Curriculum: Week of April 15, 2012

What’s Happening:

  • Taking Charge of your Professional Development is coming to you as an end-of-the-year professional development opportunity. This will be a series of three one-hour long workshops. Watch here for further details!

21st Century Thought of the Week:

Some rights reserved by Sergiu Bacioiu

In the article, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, George Siemens asserts that “as knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.” In other words, the knowledge that we are able to come by in a spontaneous manner is paramount to the knowledge that we own at any given moment. The ability to quickly glean useful, reliable information is a clear priority in the 21st century. The creation of a network is crucial in the set-up of being able to access knowledge tomorrow that one doesn’t even know is needed today. A robust network of numerous connections serves to strengthen the knowledge base at our fingertips.

In the 21st century the ways in which we are connected are ever-changing. These connections  take the notion of “six degrees of separation” to a new level. In fact, through various social networking models, we may actually be decreasing the number of steps (or clicks) between individuals.

According to a study of 5.2 billion such relationships by social media monitoring firm Sysomos, the average distance on Twitter is 4.67. On average, about 50% of people on Twitter are only four steps away from each other, while nearly everyone is five steps away.

In another work, researchers have shown that the average distance of 1,500 random users in Twitter is 3.435. They calculated the distance between each pair of users using all the active users in Twitter.

It is through these varying degrees of separation that we establish requisite connections to knowledge, knowledge that we don’t even know we will need. Therefore, when we are confronted with a situation that requires knowledge that we do not possess, we can activate our connections via Twitter and other social media sites. We drop our pebble in hopes that it will create a ripple in the sea of users. When the correct series of connections are made, the knowledge that we seek will eventually flow back to us to answer our questions and to increase our knowledge.

Awareness vs. Unawareness

As educators, we often anticipate the needs of students. In turn, educational leaders also anticipate the needs of teachers by anticipating what they will need to know in order to facilitate student learning. Student skills and teacher skills are greatly impacted by anticipating the knowledge necessary to learn or strengthen a new concept. Such a process is facilitated when supports are provided in order to scaffold the development of key learnings. This is of particular importance at the introductory stages of new concepts. As learners demonstrate increasing levels of  competence, the supports become fewer and less necessary.  Growing skills that build towards mastery can make scaffolding a clear cut activity.

Perhaps a key new skill is the ability to engage in, what I will call, “anticipation scaffolding.” Since, according to Siemens, “our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today,” it may be advantageous to create a systematic series of steps to anticipate what we don’t know. As Siemens points out “when knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill.” So, it is through established social network connections that we can most easily practice anticipation scaffolding by accessing and growing a knowledge base before we even know that we will need it.

The initial stage of anticipation scaffolding is the ability to recognize what we need to know. In general, this is relatively easy. I know that I don’t need to know the particulars of string theory. The day-to-day flow of both my personal and professional lives will not be affected due to my ignorance of this topic. On the other hand, there are many things that I do need to know in order to be successful in the various facets of my professional life as a curriculum coordinator. The knowledge that I need shifts depending on the curriculum project that I am working on. Most recently I have needed to know and understand the steps of Backward Design planning, current standards in Physical Education, and how to establish student outcomes as they relate to Mathematics curriculum. All of this needed knowledge, once identified, was easy to find using various social network connections including Google, Twitter, and real world colleagues.

The next stage of anticipation scaffolding is the ability to recognize what we don’t know. But how can we recognize what we don’t know? Perhaps using diverse social networking connections can help us to recognize what we don’t know. Information aggregators  such as Google Reader and Netvibes allow the creation of a knowledge base of our choosing by subscribing to blogs. These blog collections are always available and regularly updated. Through reading blogs of our choosing, our knowledge base increases. In addition, personalized magazine applications like Zite and interest-based web surfing applications like StumbleUpon increase exposure to new and unfamiliar ideas. Each exposure to a new idea is a support in the scaffolding of the knowledge that we do not possess, of the many things that we do not know. One seemingly insignificant reference today could be the springboard that directs/supports what we need to know tomorrow. This exposure to knowledge becomes the anticipation scaffolding of tomorrow’s learning.

Once what we don’t know is recognized, then we can choose to act on and grow what we are learning. We may find that the “connections created with unusual nodes support and intensify existing large effort activities.” This idea underscores the importance of establishing diversity in our connections to increase exposure to knowledge that we are able to access during the process of anticipation scaffolding.

Article(s) of the Week:

Technology In Education – Why?

When students were succeeding in school with no technology, we were also living in a world with little technology, and preparing students for life in a world where technology wasn’t a part of their daily lives.

App of the Week:

    • What does it do? Flipboard is a digital social magazine that aggregates web links from your social circle, i.e. Twitter and Facebook, and displays the content in magazine form on an iPad. Fill Flipboard with the things you like to read, from niche blogs to publications like Rolling Stone and Lonely Planet, and use Instapaper or Read It Later to save articles to read later. Flipboard creates a single place to enjoy, browse, comment on and share all the news, photos and updates that matter to you. In addition to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you can flip through your newsfeeds and timelines from Google Reader, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Flickr, 500px, Sina Weibo and Renren on Flipboard.
    • How can it be used to support learning? Flipboard can be used by learners of all ages to curate information and create educational resources for personal or classroom use, including:
      • Easily keep up to date with educational blogs in your Google (RSS) Reader
      • Link to classroom Twitter / Facebook / blog accounts to share links, pictures, and photos with students and their parents. Verify school permissions before using social networks with students.
      • Subscribe to newspapers around the world
      • Explore texts & online media written in foreign languages
      • Create virtual textbooks (example)

Video of the Week:

What kid’s are capable of with a little imagination, support from adults, and social networking.

Blog of the Week:

allthingslearning is the blog of educator Tony Gurr. According to Tony, his blog is “for educators and teachers who are interested in making a real difference to the lives of their students, their colleagues and their organisations – basically, people who are interested in “doing business” differently in education.” Many thought-provoking posts to be found here!

Book of the Week:

Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject is the latest focus of the Middle School staff book discussion group. Metaphors and Analogies are among the instructional strategies identified in the category of “Identifying Similarities and Differences” in by Robert Marzano’s What Works in Schools. Everyone is welcome to join the book group discussion which meets on Monday @ 7:00 a.m. in the staff lounge on the third floor.

Curriculum: Week of March 25, 2012

What’s Happening:

  • The Language A department collaborated and updated their vertical alignment of assessments. This is a backwards planning process that begins with the end in mind: the AIS IB Diploma recipient. What is expected of a successful DP English student? By examining both internal and external assessment requirements, department members were then able to identify assessments at each grade level that contribute to developing skills in grade 6, thus establishing a spiral of vertical alignment through each subsequent grade level.
  • Taking Charge of your Professional Development is coming to you as an end-of-the-year professional development opportunity. This will be a series of three one-hour long workshops. Watch here for further details!

21st Century Thought of the Week:

The 21st Century is NOW!

My love of technology most likely stems from my love of science fiction. In the early 90s I would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes and envy the PADDs the characters carried around. They would use these tablets for reading reports, voice recording their daily logs, and recording the health status of patients in sickbay (often using a stylus).

Only 20 years later, I have my very own iPad. I find that my iPad allows me to do many of the same things that were made so glamorous by Data and Jean-Luc Picard. I can read reports, novels, poetry, ebooks, and communications. I can create journal entries and presentations. I can watch a video clip of a Klingon opera, Kahless, the Unforgettable, or learn how to make the perfect soufflé. I can voice record my daily musings. There are even voice recognition apps that can convert my spoken words to text. I can calculate my Body Mass Index (BMI) and monitor my heart rate. I can write in many apps using my finger or using a stylus (but I don’t yet own one).

I, for one, am so pleased that this is happening during my lifetime and not some some distant future. It is an amazing time to be a lifelong learner! Gene Roddenberry was so ahead of his time and, thankfully, Steve Jobs and co. were able to make it happen.

Article(s) of the Week:

So, suppose knowledge is not the goal of education. Rather, suppose today’s content knowledge is an offshoot of successful ongoing learning in a changing world – in which ‘learning’ means ‘learning to perform in the world.’

App of the Week:
Destiny Quest

  • What does it do?
    Go beyond the walls of the AIS libraries with the Destiny Quest Mobile App! Search AIS’ library catalog — anytime, anywhere! Place holds and add items to the personalized “My List,” discover the Top 10 Most Popular titles and New Books at your library, maintain lists of books you’re Now Reading, Want to Read and Have Read. Your access to these features will be set up by your librarian. The Destiny Quest app is now available on the AIS Teachers suite of apps on your AIS iPad with the recent sync of new apps for teachers.
  • How can it be used to support learning? Students can access research information and reading material 24/7. Teachers can access an excellent collection of professional development resources. Librarians and teachers can post Resource Lists of works available on Destiny Quest to support a unit of study (e.g., Ancient Civilizations, Critical Thinking, Shakespeare Grade 10). Users can submit and read ratings and reviews.

Video of the Week:

Google Docs rock!

Blog of the Week:

Ask a Tech Teacher is the blog of Jacqui Murray, a K – 8 technology teacher who blogs about “integrating technology into your curriculum.” Her blog offers tips, lesson plans, and reviews. She also offers the opportunity to look into her class wikis and class blogs.

Book of the Week:

Learning to Question to Wonder to Learn, by Jamie McKenzie, Ed.D., is an excellent resource on understanding the power of questioning in the classroom. This book “shows how teachers can equip [students] with the questioning strategies that will prepare them to wrestle with the most difficult decisions and problems.”The introduction, chapter 1: Why Question?, and chapter 2: Why Wonder? can be found/read online. The author’s website, The Question Mark, is also a great resource to support questioning to take us all beyond simply thinking.

There is plenty of thinking that never achieves lift-off, never contributes to understanding and never casts light on issues of importance. Much thinking beats around the bush, wanders off course and fails to inform or illuminate.