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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How do we embed future-ready skills and practices into our teaching/learning efforts?

As I continue my reflection related to Empowered Educators, I want to bring it right back to the work I do daily to teach well with my grade-level team and students. What activities will I employ to help students develop the skills and capabilities they'll need to be successful, happy people in the world to come? As I analyzed the attributed of future-ready students below, I recognized that we have area for greater attention and growth, areas that will profit from a team approach as we strive to meet today's expectations and teach for tomorrow too.

What activities prompt students to make sense out of complex information and events?
I know that we foster this with our Global Changemakers project which leads to all kinds of great research, analysis, questioning and reporting. This is positive. I also know that we scaffold these skills when it comes to problem solving, literary analysis and writing. I believe we can do this more by adding relevant, meaningful, deeper, more thought-provoking questions to unit study. Questions like this will marry study to important issues, problems, and events that will spark students curiosity and interest. I have work to do in this area.

Think creatively to solve novel problems
Our STEAM efforts lend themselves somewhat to this. Again, as above, I believe we can develop this area of our curriculum more. By embedding some of Boaler's floor-to-ceiling math explorations I will be able to do this better.

Work well with others
Last year we worked a lot on this beginning with initial STEAM efforts as we focused on the "TEAM in STEAM." We also did this by embedding social-emotional learning (SEL) into our classroom efforts and fostering lots of collaboration in learning. I believe we can continue to build our efforts in this regard. Our focus on strong relationship building with revised orientation efforts will help us to move in this direction since knowing one another and good relationships lead to positive collaboration, empathy and respect.

Engage effectively in cross-cultural contexts
We made considerable time in the year to focus on our diversity as a team. We spent time on identity projects and embedding more culturally proficient programming, debate and discussion. This was positive. We plan to continue to develop these efforts as we move forward.

Measure and analyze many forms of media and quantitative data in sophisticated ways
I know that many educators focused on this from having students analyze "fake news" on the Internet, to looking at and working with real-world, relative statistics and analyzing informational text. Again, we can do more of this and this effort would profit from targeted attention, discussion and creativity during a PLC.

Find, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and apply knowledge to new ideas, answers and solutions
We do this in part, but can do more. I'd like to make mini posters of these important words and point to them as students solve problems, develop and react to new ideas, and evaluate answers/solutions. We can better build this in during STEAM time and as we employ the Standards of Mathematical Practice (SMPs). Identifying and solving real-world problems in students' context is a good way foster this kind of thinking and work. I will be thinking about how to better embed this.

Communicate in multiple forms
This is one area we do a good job in. Students utilize online writing, blogs, research sites, video, audio and more to create and communicate on their own and with others. Educators also expect that students will use websites, learning menus and social media (with parental/teacher support) to learn and communicate. Further students are introduced to coding and invited to continue that learning and application. And, our school assembly offers students a chance to lead by acting as emcees or anchors of the event. Student presentations via music, art, sports, research and more provide even more opportunity to communicate in diverse and important ways.

Learn on their own throughout life
We foster the use of individualized and collective learning paths throughout the year through modeling, online menus, individual/small group coaching, setting goals and multiple learning experiences. We talk with and to students a lot about this. I think we do a good job overall in this area.

In general we have to focus on the aspects above that make our teaching richer and deeper. The one challenge in this is that as we shift, there's the potential that our state scores will suffer a bit since the breadth and depth of standards foster an approach where we have to move quickly through the curriculum. Sadly this approach does not lend itself to the depth of future-ready skills and practice and it fosters a teach to the top mentality since the grade-level to advanced students can learn quickly and get good scores, but these students miss out on richer, deeper learning experiences.

I know there's a balance here and as my teammates and I review our curriculum map, we'll think about the elements of future-ready students as well as the expectations to do well on the tests and teach an engaging, empowering program. We'll work to strike a good balance with that in mind.

If you have any related thoughts or ideas, let me know.