Monday, July 25, 2011

Project Based Learning First Steps

It's scary to take your first steps into PBL. What if it doesn't work? What if I don't know what to do next? The first steps often are the scariest; however, most of us who try it are sold by the success.

Preconceived Scare-Factors about PBL

In the past year, I've heard the following three preconceived notions about PBL:

I have heard people describe their PBL as having choice boards or menus for student choice; but in actuality, what I hear them describing is differentiated instruction (DI). Sure, DI is in PBL, but that does not make it PBL.  

PBL Benefits

PBL is good for all learners. When PBL is done correctly, it engages the students in their learning. They are motivated by an authentic purpose that peeks their curiosity. Learning is differentiated through product, process, possibly content, choice, etc. Various learning styles are met, and student strengths are nourished. Teachers can work with small groups, and can meet individual needs.

PBL allows students to use their knowledge and understanding in new and creative contexts. By working at Bloom's higher levels of thinking, students retain and remember the lower levels while learning how to problem solve and use critical thinking. Therefore students get more out of PBL than direct instruction or lecture.

PBL does takes teacher planning time and student learning time, but it's time well spent! I notice less reteaching needed because PBL focuses on the top three levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, which allows learners to make connections and explore learning in depth.

This depth and motivation is not something they easily forget, thus they retain their learning. Students actually do better on multiple choice tests because it tests knowledge that they understand at such a high level.

Final Thoughts

The first steps of PBL are scary, but worth it. If your students are motivated to learn; willing to work harder because of their active engagement; will learn some of the "basics" while moving to the higher levels of Bloom's; and will learn more, then what's stopping you?
  • What will make/What made PBL an easier transition for you?
  • How does PBL look in your room?
  • How do you get ideas and share resources that can be used for PBL?
  • What else would you like to add?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Using Diigo for Student Portfolios

I had some great comments from my last post about student portfolios, Diigo, and blogs. This post is a continuation of that conversation.

Traditional Portfolios

When I think back to my beginning years in the classroom, I remember my student portfolios were in manilla file folders. Later, they became gorgeous construction paper books. On both accounts, they were linear, and you would view it from left to right, one page after another.
Currently, the two sites that stand out in my mind to collect student work in a linear manner are LiveBinders and Google Sites. Those are great options, and I'm sure there are a plethora I haven't even considered.

However, I am not always a linear thinker. I like having multiple options.

Diigo Portfolios

In Diigo, students could bookmark and collaborate regarding their resources, notes, etc. The teacher could view per assignment or per individual.

Here's a little video made in Screenr that shows my thinking:

Tips for Management in Diigo
  • If you have multiple classes, it may be easier to name students by the hour number and then the name. For example, if Tracy Ryan is in my first hour, I could name her 1TracyR.
  • Have tags for subject (i.e. math), type (i.e. geometry), specific (i.e. polygons), student user name (i.e. 1TracyR), and hour (i.e. hour 1).
  • For the portfolio piece, have them put a tag in for portfolio to identify that it is something they want represented in their portfolio beyond just their collection of work.
  • Decide if you will use quotes around groups of words, underscore, or no spaces. For example, "commutative property" vs. commutative_property vs. commutativeproperty. Then try to remain consistent.
  • For K-2 (and maybe 3rd), I personally don't think I'd try venturing into Diigo. I may teach them how to submit the URL on a Google Form with the title of the assignment and their name (the same data I'd use to sort in Diigo).

Final Thoughts
  • What other tips can we add to the list?
  • What else do I need to think through?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What have I missed?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Student Portfolios, Diigo and Blogs

I've had several people ask me about how to start blogs and portfolios with their students next year, and what's the best approach.

Purpose of Student Portfolio?

Portfolios are collections of student work/artifacts that represent the process and progress of their learning. Typically the stronger artifacts document reflection and feedback. Some of the artifacts in the portfolio are then selected to present to others, such as at a parent-teacher conference.

Collecting, reflecting, and selecting to share with others is what makes portfolios extremely valuable. I like the visual that Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano created to show the three steps of curating a digital portfolio.
Creative Commons: Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano/Langwitches

What Could a Digital Portfolio Look Like?

I appreciate Implementing ePortfolios? Questions to Consider, and have used it to funnel my thinking for what the digital portfolio could look like.

I'm at a comfort level now where I don't limit students to certain tools. I allow them to use whatever they believe will be most effective for their purpose. Therefore, in thinking about how I'd have them collect their digital creations, especially if they are created all over the web, I need something that is easy to collect, easy to have dialogue or post reflections, and easy to share. With that, there are two fits that I believe would be the easiest for me.

Diigo for Digital Portfolios

Using my Diigo Educator's Account, I'd set up my students in my class. Some steps to walk through are:

  • Bookmarking and tagging using tags that I've pre-created. (Click here to read more about folksonomy vs. taxonomy). For example, I use "AJUSD" for things related just to my district, and now it is easier to retrieve as well. I might have my students label their portfolio selection as, "mE-Portfolio." So, there would be class/assignment tags and tags for the portfolio.
  • The class would have to learn how to leave constructive comments for one another, and practice digital citizenship.
  • Dialogue and reflection on the bookmarks is easy in Diigo through comments and/or annotations

Blogging with Students

The other route I'd use for portfolios is blogging. I'd start with one class blog and would place student names in categories and the assignments in tags/labels. From here, students can share and reflect from within the blog. They can comment and leave the URL to what they've created (or use a Google Form to collect the URLs), or I could dedicate a new page on the blog to showcase their projects.

For their portfolio piece, they can create a new presentation such as a digital story to share their overall reflection of their growth. Eventually, students can graduate from the class blog to earning their own blog, at which point, their portfolio would truly be their own.

Final Remarks

There are many ways to create digital portfolios, and what I've written about is what would be easiest for me. Please help me think through this more.

  • What are your thoughts about using Diigo, blogs and portfolios?
  • How would you create student portfolios?
  • What questions do you have?
  • Hootsuite for iPhone
  • What have I missed?

Special thanks to the #elemchat group on Twitter for the resources! It was my first time participating, and I was determined to learn from all of you, despite only being connected through my iPhone on G3 and poor reception! 

Continued thanks to Edublogs for their Teacher Challenges. I love building PLN through all @edublogs does!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Reflection of ISTE from a Newbie

This was my first time going to ISTE and Edubloggercon. So, what were my favorites and takeaways?

1. I found that Jackie Gerstein's session on the Flipped Classroom at Edubloggercon gave me incredible perspective. We were given snippets of information filled with examples, interspersed with discussion points as small groups and the whole group. Later in the day when I had a moment to ponder this, I realized the possibility of the Flipped Classroom was no longer something intangible to me that only districts with lots of money and high SES could do. It's something we can do despite the economy, having to close two schools, and all the other "Yeah, but..." excuses I could list here.

2. Blogging "N@ked" or Being Transparent in Our Relationships with Susan Davis, was another favorite from Edubloggercon. The discussion started with what it meant to be transparent by sharing celebrations as well as failures, because that's the reality of change and innovation, which evolved into the discussion of promoting transparent culture.

3. Edublogs hosted an ISTE Meet-up for a tour of Independence Hall.
I am in serious awe of everything Edublogs does for teachers. Their incredible commitment to building teachers up so they can create learning-centered classrooms is honorable. I am still very new to blogging, but through their Teacher Challenges, I've learned more than I ever anticipated, and it has trickled down into the classrooms of AJUSD to positively affect our learning culture. So, meeting Ronnie Burt and others from the Edublogs community was an epic event for me.

On screen is AJUSD  Superintendent.
Left-Right: Me, Shelee King George, Bartow, & Knight.
4. Peer Coaching. I was adopted by Shelee King George, Mary Knight, and Colet Bartow for the day and helped out with their Peer Coaching Poster and Birds of a Feather Sessions. It was an honor to give back a little that Peer Ed has given us, and with all the excitement over ISTE's NETS for Coaches, it was great fun talking to all the people curious about how to build 21st century pedagogy, technology integration, and learning community through peer coaching.

5. Suzie Boss' session on Ripped from the Headlines: Real Events Yield Relevant Projects was another highlight.  Be selective what news you choose for PBL. Use complex, relevant events students can empathize with, and will affect us for a long time. Paul Allison, part of the panel discussion, solidified that blogs are fabulous to share their PBL to a real audience.

5. What Does it mean to be a Tech Savvy Principal? Totally inspiring. This panel discussion with Lyn Hilt, Patrick Larkin, Eric Sheninger, George Couros, and Brian Nichols, was moderated by Scott McLeod. First off, I've learned so much from the Connected Principals Blog, that it was exciting to see the faces and hear their voices in person. My main takeaways from this (and I'm sorry, I don't have who said what):

  • Principals need to model using the tech, but this doesn't mean they are experts at it.
  • Build PLN within district and outside, and resources will come to you.
  • Use ISTE's NETS for Admin to self assess where you are.
  • Share your learning.
  • Change policies, such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). 
  • Allow teachers to self-choose own professional development. Allow those who are ready, to push ahead.
  • Media waiver in AUP. Have the AUP guided by your vision.
  • Blogging with students AUP. Have a parent night for blogging.

6. Kevin Honeycutt.  Even though I'm reserved, I thrive on fun and passionate educators. My favorite Honeycuttism: "Digital limbs can't be amputated at the front door of the school."

Taken from my iPhone
7. Chris Lehmann's Unlocking Potential. My notes are not as fabulously comprehensive as Moving at the Speed of Creativity, nor as visually amazing as David Warlick's, but are meaningful to me:

  • Caring about and caring for are different things.
  • It is okay to take risks to succeed. It's okay to fail as long as we are still learning.
  • Help our students become 21st century citizens. 
  • The most important thing is to become the best people they can be.
  • The 4 things to instill in students are: 1) be thoughtful, 2) be wise, 3) be passionate, and 4) be kind.
  • Help them find the humanity in the world around them.
  • Write down your goals and your action plan.
  • Question anyone who says they have all the answers. 
  • Be one community and lead.
  • Be the best version of yourself.

Ronnie Burt & me
8, 9, & 10. Relationships. My favorite place to go was the Blogger's Cafe, which was filled with camaraderie. I was excited to meet people who I've been learning with, visit with some I've met before, and create new friendships.

The genuine compassion towards helping and growing others that I experience online was felt here in person.

It was also quality time with my AJUSD peeps! Thanks so much guys for the awesome experience! I love our AJUSD family!

Final thoughts

Our AJUSD gang: Maryanne Galvan, Jon
, Amber Moore, Elizabeth Francois,
Bethany Myers, Me, and Gina Fraher.
As I wrap my head around how to implement the next steps, I'm filled with encouragement knowing that there is a community supporting us! And we've met several of them at #ISTE11!

What were your favorites and takeaways from ISTE 2011?

Special thanks goes out to all who were involved in ISTE's Mission Possible! To sum it up in one word -- spectacular!

Visit ISTE Unplugged for more learning.