Thursday, December 22, 2011

21st Century Learning & Writing

The #elemchat on Dec. 17th, focusing on strategies and approaches for helping students become better writers, got me thinking about what writing looks like in 21st century learning.

What does 21st century learning look like?
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  • Students engaged in authentic task
  • Students are collaboratively problem solving
  • Collaboration -- students helping peers
  • Students are creating original work to represent their ideas
  • Teacher is walking around the room facilitating
  • Noticeable routines and procedures for getting help and transitioning
  • Learning is interactive and engaging
  • Students are on task and taking risks to learn
  • Students are forgetting they're learning
  • Ongoing assessment/feedback/reflection
  • All of the above can be with or without technology

What does 21st century learning sound like?
  • Teacher facilitating instead of directing
  • Focused noise--it's not silent while they are on task
  • Student led discussions
  • Respectful discussions and feedback
  • Enthusiastic conversations about their learning
  • All of the above can be done with or without technology

What does 21st century learning look like with writing?

There should be a balance between teacher led instruction and student led discussion, interaction, and collaboration. 

Four years ago, Tawyna Olen asked if she could observe me for her Master's class assignment. She observed a writing mini-lesson with my 5th grade class. Here are some excerpts she wrote:
Next, (Tracy) transitioned into the mini writing lesson by asking them to take out their work. Students were to have written the ending to an eighth grade essay on A Good Teacher using one of the concluding techniques they learned the day before. Once each student had their work out, she asked the class to think of all the different ways they could conclude a piece of writing. She waited a few seconds and then had students share with their partner.
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While they were busy sharing she put up on the projector a list of all the strategies: She then clapped and raised her hand to get their attention and asked for someone to explain to her the different strategies. She then had the class share with their partner again only this time giving examples of each strategy. After getting the class' attention, Tracy went on to confirm what she had heard the pairs discussing by going through the list and giving examples of each strategy and explaining what type of writing might benefit from each type of conclusion.

Tracy then transitioned into the activity explaining to her students the directions. They were to read their ending to a classmate. The classmate was to listen and then comment on the ending by giving a compliment or suggest a way in which they could improve and then read their ending. After they had finished they would move on to another classmate and repeat the same procedure. This process would continue for three minutes...
After the timer went off students quickly went back to their seats. Tracy asked the class if they heard any endings that they thought were strong that should be shared with the whole class. Many hands went up and she called on a few to share if they wanted to...
Break the task into smaller steps, and allow the students to explain it in their own words, make connections to their past experiences and understanding, and provide feedback to each other.

Connecting beyond the four walls

Reaching beyond the four walls of the classroom and connecting with others as part of the learning process, or to share learning, creating, and writing is valuable. Connecting with an authentic audience via blogging takes the writing and learning to a deeper level.

Final remarks

Writing should be learned through a balance of instruction, collaboration, peer discussion, application, and reflection. When an authentic audience is added in, there is a real purpose which increases motivation.

Writing in 21st century learning is more than just writing with a technology tool--it's the process of learning writing.
  • What increases the love for writing in your classroom/life?
  • How do you achieve a balance between teacher led instruction and student led discussion, interaction, and collaboration? 
  • What does writing look like in different grades?
  • How else did this post connect with you?
My list for 21st century learning was adapted from "A Highly Differentiated Classroom" ... I also want to thank all of the people involved in the #elemchat discussion(s)... and for inspiring this post.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Math in One-to-One

Ever wonder what math looks like in an one-to-one environment? Is it just worksheets and math problems online, or is there an advantage to learning math in one-to-one classrooms?

Math in one-to-one

When I was in Tina Jada's class, I saw students actively engaged, engrossed in their learning the standards at a deeper level, with a context for why they were learning and when they'd use these standards in the real world.

Here's a glimpse into her 7th grade class:

Different teachers, different approaches, great learning

When I was in Valinda Wells' class, I saw more great learning. Her class started with a quick review for students to start on their own. After a short amount of time, Ms. Wells' showed a Screenr video modeling her solving the problems, her metacognition throughout, and how she deduced the correct answer. While she played the video, Wells was free to walk around to provide feedback, check for understanding, or guide learners if needed.

Next, the students quickly moved to new places in the room. Ms. Wells grouped them based on their learning styles, interests, and readiness. While she'd work with one group, the others were learning from online tutorials or other interactive online content.

One group worked on math projects. Ms. Wells offered a few different projects based on interest and readiness. Both projects required converting percentages to decimals, calculating sales tax, tips, discounts, and totals.

One project was a Menu Project:
The other students worked on mean, median, mode, and range based on the links Ms. Wells curated for them. The students collaborated for peer reflection and feedback. This was review content, but necessary for them to be ready for the new content in outliers and stem and leaf plots.

Ms. Wells designed the learning in her classroom based on task analysis and learning styles. She grouped them according to pre-test data and ongoing formative assessment.

Having the content online provided the students with multi-media tutorials and interactive learning. It also gave Ms. Wells the opportunity to work with all the students, tailoring instruction to their individual needs.

Final remarks

Both teachers had different styles, and both focused on the learning. They made math relevant and connected to the real world.
  • What did you notice about the learning in these two rooms?
  • Is there an advantage to learning math in one-to-one classrooms?
This post was inspired by Nick Sauers asking if I had any videos for what math looks like in one-to-one. Thanks, Nick, for inspiring me to take action!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Edublogs Awards -- Supporting AJUSD

The nominations process has closed, and we are excited to see a few of our AJUSD blogs represented on the Edublogs Awards shortlist.

Please support our AJUSD blogging community. You can vote once a day, and if you are in our AJUSD district, please vote from your home computer (our school computers will have the same IP address, so it will only get one count a day). The voting will end on December 14th.

Here's who you can support in our AJUSD blogging community:
Here's how you vote:

To vote, click on this link, then use the drop down menu to choose the category, then select who you are voting for. You'll need to go back through the process to vote for the next category.

Final remarks

All of our blogs are new, so we are honored to be represented amongst other amazing educators and learners.
  • How do educational awards raise awareness for 21st century learning?
  • How can you support educators and learners who inspire you?
  • How can you thank Edublogs for raising awareness for how blogging and web 2.0 tools/networks can promote learning?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Leadership, following through, professional development, & PBL

One of the lessons I've learned is a strong leader is someone who can start the momentum and will continue to carry it through. You see, just having the vision and getting it rolling is a step in the right direction, but to continue to nurture it and finish what you've started is what counts.

Professional Development and Project Based Learning

Project based learning  (PBL) and professional development (PD) require some effort to complete. I'm realizing that implementing successful PD is very much like facilitating PBL.

Background courtesy of DragonArtz Designs, gears created on Clker, text created in Pages
Each of the gears is a step in the process, and they rely on each other to be successful and complete. If you miss one of the gears, you are missing one of the essential elements in implementing PBL or PD. Furthermore, you're never really "done" with the cycle because it keeps going and keeps evolving into something better.

When the gears get jammed

Sometimes gears jam up, but don't throw it away or dismiss it when that happens. Assess the situation, collaborate with and consult others, then apply a plan to get the gears working again.

Isn't that what it's like in the classroom during PBL, or with staff development? Sometimes things don't turn out the way we want them to, but we persevere. We push forward by reflecting, assessing the situation, setting goals, creating a plan, then implementing it. This gets the gears moving again, and if it doesn't, try again.

Keeping the gears moving

Once the gears have started, they need to be monitored. Sometimes more energy is required. Once the momentum gets going, it takes less energy to keep it going. However, totally withdrawing and walking away expecting it to run itself is also not going to work, at least not for long.

With PBL, once the project is launched, it also needs to be monitored. This is when the magic occurs, because the teacher facilitates by coaching and providing feedback.

I've learned that PD is the same. The training is just the start, the follow through is beyond implementing it in the classroom, it's when transformation in student learning occurs. It takes nurturing, refining, and stretching it towards excellence. That's when you are steps closer to finishing.


I like what John Maxwell says about finishing:

Final thoughts

Leaders see through what they've started. If the gears are moving, it will continue to move as long as it is nurtured and refined. Over time, it will transform and evolve.
  • How do you keep the gears moving?
  • How do you persevere to finish what you've started?
  • Have you ever considered the similarities between PBL and PD?
  • What else did this post get you thinking about?