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We choose the moon: assessment without labels

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 10-07-2014

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“With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.”- unknown

Yesterday, @Kevreadenn shared the quote above with me on Twitter. It had me thinking about assessment and John F. Kennedy’s, “we choose the moon” (embedded above – you should watch it again). The declaration that we WOULD send a man to the moon, that we would do the impossible, seemed like an unworkable task given the technology of 1969. It is astounding to me that the technology I hold in my pocket is significantly more capable than the technology that sent a man to the moon. Kennedy inspired a nation to dream together, to achieve the impossible using the resources that were available. How can we inspire kids in this way as they quest for learning? How can we help those students who look at the goal of reaching the moon and think, “this is impossible, I only have 1969 technology,” to be inspired, to look at their resources in new ways and believe that they can do the impossible?

Everyone wants to know that they are “winning” and contributing to something meaningful. The declaration that a man would go to the moon was a lofty goal. It seemed incredibly  important, as a nation, that we achieve this goal together.

It strikes me as strange that the majority of assessment that we focus on in education only shows lag data. The lag data reveals to us where a student landed in a given moment, but doesn’t offer any opportunity for course correction. It also doesn’t take into account outside influences (not enough sleep, home struggles, lack of nutrition, friendship stresses, etc.). If our goals are lofty, and we want learning to be better, we will stop focusing on the lag data as the most important, and instead focus on the lead data. Lead data shows us what leads up to the learning, it gives us insight in the journey and process so that we can adjust as we go.

The majority of grading systems fail to compel action from students because they show historical data only. Students are left believing, “I’ve failed, and now I have to move on knowing I already fall short. Now I have to continue forward from a deficit.” Or they may be left believing, “I aced this, I already know it all, I don’t have anything more to learn.” Traditional grades tend to end learning. Traditional grades also measure students against everyone else with the goal being a perfect score. (Notice that I did NOT say that the goal was learning.) This comparison can be demoralizing for students who know they will fall short of the perfect score. They begin to label themselves as “stupid” and often arrive at the apathetic stance of, “it’s not even worth trying.” The other scenario is the student that believes the goal of the perfect score signals that they learned everything they need to know. For these students, apathy comes in already having hit the mark. “I know everything I need to about x.” This line of thinking closes down creativity and the drive to learn more. Apathy is the killer of learning. It matters not if you are a straight A student, or a D student, traditional grade systems breed apathy and don’t encourage kids to go for the lofty goals. There will be no choosing the moon.

Grading systems need to be upgraded so that they engage students in the process of reaching lofty goals. When students are able to help set their own goals and the assessment happens as a part of learning, students are continually pulled forward in their learning. Each small win adds learning momentum that begins to snowball into something bigger. For those who struggle, the small victories reveal that they can win and they are making forward progress. This gives the confidence that all learning is possible and worth engaging (even when the end goal feels impossible). The students who find that learning comes easily aren’t halted by artificial ceilings. They aren’t left believing that the learning has ended and are encouraged to keep moving forward.

In starting Anastasis Academy, we quickly found that no traditional grading system could adequately assess students as they were learning. We ditched formal A-F grading and instead used standards based grading. The idea was that if we assessed students based on standards (which we used as some of our learning goals), stakeholders would be able to better map progress as they went. We use standards differently, at Anastasis the standards aren’t organized by grade levels, they are simply a continuum of foundational skills. It didn’t take long before the standards based grading was also falling short. There is SO much more to learning than simply meeting the standard. We were interested in helping students understand how their attitudes toward learning impacted academic progress. We wanted to help them understand how character spills into everything else that they do. We wanted them to see that more important than a “Math” grade, was the ability to think like a mathematician. We wanted students to be able to “choose to go to the moon” and contribute to something meaningful. We needed something more holistic that helped students see the intricacies of how learning works. We wanted them to be able to make correlations between their attitudes toward learning and the outcomes that they could see.

Anastasis Report Card

This is the “report card” that I created. It is our attempt to help kids better understand what contributes to learning. It is a helpful way to show students that they aren’t “stupid in math,” but instead help them realize that they aren’t risk takers in math. The aversion to risk taking in math is what really holds them back.

The Latin root of Assessment is assidere, which means “to sit beside.” At Anastasis, we believe that assessment is more than just a measurement, it is an opportunity for apprenticeship, a time for us “to sit beside” and guide. We’ve used various tools for assessment in our short history, our search was for the assessment tool that would offer a more holistic picture of learning. We’ve used Mastery Connect and Jump Rope, but they fell short in giving us that holistic picture because they were tied to Common Core Standards alone (and limited by grade levels). What our students do at Anastasis every day is SO much bigger and deeper than these standards, and yet we didn’t have a good way to demonstrate that. Beginning in January, we rolled out our own grading system. We call it UpGrade because that is what it felt like, an upgrade!

Our goal for feedback on the UpGrade report is twofold:

1. To give students feedback that causes them to think, engage, and reflect on their own learning process as they learn.

2. To give families a detailed account of the student’s learning journey and forward progress.

The UpGrade reports are designed to explain what students know and are able to do, rather than determining grades based on point averages. This kind of grading allows teachers to more effectively tailor instruction to students based on what they actually know and can do, no floors and no ceilings.

The UpGrade report contains the proficiency marks 1-5 (explained below). These numbers are intended to demonstrate the process of learning, students move through the levels of proficiency as learning progresses. A “1” indicates that a child is new to the learning or requires a lot of guidance. A “5” indicates that the student is able to apply the learning to new situations and make connections to other learning.

1- Novice Concept and/or skill is brand new, student is just getting started in the learning. Student requires much teacher guidance and prompting.
2- Apprentice Some prompting or guidance is needed for the new concept and/or skill.
3- Practitioner Concept and/or skill can be done consistently and independently. Student may require occasional prompting or guidance.
4- Scholar Student can apply concept and/or skill to new and/or different situations with little guidance. Student is ready to build on the learning (next level of standard). 
5- Change Maker Concept and/or skill come second nature and can be used to make connections with other learning. Students understand concept/skill and can apply, evaluate, analyze, and create using the skill/concept. Student can use skill/concept for in-depth inferences and applications.

Of course when you create a report card that looks like this, you also have to craft a grading system to populate the report card. Dang it.

This is where I had to get creative and use my limited resources to make something (that seems impossible) work. I used Apple’s Numbers as the method for creating the grading system. It is tedious work, the user interface is messy, but it allows lofty goals and the impossible.

On the back end, teachers can fill in rubrics, or learning evidence pages. These compile and end up as the final 1-5 on the image that you see above. Why did I use Numbers? It is the only spreadsheet program robust enough to incorporate the graphic above. The evidences of learning (assignments) and scores are the easy part. Getting the rubrics to work the way I wanted them to, not so much! I sent out a call for help the other night on Twitter and had some AMAZING spreadsheet ninjas step in to help me find solutions. I promised to share what I figured out…for those not interested in the technical bits, feel free to skip ahead. :)

Anastasis self-grading Writing Rubric in Numbers

This is the rubric that I was working on. I wanted it to “self grade” and then for the score to transfer as a learning evidence. It seemed like it should be simple, but this honestly stumped me for days. Thankfully my PLN stepped in to point me in the right direction!

I started out by creating a highlighting rule. This is simple in Numbers, just click on the cell(s) that you want the rule on and in the “cell formatting” pane, choose “Conditional Highlighting.” In each cell where teachers could leave a score, I wanted the cell to highlight when the score was added. I chose to add the rule “Text contains” and then the number that corresponded to the row of the rubric. Then I chose a color to highlight.

Next came the tricky part. In the cells full of text, I wanted the last cell to recognize when a teacher had typed in a number, and to add up all the numbers of the row so that we could get a total that would populate on the Learning Evidence sheet. I could find all kinds of ways to accomplish this in a Google Spreadsheet or in Excel, but none of the solutions seemed to work in Numbers. I kept getting a syntax error. I finally solved it by using the following format: =COUNTIF(B2:H2,”=*1″) In each row, I changed the number to reflect the score that it would count. This got me most of the way to what I needed, but it was only giving me a count of how many of the number were in the row, not giving me the sum (=SUMIF didn’t work). SO, I added another column to find the product of the “Countif” with the row number. Success! I’ll hide these two columns for the final grade system and just have the total at the bottom show up. This total is easy to then transfer to the Learning Evidence sheet.

THANK YOU @mathlioness @katieregan88 @mrmatera @alicekeeler @royanlee @jasonschmidt123 @benlouey @malynmawby @thomascmurray, you all are truly wonderful for spending time to help me solve this. I am seriously elated that there was a solution! Anastasis teachers will be thrilled as well! :) YOU ARE NINJAS!!

When people ask about Anastasis, they are usually curious to know how we’ve broken past the barrier of labels. We have students who are dyslexic, twice exceptional, have struggled in school, are gifted, know how to play the game of school, etc. Everyone of these kids chooses the moon. They choose to do the impossible and keep moving forward. They aren’t stifled by the learning labels. They know they are more than an “A” or “F.” They start to understand that learning is not the same as a grade. They begin to understand where their hangups actually are and can work on adjusting those instead of believing they are failures.  It is amazing what happens when you take away the labels and help kids understand that no matter where they start from, there is something to be learned, forward progress to be made. They choose lofty goals. They do the impossible.

Sorting Through the Common Core (more to the story than Facebook)

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, video | Posted on 26-06-2014

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In the past few months, “Common Core” has become a hot button issue for parents, educators, news media, and celebrities alike. Facebook feeds have been flooded with absurd worksheets, kids homework, and disparaging remarks about how the “Common Core” will ruin us all. The problem is, the “Common Core” really refers to two things. One is the standards and the other is curriculum. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but are being used interchangeably as if they are one and the same.

In recent months, I’ve had parents ask for clarification about what the Common Core is. They want to be reassured that their kids aren’t anywhere near the absurdity that they are seeing online, in the news, or in the new Common Core documentary. Because there has been so much confusion, I created the video above to help explain what the “Common Core” is. I tried to keep it short so that it was manageable to watch without getting lost in the details and losing interest. I recognize that there is a LOT more to this topic than what I laid out. My goal with the video above was to help others understand what the “Common Core” is and what it isn’t.

Common Core Standards are different from Common Core Curriculum. As I said before, the two are not the same. The problem is that news media outlets, Facebook feeds, and celebrities use “Common Core” to describe both the standards and the curriculum. Sometimes they even mistakenly refer to the curriculum as Common Core Standards.

The standards are the United States attempt at bringing more continuity to learning foundations for kindergarten through twelfth grade students throughout the states. They are intended to ensure that all students receive the same base skills to build on in English Language Arts and Math. Most of the United States has adopted these standards and is making adjustments to accommodate the new standards. In the past, individual states each had state created standards. This led to a lot of disparity between the states about what was learned and at what stage it was learned. The result was a chasm between what students in one state learned that a neighboring state had not.

The standards were developed in partnership by a group made up of governors, chief state school officers, education groups, and corporations and foundations. The funding for the development of the standards came from the federal government (part of Race to the Top money) and the corporations/foundations involved. In the video, I show a Common Core Standards “family tree” that breaks this down a bit more. While I don’t love the idea of corporations funding the standards, I recognize that the money to make them happen had to come from somewhere. I wish that the “somewhere” wasn’t tied so closely with the publishing companies who make curriculum. I also noticed that the educational groups were labeled as “advisory.” It seems to me that the government agencies and the corporations/foundations should have been “advisory” and the educational group should have been the chief designers. Because I wasn’t right in the middle of the creation, I can only speculate how this went and hope that it was a true partnership where educators had a large hand in the outcome. Included in the creation were: Achieve (which includes Alcoa, Exxon Mobile, Microsoft), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the National Govenors Association, Council of Chief School Officers, David Coleman, Sue Pimentel, and Jason Zimba (who sold an educational startup to McGraw Hill), the National Education Foundation, America Federation of Teachers, National Council of English Teachers, and National Council of Math Teachers.

Standards are not a bad thing. They give a baseline and frame of reference to work within. As an educator, I see the importance of having a baseline of foundational skills that we can count on. The standards are written very generally. They are just over 60 pages long (k-12) and when you read through them you will see, they are pretty underwhelming. I like the generality of the standards, they leave schools and teachers open to using a wide variety of methodologies and resources to ensure that students get those foundational skills. They aren’t prescriptive of HOW to teach, they are just a guideline of what should be taught. Do I agree on the every single standard being totally necessary for every single child? No. But I do recognize the value in a society having a common set of baseline skills, the standards are a good beginning for that. One of the biggest problems I do have with the standards is the language used. If these goals are intended for students, shouldn’t they be written in student-friendly language that is easy to understand? Instead they are full of eduspeak and jargon. That should change!

I’m sure you’ve seen these floating around (and more like it):

Common core math problem Common Core

 

This is Common Core Curriculum. The writers of the Common Core Standards do not endorse any curriculum. Anyone can label the curriculum “Common Core Aligned.” ANYONE. This curriculum is designed by publishers. The alignment to the Common Core Standards is a way for publishers to sell more. Publishers know that in the frenzy of states adopting Common Core Standards, there will be an urgency to get schools and students on the same page quickly (after all…testing). They also know that if they stamp “Common Core aligned” on their curricula, schools are more likely to purchase it so that their students are ready for the testing that is sure to follow. Here is the problem, publishers design curriculum to make money. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the money overshadows what is best for kids. The other problem: the same people who write the curriculum, write the tests. This forces a school’s hand to purchase the curriculum so that their kids can pass the tests (which is then incentivized by programs like RTTT). When they don’t pass the tests, the publishing companies conveniently come to the rescue with the latest and greatest new curriculum. The cycle repeats. This is not a new cycle within education, but it is one that is becoming more and more transparent. In 2012 Pearson, the largest publisher of curriculum, developed Common Core Standards tests.

The adoption of Common Core Standards does not require districts and states to collect more data. Unfortunately, the Race to the Top initiative incentivized the collection of more data. You see where this all starts to get really messy. Race to the Top also paid out $350 million to create computerized testing to more efficiently collect data on students. The downfall is that there are many, many schools across the United States who aren’t even well enough equipped with technology to give these tests.

Standards are not evil, but when coupled by unreasonable expectations of a one-size-fits-all system, they can be disastrous.

We use standards at Anastasis Academy, they are a framework that we can build on to ensure that our students are getting foundational skills that will carry them on in their learning. Instead of using boxed-curriculum, we approach the standards through the lens of inquiry, and build our own learning experiences based on the individual needs of every single student. Is it the most efficient it could be? No. But we are dealing with humanity, not widgets. This approach uses the standards in a way that truly does make them the floor and not the ceiling. They are a starting point, but they don’t restrict us. We choose not to use any of the “Common Core aligned” boxed curriculum. The one-size-fits-all isn’t what we want for our students. It doesn’t take into account the individuals that we teach. We choose not to give our students piles of worksheets, but instead give them learning opportunities that engage them as learners and leaders. Our goal is to apprentice our students in the art of learning. This is a very different goal than simply trying to get them through the textbook each year!

I encourage you to read through the Common Core Standards for yourself. You will quickly get an idea of how general they really are. When you see the popup of the Common Core, ask yourself if it is one of those standards that is the problem, or if it is the curriculum that is being used. If you are a parent, I encourage you to get involved with your school. Ask what curriculum is being used and why. Don’t feel bound by the tests (they are a poor measure of who your child is anyway). Encourage your school to look at ways that they can meet standards without being bound to curriculum. When those Facebook posts popup, speak out about the problem with better specifics “this curriculum is ridiculous, where is the real learning experience?!”

If you are a teacher, I get it-sometimes you don’t get to make the choice. If you have wiggle room and aren’t using a completely scripted curriculum, take advantage of it! Connect with other educators who are doing things differently. Look for ways that you can build foundational skills that aren’t tied endless worksheets and practice drills for the next test. Help your kids fall in love with learning. Be transparent, show them why you are passionate about learning.

Host an RSCON4 Meetup Party- Introduce Colleagues to Your PLN!

Posted by admin | Posted in collaboration, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Reform Symposium Conference | Posted on 01-10-2013

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Reform Symposium Free Worldwide Conference

If you have never attended an online conference, you should definitely take the opportunity to try one out on October 11-13 for the Reform Symposium Conference.  The line up of keynote speakers, presenters, and panel discussions is FANTASTIC.  It is like traveling around the world for inspiration from the comfort of your living room.  I really can’t say enough about how excited I am for this awesome weekend of learning!  Please join us for as much as you can, you will not be disappointed!  Plus, what could be better than learning with a bunch of friends from your living room?  You don’t even have to worry about what attire you should wear (I’ll be in PJs for sure!).

Be sure to join @michellek, @nancybabbitt and me for our session Connections Through Inquiry on Sunday! We’ll be talking up strategies that we use at Anastasis Academy as teachers and learners.  Check out the online schedule in your timezone and plan to join us!

If you are an online conference regular who is constantly working to get other teachers at your school to attend (with no luck), why not consider hosting a Reform Symposium Conference meetup party?  If they won’t engage in online community on their own, bring the community to them!  This would be a great way to help those who are less tech savvy get involved in some professional development in a way that feels ‘safe.’  Choose a location with good wifi (this could be a room at school, your living room, a local coffee shop), load up on fun snacks, invite some friends and learn together!  I have done this in the past with great success! It is all kinds of fun and adds a level of safety for first timers.  Use this event as an opportunity to introduce your offline colleagues to your online PLN (personal learning network).  I find that people are more likely to engage online for learning when they feel like they have a connection to others going in.  When they start a great conversation during a session, help them continue it by signing up for Twitter.

If you want to get really fancy, share my Twitter posters as a party gift.  Help those who haven’t signed up to sign up and connect to those they met during the conference.  Following the conference, send others at your school a “Learning Moment of the Day” along with a link to the community (member) that shared it with you.

Sometimes all it takes to connect people is a new approach to the invitation delivery. :)

 

We are still looking for volunteers to help with the conference!

Volunteer to Moderate Sessions for the Reform Symposium E-Conference (RSCON4)

RSCON would not be so inspiring without a highly devoted group of volunteer moderators to keep the conference running with as few hiccups as possible. Moderators play one of the most important roles by jumping into various sessions and helping presenters and participants have a great experience. Additionally, volunteers get to meet our inspiring presenters and introduce them to the audience. To become part of this super amazing team, sign up at http://www.futureofeducation.com/group/2013-rscon-volunteers and use the booking calendar to schedule volunteer time, http://rsconvolunteers.youcanbook.me

Also, attend one of our Blackboard Collaborate training sessions so you are familiar with the platform, http://bit.ly/rscon4trainingpg

Thank you for helping us inspire educators worldwide!

If you have questions about volunteering for the conference, one of our volunteer organizers would be happy to help!  Tweet your questions to one of the awesome organizers listed below!
Peggy George (@Pgeorge), Marcia Lima (@Bamarcia), Chiew Pang (@AClilToClimb), Jo Hart  (@JoHart), Phil Hart (@PhilHart)

An End N-1: Making Way for New Beginnings

Posted by admin | Posted in Project PLN | Posted on 08-04-2013

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In 2010 @thenerdyteacher asked if I would be interested in starting a collaborative online magazine with him.  Of course I said yes!  Project PLN was born.  The passion behind Project PLN was to reach out to the education network and give everyone a voice.  Nick and I can be rather prolific and enjoy keeping a blog and keeping up a constant chatter on Twitter, but that isn’t for everyone.  We knew that there was this whole section of our PLN that had incredible ideas, amazing insight into education, but it wasn’t being shared widely.  Project PLN was our attempt to provide a place for all of those voices to be heard.  We wanted to help bring our PLN together, to introduce new voices and to solidify relationships.

N-1 is a concept that I read about 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 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.

After two years Nick and I are in new places.  We have LOVED Project PLN, even when we were at our busiest.  Over the last two years schools have been started, families expanded, new job titles added, speaking engagements, the list goes on and on.  It is time for us to employ N-1.  This is a difficult concept for us.  We are project adders…not project eliminators.  And yet, Project PLN’s time is coming to an end.  It has accomplished the purpose that we set out for it.  It connected our PLN when it needed to be connected.  With the increased use of social media and blogs, we aren’t seeing the need for it that we once did.  It is time for us to let go of one so that we have room for others.  Both Nick and I are sad to see Project PLN end.  It has kept us working together month after month.  It has given us a reason to plan after school Skype sessions.  It has been FUN.  It is our hope that in letting Project PLN go, we will have room for the next BIG thing that we can work on together.  (Stay tuned, we are always dreaming up crazy great ideas together!)

I suspect that this isn’t really an end, that it will be a beginning.  Now we have ourselves freed up for the next dream.

Thank you to all of you who supported us in Project PLN.  Thank you for contributing, for sharing yourself with us. We hope that this will be multiplied in new ways.  Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, our blogs.  Keep sharing your good ideas because YOU are an inspiration and YOU matter!

 

12 Days of Dreaming #12DOD

Posted by admin | Posted in education reform, For Teachers, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources | Posted on 03-12-2012

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I love this time of year. Everything seems so full of possibility and optimism.  @Mr_Brett_Clark took hold of that feeling and started Education Dreamer: 12 Days of Dreaming.  Today was the big launch!  From Brett: “There is no greater time than now to share our dreams for education. Everything great that has ever happened, started as a dream.
Education Dreamer will post a new post on Monday through Thursday the first three weeks of December beginning December 3rd.
You can support this project by sharing out the post using #12DOD, adding a badge to your website, and leaving comments.”

I fully support this 12 days of dreaming and added my own dreams which were posted on day number one.  Lucky me!

Follow along, dream with your fellow educators and be inspired to make those dreams a reality!

My contribution is called: Dreaming of a Better Education.  Click the link to have a read.

Thank you for including me Brett!  Happy Everything :)

Transforming Education in 40 Days: A Call to Action

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, For Teachers, Grade Level, Project PLN, Resource type, Subject | Posted on 19-09-2012

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*** 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.


 

Claco: United We Teach, build lessons collaboratively

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 19-09-2012

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What it is:  Claco is a new website that makes it simple to build, organize and share lessons. Your lessons can be dynamic including weblinks, embed codes, online videos, files and more.  In addition to creating and uploading your own lessons, you can also search and use lessons that other teachers around the world have built.  There is no better way to stretch and grow professionally than to learn from each other!  Claco makes it easy to work with other educators in a collaborative environment to streamline the lesson planning process.  I love the vision behind Claco, they have even created a movement called “United We Teach” that encourages educators to share and enhance each other’s resources.  I learn SO much from my PLN, creating a place where this is encouraged as part of the process is fantastic!

Another feature I love about Claco: no need to download lessons, you can view and use all lessons directly from your Claco profile.  That means that lessons are available from anywhere (because they are in the cloud) and can be used from computers, iPads, and smartphones…super handy!

How to integrate Claco into your curriculum: Use Claco to save yourself time.  I tend to get lost in the OCEAN of amazing lesson ideas and resources on the web.  I like that Claco can be a one-stop shop for resources and lessons.  The ability to organize all of my findings in one easy-to-use place that can be accessed by all of my devices is also very helpful.

Aside from the time saving, Claco makes it possible to collaborate on lessons with other teachers in the building, or from anywhere in the world.  Lessons can be constructed with teammates and enhanced by anyone.  Lessons can also be easily shared with students, parents and colleagues.

Tips: You may recognize some features of Claco.  Class Connect (which I wrote about here) has morphed into Claco. The genius behind Claco, Eric Simons who created the sites after some frustrations with his own school experience.  Instead of being disenfranchised, he set out to make it better.  You gotta love that!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Claco in your classroom!

Project PLN Call for Articles! #projectPLN #edchat

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, inspiration, professional development, Project PLN | Posted on 10-07-2012

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It’s that time again! Project PLN is ramping up for another year of sharing.  We took a little time off for the summer to re-charge our batteries (and let you recharge yours).

What is Project PLN?  A collection of articles written by members of our PLN (Personal Learning Network-that’s you), on a common theme, all in one place.  Project PLN is an opportunity to get to know more passionate educators, and hear new voices.  It is a chance for us to connect and think and dream together.  We are excited to begin another year of Project PLN in August.

The focus of our August issue is Back to School Tips.  Over the years we have all discovered tips and tricks that help us make the start of the year a little easier.  I am often learning new tips from others and always have the same reaction: duh, why didn’t I think of that?!  This is our chance to share and get some new ideas.  We are looking for articles (this could be a blog post you’ve already written) from anyone involved in education.  You can be a teacher, classroom assistant, principal, hall monitor, superintendent, coach, or Sir Ken Robinson.  We want you to share your best ideas with the rest of us!

We publish everything we receive that follow these guidelines:

  • Email the article, or link to the article to ProjectPLN10@gmail.com
  • Please include a small bio that includes any links to your blog, Twitter handle, and other information you would like to share.  A picture is encouraged (we like seeing you!) but not required.
  • You can send us a new piece or a blog post you wrote ages ago.  A good idea is a good idea!
  • All posts need to be submitted by Friday, August 17, 2012.  We are hoping to make the issue live on August 21, 2012.
  • If you work for an online degree program…no need to submit anything. This isn’t an opportunity to advertise. We won’t post your stuff, so don’t bother!

That’s everything, we look forward to seeing your best tips and tricks for starting a school year.

Thanks!

Kelly and Nick (@ktenkely and @thenerdyteacher)

ProjectPLN Editors

TED-Ed: Lessons (videos) worth sharing

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Evaluate, History, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 26-04-2012

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What it is: I have long been a TED talk fan, so much so that I started a lunch group at my previous school called TED Talk Tuesdays where teachers could gather over lunch, watch TED Talks and discuss it’s implication on education.  TED has a brand new education site that I am excited about.  TED-ed is a collection of educational video lessons that have been animated.  These lessons can be used as a supplement in any classroom.  Each video on the TED-ed site has an associated lesson, a Quick Quiz with multiple choice comprehension questions, Think which asks questions to help students think more critically about what they have watched, and Dig Deeper which helps students to explore the topic further.  In addition to the videos, TED-ed gives educators the ability to “flip” videos.  You can use, tweak, or completely re-do any lesson that is featured on TED-Ed, or even create lessons from scratch based on any video from YouTube.  You can re-title a lesson to fit your classroom, add context, questions and follow-up suggestions, and create a custom URL for your video lesson.  You can even track your student’s progress to see who has viewed the assigned video, the number of questions they attempted, the answers they provided, and the answers they got correct.

How to integrate TED-Ed into the classroom:  TED-Ed is a fantastic new resource for the classroom.  The videos can be used for flip teaching.  Flip teaching changes up the classroom model.  Normally students come to school to get instruction and do their practice work at home as homework.  In a flipped teaching model, the instruction is watched at home as “homework” and the practice happens in the classroom where students can receive teacher support.  This means that the focus in the classroom is on higher-order thinking and learning skills instead of on instruction.  How novel. :) Student can come to class ready for deeper inquiry, critical thinking, discussion with classmates, collaboration and get more personalized attention from the teacher.  You maximize classroom time by “going home” with the students.

Video is a great medium for learning because it allows students to learn at their own pace and gives them the ability to replay as many times as they need to.  Visuals are always useful when learning something new, video is a great medium because of the way that it helps enhance understanding through the use of visuals. 

Videos are searchable by those that have been featured, those that are part of a series or by subject.  Students can learn about the arts, business/economics, design/engineering/technology, health, literature/language, math, psychology, science/technology, and social studies.  The library will continue to grow as teachers flip the videos and TED-ed adds content from educators around the world.

The videos are great in a flipped classroom model but can also be used within the classroom.  Videos can be watched and discussed as a whole-class or put on classroom computers as a learning center.  When I taught second grade, I made sure that I had time individually with my students each week.  In the mornings, my students worked on groups with “tub work” to make this time possible with individual students.  These videos would make a great “second teacher” in a blended learning classroom where students could continue their learning while you work with students individually. 

Tips: Remember, if you don’t find a video that meets your classroom needs, you can always flip any video you find on YouTube!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using TED-ed in  your classroom!

Dreaming: A look at Anastasis Academy

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration | Posted on 13-11-2011

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You may be wondering (or not) where the daily posts have been lately.  Believe me, it isn’t for lack of tools to share!  The slowness here is directly related to the time I am spending starting a school…as it turns out it is quite a bit of work! ;)  If you are a reader of all of my blogs, you have already seen this one, but for those of you who only follow me here, I thought I would give you a peek into the school I started this year.

Below, I share a picture of an incredible morning we had at Anastasis Academy where we welcomed singer/song writer Matthew West to join us for our morning devotion…we had NO idea it would result in the incredible private concert that it did.  What an enormous blessing to have Matthew share his time, creativity and passion with us.  Check out video of the morning on our school blog Stand Again.

|Kelly Tenkely|

It’s a pretty incredible thing to see dreams come to fruition.

For me it started with an obsession and passion for creating rich learning environments where every student was recognized as an individual. In that first post I wrote:

“I have a dreams of education. I have dreams of the way that schools should look. I have dreams of kids who find their passions. I have dreams of schools as rich learning centers.”

I had dreams of stripping the “vanilla” away so that passions could emerge.

Dreams of ditching that boxed curriculum that we call an education and watching the factory model fade into the rear-view mirror.

Dreams of ending the practice of viewing teachers (and students) as expendables.

I had dreams of schools that were beautiful, that were designed with students in mind.

Dreams that education would stop looking so much like the McRib.

Dreams of breaking free of the box, of valuing students and teachers,  of using the right tools, of a school where a student’s inner da Vinci can break through, of a school that customizes learning.

I shared dreams of more fabulous failures.

The dreams started trickling into reality in March of this year (2011).  In March I started getting some hints that these dreams weren’t really all that far-fetched.  By May I had officially started a school.  In August we opened the doors to Anastasis Academy with our first 50 students in 1st through 8th grade and had hired a dream team of 5 truly incredible teachers to lead them.  In four short months we went from dreams to reality.

At Anastasis Academy, we lease space from a church building throughout the week.  We have our own wing with classrooms, a playground, a gym and a kitchen.  All of our furniture is on wheels.  This makes it easy to adjust space daily based on needs, it is also a necessity since we use shared space.  Twice a week we move all of our belongings across the hall into a storage room (if I’m honest, this is the part we could do without!).  We can’t complain about the space.  It is pretty incredible!

You will notice that we don’t have rows of desks.  No teacher’s desk either.  We have space that kids can move in. Corners to hide in, stages to act on, floors to spread out on, cars to read in.  We are learning how to learn together, learning how to respect other children’s space and needs, learning how to discipline ourselves when we need to, learning how to work collaboratively, we are learning to be the best us.


You won’t see a worksheet at Anastasis. We use iPads.  That isn’t to say that we ONLY use iPads, in fact, you’ll often see us building, cutting, pasting, writing on a whiteboard/chalkboard and even paper.  We do a lot of blogging, a lot of reflecting, a lot of Evernotting, a lot of cinematography, a lot of discussing.

Every morning we start with a 15 minute walk outside together…as a community.  We invite parents and siblings to be a part of our morning walk. Occasionally we have the dogs join in on the fun.  After the walk we come inside as a whole-school for a time of devotions. Again, this is a time for us to build community, to foster the culture we want for our school.  Families are invited to join us every morning.  We always have at least one family and, many times, multiples.  We pray with each other and for each other. We have hard conversations and funny conversations. We think together and challenge each other.

Matthew West joining us for devotions!

Our inquiry block is a time for hands-on transdisciplinary learning.  This is my VERY favorite time to walk through classrooms.  It is incredible to see the joy in discovery.  It is incredible to have a second grade student with dyslexia discover an app to make stop motion animations, teach himself how to use it and proceed to stand up before 7th and 8th grade students to explain how stop motion works.  I wish I could bring you all through the building during this time.  Every time we have a visitor the students pause long enough to describe what they are doing, the learning that is happening. I often have to pick my jaw up off the floor. These kids are amazing.


We have no curriculum. At all. Zip. What did we do instead? We hired the very BEST teachers we could find.  We gave them a base level of skills that we wanted students to have- an outline if you will.  We used the Common Core Standards as our baseline.  We don’t use the standards like most schools do. We use them to make sure that our students have the building blocks and foundations of learning in place.  And then we let our students and teachers GO. The standards are not a weight we are tied to, they are the underpinnings that make it possible for us to soar and take our learning anywhere.  When you look at the Common Core standards they are pretty underwhelming.  I’m glad they are! They provide us with just enough momentum to propel us forward and then off we go on a journey of learning!  We also have our big inquiry questions in place.  From there, we go where the learning takes us, bunny trails and all.  It is pretty fantastic.  Today one of our primary students came out to see me and said, “Look at this boat I found in this new library book. Can I try to make it?”  My answer: “Absolutely! What materials do we need?”  Together we made a list of all the materials I needed to pull together for him.  Tomorrow he will build that boat he is fascinated with and find out if it works the way he has planned.  That is learning!  Tell me what boxed curriculum allows time for that to happen? None. That is why we don’t have it.

In the afternoons we have more “content” area subjects (i.e. math and language arts).  In the primary grades this means students building the skills they need to support their inquiry.  In the intermediate grades this means honing those skills for better communication and more thorough inquiry.  Again, we don’t work from a boxed curriculum. We find the lessons, approaches, and materials that work for the individual student.  Sometimes this means working with manipulatives, sometimes it means exploring measurement outside, and sometimes it means using an app.  It changes daily based on the needs of the students.

We have mixed age level classrooms.  We do this for a lot of reasons.  Most importantly, it is good for older and younger students to work together and learn from each other; it is vital that a child be able to work at their developmental level and progress as they are ready to; and it deepens inquiry when students with different perspectives work together.

Once every five weeks we invite the parents to join us for Parent University.  This is a time for us to help parents understand this new way to do school.  Detox, if you will.  It is a time for us to show parents what best practices in education look like, why grades aren’t all they are cracked up to be, why play is important.  It is a time for us to think and laugh together. It is a time to get questions answered.

Also every five weeks, we hold a “Meeting of the Minds”.  This is a parent/teacher/student conference where we all get together and set our road map for the next 5 weeks.  Students write goals with the help of their teacher. They have ownership over what they have done the last 5 weeks and tell mom and dad what they have planned for upcoming 5 weeks.

Every Friday we have a learning excursion or an opportunity for an “Anastasis Serves”.  Learning excursions are field trips all over the place that help students start to recognize that learning doesn’t just happen when we are at school.  Learning happens everywhere we are and, if we are paying attention, all the time.  Anastasis Serves is a time for our students to give back to the global community.  Sometimes this is a door-to-door scavenger hunt for donations, sometimes this is learning about orphans around the world, or packaging cookies and letters to send to our troops.

We don’t do grades, we do assessment all day every day while we learn.  We don’t do homework, we pursue our families and passions at home.  We don’t do worksheets, we do interesting (sometimes frustrating) work. We don’t do boxed curriculum, we do on-demand learning.

We do mistakes. We do community. We do collaboration. We do messy. We do play. We do fun. We do technology. We do learning.

How do we do all this? We have a 12 to 1 student teacher ratio (or less).  We have incredible students, parents and teachers.  We have stinking smart board members who are invested in our success and trust our judgement calls.  We set our tuition at $8,000 (per pupil spending in our district) to show that even though we are private, this can be done in the public schools.  We started with nothing…well almost nothing, we had dreams.  There was no capital raised, no fund-raisers, no huge donation. We started the beginning of the year at $0 and put blood, sweat and tears into it.

This is not to say that we have it all figured out, that all of our students are perfect, that all of our staff or families are perfect. We are perfectly imperfect as every school is. We have days when the kids are BOUNCING off the walls, we have disagreements, tired teachers, stressed parents, a founder who has occasional melt downs (that would be me), students who need extra love and support, tight budgets, parents who demand different, scuffles, sniffles and band-aids…lots of band-aids.  There is nowhere else I would rather be. No other group of people I would rather work with. No other students whose germs I would rather share. This is my dream.

There are moments throughout the day when I am stopped in my tracks by the realization-this is my dream.