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The Making of the Learning Genome Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community tools keep students, teachers and parents in collaboration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pegby: Online Collaborative Peg Board/Organizational tool

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 19-07-2011

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What it is: Pegby is a neat online organizational tool that has fantastic customization features.  With Pegby, students (and teachers) can share boards enabling them to collaborate with friends, family, coworkers and classmates.  Pegby is organized by a series of columns, students can decide on the number and organization of columns.  Columns can be easily expanded and collapsed so students can focus on exactly the columns they need at any given moment.  Students (and teachers) can add cards to each column.  The cards look just like a 3×5 note card and can include a title, content, tags, attachments, a due date and color coding.  Note cards can be dragged from one column to the next, shared with others or added to a stack of cards.  Students can filter all of their cards by tags to find exactly the cards they are looking for when they need them!  Pegby lets you have multiple boards so you can organize life to your heart’s content.  A Pegby board can be downloaded as a .yaml file (not familiar with that file extension, it is a unix executable file.)

How to integrate Pegby into the classroom: Pegby is one of those tools that I get totally geeked out about.  I love the 3×5 note card look, the columns, the tagging, the associated calendar dates.  A recipe for edu-love I tell ya!  Pegby is a great tool for organizing your teacher self this year.  Add ideas for the school year, tasks, lesson plans, to-do items, etc. to your board as cards.  Create columns that make sense to you and organize to your heart’s content!  Want one better?  Share your board with colleagues so that you are all on the same page and can share lessons/resources/task responsibilities.

Older students can keep their school year organized by adding assignments, tasks, uploading work, taking/keeping notes and sharing their board with Pegby.  As students work on and complete tasks, they can move items from one column to the next.  Those unit tests won’t be a problem because they can tag pertinent information and easily study and review tagged information.

Pegby would also be a great tool for organizing research projects (even collaborative research projects).  Students can decide how they want to organize their research and notes, tag information and attach documents.  All of the research is in one place and tagged for easy reference when it comes time to compile the research.  Pegby could be a useful tool for students attending college classes online.

Does your school use standards to keep track of learning?  Why not create columns of Standards headings, and associate each standard with a note card?  Students can upload any files or work associated with the standard.  OR instead of making each column a standard heading, columns can be associated with mastery level of the standard.  As a student moves through levels of mastery, they can move that standard card from one column to the next making stacks out of the standard subject.  Students can keep track of their own learning, share their “Standards” board with teachers and parents.

Is your class collaborating with other classrooms? Create a collaboration board where all involved classes can organize a project together.

For younger students, create a class Pegby that can be accessed on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  The Pegby can be added to and organized as a whole class.  Make Pegby updater one of your classroom jobs that happens first thing every morning.  Each student will have the chance to be in control of the board throughout the year and all students will benefit from observing and helping organize the day.  (Something we don’t model enough for kids in my humble opinion!)

Tips: Pegby does require a verified email account for access!

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

Organize yourself for 2011 with the Action Method

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, iPod, Middle/High School, professional development, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 28-12-2010

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What it is: You know what I love about a new year? The blank slate. The empty calendar begging to be written on. The chance to take a step back and evaluate how you are working.  I am an organizer at heart. I love having everything in its place. I love label makers, file folders, planners, calendars, and software that makes my life easier.  For Christmas my little brother (always have to have the little in there to remind him of his place in life 🙂 ) gifted me with the book “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky.  I am about a third of the way through it and already loving it.  What my brother knows about me (I think it runs in our gene pool) is that I am a creative person. I am never at a loss for ideas. They flow constantly.  The problem: I think every single idea is genius. I want every single idea to come to fruition because surely no one has every come up with something so brilliant before.  Even for an organizational nut like me, this is an impossible task.  And if I’m totally honest, my organizational skills leave much to be desired when it comes to putting my ideas in their place.  Ideas are wonderful things, they make the world go round…but they are only useful as far as they are enacted. When the flow of ideas is constant, many truly brilliant ideas get pushed aside while another round of ideas rolls in.  This post isn’t really about the book.  While it is a good book, it isn’t really inspirational. It is life changing in what you do with the principles it reveals.  Blesky details his Action Method in the book.  I immediately loved this method because it works the way I think. It puts everything in its place and gives you a place to organize actionable items (things you can actually work towards completion right now), reference items (all those bits of notes and websites, and pdfs, and pictures I have EVERYWHERE…seriously my husband says I have a problem), and backburners- those ideas that aren’t really actionable yet but could be some day.  This keeps those brilliant ideas at the forefront and getting taken care of while the flow of ideas has a place (backburner) so that nothing is lost.  Sweet!  My next question was: where can I “do” the action method so that I can and will keep up with it?  Problem solved, introducing the Action Method online. You can put all of those principles to use in one beautiful interface.  Even better…you can access it on your mobile device too.  We all know that is a must in this day and age! The online Action Method has a free version which lets you do just about everything…for some extra shiny bits you can sign up for the pro plan.  The mobile version is a free download. (There is even a paper version for those of you who like to go old school…normally I am in this organizational camp but like I said, the website is right up my alley.) What is better than starting off the new year organized and with money in the bank?

Here is the Action Method as described on the website:

The Action Method organizes your projects into all of their most basic elements

  • ACTION STEPS are tasks that need to be completed. Each Action Step should start with a verb: “Call Y,” “Follow up with X,” “Buy a gift for Z.”
  • REFERENCES are notes, links, files, sketches – any information related to a project that gives context to your Action Steps.
  • BACKBURNERS are the brilliant ideas that you want to come back to later, but are not yet actionable.
  • DISCUSSIONS enable you to manage ongoing conversations across all of your projects with anyone that works with you. All relevant communications (shared documents, solutions to problems, feedback, decisions) are in one place.
  • EVENTS are the key occasions/meetings/milestones/etc toward which you (and your team) are working. Events can be used to coordinate deadlines for Action Steps, aiding project management.

Pretty cool right?!  I really like how the Action Method lets you track discussions and delegate tasks easily. Very handy! Need more convincing? Companies like Apple use the Action Method…you know something is working for them!  I don’t know about you, but the thought of having everything organized in one place is giving me some major warm fuzzies right now!

How to integrate the Action Method into your curriculum: The Action Method website and app can be used to organize your school life.  I constantly have ideas for new lesson plans, projects, websites, etc. that I want to use with students.  These can be easily organized with the Action Method.  Create a new Project for each unit or educational focus.  Action items can be the individual lessons and resources that you are going to complete for that unit.  Add any resources you need in the references section.  Saw a cool idea on Twitter that you want to use in your classroom but aren’t sure how it will work just yet? Add it to your backburner so you can go back and review it later.  The Action Method could very well be the only planner you need!  Create discussions with teammates and colleagues (or Twitter colleagues) directly in the program. Delegate tasks  to others on your team or even parent volunteers.

The Action Method could be used to help middle school or high school students better organize their lives and learning.  It would be especially useful for students who help chart their own learning plans.  The site does require an email address (with confirmation) to sign up.

Tips: You can learn more about the Action Method in the book Making Ideas Happen.

Happy organizing!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using the Action Method in Your classroom.