Monday, August 22, 2011

Conversations that Clarify PBL

I had the privilege of working with five different groups of educators on PBL this past summer. There were conversations in each of the trainings that I cherished. One of those conversation occurred with our elementary teachers.

As small groups were brainstorming their PBL topic, I heard a conversation about focusing on counting money. As the conversation progressed, several key questions came up.

How do you convert a theme to PBL?

The teachers started their conversation by choosing a standard that needed time and depth, and couldn't be learned through a one or two day lesson. Then a few of them started talking about learning activities they could do, while others were grappling with converting it into a complex and open-ended driving question.


These conversations helped them realize learning activities were fabulous differentiated instructional activities, but those activities did not make it PBL on its own.

What made it PBL?

PBL was a meaningful challenge that connected to the real world. It was relevant to the students, with a real community who would benefit from the solution.

The Driving Question or Essential Question framed the PBL with purpose and focus. It required Bloom's higher level thinking, and simply couldn't be Googled because there was more than one solution. It would culminate with a presentation and reflection.

Final Thoughts

When we discussed the Driving Question or Essential Question, the teachers became comfortable with their PBL and how to incorporate some of those learning activities in it. (My next post will expand on creating those questions.)
  • How does this post help clarify that PBL is much more than a learning activity?
  • What do you want to add to this conversation?
  • What questions do you still have?
I want to thank the educators who were involved in these awesome conversations. I also am thankful for BIE's Toolkit Series. The conversation in this post was ongoing throughout our training, and the starting point for their Driving Question came from PBL in the Elementary Grades.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship

In what ways have "personal safety" and "citizenship" changed? How do we respond to those changes?

Expectations of conduct

When I was growing up, there were expectations my parents had of me for my personal safety and development:
  • Ask permission before going somewhere.
  • Don't talk to strangers. -- (With the exception of my parents/entrusted adult being aware of the conversation.)
  • Ask for help when I need it.
  • Be polite and use good manners.
  • Help others when I can, and add to their lives.
These are the same expectations I have of my own children for their interactions in our physical community and our digital communities.

What resources are available to us? 

Tap into resources to start the conversations and learning.

Click here to view Spark Top's showing of Brain POP's Online Safety video

Final thoughts

Expectations for personal safety and citizenship extend beyond our physical community and into our digital community.
  • How will we respond to the changes in personal safety and citizenship to include our digital communities? 
  • What digital citizenship and safety expectations should we set for ourselves, students, or schools?
  • What authentic learning opportunities can we offer students to safely practice digital citizenship?
  • What else are you thinking about related to this post?

This post was inspired by SMES Principal Heather Wallace. Thank you for making proactive choices to focus on digital citizenship and Internet safety. Thank you for inviting me to work with your staff! I also want to thank Sheri Edwards for helping me with my Essential Question for this professional development/post!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Effective Leaders Model

Talk about it all you want, and we'll talk about it. Use it, model it, demonstrate it, and we'll give it a try. It won't happen all at once, but it will happen.

Effective Leaders understand Monkey See, Monkey Do

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Do you want the focus to shift from a teacher centered classroom to a student centered classroom?

Then focus your staff developments by actually doing what you want to see in the classroom. If a student centered classroom is innovative, engaging, relevant, and motivating, then model it in your "classroom" which is your staff development.

Offer options for them to pick and choose from:
  • Give them a choice board or a menu to pick and choose their professional development trainings.
  • Try FedEx-ing it: Work collaboratively on a PBL or a student-centered lesson. At the end of the training, you must "deliver it" and bring it back to the whole group. 
  • Flip your Professional Development by giving a 2-minute Web 2.0 Smackdown (teachers show their favorite web 2.0 tools) in the beginning of your time and then go to breakout sessions based on teacher interest.

Do you want to see more technology integration?

The best route for hooking your staff on the values of technology integration is to use it. Some winning ideas are:
  • Use a wiki for teachers to take collaborative notes, brainstorm a school procedure, establish meeting norms, or sign up for a school event.
  • If you want your classrooms to connect with an authentic audience and build community, then model the power of blogging. Create your own.
  • Have them create presentations that tie your school vision to ISTE's NETS for Students.
My own goal:

I've realized that as our district steps towards learner centered classrooms, and we explore project based learning, I need to emphasize Essential Questions. In my own professional development, I should include an Essential Question that drives our P.D. (Thanks Jo Hart for that ah-ha during the Serendipity Webinar yesterday!)

Final thoughts:
  • What are your goals?
  • What do you want to see and how can you model that?
  • Any ideas you want to add here?

This post was inspired by Scott McLeod's shout out for Leadership Day.