Sunday, November 16, 2014

6 Reasons for Teachers and Students to Love "Big Hero 6"

Wanting a break from last week's IETC conference in Springfield, I decided to walk across the street to the AMC-8 theater to see "Big Hero 6". I thoroughly enjoyed my second viewing of "Big Hero 6" with a big bag of popcorn and a large Coke. If you are a teacher or a student, you will love this movie, not only because it's a captivating story, but also because it features themes currently prominent in learning and education. A box-office hit, here are six themes from this movie that will have teachers and students laughing and cheering from their theater seats.



STEM EDUCATION - 14 year old robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada uses his engineering skills to inventively help his heroic friends overcome an evil adversary. Science, math, and technology are featured problem solving tools for Hiro and his robot friend, Baymax. When times get tough, Hiro encourages his friends to find solutions through creativity and innovation. Credit to Disney for truthfully showing us that "girl power" thrives in a STEM setting. In addition, the PBL (problem-based / project-based learning) examples shine nicely in this film.

MAKER SPACES - College-age brother Tadashi brings Hiro to visit the "Nerd Lab". It is in this inventor's playground that Hiro is introduced to creative possibilities that exceed his love for "bot fighting". It is also here that he meets his robot friend Baymax, Tadashi's invention. The "Nerd Lab" is a high-tech maker space for Tadashi and his friends.

GENIUS HOUR - Hiro wants to become part of the "Nerd Lab" learning environment where students are encouraged to pursue their own interests as they design and develop their inventions. Genius Hour principles including; autonomy, purpose, and mastery in learning are evident throughout this story of ingenuity and resilience. ("Drive" - Daniel Pink)

GROWTH MINDSET - Following a tragedy, Hiro's discover's Tadashi's digital portfolio containing his production notes from the Baymax project. Tadashi's resilience is evident as Baymax, a robot health-care provider, comes to life after 83 failed attempts. Hiro displays his own resilience as he overcomes early challenges to come up with his "microbot" concept for an upcoming invention fair. Tadashi tells Hiro, "When you get stuck, look at the problem from a different angle."

INFORMAL LEARNING - Technology has created greater opportunity for immediacy and relevance in learning. Students like Hiro are able to use informal educational settings, like a garage or home office, to connect with others to advance their learning. Better than 75% of our learning takes place outside of formal educational environments. Authenticity and personalization increase as the learning becomes self-directed in informal settings.

RELATIONSHIPS - Hiro's expertise with technology is evident, but he becomes truly empowered through collaborative learning relationships. Hiro and Baymax show the power of "heart and mind" as they overcome adversity with passion and ingenuity. In the end, it is collaboration and teamwork that win the day for Hiro and his friends.



Flickr CC Image - Bago Games Photos

Like "The Incredibles", "Toy Story", and "Finding Nemo", there are lessons to be learned in this latest Disney animation. "Big Hero 6" is an entertaining look at how technology, innovation, cooperation, and perseverance make for a powerful combination. Whether you're a teacher, or a student, there are things to be learned and admired from this terrifically fun, and heroic "educational" experience. 

Related Reading


Creating Maker Spaces in Schools - Edutopia, Mary Beth Hertz




Saturday, November 8, 2014

How Can Teachers Make Their Professional Learning More Visible?

No one can logically argue that current and future education won't be based largely on our ability to leverage social networks for learning. There is plenty of rhetoric describing the emergence of web 3.0, but how many educators are practicing what they readily admit is the foundation of making our students "future-ready"? 
I applaud Cale Birk for suggesting talk can be cheap, and it's time to feature action. In his post, "#EDUDO - The New Hashtag", Cale asks educators to transparently share artifacts of learning using the Twitter hashtag, #EDUDO.


Several years ago, my sons became interested in downhill skiing. It had been some time since I had been on the powdery slopes, but skiing presented an opportunity for the three of us to actively learn and grow our skill together. I wanted to be able to articulate and demonstrate safe and effective skiing to my sons. In order to do this, I did some online research, talked to experts at the pro shops, and took several lessons from a friend who happened to be a ski patrol professional. The three of us then took lessons together, and before long we were progressing from green square (beginner), to blue circle (intermediate), then to black diamond (expert) runs. Modeling the learning process and focusing on skill development has helped make skiing an enjoyable bonding experience for us.

Back in the classroom, some content-focused teachers are missing a tremendous opportunity. Instead of focusing on content knowledge, teachers should be visibly sharing how they learn. They should be modeling learning supported by social networks. Much like the skiing analogy, teachers and students can become partners engaged in learning through technology and global connections. Transparently sharing learning tends to increase accountability and motivation. Knowing this, it makes sense that all learners would have digital portfolios shining a spotlight on their learning and growth. Sharing these portfolios fits perfectly into Mr. Birk's #EDUDO initiative.


Why should educators share their professional learning transparently?

  • Transparency is good for the educator as they gain relevance by sharing with authentic audiences. He, or she, acquires skills and competencies that can be used to assist students become self-determined, socially networked learners.
  • Transparency is good for students as they see visibly how their teachers are learning and sharing.
  • Transparency is good for parents who see their child's teachers as a growing, diligent, and relevant professionals.
  • Transparency is good for colleagues who can learn from what is being shared while offering local perspective providing challenge, and contributing to further growth.
  • Transparency is good for networks of educational learners as global insights and collaborations can add to depth of knowledge and diverse perspective.
  • Transparency is good for evaluating administrators who are are looking for clear evidence of professional growth that supports student learning.

Simply stated, transparency, or making our learning more visible, contributes to the learning of others. This is why I suggest to our teachers and students, "It's not enough to be a digital citizen, nearly anyone can do that. Be a digital contributor because the benefits are reciprocal and ongoing." 


"The biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers." - John Hattie


How can teachers make their professional learning more visible?

  1. Identify relevant standards that support your professional growth. Using these standards as targets, create and share your professional goals in a public forum. A blog works nicely for this as the teacher can use posts for frequent reflections and journaling of progress, while pages can highlight projects and artifacts that reference the selected standards and goals. (My ISTE-C Professional Learning Page)
  2. Curate or create rubrics that help evaluate progress towards professional goals. The descriptors will help bring more focus and explanation to professional learning targets. Share success and failures alike as both outcomes will contribute to learning. Digital products can be easily linked or embedded into blog posts and pages.
  3. Publicly share growth and celebrate mastery so that others will identify you with a particular competency, skill, or achievement. This is not bragging, it's documenting and sharing learning. Use digital resources to create a portfolio of your professional learning. Digital badges are becoming a popular method of identifying competencies and achievements. These can be displayed as part of the professional portfolio.

Here are examples of resources that can make professional learning more visible.

Example - template for my professional goals and targeted standards (plan)

Goal
Danielson Goal
Links to Processes
Links to Products
1
(3d) - Engaging staff & students in the successful use of educational technology
  1. Teaching, Learning & Assessments


2
(4d) - Participating in a professional community
  1. Content Knowledge & Professional Growth





Example - headings for a rubric to assess teacher technology integration (targets)









Example - Slides to reference professional learning to selected standards (results)




Teachers readily acknowledge and appreciate students who are able to visibly share their learning. Teachers should apply this standard to their own professional learning. We raise our game, and we contribute to the learning of others when we share our professional growth to authentic audiences. You can help turn this post into a conversation by addressing the following prompts in the comments section.
  1. How do you learn?
  2. How do you make your learning visible to your students, and colleagues?


Related Reading


Visible Learning (John Hattie) - Victoria State Government Report




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Take Ownership of Personal Learning With Blogs

A few of my colleagues have asked me, “What’s the one thing that has had the biggest impact on your personal learning?” I am personally and professionally reborn as a result of becoming a connected educator. Social networks, and in particular, my PLN (personal learning network) have taught me more about schools, teaching, education, technology, learning, and most importantly, myself during the past two years than my previous 25 plus years spent as a professional educator and student. The single activity that has had the biggest impact on my personal and professional learning is blogging.






Creating a blog requires no technical or coding skills. You do not have to be a great writer to have an effective blog. Blogs provide a web presence with simplicity and versatility. Blogging has been around for some time. John Barger, when describing his site called Robot Wisdom, first coined the term “weblog” in 1997. Two years later, Peter Merholz shortened this term to “blog”. Evan Williams, a co-founder of Pyra Labs (later Blogger), was the first to use the term “blog” as a verb. In less than twenty years, almost seven million people are now blogging. More than ½ of these bloggers are between the ages of 21 and 35, with a majority of them being women. The Internet is currently home to more than one hundred sixty million blogs. Five hundred million people are reading more than fifteen billion blog pages each month. Better than 80% of Fortune 500 companies suggest that blogs are essential to their company’s earnings. 75% of all Internet users read blogs. Blogging is big business!

I wrote my first blog post in Nocking the Arrow, on March 10, 2012. 130 posts, and 140,000 page-views later, blogging is the one thing that feeds my personal and professional learning more than anything else. I tell my wife, Natalie, that writing helps me sleep. While there is some truth in this, writing and posting to my blogs deepens my understanding of issues that I have questions about. Reflecting on my educational experiences helps to crystallize my learning. I have been told, if you really want to understand something, teach it. Blogging, in many instances, is teaching what you have learned to an authentic, and potentially world-wide, audience. Posts become conversations when comments are enabled. These conversations help to broaden perspective, and they can also ignite meaningful learning relationships. 

Anyone who can create an electronic document, such as a Google Doc, can create a blog post. The first step is to identify a concept and a purpose for the blog. As with digital portfolios built with other tools, blogs can be process (conversation) focused, product (presentation) focused, or a hybrid design that incorporates both of these systems. I use the hybrid model for my personal / professional learning blog. The main feed, or body, of the blog contains a chronological stream containing conversations and reflective thoughts. Subsequent pages contain demonstrated competencies, artifacts of learning, and research supporting professional growth.

A helpful feature of blogs is posts can be tagged with keywords making them easy to sort and search, while pages can be labeled making them excellent repositories for categorized subjects or themes. Taking time and putting thought into creating the title and description for your blog is a creative and essential step.The title will go a long way in attracting the type of readers that will benefit from, and actively engage, with your blog. Use of social media and search engines to find interesting blogs to read and follow is a good place to start. Teach-100 provides a ranking of the world’s popular education blogs. Subscribe to your favorites and start taking note of the features, designs, and content that appeal to your purpose and concept.






There are several popular blogging platforms to choose from. These include; WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and Weebly. Knowing one’s own skill level and the comparable features of these blogging products will help to make an educated choice for your blog platform. Blogger makes sense for me because of it’s ease of use, and because nearly all of my cloud-based material resides in my Google Drive. Blogger also allows me to create and publish posts from any web-connected device.

After choosing the blog platform, the next steps would include creating an account, establishing a user profile, and then starting to write. Be sure to take time to become familiar with the user preferences, or site settings associated with the blogging platform. For instance, saving is different than publishing to the web. Typically, I will keep a working tab and a preview tab open simultaneously. Even though Blogger, like Google Docs, will auto-save every several seconds, I frequently save my work, and then refresh my preview screen to see how the finished product will look once I publish. More than 75% of Internet users access their favorite information from a mobile device. This is why immediately after I publish a post, I will review it on my smartphone and tablet to see that the layout and spacing is appropriate for a mobile device.

Will your posts be public, or restricted to a smaller, specified audience? Although I am believer in the benefits of total transparency in learning and communication, this practice of open sharing to a worldwide audience is an intimidating leap for some people. Most blogging products allow the publisher to expand or restrict both viewers and collaborators. In formal educational settings a consideration is the age of the contributing students. If you are considering creating a classroom blog with younger students, extra care should be taken to protect their personal identities. With ease of set up, and built in securities for students, Edublogs is an excellent platform for classroom blogs. Popular blogger, Richard Byrne, shares many terrific samples in this post, 40+ Examples of School & Classroom Blogs, published in Free Technology for Teachers.

Blog comments have the power to turn digital reading experiences into collaborative learning experiences with the added potential for unique global perspectives. However, not everyone has the same moral compass, or digital responsibility as you. If you allow comments, which I recommend, then I also recommend moderating them for more control over what appears on your blog site. In short, start simply and controlled, and you can open things up and take more creative and collaborative risk as your confidence with blogging grows.

As you become more comfortable with the blogging tools, page templates can be customized to taste. Modifications can include changes to colors, page layout, and type fonts. Incorporating other types of media can help break up blocks of text while also adding visual appeal, and enriching information to your posts. Most blogging platforms allow the user to embed photos, video, and graphics into the blog post. Widgets can also be incorporated into the blog. Calendars, social media buttons, search windows, and maps are examples of widgets that can make the blog more engaging and interactive for the reader. (Designing A Beautiful Blog - Dan Leeman)  If generating page traffic and personal branding are important to you, then you should consider purchasing a domain name for your blog. This will make the blog easier to identify in search engines, and more easily associated with you or your brand. Yes, it is possible to earn money through your blog. Direct advertising and indirect marketing of other products such as books, courses, or learning materials are two ways bloggers can earn income. If this is a consideration for you, be sure to thoroughly research the content ownership details for your chosen blogging platform.

Blogging is fun, personally enriching, and supportive of learning communities. Some ask, “Is blogging worth the time and effort?” Yes, you will get back ten-fold what you put into your blog. The biggest challenge I face with blogging is coming up with stuff to write about. Most of the time, I write about the things that I see, or hear, around school every day. As George Couros, one of my favorite bloggers says, “What seems ordinary to you, might be extraordinary to someone else.” Share your learning because you never know who it will impact. Being a connected educator has profoundly enhanced my personal and professional learning. Blogging is the process that I use to document and share this. Blogging is a great way to take ownership of your personal learning.


Related Reading & Resources

Blogging, Who Should and Why - My Island View, Tom Whitby


Five Reasons Your Students Should Blog - The Principal of Change, George Couros

Blogs and Labels Are About Information Literacy - Langwitches Blog, Silvia Tolisano

Blogging Resources for Teachers - Center for Teaching Quality, Bill Ferriter

The State of Educational Blogging 2014 - The Edublogger, Sue Waters



photo credit: caribb via photopin cc