Creative Learning by Design

20 10 2013

legos

Coming up with ways to help teachers to “think outside the box” can be challenging, especially in this time of teacher evaluations tied to standardized test scores, implementation of common core standards, and new standards-based report cards. Where, oh where, does creativity and innovation fit in our standards-based system?  But just as designing learning for students that allows room for them to practice creativity in a safe environment requires a creative approach, professional developers need to do the same in designing learning for teachers, especially when the overarching goal is for teachers to “create innovators.”

In my backwards-designed professional development workshop, one of my goals for teachers was to be able to imagine what a creative learning environment might look like – what elements were required for their students to be able to develop the traits of an innovator.  I turned to a strategy I learned about a few years ago through the Model Schools Conference, put on by the International Center for Leadership in Education.  This strategy is LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® – one that two of our schools have  implemented very successfully with students, with many boxes of Lego blocks!

IMG_1753The idea is simple.  Use the Lego blocks to build a model, and then explain what you put in the model and why. This is adaptable to any content area or learning topic.  I have seen first graders build models of family traditions, using iPads to record each others’ narratives, and 3rd graders build models of time machines from a story they read, then practice oral presentation skills sharing their models with the class.  Other ideas: Students could  build models of the scientific process “in action” or  history students might build a model showing the effects of the Cold War. There is a great deal of both creativity and critical thinking that goes into this task, and it is amazing what those colorful little Lego blocks can do to inspire that creativity, while helping students reach deeper insights. This activity can work with learners of all ages.

So, I gave my teachers the task of building a model of the ideal learning environment where creativity and innovation can flourish.  They had fun, imagined, and thought deep outside the box about these things.  They played, they tapped into their passion for learning, and they are now clearly focused on the task at hand – their purpose in this grant project – to really build these environments for their students,

Here is one example – enjoy!

Creative Learning Environment Model




From Blended Learning to Creating Innovators

5 10 2013

innovationThis week, we launched our Creating Innovators Grant Project and I am really excited about the possibilities.  The project involves peer  coaching, where some of our most creative and innovative teachers have agreed to mentor 2 teachers in their schools who otherwise would probably not have volunteered for this kind of in-depth professional development. The mentor teachers applied to participate, and were selected not only based on their own creative teaching talents, but from an expressed desire to learn and grow themselves through the experience.

Our hope is to move not just the “mentees” forward as designers of learning, but their mentors as well. These teachers have been very successful with integrating technology in a blended learning model, but as a district, we have not entirely identified where we want to go with this new way of teaching. Is it merely to assure all students do well on standardized tests and get into good colleges with good grades? Or is our purpose for blending learning something greater?

Blended learning has the potential to go beyond merely meeting the goals of standardization. I hope that through our approach in this grant project, our mentor teachers will also come to understand that blended learning is only the first step in transforming  the classroom learning experience for their students.  Blended learning can lead to personalizing learning for students – towards the end goal of creating innovators.  Technology is just one powerful tool of blended learning, but technology alone is not going to get us there.

girl on roadTeachers must become designers of learning. Technology allows them to alter more than just the time, place and pace of learning.  Technology can help teachers design learning that alters the path of learning. Technology can help them design learning that is tailored to students’ passions.  With standards as the baseline, there are an infinite number of paths that can lead students to mastery and understanding.  Transformation in learning will occur when we use technology to create different paths for students – paths that help students find and follow their passion.  Transformation can occur when creating innovators is our goal.Creating Innovators book cover

The title of this grant project says it all: Creating Innovators.  It has a double meaning, as we hope to create innovators of both our teachers, and our students.  To create innovators, we need to foster play, passion, and purpose, as our teachers will learn through a book study of Tony Wagner’s book Creating Innovators.  We will use these strategies first with our teachers.

How are you using technology to provide different pathways for student learning?  Click here to share your ideas or successful practices.

In my next post, I will share how our  professional development for the mentors and mentees  is modeling  play, passion & purpose.




Teachable Moments for Digital Citizenship

16 07 2013

Update: Since this was posted on Edudemic 11/23/13, I’ve had a few requests for a PDF of the poster.  Here it is! Teachable Moments for Digital Citizenship Infographic

In preparing for professional development on the topic of Digital Citizenship for teachers in our 1:1 iPad pilot next school year, I have been searching for a resource to share on the importance of modeling these skills. While there are some great resources available for teaching  Digital Citizenship as a separate curriculum to students (Common Sense Media, KidSmart, and Digizen to name a few) I know that teaching in isolation is not usually as effective as taking advantage of teachable moments – when students are actually online and pursuing a learning task to reinforce appropriate behavior, safety, and application of skills.

I didn’t find what I was looking for – so I decided to create an infographic. I  used Pictochart – great tool! 

Here is a direct link to the infographic on the site.

Digital Citizenship infographic




“Speed Dating” Activity for Faculty Meetings/Workshop

27 03 2013

Yesterday’s #edchat focused on creative strategies to make faculty meetings more engaging and valuable to teachers.  It occurred to me that one of the activities I designed for our DODEA grantPhoto by CRDM. http://crdm.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/crdm-speed-dating/

Photo by CRDM. http://crdm.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/crdm-speed-dating/

participants to initiate sign-ups for peer observations would work great in a faculty meeting. I called it “speed dating” because they really were setting a date –to do a peer observation!

Teachers in our DODEA grant project (K-12) have worked all year to design four in-depth units using the Understanding by Design process.  Most of these units will be implemented sometime this semester.  I had set up a Google Doc for teachers to post when they would be teaching a unit and would welcome peer observers so that other teachers could sign up to visit.  This idea looked good on paper, but it was just too messy, I think, and so no one was signing up either way.   That is when I thought of the speed dating idea.  Here is how it worked:

Teachers were instructed to prepare to share one of their units. They had 5 minutes to share during each rotation. Here are the directions they were given.

During each rotation, meet with a different teacher to exchange brief information about at least one UbD:

-Title/Subject/Grade Level
-Transfer Goal
-Understandings
-21st century skill being modeled/taught/assessed
-Essential Question
-Performance Assessment

  • “Sign up” with each teacher you are interested in observing
  • You will have 5 minutes for each rotation – be prepared with what you will share since time will be short!  A music jingle will be played to signal time to move to the  next teacher. (“The Dating Game” theme)
  • Online teachers will provide information about how their online classes can be “observed” asynchronously
  • All  observation information will be transferred to our online Google Doc for peer observations

Room Set up:

Speed Dating Room Set Up2

The expectation was that by the end of the meeting, everyone would have signed up to observe at least one other teacher, and have at least one person coming to observe them.  In reality, most teachers came away with 3-4 peer observations to participate in.  (We are fortunate that our grant is paying for sub time for these peer observations to happen.)

Below are the documents I created for the activity. Feel free to share/use/adapt!

SPEED DATING Activity to review UbDs and sign up for observing

DATES CARD for Speed Dating

Observation Checklist and Comment Form




Managing Complex Change in Piloting 1:1

14 03 2013
The Managing Complex Change Model is credited to Dr. Mary Lippitt,

The Managing Complex Change Model is credited to Dr. Mary Lippit: http://tinyurl.com/c974qdw

CC Licensed by Mike Oliveri. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeoliveri/6300500597/sizes/z/in/photostream/

CC Licensed by Mike Oliveri. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeoliveri/6300500597/sizes/z/in/photostream/

As we prepare to implement a pilot 1:1 program with iPads in my district, I keep thinking about this model which hangs prominently in my office.  Certainly the lessons learned from other districts who have gone before us indicate that this is a pretty good guide to use to steer us towards a successful 1:1 launch.  For instance, in the report, Examining Issues Critical to a 1:1 Learning Environment: Principal Leadership, it states “…schools must have the capabilities and strategies for the laptop use to be effective (Warschauer, 2006). This includes technology support, resources, and strong leadership guiding the programs.”

I decided to take a closer look at each of the elements in this chart and translate to the situation at hand.

V

 

Vision

Without vision, confusion is the result.

In our IT-Education Services department, we continuously share our vision that technology is not the “end” – but rather the tool that will allow teachers to transform learning for students.  We are working on a plan to use the Technology Integration Matrix  developed by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology to help them understand the vision of what transformation looks like. The matrix contains links to excellent short videos that show various levels of technology use and depth of learning across all subject areas and grade levels.

 

Skills

Without skills, anxiety is the result.

We are beginning to outline a plan for professional development for teachers who will be in the 1:1 pilot using the Understanding by Design model.  Thus, we are starting with the end in mind –our overall transfer goal of students using the technology at the point of need to connect with the “real world” and to allow choice in how they learn as well as in time, place, path, and/or pace in learning. (Innovative Innosight’s Blended Learning Model).  In following the UbD 2.0 Template, we are also identifying understandings, knowledge and skills that teachers will need to be successful with achieving the long-term transfer goal and vision.  We recognize that skills with using the technology are just as important to address as the vision and goals, and that we will most likely be working with teachers who are at many different levels in terms of their current skill and comfort level of using technology.  That is where the Technology Integration Matrix will come in handy – so that we can let teachers self-evaluate where they are currently in their practice, and then we can plan a tiered approach to the professional development to meet them where they are and help move them to the next level.

incentivesIncentives

Without incentives, change is more gradual.

In our situation, offering any kind of monetary incentives to teachers in the 1:1 pilot to learn new skills and pedagogy is probably not going to be possible.  We will do the best we can here, getting an iPad in their hands well in advance of deployment with students so they can begin to get comfortable with the technology. Additionally, we always make it possible for teachers to earn professional development credit towards recertification and incremental salary increases.  The thing is, we usually find that access to the technology itself for the teacher and their students is a HUGE incentive – for perhaps all except for the laggards (on the Diffusion of Innovation scale).

Resources

Without resources, frustration ensues.

We realize that resources can be everything from people (tech support) to tools, accessories, apps, best practice information, and robust iPadnetworks.  Our 1:1 plan does call for beefing up the network in the pilot schools, and we will be sharing app information via our district’s iPad User Group wiki. One of our biggest areas of concern, however, is tech support.  The district has invested in 2 additional positions at the district level, but it will be up to the individual schools to decide whether or not to add additional tech support at the building level.

Action planAction Plan

Without an action plan, you will be subject to a series of false starts – “the treadmill effect.”

The action plan is currently being written. We are linking this closely with the vision, objectives, tactics and action plan developed by the schools for learning and student achievement in general.

I’d really like to hear from anyone who has already implemented a 1:1 with iPads about what worked and what didn’t.




Using Technology to Transform Learning

8 02 2013
TIM PD

Roger Henson, Coordinator for the Schools of Innovative Learning & Technology, leads teachers through an exercise using the Technology Integration Matrix.

Yesterday, we brought together a small group of teachers in my district who I would describe as innovative leaders in the integration of technology to transform learning.  While we are not anywhere near 1:1 in our district, we will be piloting a 1:1 program in three of our schools next year.  We hoped to gain some ideas from these early adopters on how to best prepare the staff at the schools piloting 1:1 to use technology effectively.

The day began with the group of 12 teachers describing the kinds of technology currently available to them, and ways that they use this technology with students.  As the teachers described multiple innovative uses of technology for learning, I made note of some common themes:

  • The technology enabled 24/7 learning – and students, on their own, extended their learning through the use of the device
  • The projects the teachers shared, in addition to being technology-rich, all had some kind of personal connection for the students. For example:

Globe with faucet

  • Using iBooks to create personal narratives
  • Using the technology to connect with an authentic, sometimes global audience (Skype, wikis, blogs,etc.)
  • Using technology to respond to student questions at the point of need
  • The technology allows teachers to differentiate and blend learning
  • Students are highly motivated  - “sparked!”
  • Technology is used to create and share
  • Students have some element of choice in the process of learning with the technology,  (freedom in how they researched, took notes, etc.) or the tool they use to create the final product i.e. – the less control a teacher exerted – the better!

What struck me most was that technology is used in these teachers’ classrooms to help students learn in ways that wouldn’t be possible without the technology. In other words, the technology wasn’t simply replacing an old way of doing things.

Here are some common characteristics of this group of teachers – including some that they expressed about themselves:

Tenacity: “It takes time to learn how to use the technology – but it’s worth it!”

Fearlessness:  “I’m an all or nothing kind of guy!”

Reflective:  These teachers are continuously evaluating and changing to meet the needs of the students.  For example, two of these teachers were our earliest adopters of flipped classrooms. They now have moved away from this practice, but shared that it was a very important step in getting where they are now in terms of using technology to transform learning.

Learning-Centered:  Technology is not the focal point.  These teachers use backwards design, so they start with what they want students to know and be able to do, and then design a performance assessment that allow the students to transfer the understandings – often in completing an authentic task.  Once these are determined, the learning activities are put into place.21st c stress these things more

What I am wondering now is this:  How can we help all teachers in our 1:1 pilot be successful with integrating the technology in their classroom?  If a teacher lacks the kind of tenacity and fearlessness that these teachers displayed, can they still learn and be successful in using the technology as effectively with students?

I’d love to hear from you! What kind of professional development has worked best for teachers of all abilities in 1:1 settings?




Being a Designer of Learning

24 09 2012

Recently, teachers in our Blended Learning grant project met for the first time to learn more about what Blended Learning is, and to get an idea of the work we hope they will accomplish this school year through the program.  The grant funding provides release time to work together collaboratively to backwards-design at least one unit that will be delivered  to students using blended learning.  We designed this professional development for the teachers using blended learning: direct instruction pieces such as how to use Moodle to set up a course, and other tools to support the learning such as Google Docs, blogs, and wikis are all available via tutorials on their Moodle course.

Last year, the teachers that participated in this project seemed bogged down by all of the technology tools and many just didn’t embrace the backwards design aspect, resulting in various levels of completing the project and successful impact with students. This year, we are changing things up a bit.

This change came about as a result of attending Advance UBD training with Grant Wiggins in July.  I wrote earlier about one of our big take-ways from this –we need to think like a designer –a designer of learning. This applies not just to teachers designing learning for the classroom, but to those of us charged with designing learning for teachers. We used the Understanding by Design process to design this professional development course.  The first step in the process is to determine what it is we want students (in this case teachers) to know and be able to do.  Here is our transfer goal:

Students(Teachers) will be able to independently design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop 21st Century knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

From here, we determined our goals for understanding and acquisition goals for our teachers:

The students (teachers) will understand that an intentional shift in content delivery and instructional practices, away from the traditional schooling model, transfers the ownership of learning to their students.

Additionally:

  • What Blended Learning is and how it helps students
  • What UBD is and how it helps students
  • What 21st Century learning is and how it helps students

This gave us a much better place to begin designing our learning activities, always looking for alignment to assure we are on target to help our teachers reach these understandings.

Last year, our kick-off meeting focused on Moodle. We gave a brief presentation on what Blended Learning is – then proceeded to focus the majority of the workshop on getting each teacher onto Moodle where they could start building the online portion of their course.  We did provide a series of tutorials on the backwards-design process which they were expected to have watched prior to coming to the first work session, though we know that few did (Moodle provides pretty good stats on that)- and the result is as we should have expected – the focus was on the technology, and not on how to design learning.

This year, after deciding on our learning goals for the teachers, we knew this had to change. We decided it was critical to focus this first half-day workshop on bringing teachers to an understanding of the importance of being designers of learning, and to have a unified understanding of what blended learning means.  Rather than just telling them how we define these concepts, we started with a Socratic Seminar. We believed this kind of activity would be a way to honor the expertise in the room, let them construct their own knowledge, and to model and activity that they might use with students.  A brief but thought-provoking blog post by Anders Norberg was used for the Socratic Seminar. The 6 small groups were randomly formed, and each group had a good mix of teachers from different grades, levels, and subject areas.  The resulting discussions were rich and insightful.  It was tempting to jump in and steer their conversations, but our team recognized the importance of allowing the conversations to go where they needed to go.  Fears about technology and in many cases a lack of technology gave way naturally to discussions (“Is this what we are supposed to be talking about?”) to find answers to the guiding questions “What is Blended Learning” and “Why Blended Learning.”   At the end of the 20 minute conversations, they shared out with the whole group and had pretty much nailed the definition on their own.

Following this, we gave a  brief presentation on Blended Learning, (offering the definitions given in the Innosight report)  and then moved into an activity to help teachers understand where Blended Learning fits in the learning design. Each participant was given a strip of paper with one element of learning or teaching printed on it.  We projected the Venn Diagram you see below:

Teachers were asked if the item would be classified as something that mostly would be in a traditional classroom, blended classroom, or could be in both.

Some of the elements that they needed to place on the diagram included:

-Worksheets
-Online Quiz
-Face-to-Face collaboration
-Video Podcast
-Students playing games
-Database resource link
-Instructional Design
-Formative Assessment
-Students reading a textbook
-Teacher lecturing
-Project based learning
-Motivated, Successful Students
-Online collaboration
-Threaded discussion
-Simulation

The “aha” for our teachers was that nearly all of these elements could fall into any area of the chart. This became clear as the person with the title, “Instructional Design” and the person with the outcome, “Motivated, successful students” placed their strips of paper on the diagram.

Another “aha” moment was that as a Designer of Learning, they manipulate all of the other pieces- but to create a blended learning environment – they need to allow students to have some element of control over time, place, path, and/or pace.  .  As a Designer of Learning, they decide which elements are best delivered in a traditional manner, and which could be enhanced through technology. As a Designer of Learning, they decide what is best taught through direct instruction, and what might be self-paced.  Direct instruction –what many think of when they hear the term “teaching” – is just one of the elements. A Designer of Learning carefully plans how all of the elements will be deployed   to assure that students achieve the learning goal.