eMINTS Conference: Session 2 (Friday)

Design Patterns 2.0

Our good friend Bernie Dodge presents on how the best WebQuests are those built around tasks that resemble the authentic work that people do outside of school. Design patterns provide us with a way to describe that work and make it easier to create WebQuests that better prepare our students for life. This session will be the world premier (since yesterday’s session) of a new set of design patterns that will kick lessons up a notch.

Journals, Blogs and Wikis to Enhance Reading and Writing

Presenter Denis Knight provides participants an opportunity to gain a better understanding of various web-based instructional opportunities to use to enhance reading and writing skills. Participants learn how to use online journals, blogs and wikis to develop innovative ways to not only communicate with students, but provide an avenue for creative written expression. Teachers can generate online journals for students to reflect on classroom activities; blogs for addressing constructive response questions and article reviews to address reading comprehension. Participants learn to create a classroom wiki to provide opportunities for interactive discussion and peer evaluation. When used with appropriate assessments, these online sources can give teachers the flexibility to use internet sites as a way to move from the paper and pencil past to a new and exciting learning experience.

Personalize Your PD

Presenter Stephanie Madlinger helps teachers expand and take ownership of professional learning by creating a PLN (Personal Learning Network). Having a PLN allows one to learn and share with others around the world, 24/7. A PLN is a reciprocal network created and based on your interests and needs. Generate multiple opportunities to learn from, connect with, gather information and resources, then create and share with people like you. Participants learn which online tools to use to personalize their own PD. They explore online learning communities like Google Groups and SchoolTown; social networks like Facebook and Twitter; and social bookmarking like Delicious and Diigo.

Put Some WOW into Your Website

Krissy Venosdale of Hillsboro R-3 School District helps teachers explore ways to use the classroom website to enhance the learning environment. Using various Web 2.0 tools, sprucing up certain areas of one’s site, and encouraging interaction on the classroom site will enhance learning both in and out of the classroom. Digital portfolios, online projects, and weekly contests can all be used to engage students in a site and most of all, in learning.

Class, get out your cell phones please for bellwork. Seriously!

Presenter Roger Brallier of Mexico Public Schools help participants learn how to use cell phone technology to add an extra spark to bell work or preassessment in the classroom. Roger demonstrates how to reduce “under the table texting” and unlock the power of the cell phone (which may be greater than some of our older computers). Additionally, participants learn the basics of “Poll Everywhere” – a free online tool that shows real time results using the texting feature of a cell phone. Even without a phone, one can still use a webpage link.

The Flipped Classroom Approach in an eMINTS Classroom

Presenter Melody Paige of Monett School District presents a flipped classroom approach that entails “flipping” instruction in which students watch and listen to lectures for homework or at other non-instructional times. This gives learners control to pause or rewind lessons for understanding. Precious class time is then used for what typically was done as homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, creating, collaborating and researching. The concept is simple; but how does one make the “flipped” approach work in the real classroom? What software is needed? In this session, teachers watch videos of this concept in action and provide many resources for creating flipped content. There are many free completed lessons and videos ready for use in the classroom.

Thursday #eC12 – Design Patterns 2.0

Bernie Dodge’s eMINTS Conference breakout session, Design Patterns 2.0, focused around one of the most challenging parts of writing a WebQuest…. developing a task that engages students while pushing them to think at higher levels and then do something with the content they learn is tough. Bernie’s Design Patterns have long been a resource used in the eMINTS professional development sessions to support teachers as they write their first WebQuest. Design Patterns 2.0 is Dodge’s latest attempt to support teachers in the challenge of coming up with a good starting point to create original, quality WebQuests.

When beginning planning a WebQuest, Dodge suggests “starting at the end and looking at the kids”. Asking… What will they be doing for a living 15 years from now? What will they be doing for recreation? What issues will they be faces with? Dodge shared that “the success of people today and 15 years from now is when people have actually practiced and become good at…designing, deciding, analyzing, creating, predicting.” These are the excellent places for teachers to begin their WebQuest planning because “success is not about the nouns…success is about the verbs”.

So what’s new with Design Patterns 2.0? It’s now an interactive (click-able) matrix where a user chooses an anchor (person, place, thing, problem, activity) and a verb (deciding, designing, creating, analyzing, predicting). At the intersection point are questions that guide a user to help develop their WebQuest’s task and “create a lesson that engages higher-level thinking.”

A couple of tips shared at the session…for a beginner, pick one verb and anchor and do it well – for more experienced WebQuest creators build in more than one intersection point and design a more complex WebQuest.

You can see the Google presentation Bernie created to overview his ideas at http://webquest.org/questquilt.html. He hopes to turn it into a web app in the near future.

What’s your best tip for teachers creating their first or fiftieth WebQuest?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and presenter at the eMINTS Conference 2012.

eMINTS Conference: Session 1 (Thursday)

Don’t Bookmark It – LIVEBINDER it!

Roger Brallier of Mexico School District helps educators organize all of their online resources in ONE central location through Livebinders. This simple and easy-to-use online virtual “3-ring binder” is a great time saver for teachers. With Livebinders, one can create links to sites, files, even use it to organize a WebQuest. The best part might be that Livebinders is FREE!

Standards-based Grading – How to Get There

Becky Schafer of Mexico Middle School shares how to give a grade that truly represents what a student has learned in their class. The objective of this session is to review standards-based grading, from a teacher’s viewpoint. Participants learned how to make the transition from traditional grading to standards-based grading. Becky walked participants through the process, sharing challenges and accolades.

SMART Board 800

Laura Brockman, a SMART Technologies trainer, demonstrates how collaborative learning becomes an extraordinarily natural experience with the SMART Board® 800 series interactive whiteboard. Two people can instantly work together anywhere on the surface at the same time using either their fingers or a pen. This interactive whiteboard also features a multiuser Pen Tray with buttons that make it easy for users to switch ink color, right-mouse click and bring up the On-Screen Keyboard.

Design Patterns 2.0

WebQuest guru Bernie Dodge shows how the best WebQuests are those built around tasks that resemble the authentic work that people do outside of school. Design patterns provide us with a way to describe that work and make it easier to create WebQuests that better prepare our students for life. This session is the world premier of a new set of design patterns that will kick lessons up a notch. Basically, Bernie suggests teachers anchor their content in a person, place, thing, activity, or problem. Then, students do something with that anchor, involving the verbs deciding, designing, creating, analyzing, or predicting. Bernie’s presentation can be found here.

eMINTS Instructional Specialists Smackdown!

Presenters introduce participants to Web 2.0 tools, resources, and lesson ideas that they can integrate into their instruction. The session is a high energy smackdown of sorts with eMINTS Instructional Specialists from around the state sharing their favorite Web 2.0 tools, resources and lesson ideas. There will be more posted on this session by the end of the day including the resources shared.

District-wide eMINTS Initiative & Implementation – eMINTS ETS Tools and Tricks for Survival

Presenter Nicole Whitfield of Morgan County R-II School District  shares tips, tricks and tools to consider when implementing eMINTS district-wide and how to survive the process as an eMINTS ETS, technology coordinator or administrator. The goal of the presentation is to communicate to participants how our rural Missouri district implemented an initiative to bring eMINTS professional development and technology into classrooms PK-12 and how she survived training 50+ teachers over two years (Comprehensive, eMINTS4All and modified program teachers).

To follow all the eMINTS Conference action, return to this blog and follow the hashtag #eC12.

4ALL: Taking Lessons to Task

Student project

Click for source.

When planning a unit or lesson, maybe the most important decision we make is writing the task. Sure standards and learning outcomes must be met, but a well-conceived task is how students will achieve academic goals. Additionally, a task that is meaningful and interesting is what motivates students to do their best work.

Tasks should be authentic. Students want to learn, but they also want to learn skills and content that have real-world applications. We are long past the days of learning just for the sake of learning. A motivating factor for students is the authenticity of the task. A tasks “realness” encourages students to attend to the content even more than abstract exercises. Particularly in web-based learning activities, such as WebQuests, authenticity can be crucial to motivating students. Not only can an authentic task motivate students to learn, it also helps in showing them the relevance of academic work.

Creativity is another aspect of effective tasks. When we talk about creativity, we are not only talking about the aesthetics of a project or display. No, what we are talking about is the kind of creativity in the form of innovation. When students are given tasks that require them to creatively solve a problem or devise new meanings of their worlds, they are both motivated and highly engaged with the content. Creativity has a place in education despite traditional education’s tendency to squelch innovation among students.

So, where do we find tasks that are authentic and promote creativity? Well, there are actually several approaches that fit this bill.

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an approach that requires students to creatively solve real-world problems. Students might be charged with solving a pollution issue in their community’s streams or in designing a new library that fills a school’s needs. These tasks require collaboration, communication, computation, analysis, and an understanding of their world in order to come up with solutions that may work.

Inquiry is another pedagogical approach that requires authenticity and some creativity. Inquiry-based lessons allow the students’ questions about natural phenomena that lead to further investigations.  Students experiencing inquiry develop experimental and analytic skills while conducting investigations. Inquiries can begin with topics such as the current socio-economic environment in the US or around the world, the power of lessons to be learned from well-crafted literature, or the best computations in figuring out mapping the quickest route to the top of Mt. Everest.

A third tool that features authentic tasks that encourage creativity is the aforementioned WebQuest. The WebQuest prominently features a task as its core element. This is how all WebQuests are judged. In fact, Bernie Dodge’s “Taskonomy” lays out the various kinds of tasks that elicit the best results from a WebQuest. In short, a good WebQuest task pushes students to dig into content beyond rote comprehension in collaboratively creating something that demonstrates a deep understanding of the topic. For the best list of high-quality WebQuests, visit Quest Garden.

If you are looking for standards to justify authenticity and creativity in your task, there are plenty of standards and learning models that support these approaches. Look no further than ISTE’s standards for student learning. Also, if one were to look at a DOK chart, the kinds of tasks littered in levels three and four can easily be correlated with real-world and creative tasks. If your school subscribes to Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy, you’ll find that creativity is at the top and the real-world skills of evaluating, analyzing, and applying are just below.

What other ideas should we keep in-mind when designing student tasks? Which is more difficult to plan in a task: authenticity or creativity? What is the most challenging part of facilitating learning through authentic and creative tasks?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tool: Zunal

This week’s tool is brought to us by Greg Irwin of Columbia Public Schools. (Zac)

Zunal is a neat place for finding and creating WebQuests. Best of all is, it’s free!

I’ve found that the Zunal format allows me to harness the Web for my students by giving them links to good resources along with clarifying my expectations for assignments. Students find it much less intimidating (or more normal?) to click through a couple of “webpages’ than to sift through several pages of a handout. This resource may not be as professional-looking as some aesthetically-minded people may like, but its worked fine for me.