Thursday, September 24, 2009
SME= Subject Matter Expert
In education, we're often counseled to make student tasks as authentic as possible. Science classes should teach kids how to think/act like scientists. History classes should teach kids how to think/act like historians. This "real-world" rebranding of core classes has some people on fire to get SMEs in the classroom and kick out certified teachers. I can see what they want, although I disagree with their predicted outcome.
In English class, should we teach students to think/act like writers? Would a professional writer be able to help me design instruction? I seriously doubt it. The problem with an expert writer would be the problem with any expert- they just don't understand what makes them good. I think this problem is compounded in an English classroom. With a skill so deeply ingrained as reading- most of us can't even remember learning how to read- breaking down the beginning and intermediate steps is a critical task. A task that would leave an expert reader or writer stumped. If you read well, can you really understand what it's like for a child who doesn't picture anything he reads about? How boring reading would be to that child?
I think it would be almost impossible for a SME to break down the tasks of reading and writing well enough for a child who wasn't inherently talented at them. I would think in the field of English teaching, only a master literacy teacher would qualify as a SME, not a writer or some other professional.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Not to defend bad teachers, but exactly who is lining up to replace them? First-year teachers who are also, by the way, ineffective?
Malcolm Gladwell had some interesting thoughts on the subject. His basic argument is that we should flood ourselves with new, cheap teachers and just let them sift out. Try out 4 teachers to find one good one? Is that practical given the numbers? He compares this process to finding a quarterback for pro football. Really, are there 7 million quarterbacks?
It's hard to bring in large numbers of newbies. Their energy can be great, but it's often consumed by the act of keeping their head above water. I dunno. Mine certainly is not the only set of experiences to consider.
I read about this somewhere else first, but I forget where. Somewhere on my blog roll.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I've been meaning to blog about this earlier, but it seemed like a topic that needed extra care, so I kept putting it off. No longer!
This year our school instituted a major change: E-time. Basically, we have a 25 minute class period between 3rd and 4th period that we use to give students either enrichment or remediation. A student who is passing all classes earns 25 minutes of fun time (like organized recess). A student who is failing gets to go back to his or her own teacher for remediation. I'll say that again, so you don't think this is study hall: if a student is failing your class, he or she comes back to YOU to get extra help. On a day to day basis.
The logistics are explained more fully here. I am more impressed with how the change came about.
We already had 25 minutes built into our schedule for a "homeroom"-type class. Every other junior high used a study hall model and I'd say it wasn't effective. We used the time to watch Channel One, and that wasn't really effective either. Our principal pretty much said that we were moving to some kind of study period, so we needed to figure out what we wanted it to look like. That was the mandate. We knew change was coming, and we knew what he had in mind.
He got the department heads and a couple of faculty lynch-pins together to work out the system's design. We used Lakeridge Junior High as a model. Then, it became the committee's project, and they really took off with it. They presented their ideas to the faculty and held a vote. Most of the faculty was convinced it was worth trying. Over the summer, they worked out the logistics, how to present it to students & teachers, a schedule- the works. That was the energy.
For such a major change, it's gone remarkably well. Even the teachers who don't like it are playing along because pressure is coming from colleagues, not administration. The first week was crazy, and the seventh graders were really confused. We're five weeks in, though, and it's running smoothly. I stick my head out into the hallway and there are no stragglers. My enrichment room is full. My kids come to remediation- and actually have a good attitude about it. We're making it easier for them to do well, and most kids are willing to take advantage of that.
As a professional, I am so pleased to see this work. Especially considering my last post on the matter. I need to believe that my school can evolve and become better. I think it has.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
ISD [Instructional Systems Design] is more than a simple method. It is a field requiring a wide range of psychological, sociological, interpersonal, and managerial skills if it is to be skillfully and creatively practiced. That is not to say that classroom teachers and others cannot master and benefit from basic ISD procedures. However, professional instructional systems designers must be prepared to design for different system constraints, populations, content areas (often unfamiliar ones), and forms of media and technology.I thought being a successful classroom teacher was the same thing as being an instructional designer. "Psychological, sociological, interpersonal, and managerial skills"- isn't that the teacher's toolkit?
Friday, September 18, 2009
Rationale: This is where I plan out the W’s of my unit- who, what, when…. This would be the analysis that comes before the planning. Who is the audience? What do the already know? Why do they need to be taught this? How long will this take? What do I need to remember to do?
Unit Objectives & Standards: What will students be doing? I usually take objectives from the state core and use them as my unit objectives. Somewhere between 3 and 5. I break them down into daily objectives and use that to plan the lessons. I still abide by SBWAT- The Students Will Be Able To- to help me phrase my objectives clearly.
The Big Ideas: This section was recently updated to include what I learned from the Jeff & Peggy Wilhelm. I try to pinpoint the skills and concepts I want students to learn.
(What you want the students to know)
(What you want the students to do)
Pre-Assessment & Frontloading:
- How will I assess prior knowledge? Could be an anticipation guide, discussion, exit slip, pre-test…
- How will I introduce students to the learning? I usually plan one day as an “anchor” lesson- a day that reveals the essential question we will keep returning to. This is a lesson where I shoot for emotional investment. I want students to keep this day in the back of their minds and refer back to the ideas we discussed.
Post-Assessment or Culminating Product: How will I finally know they’ve got it?
- This is project-based learning. The summative assessment is almost always a student-created product. Choosing a good final product also helps me go back and revise my objectives. I’m forced to think- what do students really need to know? I bounce back and forth between this and objectives quite a bit when planning.
Lessons / Activities / Scaffolding:
- I copy and paste my objectives here, then parse them into daily lessons.
- If I create worksheets or use links, I always hyperlink them within the document so everything is in one place.
- I’m always changing this stuff around- sometimes as I teach it I think of a better way.
I list any books, websites, or media that offer ideas for the unit. I often include things that I find and just want to check out later.
I decided it wasn't enough for students to be able to list the stages of plot, or even to analyze the plot of a story. Those are both good steps, but in the end, I'll know my students really understand plot if they can create one. I decided my end goal was to have students outline the plot and conflict for a story they would create.
I analyzed my learners. Seventh graders hit elements of fiction pretty hard. Sure enough, my 8th grade students needed only light review of plot stages and types of conflict.
I worked on the steps. I first asked students what made a great story. I took all their responses (generated in small groups) and pulled out everything they had said about plot. I showed them how what they were really talking about was plot. I had students apply the classic plot diagram a story we read together, a story read in a small group, and one they knew on their own. I broke up story events and had students tell me where they would fit in plot- and why. We spent extra time on conflict.
It all led up to today. Students were tasked with creating a plot outline. It shook up their knowledge a bit- we needed to review conflict one more time. I spent a lot of time helping students differentiate between the rising action and the climax of their story. Overall, it was fun and the students were engaged in creating their stories. We used an online plot diagram from ReadWriteThink.
I've seen their work and I'm pretty comfortable that they know plot. I'm going to wait about two weeks and have them apply this knowledge, sans review, to a new text. That will probably be the real test.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Here's my school website. It used to be fine. Then I screwed up something about my formatting.
Why is my right-hand content column underneath my left-hand column?
I've floated right-column. I've increased the left margin. My CSS checks out with a validator. I've checked my div tags (I'll check them again).
Here's my CSS
You'll need to right-click and view source to see the relevant HTML
"Open the 'my documents' folder- what?"
"Um . . . Word isn't on this computer."
Me: "Go to Start, then Programs . . ."
In IDET class, my professor posed four questions at the heart of instructional design:
- Is instruction the answer?
- Where are you going with this?
- How do you know when you get there?
- How do you get there?
Is instruction the answer? I'm actually not sure. Is this better left as acquired/ experiential knowledge, or should it be explicit instruction? Considering the age of my students (7th graders), I'm opting for at least some explicit instruction.
Where am I going with this? I want students to be able to quickly and easily navigate their computers. If they need to open a program, that should be an easy task. If they need to create a new folder, that should be an easy task. I want students to keep their files organized and get used to doing so. I want them to know the difference between when they've saved something and when they haven't. I'm aiming for fluency.
How will I know when I get there? When students don't need me to show them where to go and what to do. How do I assess that except through observation? Perhaps I can pick a few discrete skills and assess those- can students identify common file types? Can they cut and paste using only their keyboard? Can they follow a file path? I can create a simple, immediate assessment for that. The rest I'll need to observe.
How will I get there? I will take five days- probably not consecutively- and focus on these discrete skills:
- Working with files, folders, and windows. I'll assess this by having students rename, then drag and drop files into a new folder.
- Keyboard shortcuts- I'll give my students a list of the basic shortcuts, then have them practice by rearranging items in a list without using their mice. Then, in a week or so, we'll have a no-mouse day.
- File types- students should know how to ID the different file types they will create in class. They should know that .doc is Word, .jpg is a picture, etc. That's just easy matching.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
But then I leave class, and read something like this from a Daily Herald editorial about the cost of new schools and fitting them with technology: "...adolescents, by and large, are going to be miserable in school no matter what the building looks like. "
Brrr... that's just cold.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I'm reviewing principles of instructional design for a class I'm taking at the University of Utah. This week's reading included Understanding by Design: Chp 1 by Grant Wiggins. I don't think I've read a nicer introduction to backward design.
In a nutshell, Wiggins is telling us to:
- Decide what results you want (in terms of a final product or assessment).
- Write your rubric and determine the standards that product must meet.
- Break that rubric down into smaller parts- consider what students already know, and what you need to teach them.
- Plan your daily instruction accordingly.
- You may not cover everything (choose your "big rocks")
- Don't do an activity unless it meets your learning goal (no incidental learning)
- This will take a lot of time up-front
- Your plans will change- hopefully for the better
Wiggins provides a template for instruction that I've included below, simply because I like to collect instructional design templates:
Stage 1- Desired results
|Understandings: Students will understand that . . .|
Students will know...
Stage 2- Assessment Evidence
|Performance Tasks:||Other evidence:|
Stage 3- Learning Plan
What learning experiences and instruction will enable students achieve the desired results? How will the design
W = Help the students know WHERE the unit is going and WHAT is expected? Help the teacher know WHERE the students
are coming from (prior knowledge, interested)
H = HOOK all students and HOLD their interest
E = EQUIP students, help them EXPERIENCE the key ideas and EXPLORE the issues
R = Provide opportunities to RETHINK and REVISE their understandings and their work
E = Allow students to EVALUATE their work and its implications
T = Be TAILORED (personalized) to the different needs, interests, and abilities of learners
O = Be ORGANIZED to maximize initial and sustained engagement as well as effective learning
Friday, September 4, 2009
This mirrors what goes on in my head pretty well.
Constant rounds of assessment & planning make instructional design a pretty messy process for me- but it's a good mess.
I hope that Smith & Ragan weren't lying when they said, "those [teachers] trained in systematic instructional design tend to engage in these activities more consistently, thoroughly, and reflectively than their untrained colleagues."
That's precisely what I'm looking forward to in my instructional design class.
No one tells it like an angry Grandma.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
We are required to say the pledge, listen to the anthem, watch a movie about the Constitution, etc- but the President wanting to address our students? Nope. We're just not that interested.
- Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
- unusual drowsiness (there goes 1st period)
- swollen glands around jaw, ears, or neck
- runny nose
- persistent cough
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I'm ruminating on our reading requirements in English. We typically require 2 hours per week of independent reading- texts of the students' choice. It's graded through a simple form handed in weekly. Practice reading on the independent level is essential for maintaining and gaining fluency. But how could we do it better? I never considered not having it affect a student's grade. Hmm...
I do not require independent reading in my honors class, because these students have mastered independent reading. I do, however, have the students participate in book groups. Those have typically not gone as well as I intend, mostly because I haven't set them up well. More to consider . . .
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
1. Students need to have more ownership of the learning (a problem of motivation)
2. Students need to be able to assess themselves (a problem of management/design)
I'll talk about self-assessment and management later- I have enough on motivation and ownership to begin.
My students have to be learning for themselves, not for me. The most common comment at Back to School night is, "Oh great, now he can show me how to use a computer." That gives my class a purpose. I want students to use this knowledge immediately as they get home.
Problem is, my class is still to "schoolish" (As in, learn it because you're supposed to and there'll be a test)- particularly the first unit on hardware. I'm revising my hardware unit to include a real-life application (I know- duh). I will put students into the role of a computer buyer. They must apply their knowledge to tell me what computer they would buy and what parts they would look for. Then they will be learning for themselves (I hope!)
So far hardware is going well; I introduce the "real-world" assignment tomorrow.
A big part of our success so far has been that I started easier. I used to hand the kids a list of 20 parts to learn and just went over the list again and again in every possible way. This time they started with finding only 4 parts: the processor, RAM, motherboard, and hard drive. It was easy. It was accessible. Best part- I could check every assignment as it was handed to me and provide immediate feedback.
That immediate feedback is key. It's been so motivating for the students to get their papers checked. And they seemed to be enjoying the process and challenging themselves. I got more than one high-five when I finally told a student, "You got it!" They tried and tried until they got it right, which wasn't overwhelming because they only learned 4-5 parts at a time. Bingo.
What I learned about motivation:
1. Set up the assignments to provide immediate feedback.
2. Connect the learning in the real world.
I know. . . duh.