Progression: Life – Learning – Life

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A Progression:

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Life: Survival

Learning: Library/Internet

Life: Thriving

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Pause…

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You know what “they” say: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” People whose lives have been shattered either by natural or human events can find hope and help through their own quest for learning. They rebuild, one grain of learning at a time, into new patterns of living.

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Watch this TED talk by William Kamkwamba who (at age 14), with info from a library (yet he could only read the diagrams at first) built a windmill for electricity and irrigation during the South African famine in Malawi.

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http://www.ted.com/talks/william_kamkwamba_how_i_harnessed_the_wind.html

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A blogger started the progression of events that led to a global involvement:

http://www.ted.com/speakers/william_kamkwamba.html

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William’s own blog (with mentor)

http://williamkamkwamba.typepad.com/

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And now a global presence:

http://movingwindmills.org/

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This shows how important access to the Internet is. ??Another story that reveals the life-saving power of learning if one has access to the Internet:

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From maize to sunflowers to successful community in Macha, Zambia:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/appeals/indy-appeal/independent-appeal-connecting-the-middle-of-nowhere-1859017.html

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Necessity is the mother of learning…

Where there is access, a network of learning developed.

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These are stories of learning that saved lives, and the quest for learning continued to offer more than just subsistence living.

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Richard Opie, with the Global Education Conference Group (http://www.globaleducationconference.com/index.html) asks, “Why do so many of our young people disengage from school?”??

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Perhaps school is no longer part of their answers; schools are not part of what adds to the patterns in their lives. How do we change that? This global conference has the power to stimulate the creation of projects that connect and support solutions to community needs.

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Play…

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Although not a “global” player yet, I think that sharing this information with my class will help us think about our own community needs, and perhaps begin our own quest for solutions and a real reason to learn.

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Things will start small for simple needs. For instance, a student wrote an open essay directed at his need: he had driven his dirt bike across the highway to the trails, but since neither he nor his cycle were licensed, he received a ticket. His essay attempted to persuade the officials to allow crossing the highway at those points the kids needed to. ??It’s simple. It’s personal. It’s a start. The thing is, he wouldn’t have written an essay if he hadn’t needed to. ??That’s the dilemma education is in.

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“Why do so many of our young people disengage from school?” It’s not meaningful. It’s not relevant. We may not be starving in our communities (or some students may be), but we need to allow the student’s world into our classrooms in order to connect them to learning. Our schools need to add to the pattern they are building for themselves. And perhaps, the simple things in the student’s world will allow them to expand to help their community, and perhaps support students in the communities around the world. And the pattern grows… one bit of learning at a time…

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Possibilities:

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Join the ??Global Education Conference Group (http://www.globaleducationconference.com/index.html)

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Learn about ActionAid to eliminate poverty: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/100002/about_us.html

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Get ActionAid’s kit for schools — Global Citizenship: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/schoolsandyouth/getglobal/ ??Includes a step-by-step process of thinking through problems through activities and games with action and reflection.

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Learn about Computer Aid International http://www.computeraid.org/about-us.asp

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Learn about Peace Direct http://www.peacedirect.org/stop-conflict/ ?? ??and ?? http://www.insightonconflict.org/about/

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Photo Credit: Flickr CC by ??Wonderlane

Guiding Student Collaboration: CRTs and Query Quests

After browsing my Tweets, this caught my eye because collaboration is important to me and I to find the ways in which all my kids are smart:

@gardenglen??Just read “Sitting Next to the Smart Kids” by @amandacdykes Good post reflecting on collaboration http://j.mp/bVaVNV

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Pause…

First of all, I love the title and header of her blog: Upside Down Education. Her comments about our PLNs ring true:

“We use backchannels, blogs, and twitter to share our ideas, but stop short from giving our students that opportunity. ??Students need to share what they are learning as they learn it. ??They need to have others to bounce ideas off of. ??Even more they need to help each other. ??Isn???t that what we do in our PLN, help each other? ??Learning takes on a whole new level when it is done with others.”

And of course she brought the idea home to the classroom: this is what kids need to do, but how do we guide middle school students to this?

Immediately I thought of the work of Jim Burke of The English Companion ( http://www.englishcompanion.com/??) and The English Companion Ning (http://englishcompanion.ning.com/) . ??Jim Burke’s ideas have guided my teaching so that students drive the conversations. Of course they need guidance to start, but on topics that interest them, they shine.

So how can I clarify for my students just how to connect with others so that they can choose this any time they need to gather ideas resources and ideas from a Personal Learning Community (PLC)?

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Play...

Keeping in mind how I introduce the hard copies to students, I recreated my think sheets and added a TIPS section to include brief directions with some organizational and etiquette strategies, especially in the online Google Docs versions. I kept each document to two pages: one page for the organizer and one page for the tips. ??The Google Docs version doesn’t have the “blocks” of the CRT or the “target” of the target sheet, but the idea of an online collaboration with my class or with other classes demonstrates the power of our web tools and the transformation occurring in education. The thinking organizers are the tool to which a task and project move towards completion.

Crtsnatit

The CRT Conversation Round Table allows participants to extend ideas on four issues concerning their project. (Examples: reading possibility– theme, character, plot, setting; research possibility– content, experts, quotes, resources; volcanoes– history, types, consequences, advances)

Targetsnagit

The Target/Query Quest starts with a person or group with a project or idea. They need to expand on or get unstuck from the ideas and content so far. They ask colleagues to provide input in information or ideas. (Example: research– need more ideas on conservation of different items — trees, water, energy, etc.)

These two options nudge students to connect with others and consider other viewpoints or content. This could lead to further collaboration and expand the project to others. With an online template, the students can establish their own outreach, online learning communities.

Hopefully, we’ll have blogging buddies this year to which we can gather ideas online in a true Professional Learning Community. Truly, our PLN is more than a network, we are a community and I would love for my students to grow their smarts and their own learning through a learning community.??

Below are links to the documents and tips if you would like to adapt them to your needs. I’d like to thank Glen Westbroek??@gardenglen??and Amanda Dykes ??@amandacdykes??for provoking these possibilities. And thanks to my PLC for helping me transform my teaching.

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Documents

Online

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Target Query Quests Web View

http://docs.google.com/View?id=dg6rq3rr_1f5vs89c6

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Target Query Quests Public Template

https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AR8ApQxzpOlcZGc2cnEzcnJfNGM2a2duZ2hm&hl=en

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CRT Conversations Web View

http://docs.google.com/View?id=dg6rq3rr_3tbvgvhd

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CRT Conversations Public Template

https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AR8ApQxzpOlcZGc2cnEzcnJfNWY3dmtzdmdx&hl=en

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Downloads

Pages — send me an email

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Word

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Suppose We Ask the Tough Questions…

Pause

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I’ve been reading The Hardest Questions Aren’t on The Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School by Linda Nathan. She explains how key to the reform at their school is to develop a philosophy, “a unifying framework” from which their focus on improvement could evolve. I just put my iPad down and thought, “I tried to guide my colleagues this way for several years, and some colleagues tried to help, but without leadership, that floundered.”??

She discussed Fenway Park HIgh School’s guiding Habits of Mind (PERCS: Perspective, Evidence, Relevance, Connections, Supposition). I had adapted that to my sixth grade self-contained classroom years ago.??Nathan also explained: “At Fenway, we asked a particular set of questions: What is my perspective on this? What evidence do I have? What is the relevance? What other connections can I make? And suppose that…? Students had to apply a Habits of Mind framework to school projects and exhibitions, even to homework. The PERCS framework we devised worked well at Fenway.” At her new school, the staff also needed to “own” their framework and??spent two years framing their focus: RICO – Refine, Invent, Connect, Own.

Since I’m familiar with PERCS, I think I’ll pursue??that again:

Perspective

I want my students to develop the habits of mind that engender thoughtful planning, personal reflection, and positive life focus.??

Evidence

Right now students barely earn Ds; they are satisfied with this. If I plan for units of learning to which PERCS reflection can occur, then students should have more buy-in and work for a more satisfying experiences while earning better grades.??

Relevance

There is no relevance for teaching if the students have no relevance for learning. Therefore, this idea for curricula design with PERCS is relevant.??

Connection

I think of the engagement my sixth grade students had with project learning, and all this “teach to the test” must stop if we are to re- engage students with the learning process and practice the habits of lifelong learners. ??

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Play…

Supposition

Suppose PERCS were evident in my teaching? Then I would think from the perspective of how we learn relevant to our students and from where they come.

Suppose teaching planned for how we learn? Then lessons would first of all include choices, secondly include social outlets, and thirdly would include the possibility of success.??

Suppose teaching realized community expectations? Then sharing successes should be frequent and easily visible.

Those suppositions would render my teaching more relevant for students who could then connect better with learning and create the evidence of their learning despite the test results. Who wants to learn with the fear of “the test?”. For that matter, I dread teaching for “the test.”

So what could this look like???

I could start out with menus for learning, the results to which students could display their reflections/products in displays around the community, in the school, and online. It would involve projects with student choice, social interaction, and community displays.??

I searched my hard drive, and found the web page I had developed with our Habits of Mind rubric and recreated it for use next year as a starting point, pending revisions as I develop this process.

I am reviving my philosophy of learning and teaching and implementing it into my classroom again; we’ve had so much change in leadership, and such a focus on “the test.” And Linda Nathan reminded me of why I began teaching…

Here I go… ??How about you?

Suppose you ask the tough question: What is important in school? ??

Suppose you follow your philosophy? How will your students benefit?

Resource Rights

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Pause…

Let’s think about this:

Department of Ed Lays Down Law on Kindle E-Reader Usage

“The??United States Department of Education??andDepartment of Justice??have just issued a reminder calling for colleges and universities–as well as K-12 school districts–to make sure devices such as e-readers that are required in the classroom comply with accessibility laws…??Kindle devices aren’t accessible to students who are blind or have low vision.”

I believe all children can learn. I work with the Special Education Instructor to provide the least restrictive environment and lessons for special needs students. I’m helping her use her new computers with our students with special needs, and with those without special needs. Look at the classroom and all its visual requirements, all of which were “new technologies” at one time: textbooks, whiteboards, screens, notebooks, bulletin boards, etc.

So no one can use the devices because some of us can’t? We can only use in classrooms what every one can use, or that we can adapt so every one can use? No wonder people want out of public schools: who can innovate when government regulations prevent it?

Surely, those using the Kindle are providing alternatives.

All students have rights to resources, and those rights should not be diminished, or we prevent innovation that does support learning for those with special needs. Think about it: if we had denied the use of computers in the classroom because every one can’t use them, then would we even have universal access on computers?

And, the federal government is planning more for education… Oh my. ??

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Play…

Advocate. But advocate for innovation not restriction.

Righttoresources

I will continue to advocate for the rights of all students to have access to and participate in the world today, especially through and with the technology and its??protocols of etiquette??that are required of them now and in the future.

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Image credit:

CC 2 Flickr by Editor B

Remixed with Snagit??

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