Students as Meaningful Contributors
Cross posted to Langwitches Blog
Alan November talks about the importance of making students contributors to their own learning. I have been following his work for years (seen him present in person a couple of times too). I have been especially paying attention to his thoughts about how, over the years, it seems that we have taken away the reason/relevance for learning of our children.
Years ago, when farms dominated our landscape, children were responsible for performing meaningful jobs that were vital to each family’s success. […] Children were essential to the very survival of the family. At the same time, these jobs taught children the value of hard work, leading them to become more productive citizens within their communities as adults.
As mechanized tools and other advances developed, the work of children was replaced. To prepare for the industrial economy, students were required to attend school where teachers became central figures and where children took on more passive roles within their communities. The contributions made by children to their community shifted to the responsibility of completing schoolwork
How often have we heard the moaning from our students and/or own children?
Why do I have to learn this? I will never use it again.
There is even (why would I be surprised?) a facebook group called “I bet 90% if the Stuff we learn in School, I will never use again” It has over 16,000 members…
Maybe we need to start listening to our children. They don’t see the relevance of what they are learning in school. They don’t see how they will apply in real life what they are being asked to learn. So how do we give students back their purpose? Alan November suggests six different roles for developing empowered learners.
Here are examples of
- Tutorial Designers
- Official Scribes
- Backchanneling with Elementary School Students
- Documenting Skype Connections via Backchannel & Data Collection for Around the World with 80 Schools
- Collaboration Coordinators
- Contributors to Society
- Curriculum Reviewers
I must admit, that I have not ventured into working with my students (K-8) to being the “Collaboration Coordinators” and “Curriculum Reviewers”. I would love to read and hear about other teachers who have and are willing to share their experiences.
Please help me collect and add more examples to these by leaving a link and short description in the comment section!
You can read Alan November describe his thoughts about Students as Contributors: The Digital Learning Farm or in Chapter “Power Down or Power Up?” in Hayes Jacobs’ book Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010). Watch this video below where Alan describes the critical need for kids to make a contribution:
Going back to the days of this town [Marblehead, MA]…you were 10 years old, you went to sea and you were an apprentice, you were working, you did not go to Middle School or High School in this town in the 1700s […] What we did, I believe, over time…and the irony is that technology did this…because we invented all these kinds of machinery, we don’t need kids working anymore. So we robbed them of their sense of making a contribution to community. I think one of the breakthrough ideas is to change the concept of the learner into someone who becomes a contributor by doing their work. Which means we have to redefine their work.
Find more videos like this on NL Connec
Another person who not only talks about the importance of making students contributors, but who has walked the walk is Tim Tyson.
The now retired principal of Mabry Middle School (archived site) describes how his school is” Making learning irresistible”. He describes how he extended that vision into the classroom in Heidi Hayes Jacobs’s book “Curriculum 21”.
explorations in engaging students to produce meaningful contributions were just fine, tentative steps in moving school practice in a completely new direction. Imagine extending these first awkward steps, infusing them more deeply into instructional practices […] Would schools proffer a better learning experience if they empowered students themselves, under the professional and informed coaching of their teachers, to actively create high-quality, media rich, digital curricular contributions that are aggregated and shared with learners of all ages, the world over?
Learning from a Book
Cross posted to Langwitches Blog
You must have noticed that I have been reading and re-reading “Curriculum 21” by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. I have posted my first impressions and recommendation here and since then have joined and written about the companion Ning to the book here. I created a Flickr Curriculum 21 group to have a hub for images and videos of Curriculum21 teaching and learning examples.
I was inspired by quotes from the book to write the following blog posts Geography is a Separate Subject. Really? and “It Isn’t the Answer Anymore, It is the Question”.
Curriculum 21 is a book that is just FULL of information, ideas, thoughts, research, recommendations and exactly about the change in education, life, skills, literacies, and global competencies I am contemplating and working for.
Unfortunately, the book is not available as a Kindle Edition, which means, I am relying on sticky notes and highlighters as a way to make the rows and rows of text more appealing to my visual eye as well as a way to find passages and quotes more quickly later on.
I am conducting an experiment about my own learning style. How can I read this book and best:
- filter out the information that I want to keep?
- make connections to my previous thoughts, ideas and blog posts?
- remember quotes from different chapters?
- make the text content more visual for my brain?
I am eager to find out:
- Will I be able to learn about the content of the book differently/better/easier/?
- Will I be able to “see” connections that with the text alone I did not?
- Will the process of looking for and selecting the right image that will represent the quote make me think “deeper” about what the quote us trying to say?
- Will the sum of the quotes I selected from the book tell a story in itself?
I wonder how my personal experiment will turn out… but in the meantime, please take the time to share:
- How do you learn best from a book?
- Highlighting, taking notes, talking/discussing it with someone ?
- Do my visuals help you visualize what Curriculum21 is about?
- Do the slides do nothing for you?
- Do the visuals give you a different point of view, than when you were reading the text alone?
- Are you interested in reading Curriculum 21 (if you have not done so) because of the visual “Preview”?
- What opportunities do you give your students to learn from a a book?
Geography is a Separate Subject. Really?
Cross posted to Langwitches.
How is geography being taught in your school? Is it a weekly time block designated under the umbrella of Social Studies in Elementary School? Is it a semester or one year required credit course in High School?
Geography is a separate subject. Really?
Heidi Hayes Jacobs says (p. 36) in her Curriculum 21. (ASCD, 2010) book:
Geography should be cut as a snapshot unit with an integrated approach continuously woven into the academic year. Rather than the token “let’s start off the school year with our classic unit on geography,” the curriculum should include an ongoing injection and use of geography and a full range of maps. When schools do not use maps of all kinds with regularity in a range of classes (English, science, art), our students do not get to apply geography in a meaningful way.
Heidi Hayes Jacobs compares a segregated and isolated teaching unit of geography to a first grade teacher posting an ABCs poster on the wall, only to take it down after a month.
It is about making continuous connections of geography themes to what we teach. Where does the content fit into the world? How does the content relate to other subject areas. How does it affect the people who live there? Where do we find Math concepts in the physical world around us? Do literary or historic perspectives change due to geographic locations? How does Geography impact the economy?
How can we help classroom teachers make these connections from their teaching subject/content to geographic awareness/compentency?
Vivek Wathwa states in an article on TechCrunch about American competitiveness in the global educational field that
if we create the incentives for American children to study math and science and to complete advanced degrees, the magic will happen. In addition to math and science, we should teach our children about world culture, geography, and global markets. In the era of globalization, these subjects are equally important.
Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) recently tweeted
Really heartsick about NC’s decision to make social studies a history instead of geography focus. That’s narrowminded in today’s world.
If geography is equally important as math and science, than why is it being made a “lesser” focus?
I presented recently at the Teacher2Teacher conference in Bow Island, Alberta, Canada. The topic of one of my sessions was: “Geography is All Around Us”
Take a look at the slides and check out the tools and resource links discussed at the presentation for examples how geography can AND should be integrated into other subject areas.
- Twitter- Bus2 Antarctica
- Read Around The World
- In Search of Pachamama
- Google Lit Trips
- Flat Stantley Podcast
- Posterous Blog- Defining Japan
- Teddy Bears Around The World
- What Could It Mean? VoiceThread
- Free Rice
- Math Maps
- Current Events
- Around The World With 80 Schools
How do you integrate Geography into your subject area? How can you upgrade one unit, one lesson or one assignment to integrate geography. What tools are you using? What projects are participating in? Please share you tips and techniques.
Take a look at previous blog posts on Langwitches with examples of Geography integration:
- Geography Awareness Week-Get Lost in Mapping: Find Your Place in the World
- The Logistics of Creating a Current News Events Google Map
- Our Own Private Pirate Island
- News Events Assignment with a Twist
- Map Skills on the SmartBoard
- Framing a Field Trip with Google Earth
- 6 Schools- 6 Countries-1 Hour
- Beyond the Playground: Google Earth for Elementary Students
- Writing a Story in Google Maps
- Connecting the Dots… with Google Earth
- Flat Stanley Podcast
- Podcasting with First Grade
Here are a few tips through Twitter.
Curriculum 21 – Visual Book Review
Cross Posted to Langwitches Blog
I am usually a fast reader, but I have been taking my time with this book. There is not only a wealth of information, but it connects to so many of my thoughts and ideas I have contemplated in my mind as well as on this blog over the last few years. It resonated with me when Heidi Hayes Jacobs says:
a school does not need reform— it needs new forms.
Heidi advocates that
New essential curriculum will need revision- actual replacements of dated content, skills, and assessments with more timely choices.
I really liked her approach when she suggests the distinction between a “growth model” instead of a “change model” that needs to be introduced to a school’s culture.
As I was reading the book (hard copy, not on my Kindle), I was using highlighters to not miss thoughts or quotes that I wanted to remember. It did not take long to realize that I was highlighting too much 🙂 How was I going to get through this book and make sense of it, connect and wrap it around my thoughts which were floating around but had not been verbalized?
I know that I work best through concepts and ideas when I create diagrams or use mind mapping tools. I really like using the SmartArt Graphics in PowerPoint. The visuals below are a summary of what I “read out of the book”, the most important points in my mind and quotes.
- Understanding of knowledge, creation & authority
- Make meaning of information to create new knowledge
- Find, evaluate, organize, interpret & distribute information
- Pattern recognition, critical thinking, perception
- Gather knowledge to become intelligent vs. apply knowledge
- Social production is enabled by power of networks to connect people
- Nature of learning & teaching
- Locating experts & eyewitnesses
- Relationships NOT technologies determine learning
- Enhancing the process of learning to be (Identity)
- Compete. Cooperate & connect with global peers
- Greater understanding of 95% of world’s population
- Knowledge-driven global economy
- Global competency knowledge, language &respect
- Global perspective
- Critical Thinking
- Literary Authority & participatory culture
- Media is shaping the way students think and express themselves
- No longer print-centric world
- Find, analyze, evaluate, organize, remix, store and share media
- Gather data about own learning
- Self-Modifying as lifelong learner
- Alternative assessment tool
- Non-linear learning
- Semantic Web
- Interdisciplinary linkage to real world applications
- Global Connectivity
- Ubiquitous connectivity
- Learning is social
- Collective Intelligence
- Engage students to produce meaningful contributions
- Students making contributions to learning communities
- Establishing & maintaining working relationships
- Tools to share what we learn open up new ways of thinking
- Professional Development
- Nationally/ Internationally
- Foreign Languages
I also like taking quotes and create visuals of them.