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8 of the Best Research Tools for Inquiry

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Classroom Management, Download, Evaluate, Inquiry, Internet Safety, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 03-01-2017

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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

Watch the Debates: help your students explore this debate and the history of debates

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Character Education, Evaluate, Government, History, Inquiry, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 19-10-2016

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Watch the Debates: Compare debate issues and history

 

What it is: Tonight is the final debate before the presidential election in the United States. While I can’t say that I’m going to miss the absurdity that has been this debate, Watch the Debates is a pretty wonderful site! In addition to the ability to watch tonight’s debate live, students can also explore past presidential debates. Students can filter the debates by the year, or a specific issue.

How to integrate Watch the Debates in your classroom: Watch the Debates provides an excellent way for students to explore the evolution of a specific issue in the United States by watching debates from as far back as 1960. Students can do this for civil rights, the economy, gun control, heath care, immigration, national security, social security, and terrorism.

As it turns out, Watch the Debates is a fantastic site for Anastasis students right now as they are working through an inquiry about ideas that cause change in society. This site could act as a provocation and place to explore how United States politics has changed over time and how our ideas about society have changed over time. Students can also explore the posture of candidates over time (fashion, the way they speak to each other, etc.). This could be a good launching point that leads to discussions about what else is going on historically that impacts these changes. The social constructs in place, the historical moments of pivot, the technological advances, the impact of religion, the scientific discoveries, our perspective as a country, and the political climate in general. Watch the Debates can be a beginning point for discovery and depth of transdisciplinary understanding.

Hat Tip to @michellek107 for passing this on to @teamanastasis today! Thank you!

 

My Simple Show: Create your own explainer videos for free!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Character Education, Create, Foreign Language, Government, History, Inquiry, Language Arts, Maker Space, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 22-09-2016

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Create  explainer videos free with My Simple Show!

What it is: My Simple Show Video Creator lets students easily create professional level “explainer” videos. The finished product looks just like a Common Craft video, so cool! The step-by-step tool helps students think about storyline and the flow of explaining a concept.

How to integrate My Simple Show into the classroom: My Simple Show is a fantastic option for digital storytelling. Students begin by choosing to write their own script, or by uploading a Power Point presentation. Next, they can choose from one of many templates to start from, or alternately, start from scratch. The templates are an awesome option because they give kids an outline and break down the story telling/explaining process. For each step in the process, it guides students with a prompt and with some examples. My Simple Show auto-magically picks up words in the script and suggests pictures. Students can use the pre-selected images, choose an image from the My Simple Show library of images, or upload their own image or picture. In the final step, students add audio. This can be computer generated or students can record their own audio. The finished product is pretty impressive! Below is a video I made quickly today.

My Simple Show’s obvious use is for explanatory digital storytelling, but it would also be a great way for students to reflect on a field trip, tell a story, retell new learning (pssst. this is an awesome way to check for understanding!), or create their own “textbooks.”

Students can use My Simple Show to explain a historical event, introduce a biological process, introduce a physical law, summarize literature, summarize a biography, discuss pros and cons, explain a law, etc. Use My Simple Show to create whole class stories where each student contributes a portion of the explanation or story.  This type of video can be made over a few weeks using classroom devices as a writing center.  This would be a fun way to create an A to Z type book of learning, reflections by students after a unit, a 100 day video,  fact vs. opinion video,  a class video of poems, a phonics video, or a class video about a field trip that students took. Students can take pictures of science experiments and create a digital video detailing the experiment with text, images, and student voice reflections included.  The finished product can be shared with parents and families easily through YouTube, Vimeo, or downloaded as a MP4 file.

For a back to school night activity, take a picture of each student to add to a class video and record students sharing an explanation of a school day. This same idea could be used in preparation for parent-teacher conferences. Students can create a video about their learning during the quarter/trimester, record thoughts about why they are proud of the work they did, and add reflections.  These can be shared as a starting point for conferences, at the end of the conference, parents have a keepsake. My Simple Show could also be used for character education. Give the students a scenario or problem, and have them work out a step-by-step explanation or solution.

Because of the voice recording capabilities, My Simple Show, would be a great way for students to practice a foreign language.  They can illustrate a word or phrase accompanied by the audio.  Classes could work together to create a “living” digital glossary.

Be sure to give your students access to My Simple Show in your Maker Space, it is a great option for students to choose!

Tips: My Simple Show has video guides that lead students through each step of the process…I definitely recommend watching these at least once as a class or for the first round of creation!

Swift Playground: Apple’s free app that teaches kids to code!

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Create, Fun & Games, Inquiry, iPod, Maker Space, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), video | Posted on 19-09-2016

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Swift Playground Learn to Code Apps on your iPad!

What it is: Swift Playground is an awesome new app from Apple that teaches kids how to code in Swift. This free app for iPads uses games to teach kids Apple’s coding language used to create apps. Students can drag and drop code, and easily edit the code to customize it. The code can be instantly run so students can test out their code and see if it works. Best of all, in those instances that the code they put together doesn’t work, Swift Playground has debugging tools and hints built-in to help students rectify any problems. Students can also code with Swift from scratch making the app endlessly adaptable to any skill level.

How to integrate Swift Playground into your classroom: Swift Playground requires no previous coding knowledge, making it the perfect tool for learning how to code. For those students who have experience with coding, Swift Playground is robust enough for even seasoned programmers to bring new ideas to life. Swift Playground begins with a series of challenges to help students master the basics, students use code to help characters navigate a 3D world. When the challenges have been mastered, students can build and manipulate their own code to dream up new creations. Use Swift Playground to get your students thinking logically and solving problems from new perspectives. The skills built as students learn to code are the same skills that will help students in other disciplines like math and science. I love the way Swift Playground starts out by giving students a fun environment of challenges to learn the basics of Swift, but also allows them the flexibility of drag and drop code, and allowing students to edit and write their own code. Swift Playground even features a special keyboard that includes the most common coding characters so that students don’t have to hunt through keyboards to find what they are looking for. As students advance in their skills, they can use code templates that allow customization with code. Beyond what most learning platforms allow, students will be able to adjust multi-touch interactions, the accelerometer, and the gyroscope. These features and abilities are such an awesome tie-in to conversations about complex math and physics! When students are finished with their creation, they can share it with others using Messages, Mail, or Airdrop. Students can even post videos of their creation for others to see! For those who are really soaring, Swift Playground code can be exported to Xcode (where the pros create apps).

Swift Playground-Learn to code on the iPad

Many classrooms don’t yet have time built into the day that is dedicated to coding. But perhaps once a week you use coding in math class as applied math, or use Swift Playground as part of a 20% time offering in your classroom. If those are unavailable, consider participating in Hour of Code.  Play with Swift Playground yourself and you’ll start recognizing tie-ins with other learning that your students are doing. When your students are proficient with coding in Swift Playground, they can start creating and reflecting on learning with the code they know.  Swift Playground is a fantastic resource to have available as part of your Maker Space! Maybe they create a new game to help them remember vocabulary, or math facts. Perhaps they build a world based on a historical event. Once those basics are mastered the application possibilities are endless!

Tips: Everyone can code! This isn’t a skill that only a few should possess. Even the youngest students can use Swift Playground, I’m talking kindergarten can use this app! If you are new to the concept of code, check out this crash course from Apple.

Find Your Pi Day

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Blogs, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 15-03-2016

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Find Your Pi Day

What it is: Find Your Pi Day is a simple site from Wolfram where students can type in any number (like a birth date) and the site will tell you where that number falls within the Pi sequence. All dates fall somewhere within the first 10 million digits in the sequence. The place in the sequence is depicted by a spiral that goes in and out to display the beginnings and ends of such long digit sequences.

Find Your Pi Day

How to integrate Find Your Pi Day in your classroom: Find Your Pi Day is a neat site to generate conversation and inquiry into Pi. This is a fantastic place to begin exploration of Pi. Students can learn about the mathematical sequence and the science of Pi in this background Wolfram blog post.

Tips: For some extra fun and discussion, have a look at Vi Hart’s lighthearted “rants” about Pi.

Hello Ruby: A whimsical way to learn about computers and programming

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Create, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Technology, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 03-02-2016

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Hello Ruby is the world's most whimsical way to learn about computers, technology and programming.

 

What it is: Hello Ruby began as a whimsical children’s book by Linda Liuka meant to help kids learn about computers, technology, and programming. Hello Ruby has since escaped the pages of the book, and now Ruby continues all of her adventures in exercises, games, and apps. It is well suited for primary kids, but truly anyone (adults included!) can learn something from Ruby. The story of Ruby is beautiful, it begins with a unique, different girl who is surrounded by her unique and different friends-all with different abilities. Ruby loves learning new things, and hates giving up. She shares her opinions boldly, and is funny. Her secret superpower is being able to imagine impossible things. Her interests include maps, secret codes, and small talk (she should offer a class…I hate small talk!). Each of her friends is equally interesting and dynamic! Beyond the Hello Ruby book, the website is packed full of goodness. There are downloads for your students where they can print their own blank game boards to create unique games, an opportunity to help Ruby organize her wardrobe for dress code, practice building a universal remote control, a ‘what is a computer’ activity, and My First Computer where students can design their own computer!

Watch the TED talk above for the passion behind Hello Ruby!

How to integrate Hello Ruby into your classroom: The Hello Ruby site has a special educator page to get started with Hello Ruby in your classroom. You’ll find lesson plans, educator stories, and resources to help you get started with learning and teaching programming yourself. All necessary components are included on the Hello Ruby site! The lesson plans and ideas included are brilliant and go beyond most lesson plans you’ll find for programming. This is immersive programming that puts students in the middle of the action and has them discovering and acting as inquirers. Hello Ruby is a wonderfully whimsical way to teach students about computers and programming. If you are new to the world of programming, this is the place to start. The ground work for learning to code is all here. Hello Ruby introduces your students to programming but also beautifully engages them in logical thinking, problem solving, and critical thinking exercises. It is genuinely brilliant!

Beyond the introduction to technology and coding, I love the Ruby character and all of her friends. Each is unique and different, and that is celebrated! Hello Ruby celebrates identity and the uniqueness of everyone. Use it as part of your classroom character development. At Anastasis, we’ll use it as part of the Who We Are inquiry block and Detox week.

Tips: The Hello Ruby book comes in English, Finnish, and Swedish. Soon it will be available in Dutch, Hungarian, French, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, and Polish as well.

Thank you @leadanddesign for sending me Linda’s Ted Talk!

Flash & Thunder- Part graphic novel, part game, all fun and learning

Posted by admin | Posted in 5Sigma, Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Technology, Websites | Posted on 30-11-2015

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INVICTA-Challenge- graphic novel/game/maps

INVICTA-Challenge_Packge-with-flap-open_WEB

What it is: INVICTA Challenge combines technology (in the form of an action-packed video game), a graphic novel, maps, an operation packet and an action figure that inspires kids to read and problem solve. Each INVICTA Challenge collection builds problem solving and leadership skills for students 8-14. Part story, part game, students are placed in historical situations where they get to make the decisions that will determine success or failure. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder lets students walk in the shoes of an American Hero.

How to Integrate INVICTA Challenge in your classroom: These challenges are a fun and new way to foster literacy, history, and leadership skills in your classrooms. Stories are highly visual and have enough action and adventure to keep even your reluctant readers engaged. The game component of the challenge almost takes on a choose your own adventure feel as it pairs with the graphic novel, maps, and missions. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder tells the true story of a Native American paratrooper’s D-Day leadership. The way that this combination puts students in the middle of the story is fantastic. Students aren’t passive readers…it is impossible! With Flash and Thunder, students are in the middle of the action, analyzing options, making decisions, evaluating the decisions and building comprehension and understanding of history all the way.

The INVICTA challenge is like a smart recombination of the things I enjoyed most from my own childhood: American Girl dolls/Books, Oregon Trail…only with a major upgrade.

INVICTA-Challenge_app-screenshot_WEB

At Anastasis, we’ve been working on an inquiry unit about change makers and the power of one. The INVICTA challenge has been a fantastic launching off point for students as they consider what it means to be a change maker, and what characteristics make up a change maker. This interactive challenge/book/game put students in the middle of thinking like a change maker, building leadership traits like integrity, nobility, valor, initiative, curiosity, tenacity, and accountability.

INVICTA-Challenge_ops-package_WEB

This challenge would be an excellent addition to your classroom library. You might want a few copies so that students can read together and work through the game and missions together in a book group. The video game component will be available on iOS, Android, and online here. Take a look!

Tips: The INVICTA Challenges can be purchased at Barnes and Noble for $34.99. For all that is included in this kit, it is truly a great value! I’m so excited for the other challenges to come out, some very exciting stories and characters are on their way!

Full disclosure: INVICTA sent me the Flash and Thunder challenge so that I could review it for you all here. But…

You can win your own Flash and Thunder challenge at the 5Sigma Education Conference in February! If you register for the conference today, you can save 20% using the code: CYBERMONDAY at check out. Not only will you get the opportunity to win one of these great challenge kits for your classroom, you also get a conference experience like no other!

World Education Games 2015! Math, Literacy, Science

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Fun & Games, Geography, Inquiry, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 12-10-2015

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What it is: You guys, the World Education Games is back again, taking place around the world October 13-15, 2015! More than 5 million students from over 200 countries and territories will participate in the games for 2015. This is an exciting online challenge for students around the world. The competition begins tomorrow and continues through October 15. The World Education Games includes World Literacy Day, World Math Day (which has been around since the first World Education Games), and World Science Day. Just by participating through the answering of questions, students will be earning UNICEF points which are converted into money that goes directly toward supporting UNICEF education programs where class and school resources are desperately needed.

In World Literacy Day, students will enter the Spellodrome to compete with students from around the world. A sentence will be read aloud and it is the student’s job to spell the missing word.

For World Maths Day, students will enter Mathletics, to compete with students around the world. This is a place for students to practice and work on math fluency speed and accuracy.

World Science Day will bring students to the IntoScience dashboard where students will test their knowledge with a panel containing 16 question boxes, split into four categories of science. Each question is worth one, two or thee points based on the difficulty. In this game, you must answer faster than your opponents.

How to Integrate World Education Games into your classroom: I love the World Education Games for the fun way that it helps students (k-12) practice facts in math, spelling, and science knowledge. This makes drill/skill infinitely more fun. Students can practice with their own classmates and with those around the world. When I was still in the classroom, World Math Day was a time of year that students looked forward to. They ASKED for homework (can I keep playing at home?). True story. The kids loved finding out which country they would be paired with. It was always very motivating to see someone half way around the world playing the same game at the same time. My students worked hard to see if they could be paired with someone on every continent before the Games were over. Keep track of the countries  that your students get matched with on a Google Map or on the printable maps offered on the World Education Games Website.

For at least one week, ditch the worksheets (or do it like we do at Anastasis and ditch them every day!) and practice math facts and spelling with fun games instead. This is a few days of fun, friendly competition for your students. The adjacent learning opportunities during the World Education Games is great (similar to what the Olympic games brings!). Geography, math, spelling, and science investigations are the obvious adjacent possible. This year, UNICEF is partnering in on the Games and the points that your students earn goes toward a very worthy cause, for every point your students earn, money is being donated to UNICEF for education. In addition to the drill/skill, your students can inquire into the Power of One (as our students at Anastasis Academy are doing), or can inquire into organizations that make a difference in the world (like UNICEF) and explore the social issues that these types of organizations are working to solve.

Tips: Using an Android or iPads in the classroom? World Games Day has Apps for that! Download the Mathletics app here for free!

 

123D Design: The simplest (FREE) way to get ideas into 3D

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Art, Create, Inquiry, iPod, Maker Space, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Technology, Video Tutorials, web tools, Websites | Posted on 07-04-2015

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123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!

What it is: 123D Design is a free super powerful, but simple to use, 3D creation and editing tool. As if that wasn’t great enough, it also supports many new 3D printers! The 3D creation tool is available for PC, Mac, and iPad download ensuring that no matter what devices you have at your disposal, you can take advantage of this awesome tool. The 123D app is incredibly intuitive, within just a few minutes, you can be creating like a pro (really!). Not feeling like a pro? There is also a quick start guide and a library of video tutorials that will explain how the different tools within the app work. The app has lots of 3D designs to start with that can be altered, but it also gives students complete creative license to create all on their own. So cool!

123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!

How to integrate 123D Design into your classroom: 123D Design is a fantastic tool that brings the principles of geometry to life while giving students an outlet for creative design and invention. The app is easy enough to use that even young primary students can use it successfully to create.

123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!I introduced this app to some of our students who have been learning the basics about coordinate planes. They quickly were able to identify the coordinate planes and were able to understand x, y, and z! This is the type of creation tool that helps students understand the application possibilities of the math they are learning (math in context, what a novel idea!)

At Anastasis, we’ve been playing with the iPad version of 123D Design. In the app version, students begin by choosing a basic shape and then can edit it to be exactly what they want it to be. They can easily connect shapes to make really detailed creations. Example projects help them to play with the tools in the app until they understand and can start from scratch on their own. When students are finished, they save it to “My Projects” which is accessible in the 123D Design web and desktop app. If you are lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer, the kids can even print out their creations!

This is a great addition to any maker space/prototype lab/design thinking routine. Don’t have any of that fanciness at your school? No problem! Adding this app to your classroom gives students an outlet to do some design thinking and work through ideas and inventions right in your classroom. Instant prototype lab!

Our students often engage in design thinking as they engage inquiry. Right now one of our 4th grade students is inquiring into how much water is wasted in our daily activities. One area of waste is when we brush our teeth. This student is designing and creating a toothbrush with the water built-in so that the faucet doesn’t have to be turned on to wet the toothbrush. She’s been experimenting to find out how much waste there is in this activity in our prototype lab. Next, she’ll begin to bring her designs to life with 123D Design and we’re hopeful that she’ll be able to print out a prototype on our Printrbot (still experimenting with how to do that!).

Tips: Sign up to become a member of Autodesk 123D. This gives you access to 3D models, tutorials, 10 free premium models each month, ability to send the 3D model directly to your own 3D printer (or if you don’t have one, to a printing service), unlimited cloud storage of your student designs, and access to the Autodesk forums.

Metanoia- the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life (basically what #edu is all about!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Classroom Management, Create, education reform, Evaluate, For Teachers, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Reform Symposium Conference, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 21-01-2015

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5-Sigma Education Conference February 20-22, Colorado

The problem with education reform is that we keep attempting to change surface level systems and hoping for deep systemic change as a result. What we actually end up with is new standards, new curricula (usually replacing one one-size-fits-all with another one-size-fits-all), new technology initiatives, more professional development, added “rigorous” expectations, new standardized tests, new assessment systems, and new buzz words. If you’ve been involved in education for any amount of time, you begin to see a pattern emerge. As a society, we seem to be always searching for the next best thing that is going to “fix” education; it quickly begins to feel like a broken record. I’ve often heard education veterans lament about how this is, “just one more new program.” It will get hyped, change the way everything is done, but the end result will be the same: countless professional development dollars will have been spent, there will be additional pressure and stress to get everything changed over to the “new” way of doing things, and lives and schools will be turned upside down and inside out. In the end the “new” push will end up with all the others: shoveled to the side when the next latest and greatest idea comes on the horizon. This has been the case for as long as I’ve been in education (30-year+ veterans tell me that it is nothing new). When this is the education landscape, you really can’t help but to feel jaded and wonder what the point of all of it is.

The trouble is, in all of these initiatives we never really change our minds about what education is and what it needs. We continue thinking about and approaching education in exactly the same ways, put a new cover on it, and act as if it will finally be THE thing that changes everything. If we keep looking at education with the same assumptions, no matter what comes our way, the end result will be the same. Swirl. The circling around solutions that aren’t really solutions. We have to change our minds. We have to identify the assumptions that we make about education and divorce ourselves from them enough to gain a new perspective.

Assumptions that we make in education (this is just a sampling, but you’ll get the idea):

  • Everyone needs to exit the school system with the same skill set and knowledge.
  • Academic success can be measured and assigned a number.
  • Tests show progress in learning.
  • Kids should move through learning at the same pace and, if they aren’t, there is something wrong with them.
  • That classrooms are places with desks, whiteboards, and paper/pencils.
  • That education should be rigorous.
  • That teachers deliver learning.
  • That homework is a necessary part of school.

When the above assumptions are the mind-set that we operate from, no new initiatives layered on top of them are going to make the systemic change we hope for.

We have to change our minds first. We have to begin designing from within.

As people tour through Anastasis, I often get the feeling that they are overwhelmed. What we do looks very different from the school that they operate within. There is this pause generally followed by, “we could never do this! ” There is red tape, naysayers, not enough money, and hurdles of every sort. They realize that what we do would take a fundamental shift in the way things are done at their school and that feels BIG. Unattainable.

When we change our minds, ditch the assumptions, it is truly a starting over.

As educators and decision makers, we often try to make shifts in educations by bring in a new program, adding the newest technology, changing one curriculum for another. But the truth is, to change education, we have to work at it a bit more abstractly…we have to change our minds. The real change has to happen within each of us as educators. We have to identify our assumptions, step back and take a look at education and learning from a new perspective, a new lens. This is a shift in how we think about education and the lens we consider it under.

How do we change our minds? NOT by adding “new” programs (that as it turns out have the same view of education/learning and have just altered the packaging). The more I’ve reflected on the education reform puzzle, the more I’ve come to believe that this has to start with administrators and teachers. We have to begin by identifying assumptions and then taking a fresh look at education apart from those assumptions.

An illustration of the change of mindset:

I started a school that is technology rich. We have a 1:1 iPad environment from k-8. We also have Chromebooks, projectors, robots, etc.

Do you know that I have never provided my staff with professional development to learn how to use this technology?

Never.

I didn’t even ask them how proficient they were at using technology when I hired them.

When I gather my staff for professional development, we talk about the kind of learners we want our students to be. We talk about the learning habits we want them to develop, the character qualities that we hope they leave Anastasis with. We talk about philosophy and pedagogy, and how to learn. We design for learning. All of the tools that we have available (technology included) get utilized, not because I’ve spelled it out for my staff, but because we’ve dreamed together. We’ve changed our minds and focused first on the learner and the journey that they will take. We ditch the assumptions and try new angles. The fun happens when we start to discover (together) how technology can enhance that journey. You’ve never heard so much excitement over new apps discovered, or the exclamations of “did you know it could do this?!” Suddenly my staff remembers what it is like to be a learner. They again enjoy engaging that journey and they recognize that I (the administrator) am not the holder of knowledge. They don’t have to wait on me to learn or create something new. There is freedom in that changed mind-set! When teachers realize that they don’t have to wait, they begin to help their students realize that they are on their own learning journey. They no longer feel the need to be the holder of all knowledge, but apprentice students in the art of engaging the learning journey.

What does this change of mind mean for professional development? It means that my job is to create opportunities for my staff to engage in learning together. Sometimes this means that we take a cooking class or go paddle boarding together. Other times it means engaging in meaningful conversations over drinks at the end of the day or breakfast at Snooze. When you help people step away from their assumptions by actually modelling what that looks like, a transformation happens. It is empowering. It can be scary. The end result isn’t always obvious. If you can push past the fear of the unknown, and realize that we are all learners on our own “metanoia,” the results are staggering! This is how we get the BIG sweeping changes in education. This is where culture and community are built and students learn to properly manage freedom in learning.

We would love to share with you how we design learning at Anastasis, but more than that, we want to help you change your mind. February 20-22nd you can join us for a conference unlike any you’ve ever attended. Get fired-up, iterate with world-changing thinkers, and make plans that you can launch with a tour of Anastasis Academy, a series of keynotes and break out sessions from leading visionaries, panel discussions, and adult learning excursions. At the 5-Sigma Education Conference, we will help you change your mind and offer pragmatic, applicable insights that will help you transform your own space in education. Teacher, administrator, superintendent, district leaders-this conference is for all of you!