Tag Archives: teachers

With Technology, Learning from the Experts Themselves—The Students

A group of schools and community organizations around the country are swapping roles and giving kids the floor to teach technology skills to their teachers. For teachers, learning from their resident tech-experts lets them pick up new skills and really watch the way their students use devices. But, as is often the case for teachers, the student tech guides are picking up just as much from passing on their skills—confidence, enthusiasm for school, and a way to express their abilities.

During the Hive Learning Network’s Learning Aloud Geekout Series, young experts shared their skills with educators in four youth-led webinars, held as part of Connected Educator month.

In one of the webinars, fashion designer and blogger Alex from the Digital Youth Network in Chicago taught a group how to use Tumblr, a visually based blogging site that inspired him to pursue his love of fashion.

In another, Assemble intern Caroline taught teachers how to use Scratch, a programming language developed at MIT that makes it easy for kids to create and share media on the web.

“When we go into different schools and events and we’re teaching Scratch, we have our expert, who is now 14, teach Scratch for us. Because, well, why not let the expert shine?” said Assemble founder Nina Barbuto of Caroline’s teaching role during her webinar.

Students interacted with educators around the country in the Geekout Series, but around the country kids are also guiding their own teachers in symbiotic face-to-face lessons.

Students from the public schools that make up Chicago’s Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) are instructing teachers in mini, student-led professional development events called App Speed Dating. The concept, which was adopted from Mauri Dufour and the Leverage Learning Institute in Maine, let’s students be hands-on guides for their favorite apps like Croak.it, Keynote, and Kidblog.

“It’s much more dynamic to have the student sharing and hearing it from their voices,” Jennie Magiera, the digital learning coordinator at AUSL and writer of the blog Teaching Like It’s 2999, told WBEZ. She added that learning how apps work from students can also be a lot less intimidating for teachers, who may not be familiar with the technology. (Magiera explains the whole App Speed Dating process in greater depth in this EduSlam webinar.)

On her blog last February, Magiera broke down the success of App Speed Dating after a session at Chicago Public School’s Tech Talk Conference. “[The students] spoke from a place of experience using the app, and genuinely demonstrated that yes, a 1st grader can operate it and no, a 7th grader will not be bored by its interface,” Magiera wrote. “Moreover, it empowered them to take charge and have agency in their own education.”

Interns from Fort Sam Houston Independent School District in Texas said they felt the same way. In the district’s tech intern program, students create screencast tutorials for teachers, lead professional development events and even fix technology glitches in class. “Not gonna lie, it makes me feel important,” laughed one young tech intern in a video by TechSmith..

Rob Zdrojewski, a teacher at Amherst Middle School teacher in Buffalo, created a similar program fueled by a real gap in some of the teachers’ knowledge about programs kids were already using. While Zdrojewski knew the program would provide teachers a good way to access screencast tutorials, the students’ enthusiasm surprised him.

“I didn’t think the kids would be as excited as they are to make them. I thought they [were] going to say, ‘Oh Mr. Z is having me do some work for somebody else to benefit.’ But it’s really not been the case,” he told the Hechinger Report. “The kids are excited because they know that their teachers, potentially a lot of them, are going to watch and learn from them and hear their voices.”

Teachers love what they do because passing on knowledge to others is one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences. The teaching experience is no different for kids, who, after spending most of their days listening, suddenly command attention from those they respect most.

Understanding the Common Core

A new survey finds that approximately 62 percent of Americans have never heard of Common Core. Even those who are familiar with the standards admit confusion.

These findings emerge from the 45th annual PDK/Gallup Poll, which measures the public’s attitudes toward public schools and initiatives such as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind.

Given the confusion, we thought a primer on the Common Core might be helpful. Below is a completely unscientific—and no doubt incomplete—gathering of what people are saying, writing, and thinking about the Common Core.

The basics: The Common Core Standards are an attempt to align curricula across states so students graduate with a shared set of knowledge that better prepares them for college-level work. They are designed to improve critical thinking and reduce reliance on rote memorization. Spearheaded by the National Governor’s Association, the standards apply to the English language arts and math—for now; science standards are in the works). The standards have been adopted by 45 states, though some are now considering retracting their “yea” vote.

The debate: The movement has met resistance from a variety of pundits and politicians, whose complaints center, sometimes in the same breath, on autonomy and control (something like, “I don’t need controls but everyone else does.”). From an education research angle, New York University’s Diane Ravitch leads the movement against Common Core. Ravitch, a liberal, has a strange bedfellow in the Tea Party, which also is resisting the Common Core. According to the Tea Party, the standards infringe on state’s rights; its opposition is perhaps also because the Obama administration has encouraged adoption of the standards through Race to the Top awards and waivers from No Child Left Behind. Business leaders and many editorial boards across the country tend to like the standards because they impart a shared knowledge base and improve high school graduates’ career-readiness. Here’s a handy cheat sheet to learn more about the debate.

What educators think: The opinions are varied, but many teachers and their unions are worried that the year is too short to cover the standards and, like “teaching to the test” under No Child Left Behind, the pressures will snuff out creative teaching and learning experiences. In addition, Common Core will introduce new teacher evaluations; 17 states have moved forward with them this year. A survey in February found that nearly half of the teachers felt unprepared to teach the standards. For more, Mind/Shift contributor Amanda Stupi has gathered thoughts from educators. Education Week offers thoughts as well, like this from algebra teacher Allison Crowley of why she thinks the standards will help students move from being the equivalent of GPS-dependent navigators to finding their way without a map.

Costs: Frankly, who knows? That’s the big question floating out there. The Department of Education has spent $330 million to develop new student assessments that align with the standards, which will start deploying in 2014. Here’s a map of each state’s adoption progress. The Pioneer Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Boston, approximated the potential costs of the CCSS implementation process at $15.8 billion across participating states over the next seven years. But really, no one has a good handle on this yet.

One thing is for certain: there will be more lingo to remember: GBL, CBL, or PBL? Edutopia’s Matthew Farber defines all the acronyms used to describe creative ways of meeting Common Core Standards.

Unlearning How to Teach

Erica McWilliam, of Queensland University of Technology, wrote an interesting article about Unlearning How to Teach. Spigot.org, a news, research, and opinion site on digital learning, recently linked to the article, showing her work to many in the U.S. In this essay, Erica describes the importance of adjusting and adapting with the times and the learning ways of the students.

Our teaching and learning habits are useful but they can also be deadly. They are useful when the conditions in which they work are predictable and stable. They are deadly if and when the bottom falls out of the stable social world in and for which we learn. According to Zigmunt Bauman (2004), this is not merely a future possibility – it is the contemporary social reality.The paper takes up Bauman’s challenge to orthodox thinking about effective teaching in general, arguing the need for a more interventionist role for academic teachers and a greater emphasis on an experimental culture of learning, rather than a culture in which curriculum and pedagogy is fully ‘locked in’ in advance of engagement. The challenge for academic teachers is to promote and support a culture of teaching and learning that parallels a post-millennial social world in which supply and demand is neither linear nor stable, and in which labour is shaped by complex patterns of anticipations, opportunities, time and space.

She continues on to address the relationship between student and teacher.

The shift from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’, while it has served an important function in shifting the focus from the teacher to the learner, does not capture the fullness of the implications of this shift. We have been hearing about the importance of ‘lifelong learning’ for some time now in formal education. If, as Bauman asserts, ‘unlearning’ will be as important to social success in the 21st millennium as learning has been in the 20th millennium, then the habit of ‘lifelong learning’ will need radical re-thinking in terms of the nature and purposes of pedagogical work. Put simply, we will need to see a further shift from sage-on-the-stage and guide-on-the-side to meddler-in-the-middle (McWilliam, 2005).

To learn more, you can read Erica’s full article here.

Obama Gives Thumbs Up to STEM Education

CBS News recently posted an article laying out the details for Obama’s education plan. His plan, known as the implementation of “Master Teacher Corps.” is said to be a one billion dollar effort to support and promote elite math and science teachers across the country.

“The Obama administration unveiled plans Wednesday to create an elite corps of master teachers, a $1 billion effort to boost U.S. students’ achievement in science, technology, engineering and math.

The program to reward high-performing teachers with salary stipends is part of a long-term effort by President Obama to encourage education in high-demand areas that hold the key to future economic growth — and to close the achievement gap between American students and their international peers.

Teachers selected for the Master Teacher Corps will be paid an additional $20,000 a year and must commit to participate multiple years. The goal is to create a multiplier effect in which expert educators share their knowledge and skills with other teachers, improving the quality of education for all students.

Speaking at a rally for his re-election campaign in San Antonio on Tuesday, Obama framed his emphasis on expanded education funding as a point of contrast with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, whom he accused of prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy over reinvestment in the nation.

‘I’m running to make sure that America has the best education system on earth, from pre-K all the way to post-graduate,’ Obama said. ‘And that means hiring new teachers, especially in math and science.’

The administration will make $100 million available immediately out of an existing fund to incentivize top-performing teachers. Over the longer term, the White House said it plans to launch the program with $1 billion included in Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2013.

But the House and Senate both voted down Obama’s budget earlier in the year, making it far from certain that Obama will be able to get congressional approval to spend $1 billion on master teachers.

An aide to Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, noted that the federal government already has more than 80 teacher quality programs and said it would be foolish to pump money into programs that may be duplicative or unproductive.

‘Republicans share the president’s goal of getting better teachers in the classroom,’ said Kline spokeswoman Alexandra Sollberger. ‘However, we also value transparency and efficient use of taxpayer resources.’

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he expected the two parties to come together to support achievement in areas of high demand.

‘This initiative has nothing to do with politics,’ Duncan said. ‘It’s absolutely in our country’s best long-term economic interest to do a much better job in this area.’

A report released in February by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology found that the U.S. must increase by 34 percent the number of students receiving degrees in science, math and related fields to keep up with economic demand.

The program will start with 2,500 teachers divided up among 50 different sites, the White House said, but will grow to include 10,000 teachers over the next four years. Obama, in partnership with a coalition of groups including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, has set a goal of producing 100,000 additional math and science teachers over the next 10 years.”

To read the full post on Obama’s “Master Education Corps.“, visit the CBS News website.