Wednesday, August 4, 2010

eduACTion Update!

Since the blog post I wrote last week on eduACTions, I’ve been reframing a couple of things in the Professional Development I’ve been doing.

Specifically, I’ve honed in on three areas that I think are the “trifecta” of where growth will bloom from as schools consider updating, upgrading, and “new-forming” their eduACTions. These areas put the ACT in eduACTions!

ASSESSMENT: How are we showing evidence of learning? If everything we do is objective and summative, then how do we know for sure what our students know and are able to do? A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of seeing a good friend, Jen Borgioli, present on assessment and what we should be considering when we paint a picture of proficiency. The summative is only one piece of the puzzle. Formative, in the moment assessment, needs to be happening as well. These formative pieces aren’t meant to be mini-objective tests, but multiple “snapshot” opportunities to determine curricular directions without waiting for an “end-point” (summative) assessment. The other piece of the puzzle is verbal assessment. Students need the opportunity to articulate in an oral way what they are learning. If they are unable to provide evidence of learning in the teacher’s valued framework, they need to have opportunities to do so in a framework they are familiar with: talking it out!

Do you remember watching “Little House on the Prairie?” Do you remember the scenes in school? How many objective tests do you remember seeing? How did those students prove their learning? They wrote it on their individual blackboards or they said it out loud. I remember seeing some global, summative assessments, like when Laura was going to be a teacher. But, most of the assessment was formative and verbal.

When was the last time you went to the doctor? What was the conversation and action? The doctor didn’t take a look at you and diagnose what was wrong. Most likely, the action started with, “And how are you feeling today?” The answers to that question, that you articulated orally, start to paint a picture of what your ultimate diagnosis and treatment will be. The next step is in the moment tests—things like temperature, blood pressure, etc. Finally, the doctor will probably do some standardized testing as well—blood tests, stress tests, etc.—tests that measure your capabilities and functions normed against an average or target. So in this one meeting, you are expecting your doctor to make a correct diagnosis and create a course of treatment specific to you and your needs. Sound familiar? The doctor is using verbal assessment, formative assessment, and summative assessment together to do what needs to be done to determine your specific course of treatment and his specific course of action.

CURRICULUM: Take a look at the “what and the how” of what you are teaching. Are you teaching a dinosaur unit because you always have? Are you teaching a dinosaur unit because you as a teacher just enjoy it? Where do those dinosaurs fit into your standards? Are you teaching the dinosaur unit the same way that you did in 1985?

The upgrading of curriculum is swiftly becoming an absolute necessity. If you haven’t updated your practice and methodology, then what year are you really preparing your students for? If you say that you are preparing them for 2020, and to be productive global citizens, then does your program integrate 21st Century skills and technology in task-specific ways? Does your program involve many opportunities for collaboration, critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation? Do the students own the learning in your classroom? Or does the teacher still control everything?

Does your curriculum consider upcoming changes with Common Core Standards adoption in your state?

I hear teachers talk often about starting to address these changes as we move into the 21st Century. Well, guess what folks? We’re TEN YEARS IN! A full tenth of the 21st Century is over and where are we? Many of us are still living and teaching and learning with methodologies and content that is decades old. That said, we need to value the basis of what we do, but we also need to start enhancing the framework of our professional practice that gets us out of this time machine that we’ve set up. Our students already live in the 21st Century, except for between 7:30 and 2:30 on school days. We send them back in time to learn in ways that we, as instructors, value and not in the ways that the students value.

We have to eliminate the Time Machine. We need to align curriculum in such a way that the WAY we teach and the WHAT we teach are specifically represented in a relatable way that matches the way students are being assessed.

TECHNOLOGY: Well, you’re reading this on a website—so you’re probably already on board with this one. The main thing I want to say about this is something I’ve said before—technology can’t be in your teaching just because it’s there. It has to have a pedagogical purpose. It has to be task-specific and thought of as tools in a toolbox.

A hammer is a great tool. When I need to hang a picture in my house, a hammer is the perfect tool to use. When I need to fix the toilet, a hammer is not going to be much help. I need a different tool. If I have the tools in my toolbox, then I can select the right one for the task at hand. Likewise with technology tools. You need a tech toolbox and so do your students. You and the students need to be able to select the tools that are appropriate for the job they have to do. You don’t want them walking around the house with a hammer looking for something to bang on, figuratively speaking.

It also has to be represented on MULTIPLE LEVELS. A teacher using a PowerPoint is certainly using technology, but who owns the learning if the teacher did all the work? The kids need to be the creators. We need to value the creators over the creations, and enable the students to use the technology to build and construct knowledge.

Additional considerations include access and comfort levels. We have to work inside your accessible frames as far as what is not blocked in your district and what hardware is available to you and your students. Nationwide, equity is a huge issue, but discussing that is great, but is not going to immediately change you and your students’ needs. Plan now to work with what you have, and be creative.

As far as comfort levels…you don’t need to know how to fix the engine in order to drive the car. All you have to do is be willing to add tools to your students’ toolboxes that you may not intimately know. If students are going to “OWN” the learning in your classroom, be willing to let them teach each other and you. Just fill up their toolboxes—and in the process, yours will fill as well!

When you think about ASSESSMENT, CURRICULUM, and TECHNOLOGY…what eduACTions are starting to form in your brain? What can you do to make a difference this year? How are you going to grow from where you are now?

What do you expect of your students that you need to model yourself? It’s time to A.C.T.

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