Monday, May 30, 2011

PBL is not Project Oriented Learning

Many people confuse project-based learning with project oriented learning. I like how this High Tech High video explains the difference:

Main Point

Doing a project at the end of a unit is project oriented learning, and that is not project-based learning.

What is PBL?

Project-Based Learning is authentic learning that is focused on answering an essential question (or driving question).

This High Tech High video has a great tip for PBL, which is do the project yourself before giving it to the class.

Final Remarks
  • What tips can you share about discerning between PBL and project oriented learning? 
  • When is project oriented learning valuable? - And how can you portray that it's not PBL? 
  • What tips can you share about Project-Based Learning?
My post was inspired by 21k12's post on What PBL Isn't, and What it Is: 2 Videos by High Tech High.

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Digital Footprints

    After reading Kathleen Morris' post about digital footprints and LinkedIN, I thought very carefully about the digital footprints of educators.

    AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by anneh632
    What are Digital Footprints?

    During my first year of marriage, my front yard was the Pacific Ocean. Everyday I took a walk along the beach and loved feeling the wet sand on my feet. Even though the footprints I left would wash away, I loved looking at the path and trail I left.

    Digital footprints are similar because they are the imprints made in the digital world. They are different because they are the permanent mark left in the digital world by individuals.

    Why do Digital Footprints matter?

    They are the permanent record of your online behaviors, which reflect your attitudes and beliefs. Once digital prints are made online, it's fossilized for the world to see. The world can pay attention now or later because your fossil does not erase -- even if you delete it.

    Where do we leave Digital Footprints?

    They are left anywhere there is a digital environment: online, cell phone text messages, airwaves, etc. So, regardless of professional or personal use, the digital footprint leaves the same mark -- a permanent one.

    Tips that Guide my Digital Footprints
      • Would I say it in front of my child, an assembly of parents & students, and my friends -- and still feel good about what I said later in life? It's very possible that one of them may view my words one day, so asking this question is a good start.
      • Is it okay to share? I remember a young prayer group from many years ago, and hearing prayer requests that I felt should not have been shared aloud with the group. For example, "Please pray for a situation I am having with someone that I won't name, but this is what happened ... XYZ..." By the end of the prayer request, everyone  knew who was being spoken about. It made me uncomfortable and I felt less detail would have shown more integrity, while maintaining absolute faithfulness in the power of prayer. -- For me, digital footprints follow the same thought process. So, I won't share something told in confidence.
      • Did I pause before posting?  One thing I started doing recently is pace my posts out. Once I've written the final draft, I wait to post it. I am trying a minimum of 24 hours before posting, which will give me fresh eyes to edit/revise again, and it might give perspective on my post. That time of reflection is valuable to me.
      1. What other tips can you share to guide your digital footprints?
      2. What advice could you give someone about their digital footprints?
       Thanks Edublogs for teaching me about "Digital Footprints" through the Teacher & Student Challenges, and thanks Kathleen Morris for being a model of positive digital footprints. I have learned so much through all of you!

        Friday, May 20, 2011

        Reflection of a Peer Coach Facilitator

        I learned so much this year about what it takes to launch and sustain success in peer coaching. We wanted to highlight the "collaboration" needed in successful peer coaching; hence we don't call them peer coaches, but rather "Collaboration Coaches."

        From the Beginning

        Our district made the decision to tap into teachers who naturally collaborated with colleagues, engaged kids with 21st century thinking, and created student-centered classrooms. The idea was to train them so their strengths became even stronger.

        Why Collaboration Coaching

        Peer Coaching was sponsored by Microsoft on Microsoft's Partners in Learning Site. The facilitator training by Peer Ed's Shelee King George was superb, and it provided me with a tried and true floor plan for training others.

        We took that training and blended it with our District Vision and Plan. The training builds skills to foster the culture of collaboration because there was an expectation for collaborating with peers, and their beliefs reflected those expectations.

        I believe the Coaching Chronicles created by Valinda Wells captured this in her GoAnimate4Schools: CollaborativeCoaching2 

        Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!

        Behind the Scenes

        I appreciate the district I work in because the leadership models collaborative culture. Jon Castelhano, Director of Technology, always helped me bounce ideas around and gave suggestions for how to move forward. Educational Services also had helpful insight. I appreciated having a team to provide critical feedback.

        On the Front Line

        While my role was more behind the scenes, the teachers were on the front line. They were the ones transforming education in the classrooms to match the needs of their learners on a daily basis. I applaud them for the fabulous jobs they have done!


        Building relationships was pivotal in the process. Watching the coaches build relationships with each other and their colleagues was inspiring, and that influenced how they related to the students.

        I absolutely adore these teachers and am so grateful for the friendships built. I love being part of an institution that believes in building people up, tapping into their strengths, and doing what's best for learners.

        This post was written as a reflection as the first year of Collaboration Coaching ends, and the second year will soon begin.

        Friday, May 13, 2011

        Innovative Learning in High School

        This is the second post in a three part series to highlight some awesomeness, and to ask for others to share or provide more ideas.

        Coaching Chronicles

        The following Coaching Chronicles was created by our High School Collaboration Coaches as their reflection on the 2010-2011 school year.
        Collaboration Coaching at AJHS has allowed us to better use our instructional time and resources to effectively engage and inspire students. Through training sessions and frequent interactions, we have been able to share ideas, receive encouragement, and seek guidance on lesson plans. In looking forward we anticipate creating a stronger support system, increasing student achievement and accountability, and discovering resources to better teach 21st Century skills.

        Created by Elizabeth Francois, Sandy Rollefstad, and Jerry Paterson.

        What I appreciated was their understanding for collaborating and building professional learning communities. Prezis spread like wildfires in the classrooms because the students were given opportunities to engage in more mediums, and teachers started having conversations about what was working in their classrooms. Those conversations led to trying new things to focus on the learners.

        OK Go and Rube Goldberg

        Physics students were given the task to build Rube Goldberg Machines. Kids were engaged as they watched the OK Go "This Too Shall Pass" video. But who knew so much physics were involved? AJHS teacher Sandy Rollefstad did, and she used it to ignite interest in learning.

        Rollefstad's students grappled the physics and collaboration to create their own Rube Goldberg Machines.

        Student reflection-- Q: "How do you feel this project helped you learn about physics and simple machines?"
        • A: It broke it down to make it more understandable for me. Not just a video and a test on it.
        • A: I really loved this project because it was a perfect project for a kinesthetic learner like me. It helped me understand the six simple machines as well as many of the properties of physics.
        • A: We got to learn more about physics and simple machines from it because we used them to power and successfully/unsuccessfully run our Rube Goldberg machines. :-)

        Science Symposium

        Panda + Lion = "Landa"
        Rollefstad saw the power of an authentic purpose and authentic audience, and entered her AP Biology students in the Central Arizona College's (CAC) 8th annual Academic Symposium. "The Symposium is an academic conference where students share original projects, research or talents with other students and faculty."

        "We were charged with the task of realistically hybridizing two living organisms, and to treat the resultant species as if it were an actual evolutionary path," explained AJHS student Ty.

        It was amazing to listen to the students discuss what would happen if they actually created a new hybrid breed, and defend/debate the best traits and behaviors of their hybrid.

        Those same students asked Mrs. Rollefstad to create a class blog for them to share their ideas with others. She wasn't going to hold them back.

        She created an Edublogs class blog, which is ran by the students with teacher supervision.

        Final Remarks

        It's been almost twenty-five years since I was in high school, and I only remember a few brief moments of innovative learning, but never anything like this. I predict they will remember this twenty-five years from now.
        • What innovative learning will your students remember twenty-five years from now?
        • How is the focus shifting from teaching to learning in your classrooms?
        • Is there anything I should add to this, or anything you want to add?
        I thank the AJHS teachers for opening doors and talking to each other. When I asked Sandy Rollefstad how she got the idea to introduce Prezis to students, she let me know it was the teacher next door... who heard from the collaboration coach, Francois, in the middle of the campus. Awesome!

        Sunday, May 8, 2011

        Inspiring Elementary Learners

        Our year is wrapping up, and as it does, I'd like to dedicate the next several posts to celebrating some fabulous educators and incredible learning, starting with the AJUSD elementary level. 

        Celebrating Collaboration

        As a reflective piece on our school year, the Elementary Collaboration Coaches worked together to create this "Coaching Chronicles" during our Microsoft Peer Coach Training:

        Elementary Collaboration Coaches from Shauna Hamman on Vimeo.

        This Vimeo was created by Shauna Hamman, Gina Fraher, Amber Moore, Mary Kate Robertson, and Erica Modzelewski.

        Their video captured the essence of our focus to engage kids.

        21st Century Research Report

        Watching the 5th grade kids at Four Peaks Elementary School collaborate on 21st century state reports reminded me of Reflections of a Techie's post about the importance of digital research to survive in the post K-12 world.

        Hamman's 5th grader discussed the quality of sites by looking at the URL to see if it was a .edu or .gov site and to look at the date it was published/updated. They collaborated throughout the writing process and created quality reports. It was inspiring to watch the enthusiasm in a 21st century learning-centered classroom.

        Mrs. Fraher's Kenya Buddie
        Kenya Buddies

        There are some things that no matter how it's taught, it just won't have the same impact as it would if students connected with it first hand. It's valuable for students to connect with others around the globe, and they absolutely love it.

        Gina Fraher's students learned so much this year from their Kenya Buddies. The kids realized how much they had in common, and experienced the impact of global connections.

          Applying Mathematics in Real Life to Better the Community

          One of the things I appreciate from Edutopia is their focus on real world connections as motivation for learners. Amber Moore's 3rd graders loved applying what they learned about perimeter, area, and money to create a flowerbed with a $100 budget, and donate it to someone in the community.

          They were so motivated by the challenge to plan the whole project from scratch, that they didn't even realize how much they were problem solving, thinking, and using their math skills... not to mention learning a valuable lesson about philanthropy!
            Student Blogging Challenge

            The benefits of classroom blogging are numerous, and students in Melissa Martinez's Language Arts classes learned all about blogging when they entered the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge. They wrote for an authentic purpose and real audience.

            Their posts reflect real world connections to science, ecology, and learning through their Outdoor Classroom. Their Outdoor Classroom Habitat is the product of the vision, passion, and commitment of 4th grade teacher Julia Goucher.  

            Final Remarks

            Learning becomes relevant when it connects beyond the four walls of the classroom. Students thrive in authentic contexts, knowing their ideas, learning, and work are valued by others and add meaning to other lives.
            • What success stories can you share for creating 21st century learning-centered classrooms?
            • How do our learners feel when they connect to a real community?
            • What questions or thoughts can you add about inspiring learners?

            I want to thank educators for making a difference in the lives of our learners... and grateful for those who are inspired to learn. Happy Teacher's Week!