Saturday, August 21, 2010

Authentic Projects

Are you looking for new, authentic reasons for students to talk about their reading?  Check out this website where students tell "Whyy I Like This Book".  This is a reading promotion project of the public television station WHYY in Philadelphis that won this year's Internation Reading Association Broadcast Media Award for Television.  Students of all ages describe why they like a particular book.  Students submit an application, and those chosen participate in a videotaped audition.  Not only could some of our students participate on WHYY, but we might borrow their idea for our school website. Browse these authentic booktalks.  I read "Paper Towns" by John Green this summer.  It really is an awesome read.  What do you think?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thing 6: Ning

Within minutes of connecting to Ning I found individuals working with special needs students, students at risk, and web2.0 tools. I had never explored Ning, but immediately found it more useful for collaboration than blogging.  Blogs are a useful place to reflect, but often sit idle if you are new to the blog world, waiting on collaboration.  Nings are like magnets for sharing knowledge! I will explore this tool further.

Thing 12: Delicious

I created my Delicious account last year, but used it very little.  I prefer Internet Explorer to Firefox and assumed Firefox was a requirement to having a Delicious toolbar.  However, the first thing I noticed today when I explored Delicious was the button for Internet Explorer.  That accomplished, I am now ready to expand my use of Delicious as an organzational tool rather than copying and pasting everything into my Photopage.

Readiness for Teamwork

As I toured the Blogosphere reviewing several projects, I must say I felt overwhelmed. I was relieved to be granted permission, even encouraged, to join a well designed project that is already underway. Since I have not been present at this workshop, I suspect we will be joining a collaborative effort with colleagues on our first project. When I explored Krauss and Boss' blog, Reinventing Pbl, I was excited to find Project Based Learning on Edutopia where members can learn along with a group, online, discussing, and collaborating on the process, sharing ideas, not just viewing a finished project.  I truly see the need for project based learning to provide students, especially unmotivated students, with an authentic reason to learn. As also indicated, however, creating project based learning units is a time consuming endeavor. I have a need to restructure my interactions with my fellow colleagues as recommended. By nature and years of habit, I am reserved, but a very willing learner. During my journey at Harding University seeking my graduate degree in reading, Lit Lab, and Young Adult Author Series, as well as, my adventure with 21st Century learning, new doors have opened for my students as my teaching methods changed. Further experience with Huff’s 21Things continues to alter the mold of my teaching strategies. PBL requires a teacher willing to learn. That I am. Becoming more open with colleagues will take more work. But there again, I am open to anything that opens new opportunities for my students.

Where Am I Starting?

As I begin my journey through Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss’, Reinventing Project-Based Learning, I realize I have not set aside the time to reflect on my learning through the last three years of graduate classes and professional development. Time is a major factor, of course, as it will be a factor as we begin our journey into project based learning. During our previous school year my students and I played with a variety of technology tools, integrating them into our literacy learning. Though we called our units “projects” they were in truth, literacy units incorporating technology tools. Most students loved the new tools, embracing the new power they felt when posting on our class blog or wiki for the first time. The technology tools opened the door to the 21st Century and served as motivators. However, I have not yet grasped the ability or confidence to transform my classroom into a project based learning center. The literacy units, technology tools, and the understanding of the need for authentic real life experiences are all present. Now, how do I turn this knowledge into project based learning?

Assessments versus 21st Century Learning

While searching the internet to locate Will Richardson’s “10 Big Shifts” I found a question on his Blog that is on all of our minds as we begin this new school year. How do we address the skills needed to enable our students to pass required assessments and prepare them for the 21st Century? As willing learners, many of our teachers are taking on the challenge by learning new skills and integrating them into our classroom. On Thursday our high school campus will collaborate on project based learning. Our enemy is time. We continue to take our students back, attempting to cram basic knowledge into their "turned off" brains, rather than moving forward with new tools and opportunities to "awaken their brain" and begin a new thinking process. Why do we do this? Fear. Fear of test failure. Fear of looking like failures ourselves. I spent two long weeks this summer cramming information into my brain so that I could pass a test each day. The only thing that got me through this process was the fact that it would all be over in two weeks. Imagine how our students feel each day, of each week, of each month, of each year for twelve years, if all we ask of them is to memorize facts. Facts that will be forgotten in a few days. As a special education teacher, I have always believed that if I could just get my students to think for themselves, they could survive this world. By the tenth grade, many of our students are "turned off" to learning. Learning has no meaning. Children are born inquisitive. Listen to all of the “why” questions of a young child. If we can revive their thinking, we can create 21st century learners. As for the state assessments, anyone who has taught for many years realizes, this too will pass.