Maker Mindset

Pause to reflect…

Jackie Gerstein at UsergeneratedEducation pushes us constantly to think through the educational mandates and silver bullets to focus on students and their learning. What will best guide students to become thinking, caring, productive persons?

The first thirty-eight slides of her presentation [ below ] provide thoughtful background theories and key questions to consider for our classrooms.

 

Slide 8: Something to do. We lost this when state standards developed in the 1990s. We removed the authenticity of doing and replaced it with intangible verbiage, which would have been the learning had we continued with the doing.

Slide 22: The most important question for classrooms – because doing is learning.

Slide 27: Love this question. After all, aren’t we trying to make the world better?

Slide 29: The Soft Skills – the process of planning, searching, gathering, sharing, collaborating, listening, debating, revising. The skills we learn through doing and doing together.

With each of these first thirty-eight slides, I say – that’s what what we need to consider! That’s our goal… I appreciate that Jackie shares these slides and continues with examples in the latter part.

Jackie’s Thinglink provides more information to consider:

Refer to the work of those who focused on learning as opposed to standards or skill objectives. Review the work of Dewey [and here], Vygotsky, Bruner, Papert [and here]. For Language Arts, see the work of James Moffett [ and here ].

Play to Learn…

Consider these ideas and questions. Consider the students in your classroom. When did we lose the doing? We learn what we need while doing something. We learn the strategies as we go, with support from our collaboration with peers or colleagues. Every time we do something, we build on what we learned before. That is the power of project-based learning. Students today are fading out in classrooms, bored with the posted objective; they want to learn what is of interest to them — or a question, an issue that piques their interests. With information readily available, it is the questions asked about that information that leads to learning and understanding it; it is what we want to do with the information that allows us to learn deeper. It is the sharing and collaborating with a shared purpose that propels us to do more and better to discover an answer and produce the results for others to contribute; this is learning. It fits in any classroom.

How will we as educators bring the power of the question and the doing back into our classrooms?

dewey_doing


Source of Quote

Dewey, John. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan, 1916. Print. p. 181

 

Cross-post

Twelve Embarrassing Years of NCLB and RTTT: Time for Arne to Blame USDOE

 

 


Pause…

 


I teach full time, so I don’t have the time to research the issues, and this post sums up what we all might be thinking about: it is the DOE who’s been in charge of education — and look where it’s taken us. Schools are in neighborhoods, and it is those neighborhoods who should be deciding what is important for resources, curriculum and instruction, and community involvement in their schools for their students. I was especially concerned knowing that Arne Duncan has not taught in a classroom. How can you possibly understand the nuances of teaching and learning without having a classroom of jittery kindergarteners, of troubled teens, or of multi-national students before you to instruct for a period of time? And he has the audacity to blame everyone else. Of course, he’s apparently driven by those in the business world who want what? Employees for the jobs they are not creating? Or profits in the education businesses they will front? I know that is cynical and simplistic, but when education is attacked, including parents and students, then it’s time to step back and look at who’s talking.

 


Play…
This post by Mercedes Scheider reminds and demands of us that

Unlike many of the “pop-up teachers” nursed on the destructive doctrines of education privatization, traditional teachers are not in education in order to pad a resume on the way “up.” Traditional teachers are an indispensable part of the fabric of our democracy, and it is about time for Arne Duncan to recognize and respect that fact.

 

 

The ideas and links in this post are a good place to continue a conversation on our current focus in classrooms: improving test scores. Ask yourself, are you a score, a number? or are you a complex being with questions, talents, and intellect ready for thinking to understand the world? Will teaching to a test help you? Think about it: and support your schools and their fight against this madness.

 


PS: If you scored 396 and not 400, you did not meet the standards. You are at risk. You need extra help, not art, music, debate, drama, or advanced classes.

 


396: it means…. do you know? Does it really have meaning?

 

You may also like this by EDUCareNow: Learning as Belonging — Learning is a social activity, not a set of standards.

John_Dewey_edu_living_sre

#zerotohero What Might Have Value?

Image

Our challenge, Day 12,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to carry forward the conversation from one of the three blogs for which we commented on yesterday.

Pause…

In The Learning Pond by Grant Lichtman, Grant asks:

“Innovation is the process of enhancing the value of an organization.  In schools, if we believe that what customers will value in the future is the same as in the past, we run a real risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant as educators. How do we gauge what might have value?”

The rest of the article explains some truths about schools — inward thinking, bound to historical models, and in need of listening to families and students. He grounds the solutions in the work of  Stephen Wunker, who works in new market creation [See Forbes ], suggests ways to assess future value. Be sure to read the post for Grant Lichtman’s application to education.

As I read these statements:

Innovation is the process of enhancing the value of an organization.

How do we gauge what might have value?

I considered the past twenty-seven years of my teaching and the many teachers I have known. Those days are gone. What days? Days of respecting the professional decisions of teachers to help students learn, helping them in many ways through as much feedback and practice projects as needed for them to grow in spurts as each is ready to learn. Students engaged in art and music, often integrated in reading, writing, and social studies projects. School could enhance the talents of each student this way, and the projects helped each student learn or practice the needed skills. We didn’t focus on the skills; we focused on the students and added to the projects in different ways for different kids. Teachers spent hours finding – innovating – just the right lesson or activity that would help a kid build his or her skills as they completed the work. There was a wholeness about the process, a compassionate  community of learners with the teacher as guide. A social studies unit becomes a skit, a poster, a speech that synthesizes the essence of the topic. A science topic led to jars and boxes in back of the room or on the window sill to apply and try the learning from the book. Both of these include reading and writing, and many included math. If a kid didn’t learn through the one way, he might learn from his neighbors, or the next project. There were goals, joy, feedback, and continued support in a learning community that respected the wholeness of us as people. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development [ ASCD ] promotes a Whole Child Initiative – be sure to read about it, and I hope you support it.

Today, schools teach in skills by mandates in often scripted curriculum with specific posted objectives to force students to practice the skills in hopes they will pass standardized tests that supposedly test those skills. But kids are funny and learn in different times and ways, and they want to learn more than just those skills. They want authentic learning— learning like John Dewey espoused a century ago, learning that reflects the world in which they live.

So I think Grant Lichtman is correct — schools today are bound to history – a factory model. And schools today are inward looking — and top down — purchasing more and more skills-based programs without realistic connections to students’ lives, especially in schools deemed “poor performing.” Those schools receive more skills instruction and less art, music, and real reading for their own purposes. In addition, the students are speaking out about their need to create and connect as they do in their real lives. However, schools have no funding for the infrastructure or technology to update to this type of access and learning, nor do teachers have the time to learn or try a curriculum with technology tied more closely to students’ learning ideas. Technology alone doesn’t change the direction of education — it will take the teachers again, focusing on what students need — in a more authentic, whole way.

Play…

So, “How do we gauge what might have value?”

What do you think? Do you think we might need to step back and allow teachers to plan for the students in the classrooms, instead of planning for the objectives for a test? Do you think we might bring back projects with art and music with reading and writing and help students develop their thinking, their talents, and their own ways of demonstrating learning? Even without technology, these creative and authentic projects focus students’ critical thinking and motivation in learning. And that would be the value to which we would gauge innovation and success.

Dan Pink explains that people are motivated by autonomy, purpose, and mastery. In the past before the emphasis on standardized tests, teachers had the purpose of guiding students’ learning and the autonomy to make it happen using their mastery of curriculum and instruction. And teachers hooked students on the purpose with projects, providing a level of autonomy through choices so students could master the skills needed with support in various activities.

Somehow, we’ve lost that by expecting the impossible: that all children will learn the same things at the same time — in order to pass a test and receive a score that says they have “met” or “not met” the standards. Hmmm. Autonomy? Purpose? Mastery?

Think about your best experience in school. Do you remember when you inferred the main character knew her enemy was nearby? Or do you remember creating something, debating something, doing something?

Let’s step back and see this big picture of learning and what might have value. But you’ll need to step into each classroom to know it’s truth.

Day 3 #zerotohero First Posts Jump In the Middle

094_2013_explore.001

Pause…

What’s on my mind? What was I thinking about writing when I started this blog, or started this blogging challenge?

That’s our assignment today for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge.

I’ve written my reasons here and here, but wondered what my first post presented. Jump in the middle...  fits with this task, as it refers to:

“Beginnings are always messy.” ~ John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright

and explains a strategy we use in our writing classroom: just jump in the middle — starts writing, and go back to fill in the before and afters. So I’ll jump in the middle of that first post and continue:

I talked about the beginnings of our school year with this:

“…from Teaching Unmasked by John Spencer:

‘Still, in the middle of May, I always feel that I should have done more. I should have given better feedback on work. I see some students and think, “I hardly know you.”’

I so identify with that. It’s a sinking feeling because I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student. I should have slowed down, taken one more day for sharing, one more day for writing/conferences, one more choice project each quarter. Each of those would meet objectives and meet the human requirement of personalized learning.”

What happened? We did take pictures of parent involvement, but they didn’t make it into a portfolio, although they easily could.
Why not? Because no matter how I try to slow down, I’m always faced with “I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student.”  It happens every year, and now — teachers are also tasked with documenting everything to prove what they do.  And all of these mandates are based on “research.” Today I read Ira Socal‘s post about research. It’s a long read, and an important one. He quotes Peter Høeg:

“When you assess something, you are forced to assume that a linear scale of values can be applied to it. Otherwise no assessment is possible. Every person who says of something that it is good or bad or a bit better than yesterday is declaring that a points system exists; that you can, in a reasonably clear and obvious fashion, set some sort of a number against an achievement.

“But never at any time has a code of practice been laid down for the awarding of points. No offense intended to anyone. Never at any time in the history of the world has anyone-for anything ever so slightly more complicated than the straightforward play of a ball or a 400-meter race-been able to come up with a code of practice that could be learned and followed by several different people, in such a way that they would all arrive at the same mark. Never at any time have they been able to agree on a method for determining when one drawing, one meal, one sentence, one insult, the picking of one lock, one blow, one patriotic song, one Danish essay, one playground, one frog, or one interview is good or bad or better or worse than another.” – Peter Høeg Borderliners

We are all points on an imposed scale.

And improving those points, that scale, on those tests demands that we work towards those goals, rather than towards the learning needs reaching out from the eyes of the students in front of me. We’ve lost our true purpose of education — to draw out the strengths, to lead the person learning — from where each is to where each dreams to be.  Sad, isn’t it?

Over break, I wrote a poem and sketched a book entitled, “Know That You Can” [ link when available] for The Sketchbook Project.  A verse encourages:

Whatever they try

They hear that, “We can”

Together, learning they could

And knowing they can.

The expectations and mandates of teachers, principals, and schools today do not encourage a positive, nurturing, engaging, yet challenging environment. The only focus is on those numbers because the consequences for not achieving those scores are devastating: school takeovers, school closures, teacher firings, negative community images, more intensive skill-based focus without art, music, drama, etc. The reality of how we learn is ignored.

There’s tons of research on how we learn, how we are all so different and do not learn at the same time in the same way. Here’s just a bit from Larry Ferlazzo’s blog at EdWeek.org :

“…Research by Rosalie Fink…Different students have different interests. Teachers can be most effective not by forcing students to learn from one standard curriculum, but by helping them to discover what they are passionate about, what they are especially interested in. Then learning becomes a natural activity for every student.”

It just makes sense, but the focus — in politics and by those who don’t work in schools but make the mandates — is not about students and sense, but is about sensationalism and scores.

So, even though I need to work with my student’s passions and curiosity, as soon as I get back to school I’ll be expected to teach the standards that supposedly teach to the test (and that’s another story). Our school is filled with dedicated teachers and paraprofessionals and a principal who want the best for students to lead them to the opportunities we don’t even know they’ll have. But we’re tied to mandates that teach to today, no matter what the student’s vision is.

However, we have one addition to our curriculum: Genius Hour, which is a time for students to follow their own strengths through coding, art, computer science, their interests. [ More Genius Hour ] It’s a small amount of time, but it’s a start.  [ Personalized, Connected Learning: Here and Here ]

Play…

Progress [ Genius Hour ] has occurred. And I’ve written this post, which shows 1) that change occurs slowly and 2) I’ve got other passions [ writing and drawing ]. Clearly, I know how and as a child I knew how to “play school.” But if you read Ira Socal’s post, you’ll see why learning, and school, is not the same for everyone; so each school needs to be different — one size does not fit all [ nor does one curriculum nor one test ].

What do you think? Have you accepted the negative view of schools, or will you dig into your school district and support schools that focus on helping kids find their strengths rather than focus on tests? The change comes from you — the people.

What’s next? I’m going to jump into the middle of a blog that holds things I consider worth looking into, but I never get to [ So Consider ]. That’s the source for ideas, and an idea for you to try, if you get stuck for ideas. Join Twitter, follow hashtags of interest to you, and send those especially noteworthy to a blog for you to peruse later for further writing.

So, although my original intent was to “jump.. in the middle of an idea, pausing to reflect, and planning how it will or how it could play out in the classroom community,” this new beginning has been a bit messy, but I do want to branch out. This post presents a glimpse into the broader implications of our school system’s current status and brings it back to working around the dilemma through Genius Hour.

What about you? How do you learn? When do you learn? Is it like school is and has been, or do you learn differently? How would school today need to change to accommodate your learning needs? Does your standardized test score from your school years reflect your success today?

Jump anywhere in the middle of this blog, and extend the ideas.  That’s what blogging is all about… extending the conversation. It’s OK if it’s messy; we’re all still learning — because real learning takes time.

Digital Literacies: Education #etmooc

livelearningconnectedceb12-001-scaled1000Pause to Reflect…

If you are connected to and participating in a personal learning network, then you understand the culture of today’s connected and public world. Perhaps you have created lessons and projects using Google Docs, a Wiki, or Twitter to collaborate with peers you have never met ( here and here and here ). Perhaps your students have collaborated with other students they will never meet, but have developed a common project together, creating a shared space. ( here and here  and here).

What does that mean?

It means you understand the potential of the participatory culture, as explained in Henry Jenkins White Paper: Digital LearningConfronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture Media Education for the 21stCentury.

It means you understand that our youth today are already joining together in communities online, creating and communicating to solve the problems within those communities. And because they are young, these engaged youth of today may need guidance in analyzing the validity of their discoveries (transparency), in knowing protocols that enhance their social endeavors (ethics), and in providing spaces so all youth can learn and participate (equity and participation).

And it means you have moved well beyond the teaching of discrete skills. As an umbrella of digital literacies includes your skills curriculum, yet students have choice in research and question-creating– and have opportunities to expand their work to collaborate with students in other communities. Your umbrella of literacies encourages and models for them how to strengthen their own personal learning networks.

You see the need to move to this, from Henry Jenkins’s Paper:

“If it were possible to define generally the mission of education, it could be said that its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, [Creative] and economic life.”
— New London Group (2000, p. 9)

Page 5

All students actively engage in ways that produce, share, collaborate, and curate relevant content that enhances the communites, real and virtual, in which they participate.

Consider also, these excerpts:

“Fostering such social skills and cultural competencies requires a more systemic approach to media education in the United States. Everyone involved in preparing young people to go out into the world has contributions to make in helping students acquire the skills they need to become full participants in our society. Schools, afterschool programs, and parents have distinctive roles to play as they do what they can in their own spaces to encourage and nurture these skills.”

Page 4

“Participatory culture is emerging as the culture absorbs and responds to the explosion of new media technologies that make it possible for average consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content in powerful new ways.A focus on expanding access to new technologies carries us only so far if we do not also foster the skills and cultural knowledge necessary to deploy those tools toward our own ends.”

Page 8

“Blau’s report celebrates a world in which everyone has access to the means of creative expression and the networks supporting artistic distribution.The Pew study (Lenhardt & Madden, 2005) suggests something more: young people who create and circulate their own media are more likely to respect the intellectual property rights of others because they feel a greater stake in the cultural economy. Both reports suggest we are moving away from a world in which some produce and many consume media, toward one in which everyone has a more active stake in the culture that is produced.”

Page 10

“We must integrate these new knowledge cultures into our schools, not only through group  work but also through long-distance collaborations across different learning communities.  Students should discover what it is like to contribute their own expertise to a process that  involves many intelligences, a process they encounter readily in their participation in fan discussion lists or blogging. Indeed, this disparate collaboration may be the most radical element of  new literacies: they enable collaboration and knowledge-sharing with large-scale communities  that may never personally interact. Schools are currently still training autonomous problemsolvers, whereas as students enter the workplace, they are increasingly being asked to work in  teams, drawing on different sets of expertise, and collaborating to solve problems.”

Page 21

Keeping these in mind while listening to Howard Rheingold‘s #etmooc presentation, I pulled out these ideas:

  1. Keep up with the literacies, not the technology
  2. Develop an understanding of social capital – in the community: “it’s more important that people learn through me.”
  3. Focus attention — be aware of and focus one’s own attention.
  4. Apply skills to empower and enhance them  — once students learn to read (by grade three), why continue teaching “reading?” — but rather use and develop the skill while learning.

And in a related webinar from Classroom Live 2.0, I linked from Alex Dunn’s iPad information to this excellent “Inclusioneers” imperative:

…we need to acknowledge that no two students are alike and that changes need to be made to existing learning environments to reach and teach every student; “barriers to learning are not, in fact, inherent in the capacities of learners, but instead arise in learners’ interactions with inflexible educational materials and methods.  (CAST Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning, Preface p. iv).  http://inclusioneers.com/

Play to Learn…

Equity in Access and Participation

Since students are already collaborating and creating online, those students are learning the ways through the web’s processes, using whatever technology supports their endeavors. So the technology is not the point, but rather the tool or the process. The point is the social collaboration and community, a chance to participate and be heard in that community and in a democracy. Since I teach in a school with a high poverty rate, it is imperative that my students have access to the opportunities to participate as online citizens; we must develop equity in access and participation so their future opportunities are as open and available as those who have all the resources available to them.

Transparency in Perspectives

Because youth are forming ideas, absorbing information, and may not consider perspectives and motives, curricular considerations must include development of skills in analyzing validity and relevance in the discoveries students find online. If we help them to see through the motives and biases, to search through to relevant and valid information, and to develop their own strategies for doing so, we create a transparency envelope that will enhance their and our future discourse and problem-solving. As we develop curriculum, we allow student choice and provide guidance in detection of validity and relevance.

Ethics as Digital Citizens

As students move to more collaboration and creation together, we have the opportunity to teach, and they have the chance to practice in their projects with each other and with others in their online network, the very essence of civil discourse. I love how my students are learning to suggest alternative ideas to their collaborators with a simple phrase, “I wonder if…” It’s not easy to truly collaborate in person, let alone online, and yet these are the skills needed for today’s workforce and for community solutions. Teams and global connections occur often, and even in small businesses, connections to other communities and agencies demand teamwork and collaboration. Our curriculum must not only work with differentiating for the individual, but also for encouraging the group collaborative skills needed to create team projects; this requires of us the social capacity of cooperation and considerate dialogue.

Literacies as a Continuum; Skills as Foundations

Have you ever wondered how we became so skills-based? I’m wondering if , in reading for example, we began to study more deeply how good readers read. Through experts, in developing dissertations, we learned the complex processes and strategies that good readers employ. Somehow that knowledge, which helps us guide readers, became required skills to teach and test. And yet, to become good readers, a learner must read: read for a purpose (entertainment, research, opinions) and read to learn. Now, we teach reading skills through eighth grade and what do we have? Low Test Scores. What if, once students learned the essence of decoding, we let them read for their own reasons and suggested strategies when they needed them? What if the test were the ability to use reading — not do the skill — but to use reading as one of the strategies to learn and solve problems?

The usable skills needed are more universal– communicate, collaborate, solve, create, revise. The extend from simple dialogue and expression through listening and receptive comprehension. They are the literacies of mentioned by many, including Howard Rheingold’s list: attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness, critical consumption. It is these that need our curricular focus. The foundation skills, the reading, writing, research skills,  develop in the doing of research and problem-solving. As teachers, we differentiate — personalize — as students need the foundation skill while applying the needed skills of thinking, communicating, collaborating, solving, creating, revising during their choice of projects. The test is the process and product of their project solution, not the discrete skills.

An example of a school that does not test, but does expect demonstration of the literacies is the Science Leadership Academy. I had the honor of listening to students explain their day, their work, their goals, and their successes and struggles. The students articulated these clearly with grace and through examples from their portfolios. They certainly could focus their attention, set and evaluate their personal goals, participate as a team and an individual, and collaborate to solve the tasks. They could evaluate the successes and state the needed improvements. They did more than “explain with evidence the main idea of the topic;” they developed solutions and evaluated the results.

Four years ago I wrote this:

“The word “education” derives from the Latin “educere — lead out.” Education should lead students to find themselves, to strengthen what they do well, to discover hidden talents, and to learn from others who use their talents well so that students, too, become productive, creative citizens. Students don’t need to know everything, and they will learn what they need to know — when it’s needed to learn about themselves or to learn how things work as they create and interact in learning quests of which they have chosen the focus and in which the standards provide background, guidance, and focus.”

And suggested this:

How would educators do that? The standards provide the harbor, a reference point in content and process; the educators and students decide the direction of their journey into the river, planning the places and prospects that contain the current and forge the flow of learning, creating their own ports of explorations and expertise to which others connect. These ports are personal docks displaying each student’s possibilities and proficiencies — a lifelong legacy of learning. Moor to the dock to discover the scope of the scholarship and the compass of the course; a test isn’t required. I think classrooms would be more joyful, inclusive, and active places if we help and connect people in their process of developing their possibilities; classrooms would be places where students WANT to go — to augment and evince their odyssey. Wouldn’t that be something?

Do you think we have finally reached the point where this is possible? That the digital literacies of creation and fluency, participation and collaboration, provide the personal ports of entry and in the doing, they recieve guidance to become expert in process, content, and social diplomacy? Are we willing to be the constellations from which students learn to guide their own education?

Cross-posted at What Else Edublogs