Friday, June 29, 2012

Take Aways from High Tech High

After seeing and experiencing High Tech High, here are some of the things that stand out in my mind:
  1. Pride of Ownership: The Students at HTH are proud of their community, their school, and their work. They know and understand their community intimately, and can describe their involvement in it. They have a connectedness with their school that goes beyond the physical. Their years at HTH are preparing these students for their future, and they will tell you why and how. Finally these students take great pride in their work. Student work covers the walls and hallways at HTH: the cleanest wall I saw there was one students had just finished mudding, sanding, and repainting after dismantling the vertical garden they had build on it. 
  2. The Strength and Pervasiveness of the HTH Brand: The High Tech High culture is robust, even in when school is out! Students, Teachers, and Administrators will all tell you the ways in which Peer Critique, Student Exhibitions of Learning, Student Presentations of Learning, and Internships have become foundational in their lives as learners. Everyone has bought into these essential elements, and they are working well! Much of it comes from Work that Matters: A Teacher's Guide to Project Based Learning
  3. Students before Curriculum: Its evident that in designing projects and student work that Teachers are primarily concerned with students engagement and excitement. They want their students to create a product that they will connect with, and take pride in. They want each project to allow for :
  4. Personalization: student voice and choice
  5. Differentiation: access and challenge for all learners
  6. Adult World Connection: authentic interactions with adults in the world beyond school
These are the factors that I saw making the biggest impact on student learning at High Tech High. True the context was Project Based Learning, but I would saw the projects work in conjunction with these elements and are not the driving force behind the school's success. 

I am just getting into Prensky's Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning and would say the Pedagogy he's preaching very much falls in line with the Pedagogy of HTH. Don't let the name of the school or the title of the book mislead you, its not about Technology.  
PS. I apologize if these links are broken. The HTH site was down when I was drafting this post. Leave a comment and I will try repair them later (It's not about the Technology)

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Great Opportunity for community partnership

I'd love to see schools partner with Otway to help prep the site and the community to host the Canada Winter Games. I wonder what kind of projects could come out of this.
Opinion250 Mobile

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Philosophy and Pedagogy

IDEO’s Ten Tips For Creating a 21st–Century Classroom Experience | Metropolis Magazine

I've been thinking about teaching philosophy and pedagogy lately, and this article echos many of the characteristics of 21st century education I value personally: learned centered classrooms; focusing on skills and outcomes that are relevant to our students and our society; seeking student engagement and creating learning opportunities to allow students to get engaged; allowing the learning process to be unique to the learner; using formative assessment to shape the learning process; and allowing creative expression of learning.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Curriculum conundrum

One of the question's I keep coming back to in considering the change afoot in education is: how do we find balance between "the curriculum" and "21st century curriculum"?

This question will require ongoing assessment in years to come as education programs change and evolve in keeping with our revolving culture and society. Many aspects of a 21st Century curriculum, I believe, need to be addressed directly.

At the back of my Math class I have posters for each of the skills we "learn" in Math: skills like creativity and problem solving, mathematical reasoning, estimation and mental mathematics, using technology, making connections... and there are more. So I ask - shouldn't these be front of the room skills? Shouldn't we spent more time worrying about these skills and less time worrying about exactly how many questions a student just got correct or incorrect?

The continuum of sharing information

As I reflect on the goals of 21st Century Learning I think one of the challenges facing teachers is determining which methods of  presenting information are most effective in any given context. At one end of the teacher-learner-technology continuum is a teacher presentation of information, somewhere in the middle we see teachers presenting information with technology, and as we continue we find teachers encouraging and enabling student access to information through technology; on the cuttin edge we find students sharing and communicating information with technology. This edge although cutting seems new enough that it can be the least comfortable.

I believe there are many other classroom trends that are correlated to this continuum. At one end we find teachers burdened by a focus on management, at the other we find teachers enjoying setting up opportunities to motivate students. At one end we view students as recipients of information, at the other the are owners of information.

A major challenge with the continuum seems to be pinpointing where the best learning is occurring. I think all educators will agree they've had days where quality learning has occurred at all points on the continuum.
One more question that comes to my mind is what will the continuum look like when today's Kindergartners hit High School, and will they be ready? Will we?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Information Literacy

I've commented before, that I believe literacy and numeracy are the foundational abilities we want our students to graduate with. The BC Teacher-Librarians Association recently published a document entitled "Points of Inquiry: A Framework For Information Literacy and The 21st Century Learner" in which they address some of the issues facing our learners today, and suggest a framework with which to better prepare today's 21st Century learner.

I love their Points of Inquiry Model shown below in which all aspects of the inquiry process are connected, but not necessarily in a linear progression. The document provides great goals and strategies with which to engage students in every part of the process.

I also really appreciate the comment that "educators recognize that there is pedagogical importance in 
hooking students into searching for ideas and explanations that create both meaning and deeper knowledge". I think this is underscores the importance of the inquiry/ exploration/ problem based process.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

21st Century Fluency Project

An excellent site well connected into the world of 21st Century Learning. The project is build on a guiding set of "fluencies" and "elements" - a worth while read.

Also included on one of the posts on the blog is this "bill of rights" for 21st Century students. I love the respect it shows for students and their learned methods of communicating and accessing information. I also appreciate the need is shows for the teacher in statements like "I need to be taught how to balance my life between the online and offline worlds". I believe this is very much where our students are at.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rock Wars Project Idea

This project was inspired by a guitar wars assembly seen at College Heghts Sencondary a few years ago. The purpose of the project would be to have students work in teams locally and with other host schools to run a rock wars assemblies internationally. Teams would be responsible for planning the event, promoting the event, designing shirts for participants (possibly done in collaboration with an art class), running sound and lighting equiptment (possibly in collaboration with local experts), running live video coverage of the event with a decibal meter to judge audience response to performers (possibly shared with another school running the event via Skype), and in general making a contribution to the school community by hosting the event!

Friday, February 10, 2012

More is better!

A great article from an excellent site on PBL. Lots of good suggestions to engage students in deeper thinking and more authentic tasks. One of the ideas is that "More is better". I was convicted with their criticism of projects that ask students to take information from one place and put it somewhere else. I think we've all been guilty of assigning these kinds of projects all too often. I'm encouraged not only by the possibilities a truly project based classroom will have to engage students in deeper thinking, more authentic tasks; but also the possibilities of projects that lead to bigger questions, more learning and more projects!
7 Essentials for Project-Based Learning | FreeBIEs | Tools | Project Based Learning | BIE

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Examples of Project Based Learning

The more I look into Project Based Learning the more excited I get about its ability to teach students 21st century skills in a dynamic, exciting, applicable learning environment. Discovery Education produced histed a webinar recently on PBL, and publised their powerpoint presentation shared here

Edutopia is one site that came up in the presentation that, in particular, seems to have a wealth of information on the approach.

I've also recently discovered the PBL Co-Laboratory from Shortly after creating my free account I had generated a list of 21 of my personal favourite projects from teachers internationally. Its so encouraging to see teachers so willing to share their ideas, and I hope the NLC is able to enspire students to do the same.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Logistics in a 21st Century Classroom

  • I've read about a number of schools that have created learning spaces that are very conducive to collaboration and communication. I'd love to see areas dedicated to experimentation - equipped with webcams; areas dedicated to recording audio and video - with some sound buffers; grouped tables for lessons and break out spaces galore!
  • Would/ could parents attend monthly meetings? Meetings every term? What would be reasonable yet sufficient to create relationships that foster enhanced student achievement in a radically new environment.
  • What will be the balance between 21st century skills and 20th century curriculum? Is it okay to lean toward the here and now?
  • How will KRSS ensure the program supports the necessary technology to make such a technological classroom possible? Bandwidth? Print access?

Introducing Students to 21st Century Learning

  • writers workshops
  • start with activities on interpersonal communication
  • who are you as a learner quizzes and activities (demonstrate various ways of learning)
  • big emphasis on organizing information: begin with a series of mini lessons where students read various kinds of information (Socials, Science, Math) and decide what kind of graphic organizer to use to summarize the information (use Microsoft Smart Art)
  • There are lots of C's tossed around in 21st Century Learning, and the more I get to know them the more I appreciate how these skills can and should take centre stage in a 21st century curriculum: 
    • This article from the BCTF outlines them and explains some of the context behind their inception. Here are BC's 7 C's
      • Critical thinking and problem solving,
      • Creativity and innovation,
      • Collaboration, teamwork and leadership,
      • Cross-cultural understanding,
      • Communications, computing and ICT literacy,
      • Career and learning self-reliance, and
      • Caring for personal health and planet earth.

Tools for 21st Century Learning

Projects Ideas for 21st Century Classroom

These are not necessarily original ideas, but are inspired from other websites mentioned in this blog. 
  • debates
  • math games fair
  • science fair
  • organize school events
  • meetings
  • ongoing blog of experience 
  • mini math lessons via video (ex, algebra tiles and linear equations)
  • democratic elections (for positions of responsbility in the classroom/ school/ at meetings)
  • committees
  • organization of school and community events, clubs, teams, fund raisers (student plan, organize, run, and reflect on events)
  • ambassadors to other schools (teaching math games, conducting science demos and/ or projects with students, presenting technologies to help young readers, demoing math manipulatives)
  • periodic news papers/ broadcasts
  • I see the progression in a 21st century classroom very much one of a gradual release of responsibility. I think it would work well to start with activities where everyone is responsible for learning the same material, but presenting it in their choice of way, and/ or a series of activities where everyone is responsible for learning different material, but presenting it in common ways (so as to familiarize themselves with methods of demonstrating learning, provide exemplars for future use, and evaluate the relationships between the type of knowledge gained, and the method of demonstrating learning)
  • After reading some of the information on Innovation Unit I've been thinking about a few new projects that would have a local focus, and a local impact. I would love to see some community partnerships into some of these projects. Ideas include; A project on sustainable trail building. The trails could be mountain bike, ski, or multipurpose, but would include research into trainbuilding techniques, local flora, fauna, topography, microclimate, and use; A second local project along the same vein I've been thinking about it is one on winter backcountry use. This could include studying weather patters, snowpacks, avalance gear and technology, GPS technology, and winter survival skills. The specifics of the projects would be entirely up to the students, but our goal as a learning community would be to create local partnerships and produce a product that could be shared with the community.
  • A day in the life of ______________ (a project where students really research a career of their choice and report back to their classmates)
  • Wikipedia creations (students find something they have expertise on and create content to add to wikipedia)
  • Environmental Stewardship (student teams create, design, and implement projects to help green their school and make it a better environment for the life that exists in and around it)
  • Documentaries/ Commercials/ Promo Videos (students create videos to promote Prince George/ their favourite book/ a novel they've read that's been turned into a movie...)
  • School News/ Radio (students create broadcasts to be shared with the school/ community)
  • Technology You Need (students research and market emerging, cost saving technologies to local businesses, VOIP phone?, Google Reviews, Twitter, Urban Spoon)
  • Winter Frisbee Golf Course/ Golf Course Used for Cross Country Skiing/ Skate Park/ Indoor BMX park? (Students create their own piece of the park as part of a course the class would put together)
  • Build a trail project (students work together to design a sustainable mountain bike trail with no net impact on the local ecosystem)
  • Backcountry safety (students create PSAs to help teach younger students the value of backcountry safety)
  • Here's another site with a host of "Challange Based Learning" (CBL) Projects teachers internationally are developing and implementing. The CBL format is analogous to PBL, but with its own unique process and Apple spin. 
  • Tweet Up where students take on roles as characters (for example, this could be science based and students could take on the roles of historic scientists; alternately, this could be socials based, and students could take on roles as 
  • Class Elections where students have to campaign and run for roles in class government, modeling their platform on a certain party, individual, the position they are running for
  • Toy Building Project where students design toys research, design, and send children's toys to an underprivileged community in BC (possibly floating toys to go along with Science 8 Water Unit).