Curriculum21 Podcast – Episode 6

Mike Fisher takes you along as he explores Today’s Meet, a web 2.0 tool, that allows teachers and learners to collaboratively take notes, backchannel and embed into various media platforms.


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Curriculum21 Podcast – Episode 5

Episode 5:
Philip Vinodradov is a science teacher at the William Tennett High School in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Philip’s extensive of use of social networking tools and wikis has extended the walls of his classroom and created an authentic online learning community for his students.  Each chapter in this podcast highlights particular areas of Philip’s leveraging the power of social networking with his students.
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Podcast Highlights:
  • “Early Adapter” Teachers: Minute 10:33
  • The Web 1.0 Webquest is Dated: Minute 13:18
  • One to One Classrooms: Minute 16:46
  • Social Networking in the Classroom: Minute: 21:41

Curriculum21 Podcast – Episode 4

Episode 4:

Heidi Hayes Jacobs discusses with Bill Sheskey the global impact of the ASCD book Curriculum 21: An Essential Education for a Changing World.

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Curriculum21 Podcast – Episode 3

Episode 03:

Screencast of using the Video Conference tool Skype. Follow Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano along with tips for using Skype in the classroom.

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Curriculum21 Podcast – Episode 2

Curriculum21 Practices in Action.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, Mike Fisher and Bill Sheskey visit the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, Florida. They observe a Middle School Language Arts lesson and participate in a discussion about the responsibility of journalism in the Digital Age. The Curriculum21 team learned about quality commenting on a blog from a video created by third graders  and hear about the upgraded writing lesson necessary for the creation of the video. Finally the team has a chance to speak to the Head of School, Jon Mitzmacher, and learn about his vision for the school to become a Curriculum21 school.


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Curriculum21 Podcast – Episode 1

Subscribe to the Curriculum21 Podcast Channel in iTunes.

Mike Fischer & Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano talk about the recent Curriculum Mapping Institute Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. A different kind of conference who successfully embedded social media and networking to model upgrades for 21st Century Learning.

Listen to interviews with Janet Hale, Jen Laubsch and Adam Bellow (Presenters and attendees of CMI2010) and hear their perspective of 21st Century learning, presenting and conferences.


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Preparing Our Kids for 1982 : Time Traveling through Testing

Cross posted to ASCD Edge

Are your students time-traveling on testing day? Back to the 1980’s- let’s go.

If your tests are overwhelmingly multiple choice, fill in the blank, short constructed essay, longer extended essay whether open book or open note, then welcome back to the old days.   I did some archival research online and found tests and items that went back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and found that they are identical TYPES of assessment to present day assessments.  In many instances, they are identical in content as well.

Not only are the types of tests the same, too often so are the tools.  We continue to venerate the #2 pencil.   I wonder, when the pencil was invented, did  kids have to go to PENCIL-LAB?… Did they march  down the hall to the lab, return to the classroom, pick up their quills, dip them in an inkwell and proceed back to “work”?

Is there hope?  Yes, I am reminded of the state of Rhode Island’s policy of graduation by proficiency with a student developed digitalized portfolio beginning with the primary grades through to graduation.  I would direct readers to the CCSSO EdSteps project with a remarkable new way to collect a national pool of student work. Authentic dynamic assessments are emerging in pockets and in classrooms around the country.  Let’s surface them prominently and especially those that are geared toward 2020.  Curriculum 21 calls for upgrading on all levels- one replacement at a time.   Are our student assessments reflecting moderns forms of media and contemporary issues? Some argue that new forms diminish the traditional skills, I disagree.  If our students are engaged then we will see better quality basics.   We can and must show reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills- whether in a web 2.0 application or creating a documentary.  If a student cannot read, he or she cannot read a computer screen.   The great fundamentals of the past need to be lifted into 2011.

On our C-21 Clearinghouse at the Curriculum 21 website we have posted open access tagged interactive tools for educators to try new approaches to engage their learners.  We see this also as opportunity to update assessment practice as well.  (For example, Take a look at gapminder and see how you might use it to engage your students in meeting an array of standards.)  We are beginning a new project with ASCD on collecting upgraded projects from teachers around the world to share and to inspire us all moving forward. We will keep you posted on this one!

We need to choose our century.   The students have chosen theirs.

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…

Facebok Group with over 16,000 members :I bet 90% if the Stuff we learn in School, I will never use again

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.

Adapted from Alan November (pp.188-193), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.

Here are examples of

  1. Tutorial Designers
  2. Official Scribes
  3. Collaboration Coordinators
  4. Researches
  5. Contributors to Society
  6. 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.

Adapted from Tim Tyson (p. 130), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.

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”.
His school’s

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

Learning from a book

Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs

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.

Learning from a book

Stickies and Highlights

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.

Resource Links:
Google Maps
Google Earth
Wikis Blogs


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:

Here are a few tips through Twitter.