Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Are the questions you're asking important to your students...or just you?

Most educators would agree that engagement and commitment, while elusive, are crucial to getting great work, thinking and attention from students. In pursuit of that teachers often set about the process of following their passions in planning lessons and units with the hope that students will jump on board with the same vigor when unveiled. Sometimes this magically lines up perfectly and the class buys what you're selling but oftentimes the lack of student enthusiasm leads to great disappointment.

This is no different when it comes to Project Based Learning. In the spirit of planning with the end in mind it's easy to lose focus on what will ignite student excitement, passion and interest. Our thinking often goes straight to our content and standards when creating a Driving Question and thinking of what questions we want our students to answer and things they Need to Know. Many teachers think in terms of Essential Questions or Enduring Understandings or even Overarching Questions and while these are often very helpful and important to teachers, are they important to students? In a recent blog post clarifying UbD's essential questions vs. the new Social Studies C3 Framework's compelling questions Grant Wiggins used this language when describing essential questions - History teachers often define “essential” as “essential to me and my course as a history teacher.” With this in mind I often prompt teachers planning projects to think about planning from this perspective: 

What question(s) can we ask students that are important enough to them that they will ask and answer the questions important to teachers?

For example, a social studies essential question like, Should _______ (e.g., immigration, media expression) be restricted or regulated? When? Who decides? is definitely worth answering and something that we would want students to wrestle with but how many students will be enthusiastic about doing so? What if instead we asked How might we host an immigration roundtable in our community? Without assuming that this necessarily would ignite student interest you could see, with an emotionally engaging Entry Event, how putting this question in a local context might grab students while getting them to engage with the original essential question important to teachers. 

Moving to science, another essential question like Is Aging a Disease? might be reframed by asking students something like What if we could stop Aging? and had an authentic audience ask them to create a TED Talk like event to showcase their thinking? Again, I'm not saying that this idea would necessarily hook students, that is something each teacher has to gauge, find and plan for. That being said, finding ways to contextualize what essential questions are asking can be a true ally in getting students to do great work and thinking. 

Great teaching and learning is inherently academically and intellectually engaging but it's important to remember that many students aren't interested in playing school and need the emotional hook to give them a reason to begin their work. And really if we as teachers approach it from the perspective of it being "their work" and not ours by asking great questions that compel them to tackle real world problems and issues important to them what would that do to generate vigor and craftsmanship? 

Interested in learning more about project based learning?

Visit the PEC web site.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Event: Project Based Learning in Advanced Placement Hangout on Air 12/18/14 3:30 EST

Join us as we discuss teaching Advanced Placement courses through the lens of PBL using Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube!

To RSVP and be reminded visit the Google+ Event Page.

Our Panelists

Lynn Brown has been a public school teacher for the last 22 years at Huntington County Community School Corporation in Huntington, IN with the opportunity to teach Middle School United States History and at the High School level Dual Credit/AP American Studies, AP Psychology, World History, Economics, and Government.  She is the Social Studies Department Chair at Huntington North High School and is currently teaching in a full Project Based Learning environment, school within a school at Viking New Tech/Huntington North High School with a focus on Dual Credit/AP American Studies, Economics and Government.

Lynn is also an Adjunct Professor of Dual Credit American Studies, Certified New Tech Network Facilitator, Licensed Special Needs Teacher and High Ability Coach for Middle School and High School. A consultant in the areas of Thinking Maps, Beginning Teacher Support, Systems Thinking, Differentiation of Instruction, Deliberation, Global Studies, and Action Research Lynn was formally employed by the Indiana Department of Education Beginning Teacher Portfolio License process as a Scoring Trainer and Lead Calibration Scorer, as well as a Higher Education Program Reviewer in the area of Social Studies.

*Note - We were also joined by Lynn's teaching partner James Steensma.

Dayna Laur is the author of Authentic Learning Experiences: A Real World Approach to Project Based Learning. She is a veteran high school social studies teacher of fourteen years where she has implemented numerous Authentic Learning Experiences in her co-taught special education classes, Advanced Placement courses, and mainstream social studies classes. During her teaching tenure she has been featured in Edutopia’s Schools That Work series and as a model teacher for Authentic Learning as produced by the National Institute for Professional Practice. She currently serves as a Senior National Faculty member for the Buck Institute for Education and travels nationally and internationally to train teachers on effective implementation of Project Based Learning. She has a BA in History from VA Tech, a MEd. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Pittsburgh, and a MSEd. in 21st Century Teaching and Learning from Wilkes University. She is also a two-time National Board Certified teacher. She has written articles that have appeared in Tech-Edge and EARCOS Journal. In addition to Authentic Learning Experiences, Dayna’s educational interests include the implementation of the Common Core Standards and technology integration. You can follow her on Twitter @daylynn.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Event: Innovation in Education Hangout on Air 11/21/14 3:30 EST

Join us for this exciting panel discussion on Innovation in Education featuring three great voices of innovation using Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube!

Our Panelists

Courtney O'Connell is a rising thought leader on the topic of disruptive innovation. Her TEDx talk “Go All In on Education,” and blogs on The Huffington Post are provoking a national conversation about innovation in education. She has extensive experience building the digital capabilities of organizations, and serves as a leader on the American College Personnel Association’s Presidential Task Force on Digital Technology in Higher Education.

O’Connell helped develop & publish the student focused book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube. She also serves as Editor to Socialnomics.com, ranked as a Top 10 Blog by PC Magazine. In 2014, Courtney published her first book Slide Design for Non-Designers which is currently for sale on the iBookstore.

She has been featured in MeetingsNet Magazine, The Huffington Post, and RuleBreaker Magazine for her role as a change agent in the U.S. education system. Courtney served as a professor of leadership at Rutgers University and has guest lectured in a variety of graduate courses. She approaches each speaking engagement as an opportunity to give the audience a new perspective or new way of thinking about their work, as well as an opportunity to give them tangible ideas they can begin implementing immediately.

Currently, she is working alongside best-selling author Erik Qualman as the Director of Business Design where she is developing and distributing digital leadership content that is educating the world.  She also teaches 5 Habits of Innovative Educators eCourse and you can use this link that includes a promo code for $20 off https://www.udemy.com/5-habits-edu/?couponCode=5habits20

Don Wettrick is an Innovation Specialist at Noblesville High School, just outside Indianapolis, IN. He is the author of “Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level”. Wettrick has worked as a middle school and high school teacher; educational and innovation consultant; and educational speaker. Don is passionate about helping students find their educational opportunities and providing them with the digital tools they need to give them a competitive edge.

Don has lectured across the US and Europe about collaboration, social media use, and work environments that enable innovation. He also hosts an internet radio program, InnovatED, for the BAM! Radio Network.  Most importantly Don works with educators and students to bring innovation and collaborative skills into education.

Don lives in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, Alicia, and three children: Ava, Anna, and Grant. You can find him on Twitter @donwettrick where he tweets updates on his student’s innovation work.

Terry Heick is a teacher from Kentucky interested in what people are for, how people learn, and how we might reimagine teaching and learning for a modern world. He is a former classroom teacher of middle and high school English, and currently serves as Director for TeachThought.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Event: Project Based Learning in Preschool Hangout on Air 11/6/14 2:00p EST

Join us as we discuss teaching Preschool through the lens of PBL in a Spanish immersion environment using Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube!

To RSVP and be reminded visit the Google+ Event Page.

Our Panelist

Suania Sarraga was born and grew up in Puerto Rico receiving her BA in Education with a major in biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. While earning my Bachelors degree I worked as an assistant in AlaCiMa, a program that trains public school teachers in science and math using the PBL methodology. She graduated from college with a 3.9 average in June 2008 and started working as a teacher in K-4 “Angel David College” where she taught all subjects. She moved to Dallas Texas in 2010, and began taking ESL classes to further her career as an educator.

Suania started working as a Preschool Spanish teacher at Spanish House in August 2010. Spanish House added an elementary school and shifted from a traditional preschool to an authentic experiences and inquiry based program that uses the PBL methodology.  She notes, "The transition was extremely challenging but after three years, with lots of support and guidance I have come out on the other side a better educator. Having an in-house support and leader who pushed me to make the necessary changes in my teaching practices allowed me to take risks and feel safe about it, without that I am not sure I would have stuck with it. I am now a mentor teacher and am beginning my journey as a trainer."