In our final edition of the school year, we offer some practical tips about:
- Making life simpler with templates,
- Google Expeditions,
- Adding Maps to Books with Book Creator
- Paid Summer PD Options for Teachers
- The 2019 SIG Symposium on June 6-7
In our final edition of the school year, we offer some practical tips about:
The Goochland County Public Schools will host a Strategic Innovation Symposium on June 6-7, 2019, for teachers and administrators across the division. The symposium has become a new tradition in Goochland County as a way to celebrate the end of the school year by highlighting the excellence with instruction that was made possible over the past year thanks to the Strategic Innovation Grant program, provided by the Goochland Education Foundation.
The GEF has given money to teachers to support innovative projects that promote deeper learning. Grant money is spent on technology, supplies, field trips, and other resources to support project-based learning.
This year, the symposium will take place over two days. On June 6, we will convene from 8:30AM-3:30PM at Goochland High School. Grant awardees will lead four series of talks to share the details, lessons, and successes associated with their grant-funded projects. Creativity will be a theme, and the day will end with a “Chopped Challenge” modeled after the popular TV Food Network show, Chopped.
Our second day of the symposium will focus on teamwork building relationships. Participants will spend the day at an area theme park.
Participation is limited, and registration will go out in mid-April.
Our thanks go to the innovative teachers across Goochland County and the financial support of the GEF to make this event possible!
From Chapter 8 in Ted Dintersmith’s What School Could Be:
We need to empower our teachers, engage our students, and deliver learning experiences that recognize, and capitalize on, the reality that our students will have digital devices at their fingertips for the rest of their lives.
The context of this quote, said by an unnamed teacher at a Washington, D.C. education summit the author attended some years ago, underscores the friction I sometimes feel in this field. In some ways, we waited so long to finally go 1:1 with devices in student hands. But in others, we’re still waiting for the expectations around pedagogy to catch-up.
I’ve heard educators tell me “well, what’s he gonna do when he doesn’t have that cellphone or laptop to depend on?”
I really don’t think these super powerful devices are going anywhere. And I have to say, it took time for me to really catch up and learn to depend upon my phone. Today I can’t imagine going anywhere without it. It’s not so much an addiction to the device as it is a dependency on its power.
These were all very passive pursuits, but I valued having the phone and the connectivity it provided. But think about what else! I could have written this blog post on the phone. I could have edited the video I was working on. I can get in touch with all the people I care about. It’s an incredible tool.
If I see a plane overhead, I can ask my phone (yes, talk to it!) and find out what flight is overhead. Wacky!
And it’s sad, I think, that we’re still not capitalizing on the power of today’s mobile technology. Dintersmith’s example in the book is about calculus. At one point John King thought more calculus was the answer to our education woes. More calculus.
Fewer than 20% of adults in our country use any math beyond the basics of middle school. Nearly one-third of American adults prefer cleaning the bathroom to solving a math problem.
The point is this: the tool in our pocket is capable of working out calculus problems. Now, I think working a few out isn’t going to hurt you, and it can lead toward an appreciation for what it is, exactly, the problem is “doing.” But when we have a tool in our pocket that can give us the answer, the whole paradigm has shifted. That student needs to understand the theory behind the integrals and derivatives. But working it out manually? That’s what Ted is asking us.
I don’t fault any math teachers out there for how we teach advanced math. Their hands are tied. The tests we give kids ask them to solve calculus problems. It’s a skill they spent a year preparing for.
So—we’ve done the big lifting. And now it’s time to change. But big systems tend to move slowly.
In our March edition of the TechnologyTimes, we focus on classroom transformations, MakerMondays at BES, getting feedback with apps, the Lightsail program, and art portfolios at GHS.
I’m proud to release our latest edition of the Technology Times. This month we feature favorite tools and resources, and of course, we have after-school workshops listed for professional development.
I’d like to dedicate this blog post to answering a question. It’s one I’ve heard asked and it gets asked routinely. But the answer has changed subtly over time. And it’s always worth going back and answering it, because everything we do ought to be scrutinized and evaluated. After all, our kids’s futures are at stake!
Why are projects, specifically project based learning, part of the instructional program in Goochland County?
(Photo courtesy xslim via Flickr.)
For the record, growing up, project based learning (PBL) was not a typical pedagogical instrument used in my schooling. The teacher was the authority figure who knew the answers. They held onto knowledge. And they shared that knowledge through talking, videos, worksheets, book reading, and practice. I think I turned out okay. I felt with flashcards I had a great tool to be prepared for tests. I knew as a musician that practicing something—even not musical things—helped me get better at them, even just plain memorization.
It’s worth taking a look at our strategic plan, first published in January 2014. Specifically, some take-aways from the plan.
I could dig in deeper to the plan, but these alone paint the background of a canvas that we metaphorically hand to each teacher, who paints their own version of these ideas using the art and science of teaching.
The words of George Couros, author of the book The Innovator’s Mindset, and a principal in Canada, resonated with me when I read these on page 9 of his book:
My focus is not on whether kids can knock it out of the park on some science test in grade three. What I care about is that kids are inspired to be better people because of their experiences in my school.
Inspire the next generation, inspired to be better people—both profound and synergistic ideas for what we want for students. Couros quotes William Pollard in his book too. I copied the quote because it resonated with me, too.
Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.
There’s no reason our education system should stay stagnant in a culture of rapid change. We must be reflective. We must also get outside our bubble and talk to families, to business leaders, to politicians, to scientists, and to one another! And most recently in Goochland, Dr. Geyer led a process of defining what we want when students graduate. It’s called the Profile of a Goochland Graduate.
The challenge for the next six years in our division will be how to develop students that, by the time they graduate, are:
To achieve these goals we have to have classroom paradigms that are learner-centered. This is no doubt one of many educational buzzwords, but it means that the action taking place in the room by students isn’t passive. It isn’t taking notes and listening. It’s being an active participant in a variety of learning activities that are designed around student voice and choice.
As it turns out, projects embrace student voice and choice. And they are designed around solving problems, developing communication, and hard work.
Raking leaves is hard work. I know when I’ve raked, I sweat, and the physical exercise is good for me. But I have other things I’d rather be doing. And to be honest, I don’t like raking leaves. It’s hard, but it’s also not fun.
My education hero Seymour Papert used to talk about hard fun. It’s a colloquial way to describe pursuits that are innately interesting to us, but also at a challenge level that is appropriate for us. I remember being given an assignment in college by my composition teacher. He’d arranged to have a singer perform a piece I’d write. I had several weeks. I had to write a piece for piano and soprano.
It was hard. But it was also fun. I got lost in the pursuit, relying upon my creativity to “solve” the problem of setting text to music. It’s all I thought about for a long time.
Projects require us to think differently about planning for instruction. At first, projects may seem daunting for a teacher to orchestrate. But with experience and support, projects can be opportunities for deeper learning. Specifically,
In Goochland, our strategic plan calls for preparing students that are both college and career ready. And while the last test students take may not be in Goochland High School, real life looks a lot more like a project than it does a traditional twentieth-century schoolhouse lesson. I may be preaching to the choir, but our educational system today is stronger for giving students multitudes of different, challenging experiences that develop the resilience called for in our profile.
That said, projects aren’t the only game in town. But they should remain in the short term an important instrument for learning across grades and academic disciplines. Deeper learning specifically is targeted at satisfying student curiosity and giving them more than an exposure to facts. Students have the world at their fingertips and the real world, since Dewey, has been something we’ve been challenged to bring inside the institutions we call schools.
James W. Pellegrino (see National Research Council (2012). Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press) has described deeper learning as the process through which an individual becomes capable of taking what is learned in one situation and applying it to new situations. The Hewlett Foundation defines deeper learning around mastery of core academic content, the application of twenty-first century skills as part of the learning process, students learning how to learn, and students developing academic mindsets. At a basic level, we view deeper learning as student-initiated (“I’m curious about this, and I want to learn more”). We view it as open-ended (there may not be a “test” at the end) and the experience, at best, is personal to a child (what one child learns about the water cycle may be different from what another child learns).
Projects, in the end, are a mechanism for practicing and developing skills by using that “core academic content” for something beyond regurgitation on a test. We believe projects are what fuel our capacity for being respectful, responsible citizens. We want the world to be a better place, for ourselves, and our offspring. And that’s what it means to grow here in Goochland County, Virginia.
This summer I had the great experience of working with a dedicated team of educators to work toward developing a curated resource list for teaching coding in our schools. This team included:
What was produced was a matrix of curated activities, organized by grade level, and cross-referenced with core content applications. In 2019, school divisions in Virginia will be responsible for teaching coding aligned to new Virginia SOL for Computer Science.
We believe coding helps students not only to develop a marketable skill, but more importantly, it’s an activity that “teaches us how to think.” A wink to Seymour Papert.