Purpose of Education #immooc


I’ve really been thinking about this. Our school systems in the United States formed with local boards of education so that the community’s education goals direct what happens in their school. Of course, the State Departments of Education mandate curriculum and their goals, and the US Department of Education and its purse strings mandate their own policies. With the State and Federal mandates determining funding, our schools focus on those goals and mandates, which in this time period include standardized testing, teacher evaluations, and various curricular requirements. This tangle of mandates strangle any true purpose of education, which must focus on the students, and I’m not sure the local community has much say, since the school board of directors usually focuses on improving those test scores as well.

What are the tests testing? Do we need tests to discern whether or not a student can read, do math, or communicate clearly? Do we really need tests to see where students are in the development of their thinking processes — to tell fact from fiction, and to synthesize ideas in discussion and debate with others to reach a set of understandings?

I don’t think so; I think teachers could observe, assess, guide, and scaffold learners to move successfully from where they are to where they could be successful as critical and creative learners on their own.

Because what is the purpose of education? Our public education system accepts all students, and our purpose must be to guide them to discover who they are, to know what their strengths are and could be, and to enrich their world with choices in possibilities through authentic group and personal goals. This is a process of living and working together to discover the understandings of how the world works by doing the work.

The purpose of education is to support and enrich the learners so they can learn on their own, no matter what the situation. As Seymour Papert says, “The good way to learn is to use it now.” Education must be doing what is needed by students as they choose and work through an authentic, relevant, and beneficent interest or inquiry.

In the doing, we learn. We learn more than the objective specific to the curriculum; we learn to investigate, share, discuss, debate, share, design, provide feedback, organize, determine relevance, create and remix, present, etc. Not everyone is learning the same things, because individuals or teams are focused on what each needs to reach their purpose.

Innovation breaks through patterns of routine and encourages attainment of essential goals through better strategies, processes, and tools that engage learners as active advocates and architects of their goals, learning, and life plans, working with peers to make the world better.

Innovation isn’t a big thing, although it could be. Innovation can simply be choices in what and how to study. The choices are the innovation.  Innovation can be stepping back and thinking, “Does every one have to take a test to show what they know?” — and providing or asking students what that would look like. Innovation can be simply just that: making decisions with students.

It can be strategies: how to turn uncivil arguments into civil and respectful debates.

It can be tools: social bookmarking, YouTube Live debates

It can be processes and protocols developed together with participants.

Innovation takes the usual or mundane, reinvigorates the purpose, and creates better engagement to meet that purpose.

Big or small, innovation moves people and education forward for the better, as each student moves forward knowing his/her strengths and goals while building the knowledge and skills to meet their goals.

What has been one of your best “innovations”that have broken through the usual to better focus the team’s goals?





#140WC Project Based Learning

#140WC Creativity


Creativity = Connections

Creativity is innovation. If, as a country, we want innovators and innovative educators and businesses, then we must develop our ability to make connections in diverse ways.

Steve Jobs was a master of innovation — his creative ideas developed from thinking globally — beyond the box in which he was working. So, the Apple II case was inspired by kitchen appliances. The mag-safe magnetic power plug was inspired by Japanese rice cookers. Outside the usual idea of computers. He connected the disparate. He imagined how one could translate to another.

So, education needs to be more flexible, more amenable to connecting ideas, to taking time to solve problems through creative and critical thinking. It’s more powerful learning than demanding objectives and parsed skills. We need more conversation and more time for playing with ideas. If we want innovation, we need time to play, to make, to step back and see how something completely unrelated may help solve a confusing issue.

What I see in my classroom is a hope to get the teacher’s answer. What I see are glazed eyes when I talk about the objective for the day. What I see is a sparkle when I turn the tables so students ask the questions, when the topic is relevant to their lives, and when the task is determined by their desire to share something important to them — their connection, their ideas.

When do you see that sparkle?

Source: http://www.director.co.uk/ONLINE/2010/09_10_innovation_secrets_of_steve_jobs.html

WC: 247

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140WC When its about you

Our class reads from Scholastic magazines such as Scope, Junior Scholastic, and Choices. The articles are relevant to current events and that alone is motivating. They learn how the world is and how it could be; they think and discuss about the issues with their ideas mixed in. Sometimes it’s hard to grow and change your mind.

When its about you, though, something happens. The questions are deeper, their responses are emotional and packed with their opinions. The November issue of Scope includes an article, Would We Be Killed? It’s paired text spread that discusses the attempt to wipe the Native from Native Americans; it’s about living in two worlds, because the people would not let it happen. Since most of my students are Native American, most of them know this history and are personally touched by its devastation, and their hope.

My units start with a focus statement, in this case:

Thousands of Native American children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools to “Learn the ways of the white man.” Today, Native Americans live in two worlds, the world of their tribe and the world of mainstream America.

Students create lists of questions — brainstorm. One group’s questions:

  1. O Why did this happen?
  2. C When did it happen?
  3. O Why did they separate families?
  4. C Is this still happening today?
  5. O Why didn’t they fight against the white men? *
  6. C Do  all schools teach culture?
  7. O Why were they sent to boarding schools? *
  8. C Did they abuse the Native Americans? *

They star the three top questions.  Next we turn the headings and subheadings into questions.

Finally, before we investigate, research, and respond, student choose an audience for their response, and ways to share their information.They can choose any tool and product that fits their audience. They are ready to do family interviews and interviews of themselves. They are excited to share their worlds; this is their life.

I’m excited to see what they share; I know I’ll learn as much as they will. When it’s about you, you’ve a lot to say.

WC 325

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#140WC Here



A Poem In Columns and Rows: Here Hear!

Skyped with teachers around the world tonight to plan a project for our classes. The important thing is we were here, in my home, and theirs together at the same time, listening and considering ideas  — learning about each other’s classes and planning something that would engage students and build cultural understanding.

“Here.”  It started on Twitter — one of us invited people to a Google Doc about an idea; the word spread on Twitter and teachers signed up.

“Here.” On a Google doc we added ideas and offered suggestions to bring the idea into reality.

“Here. Hear” The Skype call allowed us to fine-tune and visualize what could happen based on each others’ needs. There will be a variety of ways to accomplish the task. We considered and communicated needs, learning what was possible.

“Here.” Back on Twitter to connect and plan.

When we say, “Here,” it can be anywhere — and yet we are connected.

I find this amazing.

More about the project later.

WC: 172

#140WC Not Enough Time

140wc_teacher_time.005Tonight after an errand with my husband and a quick dinner, I settled in to the usual: homework.

This is not homework from a class I’m taking. No, this is home work from school. As a teacher, there simply is not enough time in the day to do everything we are expected to accomplish.  Off at three? Not possible.

Tonight, I revised the reading / writing rubric for my Professional Learning Community team based on our early morning meeting during which we analyzed student work. We’re working on Common Core State Standards and our teacher evaluation criteria eight [collaboration], not that we needed those standards or criteria; this is what we do.  We looked at what students could and could not do and decided on a plan for developing their skills; our rubric and accompanying checklists needed to match those expectations so that we could guide students forward and they could reflect and revise based on focused feedback peers and teachers give from the rubric and checklist.

Tonight, I reviewed the collaborative global project I’m collaborating on with teachers around the world. We’re developing a project about usual, traditional, and cultural foods and caloric intake. We share via Hangouts and Google Docs and Slides to plan our goals, expectations, and directions/instructions. I wrote and shared a parental permission slip when that suggestion was made. [I’ll add a link later.]

Tonight, I developed another unit that begins with a focus statement from which kids develop their own questions and how to search, research, investigate, and share the answers to their questions to a specific audience and purpose. I gathered resources and developed the focus statement and initial instructions, all aligned to the Common Core State Standards with a focus on five areas: collaboration, investigation, content, design, and language. This is task two and provides a gradual release of responsibility so students learn to organize and direct their own learning.

Tonight, I wrote the November technology report for the school board because besides being a full time language arts teacher in a small district, I’m also the technology director; I oversee our tech needs and manage our Google Apps for Education.Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 10.53.55 PM

Tonight, I reviewed a flyer my principal created for Student Parent Teacher Conferences.

What did you do after work today?


WC: 378


#140WC #PBL

Distributed Learning
I love Twitter. Can’t you just get lost sometimes? Stumbling through Twitter links, I started with Google Folders; found a link to free download on Digital Fluency_Snapshot, looked around that site to Hibernating Students, then Active Learning where the next post was Visual Guide to PBL, a post I’d read before on Edudemic about a deeper look at the PBL process, analyzed into a “Distributed-Project Based Learning” graphic by Yameng Li

Project-based learning engages students — they are actively learning together to analyze information and produce a representation of their ideas — in some project form based on their audience and purpose.

In today’s world, students’ process and product include the tech tools they choose for their need. They are learning critically thinking, problem-solving, communication, and design as they collaborate towards their goal.

The chart above shows us the basics of the process in the bottom tier: Organizing/Co-ordinating the work, building background knowledge to inspire, and finally, the co-design of the project. But look at the list of possibilities and expectations in each of those categories. Notice how each part of the process involves those skills often not included in “standards,” but are integral to the Common Core State Standards and most technology standards: thinking and collaboration.  The finally tier includes tech tools students employ during the process and for their product.

It’s time though to update that tier: Google Hangouts, Google Research, Google Communities, Google Apps, Google Drive, Visual.ly, Easel.ly, Lucid Charts, Lucid Press, Canva, Tackk, BitStrips, Voki — there’s tons of tech apps that have blossomed and will continue too. The point though, is the overall view of the process in one graphic.


I think it’ll help the students and teachers expand their thinking about the PBL process. I’m glad I found it again.

WC 295