Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Our first Web 2.0 Smackdown

After experiencing the EdubloggerCon ISTE 2011 Web 2.0 Smackdown, I knew I wanted to see this in our district during professional development.

To add to that idea, I read a post by Patrick Larkin, Burlington High School Principal, about their flipping the Smackdown to the beginning of their Professional Development as a preview for their breakout sessions.

Our Collaboration Coaches, are just the people to introduce this idea to. They are passionate learners, collaborators, and focus on creating student-centered classrooms.

Our version of a Web 2.0 Smackdown

Any participants could share whatever tools/resources connecting to lesson improvement, coaching skills, or tech integration. The process:
  1. Submit topic and link to your visuals before we meet (collected in a Google Form).
  2. On the day we meet, present for 2 minutes live or show a recorded "trailer" for us.
  3. After smackdown, we'll vote for one to learn more about.
Tools and Resources

Here's what they shared:
  • MuseumBox,  a tool that helps make a collection (anything from text files to movies) on any given topic, shared by Bethany Myers

    • Screenr, a web-based screen recorder that captures anything on your screen and your voice, shared by Tina Jada.
    • Twitter Chats, focused discussions/professional development on Twitter that takes place at designated times, shared by Shauna Hamman.  
    •  Interactive Websites, oodles and oodles of resources for your subject matter, shared by Patti Carpenter.
    Web 2.0 Smackdown Wins

    Their enthusiasm as they shared the impact this made on their learners was awesome. It didn't matter which we voted for because we all heard many new ideas, tools, and resources.

    It was also encouraging to see how this group of educators took to a Web 2.0 Smackdown so readily. I am grateful that we have a culture that:
    • encourages us to try new ideas
    • focuses on our learners
    • engages us as active participants
    • fosters leadership
    • cultivates learning
    • promotes collaboration
    I thank our Collaboration Coaches for creating that culture through their beliefs, dedication, and all they do!

    Final thoughts
    • How does allowing the teachers to step into leadership roles impact the educators' active participation in professional development?
    • How does their shared ideas reflect our focus on 21st century learner-centered classrooms?
    • What would you like to add to the list, share back to our coaches, or add to this discussion?

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Bloom's Taxonomy and a Praying Mantis

    Several mentioned that even though they knew Bloom's Taxonomy, they hadn't put a Bloom's microscope to their lessons until designing PBL. Once they designed a PBL, they realized a rigor boost in Bloom's Taxonomy was needed.

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    Bloom's Taxonomy and a Praying Mantis

    About ten years ago, I had a third grade student bring a praying mantis to our class, and we placed it in a terrarium. The students were fascinated with it.

    To capitalize on their interest, I introduced Bloom's Taxonomy for writing research questions about our praying mantis.

    I gave a simple explanation, then they worked together in small groups to write questions based on Bloom's Taxonomy. They also had some great insight about each level:

    Knowledge: These are facts that we could just look up and memorize. They used the least amount of "brain-power" on Bloom's Taxonomy. 
    • What is a praying mantis? What does a praying mantis look like? What does a praying mantis eat? 
    • The students noticed that their spelling tests were these types of questions.

    Comprehension: This is understanding the knowledge, and when you put it in your own words, you show you understand it. Even though these used a little more "brain-power," they're still just the second level of Bloom's Taxonomy.
    • How would a praying mantis catch its prey? Why are some praying mantises green and others brown? What did you learn about praying mantises? (a summary)  
    • The students pointed out that most of their test questions were at this level.

    Application:  Use the new information or apply it.
    • How could we act out the praying mantis' hunting habits? What will our praying mantis need in his terrarium to stay alive?  
    • The students realized that writing a report would be at this level because they were applying some structure and organization to their new knowledge from what they understood.

    Analysis: Break the big ideas into smaller ideas, and describe how they are related.
    • What are the functions of the body parts on the praying mantis? What makes the praying mantis such a good hunter? 
    • The students wondered if this meant we had to look inside the praying mantis' body. I assured them we did not, but we would look it up on the Internet or in our books.

    Synthesis: Create something completely new using all the Bloom's levels we've talked about so far.
    • Create a praying mantis that would have been alive during the dinosaur times, and relatively the same size as the other dinosaurs. What made him capable of surviving? How would he affect the other dinosaurs? Create a poster, presentation, drama, or a model to help explain how well your praying mantis would survive, and how he'd affect the time period.
    • The kids were so excited at this point, and were ready to start creating their pre-historic praying mantis.

    Evaluation: Making judgments about what you've learned or what you're thinking. Defend your opinion.
    • Would a praying mantis or a scorpion survive if they were placed in the terrarium together? Defend your opinion.
    • The kids were a bit let down by this because they believed the synthesis question was more rigorous (and exciting) than this level. They thought that this level should be flip flopped with synthesis. (I agreed with them and struggled to defend Bloom at the time, and oh how I wished I had a glass ball to see into the future to know that they would indeed be flipped).

    What did we do with these questions?

    Based on their excitement to learn, I let them create a praying mantis for the pre-historic era. Together, we created some criteria for how we would assess it.

    When the students started talking about it, they concluded they needed to research both the praying mantis and a pre-historic era. Several chose a different era for some variety.

    They also asked for time during the day to observe our praying mantis. Some students started their own observation journals, and used their writing time to create paragraphs and stories about a praying mantis.

    Who would have known that a little thing like a kid bringing a praying mantis to class would have sparked such interest and rigor that extended across our curriculum!

    Final thoughts

    I knew Bloom's Taxonomy fairly well before this, but after this exercise with my third graders, I was pushed beyond what I possibly would have ever known because together we had to decide if some questions were really at a different level than where we first put them.

    This changed the types of questions I'd ask, and it changed their own questioning. They took ownership of their learning, and their engagement through the power of questions became my goal.
    • How does Bloom's Taxonomy drive the learning in your classroom?
    • How would writing questions based on Bloom's Taxonomy change the types of questions you ask? How would it change your student's questions and learning?
    • What other take-aways do you have from this post?

    This post was inspired by a discussion with Jon Castelhano, and his sharing George Couros' post "Bloom's Taxonomy and a Pen" with me.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Introducing Your Class to Your Blog

    Blogging is a fabulous way to connect with an authentic audience. Like everything else, there is a transition process for learning how.

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    Foundations for Blogging

    Houses need a sturdy foundation to remain standing. Likewise, blogging needs a sturdy foundation of digital citizenship and quality commenting.

    Digital Citizenship

    Introducing your class to digital citizenship is the first step. They will learn most of this in the context of blogging. However, setting guidelines is important for safety and netiquette expectations.




    When it comes to learning about quality commenting, I turn to Linda Yollis. She teaches us to break commenting into two parts: the content and the editing. Here is a summary of some of their tips:
    • Start with a compliment.
    • Add new information, especially facts.
    • Connect with a personal story of how it's relevant to you.
    • End with a question.
    • Proofread.

    Comment Prompt Starters

    During one of our Edublogs Blogging Professional Development Classes*, Sandy Rollefstad noticed the comment starters on the Scattergood Biology blog. Based on that idea, here are a few I'd try with various grade levels:
    • This made me think about …
    • This reminds me of …
    • I appreciate that your post ...
    • I feel that we should …
    • I can relate to this because ...
    • Another thing to consider is …
    • What I'm wondering is ...

    What if my kids still don't have the prior knowledge to start?

    Gina Fraher quickly realized her 3rd grade students didn't have the prior knowledge to successfully start creating quality comments.

    Fraher created an assignment to help them analyze quality commenting:

    She modeled her expectations with  a real blog post and several comments.

    After the students worked on their own for a little bit, they collaborated to share their thoughts and worked through their ideas together.

    Their dialogue was amazing, filled with critical thinking. Students asked each other if the topic sentence could also be a compliment? They realized that the conclusion could also be a question. They recognized "Your blog is cool," was not a quality comment, then explained why, and how they'd improve it.

    Great examples

    Some great examples of quality commenting can be found on these blogs:

    Closing thoughts

    Blogging should be engaging and fun for the kids. It's important to hook them right from the beginning.  Sue Waters from Edublogs shares great tips on getting your posts and commenting started
    • What are the key "ingredients" to hooking your class on blogging? 
    • How do you introduce your class to your blog? 
    • What does a responsible digital citizen look like?
    • What tips would you recommend for writing quality comments?

    *We are aligning our Professional Development classes with the Edublogs Teacher Challenges, which have been an awesome way for us to build PLN within our district and around the globe! 

    This post was inspired by all the new bloggers in our district. Thank you for your dedication to creating 21st century learning-centered classrooms!

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Essential Questions

    In my last post, I reflected on a conversation that clarified PBL. When we crafted the Driving Question or Essential Question, the teachers became comfortable with their PBL.

    What is an Essential Question?

    The purpose of an essential question is to connect relevance of the main concept or big idea back to the learner. It focuses the learner on what's important. Essential questions are:
    • Thought-provoking, higher level thinking questions, and complicated with more than one answer.
    • Open-ended, interesting, engaging, and focused on the key concepts.

    What are Driving Questions?

    I view them as essential questions that drive the PBL, containing the purpose for learning it and the project in one question. I honestly use "Essential Question" as a synonym for "Driving Question" depending on my audience.

    To set driving questions aside from essential questions, I ask:
    • What real audience could benefit from the solution or answer to the question?
    • How can I phrase the question as a challenge that causes learners to make a decision or take action?
    If you are familiar with driving questions, I hope you don't mind that I continue to call them essential questions for now.

      Examples of essential questions I've discussed recently:
      • In what ways have "personal safety" and "citizenship" changed, and how do we respond to those changes?
      • How can we, as leaders, create a culture of learners that thrive in the 21st century?
      • Click here for other examples I've seen. 

      Creating essential questions


      Convert answers to questions:

      I ask questions about the big idea. When I answer those, I end up converting them back to essential questions. For example: What do I want teachers to get out of my Professional Development training on digital citizenship? Answer: I want teachers to be passionate about helping our students become safe and responsible digital citizens. Therefore, my essential question is: In what ways have "personal safety" and "citizenship" changed, and how do we respond to those changes? (Created with the help of Sheri Edwards).

      Sentence starters: 

      I use a few generic questions and fill in the blanks. For example, instead of How can we, as leaders, create a culture of learners that thrive in the 21st century?, I could have used the sentence starters to come up with these questions:
      • What are the ingredients for a successful culture of learners that thrive in the 21st century?
      • What does good 21st century learning look like?
      • How can we create a culture of learners that thrive in the 21st century?
      • What would our future be like like without 21st century skills? 

      Frame the question: 

      I use one of Peer Ed's Microsoft Peer Coaching lesson improvement tips and place it in BIE's format found in PBL in the Elementary Grades. BIE expands this idea in their Tubric:

      Final Thoughts:

      It takes time and practice to create essential questions. I recommend working collaboratively to create them. I often turn to my PLN for help brainstorming and fine tuning my essential questions.
      • How can you use essential questions in your professional developments, units, classes, or blog posts?
      • How did you learn to write/use essential questions (or driving questions)?
      • What tips can you share?
      • What questions do you have?
      • How else did you connect with this post?
      This post was inspired by Dr. Wilson and the AJUSD Leadership Team who asked to learn more about essential questions. I also want to thank Jo Hart for helping me think through much written here in this post during your Serendipity Webinar; thanks to BIE for awesome resources; and special thanks to Peer Ed for being such a strong influence in education for 21st century schools and professional development.