PD Should Model What You Want To See in the Classroom

It’s August and that’s back to school time. All across America teachers are sitting is staff development workshops. Some sessions are valuable, others will leave teachers wishing they could be setting up their classrooms.

Recently I had the chance to work with Marta Turner / NWRESD to design and administer a staff development grant from the Library of Congress and the TPS Western Region. The goal of the project was to give participating teachers skills in designing historical thinking skills lessons utilizing primary source documents from the Library of Congress’ vast online collection.

I saw it as a chance to demonstrate my first law of staff development
PD should model what you want to see in the classroom. 

So in addition to mastering historical thinking skills utilizing LOC.gov, this workshop became a demonstration of the following:

How to flip your class:
Orientation to the LOC site was something better done on participants’ own time than in whole group. We utilized Versal (a free and stylish LMS) to offload that task to a flipped pre-course. Teachers arrived at the workshop with a working knowledge of LOC online resources , strategies for teaching historical thinking skills and ideas (and LOC documents) for their demonstration lesson.

Thanks for shepherding us through the process – a motivating demonstration of what’s possible with kids ~ Paul Monheimer, participant

Leveraging tech tools for design and collaboration:
Teachers collaborated in the pre-course using Google docs to design and curate examples of historical sourcing. I created YouTube tutorials to use throughout the pre-course and workshop session to blend the learning.

Teachers collected historical documents from the LOC into shared Google slides. This facilitated easy peer review and also served as an archive for materials in preparation for transfer to iBooks Author.

We used Google Hangouts to explore “how historians think” with Dr. Adam Franklin-Lyons – associate professor of history at Marlboro College.

Motivate with project-based learning:
Teachers were pleased that the workshop would produce lessons they could use. But right from the start they knew that they were not simply getting together to learn some strategies and create some lessons. They had an iBook to create and we only had two days onsite to do so. As educators, we talk about value of the authentic audience for our students but it applies to our teacher PD as well. (I held myself accountable to the same standard, since the major elements of the workshop were shared on my blog and via the Versal pre-course.)

Our participant teachers left the 2-day workshop energized knowing that their work was documented for our grant funders to replicate in other projects and proud that their lessons would be available as an iBook on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Note: Time did not allow me to teach iBooks Author to the teachers, so I designed and edited the iBook later. For more on how I teach iBooks Author, see this iBA workflow post.

We are proud to share our iBook The Student As Historian ~ Teaching with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress. This ebook contains both the training materials and fourteen teacher-designed document-based questions for grades 4 through high school.

The lessons draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.

Download free at iTunes here. It’s viewable on Mac, iPad and iPhone 5 or newer. If those options don’t work for you, you can download it as a PDF The Student as Historian-PDF version 14 MB.  (Interactive widgets will not function in pdf version)

Note: This is not an official publication of the Library of Congress and does not represent official Library of Congress communications.

Image credit: stokpic / Pixabay
Creative Commons CC0 Source

The World Is My Audience: Using iBooks Author and Book Creator to Change Student Writing

The World is my AudienceBackstory: I’ve long been impressed with Jon Smith’s exploration of student publishing. Recently I saw his post at the Ohio Resource Center and asked Jon if he would cross post on my blog. This is his second post on Copy/Paste. Here’s his first guest post which features a video reflection by his students. 

Jon Smith is a technology integration specialist for Alliance City Schools. He was a special education teacher for 12 years and continues to have a desire to allow special education students to create wonderful content to enhance their learning. Jon’s daily duties include teaching students about technology tools, helping them with projects, and giving professional development to teachers and district staff. He is also an instructor for the Communicate Institute. Jon teaches a graduate-level course to teachers on engaging the twenty-first-century learner with technology. You can contact Jon at his website. His student iBooks are available here ~ Peter Pappas

The Beginnings

I was teaching special education students in grades 5 and 6 in an inner-city school in Canton. Time was going by, and students continued to struggle with writing. I was determined to make a difference and change these students for the better. They were going to become great writers if it killed me. While my goals were commendable, they weren’t being achieved to the degree I wanted. Then, two years ago, Apple introduced a software product called iBooks Author, and things would change for me forever.

For the first time, people were given the opportunity to self-publish in an easy manner. I saw this software as an opportunity for students to have a global audience for their writing. Blogs and other means of attracting a global audience have been around for a while, but this was something truly different, and I ran with it. Students were excited to be writing for someone other than their teacher. Engagement increased. Time on task increased, and the energy in the classroom changed to something you can normally only dream of.

Within three months we had written and published three iBooks in Apple’s iBookstore. We were graphing the downloads in the hall on chart paper, estimating how many downloads we would have by the end of the year, and planning our next books. Comments from all over the globe came pouring in, and it meant a great deal to the students. For the first time in their lives, they had a real, authentic audience for their work.

I soon changed jobs and moved to Alliance City Schools. The iBook ideas continued, and my Alliance students soon published two iBooks using iBooks Author. Again, things were going smoothly until one day when I met Pam, a speech and language pathologist for one of the elementary schools in Alliance. This begins the journey of my use with the Book Creator app.

Working with Autistic Students

Pam was referred to me by our district network manager. She was in need of instruction on using iMovie on her iPad. I knew I could help her, and so we met to discuss using the iMovie app. She explained to me that she had a group of fourth grade autistic boys who needed some serious motivation and help. They weren’t interested in doing any kind of work at all, and she thought iMovie would help. I asked her what they were struggling with, and she mentioned social skills. Immediately my mind went from iMovie mode into something else, something more powerful.

I explained to Pam that I had another idea. It was an app I recently learned about. I was looking for a group of guinea pigs, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to try Book Creator out with a group of students. Pam explained to me that this was a tough group of kids. She eyed me cautiously when I explained that we were going to write a book using the Book Creator app. And she looked at me like I was on drugs when I told her that we weren’t only going to write a book but that we were also going to publish this book for the entire world to download.

listen-to-the-driverI began meeting with her and her students once a week. I explained to the students that they would soon be globally published authors. They were so excited about their book, it was contagious. We began using the Book Creator app to make videos of inappropriate social skills interactions (this wasn’t difficult because this is what they did on a daily basis). We also made videos of appropriate interactions (great learning opportunity for the kids). Students started using Pam’s iPad to write down information and create their stories and author bios. The students also realized they could record their voices using the app, and they did. They believed this would help them be better readers. Adding their own pictures was icing on the cake. After a month of work, the book was ready, and we published it in the iBookstore. The downloads started flying in, and this is where the real transformation occurred.

The students in Pam’s group were thrilled about the downloads. They put a map in the hall and began to chart which countries had downloaded their book. This seems like such a small thing, but to these students it was spectacular. These students who were afraid of talking to others, had few friends, and were thought of as outcasts soon became the stars of the school. The students were talking to kids in the hall, explaining why there was a red pin in Japan and Norway and Canada. One student’s parent, who never came to any IEP meetings, showed up for the first time. She was so excited to see what her son had done, that she came to the first meeting at the school in four years. The students couldn’t stop writing and wanted to make more and more books. They had so much fun and learned so much while using this app, that they have started a series of social skills books. As of today, they have written and published three iBooks in the social skills series.

Projects

I plan on using the Book Creator app with more and more schools as the year goes on. I have teamed with other teachers in the district, and we have written and published iBooks using the Book Creator app with kindergarten students, first graders, and of course our fourth and fifth graders. The ideas are endless, and the Book Creator app is the simplest and most robust app for writing books hands down. I would also like to expand the use of the app to the high school, where I spend most of my days. We have a one-to-one iPad program with the freshman class, and this app is ideal for having kids demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of subjects. I would also like to see students become their own self-publishers by using the app.Song about Mississippi

What I’ve Learned

Throughout the process of writing and publishing books, I’ve learned a few things. I would like to share those with you now, because this is such a powerful app and because publishing student work is such a powerful idea that I want every teacher and student to have this opportunity.

  1. Apple is picky. But using the Book Creator app is so easy, it’s nearly impossible not to pass Apple’s strict publishing standards.
  2. Writing and publishing books has enormous potential to change the lives of students and the way they interact with the world around them.
  3. Marketing your book makes a huge difference. I am very active on Twitter, and if it weren’t for all my followers, retweets, and mentions, we would not have had the successes we did. Twitter is a great place for free publicity.
  4. I’ve learned that people like to read what students create. We have had nearly 32,000 downloads of our class-written iBooks. This number keeps climbing daily, and it is very exciting to watch.
  5. I’ve also learned that writing and publishing books with your students is addicting. Currently we have 44 iBooks available in the iBookstore, and this number will continue to grow.

I would like to close this article with a few thoughts and a quote. I think students need to contribute more in the classroom. They need to be creating content as part of the learning experience. They need to show us what they know, and they need to be able to explain it. Using Book Creator has the potential to transform learning for you and your students. Students and teachers need to share what they do. This really makes a difference in the authenticity of the learning. I truly believe that students want to share what they do, and when they have a bigger audience, the work gets better.

When students create for the world they make it good. When students create only for their teachers, they make it good enough. —Rushton Hurley

Images supplied by Jon Smith

Exploring History in 10 Interactive Lessons

Exploring-History-VolIII’m very pleased to share a new iBook just published by my Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland. Free at iTunes. Static pdf version of the iBook.

It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. The units draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.

All of my students assignments had a public audience on our class blog and were designed to meet our three class goals: 

  • Learn to think like a historian.
  • Become a skillful Instructional designer
  • Develop technical skills for production, reflection, growth and professional networking.

The lesson design process began early in the semester when students designed lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. Then students identified essential questions worth answering and gathered documents to explore the question in an extended DBQ design process.

Exploring History: Vol II was our PBL capstone and is available on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Here’s a post (from last fall’s class) that describes our project workflow (including how we utilized iBooks Author). Here’s Exploring History: Vol I created by my fall 2013 class.

I’ll be doing a future blog post that features each student’s DBQ, but for now here’s the US and World History lessons in chronological order:

  1. The American Revolution by Scott Deal
  2. The Pig War by Andy Saxton
  3. Cesspool of Savagery by Michelle Murphy
  4. Chemical War by Erik Nelson
  5. Americans’ Perceptions of Immigration in the 1920s by Ceci Brunning and Jenna Bunnell
  6. The New Deal and the Art of Public Persuasion by Kari VanKommer
  7. Combat Soldiers in Context by Kristi Anne McKenzie
  8. The Marshall Plan: Altruism or Pragmatism? by Samuel Kimerling
  9. Little Rock Nine: Evaluating Historical Sources by Christy Thomas
  10. First Ladies as a Political Tool by Emily Strocher  

Learning to Think Like a Historian

art-classI recently was a contributor to a Education Week Teacher’s “Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo” column Teaching History By Encouraging Curiosity Note: you can also listen to our 10 minute podcast on the subject at BAM radio or iTunes

The column prompt was “What are some stories (testimonials) of the process teachers experienced when moving from the ‘stereotypical history teacher who only gives multiple choice tests on the dates of battles and offers their students a steady diet of mind dumbing worksheets and lectures.’”

I thought I cross post my response below for readers who do not have access to content behind the Ed Week paywall.

What do historians do? Research, interpret, and evaluate sources, apply historic perspective, pose questions. … they share the fruits of their research with others, take positions and defend them.

Let me share my evolution as history teacher. In 1971, I began teaching history much the same way it was taught to me. I did all the reading and assimilation of material, then worked hard to craft the interesting lecture. I delivered the information with great gusto and loads of clever asides. Then I gave the objective unit test to see if the students got it. I was doing all the work; learning far more than my students; preparing and delivering “five shows daily.” And so I trudged through history – Plato to NATO.

Then one day I had a revelation. I walked into the art classroom next door to borrow some supplies and looked at the interaction of the art teacher and his students. I realized that if Tom taught art the way I taught history, then his student would be sitting in rows watching him paint. And so my journey began. Just as Tom was teaching his students how to think and behave like artists, I needed to figure out how to get my students to be the historian.

Here’s a few key ideas I considered when making the transition to student as historian. Note: For more, see my Slideshare The Student as Historian

Teach how historians think and behave:

What do historians do? Research, interpret, and evaluate sources, apply historic perspective, pose questions. More importantly they share the fruits of their research with others, take positions and defend them. Make these skills the basis of your class and you’re on your way to meeting Common Core standards. Build in opportunities for students to peer review each other’s work and reflect on their progress as learners. See my Taxonomy of Reflection for prompts.

Stop teaching facts and let students explore essential questions:

Look at a contemporary issue in the news and use it as catalyst for understanding its historic roots. Why teach the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalists debates? Better to frame the lesson around the essential question “How Powerful Should the National Government Be?” It’s timeless and extends the issues raised by the rise of the Tea Party back to the debate over the ratification of the constitution. Download my free Great Debates in American History

Use history as a platform for teaching across the curriculum:

Why not teach some graphing skills using historic census data? A great chance to design an infographic. Historians rely on key literacy skills like summarizing and comparing. Frame tasks for the students that allow them to develop their own summaries and comparisons, share them with their peers and defend their thinking. Those are more Common Core skills.

Choose the right primary and secondary sources for students to work with:

Visualize the famous “Golden Spike” photo taken to mark the completion of a transcontinental railroad line in 1869. What can a student learn by looking at the image? Not much, because the important information is not in the image. It’s in the background knowledge a student must already possess to interpret it. Unfortunately, this type of photograph dominates our textbooks. It’s iconic – it refers to something else that we want students to know. More

Instead use historic sources that are less reliant on background knowledge. Allow students to make their own judgments about source material and share what’s important to them (instead of just repeating the details the teacher highlights). It’s a great chance for them to put those summarizing and comparison skills to use.

If you have access to Ed Week, I urge you to read the article. It also features a great response from Diana Laufenberg, who notes:

Now, I’ve never had a class start with, “Miss… I just have to know about the War of 1812, can you please tell me more?” The majority of students don’t come to class naturally curious about the stories of history. However, when you take the time to pull the students from their own experiences, allow them to make connections to history, float back to modern day to again find further connections and go back into history with all that information – meaning starts to develop in a way that is not achieved otherwise.

And interesting interesting observations from Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, including

When I first stepped away from the basic, bubble-assessment curriculum and into a more inquiry-based approach, I was surprised by my students’ reactions. I had assumed the students would eat up the rich lessons, yet their first reaction was one of discomfort. When my good, little memorizers didn’t easily earn a perfect score on an assessment, they were frustrated and shut down. After much reflecting, I realized they were out of their comfort zone and not used to being asked to think critically. Answers didn’t come easily, and since often their self-image of being smart is wrapped up with things coming easily, the students felt attacked. Slowly, the students began to thrive and rise to the challenge.

Here’s some interesting comments from Part II of Larry’s series Teaching History By Not Giving ‘The Answers’

First from Bruce Lesh, who writes:

Colleagues looked at me funny as students began to ask questions and engage in debates about historical evidence. My peers–who have been trained (as I was) to lecture, assign readings from the books, break things up with Hollywood movies, and test with quickly graded multiple-choice questions–wondered why I was challenging “what has always worked.”

…Students had become accustomed to history being taught in a certain manner. In their effort to learn to “do school,” they expected to come into the history classroom and be regaled with stories of the past distributed through lectures, films, and textbooks, and they had mastered the skill set necessary to “do history.”

And this response from PJ Caposey, who notes:

When working with teachers I focus on …  trying to change from the ‘status quo’ to what is best for kids. One [element is the] Google test. If it can be answered via a simple Google search – then very little instructional time should be spent on it and it should not be assessed. CCSS is a game-changer, so too can be the ‘Google Test.’

Image credit: Flickr / Classroom scene, [Strabane technical school, Northern Ireland]
Date: c.1930

Reflection and the Student Centered Classroom

taxonomy of reflection graphic

This week I head to Grand Prairie TX to work with teachers and students at Adams Middle School. We’ll be demonstrating high value learning strategies that foster rigorous thinking, student engagement, and deeper student reflection on themselves as learners.

The key to fostering reflection is scaffolding more choices for students to make about key elements of the lesson. Providing options gives students more to think about. Divergent student products gives students a chance to explain and defend their thinking. Student can then compare outcomes with their peers, assess successes (and failures) and design improvements. See my post The Reflective Student: A Taxonomy of Reflection

Students can be given “appropriate” choices to make about:

  • Content – what knowledge and skills will be studied?
  • Process – what materials, procedures, etc will be used?
  • Product – what will students produce to demonstrate their learning?
  • Evaluation – how will the learning be assessed?

We have a variety of activities planned for the week including workshop sessions focussed on how to foster students engagement when using learning strategies for defining, summarizing and comparing. For example, when we ask students to summarize we should giving them the opportunity to use their higher order thinking skills to analyze the patterns, evaluate what’s most significant to them and craft a unique summary. 

While summarizing has been shown to be one of the most effective strategies for building content knowledge, that gain only applies when students are allowed to make their own judgements about what’s important and frame their summaries for an audience. When we ask them to “learn” the teacher’s summary – they are reduced to memorizing “another fact.”

Our training sessions will be followed by classroom walkthroughs – PD works best when you can make the connection to the classroom. I’ll also have the opportunity to work with some groups of students on the Marshmallow Challenge to demonstrate these approaches. 

Student centered Look-fors

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