Students need S-P-A-C-E to learn

I was recently introduced to Challenge Success, which is an organization that works with schools to help create balance and academic fulfillment for students. One of their cornerstones is based on the notion that students need SPACE to learn. SPACE is an acronym for five practices that can help change a student’s experience of school:

S – Students’ use of time

P – Project-based learning

A – Alternative and authentic assessments

C – Climate of care

E – Educate parents, students and faculty

It is worth viewing the recommended SPACE policies and ideas that can positively influence a student’s experience of high school.

Interestingly, we have been advocating for these same principles (minus the fancy acronym!) and planning for many of the recommendations for our new high school. It is rewarding to see how our efforts are aligning with recommendations from the research base for school success.

Of particular interest is focus “C” on developing a caring community for students in which they feel safe and appropriately challenged to learn. This is so central to our plans for Monroe Christian High School, as it is in a Christian community-based learning environment that discipleship and student development can occur. Our high school students need community and a caring advising system in which teachers will get to know their students in order to help them succeed academically  We don’t believe that a fully online, virtual high school will lead to the type of academic and personal growth that we desire for our high school graduates. We remain committed to the deliberate blending of on-campus learning experiences and positive relationships with the best that online learning options may offer for high school studies.

Resource:

Barseghian, T. – Why kids need schools to change

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Needed: A focus on teaching and learning

The success of any 1-1 implementation lies less in the choice of computing device, but more in the difference that it can contribute to the overall teaching and learning that is taking place in the classroom. This is so important to remember, especially as more and more schools follow through with an “iPad initiative.”

While the selection of educational apps is vast (the Apple in Education website currently reads “Thousands of apps. Endless potential.”), I have come to understand that teachers shouldn’t focus only on the apps that can help with learning (intriguing as they may be). The key is to expand student thinking, not restrict it by working only within a choice selection of apps.

Appropriate instructional decisions are needed in order to take student learning to the next level. How are teachers challenging student thinking and inviting them to use their device in productive ways that will help them learn better? To what extent are students using the technology to curate their knowledge, collaborate with others, and create their own content? These are two important questions to keep in mind before deciding on an “app for that.”

The “flipped” classroom

The notion of a “flipped” classroom has been gaining a lot of attention in the past year or so.

First of all, what is a “flipped” classroom? By most accounts, a flipped classroom is one where the instruction takes place online outside of class hours, thereby freeing classtime for discussion, application and/or homework on the online lesson’s ideas and topics that students have previously viewed.

I have been following the development and interest that it is gaining and wanted to collect a number of links to some valuable resources on the flipped model:

This infographic provides a nice overview of the flipped model.

A collection of 10 reasons to consider flipping a classroom countered with 5 reasons not to flip a classroom.

A balanced commentary on the flipped classroom model for learning.

The flipped class manifest outlines the core tenets of a flipped classroom.

A discussion on how the flipped classroom is radically transforming learning.

The Flipped Class Network is a professional learning community to support teachers as they consider flipping a lesson or even their entire class.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 1

Today was the pre-conference day to discuss specific elements of digital learning strategies and methods as applicable to the Christian School. It was a good day together. Unlike other conferences that I attended, I found that the day included quality breakout sessions and meaningful conversations all around. I was impressed by the sense of collegiality that permeated the various sessions and I had a chance to meet some very dedicated professional educators. I chose to attend three specific sessions.

Success Strategies for the Business of Education helped us reconfigure the business and marketing end of schooling. Of the many insights I gained, I thought the most simple and practical was to get students involved in the touring process for prospective students and families, especially at the middle and high school levels. This can definitely help students see themselves “fitting in” which is so important when families enroll or transfer to the school. I realized that we do this on our university campus, so it makes sense here. I wonder why we didn’t think of this before.

Physical + Virtual = Space for Learning challenged us to reconsider our use of physical and virtual space in teaching and learning. This was a brilliant presentation of what can be, especially with regards to self-directed, competency-based learning. I like the emphasis to keep relationship and community deeply centered in the learning landscape.

Change Leadership for Dynamic Times offered some insight into leading change in a school where some resistance may be encountered. An eight stage approach to ensure effective change was shared. I found the first step, namely “creating a sense of urgency in what needs to be done” as one of the more important steps since it helped focus energies on initiating the process of necessary and better change in the school.

This was a good day to start the symposium. I will definitely need to review and consider my notes and ideas a bit further, especially as they apply to the high school project.

The Apple “Edu-Announcements”

Apple made big news yesterday with a number of education-related announcements. The first was the launch of iBooks 2.  iBooks 2 is an upgrade to their iBooks app that will now allow users to access electronic textbooks on an iPad. The app itself is free and Apple announced that all textbooks on its shelves would be priced at $14.99 or less. Interestingly, a number of publishers have already committed to producing e-textbooks for Apple and the iPad, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. These publishing companies alone have a significant stake in the textbook market.

For Apple, the future of textbooks is meant to be electronic and not a significant drain on the wallet, either. No longer will students and schools need to pay expensive prices for books and their special add-ons, especially since these e-textbooks will have interactive features built into them. It is expected that these elements will include features such as videos, diagrams, active links, photo galleries, questionnaires, quizzes, 3-D diagram models, etc. Another benefit for students will be the ability to highlight, add notes and search definitions and terms electronically on the text.

As one who has been involved in the textbook adoption process in higher education, I can agree with others who note that Apple is trying to change the paradigm in terms of textbook use in the classroom. Some even suggest that Apple is “reinventing the textbook market” or that this will “kill the sale of paper textbooks.” It will be interesting to follow what happens to textbook production and sales, especially for those who are preferring to use their iPads. With over 1.5 million iPads being used in k-12 schools and more than 20,000 educational apps for the iPad alone so far, this may have a significant impact.

The second initiative with this announcement was the release of iBooks author which is a free tool that allows people (teachers) to become authors of their own (text) books. While this app is not workable on an iPad, it does allow those with operating a Macintosh computer to create e-books for the iPad in a streamlined manner. It includes basic templates, the ability to add multimedia including 3-D objects and HTML, and ease of use to import text from common word processing formats. Of course, there is also the ability to export to iBookstore for publication.

Even though I don’t currently use a Mac, I am interested in learning more about iAuthor textbook development process for teachers. Imagine being able to develop highly personalized textbooks for my students that would  focus on the specific material we prefer to use in the classroom. Imagine, too, being able to integrate interactive video and links to outside sources. We wouldn’t need to sort through the excess information that doesn’t necessarily apply to my course which often appears in larger texts.

The announcements are based on the assumption that all students either own or will have access to a mobile device using Apple products. Indeed, this could have a big impact in a 1:1 initiative for a school. The impact may be less certain if students do not have 24-hr access to a computing device or if schools are choosing to use Windows operating systems. Other issues, such as textbook use policies, may need to be reconsidered in k-12 settings where the school typically owns the books, rather than the students who may own the iPads. Still, as it has been noted “For now, it’s an exciting step in moving education further into the 21st century.”

References:

Biggs, J. (2012, Jan. 19). Sea Change: Apple Guts Textbook Publishing.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 19, 2012). Apple Schools Education Market with iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 20, 2012). Hands On with iBooks 2 and iTunes U.

Khan, J. ( Jan. 20, 2012). McGraw Hill CEO gives credit for iBooks textbook vision to Steve Jobs.

NPR staff. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple pushes interactive textbooks on iPads.

Provenzano, N. (2012, Jan. 20). What Apple’s Edu-Announcement Could Mean To You.

Sohn, T., & Nagel, D. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple Launches iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Takahashi, P. (2012, Jan. 19). New iPad app for digital textbooks excites Clark County schools.

Categorizing my thinking

Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University recently launched the Developing Effective Schools Center (DESC), a national research and development center on identifying programs, practices, processes and policies that make some high schools more effective at reaching certain students than others. The DESC notes that consensus has grown among practitioners and researchers around the essential components of a successful high school. These include quality instruction, a rigorous curriculum, a culture of learning, professional behavior, connections to external communities, systemic use of data, system performance accountability, and learner-centered leadership.

Marzano (2003) reviewed 35 years of research of ‘what works in schools.’ He organized his results into three general factors of  influence on student achievement. These are 1) school-level factors (viable curriculum, challenging goals and effective feedback, parent and community involvement, safe and orderly environment), 2) teacher-level factors (instructional strategies, classroom management, classroom curriculum design), and 3) student-level factors (home atmosphere, learned intelligence and background knowledge, motivation).

As I reviewed the two lists, I wondered if considering these components and categories would be helpful as I continue to organize my thoughts regarding a new Christian high school. It seemed that each component and category could be applied to a Christian education context with little difficulty. I then recalled my recent site visitation experience at Monroe Christian School which introduced me to the accreditation standards that are central Christian Schools International. These are Standards 1) Community, 2) Staff, 3) Students, and 4) Curriculum. I mapped my understanding of the components suggested by DESC and the Marzano categories of what works in schools to the four CSI Standards and decided to include those additional components that a private institution needs to consider. This led to following organizing framework:

1. School

  • centrality of vision and mission of the Christian school (including the philosophical foundation of education/school)
  • connections to external communities (including parent and community involvement)
  • responsibilities & relationships among all participants in the learning process (including the student-level factors of home atmosphere, motivation, and learned intelligence and background knowledge)
  • systemic use of data to guide decision-making and inform system performance
  • facilities

2. Teacher

  • teacher development and support
  • healthy, professional, and biblical teacher leadership
  • developing a culture of learning

3. Students

  • discipleship and development
  • student services & programs
  • enrollment (admissions & retention)
  • graduation requirement

4. Curriculum & Instruction

  • a guaranteed, viable & rigorous curriculum
  • quality instruction & classroom management
  • learning environment
  • educational technology

I am going to start categorize and/or tag my posts in this blog according to this framework. This should help me as I continue to reflect and act upon this “whisper” for a Christian High School.

References:

Christian Schools International. (2006). Vision to action. Retrieved October 12, 2010 at http://www.csionline.org/.

Marzano, R. J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Peabody College of Education. (2010, Fall). Ideas in action. Peabody Reflector. 11.