abeo school change This post originally appeared on Abeo School Change’s blog, an education design and implementation group that partners with schools and systems to make powerful learning a reality for every student. View Original >


One on the most striking and pleasant surprises that I encountered in the Common Core Standards, was the prevalence of Collaboration. This alone says that we are on the right track with common core. What is a needed 21st Century Skill? Collaboration. What does Sir Ken Robinson say is required for a change in education? Collaboration. He says eloquently, that “collaboration is the stuff of learning.” What are experts and writers calling out for in books such as Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and 21st Century Skills by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel? Collaboration. Whenever I conduct a training with teachers as ask them what they want their students to be able to do when they leave their classroom or school, what is the hot word? Collaboration.
If we truly want and need this for our students, they will need to teach and assess it. It needs to be leveraged in the grade book. This of course means we need to arm educators with the skills to effectively teach to the standard of Collaboration in the classroom.

Let’s be honest. I doubt many of us have our state standards by our bedside as inspiration reading. But I would say the standards including collaboration can allow for exciting and engaging teaching and learning. Here is the power from the English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.
K-5 and 6-12 Speaking and Listening
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners,
building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

This standard is even broken down with specific criteria for each grade level. Collaboration is going to look similar and different across grade level. Your job is to figure out an assessment that will accurately show that they have performed that criteria and made that criteria clear to all partners in the student’s learning, from the parent, to the administrator. Collaboration is best seen in solving a problem, so of course, I am bias towards PBL, Project-Based or Problem-Based Learning. This sets an authentic task in motion for students to work on collaboratively to problem solve.

So what could an assessment look like? Let’s use the example above as our focus. Here the content of the actual collaborative effort is completely open. In fact, this could be done across the classroom. Although this is defined as a Listening and Speaking Standard, there is no reason why it couldn’t be leveraged in a variety of disciplines, as it is a 21st century skill. So what could show these criteria regardless of the content?

Perhaps students create a portfolio defense for a one on one with the teacher, bringing a variety of pieces of evidence. Perhaps students create a podcast articulating how they solved problems and met criteria for collaboration. Perhaps students journal daily to critical thinking prompts on their collaboration, which is then collected as a summative assessment at the end of the unit or project. Perhaps teachers use a rubric to grade them as they actually work in class on specific day.

Of course these great summative assessment ideas need to be supported with ongoing formative assessment. Journals could be used as this as well as a summative. If you plan on grading students on collaboration, then you must provide feedback to the students using the rubric as the focus piece. You can set goals with groups and let them know you will specifically look for that in the future. You will need to collect drafts of a podcast and give specific coaching on what they can do to make it better. Again, you cannot assess what you do not teach, and good teaching includes useful, ongoing formative assessments.

There of course are more places to “push” and explore in terms of assessment of Collaboration. Perhaps you have students work collaboratively on a Common Core in a project that has a culminating product that showcases they know that standard. The key is to have both a Collaborative product, to grade them on collaboration, and an individual product that holds students accountable to the other Common Core Standard. If students are creating a research project that is targeted toward to a Common Core Research standard, have them create one product collaboratively and a separate on their own. Look, you have head students accountable to two powerful Common Core standards that are rigorous and real. Just remember you must teach your students how to collaborate before you can assess how well they do collaborate. This is good practice.

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This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >


OK, so I am a gamer. Not that I have the time anymore, but I do venture now and again into a game, whether a first-person shooter (FPS) or role-playing video game (RPG). I am also a big promoter of Game-Based Learning (GBL) and Gamification. To clarify, GBL is when games are used to balance the learning of subject matter through gameplay with specific learning outcomes in mind. Gamification is applying the concepts of game design to learning to engage in problem solving. Again both are geared toward building student engagement and learning important content. GBL is one method that creates not only a great opportunity to engage students in content, but also keep them active.

Brain-based learning research tells us that being active in and around rigorous learning can help keep students energized in the learning. During the activity, oxygen-rich blood flows to the brain which increases the ability to concentrate. John Medina, published a great book about how movement can increase learning. PBS did a story about a school where students took active “brain breaks” that kept students moving around the classroom. There are many ways to integrate activate movement on a regular basis for students, and using video games is another opportunity.

Microsoft’s Kinect is the key to using games for learning that require movement. Kinect demands students physically interact with the content in front of them. Whether it’s jumping in an obstacle course or moving hands to push buttons, the body is not only engaged in a game, but also in movement. Although it may seem like a far cry to link these games to authentic learning outcomes, the idea is to balance the gaming with the learning; increasing blood flow and engagement while gaming increases concentration for learning content. The other good news is that there are a plethora of resources in this area, some from Microsoft itself. They have a library, some with specific targets toward physical education, which has activities and lessons for students. These classroom activities align the video games to the Common Core State Standards (although they could be a bit more specific), and indicate which video games are necessary. I highly recommend going to DonorsChoose.org to create a funding opportunity for a Kinect in your classroom.

In addition, a Twitter friend of mine, Johnny Kissko, has dedicated much of his work to using Kinect in the classroom with his website KinectEDucation. His site is complete with not only lessons that are tied to specific games, but also applications that can be downloaded and purchased. Because there are so many resources out there, there is no reason for a teacher to not give it a shot. Using video games, and specifically the Kinect, can allow us to harness the power of brain-based learning and the engagement of video games to create student concentration and engagement.

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abeo school change This post originally appeared on Abeo School Change’s blog, an education design and implementation group that partners with schools and systems to make powerful learning a reality for every student. View Original >


Steven Johnson
, the author of “Where Good Ideas Come From,” was recently featured on CNN where he shared his ideas from his TED talk aired earlier this summer. Learning does not occur in isolation. Great ideas do not occur in isolation. Why then are most online courses structured in a way that fosters mostly the teacher-student relationship?

If we look at the way many learning management systems and courses are setup, it is still very traditional. Students have an assignment, they complete it, and they turn it in. The material is geared toward multiple learning styles, but authentic learning style of collaboration may not exist. Now there may be occasions where discussion board posts are required, or peer review. In fact the best online teachers are using these tools synchronously and asynchronously. The best teachers are doing their best to create activities and routines that foster student interaction and collaboration. But is the curriculum and structure set up in a way that requires collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking?

One of the biggest strengths of online learning is fosters true student-teacher relationship in order to create an individualized education plan. Parents say this, teachers say this, and students say this. Julie Young, CEO of Florida Virtual Schools, recently shared in an article that “it is perhaps one of the greatest ironies of online learning that teachers and students often find it more personal than the classroom experience.” She then goes on to advocate for more hybrid programs, in order to balance face-to-face learning with online. I would agree that with the hybrid model, you can build face-to-face experiences that foster more collaboration, but this is one idea.

If we truly want the 21st century skills, we need to create online environments that truly require collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking. Are students working together to problem solve and create while still being held accountable individually? Are the student forums open so that students may collaborate? Are students leading discussions and live class meetings? Are students allowed voice and choice in their assessments? These are just some of the questions that educators of the online world need to consider.

In online education, we are in danger of replicating a system that has only worked well for some. The traditional classroom, where the teacher is the center and the students do the assignment, has not worked for all. We in the world of education reform agree on this. We believe in these 21st century skills. We have seen brick and mortar and hybrid programs that have worked, where collaboration and innovation is occurring regularly. We need to look at these examples and learn from them. We need to ensure the structures and curriculum foster not only online individualized instruction, but collaboration for the purposes of innovation. As Steven Johnson says, “Chance favors the connected mind.”

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