04 Aug 2017

Take Our School Administrator’s Technology Leadership Self-Assessment Survey


We have developed the free School Administrator’s Technology Leadership Self-Assessment survey as a unique and impartial survey that reflects the specific goals and standards presented in the National Educational Technology Standards for School Administrators and the National Educational Technology Plan. School administrators should use it to better determine their technology use and preparedness for implementation in their schools and districts.


This is self-scoring survey for the respondents to complete. School administrators who rate themselves and their schools or districts with scores of 5 and 4 are already meeting the standards indicated in those items.

Ratings of 1 or 2 would indicate areas of needed professional growth by either the school/district, or the school leader, or both in order to meet the NETS.A standards or NETP goals.



This instrument is a useful pre-assessment tool for instructors or professional development facilitators. Low ratings would indicate areas where additional attention is needed. For example, if graduate students or workshop participants indicate that either they or their schools do not use electronic portfolios of student work effectively, then they will want to explore additional resources and professional development on that topic. You can fill out the survey individually or you can sit with school administrators and decide on one rating.


There are 6 areas for self-assessment:

  • Technology Planning
  • Leading Instruction with New Technologies
  • Teacher Supervision and Professional Development
  • The Technology Infrastructure
  • Systemic Change with Personnel and Partnerships in Technology
  • Legal and Social Issues in Technology

    There are 6 questions in this survey.


Ready to take the survey? Click here.

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14 Jul 2017

A Science Museum That Makes Learning Overpoweringly Attractive for Kids: Schools, Take Note !

 

“We personalize learning all the time, we just don’t call it that,” says special education teacher Gina Tesoriero who has been teaching middle schoolers for over a decade. “When you give students open-ended challenges or design prompts, they actually personalize it themselves, bringing in their own interests and coming in at the level that is best for them.” Tesoriero has developed this belief over the past 10 years in the classroom—and she attributes much of it to her involvement with the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI).

“We want to know what you find compelling; what problem you think is worth solving; what you want to do or make. And then provide a space where that can happen.”

Douglas Moore

In 2010, Tesoriero and her colleague Amanda Solarsh, a middle school science teacher, stumbled across an opportunity to write curriculum at NYSCI. They were immediately taken with the museum’s learning model and wanted to incorporate elements of it into their classrooms at Simon Baruch Middle School 104. The following year, the duo participated in the Verizon Design Lab Fellowship, an opportunity for teachers to contribute to the creation of Design Lab, an interactive exhibit spanning two floors with activities that invite visitors to exercise problem-solving skills and develop solutions to engineering and design challenges.

 

Design_Lab-1499872148

Design Lab, Image Credit: NYSCI

The fellowship inspired Tesoriero and Solarsh to start an elective STEM course for seventh graders at their school. The course—developed to build 21st century skills like problem solving and innovative thinking—has scaled to two to three classes per grade level. Over the years, the teachers have participated in curriculum development, design labs and field trips, which have influenced the course and their practice.

The museum’s project-based, experiential, learner-centered approach isn’t revolutionary for K-12 education—in fact, many schools integrate elements of these approaches into their instructional model. But without the stresses of assessment and resource constraints, NYSCI is able to experiment and iterate. Douglas Moore, Vice President of Digital Education Strategy & Business Development at NYSCI says teachers visiting the museum with their students frequently make comments like, I’ve never seen those two work together so well or I’ve never seen her focus so much. “That’s because no one ever failed at a science museum,” he says.

According to Moore, getting someone to stop at your exhibit for even three minutes is a big win in the museum world. At NYSCI, visitors often stop to explore an exhibit for 30-45 minutes. Though this may not be optimal for museum flow, it begs the question: what can schools learn about engagement and personalization from this type of informal learning institution?

 

What can schools and teachers learn from NYSCI?

NYSCI, born at the 1964 World’s Fair in Corona, NY, is on a mission to put its visitors at the center of each hands-on learning experience. Originally exhibiting a collection of galleries sharing the potential of science, technology and space exploration, it is now home to over 450 interactive displays and a number of art and science exhibits rooted in experiential learning and the design, make, play approach.

 

NYSCI instructor Reid Bingham works with a class in the Maker Space,
Image Credit: David Handschuh/NYSCI

 

The NYSCI team is constantly asking itself: what is our role in education as an informal learning institution? “Our goal is to offer a very low barrier to learning—like a playful invitation,” says Moore. “We want to know what you find compelling; what problem you think is worth solving; what you want to do or make. And then provide a space where that can happen.”

Educators are part of NYSCI’s intended audience and there are a number of ways they can access the museum. Teachers can bring their classes to visit for open-ended field trips or scaffolded sessions designed around a particular challenge that needs to be solved, and can participate in professional development opportunities.

 

Field trips offer educators an opportunity to experience human-centered learning first-hand. Tesoriero reflects that some of the most engaged students during field trips were those who struggled the most in class. She notes that the greatest challenge with museum visits is finding a balance of holding students accountable for learning, while giving them space to explore what they are interested in, at their own pace.

 

For Tesoriero, a key part of that balance are NYSCI’s teenage “explainers,” a community of high school students participating in a youth development program with NYSCI called the Science Career Ladder. Explainers are not only experts on a particular exhibit or display, but are also skillful at supporting visitors to take control of their own learning and discover things on their own. These explainers are peppered throughout the museum and are often found with hands behind their backs asking open-ended probing questions to museum-goers. “They’re well trained and know a lot. I’ve learned a lot about how to help students discover things without telling them anything,” Tesoriero says.

 

Teenage Explainers, Image Credit: NYSCI

 

So what does it look like when a teacher adapts pieces of a museum’s learning model into the classroom? It can take shape in a number of ways. A museum might provide inspiration for resources and materials, inform lesson and unit design or influence philosophies of teaching and learning.

  1. Replicate an Activity: During a field trip, Solarsh’s students took part in a challenge to design and build a structure using wooden dowels that could provide shelter to 10 people after a natural disaster. Solarsh later purchased smaller dowels and replicated the activity in her classroom but with mini models, aligning it to her current civil engineering unit called “Scaling Structures.”
  2. Real-World Problems: Inspired by the challenge-based activities at NYSCI, Tesoriero developed a lesson back in her classroom that asked students to think about things that bothered them about eating and cooking and to design a utensil that could solve it. Students built prototypes of thermometer-spoons and cups that change color as the temperature of a liquid rises and falls.
  3. Empower Students to Make Meaningful Change: During a “Shark Tank” unit, Solarsh asked students to consider real-world issues they wanted to solve and design and present a solution for feedback. While she encouraged her students to follow their hearts and tackle large-scale problems like global warming, she also worked with students to make sure problems were focused so that students could get a sense of how individuals can affect change. One student designed and pitched an idea for lung-cancer detection and later found out that it aligned with what professionals are researching in the field.

The museum loves when classes come to visit, but Moore cautions against teachers trying to make their classrooms just like a science museum. “It’s not realistic,” he says. “There are resource constraints.” That’s why NYSCI takes PD so seriously, and is working hard to develop resources that teachers and learners can use outside the museum.

Moore explains that NYSCI’s biggest luxury is the ability to ask the question, “How do you make a topic irresistible so kids can’t turn away first, and then figure out all of the other stuff later?”


Expanding reach beyond museum visitors

Getting outside of the classroom can offer the opportunity to explore non-traditional methods of teaching and learning—but not everyone can get to NYSCI. Moore’s team spends a lot of time considering how to support educators, students and families that can’t make the trip to the museum.

“We want to scale access to these learning experiences to reach the folks we assume will never come—the kid in Jakarta, the teacher in Texas,” Moore explains. A major priority is building tools that make it possible for people to participate in some of these learning experiences digitally. “Because we don’t have to be adopted by every teacher, we’re able to make aspirational products that show what is possible—and to work with teachers to make them implementable in a variety of settings.”

In 2015, NYSCI’s first foray into this field was developing Noticing Tools, a set of five apps based on Design Lab that help students tackle math through selfies, video and building 3D models. The apps were prototyped in Tesoriero and Solarsh’s classes. The museum is currently in conceptual stages of its second initiative: a mobile game based on the Connected Worlds exhibit, an immersive ecosystem simulation for learners of all ages located in the Great Hall at the museum. The exhibit puts each learner at the center of a massive environment where even the museum’s youngest visitors can explore complex topics like sustainability, systems thinking and how actions have both short and long-term consequences.

Straddling magic and science, it challenges learners to manage a limited water supply and balance the needs of all living beings in six, interconnected digital biomes: wetlands, reservoir, jungle, grasslands, river valley and desert. Visitors can raise and lower their hands to plant seeds and move a set of physical logs to divert water from a 38-foot-high digital waterfall to an environment that needs it. Every decision made and every action taken impacts the environment.

The game will not try to replicate the exhibit. The goal is to design an open, online simulation game where players can build code and algorithms that have an impact on the ecosystem. With official launch over a year away, there are a lot of decisions to be made, but a core element of the game will definitely be to build upon intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic through gamification.

“‘I want to go deeper but the bell just rang.’ That’s what we want,” Moore says. Users won’t need to take a test to prove they are learning because the evidence will lie in what they have built. This may not fit the traditional instructional model but NYSCI isn’t building a game to fit into schools, they’re building a game to develop motivation through engagement.


The role of informal learning institutions in K-12 education

Society often turns to school leaders, educators, curriculum experts or the world of academia to propose innovative learning models when current practices fall short. But school leaders and educators face systemic pressures and budget challenges that can make it challenging to question the status quo and experiment with new ways to teach and learn. Perhaps informal learning experiences that take place outside of the classroom deserve more attention.

Without the stress of assessment, promotional criteria and the need to constantly provide evidence of progress, informal learning institutions like museums might just be able to make learning even the most complex ideas irresistible.

This blog post was first published on Edsurge

 

 

 

 

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03 Jul 2017

Forget Bloom’s: Here’s to SOLO teaching

During my conversations, interactions, designing, and planning with  teachers and lead teachers in the past decade, one obscure thing stands out in their minds: Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive process. This is what they articulate knowledge of. Many may have heard it in the staff room, been exposed to it in  professional development workshops, read it online or in a reference book, or perhaps even studied it during their college years. Many also may have used Bloom’s cognitive nouns and verbs to guide  their lesson planning, instructional practice, and even their assessments. Still, few know that Bloom’s Taxonomy has been updated in 2000. And very few know about Bloom’s knowledge dimensions (factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive). Whatever their level of knowledge of Bloom’s taxonomy, teachers recognize it directly and can even relate their teaching strategies if asked to categorize their practice and assessment.

This is really exciting as it holds real potentials to improve students achievement, but in the education domain one needs to know what works well and what does not work so well, in practice. If teachers want teaching clarity, that is making learning targets and success criteria clear for learners and teachers themselves, if teachers want learners to take more control over their learning,  and if teachers need to systematically use differentiation in their teaching, the taxonomy needs to be clear for both teachers and learners. The teacher, the learner, the tasks, and the assessment should all be clearly informed by the taxonomy.  This clarity is where Bloom’s taxonomy fails. The levels of cognitive processes in Bloom’s taxonomy, and their respective action verbs do not help teachers set clear, measurable learning targets, do no help teachers set learning activities that can meet the learning targets, and do not help learners recognize and articulate the cognitive processes they are involved in. Finally, Bloom’s taxonomy does not provide a whole school framework and common language to systemize instructional routines and assessments, including learner self-assessment. I have rarely, if ever, seen teachers who have designed, planned and delivered lessons with clarity informed by Bloom’s, nor have I seen learners who clearly know what cognitive effort a task entails or success criteria it needs in terms of Bloom’s. Pam Hook  says:

The taxonomy was published in 1956, has sold over a million copies, has been translated into several languages, and has been cited thousands of times.

The Bloom taxonomy has been extensively used in teacher education to suggest learning and teaching strategies, has formed the basis of many tests developed by teachers (at least while they were in teacher training), and has been used to evaluate many tests.

It is thus remarkable that the taxonomy has been subject to so little research or evaluation.

Most of the evaluations are philosophical treatises noting, among other criticisms, that there is no evidence for the invariance of these stages, or claiming that the taxonomy is not based on any known theory of learning or teaching.

 

The SOLO taxonomy (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes),devised by Collis  Biggs (1982), is divided into several levels  produced by students in terms of their complexity. The name itself reveals its function. The taxonomy is a structure, that is it has a form, and this form permeates throughout all knowledge levels. The taxonomy focuses on clarity since it seeks to make the learning outcomes observable by teachers and learners, unlike Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy which was devised for educational administrators.

The following is taken from Pam Hook’s wiki “The Learning Process – How Do You Know You are Learning?”

  • At the pre-structural level of understanding, the student response shows they have missed the point of the new learning.
  • At the uni-structural level, the learning outcome shows understanding of one aspect of the task, but this understanding is limited. For example, the student can label, name, define, identify or follow a simple procedure.
  • At the multi-structural level, several aspects of the task are understood but their relationship to each other, and the whole is missed. For example the student can list, define, describe, combine, match, or do algorithms.
  • At the relational level, the ideas are linked, and provide a coherent understanding of the whole. Student learning outcomes show evidence of comparison, causal thinking, classification, sequencing, analysis, part whole thinking, analogy, application and the formulation of questions.
  • At the extended abstract level, understanding at the relational level is re-thought at a higher level of abstraction, it is transferred to another context. Student learning outcomes at the extended abstract level show prediction, generalisation, evaluation, theorising, hypothesising, creation, and or reflection.

 

solo_taxonomy

 

Here’s a newer representation of SOLO using the house as a metaphor.

solo-houses

 

SOLO included declarative and functioning learning verbs

image

Source: Hook (2011)

 

SOLO verbs are easy to align learning targets with an achievement standard

image

 

SOLO can also be used codified for student self-assessment, linking student cognitive level to the task requirement.

image

source: Hook (2011)

The above are few sample of many, on how SOLO can be easily adopted by teacher and students. IT creates a common school language and framework for instruction, learning, and assessment.

 

Pam Hook writes a succinct Critique of Bloom’s Taxonomy and details advantages of SOLO model over Bloom’s :

Advantages of the SOLO model for evaluation of student learning
    • There are several advantages of the SOLO model over the Bloom taxonomy in the evaluation of student learning.
    • These advantages concern not only item construction and scoring, but incorporate features of the process of evaluation that pay attention to how students learn, and how teachers devise instructional procedures to help students use progressively more complex cognitive processes.
    • Unlike the Bloom taxonomy, which tends to be used more by teachers than by students, the SOLO can be taught to students such that they can learn to write progressively more difficult answers or prompts.
    • There is a closer parallel to how teachers teach and how students learn.
    • Both teachers and students often progress from more surface to deeper constructs and this is mirrored in the four levels of the SOLO taxonomy.
    • There is no necessary progression in the manner of teaching or learning in the Bloom taxonomy.
    • The levels can be interpreted relative to the proficiency of the students. Six year old students can be taught to derive general principles and suggest hypotheses, though obviously to a different level of abstraction and detail than their older peers. Using the SOLO method, it is relatively easy to construct items to assess such abstractions.
    • The SOLO taxonomy not only suggests an item writing methodology, but the same taxonomy can be used to score the items. The marker assesses each response to establish either the number of ideas (one = unistructural; _ two = multistructural), or the degree of interrelatedness (directly related or abstracted to more general principles). This can lead to more dependability of scoring.
    • Unlike the experience of some with the Bloom taxonomy it is relatively easy to identify and categorise the SOLO levels.
    • Similarly, teachers could be encouraged to use the ‘plus one’ principle when choosing appropriate learning material for students. That is, the teacher can aim to move the student one level higher in the taxonomy by appropriate choice of learning material and instructional sequencing.

Want more? Here is a link on  Problems with Bloom’s Taxonomy (Invalid, unreliable, impractical)

 

Want to dive into SOLO model? Check out Pam Hook’s Website. Start with these two introductory books:

SOLO Taxonomy: A Guide for Schools Bk 1: a Common Language  by Julie Mills and Pam Hook

SOLO Taxonomy: A Guide for Schools Bk 2 by Pam Hook Julie Mills

 

 

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08 Jun 2017

Here’s How Curriculum Mapping Can Change Your School into a Learning Community

 

 

If you are an exceptional school, then having teachers and school admin collaborate and communicate via evidentiary data from the “operational curriculum” in a recursive and systematic manner should be your utmost concern. This does not only foster an  authentic, databased curricular dialogue, but is also one of the best professional development antidotes to the failing traditional external, aloof workshops that, at its best, and based on study findings, might result in a month of instructional practice improvement.

 

Similar to any map, but more so like Google Maps, curriculum mapping allows you to see the “Big Picture” of the whole curriculum. It allows you to step back to see the tapestry of your curriculum. This allows you to see how curriculum, instructional practices, assessments are aligned, or misaligned. However, make sure you have a high quality curriculum design and mapping, it is critical to follow the four phases of curriculum development as recommended by Heidi Jacobs. The 4 phases can be also be more so of professional development as school faculty are engaged in the (re)design or the curriculum whilst wearing the “Researcher Hat”.

 

Jacobs (2004) states that

…curriculum maps have the potential to become the hub for making decisions about teaching and learning. Focusing the barrage of initiatives and demands on schools into a central database that can be accessed from anywhere through the Internet can provide relief…Mapping becomes an integrating force to address not only curriculum issues, but also programmatic ones.

 

4 Critical Phases of Curriculum Mapping

Phase 1: Laying the Foundation

Prologue for Planners, Establishing Reasons to Map, Creating a Vision for Your School

Phase 2: Launching the Process

Ensuring Long-Term Support, Creating Individual Maps, Initiating the Review Process,
Developing Consensus Maps, Master Mapping Strategies

 

Phase 3: Maintaining, Sustaining, and Integrating

Merging Assessment Data into Maps, Integrating Literacy, Developing an Implementation
Plan/Map, Making the HUB work: Integrating Other Initiatives

 

Phase 4: Advanced Mapping Tasks

Into the Future: Updating Maps for the 21st Century

 

Here’s a video for D. Jacobs clarifying eahc of the phases above.

 

 

 

Here’s Dr. Jacobs in a 2011 TedTalk about the state of curriculum mapping.

 

Are you mapping your curriculum at your school? If so, what are the challenges you currently face? What curriculum mapping system re you using, if any? If not, it is easy to start with the right step, the first phase.

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