Alan November at TEDxNYED

Alan November at TEDxNYED

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A fifteen minute presentation format is a very short time to try to build a case for a big idea. Alan November’s TEDxNYED talk is about how the current culture of school typically underestimates the contribution that many students would make to solve real problems and to make a contribution to help classmates learn. Of course, a model of teaching to the test does not promote the kind of higher order problem solving that I try to outline in the talk. Alan is hopeful that authentic work and a culture of student contribution can support the current obsession with test scores.

I am very interested in what others have to say. Please respond to any of my questions and add your own.

  • What are the opportunities for authentic work for students within the current structure of school?
  • Can we really expect all students to make a contribution to the learning community?
  • How do we help teachers manage the shift of control to the students making much more of a contribution to their own learning and to the community?

Step Into the Stream… Why Every School Leader Should Be a Networked Learner

Step Into the Stream… Why Every School Leader Should Be a Networked Learner

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Recently I was invited (okay, actually I raised my hand like Horshack) to develop a brief presentation for members of my faculty who are participating in a year-long leadership development program. I wanted to share with them the importance of becoming networked learners.

I learn much and am grateful every day for the resources, ideas and conversations shared by the generous, thoughtful educators to whom I am connected online. I literally feel that I “stand on the shoulders of giants” who push my thinking, enlighten me and just generally make me better at what I do. I am a believer in leading from the middle, and making change within your sphere of influence, so I created the presentation with every educator in mind. I hope this contribution is helpful and piques some curiosity in those who may be considering “stepping into the stream…”

What is Networked Learning?

A networked learner is someone who learns from connections to others. You already have a face-to-face network, and probably connect online through websites, listservs, discussion groups, etc…. Social media tools such as Twitter, Blogs, social networks and social bookmarking tools make it easy to expand your network (and your professional learning) both powerfully and exponentially.

As we have all seen during recent political events and natural disasters, social media tools are helping to change the world. We need to consider how these tools should also be changing our classrooms and schools, and how they impact our students as learners and future citizens and leaders. We have to participate to know.

Learn More:

Even More:

Cross posted at Finding the Signal

Shelley Paul @lottascales

Part 1: Going Digital …Ten Points to Consider when Transforming Towards Digital Curriculum

Part 1: Going Digital …Ten Points to Consider when Transforming Towards Digital Curriculum

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By Michael Gorman – Everyone is talking about a digital curriculum free of  those hard copy textbooks that have been a part of schooling since the advent of the one room schoolhouse. In this series I will investigate some resources that can open up a world of digital curricula. In this post, I’ll start with ten thoughts for reflection as you go digital. In later posts, I will introduce you to some pretty cool content that can be part of your new digital curriculum. And yes… I even have textbooks covered!  Along with my posts at November Learning, you can also follow me on twitter (mjgormans) and of course visit my 21centuryed Blog. Now, enjoy a visit designed to help you reflect and plan the very future of curriculum as it goes digital. Have a great week – Mike

Note – If you will be traveling to MEC in Tempe Arizona or CUE in Palm Springs California this March 2011 please introduce yourself at one of my sessions. I  am making the trip from Indiana and will have two presentation at each conference.

As we venture into the world of the digital curriculum the security of a real textbook, an item we have all  held, grasped, and found comfort in, seems to be endangered. It’s true, the hard copy textbook as we have always known may soon be part of the good old school days of the past. As I reflect on this  I wonder at what point did the textbook become such a central part of the curriculum. I am an analog native (I think) and I remember the days of my first schooling in which the resource primarily used was the textbook! It was one of the few resources available in a classroom that had no television, phone, internet connection, computer or  interactive white board. There was an occasional Weekly Reader, an almost complete set of ten year old World Book Encyclopedias, an occasional filmstrip to make learning interesting, and  a once a month black and white 16 millimeter film that was most engaging when one could see the movie one more time shown backwards. Most content centered around the textbook which, depending on subject, could be brand new… or ten years old. In fact, in many of my classes there was no doubt that the textbook was the curriculum. I remember when I first started teaching over thirty years ago we were reluctant to  write curriculum until we set our eyes on the newly adopted textbook.

So… there you have my thoughts on why the textbook has become the center of curriculum and so very difficult to cast aside. As classrooms transform so must the old friend that accompanied us throughout our schooling and much of our teaching. This is not to say that many teachers didn’t venture outside the textbook for various projects, studies, readings, and adventures. I know that I often took the journey, but always realized that my old friend would be at my side… just in case!  As we slowly say goodbye to this old companion there must be several ideas we contemplate on our way to the digital curriculum. As we reflect and invite this digital transformation, I am sure we will find a curriculum that is alive, relevant, rich, engaging, rigorous, and timely. We may even find a new friend that will be there for us when we need a little textbook digital style!

There is no question that we need to take those steps towards a digital curriculum, after all we live in a digital world. As we begin to put that hard copy textbook in the recycle bin, we must all develop a better understanding of  digital curriculum and what we need as educators to make it a successful reality, a reality that promotes real student learning and achievement.  Allow me to share with you my ten thoughts on going digital.

10 Points To Consider When Transforming Toward Digital Curriculum

1. A digital curriculum requires schools to be  equipped with the necessary infrastructure and technology to deliver true digital content. This requires adequate bandwidth, wireless broadcasting, and necessary student and teacher personal technology. Do schools supply all of this technology or do we find ways to incorporate technology students already own?

2. A digital curriculum is much more than a textbook delivered electronically and disseminated through a Xerox job of thousands of copied PDF files. Adopting a digital textbook, whether it be commercial or open source, can only be part of the picture. Transforming to a digital curriculum demands utilizing a textbook as one entity, not the central piece.

3. A digital curriculum requires that thought be given to student access not just at school but in student homes and the general community. There must be deliberate actions set towards building bridges across the digital divide.

4. A digital curriculum requires sustained professional development that allows teachers to learn, collaborate and plan outside of the traditional textbook box. This includes participation in professional learning communities and webinars blended with ongoing professional development within the school or district. In other words, professional development must contain the very attributes sought in the digital curriculum being implemented for students.

5. A digital curriculum should contain a wide variety of resources and content allowing the teacher to plan engaging learning activities. The process of writing standards should be left at the national and state level. After all, most local standards are copied, pasted and possibly edited from the national and state standards. Teachers in the classroom must be given the time to plan learning and contribute activities that are part of an exciting curriculum.

6. A digital curriculum must open up the doors to not just student consumption of content but to student production. Activities must allow students to recreate, publish, remix, and innovate. This interactivity is the key to creating a digital curriculum that is powerful and effective. A digital curriculum allows the creation of a society of creators, innovators, and learners.

7. A digital curriculum should open up the classroom walls and allow for collaboration between classrooms, communities, and cultures. Additionally, online learning should create classrooms that are hybrid in nature, preparing students for avenues of learning found on the web and for their future schooling. Students must learn the online skills necessary to communicate, collaborate, and learn.

8. A digital curriculum must allow for nonlinear learning, differentiated instruction, backward/inverted teaching, as well as instructional components and ongoing assessment that will bring productivity to the classroom. New technologies are able to infuse these attributes into a digital curriculum resulting in  student engagement, learning and achievement.

9. A digital curriculum must allow for incorporation of innovative instruction such as STEM, PBL, and NETS technology standards. It is a  digital curriculum that has the ability to  finally deliver the aspirations of education reformers such as Piaget and Dewey.

10. A digital curriculum must allow students to be at the center of their education with the teacher actively facilitating and orchestrating real student learning.  Such a curriculum allows students to contribute and design outcomes. It gives students the necessary ”Drive” (Daniel Pink) to become actively involved and take charge of their education.

You probably thought I forgot about our old friend, the hard copy textbook. Actually, I didn’t.  I firmly believe that a digital curriculum will still provide access to a virtual textbook that will provide  content that can provide a foundation for necessary understanding. It will be available in a variety of formats to be read on tablet, iPod, Droid, laptop, desktop, or possibly a real piece of paper! As the virtual textbook matures it will become interactive, filled with engaging media, and will be nonlinear. It will remain a good friend… just not the center of the  new digital curriculum! As you continue your journey in the world of the 21st century you just may find that the old textbook really was never quite at the center of your curriculum anyway!

Join me in this continuing series of Going Digital. The next in the series will introduce you to an amazing resource that has free open source books you can remix, edit, and share with students in a variety of ways! Want to know what else is coming your way in future posts? Then take a look below!  In fact you can also give this article a retweet if you scroll to the bottom!  Thanks, until next time… start thinking of ways you can go digital.  Have a great week! – Mike


Models of Flipped Learning: A Podcast with Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams

Models of Flipped Learning: A Podcast with Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams

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In this podcast, Alan November interviews Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, chemistry teachers from Woodland Park, CO. The discussion focuses on their models of flipped learning where the traditional model of classwork and homework is reversed, leading students to a deeper understanding about the concepts being taught.

Both Jonathan and Aaron will be presenters at the BLC11 conference being held this summer in Boston, MA.

In addition, Jonathan and Aaron provided us with a series of resources to share that pertain to the work they and their students are doing.

  • Watch this video to see more of an overview of the Flipped Model.
  • Be on the lookout for their new book being published by ISTE Press. It should be available in the Summer or Fall of 20011.
  • If you want to learn more about their flipped model, consider attending their conference being held in  Woodland Park, CO. More information can be found here.
  • Take part in a learning network with other educators who are interested in and/or utilizing the flipped model.
  • Visit Jonathan and Aaron’s Web site with links to good educational videos.

Process vs Product by Bob Sprankle

Process vs Product by Bob Sprankle

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Years ago I accompanied a student who I was working one-on-one with to an event at his school where his entire grade level was having a special “showing” of their Social Studies Projects. I can’t remember the unit they were studying. I can’t remember what the project was (I vaguely recall the “Oregon Trail” or “log cabins,” or maybe “wetlands,” but I could be completely wrong on each of these guesses). What I do remember is that this particular school had been running this event yearly for a very long time —and that it was important— VERY important. The whole community showed up for the event —parents, teachers, siblings, grandparents— and walked around the gymnasium viewing the completed work (dioramas maybe?).

For most readers, I realize that I only have to add one detail for you to see what played out that evening (and I guess every year for this event): the project had been assigned for homework.

In other words, completely at home; not at school.

Let me interrupt here to say that I am not focusing on homework for this post (that is a much longer post, and I think Alfie Kohn has already taken care of that for us). So let us leave the issues and pros and cons of homework to the side for now, and just zoom in on those completed projects (were they poster boards…?).

Can you see them?

Some of those projects (whatever they were) are pure expressions of genius. They’re masterpieces. Works of art. Feats of engineering not yet realized. Color schemes compliment the themes. Just the right amount of glitter; not too much, not too little. If glue was used, all evidence has been camouflaged. Lines are straight as a ruler and circles seem to have sprung from lathes run by magical elves. The structures are sturdy enough to have survived the car rides over to the school and will last for generations to come, perhaps transforming from their original purpose into Thanksgiving centerpieces or by taking their rightful places on trophy shelves. Throughout the evening of presentation, there will be large crowds gathered around these projects. One will have to wait in long queues to get to see them. No one will be allowed to touch.

Further down the line, past the crowds, there will be another breed of product completely. These projects are the complete opposite of those described above. Gone are the realistic astro-grass lawns, the miniature people procured from a real Hobby Shop. Shellacked and interlocking dowels will be replaced by Popsicle sticks and toothpicks. Glue-gobs will not only be visible, they will still be in the process of drying. It will be obvious that Magic Markers replaced paint and you will be able to spot exactly where they began drying up during their application. Perhaps the projects have survived the car rides here, but their fate for the trips home are in critical mode, and some will barely make it past the parking lot dumpster. Whereas the other products were life-like, these projects will sorely stand out among their more professional counterparts as representations of ideas rather than something familiar to the physical universe. In fact, the most generous compliment bestowed upon them is that they look as though a “fourth grader” made them.

Which is, by the way, exactly who made them.

This grade level, after all, is fourth grade.

So let’s identify the “elephant in the room.” Some of these projects were created entirely by 4th grade students (as they were supposed to be) and some of them were created (at least in part) by… parents. There’s no real secret about this either: most of the murmurings in the gym that night were of the flavor of, “no kid made that!” or “this was obviously made by a parent!” Of course, these assessments were heard from those families that let the 4th grade student do all the work independently. There are probably infinite reasons for why this was allowed: could be that parents really believe in their students’ right to create on their own, or they don’t believe in “cheating” (not my words, by the way; this is what students who had done their own work called it), or, on the a less optimistic side of possibilities, parents had no interest in finding out about their students’ assignment and no desire to get involved.

Again, without getting into the issue of homework, as well as not examining the obvious “equalizer” of requiring all projects to be created entirely at school with access to uniform supplies and support, we must take pause and examine what it is we are celebrating on an evening like this.

It clearly is PRODUCT. As we move around the gymnasium, we see only the final “image,” if you will, of a journey untold. The learning involved, the struggles and successes, and even the purpose of the finished creations usually remain a mystery. At times, journals accompany the work, or a write-up by the teacher is posted at the front of the exhibit, but it is the PRODUCTS that win the attention, hands-down.

Which is… of course why some parents feel compelled to “chip in.” If PRODUCT is “king,” then that becomes what counts, and will always overshadow the PROCESS, or the learning.

Imagine, if you would, the same evening of celebration for students, however, this time, parents watch from the sidelines as students actually create the products, or if the products on display were accompanied by audio/video/journals of what the students learned. The evening could be extended to give the students time to share their learning, but also to teach their families what they learned. Parents could be given short quizzes (created by the students) to give the students feedback on how well they taught the information. Or… after the students teach their parents the information, then the students and parents could build the final product together, all the time consulting reference material, the student’s notes, and discussing the curriculum standards being acquired. These final products could then be shared by publishing pictures of them to the Internet… or not. For the question is: what is the purpose of publication?

There are numerous answers to this question: making work purposeful, providing an authentic audience, making learning a conversation (on a blog, for instance), but I think we too often forget another important aspect when we ask our students to publish: to show the journey of learning, in other words, how did the student get to this final point?

Whenever I give a workshop on blogging, invariably, a teacher will ask what I think about leaving students’ original misspellings (or invented spelling), incorrect grammar, lack of punctuation in the entries. I believe, without a doubt, we want our students to arrive at publication that is polished… students should be asked to go back and fix mistakes, and if they aren’t able to find the mistakes, then it’s a perfect opportunity for mini-lessons on the skills.

HOWEVER… why aren’t we showing all steps to the final product? What is so wrong in publishing each draft along with the final polished draft? This transparency would show the student’s steps of learning, showing both growth as well as struggles. And, if a student is not yet able to attain a certain skill (even after additional mini lessons on the desired skill), then what is the point of the teacher fixing the errors? Doesn’t that just “cloud” the “snapshot” or continuum stage that the student is at? Everything looks perfect on the blog, for instance, but then the student’s report card says otherwise?

And what is so wrong in showing our sloppy mistakes and struggles? Isn’t that what school is all about? Aren’t we there to perfect our skills and get to the level where our work is truly “polished?”

Why are we reticent to show the struggles students experience, the “bumpy” journey of learning, the truth that students will attain skills at different stages and pacing from their peers, and present only the final PRODUCT, which can never encapsulate the story of where the student started and how he/she got to this end.

Recently, my after school Tech Group presented their work-in-progress to parents. This group of students have completed all work as a collective group, with very little input from me. All decisions have been made by the students. The entire presentation was put together by the students… in fact, I barely knew what they were going to present until I heard it for the first time, along with the parents.

At first, you could see the parents were a bit uncomfortable with this method. They kept asking the students about what had already been accomplished, or what will be accomplished, or, what PRODUCT they had to show. Since the students are really at the beginning of their work (i.e., are closer to the beginning of the journey and still making decisions on what their goals are), they presented their ideas, how the ideas were created, what plans they might have, what decisions they had already made, and what the next steps were going to be.

Parents were seeing the process of them actually building their work. In fact, during the presentation, there were several times when the students began generating new ideas and broke into discussion between themselves, with the parents suddenly relegated to the role of witnesses. The last part of the students’ presentation was taking questions and comments from the parents. The students have used some of the parents’ feedback in their subsequent meetings as they continue their work.

It took a while, but I think the parents finally understood that they were not there to hear a “finished” work being presented. The students never promised such an event, and in fact, it was the parents who had originally asked the students to present what they had accomplished so far.

From where I stood, it was a marvelous experience: parents got to see the very rare building of the work (something usually shrouded and mysterious) and the students were able to get great feedback and accolades during the process of the work they’ve been doing.

There were no “projects” to take home that evening. Instead, everyone left energized and there was a feeling of excitement for not only of what was yet to come, but what was being created right before our very eyes.


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