NYC Mapping Boot Camp June 26-27, 2014 SOLD OUT
Collaborative Blog Post written with friend and colleague Danielle Hardt of Starpoint Middle School in Lockport, NY. Danielle is a literacy rock star, a highly effective teacher, and a secret practical joke enthusiast (a skill I highly prize!).
It has become the rage as of late to “Close Read” everything in American Common Core classrooms. Almost all of the states that are providing curriculum resources (including NY) and many of the vendors that are selling Common Core aligned products are focusing on Close Reading as an essential strategy in their materials, overusing an instructional methodology to the point of killing the love of reading. Our students are noticing this too, and ever since the beginning of education, the students are our largest sounding board as well as our biggest obligation. We need to listen to them.
In an effort to bring a little love back to literacy (note the alliteration), we’d like to suggest a little brevity and levity and “webevity” to instructional processes with the use of digital microstories. This avenue provides a medium students are very comfortable with. Using digital formats fosters engagement and efficiency and proficiency in the classroom, as many students either use these tools already or require limited explanation of their usage. In many modern classrooms, students are educating us as teachers in the easiest ways to utilize the technology. When this happens, the learning skyrockets! We are all partners in learning.
Digital microstories are based on short fiction pieces that range from six words to 140 characters to a couple of sentences to a couple of paragraphs. The emphasis is on brevity, certainly, but also on a student’s ability to make connections and inferences based on the few words they read–then extending those connections and inferences to a visualization using a teacher- or student-selected web tool.
Besides just sheer engagement, another attribute of this format is the instant gratification for students to complete and “turn in” an assignment in one class period or block. What middle schooler doesn’t love to weave a tale about the hero/heroine that escapes a torturous conflict, barely rising to the top? Perhaps a midnight terror that shivers the spine? Maybe they’d delve into a short poem or riddle or other clever play on words. Any which way, digital microstory formats allow for these and many other options for the writers of the world to concisely demonstrate critical thinking, focusing on evaluation and synthesis without the rigmarole of days of analysis or the constant revisiting of text for the sake of answering what amounts to a bunch of comprehension questions.
Allowing students the opportunity to choose dramatically-engaging topics in relationship to the visualization within these digital formats creates a natural connection to inferencing. A relationship with close reading happens organically, rather than through a need for direct instruction. This organic and authentic version of close reading hits the heart of the way we analyze details and extend the learning beyond anything we could have imagined in traditional ways of teaching. It also extends opportunities for further discussion and reflection.
Getting back to the topic at hand though, access to resources around microfiction are numerous. You can “Google” search terms such as “Microstories,” “Microfiction,” “Microtext,” etc. and find a plethora of resources related to short fiction. Note that some of these resources might be inappropriate for sharing with kids, but would be great for sharing/generating ideas with teachers about how they might engage micro-literacy with their students.
Here are some of our favorites:
Six Word Stories:
Visualizing Famous Quotes: Make a Web2.0 visualization of your favorite quote!
Two sentence horror stories: http://www.mandatory.com/2014/02/21/20-terrifying-two-sentence-horror-stories/
Very short stories:
Extremely Short Stories:
“Tweet the gist:”
Tweet the plot of a favorite movie.
Tweet the central idea of a favorite song.
Tweet the main idea of a favorite poem.
(Note that these tweets might be physical, in-class experiences, rather than an online tweet. Just keep them to 140 characters!)
Then, “Instagram” the tweet: What visual would enhance the tweeted message?
There are several important task-specific functions that go along with Digital Microstories, primary among them are analysis of text and students eventually writing their own versions rather than always analyzing someone else’s writing. Both of these are aligned to Common Core standards for Key Ideas and Details (Anchor standards 1-3) in all grade levels in the reading standards and the first six writing standards around text types and production of writing. Additionally, because students are adding a visual component, they are also engaging reading standard 7 around the integration and evaluation of diverse media formats.
Now that we’ve defined the “What,” let’s take a look at the “How.”
There are many web tools available for creating visualizations of text, merging multiple types of media, and developing digital representations of thinking. For this particular instructional activity scenario, we’re looking for tools that engage the brevity factor. Those tools that let us create short, quick media productions will be the most useful for digital microstories and thus our opportunities for instant classroom gratification and analysis…and assessment…and engagement.
Here is a sampling of tools, both Web 2.0 and Device Applications, that we think would be extremely useful for digital microstorytelling:
With a vast variety of tools online and apps on devices/tablets, this short list is just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below! Additionally, these photo and image resources may help: Stock Exchange, Pixabay, Flickr’s Creative Commons
Using some of these web tools, we created some examples here, with Ernest Hemingway’s original Six Word Story, “For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”:
Note how our choices of associated media in the different web tools creates opportunities for divergent discussions, perhaps even comparative analysis of several visualizations of the same short text. How awesome would that be to explore in class?
Since these digital microstories are dependent on both text and other media, if you need help with images to create your own visualization, check out the photo and image resources in Mike’s Diigo account: https://www.diigo.com/user/mikefisher821/photos While many of these resources include free content, we would urge you to remember and model that attribution is still important and students should give credit where credit is due.
Here are a couple of useful sites to assist in providing that credit:
Wylio – Free, but will need to sign up or sign in with Google Account
Some of the web tools include content that students can use without attribution because they are an embedded component of the web tool or application.
So what’s the point of all this?
Learning and engagement are extremely powerful together. High levels of both help students remember more and evaluate better. Giving students opportunities to investigate short fiction forms and create them on their own opens up a plethora of avenues to creative development and ownership of learning.
Digital microstories offer students many opportunities for creativity, textual analysis, discernment, evaluation, engagement, and choices. How powerful is that? If we’re really going to work toward college and career readiness, shouldn’t we give our students authentic tasks and tools? We think so. And we think Digital Microstories are a great way to get there!
By Allison Zmuda
As I read the next installment one of my favorite blogger’s writings (Shane Parrish of Farnam Street), he shared a brief excerpt of an insight astronaut Chris Hadfield gained when he was in outerspace. I was intrigued by his comment: If you view crossing the finish line as the measure of your life, you’re setting yourself up for a personal disaster. Curious (and curiously late to the party as it may be old news for most of you), I spent much of the morning researching who he was, his perspective on life, and what he considers as worthy accomplishments.
Commander Chris Hadfield has done two spacewalks, which is the equivalent of being outside about 15 hours or ten times around the world. He had rockstar status because of how he engaged the world through social media — both creating YouTube clips as well as regular Twitter posts about his adventures.
Other insights from Commander Hadfield in an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross:
- “The contrast of your body and your mind inside a little one-person – essentially, a one-person spaceship, which is your little spacesuit, where you’re holding on for dear life to the shuttle or the station with one hand, and you are inexplicably in between what is just a poring glory of the world roaring by silently next to you, just a kaleidoscope of it. It’s just – you – it takes up your whole mind.”
- “It’s like the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen just screaming at you on the right side. And when you look left, it’s the whole bottomless black of the universe. And it goes in all directions. It’s like a huge, yawning endlessness just on your left side. And you’re in between those two things and trying to rationalize it to yourself and trying to get some work done.”
- “But when you look outside, when you look through your visor, you are standing on nothing, with 250 miles of emptiness between you and the world.”
And in a video clip where he answers questions from silly (being interviewed by Star Trek actors in character) to scientific advancement (overcoming osteoporosis for future space flights) to profound (insight when looking down at the Earth)
But it is leading up to this moment where he offers advice to anyone who is pursing a dream. Again, Chris Hanfield: You need to honour the highs and the peaks in the moments — you need to prepare your life for them — but recognize the fact that the preparation for those moments is your life and, in fact, that’s the richness of your life. … The challenge that we set for each other, and the way that we shape ourselves to rise to that challenge, is life.
It gives clarity that how we all inhabit the earth — how we treat the environment, how we connect to one another, how we contribute to something of value — can be measured through daily actions. Working hard for a glorious moment (which may never come) is very different from working hard in the moment to pursue a passion, a calling, a meaningful existence.
by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Cross posted to Langwitches Blog
In December, I received a Google Invite to become a Google Glass Explorer. I was not given much time to accept the hefty price tag or let the Google invite expire. In the name of education and my passion for thinking and exploring new ways to transform teaching and learning, I accepted…. (still not sure how I feel about …)
On Monday, I took my Google Glass for the first time to school. We had a pre-service workshop planned (we just returned to school after the summer break here in the Southern Hemisphere) and I wanted to test if I could use the device to document the workshop to
- capture moments of discussion
- record what the presenters shared
- share what participants contributed to the conversation
Here are a few thoughts after the first week:
- I am overwhelmed ( …too much stimuli)
- Not as intuitive as I thought it would be… (I feel like a student driver having to pause, before I step on the clutch>shift into gear>push the gas pedal> slowly let go of the clutch… while at the same time look in all the mirrors and forward to steer where I need to go)
- My fluency is missing. (…yes… that one… the one that I am so used to having with my smartphone, iPad and laptop…so used to it in fact that I usually don’t think about it anymore… I feel illiterate…)
- Tickling behind the ear from speaker that vibrates the bone behind my ear… (…It is a weird feeling…)
- battery life…(…used to battery lasting all day+ with my other devices…) need to build in breaks during the day to recharge..
- Unit gets hot when using too much (especially recording video and googling)
- Long, curly and unruly hair that constantly tangles in front of the camera is a problem in terms of recording, tapping and swiping. (… not cutting my hair or wearing a pony tail is not an option…)
- I was not prepared for the attention and the varied reactions the device evoked in people. (… I am admitting that the varied emotions from colleagues and students have hit me almost like a brick… from super excited to curious, not interested to (not openly) negative and almost hostile emotions. Again, NOT all of the reactions were verbal or bodily clues, but more (strong) waves of emotions directed in my direction… Never quite experienced or was aware of something similar…
- Feeling on the spot when recording… self conscious… what do I say? How does my voice sound?
- I am definitely in the Substitution stage, when looking at using Google Glass through the lens of the SAMR model.
Many colleagues wanted to see what I was seeing and were eager to try the Google Glass on. The easiest instruction, I was able to give, as I could not see what they were seeing on the screen was:
- When you see the time… say “OK Glass”, then “take a picture”.
- Swipe down… then tap on Glass again and swipe forward to see the last images taken.
So far, I was not able to screencast from Google Glass to my iPhone via wifi (it continuous to show me the black screen with the instructions, even though glass and iPhone are on the same network. It is simply too much multitasking to handle Glass, turn off wifi, then turn on bluetooth, then connect iPhone and Glass to be able to demonstrate screencast on the spot…)
It was interesting (also for me) to later see the images the testers had taken..
Here is a selfie to show how I am managing using my reading glasses at the same time as Google Glass. Not the best solution, but it seems to work for now….
Students were lining up after class asking to wear Google Glass in order to give it a try. Most of them had heard of Google Glass. It spread like wild fire throughout our Middle School. There were a lot of “cool” and “wow”. It wasn’t long before Paparazzi also arrived wanting to take a picture of Google Glass as evidence of having seen one.
Do you remember the first email you sent? The first email you received? Remember having to dial in to check your email and not being able to use the phone line while you were online?
Above is a vignette image taken with Google Glass. I was sitting with a new students, helping set up her school laptop. I received a vibration sound behind my ear and looked up from the computer screen at the Glass screen to see that my mother had emailed me an article from the La Nación (Argentinean Newspaper) about how wearing Google Glass could get me into legal problems. The irony of the moment was not lost on me.
I am not the only explorer at our school. A High School student, Bruno, is also a committed user. I felt a sort of camaraderie, as both of us are on the forefront by experimenting and walking a fine line. What is acceptable in a school environment regarding wearable technology and what is not? Bruno has been wearing Glass routinely during the day, showing a much higher fluency and adaptation. He inspired me to make sure that I was only going to find out how Glass was going to transform my work, if I wore it consistently. It reminded me of ” The best camera you will ever have, is the one that you have with you” that pushed my iPhone into the number one position to be followed by my SLR camera.
While my focus of using Google Glass to “explore new worlds” in terms of teaching and learning, Bruno is focused of finding innovative ways to transform and “make his life easier”. His point of view is that of an app developer.
Just as I experienced a myriad of reactions when wearing Glass, a student wearing Google Glass, a technology that all of us (administrators, teachers and peers) are not familiar with, inevitably will bring up anxieties, disruption and fear.
Bruno is dealing with setting the example at our school. What will this mean when more and more students start having these powerful devices and will that mean in terms of teacher/student relationship, student learning, curriculum, assessment practices, what do we consider cheating, how do we deal with multitasking, distractions, inappropriate use of the technology, etc.?
I believe Bruno is aware that he is setting the example and is taking on the responsibility. Our school administrators and teachers are recognizing the need to start the conversation now! WHAT DOES THIS TECHNOLOGY MEAN IN OUR EDUCATIONAL SPACES? They are also recognizing that Bruno is an integral part of that conversation to craft a policy that does not BAN and BLOCK, but encourages exploration and innovation.
I am looking forward to being part of that conversation…
School policy regarding wearable technology were not the only discussion that were sparked by the simple appearance of Google Glass on campus. I have had super interesting conversation about
- the meaning of wearable technology and what does that mean for our future?
- we wondered if in 10 years, we will laugh about how “silly” we/I looked with such a “big” device on our/my head (same type of feeling when we think of the size of our first cell phones or the big air conditioned rooms that held a computer…)
- Freely giving away our private data (GPS location? What do we see at the moment? What words are we googling? etc.) I am not saying that we are not already doing this with other devices, but wearable devices have the purpose of making it even more “natural” and instantaneous to do all these tasks and transmitting and sending them. (… I have to admit I am increasingly more uncomfortable when Google ( or other companies), by default, takes the choice of NOT wanting to share or collect data away from me…
- What about Google Glass etiquette? When is it appropriate? When is it inappropriate? What about in an educational environment? What about in public spaces? (… I am very conscious of etiquette… I know I am walking a fine line as soon as I wear Google Glass… I want to be able to gain the trust of colleagues and students… that I will not take images nor film without making sure that they are aware of the device being on and a “no questions asked” policy if someone feels uncomfortable…)
- How can we use such a “disruptive” device to transform (re-define) what we teach and learn?
I was able to take Google glass into a Science classroom (with permission from the teacher ,of course) and take photos and videos of the students conducting a lab. Google Glass is such a novelty though that students were interested in Glass rather than their lab… most of them begging to wear them…I was very conscious of NOT wanting to disrupt the class (…. will need to make sure that students have a chance to look at them, ask questions and wear them… before I go into the next classroom)
I also wanted to test out wearing Google Glass while driving… yes, I can hear all of you yelling at me from afar. I literally have a 2 minute drive to school… I left a little extra early for even less traffic… and as you will be able to tell from the video, I am a VERY safe driver… looking several times right/left/right/left and one more time, before turning at an intersection…
I am so excited to finally be able to share the Film Canon Project from my colleagues Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Frank Baker. (Click the Hyperlink to visit)
This website and the accompanying resources are the culmination of several years of work collecting and curating films that are valued for their timelessness and impact on culture, education, and thinking.
The website release is coinciding with the release of the new book series Contemporary Perspectives on Literacy which includes a book devoted solely to Media Literacy. In the book, Jacobs and Baker explore the role that media, specifically film, plays in the preparation of our children to be ready for college or their chosen career. Their chapter is specifically on designing a film curriculum and analyzing the impact that film has on multi-mediating content, engaging students, and a new platform for deep analysis, discussion, and research.
On the website, you can explore films by grade level, type, and release date. The films include basic information and links to resources through the Internet Movie Database. In some cases, the trailers are linked as well. Visitors to the website can also submit films to the database.
The solid gold piece of this website is in the resources section, where visitors can explore scripts from Oscar-nominated films, gain access to Frank Baker’s considerable resources in his media clearinghouse, and access multiple resources related to film in different eras and in different countries.
One of the reasons I’m so excited about this is because it supports work I’m already doing with teachers, particularly around the Common Core Standards. In the reading standards for literary and informational text, specifically standards for the Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, students are asked to consider multiple types of media to comprehend what they are reading and researching. As students get older, the standards shift from considering multiple types of media to evaluating specific mediums for impact and which are the best to emphasize the story or text. Eventually, students will speculate, with evidence from multiple sources, why a specific representation in a particular media is more effective than other representations.
Additionally, our colleague Allison Zmuda uploaded a blog post about the values that the Netflix company seeks in its employees. The timing of her blog post is awesome, considering that access to film has never been easier thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. The philosophy that the Netflix company strives for are pretty good philosophies for our students to strive for as well in the classroom.
I encourage you to visit the Film Canon Project and see the types of films that they have curated there and perhaps submit your own suggestions for films to include. As multiple types of media are increasingly available thanks to technology, websites like this one will become more and more important as we seek structure and priorities in the mountain of resources available.
By Allison Zmuda
Netflix, the multi-billion dollar company, created a unique talent management philosophy grounded in performance, freedom, and responsibility. Here are some of the key values and skills managers at Netflix use when evaluating performance of their staff that have real promise for growing talent in our schools. I would advocate that these values and skills are as important to grow in our students as they are in our staff (with a little bit of tweaking based on context). What I appreciate about this set is the straightforward, simple, and inspired language. I also admire the balance between individual and working with others in pursuit of excellence.
1. Judgment. You make wise decisions despite ambiguity. You identify root causes, and get beyond treating symptoms. You think strategically,and can articulate what you are, and are not, trying to do. You smartly separate what must be done well now, and what can be improved later.
2. Communication. You listen well, instead of reacting fast, so you can better understand. You are concise and articulate in speech and writing. You treat people with respect independent of their status or disagreement with you. You maintain calm and poise in stressful situations.
3. Impact. You accomplish amazing amounts of important work. You demonstrate consistently strong performance so colleagues can rely upon you. You focus on great results rather than on process. You exhibit bias-to-action, and avoid analysis-paralysis.
4. Curiosity. You learn rapidly and eagerly. You seek to understand our strategy, market, customers, and suppliers. You are broadly knowledgeable about business, technology and entertainment. You contribute effectively outside of your specialty.
5. Innovation. You re-conceptualize issues to discover practical solutions to hard problems. You challenge prevailing assumptions when warranted, and suggest better approaches. You create new ideas that prove useful. You keep us nimble by minimizing complexity and finding time to simplify.
6. Courage. You say what you think even if it is controversial. You make tough decisions without agonizing. You take smart risks. You question actions inconsistent with our values.
7. Passion. You inspire others with your thirst for excellence. You care intensely about Netflix’s success. You celebrate wins. You are tenacious.
8. Honesty. You are known for candor and directness. You are non-political when you disagree with others. You only say things about fellow employees you will say to their face. You are quick to admit mistakes.
9. Selflessness. You seek what is best for Netflix, rather than best for yourself or your group. You are ego-less when searching for the best ideas. You make time to help colleagues. You share information openly and proactively.
I fully understand that some educators may take offense to using a model from a for-profit company to inspire education policy and practice. At the same time, innovation can come from playing outside of your speciality and tailoring the idea to suit your own culture and context. What are the values and skills that govern your classroom or school? Do the values and skills reflect key priorities within and beyond school? Are the values and skills integrated into performance evaluation? What feedback do you receive around the values and skills? How do you continue to improve the quality of your work and the contribution you make to the learning organization?
To see the complete Netflix slide set, you can peruse it here.
By Mike Fisher
Back in the early 90’s, my grandmother taught me how to bake biscotti in a traditional way. She was a baker by trade and taught me about the precision of measuring ingredients to get a perfect dough consistency, how to lay out the initial loaf, cut on the diagonal and re-bake until the cookies reached their optimum crunch.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with the basic recipe, adding additional ingredients, replacing others, trying different thicknesses of the cookie, dipping the cookies in chocolate, etc. My ultimate goal is to get to the cookie, even though my path to get there changes every year.
Around this time of year, I start thinking about the biscotti (and Grandma!), and what I will modify, replace, upgrade, or delete for this year’s batch. Sometimes that decision is based on new ingredients, sometimes on the audience for whom I’m baking the cookies, or the event(s) where the cookies will be shared. There is always a modification to the previous year’s process though the goal is always to get to the cookie.
I’m using Grandma’s cookie procedure as a metaphor for instructional actions. The end result is always extremely important. The task, the assessment, the demonstration of learning, the product–all of these are the goals of instruction. In this day and age, though, with our new digital landscapes, we have opportunities for replacing pieces of the instructional sequence, invigorating the learning, and producing a better product—a better cookie.
The things we need to do with students, the tasks that we challenge them with, are the important factors here. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know Wordle or Socrative or Wikis or Storybird. It doesn’t matter that Padlet or Today’s Meet or Notepad is part of your everyday practice. It matters that you understand and design instruction around the outcome. The path to that outcome is what we will replace, not necessarily the outcome itself.
Digital Learning Perspectives
In workshops with teachers, I often try to paint a mental picture of the modern student. I talk about the differences between the world this kid lives in outside of school and the one he or she inhabits in school. There should not be such a wide chasm in decades between the two. I realize that there is at least one, maybe two generations separating students from their teachers, but everyone in the classroom is in the present time. Right?
I discuss how students are used to working and interacting digitally. Sometimes school is a potential impediment to learning when traditional instructional methods are primarily favored. These modern students don’t separate technology from other activities — they don’t think about it because it’s always been there for them, always been available. Except, many times, in school.
These students can find all kinds of information but don’t necessarily know what information is important, why or how they should prioritize it, or how to make connections or creations from it. They are not discerners; they are gatherers. These modern students are not interested, necessarily, in current school constructs for separating Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. They are looking for integrated and authentic opportunities.
I do realize that in the wake of new standards, new devices, and new ways to interact, teachers are becoming increasingly overwhelmed. So much newness is bogging them down and actually decreasing the professional actions they might ultimately take to improve their practice and work within a modern educational mindset.
That modern mindset is really about willingness, not digital knowledge. It’s about trying new things and exploring new tools and avenues for instruction. It’s about exploring WITH the students rather than FOR the students. The end result is still a cookie, but over time, that cookie gets better and better.
Let’s Take a Bite
When teachers decide to start replacing instructional actions with digital tools, they should do so with the task in mind, not the tool. Let’s take the analysis of text, for example. What does this look like in your class right now? (Aligned to CCSS Reading Standards 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3)
In a 7th grade ELA classroom, a teacher I work with in Lockport, New York wanted her students to consider how Stanley Yelnats and the other characters in Louis Sachar’sHoles deal with justice as a thematic element in the book.
She talked with them about fairness and her ultimate goal: to get them to be able to use textual evidence to write about justice as it relates to the arc of the multiple storylines in the novel. She was really excited about using a collaborative note-taking tool, Padlet, in her classroom, and we had a discussion about HOW she might go about using it.
Initially, she wanted to spend a couple of days teaching the students how to use Padlet and hold the students accountable for the depth of information they shared. She was very concerned that students might share non-instructive comments like, “That was cool,” or “OMG. LOL.” She wanted to use a rubric I had shared with her called Notice, Think, and Wonder (which I recently blogged about HERE) to enable students to think critically about the comments they were making.
I asked her what this activity had looked like in the past. She said that students, individually, would locate moments in the book where they saw incidents of justice in any form: Stanley’s day in court, Kissin’ Kate’s reputation and actions, the Warden’s losses at the end of the novel, and (spoiler alert!) the fact that Stanley is cleared of his crimes in the end.
I reminded her of her ultimate objective, the writing about justice and the connections between the types of justice described in the book. I reminded her that she can’t favor the tool over the task. The kids still had to write about justice and its interconnections and/or its relationship to advancing the plot of the novel.
She decided that short mini-lessons on using Padlet and the rubric for Notice, Think, and Wonder, were better than spending days on either of those things. Students could still collaborate using the online tools, and she would shift her expectations for their writing to include the collective thinking of all of the students and what they assembled on the Padlet Wall as a component of their end product.
In sum, she re-focused on the end-result but replaced some of the instructional sequence with a digital tool that moved what was once an individual exploration or small group discussion to a “group think” model where everyone participates in the collection of textual evidence. This, in turn, gives the students opportunities to understand what their peers believe to be important and offers them the chance to collaborate and communicate around deeper text analysis and negotiate deeper interactions than what she’s done before. She amped up the level of engagement while still holding students accountable for evidence of why they were thinking what they were thinking.
The tool, Padlet, was a new vehicle for better connections and interactions and thinking, but her lesson wasn’t a “Padlet Lesson.” It was still focused on justice as a theme in the novel. The students, in general, provided a more in-depth analysis because they were allowed to see their peers’ thinking in a way they had never seen it before. This led to deeper discussions, deeper connections, and better writing. This teacher changed the recipe and got a better cookie.
The Big Takeaway
The big takeaway here is that the task, the objective, the demonstration of learning remain the priority and focal point of instruction. The strategy, however, can be variable while the end point remains fixed. Vary the recipe but still work toward the cookie!
Teachers need a treasure trove of strategies, a virtual toolbox of opportunities, to meet today’s student where they need to be met. These digital learning strategies don’t require the teacher to be an expert in their function; they only require a willingness to let the students try some new ways of doing things. This is an opportunity to utilize digital tools for the sake of differentiated instruction and divergent thinking, where students construct their own versions of learning and critique the work of their peers.
By the way, you can read my grandmother’s basic biscotti recipe HERE (and downloadhere). I encourage you to try out your own recipe replacements, deviations, and subversions, in the classroom and in the kitchen. This year, as a sneak peek to the reader, I can share that I’m considering some new ingredients including lime juice, cream cheese, and a blueberry/pecan trail mix that I enjoy.
If you’re interested in learning more about Digital Learning Strategies and instructional replacement ideas, my new book will be available from ASCD on December 13th. It will be available in both print and digital editions and is part of ASCD’s new short form texts called ARIAS, meaning that the book is meant to be read in one sitting, perhaps while you’re waiting on that first batch of biscotti to come out of the oven.
Cross posted to the Langwitches Blog
There are a lot of thoughts and ideas about what learning in the 21st century is supposed to look like. Most likely you are constantly bombarded with books, workshops, keynote presentations, webinars and good old lectures (yes, even on the topic of modern learning…) that remind you that it is time to upgrade traditional teaching and learning.
It is NOT about technology, but about thinking > We live in an era of information overload. We need help in filtering and managing it > Collaboration and sharing is at the heart of learning > What happens to the work that is not shared? > People and relationships are at the heart of learning > Our network is what propels us to action!
The following six quotes from Judy O’Connell, Alan November, Mitchel Kapor, Clay Shirkey, Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Chris Lehman exemplify the backdrop for taking action as a learner in 2013 and beyond…They plant the seeds and layout the path to not just LISTEN TO and TALK about what should/needs to be done, but also set the stage for 3 Steps to START learning how to learn.
Some will continue to listen to and read about these visionary ideas, but when Monday morning (or the next week, next quarter, next semester or next school year) rolls around, the routine sets in and everything is back to business… to normal…to last century…
I am more convinced than ever ( and will keep saying) that NOTHING will change in teaching UNLESS, educators have an opportunity and the motivation to EXPERIENCE new ways of learning for THEMSELVES!
I have a suggestion for the ones that have heard, have listened, but do not know where to start.
3 Steps to get started in managing their information overload, starting to document their work with an audience in mind and share their work, becoming part of the conversation and the mechanism of connected learning.
- Curating via Social Bookmarking
- Using a blogging platform to document work, learn with and through media, create with an audience in mind (read, write and comments on blogs)
- Create a learning network via Twitter to build relationships, participate in conversations and contribute to the learning of others by filtering through your lens (perspective/area of expertise) and by adding value
It is about telling your story. As you are telling it, you are teaching and modeling for others. You are engaging in a metacognitive process to help make sense of learning today (so different than when we grew up). Over time, telling your story, will create your unique brand of learning.
by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
cross posted to the Langwitches blog
In Part 1 of Literature Circle Discussions, I shared 6th Grade Humanities teacher, Emily Vallillo‘s well structured and organized Literature Circle lesson. In Part 2, I shared the upgrade of traditional lit circles to a new learnflow which included filming the discussion to annotexting the film with behavior’s observed and metacognitive reflections on student blogfolios.
DUE to the sharing of their work on their blogfolios and the dissemination on Langwitches blog as well as via my network on Twitter the learnflow did not stop, a new learning opportunity arose, when Author, founder and co-director of Habits of Mind, Bena Kallick made contact.
Students and teachers are getting a taste of and are being reminded that learning in a connected world is never over… The simple fact of documenting and taking the time to publish “what we are doing in class”… is connecting us to a world of learning opportunities.
We arranged a Skype visit. In order to prepare for the call, students learned about the author by researching the Internet and set up different jobs they were responsible for during the video conference.
- Videographer (recording Skype call)
- photographer (taking visual notes with images)
- Official Scribe (official note taker of Skype conversation)
- Speakers (introduction, keep the flow of conversation going)
- Note Takers (taking individual notes for themselves)
- Live Blogger (create a post for the classroom blog)
We looked at our objectives for the Skype call
- Awareness that sharing with a global audience amplifies learning opportunities
- Learning and information do not only come from texts and books
- Metacognition of learning habits
- Connections to own work
- Communication skills
- Collaboration skills
- Note taking skills
- Awareness and modeling of network, media, global and information literacy
Agenda for Skype Call
- Students explain their work in literacy circles, process of creating the video and annotexting.
- Bena talks about how she found out about students’ work about Literacy Circles. How she made connections to her own work
- What are habits of Minds? How are they related to learning targets?
- Q & A
While the different stages of the Literature circle work were part of the learnflow,
- lit circle discussion>
- filming >
- reflecting >
- sharing >
- receiving feedback >
- making connections>
- Skype call
I observed the students’ workflow in the classroom:
- Speakers were in charge of introducing our school and talking with our expert. They had been prepared with the agenda of the skype call
- A collaborative Google Doc had been shared with all the students to add questions that they had for the expert. One student, sitting next to the speakers was in charge of keeping up with the incoming questions and speaking to the expert during Q& A time. He marked already asked questions and selected best suited questions from the growing list on the document.
- A Live Blogger was in charge of preparing a post on the classroom blog. He was to incorporate images from the photographer and video segments, once the video was edited.
After the call was over, we realized that we had much information about the call “stored”in different places as well as as different media. Our job was to figure out HOW to CONNECT the different types of information.
- in our brains
- on the Flip camera
- images on our phones and iPads
- on a Google Doc (Official Scribe)
- on the classroom blog (Live Blogger)
- on individual notes (note takers)
- on a collaborative Google Doc
The Official Scribe documented the Skype call. See a sample below:
Bena – “What kind of questions do you ask at the circles?
Brenna – “Clarifying questions and Deep Discussion
Bena – How does that extra person help? The person taking notes in the discussion.
Maya – At the end of the discussion, they tell us what we do well on, what we should improve, what they liked about the discussion.
Bena – Are you using Habits of Mind? I think it would help sort of, help you guys to discover new things.
No, but I think we might start to.
Where did you get the idea of habits of mind? And When did you make it?
Bena – “I had the idea since I worked with my partner, and we started looking at all those different ways to think like in those literature circles. All of those skills like comparing and contrasting. Disposition for thinking – not only do you know how to compare + contrast but you dare to do so disposition attitude are called habits of mind. Listening is a habit of mind and empathy, because you are not just going to say something, but you ask questions and try to understand the points of view.” “When I hear another person’s perspective, you try to understand – Helping your mind be as flexible as possible”
Why did you choose us?
Bena – “You are special. I was interested in what you guys were doing. Since I was following Mrs. Tolisano, I saw it. I wanted to bring Habits of Mind to your work, so you don’t just use ordinary skills, but you understand them. I skyped with other classes. What makes you special, is that you guys brought in technology.”
Can we have this for other subjects?
Bena – “Habits of mind are beyond any of the areas. You can use it for any area and even outside school. I worked with students working with habits of mind, some people started getting bored at a party, and they thought flexibly and used skills. I hope you can bring them everywhere. Where would you get it? Bring it to some of your classes and show them about it.”
Have all your books been about habits of mind?
Bena – “They have been about educational things. Not all habits of mind, but all about how to think and ways of thinking. Higher level thinking is how the world is right now. You are asking good questions which is a habit of mind. Communication, which you guys are doing. From Mrs. Tolisano, I noticed you guys work hard, and maybe you can start mapping things out. I have co authored all my books 16! Thinking collaboratively, is also a habit which is why I worked with a partner.”
As part of the debriefing, students contributed a short “One Thing I Remember…” ( here is a selection of their answers)
I remember that she said “Habits of mind are everywhere”that affected me because it made me think that we think all the time and we don’t even notice it -Jess-
What I remember the most is the I remember the most from the conference was how she talked about how you should be flexible, so that creativity will come to you, also, you will learn more. -Maya-
I remember that she said that habits of mind can be used outside of school. – Jack
I remember when she said that she made the museum for teachers and students who is going to learn about habits of thinking. -Nana-
I remember how she said that it [HOM] wasn’t only for humanities or english but it is for everything.-Martin-
One thing I remember is how Bena said that people need to learn how to use more exquisite language in our everyday talking instead of saying “that was awesome” but saying why it was “awesome” and making our conversations meaningful-Claudia
I remember when she mentioned that she made a museum for a good reason that really was an inspiring thing to help kids understand about how important habits of mind.. -Juan Pablo
Something I remember Is that she said habit’s of mind can be used anywhere.- Camila
One thing I remember is that she said that she created the museum for students and teachers that were going to about the habits of thinking and I thought that was really cool. – Gabe
André – One thing that I remember she said was that she said that two people are better than one, so she likes to write books with other people.
One thing that I remember is that she said that not all [her] books are about habits of mind but all of them have a connection to education. Juan
Yael – I remember is that she said she worked with partners because of the habit of Thinking Interdependently. Also, how she worked with a partner for all of the books because it is better to work with two minds that have two perspectives, than one mind that thinks on its own.
I remember that she said how people at a pajama party decided to use the habits of mind and think flexible. – Brenna
By Allison Zmuda
How can we paint a picture for the stakeholders of our school community of what schooling must do for the students we serve? How do we put it into action?
As technology continues to push into our schools and classrooms, our children are becoming more empowered to take action using their growing networks, skill sets, and ideas. Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, envisions that the abundance of technology in the hands of the learner will disrupt traditional pedagogy. “The virtual will create a very different type of disruption. We should not aim to replace the physical classroom. Instead we have an opportunity to blend the virtual with the physical and reimagine education entirely.”
Canadian researcher Stephen Downes calls for a seismic shift from “an education is something that is provided for us” to “the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.” Will Richardson echoes this sentiment and calls for a narrative that focuses on training students to be accomplished learners. “It’s a kind of schooling that prepares students for the world they will live in, not the one in which most of us grew up. In this new narrative, learning ceases to focus on consuming information or knowledge that is no longer scarce. Instead, it’s about asking questions, working with others to find the answers, doing real work for real audiences, and adding to, not simply taking from, the storehouse of knowledge that the Web is becoming. It’s developing the kinds of habits and dispositions that deep, lifelong learners need to succeed in a world rife with information and connections.”
The learner now has truly become the heart of the classroom, three key principles underlie this new narrative: personalization, feedback, and sharing.
Personalization. To personalize learning for every child, teachers shift from their role of instructor to one of collaborators with students. From Growing Success, “How students feel about themselves as learners and whether they enjoy learning and strive for excellence are closely related to their teachers’ professional skills both in differentiating instruction and assessment and in helping students understand how they can improve.” Every student is encouraged to pursue challenges, problems, questions, and tasks that are driven by a larger concept, wonder, or hope. To handle the structural messiness of this, some staff are playing with “genius hour” where students are in charge of their own learning. Other staff are co-creating projects or problems with the students and then conferencing either one on one or with the whole class as to what standards it is measuring. Another possible approach would be for teachers to create the general parameters of the task and then the task is personalized by students for content, communication product (i.e. illustration, model, newspaper article), process (i.e. individual or collaborative, library research, interviews, investigation).
Feedback. Teachers guide less and observe more. Whether it is a traditional, flipped or blended classroom environment, teachers provide specific, descriptive feedback to students to inform students of their progress as well as recalibrate instruction based on what the students need. Outside of school, students are accustomed to receiving immediate feedback through gaming and other forms of social media. Judy Willis, a neurologist and educator, describes the power of video games as a model for instruction. “Games insert players at their achievable challenge level and reward player effort and practice with acknowledgement of incremental goal progress, not just final product…When the brain receives that feedback that this progress has been made, it reinforces the networks used to succeed.” Incremental progress can also be done in a classroom setting as well by describing the learning targets and having students and teachers examine work together to determine immediate next steps.
Sharing. Students want to make a difference in the world right now rather than waiting around for someday when they are older. Their ideas, innovations, and service can be harnessed through community projects that demonstrate growth in conceptual understanding, skill development, and ability to improve upon their work based on results. When University of Calgary researchers Sharon Friesen and David Jardine investigated what 21st century learners want, some of the highlights from the study were:
- “We want to do work that makes a difference to us and to our world.
- We want to learn with the media of our times.
- We want to do work that is relevant, meaningful, and authentic.
- We want to be engaged intellectually.”
If we leverage technological tools in service to clarity of purpose and authenticity of task, students are more likely to invest in the work because it means something. Imagine if young students determined how much food a local animal shelter needed for one month. Then, students might determine an action plan of how to raise number of dollars, cans, or bags to supply the shelter. They can estimate how long it might take to fundraise, set targets, develop media to solicit contributions. Imagine the pride of students when they see gratitude as they share the results of their efforts. Not only is this a rich multi-disciplinary, problem-solving, collaborative, communicative task but it also demonstrates the power of groups of individuals to change their environment.
Practical Steps in Vision and Action
Define what you are aiming for.
Tony Wagner offers seven highly valued skills based on conversations with employers from around the globe. Below are each skill and an illustrative quotation. (This set of skills is one of many similar sets that can be used to start a local conversation. See Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Michael Fullan’s agenda for Ontario.
1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
“The idea that a company’s senior leaders have all the answers and can solve problems by themselves has gone completely by the wayside…The person who’s close to the work has to have strong analytic skills. You have to be rigorous: test your assumptions, don’t take things at face value, don’t go in with preconceived ideas that you’re trying to prove.” - Ellen Kumata, consultant to Fortune 200 companies
2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
“The biggest problem we have in the company as a whole is finding people capable of exerting leadership across the board…Our mantra is that you lead by influence, rather than authority.” – Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Cisco
3. Agility and Adaptability
“I’ve been here four years, and we’ve done fundamental reorganization every year because of changes in the business…I can guarantee the job I hire someone to do will change or may not exist in the future, so this is why adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills.” - Clay Parker, President of Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurship
“For our production and crafts staff, the hourly workers, we need self-directed people…who can find creative solutions to some very tough, challenging problems.”- Mark Maddox, Human Resources Manager at Unilever Foods North America
5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
“The biggest skill people are missing is the ability to communicate: both written and oral presentations. It’s a huge problem for us.” - Annmarie Neal, Vice President for Talent Management at Cisco Systems
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
“There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively, it almost freezes them in their steps.” - Mike Summers, Vice President for Global Talent Management at Dell
7. Curiosity and Imagination
“Our old idea is that work is defined by employers and that employees have to do whatever the employer wants…but actually, you would like him to come up with an interpretation that you like-he’s adding something personal-a creative element.” -Michael Jung, Senior Consultant
The skills identified are powerful and the quotations helpful, but they need to make sense to local stakeholders. Clarity, simplicity, and multidisciplinary language help describe what it is that school is designed to develop the capacity of every student over time. This set of skills can be embedded in the PK-12 curriculum in conjunction with the larger discipline-specific concepts and skills to frame what we expect from our learners.
Tell your collective story. A lot.
Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to connect with others. Share the ideas by painting a picture of what can be using description as well as illustrative examples. For example, what does creativity look like in a 1st grade math classroom? How does it become more sophisticated in spite of the fact that students may become more focused on a right answer? What does collaboration look like both in and out of school? How are we encouraging it through our policies and our practices?
- Incentivize staff innovation and sharing. In Growing Success, the policy states, “Teachers create environments in which all students feel valued and confident and have the courage to take risks and make mistakes.” The same must be true for our staff. While each district and school may have specific initiatives, consider the notion of the “genius hour” for staff — a place where individuals or a team of teachers pursue fascinating in service to at least one of the initiatives or something new altogether. With freedom comes responsibility as staff should share the goal(s) that drove the inquiry/project/topic, the learning path, as well as the outcomes and next steps.
- Create a portfolio of accomplishments. While course grades and test scores are a useful tool to communicate with students and parents, create a repository for every student to house their accomplishments to travel with them throughout his or her schooling. These portfolios are truly owned by the learner and are encouraged to populate the portfolio with in-school and out-of-school tasks that demonstrate growth in service of identified skills. Students then can examine evidence in their portfolio to set goals and monitor progress, lead conferences with teachers and parents, or cull examples for interviews or college applications.
The more the story is shared, the more likely individuals and groups of folks put their thumbprints on it as they are making sense of the vision. They will pose questions, provide illustrative examples of their own, and wonder aloud about the possibilities. This active sense-making grows the power of the story as it becomes more reflective of the aspirations of the community in service to a new pedagogical narrative where students and staff co-create the learning experience together.
Downes, Stephen. A World to Change (18 October 2010). Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/a-world-to-change_b_762738.html
Friesen, Sharon and David Jardine, 21st Century Learning and Learners http://education.alberta.ca/media/1087278/wncp%2021st%20cent%20learning%20(2).pdf
Khan, Salman. The Founder of Khan Academy on How to Blend the Virtual with the Physical (26 July 2013). Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=salman-khan-how-blend-virtual-with-physical
Richardson, Will. Why School? TED Conferences (2012).
Wagner, Tony. Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need–and What We Can Do About It (2010). New York: Basic Books.
Willis, Judy. A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool (14 April 2011). http://www.edutopia.org/blog/video-games-learning-student-engagement-judy-willis
Allison Zmuda is an author and education consultant whose focus is creating dynamic learning environments for like-minded educators, parents, and kids. She has authored six books and her latest book, Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning, (ASCD, 2010) inspired the development of her new website Just Start! Kids and Schools. Allison serves as co-founder and curator of the site devoted to re-imagining what schooling looks like through the exchange of ideas and examples. Allison can be contacted via email: email@example.com.
by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Cross posted to Langwitches Blog
Connected students need connected teachers. Connected teachers need backing from connected administrators. Connected administrators create and support connected schools!
What do I mean by connected?
I am looking beyond the traditional meaning of being connected. It is not as simple as looking at traditional networking… belonging to a Rotary Club…going to educational conferences… knowing your colleagues and staff… attending the local area school network days… I mean being connected to people (who you most likely will never meet) who inspire, support and amplify your LEARNING.
It is an intentional connection for specific purposes not merely a passive “knowing the right people”. Being connected means reaching out for diverse perspective, conversation partners, collaborative or crowdsourcing opportunities as part of your everyday work and learn flow. The following short video shares what being connected means to several educators who are living the “connected life” as a professional educator.
- Dedicate time: minimum 15 minutes a day
- Grow your PLN: read blogs and Twitter
- Tell a story: Go beyond marketing for your school, but see sharing as part of the mechanism of your network.
- Bring connected learning to the consciousness of your learning community
- Participate actively: Seek out online conference, Twitter chats or follow Twitter hashtags around an interesting conversation
As a connected learner, I look to my network to:
- gather resources I had not seen (see 1 below)
- have a conversation about the topic I am exploring or wrapping my mind around (see 2)
- listen to points of view I had not considered (see 3)
- get inspiration (and sometimes a laugh) from people who are so much more creative than I am (see 4)
- be part of a crowdsourcing experience (see 5)
1) Using the #ce13 hashtag or reading customized magazine style RSS readers, I am connected to a constant flow of resources and conversations going on. I came across the following blog post by George Couros- Isolation is Now a Choice Educators Make.
2) By tweeting the link, @cmtmalvern responded with an intriguing statement and a short, spontaneous and instantaneous conversation had started.
3) I also had a face2face conversation with my Director of Technology, Mike Dunlop, who was questioning (as I was developing the image of the Connected Leader above) that I was heavily leaning towards Twitter and Blogging as the preferred platform FOR connecting. I am guilty as charged. I am biased towards twitting and blogging, since these are the platforms that I am most familiar with and primarily use for connecting. I DO agree with him though that they are NOT the only choices for becoming a connected administrator or leader.
“Aligned with our Mission, Core Values, and Strategic Objectives, ASB uses LinkedIn to support and develop:
Professional connections within the ASB Community
Connections to potential speakers for the classroom, division, or at the school-wide level
Associations and partnerships with organizations in support of school initiatives
- Relationships with local, national, and international governmental and education institutions”
Pinterest is quickly developing into a viable source for inspiration and connections to other educators I found the Singapore American School’s presence on Pinterest visually connecting and “” Celebrating all things SAS!”
3) & 4) My friend and colleague, Mike Fisher, responded to a question (What to say when an administrator asks WHY do I need to be connected?) I posted on Twitter (but which gets automatically posted to my Facebook page.
“Anything that is unplugged won’t work. Want to be electric? Bright? Productive? Plug in!”
5) I am extremely intrigued by the transformational learning experience of crowdsourcing. Transformational… because it simply would not have been possible to create and learn in this amplified way before the existence of technology and our connections and network.
Sheryl Nussbaum Beach asked her network to contribute to a document as she wondered where to best begin to authentically build the connected school? Take a look… what do you wonder about?
This is a collective wondering by educational leaders in Northern Ontario. Feel free to help us build collective intelligence by adding your ideas to their questions. Just start by typing below the question with your resources, blog, experiences, answers or suggestions. Maybe extend the wondering with questions of your own. Be sure and include your Twitter name so they can follow you and follow up.
Not only do we learn from people who otherwise we would never have been in contact with, but as Joan Young points out in her blog post 7 Ways My Classroom is Better Because I Connect
I learn from the collective wisdom of the crowd. We promote the idea that students should develop skills by observing others as they learn and make mistakes. Surely it makes sense for us to connect and learn vicariously through the lives and work of other teachers. If another teacher has used a process or tool and has shared what worked or didn’t work, this can save enormous time and energy. My students then have a teacher who is not as exhausted, but continuously inspired by stories of “what really works.”
How do you interpret the shift of what a connected educator means? How is it different? Are we talking at cross purposes when we think of being connected?
Connected Educators Official Site
The Connected Educator Culture by Tom Whitby
- What Connected Education Looks Like New York Times Article
- 11 Ways for Fostering an Innovative Culture by George Couros