Category Archives: Ubd
I am overwhelmed by blogs right now; the blogs I want to read in my Google Reader and Netvibes accounts, the blog posts I would like to write, the blog posts I am forced to write for a class I am enrolled in, and the blogs I need to evaluate from my students. I have to keep up with my school’s blog and my friend the other day thought we should start a blog together to put all of our collaborative professional work. Great idea but..more blogging. Really?
Right now blog is a FOUR letter word to me and you know what, it is to a lot of our students, because they too are overwhelmed with blogs. Last year I taught an 8th grade Humanities class. This year I am working with a 9th grade teacher for one class and I have one student in the 9th grade course I had in 8th grade. When we presented a current events blog assignment to the class she commented the best thing about HS was no one was having them blog. She said blogging was overrated, overused, and a waste of her time. I was shocked, yet somehow not surprised. Now in our defense, we have one blog assignment for the entire semester, the students will blog and comment a total of 8 times about current events connected to essential questions, I think it is a good use of blogging…but I totally get her point. Last year as an 8th grader she was blogging in so many classes. I, as her Humanities teacher, was the worst offenders. She is so over blogging. And so am I. This year, I have very purposefully decided not to have the students in my current class blog as much. I didn’t think I was using blogging as effectively as I should last year so I limited myself to one solid and relevant blogging assignment. I don’t keep a blog for this class to post work like I did last year, this year I have moved over to Google Sites for all of the class info and calendars. I have set up a discussion section there for short assignments to encourage conversation in a quick and easy way but using Google Groups. Just like my student, I didn’t want to blog for my class this year.
In fact, this past week I did a PD session with Dana Watts called, “Blogging is Not a Four Letter Word”, because frankly is it becoming one to teachers who are overwhelmed by the task of assessing blogs, students who are blogging in all of their 8 classes, and to parents who are just trying to sort out what all of this blogging is about. When we consider the issue of excessive blogging it really comes down to using blogging at the right times and in the right ways. Kids do not need to blog after every class. In fact they shouldn’t be. Blogging should be about deep reflection and give students the opportunity to connect the dots, come to an understanding, and support their thoughts and ideas with evidence. It should be about showcasing great work and ideas. However, I think a great deal of the blogging going on in schools is not about reflection on work or thoughts, I think for some blogging is becoming an online notebook and this is not what blogging is meant for, so of course, you get eye rolling when you ask them to blog. We need to be careful not to overdo the blogging and ruin the power of blogs have to promote student learning and reflection.
We found some great readings for our staff to remind people why we blog and it starts with an idea that has nothing to do with technology or a computer…reflection. This article from Educational Leadership on Reflection as a Habit of Mind by Art Costa and Bena Kallick was a great refresher to us all. As teachers we know how important reflection is, yet some how despite our best intentions over time we also let good practices slip. This reading was a timely reminder about the important practice of reflection. We coupled this reading with two other readings:
1. Wired for Reflection from Educational Leadership by Meridith Stewart
2. High Tech Reflection Strategies Make Learning Stick from Edutopia by Susie Boss
Both of these article use classroom studies to show how blogging is used effectively with students to enhance their learning and the focus is on the use of blogging to promote student reflection.
Blogging is like any good thing we find, however we have to be careful not to do it to death and ruin the fun (and in this case the relevance of the work). If students are rolling their eyes at the mention of blogging, you need to look at what you are asking them to blog, how often, and how pervasive the use of blogging is in your school or you are in danger of blog becoming a four letter word.
On an end note…the irony of this post is nobody forced me to write it, it is not on my “to do blog list”. I was in the midst of blogging for something I did not want to blog about and reflecting on the PD we conducted for our staff, and that here I was doing what I felt to be unnecessary blogging for the sake of blogging. I was fired up, and I needed to express this in a way and in a place that meant something to me. I have made my personal professional blog meaningful to myself (and I hope others) and that is ultimately what we want from our students. We want them passionate about blogging and the things they are blogging about. We want them to be fired up and reflective; to really have something to say rather than just writing what amounts to a written eye roll…yeah right, another blog, awesome, here you go, look I did it, was it enough? Whatever, it’s done.
The article from the New York Times by Matt Richtel makes some powerful points, however I cannot help but think we are not soliciting data on the right things.
On the New Blooms Taxonomy, the highest order is now creativity. How do we assess this and how often to we assess our students ability to apply creativity to their process/products?
I don’t know how we can expect technology to demonstrate an impact on student learning when the standardized tests we use remain the same, year after year. Essentially what happens is more and more is piled on the plates of teachers. You need to address standards and benchmarks, you need to now also address NETS as well as your subject. Additionally, we have school goals we would like to see addressed and documented, but at the end of the day, from an assessment perspective if you only assess the subject area standards and benchmarks, most teachers in a press for time, will not address the other subsidiary learning. And I very purposefully use the work subsidiary because unless we design instruments to assess it, unless our reporting systems also change and require us to report on student achievement in relation to their ability to evaluate information, most people won’t teach it. You teach what you make explicit to teach, if it is important, we as teachers should be reporting on it, we should be designing assessments for it, until that day comes, people will always have ammunition against the practice of technology integration. If you want to fight back, just like we tell our students, you need evidence. Perhaps this is the great failing of the technology movement, so much time spent on tools and applications when there also needs to be some of that enormous amount of brain power, time, energy, and money dedicated to designing assessments that produce evidence of student learning vis a vis 21st Century Skills.
I had an incredible experience last week working with a teacher on UbD units. Our band teacher was struggling with her UbD units because planning in units did not seem to “fit” her process and how you teach band. With her teaching organized around performances rather than explicit units, she was having a difficult time figuring out how to capture what she does in class. For her everything is process and those process are blended throughout her program as the students progress for years. So, how to capture what she does from beginning to end in a way that makes sense to her and really captures all that goes on in a Music class?
The idea we came up with was to have four units that happen simultaneously throughout the year:
1. Getting to Know your Instrument
2. Band Ensemble Participation
3. Musical Literacy
4. Musical Expression
Once we determined a framework on which to hang her thinking about her teaching, the whole day just speed by and we were able to complete an entire class of units for next year. We were excited, both of us, it was a great day of planning, support, and understanding. We now also have a framework to more forward with and create future units for her more advanced classes. Articulation, awesome.
What I am taking away from this work with the music teacher is the power of flexibility in the mapping process. It is too easy to rely upon a certain paradigm that works for most teachers, but we must remember, it does not work for all and as curriculum mappers we limit the work if we cannot conceive of working in different ways. A one size fits all approach to curriculum design does not work for all disciplines. Really, what is the reason for UbD? Better teaching, teaching for understanding, and greater impact on student learning. If the best way to do that is through a flexible approach, be flexible, the teachers will buy in and what we want to accomplish by mapping can happen with less resistance.
How much don’t we know about assessment? This was the questions I really wanted to delve into on our last PD day with staff here at AES. I have been particularly struck by an article written by Richard J. Stiggins where he states:
In my role at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, I support teachers planning with the Understanding by Design model. A curriculum planning model I love and feel helps to clarify what is really important about the curriculum. As also a grade 8 Humanities teacher, I not only plan, but implement my units into my teaching. One of the most important aspects of UbD to me is the creation of Essential Questions.
There are several reasons I think the questions are so important in the planning and implementation process.
1. Good questions invite inquiry. There is so much discussion about inquiry in the classroom and the root of inquiry is asking a question. Let the questions live in your classroom and direct your teaching. However some questions are better than others! Questions like: What are the causes of WW1 really don’t invite inquiry, they invite an answer and there is a right answer. But a question like Is war just or unjust? invites discussion, reflection, and a multitude of answers.
2. Good questions can be used as assessments. When we are clear on the questions we ask and why we are asking them, we can use the questions to probe for understanding. This can be done both formatively or summatively. A question I ask myself constantly and push the teachers to ask themselves is: If you turned this into an assessment, would it give you the evidence of understand you seek? If it does not, why ask the question?
Case in point. My class has been working on WW1 in a unit on Conflict. One of the understanding we want students to come away with about conflict is that there can be both strong and weak reasons for a country to engage in conflict, wars can be just and or unjust in many ways. So our questions is: Is war just or unjust? My students blogged their answer after we finished studying the WW1. When I read through their blogs it was clear the students did not understand the question, I had not spent enough time or it was not clear enough to them what we meant by just vs. unjust. I know now where I need to go back and reteach. I am only half way through my unit and I have strong formative assessment data regarding their learning. I am assessing for learning. Strong questions can be an effective assessment tool.
3. Good questions provide many ways of assessing for learning. It can be a blog, an essay, a Socratic Seminar, a glog, a ppt., a poster. You name it. Kids can demonstrate their understanding in many different ways. As I mentioned above, I can use their demonstration of understanding to assess for learning and then go back and reteach.
My preferred mode is a Socratic Seminar, if I asked a good question, kids can go on and on. they can range far and wide; engage in debate, dialogue, and discussion. They will need evidence to support and they will need knowledge to demonstration their understanding. There is nothing like seeing a great Socratic Seminar!
4. Good questions provide a way for students evaluate and construct meaning. Based on asking my students if WW1 was a just or unjust war, I now clearly know, I have not spent enough time with them looking at what might their criteria be for what makes a war just or unjust. This criteria could be a class or a personal criteria, but something they can take away with them and apply in new and varied situations…and really isn’t the ultimate goal transfer and application of new knowledge?
Luckily for me it is a unit on Conflict, as I know my students are not yet demonstrating understanding, but I still have a few chances (WW2, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc) to guide the students to the unit understanding and more importantly give them an opportunity to construct theie own way of evaluating the merits of a conflict.
To me, most important is the asking the probing questions to which there is no right answer, but rather invite inquiry and debate. And then just watching it go!
How are the questions living in the classrooms in your school?