About Me

After 23 years as a high school social studies teacher, I have taken a leap into library media.
This blog chronicles my experiences making this transition and my learning in that process.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

ISTE Standards for EDUCATORS... another infographic

Standard, standards, everywhere! Whether we are developing curricula, teaching, or assessing with Common Core, C3, Next Gen Science or some other set of standards, our focus is on standards for student achievement.

What I don't see or hear discussed as much, are standards for educator achievement, and lately I've been thinking a lot about ISTE's standards for teachers. (See infographic below.) I envision professional development that focuses on these standards. Teachers can self-assess with these standards as a measure in order to suggest learning that they need. Developing sessions in response to such reflection means the PD is self-directed and standards-based.

On a related ISTE note: my library partner, @mluhtala, and I just heard that our proposal to present at #ISTE17 was accepted -- so please come see us on Sunday, June 25 to discuss Libraries in Transitional Times where Kids Love to Learn!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stanford Report as an infographic: Student Vulnerability to Fake News

The Stanford Graduate School of Education Study recently released its report, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning. Their findings in this two-year study about students' ability to critically interpret information they encounter online are frightening.

There has been abundant media coverage of this issue and the SHEG study by PBS News Hour, NPR, and The Washington Post, among others. Here is my unpacking of that report in an infographic:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Using Question Stems to Spark Inquiry

As I am working with students on research exercises I am working to find ways to help them with the development of their research questions. The scope of their research and the means by which they explore what they learn are all products of a well-crafted research question. I am observing that students can ask very narrow questions that begin with "what" and very broad questions that begin with "why." Without prompting, they get stuck here: too narrow or too broad. To help them expand their inquiry strategies I have begun using these question stems to push their thinking:

Which?  This stem helps you to collect information to make an informed choice. For example: Which Twentieth Century president did the most to promote civil rights?

How? When you seek to understand problems and perspectives, weigh options, and propose solutions, try starting your question with this stem. For example: How should we solve the problem of water pollution in Long Island Sound?

What if? Your question can change history! Use the knowledge you have to pose a hypothesis and consider options. For example: What if the Apollo 13 Astronauts had not survived?

Should?  A question can invite self or community examination. Using this stem, you can make a moral or practical decision based on evidence. For example: Should we clone humans?

Why? Understand and explain relationships to get to the essence of a complicated issue. For example: Why do people engage in human trafficking?

I like these stems because students can decide on the purpose of their inquiry and use the stem best suited to that end. They also are versatile and can be used in any discipline. What is really key, is they push students away from bias confirmation, from the tendency to ask questions to which they believe they already know the right answer. By using these stems and asking many questions about the same topic, they are pushed to think critically about the subject of their research and remain open to a range of evidence and perspectives before developing their thesis.

Here are examples of the stems being used all about the Civil War:

  • Which Civil War general was the best military strategist?
  • How did King Cotton affect the Confederacy’s waging of war?
  • What if General Lee had better intelligence at Gettysburg?
  • Should Confederate symbols be used in official state flags and logos today?
  • Why did Great Britain favor the South during the Civil War?

And here are literary examples focused on Shakespeare's plays:

  • Which of the characters in Henry IV has the most relevance for today’s politicians?
  • How does Hal’s ascension to the throne affect perceptions of his father’s coup?
  • What if Brutus had made the final funeral oration in Julius Caesar?
  • Should Hamlet have minded his own business?
  • Why does Shakespeare use so many references to the natural and unnatural in Macbeth?

I have used these this year with grade 11 students researching the relationship between socioeconomic class and opportunity in modern America. These stems helped the students focus their topics under the umbrella of the unit essential question.

Today I will use them with grade 10 students. Their essential question is "What should be America's response to the current refugee crisis?" Imagine the research possibilities with each of these stems: Which country has a fair, enforceable policy in this current refugee crisis? How does US response to Syrian refugees compare with US response to Holocaust / Bosnia / Vietnam refugees? What if the US reinstated quotas like those of the 1920s? Should the UN establish and monitor camps for the refugees? Why did the French respond to the Calais Jungle as they did? Using these question stems, the students can focus their research on the aspect of this issue that is most interesting to them, and the teacher can engage with the students about content that the student has chosen so the curricular experience is personalized. Ultimately the students will be writing Op-Ed pieces and they range of issues and perspectives considered will read to rich classroom discussion and mean the teacher is not reading twenty five identical papers. A win-win exercise!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Creating a Vision to Guide 21st Century Teaching and Learning

Without a definitive vision statement and mission schools lack a guide for decision making. How do we know if what we are doing is working if we don't first have a statement of purpose against which to measure the outcome of our efforts? The library is a vital component to the development of a school’s vision because the library faculty are:

  • Co-teachers with the whole faculty
  • Curriculum development partners
  • Professional development facilitators
  • Resource curators
  • Information literacy instructors

As more and more schools invest in and adopt 1:1 or BYOD initiatives, a rationale for those programs -- something more than “so we can teach with technology” -- is essential to progressive pedagogy and transformative teaching and learning. Of her own epiphany regarding the meaningful, purposeful integration of technology into learning opportunities, Jennie Magiera said, “I would have to be willing to depart from what I had always done or always taught. I needed to create a blueprint for a fresh classroom design with the power of my new tools in mind. By setting aside my preconceived notions of how my classroom ‘should’ look, sound, and feel, I was able to transform my practice from the ground up.” There are educators like Magiera reinventing themselves as part of maintaining the relevance of their pedagogy in a dynamic technological world. But this world requires whole schools, whole systems, to undertake this renaissance not as random individuals but as systems. Most teachers can explain their rationale for why they do what they do. Systems need a purpose (which is much more than a rationale), and educators need support and continual learning opportunities to evolve in pursuit of that purpose.

When the leaders of a technology implementation initiative are asked to evaluate the effectiveness of a new device roll-out, what should be the instrument of measure? Well, I think, the vision statement. The investment of time, finances, and human power in the tech initiative should have been made as a step toward fulfilling the mission, achieving the vision. So the vision is the measure of how well the initiative is going.

The unexamined life may not be worth living, but don't save the examination for the deathbed. We want students to be reflective learners and we, too, must be reflective practitioners. And schools and districts must be reflective planners. Act with purpose: common, examined purpose in order to transform classrooms into the constantly evolving learning spaces 21st Century students (and teachers) need.

Magiera, Jennie. Courageous Edventures: Navigating Obstacles to Discover Classroom Innovation. Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin, 2016.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Vision for 21st Century Teaching and Learning

This one is short and sweet (I hope!).

My infographic in which I try to convey a vision for what it means to teach and learn in the 21st Century.

Nussbaum-Beach, Sheryl, "ASCD Express 6.11 - A Futuristic Vision For 21St Century Education ". Ascd.org, 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. <http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol6/611-nussbaum-beach.aspx>.

Palmer, Tsisana, "15 Characteristics Of A 21St-Century Teacher". Edutopia, 20 June 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. <https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher>

Natick Public Schools, A Vision and Framework for 21st Century Teaching & Learning, February 2011 Web 12 Dec. 2016, <http://www.natickps.org/district/districtmaininfo/documents/Technology%20Presentation%20Part%2012.pdf>

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mapping Global Climate Change Has Begun

A few weeks ago I described a project that I was co-planning with a science teacher for her grade 9 earth science students. Today we began! When they arrived in the library they were already assigned to groups of three and given a country that, in most cases, they had previously studied in their social studies class. We used their double lab period to introduce the project and get started on research. In a nutshell, here is a the project:

In small groups you will examine the climate of countries in different environments. You will then predict what might happen to the climate of a particular country as the earth continues to warm. All of your research, insight, evidence, and citations will be presented as a layer on a class Google My Map.

My colleague wisely reminded the class of their predisposition to jump to the final product without embracing the vital steps of research necessary to inform that product. So we began by giving the students a short (less than 2 page) overview reading on indicators of climate change and impact projections. We instructed them to read and annotate what they thought was important.

No one annotated.

When the chatter began, and they said they were done reading, I asked them to review the reading one section at a time. The sub-heading for the first section was: "Increasing Temperatures." I asked students to share something in that section that prompted them to ask a question about the geographical region they were about to study. First they blinked, then they stared at their computer screens hoping that avoiding eye contact would end this part of the exercise.

I kept pushing: "when you read about rising temperatures what does it make you wonder about your country or region?" Finally, a student who is studying India asked, "what happens to people already living in really cramped conditions when it gets hotter? won't they suffer?" And then, a student started to answer that question. Now, I'm not in the habit of stopping a student from contributing, but I did. I said, you are making statements but this phase of our work is about asking questions. What happens at the beginning of research when you make statements instead of asking questions? They figured this out right away: statements lead to bias confirmation; questions allow you to see and incorporate information that surprises and challenges you. Statements rehash what you already think you know; questions enable you to learn something new.

We returned to the overview reading and students began asking questions about their assigned region based on the information in the reading. They annotated the reading with their questions and shared with the class. Then I said, what's next? How will you find more information about your region? The reading is a global overview, now you need to focus geographically. They knew it was time for keywords. I suggested they work in their groups to make a list of 25 keywords, and when they had that many they had to ask me or their science teacher to review the list and give them the thumbs up to begin searching the databases and collected websites. They were aghast! TWENTY-five words?! Yes, I said. And next year I will ask you for 75!

By the time class ended, they had made their lists, gotten approval to proceed with research and were given the expectation that each member of the group will have completed reading, citing and note-taking from at least one source before we reconvene. When they have examined multiple sources each, they will share their notes and organize them in this table:

Ultimately their goal is to make predictions about their region, so we will give them these formulas to help guide that synthesis of their information:

Finally, they will display their questions, research, citations, and predictions on a layer of a Google MyMap and write or screencast a reflection on the future of global climate predictions by comparing the information in their map layer with their classmates. I will share more when we get to that stage!

Lessons learned from experimenting with VR

We are investigating different ways to use augmented and virtual reality to enhance teaching and learning. At this point our approach may be a bit haphazard as we play with different free devices, apps, and triggers in our pursuit of a full curricular adoption of a VR platform. Such adoption is a long way off. In the meantime we are gaining increasing appreciation for the learning potential of a robust system as we watch our students interact with the modest tools in our makerspace.

A tool we have: a class set of cardboards
The obstacle we face: no devices to insert into the cardboards

Another tool: In addition to their BYOD devices, students bring smartphones to school
Another obstacle: our state has a student data privacy law that significantly restricts the digital platforms to which teachers can direct students for classroom exercises.

So here is what we have tried:
Having recently upgraded my phone, I donated my old android phone to our TechXperts. I showed them the roller coaster cardboard app and then got out of the way. They started by creating elastic head straps to turn the cardboards into hands-free devices. They scoured the play store for VR experiences compatible with the single device we have and began wandering the makerspace wearing the headset. Students started clambering: me, too! me, too! and the line formed of students waiting for a turn.

Lesson 1: Students are always game for a new learning experience.

Once the furor abated I tried out the apps they installed and wandered around a fantasy world for a while. I moved around my physical space as I moved around the virtual space. I jumped, squatted, spun, reached, walked... I moved.

Lesson 2When you are looking for ways to introduce movement into your classroom, VR is a great tool for kinesthetic learning!

After the fantasy exploration, the students tried to get me to cliff dive, and I was done. The roller coaster app was not enough for them. They needed to free-fall through space! I told them when I tried Google Expeditions at ISTE2015, and found myself on the side of Everest, I fell out of the chair was helped off the floor by a very sweet Googler who assured me that I wasn't the first person to do that. Still embarrassing.

Lesson 3: VR experiences are visceral and can help students develop empathy.

Augmented reality is cool, too. While less immersive, AR experiences have similar and important impact on teaching and learning. On a recent professional learning day, we set up a playground for teachers to visit between workshops or as a workshop session. One of the playground stations was an AR station. We downloaded the chemistry and anatomy triggers from Daqri, installed the Daqri app on the library iPads, and invited teachers to play with the element, heart, and body systems enhancements. Say goodbye to cellophane overlays that build the systems of the body in increasingly difficult to read layers! Now the systems can be added and removed by a touch of the finger and they layer and intertwine with one another as they do in a body.

Lessons 4&5: The interactive, multi-media, self-directed nature of VR and AR helps students orient to challenging concepts and gives them agency over their interaction with the content.

In the library specifically we are resurrecting a past initiative using Aurasma to create triggers out of book covers. When students meet in the library to select independent reading material, we are capturing short videos of them reviewing their books. Then, we make the video an overlay with the cover as a trigger. Students -- any library patron, really -- can follow our channel and scan the covers of books to see what fellow students say about them! Now, AR is not just about consuming information, but about the creation, by students, of new insights, learning, and content.

Lesson 6: In small and large ways, AR and VR experiences encourage students to explore previously inaccessible ideas and places expanding their passions and curiosity.

Needless to say there are much more expansive AR and VR experiences available for education than those in which we have dabbled. Our little experiences are helping us build a plan for more curricular integration of such experiences -- and more financial investment, too. In the meantime, these dabbles are helping us to expand our thinking about how to enhance teaching and learning, beyond the wow! factor.

Monday, December 5, 2016

On loving to read (or at least pretending to)

When I was in grad school earning a master's degree in social studies and my grades 7-12 teaching certification I took a methods class in which we were put into pairs and had to develop a lesson to deliver to our classmates. My partner turned to me and said: "Let's not give them any reading to do for this; I hate reading." I don't remember anything else about that class, not the lesson we planned, not the name of the professor, not even the name of my partner. But I have always -- for 25 years -- remembered that comment.

I was aghast at that sentiment back then. I mean, why would someone go into teaching if she doesn't like reading? That is a fundamental element of teaching and learning, an essential skill nurtured in every student by every teacher. Yet, recently I was shocked (more like horrified) to hear another educator say the same thing. Don't get me wrong, there are kinds of texts I don't like to read. There are authors whose work I don't really enjoy. There are wildly popular books that I fail to appreciate with such enthusiasm. But I love to read. And do so daily for intellectual enrichment and enjoyment.

Today we worked on revising our library curriculum. We spent hours discussing the concept of literary appreciation. To me this means understanding the value of the written word, the power of texts to inform and entertain, and the necessity of developing the ability to access those texts. It does not mean (to me) enjoying reading. Enjoying literature (both fiction and non) is separate from understanding its importance. Ideally, I would be elated for every student I encounter to leave school a lover of reading, voraciously consuming texts in multiple forms of media, but I know that this will not be the case for all of them. I do hope students graduate knowing how to identify what they need to know and what they enjoy and able to access the literature that satisfies those needs when they arise.

But reading is hard. Our brains, according to Maryanne Wolf in Proust and the Squid, are not born wired to read. In fact the mechanics of the brain are rearranged through our learning processes to accommodate this human invention of the written word. So struggling with reading is natural. As with anything students learn, some intrinsic value and other incentive (like the enjoyment of story) must boost students to persist in building the neuropathways necessary to build a literate brain. Students are surrounded by people who have an array of relationships with reading. Their parents may or may not be big readers. The same is true of their friends. In high school I frequently encounter students who disavow reading. If these students encounter even one teacher who says, "I hate reading," I fear that student is doomed. The very person trying to teach you to read or to have literary appreciation has just eviscerated any hope you develop those skills or habits of mind. Yikes!

I would like to know why someone who doesn't like to read does like to teach. Perhaps, there is space there for exploration. How can a non-reader discover enjoyment or mastery for the sake of utility of reading? No matter how old that person is? And, how do they convey this appreciation of literature to others?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Inquiry Update: Refining the Questions and Keywords

In my last post I wrote about our preparation for using the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) designed by the Right Question Institute to inspire and focus high school juniors for writing their research papers. They are writing this paper at the conclusion of reading The Great Gatsby; the unit essential question is: how does socioeconomic status affect opportunity in modern America? When I wrote my last post, we were collecting and reviewing possible artifacts to serve as a Q-focus for the classes. Ultimately, we chose to provide several and allow the students to choose which focus to use and with which students to work. Their Q-focus options were:

  • the strategic school profile for a nearby high school that is very different than our school
  • an expired green card
  • a birth certificate in both English and Spanish issued in Mexico
  • a photograph of five members of the St. Louis Rams entering the stadium with their hands up
  • a data visualization of household income gap by race
  • another data table about education levels among married black women
  • data about health care access by race adjusted for income

We used these slides to explain the QFT protocol. They were projected around the room while students worked so they could refer to the directions as their groups collaborated on each task. As students sorted and rewrote their closed and open questions, they collected their questions on a pair of slides dedicated to their group's Q-focus. Here is an example from one of the four classes that used this process. All of this was completed just before the Thanksgiving long weekend. Today we returned to school and the students in all four classes working with us on this research paper submitted the current draft of their research question for us to review. Their questions address a vast array of current sociopolitical issues. Certainly they still need refinement, but students are beginning to narrow their focus to a topic of interest that is potent in the U.S. today. Here is a selection of the (unedited) questions the students are asking:

  • How does affirmative action impact minorities? 
  • Does gender affect a persons income? Why do blacks have a lower income than whites/ does race affect a persons income?
  • How does race and wealth impact the type and level of education you can receive 
  • How does geographical setting affect health care accessibility for adults?
  • How might a persons socioeconomic status directly affect their access to quality healthcare?
  • How can racial bias in the judicial system affect the way a case is treated?
  • How does poverty impact the learning and culture of a school body as a whole in terms of absences, disciplinary actions, and Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL)?
  • How has the Affordable Care Act impacted people with lower socioeconomical [sic] status?
  • How does the justice system affect imprisonment of the lowest social classes?
  • What causes the tremendous inequality in educational oppurtunity [sic] in America?
  • Why are crime rates higher amongst the lower class?
  • How does ones socioeconomic status affect the severity of their mental health?
  • How does income inequality affect rates of incarceration for different social classes?
  • How heavily does education influence the likelyhood [sic] of achieving a stable, lucrative career?
  • How does race effect the odds of immigrants achieving well paying stable careers?
  • "How do the living conditions and locations of adolescents contribute to their level of education?"
  • How has the war on drugs affected people's ability to rise from poverty?
  • How does the constant factor of social class diversity affect the quality of education in a child's lifetime?
  • Why is the education gap in America growing? and how can we close the gap and have an equal education standard across the US?
  • Why are there a lot of college drop outs
  • How do the economic circumstances of ones birth dictate their potential, as opposed their talent and hard work?
  • How does social class affect parenting?
  • Does race affect the amount of college dropouts?
  • How do financial issues lead to high dropout rates in college?

Clearly these questions still need refinement. We are pleased that students have started to branch their thinking into aspects of American society and historical issues that they were not able to consider before we introduced the QFT to them. Our next step is to help students begin generating keywords for searching our databases and print collection for information about their topic. We believe that once they start listing terms relevant to their question, they will begin to see the possibilities for refining and focusing their questions to better fit the constraints of a five page paper.

That is tomorrow's plan. We are going to ask them to examine the entire list of collected questions from the four participating classes and copy into a document any of the questions that they think explores the topic they are trying to research. Then the students will begin compiling a list of key terms that are related to their topic and their questions. We will provide them instruction on the value of key terms including how to use them in searches:

  • Boolean Logic (and, or, not)
  • Truncation and Wildcards (*, ?)

Then we will ask the students to resume compiling their lists and then revising their questions, ultimately choosing one question to sustain their research. Stay tuned to see how this unfolds.

For those of you interested in updates on the research project using Google My Maps, we are getting ready to introduce it so more on that will be coming soon, too!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Inquiry: Framing Research Questions & the QFT

Two new teachers approached us and began the conversation by saying: "We remembered how you
said that you are willing to help with anything we are doing in class."

"YES!" we said in response. "That is what we do! How can we help?"

So we are preparing to work with four classes of juniors who are embarking on a research paper. This paper is a common assessment for the junior English classes so this is a pilot for an approach we could replicate in other classes. We were asked to help with narrowing topics, developing research questions, locating and annotating sources, accurate citations,... this is what we do!

The course Essential Question that will guide the focus of the students' research is: How does social class impact opportunity in modern American society? The students have already been asked to identify subtopics that can be explored in the context of this question. They have identified: Education, Immigration, Marriage, Health Care, and Ethnicity

We decided that the QFT (Question Formulation Technique) outlined in Make Just One Change by the Right Question Institute was the perfect avenue for both topic focusing and question refinement. During our Professional Learning day at the beginning of the month one of the workshops faculty members could attend was about inquiry and how to use the QFT so this is a perfect application of that learning!

We will remind the students that research requires lots of questions, all different types of questions. Essentially, all research (regardless of the form of the final product) is the process of asking questions, finding answers, asking new questions, finding new answers, and so on until you reach a satisfying, defensible, unique understanding.

Here are the steps they will take:

1. Start by exploring your Q-Focus (more on this in a bit)

  • Ask as many questions as you can
  • Don’t stop to discuss or judge or answer
  • Write each question as it was stated
  • Change any statements into questions

2. Now improve your questions

  • Sort your Q’s into two categories:
  • Rewrite a closed question to be open-ended. 
  • Then rewrite an open question to be closed.

3. Prioritize

  • Select your top THREE questions that your group thinks best explore the topic of your research.
  • Share these questions with the class

The key to the whole process is a well-selected Qfocus. For each of the sub-topics identified by the classes, we are brainstorming and discussing the most appropriate Qfocus. We need things that the students can understand, that will challenge their thinking and assumptions, that will inspire divergent thinking. Here is what we are considering:

  • Education: PSAT scores from an anonymous student
  • Immigration: a foreign birth certificate, a green card
  • Marriage: we are still discussing this one (please share ideas if you have any!)
  • Health Care: data on health care access disparity
  • Ethnicity: this cartoon about white privilege or Peggy McIntosh's checklist

By working through the QFT protocol, students will be able to narrow the focus of their research, determine their guiding research question, and identify the sub-questions it will be necessary for them to answer in order to develop a thesis about their main question.

Next steps: working with the students to find, vet, and annotate sources! Stay tuned! 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Research, Collaboration and Mapmaking -- by Students

I am getting very excited about a new project I am co-planning with one of my science colleagues. We are collaborating to re-vision the unit on global warming. My colleague presented me with an idea about having the students work in small groups or pairs to examine indicators of global warming in different regions of the world. I immediately started thinking about MAPS! In particular, about how perfectly this project lends itself to the documentation of student research and insight in Google My Maps.

And so a project was born!

We've been working this week to develop the project and when working realized that all of these ninth grade students have done a project in their social studies class earlier in the year where they examined a nation in terms of HDI and the nutritional wellness of the people. The title of the project is "R U What U Eat?" It totally makes sense, then, to group the students by the countries they examined in this earlier mini-research project and have them continue to expand their insight about that region of the world.

Originally we were going to assign students to countries and provide them a short (2-4 paragraph) regional climate summary and then guide them in developing research terms so they could learn more about that country or region. Now, they have already provided that information for themselves in the research they did earlier this year in social studies. So, we are going to give them a brief reading about the indicators of climate change and they will be ready to begin researching. Ultimately, they are being asked to make a prediction about the climate health of their assigned region. This is a difficult task for ninth graders so we are providing them with this organizer for their research and guide for developing predictions:

Food & Crops:

Mobility & Travel:
Density & Distribution:

Major Cities:



Major Industries:


Longitude & Latitude:

Land Forms & Sea Level:


Precipitation & Storms:

Seasonal Variation:

Now, consider these combinations:

  • Population Density + Major Industry + Storms = ?

When you combine the different factors from the table, what trends appear?

  • Look for CAUSE & EFFECT… if _______ happens, then _________ will happen next.

Review your research and then develop your prediction for your region.

Ultimately, each group will be given a layer in a Google My Map in which they will present their research and predictions. They will be able to outline and color code regions, drop pushpins in important locations, display images and video, as well as write text (including their citations). When all of the student research and insight is compiled, the map will serve as an interactive way for students to examine the globe and compare regions by turning layers on and off. We are providing them with these questions to guide their reflection:

  1. Was it difficult to make predictions, even with the information and knowledge you had? Why or why not? What additional information or tools would be helpful in making more accurate climate change predictions?
  2. How important do you think it is to make accurate projections about climate change in order to take steps to reverse, mitigate, or prevent climate change? Explain your thinking.
  3. What kinds of connections did you discover between climate change impacts in your country and other countries? How might humans in your environment be impacted by climate change in other environments?
  4. Are any environments impacted more (i.e., more sensitive or vulnerable to climate change) than others? What characteristics of these environments make them especially sensitive to climate change?
  5. What are some variables that are likely to affect the rate of future climate change? (E.g., population growth, economic development, global equity, type, and efficiency of energy use.)
  6. What actions do we take that contribute to the impacts of climate change on other environments? What can we do to mitigate the impacts of climate change on other environments?

What more could we ask for in this project? We are eager for it to begin!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Professionals Can't Develop Without a Growth Mindset

Many teachers seek opportunities to intellectually enrich themselves and to expand their pedagogy. Being a life-long learner is a integral component to being a good teacher. We invest our time, talent, energy, and money in our personal and professional growth. We are intrinsically rewarded for these investments, our colleagues are enriched by the atmosphere created when the learning is shared, and our students' learning is enhanced by our risk-taking and forward-thinking pedagogy.

In order to compel teachers to continue their learning, they are mandated to attend professional development or professional learning sessions. Yesterday was election day which means that in many places it was also a day designated as a teacher professional development day. The electoral and school calendars have another thing in common: election day and the end of the first marking period very closely coincide. Which means when teachers are under pressure to wrap up the marking period with whatever grading obligations that poses for them, they are also being told to stop what they are doing and spend a day learning.

So my question is: do teachers bring to these mandated sessions the same growth mindset they bring to the voluntary ones? And for those who do not invest voluntarily in their ongoing learning, how can the mandated sessions be valuable to them? How do we grow a school culture that values professional learning in all its forms?

This is not a rhetorical question. I would love to hear people's insights. There are easy answers like the PD has to be relevant to them. It has to be differentiated. It has to be authentic with opportunities for teachers to apply the learning to their curricula. So, consider a PD day that involves choice -- several workshops based on a survey of faculty needs and the teachers can choose which to attend. Add to that sessions that include time to work with colleagues to apply learning to current student work and upcoming units and a space dedicated to practicing new technology and collaborating with colleagues practicing and applying the same new tools. Lastly, a follow-up hour of professional learning time the same week is set aside for them to work in their curricular teams to continue applying the new learning to upcoming instruction and assessment. Do you get a relevant, differentiated, authentic professional learning experience? I think so.

If some of the teachers' feedback tells you otherwise, what would you do differently? And, how would you continue to encourage your colleagues who had a positive, productive learning experience (despite the distraction of the end of the marking period and their grading concerns) to keep learning and not be discouraged by the day's detractors and distractions?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Another PD Session: Student Discussions and BYOD

I have been pondering how to provide my colleagues who attend the sessions I am facilitating with the materials and prompts that will guide their work. For the Assessment and BYOD workshop that I discussed in my last post, I decided to organize all of the materials in a Google  Site so that participants can have easy access to all of the materials.

That same day, I will be facilitating a second session on a different topic. The focus of my second workshop will be on managing classroom discussions in a BYOD environment. This is our school's first year with BYOD so it is a focus of our professional learning. Furthermore, we are also committed to increasing personalization of learning for the students. I am working to keep those two goals as threads in my workshop. I hope that participants finish the sessions empowered to harness tech for more student-centered learning experiences.

The sessions are each 90 minutes long. For discussion, I have divided the time into two segments. In the first segment, we will examine whole-class discussion protocols; in the second segment, we will consider student-managed small group discussions. Participants will be immersed in the discussion protocols were are examining and use the technology that students can use to support and document their interactions and reflections.

Agenda for the Whole Class Discussion segment:

Round 1

  • Select volunteers to chat in the fishbowl
  • Review Fishbowl Norms: only those in the center can talk; all participants can contribute to the chat room.
  • Everyone will join TodaysMeet chat room and see this greeting: "Welcome to the chat! Enter your comments here. Remember you are limited to 140 chars. Talk to each other by using @ protocol. I am @JackieW"
  • Watch this Michael Jordan commercial

  • Discuss: “What is a growth mindset, and why do I need one? How can my students develop one?”

Round 2

  • New group goes into fishbowl
  • New question introduced into chat: What does it mean to describe an assessment or classroom experience as "authentic”?
  • Everyone post “big takeaway” in the chat; start post with BT
  • Archive chat transcript as a Google doc; share for reflection
  • Demonstrate Ctrl-F, search for user name to see where posted
Questions for Reflection:
  • I used to think... and now I think...
  • If I had been in the fishbowl I might have said...
  • One thing I wanted to say but didn't was...
  • The most important understanding I am taking away from this discussion is... and it is important because..
  • The most insightful comment I heard today was... and it was insightful because...

Agenda for the Small Group Discussion segment:

Discussion Protocols:
  • Each group member has a different role
  • For each role, there is a padlet or slide for collecting ideas
  • Readers populate the padlet or slide assigned to their role
  • Readers can draw upon the postings of classmates when discussing in small groups
Reading Roles: (text: In the Beginning... Was the Command Line, "MGBs, Tanks, and Batmobiles" by Neal Stephenson)
  • Questioner: what would you ask the people in the passage if you could? Why?
  • Connector: of what are you reminded when you read this passage? (book, movie, tv, current event…) Why?
  • Wonderer: what do you want to know about this situation? Why?
  • Predictor: what do you think the outcome of the conflict will be? Explain.
  • Passage Picker: select the passage you think is key to understanding the text. Explain its importance.
  • Assign everyone in the group the same role
  • Read and share ideas
  • Collect ideas on a padlet assigned to their role
  • Rearrange groups so that each new group has someone from each role
  • Discuss
Asynchronous Discussion Extensions:
  • Students can post to a blog with their understandings derived from their reading role
  • Students can Skype or Google Hangout with other students discussing the same issue or topic

Instead of another Google Site, for the Discussion session I created a series of Padlets. This way, there is a materials reference for participants to follow as the session unfolds, a collection of resources to which they can return after the session. And, if anyone attends both sessions I am facilitating, s/he also sees different technology being modeled for activity management and materials delivery.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Outline for my PD session on ASSESSMENT and BYOD

In my previous post I commented that I had planned a professional learning session and was giving the outline a little time to settle in my brain before finalizing my plans. So, my plans are finalized. Of course, I don't have to offer this session until November 8 so there is still time for improvement!

Here is how I envision the 90 minute session unfolding:

Session Focus: Assessment
General Directions:
The room will be arranged into six groups of 4 team members each. Each group will be assigned a particular type of assessment and content. Duplicate groups can be added as necessary. The groups are:
  • Board or Card Games with a science unit
  • Travel Posters for an English (literary) setting study
  • Memes for math principles
  • Superbowl Commercials for world language
  • Song Parodies and Music Videos for a health topic
  • Movie Posters and Video Trailers for social studies

Participants can choose to work in interdisciplinary or departmental teams.

For this exercise, each team will be assigned a content focus and a product to create. Working in teams of no more than four, they will follow the directions that accompany their assigned topic.

All teams will be given a model to unpack. They may identify or locate an alternate model if it pleases the group members. (10 minutes)

All teams will be given prompts to guide them in creating their assigned project.

All teams will have time to work to devise a project plan (25 minutes)

When plans are complete, groups will discuss what skills are required for successful completion of the project, to what extent the project assesses required content knowledge, how to evaluate the projects, and how to apply the concept to their curricula. (15 minutes)

Each group will share the content they were assigned, the project they had to develop, and how the group approached the task. (20 minutes)

Participants will discuss the skills necessary for each assessment, how project-based learning changes the students’ experience, how BYOD supports this assessment approach. (10 minutes)

Recommended Rubrics:

Here are the specific directions that will be provided to each group:

Demonstrate knowledge of the structure and function of a cell

The Process:
  1. Start with a game you know and like and unpack it
    1. What is the objective of the game?
    2. What strategy or skills are required?
    3. What background knowledge or experience is necessary?
    4. What materials are included? (Don’t forget about the directions!)
    5. How many players can participate?
    6. What obstacles do players encounter?
    7. Do you play against the clock? Against other players? Something else?

  1. Consider your content
    1. How can a player show mastery?
    2. What are the parts of the whole?
    3. What obstacles can a player encounter?
    4. What symbols related to the content can the game include?

  1. Tech tools
    1. Brainstorm in Google docs
    2. Plan your board and/or cards in Google Slides or Draw, Canva or Adobe Spark
    3. Go for broke: make your playing pieces with the 3D printer

For Discussion:
  • SKILLS: what skills are required for successful completion of this exercise?
  • CONTENT: how does successful completion of this project show content knowledge?
  • RUBRIC: how can you evaluate this project? How can you create assessment checkpoints throughout the project?

Show how setting can function as a character in literature

The Process:
  1. Start with a poster about a place you have been and unpack it
    1. What is the goal or overall message of the poster?
    2. What words are used to convey the message?
    3. How are images and color used to convey the message?
    4. What is enticing about visiting this place? How does the poster make that clear?
    5. Having been to this place, what would you add to or remove from this poster?

  1. Consider your content
    1. Where is the story set? (start big: country; then narrow it: city, town, street, building, room)
    2. What is the mood of the setting? How does being there make you feel?
    3. How do you get to this place? Is anyone allowed there?
    4. Consider your senses: what would you see, taste, touch, hear, smell in this place?

  1. Tech tools
    1. Brainstorm in Google docs
    2. Image search online or use phone to take pictures
    3. Use Google Slides or Draw, Canva, or Adobe Spark to layout your poster

For Discussion:
  • SKILLS: what skills are required for successful completion of this exercise?
  • CONTENT: how does successful completion of this project show content knowledge?
  • RUBRIC: how can you evaluate this project? How can you create assessment checkpoints throughout the project?

Show the connection to a key math theorem, equation, or principle to a real-world situation

The Process:
  1. Start with a meme that you find interesting; be sure it has people or references that are familiar to you
    1. What is the goal or overall message of the meme? What essential truth does it illustrate
    2. What words are used to convey the message?
    3. How are images and color used to convey the message?
    4. If a person is depicted, what do you need to know about that person to understand the meme?
    5. How do the words and images work together to deepen the message?

  1. Consider your content
    1. What is your equation? What is the essential truth it represents?

      1. ax+by+c=0
      2. A=½ BxH
    1. What place, object, or person can also represent or experience this truth?
    2. In what sticky situation will people find themselves if they don’t understand this principle?

  1. Tech tools
    1. Brainstorm in Google docs
    2. Image search online or use phone to take pictures
    3. Use Google Slides or Draw, Canva, or Adobe Spark to layout your meme

For Discussion:
  • SKILLS: what skills are required for successful completion of this exercise?
  • CONTENT: how does successful completion of this project show content knowledge?
  • RUBRIC: how can you evaluate this project? How can you create assessment checkpoints throughout the project?

Rebrand a country in which the target language is natively spoken to improve its global reputation

The Process:
  1. Start with a notable, memorable re-branding campaign (think Eminem and Detroit)
    1. Find the ad on YouTube
    2. Who is the audience?
    3. What behavior is the ad trying to prompt? (What do they want the viewer to do?)
    4. What attitude are they trying to change or create? (What do they want the viewer to believe?)
    5. What do they want the viewer to repeat to other people? (tag line)
    6. What is the overall message?
    7. What attitude is being changed or created? (What do they want the viewer to believe?)
    8. Who is the spokesperson? What impact does he have on the message? Does the ad work even if the viewer doesn't recognize the spokesperson? Explain.
    9. How does the soundtrack work? How does it work with the spokesperson?

  1. Consider your content
    1. What is current perception of the country you are studying? Why?
    2. What about your country do people with this perception not know?
    3. Who represents your country positively?
    4. What new message do you want to convey? Does it work in your target language and English?
    5. How will non-speakers understand the message? Can they repeat it?
    6. What new associations are you trying to build?
    7. How can the soundtrack work to enhance your message?
    8. Will you use humor? Horror? Tug heartstrings?  Hit with facts? What thoughts or emotion will each evoke from your audience?
    9. Will you use Metaphor? Symbols? To what end? What will they make your audience think or feel?

  1. Tech tools
    1. Brainstorm in Google docs
    2. Consult music websites and YouTube for audio files or use digital tools to create a soundtrack
    3. Moovly, PowToon, WeVideo are online forums for video composition or students can use a program that is resident on their device.
    4. Students can use phones to record video and the green screen in the library

For Discussion:
  • SKILLS: what skills are required for successful completion of this exercise?
  • CONTENT: how does successful completion of this project show content knowledge?
  • RUBRIC: how can you evaluate this project? How can you create assessment checkpoints throughout the project?

Explain the clues that someone is experiencing violence in a relationship and how to help

The Process:
  1. Start with a song that tells a story
    1. Find the lyrics to the song
    2. What is its structure? Does it have a chorus? A repeated refrain?
    3. What is the tone of the music? How does it enhance the story?

  1. Consider your content
    1. How can a story teach this lesson?
    2. What are the clues you need to highlight?
    3. Can you write a dialogue that will highlight these relationship issues?
    4. Is there a common refrain that suits this situation that work in your lyrics?
    5. Remember, you are only bound by the original melody
    6. Consider creating the music video that goes with your song parody

  1. Tech tools
    1. Brainstorm in Google docs
    2. Consult music websites for lyrics
    3. YouTube will have audio files for rehearsal and karaoke soundtracks
    4. Moovly, PowToon, iMovie can all be used for video composition
    5. Students can use phones to record video and the green screen in the library

For Discussion:
  • SKILLS: what skills are required for successful completion of this exercise?
  • CONTENT: how does successful completion of this project show content knowledge?
  • RUBRIC: how can you evaluate this project? How can you create assessment checkpoints throughout the project?

Illustrate the process by which a bill became a law

The Process:
  1. Start with a poster about a movie you have seen and unpack it
    1. What is the goal or overall message of the poster?
    2. What words are used to convey the message?
    3. How are images and color used to convey the message?
    4. What is potentially exciting or informative about seeing this movie?
    5. Who had a hand in the creation of this movie? (producer, director, soundtrack, cast, etc.)

  1. Consider your content
    1. What are the steps in the process of a bill becoming a law?
    2. Who can claim to have had a hand in the creation of the law?
    3. What were the obstacles to this law’s passage? How can that drama be conveyed?
    4. What slogan can represent the saga of this bill becoming a law?
    5. What images can capture the impact or importance of this new law?
    6. As an extension activity, students could make the movie trailer about this bill.

  1. Tech tools
    1. Brainstorm in Google docs
    2. Image search online or use phone to take pictures
    3. Use Google Slides or Draw, Canva, Adobe Spark or some art program to layout your poster

For Discussion:

  • SKILLS: what skills are required for successful completion of this exercise?
  • CONTENT: how does successful completion of this project show content knowledge?
  • RUBRIC: how can you evaluate this project? How can you create assessment checkpoints throughout the project?