Thursday, March 3, 2011

Passion, Self-Directed Learning and Total Talent Portfolios

It is amazing how many of us already do many of these features.  I have added comments in read to the article below so you can see what we at Sullivan Heights are already doing in all fields.  And these are only the ones I do know about.  Continue on to read more.

10 Ways Technology Supports 21st Century Learners in Being Self Directed 

by Lisa Nielsen

New York educator and super-blogger Lisa Nielsen posted a very interesting blog post on the Technology & Learning Advisor Blog. As Lisa introduced her post, "Life in the 21st century provides a whole-new world of opportunities for self-directed, passion-driven,personalized learning." Here is a summary of her ten points.
  1. Personal Learning Networks  (Sullivan Heights has a number of them already going - through tweets, F-2-F meetings groups already set up - Developing Readers, Assessment, Barrie Bennett - and wikis set up by a number of teachers in our school).
  2. Tweet to Connect with Experts - Can't begin to tell you how many in the school are already on their accounts.  This site alone has a link to my tweet account. A tweet of this article created this comment.
  3. Skype an Expert - Although at present the district does not allow Skype in the district unless notified (it's the opening of the portal and the risk of hacking) there are plenty of other means for chatting to an expert - there is ComBat, Google Talk, Gizmo Project, IChat, your FirstClass chat ability, and more....
  4. Free Online Educational Resources - A number of the teachers in the school are using free Web 2.0 tools. The most common are Prezi, Globster, Inspiration online, StoryBird, etc.  This link goes to a listing of those tools with notes, assignments and some with the rubrics.  A number of blogs give listing of different free online resources, and there are constant tweets in regards to tools online.
  5. Online Learning - We have Surrey Connect in the district but many of the teachers have created online courses through Webnode.  Click on the link to see the beginning lessons on Plagiarism, Copy write, Photoshop, and more for the Information Technology Class in Grade 12.  The course has students at all levels, so to keep them engaged, there are different levels of assignments that the students can do at their time line. 
  6. Authentic Publishing -   Globster has the ability to openly post your poster and let others comment on it.  It is the same for TimeRhyme - a time line program.  Some students have their projects on web pages - teaching material for learning different search engines.  These site addresses are given out to teacher and students so that they may learn new search engines and how to search on them.
  7. Use YouTube and iTunes to Learn Anything - Students in the French class create PodCasts which are shared among all students to increase the listening component of their unit.  Teachers download and use YouTube videos with the program KeepVid.
  8. Passion (or talent) Profiles - A teacher created a tweet account for Sullivan Heights were all students can make comments there, add to knowledge, etc.  
  9. Develop Authentic Learning Portfolios When done write [sp] ePortfolios can be a powerful tool that not only helps remind students of all their accomplishments, but it also enables them to share these with the world.  In the 21st century, creating an ePortfolio is free and easy.  Student simply select a container (blog, wiki, website, Google site), decide how they’d like to organize it, and then post their work.  I strongly advise against using any paid for portfolio site.  It is important that students have ownership of their own work and that it can travel with them wherever they are.  When it comes to ePortfolios, Helen Barrett is the go-to person.  To learn more, visit her blog where she shares fantastic ideas or go to the side and see her at one of my blog listings.  She's excellent to follow  I am using Facebook fro portfolios of student Photoshop and InDesign work.  Students need to upload the picture or item they were working on and then they make a comment about their work.  What they learned, what they did well, what they need to work on more.  
  10. Empower Students to Assess and Learn Themselves  - We already use a number of different assessment and self assessment ways learned from Barry Bennett and by Karren Hume.  Through graphic intelligence students can assess what they have learnt (Assessment for learning) and assess their peers as well.  This manner of assessment (Fishbone, mind maps, venn Diagrams, to name a few), touches least complex manners of critical thinking and reflecting (time line, flow chards, word webs) to more complex and more powerful assessment (mind map, concept maps). Through graphic assessment you get critical thinking, deductive thinking and inductive thinking, all areas of Developing Readers. In the end visual learners can see the evidence themselves of what they have learned and what more they need to do.  In this way they create their own learning.
          Another way of empowering students to do their own assessment is the interviews that are conducted by a number of our staff when assigning grades to students (another means of Developing Readers - see a previous post). This manner of evaluate learning help learners learn better. It does so by helping both students and teachers to see:
  • the learning goals and criteria
  • where each learner is in relation to the goals
  • where they need to go next - they help to make these goals (taking ownership of their learning)
  • and ways to get there
We do all this, teach the 21st Century skills because they are out there and we need to keep up.  This video by Karen Hume's best explains this.  

    "Tuned Out" by Karen Hume from Karen Hume on Vimeo.

    Student Engagement on the Go

    Assistant Principal Patrick McGee explains that whatever the other advantages of adopting iPads and iPods in the classroom, the key is student engagement.

    "This is my 3-year old daughter the day the iPad came out," said Patrick McGee as he displayed a movie of a young girl sitting at a kitchen counter, gripping an iPad in both hands. The audience watched as the little girl found, launched, and began to use a Dr. Seuss app; all without intervention or explanation from an adult. "Kids know--intuitively--how these things work; even at 3," he said. "We need to use that."
    An assistant principal in the St. Johns County School District in Florida, McGee was sharing his experiences using iPads and other iOS devices in the classroom with an audience at the FETC 2011 conference last month.
    According to McGee, there are a lot of good reasons to implement iPads and iPod touch devices in the classroom. But it's not "just about the iPad; it's more than that. This is really about keeping the students engaged" and we shouldn't limit ourselves to a single device to solve a very dynamic problem. "After all," he said, pointing to a quote from an Oregon school district administrator: "We don't adopt technology just because everyone else is doing it."
    McGee's experience includes piloting programs for both the iPad and the iPod touch. "We have used them at the elementary level" to enhance reading, improve comprehension, and measure fluency. At the secondary level, the focus of these devices has been on math, science, and for use as a powerful reference tool. "One of the really great things about the iBooks app is that each book comes with a built in dictionary." That's pretty powerful, he said.
    McGee also pointed out the many productivity uses of the devices, listing several apps that he deploys regularly, including iBooks, e-mail, LogMeInKeyNote, and Pages; many available for both devices.
    Of course, according to McGee, mobile devices do more than just enhance productivity; these technologies also get kids engaged in learning. "It's amazing," he said, "but kids are motivated to do things with technology even if it's replicating a paper process" that they have no interest in.
    McGee shared his go-to list of apps for the iPod and iPad that address a range of instructional and curricular areas:
    This list goes on, he said. "I think we all know how easy it is to get lost in the app store."
    McGee closed his session with a video produced by high school students using iPod's and various graphic, audio, and video applications. "Before this project, this class had one of the highest referral rates in St. Augustine High School. During the project, the referral rate dropped to zero. That," McGee said, "is impressive."

    The Information Revolution

    The Information Revolution
    At best, the current thinking about school reform gives only a token nod to the unprecedented access and connectedness that the Internet represents. Most educators are content to simply label this remarkable global portal as "technology" just another tool. Even those who call for teachers to integrate technology into their daily practice imagine such reforms as incremental rather than transformative.

    All of this ignores the shift triggered by web 2.0 tools, a human revolution more profound than the shift from hunting to agriculture or the advent of printing and mass literacy. The emergence of a pervasive, collaborative, global virtual environment has changed forever what it means to be a good teacher, an effective school leader, or a well-educated 18-year-old.

    There will be more information distributed in this year alone than there was in the last 5,000 years. Although some of it may be without much value, the pace of discovery and the volume of new information is mind-bending. When information was scarce, we went to school to gain access, and the locus of control for learning resided in those who possessed the knowledge, teachers and those who dictated the curriculum. Now information is abundant and easily accessed by anyone, anywhere with a web browser and Internet connection.

    As educators, we need to realize that learning can now take place 24/7, with or without us, and that young people come to school knowing much more than we do in some areas. They have the potential to learn anything they want to learn at any time they want to learn it. Therefore, instead of focusing on the content, we really need to focus on what it means to be a learner and how to help students learn deeply and most effectively. We need to model metacognition and demonstrate the value of thinking about thinking. We need to lead them to think deeply and help them understand how to synthesize and analyze and to create, to  operate in Bloom's realm of higher-order skills.

    The New 21st Century Curriculum
    The new 21st century curriculum should be fluid, shaping and reshaping itself in response to students' self-direction and unpredictable events. It should be passion-driven, as teachers guide students in pursuit of what interests them most.
    A 21st century curriculum should provide opportunities for students to build relationships, network, and act collectively. Students should be asked to synthesize information and demonstrate self-reliance. We also need to teach our students empathy for people from diverse backgrounds, because in the future, a great deal of their interactions will be carried out in online spaces, where they will be collaborating with people around the world.
    In my work with global cohorts of teachers and administrators through the Powerful Learning Practice network, I advocate a three-pronged approach to learning in the 21st century, both for the young people we are guiding and for ourselves in our professional and personal lives.
    • We need to participate in face-to-face learning and build deep relationships with other people who we trust and with whom we can take learning risks and share and demonstrate what we know and care about.
    • We need to learn through global communities of inquiry. These are communities we find or create for ourselves that are populated by others who share our commitment to work and learn together over an extended period of time, mostly in virtual space. These diverse communities expand our understanding of both commonalities and differences. They are places where we test our ideas and challenge ourselves and others to question, reflect, and grow.
    • We need to build a personal learning network (PLN). A PLN is a resource for do-it-yourself learning, a revolving and evolving virtual web of not only human experts but also objects and resources that are all accessed through the power of web-based networking tools and mobile technologies.
    • We need to be visionary. We are not marching slowly into the future; we are speeding toward it in a whirlwind frenzy, mandated by the exponential rate of change. As educators, we must continuously ask ourselves, What do students need to learn to succeed in the world to come? A world we can't even imagine.
    Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has been an educator for 20 years and has been a classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor, and digital learning consultant. She is a noted international keynote speaker and cofounder of Powerful Learning Practice. She blogs at

    Tech Grant Application

    With the coming of funds and the coming of changes, there is a new grant on the horizon for our school district.   The premise is the involvement of IPads and technology in the school to improve the value of education.  But the hidden ramifications are better.  The district is willing to put in new wiring, and unlimited wireless access.  This means all students can now bring in their iphones, their computers, any computerized tool and use the network.  We don't have to worry about user names, passwords, etc. anymore, it will be automatically.  Now students can use their own computer to explore, to think critically, to develop their theories, their understanding, their knowledge.  They are no longer limited to budgets, and updates of technology or the limits of how many computers in a COW (computer on wheels).  They have their own at home, why not use that since it is more modern then some of the computers in school.

    So what else is important in this grant?  The chance to change the paradigm of teaching.  For teachers to develop themselves, for them to explore themselves, to update their own technological knowledge, to be able to develop critical thinking and not just reciting of facts.  Students have shifted in their way of thinking according the Minister of Education of BC, and I agree.  "In 21st Century Learning, students use educational technologies to apply knowledge to new situations, analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions. Utilizing emerging technologies to provide expanded learning opportunities is critical to the success of future generations.  Improved options and choice for students will help improve student completion and achievement."  What does this statement imply for teachers?  That we too must emerge with the technology and we too must develop new learning opportunities for students involving analyzing information and doing problem solving using technology.  That means that teachers must make sure they teach critical thinking skills, problem solving skills (Most of these have been listed by the Developing Readers).  One of the key Guiding Principles for Developing Readers in Surrey is that teachers - not programs - are central to a student's success. In the opinion of Surrey School District of BC no commercial product or resource, regardless of its quality, can be as effective as a knowledgeable teacher whose instructional decisions are based on students' needs and interests.
    Proficient readers construct meaning. They don't wait for comprehension to happen; they make it happen. They interact with the text and use specific cognitive functions, or thinking processes, to facilitate and extend their comprehension. As identified and outlined by many researchers (Pichert and Anderson, 1977; Pearson, Duffy, and Roehler 1992; Anderson and Pearson 1984; Pressley 1976; Hansen 1982; Raphael 1984; Palinscar and Brown 1984; Brown, Day and Jones 1083), these processes include:
    • setting a purpose for reading
    • activating background knowledge
    • monitoring comprehension
    • determining what's important
    • making inferences
    • visualizing
    • synthesizing and evaluating

    To make meaning from text, students need to be taught a range of strategies that trigger the cognitive functions employed by proficient readers. Providing students with a set of strategies, however, is not enough. They must know when, why and how to use them. There is no longer just the reading of books, magazines, etc.  We now have information on the World Wide Web, be it primary, secondary or tertiary data, students must learn to recognize this for what it is, be it fact, opinion, or just bogus.  It is the teachers NEW job to not only teach to the students facts from textbooks, or skills for learning, but the critical thinking skills to determine the validity of the information they read, to question what they read, to research more then one area of opinion and learning.  To critical think is to use the application of logical principles, rigorous standards of evidence, and careful reasoning to the analysis and discussion of claims, beliefs, and issues.   Student apply their own background knowledge to help do this, and teachers give some of this knowledge to them, but because of technology knowledge is gained so quickly, that it is the teacher who needs to demonstrate that information must now always be questioned for validity.  Does this action not then teach students to be Lifelong Learners?

    Critical thinking, in its broadest sense has been described as "purposeful reflective judgment concerning what to believe or what to do."[1]   

    Teachers now need to be able to instruct how to do this in regards to technology.  Because of the Internet and all the technology around us the world of education is changing.  The BC Ministry as come up with a list of 21st century skills that we need to teach to our students:  reading, writing, numeracy, and 7 Cs:  critical thinking and problem solving; creativity and innovation; collaboration, teamwork and leadership; cross-caring for personal health and planet earth.  Their focus is on personalized learning (even differentiation learning), use of technology and online learning.  Teachers are to be facilitators of learning, giving more choice for parents and students.  Most of these skills are already being taught by a group of teachers but now we need all to be involved.  With a mentorship program, with training of technology both of students and teachers, we could go farther, be better when what we are. 

    Lets open up the schools, the classrooms, let the students take control of their learning, let them share and teach the technology, with the teachers pushing for the learning, integrating the PLOs in this learning, while at the same time demonstrating a love of learning, critical thinking, and modelling the practises for students.

    1.  Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. ERI Document No. ED 315-423