Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shifting Sands: Professional Development

I had a blog post all ready to go with specific examples of how I spend my PD days… in the seemingly requisite 5 ways I facilitate professional development activities and resources with faculty and staff… but I don’t think I am going to post it. Really when it comes down to it – PD works like all learning:

• Listen well, being present in the moment

• Facilitate resources

• Get out of the way

Enough said.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shifting Sands: Assessment

I was raised in the ed school of the late 80’s. I remember being told the difference between formative and summative assessments but I also remember most of the emphasis being on summative assessments – those big end of unit exams measuring all the learning objectives written with active verbs. Was the question valid based on correct response rates? Was the test scaffolded along Bloom’s lines? When graphed, did grade distribution resemble a bell or a balloon in a windstorm?

It's time to shift away from the almighty summative assessment where the grade is given and everyone moves on to the next unit – regardless of grade, mastery or understanding. I think most agree that learning is a process of facilitated experience. Around here, we name the process the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (Context-Experience-Reflection-Action-Evaluation). The teacher as facilitator guides students through a series of experiences which, through reflection, become part of a lifetime of action. What summative assessments miss is all the small stages in which learning occurs. How does the teacher know each and every student is working to his/her full potential? How do the teacher and student recognize gaps? Identify successes? Make the connections of previous knowledge to new ideas? This is where I see the value in formative assessments. And fortunately for me and my blog writing, technology makes formative assessments easy.

1. Sharing writing has never been easier. Google Docs, Mcrosoft Live 360, iCloud, Dropbox, Blogger, Edublogs, Wikispaces and any learning management system out there allows for fast and simple document sharing, blogging, discussion forums and uploads. Writing a “Do Now”, reflection or exit ticket can easily be done on any device and submitted as formative assessment without interrupting the flow of the classroom.

2. Opportunities for multi-channel products are in every pocket. Have students pull out a phone and record a verbal answer to a prompt you offer. Have them take photos of their vocabulary words. Create a video showing the action of an experiment or scene from the reading. Students meet with you face-to-face during consult time to show you their evidence of learning... or at the very least email or upload files to product of your choice.

3. Assess your students using audio tools. Instead of writing all over a student assessment, record your response to their work using Garageband, Audacity…your phone. Students love to hear constructive criticism.

4. Have a back channel feed for class time where everyone participates. This can be done through Twitter, TodaysMeet or PollAnywhere. Assess based on articulation of argument or uses of evidence to support claims. Students will engage the material, engage each other and have an excellent resource for studying for the summative assessment (should you give one).

5. Collect material from all the steps of the summative product. Peak in on the process of creating using a shared Google Doc, Presentation or Spreadsheet. Have students share their Prezi file or Glogster site with you. Assess formative steps in the projects before the final project is due. Give them the feedback to produce their best work.

This idea that the end of unit summative assessment is the only way to gage success (of student, school or teacher value-add) puts the learning process at a dead end. The summative assessment happens, is over and everyone moves on to the next unit. So instead, shift your paradigm and set students up for success with constant feedback.

Feel free to leave your favorite way to formatively assess with technology! Love to hear ideas.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Shifting Sands: Teaching Practice

Looking over the New Media Consortium 10 Megatrends announced this week, #9 jumped out …

There is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities, and training.  Tradition authority is increasingly being challenged, not only politically and socially, but also in academia – and worldwide.  As a result, credibility, validity and control are all notions that are no longer givens when so much learning takes place outside school systems.” (A Communique from the Horizon Project Retreat, 2012)

This is the shift occurring in teaching practice.  The teacher is no longer the giver of knowledge.  The teacher can facilitate, guide and navigate… but (as the article says) credibility, validity and control are up for grabs.  So how does this effect classroom practice?

1.       Student-led inquiry is in.  Offer challenging prompts and engage students in Chalktalks, Blogs and Discussion Boards, Writer’s Workshops (pencils allowed), small group discussions, projects and labs. Try a flipped classroom or lesson where students use class time to experience knowledge and practice new skills with you the teacher present. 

·       Hour lectures to impart THE KNOWLEDGE are over. Yes, some direct instruction may be needed to reinforce key concepts but really...keep at a minimum.

2.      Assessments highlighting reason, collaboration, synthesis and personal voice which are part of the learning process are in.  Check out Universal Design for Learning Resource Library and explore Jay McTighe's formative assessments as learning.

·         Multiple choice tests as solo assessment practice are out.  Just saying.

3.      Rethink homework.  Much like assessments reflect on why you give homework. Homework should build on learning objectives introduced in classroom.  Or better yet, let homework be the introduction (vodcast, reading, researching) and class time focus on guided experience and practice.

·         Packets full of skill and drill worksheets are out.  If it still smells like the mimeograph it's time to put away.

4.      Bring Your Own… is in.  Share the limelight!  Encourage students to bring devices and resources to class.  Not only will students be more engaged in classroom environment but they will experience that same sense of “expertness” that we teachers love (thus the proclivity of the hour long lecture)… Let students experience the “light bulb” effect that happens when they help each other make the connections.

·         Banning mobile devices, streaming video, e-Books and dare I say Social Media  in schools is out.  Really, enforcement is impossible and you’re just teaching students that access to information is forbidden and therefore cool to use in adolescent rebellion.

5.      Have clear expectations!  All the above does not mean your classroom is the reincarnation of the Wild West.  Every community shares practices of ethics and behavior where members feel safe.   

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Shifting Sands

Believe it or not, educational technology is only one part of my job description as Director of Faculty Development.  I also facilitate teacher evaluation and formation.  Throw in support for a couple of strategic plan initiatives and chairing the Department of Information and Media Services.  My head is a busy place to be…

The benefit of being so cross-curricular (dare I say cross-platform) is that I see everything.  I see the classroom, the IT cave, faith formation and Jesuit Identity, marketing, library services.  I have daily conversations about curriculum development, assessment practices, classroom management, technology integration, access-evaluation-retrieval, advertising, strategic planning, Indiana state law.  I have even been known to move furniture and collaborate with electricians.

This morning, in a fit of “hey, I got some sleep” my brain was piecing together all I’ve seen this week… and what is beginning to synthesize is an idea of “Shifting Sands”.  It’s not just technology that is changing.  It’s not just learning theory.  It’s not just evaluation of teachers or students… it’s everything.  To borrow a rather trite analogy… it’s like shifting sand… the ground beneath education is literally shifting.  I am a storyteller for youth worship at my husband's parish. When the story of the week takes place in the desert - the text begins "The desert is a strange and wild place...The winds blow... moving and shaping the sand...the desert is never the same."  One could argue the same goes for education.

This loss of solid grounding is intimidating and a little panic inducing but necessary.   The rock of multiple choice tests to assess learning, the teacher as sage, the student as recipient, the school day as 8:00am – 3:15pm…the overhead projector... it’s all shifting.  It’s also why education pundits and legislators don’t get it.  They are stuck in a vision of education from their childhood through the lens of their childhood experience.  The trick is, education is alive because it exists through the lives of the students filling the halls (literal and electronic). It is never the same.

I’ll be exploring this idea of shifting sands over the next week or so in several posts (unlike JD – I prefer to write in short segments).  Interesting in hearing your thoughts along the way so please engage in conversation in the box below!