I loved this assignment! It provided the perfect opportunity to think strategically about how to weave together some truly amazing tools for differentiation into a year-long emphasis on informational text. Throughout the year, students will read selections appropriate to their Lexile ranges in Newsela, interact with question and prompt-embedded media via Zaption and Actively Learn, record vocabulary learning and development via Quizlet and Padlet, and work collaboratively to visualize key ideas and details via Piktochart infographics. Interaction with peers and the teacher will occur via Actively Learn and Blackboard, and NoRedInk will serve as a meaningful "If-Time" activity for those fast readers to learn and practice application of mechanics/usage/grammar skills.
Essential Question: How can I use both formative and summative assessment to enhance (or at least not interfere with) intrinsic motivation?
Ah, the irony of this week's topic. So much of my current role in education revolves around assessment -- but not necessarily the kind that inspires students or supports intrinsic motivation...for students or their teachers. As a District Testing Coordinator, I spend hundreds of hours each year attending trainings, reading manuals, preparing materials, providing workshops, monitoring testing sessions, compiling reports, and evaluating data related to myriad state and district assessments. After many years in the classroom, then as a building administrator, and now as a district-level leader, I see value in assessments, in general. I agree with Linda Bond's observation in our reading this week: "Public demands for accountability, and consequently for high standardized test scores, are not going to disappear" (1996). The climate of education in the U.S. includes high-stakes tests...and that's that. I don't foresee these types of assessments going away, so I have learned to embrace the data generated by these measures (though I do believe the amount of time spent on summative assessments like these is out of control).
James Popham has long been an assessment-thinker with whom I share many beliefs. He hits it on the nose when he writes, "To support actionable instructional decisions about how best to teach students, norm-referenced inferences simply don't cut it" (2014, p. 64). NRTs have their place; I believe it is important for educators, parents, and students themselves to know how they stack up when compared to others of the same age or grade. However, if we really want assessment to make a difference in the classroom, then assessment must play a role much larger than just providing an official measure for a student's cumulative folder or report card.
Vicki Davis (take a moment to bow down in awe) notes in an Edutopia blog post, "Good teachers in every subject will adjust their teaching based upon what students know at each point. Good formative assessment remove the embarrassment of public hand raising and gives teachers feedback that impacts how they're teaching at that moment" (2015). Amen, sister! Common Sense Graphite, Davis, Dyer, and Brown provide list after list of free and low-cost tools that measure what students are learning, provide instant feedback, engage students, and help build intrinsic motivation because the feedback happens now, when the students need it most.
Bond, L. A. (1996). Norm-and Criterion-Referenced Testing. ERIC/AE Digest. Retrieved from:http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-1/norm.htm
Brown, P. (2015). EdTech Tools Get Creative with Formative Assessments. edSurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/n/2015-01-12-edtech-tools-to-get-creative-with-formative-assessments
Common Sense Graphite. (Retrieved 18 Apr 2015). Top Tech Tools for Formative Assessment. Common Sense Education. Retrieved from https://www.graphite.org/top-picks/top-tech-tools-for-formative-assessment
Davis, V. (2015). 5 Fantastic, Fast, Formative Assessment Tools. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-fast-formative-assessment-tools-vicki-davis
Dyer, K. (2014). 33 Digital Tools for Advancing Formative Assessment in the Classroom. Teach. Learn. Grow. NWEA Education Blog. Retrieved from https://www.nwea.org/blog/2014/33-digital-tools-advancing-formative-assessment-classroom/
Hatboro-Horsham School District. (2013). Understanding Formative Assessments. YouTube video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab4hbIsOonU
Kohn, A. (2008). Who’s Cheating Whom? Phi Delta Kappan. Retrieved from: http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/whos-cheating/ 13 April 2015.
Popham, J. (2014). Criterion-Referenced Measurement: Half a Century Wasted? Educational Leadership, 71(6), 62-68. Retrieved from Egan Library http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=94925708&login.asp&site=ehost-live
Tomlinson, Carol Ann, and Moon, Tonya R. (2013) Chapter 6: Assessment, Grading and Differentiation. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest ebrary. Web. Retrieved from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=135&docID=10774725&tm=1428975296051 13 April 2015.
Essential Question: What is brain-based learning and how can it inform problem based learning and differentiation?
Over the course of the last 15 years, I have read a great deal about brain-based learning (with interest in the topic beginning during a school-wide action research project in 2000), but pairing brain-based learning research with problem-based learning and differentiation this week helps make all of it even more important as an impetus for change in education that could surely result in increased learning and achievement for all students.
In my experience, when teachers and administrators think about "differentiation," they see the faces of a few students in their collective minds' eye: They think of "those kids" who need something else, slightly modified to fit a special learning need, a desire for enrichment, etc. Jensen's research flips this idea on its head: . "Almost 90% of human brains are atypical, damaged or in some way not healthy. ... Instead of there being mostly 'typical' students with some with 'differences,' the brain research tells us the opposite" (Jensen, 2014). Differentiation shouldn't be something that happens for some students in the classroom; rather, it should be the norm for all students, as the research overwhelmingly supports how different the vast majority of students in a given classroom really are.
I am fascinated by the research Jensen cites related to the impact of technology in strengthening a human being's cognitive capacity. "Completing tasks administered by computer-aided instructional programs that have subjects identify, count, and remember objects and hold those objects' locations in their working memories can increase attention and improve working memory within several weeks, even generalizing to improve performance on other memory tasks and an unrelated reasoning task" (p. 57).
Sitting and getting may have worked for many adults currently serving as teachers in K-12 classrooms, but the research is clear that strictly lecture-based instruction for hours on end just isn't the most effective path to student learning. Especially for students living in poverty and struggling learners, we must incorporate strategies and approaches that support high expectations, variety, and the use of research-supported instructional strategies should be non-negotiable. "We must stop using low IQ as an excuse for giving up on children and instead provide positive, enriching experiences that build their academic operating systems. Students' brains don't change from more of the same" (Jensen, 2009, p. 65).
Technology can definitely serve as a powerful tool for learning that is both brain-friendly and practical in problem-based learning environments and for differentiation. Tech tools allow teachers to customize learning for students while providing them with opportunities to preview, prime, review, repeat, and practice in ways that is not humanly possible for a single teacher in a classroom with more than one student. It provides students with both safe, appropriately paced, and relevant learning activities that are "just right" for each student. In addition, it offers students chances for "trial-and-error learning" that Jensen notes as being important.
In addition, empowering students to learn for themselves by learning about their own learning should be part of every classroom, K-12. Dr. Donna Wilson writes, "A student who is excited about being in the driver's seat and steering toward learning success may well be destined to become an independent thinker on the way to charting a responsible course for school, career, and life. Being metacognitive can be likened to being more conscious, reflective, and aware of one's progress along the learning path." Jensen's research and writing support intentional teaching and support of metacognitive activities in the classroom, as well. "Encourage students to set their own goals, share them with others, and talk about why they chose them" (2005, p. 37). Don't allow students to be passive "fillers of space" in the classroom; instead, we must ensure that classrooms are places where students are not only encountering content and tasks that are appropriately designed and differentiated for them, but where that learning matters to them. When students are encouraged to engage in thinking about their thinking, they will discover the connections between and among content areas, lessons, units, and real life.
Edutopia. (2015). Brain-Based Learning: Resource Roundup. Retrieved on 10 Apr 2015 from http://www.edutopia.org/article/brain-based-learning-resources#graph4
Jensen, E. (2011). Brain-Based Learning. YouTube video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyYhoCqo58w
Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest ebrary. http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=6&docID=10089220&tm=1428258945648
Jensen, E. (2009). Teaching with Poverty in Mind : What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest ebrary. Retrieved from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=28&docID=10375878&tm=1428259489468
Jensen, E. (2014). Guide to Brain-Based Teaching. Jensen Learning. Retrieved from http://www.jensenlearning.com/pdf/10MostEffectiveTips.pdf
Wilson, D. (2014). Metacognition: The Gift that Keeps Giving. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/metacognition-gift-that-keeps-giving-donna-wilson-marcus-conyers
Essential Question: Where do opportunities for differentiation exist within the Lord of the Flies and Mazerunner scenarios?
For both of the #diffimooc tools, I focused on creating differentiation strategies that would support students outside of Minecraft. Having spoken with students who were involved in #Givercraft last fall, I know that students become engaged with the text as a result of the project...but I also want to ensure they have plenty of opportunities to think about what they are reading, process it with their peers, and make sense of the characters, plot, setting, etc., before, during and, after engaging in the Minecraft scenarios.
For both Lord of the Flies and The Maze Runner, I created activities to go along with each one of the scenarios that will require students to discuss the text and work with classmates to complete tasks related to both the novel and the challenge presented in the scenario. The online tools I selected to use with each scenario are fairly simple to use, require no sign-in (with the exception of Piktochart, which is free), and lend themselves to creative text-based responses based on students' reading and understanding of the text. The English teacher in me just can't emphasize enough the number of opportunities I believe students need to think critically and demonstrate their understanding via the written word.
References & Resources:
Essential question: What was the impact of my diffi-tool on Givercraft students & teachers; what should I change for Survivorcraft to ensure that my intervention is effective?
In some ways, I am working backwards in this course. Early in the semester, I fell dreadfully behind -- in part because of a family emergency that took me out of state and completely through my routine into chaos, and in part because I was so paralyzed by the Minecraft aspect of the course that I honestly didn't know how to proceed with some of the assignments. As I have observed, dabbled in Minecraft, received some tutorial assistance from middle school students, and read my #diffimooc colleagues' posts, I have slowly come to "get it." (Slowly.) I didn't create a diffi-tool for Givercraft; after all, the entire project was connected to Minecraft, and since I knew nothing (less than nothing?!) about Minecraft, how in the world could I contribute? Conversations with a teacher whose students participated in the Givercraft project, and casual chats with a few of the students themselves, helped me understand that one important tool is not necessarily for the students themselves, but for their parents. Parents need to understand what PBL is all about and how it benefits their students. They also need resources that help them see what a PBL experience will mean for their students.
As teachers prepare for PBL experiences in their classrooms, the assessment piece must be front-and-center ... and it cannot be an afterthought! I love what Timperley has to say about assessment: "Without the mindset that evidence is for improvement purposes, the evidence tends to remain in filing cabinets, computers and other places at a great psychological and emotional distance from what is actually happening in the classroom" (p. 2). If assessment checkpoints have been embedded throughout a learning experience, parents will feel more confident that the project is legitimate, the learning is rigorous, and the outcome will be worthwhile.
A PBL misconception noted by Boss is that "projects just aren't rigorous." Boss writes, "Teachers who are new to PBL (and parents who don't understand the different between projects and PBL) sometimes need convincing that students will, indeed, master academics this way." This may be one of the most challenging hurdles for teachers to overcome ... and it surely is a challenge experienced by the teacher in my district who participated in Givercraft last fall. Parents asked, "Minecraft is a game, right? How can Minecraft have anything to do with language arts?" In a recent conversation with the teacher, he spoke about how much students learned -- not about Minecraft (they knew how to play before the project began) -- but about the novel, close analysis of the text, character development, plot, and about working with peers in their own classroom and all those involved in the Givercraft project. Once the project was over, parents understood that their students learned a lot and demonstrated their learning in new ways ... yet they still questioned the "game" part of the project. This is fascinating in so many ways: There may be no measurable cognitive growth as a result of a traditional "pull out the construction paper and make a poster" type activity, but parents (and other teacher) are o.k. with this type of "project" because it is comfortable and one they are familiar with; yet when students engaged in a game -- especially one with which parents and other teachers were not familiar with -- the legitimacy of the project was questioned.
The U.S. Department of Education report (2013) states, "There is a trade-off between having enough past use of a digital learning resource to have generated strong evidence of effectiveness and the extent to which the intervention is new and potentially transformational. ... If digital learning resources are implemented only when confidence levels are high, technology innovation may never occur in education" (p. 4). The Givercraft experience and observation made by the classroom teacher is a perfect example. There is not a huge amount of research demonstrating that using a game like Minecraft to teach about a novel and literary elements is effective; however, if the teacher would have waited until the data was there to back up his decision to participate, his students would have missed out on an incredible experience to learn.
"As students are responsible for their own learning in PBL setting, students learn self-reflection where they become proficient in assessing their own progression in learning and also peer-assessment on how to effectively provide constructive feedback to their peers" (Tai and Chan, p. 983). The power of projects like Givercraft, for example lies in the opportunities they provide for students to learn ... and to learn about how they learn, as well as to teach their peers, which results in another kind of learning.
Timperley (2010) writes, "Creating the kinds of conditions in schools in which teachers systematically use evidence to inform their practice for the benefit of students requires that they teach in contexts in which such practice becomes part of the organizational routines" (p. 8). This evidence comes from both formative and summative assessments. For educators to have a complete picture of student learning, the evidence must be gathered and reviewed across time, and it must be varied. "Informal evidence collected by teachers as they observe students and mark their work can be just as powerful in this process as formal assessments" (Timperley, p. 4).
Macdonald's (2005) section on "Thinking Strategically About Assessment" provides a great list of questions and recommendations that prompt careful consideration of the why, when, and how of assessment. Similarly, the list of assessment tools and types is interesting and would certainly be a great resource for educators to reference frequently as they design courses, units, and daily instruction. Perhaps these lists and reminders/recommendations are most significant for educators who have been at it for a while and have "standard" assessment practices that they use again and again, at the expense of providing students with alternative means of demonstrating their learning. Macdonald notes, "There may be a lot of 'un-learning' and letting go to be done by both students and tutors before there is genuine alignment of assessment with the learning goals and principles and practices of enquiry and Problem-based learning" (p. 92).
Boss, S. (17 Oct 2014). Time to debunk those PBL myths. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/time-debunk-those-pbl-myths-suzie-boss
Edutopia. (25 June 2014). Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning. YouTube video. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/video/five-keys-rigorous-project-based-learning
Macdonald, R. (2005). Chapter from Handbook of Enquiry & Problem Based Learning. Barrett, T., Mac Labhrainn, I., Fallon, H. (Eds). Galway: CELT, 2005. Released under Creative Commons licence. Attribution Non-Commercial 2.0. Some rights reserved. Retrieved from http://www.nuigalway.ie/celt/pblbook/chapter9.pdf
Tai, G, and Chan, M. (2007). Authentic Assessment Strategies in Problem Based Learning. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/tai.pdf
Timperley, H. (2010). Using Evidence in the Classroom for Professional Learning. Paper presented to the Ontario Research Symposium. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Pedagogy-and-assessment/Evidence-based-leadership/Data-gathering-and-analysis/Using-evidence-in-the-classroom
U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology. (2013). Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in a Digital World. Retrieved from http://tech.ed.gov/files/2013/02/Expanding-Evidence-Approaches.pdf
Vega, V. (3 Dec 2012). Project-Based Learning Research Review. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pbl-research-learning-outcomes
Essential question: What practical structures could we use to implement PBL in our classrooms?
My experiences as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, administrator, and professional development provider have taught me something important about PBL (meaning project- or problem-based learning): It is messy and complicated and confusing -- things that every self-respecting educator tries hard to avoid. As educators, we work hard to create environments where we're in charge and where things go according to plan. We devise structures and routines in our classrooms and schools so that each class period and each school day ticks along according to a carefully crafted agenda. And when it gets messy, complicated, or confusing, there is a sense that we have failed, something has gone wrong, and students can't possibly have learned what we intended for them to learn.
Thankfully, lots of smart people have done research about PBL and structures that can help make the messy nature more organized...and provide evidence that the extra work and time involved in planning is worth it. The first and, very likely, most difficult that must occur for PBL to be a positive experience for all stakeholders is in the mindset of the teacher. Ertmer and Simons note that teachers "tend to have a broader set of management responsibilities" in PBL classrooms than in traditional settings (p. 42), and that success with PBL "depends on the willingness and ability of teachers to change the way they control the class (pgs. 43-44).
Hmelo-Silver calls problem-based learning "experiential" (p. 236). "Experience" implies that the learning is hands-on -- definitely an aspect of PBL that makes the process of planning and facilitating experiences for students more challenging than traditional sage-on-the-stage or sit-and-get content delivery. The model provided by English and Kitsantas (at right) illustrates the shift in teacher and student roles in a PBL experience. As a unit or learning experience continues over time, the teacher's "front and center" role in the classroom changes while student ownership increases. Teachers become facilitators and guides. The first question in any teacher's mind upon encountering this model is surely, "But...HOW?"
"Posthole" units, as described by Ertmer and Simons (p. 43), provide a great introduction to how to begin with PBL; in addition, the structure for posthole units could be used during a professional development workshop so that educators could experience PBL first-hand in a safe and structured setting. Smaller problem-based units that begin with good questions would help teachers and administrators to understand the structure, purpose, and role changes inherent in PBL structure.
English and Katsantas' section on "Practical Application of the PBL-SRL Theoretical Framework" is a must-read for educators wishing to learn more about how to build meaningful PBL experiences in their classrooms (pgs. 137-144). The three phases (Project Launch, Guided Inquiry and Product/Solution Creation, and Project/Problem Conclusion) are carefully explained and well-defined, allowing educators not only to understand the phases, but to envision how problem-based learning and student-regulated learning (SRL) go hand-in-hand...as well as how to develop an environment that supports both.
Block's blog post states the obvious related to feedback on student work, but it is so very important when teachers are planning PBL experiences for their students: "Grading thousands of projects has taught me that feedback given after a project is completed has much less of an impact than conferences and consultations that take place during the project's stages of creation." So true! Providing feedback only after a student has hit "submit" or handed in a project and wiped the sweat from his brow can be meaningless when it comes to helping the student learn along the way. Feedback and conversation with individual students and small groups during the course of the learning will result in far more learning than summative grades when it's all over. This in-process focus on face-to-face, real-time feedback for learning was a common refrain in the research and articles read this week (English & Kitsantas, 2013; Ertmer & Simons 2006; Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Jones, 2006; Solomon, 2003).
Processes and rituals are also described by Ertmer and Simons. The description of how two university instructors structured the development of artifacts as assignments helps put the "messiness" of a PBL classroom into a framework that sounds do-able: "While each artifact [created for the course] was distinct, the process, or ritual, students employed to develop each artifact was similar: brainstorm ideas, narrow the focus, represent priorities in an authentic manner, obtain instructor feedback, and revise for final submission" (p. 44). A list like this immediately brings to mind an orderly table or chart with each part of the process as a heading and standards, texts, tasks, and products in columns underneath. Educators needing the assurance that a way of learning that looks different will result in learning may find comfort in such structure (I know I would!).
Finally, Solomon suggests that "Technology enables PBL" by making available the tools that lead student to more organized planning, tracked and archived collaboration, access to resources and research materials, and media for presentation of learning that may not be available with traditional tools. Students use technology to "gather information from a variety of sources and synthesize, analyze, and derive knowledge from it." Furthermore, technology allows students to publish their work and learning online "for review by real audiences, not just a single teacher, class, or school." Not only does PBL provide excellent means to the end of differentiation, but it is an approach to learning that leverages technology to open the windows to the world to students on a daily basis.
Block, J. (26 Feb. 2015). 5 PBL Best Practices for Redefining the Teacher's Role. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-practices-redefining-teachers-role-josh-block on March 13, 2015.
English, C., & Kitsantas, A. (2013). Supporting student self-regulated learning in problem- and project-based learning." Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 7(2), 6. Retrieved from http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=90663292&site=eds-live on March 13, 2015.
Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2006). Jumping the PBL implementation hurdle: Supporting the efforts of K–12 teachers. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 1(1), 5. Retrieved from: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=ijpbl&sei-redir=1&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%26q%3Dimplementing%2BPBL%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C2#search=%22implementing%20PBL%22 on March 13, 2015.
Hmelo-Silver, Cindy E. “Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn?.” Educational psychology review 16.3 (2004): 235-266. Retrieved from: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=13682403&site=ehost-live on March 13, 2015.
Jones, R. W. (2006). Problem-based learning: description, advantages, disadvantages, scenarios and facilitation. Anaesthesia and intensive care,34(4), 485. Retrieved from: http://www.biomedsearch.com/article/Problem-based-learning-description-advantages/188739780.html On March 13, 2015.
Solomon, G. (2003). Project-based learning: A primer. Technology and Learning, 23(6), 20-20. Retrieved from: http://pennstate.swsd.wikispaces.net/file/view/pbl-primer-www_techlearning_com.pdf on March 13, 2015.
Essential Question: How does project-based learning lend itself to differentiation in the classroom?
Educators who have spent time engaging their students in project-based work in the classroom realize that opportunities for differentiation are boundless when the tasks at hand extend beyond a single lesson, a prescribed worksheet, or a cut-and-dried instruction/assessment round of learning. Projects done well engage students in learning; they inspire students to invest in giving more than they might with a "typical" assignment; they provide opportunities for learners to do things differently, depending on who they are and how they learn. The text selections and my own research for Week 8 support these experience-based beliefs.
Harris (2009) describes the power of PBL when she writes,“Project-based learning goes beyond hands-on learning by including six necessary elements": A driving question, student development of an artifact or task, collaborative research, a community of inquiry, presentation to an authentic audience, and the use of technology tools for cognition and communication (pgs. 8-9). An examination of the six elements begs for differentiation; in fact, variety and differentiation is so inherent in some of these elements that it would nearly impossible to create a one-size-fits-all PBL experience while still including the six necessary elements noted by Harris.
Similarly, Miller explains, “Project-Based Learning (PBL) naturally lends itself to differentiated instruction. By design, it is student-centered, student-driven, and gives space for teachers to meet the needs of students in a variety of ways" (2014).
Miller’s specific differentiation strategies to utilize during PBL activities include:
When we take the time to create learning experiences for students and intentionally consider how learning to tackle and solve problems contributes to lasting understandings, we have gone far beyond the traditional daily "task" of school. I enjoyed reading Brammer and Morton's research, in part because they are from Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota (my college's rival but also post-secondary home to many friends and colleagues). While the authors studied college-age students, the application to and implications for K-12 settings are significant: Learners engaged in authentic project-based learning "are capable of student-led projects in communities and ... the learning that results from their individual passion and initiative is invaluable. Student interest in civic engagement and ability for sophisticated performance and reflection presents an opportunity for us as educators to provide students with experiences and training to ensure that they are well-equipped for fulfilling lives that benefit the communities of which they are a part” (Brammer and Morton, 2014, p. 18).
When charged with real problems and tasked with discovering real solutions, students are capable of engaging with their learning in ways we might never otherwise imagine. And when students are that engaged, there are numerous access points for us, as educators, to differentiate, customize, and personalize learning so that students can develop basic skills and grow as problem-solvers and competent young people all along the way.
Brammer, L. R., & Morton, A. (2014). Course-Based Civic Engagement: Understanding Student Perspectives and Outcomes. International Journal for the scholarship of teaching and learning, 8(1), 9. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1147&context=ij-sotl&sei-redir=1&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%26q%3Dproject%2Bbased%2Blearning%2Bpassion%2Bbased%2Blearning%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C2%26as_ylo%3D2014#search=%22project%20based%20learning%20passion%20based%20learning%22
Harris, D. (2014). Meeting the needs of students with varied learning styles through project-based learning. Retrieved from: http://csusm-dspace.calstate.edu/handle/10211.3/122029
Miller, A. (2012). Six Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project-Based Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-strategies-pbl-andrew-miller
Tawfik, A., Trueman, R. J., & Lorz, M. M. (2014). Engaging non-scientists in STEM through problem-based learning and service learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 8(2), 4. Retrieved from: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1417&context=ijpbl&sei-redir=1&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%26q%3Dproject%2Bbased%2Blearning%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C2%26as_ylo%3D2014#search=%22project%20based%20learning%22
Teaching Channel. (Retrieved 17 Mar 2015). New Teacher Survival Guide: Differentiating Instruction. Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/differentiating-instruction
Zouganeli, E., Tyssø, V., Feng, B., Arnesen, K., & Kapetanovic, N. (2014). Project-based learning in programming classes the effect of open project scope on student motivation and learning outcome. Retrieved from: https://oda.hio.no/jspui/bitstream/10642/2318/1/1152690.pdf
Essential Question: How can I create opportunities for differentiation in Givercraft?
There are times in life when there is a clear point of demarcation: On this side of the line, I knew what I was doing; on this side of the line, I was lost.
Week Six represents that line of demarcation for me. Up to this point, I was hanging on. My lack of experience with Minecraft and personal/scheduling struggles were manageable; I was still able to compensate for what I did not know about Minecraft. I missed the Week 6 Hangout, had no recorded Hangout to refer to after the fact, and...well, there was really no going back.
I continued to log onto the MinecraftEdu server and wander around in #Givercraft from time to time, having no idea whatsoever what I was doing. I teetered between "I can do this!" and "I don't know HOW to do this!" for too long...and then days became weeks...and before I knew it, Givercraft was wrapping up and we were moving on to SurvivalCraft. I still had no idea what I was doing in Minecraft, and it felt as though every junior high student and adult in the world was a Minecraft aficionado...and, by that point, I was too behind (and embarrassed) to attempt a recovery. I demonstrated exactly the kind of fatalistic behavior I have been encouraging K-12 students and teachers to avoid for nearly two decades. I gave up.
So, is this entire post about feeling sorry for myself? Well, o.k., maybe in part. But more so, what I realized from this experience was what it felt like to be so lost there was no going back. Honest-to-goodness, I had never experienced this kind of frustration in not having any idea what was going on in a class ever, ever, ever before in my life. Truly. Not ever. Sadly, I have known a lot of students over the years who have been in this exact situation, and I haven't had a lot of sympathy for them. They should have kept up, I argued. They should have paid better attention, I said. They shouldn't have been absent so much, I sighed. They should have asked more questions. Ah, yes...blame it on the student. I'm not sure there's a teacher in the world who could say with complete honesty that s/he has never "blamed the student" for falling behind. Sometimes, the teacher has a good point; other times, the educator may be overlooking some very real reasons for why the student slid to the wayside in the first place.
Back to Givercraft: A chance conversation during one of our DTI Team meetings had to do with a teacher involved in the Givercraft (and now SurvivalCraft) project talking about what he wished would have happened prior to the beginning of each MinecraftEdu portion of the project. We were preparing for Blackboard Learn trainings when the conversation shifted to the MinecraftEdu projects, and how the teacher wished students would have had more opportunities to connect with each other and talk about the text before jumping into the game and the scenarios.
Wow. Opportunity for differentiation! As a former junior high and high school ELA teacher whose students were constantly involved in online discussions of literature, my radar went on high alert and I immediately began thinking about ways to create access points for the literacy components of both Givercraft and SurvivalCraft -- long before students ever encountered the scenarios involving Minecraft play. The crux of the project (either related to The Giver or related to Maze Runner and Lord of the Flies) is, obviously, THE TEXT. However, students could probably fake their way through having read the books to be successful in participating in the Minecraft components of the projects. The teacher's comments during this chance (serendipitous) conversation led to a really significant understanding of a component of the experience that both legitimizes the game and helps ensure that students really are gaining a grasp on the story before diving into the MC scenarios. And there is a LOT out there to support online lit circles and discussions to help students understand text!
Dr. Julie Rucker, a dear friend of mine from my Bread Loaf School of English days, studied an online literary exchange that took place between students in my ELA classes at Kenny Lake School and Lucille Rossbach's classroom in Idalia, KS, over the course of several years. Dr. Rucker's dissertation highlights the power of online discourse focused on text, and my personal experience as teacher in this exchange is evidence of how influential ongoing, focused dialogue centered on a common text can be for students and their teachers. Students get to know each other when they discuss a text deeply in an online forum; they get to know the text; they become part of a common team. Similarly, their teachers get to know the students in ways they might not in traditional classroom conversations. All involved become connected -- and these connections might very well influence the ways students behave in a collaborative yet competitive environment like that in Minecraft.. If this type of literary discussion were to serve as the prequel to a #Givercraft or #SurvivalCraft activity in Minecraft, I am confident teachers would feel even greater commitment to the project as a sincere literary endeavor, and I believe students would have a stronger grasp of the text serving as a foundation for their Minecraft activities. It's a hunch...but I believe there is plenty of evidence in the research and in current experience and practice.
As a result: How can I create greater opportunities for differentiation in #Givercraft and, later, in #SurvivalCraft? By providing students (and their teachers) with more authentic opportunities to connect with each other and with the text before embarking on the "game" portion of the project. We're talking about text...so let's provide participating classrooms with the textual support they need to fully engage in the story before engaging in the game. Online literature circles are a great place to begin.
Hardy, M. (2011). Book Blogs: Interactive Online Journals for Literature Circles. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/hardy101/book-blogs-interactive-online-journals-for-literature-circles
Lamb, A. (2007). Literature Learning Ladders: Encouraging active reading through book-technology connections. Eduscapes. Retrieved from http://eduscapes.com/ladders/themes/circles.htm
Larson, L. (2009). Thoughtful Threads: Sparking Rich Online Discussions. ReadWriteThink. Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/thoughtful-threads-sparking-rich-1165.html#overview.
Larson, L. (May 2009). Reader Response Meets New Literacies: Empowering Readers in Online Learning Communities. The Reading Teacher, 62(8), pgs. 638-468. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1598/RT.62.8.2/abstract;jsessionid=68CFC41F3DD06BC84F600D2F20331B15.f01t04
Rucker, J. (2008). Effects of Online, Collaborative Discourse on Secondary Student Writing: A Case Study of the History and Ecology of an Electronic Exchange. Electronic Theses & Dissertations. Paper 506. Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies (COGS) at Digital Commons@GeorgiaSouthern. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1506&context=etd
Van Wyhe, T. (2000). A Passion for Poetry: Breaking Rules and Boundaries with Online Relationships. NCTE The English Journal, 90(2). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/821219?uid=3739512&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21106616060413
Essential Question: How are games providing new opportunities for differentiation in the classroom?
But is the fuss worth it? Are we trying too hard to entertain students instead of focusing on educating them. Yep -- that's what was at the back of my mind when we began reading about all of this "gamification stuff." I still wonder (often, actually), if we aren't trying too hard to up the "fun factor" instead of focusing on developing perseverance and grit in students. Jane McGonigal's TED Talk brought the two ideas into sync. "We spend 3 billion hours a week playing games," according to McGonigal. "If we want to survive the next century on this planet, we need to increase that total dramatically."
Huh???? was the first profound thought to pop into my head upon hearing McGonigal talk about gaming as driving force for a better world. Seriously? Alas, her TED Talk, Shapiro's Guide to Digital Games + Learning, and the Empowering Educators research report helped square some things away and brought all this talk about games into focus.
The research by Fishman et. al. highlights a number of barriers teachers face in using digital games in the classroom (2014, p. 14-15). Some of these are legitimately tough hurdles to clear: Cost of game software and lack of technology resources, for example. However, other barriers have fairly easy fixes: 33% of educators reported they weren't sure "how to integrate games into instruction" and 26% said they were "unfamiliar with technology," and that's what was keeping them from using digital games. Both of these could be remedied with professional development and professional learning within the school and district to support educators' learning ... resulting in greater opportunities for students to learn.
Banville, L. (2014). New Study Indicates What Kind of Teachers Use Games to Gauge Learning. Games + Learning. Retrieved from http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2014/12/10/new-study-indicates-what-kind-of-teachers-aim-to-use-games-to-gauge-learning/
Farber, M. (2015). Three Games About Viruses That Teach Interconnectedness. MindShift. 1 April 2015. Retrieved from http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/04/01/three-games-about-viruses-that-teach-interconnectedness/
Farber, M. (2013). Gamifying Student Engagement. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/gamifying-student-engagement-matthew-farber
Fishman, B., Riconscente, M., Snider, R., Tsai, T., & Plass, J. (2014). Empowering Educators: Supporting Student Progress in the Classroom with Digital Games. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://gamesandlearning.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/A-GAMES-Part-I_A-National-Survey.pdf
Granata, K. (2015). Teachers Take Advantage of Minecraft in the Classroom. Education World. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/teachers-take-advantage-minecraft-classroom-60294258
McGonigal, J. (2010). Gaming Can Make a Better World. TED Talk. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world?language=en
Ossola, A. (2015). Teaching in the Age of Minecraft. The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 06 Feb. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/teaching-in-the-age-of-minecraft/385231/
Shapiro, J., Tekinbas, K., Schwartz, K., and Darvasi, P. (Retrieved 25 Apr 2015). MindShift Guide to Digital Games + Learning. KQED. Retrieved from http://www.kqed.org/assets/pdf/news/MindShift-GuidetoDigitalGamesandLearning.pdf
Stiff, H. (2015). Monforton teacher instructs coding to kids. Belgrade News. 06 Feb. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.belgrade-news.com/news/article_6716d926-ae2a-11e4-959b-13ebce844c1c.html
Essential question: How do we prepare parents for differentiation, and gaming/gamification in the classroom?
A 21st-Century Classroom certainly looks a lot different from the classrooms most parents of today's students knew for themselves. Even young parents with students entering school ("kids" who may have graduated less than a decade ago and now sending their young children to school) sat in classrooms dramatically different, in some cases, than those common today. The concept of digital curriculum is fairly new; widespread use of digital content may have been only a chance activity for the youngest of parents when they were in school; and 1:1 initiatives today bear little to no resemblance to those that a couple grade levels of high school students experienced a handful of years back. Preparing parents for differentiation in a contemporary classroom means redefining the classrooms that exist in their minds' eyes. "In today's progressive classrooms, yesterday's rows of quiet listeners have given way to small groups of active learners, thoroughly engaged in discussions and explorations. And where's the teacher? Instead of standing front and center to deliver instruction, he or she is apt to be on the move, observing, asking questions, and guiding students to make their own sense of the world. Even the classroom walls have expanded, with technologies connecting students to the wider global community" (Boss, p. 1). So many things are different.
Caltha Crowe's description of her "Wonderful Wednesday" classroom open houses is brilliant (Crowe, 2004). What better way to help parents understand what is happening in the classroom than to open the doors and invite them in ... and not just for a single staged open house at the beginning of the year, but regularly, during the school day, so that they can participate in what the students are learning and become learners, themselves?! Efforts to building in open-classroom days to help parents understand what differentiation, and gaming/gamification, in particular, could answer myriad questions before they can become problems. Perhaps especially if gaming has a role in the classroom, parents need constant communication, updates, and assurance that "real learning" is happening in the classroom. "With all the research done on the benefits of games in the classroom, it's a bit perplexing that there's still resistance to the notion of video games in education" (Boyle, 2013); but I can't say I'm surprised that parents are resistant. After all, they "didn't learn that way" -- something I have heard so often in my own district in the last couple of years that I have completely lost count. Some parents want research and hard facts. O.K., there's plenty of that out there, too. Share scholarly articles about gamification like that conducted by Lee and Hammer, documented in their paper, "Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother?".
Ensure that parents understand what differentiation really means; go beyond an explanation to provide examples of what differentiation will look like in your classroom. Tomlison's bullet points would be tremendously helpful as a teacher works to articulate differentiation for parents. In particular, explaining that "in a differentiated classroom, the teacher closely assesses and monitors skills, knowledge levels, interests, and effective ways of learning for all students, and then plans lessons and tasks with those levels in mind" (p. 40). I could see this passage on a bulletin board with photos of students engaged in individual learning endeavors, small group activities, projects, whole-group instruction, and student-teacher conferences, each photo with a caption describing some of the ways the classroom is made "just right" for each student while still addressing the needs of a particular grade level or grade band as a whole.
Play a quick Quizlet game to test your knowledge of this blog post! :o)
Boss, S. (2012). A Parent's Guide to 21st-Century Learning. Edutopia.org / The George Lucas Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/guides/edutopia-parents-guide-21st-century-learning.pdf
Boyle, J. (29 Dec. 2013). Gaming Education: Are Parent, Teachers, and Schools Ready to Embrace Gaming as a Learning Tool? Emerging Ed Tech. Retrieved from http://www.emergingedtech.com/2013/12/gaming-education-are-parents-teachers-and-schools-ready-to-embrace-gaming-as-a-learning-tool/
Crowe, C. (15 Oct 2013). Wonderful Wednesdays. Responsive Classroom Newsletter. Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/article/wonderful-wednesdays
Knewton. (Retrieved 23 Mar 2015). Gamification Infographic. Retrieved from http://www.knewton.com/gamification-education/
Lee, J. and Hammer, J. (2011). Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother? Academic Exchange Quarterly, 15(2). Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/570970/Gamification_in_Education_What_How_Why_Bother
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
Wilkens, K. (2011). Gamification of Education. TED-Ed video on YouTube. Retrieved from http://ed.ted.com/on/uk36wtoI#review
Tammy Van Wyhe: rural Alaskan educator, leader, learner, writer.