Monday, July 29, 2013

Learning Design 2013: Shortlist of Ideas and Links

Thanks to a Wayland Public Schools Foundation grant and the support of our system-wide leadership, I was given a stipend to organize posts I collected for summer study. At first I thought I would create a guiding chart, but found that the use of a unit design template, lesson plan template and this guiding post will serve colleague's learning and teaching design efforts better. The unit/lesson design templates give educators a structure with which to plan learning experiences that reflect current research, standards, and expectations. This guiding post leads educators through the many considerations related to dynamic learning design today. I've also offered examples that relate to each professional learning and design area.

I reviewed and organized the posts in order to guide colleagues and myself with respect to our ongoing efforts to teach children well. Rather than a comprehensive list or chart of all the great tools, strategies, and considerations one should access while designing learning for today’s student, this post serves as a road map of learning including a number of signature posts and links that represent many critical points, organizations, authors, tools, and strategies related to current change and evolution in education.

After sifting through numerous, diverse posts, I was once again struck by the universe of information available today, and the mighty task of knowing where to begin and what to do with all this information.

This question leads us back to the center of what it means to be human and to live a good life. Information should serve us, not the other way around. We need to find ways to encourage and invigorate learning so that children use information to pursue the good life--a life of happiness, fulfillment, and contribution

So I’ll begin with posts that inspired and challenged me.  Posts that told stories about the beauty, wonder, and struggles in our world. There are multiple stories like this online, but I offer this short list just to wet your appetite for the investigation and exploration available in our world today. Feel free to pass over these examples, but if interested, take a look.

Now to start this guide post, I begin by challenging you to identify the stories you will bring to life in your classrooms--the tales of human endeavor, struggle, quest, and triumph that will excite and inspire your students towards their own discoveries, invention, and investigation.

Once you, your colleagues, and students have determined areas of exploration, the next step is to design the learning together. This collaborative design has developmental implications and will therefore look different at the various grades and levels in a school organization.

I was struck by Grant Wiggins discussion of this topic in his article, “Everything You Know About Curriculum May Be Wrong. Really.” The following quotes challenged me as I read the article:
  • The point is to do new things with content, not simply know what others know – in any field.”
  • “. . .boredom is rampant in schools; perhaps it is the inevitable result of focusing on knowledge instead of performance (which is inherently more engaging). “
  • We might finally realize the absurdity of marching through textbooks.”
  • If curriculum is a tour through what is known, how is knowledge ever advanced?”
  • In other words, though we often lose sight of this basic fact, the point of learning is not just to know things but to be a different person – more mature, more wise, more self-disciplined, more effective, and more productive in the broadest sense.”

With Wiggins’ idea that the transformative process of learning is what matters, how do we design learning so that we focus on performance and new knowledge?

Couros and Granger lead us with a call to develop inquiry base units, take risks, and develop a love of learning. Developing learning like this leads us to employ Design Thinking that includes multiple Learning Maps, The Four C’s, and a solid understanding of what it means to learn. The best lessons will depend on information that is well researched using essential questions, academic search engines, and effective 21st century learning leadership.  

As we design learning we need to integrate today’s tools with attention to Digital Pedagogy, PBL, and Student Research. We can set the stage for this learning by encouraging students' “learning to learn” mindsets and habits, and integrating brain-friendly learning experiences. Sites such as these support this learning:

Ongoing assessment of the learning environment by educators, leaders, families, and the community is integral to the process of building dynamic schools. The questions below serve to initiate school and classroom assessments:

Is your learning community effective? ( Stack )
  • Does your learning community work interdependently to advance student learning and academic performance for which we are collectively responsible and mutually accountable?
  • Are students engaged in learning tasks and performance assessments that accurately measure learning and mastery of competency?
  • Does the community fosters a positive school culture and climate for each of the stakeholders that promotes respect, responsibility, ambition, and pride?

Is your classroom a dynamic,student-centered,engaging learning environment?(Couros)
  • Do students have voice and choice?
  • Is there time for reflection?
  • Are there opportunities for innovation?
  • Do you encourage and support critical thinking?
  • Are students problem solvers and “finders?
  • Do students self-assess their learning?
  • Are you and your students connected learners?

Does  your school exemplify the Attributes of a successful school?

Are you an effective educator?

Is your classroom and/or school an effective learning environment?
  • Is the learner at the center of all that happens in the classroom?
  • Is learning a social practice in your classroom?
  • Do students understand the why of learning experiences in your classroom?
  • Do you make time for students’ emotions?
  • Do you engage each student “where he or she is”?
  • Do you offer a just right challenge for students so they are not “coasting” or “overloaded?”
  • Is assessment meaningful, substantial, and used to shape the environment?
  • Is learning interdisciplinary?

Also, are you ready for new learning--learning that has been identified nationally and locally in addition to learning that results from students’ passions and interests. Today’s learning requires familiarity and inclusion of the following areas:

Multiple new tools and strategies exist in core curriculum areas as well. Here is a sample of a few links related to specific subject areas.

Science/Social Studies

Our ability to teach children well will depend on the way we integrate the new digital culture with the traditional culture of school. The manner in which leadership and educators synthesize social media, digital tools, today’s big questions, students’ passions, community context, and essential skills will impact the kind of learning environments we create. In the  Forbes article, “5 Ways Social Learning Communities Transform Culture And Leadership,” Biro supports this point when she writes, “Online learners will change culture.” and“. . .empower your employees to learn, participate and grow” with social media. Therefore the way we structure, navigate, and share our professional learning including the books, articles, and blogs we read, the conferences and courses we attend, and the professional learning communities we work with will impact the cultures we create in our schools.

A Very Short List of Blogs, Articles, Conferences and Organizations
Created from my Posts' Collection
Additions are welcome.  Please add your favorites in the comments section.

In summary, this post offers you a map to guide your professional learning and design for the school year to come. The post also offers you learning and unit design templates which may serve to structure your efforts to promote engaging, student-centered learning design. Similar to the traveler's considerations as she studies the map to choose the best places to visit and explore, the educator today must study the educational landscape to determine the best paths to travel and promote to facilitate dynamic, engaging exploration, investigation, and development. Like the short tour of a new city or historic landmark, this post overs a drive-by view of learning, one which you may use to begin, review, or revise your own individual and collaborative learning design path--a path that leads you to best practice as an educator today.