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Implementing N-1

Photo by Her Wings http://www.flickr.com/photos/herwings/3809991796/ N-1 is a concept that I read about today on Seth’s Blog.  Seth says: N-1. There are tons of things on your to do list, in your portfolio, on your desk.  They clamor for attention and so perhaps you compromise things to get them all done.  What would happen if you did one fewer thing?  What if leaving that off the agenda allowed you to do a world-class job on the rest?  What if you repeated N-1 thinking until you found a breakthrough? I’ll be honest, this is a really difficult concept for me.  I am a perfectionist with a pinch of OCD thrown in for good measure.  When I do something I go at it full speed ahead 110%.  The problem is lately, I can’t give 110% to everything that I would like to because I am always adding one more thing (N+1).  These things are good things, they are worthy things, important things.  I feel that way about each one of them or I wouldn’t have taken them on in the first place.  But lately I am finding that I am giving each less than what they deserve and not feeling a sense of accomplishment in any of them as a result.  I think this is a common feeling among teachers.  We always tend to be functioning in the N+1 model.  We give everything the best we’ve got and often feel stretched too thin.  Today I took an honest look at everything I’m doing and came to the conclusion that I need to ease up a bit.  I’m not even sure that I have to really give anything up, I just need to change my perspective. I started the original Edublogger Alliance the first of the year 2010.  My goal was to create a fellowship of edubloggers who encouraged and supported one another in our blogging journeys.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think the alliance has been an enormous success.  I got to know incredible educators, librarians, and home school teachers from around the world.  I feel like I know each of them well as a result of reading and commenting on their blogs, having conversations on Twitter, meeting at ISTE, and even completing bigger projects together.  It truly exceeded every expectation I had for it.  In March, I started a second alliance and invited new edubloggers to join in the conversation.  Again, I was introduced to incredible educators from around the world and truly blessed by the connections made.  Because I started the alliances, I felt an obligation to comment on each and every blog post of each and every member.  I think in the 10 months it has been going, I have commented on nearly every post (even if it was weeks later) with a few exceptions.  It has been an awesome exercise in learning and reflection for me.  I got several more requests for additional alliance opportunities for educational bloggers and created the iLearn Technology Edublogger Alliance social network on Wackwall (now Wall FM).  Between the alliances there are almost 400 members! Something I couldn’t have anticipated or expected.  As a result I find myself facing around 380 posts to comment on every day.  Those are not the only blogs in my reader, I read many more that are not part of the alliance.  You can see why this is becoming a problem.  In my N+1 fervor, I have taken on more than I can physically do in the hours of a day. N-1 It is time for me to really prioritize.  This is a stressful decision and not one that I am excited to make but, in order to keep doing other amazing things, one I have to make. I will no longer be commenting on each and every edublogger alliance post.  Whew, hard just to type that…makes it real.  My OCD tendencies are fighting this hard ;)  What does this mean for the edublogger alliance?  Nothing really, I hope that we will continue to encourage each other in our blogging and teaching adventures.  I hope that we will still comment and retweet each other’s posts like crazy.  I still plan on reading each and every one of your amazing posts (I wouldn’t even know where to begin cutting down my Reader).  I am just giving myself permission not to comment on EVERY post.  I hope that in the last 10 months, those of you involved in one of the alliances were encouraged in your blogging.  I hope that my comments caused you to want to comment on another educators blog and encourage them.  I would love for everyone who reads my blog to join the edublogger alliance and commit to commenting on a blog every week.  Comment when you have something to add to the conversation, comment because you want to let your favorite blogger know you appreciate them, comment when you notice no one else has.  Maybe I’ll make an “I comment” badge for those of you who commit to commenting for you to post on your website What will I do now that I have made that N-1 decision?  I will join conversations on Twitter again (I feel like I have been MIA lately).  I will work on and teach a virtual class on digital storytelling.  I will work toward starting a school and making #Twitacad (Twitter Academy) a reality. I will blog.  I will walk alongside schools as they work to integrate technology. I will publish lessons. I will offer professional development. I will read. I will cook. I will teach my puppies some new tricks.  I will figure out where my next N-1 should be so that I can find a breakthrough.

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The Making of the Learning Genome Project

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, education reform, For Teachers, Grade Level, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 28-10-2012

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So many of you have offered tremendous support, donations and a megaphone to spread the word about the Learning Genome Project.  I am so grateful!  Today I thought I would lift the curtain just a bit and share a behind the scenes look at the Learning Genome Project.  My plan was to do this in video form using Screenium or Screeny. Those plans were foiled when NEITHER worked even with updates.  #sigh  Instead, I’ll write out my story and take you on a picture journey of how it all took place.  If you haven’t had a chance to lend a helping hand, it is not too late.  Honestly, even $1 makes such a BIG difference!  If everyone of my readers gave just $1, this would be taken care of tonight and we would be able to start the next phase of development. Click here to help out now!

I come from a family of entrepreneurs.  If it doesn’t exist or it can be done better, that is what you do.  This mind-set can be a bit of a curse…once I get an idea in my head, it is like a broken record that plays over and over until I do something about it.  My dad is prime example of this, he started Koostik with a styrofoam cup and an iPhone. Once the idea was there, it stayed until he saw it realized…in this case that means a growing company and product in Restoration Hardware and Red Envelope.  He is awesome.

For me this process started as I dug through curriculum and worked to supplement it with technology tools.  The idea was to “fill” the gaps with technology tools that would make the curriculum work better for students.  As I went through publisher after publisher, I started realizing that the problem wasn’t a lack of technology (if you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know that is a BIG realization for me). The real problem was that we were trying to address the needs of an incredibly diverse population of kids with a one-size-fits-all curriculum.  The troubling thing for me was that I sat on the committees that made the curriculum decisions.  I was sold (just like everyone else) on the premise that these curricula had “differentiated” instruction.  I have come to hate that term.  You know what it means?  It means that curriculum companies can sell more curriculum because they add in a highlighted section that says “differentiation!” and gives a one-size bigger or one-size smaller approach to the exact same problem.  As I went through all of this curriculum, I couldn’t shake the feeling that adding in a bit of technology wasn’t going to solve the problem.

As a computer teacher, I taught 435 students every week.  I taught the same 435 kids for 6 years.  I saw them grow up, learned what made them tick, watched the frustration grow when they didn’t understand a learning objective.  These kids were amazing. They were brilliant. They all had strengths and weaknesses that made them special. They all have a different understanding and approach to the world.  We were stripping all of that uniqueness away and making them learn everything the same. We were expecting that they would learn the same things, the same way, and at the same time.  Ludicrous! Nothing in life or growth and development happens this way, and yet that is what our education system is built on?  This was really troubling for me.  I couldn’t shake that it shouldn’t be that way.

In 2010 I took a year away from teaching for health reasons.  During that year, I acted as an educational consultant for many area schools.  This period of time re-emphasized those stirrings that I was having about education. This curriculum wasn’t working because it assumed too much sameness. I saw brilliant, gifted kids losing their passions because it wouldn’t get them into the swanky private high school (that looked just like every other school). How sad that we ask kids to give up their areas of gifting to get to the next level of learning.  Something is wrong!  One day I was working my way through curriculum, supplementing the holes with technology tools.  I was listening to Pandora Internet radio.  A song came on that I had never heard before, by an artist that was also new to me.  I frantically searched for something to write on so that I could remember this new find.  I remember thinking, “how amazing that we have come to a place in history where we can use technology to predict something as personal as music.”  I was truly amazed that I could put in one piece of information and through a series of algorithms, Pandora could predict other music I would like.  If it can work with music, surely it could work with curriculum.

This was the birth of that niggling thought that wouldn’t go away.  This was the beginning of the Learning Genome Project.  I had recently been introduced to a programmer (@ianchia) through @Doremigirl on Twitter.  Ian and I had shared many conversations about what education apps could look like.  This time it was my turn to ask a question.  I wanted to know if it was possible to program what was in my head.  ”Well of course.”  Ian introduced me to some wireframing tools and I was off and running.  Over the next months, I dreamed up how the Learning Genome would work.  I thought about the students that I wanted something better for. I thought about the frustrations I had as a teacher. I dreamed about a tool that would make the whole process easier.

Teachers share something in common: we all want the very best for our students.  There are a few problems with this.  First, we don’t always get to choose what we will teach. Many times our school or district hands us the curriculum and says, “go.”  This is not conducive to doing the best we know how for every child.  Second, we don’t always know that their is a tool/lesson/resource out there that could make all the difference for each student.  Third, we have a limited time to search for that perfect tool/lesson/resource.  A lot of system problems to overcome.  If Pandora can do this for music, I can do it for education.

I started researching how Pandora works, what happens in the background that makes my experience possible?  Pandora is called the Music Genome Project because it used the Human Genome Project as its inspiration.  In the Human Genome Project, genes are mapped out.  In the Music Genome Project, the “genes” of music are mapped out.  I called my version the Learning Genome Project.  Together, we will map the genes of education, those attributes that help us find commonalities that match the right content to each student at the right time.

First, we need to collect information about the learner. If we don’t know the learner, we can’t know what content best fits their needs.  This is, in short, the best student information system ever.

Next, we have to know enough about the school and the classroom to make recommendations. It does us no good to recommend an iDevice app if the school has no access to that device.

We also have to know something about the lead learner (the teacher).

After we have the profile information, it is critical to know where students are in their learning. What needs to be learned?  This is the individualized learning plan…each student has one.

 

From within the ILP, teachers, students and parents can create and have input on the learning goals.  These learning goals inform what happens in the hub of the genome.

When the learning goal has been identified, the genome “hub” comes into play. This is where resources (lessons, videos, apps, experiments, activities, etc.) are matched and recommended for the student.  Much like Pandora, a learning channel is created.

Teachers (and students) can expand the results to view more information about the recommendation.  From here it can be added to teacher and student planners, and materials for the curriculum can be selected.

Teachers can see all student assignments within their planner. Here they can create groups for overlaps of student learning.  They can also create whole-class events.

After a student completes an activity, they record it within their ePortfolio.  This is all completely integrated.  Within the portfolio they can keep notes, documents, pictures, video and badges.  Badges help students have a bread trail of where they have been in their learning.  Portfolio’s are forever associated with a student, from year to year it travels and grows with them.  Students can also have the option of downloading their portfolio for offline viewing.

In addition to portfolios and planners, the Learning Genome Project includes wiki, blog and photo tools.

Community tools keep students, teachers and parents in collaboration.

My brother and I had many of the same teachers growing up.  We are very different people with 5 years separating us.  My favorite teachers were not his.  We had very similar experiences, the same outstanding teachers. But some teachers connected better with me than him.  How do we help every child have influence of a “favorite” teacher?  I created Twitacad.  Even if that teacher isn’t in the child’s school, there is a blended learning component that makes that connection possible.

Twitacad offers teachers and students a platform for sharing, communicating, and learning.  It is all tied in to the Learning Genome. Everything works together.  Virtual teachers are listed as teachers for parents, students and other teachers to interact with.

The Learning Genome Project has assessment tools built in.  Assessment is based on mastery of a skill or concept.  This is directly related to what is happening in the student portfolio so that students, teachers and parents can view evidences of the learning.

How does content, resources, tools, lessons, apps, videos, etc. get into the genome?  It gets tagged with its learning attributes by incredible teachers around the world like you.  We all contribute to this project and we all benefit from it.

The hub (resource aggregation) portion of the Genome is free to everyone.  Every child deserves an education tailored to them.  Additional portions of the Learning Genome Project (planners, ePortfolios, blogs, wikis, Twitacad) will be a subscription based service.

The Learning Genome Project is not curriculum.  It is a sorting tool that pulls the best options for every child.  Teachers will be able to sort results based on price, Bloom’s Taxonomy level, standard, subject, and type of resource.  This will tell you what curricular resources will best meet every child’s needs.  Every time a resource is used, it gets rated by both student and teacher. Resources that are highest rated will be recommended first.

This is truly a quick overview of the Learning Genome project.  There are so many intricacies and features that will make it revolutionary to education.  The one hang up? I need help funding it!  Sure, I could go and get some venture capitalists to fund it. The problem: I want the force that drives what happens to the Learning Genome Project to be what is best for kids…not what best impacts the bottom line.  I believe that if we all put a little into this project, that we can create something revolutionary.  We can all have a part in transforming education for the world.

I hope you will join me.  I hope that you will realize that $1 and a few minutes is a small price to pay for a resource that has the potential to reach every child in the world.  This is a small price to pay for our future.  We can do this.  Please click here and donate now…then spread the word to everyone you know and encourage them to do the same.

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