Friday, November 22, 2013


Student collaboration is key when facilitating classroom environments that are student-centric and rich in 21st-century learning experiences. With the myriad of educational technology resources available, it is easy to become overwhelmed when searching for a tool to support digital collaboration amongst students. Fortunately, for students and teachers in the Park Hill School District, we have immediate access to an incredible suite of tools that can quickly and easily enhance learning experiences. That tool is Google Apps for Education.

A few years ago, the Park Hill School District decided to integrate Google Apps for Education. This robust suite of digital collaboration tools is always evolving and changing to incorporate new tools and resources. In short, students are able to share documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and more in a way that allows for real-time editing. This can be a real game changer as it allows students to collaborate across classrooms, buildings, states, and even nations. It easily breaks down the walls of the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom to extend learning beyond the confines of the physical school building and traditional learning hours.

Quickly gaining popularity, teachers K-12 are incorporating this tool within daily instruction. One common question that teachers have, however, is how to effectively and efficiently share pre-created documents or templates with students. Prior to January of this year, the response was typically to create a template, “share” it with your students, have them “make a copy” to place on their own Google Drive, and then have them “share” that document with collaborating peers and back with the teacher for comments and feedback as well.

While this process was effective, it was often times cumbersome and inefficient when trying to maximize instructional time. Managing workflow and following student naming conventions from the teacher’s side could quite frankly be an absolute nightmare.

Enter Doctopus.

Doctopus, one of many Scripts now offered by Google, acts as a digital photocopier. It can easily copy any type of Google Docs to individual students, groups, or even the whole class with the click of a button. With ease, teachers can now differentiate instructional resources without students knowing the difference. From a management side, it creates well organized folders that allow the teachers quick and easy access to student work. If you are interested in trying this, follow the directions shared in this step-by-step PDF. Don’t hesitate to contact an ITF, should you need help! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Problem-Based, Project-Based, Inquiry-Based . . . What’s the Difference?

As teachers shift their classrooms from teacher-driven to student-centered learning environments, teachers are working to redefine learning tasks to increase rigor and incorporate 21st century skills: problem-solving, higher-levels thinking, collaboration, communication, self-directed learning, and research.  In order to accomplish those goals, teachers are incorporating instructional strategies that shift the focus of the lesson from "teacher do" to "student do," "student think," and, ultimately, "student think and do."

One strategy that teachers could implement to provide more time for higher-level thought within the classroom is to incorporate flipped lessons to share quadrant A information that traditionally devours most of the class time.  According to Dr. Scott Spurgeon from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, teachers, unfortunately, have spent the last 15 years in quadrant A,  focusing on lower-levels of application which requires students to simply acquire knowledge and store pieces of information in order to understand or remember a concept within one subject or domain.

However, if our goal is to ultimately provide personalized educational experiences with real-world connections for our students, we have to think about our instructional methods differently.  One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Willard R. Daggett, "Learning should be an active process.  Too often, students come to school to watch their teachers work."  Instead of the traditional classroom where "teachers do" and students watch "teachers do," we have to provide student-centered education in which we integrate product-focused learning, rigor, and 21st century skills.

Therefore, this emphasis shifts the instructional process through problem-based learning, project-based learning, and inquiry learning.  As Daggett says, "When students use what they learn (quadrants B and D), they remember the information better and understand the utility of what is being taught.”  In addition, this type of learning aligns with the Common Core State Standards, "which is about helping students become independent thinkers who can gather information on their own and use knowledge for real-world tasks" (Davis, SmartBlog on Education, 2013).  The 21st Century Learning Academy describes this shift as "Schools of Consumption" vs. "Schools of Production."  Do we want our students to regurgitate information, focus on a single outcome or search for a single answer, follow the factory model of education, and, ultimately, be followers?  Or, do we want our students to apply information to multiple outcomes and be able to search for multiple solutions by defending their solutions with text evidence and challenging opposing perspectives and, ultimately, becoming leaders in our own communities?

With this information in mind, challenge yourself by trying ONE of these instructional shifts:  problem-based learning, project-based learning, or inquiry-based learning.  Below is a short explanation of each method, adapted from Lauren Davis's blog, Senior Editor of Eye on Education (Feb. 2013).

What is Problem-Based Learning?
Problem-based learning allows students to research and propose solutions to real-world issues and problems.  Problem-based learning doesn't require a project like project-based learning; therefore, it doesn't take as long as project-based learning.  However, like project-based learning, it does still incorporate research.  Problem-based learning should provide the opportunity for students to investigate multiple solutions because there is no one "right" answer.  This type of learning works well in science and math.

Watch Nancy Sulla, from Eye on Education, discuss two examples of Problem-Based Learning from the classroom.

What is Project-Based Learning?
Project-based learning is when students become self-directed learners who collaborate in diverse student-driven teams to address a driving question or challenge and create a publicly-presented product. Project-based learning should not simply be a presentation in which student reiterate information or knowledge from a lecture, textbook, etc.  Project-based learning incorporates research!   This type of learning works well in English language arts, international languages, and history/social studies, health, science, mathematics, and engineering.  Below is a quick video by Edutopia that provides an "Introduction to Project-Based Learning."

For a more detailed "Overview of Project-Based Learning," watch the following video by Edutopia.

What is Inquiry-Based Learning?
Inquiry-based learning is similar to problem-based learning.  Inquiry-based learning is usually associated with science.  This allows students to develop a research question, investigate, and then redefine research questions based on the investigation and continue the investigation cycle.  Inquiry-based learning allows students to draw inferences based on their research questions and investigation cycle.

Applying 21st Century Skills, Goal Statements, and Rigor to Problem-Based, Project-Based, and Inquiry-Based Learning
In addition to trying one of the above instructional models, review the list of 21st century skills below. Below are 21st century skills with goal statements and learning targets that apply to problem-based, project-based, and inquiry-based learning.  Think about how these skills and goals increase rigor.  How would student expectations and rigor increase by implementing a problem-based, project-based, or inquiry-based instructional method?

Student Thinking:  Problem-based, project-based, and inquiry-based learning would allow students to
  • apply acquired information in one or more discipline areas or to real-world situations. (Quadrant B)
  • use knowledge learned in one discipline area and look for patterns and relationships, as well as make predictions and draw conclusions. (Quadrant C)
  • discover unique characteristics and look for hidden parts. (Quadrant C)
  • organize information and identify components, often leading to new ideas and concepts. (Quadrant C)
  • use creativity (flexibility, elaboration, originality, modification, associative thinking, attribute listing, and forced relationships) to make something new based on their extensive knowledge base. (Quadrant D)
  • formulate a plan of action to solve problems and come up with solutions, even when there are confusing unknowns. (Quadrant D)
Problem Solving:  Problem-based, project-based, and inquiry-based learning would allow students to
  • use information to solve problems across the discipline areas and in real world problems. (Quadrant B)
  • understand when essential information is necessary and use it to solve predictable and/or unpredictable situations (Quadrant B)
  • ask important questions that shed light on various points of view and lead to better solutions. (Quadrant C)
  • use logical thinking and reasoning skills to solve problems in the discipline. (Quadrant C)
  • use innovative and conventional methods to solve unfamiliar interdisciplinary or real world problems. (Quadrant D)
Collaboration:  Problem-based, project-based, and inquiry-based learning would allow students to
  • demonstrate the ability to work respectfully in student-led teams. (Quadrant B)
  • work effectively in diverse student-driven teams, exemplifying flexibility in planning, compromise to accomplish a common goal, and shared responsibility for collaborative work. (Quadrant C)
  • work effectively in flexible groupings in order to effectively meet changing problem-solving demands and needs of the group while maintaining the value of individual contributions made by each team member. (Quadrant D)
Communication:  Problem-based, project-based, and inquiry-based learning would allow students to
  • use communication (oral, written, and nonverbal) and listen effectively to decipher meaning of materials, including knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate, and persuade). (Quadrant B)
  • communicate effectively in diverse environments, including utilizing multiple media and technology, and clearly delineate effectiveness of justifications or arguments based on predictable circumstances. (Quadrant C)
  • communicate effectively in diverse environments, including utilizing multiple media and technology, and clearly delineate effectiveness of justifications or arguments based on unpredictable circumstances or perplexing unknown situations. (Quadrant D)
Self-Directed Learning:  Problem-based, project-based, and inquiry-based learning would allow students to
  • use acquired knowledge to solve teacher-designed interdisciplinary and real-world problems, design solutions, and complete work.  Teacher designs pace, learning environment, instruction, activities and assessments. (Quadrant B)
  • co-design learning goals, pace, learning environments, instruction, activities, and assessments that include learner voice and choice and require students to extend and refine their acquired knowledge. (Quadrant C)
  • design challenging learning experiences, activities, and assessments based on learning goals and exhibit evidence of learning.  (Quadrant D)
  • select necessary pace and instruction needed to achieve learning goals and demonstrate the competence to think in complex ways and to apply their knowledge and skills. (Quadrant D)
Research:  Problem-based, project-based, and inquiry-based learning would allow students to
  • gather information to answer knowledge and comprehension questions and solve teacher-designed problems, design solutions, and complete work. (Quadrant B)
  • conduct self-generated research from multiple authoritative sources that extends and refines acquired knowledge in order to analyze an solve problems and create solutions. (Quadrant C)
  • narrow or broaden the research inquiry when appropriate and synthesize multiple sources on the subject. (Quadrant C)
  • conduct self-generated research from multiple authoritative sources to gather and transform information in order to create solutions and solve complex problems with perplexing unknowns. (Quadrant D)

What Can We Do for You?

In case we have not formally met, or you are still a little unsure about who that new team at Central Office really is, be sure to check out our video.

If you are wondering how exactly you could utilize an Instructional Technology Facilitator in your own classroom, consider these five ideas:

1.       Re-Define Lessons From Previous Years - Instructional Technology Facilitators can come to your school and work with your team to augment, modify, and re-define lessons that you have previously taught to enhance the lesson and allow for a more student centered approach to learning.

2.       SMART Boards – The ITF team can come and provide SMART Board trainings in your building after school.  You will need a minimum of six participants.  Each sessions is from 4-6 PM and you will be paid $20/hour stipend.  We currently have two trainings that we can provide. 

·         Basic – Learn the skills you need to operate the basic features of a SMART® Board and the SMART® Notebook software. This session, intended for beginners, will cover the basic features offered by the Board and how to quickly integrate this software into everyday classroom use. Participants will also learn how to locate and adapt SMART® Board lessons crafted by other users to quickly enhance classroom learning. Your laptop is required in order to participate in this course.

·         Intermediate - This intermediate course builds on the skills you learned in SMART Notebook Training (Basic). Learn how to use SMART Notebook collaborative learning software strategically to build more attractive, clear, organized lessons. During this session, you'll build a SMART Notebook lesson to use in your classroom or improve one that you bring with you. Users who choose to attend should be able to effectively integrate the basic features of the SMART Board and SMART Notebook software within the learning environment. You must bring your laptop to this session in order to participate.

3.       Teaching/Co-Teaching Lessons - The Instructional Technology Facilitators would be more than happy to join your class to teach or co-teach lessons that integrate technology.  These lessons could include, but are not limited to:
·         Digital Citizenship
·         Blogging
·         Several Web 2.0 tools
·         D2L 
·         Google Apps for Education

4.       Set-Up G-Class Folders – The ITF team can set-up G-Class Folders for you and your students within each class. G-Class Folders create shared folders for each student by class.  G-Class Folders provide a folder to edit, view items, and also an assignment folder that is shared between the student and teacher.  G-Class Folders allow teachers and students to seamlessly share and edit documents.

5.       Try Something Completely New – We would love to come to your plan time, team collaboration, or even before or after school to help you create a new, innovative, student-centered lesson based on the CCSS and the NETS.  We could even work to be there to offer support during your lesson with students. 

These are just a few ways that the ITF team can support you and your students.  Feel free to contact us with any other questions or requests. We are here for you!