August 31

Unintended Consequences

As I stood among the swirling mob, one of the sixth graders approached me. “Where do I go to get my stuff?” In the crowded entryway, there were several tables, with ranges of letters clearly marked, “A-F,” “G-L,” etc. This student explained his last name started with “N,” and he didn’t know which table was his. As I directed him to the appropriate table, a second student tapped me on the arm. “Where do I go…?”

It came as a shock that these eleven-year-old children didn’t understand alphabetization. I imagined that many (all?) of these students have never used a print dictionary. When they need to know how to spell a word, or to understand its meaning, they sometimes enter a proximal representation into a search engine, and up pops the answer. Or, they right-click on the word within a word processing app, and voilà, the correct spelling and/or definition appear like magic. They often have the additional cue of a red underline appearing each time they misspell a word, so there’s no apparent advantage to actually knowing how to spell. Or the sequence of letters and how they are placed in a dictionary.

Recycle Word Dictionary by PDPics shared under a CC0 Creative Commons license.

This disconcerting realization caused me to consider the ramifications of a generation(s) of students who haven’t learned and practiced alphabetization skills. The literature is rife with studies where memory system capacities, especially working memory, are measured and analyzed using span tasks which appraise the subjects’ ability to recall and sequence information. One such task is alphabetization, in which the subject is given an auditory series of letters and asked to rearrange them into alphabetical order and articulate the reorganized series.

The overwhelming conclusion of these studies is that subjects who are able to manipulate longer sequences have better fluid intelligence, and are more capable in many cognitive domains, including problem-solving, reading comprehension, and ability to confidently navigate complex social situations. Because our brains are “plastic” (neuroplasticity), sequencing abilities improve with practice. In past generations, this practice came regularly, while using dictionaries, memorizing information, mentally calculating sums… With the ubiquitous use of technology tools for these tasks, we no longer practice. I wonder what the fallout is?

Atlas, auto map, folded by Pixabay shared under a CC-BY-SA license.

Another example is our dependence on GPS systems to navigate our world.The conclusions from research done to-date are dismal, such as “using a GPS excessively might lead to atrophy in the hippocampus as a person ages, and this could put them at higher risk for cognitive diseases later in life.” Alzheimer’s, anyone? Researchers have also found that subjects who use spatial navigation (in other words, not GPS) have a greater quantity of grey matter, and score higher on cognition tests.

These are but two examples of how technology innovations have changed how we interact with the world. I don’t want to sound alarmist, because I am very fond of the ways technology has made my life easier, such as finding information for this article! But, I do think there are unintended consequences we haven’t considered. Especially ones that haven’t yet had time to manifest themselves.

July 2

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 6 of 6)

Previous posts in this series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5.

Evaluation

Once teams are satisfied their solutions are complete, they present them to a public audience. This audience should include all stakeholders: students, administrators, teachers, staff members, parents, other family members, community members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as school board members, city councilors, and state representatives. Experts the teams consulted with should also be included.

During project evaluation, a minimum of these HQPBL principles are being practiced: intellectual challenge and accomplishment; authenticity; public product; and reflection.

The audience participates in assessing the solutions and provides formal feedback to the teams. As such, this step serves as the summative assessment. How well do the project solutions respond to the driving question? How well do they fit within the identified constraints, such as cost and time?

As a final step, the professional development participants reflect on the project successes; individually, within their team, and as a whole group. A preferred way to conduct group reflection is with a structured protocol. This ensures the reflection is purposeful and productive.

All participants also reflect on ways the project design could be improved. This continuous improvement approach results in ever-better quality professional development.

And there we have it. Our professional development participants have completed a full life cycle of project-based learning. Since they have applied the process to meaningful work, and have reflected on their work along the way, their understanding of the concepts, purpose, and steps of the process has increased. When they then use the PBL process in their classrooms, they will feel more confident and capable. Something we all desire in our professional lives.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this process, how you think you could use it in your organization’s professional development, and of course, any suggestions for improvement!

 

April 27

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 5 of 6)

Previous posts in this series: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4.

Testing

The testing step is where the rubber meets the road! Each team presents their proposed solution to a large public audience, which may include outside experts, administrative decision makers (who may have already participated in the process), and other community members. The audience participates in assessing the solution, providing formal feedback to the team. This feedback serves as further formative assessment.

กลุ่ม ทีมงาน ข้อเสนอแนะ ยืนยัน sprechblasen เมฆ by Pixabay shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

Based on feedback, the team may need to return to the implementation step to further revise their solution. Testing is therefore another iterative step and time must be allocated for at least one revision cycle.

During project testing, a minimum of these HQPBL principles are being practiced: intellectual challenge and accomplishment; authenticity; public product; and collaboration.

Category: PBL | LEAVE A COMMENT
April 19

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 4 of 6)

Previous posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Implementation

The Implementation phase is the lengthiest portion of any project, where much of the action takes place. Our #PBL professional development is no exception.

During project implementation, all of the HQPBL principles are being practiced: intellectual challenge and accomplishment; authenticity; public product; collaboration; project management; reflection.

To manage the project development, each team develops a project plan, identifying roles, responsibilities, tasks, constraints and project timeline.

Plan” by Alpha Stock Images shared under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Once this infrastructure is determined, the teams develop solution(s) to their driving question. Required tasks typically include research, consultation with subject-matter experts, prototyping, and collaboration with others, sometimes outside of the team and/or outside of the school.

In order to monitor the robustness of solution development, peer reviews are scheduled on a periodic basis. Critical Friends protocols, such as The Charette provide a structured environment for others to offer constructive feedback to the team. These reviews serve as formative assessments and often lead to modifications to the solution development.

Board Font Problem” by Pixabay shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

Reflection is another essential component of implementation that is conducted on a regular basis. Reflection can be done as frequently as daily, and at a minimum formal reflection should be done at each project milestone. Team members reflect on the project progress, their contributions, and the contributions of the other team members. The reflection process is also useful for the team to examine how well their solution is responding to the driving question. If needed, the team corrects their course.

Reflection Sunset Mirror” by Pixabay shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

Once a (draft) solution is completed, the project team presents it to the whole professional development group for critical review. Ideally, outside experts are also included in the review. The process is the same or similar as in prior peer reviews, a structured session where the audience provides formal feedback to the team.

Based on the audience feedback, each team revises their solution(s). In some cases, this requires a return to the design step, an alteration to the design. An example of this would be where a solution requires different resources than originally identified. The team would need to return to the design and modify accordingly.

As we can see, revision is a frequent and ongoing characteristic of the implementation phase. Implementation is highly iterative, and time must be built into the project schedule to allow for multiple revisions.

Next, we discuss testing our solutions!

April 12

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 3 of 6)

If you missed them, Part 1 and Part 2.

Design

We now move into the Design step of our professional development #PBL process. Based upon the analysis work done in the previous step, each team creates a framework for their project by developing a driving question. To be effective, it needs to be open-ended (“What can we…,” “How can we…”) and identify the desired change(s) or outcome(s). An example is “How can we create a learning environment that prepares our students for adult life?”

“What can we…” “How can we…”

One of the most difficult aspects of creating an ideal driving question is sizing it such that it is neither too large/broad nor too small/narrow. As the teams develop their project plan (in the Implementation step, our next topic), they may need to revise the driving question to fit within the project constraints.

Once the driving question is derived and agreed upon, each team creates a Need to Know (NTK) list. The purpose of this list is to document all the information to be gathered and research to be conducted in order to be able to create solution(s) to the driving question.

Each team also identifies resources they require to develop the project. Examples include technology tools, access to subject-matter experts (SME), and statistical data.

All of these parameters may require modification as the teams delve deeper into their topic.

Project design requires practice in two of the HQPBL principles: authenticity, collaboration

Next, we will discuss Implementation.

 

Category: PBL | LEAVE A COMMENT
April 6

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 2 of 6)

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Analysis

We now discuss the Analysis step of using a #PBL process for professional development. 

Ideally, the professional develop group of learners includes participants from both the teaching and administrative staff, in order to develop a cohesive understanding of PBL concepts, and to jointly create solutions.

We begin by using improv games to break the ice and start team building. To further create a positive environment, we develop group norms to guide our interactions. One of my personal favorites is “assume positive intent.”

Yes Letters Tablets” by geralt shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

We then examine the survey results, and ask the participants to identify the highest priority items. The number of topics selected from the list is dependent on the number of participants, with one topic per each 3-4 people. The participants then group themselves into 3-4 person teams based on their highest level of interest.

Each team then identifies the desired outcomes. What do we want the solution to the problem/question/situation to look like? Why? During this step, we do not consider the “how,”; that comes later.

Problem, Analysis, Solution” by geralt shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

And finally, in teams and as a whole group, we discuss the requirements for successful team collaboration. What logistical and strategic components must be in place for the teams to thrive? This is a critical element of overall success!

These analysis activities provide teachers with practice in two of the Framework for High Quality Project Based Learning principles: authenticity, collaboration.

Analysis provides practice in two of the HQPBL principles: authenticity, collaboration

Next up – Design step!

April 5

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 1 of 6)

Just as we ask our students to make a leap of faith to engage in a project-based learning (PBL) environment, we should boldly ask the same of teachers and administrators. An ideal way for educators to develop familiarity and confidence with PBL is to experience it!

I propose to launch educators’ exploration into project-based learning using the Framework for High Quality Project Based Learning (HQPBL), combined with P21 Exemplars to guide their work. First, we ask them to develop familiarity with the framework and with the characteristics of exemplar schools. Participants then respond to a survey which assesses the HQPBL factors and/or exemplar teaching and learning characteristics they think are lacking in the existing school environment.

Then, we guide them through a series of professional development sessions based on the PBL process.

Next post – Analysis step!

HQPBL Framework

  1. Intellectual challenge and accomplishment – Students learn deeply, think critically, and strive for excellence.
  2. Authenticity – Students work on projects that are meaningful and relevant to their
    culture, their lives, and their future.
  3. Public product – Students’ work is publicly displayed, discussed, and critiqued.
  4. Collaboration – Students collaborate with other students in person or online and/or
    receive guidance from adult mentors and experts.
  5. Project management – Students use a project management process that enables them to
    proceed effectively from project initiation to completion.
  6. Reflection – Students reflect on their work and their learning throughout the project.

April 4

Digital Divide

In a recent #PBLchat conversation, I committed to scrounging up current findings related to the Digital Divide. Et, voilà:

At home:

Pew Research – Digital Divide persists

Some 5 million school-age children do not have a broadband internet connection at home, with low-income households accounting for a disproportionate share.

Pew Research – rural vs non-rural

Rural Americans are now 10 percentage points less likely than Americans overall to have home broadband; in 2007, there was a 16-point gap between rural Americans (35%) and all U.S. adults (51%) on this question.

Communication, Internet, Internet Of Things, Tile” by Pixabay shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

Hechinger – content divide

But now we need to add to the conversation of digital equity. How do you also improve quality of usage now that everybody has access? And not just give in to the whims of advertisers or what surfaces to the top of YouTube.

Common Sense Media – homework gap

Only 3 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools said that their students had the digital tools necessary to complete homework assignments, compared to 52 percent of teachers in more affluent schools.

At school:

EdTech – teacher prep, broadband speeds

Recent Education Week Research Center analysis found a near 10 percent disparity between high- and low-income teachers and their access to technology training.

Embrace Digital Literacy” by Wesley Fryer shared under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Language Magazine – digital literacy

Today’s students carry cell phones in their pockets that are more powerful than the NASA command center that landed men on the moon in 1969, but many still do not have the basic technology skills they need for success in school and in life.

NEO blog – teaching across the divide

Focus on the positive, work with what you have and get creative.

NetRef White Paper: The Digital Divide in the Age of the Connected Classroom

The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier.

 

January 13

It All Comes Down to Process

Over two years ago, some wise CLMOOC participants launched the “postcard project.” Like all things CLMOOC, this is a low-key initiative people can participate in (or not) at whatever level they would like. I have received stacks of #postcards from others, and have sent… far fewer. Since I am enthusiastic about the worth of postcards and the human connections they reinforce, I decided to put some #fierce (my #olw2018) focus on it.

In the last few days, I sent 59 postcards. And, I don’t even have writer’s cramp! Because I “cheated,” and used a digitally-based #process to make it more efficient. In December, I participated in “#decdoodle,” a CLMOOC pop-up that invited people to create a themed “doodle” each day of the month. Many of these I did in the form of a collage that I assembled in Canva. On purpose. With the intent of using them for postcards.

To further streamline the process, I used TouchNote to write personalized messages, address the postcards, and mail them.

Process applies to most everything we do in life. How we scramble eggs. Or tie shoes. Sometimes when we consider process-based methodologies for classroom teaching and learning, we feel hesitant or overwhelmed. My recommendation? Tackle the steps in small bites. Play with the concepts. You will “fail.” So what? Learn from the experience, revise your approach, and move on.

Plaid to the Bone” by David Goehring  shared under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 license.

December 31

2018 #OneWord – “Fierce”

I love fierce girls of all ages. And I want to intentionally be one:

  • I will fiercely love those who love me. How do I know they love me? They treat me with respect. They listen without judgment. They encourage me to be the best me I can be. They tell me truth, even when it may not be what I want to hear.
  • I will be fiercely committed to helping all my students be their best selves. In every part of their lives.
  • I will practice the art of #PBL fiercely, learning, reviewing, reflecting, revising, contributing continuously.
  • I will work fiercely to gain the credentials I have shortlisted to attain this year. For accountability, they are:
    • Google Educator Level II
    • PMP
    • Crfitical Friends Group Coach
    • Art of Coaching Certification
  • I will fiercely practice the art of storytelling, in particular the art of oral storytelling.

 

Category: PBL | LEAVE A COMMENT