Friday’s Revolutionary ASCD PD Pilot: Four Takeaways

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On Friday, March 27th, five ASCD affiliates simultaneously held a blended learning professional development event, bringing in Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey of FIT teaching fame from San Diego, California, right into their states for educators eager to learn more. But this wasn’t just about the delivery of Fisher & Frey’s high quality content. It was also about providing a context for like-minded educators to learn from one another. The combinations of content and collaboration, virtually and face-to-face, is a powerful new model that ASCD and its affiliates partnered together to pilot…and the results are powerful.

Maine educators collaborating in between sessions with Fisher & Frey

Maine educators collaborating in between sessions with Fisher & Frey

First of all, not only were there event sites on the ground in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont; Rhode Island hosted two sites and New York filled three. And all that was in play before two campuses of Instituto San Roberto in Mexico contacted Rhode Island ASCD to attend remotely from their facilities. First takeaway: blended learning can reach multiple groups of educators in different locations at the same time.

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Then there was Fisher and Frey’s ability to share their work virtually live from their school during a normal school day. They spoke casually and confidently about their program, openly fielding questions and interacting with all ten locations, genuinely sharing their vision and its practical applications with students. “It was like they were right in the room with us….it didn’t feel any different than when I was in Houston last week sitting in the third row enjoying exchanges with big name presenters at ASCD’s annual conference,” one Massachusetts attendee shared. Second takeaway: blended learning works best with subject matter experts who come across authentically online.

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And then there was the ASCD EdSpace unconferencing format. Each opportunity for work with colleagues throughout the day provided for collaboration across common needs and interests working with the FIT teaching framework. Attendees self-selected pairings and groupings to learn from one another and build understandings, strategies and processes that can be immediately implementable in classrooms and offices first thing this coming Monday morning. No down time. No sit and get. No seat hours. Just pure what’s-in-it-for-me professional development. Third takeaway: unconferencing couched in rich, purposeful content provides powerful learning and networking that far surpasses traditional PD formats.

Massachusetts educators discussing purpose and culture in the FIT teaching framework.

Massachusetts educators discussing purpose and culture in the FIT teaching framework.

Finally, there was the virtual cross-pollination of ideas. At the end of a full day, affiliates all came back together online to showcase their takeaways from the day, after two solid hours of localized unconferencing that allowed each affiliate to work within their unique state context. This virtual sharing was a powerful wrap up to a powerful day. State after state offered attendees coming up to the camera to share the meaningful learning they had experienced. Fourth takeaway: collaboration can happen in multiple dimensions within a single professional development experience.

New York educators welcoming everyone to the big event virtually Friday morning.

New York educators welcoming everyone to the big event virtually Friday morning.

What is most rewarding is that given the success of this weekend’s pilot, each of these affiliates has expressed interest and enthusiasm for delivering more blended learning PD. The seed has been planted, from which many more possibilities can blossom. How about you and your corner of the world? Are you ready to open up professional development to whole new dimensions and possibilities? Are you willing to bring what you have to offer to interested educators remotely around the world? Are you receptive to meeting the needs of different and diverse cadres of educators who will make their own meaning from what you provide? If your answers are “Yes!” then join ASCD and its affiliates in continuing to push the boundaries on what effective PD can be for educators everywhere.

Taking charge of their professional development locally and across the northeast and Mexico.

Taking charge of their professional development locally and across the northeast and Mexico.

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A Deep Dive Into Learning Innovation [VIDEO 12:39]

Shekou International School (SIS) is in its second year of reimagining learning through the integral use of technology. This snapshot highlights broad examples of communication, collaboration, complex thinking, independent learning and global citizenship. Discrete practice includes ePortfolios, visible thinking, feedback loops, makerEd, global partnerships and more. Find us at http://www.sis-shekou.org/innovation and #SISrocks.

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Rigor: What it Is, and What it Isn’t [TABLE]

rigorTo help educators work together to have some focused conversations about what rigor must mean, John Wink whipped up this table comparing what it is and what it isn’t.  His hope is that all educators within an organization will have meaningful discussions about rigor and create a common understanding, so that together they could make a rigorous school instead of rigorous classrooms.

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Shifting the Culture in Learner-Centered Environments

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Reposted from CompetencyWorks:

In 2012, the Maine Legislature passed into law LD1422, An Act to Prepare Maine People for the Future Economy. The key element of this legislation is the transition to a standards-based educational system in which graduation from a Maine high school is based on students demonstrating proficiency. The policy was set, but what does it mean to a district and school to ensure their students are proficient? What had to change? I’ve worked in one district that has undergone the transformation and I’m currently working in another that has started their transition to a proficiency-based system. Each one began by transforming the culture to a learner-centered approach. In both districts, consultants from the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, a division of Marzano Research, provided us with training and resources to aid in our implementation of this challenging work.

It starts with fully embracing the fact that students learn differently. As we put our beliefs that learners learn in different ways and in different time frames into practice, we began taking bold steps toward creating a meaningful, personalized learning experience for each child. Early on, we gleaned the importance of including all stakeholders, including community groups, students, staff, and parents, in thinking and talking about a culture of learning. We hosted many conversations about our current cultural reality and reflected on needed changes moving forward. Our essential question, “What does a successful learner in the twenty-first century look like?” guided us through a lengthy process of discussions, gathering, and then analyzing the data from our various stakeholder groups. Once our district shared vision of “Preparing respectful, responsible, and creative thinkers for success in the global community” was established, teachers found innovative ways to make this statement have meaning and relevance for our learners at both the school and classroom levels. I have seen teachers incorporate our vision in creative ways, such as student-created posters, songs, and chants.

These conversations and collaborative processes around culture became the roots that grounded us. Once these cultural roots took hold, we could add other essential nutrients to start growing our personalized, proficiency-based system of learning. I believe that taking the time to fully develop our shared vision in the beginning has been a significant factor in the progress students have made with their academic learning goals. This shift in culture allowed us to establish positive learner-centered environments, where our students became more engaged and had increased ownership of their learning pathways.

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Innovation as Freewheeling Collaboration [INFOGRAPHIC]

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When it comes to great ideas, intuition is “more powerful than intellect.” That’s according to the late Steve Jobs. Many experts would agree that truly transformative ideas rarely come from one individual with a high IQ. Instead, these researchers, executives and entrepreneurs believe that innovation is largely the result of freewheeling collaboration – with just a few guidelines. Bluescape organized a few of these experts’ insights into four main steps in the above infographic on creating an effective idea strategy.

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Microsoft’s “Classroom of the Future”

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Reposted from the eBuyer Blog:

The last 20 years have arguably seen the biggest advances in education when it comes to technology in the classroom, with the introduction of computing and personal devices. As personal devices such as computers, laptops and tablets became cheaper, kids naturally became more familiar with the technology often surpassing the knowledge of their teachers or the curriculum.

Last week I was invited down to Microsoft’s “Classroom of the Future”, a concept space in central London where a team of technology and education experts display how modern tech and traditional teaching methods can be blended to create the most effective teaching environment. The modern open layout of the classroom is designed to replicate how any school could set out and embrace new styles of learning, with only minimal space and a range of funding.

So I suppose you’re asking what makes the classroom of the future so modern? Well it’s not quite as Jetsons-esque as one may predict, kids aren’t learning in self-contained education pods by robot lecturers….yet. The classroom of the future is driven by variation in learning. It’s not about simply copying text from a board anymore. Modern education, as the teachers out there will know, is about inclusivity, collaboration and getting kids actively involved.

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Deprogramming Kids From “Doing School” Can Improve Learning

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Reposted from MindShift:

One day, Adam Holman decided he was fed up with trying to cram knowledge into the brains of the high school students he taught. They weren’t grasping the physics he was teaching at the level he knew they were capable of, so he decided to change up his teaching style. It wasn’t that his students didn’t care about achieving — he taught at high performing, affluent schools where students knew they needed high grades to get into good colleges. They argued for every point to make sure their grades were as high as possible, but were they learning? “I felt I had to remove all the barriers I could on my end before I could ask my kids to meet me halfway,” Holman said. The first thing he did was move to standards-based grading. He told his students to show him they’d learned the material, it didn’t matter how long it took them.

“The kids realized this made sense,” Holman said. He taught physics and math at Anderson High School in Austin, before moving on to become a vice-principal. His students were mostly well-off, high achievers, and they knew how to play the game to get the grades they needed. But Holman found when he changed the grading policy, students worried about grades less and focused more on working together to understand the material.

“It turned my students into classmates and collaborators because I didn’t have a system in place to deny the collaboration,” Holman said. His students stopped copying homework. There was no curve that guaranteed some kids would be at the bottom. Instead, the class moved at its regular pace, but if a student persisted at a topic until they could show they understood it, Holman would give them credit. “It turned the kids on my side,” Holman said. “I was there to help them learn.”

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