Thursday, April 28, 2011

Curriculum 21 VODcast on Chinese iPad Initiative

While we were in China, my colleague, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, and I created several podcasts for the Curriculum 21 Podcast Channel. We visited Steve Wilmarth's classroom at the Number 1 Middle School attached to Central China Normal University in Wuhan, China. We interviewed his co-Teacher, Lara Zhang (who is moving to the United States this summer to go to a University in California), we interviewed some of his students, and we also collected media for a mini-movie, which is the subject of the most recent video podcast:

1:1 iPad Initiative in Wuhan, China from langwitches on Vimeo.

We are still reflecting on our experience and sorting through the massive amount of media we collected. Stay tuned for much more about the program and its implications for teaching and learning in both the United States and in China.

follow Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000

follow Silvia on Twitter: @langwitches

The Curriculum 21 Blog

Friday, April 22, 2011

China Check-In!

We're having a blast in China and observing many great things! I'm collecting what we've published here so far, and I'll publish much more when I'm back in the states.

iPads in China blog post:

Sneak preview of Mini-Documentary:

My Posterous Blog:

Digital Story:

Photos from Silvia's Flickr stream:

You can also search "Curriculum 21" on iTunes and download the podcasts as we create them!

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Web Stuff 04/12/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Losing Your Job? Every Little Thing, Gonna Be Alright...

This is a repost (with a few tweaks!) from last year at about this same time. I thought it would be a relevant and worthy posting to put up again. Good luck to all of you that are in this boat.

Need a Musical Lift? Click Here.

In the wake of all the craziness around our economic climate, many folks in education are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. And without a job.

This is not the time to sit around and wait for something to happen. This is the time to MAKE something happen.

Here are some ideas:

Get involved with Twitter and other Social Networks, like ASCD Edge, Blogs, Nings, etc. Integrating yourself into these networks works for you in multiple ways. For one, it gives you a continuous feed of resources to help hone your professional practice, whether you're in the classroom or not. It also allows opportunities for you to interact and strategize with people that are either in the same boat as you or at least have similar experiences. Additionally, I've gotten jobs just from participating in these networks. You can too.

Create an online portfolio, with visual (meaning photos) and concrete evidence of:
  • Planning and Preparation - This includes Lesson Plans you've created, evidence of assessments you've created that are aligned with state standards (both summative and formative!), statements and reflections about instructional design and your knowledge of content and resources.
  • The Classroom Environment you create - Evidence may include your student management/procedures plan, photos of the layout of your classroom with a statement about why you set it up that way, statements about how you create respect and rapport with your students, and how you manage student behavior.
  • Instruction and Assessment - You need to provide examples of student work (with names whited out) with feedback about what next steps should be, how you support questioning techniques in your classroom and how you help students arrive at connections or bring collective experiences together, how you provide opportunities for multiple groupings and collaborative/peer interactions, and statements about how you are flexible and adaptable to many different situations both with students and with those you work with.
  • Professional Responsibilities - You should provide evidence that you have participated in professional development, with statements about how that PD informed or transformed your instructional practice. You should provide evidence of parent communication that is beyond report cards. You should provide evidence that you make contributions to your school and the district in which you work and that you are a reflective practitioner. (Meaning that you think about lessons, students, opportunities, your whole teaching experience, and make plans for transforming your practice on a regular basis.)

More about the Framework for Professional Practice on Charlotte Danielson's homepage.

You could use a wiki or a WIX website to easily put this together.

Make sure you are on the sub lists of all the schools in your area. A day of pay is better than a day of being a coach potato wallowing in wishes. Subbing also gives you an opportunity to network in other school systems, and get valuable experience about different school dynamics and diverse student populations.

Consider the breadth of your expertise and be a consultant. Vistaprint offers free business cards and there are multiple places to create a web presence to talk about what you are good at and could contribute to education. I would suggest reading books by Jim Knight about Instructional Coaching, or Doug Reeves on providing PD with student results. Many of the local teacher's centers here in New York are actively looking for folks to lead workshops. You need a solid plan in an area of need, and you're good to go! There's still a lot of money floating around for Professional Development around the Common Core implementation. Learn EVERYTHING you can about the Common Core so that you can talk the talk if the opportunity arises. Here are my Common Core LiveBinders to get you started:

Go back to school or add additional certificate areas. The more educational experience you have and the more certificates you have, the more valuable you are. If you can survive in several niches, versus being pigeonholed in one area/grade level, you make it easier for a district to keep you in the event of layoffs. The FAFSA website can give you information about getting an educational loan at a low interest rate from the government: (This is where I got MY loan for my Master's Degree at Buffalo State College. The process was relatively quick...I'm still paying on it, but was able to refinance it later at an even lower rate than what I started with!)

Consider tutoring at home. Create a business card at Vistaprint and/or advertise in your local paper about your services. Many parents are on the lookout for qualified afterschool instructors--what would be better than a certified teacher?

Keep in mind the story of the Little Engine That Could. If you think you can, then you will. This is a hard time for many, but it is definitely not the time to lose your motivation. Try to stay positive and make small steps to improving your outlook, your value, and ultimately, your opportunities. This is a time to shine, to emit a light that everyone can see. Visibility is everything right now.

image made with BigHugeLabs Motivational Poster application and Windows Vista default "Dock" image.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Web Stuff 04/11/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cure for the Common Core: Transitions

So what’s your plan? What are you doing to start your Common Core transition?

This is a followup to my previous Blog Post called Common CoreZilla: Shrink The Change

In my work with districts on Common Core integration and implementation, many want to know what they can do right now. Many changes and opportunities for growth are coming, but to look at it as a complete package is very overwhelming.

The main message is still the same as the last blog post:

First step? Shrink the change! (Look to the Heath Brothers’ ideas in their book SWITCH and the associated resources they offer here: )

You cannot expect your transition plan to be that tomorrow you will be on board with all of the coming changes. Just like any journey worth taking, it’s got to be one step at a time. We may not reach our destinations for several years, but we can’t wait for all the necessary pieces to be set in stone before we decide to start planning. We need to set an itinerary, laying out the pieces of our path that we can control right now.

Those pieces include the following, which I think are imperative to bringing everyone on board in a manageable way:
  1. Establishing Collaborative Cultures
  2. Crosswalks/Comparisons - Examination and analysis of the Core Standards
  3. Curriculum Transformations

Establish Collaborative Cultures

If your schools/districts are made up primarily of those with an “island mentality,” then they need to join the continent. Communication and Collaboration are key 21st Century skills that teachers MUST be the model for. Collegial dialogue and consensus around change and growth are vital for a learning organization to move forward in positive and meaningful ways. It would also be a good idea to connect with other educators beyond your schools/districts and participate in globally connective opportunities.
Some resources:

Crosswalks / Comparisons

There has been some debate among my colleagues about the value of the standards comparison. I understand some who’s perspective is that we should just jump on board with the new standards and get down to business. There are others that think handing teachers an already completed crosswalk document does little to enhance their professional practice. I’m on the fence. I believe that engagement and meaning comes from prior knowledge and want this to run as smoothly as possible. Recently, another colleague, Susan Rothwell from the Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services in West Seneca, New York shared her strategy, which I like as a Common Core Standards comparison activity. She explains that teachers should take their copies of the Core Standards in their subject area, and highlight those things that are already represented in their practice/current standards. With another color highlighter, teachers then highlight those items that are both represented in their current standards AND represent a higher level of rigor or higher depths of knowledge. Finally, in another color, highlight those things that are BRAND NEW. Teachers use this discovery method to start updating curriculum maps, frameworks, unit plans, etc. If you are interested in seeing what’s being collected around comparative documents and crosswalks, the Curriculum 21 team has put a binder together:

Curriculum Transformations

Your starting point might be transforming a known element in your new curriculum in terms of rigor, methodology, technology, or depth of knowledge OR your starting point might be designing curriculum around something brand new in your standards. Whatever your entry point, this is a good time to re-examine design and practice in terms of 21st Century skills and doing what Heidi Hayes Jacobs asks in Curriculum 21 when she explains to the reader that they need to consider what to cut, what to keep, and what to replace. The replacement zone is the transformation zone. In order to get what we’ve never gotten, we need to do what’s never been done before. I encourage you to visit the binder that Janet Hale and I created for our work with teachers:

Additionally, in Appendix B of the Common Core Standards for ELA and Appendix A of the CCS for Math, there is information related to Curriculum Design and Performance Task Suggestions to make the analysis and subsequent design a little more concrete.

In New York State, there are many other issues that are related to Race to the Top and the Common Core Implementation, including new Curriculum Models, Data Systems, a new teacher/principal evaluation, AND the upcoming new assessments. I suspect that your state, if participating, is having similar roll out plans. The point here is to deal with what you can in this moment. Be in the now. What can you control / do / implement today or very soon?

Other things will fall in place with time.

Shrink the change. Slow and steady (and purposeful) wins this race to the top!

Photo: Boston, Copley Square Some rights reserved by wallyg

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Digital Storytelling on Digital Devices!

My four-year-old and I are playing tonight with an iPod app called StoryKit. (It's free in iTunes)

We created two stories tonight:


You can click on the sound icon to hear Lily read them!