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Using the Common Core Standards Scandalously to Bring Freedom to Learn

At Anastasis Academy we use the Common Core Standards as a basic framework to start from.  We don’t purchase ANY boxed curriculum. At all.  At least not in the typical fashion.  We tailor learning to meet the needs of our students.  All of the resources we purchase are purchased with specific students in mind.  So, if a piece of curriculum meets the needs of a student, we purchase that.  If a lesson plan, or a video, or a book, or an app helps that child to be successful in learning, we purchase that. The Common Core Standards act as our guide not our goal.   I know, scandalous. We don’t see the Common Core Standards as needing to be prescriptive of when and how a child should learn.  Instead, we recognize that there are some foundational, basic skills in learning that help students in other learning, discovery and creativity.  Quite frankly, the Common Core Standards are underwhelming. They leave SO much to be desired if they are viewed as the learning objective. If viewed as a baseline, a door to other learning opportunities, everything changes.  There is freedom in that. At Anastasis, we don’t have grade levels.  Instead we group students based on developmental level taking into account academic abilities, the social/emotional and maturation.  In any given class, we could have up to a 3-4 year spread.  We recognize that children don’t develop at exactly the same rate.  They must be given flexibility in their learning and not forced through a curriculum based on an artificial pacing guide.  We believe the same is true for the standards.  While the standards give a nice framework, there is no reason why a 6 year old should be expected to master all of the standards in first grade.  There is no reason why a 6 year old should be limited by the standards in first grade.  I’m sure that we don’t use the Common Core Standards quite like anyone else.  We pay little attention to the grade level of the standard.  Instead, when a child has mastered a standard, we move them to the next level of challenge regardless of the grade level the standard falls in.  Because every child in a class could be working on a different combination of standards, we have a very low teacher/student ratio.  We have 12 students to every teacher.  This allows us to truly work with students where they are at.  We use Mastery Connect to help us keep track of student progress. Our students are involved in the process of coming up with learning goals.  I know in most cases this responsibility rests solely on the shoulders of the teacher or the curriculum company.  Students should have a say in their learning.  If they don’t, we are doing a disservice to them.  The problem we quickly ran into: students couldn’t easily read and understand the standards so that they could weigh in.  Have you read the Common Core Standards? They are ridiculously full of eduspeak BS.  I mean honestly, do they have to make everything sound so convoluted? I ended up rewriting the standards in student friendly language so that our students could work with teachers to create learning goals for each block (five week period).  Below, you can see my re-written versions for first-sixth grade standards.  I’m going back through the seventh and eighth grade standards for some additional tweaking. First Open publication – Free publishing – More 1st grade Second Open publication – Free publishing Third Open publication – Free publishing Fourth Open publication – Free publishing Fifth Open publication – Free publishing Sixth Open publication – Free publishing Our students are so brilliant in the way they plan their goals for each block.  One of our intermediate students showed me a video yesterday that he put together to show which standards and goals he had set for himself and his action steps to get there.  It is seriously creative.  As soon as he has it uploaded to YouTube I’ll share. Whoever decided that standards should be printed out and posted during the lesson that addresses them should be ashamed.  Who is that for, honestly?  The standard cards that get posted are full of the eduspeak. They aren’t for students. Standards have gotten a bad reputation in the education community.  The way they are being used is distasteful to say the least.  Standards are being used to make every learning experience look exactly the same regardless of the child. They are being used to sell curriculum.  They are being used to help students pass a test. They are being used to judge teacher abilities. They are being used to determine funding. They are being used to churn out a generation of kids that have the exact same skill set. I like standards.  I like that there are food standards that ensure that the food I eat is safe.  I like that those standards don’t dictate which dishes end up on my table. I like that they don’t hinder chefs from being creative with food.  I like that there are standards for the safety of children’s toys.  I like that those standards don’t dictate how creative a toy maker can be.  I like that they don’t dictate how a child can play.  I like that there are standards in the construction of my house. I like that those standards don’t keep me from personalizing my house.  I like that those standards leave plenty of room for creative architecture and design.  Standards that are used as a framework and baseline allow for freedom.  They give us a starting place and let us create and work all the way around them.  When you view the Common Core Standards this way, they aren’t mind numbing, they are freeing.  They help us empower students with the building blocks of learning so that they have freedom in learning. They give students enough of the skills and foundational understandings to build on in any direction they would like. I realize that this view of the Common Core Standards isn’t where most of you are.  For most of you the standards are very prescriptive. Very limiting. A very narrow view of what it means to be educated.  My hope is that by sharing the way we scandalously use the standards, other classrooms and schools will be able to make changes toward freedom in learning.  My hope is that more schools would break free from the boxed curricula and testing.  Students should experience freedom in their learning.  All teachers should experience the freedom that comes with really being a teacher (as opposed to script reader and test giver). If I could change one thing about the Common Core Standards it would be this: get rid of the grade level separation of standards.  Let it just be a continuum of learning.  It is so silly to think that children should be able to master learning because according to the standard, they are the age for it. It is so silly to think that a student couldn’t possibly master standards well above their age.  I call BS on both. We have students who exist in both camps. Our goal is to empower students as learners.  Our goal is to do what is right for every child.  Our goal is freedom in learning.    

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10 ways to eliminate the distractions around YouTube videos

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, video | Posted on 13-06-2012

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What it is: YouTube is a truly wonderful learning resource.  What isn’t so great: all of the garbage that can come along with it (i.e. advertising, comments, related videos…in short-distractions). Luckily, schools have some great options for using YouTube differently.  Some of these tools I have written about before and some are new additions…hence the new post! :)

  • YouTube for Schools- This is a YouTube that has been created just for schools.  Network administrators must be involved so that they can add this option for YouTube into your filtering system.  This is a completely customizable option that lets teachers and administrators add videos to a playlist that you have predetermined you want students to watch.  Teachers can find videos by Common Core Standard, subject or grade.  Students can watch videos that teachers and administrators have approved or any YouTube Edu video (think Kahn Academy, PBS, TED, Stanford, etc.).
  • SafeShare TV- This site lets students watch YouTube videos without ads, links, comments and related videos.  You also have the option to crop videos and share videos with a unique URL.
  • YouTubeXL- This is a service that YouTube provides that lets you watch videos on large screens without the ads and comments. Neat tip: if you time “quiet” before the YouTube url, it takes you to a safe page where you can watch a YouTube video.  WAY cool and easy to do on the fly!
  • Clean VideoSearch- This site lets students search through YouTube videos without the comments, ads and busy sidebar.  It has additional features like the ability to choose how many videos you want to see on each page in your search.
  • Clea.nr– This service (a browser plugin) deletes all of the obnoxious extras that hang around videos (ads, comments, related videos). You can also search YouTube without all of the extras showing up.
  • ViewPure– This site cleans out all the clutter and gives you just a video.  Bonus: There is a quick button that you can add to your browser so that you can go to a video, click on “Pure” in your bookmark bar and instantly have a clean video.
  • Dragontape– This service lets you drag videos into a timeline and share them easily with students.  This is great for mashing up several videos, or cropping multiple videos into one.
  • Movavi– This is a video conversion service. Wonderful for teachers who can’t or don’t want to access a video directly from YouTube.  Copy/paste the url you want to convert, choose a file type, done!
  • Zamzar– This is another great video conversion service.  Works quickly and easily!
  • SaveYouTube- This site used to be called KickYouTube.  Here you can enter the url and download it to your computer to play offline.

How to integrate less distracting YouTube videos into the classroom:  This one is really a no brainer: want to use YouTube? Clean it up!  I find great content I find on YouTube (as do my students). All of the “extras” around the videos can be SO distracting as a searcher and viewer.  These options are outstanding for making videos less distracting so that your students can focus on the learning happening.

I find that students head to YouTube (even before Google) when they want to learn something new.  They are generally pretty successful at finding a video that will teach them how to do what they want to do.  Very handy for self guided learning!

Tips: Always try these tools out at school BEFORE using with students.  Some of them won’t work depending on your school’s filters and policies.

Leave a comment and share how less distracting YouTube videos are rocking your classroom.

Comments (2)

I would also suggest using EmbedPlus for several features for interacting with YouTube. For example, it supports slow motion, looping, chopping/cropping, and much more. Take a look: http://www.embedplus.com/

Great Idea, embed plus is another nice option.

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