Monday, January 18, 2016

The week of Jan. 11-15, 2016

Happy New Year and welcome to 2016!!! 


And happy birthday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Here are the announcements in case you missed them:


So, I wanted to take time in this blog to address the results of the self-assessment of 21st Century skills and technology integration. Thank you, teachers, for taking the time to be so self-reflective and provide me with this feedback.

In summary, I thought this was a really honest look at ourselves and our students, and I was not surprised by the results. It seems as though most of our students are making nice progression towards mastery of both 21st Century skills and digital proficiency, and as one person put it, this is a moving target. There will always be more to learn. And, we have a wide range of comfort in our own ability to teach and provide opportunities for our students to acquire these skills. Some teachers feel really comfortable, some not very comfortable, but most of you feel more comfortable than not. Great news!

The big message that I got from the responses are that teachers need two things:

1. A vision of what a 21st Century classroom looks like
2. Specific, focused training

I hear you! So, below are some answers I have for you. But first, if you have time, watching the video below can spark some debate. However you feel about education, your classroom, or the world, it might be worth thinking deeply about what this guy is saying. If you have about 10 minutes, watch. 




The 21st Century classroom: what does it look like?

The short answer is that we don't really know. This, like someone said in the self-assessment, is a moving target. The long answer is that it can take many forms, but depends on the teacher, the grade level, the students, etc. It's going to look different in each classroom, and will constantly be changing. The best answer I can give you of what a 21st Century classroom looks like is one that incorporates critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, global awareness and digital proficiency in authentic ways. That means that students are practicing those skills in real-life or teacher simulated real-life contexts.

What are some examples? I've been thinking about this a lot and have really tried hard to provide examples for my staff the best way I know how. If I were to look for examples, this is what I would do...
- read the Ken Robinson book Creative Schools that I gave the staff last spring, and watch his TED Talk over and over. Here it is: Do Schools Kill Creativity?
- read and try to understand what Sugata Mitra is saying and proposing.
- join Twitter and start following people that are doing innovative things. Edutopia is a good start. Follow me! I post examples of 21st Century instruction that you are doing every day.
- visit classrooms to get ideas. We have great models on this campus alone and in other schools. If you want some help, let me know.
- become certified/trained in something new like being a Google Certified Educator (I did and I learned a lot!).
- experiment with new instructional models in your class. Have fun! And, check out the 21 things Every 21st Century Teacher Should Try This Year meme below.


Also, and this is my two cents, when thinking of a 21st Century classroom, one has to think of the two different types of skills that are being taught and practiced in the class. They are the hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those skills that can be easily measured like putting a capital at the beginning of a sentence or knowing place value or finding the main idea or being able to use a computer mouse. Soft skills are those bigger skills that are practiced at each grade level and hopefully refined over time: critical thinking, problem solving, collaborating, using creativity, communicating effectively, etc. You need both and both are equally as important to be successful, but we often focus most of our attention on those hard skills and pay less attention to the soft skills, which are skills that employers are asking for. So, a 21st Century class, in my opinion, has a good balance between these two types of skills.

If these things mentioned above still do not help, please set up a meeting with either me or Mrs. Denton so we can discuss  how to better help you.

Specific, focused training:

This is hard because we lack time, teachers have so many pressures on them as it already, and there are so many things that they need training on.

So, to start, I'd like to help you out, but in order to help, we (Mrs. Denton and myself) need to know what training you need and would like.

Please use this Google form to help us: 21st Century Training

Mrs. Denton and I will look at your answers and see where the biggest need/want is and make a plan from there.

The one great thing about technology and the internet is access to information, so I encourage anyone that wants to learn more or to be trained in something to use your own time to use the power of the internet to do that. I used YouTube to teach myself how to install a laminate floor in my bedroom and to build a headboard. I also spent about an hour each week for 6 weeks to become a Google Certified Educator. It was free (the lessons, not the test) and has already made my life easier and more enjoyable, plus I'm more knowledgeable.

This is an exciting time in education. Take advantage of it! Take advantage of having a principal that is encouraging you to take risks and try new things, and NOT follow the textbook. Have fun!!!

As promised and as I have always done, please see below for great examples of 21st Century instruction happening at Fillmore:

Students in Ms. Culmer's class are working with TinkerCAD (a 3D design program that is free) to create objects that will be printed out on the LHS 3D printers. They are using a ton of math, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills. 



Students in 5th grade science are learning about weather patterns and more specifically how they relate to ocean currents (convection) through hands-on experiments. Dyes were used to demonstrate the phenomenon.


Students in 5th grade worked hard to recreate what led up to the American Revolution and actively participated in a drama to represent it. Dressed up as the characters they represented, they performed to a live audience of their parents- so fun!





Students in Mrs. Knapp's class are using QR codes to communicate and challenge each other with math problems. I am so impressed at how we are creatively using technology to engage our students. They are having fun, and so is Mrs. Knapp. Check it out here:


The garden has been present in classes all year, bringing a direct connection to health, agriculture and learning. Looking forward to Ag Day!
These are just a few. Keep up the good work, Mustangs!




And, in case you missed it, here is the "failed" landing of the the Space X's Falcon on a platform in the ocean. A very teachable moment about the design process for our students. 






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