Friday, August 19, 2016

Digital Learning Platforms

Thanks to all of you that joined me at the NWCSI August Event to learn more about Digital Learning Platforms. I hope you walked away with some ideas on how to use technology to allow for deeper learning in your classrooms this year. Below is the slideshow along with the ideas for each of the discussion questions.

Be sure to check out the resources linked at the end as well!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Organizing Student-Centered Learning

As I have "flipped" my classroom from a teacher-centered learning environment to a student-centered one, I found it helpful to have a framework. A few years ago I came across a great one that is tailored to a history classroom using Common-Core standards. But I think this framework could be used in several disciplines.

It is called the C4 Framework and was developed by Glenn Wiebe (@glennw98). One of his main purposes in developing it was to help teachers help students to move beyond memorizing content. Here are the fours steps:

Collect: Content is in so many places so for the first step, students should go out and collect as much of it as they can. As a teacher I may set up a list or folder of suggested resources. These resources may also include lectures that I have recorded or other YouTube content videos. I may also have student "specialize" in an area they are collecting information about, for instance, the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Collaborate: Typically at this stage I have student pool their information together. They can decide what is the most important information and what isn't necessary. They can fill in nay gaps they may have missed. But this can also mean a Socratic Seminar about the topic or some kind of interaction with others about the contents. The C4 website has some cards you can purchase for ideas about each level. This may be a stage where I could use a little help.

Create: Students must gather the information they collected and create something with it. Ideally, they create something that answers a driving question, with supporting examples. The possibilities for a product are endless and the choice is best left up to the students. This step is so much more valuable than memorizing a fact and spitting it back out on a test. It is more important that students know how to use facts to support and argument.

Communicate: This is the 21st Century and learning should not be contained to the four walls of a classroom, let alone a private exchange between the learner and teacher. New learning should be shared. I think classroom blogs are a great avenue for this. Students can publish their work on the blog and reflect on their learning. The online publishing opens up the possibility for authentic feedback beyond the teacher.

This framework has really helped me plan out inquiry-based, student-centered lessons. Please check out the website for more information and ideas. Glenn's blog is also a great resource for teachers, especially history teachers that love technology!

Must-Have Resource for History Teachers

If you are a history teacher there are a few resources you must use. One of my main goals as I started my teaching career was to show students the grey areas of history. In practice this was more difficult than expected. Finding good primary resources that high school students can access is a challenge. Finding sources that contradict each other and guiding students through the thought process of making a supported conclusion seems equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest! So imagine my excitement when I found the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG).

At the site, go to "Curriculum" and then "Reading Like a Historian." I love the introductory lessons that offer great plans that teach students the skills of historians. The Lunchroom Fight lesson always goes over well in my classroom and is a memorable scenario I can refer back to all year.  There is a vast amount of US History lessons and they are building more World History lessons.

Students have enjoyed these lessons, sometimes they get a little sick of them because they would rather just "know" the answer. However, students have also expressed that they like working through these resources. So if you haven't already been to this website, make sure you check it out!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Twitter Teachers

This August I will be presenting at a education conference about becoming a connected educator. One of the main ways I have done that is by joining Twitter. I know that many of the educators at this conference do not currently use Twitter. So I'm looking for help, please complete this survey and add specific testimonials or stories in the comments. Thanks!

To what degree has Twitter had an impact on your teaching?

One More Reason

As I look to next school year, I am trying to prepare to defend gamification. I feel like it is a somewhat unknown and misunderstood topic. As I continue to build up my arsenal of evidence, I continue to learn more. The YouTube clip below provides some great reasons for gamification and an awesome idea for a unit. It suggests that you give students two unrelated topic, they each have to find a series of links that connect the two. An award will be given for the student that connects the topics with the least number of links. I love this idea and many others found in the video below. Enjoy!

More Gamification Resources

Perhaps with some of my posts of gamification you might be considering trying it yourself and/or you still want to learn more. I am still a bit of a novice. I gamified one unit last year and I making plans to gamify an entire semester next year. There are several teachers that have more experience than myself. I'm attaching a few podcasts here that have three middle school teachers discussing gamification in their science and history courses.

Introduction to Gamification: What it is, what are some good resources to get started/learn more, how it works and how you can get started
Podcast Link

Gamification Part II: Continues to discuss examples of how to gamify especially focusing on XP and rewards/items
Podcast Link

And if you don't have quite that much time to invest, here's a powerful, quick explanation of WHY you should use game elements in education.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

A huge part of a teacher's job description is to motivate students to learn. This is not a very easy task, but educators take it on year after year. I feel lucky to work with students that are generally very motivated, but some of them care more about their grade than they do about trying and learning new things. This can be another frustration of a teacher. As a school we are planing to move toward Standard-Based grading to help shift the focus from the grade to the learning. In my own classroom I want to implement gamifcation as means to increase both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

I found the above image on Pinterest and its source is acknowledged in the picture. It  appears to offer a criticism of gamification as only inspiring extrinsic motivation through points and leaderboards, represented by all of extra greens on top. But the real motivation (the carrot) is very small. I agree that points and leaderboards will only motivate you for so long. Certainly, I would not invest so much time in this if were only to add some bells and whistles to my classroom. What really excites me about gamification is the way it allows me to feed that intrinsic motivation that is deep and significant. Video game elements within the classroom naturally lend itself to a mastery based system. If you don't meet the clearly stated standard the first time, you receive feedback and are challenged to try again. Each quest is tied to a standard so students know why they are doing the activity and what learning should come out of it.

I think gamification does provide both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Students may start off with enthusiasm for the game elements and language but will eventually come to appreciate the process and challenge of learning.