Time to Begin Using MOOCs to Harvest and Aggregate Our Collective Knowledge for an Educational Technology and Media Knowledge Base for Teaching

In gold mining, I’ve heard miners use terms like “overburden,” “pay gravel,” “gold pan,” “sample,” “bedrock,” “gold path,” “color,” “gold flakes,” gold nuggets,” “we got gold!”

The miner scrapes away the overburden or soil on a claim until they reach pay gravel which lies on top of the bedrock. “Pay” gravel is a rather hopeful term until the miner use the gold pan to sample the gravel for gold. Gravel is placed in the pan with water, the sampling process results in the gold, which is heavy, ending up on the bottom of the pan in black soil so it is clearly visible in the pan. Colors, flakes, and gold nuggets refer to the gold’s appearance in the pan from the smallest (colors) in size to largest (nuggets). Obviously the miner seeks a large sample of gold which indicate they may be onto a rich deposit of gold that would be well worth the investment of heavy equipment.

In an earlier post I asked: “How is and/or should be developing a Professional Knowledge Base for Teaching (PKBT) from the learning experiences we have during #etmooc like mining for gold?”

As participants in Etmooc, we seek the gold of new learning. In some ways isn’t our participation in the mooc a decision to seek the “pay gravel” so we can sample until we find the gold standard of Educational Technology and Media knowledge, understanding, maybe even wisdom?

Lorne Upton pointed me to “How the Crowd Can Teach”

The article speaks about the current use of educational technology and social software by “groups” and “networks,” and the collective knowledge that can be anonymously “harvested” from the space and tools used by networks using collective tools.

They do not speak of communities of practice (a network) consciously choosing to design mechanisms and containers for harvesting and aggregating the rich thinking by practitioners and researchers during a Mooc so they can add to professional knowledge base for teaching using educational technology.

In The Skillful Teacher (Saphier, Haley-Spica and Gower, 2008) the authors present The (Six) Knowledge Bases for Professional Teachers graphic. I think, as participants in Etmooc, we have an opportunity to present the educational community with our understanding of the collective knowledge base for educational technology and media, the seventh and currently missing knowledge base.

For that to happen, however, we have to consciously choose to design mechanisms and containers for harvesting and aggregating the rich thinking by practitioners and researchers during Etmooc.  Maybe then we can collectively shout out to our profession and the world, “We got gold.”

What do you think?

Graphic from page 7 of The Skillful Teacher (Saphier, Haley-Spica and Gower, 2008) Click it to view larger.

New 2011 Standards for Professional Learning

Standards for Professional Learning-1

Standards for Professional Learning (Learning Forward, 2011) is the third iteration of standards outlining the characteristics of professional learning that lead to effective teaching practices, supportive leadership, and improved student results. Learning Forward, with the contribution of 40 professional associations and education organizations, developed the Standards for Professional Learning. (See the Standards Revision Task Force and the Standards Advisory Team.) The standards make explicit that the purpose of professional learning is for educators to develop the knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions they need to help students perform at higher levels. The standards are not a prescription for how education leaders and public officials should address all the challenges related to improving the performance of educators and their students. Instead, the standards focus on one critical issue — professional learning.

Unfortunately, you have to pay $20.00 for a copy of the standards. But there is a way to learn about key elements.

Below are what educators would be expected to do if the standards were adopted and implemented. The links will take you to web page descriptions for each of the seven standards and an introduction to the document.

  1. Learning Communities: A) Engage in Continuous Improvement. B) Develop Collective Responsibility. C) Create Alignment and Accountability.  Go here.
  2. Leadership: A) Develop Capacity for Learning and Leading. B) Advocate for Professional Learning. C) Create Support Systems and Structures.   Go here.
  3. Resources: A) Prioritize Human, Fiscal, Material, Technology, and Time Resources. B) Monitor Resources. C) Coordinate Resources.  Go here.
  4. Data: A) Analyze Student, Educator, and System Data. B) Assess Progress. C) Evaluate Professional Learning.  Go here.
  5. Learning Designs: A) Apply Learning Theories, Research, and Models. B) Select Learning Designs. C) Promote Active Engagement.  Go here.
  6. Implementation: A) Apply Change Research. B) Sustain Implementation. C) Provide Constructive Feedback.  Go here.
  7. Outcomes: A) Meet Performance Standards. B) Address Learning Outcomes. C) Build Coherence – Go here.

For a brief Introduction to the Standards work, including a video, Go here.

Leading with your Ears for Parent Engagement

How do you feel about parents of your students? In the May 2011 issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership, Larry Ferlazzo discusses parent “Involvement or Engagement?” He claims that often how a teacher feels about parents often falls into one of four categories:

  1. We should contact them when there is a problem,
  2. it’s good when they don’t “bother” us,
  3. we need them to raise money, and
  4. we can blame them for all kinds of things we’re not happy about.

He goes on to state that school-family connections founded on the principles of improved relationships, listening, welcoming, and shared decision making can have multiple benefits for the students. Defining involvement as “to enfold or envelope” and engagement as “to come together and interlock,” Larry argues for parent engagement which requires a school “lead[ing] with its ears—listening to what parents think, dream, and worry about.” On the other hand, a school that chooses parent involvement usually “leads with its mouth—identifying projects, needs, and goals and then telling parents how they can contribute.”Build Community

Scores of staff from the high school Larry is associated with in California, for example, visit the homes of all incoming Freshmen students during the summer to listen to parents so together they can begin to build the foundation for beneficial school-family relationships: “Our primary goal is to listen to the wisdom that parents have gained in more than 14 years of raising their children. We want to learn about their hopes and dreams for their children and discuss how the school can work with them to make those dreams a reality.”

The outgrowth of these listening-based relationships at Larry’s high school have included an online family literacy project and a Parent University. Larry, however, expands the notion of parent engagement by comparing it to community organizing offering examples of schools that have partnered with parent to achieve local community reform. Larry cites the Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s documentation of the positive impact of these efforts on “students, schools, families, and neighborhoods.”

The temptation to settle for parent involvement rather than engagement, Larry point out, seems reasonable because it is usually easier to implement and has tangible results. However, his analysis of why involvement leads to negative consequences is instructive and worth reading to support the advocacy for parent engagement as the only sensible choice for schools that want to have a significant life-long positive impact on students.

Getting at the crux of the issues of power sharing versus empowering, Larry concludes:

Some people see power as a finite pie: If you get more, that means I have less. The vision of family engagement described here, however, views power in a different way. As families move from being school clients or volunteers to being leaders in education improvement efforts, they gain more power. As a result, the whole pie gets bigger, and more possibilities are created.

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Free Tools Challenge: 23 Ideas for Using Wallwisher – Teacher Challenge | Edublogs.org

Edublogs Teacher Challenge

I am impressed by the Free Tools 30 Days Teacher Challenge series of blog posts supported by Edublogs. In the Wallwisher post, which is #1 in the series and written by Noeleen Leahy, the 30 Days challenge is introduced.  (Noeleen Leahy is  a second level teacher from Ireland. She teaches Geography, Religion and IT to 11 – 18 year olds. She has been blogging for two years.)

Do your best to carve out a few minutes each week to really try out one or more free tools each week with your students. Then, come back to the blog and share your experience!

The post identifies what readers will do.

  1. Learn how to create an online noticeboard and check out ideas for using Wallwisher with your students
  2. Learn how students can add to your notice board
  3. Learn how to embed your notice board in your blog or learning platform
  4. Complete one or more of the challenge activities

The post presents a video overview of the tool from eduteacher, and then using the structure and pictures from the video, leads the reader through a series of tasks for mastering the basic functions of Wallwisher. The post also offers a Google Slideshow of 31 Interesting Ways to use Wallwisher in the Classroom. and concludes with a list of four optional assignments for anyone willing to extend her learning into practice.

When I read the comments yesterday, I was impressed with the suggestions of additional uses of Wallwisher. I made my own suggestions, but I also want to contribute to the conversation by offering this list of those suggestions and the contributors. Hope it is useful.

Wallwisher.com __ Words that stick

23 Ideas for Using Wallwisher
Derived from comments posted to the Edublogs post: Free Tools Challenge # 1: Wallwisher – Words That Stick

1. Spot for students to generate questions (Christy Berry)
2. Descriptive Art Word Wall (Christy Berry)
3. Finding images for a particular element of art or principles of design (Christy Berry)Post how you are going to prepare for the test. (Heidi Weber)
4. Use it in language arts for book reviews. (Heidi Weber)
5. Students post questions after a lesson. (Heidi Weber)
6. Use it for a pre-test. After you complete the lesson embed the wallwisher into a blog and have them respond to their pre-test answer. I then use their blog post as clarification of the lesson before you give a post test. This has really helped me form my small groups by identifying the ones that need extra help. I have also been amazed at the peer to peer teaching that just happened! Students see their classmates responses and instantly start “teaching” each other. (Brooke Miller)
7. Processing concept understanding in Science, especially after an experiment (Maria)
8. Posting examples of geometry in the real world, especially if students can gather pictures to link to their stickies (Maria)
9. Writing and editing sentences that contain grammar, capitalization, or punctuation errors. (Maria)
10. Use to support reading comprehension.  Small Group Lesson: Exploring Character Change (Maria)
11. Use it to have students, staff and families wish students Happy Birthday throughout the year (roreyrisdon)
12. Use Wallwisher for vocabulary exercises for EFL students  Wallwisher and Vocabulary Activities (Natasa Bozic Grojic)
13. Use Wallwisher to start a discussion about the ethics of cloning, genetically modified foods or consumer labeling by having students state their positions on the topic. (kerrynichol)
14. Use WallWisher with students or teachers to solicit feedback on a question (Suzanne C)
15, Great tool for brainstorming on any topic. (Dinah Hunt)
16. Put up a word and have each child write a short sentence on Wallwisher using that word (Dinah Hunt)
17. Use it with after school clubs (Mr Riley)
18. Use it to collect compound words (Mrs S)
19. Math Challenge: Pose a question such as “The answer is 32. What was the mathematical question?” Very open ended so that the class could answer at their own level. (Mrs S)
20. Learning about Persuasive Writing. Use the wallwisher on the class blog to get students to post their position and one argument on whether they think homework should be banned or not. (Kirby)

And here are three additional ideas I offer to push the use of Wallwisher beyond it’s use by students and to spread understanding and support for using the tool (and others like it) throughout the school community.

1. Ask – parents, school board members, citizens – to use Wallwisher as a suggestion box – post their suggestions on any classroom, school or district topic … for example, the 4th grade field trip,  the school auction, creative ways to save district dollars

2. Use Wallwisher to solicit concrete suggestions for ways to empower kids to reshape the school, district, the education system

Background: At TedActive2011 the education project was formed. Here’s a quote from the website. “The TEDActive Education Project will explore how children can make an impact on the education system. We hope to come out of this project with fresh ideas for ways kids can start an education revolution. How can we empower kids to reshape the education system?”

My idea? Award the TED prize to someone with the passion, talent, resources, experience of Jamie Oliver to write, produce, direct and act in the television series “The Student (or Kid) Education Revolution.”

3. Have – teachers, school-level administrators, department heads, district administrators – use wallwisher to brainstorm ideas for how best reinvigorate teaching in their classrooms or schools by incorporating the Habits of Mind found on this chart and described in this Habits of Mind Summary article that I found on the Habits of Mind Teachers Network website.

Contributors to 23 Ideas for Using Wallwisher

Christy Berry – http://www.berryart.wordpress.com/
Heidi Weber
Maria – http://schooled-essays.blogspot.com/
Brooke Miller
roreyrisdon – http://www.roreyrisdon.edublogs.com/
Natasa Bozic Grojic – http://lunas994.blogspot.com/
kerrynichol – http://kerrynichol.edublogs.org/
Suzanne C – http://www.techatease.blogspot.com/
Dinah Hunt
Mr Riley – http://mrrileysblog.blogspot.com/
Mrs S – http://avidreader528.edublogs.org/
Kirby – http://34gblog.global2.vic.edu.au/
Dennis Richards – http://innovation3.edublogs.org

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The Economics of Inequality. AFT: American Educator

I am impressed by the work of James Heckman as reported in the Spring 2011 issue of AFT’s American Educator.

Heckman concludes The Economics of Inequity with this comment.

The logic is quite clear from an economic standpoint. We can invest early to close disparities and prevent achievement gaps, or we can pay to remediate disparities when they are harder and more expensive to close. Either way we are going to pay. And, we’ll have to do both for a while. But there is an important difference between the two approaches. Investing early allows us to shape the future; investing later chains us to fixing the missed opportunities of the past.

James Heckman is an expert in the economics of human development. His groundbreaking work with a consortium of economists, developmental psychologists, sociologists, statisticians, and neuroscientists has proven that the quality of early childhood development heavily influences health, economic, and social outcomes for individuals and society at large.

Here are some excerpts from the article.

A large body of data from economics, biology, and psychology shows that educational equity is more than a social justice imperative; it is an economic imperative that has far reaching implications for our nation.

Heckman and his colleagues have been synthesizing what is known in the fields of biology, human development, education, psychology, cognitive science, and economics to answer three questions.

1. When does inequality start?
2. Is it worthwhile to reduce inequity by investing in education?
3. How best to invest limited resources to create more productive capital?

Heckman’s Conclusions

1. Inequality in early childhood experiences and learning produces inequality in ability, achievement, health, and adult success.

2. While important, cognitive abilities alone are not as powerful as a package of cognitive skills and social skills – defined as attentiveness, perseverance, impulse control, and sociability. In short, cognition and personality drive education and life success, with character (personality) development being an important and neglected factor.

3. Adverse impacts of genetic, parental, and environmental resources can be overturned through investment in quality early childhood education that provide children and their parents the resources they need to properly develop the cognitive and personality skills that create productivity.

4. Investment in early education for disadvantaged children from birth to age 5 helps reduce the achievement gap, reduce the need for special education, increase the likelihood of healthier lifestyles, low the crime rate, and reduce overall social costs. In fact, every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education produces a 7 to 10% per annum return on investment.

Read more at: The Economics of Inequality: The Value of Early Childhood Education. James Heckman | AFT: American Educator. Spring 2011. 31-37.

The Economics of Inequity PDF here.

This article is based on “Schools, Skills, and Synopses,” which Heckman wrote for the July 2008 issue of Economic Inquiry available in PDF format here.

What Isn’t Working? Alfie Kohn

What Isn’t Working? Alfie Kohn | American School Board Journal, April 2011, 35-37

Alfie Kohn knows intelligent people will respectfully disagree on many educational issue, but he can’t understand how we regularly betray what we know is best practice. “If we all agree that a given principle is true, then why in the world do our schools still function as if they weren’t?”

He presents and elaborates on ten examples.

  1. Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.
  2. Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean you’re smart.
  3. Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.
  4. Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do and more enthusiastic when they have some say.
  5. Just because doing x raises standardized test scores doesn’t mean x should be done.
  6. Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.
  7. We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically.
  8. Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder doesn’t mean it’s better.
  9. Kids aren’t just short adults.
  10. Substance matters more than labels.

Taking on the Rubrics Crowd | 3 Steps to Deep Learning

The best rubrics are designed by learners who are investigating and defining quality work. Rubrics allow learners to articulate criteria based on this discovery. The rubrics they design can then guide their own work and inform the feedback that they provide to peers. Angela Stockman

If you think I am challenging every teacher (including myself) who uses rubrics, you’re right! It’s quite simple, we must choose deep learning for students, everything else is bunk. And almost all of what I’ve seen in rubrics is bunk.

Above all else, if the rubrics a teacher uses is evidence of an assessment developed without student involvement, it is useless for student learning at best and detrimental at worse. I’ll even grant that this rubric was developed for a good reason – I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who labored to create the rubric – but if students were not involved as described by Angela, the use of the rubric will not help students learn. Use that rubric and you are hurting children. They just are not learning what you think you are teaching.

Actually, it’s not the rubric or even your definition of “student involvement” that’s critical for learning, it’s the student involvement that expects and provides time for students to have conversations with themselves and others about examples of quality work that, in turn, leads students to personally meaningful discoveries. After investigating and discovering, and only then, students are ready to identify and explain the critical characteristics that will make their work high quality.

So, what is the teacher’s role?

  • First, ensure that the conversations take place.
  • Second, ensure that students are given an opportunity to articulate what they have discovered.
  • Third, after students have applied their best effort and understanding to completing a related assignment, ensure that students reflect on, share and revise what they believe.

Then they are ready for more work. They are learning what you are teaching them.

If that’s how you use “rubrics,” then I’d say you’re cooking with gas. If not, I’d say you’re cooked.

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