Student Consultants Design Museum Curriculum and Mobile App

Portrait of Seki Hiromura-Ace's mother and one of the Hiromura boys

If you follow my blog, you’re well aware of my advocacy for project-based learning. So when I was asked to teach a social studies methods class at the University of Portland, I naturally looked for a way to integrate a community-based project that would give my graduate and undergraduate pre-service teachers experience in PBL, the chance to work along side professional historians and an opportunity to make a difference in the community. For more on our course approach, see our class blog.

I live in downtown Portland on the edge of what is known as Old Town / Chinatown. Its a very diverse and historic neighborhood and once the center of a thriving Nihonmachi or “Japantown.” It’s now the home of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, a small museum dedicated to “Sharing and preserving Japanese-American history and culture in Portland’s Old Town neighborhood, where Japantown once thrived.”

I approached the museum with a simple question – “What could you do with a dozen unpaid curriculum consultants?”

While planning my course, I approached the museum with a simple question – “What could you do with a dozen unpaid curriculum consultants?” And so our partnership began – my pre-service history teachers working with professionals at the museum to develop educational material to support their collection. I wanted my student so experience project-based learning from the perspective of the learner in the hopes that they would someday incorporate that approach into their teaching. I also wanted them to recognize that effective teachers are entrepreneurs, actively fostering external partnerships to support learning in their classrooms.

mobile-app-image

After a number of meetings we decided on three projects – an online lesson using curated videos detailing Japanese incarceration, a series of lessons to support an artifact-filled Museum in a Suitcase for circulation to Portland area schools and a iPhone app “Walking Tour of Japantown PDX.” All three projects would extend the reach of the museum and celebrate a once vibrant community that had fallen victim to wartime hysteria.

The app was going to take some technical assistance, so I reached out the Portland’s app community and was able to partner with GammaPoint LLC, PDX-based mobile app developer. We are worked with them to develop Japantown PDX, a native iPhone app walking tour of the historic Japantown in Portland. It features geo-fenced text, photos, audio and tools for sharing user reaction to the content via social media. We are also working with GammaPoint to make this project replicable in the k-20 space.

gallery-1912 Portrait

More on PDX Japantown: During the 1890s Portland was a hub from which Japanese laborers were sent to work in the railroads, canneries, lumber companies and farms throughout the Pacific Northwest. By the 1920s, a steady stream of Japanese “picture brides” had transformed a rough and tumble twelve-block section north of W Burnside between 2nd and 6th Ave into a more respectable Nihonmachi with over 100 Japanese managed businesses and professional office. Portland’s Japantown thrived until the WWII when Issei and Nisei were rounded up by federal officials and incarnated in inland camps. Portland’s Japantown was decimated. After the war a few returned to the old neighborhood, but many took up new residence in Portland’s postwar single family housing boom. The neighborhood had long been home to African-Americans and various immigrant groups. As Chinese-Americans began to predominate in the neighborhood, it gradually became known as Chinatown. Today, even most Portlanders are unaware of it’s heritage as Japantown.

Learn, Share and Win an Apple TV at edcampPDX

edcamppdxCalling all educators! Here’s your excuse to come to Portland Ore and have a great time while expanding your PLN. I’ll be there with a very talented group of Pacific NorthWest educators who are interested in sharing ideas for creating engaging classrooms. You’ll have a good time and leave with loads of great ideas for the classroom. 

Creative educators + free lunch + shot at an Apple TV + hanging out in Portland = best PD around

Join us for EdCampPDX, the FREE, unconference-style, collaborative, educator-driven, customized professional development day. Enjoy a day of sharing ideas, networking, and collaborating with your peers – teachers, administrators, pre-service teachers and anyone interested in teaching and learning.
Lunch is provided by an awesome sponsor. And yes, there are door prizes, including an Apple TV. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
9:00 to 4:00
at LaSalle Catholic College Prep
11999 SE Fuller Rd.
Portland, OR 97222 MAP

Photos from previous edcampPDX
Follow Twitter updates at #edcampPDX
Join the edcampPDX Google Group to network and keep up with our news and notes.

Here’s a few of the sessions we’ve got planned so far – but it’s an edcamp, so who know what else we’ll add when we get there?

  • Using apps such as Minecraft (coming soon to an ORVSD server near you!)
  • The new Google Maps, and Notablity in the classroom
  • Getting started with iBooks Author – bring your iPad and I’ll give you a copy of Recruiting Rosie – my latest iBook
  • Using iPads and Chromebooks with Vernier probeware
  • How to make a living in education outside the classroom
  • Thinking differently about education via SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition)
  • PBL lesson planning hack-a-thon
  • Creating a professional learning plan incorporating SAMR and CRCD frameworks
  • Speed-Geeking App share
  • What are the best tools to create infographics in the classroom? How do you incorporate them into the classroom?
  • How do we use high tech and no-tech strategies to keep our students engaged and self-selecting reading material? Discussion open to all grade levels.
  • EdmodoCon hookup
  • Learn how to use Celly
  • Beginning with Tech in Your Classroom
  • Your PLN is Yours!
  • The STEM Lab of the Future
  • Scoot and Doodle collaboration tool

Invite your friends, colleagues, and administrators by simply forwarding this email!
Sign up here and while you’re there, please add your session ideas on the session page.

Invite your friends, colleagues, and administrators! Hope to see you there!

Cool boots from November’s edcampPDX. But it’s summer, I’ll bet we’ll all be in flip-flops.

Cool boot optional

Animated Guide to 8 Essentials For Learning

This clever and fast-paced 6-minute animation provides insights into how teenagers learn. An “insider’s guide” to the teenage brain, it answers the question – “If you were a teenage speaker brought in to address a crowd of teachers on the subject of how you and your peers learn best . . . what would you say?”

Done in hand-drawn whiteboard / voiceover format it sets out eight essentials for learning, including my favorite – reflection. Share it with your students and see if they concur or use it as a discussion starter for your next faculty meeting.

  1. I feel okay.
  2. It matters.
  3. It’s active.
  4. It stretches me.
  5. I have a coach.
  6. I have to use it.
  7. I think back on it.
  8. I plan my next steps.

How to Motivate Students: Researched-Based Strategies

The student feels in control by seeing a direct link between his or her actions and an outcome and retains autonomy by having some choice about whether or how to undertake the task.

A new Center on Education Policy report, Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform, pulls together findings about student motivation from decades of major research conducted by scholars, organizations, and practitioners. The six accompanying background papers examine a range of themes and approaches, from the motivational power of video games and social media to the promise and pitfalls of paying students for good grades.

Researchers generally agree on four major dimensions that contribute to student motivation (below). At least one of these dimensions must be satisfied for a student to be motivated. The more dimensions that are met, and the more strongly they are met, the greater the motivation will be.

Four Dimensions of Motivation

  1. Competence — The student believes he or she has the ability to complete the task.
  2. Control / Autonomy — The student feels in control by seeing a direct link between his or her actions and an outcome and retains autonomy by having some choice about whether or how to undertake the task.
  3. Interest / Value — The student has some interest in the task or sees the value of completing 
  4. Relatedness — Completing the task brings the student social rewards, such as a sense of belonging to a classroom or other desired social group or approval from a person of social importance to the student.

As the report authors note: The interplay of these dimensions—along with other dynamics such as school climate and home environment—is quite complex and varies not only among different students but also within the same student in different situations. Still, this basic framework can be helpful in designing or analyzing the impact of various strategies to increase students’ motivation.

The report singles out a number of approaches that can motivate unenthusiastic students including inquiry-based learning, service learning, extracurricular programs (like chess leagues) and creative use of technology.

I think increase motivations begins with giving students more responsibility for critical decisions about what and how they learn. I detailed these in my post The Four Negotiables of Student Centered Learning and they are summarized in this table. Teachers need to consider the extent to which they are asking students to manage the four central elements of any lesson – content, process, product and assessment. Any or all can be decided by the teacher, by the students, or some of both. All will assist in building Common Core skills in deeper thinking and analysis.

Students also need guided practice in reflection. Reflection can be a challenging endeavor. It’s not something that’s fostered in school – typically someone else tells you how you’re doing! At best, students can narrate what they did, but have trouble thinking abstractly about their learning – patterns, connections and progress. One place to start is with the reflective prompts I developed in my Taxonomy of Reflection.

The CEP’s summary report and accompanying papers highlight actions that teachers, school leaders, parents, and communities can take to foster student motivation. The following are just a few of the many ideas included in the report:

  1. Programs that reward academic accomplishments are most effective when they reward students for mastering certain skills or increasing their understanding rather than rewarding them for reaching a performance target or outperforming others.
  2. Tests are more motivating when students have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through low-stakes tests, performance tasks, or frequent assessments that gradually increase in difficulty before they take a high-stakes test.
  3. Professional development can help teachers encourage student motivation by sharing ideas for increasing student autonomy, emphasizing mastery over performance, and creating classroom environments where students can take risks without fear of failure
  4. Parents can foster their children’s motivation by emphasizing effort over ability and praising children when they’ve mastered new skills or knowledge instead of praising their innate intelligence.

Many aspects of motivation are not fully understood, the report and background papers caution, and most programs or studies that have shown some positive results have been small or geographically concentrated. “Because much about motivation is not known, this series of papers should be viewed as a springboard for discussion by policymakers, educators, and parents rather than a conclusive research review,” said Nancy Kober, CEP consultant and co­author of the summary report. “This series can also give an important context to media stories about student achievement, school improvement, or other key education reform issues.”

Black Friday: Will Teachers Be Shopping or Working at the Mall?

American Teacher Poster
American Teacher Poster

Throughout my teaching career I had a second job. For the first decade, I spent my summers painting houses. My non-teaching friends joked that I had “summers off.” No, I just had a different job. As the superintendent gave the the opening day pep talk at the start of the school year, I was thinking about the dormers that I still needed to finish.

Ten years into my career, I couldn’t afford to own a home in the community I taught in. I frequently ran into former students. “Hey Mr. Pappas … great to see you … remember me? … are you still a teacher?” I would think – would you ask a doctor that question? …  or don’t you consider teaching a real job?

What’s your kid’s teacher doing tonight – home working on lesson plans, or selling cell phones at the mall?

Eventually, I realized I could align my second job with my teaching career – so I turned to academic writing and adjunct teaching. By supplementing my income with summer and evening work, I figured out a way to stay in the classroom for 25 years.

So much for the personal backstory. This post is about American Teacher, a film that follows four teachers who struggle to make ends meet while trying to stay in the profession they love. With narration by Matt Damon, it tells their stories through a mixture of footage and interviews with students, families, and colleagues, as well as the teachers themselves. By following these teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, it uncovers a deeper story of the teaching profession in America today.

“American Teacher” is waiting for a major theatrical release. I plan on attending the Portland Ore premiere of the film on Thursday Dec 8 at the Hollywood Theater. The film’s producer Ninive Calegari will be hosting the screening.
(I wonder if she’ll bring Matt??) For more information on national screenings of “American Teacher” or to arrange a screening in your area click here.

Statistics show that nearly half of all teachers leave within the first five years. Low salaries and high stress are among the top reasons teachers “burnout” and quit the profession. Sixty-two percent of our nation’s teachers have second jobs outside of the classroom. What’s your kid’s teacher doing tonight – home working on lesson plans, or selling cell phones at the mall?

In countries known for superior student performance (Singapore, South Korea and Finland) top college students are drawn into teaching by competitive salaries and high respect for their contribution to society. In contrast, US teachers are underpaid, relative to other skilled professionals, and they have to listen to politicians accuse them of being lazy and undeserving of collective bargaining rights.

Nearly half of the American teaching profession is eligible for retirement in the next ten years. Will that be seen as a opportunity to hire low-paid replacements? Or do our kids deserve something better? 

PS. Need some inspiration? Read my recent post Why I Teach? A Voice from StoryCorps

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