Category Archives: pbl
No photo, no obsessive re-reading of my post to make sure it is grammatically correct…why? Because frankly I am having the best professional year ever, so busy, so engaged, learning so much…that I don’t have (or have not been able to make the time) to share on my blog.
So…just to let you know what I am thinking that hopefully I will get to think about more…I am publishing my blog to do list (or rather the list of half written blogs I have in my All Posts categories) I will get to them…I am just not sure when.
How many of you have a blog todo list?
Leading from the Middle – Admin. needs to get on the tech ball…or at least understand enough to participate in the conversation.
Creating a Visiting Scholar Program
Connecting Digital Citizenship to 1:1 implementation rollouts
Reflecting on Learning 2.0 (Seriously…I have not done that yet?)
Standards Based Grading and Reporting…Learning from Me, What not to Screw Up
The Importance of Looking for Meaning in Things You Have to Do
Back in the Middle Again
END OF TO DO LIST.
What I really need is a plan…but I like to think that by even having a blog and thinking about what I would put on there and what I have to say…that even this process helps me to be more reflective. No, I am not sharing in a way that I would like to, but I am finding value and benefiting by the fact that I am even thinking through what I have to say and how I want to say it.
So…give yourself a break, blog when you can, but keep thinking about what you want to say. I think you and I will get to the point where we can put words to blog and get those thoughts out there.
When I did teacher training, oh like so many years ago. I was extensively exposed to and trained in collaborative group-work, multiple intelligences, inquiry based learning, etc. As a Social Studies teacher and in particular as an Economics teacher I always found lots of great opportunities to integrate this type of learning into my class, and frankly with 35+ students in a classroom, the best thing I could do for myself was design strong group lessons and projects for my students. I even had a fellowship with the Beryl Buck Institute in Marin County to give feedback on and participate in designing Problem Based Learning projects. I was an inspired teacher!
I was so inspired from my PBL work I went back to school that year and started the year in economics off by telling my students NIKE was giving our school 500 new pairs of tennis shoes (all of this at the height of the NIKE manufacturing scandals in the mid 90′s) and they needed to decide if we should take them or not. I mocked up letters from the Principal, NIKE headquarters, human rights groups giving context to the problems and issues. They used the to internet to do research and had to present their decision to the class and then defend and support with evidence why they wanted to accept the shoes or not. They learned about scarcity, opportunity costs, trade-offs, competing ends, etc. Wow, it was some great teaching and I was using every thing I had been taught in my teacher training classes! My students were engaged, collaborative, and participating in well structured, meaningful, and relevant lessons. I was AWESOME.
But then I left the states, started teaching more AP classes, then started teaching IB classes. I had common assessments, I had internal assessments, and I had external assessments. I moved to a larger school with common agreements for curriculum, pacing, and assessments and frankly, I became a lot less creative. There were always pockets of creativity, but nothing like the work I did when I taught more than a 170 students a day in public school. Granted…this was all pre-NCLB and I was in a West Coast liberal urban district and school where anything or anyone innovative was just the cat’s meow. I was not really that same inspired and creative teacher. Had it been beat out of me? Much like we beat the creativity out of students as they age and need to be more “academic”? How have I lost sight of what I know to be right and good? I love project based learning, I believe in putting inquiry at the center of my curriculum and classes.I love assessing for deep understanding. Why don’t I do it as much as I used to and what is the road back to what I know to be good, right, and true about teaching?
I think the simple answer is to give yourself permission to do what you know to be the best teaching. I am really rediscovering this again this year. I am now in my third year of MS 8th Grade. I walked into a very dense curriculum that needed to be weeded. When I think of what I taught that first year, it boggles my mind (and this coming from a former recovering AP/IB Teacher!). Ultimately what really helped was being introduced to the Understanding by Design planning process. Something I had heard of but not used in my previous schools. When it came to boiling things down to Essential Questions and Enduring Understanding I felt so free to start to let certain things go. I don’t have to teach 5 different conflicts for my students to understand what causes conflict. I can choose a few rich examples, go more deeply and then have them transfer that knowledge and their ability to evaluate to other contexts. It frees me up and gives me the time.
Today I started World War One. I could have gone back to my old stuff from the past few years, but I decided that, NO, I did not want to start it out with a PowerPoint on the causes of WW1. And really, it is a pretty great PowerPoint that I sweated over and poured lots of my knowledge and thinking into, but what exactly do my kids take way from that? So I started this way…
1. I did a Smilebox (oh so easy and took about 10 mins) presentation with photos from World War One.
2. I added information about total destruction in terms of loss of life and economic impact.
3. I ended with a powerful photo of several men who were missing limbs and labeled them “The Lost Generation”.
|The Lost Generation from the National Archives|
4. And then asked my kids what they wanted to know.
That was it. Straight forward, simple, and through my students questions I have mapped out our plan of study for the next two weeks. It is based on their questions. I will let them set the priorities, learn about what interests them, and then share it with their classmates. I will guide, provide input, and supply my expertise when necessary. We will use inquiry, technology, evaluation, critical thinking skills, etc. And ultimately they will need to decide…
Was World War One a just or unjust war?
I say give yourself the permission to do what you know is right.