Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Deconstructing CCSS -- Two Questions?

Dear Colleagues:

The CCSS development criteria state that the standards be "Clear, so that educators and parents know what they need to do to help students learn." 

Question 1: Why are state leaders, curriculum specialists, and teachers deconstructing them if they were deemed by the developers to have met the "Clear" criterion? 

Question 2: Would standards deconstructed by individual teachers over 40 states lead to different understandings of the original "CCSS standards" that are intended to meet another development criterion: to be "Consistent across all states, so that students are not taught to a lower standard just because of where they live?"

Start-Up. Given the immediate need to implement CCSS, I believe time would be better spent by teachers designing, pilot-testing, and constantly improving instructional practices that result in improved student demonstrations of the standards as adopted. This is where creativity shows up in teaching and in student products and performances that meet and surpass the intent of the standards. 

Support. This start-up focus would guide state and local officials, subject matter experts, and professional developers to support teachers as instructional leaders as they network with colleagues in classrooms across state lines to answer the essential question for our profession:

"What teaching practices in my classroom lead to 
improved student learning on specific CCSS standards?" 

Source for Development Criteria:

Friday, May 1, 2015

What If School Was More Like Twitter?

Dear Colleagues:

What if school was more like Twitter?

I discovered this question in a LinkedIn discussion group for Twitter-Using Educators. It motivated me to envision what a learning venue like that might look like. Well, here are my thoughts for two purposes as part of teachers' daily on-the-job tasks:

For Communication and Information Sharing. Teachers would use social media tools such as Twitter or Syzygy in LearningFront to communicate throughout the day with their followers or colleagues. For example, to find a place to park at a staff development session, share a vision for quality learning, identify what they're reading, share a web link, describe a cool activity in their classrooms, or ask for help on meeting student needs. Teachers would just have fun and learn from their colleagues as a part of their daily workplace! They might post something as simple as "off to eat lunch with my instructional team" or as complex as "what is data-driven teaching?" Simply put, Twitter or Syzygy are social media tools for teachers to communicate with each other when something is relevant and timely to share or inquire about.

For Teaching and Student Learning. Teachers would access and use online templates to construct lesson plans that integrate social media tools such as Twitter. For example, they might adapt the following templates or design their own lessons:

Payoff. The values of this approach are the pre-planning, delivery, and results from using Twitter to achieve a specific content standard. Once the Twitter session is started, teachers would adjust their Tweets to meet the differentiated needs and ideas of the students as the Twitter-generated lesson is taught through online or blended online and classroom settings.  Moreover, the examples demonstrate how a scoring tool would be used to assess both student performance of the content standard and the efficacy of using the Twitter timeline instructional strategy. Now, that's transforming what a lesson plan looks like!

"School as Twitter" is an exciting and evolving concept -- and highly inviting for us to improve upon as we collaborate to engage our students.

All of this thinking stimulated me to raise a new question: What would a standards-based curriculum comprised of "School as Twitter" lessons look like?

Nick Hobar

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Teaching to a Vision of Student Learning -- Not a Standardized Test!

Dear Colleagues:

It may seem counterintuitive, but the most scaled-up evidence of constructivist, projected-based teaching and learning I have observed was supported by standardized performance task assessments and scores. It happened with the MD School Performance Program. 

  • First, a state vision of rigorous problem solving for all students was developed and adopted as the driving force for statewide school reform. 
  • This led to the development of high-level state learning standards in reading, language usage, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies for all students. 
  • Next, state standardized and authentic performance task assessments -- in which students had to produce, construct, or perform something expected in the standards -- were developed to reflect the vision and standards. 
  • Then, local districts developed performance instruction tasks that were aligned with the vision and standards and included formative assessments similar to the state assessments. 
This approach meant teachers taught to a vision of student learning and standards in a constructivist context -- not to a test. Moreover, writing was integrated into each performance task to bolster critical thinking, analysis, and reflection. Many of the state assessment performance tasks were multi-content so more than one subject was assessed and scored in one performance task. 

These factors really made local instruction engaging and worthwhile for all students -- in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the state. Recently, I adapted one of the performance instruction tasks for use in a Twitter timeline as an exploratory project. You can check it out at this link under “Learning with Social Media.” 

Charge on with authentic constructivist learning, assessment, and improvement -- they work for all students.

Nick Hobar

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Today's Change Agents

Dear Colleagues:

Today I was thinking about: "Who are the change agents creating 21st century education approaches?" 

I'm not sure today the "real" change agents are in education. I look at it this way. If you want ideas for changing and improving 21st century education in schools to flourish and spread, join a learning community where people actively share, innovate, co-create, and produce something. Typically, learning communities start and stop at the sharing phase. Today's change agents are members of learning communities that produce something of value.

When you have a cool idea to change teaching and learning, people will share it, collaborate, and make it better. Chances are today that happens outside the formal education structure, e.g., Khan academy, iPad, virtual K-12 schools, emerging online degree-granting and job-related professional development platforms.

Want to be a change agent? You are cordially invited to join LearningFront and make it happen. We build and share cool ideas here to change and improve teaching and learning! 

Nick Hobar