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Entrepreneurialism, Student Voices and Authentic Work

Our 4th and 5th grade students(9-10 year olds) have been working with Mike Fisher, co-author of Upgrading your Curriculum and author of children’s poems. The goal of their collaboration is to create an eBook of Mike’s poems with students’ illustrations. Once produced, students will work on marketing, advertising and disseminating the eBook. Over the course of the last few months, they:

  • emailed
  • skyped
  • tweeted
  • blogged
  • worked on shared Google Docs

in order to:

  • introduce themselves to each other
  • hold a conversation about their ideas and upcoming work
  • document their work
  • disseminate their work
  • give and receive feedback

Mike wrote about his experience up until now in detail on his blog post Contextual and Authentic

Then, we discovered something. Something big.
Because of the depth of instruction and the built in time to negotiate new roles for the students and the upgrade of seeing themselves as collaborators rather than passive learners, we struck oil! Silver! Gold! Students began to self identify interests that were related to their planned learning and lead us down paths of unplanned learning that enriched the designed project.

I have been using the experience to take a closer look at upgrading assessment in modern learning environments.

Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about an authentic tasks, that allows students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.

In my recent post of  Students Are Speed Geeking at edJEWcon, I highlighted the need  and an example of exposing and involving our students in authentic learning experiences. There was another opportunity for our students to participate and share their learning with conference attendees, when Mike Fisher and our students were able to meet in person for the first time, as he was traveling as a presenter to Jacksonville.

eBook

The session “Modern Learning”, facilitated by Mike himself and Stephanie Teitelbaum, their language Arts teacher, focused, not necessarily on the students as teachers of teachers (as did the SpeedGeeking), but on the collaboration journey between adults and students, the authentic learning that has unfolded and will continue to develop for the rest of the school year and into next year.

Session Description: Modern Learning

Come and see what students learn
When we change the roles and rules.
Come and see what students do
With modern learning tools.
See the process and the product,
The depth and the extension,
The whole collaborative way we worked,
And our new inventions.
Prepare to be amazed and awed
By our globally connected team.
Join us as we launch the next phase
Of our collaborative dream.

Six students were selected to be part of a panel to explain the different jobs they held during Skype calls and to talk about the process of developing the idea of the eBook.

eBook-1

Each student created a few slides in a collaborative Google Presentations to be able to visually share with the attendees the poem, their corresponding illustration and any artifact that showed their role in the collaboration process.

eBook-2

At the end of the session, attendees were treated to a sneak preview of the eBook.

ebook-sample-page

All students were eloquent in sharing their learning, but one in particular surprised us with her statement of “It’s not one and done” when referring to the importance, care and quality of the work they are doing. She pointed out that the work is not done until it is done, which most likely will continue next school year.

Take a “read” at the tweets below coming from the audience during the session:

ebook-tweets-1

ebook-tweets

ebook-tweets-2

ebook-tweets-3

WE are on a path to experiencing authentic learning. I say WE on purpose, since teachers are experiencing this kind of learning alongside with our students. I don’t know about your experiences, but I don’t remember learning in this shape or form when I was going to school. I don’t remember authentic learning EVER coming up in my educational classes at the University.

Steve Hargadon, our closing keynote speaker at edJEWcon, was talking about the need for preparing our students for entrepreneurialism.

commonly used to describe an individual who organizes and operates a business

Better yet, think John Dewey (“Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.“) when we not only prepare students for entrepreneurialism, but letting them live and experience it in school.

Our students are excited and ready to be in business. In the Book Publishing business! Now that the content is created, they are working on writing their resumes in order to apply for different positions that will put them in charge of leading or being hired to work under the

  • Publishing Department
    How do we prepare/format the eBook or a Hard Copy? What are the terms of self-publishing services (Lulu.com/iTunes/Amazon, etc.)
  • Financial Department
    How much will it cost to produce and publish the book?How much is feasible to charge for the eBook/hard copy? What will be cut for the author? The School? What are some projections?
  • Marketing Department
    How will the product be marketed? Disseminated? Who is a potential audience? Should we organize a local book tour to promote the book?
  • Graphic Designers
    How will we produce flyers to be physically distributed to our local bookstore, among the school community?
  • Writers
    How will we write press-releases to be placed on classroom blogs, the school website? How can we promote the book through strategically written Tweets? What are other venues/platforms to contribute in writing? Guest blogging?
  • Multimedia Team
    How will we produce multimedia (book trailers, commercials, etc.) to help advertise the product?

If you have made it this far in reading the blog post. Ask yourself, HOW could you amplify these young entrepreneurs to LEARN through real life experiences?

  • Would you be willing to consult with them, if you have any life experience in any of the departments mentioned above?
  • Would you skype in for a few minutes to give them advice?
  • Could you help the financial department in figuring out how much would you be willing to pay for their poetry book?
  • Could you imagine a potential audience our marketing department could target?
  • Are we forgetting a vital part of our business structure?
  • Do you have any other thoughts or tips for us? (Please leave a comment)

By the way… anyone still think this is about technology or learning specific tools, platforms or apps (Google Docs, Skype, Twitter, Blogging, Comic Life, Pixie, iMovie, Skitch, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assessment in the Modern Classroom: Part Two- Taxonomy of a Skype Conversation

This is Part Two of Assessment in the Modern Classroom. Read Part One here.

Assessing students’ writing, thinking level , understanding, learning connections via a Twitter stream, did not end the assessment upgrade for this particular learning opportunity.

During the same Skype call, we paid special attention to how students interacted with their conversation partner (Mike in this case) . We were watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction.

If working (and communicating beyond face to face interaction) on a global team is/will be a crucial skill for our students to posses, how can we assess the skills, support, coach and guide students?

I am looking for ways to UPGRADE & REPLACE traditional assessment forms. Heidi Hayes Jacobs suggests in her book Curriculum21 to use an upgrade model which

begins with consideration of assessment types, moves to content reviews and replacement, and then links both of these to upgraded skills and proficiencies (Jacobs, 2010, p.20)

I started by taking a look at Andrew Churches Skype Rubric (pdf), but wanted to focus more on the actual communication skills during the Skype call and developed the following Taxonomy of a Skype Conversation  as a guide.

taxonomy-skype.jpg

Download the Taxonomy of a Skype Conversation as a pdf file.

I believe we are on our way. We took the Twitter feed (Part One) , looked at skills students exhibited during the Skype conversation (Part Two) and now are moving on to looking at “blog post writing” as assessment (Part Three).

 

 

Learning in the Modern Classroom

I can die happy now :) I have seen learning in the 21st Century modern classroom!

The learning just oozes through the cracks of the physical classroom walls.

Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about an authentic tasks, that allows students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.

It all started out with a conversation between Mike Fisher and me. He had written over 40 children poems and was in the process of wondering what to do with them? I was looking for an authentic task for 9-11 year old students. We felt we had a perfect match! How about getting the students Language Arts  and Art teacher involved? The initial idea was to make a unit of poetry come alive, study Mike’s poems and visualize the poems by creating illustrations.

Great plan… it snowballed from there…

A quick Skype call between Mike and the teachers, helped flesh out each of our expectations and a timeline for the “project”. A critical component was the participants’ willingness to be flexible and see where the students would take “the project”.

What if…

  • …Mike allowed students to alter his original poems if they felt inspired to remix them, making the creation process fluid and embedding new ways of looking at forms of copyright?
  • … Mike offered to write a new poem to additionally created illustrations by students, flipping the collaboration roles?
  • …we published a poetry book on various platforms? (hard cover/eBook)
  • …we had student run a marketing and advertisement campaign?
  • …we involved the Math teacher to support students in calculating how much the book should cost, what would the profit be, how would a profit be split?
  • …allowed the class to handle the entire business venture?
  • …we incorporated Alan November’s concept of the Digital Learning Farm and leaving a legacy?

Each student was “given” a poem from Mike to be responsible for. We set up a first Skype call with Mike, the author, for students to meet him, ask questions about “their” poem.

skype

Part of our job as teachers was to observe students as they were taking on the roles outlined in the Digital Learning Farm. We were/are looking to identify NEW FORMS of assessment, since our “project” was not to be an add-on to traditional assessment tools.

The Digital Learning Farm

 

As I was watching students talk to Mike Fisher via Skype, Will Richardson’s call for Thinking Differently About Learning, which includes Learning to Talk to Strangers came to mind. As students interacted, I was watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction. Stay tuned for the publication of a Taxonomy of Skype Conversation to facilitate assessment of video conferencing.

skype-taxonomy

As the Skype conversation was happening in the foreground, other students were busy documenting and collaborating in backchannels. A Google Doc was opened and shared among all students, teachers and Mike Fisher. The multi-tasker Mike is, allowed students to Google Chat at the same time as he was talking to students via Skype.

googledoc

Other students had taken on the task to tweet the Skype call

twitter

Take a look at the 4th and 5th grade Twitter feed, documenting the skype call. Students are exhibiting understanding of Twitter grammar, syntax and etiquette. They are showing progression by starting to add value, links, citations and they own thoughts. They are summarizing and articulating thoughts in 140 characters or less. They are directly communicating, disseminating, collaborating and connecting via social networking.  We are using Twitter and HOTS as a way to assess these skills.

4th-twitter-2

4th-twitter-1

4th-twitter

5thmjgds-twitter

5thmjgds-twitter-1

5thmjgds-twitter-2

5thmjgds-twitter-3

5thmjgds-twitter-4

We had other students use different tools to take notes too. The notes app on their iPad or traditional paper and pen

notes

notes2

One student chose to summarize what he heard during the Skype call by mindmap doodling. He was able to re-tell the different poems that were discussed between his classmates and the author.

mindmapping

mindmap

Take a few minutes to peek into the classroom as students were debriefing from the Skype experience.

Poetry Book Skype from langwitches on Vimeo.

So, where do we go from here? The students are very excited and are taking ownership. There is no talk about what kind of grade they will be receiving for their work. An authentic audience will decide if they were successful. Students will volunteer to take on different roles in the publishing, marketing, finance, communication department. We will allow them to take the lead, consulting, coaching and modeling if needed.

Stay tuned as this “school project” unfolds.

.

 

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