Archive for the 'Curriculum' Category

Curriculum Focus, Not Technology Focus

In my public school career I have been a classroom teacher, a technology integration specialist and a technology administrator. In my technology role, I served under the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. She had a simple mission: Improve students’ academic learning. My mission was equally simple: Improve students’ academic learning through technology. I met with the curriculum chairs to learn about the curriculum, how it was taught, and areas in which teachers and students had the most difficulty. When I met with grade level or curriculum teacher teams, we talked about the curriculum. After carefully listening to them, I usually would suggest some technology tool that might help them in doing their favorite project or in teaching those difficult curriculum areas. I often would have a mock student product to show the teachers what the student learning with technology would look like. I focused on student learning, not on technology.

Likewise, when my Technology department provided professional development, we focused on curriculum such as “Inquiry Science,” “Collaborative Math Projects,” and “A New Look at the Writing Process.” We offered curriculum workshops that involved technology. Usually, the technology transformed the learning process.

People in  the educational technology  field are most effective when they focus foremost on student  academic learning; they are least effective when they “sell” technology to teachers.

Replace Your Textbook with QR codes

Many  teachers dislike their textbooks. The textbooks may include too much or not enough about a learning goal. The textbooks may not arrange materials in the most logical fashion. The textbook may not have enough authentic up-to-the-date materials.  The textbook may not provide  visuals as learning tools.  These books may not provide multiple approaches or differentiated  learning. The textbooks may not provide assessments that assess what the district, school, team, or individual teacher deem as being the most critical.  These heavy textbooks  may not be convenient for the students to have with them outside of class.  These print textbook’s presentation and practice of material may be boring!

School districts, schools, teams or individual teachers now have a choice. They can create their own specially designed  virtual textbook, chapter by chapter or learning concept by learning concept with one page QR  sheets.  An advantage to a QR code textbook is that  the teachers can quickly and easily  change any critical material.  They change  the information on their website page,  wiki page, etc. that is linked to the QR code and the QR code is updated automatically.  In addition, each QR code can contain multiple links to allow for differentiation or choice.

The educator can use a separate QR code for each critical aspect of the learning.  Students simply click on the first QR code to start their learning.

A possible format can be  a separate  QR code for
– the essential question, the media situation/project, the “hook” into the lesson
– the learning goal stated in student language such as  “I  can” statements.  The learning goal can start with low level activities such as basic vocabulary and then work up to concepts.
– various ways to learn the content (videos, podcasts, screencasts of a presentation, a website with written text, an app, etc.)
– various ways to practice the initial  content (an app, a website, etc.)
– various ways to assess  the learning of the content at the lower levels (quick 5-10 item  online quizzes; short performance tasks, etc.)
– various ways to give feedback to students with learning gaps through providing new strategies (links to differentiated strategies such as visual, auditory, physical response, etc.)
– a project with a  higher level thinking activity (PBL, interdisciplinary project, etc.) and its assessment (rubric, checklist, etc.)
– if needed, a formal summative assessment at the higher thinking level.

Creating QR code chapters may sound  like a formidable  task.   However, within one week I had my students, as an end-of-the-course activity,  find  three videos that they felt taught a specific  learning goal well,  find an online quiz that tested the concept, and find a picture that showed an application of the learning.  When students evaluate material, they decide what really helps them to learn.  The materials are “student- approved”.  You can incorporate online materials that you presently use.  If you can work with one other teacher, then you can share your resources.

Get unchained from your textbook so students can learn better.  When will you start on your QR learning textbook?  You might want  to try a QR learning sheet  for a part of a unit or for a unit to figure out what format works best for your students’ learning.

My three formative assessment books, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, and Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, are available at   http://is.gd/tbook

My modern language blogs are  now at  http://bit.ly/imprml

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

E-Texts: Innvovation or Status Quo

Many textbooks now have an e-text version.  Do these e-texts improve  student learning?

Some advantages:
– No heavy or bulky textbook to carry; portable
– Font size can be adjusted so students can more easily read or see information.
– Text can be searched
– Often has an online assessment; allows online quizzes  to be graded automatically online
– Often has an online homework management; allows  homework  activities to be graded automatically online
– Has organized the content into  chapters; chapters have various sections
– Text can be copied and pasted from the  e-text into a word processor
– Text can  usually be highlighted
– Usually includes multimedia (pictures, video, audio…)

Some disadvantages:
– Often is an exact  reproduction of the textbook. An E-text probably is   not linked,  therefore,  students cannot  click on words or images to get additional information.
-The e-text is still mainly print (word) based.
– Many images  may supplement  the text but they do not add new information;  images help explain the text instead of the image being the main source of information.
– Usually a student cannot write in the e-text such as writing  comments in the margin
– The user needs an e-reader, a computer or a mobile device to read the e-text.
– Additional exercises are  predominantly word based.
– Most e-text homework managers and on-line quizzes only tell the students if they are right or wrong. They do not provide new strategies for learning the material.
– Since homework and quizzes are done online, the teacher may never review what the students do not know. If the teachers do not review student progress, then the teachers cannot provide formative activities for student  improvement.
– Interactivity  may include activities such as  moving some words around or rearranging pictures but  the e-text interactivity  usually lacks high  interactivity such as simulations.
– Additional exercises are still  predominantly at a  low level of thinking.  They do not engage students in real-life use of the learning.
– Often multimedia is an add-on, rather than an integral part of the basic textbook.  Often multimedia comes after the main learning.
– An  e-text cannot be customized; teacher cannot rearrange parts such as  combining a part from chapter 1, a part from chapter 3, and a  a part from chapter 8 to create a new chapter.
– The digital textbook can be outdated very quickly if the  e-text does not contain links to current events.
– May not show the learners  the priority of the learning concepts within the chapter. What part of the chapter is the most critical? Is the most time and space spent on that critical learning or do minor  concepts get equal time and space?
-E-texts are boring since they are still traditional textbooks.

What are your reactions to using e-texts?

My modern language blogs are  now at  http://bit.ly/imprml

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

What is the Role of Technology in the Teaching-Learning process?

A very creative elementary teacher will retire in June because she no longer feels she can teach due to her district’s technology push.  Her district purchased a math online program in which the computer program presents the math concept and  the program has students do stations for a designated amount of time each day. Her job is to make sure that the students rotate through the stations.

Another teacher no longer has time to relate his subject area to the real world because he has to push through his textbook so students can do the  designated  and scheduled online drill and practice for each unit. The district looks at the student data from the online activities as an assessment measure.

A science teacher has to have her students do a specified number of app activities for each unit.  Although this teacher used to do many student inquiry labs, she has had to eliminate those labs in order to provide students time to  complete all the apps.

Finally, students in Carpe Diem schools spend half to  two thirds  of their day doing computer work. These students score well on state tests. (http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2011/04/22/carpe-diem-charter-school-seizes-tomorrows-innovations-today)

What is your view of the role of technology in the  teaching learning process?  Do teachers or technology determine how students spend their learning time? Who/What  makes decisions about what learning gap  students have and supplies a new strategy to overcome the gap?

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation.  My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Common Core and Modern Languages- Do not panic

No, there are no common core standards for Modern Languages.    Yes, Modern Language teachers are looking at  the English Language Arts Common Core.      No, those teachers should not panic.

I  have been in education for over 40 years.  I have seen many many movements and new  approaches.  I have been in education long enough to see the same movement resurface with a new name.  With each new building principal came a new way of doing things, with each new superintendent came the newest approach, and with each new leader of  state education or professional organization came a new vision.  Usually the new approach, especially the common core in Modern Language,  does not require multiple days of professional development even a half day; most times modern language teachers can make the change within about an hour.

I have used a simple technique to change to any new  approach.    I analyze the new approach thoroughly and then determine
1. What am I presently doing that directly fits in that approach?
2. What am I doing that I can modify slightly to fit the approach?  Sometimes it is as simple as a name change or where something goes in a lesson. For example, what  is the new name for an anticipatory set?  I believe that Common Core English just uses different labels than we do in Modern Languages when we use the labels from ACTFL or state guidelines.
3. What do I have to change completely or add to what I already do?

I am waiting for someone to develop the magic cheat sheet that converts  the English Language Arts Common Core to Modern Language learning.  We already do  them, we just have to give our activities a new name or number.

I have attended two workshops on Common Core and Modern Languages  and neither kept it simple. In fact, I walked out more confused than when I went in.  A Modern Language department could do a  CC to ML conversion chart  in about a fifty minute meeting.

If you know of anyone who has developed the magic conversion chart, please let me know so I can share it with other Modern Language teachers.

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation.  My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Problems with Institutional Assessment

Assessment dominates education from K-12 through college.   There are different types of assessment, formative (helps students improve) and summative (grading of students).  However, institutional assessment  involves the bigger picture of how an institution or a department is doing academically.

In institutional assessment, teachers enter data into a  mega-database. For example, teachers may enter their students’ grades  on each section of the final. Then someone, often a department head,  analyzes the overall results using the online data, to assess the student learning across specific courses and across the department.

Institutional assessment has some basic flows
1) Most institutions have not identified a specific  enough curriculum that can be assessed.  Many contain very general statements of learning.  For example, English might state that  students will write a well-written essay. Has the English department specified what constitutes a well-written essay?  Likewise, a Modern language department may have the curriculum statement  “The student should speak in sentences that have relatively simple structures and concrete vocabulary”.  What does “speak” mean?  Does it mean to be able to talk about one’s life, to hold a conversation. to repeat from memory?  When there are only general  learning statements, there cannot be any  meaningful assessment.

2) If departments have identified specific learning goals, what is the priority of those learning goals? For example, in English the purpose of writing is to communicate ideas or feelings.  Shouldn’t the organization of ideas be more important than the spelling?  Or does spelling/grammar have the same assessment weight as organization?  Likewise,  in  Modern Languages, are all skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) treated equally in assessment weighting even though both in class and in the real world, people listen and speak almost double the amount that they read and write?  Have the specific learning goals and their priority been communicated to the teachers/students through a department website/wiki?

3) The departments do not have exemplars that show the quality that they expect of students.  Does the English department share  electronically with all English teachers essays that show what constitutes a high level paper,  an acceptable paper, and a non-acceptable paper?  Again, are these exemplars on the department website for each course?  Does the Modern Language department share audio files of  a good ten sentence conversation through their website or an their department app?

4) They have vague assessment tools.  The English department has a generic rubric (has good organization,  conveys ideas, etc.) that can be interpreted differently by different people.   What type of essay will be the written? An autobiographical essay requires a very different approach than a contrast essay.  In Modern Languages, how will writing be assessed – holistically or analytically?  If different educators can come up with different scores for the same student, then the assessment tool does not accurately measure learning.  Teachers can receive a digital image of the rubric and work assessed using that rubric.   How well does the assessment tool match up with how the information was taught in class?  Is the assessment tool such as the final developed  at the  competency level or at the highly competent level?  Students may be competent but not highly competent

5) The departments do not do a thorough analysis to get at the root problem once they have discovered a gap.   If the students do not achieve well, was it due to the  students’ lack of effort, a misunderstanding of  how to answer the  assessment question, a specific word in the  assessment question,   the thinking level of the test question,    the structure of the assessment item,  the textbook, the textbook’s powerpoints,  the teacher’s explanation, the homework, or  the online work?  Usually much additional exploration is needed to determine the real reason for the gap. Once the  department identifies the gap, what  specific strategy will help the students over come this gap?  Will the department suggest  technology-based strategies that appeal to students such as Youtube videos, interactive websites,  interactive apps  and that help the students directly overcome the gap?

6) Most important of all, how does the institutional assessment help  students improve in the course right now?  Most institutions assess once a semester.  After the analysis, the department  focuses on  what changes will happen in the future year.  Unless regular assessment is done in small intervals  throughout the year and changes made almost instantly, then the assessment does not benefit  the present students.  Next year’s students may be very different than the students who took this assessment.  Classroom teachers need access to the online data and analysis so they can take class time to provide  the students new learning strategies.  Then, students can be successful learners!

How does your institution assess  student learning?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Teachers as Producers, Not Consumers, at Faculty Meetings

Many teachers  consider  faculty or department meetings a waste  of time. They often complain that a memo could have given the critical information, that a person talked to long about nothing, or that they had better things to do that would  help their students. An administrator can transform meetings so that teachers move from being passive consumers to active producers.

Instead of having someone talk about ways to improve student learning, have the teachers group together by subject area and go to a designated room.  Each subject area group can think of the students’ major learning blocks in their curriculum and have the team suggest specific strategies that students can use to overcome those blocks.  The principal, curriculum leader, librarian,  or technology integration specialist would have set up a private  subject area curriculum wiki such as pbworks (pbworks.com) for this group.  Someone  in the group will word process in the wiki each learning block and the strategies that the teacher suggests.  For example, a teacher may identify that students often have trouble in finding evidence to support a position such as in a Social Studies Document Based Question (DBQ) in which students have to find references from historical documents to prove a certain statement. A teacher may offer that she has students identify the key word in the original statement in a red highlighter and then has students highlight in red that word or any synonym each time it appears in the document. Usually the highlighted words become the key to the students finding sentence that provides the necessary evidence.   If any  teacher has a video, website, podcast, etc that he/she uses, he/she  can give that link to the recorder.  The recorder lists the learning block and all the strategies that directly help students overcome that block.   At the end of the faculty meeting, the teachers end up  with a large variety of strategies that can help students as  they encounter difficulties in their learning.

Furthermore, the teachers can check the subject area wiki anytime to remind themselves of the new strategies that their students can use. The teachers can add more as they counter additional learning blocks and figure out effective strategies to help their students.  The  wiki becomes a living document that offers teachers useful student learning strategies.

Tuttle’s formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Consistency in learning

Do we have consistency in learning in our classes?  Do we translate our ending goals into daily learning?    Do our tests, quizzes, and daily classroom activities reflect that same learning?  This backward planning follows the Understanding by Design model. For example, if a social studies curriculum wants students to  answer  the universal questions of Why is there war?,  How do people fight wars? and What are the consequences of wars?, then social studies book tests should  not have  students memorize the names and dates of battles for a particular war in a specific country.  That microscopic view does not help students answer the essential questions.

Likewise, if modern language teachers want their students to be able to converse in the target language, then do students spend most of their time in class conversing?  Do the language tests reflect conversations or do these tests focus on discrete grammar and vocabulary?

Do English teachers who want their students to be better writers  really focus on writing?   Do  these teachers spend more  class time on  doing punctuation exercises than on  developing good ideas?  Do they have their  students spend more time watching a movie than writing about the movie?

When teachers  want to improve subject area learning through Web 2.0 tools,  do the students spend more time on the technology or on the content learning?

I do not believe that we need to add more days to the school year to improve student learning.  I believe that we can increase learning  best when we are consistent in what we want students to learn and then following through in our daily activities, in our quizzes and in our tests.

How consistent are you in your students’ learning?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

No Basic Differences in Textbooks in 50 Years: Go Virtual

I examined two textbooks that are fifty years apart, a Spanish textbook from 1960 and one from 2010

Both:
Teach the same grammar – present, present irregulars, preterite, preterite irregulars, imperfect, …..
Teach the same basic vocabulary- family, occupations, house, …. The 2010 textbook does have more modern words such as cell phone, computer…
Start each lesson with  written dialogue
Focus primarily on grammar- almost all the exercises are grammar focused
Have images – The 1960 has black and white illustrations and the 2010 has many colored photos.
Include cultural information
Have dictionaries

Some differences:
The  1960 textbook contains 200+ pages while the 2010 textbook has 500+ pages.
The 1960 has some testing/practice material while the 2010 textbook has  much online grammar practice.
The 1960 textbook has a story line of a family with a father who travels to Latin America.  The 2010 does not have a storyline.
The 1960 textbook teaches practical vocabulary essential to daily living and traveling while the 2010 teaches specialized vocabulary such as words to describe art in a museum.
The 1960 textbook follows the grammar translation methodology while the 2010 follows the grammar use methodology.

The 2010 textbook, once all the colored photos are removed, is essential the same as the 1960 textbook.
Do modern language teacher still want to focus primarily on grammar instead of communication?

For your subject area, how has the textbook, the staple of most classes, changed over the last 50 years?
Does it scaffold information to make it easier for students to learn?
Does it include strategies to help the students better learn the material?
Does it organize information in a way to help students see similarities and differences?
Does it build in self tests so students can measure their progress in a formative assessment manner? Does it provide formative feedback?
Has it gone to the “less is better” with more concentration on critical learning  or has it gone to “the bigger is better” way of thinking?

I’ve written several blogs about textbooks Smartphone (Mobil Learning Apps as Alternative Textbooks)  and Why a Physical Textbook?

Think of creating your own virtual textbook that truly matches the state goals and your district’s goals.

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Smartphones (Mobile Learning) Apps as Textbook Alternatives

In a previous blog, I mentioned that physical textbooks seem so “yesterday” and suggested using online resources.

I would like to enlarge on that concept through the use of Smartphone or Mobile Learning Apps.  Let’s use a Spanish class as an example.  Spanish students need to go from mere memorization to high level language use.

Students can use apps for basic memorization of words.  For example, they could use a program such as

Spanish Flashcards Free  (http://freeapk.com/app/1093_android+app+Spanish+Flashcards_1.6.html).  Likewise, they could use an   app such as 1001 Spanish Verb Android App  Free (http://androidappsgames.com/android_app_1691.html)   to learn basic verb forms and to see the various conjugations of a verb

A step up from mere memorization on individual words  is learning language phrases. The free Hola Spain Tourism HandAPP (http://www.appbrain.com/app/hola-spanish-handapp/com.movinapp.hola) has Expressions organized into categories such as Greetings, Phone, shopping (22 expressions), directions, etc..Since these are grouped into categories, the student sees both the essential questions and answers. These cover many of the common vocabulary topics presently in the school curriculum.

With these apps, students can practice on their own anytime and anyplace.The classroom time can be spent in creating conversations based on the learned words and phrases. If the student has done a practice conversation such as about health and has not remembered a certain phrase, the student can quickly review the phrases using app on the mobile device.

These few apps show that a language teacher can certainly replace a physical textbook. In a future blog, I show how students can use apps at a high language level.   Students can become more engaged and more active in their learning as they use apps

Are you app to use apps in your classroom?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Advocating for a program

In this time of tight money, we might want to rethink how we advocate for our programs.  The old show-them- the-wonderful projects has to give way to more academic proof.  We have to go beyond just test scores or state tests.

Let’s look at Foreign Language as an example.

Traditionally, teachers have  invited principals and other administrators in for special culture events such as a “Cinco de Mayo” celebration.

However, here are some more convincing ways of advocating.

– Have a principal or other administrator time as students talk for two minutes in the language about a picture.

– Print out a list of all the language skills that the students in your classroom presently have achieved such as “can ask and answer questions about major businesses in town” and “can elaborate when asked questions”.  Word them as “Can do” statements instead of the official syllabus descriptions. Do not list the chapters covered in the textbook!

– At a Board of Education meeting, have your students talk in the target language with someone who speaks that language natively either in a face-to-face conversation or a videoconference conversation.

– In cooperation with the local Chamber of Commerce, have your language students produce signs in the target language for local businesses. Have part of the sign say something like, “Produced by Foreign Language Students at ……”

Each of these moves from the advocacy of talking about the benefits of language study to the advocacy of the students performing in the second language.

How do you plan to advocate for your program?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

21st Century Skills: Making a Difference

We can have our students develop many 21st century skills but they may not use any of these skills for anything other than their own academic improvement.  We can help them to use their skills to make a difference in our community, state, nation, or world.

For example, students examine a traffic problem at their local school,  come up with a viable solution, and present  that solution to the Board of Education.

Students create a video documentary  that shows a  historical perspective on a current problem.  They explore similar problems. They analyze what past solutions seemed to work and why  and which ones did not work and why.   They send their short documentary to their state legislators as these officials consider new legislation.

Students select a national problem such as literacy.  They then figure out how they can begin to work on the problem locally. For example, they may write and illustrate their own books,  digitally record the reading of the books, and create CDs to be passed out at the local food banks.

Students, collectively, select an area of the world and then read the various profiles of people requesting microloans on Kiva. The students decide which person/group they will fund after they decide on a criteria for selection.  Each student contributes one dollar so the class can loan a $25.  They looked at the map of where the other funders come from to see the international dimension of this project.  They monitor the repayment and then reloan the money.

To what local, state, national or world problem do your students apply their 21st century skills to make a difference?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Which Technology Will Save Education this Year?

I’ve been using computers in the classroom  since 1978.    Each year a new technology comes along that claims it will save education. Some evangelists of this technology, usually technology-based people,  tout its wonders. Teachers are trained on this newest and best technology. Whole curriculums are developed around the technology.  Some schools, often pilot schools who have had a huge influx of the technology with special help from the producing company, brag about the many  benefits of this technology. Yet, we do not hear about the long lasting effects on learning.

Some people consider the pen an improvement over the pencil.  Has the pen caused students to write better?  How teachers have students  use the pen improves  students’ writing.  The same is true for any new technology.   “Technology integration” workshops should focus on improving teaching, not on this newest technology.  When these workshops show teachers how to apply different learning strategies such as those from Silver, Strong and Perini in The Strategic Teacher Selecting the Right Research-Based Strategy for Every Lesson (from ASCD) using a technology, then  successful student learning will result. Likewise, a workshop on formative assessment that incorporates technology can lead to greater student achievement.

Another trend with the new technology is that often the producing company has already created the “learning” curriculum. Teachers have less of a role in designing and modifying the curriculum. Teachers become reduced to the observers of the curriculum. Classroom teachers know their own students and they know the best way to modify the curriculum so that their students can learn. Teachers should have available a wide variety of technology-rich resources to help them as they map out the curriculum for their students. These teachers should not be trapped by the technology.

What do the “technology integration” workshops in your district focus on?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Assessing Web 2.0 Projects Through Bloom And Time

I offer the following mini-assessment of any Web 2.0 project as a way to refocus our attention on student learning rather than the Web 2.0 tool.

Take the highest level of Bloom achieved during the project

1- Knowledge                                  2. Comprehension

3 – Application                               4. Analysis

5.5 Synthesis                                   5.5 Evaluation

and multiple it by the number of days in the project.

So, if Susan produces a Social Studies podcast that simply restates (Comprehension) information about George Washington after five days, her score is 2 (Comprehension) x 5 (days) or 10.

If Pablo produces a Social Studies podcast in which he goes through the problem solving steps that George Washington went through and evaluates his final solution (5.5) in two days, his score would be Evaluation (5.5) x 2 = 11

Based on this analysis, a two day project of higher level thinking rates a higher score than a longer project. Let’s focus on student learning!

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Formative Assessment and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment by Harry Grover TuttleFormative Assessment and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment by Harry Grover Tuttle

My book. Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment will be available from Eye-on-Education in the Fall.

Standardized Terms for Common Understanding

I am constantly amazed that we, in education, have not standardized learning terms.  Is a benchmark a 3-4 a year comprehensive test of the skills in the course? Or is a benchmark the level at which the students are to arrive? What’s a standard? The list of generic skills from the state?  The quality we expect of students?  What is formative assessment? Student observations that lead to improved lessons for next year?  A student observation that leads to instant feedback for that student?  Each new educational movement brings in its interpretation of a term.

We cannot even have an educational discussion because we use the same word to mean different things.

The Federal Gov’t wants to clarify the end product of learning instead of having states have their own standards. I agree. Even more the federal government should publish a dictionary of what educational terms mean so that everyone can use the words with the same meaning. A common vocabulary means that teachers within the same building, within the same district, within the same state, and within the same country can have a common meaning.

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Fixed or Flexible Learning

I recently talked to someone who teaches an online course.  She says that the college has supplied the lectures for each class.  I questioned how a college could think that the fixed lectures would fit the needs of the class. Then the person reminded me that high school textbooks,  textbook websites, textbook DVDs,  textbook PowerPointsand content websites present the material  in a fixed manner.  I think it is good for a teacher to see an exemplary lesson and then to modify the lesson for the class or  for the teacher to use the fixed  lesson as a jumping off point  but I do feel that teachers should not follow a book lesson blindly. Based on our students’  intellectual, physical and emotional needs, we, as instructional leaders, need to decide how to teach the selected goal.  We need to modify the lesson to meet various learning styles and learning levels in our class. We need to know when to abandon a lesson to teach a missing skill or a complimentary skill. We are the ones to show the students the connections between what they are learning and the big picture, to bring in our life experiences in that learning.

How do you teach your course?  Do you strictly follow the textbook (fixed) or do you modify the learning in a flexible manner based on your students’ needs?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Pre-checking for Student Engagement Through PowerPoint

Like many teachers, I use PowerPoint to guide the lesson. I like that I can have all the images, videos, quotes, essential questions, class activities, etc. in one place for the lesson.  Lately, I have been thinking more about student engagement during class. I’ve come up with a simple way to verify that students will be engaged.  I use a distinct color such as dark blue  in the PowerPoint to indicate  all the  student activities  such as questions to be answered, small group discussions, and  comparison charts to be done. Before I teach a lesson, Iscan my PowerPoint slides to see how often I am engaging the students- I simply look for the dark blue text.  Since I’ve begun doing this, I find myself  wondering how I could be talking/showing for so long without students being asked to think through the topic.  I find myself adding more opportunities for students to  become engaged with the material.

Go dark blue and see what happens in your class.

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

In Medias Res (in the Middle) or From the Beginning

My wife and I went to a movie. It took me a long time to figure out what was happening until they did some flashbacks. I felt very lost just jumping into the middle of the movie.  Where do you begin your unit planning? Do you start in deciding on the standard, the particular aspect and then the learning goal? Or do you jump right into the activities you will do in the unit?

Understanding by Design advocates starting with the standard, the assessment, and then the activity so that “the end is always in mind”. Without a firm view of your “end” you will not be able to measure student learning against the standard. f you plan “in medias res”, you cannot be sure if you activities truly help the student reach the learning goal. Also, you may not be focusing on the essential ideas for the standard but, instead, on some very minor learning. Likewise, with a firm view of the “end” learning, you may focus on students’ minor errors that are not the most serious errors.

The preplanning (standard and assessment) for the lesson gives a foundation for all you do in the unit. Start from the beginning so your students can arrive at the end.

For any one who is interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book,
Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

Apply the Heat to Learning

Another thought about putting plastic on windows to insulate the window. After putting the tape on the window and putting the plastic over the tape, the last step is to apply heat. The heat forces the plastic to attach itself more firmly and tightly to the tape. It changes the loosely fitting plastic to very tight and firm plastic.

How often do we apply heat to our student’s learning after they have had some basic instruction and practice? Do we present them with a challenging task that causes them to apply their learning to a high degree? Do we have them think at the analysis, synthesis or evaluation levels? Do we have them take their “book” learning and apply it to real life? Do we have them evaluate present conditions based on past ones? Do we apply heat to their learning?

How do you apply the heat to your students’ learning?

For any one who is interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book,
Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

Making the learning stick

When I was putting the insulation on my windows, I had two different products. One had the instruction of waiting fifteen minutes before I removed the backing to the two sided tape. The other did not have that instruction. The fifteen minute wait tape was far superior to the other.

I wonder how much time we give our students to stick to their new learning before we ask them to use it. Fisher and Fry suggest in Better Learning Through Structured Teaching that when we give our initial modeling of the new learning, we do not ask students to actively participate but, instead they are to think about this new learning. If they do not firmly understand the modeling before we ask them to practice it, then there is a high likely hood that they will do it incorrectly. Their first steps of doing it wrong will be cemented into their brains. Instead, we can model the learning for them and go over an exemplar of it. We can let them think about the new learning and then scaffold them through it.

Let’s organizing our teaching so that we allow students plenty of time to think about the new learning before they are asked to do it. Let’s let them get firmly stuck to the new learning before they use it.

For any one who is interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

Looking Ahead For Better Learning

I attended my every three year Defensive Driving Course to get a reduction in my insurance. The AAA instructor and the DVD said that we should always be looking 20-30 seconds ahead on the road or about a third of a mile forward so we can be prepared for what is ahead.

I wonder how often we take our eyes off of our current learning to remind ourselves and our students of what is ahead, the standard. It is too easy to get focused on the moment so that we forget where we are really headed. By being focused only on the present activity, we may not connect our present activity into the bigger picture. The present activity may not seem to serve any purpose except when seen in the bigger picture. When students know where they are headed, they are more likely to get there and to be able to assess their progress. As we check what is ahead, we can help modify our instruction to make sure our students get there.

How do you help your students to see the standard or the big concepts of the year?

For any one who is interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

Exemplar Collecting and Using For High Quality Learning

At one of the colleges I teach at, I had to submit material for a course review. I was pleased to receive not only a perfect 3/3 but also to be asked to send some of my material in as exemplary work. However, I became even more interested when I found out that this college that has at least six different campuses is collecting exemplars. My question becomes “When are they going to share these exemplars with the faculty so that we can improve by seeing the excellent work that our colleagues are doing?”

I would suggest that we all collect exemplars at our schools and use them to improve our teaching and our students’ learning. Have each teacher submit his/her best student paper, project, etc. For example, each English 9th grade teacher can submit one excellent student paper for the major types of writing. The teachers can physically put them in a cabinet or even better they can put them onto an English Wiki so that teachers at any given time can access these exemplars. These instructors can discuss with each other what makes each exemplary. They can all come to the same idea about what exemplary work is. Furthermore,They can use these exemplar papers to raise the learning level of their students. The instructors will have many exemplars for their students so that the students can realize that the high quality can be shown in many diverse ways.

Get your team to start collecting and using exemplars now!

For any one who is interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

Organic Learning With Technology or Inorganic Learning?

I drove past a farmer’s stand that proudly proclaimed itself as organic. I laughed. When I was growing up on a farm, everything was organic. Cows produced the fertilizer for the fields.

I wonder if we have made changes to make the learning process less organic. Have we gone to using technologies in which that might reduce learning? Do our PowerPoints truly energize the learners into deeper learning or do the PowerPoints put them to sleep? Does the time we have the students spend on creating a podcast really reflect in-depth learning about the course’s standard or does the time reflect surface only learning over multiple days? Do our students spend time in responding to others in a blog when the other people do not read their comments? Do our students spend time in creating fancy projects that include many visuals when the visuals do not add more meaning to the project? Do we have students create the same information on a wiki that is presently available in another location? Do we have students virtually visit a location (like a zoo) without having them learn critical standards information?

Have we used technology to interfere with students’ learning instead of helping them to grow in-depth and comprehensively in the standards? How organic is your classroom or have you covered it with harmful fertilizers?

For any one who is interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education

How Many Academic Firsts Do You Celebrate?

My wife and I went to see our son, daughter-in-law and our grandson. These parents proudly talked about each first success of the baby- the first time he rolled over, the first time he had cereal, the first time he made something move…

I wonder how proudly we talk with our students about their successes. Do you acknowledge each of the students’ firsts? Do you let your students know on a daily or weekly basis their successes? Do you break your curriculum down so that they can celebrate small successes instead of waiting until the end unit test to be able to show a success? Do you celebrate each success to motivate them in their learning? Do you celebrate each success to show them that they are moving forward? Do you celebrate each success so that when they find a task especially difficult they can look back to their previous successes and know that they can achieve this task? Do you scaffold the curriculum so that they can easily move from success to success or do you have a sink-or-swim approach to student learning? Do your students look forward to the next challenge so that they can show how well they are doing or do they dread the exercise that they know they will fail at?

How do you make your curriculum a success one for students so that they constantly have new learning firsts?

If you are interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

Less in a Course For Greater Learning

The first semester that I taught a Composition and Research course, I followed the syllabus given me. I had the students do an essay a week. I did have high attrition and low grades. I felt like students were just doing essays without truly understanding how to do each one More importantly, they showed minimal or no improvement from essay to essay.

This semester I have reduced the essays by half. I am spending more time in helping students to be successful. We examine other previous students’ work and analyze how they developed their paper. We develop essays as a class. I build in check points along each major decision in the writing process. For example,the students have to show me their thesis before they can continue, they show me their categories and topic sentences before they can continue, they show me a detailed completed graphic organizer before they do their draft. They frequently peer review each other’s work. So far the first essay that I received from the students is already at the same or higher quality than the final essays of the students from last semester. I am looking forward to their second essay to see how they have improved.

Do you focus more on coverage or on student learning? How to build in high success with your students?

If you are interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

Passion: Use it in Your in Teaching

I knew that I had to revise a course (Critical Thinking) that I was teaching. The course bored me. I realized that I was not excited about the content of the course in the form I had it last year and the students were not excited either. The course did not seem to fit together. I realized that I had nothing to “hang” the course around. So I’ve decided to “hang” it around passages from Don Quixote, my favorite novel. As I look at the novel more, I realize that I can cover all the course standards by using the book. Furthermore, the students will learn more since the ideas are in a context and the book uses humor to teach value thinking skills. Yes, I will still use the textbook but the text will be the jumping off point for reading the ideas in Don Quixote.

I was delighted to find that in Wiske’s Teaching for Understanding with Technology, she has as one aspect of a generative topic that the topic has to be “fascinating and compelling” for the teacher. She gives the example of an elementary teacher who uses bird names for the different parts of the writing process since she enjoys watching birds. Another instructor uses his passion for bridges as the overarching theme for his course.

What is your passion? How do you connect that passion with the course standards? How does your passion make the course more meaningful for the students and allow them to better learn the standards?

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Meaningful Learning for Students

A squirrel got in our basement. He is hiding and will not come out.

I wonder how often students get trapped in our classes. They attend and they do the mandatory work. They eat away at all the homework.  I wonder how often they get motivated by the learning to come out of their “do not bother me” hiding place.  Do they see the classroom learning as critical to the lives?  “When am I ever going to use this in my life?” How do we constantly show them the big picture of their learning so that they see how it does relate to their lives?   One high school teacher I know teaches themes (reality/illusion; fantasy love/real love; work/ideas) that are important to his students through literature. Each piece of literature helps his students to deal with their current and future lives.  I’ve heard of a  science teacher who  incorporates his class science into household science so that the students see science as part of their daily lives.

How do you relate your course to your students’ lives in a real way, not a “someday you’ll need it” way? Do they want to learn your subject because it means something to them now?

Big Things (Learning) First

As I was packing the car yesterday, I realized that I was following the way my father packed the car  He always packed the big things first and then worked the little things around the big things.

I wonder how often we pack the big ideas, the major concepts in the standard, first with students. Do we lead off the unit with telling them about the standard? Do we instruct them directly on the big ideas?  Do we give them activities that clearly focus on the big ideas? Do we assess them on the big ideas?

I remember watching a teacher who did a half period introductory activity to the unit. The activity was engaging.  However, it did not deal with the big ideas of the unit but with a very minor point.

Do you pack the big ideas first with your students?

Learning from a Young Child

I was watching my 4 year old nephew and niece (twins) as they were playing, watching tv, drawing and having fun.  My niece drew scribbles and then told me a story about the scribbles.  Her parents obviously read to them. She did  sentences such as   “The cow goes to the party.  The horse goes to the party.  The dog goes to the party. They have fun.”

I thought of how much her parents read to her and of how interesting the story was that she wanted to hear it over and over again. Her parents have encouraged her to tell stories.

I wonder how we present interesting material to our students so that they want to pay attention to it, how we present the same information in different ways to them , how we expect them to learn big skills, and how we encourage them to tell us their learning stories.

Or do we read to them our book that does not interest them and only expect them to remember obscure details from the story instead of achieving big skills?

A Sign for Learning

Recently I had to put out a church sign.  I had to write out the sign so I knew what I wanted, find each letter  for the words, put the letters in the correct order to spell each word, and then put  the letters in backward order (last letter, next to last letter, etc.)  for each word on the sign.I constantly checked to make sure that the backward planning was resulting in the words being spelled correctly.

I realized that that is how good teachers teach. They figure out what they want their students to do, they make sure of all the skills involved, and they plan backward so that the students will learn letter by letter so they can be successful. They use formative assessment to verify the students learning

What learning sign have you put out this week?


RSS Education with Technology

  • Tech Integration Teacher, What time is it? August 23, 2016
    When someone asks what time it is, that person wants to know the time, not the history of the clock, not how a clock works, and not what other types of clocks there are. Classroom teachers want to help their students improve their academic learning through technology. Sometimes they need help with technology so they go […]
    hgtuttle
  • Curriculum Focus, Not Technology Focus July 28, 2016
    In my public school career I have been a classroom teacher, a technology integration specialist and a technology administrator. In my technology role, I served under the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. She had a simple mission: Improve students’ academic learning. My mission was equally simple: Improve students’ academic learning through technology […]
    hgtuttle
  • Students React to Digital Badges: Pros, Cons and Interesting June 22, 2016
      ISTE 2016 By Harry Grover Tuttle, Ed. D. College World Language Students’ Preferences Digital Badges – 52%        Paper Certificates – 48% World Language: Can-Do Digital Badges Digital Badges Pro- – Breaks down proficiency more – Shows all badges at once – Is more attractive – Is more appropriate since we use […]
    hgtuttle
  • Digital Badges: Naming the Badge October 29, 2015
    Once teachers have selected what learning and what digital badges (individual or category badges; see previous blog), the teachers encounter another decision. What will they name each badge? Will they use the full name of the Common Core Standard or the national proficiency? For English, under “Speaking and Listening,”will they write out SL.2 “Integrate and […]
    hgtuttle
  • Digital Badges: Better Than Grades? October 19, 2015
    Teachers understand that the grade in a course consists of many different factors such as homework, participation , projects, tests, etc. Blodget observes that sometimes grades reflect attitude, effort, ability and behavior (http://www.academia.edu/9074119/Grading_and_Whether_or_not_Grades_Accurately_Reflect_Student_Achievement). Equally important, a letter […]
    hgtuttle
  • World Language Students Use of Mobile Devices in the Classroom October 5, 2015
    Do world language students use technology n the classroom? Do their  teachers go beyond having their students use technology simply for the drill and practice in vocabulary and grammar? Students can use laptops and mobile devices to hear authentic language, read authentic texts, read tweets about famous performers, see up-to-the-moment culture,  watch video […]
    hgtuttle
  • Digital Badges: Individual or Categorized Learning Badges? September 12, 2015
    The idea of digital badges sounds appealing for the digital children in classes. As teachers start thinking about digital badges, they have to figure out what badges will be awarded. The teachers can award social or academic badges. If teachers decide to use academic badges, then the teachers may base their badges on the Common […]
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  • English +Common Core +Mobile = Success (ISTE2014 Poster -details) June 30, 2014
    Here are the ten examples I showed at my English + Common Core  + Mobile ISTE 2014 Poster Session: Based on CCSS Anchor Statements: L.2 Take a Conventions Mobile Online Quiz  to pick the  incorrect sentence from four choices (capitalization) SL.2  Evaluate audio recording of a  book chapter on mobile and predict for next chapter. […]
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  • Global Cultural Learning Using Mobile Devices (ISTE Mobile MegaShare Presentation) June 28, 2014
    Based on my presentation at ISTE 2014 Mobile Megashare Why teach about other countries? Location: Large view to small on maps. Culture or culture. Find six similarities in a  mobile picture from another culture (“Wars are caused by differences, not similarities.”-Tuttle.) Tell one piece of information from each different Internet visual from a place in that […]
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  • English + Common Core + Mobile = Success in Learning Poster Session at ISTE 2014 June 25, 2014
    In my ISTE Sunday 8-10 am poster session, I demonstrate many diverse mobile activities to help students achieve the English Language Arts Common Core Anchor Statements through mobile devices. The mobile activities focus on free common tool apps that are available on both the Android and the iPad. The students use the apps as a seamless […]
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