Tag Archives: 21st century skills

Everything I learned about teaching middle school I learned in 1st grade….

 

….or passion+projects+technology=engagement

…or those first grade teachers are on to something!

…or teaching is a skill, not a content (or grade level for that matter)

When thinking about pairing projects and technology in my lessons, it actually isn’t even a thought. It has become such a natural part of my lesson design that my students, parents, and administrators expect it. This is not something I was taught in college…it is a mindset that was fostered during an amazing student teaching experience. Believe it or not, I student taught first grade. I was positive that I wanted to be a lower elementary teacher who could inspire the kids at the very beginning. My cooperating teacher, Kathy Horstmeyer, was the best of the best. Her classroom was not traditional…there were no desks, lots of noise, and the room seemed to transform into ponds, space, jungles, or whatever the theme of the week was. Students were always actively engaged in small learning groups, thematic projects, and thoughtful reflection of their learning…at a mere 7 years old. This is where I learned how to be a teacher. This is where I had a sense of how passion, projects, and technology could transform a classroom.

From this experience, I was asked to interview for a middle school position within the district. The thought absolutely terrified me! Of course, I got the job and began my own teaching journey as a 21-year-old teaching 7th graders language arts and social studies. The way that I conquered my fears in those early days is the reason I am the teacher I am today. I consciously decided that I would take what I learned from teaching first grade and apply it to 7th grade, but just at a higher level. I planned my lessons to be cooperative, project based, reflective, as well as infused with whatever technology I had at the time. I was going to replicate that feeling of passion, learning, and excitement that I witnessed in first grade… in my middle school classroom. You know what I found out? Those first grade teachers were on to something! Middle School students completely disengage when taught in a more traditional manner…they are kids who are passionate about different things, who are exploring their individuality, who enjoy collaborating, and who use technology as we use a pencil. Early on, my goal became to learn as much from my students as they learn from me…16 years later, it still is. Passion based learning and technology have allowed me to be a guide within the classroom directing students, and figuring out how each student learns best.

Personally, I think every student teacher should have to teach first grade.  They are the masters of differentiated instruction, project based learning, student centered curriculum, integrated instruction, and use technology  to enhance learning on a daily basis.  They are modeling the 21st Century Skills of creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, as well as communication and collaboration.  Go ahead…hang out in a first grade classroom…you’ll see…those first grade teachers are on to something!

A Walk Down Memory Lane With Google Street View

FH

I came across a post by @dougpete entitled “My Childhood Community”.  He used Google Street View to take a virtual walk down memory lane.  My head started spinning because I saw a student assignment in this.  After just finishing an immigration unit as well as a project called “What’s Your Story”, I was thinking that this was the perfect opportunity to tap into some 21st Century skills while connecting with adults.  I imagined my students sitting in front of a laptop with a parent or grandparent and asking them about where they grew up.  The child would then show them using Google Street View the places they were speaking of.  As the conversation developed, the tool would be used as a virtual treasure hunt where the two generations would be exploring, sparking memories, and learning from each other.  They will be able to talk about changes in childhood, buildings, and technology. What a recipe for a meaningful conversation!

I have not started this with my students yet, but have created directions for the project here. Even if  I don’t have time to fit this in for this current year, I have learned how to use Google in a way that I’ve never thought of before. Digital storytelling has become an integral part of my language arts curriculum, and this is just another extension to it.

This past week, I sat with my mom as we talked about my childhood. I showed her what I was doing on Google Street View and she was amazed at the technology!  We spent about an hour reminiscing and exploring our little town and the surrounding areas.  It truly was a great conversation and walk down memory lane.  I see her every day, but don’t always have the opportunity to connect in the way we did this week. Here we are just before my first birthday…I was just beginning to walk…

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Below are the examples that I made from that discussion with my mom:

Thanks to @dougpete for sharing your experience, and a special thanks to my mom that walked with me through my childhood, and continues to walk with me every day.

girls

Replace One, Guide One

The_Mathematicians[1]

While watching the ASCD conference streamed live last week, I was eagerly anticipating Heidi Hayes Jacobs talk about Curriculum 21.  I had just finished the innovative book recently and have been telling every edu-type that I know to read it.  During the talk, there were some amazing nuggets of advice, awesome quotes like, “Lamination is the mummification of curriculum”, and a challenge to have every teacher replace one dated assignment or assessment with one that is current and highlights 21st century skills.

This past week, Heidi started a new ning for Curriculum 21.  Her first post was this:

Upgrading:  One Assessment at a Time

Each teacher in a school can make a commitment to REPLACE a dated assessment type with a modern one. For example, instead of doing an “oral report” with notecards, students can create a video podcast. IDEAS?

This immediately caught my interest, so I responded with a story of replacement that happened recently:

Hi Heidi.
I just wanted to share a wonderful experience with a middle school math colleague of mine with “replacement” practices. She came to me and wanted to figure out a way that she could make her mathematician reports that she has done for years more “current”. She wanted the basics of the assignment to be the same, but wanted to use 21st century skills in a meaningful, purposeful way.

I teach the same students that she does, so I know they are highly skilled in using technology, but I didn’t want to overwhelm her. So I taught her how to create a wiki and how to set the parameters for the students. She went and worked on her wiki diligently, and returned for some follow up one or two times.

Within 2 weeks, she had learned to use a wiki, created a wiki, was comfortable enough to use it with students, and had the students successfully complete the project!

Not only did she replace a dated assessment, but she also changed how she grading it by using a rubric. We had another session where I taught her how to use rubistar to create a rubric and roobrix to calculate the grade. In the end, she changed two things about the project, but the content met her original goal from years ago!

Here is the final wiki created by the students. She is so thrilled with the final results that she came to me two days ago to help her plan the next “replacement” assessment! She loved that the students were engaged, interested, and learning in a way that she hasn’t seen before. She also loved that she did this paperlessly!

Hopefully, this “replacement” practice will start to spread with this little seed. Thank you Heidi, for continuing to have the vision.
:) Megan
@mrspal

I would like to continue to support Heidi’s challenge to “replace one“, but I’d also like to add “guide one” to those of us that have the skills and resources to help those who would like to “replace one” but don’t even know where to begin.  If we begin to internalize this practice of replacing and guiding, we are creating a community of learners amongst ourselves that will continue to grow exponentially as each “seed” is planted.


Teaching the Holocaust using 21st Century Skills

Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be trained in Holocaust Education through Facing History and Ourselves.  At the time, I had no idea how that program would change so much of my program.  If you ever get a chance to be involved with the organization, it is an amazing experience!

Since then, I’ve created a year-long 8th grade research project, make.a.difference, in which students choose a person or organization that has made a positive difference in the world.  Facing History uses the Holocaust as a catalyst for teaching tolerance as well as choosing to participate in order to make the world a better place.

In 7th grade, I’ve created a rich Holocaust Education experience involving film, literature, short stories, poems, and graphic novels.  I challenged my 7th graders to research a survivor or upstander from the Holocaust to remember.  They used imovie and photostory to create a digital story about their person.  The end result was powerful, meaningful, and moving.  Click here to view all of their amazing creations!

My diigo list of Holocaust resources.

Learning to Change – Changing to Learn

Change_world

I came across this video on kylepace that was created by COSN.  I was blown away by the video because I think it says everything about education today and in the future that has been swirling around in my head.  These are the things that resonated with me most from the video:

  • the kids are having a much more stimulating, enriching environment outside of schools than they are inside of schools
  • students are big communicators and content developers, yet all of the tools they use to do that are banned in schools
  • it’s about relationship, it’s about community, productivity, access
  • they live in the “nearly now” where they can reflect, retract, and research
  • the student is at the center and school is just one of the places that they learn
  • we’ve got a classroom system, where we could have a community system
  • we have to develop a narrative that sustains 21st century learning

Schools and teachers are going to have to seriously consider these factors when developing new curricula as well as daily lessons.  We need to take advantage that they are so connected to and use it in a meaningful, collaborative, and creative way.