Thursday, September 27, 2012

CCSS: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 
7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.*    

I worked in the financial services industry, when the Internet was just taking off. Our clients suddenly had free access to all of the information that they used to pay to get. The question became: Why will clients come to us? The answer was: Wisdom.

Our students, like those clients, are surrounded by knowledge and ideas. The Common Core Standards state that they need to know how to integrate and evaluate this content that comes to them in a variety of media and formats.

Where does this content come from?

  •  Facebook pages (companies, organizations, non-profits, friends)
  • Twitter
  • Websites
  • News apps
  • Search Engines
  • Wikipedia
  • Some even comes from newspapers and books.

The critical thinking skills that are needed to evaluate this content are even more important than they were when we were in school. Why? Access.

They have the world in their pockets.

Think about that.

The books that are in your school library fit on their Kindle – or the Kindle app on their phone. Nearly every newspaper and news outlet in the world is on their Smart Phone, iPad, Kindle Fire, or laptop. They receive news alerts throughout the day on their phones.

How do they analyze, evaluate, and synthesize all of this data? Where do they store it, so that they have easy access to it -- wherever it is they are working on it? How do they cite it? How do they know what is appropriate to use – and what is not? How do they have such easy access to content and not think it’s okay to use it however they want to use it?

It is up to us to facilitate those conversations.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Flexible Communication and Collaboration

Speaking and Listening: Flexible communication and collaboration 
CCSS (p. 8)

Back in the day…we were taught how to give a poster presentation. Know your content. Face your audience. Do not put everything you know on the poster. Express your ideas effectively and succinctly. Be prepared for questions.

Sigh. Now we tell kids to create a slide show (PowerPoint, Keynote, SlideShare…) rather than a presentation. We point them to the tool and the handy layouts, and tell them exactly what we want to see and hear.

In my Strategic and Capable Use of Technology blog post, I talked about how the Common Core Standards tell us that students should “use technology and digital media strategically and capably.”  If we are telling students exactly what to include in a presentation, what type of critical thinking is occurring? They need to be able to select the right tool for the job.

So, rather than assigning a slide show, why not ask them to tell us what they learned about the topic? Rather than a rubric with points for including 3 facts, maybe they should earn points for solving an authentic problem with the content they learned. Their assessment could be a presentation on the problem and how they solved it – using a movie making tool, an iPad app that acts as a recordable whiteboard, or an online (or paper) notebook that walks us through the problem and solution.

The key is to collaborate on the content and the assessment, so that they can effectively communicate their points with “oral, visual, quantitative and media sources.” What is effective for us may not be effective for them. The good news is: they have lots of tools to choose from.

Some tools to consider:
Making Movies


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Understanding Other Perspectives and Cultures

CCSS: They come to understand other perspectives and cultures.

There has been no other time in history, when our students have had easy access to opinions from around the world. With easy access comes the need for critical thinking. Take a look at this recent commercial as evidence:

We can bring experts into the classroom with ease through video conferencing, webinars, and Skype. An international student living in Philadelphia can interact with students in rural Lehighton who are studying her homeland of Columbia. When they ask about travel in the country, she can spontaneously show them a picture of parents riding down a windy mountainous road on a motorcycle with a baby strapped to the mother’s back. Kids studying the natural disasters were able to follow the Twitter hashtag during the tsunami in Japan to see what kids their own age were experiencing through pictures, quotes, and video.

Point of view on a news story varies depending upon where you live. Wondering what people think about an international news story? How are newspapers treating a particular piece of political news? Is there evidence of bias? Newspapers around the world/country are available and easily translated with a click:

If a student has never lived in a city and is reading about an urban location, Google Maps and a simple image search can provide a look into that world. So, when a student from central PA is reading The Cricket in Times Square, a visit to Google Maps Street View shows them this. (If you are new to Google Maps, use your mouse to explore Times Square.)

View Larger Map

Global perspective goes well beyond Social Studies. Collaborative projects are going on around the world. Students are gathering data and sharing it globally, so that students can analyze, evaluate, and synthesize the data. Authentic math and science projects like this give clarity to the question, “Why do I need to learn this?”


The reality of our world is that it is getting smaller and smaller. A global perspective is essential to success.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Collaboration for Introverts


As I watch this TED talk, I am thinking about the focus on collaboration in today's classroom.
  • How do we differentiate for our introverted students? 
  • Which digital tools will work for them, so that they can interact in a manner which is comfortable for them? 
  • How do we take advantage of these tools to give these students an opportunity to share their ideas?
  • When do we provide our students time for deep thought?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Strategic and Capable Use of Techology

CCSS: They use technology and digital media strategically and capably. 

Unless students and educators are exposed to digital tools, how will they make decisions about the strategic use of these tools? Play in a sandbox.

Play in a sandbox?

Teachers are smart; that’s why they are teachers. They are also busy. Part of your PD strategy needs to include building a sandbox.

At what point did we decide that every moment of professional development must include an expert standing in front of the room talking? Who decided that we must focus on one tool? Suppose your PD is focusing on collaboration as a skill, invite your teachers to a day of play. Take 5 minutes to introduce a collaboration tool. Then take another 5 minutes to introduce a second one. After you’ve introduced a few, give them the chance to play. Require them to collaborate with each other to share how they could use this tool professionally, personally, and with their students. Then, give them the time to do it. Build an online collaborative workspace where they will share their work with the other teachers at the conclusion of the day.

Pennsylvania is filled with wikis. Teachers have been using wikis for at least 6 years now. When CFF Coaches introduced the wiki concept to students, most of the kids had never used a wiki. The same is true for Google Docs. The ins and outs of these tools come naturally to our students, once they are exposed to them. Then, once exposed, they need to be given the freedom to choose the right tool for the job. If they are expert in using one movie making tool, then why are we forcing them to use another? The tool doesn’t matter. It’s what students do with it that matters.

If a student knows how to use a tool more effectively and efficiently than you or another student, take advantage of that knowledge. Encourage them to share. There is so much out there; none of us can be expected to be experts in everything. It’s about using the right tool at the right time to effectively and creatively communicate your message or to critically analyze the problem to be solved.

It's about being strategic and capable.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CCSS: Digital Tools as Part of the Whole

From the CCSS
Research and media skills blended into the Standards as a whole 

We are getting closer. The Common Core State Standards address the use of digital tools in the classroom. There is not a separate set of standards called “technology”.  Instead, the skills – research and media skills – are blended into the standards as a whole. At first I was concerned about that; however, once I took a deep dive into the standards, I realized that this is the way it should be. Think about the whole.

Those of us who understand that the promise of technology is to transform education also realize that the promise has been there for 25-30 years. We also know that this promise has not been realized. Why? One of the reasons is that we’ve been treating technology as something extra – something we need to talk about separately from education. Teacher professional development was on tools rather than on pedagogy or critical thinking skills that could be transformed with technology. We offered Wacky Wiki Wednesdays rather than Building a Collaborative Workspace to Enhance Research. We’ve also been using brand new tools to do the same things we’ve been doing for 50 years. All we did was add electricity. These tools do things that we never before knew was possible. So, why have we been using them to do the same old stuff? One of the reasons is because the skills and tools that our students need in this economy, in this connected world, in their world have been called technology and, as a result, treated separately.

We are getting closer. The Common Core State Standards treat them as part of the whole.

This series of blog posts will talk about how your district can blend these skills into the Standards.