout “GET BACK TO YOUR SEAT!!!”
  • I still remember the bunch of times you said, “I can’t follow you around your whole life.”
  • You played a huge role in teaching us how to be good human beings and the ways that we can do that.
  • I truly didn’t even know what a web 2.0 tool was before this year.
  • You aren’t so quiet and boring. You are kind of loud actually.
  • I think that you are funny, and I love that about you.
  • I let my brain run free and have a say!
  • You know how to keep people going, and you don’t give up on yourself. I never gave up because of you.
  • You always make it seem like we are a team
  • I loved watching Carl on CNN Student News.
  • You always like to swing at recess.
  • I love being able to do stuff that my sister, brother, dad, and mom can’t do on the computer!
  • You are very funny, but in a good way. Thanks for making us laugh.
  • Our classroom feels like home to me.
  • I love blogging, can we still do it over the summer too?
  • You have great taste of style! I love your black boots with the blue zippers.
  • I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of some of the places in the world that we worked with or skyped.
  • Even though you won’t be there personally, you will always be with me.
  • Well, I only have a minute to gather my life and get to the bus so…THANK YOU!
  • Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Does knowing this help me with all of the work ahead for next year? No…but it sure puts things in perspective. You may want to give it a try before they’re gone for the year.

A re-post from last year.

Our Classrooms Dancing Around the World!

Follow us as we dance from the Prime Meridian going east…around the whole 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.

What’s the Most Valuable Trait in Learning?

If I was to choose one single quality that helps people the most, not only with success in school but also with happiness throughout life, it would be internal motivation.

Internal motivation is what drives passion. It drives the quest for knowledge, it drives interest and it drives repeat exposure to something…which in turn creates expertise. Some adults never possess that in their lifetime, and I think it has a lot to do with how we structure our teaching…therefore our learning.

I have a niece who is brilliant by all standard and practical measurements. When she was about 16, I asked her if she had any thoughts about college. She told me that maybe she’d like to major in guitar. Now don’t get me wrong, I deeply value music…both of my kids are musicians, and although my niece plays guitar, it isn’t her biggest strength by a long shot…it isn’t even something she loves to do or is particularly good at. Of all of the many interests she has ranging from science, medicine, social justice, engineering, economics, literature and the like…why guitar?

The question really is: why is it when we think passion we think extra-curricular? I think it’s because those are the times that we can be internally directed. It feels like playing, and when we become so engaged in what we’re doing, we do more of it, and become more skilled.  It’s like a powerful ongoing circle of interest, learning, practice and skill.

Many of the great inventors, scientists, writers, artists, whatever… the greats in any industry…many of them approach their craft like play. The motivation comes from within. They follow their interests and curiosities as they weave in and out…they follow the winding path as it leads to new understandings and possibilities. They are often the people we call geniuses after the fact. If our goal in education includes helping produce successful, accomplished, empowered, productive human beings…we need the cultivation of internal motivation as part of our learning culture.

If we want to create a system that supports internal motivation…and invites passion in science, math, literature, global issues, as well as music, athletics, art, theater and anything else….we have to start creating and supporting a system that includes 21st century learning such as innovation, choice, relevance and  self-direction.  Maybe you don’t think it’s possible to do that while teaching content. Many teachers, schools, and districts already do. A quick internet search with terms such as Project based learning, Problem based learning,  21st Century Learning, STEM, Genius Hour, or 20% Time will start to point you in that direction. 

Here is a related TedXTalk by Scott McLeod, author of Dangerously Irrelevant.

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21st Century Learning. What exactly is it?

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The buzz about 21st Century Learning is everywhere, but what exactly does it mean? It’s often linked to technology, but that is only a small part.  In fact, much of 21st Century Learning can happen without the use of technology. If technology is available and used in the right way, it can provide powerful tools for authentic learning and integration of 21st Century skills, but unfortunately, that is not always what we see in our classrooms. Purchasing equipment does not automatically create better learning.  We watch our classrooms fill up with technology, but we often see no plan in place to use it to benefit student learning. This requires a change in teaching.  With no change in teaching and learning, computers are often used for mainly word processing and Google searching. As an educator, this concerns me.

Let’s start with what 21st Century Learning means. It is the marriage of content and skill. Teaching content is what we are familiar with in our education systems: learning states and capitals, mathematical equations, historical events, scientific discoveries, and countless others.  21st Century Learning takes that content and makes it relevant. It not only shows learners how that content can be used to solve problems, construct new ideas, and through collaboration, expand that understanding, but it allows them to actually experience that as they learn.

How many school districts have mission statements that refer to educating problem solvers, critical thinkers, and creative minds? How many of them go farther than words and actually do something meaningful to provide that in their classrooms?

Equipping teachers to lead our students’ way in this takes a lot more than buying computers for schools. Before continuing, let’s figure out how to use what we have to further what many of us believe to be true: the world needs empowered critical thinking problem solvers that have the ability to learn collaboratively and create the solutions to problems that we have no way of knowing exist right now. It isn’t as difficult as it seems.

It starts with a unified vision, the development of a plan to create the teaching and learning environment, and the implementation of that plan. Many have led the way. It isn’t a mystery any more. Schools around the country have embraced this and have left their footsteps to follow. It’s just a quick Google search away!

Here’s a related article by George Couros.

One interpretation of 21st century skills.

One interpretation of 21st century skills.

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Common Core & Project Based Learning in the Classroom

Anonymous Super Power hints? Worth a try!

Hero of the Day: George Petmezas, Principal Mill Creek Elementary
Hero of the Day: George Petmezas, Principal Mill Creek Elementary School

In our Hero in the Mirror project, 5th grade classes are hearing from every day heroes as we search for our own “Hero in the Mirror”.  We’ve had people from all walks of life tell us their very human qualities such as  inspiration, compassion,  niceness, connecting, listening, encouragement, helping and others…and we listen to them speak about  how they use their qualities to make their corner of the world a better place.

As we do this, we’re trying to  look inside ourselves for our own heroic qualities…and that isn’t as easy as it seems.

I had an idea. How about asking each student to write down a super hero power quality that they see in each classmate? I had a shoe-box with slips of paper. All done anonymously. This is generally a pretty self-focused age, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The box filled quickly…almost too quickly. Did they give this thought? Did they just write the same couple things for everyone? Was this a bad idea? Would I have to fudge for the kids that weren’t popular?

As I sit here in my empty classroom, I am struck by the wisdom of 10 year olds. Most were spot on.  Here’s a few about kids I generally keep an eye on. They are usually alone on the playground…not included in groups…pretty quiet and reserved. Here’s what their peers had to say about them:

  • responsible
  • thinker
  • caring
  • brave
  • good-hearted
  • listener
  • trustworthy
  • understanding
  • fair
  • respectful
  • peaceful
  • giving

When something is real, you can feel it. I hope that these kids can read these comments and feel that as well.

Another step closer to the Hero in the Mirror!

Heroes that Visited our Classroom

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The Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project (ChiMOP)

Music is good for the soul. Share the love. Donating the cost of one lesson that we may pay for our own kids goes along way for these kids.

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The Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project (ChiMOP) is a community youth orchestra program dedicated to affecting positive social change in young students with limited access to the arts by providing a safe and fun environment for them to make music in pursuit of artistic excellence together with peers and role models.

Currently, ChiMOP has two programs. The Summer Orchestra Camp, launched in May 2013, and a school partnership program with Mary Lyon Elementary School, launched September 2013, that provides daily group lessons, string orchestra, wind ensemble, symphony orchestra, bucket band, and choir as well as opportunities to perform and attend concerts around the city throughout the year for more than 100 young students in the Belmont Cragin community. All program costs are completely free to all students.

To see the whole post: Click HERE for more information.

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Lesson For All at the Global Education Conference

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Universal Education for All. This is the second of eight Millennium Development Goals made by the United Nations in the most broadly supported, comprehensive and specific development goals the world has ever agreed upon.  It’s big. It’s important. It impacts us all. Lack of education contributes to world instability, inability to make informed decisions, spread of HIV, inability to develop full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with interest, among others.

After making great strides in this effort around the world in the past decade, progress has slowed down. There are still about 57 million primary aged children out of school. Conflict, gender policies, natural disasters, poverty, and location are some factors keeping children out of school.

The Campaign for Global Education, United States Chapter offers resources including the Lesson For All, a free series of units focusing on the fact that education is a human right, but one that nearly 132 million children worldwide do not enjoy. Each Lesson is mapped to Global Competence Matrix and the Common Core State Standards.

Find out more about these resources, this session of the Global Education Conference runs Monday, Nov. 18th  at 7:00pm GMT -6 during the free and online Global Education Conference. Find the time in your location here.

The session description is here.

Login Link for Monday 7:00pm GMT -6 SESSION LINK https://sas.elluminate.com/d.jnlp?sid=2008350&password=GECPart108

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Making Sense of the World

The Global Classroom Project

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Starting at the end of November, Lisa Parisi and Donna Román will be launching a new global project called Making Sense of the World.  This project, designed for classes with children in the 8-12 age range, will entail collecting data for comparison.  We will begin with simple data, such as temperature, daylight hours, population, and move toward more detailed data, such as, favorite books, religions practiced, languages spoken.  Imagine what the children will learn about each other and themselves by comparing this data.  
We are looking for classes from all around the world.  Please do not let lack of English stop you from signing up.  We will work out the language differences with translators.  And we will help with any technology questions you might have.
 
Sign up now.  The fun is about to begin!  The website can be found here:  Making Sense of the World
 

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