Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stop Thinking About Screen Time

I was lucky enough to be part of an Ignite breakout session at ASCD's Empower 2018 conference in Boston, Massachusetts this weekend. My co-presenters were impressive educators from throughout Massachusetts. My Ignite was focused on the changing research and education around screen time. Please watch, think, and comment.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Why Student Creation is the Hardest/Best Form of Assessment

The goal of assessment has traditionally been to measure student mastery. With that mindset, some students measure high while others do not measure up. While that seems pretty cut and dry, it can be problematic. The students who measure high tend to always measure high. And the students who don't measure up tend to experience disappointment over and over. For students who experience continued success, the consequence is that they believe in their abilities and continue to challenge themselves to achieve more. For students who don't measure up, the consequence is that they learn not to trust their own work and fall into a cycle of self-doubt. They tend to avoid challenging tasks and always take the easiest path to completion.

Why Students Prefer Creative Assessments

When students are able to go through a creative process (rather than taking a traditional test or quiz) to demonstrate their learning, the process includes benchmarks at which students receive feedback from their peers and their teacher. Feedback in this instance is not in the form of a score or a grade, so it feels less like a rating and more like an opportunity to improve for many students. While traditional tests and quizzes are intended by educators as an opportunity for students to improve, that is usually not how it feels from their perspective.

The final product that results from a creative assessment is a unique expression of each students thinking and learning. Because it is unique, students are often proud and empowered to share that work with an audience beyond their teacher or classmates. These creative projects tend to be the ones students choose to share via digital portfolios or as part of applications to internships or even college. If the students are younger, these are the projects that are put on display at parent nights or open houses.

Why Creative Assessments Are a Challenge for Educators

In traditional tests and quizzes, answers tend to be correct or incorrect. Grading is measurable, simple, and usually efficient. Putting a number or value on student work in the form of a creative artifact is more challenging. Sometimes teachers meet this challenge by creating instructions and rubrics that resemble step-by-step recipes. Their students follow the recipe and create a product that looks just like their classmates' products. This is actually not a creative assessment at all. It is an exercise in ensuring students can comply with instructions.

Another question from educators: How do we come up with these creative assessments? For many of us, both our experience as students and training as teachers comprised of readings, lectures, note-taking, studying, and test-taking for scores and certifications. The answer is that educators need both training in project-based learning (Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy's Hacking PBL is a great place to start) and opportunities to observe teacher leader colleagues who are successfully implementing that model in a tech-rich purpose-filled way. At St. John's Prep, a group of teachers who have excelled at this implementation and who want their colleagues to experience the same challenge and joy with their students banded together to create this video:



Wait... No More Tests and Quizzes? Ever?

That's not what I'm saying. Not even remotely. Short quizzes and summative tests have their place in every learner's academic experience. There are regulated, standardized, and necessary. They help colleges and professional organizations determine the readiness of their applicants. They have their place. At the same time, every learner deserves to experience an iterative creative process filled with plans, mistakes, feedback, and micro-successes along the way. In the course of day-to-day work for most professionals, this is the process:

  1. We pose a question or are challenged with a task by a supervisor.
  2. We do some research. Usually this includes reaching out to our networks, crunching numbers and data, and consulting academic/scholarly suggestions.
  3. Based on the unique question/challenge and what we've learned, we come up with a solution.
  4. We ask for informal feedback from colleagues and friends we trust.
  5. We use that feedback to edit and revamp our work.
  6. The first, and still somewhat rough, draft of our idea is proposed to a supervisor.
  7. More feedback.
  8. More editing and revamping.
  9. Rinse. Repeat. You get the idea.... It's a process.
If the purpose of school is to prepare our students for the experiences that await...
If the purpose of school is to prepare them for the challenges and successes they will encounter...
If the purpose of school it to help learners build the skills they need for success in the modern professional world...

It is worth noting:

Source: Partnership for 21st Century Learning
If creativity is the "premier skill", then schools should focus their work on building creativity into lessons for their students. Student creation activities open the door to meaningful feedback, more honest relationships among learners and educators, and an environment that build the characteristics of creativity.

Encouraging student creation is hard, but it is also what is best for our students.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Semester Check-In: Three Tools That Are Trending at My School


One of the most important values I hold as a professional coach for educators is that I must model risk-taking with new strategies and tools constantly in my work. If I take a risk and use the tool in a professional learning workshop or as I facilitate a meeting, then my colleagues will see the potential of the tool in their own classrooms.

Now that we are halfway through the school year, there are a few tools that have caught fire after my digital learning colleagues and I demonstrated their use whenever we could.

Adobe Spark Post

To facilitate professional learning or even co-teach classes of students, often I create slides with prompts or instructions. Spark Post allows me to create more beautiful designs that inspire my learners to think bigger or make more connections. When words are cleverly paired with an image, mood and tone are more evident and the audience will not just process the information. They will feel or experience the information. One of my favorite examples comes from a keynote I've presented to educators and parents about the impact of screen technology on the human brain and on teaching and learning. Notice how the colors, words, and images combined can send different messages about the same idea.

 

We've taken Spark Post into professional learning by asking teachers to set goals and then create a Spark Post to share their goals with their colleagues. The resulting quote graphics capture their willingness to take risks and also inspired many of them to use similar strategies with their students in their classes. Some of our students even created PSA style quote graphics, after learning about digital distraction and the skills of concentration and focus, in Spark Post that are displayed on our middle school plasma screens in the hallways and lobby.

 

Worth noting: Educators should be sure to review this guide for information about privacy and security when using Adobe Spark.

Flipgrid

I'd heard about Flipgrid in the spring, but really didn't get a feel for it until I talked to some of my edu-friends at ISTE in June about how they were using at their schools. My colleagues and I decided to give it a try at the annual in-house conference, we call it #JumpStartSJP, for our teachers in August. To help kick off the week of professional learning, I reached out to some of the top education experts to ask for their tips for our teachers. Then our teachers used Flipgrid to reflect on some of the most used and most misunderstood education buzzwords. At the end of the week they used Flipgrid to give us feedback on their top takeaway from the week and how they were planning to use it in their teaching during the school year.

Since then, many of our teachers have been using Flipgrid with their students. It has been especially popular in our world language classes. Students tend to work harder at speaking the language fluently when they know they will be recorded on video and those videos will be shared with their classmates.

Grade 8 German students record interview in Flipgrid.

Of course, we are planning to continue to use Flipgrid in lots of upcoming meetings and workshops so that more teachers can experience how fun and easy it is to use and how valuable it can be to share ideas in the form of a selfie video to make the sharing feel more personal.


OneNote

Oh. My. Goodness. Creative, collaborative, multimedia notes are at their best in OneNote. I have tried pretty much every other note taking and note keeping tool out there and this beats them all. I can draw, type, embed documents, record audio, hyperlink, and collaborate all in one place. Once my school integrated Microsoft 365, it wasn't long before I started tinkering with and was won over by OneNote.

Recently, my colleague and introduced it to the teacher leaders in our innovation cohort. We asked them to each create a note in a shared notebook and use that note to share out photos and artifacts from a recent lesson or project implementation they were proud of.

Note that each page was created by a different teacher in the cohort.


It is only a week later and one of those teachers has already rolled it out in her high school Latin classes. Others are using it to take their own professional notes in faculty and team meetings.

_________

There are at least 3 more tools that are on the brink of catching fire now that we've started 2018. I can't wait to see how they're used by teachers and students and share those stories here soon.

Which thoughtful uses of edtech tools are trending at your school this year? How have you modeled those strategies and tools for your colleagues?