Archive for February 2008

US Dept of Ed – reinventing approach to education?   Leave a comment

Straight from the top – US Department of Education is promoting the Equipped For the Future (EFF) program which is based on constructivism – an active process of knowledge construction allowing learners to use prior knowledge to shape meaning of today’s’ experiences and therefore acquire new knowledge.

I think this reading will benefit a teacher or parent in any country. To me, this program, if implemented correctly, will turn the tide and immensely benefit K-12 education.

Not to worry, the docs below are fairly easy reads. What are your thoughts about them?

A Purposeful and Transparent Approach to Teaching and Learning

Summarizes the research basis for “a purposeful and transparent approach to learning”, the first key research principle underlying the Equipped for the Future system reform initiative.

EFF Research Principle: An Approach To Teaching And Learning That Builds Expertise: EFF Research To Practice
Describes how research findings related to building expertise have been applied to the development of the Equipped for the Future (EFF) Content Framework and assessment system.

A Contextualized Approach To Curriculum And Instruction: EFF Research To Practice
Identifies the research basis for a contextualized approach to teaching and learning, the third concept underlying the Equipped for the Future (EFF) system reform initiative.

Transformation: Reform Spotlight: Research + Policy + Practice = Transformed Schools
Reviews research concerning sustaining comprehensive school reform. This publication examines the policy implications of research on school transformation.


Posted February 29, 2008 by Jack in Curriculum, learning, pedagogy

Five top resources: service learning   Leave a comment

Service learning provides time for students to work with each other and their hands to learn skills, understand social responsibility, and live their education. In a nutshell, this learning reaches beyond the textbook and builds essential life skills. Here are my five top resources:

5. Points of Light
Extensive information about volunteering that may not necessarily be involved with schools. However, the site does provide extensive resources: local; national; international; and faith based, that is organized by categories:

Assessment,Communications, Leadership Technology, Organization Management, Partnership Development, Risk Management, Targeted Volunteer, Engagement, Volunteer Management, and Volunteer Service Models

National Service Learning Partnership
A national network of members dedicated to advancing service-learning as a core part of every young person’s education. Service-learning is a teaching method that engages young people in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies or other type of intentional learning activity. This site has hundreds of free documents and papers to help educate yourself and others about service learning. Join their national network for free.

3. Learn and Serve Clearinghouse
Excellent site to understand what service learning is all about. There is plenty of good information to educate and link up organizations, including detailed student efforts underway. The site is split up into age groups which will help teachers better define appropriate material. If you are new or old to service learning there’s content to help you move your ideas/projects forward. Here are some of my favorite publications and there’re many more:

Guidebook for introducing service learning
Faculty/Staff Toolkit for understand service learning
K-12 Serve Learning Project Planning
Partnerships For After-School Success Tool Kits

2. Reach Every Child
Excellent resource for every subject taught in K-12; provides loads of web sites with notes on how those sites can be used in service learning projects. This is the best site where teachers can get some comprehensive resources for integrating lessons around service learning.

1. Facing the Future
This organization offers curriculum, teacher workshops, and service learning opportunities to create and maintain positive, healthy and sustainability communities. The material is designed by and for teachers, and focuses on bringing critical thinking about global issues to students in every content area. They have some free downloads for high school that are units,
get them here. The textbooks they offer must be purchased. The lesson and curriculum are matched to state and national standards here. They have a database of action oriented projects with domestic and worldwide information located here. This is a comprehensive site that will definitely get you educated and enable you to move forward with lessons and some action ideas too.

What is/are your favorite resource(s)?

Posted February 27, 2008 by Jack in K-12, service learning, technology

Top three components to build knowledge transfer   Leave a comment

Knowledge transfer is accomplished with pedagogy. I think we’ll all agree that some degree of conceptual understanding is the goal of every lesson, and that in order to accurately measure the success of a lesson: 1) objectives must be clearly defined and presented beforehand and 2) at least one assessment is completed during the course of each lesson. It’s also worth mentioning the lesson map, no matter how well designed, to accomplish transfer of knowledge isn’t carved in stone and is best approached in a fluid manner.

3. Responsibility:
Students must be presented with some level of ownership to the material in a lesson. There are different levels of responsibility depending on the work at hand. For example, at the assignment level a rubric is required to define the expectation from student participation. When looking at the lecture/discussion level of responsibility, it’s not enough to throw out information and expect students to lap it up, like a dog at the water bowl. Instead, information must be presented in such a way as to have students recognize their responsibility (emotional or social and so forth) and realize they need to step up to it. Yet, with other assignments the responsibility will arise during the course of the work on the project as in a project based environment or a service learning project. Along the way, one of the teachers’ responsibilities is to provide students with some clear signals as to what is expected in order for them to succeed at each responsibility level. I think it’s clear that as teachers support students growing their responsibility in a lesson – we also supporting them in building fundamental life skills.

2. Methods of teaching:
Teachers must continuously adapt methods used in teaching. A lecture style method used last year may not work this year. A slide presentation used for one topic may be the wrong method for teaching another topic. Teaching methods are the bag of tricks teachers use; we must get a whole lot more creative with those tricks to capture our student’s attention span. One do: use as much technology as possible in lessons – like it or not technology is here to stay. One dont’: never use the lecture method to deliver content for more than 30% of a class session. Teachers, we owe it to our students to get more professional development in methods and in integrating technology in lessons.

1. Measuring success:
Assessments are required to understand student learning. I’m not talking about worksheets: true/false, multiple choice or matching. Those are useful for a more long term focus. In the short term, during each lesson an assessment of some sort is necessary. There are two essential segments of a well designed assessment: 1) time for student reflection and 2) clear prompts. The reflection segment is giving students time to summarize their understanding and it can take different forms:

– writing in a journal
– talking in pairs/small groups
– reviewing notes

The clear prompt and response can also take different forms:

– specific question with written answer individually or collaboratively
– producing a graphic organizer: venn diagram, frayer model
– using white boards to draw ideas or model
– verbal discussion in class where teacher facilitates or directs students participation

What are your ideas?

Posted February 26, 2008 by Jack in knowledge transfer, learning, pedagogoy, teachnology

Top five: revitalizing K-12 pedagogy   Leave a comment

Teaching isn’t a job, it’s an excursion to train future leaders of our world.

Here’s my top five “musts” for teacher lessons to maximize student engagement: create learning opportunities.

5. Meaningful Content:
The context here is the wrapper that content is presented with: it must touch the life of students – in one way or another. As a student, would you pay attention to what is presented in class if no one told you the “why”? I wouldn’t. The job of an educator is the knowledge expert – absolutely, but that job also includes developing a “wrapper,” which can take many forms: story, presentation, or activity. Technology is interesting wrapper for any subject or concept, we have to realize that students today spend more and more time using technology. The content wrapper must capture their attention.

4. Peer Interaction:
There is plenty of research that demonstrates serious learning takes place when peers communication – connect. In this simple communication so much takes place: understanding, confidence in content comprehension, building social skills, and even argumentation skills. Every lesson – every day – must include some level of verbally working with other class mates. It can be paired sharing; it could be class discussion facilitated by the teacher or even table discussion that is then presented to class. Something as simple as a “ticket out the door” where students must talk to another student, then say one thing that student learned and one question they have about content covered today. This communication between students will also help build a “safer” class environment as students feel more at ease with each other.

3. Learning Confirmation:
Each class must have one pit stop where there is time for students to get a check on their comprehension of the material provided so far in the lesson. Going on and on in class with no learning check can lead a student to being overwhelmed. This check is really a vote, “Thumbs up if you agree with this statement”. There is nothing wrong with two/three checks per lesson. Another example is a short reflection period on one or more prompts, giving students a writing moment, then picking a few students to say what they wrote.

2. Do It:
Whether the class is doing history, math, or science students NEED an opportunity to do what is being taught. Students today are so active and creative. They NEED an outlet to express themselves. Again, this can be as simple as making a non-verbal drawing to a prompt the teacher provides. A complex level is providing time for them to design and/or build a model from a rubric provided. The possibilities here are completely adjustable to your lesson time and requirements. The point is, students must have some extended time to focus at least four of their senses (touching, seeing, hearing, talking, thinking) on the material to absorb it.

1. Promote Success:
Every student must get some positive feedback once a day. There is too much bad in the world, which begins in the hall outside of class. Acknowledge their effort. Let them hear some praise. Find something good about the class and speak it. One example, tell students, after the bell rings to signal the end of class, what a terrific job they did in focusing today and then dismiss them. Yes, it’s that easy.

Posted February 26, 2008 by Jack in K-12, pedagogy, primary, seconday, teacher lessons, technology

Covers any Standard in your curriculum   Leave a comment

Here is an excellent method for extending learning in any topic: communication. Whether we like it or not, technology does give us greater access to more types of communication. Teachers, now you can put communication to work in your lesson plan, fulfilling those Standards and giving your students the opportunity to talk around the world.

The 2008 series of iNet student online conferences, titled “Whose World is it Anyway?” is available for primary and secondary students around the world to debate issues. The discussions are focused on the work the students have contributed; however, students do not have to submit anything to participate in the message board. Students from many countries participate, though all conversations take place in English.

Themes ranging from technology to climate change are run throughout the semester, allowing students to express their opinions on one topic a month. Students are also encouraged to submit creative works such as poems, videos, and websites around a monthly theme. Teachers can register their class, or students can register themselves. Registrants will receive confirmation and reminder e-mails before the message board opens.

Posted February 23, 2008 by Jack in communication, Curriculum, PBL, technology

Pedagogy: service based learning (SBL) in action   Leave a comment

Today we hear a lot about the “bad” in the world. Sometimes I think high school students are enamored with violence. Many can recall the details of a fight at lunch easier than recalling the meaning of “fat from calories” on a nutrition label. Which is more important to them?

I think service based learning (SBL) is a method that can collectively teach about different subjects, without a big strain on the teacher or student time. There is no longer any doubt, more and more research is illustrating the positive impact of service learning on student education, along with benefits to the schools and communities receiving the service.

The United Nations (UN) has a one billion tree program in 2008. At any K-12 campus students can plant a tree and then be a part of this global effort. During the tree planting they study:
1) types of tress for a certain habitat (ecology),
water and sun requirements (photosynthesis),
reading, 4) writing (purchase the appropriate tree and to complete reports required to plant tree on school grounds),
5) math in different ways: tree purchase, measuring the hole for tree, watering the tree, combining water and fertilizer,
6) communication/responsibility during the project (life skill).

Environmental Defense has a program for using with SBL: make the switch. In this one students can again be part of a global effort as homework. This one reduces carbon emissions by replacing regular light bulbs with ecofriendly bulbs. IAs a participant, students are including science (global warming, electricity), math (bulb watt, electric bill), and geography (countries of the world). During the course of the project they will be doing different life skills: talking to others about the bulbs and why they are doing this work (environmental stewardship), and interacting with others to identify and replace bulbs (social skills).

SBL is flexible program to allow students the experience of doing something rewarding and personally satisfying …. at school.

Have any other ideas or resources for SBL?

Posted February 22, 2008 by Jack in environmental stewardship, SBL

Rich curriculum – got one?   1 comment

Well, I could explain a rich curriculum, but then you and I’d probably both get bored and miss part of the details. Take seven minutes from a busy day, I promise it’ll be fun and worthwhile as you thoughtfully watch this concise and well mastered video clip. Enjoy!

Posted February 20, 2008 by Jack in curriculum design, technology