Posts Tagged 'Curriculum'

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

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

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.

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.

Animoto (Movie trailer) movies for education

 

I’ve been looking at some Animoto (think  movie trailer) videos.

The Free version makes a 30 second video.

You select a style ( background),  put in your or their images,  and select music from your  selection or theirs.  The program will put it together in about three minutes for 13 slides.

Here some of  my creations (some of which are around a minute).

Catholic Religion in Costa Rica http://animoto.com/play/PVNZenyqO4FqNy93ys9g0g

Research Paper (mostly text)    http://animoto.com/play/rWG9zzVEZWdfFDxehJaChQ

In-class writing http://animoto.com/play/foCfW0w0T0dMEzeUbEJ57A

Pros:

Creates an exciting media display of pictures

Easy to use  with only three parts (style, images, and music).

Ease to import pictures; can multiple select numerous pictures at once.

Can arrange the images in order ; just click and drag them into the order you’d like them to appear.

Can add a  text slide by using the “T”.

Can select either 1/2, regular or double speed to show images. (At 1/2 speed about 6-13 images depending on the tempo of the music.)

Can email URL, get URL or post to popular social media sites from the  Video Toolbox which is located just under the right side of the video.

Can remix it if you don’t like the original.

Cons:

In the movie, it might  be hard to see  the details of an image.

Some text may be cut off from text images; keeping your image in the 3:4 ratio might help  avoid this.

Keep text screens to less than 15 words to be able to be read the words easily.

More music without singing would be helpful.

Knowing the tempo of the music might help to figure out how many slides will be shown and for how long.

More styles that show the  largest image size possible.

Interesting/Hints

If you have a critical point, put in two of the same images since one of them might be shown in a way that is it not easy to view.

Some styles  seem to show more of the image; play with the various styles since each treats visuals slightly differently.

Select the highlight feature to keep an image on the screen longer.

My Animoto videos to date have been introductions/overviews  of  the topics.  I’m still trying to figure out how to use this technology to get in-depth student  learning.

Apply for their educational version.


Some educational possibilities:

Students can:

– Show the major points of their research topic.

– Show what they did in the important parts of a long project.

– Show  the major themes from a work of literature.

– Put together pictures for others to quickly talk about (Foreign Language).

– Contrast two works of art, two artists, etc.

– Show critical vocabulary  for a topic.

– Show what their neighborhood, village, city is like. Or its history.

–  Create visual travel brochures of the important places to see in a location.

– Promote a cause such as recycling at school.

– Show the categories or traits of something

– Pose  short questions for the viewer to answer.

 

What other ideas do you have for using Animoto in your class?

 

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.

Continuous Assessment

The British have used the term continuous assessment or assessment for learning for many years.  I like the term continuous assessment since it implies that students are continually being monitored and given feedback to improve. Continuous assessment differs from the “unit” test or “every five week” tests that do not provide feedback directly to the students and that do not occur on a daily or weekly basis  in the classroom. Continuous assessment changes our approach to the classroom; we spend more time observing students for their learning progress and giving them new strategies rather  than “teaching”.  We measure our success by how successful the students are as they learn  the essential goals of our course. We know that students will improve throughout the year and we reward that growth instead of counting their early attempts (such as the first essay of the year) equally with their final achievements. Their grades represent continuous improvement.  Continuous assessment returns us to our initial reason for being teachers; our students show that they now have the profound learning in our subject that we wanted to share with them.

My new book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

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

Reponding to Your Students

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

Creating Thinking Curriculum

How do we change our curriculums from memorization of facts to higher level thinking curriculums?

One way is to ask questions that require our students to compare and contrast. How is the American Revolution like the French Revolution? How is it different? How  does the Spanish present tense compare to the Future tense?

Another way is to ask questions that ask our students to explain the consequences of some act.  For example, Science classes can explore the implications of every American home using five compact bulbs on the energy use for the nation.

In a third technique students evaluate a situation.  Which  of these solutions is better and why?  Math students can figure out which of three loans will be a better financial deal and explanation their reasoning.

Students will still know the basic but more important, they will be able to use the basic information in higher level thinking.

How do you  cause you students to engage in higher level thinking?

Outside Reviewers Assess Learning in Web 2.0

My sister-in-law lives in Australia and is working on her dissertation. She says that only “experts in the field”, not university professors, will be the final reviewers of her dissertation.

I wonder how often with all of Web 2.0 tools that we have  that outside experts evaluate the work of our students? Do our students only produce work for us or do they produce real world work? Do they apply their math to real life projects so that others can react to their work? Do they investigate science environmental issues and have  local scientists review their work? Do they write up proposals for changes in traffic patterns in their English classes and then have local traffic officials look over the plans? Do our art students create designs for local buildings and then have people judge which design best fits their building?

Do we use Web 2.0 for real world learning or for academic within-the-classroom learning? Do we challenge our students to do real world work?

Birth of a Child and Hope for the Future

Rowan

My grandson, Rowan, was born yesterday early in the morning. Mom and Dad are doing fine. As I ponder what his life will be like I focus in on his schooling and technology. I think about my many years of teaching and my son’s educational experience. The last school district I was in had limited technology -every teacher did not have an LCD; in fact we shared one within the department of 20 people. There were a few mini-labs but there were many thousands of students and their teachers vying for those labs. My son had many excellent teachers and some not so good ones. A few teachers used technology but he had more technology at home than in school.  I think that maybe schools have changed but then I think about my working with a large city school district for the past year and I know that some schools have not changed. They have not changed in terms of curriculum and in terms of using technology to create in-depth learning experiences.

Have we fundamentally changed how and what we teach? How we globally integrated technology to provide probing learning experiences? What will be different in five years when he starts his first formal schooling? What will cause a change?  I wish the best for Rowan in his schooling!

Do We Think in a Student Success or Failure Mode?

In the northeast, we have warmed up to 32 degrees. There are about four inches of snow on the ground from the last mini-storm. Today has been sunny. I watched two young boys shoot basketball in their backyard. No dribbling but they did play basketball for about half an hour. They have hopes for the summer regardless of the present cold and snow.

I wonder whether we have hopes for our students.

Do we think in terms of   students  success or failure mode?
Do we build success into our course so that students can be successful or do we build in quizzes and tests that show what they do not know?
Do we encourage rewrites and redos or do we have a one time make-or-break policy?
Do we show students examples of good work so that they can build up to that level or do we keep the level a surprise until the test or project?
Do we constantly give them feedback so that they can improve or do we withhold any information until the report card and then give nebulous “work harder” statements?
Do we focus on covering the curriculum/textbook or do we focus on what the students are actually learning?
Do we give them the textbook to work on or do we scaffold learning for them?

Standards Tagging To Benefit Students or Just an Exercise?

The college where I work wants each activity in the class calendar to be labeled with one of the official course outcomes (standards).

I applaud the effort in asking instructors to think about how what they are doing supports the outcomes. However, I also realize that most instructors just put numbers in so that each activity has a number. They do not change what the activity is; they just put a label on each activity. The instructors do not change what they do in the classroom.

Furthermore, there is no common course assessment so, in fact, each instructor gives whatever type of final covering whatever type of content. Until we give common course assessments there is no real outcomes based (or standards-based) learning.

Students do not benefit from such pseudo-standardizing of courses.

Learning goals curriculum or textbook illogic

I’ve been examining a writing/grammar textbook and I’ve noticed that there seems to be no logical learning flow in the writing patterns that students do.   When we show students that one type of writing is similar to another type, they can more easily make the transition.  For example, if students have done a narrative writing, they can easily transition to process writing.  Both types require a time line or sequence of events. Both types usually have the events in a chronological order.

How do you arrange your learning goals so that students transition from one type of learning to a similar type of learning?

Pool Curriculum Resources for Students’ Success

I have been asked to do three courses next semester, two of which are new to me. I was given a one page syllabus listing 7 outcomes and the name of the textbook. This course has been taught for over 16 years and surprisingly, that is all the resources I’m given. Why do school districts or universities not have a pooling of resources so that any new teacher can not only start off running but can start off at a high level of running? If schools and universities want their students to be successful, then each course should be built on the students’ successes from when the course was taught in the past. What helped the students to advance in the standard? Which learning experience were not helpful in moving the students forward? Where did students encounter learning problems in the course? Of course, each class is different but if teachers had all that previous information at their fingertips, they could have their students soar in their learning.

Does your district, school, or team pool resources so that each teacher is curriculum rich in practical strategies to help students be successful?


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 […]
    hgtuttle
  • 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. […]
    hgtuttle
  • 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 […]
    hgtuttle
  • 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 […]
    hgtuttle

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