Tag Archives: Curriculum

Common Sense Media – Free Digital Citizenship Curriculum (Limited Time)

Common Sense Media has just announced that it’s Digital Citizenship textbooks are currently free via iBooks until September 30, 2016. After September 30th, the iBooks will go to $8.99 per device for the teacher edition and $1.99 per device for the student workbooks.

You can download the books via the iTunes store here.

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Reflections on: Trying to Teach a Common Core Curriculum

My good friend and former colleague Dan is one of the best math teachers I have ever known. As an Independent School teacher, I do not implement standardized curriculum; never the Common Core. His reflections here are thoughtful, albeit open ended. I hope you will join the conversation if this is something that sparks your interest.

Mathy McMatherson

I’ve spent this year trying to teach a genuine Common Core Algebra I curriculum to high school freshman (my first time doing either of those) and I keep trying to find a way to write about with my experiences, but it’s hard not to get lost in all of the moving pieces that’ve happened this year. As the year winds downs (edit: did wind down. This post has been in the ‘draft’ pile for a few months and its already summer), I guess the biggest thing I feel is: the Common Core shift is real and I feel it and I have to rethink a lot of how I used to think about curriculum. This post is about me wrestling with what it means to try and genuinely implement a Common Core curriculum and trying to know where the wiggle room is.

In an effort to be proactive and give guidance to…

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Transforming Project Based Learning with iPad

The next session I’m attending is “Transforming Project Based Learning with iPad” by Ah-Young Song from Phillips Exeter Academy. Ah-Young tells us that she will be discussing some of the PBL projects she has implemented in her own classroom. She will be covering communication tools, gamification, audio/video tools, and media resources.

Ah-Young has just become teaching at Phillips Exeter, which is a harkness school. Harkness is a form of teaching that engages students collaboratively.

“Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.” – Buck Institute for Education.

Ah-Young believes that even without institutional support we can, as teachers,

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

advocate for our own students and innovate in our classrooms. Some examples of PBL projects include:

  • track migratory species
  • beautify space with a public art project
  • meet with local officials to address local concerns
  • create a tech start-up budget
  • analyze and project sports statistics

There are numerous resources out there for PBL lessons. in the process of building a project based lesson, students develop a variety of skills, including:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Content
  • Resilience
  • Resourcefulness
  • Analysis
  • Reflection

There are numerous tools that educators can use with their students as they develop their PBL. One of her favorites is Blogger, which students can use to post text, video, images, etc. By posting a blog, students can publish small writings and engage in collaborative feedback. She does this through a Google+ community.

AScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 2.34.33 PMdditionally, she likes to have students backchannel book discussions using Today’s Meet or SMS Generators to engage with a fictional character! She uses Google Sheets as a rubric for certain activities, such as a jury trial of Lady MacBeth. The jurors created the rubric for the trial and used it to assess the verdict.

She also uses Google Docs to create a paperless environment. She distributes content with Google Drive, grades on Google Drive, and returns content this way. However, Exeter is not a Google Apps for Education school. However, the students have their own accounts so it works.

If you want to gamify your classroom, there are several fun tools you can play with. You can run a Space Race using Socrative.

Socrative introduction video (new) from Socrative Inc. on Vimeo.

I’m a fan of Socrative. You should also check out Poll Everywhere and Kahoot!.

Another tool she shares is Qrafter, which lets you read and generate QR Codes (paid version). You can use this to create a scavenger hunt. Voice Record Pro 7 is a robust audio recording tool that will let you record audio and share with others. You can use it to teach language assessments, read poetry, or for students to engage in alternative assessments. Adobe Voice will let you build an audio slideshow. Canva is another really cool tool that will let you build posters and infographics.

She is going to have students produce vignettes using a tool like Canva or Penultimate to explain their learning.

Screencasting tools like Doceri or Explain Everything can help students to explain their learning.

Shakespeare Through a new Lense

The next session I’m attending is Shakespeare through a new lense with James Lucas and Jessica North Macie from the National Cathedral School. You can view the presentation materials here. I’m excited to hear more about teaching Shakespeare using 21st century tools. I’m live blogging this session so please excuse typos and errors!

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jessica tells us that the course is a combination of textual analysis in conjunction with film analysis. So why did they do this as a video project? Shakespeare works best “on its feet” and we need to learn about broader types of literacy. This project has been updated annually. This past year, they did it on iPads for the first time. It allows for one-stop shop for shooting and editing, features aide for shot composition, and with its long battery life, no worries about it dying on you with multiple classes. With  this project, they check out the iPads to students for the whole week. They also use tools like tripos and microphones so that students can produce sophisticated works.

As students learn and study film, they get to learn about what makes good filming techniques.

Unit Overview of Lesson Plan

Unit Overview of Lesson Plan

This is not only an analysis of the text, but they look at images, concepts, film, etc. They use a variety of media to study using Manga. Next, they use texts to support them delving into the texts. They explore how the text enhances images or even changes how we analyze an image. Visual consumption is an important element for exploring Shakespeare.

To study images, they go to online content and print images that speak to the students. For example, they will go and look at images that convey power to the students. This may involve art, music, and more. They also watch films that cover their topics and have students analyze gesture and movement that convey concepts and ideas. For example, look at the character Puck from a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Students can see how they can personalize and open their own interpretations.

Simultaneous to the Shakespeare study is an analysis of film. We watch the beginning of Benny & Joon to explore how a film is introduced. The colors are saturated with color and that iconic song by the Proclaimers plays in the background.

When giving this assignment, you need to teach students the components of film making: camera framing & movement, script writing, storyboarding, and shooting & editing. They don’t want students to imitate the play, but deliberately create messages based on what they know about the story.

They introduce students to filmmaking with a scavenger hunt – they have to find a shot, such as high angle shot – enjoying the day, medium close-up – a Crank, Extreme Close Up – shocking surprise, etc. Students are allowed to wander the campus as they create these shots.

When students build their storyboard, they have to create a shooting plan. Students can create costumes and design their own performances. However, those are not graded components.

Students also have to write out a script. The instructions are both written and they providing an example. This demonstrates how students must format and present content. They also have a rubric for teh script, using traffic signs (go, slow down, detour, etc) so get students away from thinking about numbers and letters. I wish I could employ this in my classroom! Grades are often a distraction to learning.

In addition to shooting, students must edit. Jessica says that they learn that the magic happens in editing! Students learn about both video and sound editing.

Students also have to explain why they made the choices they did in creating their videos. I like that this takes away from the “flashiness” of the project.

Students also need to be respectful of how they treat the devices. Instead of calling them iPads, they refer to them as their “filming equipment.”

The final products are cross-curricular and address both traditional and modern media. Very cool!

iPad Summit 2014 Boston – Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacob via Curriculum21.com

Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacob via Curriculum21.com

The iPad Summit Boston is finally here! I have been attending the iPad Summit since its beginning several years ago. This is one of my favorite ed tech conferences. The keynote speaker is Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs of Curriculum21. This blog is live, so please excuse any typos or inconsistent writing! It’s tricky to get it all down.

Heidi’s work on building 21st century curricula is at the forefront of 21st century pedagogical and curricular development. I’m excited to hear her ideas. I’ve been following curriculum21 for years and been inspired by many of the tools and ideas that they highlight. Heidi’s talk is entitled: “Integrating the New Literacies: Digital, Media, Global Into Every Classroom.” Heidi tells us that this is an incredible time to be a teacher. There is so much going on in the world of education. “You’re not learning, if you’re comfortable” – Piaget.

“How do we prepare our learners for their future?”

Heidi tells us that any point we raise on instructional time, professional development, curriculum, schedule, use of space (physical and virtual), student grouping, etc (all practical choices) should be in our students’ best interests. In schools, we seem to forget that. None of us would take a child to a doctor using the same tools and practices of the 1970’s, yet in education we are comfortable with old practices.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

“What year are you preparing your learners for?”

Are driving principle in schools is assessment. What the assessment is can be standardized tests like state and federal tests, APs, SATs, ACTs, etc. These are event based – one day and time, on a schedule. Schools very rarely prepare their students beyond 1990. Having tools doesn’t ensure a contemporary education. You can do “dumb things” with “smart boards.” You can use an iPad with dated content or as a digitized worksheet processor. We shouldn’t be fascinated with tools, but with the teaching and learning. We are in sedentary rooms, don’t encourage collaboration, ignore play, etc. Our schedule is 19th century, our curriculum the 20th century, and our students are 21st century. We need to elevate the practice.

Are we ready for the Class of 2031?

As we design schools for the future, they need to look very different than they do now. We need to modernize our standards. United States standards are similar to those around the world. Many developed countries, around 2010, began changing their standards. They all reference digital media and digital applications as well as global standards and concepts. However, just because methods are “Classical” doesn’t mean they are worthless. “Classical is timeless.” Quality teaching is timeless. There is a reason why the Socratic Method is still used in classrooms today (we just call it a “curriculum of inquiry”).

Learners Create & Share Knowledge Differently

Students need direction in being self directed. The tool isn’t enough! Students have new needs. This means that we need a new kind of school. We also need a new kind of teacher. This means we need learning environments that keep the classical concepts and respond to modern learning. Our teachers need to be digitally literature, media savvy, and globally connected. As we examine, we need to keep two things in mind: beware of “habits” (they are not classic) and imagine possibilities.  Design teams in schools need to think not only for needs in “the now,” but what the needs of the future are. Heidi says that she’s against “reform” because it simply tweaks things. She advocates “new forms” of school. We have to think about space both physically and virtually. We need to work on multiple levels.

Heidi now shares a few examples of school designs from Fielding Nair International. They are building schools that are both exciting, but incorporate different spaces for different types of learning activities. This means seminars, reading nooks, gardens, workrooms, etc.  Not only is the focus on creativity and innovation, but sustainability, collaboration, and engagement in a variety of ways. This means that we have new names, such as: Town Square, Learning Students, Classics Academy, DaVinci Lab, Interactive Gallery, R & D Garage, etc. By shifting our terminology, it gives us new vision about our curriculum. So an old space can be transitioned into a new learning environment. Institutions are changing structures that inhibit us with new and interesting physical spaces. Heidi states that she believes that these also have parallels in virtual spaces. She says that our thoughts about space are what limit us. One concept she highlights is MakerSpace environments. These are environments where you can create and design.

Looking at new literacies, Heidi thinks our problems is that we tend to be too generic. Instead of online learning, we need to consider on-line courses, events, point-to-point, games, viewing video and live-stream, blogging, networks, etc. Each of these have distinct meanings and value sets. Just choosing an app is not enough.

Heidi states that there is a new type of teacher emerging; an Independent Practitioner Leader. This has democratized education. You don’t need to be on the school board to impact educational ideas and pathways. Now you can broadcast and share a myriad of resources and tools. Even if you are working in a traditional environment, you can breakthrough, broadcast, and share. Teachers are not only working in their classrooms, but in new ways of collaboration with their peers.

How do we help Support a new Type of Teacher?

Heidi states that there are several myths in this: technology = 21st century environment; Innovation is a step by step sequential process; and We are victims of “the system” and are powerless to modernize. It’s not the technology; it simply allows us opportunity for advancement. Innovation is organic; you have to make decisions, go through trial and error. Prefabricated coverage of curriculum does not allow this. Heidi says that the last one, that we are victims, troubles her the most. It is critical that we step up how we can. Even working in a traditional system, there are other tools available to you. You can push for innovation in your school.

New Literacies

So Heidi highlights that literacy is communication, accessing language, and making meaning. To be literate, an effective communicator, is to have a solid command of language. Heidi says that “literacy is a coin with two sides.” One of the sides is phonemic awareness, the ability to decode signs and symbols. That doesn’t make you literate in and of itself. The flip side of the coin, making meaning, cultivates literacy. If you can translate and make responsive meaning, you are literate.

You can apply these concepts to new, digital literacies. Just because you can access tools, doesn’t mean that you are literate. I run into this all of the time. Just because a student can craft a tweet or send a text message doesn’t mean that students are digitally literate. We need to cultivate digital, media, and global literacies. Heidi believes that one of the problems with schools is that we are mooshing these together and not examining them independently.

Digital Literacy

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you want a student to be digitally literacy, he needs proficiencies in keyboarding, touch and effect, and voice tools. Heidi believes that touch and effect is the most prominent today, especially with smart phones and tablets. What she doesn’t see happening is enough policy work on access in early childhood. Students need to learn how to touch and interact with a tablet. At what point do we start to work with early childhood students? While keyboarding is dying, Heidi says that it is still important, especially with coding. Voice activated technology is becoming more prominent and will likely become self directed.

Selection Capability & Cataloguing

We need to teach children to curate. They need to know how to strategically select and tag content. We are faced with a glut of information and nee to learn to categorize and organize. Students should be able to make annotated judgments about tools and content. We already do this with our own iPads and Smartphones (all of my social media tools are in one folder labeled “Social”). When a student reads material (in a classical environment, like a book) and a teacher asks them to play “fetch” (What is the name of the main character of a story?). That learning isn’t theirs. However, when a student reads material and categorizes it on their own, it’s theirs. They are becoming literate. Self-navigation is a powerful tool of ownership. Heidi highlights her own website curriculum21. It highlights a clearinghouse of tools which are catalogued and tagged. As an educator, you can have students create their content and submit their tools for the units they are working on. We need to look at creating curriculum with new tools and concepts. One of the most popular methods of employing this in educational environments is student curated Digital Portfolios. Students must curate and design a website, select various modules of work, and then match them to individual standards.

The Power of the Adverb “independently”

If you put the word independently at the end of any standard, it’s a game changer. You want students to be able to play music, draft an essay, and perform research without you. When we are developing modern learners, we are cultivating their independence. Students can create their own apps, navigate social media for learning, and develop their own learning models.

Media Literacy

Receptive and generative capabilities. Students need to be able to critique media, question sources, recognize bias not only in text, but in imagery, framing, and audio. Students right now Google and then go to one of the first few sources like Wikipedia (which is actually pretty good) and a paid resource. Not only with online content, but television literacy is important. Someone chooses what we see and what we don’t see. This includes not only adds, but news resources. Students need to learn more about film and quality. Students need to see quality films, documentaries, etc. Film should be a formal area of study.

After students are able to consume content, they need generate high quality content. Many teachers, however, have no training in creating content, which makes them uncomfortable asking their students to produce it. They need to learn the difference between quality and mediocre content is having students engaged in creating a collaborative rubric. We can all think of a podcast that is good. So choose your favorite and then deconstruct it for content and design. If you want high quality, then be tool specific; e.g. “What makes a good iMovie?” There are many media making tools, but we need to use them with our students.

Instead of faculty meetings, take the time and give it to teachers to explore tools like iMovie, Movie Maker, or Blogger! We don’t have time, we have to make it. A quality digital media project should be an assessment. Instead of a report, we’ll use voicethread or vimeo, or other tools. The media that you create should be a replacement for more dated forms of assessment. You can’t add content to your curriculum, but you can replace it.

Global Literacy

Heidi says that she is most worried about developing Global Literacy. Americans are highly isolated and we do not explore the world around us. The overwhelming majority of Americans will never leave this country… ever. Not everyone is comfortable with it and it’s pricy; even though we are bordered by three countries. Students don’t have a realistic perception of how the world views our country.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you look at the job market in a global economy, we have problems. Digital literacy is content free. However, Global Literacy is not. Too many people view this as a “social studies” issue. We need to put the term “geo” in front of our curriculum, geo-economics, geo-ecology, etc. We need to expand the portals. We need to explore our tools in exploring this topic. Heidi believes we need to be aggressive about this. Schools are not working on this. We do not study the BRIC countries, most don’t know who they are. We need to use our digital tools to explore these concepts in a curricular driven environment. Global literate learners have four competencies: investigate the world, recognize perspective, communicate ideas, and take action. Heidi recommends Facing the Future, which incorporates contemporary queries with repurcussions for the future. These are inherently interdisciplinary. We need to deliberately globalize our schools and communicate these ideas. Not only connect our students with others, but our teachers and administrators as well. You can find tools for doing this on curriculum21.

Heidi finishes up with a thank you and encourages us to cultivate our own digital and global experiences.

When Students Get Creative with Tech Tools, Teachers Focus on Skills

Mindshift recently published an article of mine entitled “When Students Get Creative with Tech Tools, Teacher Focus on Skills.” In the article, I focus on how to infused digital tools into your curriculum. I hope you will read more on KQED’s website!

Teaching Tolerance Releases Robust Common Core Curricular Content

Teaching Tolerance has just announced its new Common Core aligned curriculum, “Perspectives for a Diverse America.” This is a literacy based curriculum that teachers students to read text deeply and meaningfully while incorporating the experiences of a diverse set of Americans.

The Curriculum is entirely free and can be found here.