Using Agency to Empower Students: What is Sacred in Education? #5Sigma

Using Agency to Empower Students: What is Sacred in Education?

 

We are in full on count down mode for our yearly education conference, 5Sigma. This year our theme is Using Agency to Empower Students: What is Sacred in Education.

I could not be more excited for our third annual conference! Each year we work to include educators who have inspired our work. This year is no exception. We have a pretty incredible line up! I’m so thankful for the way that each of the people you see below have shaped me, and inspired me. I know they will do the same for you!

Some things that you can look forward to at the 5Sigma Edu Conference:

  1. We will spoil you (because you do hard work every day, and deserve a weekend of being spoiled).
  2. You will leave inspired, changed, and with practical ways to “launch” (did you see the line up? I mean….)
  3. El Toro the Tot (if nothing else inspires or changes you, lunch on Saturday will!)
  4. Happy hour meet ups (because we are convinced that the Happy Hour is Education’s Magic Bullet).
  5. You will see what happens when students are empowered (we can’t wait for you to meet the students of Anastasis, they are seriously the COOLEST! *slight bias*)
  6. An adult field trip (because who doesn’t love those?!) This year’s trip: Half Penny Brewery including a brewery tour, Most Likely to Succeed showing, and conversation with other passionate educators.
  7. The opportunity to talk shop: have you ever dreamed of starting a school? Re-imagining assessment? Throwing away one-size-fits-all curriculum? Ditching homework? Ditching the test?  Team Anastasis will share how we’ve done it, what we’ve learned along the way, share our insight into what not to do, and be transparent.

We’re excited to meet you! If you haven’t already registered, it isn’t too late! Learn more and register at http://5sigmaeducon.com  If you need help requesting the professional development dollars to attend, we are happy to help out, customize our template letter.

 

2017 5Sigma Sessions

2017 5Sigma Line Up

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StackUp: track self-directed learning online

Assign and track reading online: StackUp

 

What it is: I’ve written about StackUp before here but, over the last three years, the company has grown up enough that it warrants another post! StackUp has a pretty great back story. Nick Garvin, the founder of StackUp, was fresh out of school and wanted to apply for a job at Tesla Motors. The problem? His traditional resume failed to document the thousands of hours that he spent online in self-taught learning about the automotive industry. This frustration led to the creation of StackUp, a way for Nick (and others like him) to better document self-directed learning. As an educator, StackUp immediately appealed to me for the way that it could capture my own learning. Though I don’t hold a degree in educational technology, my years of independent study should be captured! My blog does a decent job of helping me share my learning with others, but it is still just a small representation of all that I have learned over the years. Similarly, my graphic artist husband has realized that he has a love for industrial design and machining. He has spent hours and hours learning 3D digital design, playing with 3D printers, CAD programs, woodworking, welding, and recently machining with a metal lathe. Though his traditional resume wouldn’t easily reflect it, he has a pretty impressive industrial design background. StackUp is a Chrome browser plugin that tracks everything from personal productivity (I’ve learned I spend way too much of my life in email hell), to verifying independent reading/learning, to helping quantify self-directed learning.

How to integrate StackUp in the Classroom: The beauty of StackUp is that it isn’t one more program to add to your curriculum, it isn’t one more piece of technology that your students have to learn. Simply add the plugin, ask your students to sign in, and it runs automagically in the background while they carry on with their learning. As a teacher, you can login to StackUp and create reading challenges for your students. At Anastasis, we are using these challenges in inquiry to encourage students to spend time on a variety of website types. Right now our students are doing an inquiry on How the World Works. They are inquiring into different types of energy. This lends itself to a lot of research on science websites. The challenges help us encourage the kids to diversify the types of sites they are incorporating into the inquiry block. Yes, we want the kids to be researching the science behind different kinds of energy, but we also want them to explore the history of energy use, the social and economic implications of how we use energy, the current political climate and it’s impact on how we use energy. You know…connective inquiry! StackUp lets our teachers challenge students to diversify their learning in this way by creating a category challenge. Teachers choose categories for students. No matter which websites they visit, if they are included in a category, they will get ‘credit’ for visiting that site. I love the way StackUp works for your classroom, and doesn’t box students into specific requirements for the tracking to work. Teachers can also set up challenges based on a specific website or time spent learning in a category.

One of the unintended consequences of using StackUp with our students, is they way it has added to our Learner Profile. Using StackUp has helped us gain a better understanding of who our students are by uncovering hidden interests that they might have. If a student spends a lot of time in a specific category or on specific websites, StackUp  gives us insight into those passions and interests.

Students (and learners of all kind- teachers count!) can use StackUp to showcase the reading and learning they do online by subject area. At a glance, students can see how much reading they are doing and what topics have been of most interest to them. This can help them discover the things that they are most passionate about, and even help them discover where they waste time. It is pretty revealing when you see how much time you sink into things like email, Facebook, etc. While I appreciate the time to connect with others through social media, I realized that I spend more time there than I probably need to. StackUp can help you manage online time more efficiently by revealing where you spend it.

Students can engage in classroom reading challenges and see how their learning compares to their classmates. This can be used as a motivational element, though we don’t use it this way at Anastasis (inquiry lends itself more to competition with self than competition with others).

One of the things we’ve loved about StackUp is the ability to help parents see the learning that their children are doing online. So often our time spent on devices can appear to be frivolous to those who don’t know what is happening while we are online. With StackUp, parents can see the time students are spending learning and what they are learning about. Of course, if students are spending 90% of their time on gaming sites that tells a story, too.

I really appreciate the way that StackUp helps teachers and students alike metacognate about where and why we spend our time online. It is a great tool to spur on reflection about where we spend time, and what we care most about.

One of the StackUp stories I love was from @SenorG, he talked about students taking a credit recovery class online. One of the things StackUp revealed was for every hour spent on the credit recovery site, students spent 20min on Google Translate. This information was invaluable for those assisting students. It was also valuable information to consider for the credit recovery course platform. Could they better empower students by embedding a translate feature? By translating the whole site? Way cool!

Bottom line: StackUp can help give you insight into your students online reading habits. It gives you a way to see where their learning takes them and how much time they are spending on their online reading/learning. We realized after a few weeks that our students had the bad habit of site hopping. They would start research using Google, but if the answer they were hunting for wasn’t immediately apparent on the site they clicked on, they would go directly back to Google. This helped us realize that we needed to teach students how to search smarter, and that when they arrived at a site, we needed to better equip them with the tools to dive into the learning.

Tips: StackUp is super easy to install, you can do it in under a minute! If you have Google apps, you can do this in under a minute for your whole school! Students can sign in using their existing Google education accounts. Don’t have Google for Education? First, I’m sorry! Second, not to worry, students can sign in using any email address.

The StackUp plugin can be easily turned on or off at any time. All information is private and can be deleted at any time. It is both COPPA and FERPA compliant. Students can choose which information to share on their profile.

StackUp Chromebook

Shout out to StackUp who generously donated a class set of Chromebooks to Anastasis students! Thank you!

 

Are you coming to the 5Sigma Edu Conference in February? If not, you should be! It is the place we were originally introduced to StackUp!

 

“What if we started a school?” – Come see us in action!

Professional Development that lets you see with new eyes

So often I see the same sentiment from educators involved in education dialogue, “Wouldn’t it be nice if a school were doing ____.  I would love to see a school who actually implemented _______, instead of just talking about it.”

As an educator, I felt the same. I would be energized by discussions with colleagues at conferences and then again each week during Twitter chats; I was inspired to do something better, but unsure of where to start. Equally disheartening, I rarely had the examples of schools doing really transformative things to share back with my own school.

It was as a result of these types of interactions that I started my own, “what if we…” school. What if we redesigned assessment and ditched tests? What if we had a school with a no homework policy? What if we got rid of all boxed curriculum? What if we took kids on learning excursions every week? What if we built a true community of learners? What if we got rid of classrooms that looked like classrooms and used space differently? What if we had 1:1 technology?

I want to invite you to come see what this kind of, “what if we…” school looks like. For all of you who have dreamed a different kind of school, a different kind of education, this conference is for you.

5Sigma Edu Con  is not your typical conference. Our goal isn’t to show you all of the latest and greatest apps that you can use in your classroom (although you’ll likely learn about some new ones while your here). Our goal isn’t to inspire you (although inspiration will be here in abundance). Our goal is to give voice to all of your, “what if we…” dreams. To show you what it looks like to start that school, and then empower you to launch some of those dreams in your own classroom.

The conference begins with a Keynote by Jimmy Casas followed by a tour of Anastasis Academy led by our students. You’ll get a learner-eye-view of this “dream” school.  You’ll get a variety of sessions by the very people who have inspired us along the way. Sessions that go beyond your typical sit-and-get. Sessions that inspire you and then empower you to launch change in your classroom.

You’ll also get a closing keynote by the awesome Sarah Thomas, panel discussions, an adult field trip (to a brewery…because it is in Denver!), and the most amazing burger and tots you can imagine (seriously, ask anyone who has been to a 5Sigma Edu Con and they will tell you that this alone is worth the price of admission!)

If you need help getting the PD dollars to attend 5Sgima, customize this template letter to request help from the Powers-That-Be (AKA your administration or development committee). Just copy and paste the sessions that interest you most.

Below are just a few of the sessions you can look forward to at this year’s 5Sigma Edu Con. Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot today! If you want to bring a team from your school, please email me at info@anastasisacademy.us and I will be happy to work out a group discount.
Simplify: Becoming a Carry-on Teacher in a Checked Baggage Classroom
-Kevin Croghan
In teaching, we have a bazillion things to do every day, but that doesn’t mean we need to have a bazillion things.  Brass tacks: I like minimalism, I dig gadgets and tools that I can keep on my person, and I love going mobile.  This session will provide sample minimalist philosophies, ideas for everyday items to carry, and time to craft our own personal teaching toolkits to manage our workflows.  The concepts apply to all teachers and are particularly valuable for those who share space.

PBL and Tech: Tools to Support Inquiry Based Learning    
-Jennifer Anderson
Explore tools and apps useful to teachers and students in an inquiry based learning environment. Facilitator and participants will share what they know or learn about tools that support engaging student interest through inquiry, research, project management, and creating artifacts of learning.

Shades of 1:1 – What Models Work Best to Transform Classrooms
– Ben Wilkoff
How does a 1:1 environment change the way we plan lessons to create more engaging learning tasks? How does it support and empower students? If we haven’t answered these questions, why should we hold it up as the ideal? In this session we will interrogate the notion of 1:1 and explore alternative ways of supporting Blended and Personalized Learning in our schools.

Let Them Lead! Student-Owned Learning Environment (re)Design
-Jessica Raleigh and Chris Moore

How might children be leaders and highly engaged learners throughout all phases of a student-led learning environment design (or redesign!) cycle? This session explores the question with a variety of adult and student facilitators from McGlone Academy, guided by a backchannel and planning documents for a learning space (re)design.

Know Your Place: Using Placemaking and Storytelling to Make Meaning & Change the World
-Noah Geisel
We are preparing students for successful futures in a world of automation and outsourcing. This session investigates and unpacks skills that people do better than machines and that can’t be shipped to other countries. Let’s be human and state making meaning together.

Learning  > Assessment: Embedding Stories that Empower Learning
– Kelly Tenkely
How might we re-imagine our assessment practices to better embed stories in the data? How might we give our assessment practices an “upGrade” to better empower students as learners? In this session, we’ll explore the purpose of assessment and identify those elements that help us better tell the stories of learning. We’ll start from a clean slate and re-imagine assessment from the ground up.

What is Sacred in Education? Building a Foundation for Agency
-Kelly Tenkely
What is the first step for agency in education? How might we use a Learner Profile to build a foundation and culture for agency in our schools? Together we’ll explore the pieces of the Learner Profile that we use at Anastasis, as well as how this step into agency seeps into every decision we make as a school.

Passion-Based Learning Through Inquiry- “An Inquiry Inception”
– Michelle Baldwin
Students are often asked to find answers to problems created for them by adults; frequently, these concepts are introduced with little to no context as to how they relate to the students. We want learners to feel empowered to explore ideas that make them wonder, discover problems to solve, ask questions, and demonstrate what they’ve learned in ways that help them make sense of the world around them.

Empowered learners follow their curiosity past mere engagement to discovery and “light bulb” moments in learning. Through an inquiry model, students are able to explore new concepts and follow their passions to a higher level of learning. This results in increased ownership, deeper levels of understanding, and the ability to assess their own progress through reflection. As student agency increases, their learning becomes more meaningful and relevant!

In this session, participants will learn the inquiry model through inquiry – Inquiry Inception! We’ll explore passion-based learning and inquiry methods to learn how to guide students into discovering their passions within any classroom.

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Aurasma: Create Augmented Reality Experiences in Under 2 Min.

Create augmented reality experiences for your classroom in under 2 minutes

What it is: Aurasma is an app (also a website) that allows learners to quickly create augmented reality experiences for others. Augmented reality is the mix of technology and the real world. Probably the most popular or, at least the most commonly used, augmented reality is the use of Snapchat filters. Funny faces and masks are overlaid on top of the real world (i.e. whatever you are taking a picture of). Aurasma makes it simple to quickly create these types of experiences for others. Learners start by uploading, or taking, a “Trigger” photo. This photo is what the Aurasma app will look for to trigger the event that has been layered on top of the photo. Next, learners add overlay images. These are the images that will popup when the Trigger Photo is within the camera viewfinder. It might sound cumbersome, but it really isn’t! It is like having QR codes embedded right in any environment…without the QR code!

Empower students to create their own augmented reality experiences

How to integrate Aurasma into the classroom: Because learners can create augmented reality experiences for any environment, the possibilities are seriously endless. Below are a few ways I can see our teachers and learners using Aurasma:

  • A few years ago, our students explored How the World Works through the PBS series, and book, How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson. As a result of their learning, the students decided to build a Domino Museum (you can read about that here). At the time, they put QR codes all around their museum. Some QR codes explained how the museum worked, and others expanded on the information that was presented on each domino. Aurasma could take an experience like this to the next level by allowing students to embed information and instructions all around the museum. As people walked through their Domino Museum with the Aurasma app opened up, additional information would have automatically populated based on where they placed Triggers.
  • Anastasis students are SUPER creative in presenting their learning at the end of an inquiry block. During the last block, one of our students explored the history of dance. In one of our learning spaces she created a time machine that students could get into. Then she themed other learning spaces for each time period. With Aurasma, she could have had the students actually see the dancers/costumes/etc. of each time period as if they were really in the room, using the room as a trigger.
  • In a foreign language class, students could use objects/items in the room as triggers for vocabulary overlays. As students look through their iPhone/iPad/Android’s camera in the Aurasma app, all of that vocabulary would pop up as others explored the room.
  • Our students go on a field trip on average once a week. They explore all kinds of incredible places for learning in context. Often, another class might end up at the same location later in the month or even in another year. As students visit somewhere new, they can overlay their learning on a place. When other classes, or another year’s students visit, they can see the learning that took place when others visited. (How cool would it be to get a network of schools doing this so that we could all learn together!)
  • We have a strong social justice component at Anastasis. Last year, our Jr. High kids spent time at Network Coffee House. During their time there, they spent a day in the life of a homeless person. They held cardboard signs on street corners and panhandled, they met other homeless, and got a tour of where these people sleep, get warm, etc. Afterward they had incredible reflections about their experience. It would have been a neat exercise to have them end the day by taking pictures of landmarks at the various stops around their tour as Triggers. When they got back to school, they could have created an augmented reality reflection tour for others.
  • In art class, students could take a photo of their creation and then overlay an explanation about how they created their art, their inspiration, etc. During a school art show, those in attendance would get to experience the heart behind each piece.
  • In social studies, students could snap a photo of a place on the map, and then overlay their learning on top. As others explored the map with the Aurasma app, all of that information would populate as they explored the map.
  • Learners could take a photo of the cover of a book (or book spine) that they just read. They can overlay the trigger image with their review of the book. As students are searching the library through the Aurasma app, they will see the reviews that other students have left behind.
  • Teachers can use Aurasma to embed instructions or norms around their classrooms. I’m imagining this being useful for special equipment use in a maker space or science lab. This would also be a great way to embed instructions when you have different learning happening in the classroom in a center like environment. Multiply your reach by layering the instructions or a demonstration of each center at its location in the classroom.
  • Teachers could also use Aurasma to amplify the usefulness of posters or bulletin boards around the classroom. Snap a photo of either as your trigger and then layer additional helpful information over top.
  • It could be fun to “hide” a writing prompt or brain teaser in your classroom each day. Just snap a photo of something in the classroom so that when students look through their camera with Aurasma, the overlay pops up with instructions.
  • This would also be a fun way to lead students through problem solving of a mystery where they are discovering clues and following directions. At the beginning of the year, you could create a tour of the school or scavenger hunt around the school to help students get acclimated to their new surroundings.
  • Sooo…the possibilities really are endless with this one!

Tips: Learners can create augmented reality experiences from the Aurasma website, but to actually view the augmented reality, an iPhone/iPad/Android device with the Aurasma app is needed.

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8 of the Best Research Tools for Inquiry

8 of the best research tools for inquiry

As an inquiry based school, Anastasis students (and teachers) spend a LOT of time researching. Our students essentially build their own living curriculum as they follow a line of inquiry. Below are my very favorite research tools for students.

Research platforms:

1. Kiddle– This is a kid-friendly, Google Safe powered search engine. What I appreciate about Kiddle is the ease of use for younger learners. Kiddle searches safe sites that were written FOR kids. Kiddle editors hand choose sites that deliver content that is age-appropriate and written in easy to understand language. Best of all, Kiddle’s image and video searches brings about the results you would expect it to for kids. When a student innocently types in “kitten” looking for cute pictures to add to a presentation, they get actual pictures of the feline variety rather than the scantily dressed woman named “Kitten.” So, winning!

The downside to Kiddle: if you have older students doing research on social justice issues, “sex trafficking statistics in America,” they will get an “Oops” message for questionable language. It might not be robust enough as a research tool for jr. high and high school students depending on the issues being explored.

Kiddle- Safe visual search engine for kids

2. Boolify– The best thing about this Google Safe powered search engine is the way it teaches learners how to correctly use a search engine and how to refine their searches. Boolify teaches this skill by asking them to use keywords and Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) in a search to refine results using a drag/drop interface. Students drag elements and follow prompts to learn how to correctly complete a search to get the best possible results.

Boolify- teach students to search smarter

3. Wolfram Alpha– This is not really a search engine, but more of a computational knowledge engine. It is a fantastic tool for comparing information (think people in history, weather in different parts of world, etc), exploring mathematics, units and measures, data/statistical information, science, geography, technology…truly you should just go play with this knowledge computational engine because my description isn’t doing justice to the cool things it does! This is a powerful addition to inquiry. My favorite feature is the ability to compare things side by side. The nature of inquiry often has students exploring relationships between events, people, places, etc., Wolfram makes it really easy to do this!

Using Wolfram Alpha for Inquiry Research

 

4.  Creative Commons– This is a great place to search for images, videos, sounds that are listed under the Creative Commons license that lets learners find content they can share, reuse, and mix into something new. The caution I would add here for kids: Anyone can list content under the Creative Commons license and depending on the search, some questionable material may pop up. This one is best used with supervision! Creative Commons is a great place to start a conversation about licensing and using content created by others.

Creative Commons Search

Resources to help learners work through research independently

5. Michael Friermood who writes The Thinker Builder has a great graphic organizer to help learners work toward independence in their research. You can find it HERE.

Inquiry Research Graphic Organizer from The Thinker Builder

 

6. Create a culture of thinking by giving your learners the tools to help them through a variety of thinking routines. This is an awesome resource when students hit a wall with a “closed” inquiry question (one that is too narrow and has one answer). It is equally useful when students aren’t sure how they can expand their research. These thinking routines will help them “open” questions and think from new vantage points and angles that may set them off down a path of new or expanded inquiry.

Tracy Ann Clark created this fun-to-use, and great resource for helping learners explore these thinking routines…because who doesn’t love a cootie catcher?! Find it HERE.

Visible Thinking Routines Cootie Catcher Tracy Ann Clark

 

7. Anatomy of a Google Search- this PDF helps learners understand the how and why behind a search.

Download the PDF HERE.

Anatomy of a Search- Free PDF Download

8. Google Modifiers cheat sheet- this is a good one to explore with students and then hang on the wall as a reminder!

Download the PDF HERE.

Google Modifier Cheat Sheet for Students

Want to learn more about how we run our inquiry powered k-8 classrooms at Anastasis? Join us for our conference in February! 5Sigma Education Conference

Building Student Agency: Multiple Intelligence Strengths

What it is: The Learning Genome Project started nearly 8 years ago in response to a sense of urgency to make education more about those it serves: students. In the process of building the Learning Genome, I came to a realization that even if this perfect tool existed, there wasn’t the infrastructure in schools to fully utilize it. This led to the start of a school, Anastasis Academy. Our primary goal as a school is to recognize the humanity in each of our students, to get to know them as individuals. Beyond the trendy “personalization” or “individualization” we seek to know identity. More than that, we want students to know and love their own identity.

It’s a large undertaking, but one that I’m proud to say that we do really well. Our teachers know who are students are on a deeply personal level. In turn, we are able to help our students know who they are, and love that person and the contribution they make to the world.

We don’t get it right in every moment, but it is a journey we are committed to as a community every day.

How do we do it? We start each year by building a Learner Profile for each student. This Learner Profile is the beginning of helping students build this kind of agency. It is the start of the journey. During this important meeting, our teachers ask interest/passion questions to help us get to know students better…you can download those for free here. Next, we go through the Learning Genome card decks. This is the first of the card decks. Through this one-on-one “game” students are able to tell us more about who they are. For shy or introverted students, the cards are a wonderful catalyst for opening up and sharing without feeling like they are in the spotlight. For those who have no problem sharing stories about themselves, these cards give those stories direction. The Multiple Intelligence Card Strength card set will help you to better identify the strengths that your student’s have as a learner, but my favorite part of using this card deck is all the incidental information that you get along the way. As students interact with the cards, they inevitably begin to tell you stories that reveal parts of their personalities, their family dynamics, their deepest joys, and fears. As they place cards, you will start to understand places where they feel weaknesses or vulnerabilities. You’ll see them hesitate over where to place a card and hear stories that fill in the blanks.

Before you even begin teaching these students, you will see them for the incredible, unique individuals they are. Rather than being “students” (as if we could categorize an entire population with one word!), you’ll see them. Hopes, dreams, and flaws. Learners. Students with names and identities.

If you are interested in the Learning Genome Project Card Sets, you can find them here, the Learner Profile spreadsheet I talk about is available as well!

3 Steps to a Living Curriculum

3 Steps to a Living Curriculum

Boxed curriculum does exactly that: it boxes in learning, narrows the scope of possibility, and leads kids to believe that learning is a chore. Living curriculum does the opposite: it unleashes learning, opens up possibility and adjacent possibility, and leaves kids excited to continue learning. Living curriculum grows and adapts for a richer, more meaningful learning experience.

3 Steps to a Living Curriculum:

  1. Know your students! This seems like a really obvious first step, but honestly, if you don’t know your students it will be impossible to break free of the box(ed) curriculum. How do you get to know your students? At Anastasis, we dedicate our first days of school to getting to know our students and building a learner profile. We ask all kinds of interest and passion questions, we play a card game that helps us identify their Learning Style preferences, Multiple Intelligence Strengths, and Brain Dominance, and we build a Learner Profile. To take students beyond pre-fab curriculum, you have to know them first. What are their strengths as a learner? Where do they find struggle? All of this information will make you a better guide in the learning. It will also allow your students to understand themselves as learners and their classmates as learners. It will change the ecosystem in your classroom!
  2. Break free of the box. You have to break free of the boxed curriculum before you can truly experience a living curriculum. Boxed curriculum is like teaching students through paint by number. Or like exploring the world via a map. Sure, maps are a predictable. You can see the whole landscape in a simple, two dimensional layout. They give us answers and a 10,000 foot look at a landscape. They allow us to gather some information about the world: where major landmarks are in relation to other major landmarks, what rivers/lakes/mountains we might encounter. With a map, we can chart a course and head a direction. But it isn’t living. Looking at a map is not the same as exploring the world. With inquiry, you may have a guidebook that helps along the way, but it is actually all about the journey. Where boxed curriculum is about answers, inquiry is about the journey to the answer. Living curriculum is immersive learning where students get to create their own map including the features and nuances that are important to them (this is why knowing them is step 1!). Learning is too complex and beautiful to be captured by boxed curriculum. When students are immersed in the journey, they can appreciate the scale of a mountain, the wildlife and ecosystem of a river. A living curriculum is not prescriptive, it is an autobiography of learning written by the student as they learn. A living curriculum uses inquiry because the path to learning is more about following a direction than arriving at a destination. Each year, I create a new set of inquiry guides for our teachers and students. The main inquiry questions stay the same every year (we love the PYP questions!): “Who We Are,” “Where We Are in Place and Time,” “How We Express Ourselves,” “How the World Works,” “How We Organize Ourselves,” and “Sharing the Planet.” Then, under each line of inquiry, I come up with a direction for our inquiry block and additional suggestions for different lines of inquiry that students could follow. Each block has a Pinterest board where we can collect resources for learning during the block. These are books, videos, apps, lesson ideas, articles, experiments, field trip possibilities, etc.
  3. Invite teaching partners and students to collaborate. This is the LIVING part of living curriculum. This is where the curriculum actually comes alive and changes and adapts organically as the learning process unfolds.  Pinterest is a great place for this to happen and, be honest, you are there anyway! Using our Pinterest boards, I start gathering resources I think might be useful, then I invite teachers and students to collaborate with me. As they follow a direction in inquiry, inevitably it leads their learning in unexpected places that I couldn’t have imagined. Inviting teachers and students who are doing the learning to collaborate, the curriculum comes alive. It adapts and changes and grows with us. Living curriculum. Our learning becomes fully immersive, and rich. Students are creating their own maps as they explore learning.

Want to see an example of Living Curriculum in action? Check out this example from Anastasis!

Where to find the card game we use to build our learner profile: The Learning Genome Project

Follow me on Pinterest to see our Living Curriculum grow!

Digital Badges: credentialing the things that make us fully human

Two weeks ago, I attended the Digital Badge Summit in Denver, CO.

I’ve been somewhat hesitant to jump into digital badges world (despite knowing the digital badge ninja, @senorg) because I feared that digital badges were just one more way to categorize and label kids, another carrot to dangle in the classroom. I must admit, that some of this hesitation comes from experience with digital badges within EPIC Kids books, an app we love at Anastasis.

Our students (and teachers) have long been fans of EPIC! because it brings us so many books and expands our classroom libraries and feeds our students desire to read. Toward the end of the school year, EPIC added digital badges. Each time a student reads a book, they earn a badge within EPIC. Pretty quickly our students stopped actually reading the books they had so loved just weeks before. They discovered that if they stayed on each page for a few seconds before flipping, they could get through books really quickly (without actually reading them) and still earn a badge. As educators, we watched our student’s love for reading dissipate in favor of a digital badge. We watched kids go from discussing the books they read, to competing to see who had the most badges. You can read about the full break down on @michellek107‘s blog here.

You can see why it was with some trepidation that I embarked on the Digital Badge Summit, but knowing @senorg as I do, I knew there would be more to digital badging. The Summit was led by Aurora Public Schools who has been on the front end of the digital badge movement. I’m so impressed with the way they have thought about, and are rolling out badging. It is not a replacement for assessment. The badges are not content specific, or task specific. Instead, the APS badges are being used to credential preschool-12th grade students in 21st Century Skills. APS has also partnered with more than 20 Endorsers who are facilitating a currency wherein students who earn endorsed badges, can use them in order to unlock opportunities with employers. Students can earn badges in any order and through a variety of disciplines, making them very customizable to each student’s individual needs, strengths, and experience.

Digital Badges: an autobiography of learning

APS issues badges using Credly. Credly is an end-to-end credential and badge management system. It seamlessly integrates into social media and Open Badge compliance and has an Open Credit API. Badges are fully customizable, it is easy to issue badges to recipients, includes identity verification (to ensure credibility and authenticity), and allows students to share achievements on a variety of sites.

Perhaps my favorite moment of Digital Badge Summit was the bold declaration that digital badges could be a great equalizer in education. @npinkard talked about learning deserts and how digital badging can help us better leverage a youth ecosystem to meet students where they are at (school, community, home, after school, etc.) Students move across multiple learning spaces constantly. These are spaces defined by where learning happens, not a school address. People put their time into learning things that have social capital. Digital badges can be a tool for social and economic justice. They can be a door opener to a successful future.

An APS student spoke toward this reality as he described his own education. As a student with learning needs, he often received a report card that revealed all of the places that he was failing within his education. It revealed every struggle and none of his brilliance. When APS began issuing badges, this student, for the first time, was able to capture and share his brilliance. While he may not be good at the school game, it did not mean that he didn’t have strengths, places where he truly shined. The badges gave this student a way to capture and celebrate what he was good at and share that with others. Now, he is able to take his accomplishments and share with future universities or employers all of the things that make him a standout candidate even if his grades don’t necessarily reflect that. Digital badging can give students a language to promote their skills and experience to future employees or schooling. Digital badges can also be used to facilitate meaningful relationships between students and mentors, they can be used to help guide and motivate students.

A distinction was made between standards (expecting a high-quality) and standardization (repetition, everyone being a cog in the system). As @dajbelshaw said, “I don’t go to two separate Michelin Star restaurants expecting the same dish, but I do expect the same high quality.” This is an important distinction, and one I don’t think we make enough in education. It is also the difference between prescriptive pathways and descriptive pathways. Badges shouldn’t be prescriptive, they should be descriptive of what a student has done. A learning autobiography of what has been accomplished rather than the charted path. “Keep badges weird. Don’t replicate the system we have now with ever more high stake credentials.”-@dajbelshaw

We also heard about how badges can make an e-portfolio more interactive, when badges can be linked directly to learning evidence, students have a powerful map of their learning that is searchable and shareable. Anastasis uses e-portfolios together with our assessment system to help students remember and reflect on their learning journey. The badges can act as a bread-crumb-trail of sorts so that students can go back through and reflect on where they started and all the steps along the way that led to accomplishments. Like growing older, learning often happens as such a pace, that you don’t always know it happened until you look back at pictures. It is only through reflection that you realized that you’ve changed at all. Students need a way to celebrate their small and big wins alike. Badges can help students see the richness of skills that have been learned that isn’t easily captured otherwise.

Several Colorado organizations shared about the ways that they are using digital badging to help students capture learning including the Denver Public Library, Colorado History Museum, and Colorado volunteers. The programs are impressive to be sure, but one of the things that became apparent is that there needs to be a common language in the Digital Badge space. Currently those who are issuing badges are often doing so within their own ecosystem. There isn’t a common ‘currency’ where badges are created and shared. In order for them to reach their full potential, badges need to be more universally shared and accepted so that they exist in a common space. The struggle here is in, “who defines knowledge and gives it a value?”- Paulo Frier This is an important consideration! Badges shouldn’t be controlled by one organization, but rather open, transferable, stackable, and evidence based. Every learner should be able to control their identity and therefore their badges.

“Badging can help credential all things that make us fully human.” @dajbelshaw

Reports and certificates show a very narrow view of what it means to be human. Digital badges open up a wider ability to help us describe who we are and what makes each of us unique. That badges can help us speak toward what makes us more fully human is the reason I left the Digital Badge Summit hopeful. Hopeful that rather than diluting learning with another “carrot” dangled, that digital badges can be a way for students to share their uniqueness, what makes their identity different from anyone else. Used properly, badges can be used to reveal and celebrate our individual humanity. Thanks @senorg and APS for putting on a truly spectacular summit!

Woot Math: Adaptive learning for fractions and decimals

Woot Math- adaptive fraction/decimals

What it is: Woot Math uses adaptive technology to personalize the math learning experience in new ways for 3rd-6th grade students. With a focus on fractions and decimals, Woot Math allows students many inroads to understanding. Flexible implementation options mean that Woot Math can be used in any classroom configuration whether it be 1:1 devices, shared devices, whole-class, or as intervention. The Woot Math system works on the web, iPads, or Chromebooks seamlessly…it truly is a great option for any classroom! It is super user-friendly, and gives teachers the ability to customize for each student in the class as a starting point. Woot Math is adaptive, as students use it, it gets “smart” and creates learning pathways based on the specific needs of the student. Beginning with foundational rational math concepts, Woot Math makes these necessary foundational skills accessible for all students. It is like having a personal tutor sitting beside them as they work through new learning. If a student doesn’t understand a problem, the program adapts to approach the learning in a new way. The illustration of concepts is brilliant! Woot Math gives students a solid understanding of fractions, laying the necessary ground work for algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, and statistics. Sign up TODAY, Woot Math is totally free for the 2015-2016 school year!

How to integrate Woot Math into your classroom: To begin with Woot Math, decide how you will use it in your classroom. Do all of your students have access to a technology device? Do you have a bank of devices that they can rotate through? Do you have a projector/interactive whiteboard? If you are using Woot Math with limited technology access, beginning with the Interactive Problem Bank is best. Here you can quickly access thousands of hands-on fraction and decimal problems for students to work through together. You can project the problems on a whiteboard or use an interactive whiteboard. Problems can be selected by topic or standard and then by model type. Students can either work together in community solving problems, or as a center in a math rotation. If you have better access to technology, and students can work independently on a device, the Adaptive Practice is the place to start. Here you can print out student login cards, assign an initial topic, and the program will adaptively generate and assess thousands of interactive problems. This is also the place where you can track student progress and understanding through concepts and skills. The visual examples and leading through problems is fantastic, it is truly an engaging process for students to learn with! This is the best way (in my humble opinion) to use Woot Math, because it allows students to work in exactly the way they need to increase understanding and build a solid foundation of understanding. Be sure to go through Woot Math independently of your students to truly appreciate the interactive learning modules and visual representation of concepts…they are brilliant!

Tips: Be sure to sign up soon, take advantage of this timing when Woot Math is 100% free! There are some great teacher resources to download to help you as you implement Woot Math.

Hat Tip to @yourkidsteacher for sharing this awesome resource with me!

Wednesday Inspiration

You are a genius and the world needs your contribution!

 

 

If you have never had the privilege of hearing Angela Maiers speak, you are missing out!

If Angela’s name isn’t immediately recognizable, her #choose2matter and #youmatter global movements have probably crossed your path.

Angela believes that in today’s world, there are no limits for learners with passion, foresight, and desire to grow. At Anastasis, this message resonates with us.

On February 19, Angela will be the keynote speaker for the 5Sigma Education Conference in Colorado. Angela is the perfect person to kick off a weekend of inspiration, learning, iterating, collaborating, and launching.

5Sigma is unlike any education conference you’ve been to. It begins with a tour of the school I started, Anastasis Academy. This tour is led by Anastasis students of all ages. You’ll get a first hand look at what re-imagined learning looks like. What follows the tour is a weekend of inspiration, passion ignited, collaboration, and fun. We want to introduce you to those (like Angela) who have inspired and shaped us along the way. We have incredible keynotes, sessions, speakers, and panels. On Sunday, we have adult learning excursions that will give you a glimpse of what student field-trips and staff professional development look like at Anastasis.

If you are interested in student voice, starting a school, inquiry, customized assessment solutions, building community, learner profiles, individualized education, 1:1 BYOD environments, learning excursions, professional development that transforms, re-imagined classroom space, design thinking, maker spaces, mentorship, or project-based learning, you will not want to miss this conference! Besides all that, Angela Maiers is our keynote…and that is pretty outstanding!