Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why be Curious?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I have been very focused on incorporating the 4Cs in my classroom and to support our teacher professional development for the past several years. I was initially inspired by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Recently, I have begun to add the 5th C of curiosity into my teaching and learning. Robert Frost's the Road Not Taken is a great example of how curiosity can impact a student's future in profound ways.
If you've ever been in a car with a curious child you will recognize that a child's curiosity is endless. They will bombard you with question after question as they seek to understand the world around them. This is an incredible aspect of our human intellect that must be nurtured and encouraged through adulthood. We must encourage our students to never stop asking questions and pursuing the answers. This is how the world becomes a better place. We need more innovators.
I fully realize that curiosity is a difficult skill to understand and nurture in a world of standardized testing, but I don't think we can let that be an excuse to not try.  I personally plan to to encourage more exploration in my classroom Not easy in an AP Curriculum, but I hope I can make it work.
We started 2nd Semester with and activity to inspire some curiosity:
I've also started to put together some resources to support and encourage creativity in the classroom.
What resources or ideas do you have to support curiosity in your classroom?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why is Creativity So Important for Today's Learner?

In a previous post I discussed Collaboration as the first skill I dive into when I evaluate possible uses of an online tool or app. If I can't find a way to use a tool in a collaborative way, I may not invest much thought into using it.
Once I've established how collaborative a lesson can be with a specific tool, I dig deeper to evaluate the other skills it can help develop. I always want to know how it can support and build essentials skills before I think about content. Don't get me wrong, there are some incredible content resources available for today's learner, but if I don't design a lesson that uses content to develop student skills, too often that content becomes quickly forgotten with no real learning gains. A great resource combined with a great lesson helps develop all of the 4Cs.

We want our students to be creative, but sometimes the whole idea of being creative is left to a student's own devices. For many students being creative starts and ends with them creativity planning to meet the requirements with as little work as possible.  If I  leave the product of an assignment a bit more open-ended one of the most common questions from students is "Is this good enough?". I typically respond with, "It's good, but can you think of a way to be more creative? Either I get a no, or the real discussion begins.
Creativity - Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students will:
  • Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
  • Create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
  • Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.
  • Identify trends and forecast possibilities.

With the help of my incredible PLN, I've compiled a list of tools that can support creativity in classrooms and for professional development. Check out these resources in this collaborative Google Doc:
Learn more about creativity:

How do you promote creativity in your classroom?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The 4Cs and Google Apps for Education

Over the year's I've always looked to improve the way I teach and my students learn. Google Apps for Education has changed how I teach and how my students learn more than any other resource or idea. 

A few years ago I agreed to pilot Google Drive after spending years using Microsoft Office and Smart Technologies to support teaching and learning. Google was only a search tool that helped me find lessons and my students research ideas. My students collaborated on a variety of in-class activities, but we rarely collaborated using digital tools. My classroom was very teacher-centered. We focused on content first and foremost. The skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity were an afterthought. 

I won't tell you that I started using Google Drive and I immediately became a different teacher. I was probably a full year before I fully engaged in Google Drive.
The shift to Google Apps for Education also brought a change in my teaching. My classroom has become more student-centered. We focus on using the content to teach essential skills.

Today the activities in my classroom start with the 4 Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity). Google Apps for Education provides me with a great set of tools to support these skills in a learner-centered classroom. 

Since I shifted my classroom to be more learner-centered, my own learning has shifted to a great reliance on my personal learning network. I've learned a great deal about Google Apps for Education and a student-centered classroom and I am always driven to learning more. 

I learn the most by sharing, so here are a few resources that we've found or created to support learning in a student-centered classroom using Google Apps for Education: 

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Themes in Education Today

The pace of educational change can be staggering, but sometimes if you slow down and take a look at around you will discover how lucky today's educators can be. The internet makes it possible for ideas and knowledge to be everywhere. Educational technology has invaded classroom across the world. There number incredible resources and tools to enhance learning and engage students is staggering. 

The educational world is full of buzzwords. Like them or love them they are unavoidable. Here are a few of my current favorites:

On my radar:

With so many choices it is often difficult to decide what is best for learning in my classroom. There is not enough time in the day to try everything that looks cool. My solution is my Personal Learning Network. My PLN helps me find the right tools to enhance the right objectives.

We've taken the top recommendations from our PLN and organized them around the 4Cs of education on our Recharge Learning Website. It is not a static place and constantly evolving as new tools and ideas arrive. Check it our and let us know what we are missing?

Learn more:

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