Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Aligning Digital Innovation with CCSS?

The impending OOE13 Twitter chat on declaring learning goals for this MOOC on education technology has me a little anxious, but this morning, it has proved to be a motivator to start zeroing in on a couple of goals! One of them is to explore the conflict between Common Core Standards and the vision of technology as vehicle for students to create.

I LOVE the idea of using technology in classrooms to empower students to create. I've read about amazing maker and code camps. I've thought about the metacognitive benefits of students using technology to document and capture their learning. To be very meta now and capture my learning, I'll quote Scott McLeod as he's quoting Gary Stager (who is quoting Piaget and Papert):
Piaget reminds us,“To understand is to invent,” while our mutual colleague Seymour Papert said, “If you can use technology to make things, you can make more interesting things and you can learn a lot more by making them.” (Three Competing Visions of Educational Technology)
This quote sums up the way my vision of educational technology has been drifting. And yet, something wasn't sitting well with me. Common Core.

How can we reconcile one of the three essential shifts for ELA: text-dependent questions and building knowledge form within the four corners of the text?

In my Googling, I came across a PDF: Accelerating Productive Digital Innovation that Supports the Common Core State Standards Common Core State Standards. Unfortunately, it's not currently on the Common Core site, and the mailchimp URL doesn't evoke confidence. But the font/layout, language, and content seems aligned (get it?) to all the CCSS resources I've seen, so I'm going to believe it's legit and has just failed to be well-catalogued on the Internets.

The document continues to promote the emphasis on the text itself:
At the heart of the ELA criteria for grades 3-12 are instructions for shifting the focus of literacy instruction to center on careful examination of the text itself. In aligned materials, work in reading and writing (as well as speaking and listening) must center on the text under consideration. The standards focus on students reading closely to draw evidence and knowledge from the text
And its suggestions for digital opportunities include audio readings of text, questions embedded in the text, and a glossary that defines words in context in the text.

It also states:
Materials use multimedia and technology to deepen attention to evidence and texts. The CCSS require students to compare the knowledge they gain from reading texts to the knowledge they gain from other multimedia sources, such as video. The Standards for Reading 36 Literature specifically require students to observe different productions of the same play to assess how each production interprets evidence from the script. Materials aligned with the CCSS therefore should use multimedia and technology in a way that engages students in absorbing or expressing details of the text rather than becoming a distraction or replacement for engaging with the text.
This seems like a whole lot of student-as-consumer to me. How can we remain CCSS-aligned and encourage the discovery and creation that make digital tools actual forces for improved education?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Openness & social media

I'm feeling overwhelmed at work today, and I keep wanting to turn to someone or something, and I am distinctly aware that social media is not there for me. I have various outlets online, with various degrees of anonymity and openness, and I have worked to create an identity, and yet, when I need support, I don't feel comfortable going into my public forums (whether they be "friends only," anonymous, or public and tied to my full name). My partner's dad stalks my Facebook; anyone anywhere could Google my name and find my blog and Twitter; my Tumblr is anonymous but not personal. 

My impulse to want to turn to these outlets makes me wonder if there's something to cultivating identity via online representations. I blogged earlier about an iTunesU course that freaked me out with this copy: "Personal branding sets the stage for being able to get in touch with one's identity." The idea infuriates and terrifies me, but the fact that I'm feeling drawn to broadcast my feelings may mean there's more truth to it than I'd like to admit.

I read or heard a concept so long ago, and I have thought of it again and again since then (without knowing or being able to find the original source, which is infuriating). It was the idea of bearing witness. It had something to do with the notion that we couple up and form intimate relationships because we need someone to bear witness to our lives. It validates the struggle if someone else sees it. If one wasn't worried about professional or personal reactions or repercussions to being totally open in an online space, could social media play that role? (If anyone can point me to something that references this idea of bearing witness, I'd love it, as it's haunted me for so long as something I remember and something that resonates with me, but something that I can't dig into further and don't entirely understand.)

A lot to think about the act of writing vs. publishing. Who as a child (or an adult) didn't imagine someone finding their diary or journals years later? It's so easy to diss and dismiss blogs when you grow up around mommy blogs and ten thousand book blogs and blogs and books on getting rich by blogging. But maybe there's more to it than I want to admit.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Brooklyn Brainery has classes for adults on all different types of topics,  taught by members of the community who are professionals of or just really interested in xy or z, for less than $10 to $100something, depending on the class.

I took a class on classroom strategies for teachers last night. It was a rapid-fire overview of seven activities that would work across all subjects, and it was fun! Trouble is, it reminded me of my interest in being a teacher, which is hard to sustain when I work with ex-teachers who've moved on to a much lower-key, higher-paying profession.

A masters degree is such a big commitment, and I've heard that the academic rigor of education programs can be lacking. I feel like I need to get closer to classrooms without actually being in charge of one to decide if it's for me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Web resources on primary sources in ELA classrooms

I've been researching incorporating primary sources and history into ELA classrooms. The "interactive learning activities" on the National Archives Docs Teach site are cool, and I think I could spend a lot longer exploring this site.

I also came upon Awesome Stories via this page of ELA Common Core resources. However, it strikes me as very un-Common Core. When given a summary, how many students are going to click through to the primary source? I found myself uninterested in following the links. And isn't there some smoother, more dynamic way to present the primary source than via an embedded hyperlink?

The concept seems like the nonfiction version of this blogger's description of how her pre-reading activities "took all the joy out of reading from my students" because she "unlocked all the secrets of The Butter Battle Book for them and did all the work of dissecting the piece as part of my lesson planning" ("Defining 'Deep Reading' and 'Text-Dependent Questions,'" Turn on Your Brain). What I feel like has been drummed into my head for Common Core is to stick with the text, start with the text, return to the text. Shouldn't this mean presenting students with primary sources first, and guiding them to interpret the sources to learn about history?

Unlike Awesome Stories, this example activity on Docs Teach (and similar activities I've seen that use historical photographs) has students look first only at a photograph (or part of a photograph), and make inferences and zoom out from there.

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'm just starting the second Coursera course in the series Foundations of Teaching for Learning. So glad they changed the professor and the backdrop for the videos!! Amazing how a simple thing such as looking at the same visual and hearing the same manner of speaking can grow tiresome in video lectures.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Personal branding & identity

Browsing from a Pinterest on iPad lessons to a blog post on a gathering of Apple Distinguished Educators, I found myself looking at an iTunes U course description that says, "Personal branding sets the stage for being able to get in touch with one's identity."

That sentence right there is the reason I haven't been able to drink all the digital learning Kool-Aid. Do we think this is true? "Personal branding sets the stage for being able to get in touch with one's identity."

Am I old or out of touch for being freaked out by this concept?

Dr. Chi & how levels of engagement affect learning

I just heard a presentation by Dr. Micki Chi, a learning and cognition researcher and professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University.

Her ICAP hypothesis lays out four forms of interacting during learning: Passive (just listening/taking in information), Active (selecting, e.g., underlining), Constructive (creating something new, such as drawing a graph to better understand a prompt), and Interactive (interacting with another person). Interaction leads to more successful learning outcomes than construction; construction leads to more successful learning outcomes than action; and so on (ICAP). She's taken a lot of other people's research and viewed it through this perspective, and seen her hypothesis bear out.

Here's a Q&A with Dr. Chi, and her research paper Active-Constructive-Interactive: A Conceptual Framework for Differentiating Learning Activities.
I was interested to hear that construction is beneficial regardless of whether the student's answer is correct. Dr. Chi also briefly talked about sequencing, and noted that some studies show that a constructive activity followed by something passive (e.g., a lecture) can be most effective. I've been dipping into inquiry-based learning and constructivism, and these seem to be approaches that fit naturally with integrating digital tools.

She also sparked my interest in looking at how the tutoring model can be used in bigger classes. She presented research showing that the learning outcomes were better when students viewed a video of a tutor and tutee vs. a video of a single person lecturing, and she talked briefly about what it is in the tutor-tutee model that helped the viewers learn better. She found "students learned to solve physics problems just as effectively from observing tutoring collaboratively as the tutees who were being tutored individually" ("Observing Tutorial Dialogues").

Speaking of inquiry-based learning, I started reading up on the Quest to Learn school in New York, which the Institute of Play is helping to develop. Fascinating to me, but I shut down from the jargon in the MacArthur Foundation Report when I was trying to find out more about the curriculum.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New URL, New Look, Same Goal, Different Topic

I recently started building a personal learning environment to teach myself about digital learning and education technology. I'm trying out my first cMOOC,, and I hear blogging helps with that process. I think it may also help me to turn 33 clipped articles in Evernote into something cohesive and more focused.

I spent a few minutes Googling to try to decide if I should start a new blog, or use my long-quiet existing blog in the process. My former URL was, and I used this space to learn about readers' advisory, a library science concept devoted to helping readers connect with books. Simply put, it's a sophisticated way to answer the question, "What do I read next?"

Now, I'm pleased to think of this as a space for me to learn in. Whatever that learning may be.

For the OOE13 folks, a little about me. I work on developing curriculum at an ed tech company. We recently had a reorg, and my role may be shifting somewhat. But for now, I've had some breathing room for personal research projects. My education background has been/is being cultivated in this position, so I've spent a lot of time just trying to acquaint myself with theoretical groundwork.

My recent personal research excitements have been:

  • Carol Dweck's Mindset