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Transforming Education in 40 Days: A Call to Action

*** If you need the cliff notes version of this post, skip down to the Call to Action section! Last year I had a “hunch” about learning…specifically about curriculum.  That hunch turned into a full fledged idea and a mission to do better for kids.  Everywhere.  Along the line I met some truly incredible people who taught me things I didn’t know how to do before.  Like wire framing (thanks @ianchia), and pitching ideas (thanks @houseofgenius), and how to go about picking up programmers (thanks @toma_bedolla).  Now I’m ready to share the culmination of all this work with you. This isn’t just a post to tell you about what I’m doing, it is a call to action for everyone (yes, even you).  It is a request for you to join me in this mission in whatever form that may take. I have a vision: to make personalized learning a reality for EVERY child.  I know, it is big.  It is also doable. For those who are new to following me, here was my original “hunch” written on my other blog, Dreams of Education: “The problem with curriculum and textbooks is that they complete thoughts.  Curriculum and textbooks give the impression that learning has an end.  That when you have made it from cover to cover, the job is done.  I know in my own schooling this was true, I thought that school was teaching me what was important and that anything outside of the curriculum wasn’t important or relevant to my life…wouldn’t they have included it otherwise?  How did curriculum get this way?  Well, people realized that there was no possible way to cover every facet of learning, so they stripped it down to what they thought was important.  The problem? What is important to you may not be what is important to me.  What’s more, something that is very important to me may have been cut all together so I don’t even get the chance to know that it is important to me.  Humans tend to like things that are definable, we like things that we can put into a neat, orderly box and carry out in a predictable way.  It feels safe and manageable.  This is what led me to the following hunch: What if curriculum was more flexible?  What if curriculum/schools/learning looked more like Pandora.  If you aren’t familiar with Pandora, it is an online radio station that plays the music that it thinks you will like.  You type in an artist or song and it creates a customized radio station just for you.  It is remarkably accurate.  Pandora almost never gets it wrong for me.  It is like they have a direct line to my brain and can predict what song I would like to hear next.  When it is wrong, I can give the song a thumbs down and it apologizes profusely for the error and promises never to play that song again on my station.  The other thing I love about Pandora: I can have multiple radio stations.  Because sometimes I really couldn’t think of anything in the world better than Frank, Dean, and Sammy; but other times  I also want a little Timberlake, Whitestripes, or Bangles.  What if curriculum looked like that?  What if learning happened as a result of typing in one subject or topic that a student was enamored with and a completely personalize learning journey began playing out for them?  What if students were led through a journey that was completely customized?  What if they had several stations mapped out for them?” I believe this is possible.  I believe it is within our reach to create a completely personalized learning experience to every unique child.  I believe that we can honor humanity instead of treating our kids like widgets in a factory.  I believe that teachers should be teachers, focused on the needs and development of the child instead of teaching the masses through scripted curriculum. This is The Learning Genome Project. The Learning Genome Project will empower teachers and parents to become engineers of learning by providing each individual student the exact content they need, at the exact moment they need it.  The Learning Genome will enable students to explore the process of inquiry, experimentation, discovery and problem solving.  Instead of learning how to pass the next test, we will enable students to construct meaning and learn how to transfer that meaning to new life context.  At the hub, the Learning Genome is a platform that aggregates resources and, using a series of algorithms, provide recommendations of the BEST resources to meet the individual learning needs of a specific child.  The Learning Genome creates those serendipitous moments of finding just the right learning tool to meet the needs of children at the right time. Much like Pandora finds that perfect piece of music, the Learning Genome will find the perfect piece of learning material to aid the student in learning.  The key to the Learning Genome’s success is crowd sourcing.  I will be drawing on educators around the world (that’s you!) to help me tag curriculum, books, lessons, videos, apps, websites and other educational content.  This collection of tagged content lives in the centralized “cloud” and wil allow users around the world to find and access materials that best suit student needs.  By gathering information about the individual student’s learning style preferences, multiple intelligence strengths, social/emotional levels, interests and passion, the Learning Genome can help teachers to create customized learning maps for each individual.  This portion will be free. Every child deserves a unique learning experience. In addition to the Learning Genome Hub (the aggregate), the site will include a complete Student Information System, planning tools, e-portfolios, e-learning, individual learning plans, assessment and blogging tools.  All of these will work seamlessly together for you go-to for learning and planning. Changing the world here. Call to Action So…how can you help?  I’m glad you asked! 1.  Learn more about the Learning Genome at indiegogo. 2. Please consider investing in this mission (see the awesome perks that includes below). 3.  Blog about the Learning Genome with a link back to the indiegogo campaign (be sure to link to those posts you write in the comments below!) 4. Tweet about this project…a lot.  Let’s completely take over the Internet with tweets about the Learning Genome and taking over education for kids! Please make sure to link back to the indiegogo campaign so that others can learn about it! Use the hashtag #standagain (because after all, we are helping children “stand again” in their learning) 5. Offer your time as a Learning Genome Content tagger or beta tester 6.  Mention us on Facebook and like us on Facebook! 7.  Did I mention spread the word? Seriously, that is SO helpful!  You never know who might see that tweet and drop a couple thousand (or more) to make this project go! 8.  Time is of the essence.  I have 40 days starting NOW to make this happen.  eeek!  I need your help! So, what are the perks to helping with this project?   $5  gets your name on the Learning Genome Change Makers page.  You are changing education. That makes you a big deal.  I want everyone to know what a big deal you are!  I know many of you don’t think that your $5 can do anything.  Wrong.  According to my cluster map, I have hundreds of thousands of visits to this blog.  If each of you pitches in…we all win fast! $10 Remember all those cool Bloom’s Taxonomy posters I made?  This campaign is now the ONLY place you can get them.  These are 8.5″ x 11″ versions of the poster. $30 Learning Genome beta tester. You get the inside scoop and ability to play before ANYONE else.  I know, pretty cool. $60 EXCLUSIVE A full size large-format print of my Bloomin’ Peacock mailed to you.  That awesome little Peacock looks even better large.  Did I mention this is the ONLY place you will get a big version of this? $500 Even more EXCLUSIVE  you get all of my Bloom’s re-imagine posters in the large format.  Perfect for your classroom, library or as a gift to your favorite teachers. $1000  My Searching for daVinci webinar for your school.  What better way to spend your professional development dollars than learning how to create a daVinci like culture of learning at your school?  Worth it! $5000 For my corporate friends who want to see their logo in lights as a company that supports education and changing the world.  If you have an education company, The Learning Genome Project will be the place to be seen.   We have $85,000 to raise.  It sounds like a big number.  We can do it together.  I figured if I am going to lean on crowdsourcing to transform education, the funding should be crowdsourced too.  How awesome will it be to join together as an education community to say, together we transformed the way learning is done.  We changed things for every child in the world.  Yeah, it’s big.  

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Wordsmyth- outstanding illustrated e-dictionary

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, Inquiry, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 16-11-2013

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iLearn Technology: Wordsmyth- illustrated e-dictionary

What it is: Wordsmyth is a fantastic online dictionary for kids.  WILD is Wordsmyth’s Illustrated Learner’s Dictionary.  It is a truly well done young reader’s dictionary for k-3 readers or ELL students.  WILD is a simple-to-use visual dictionary that includes definitions for 1500 words, developmentally appropriate sentences for each word and for each meaning of the word, integrated visual environments that help kids really explore language, audio for each word, and fun activities that promote literacy.  Wordsmyth has a dictionary for intermediate elementary and middle school students called Word Explorer Children’s Dictionary.  The Word Explorer includes a related-words feature where students can see concept maps, easy-to-read and understand definition, word histories, Language Notes, and thousands of images and animations to help students build literacy. Finally, Wordsmyth has a comprehensive dictionary suite with easy to read entries and definitions, illustrations, synonyms/similar words/antonyms under each definition, audio pronunciation and thousands more images.  Wordsmyth has different options for use.  There is a free subscription available to everyone that will allow students to freely access all 3 dictionary suites, advanced search options, puzzles, words of the day, look up history, customized pronunciation and dictionary formats, and a glossary maker.  MOST of the site is totally free to use with the free registration!  For $9.95/year, you can also purchase an individual subscription that gives some additional features such as the ability to customize the dictionary and gain access to premium features.

An educational subscription allows access to ALL tools including teacher tools.  Best of all, it is FREE for schools for the 2013-2014 school year.  Worth taking advantage of this option!

How to integrate Wordsmyth into your classroom: I’m seriously impressed with the Wordsmyth dictionaries.  They are truly an impressive option for a digital dictionary in the classroom.  The downfall of this site: the illustrated dictionary (WILD) is flash-based.  This means that it is not easily accessible on iDevices in the classroom.  It also means that it takes a bit to load each page if your Internet connection isn’t great.  

What I appreciate about this dictionary, is the accessibility for emerging readers, non-readers, or ELL/ESL students.  The dictionary is really easy to use, the definitions are easy to understand, and the accompanying audio and images are fantastic!

If you have a dedicated writing space in your classroom, make sure to include Wordsmyth in it.  Bookmark it on classroom computers, send it home to parents, include it on your classroom blog/website, etc.  This is a wonderful place for kids to be empowered during their writing and literacy time.

If you are lucky enough to have a 1:1 device setting, this site is worth making a web clip for to make it easily accessible to everyone.

Right now our students are inquiring into how we express ourselves.  Our intermediate students are looking at different mediums and methods that people use for self-expression.  Part of that exploration has led them into a study of words.  Wordsmyth is a great way for them to explore in a place that is developmentally appropriate and helps them see the way that language is connected and can be used for expression.

Wordsmyth has words separated by topic.  As you begin a new unit, give students the opportunity to explore the vocabulary on the front end.  You can do this as a class using a projector or interactive whiteboard or individually on classroom/personal devices.  As you go through a class book or unit together, create a custom glossary that students can refer to.

Tips: Be sure to sign up for the free educational group subscription for the 2013-2014 school year.  With the subscription you get unlimited making/using/saving/sharing activities, customize the dictionary, access premium dictionary features, and access to the teacher tools.

What do you think of Wordsmyth?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

Comments (1)

I have a class of students with language impairments. The collections tab is a great tool for them because it allows them to make connections between the word categories. I plan to have them use that to include words in their personal dictionary so they can find them easier. Their spelling is often very phonetic so using a regular dictionary doesn’t help because their sounds are so off. I also plan on sharing with our ESL teacher. Thanks so much for sharing!

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