Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Bold Moves for Schools

This is a quick-and-dirty review of a book that ticks all the boxes for a curriculum nerd like me: Bold Moves for Schools, by Heidi Hayes Jacobs & Marie Alcock, from the ASCD (2017, 207 pages).

It’s a practical and comprehensive, yet concise and quotable handbook of where to take curriculum, learning and leadership for modern learners. Educators in international schools will see many familiar themes emerge, from student agency and creativity in the curriculum to effective assessment, learning spaces and teacher development. There is much here that can accelerate a well-implemented IB curriculum (or standards-based learning model), and this book will sing to coordinators as it does to me.

“Innovation requires courage coupled with a realistic sensibility to create new possibilities versus “edu-fantasies”. Moving boldly is not moving impulsively or for the sake of change. Moving boldly involves breaking barriers that need breaking.”

As a “pragmatic idealist” I like how the book connects a future-focused, genuinely student-centred education to the best of what we’re already doing. It avoids falling into the trap of trashing the traditional, instead framing bold moves through the antiquated (what do we cut?), the classical (what do we keep?) and the contemporary (what do we create?). Jacobs & Alcock insist throughout the book that these bold moves are mindful, that we are not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” and that “meaningful curriculum composition versus meaningless imposition” is the goal.

How can we build a genuinely exciting contemporary educational experience that keeps the joy in the learning, the future in mind and the students in the driving seat? Through a systemic approach that focuses on what works and what could be: one which empowers teachers as self-directed professional learners and curriculum architects. For anyone trying to effect change in an existing (long-established) system, this respectful, well-reasoned handbook is worth a look.

“What is most critical is that the outcome reflect quality.”

I hope that much of what is in this book is not new to most curriculum leaders – particularly in the IB context – but it is great to have a volume that pulls it together in one place, with practical resources. This would make a great book study (guide here) for curriculum leaders and teachers. You will find interesting surprises, resources and provocations littered through the text, worthy of further discussion.

You may even make some bold commitments as a result…

Quick follow-up: I was at a Bold Moves Bootcamp with Marie Alcock recently, and it was great. There is a post about one of my outcomes (a DOK4 filter for transfer) here.

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Check it out

Without being too spoilerific, here are some useful links and resources from the book:

 


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Webb’s DOK4 & Transfer

115013bLast weekend I took part in a fabulous Bold Moves Curriculum Mapping Bootcamp, by Dr. Marie Alcock at ISKL. I was there to think about next steps for curriculum planning at CA, and it was a great opportunity to pick the brains of a true expert (and get lots done). I like the bootcamp model for PD: short, focused and with the opportunity to take immediate action with great feedback from colleagues in similar positions.

Through one of the discussions about high-quality assessment, Marie dug into Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework. It’s not a “wheel” of command terms as is often (and incorrectly) presented, but a way of framing how deeply students need to know and use information, skills and concepts. Similarly, DOK is not the same as Bloom’s Taxonomy, and is not a pyramid or a hierarchy of knowledge that “peaks” at DOK4. It can be accessed from any of the other three levels, and effectively sits in parallel.

For a decent explainer of how DOK levels work, see this by Erik Francis for ASCD Edge – I used his DOK descriptors in the teacher plansheet tool.

In practical terms, as explained by Marie, students should be able to access DOK4 from any one of the other DOK levels. This is important, as DOK4 essentially can act as a filter for transfer.

How else can the student use the knowledge, skills and content at this level? 

This means that in curriculum and task design and differentiation, teachers can set up situations for all students to pull their learning (even if only at a recall/DOK1 level) through to DOK4 by applying it in a new context – as long as it is the same skill/target. For example, this might mean taking a scientific skill and applying to a new experiment, or a writing technique applied to a new genre. This is knowledge augmentation. MYP Teachers will see the immediate connections here to higher-order objectives in the criteria.

 

Teacher Plansheet: A Practical Use

Transfer is a notoriously difficult skill to teach, even though it is included in the ATL framework, and so I sketched up this planning tool (pdf) in the hope that it can visualise how DOK4 can be used as a filter to make transfer explicit. Follow the arrows as you think about putting a target standard or learning outcome to work. What level (DOK1-2-3) is expected of the student? How else (DOK4) could it be used? For some excellent, practical resources on applying DOK in the various disciplines, check out Dr. Karin Hess’s Cognitive Rigor and DOK rubrics and resources.

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Transferring the Transfer: Thinking Collaboratively

How else might this tool be put to use? Here are some quick thoughts on how this might work with the collaboration of the relevant experts or coaches in the school.

  • Technology Integration: using the DOK4 filter as an opportunity to amplify and transform (RAT model) the learning task (but still meet objectives).
  • Service Learning: In moving from “doing service” to service learning, could this be used to help frame students’ focus on planning, or post-service reflection? As students learn about issues of significance, how can they put it work through transfer to meaningful action? As they reflect on their learning, can they connect new and existing disciplinary knowledge?
  • Interdisciplinary Learning: How can students take their learning and use it meaningfully in a context that requires transfer between disciplines?

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Google Certified Educator

Today I took the Google Certified Educator (Level 1) test for a few reasons:

  1. GCE_Badges_01To check my own competence in Google Apps for Education basics.
  2. To see how long it would take, with an eye on how we might support colleagues in taking the test themselves (e.g. PD time, cover or an event).
  3. To see how it might support our colleagues in getting up to speed at school in connection with our use of EdTech and integration in classes.

I can’t write too much as participants need to sign an NDA before beginning, but here are some basics. 

To register, sign up here and pay USD $10. It might take a day or two to get your web-assessor account, then you have seven days to complete the test (in a single sitting).

Participants are allowed three hours for the test, during the entirety of which your webcam is on. It starts with some multi-choice questions and then leads into a series of scenarios were you have to work in Google Apps to complete a range of tasks (they create a model environment for you for the test, it does not use your own account). From mail, calendars and docs, to classroom, forms, sites and more, it is a pretty thorough assessment for getting going.

It took me almost 1 1/2 hours to complete, but I already know my way around Google Apps. There is a lot of reading and flicking between tabs – and EAL participants or new users might need the full amount of time. Fortunately there is a progress bar and each of the eleven tasks are similar in their time demand. I have not taken Level 2 yet, as I predict it will take longer, but plan to do so soon.

Applications as a tech leader/ co-planner

A small team of us have been working on connecting ISTE standards to IB ATL skills and from that starting to outline a ‘tech drivers’ license’ for teachers and students. I think this test would be a useful validation for teachers getting started in GAFE at our school, and maybe something they work towards over the year. We would need to structure PD time or support with this.

I can see the value in even advanced users taking this test, as it will give some empathy or insight into starting over again and will help support colleagues. A reminder of the basics for efficient and effective use of Google Apps should help us help our colleagues do the best things, with less stress. I did learn some efficiencies.

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Footnote 

There are quite a few companies out there offering (pretty pricey) training towards this test. If you have enough techy types in your own school, it’s be hard to justify that investment. The test is only $10 per person. I imagine that once you get beyond the basic competence, some more ‘transformative’ PD would be a better return on investment for teachers.

Resources

Eric Curts (@ericcurts) has a couple of useful skills audits online:

 

Update: Sept 2017

We have these tools available in our school, and I want to make the best use of them, but am wary of advertising/branding teachers or schools as X-product. There is a very thought-provoking piece in the New York Times here.

 


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PaperPile: Managing Research & References in GoogleDocs

As anyone involved in studying (or a job that requires looking up a lot of research) knows, managing citations and remembering sources is a challenge. This is doubly difficult when you’re balancing it with full-time work and use the same tech hardware for both. Alongside using tools for my own purposes, I look for alternatives (replacements or improvements) that I could with classes or show colleagues to make their lives easier.

With PaperPile (Chrome extension & add-on), I think I have found one of those solutions. This, to me, was the solution to the final problem that kept me using Micro$oft W0rd: reference libraries, one-click citation and auto-bibliographies. I’ll keep testing it as I go through the dissertation, but for now, check it out.

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Updated: January 2017

Long-Term Review

The dissertation is long-since completed, but I have kept my subscription to PaperPile going for now, as I found it worth the money for work. Now that my library access from Bath has been disconnected, I am debating whether to keep it or if I should downgrade back to the free version.

Here’s a quick user review, based on my experiences.

Things I loved

  • Connecting to the uni library was easy and super-helpful.
  • Researching from within a GoogleDoc make things more efficient that before.
    • Often I could bypass the uni library search tools altogether.
    • When searching through Google or Scholar, a button appears next to possible citations, which pulls the paper back into the system.
  • Automatic download of available pdf files is amazing – it backed them up into my Google Drive for reference, and was easy to download.
  • Live updates to citations helps a lot, as with the Word Citation Manager.

Limitations

  • Sometimes the citation format is squiffy and needs to be manually updated. Be careful with this if you refresh the paper references, as if you forget to check you might end up with some irregularities.
  • When I was finishing my dissertation I was working on a simple netbook on a sluggish internet connection in Indonesia. Drive with Paperpile is pretty heavy in terms of internet, and sometimes typing and citing were frustratingly delayed. Predicting this, I installed Office 365 and finished the dissertation using Word.
  • There doesn’t yet (as far as I can see) appear to be a reciprocal citation manager with Word. It would be awesome if switching between the systems would update in both.

Recommendations

If you’re a Google Suite user and active researcher, I’d recommend giving PaperPile a go. It looks like it is going to get better with further development and would be great in a Chromebook environment.

 

 


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Ready, Steady, Flow: #GAFESummit Presentation

This weekend we had the good fortune to host a Google Apps for Education Summit (#GAFESummit) at the school. With a range of keynotes from the EdTech Team and a couple of day of interesting (and useful) breakout sessions, we had a good time, learned a lot and got to meet some new people.

On the second day, I presented a session entitled “Ready, Steady, Flow!” aimed at showcasing a workflow that gives us more active time in class, reduced clicks and stress and makes use of high-impact practices when we’re working on assignments. In essence, we make the best possible use of the tools we have to change our relationship from giver and doer of work to writer and editor. I refer to some of Hattie’s ideas, define inquiry, and look at some of the issues that hold teachers in harmful old practices (such as clinging to the time-suck of Word docs).

Some big take-homes (the tL;dR version): 

  1. Design good tasks, and communicate this clearly to students.
  2. Don’t cause others to click around unnecessarily. If you want a certain formatting, do it on the task-sheet and share it out!
  3. Don’t send out emails with word docs that you then have to collect, save, rename…
  4. Do value the task with enough class time – but keep that time as active as you can
  5. Force early drafting/commenting on work so that we can all see – and take action on – the ‘gap’ as soon as possible.
  6. Give up marking; the sea of red wastes your time and puts the student in the wrong mindset to receive it. Instead go for the three-levels of feedback (task, process, self-regulation) and make it clear.
  7. Separate the grade from the feedback to have a higher impact.

There’s quite a bit more on the GoogleSite I created for the session here: Ready, Steady, Flow. This includes resources, links, the slides and details of the two “Demo Slams” I did on the main stage at the end of the first day.

The experience was fun and nerve-wracking, as always when you present to an unknown group of adults. The talky bit took longer than I expected, but it ended up being appreciated as there were lots of opportunities to discuss, think and challenge our thoughts. At the end, participants had access to the template document and other resources to take home and play with.

It was a good experience to have the GoogleSummit here at CA, from a number of perspectives. Personally I enjoy these things, but am not a huge fan of being away from the family. As a school I think we’re doing some interesting things and it’s good for others to see those – and add their ideas and perspectives. And thinking about my role for next year, it’s great to see that CA can pull it off, and do it effectively. Kudos to all the CA-based organisers, they did a great job.

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Here are the slides:


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“This will revolutionize education.”

Being in a tech-rich school, we have access to a lot of different platforms, tools and ideas. We have a good group of educational technology ‘experts’ in the school and a pretty strong focus on putting the learning first when choosing and using educational technologies. Nothing is blocked and teachers are given opportunities learn more about (and try) different platforms, ideas and strategies using technology. Sometimes the best tech is low-tech; other times systems like Hapara help us to differentiate more subtly, give feedback more readily and think more carefully about task design, scaffolding and criteria.

Derek Muller (the awesome @veritasium), released this video and I was reminded of how poor some #EdTech implementation can be. This video gives a brief history of #EdTech hyperbole, from the ‘moving picture’ to the laser-disc, each step along the way seeking to automate the art (and science) of teaching. When the focus is on how teachers can be replaced by tech or simplistic educational inquiry (is X tech better than Y tech to do Z simple transmission process?), then the resources and energy spent on the technological innovation are wasted.

“What limits learning is what happens inside a student’s head. […] What experiences promote the kind of thinking that is required for learning?” 

It has become a cliche in #EdTech now to say “it’s about the learning, not the tech,” and that’s a great thing. The mantra sticks, and hopefully it forces us into careful thought about how we choose and use #EdTech tools. Learning is social, critical and personal; it requires the guidance of an expert, caring teacher and it needs inspiration, motivation and perseverance.

If we think about it this way then, as Derek says, we can evolve education, if not revolutionize it.

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Now if only the companies that keep sending advertisements to my school and i-Biology inboxes for weak platforms (and worse PD) would watch this…