Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Tag: G21 (page 1 of 7)

The Civility and Civics Of Wikipedia

I love Wikipedia. I argue with anyone who says it is bad, and I’ve even created a document to help teachers use Wikipedia effectively with their students.

There is something special about this giant collective work and the community that has helped create it. I often think about the authors and editors and how they arrived at the decision to give up their time to share their knowledge.

This morning @Braddo tweeted a link to a post on Big Think about Wikipedia and its community. Here is a quote from the transcript.

… I think it would be wonderful to make as part of the curriculum from, say, sixth grade onward part of your task and what you’ll be graded on is to edit and make the case for your edits to an article on a service like Wikipedia and then we’ll have new ranks of people being supervised by teachers who are working on the articles and on the product and that maybe even will apprentice to the norms by which you have an argument over what is true and what isn’t. And maybe some of them will choose to continue on as Wikipedians even after the assignment is over.


 I have proposed authoring or editing Wikipedia articles as school projects many times. I’m guessing this is not such an innovative concept now that Wikipedia is 14 years old. What I like about this proposal is the last bit.

So to me if I think of an advanced civics class, it’s great to learn that there are three branches of government and X vote overrides a veto, but having the civics of a collective hallucination like Wikipedia also be part of the curriculum I think would be valuable.


We would be teaching Civics for citizens of an online world. 


So go take a look, and scroll past the write-up to the comments, where one reader offers advice for teachers willing to take on the challenge.

Deeper Learning Has Legs

It is easy for educators to sit in a faculty meeting or professional development session seemingly paying attention and nodding along to what they hear while secretly vowing to wait until this new fad passes by. Deeper Learning, however, deserves true commitment from all of us.

A recent study by the American Institutes of Research (AIR) shows that students in schools that adopt and successfully implement Deeper Learning initiatives graduate on time more often. They also had higher rates of acceptance to competitive 4-year higher ed institutions. You can read more about it at the KQED Mind/Shift blog.

I’m sure you have heard Dr. Geyer and Dr. Hendron discuss Deeper Learning. It is a central goal of our iPad 1:1 initiative, as well as our G21 project-based model. Deeper Learning aims to reinforce academic rigor by creating an environment where students apply the content standards they learn across academic fields to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills. This new study provides evidence that our G21 initiative should be implemented across the board, not just with Honors or AP students, which is a common tendency.

The model is often critiqued as a framework that only works for high-achieving learners. The Hewlett Foundation commissioned this study to test whether the model works for all learners, choosing schools with a high proportion of low-income and English-language learners who often face more barriers to achievement. AIR investigators were also careful to choose schools that did not have a selective admissions process that might skew the student population toward high-achieving learners.


What? You “don’t have time for fluffy, fun projects with kids” because you “need to cover the standards before the test” and “snow days will get in the way” if you give this a try? Remembering that covering the standards is the bare minimum and knowing a bunch of facts without knowing how to USE them will not make these kids very successful in the future.

If our mission is to unlock the potential of ALL learners, we need to give Deeper Learning a fair shake and allow ALL students, regardless of the classes on their schedule, the chance to develop skills more important than test-taking will ever be. 

Building Your Nation State

Yesterday I arrived at my house to find my children hooting with laughter as they scrolled down a list of fake country names created by my daughter’s classmates. How often do kids stay up late working on an assignment that is so entertaining?

Of course, making up amusing names does not sound like an assignment that requires too much content knowledge or critical thinking.

But that’s not what this is about. My daughter’s Civics teacher has registered his classes on the NationStates website for a year-long project. Making up a name was just the first step. Each student had to select a form of government, primary industry, religion, wildlife, level of militarization, legislative system, etc. Based on their choices, students’ countries are rated on multiple scales. Some are quite humorous. For example, the fishing industry is rated on a “Nemo depletion scale” and the ranking on how many people believe in God is measured in “Dawkins.” My daughter and her 8th grade peers will get the Nemo reference, but might have to run a search to find out who Richard Dawkins is. I could not stop giggling over this one in particular.

Once the students establish their countries, design flags, and generally have lots of fun making up currencies, languages, city names, and everything else, they start making choices that change their country. Basically, the kids become all three branches of government rolled into a single person. Last night, my daughter had to decide whether voting should be compulsory. She was given three quotes from three different people spread out a wide swath of the political spectrum. We discussed each quote and what the implications were. I reminded her of items we have read or heard in the news, and I hope she made a thoughtful choice.

While this website was created as a promotional tool for a novel, it does provide an incredible non-traditional educational opportunity. Rather than reading about the functions of government in a textbook, students are wielding incredible power over their fictional countries and populations. As the website says, students have total control. They can “…care for its people. Or deliberately oppress them. It is up to you.”

I am as excited about my daughter’s country developing over the course of the year as she is. I would love to see what kids in Goochland do with this website, too.

 

Data-driven Games?

Over the weekend I traveled to an event in Florida and got to talk to Marcelo Stavale Molina very briefly at the end of a session. He is a Brazilian educator and his students do quite  lot with Scratch (link to his Scratch page). He described a game for visually-impaired players developed by 7th graders that I can’t wait to try out. So, I’ve been thinking about the role of programming in problem-solving and creativity all day.

I was skipping from one web page to another earlier today and found this FlowingData website. One of their recent entries links to a very detailed analysis of the frequency of letters in specific positions in words. Since I like playing word games like Scrabble and WordWrap, I had an idea. What if the points awarded by a digital version of Scrabble took into account more than what letters you used? What if we could apply this dataset to a scoring scheme so the value of the letter varied based on the difficulty of placing that letter at the beginning, middle, or end of a word? Imagine assigning a multiplier that either rewarded  you for an uncommon placement, or penalized you for a very common one.

If nothing else, this would be a great example of math in real life. Any takers for this G21 project?

More Than Names and Dates

It is that time of the year when kids are walking down the hall talking about Standards of Learning tests, how they did, and how much they hate this or that.

When I was in high school, I hated history. I remember slogging through an American History class where we had to memorize the dates and names of Civil War battles. It was one of the few tests I failed and didn’t care. I just wanted to move on to a different topic. In college, I signed up for the required History of Western Civilization with nothing short of dread. I walked in the fist day and sat close to the door, ready to bolt as soon as I could. Instead, I ended the semester seriously considering changing my major to History. I have to thank Dena Goodman for making history a fun story, for letting me take a peek at amazing stuff at Hill Memorial Library, and for talking me out of majoring in history.

Of course, since I mentioned the Encyclopédie, you can guess we talked a lot about the French Revolution. That was fun: the scandals, the riots, the atrocities, the fashion, the music, the plays, the poetry… We talked about dates a bit, but those were so minor compared to the big personalities and juicy gossip. It was an incredible time in history, and back then it was not history. It was life.

What if we covered history the way CNN, MSNBC, and Fox cover current events? Clearly those three have people who willingly listen and read. What if students produced news segments about the French Revolution and the decades that led to it to create a collection that could run like an hour’s worth of CNN programming? I think we could pull it off. Of course, we’d have to take insane liberties with some dates since not everything would have happened at the same time…

Head chef at Versailles shares his favorite appetizer recipes

The rich and famous entertain: a visit to Madame de Pompadour

Rameau’s inspiration for his latest chart-topping tunes

An interview Voltaire and Rousseau: their opinions on Shakespeare, constitutional monarchies, and religion

Commercial break – Marie Antoinette’s Cake Bakery

I’m sure the kids could come up with many more ideas by following their own interests. It would be a great way to cover all the content and let each student shine by focusing on what they find most interesting. Once the collection is done, it would become an excellent digital resource for everyone to reference when it is time to review.

Any takers at GHS for next year? I’d love to be a part of this.

Thinking About Citizen Science

I’m currently working on a children’s book about ladybugs, and after collecting video of a larva eating an aphid this weekend, I was trying to find out if ladybug larvae have teeth. In my searching, I ran across something I had heard about before, but forgotten: The Lost Ladybug Project. This, combined with an article sent to me by a friend earlier in the month, made me think this and other citizen science projects could be resources for a really interesting G21 Project next year.

What if kids with iPads went outside a few minutes once or twice a week, or even volunteered time during recess, to document the biodiveristy of the playground? Teachers could create a classroom account on Project Noah and other similar websites. Using LeafSnap, students could learn to tell the difference between oak trees, or even more relevant, between poison oak and ivy. Instead of ordering a butterfly kit from a school supply catalog, students could find their own caterpillars, watch them grow, and document the process.

I have not searched my blog, but I think I’ve written almost exactly the same paragraph above at least once before. This is something I value. It is something important to me. I believe in using the technology kids enjoy to help us better understand and save the ecosystems that keep us alive. I also believe it is important that kids see things outside of books, in real life, to connect school to the outside world.

Note: The ladybug larva is not the cutest bug out there, and watching it eat is not everyone’s cup of tea. I have it here if you would like to see it.

MediaMaster Server Tutorial

The Math Department at GHS will be working on G21 projects over the next couple of months. Students will be working on iPads to create tutorials for their peers. Rather than using cords to move files from iPads to computers for editing and sharing, we are going to use MediaMaster Server on teacher laptops.

MediaMaster Server is an app that uses WebDAV for transferring documents between devices with very little setup. Here is the tutorial I made for the Math Department.

We’ve come a long way. The last time I blogged about WebDAV in December of 2011, the tutorial I linked to looked a bit scary. Now anyone can do it. So go for it.

“Grading” Digital Citizenship

Seeing technology as a distraction rather than a learning tool is ridiculously common. I see teachers struggle with this predicament and I feel an obligation to change their minds. When ball point pens were invented, some schools banned them because… well… I don’t know why. This is something my mother told me about years ago. Ball point pens were new technology and maybe kids would draw mustaches on pictures in textbooks with them. Who knows?

Of course. My job depends on teachers using technology. I have to defend my job. I also have to defend the future of the digital citizens these teachers are shaping.

Technology in schools is not a passing fad. We have transitioned from typewriters and radio, through film strips, television, desktops, laptops, tablets. What’s next? Who knows, and who really cares? We have to adapt or retire, I say. If you disagree, read a bit of Marshal McLuhan’s writings obsolescence and adaptation (Wikipedia link). Technology changes society, and education is an integral part of society. Therefore, education MUST change as technology changes if it is to be relevant.

It all sounds very nice in theory, but we don’t live in theory. We must put this into practice. We must use technology in teaching.

I doubt there is a silver bullet that will eliminate every single incident of misbehavior when using technology. We work with children, and it is perfectly natural for children to get distracted, to push their limits, and to misbehave sometimes. What we can do is guide students in order to minimize misbehavior and help them grow to be good digital citizens. We must set expectations and remind students of those expectations often.

A great way to keep digital citizenship in every students’ mind is to include it as a component in grading rubrics. Grades should reflect academic growth, so any part of a grade that is not related to required learning objectives should be small enough not to be punitive. If a teacher is planning a project worth 100 points, a small portion of that (5-10 points) can be set aside for digital citizenship. Rather than telling students what NOT to do, tell them what will earn the full amount of points:

  • time on task (distraction)
  • responsible use of technology (vandalism)
  • use of appropriate sources (media literacy)
  • collaborative effort (disrespectful or bullying behavior)

Having these on a rubric lets students know that you are serious. It will also prevent a teacher from reacting too harshly and shying away from technology in the future.

 

Shiver Me G21 Timbers

How do you know your students really understand what they have read? Of course, you ask ten multiple choice questions and award kids points on some expensive system, right?

Not in Ms. Thomas’s class.

Ms. Thomas and her students read Treasure Island as part of their G21 project. They looked at all different aspects of the book: Geography, weather, technology, social structure of the crew, historical context of the events in the book… The students created costumes, models, posters, a new site, and other interesting artifacts based on what they read and discussed in class.

Ms. Thomas has been compiling much of what the students did in a website. It is still a work in progress, but you can visit and explore Treasure Island.

Six Years Into G21

Last week, at the VSTE annual conference, I attended a session about project-based Language Arts classrooms. During the Q&A at the end of the session, I mentioned our G21 framework and a project from a teacher at GMS. The teacher next to me listened, and when I finished, she said, “Oh, you guys copied our idea!”

My first reaction was to be offended. We launched our G21 initiative in the fall of 2008. We blogged about it, met with teachers, did a lot of persuading. By the spring semester, John Hendron and I were busy presenting at conferences about our framework and what we were seeing in classrooms. By the end of the year, we had incredible projects to share. By 2010, Henrico launched its own initiative. More recently, Isle of Wight put together its i-sle21 program. I know there are other “(insert your word or letter)21” initiatives out there that have emerged as we refined our ideas over the past six years.

My second reaction was to think, “Well, this is so good nobody can fathom that a small county like Goochland actually did this!”

I am not sure which school division the teacher represented. I don’t know that it really matters. Who came first, second, or third is not as important as how much of a difference these ideas are making in the lives of students, in Goochland and other counties. I’ll file this under “Fair Use” and  hope the teacher who spoke to me is letting her students really grow and learn in her classroom.

« Older posts

© 2019 Tech Salad

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑