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Engaging Students Through Connected Learning Opportunities

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February 14, 2013 03:48 pm

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engaging students

The following blog post comes from Pamela R. Moran, EdD, superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools (VA). Dr. Moran is a member of the Project 24 Team of Experts, a team of nationally recognized leaders who have demonstrated records of success in their fields. Each one of the experts has effectively used technology to help advance the goals of college and career readiness. These individuals are the heart and soul of Project 24 as they lead and share through blogs, webinars, resources, and rich discussions.

 

“All learners believe in their power to embrace learning, to excel, and to own their future.”
–Vision for Albemarle County Public Schools

We are making our Vision real through connected learning opportunities, engaging even our youngest children with experts and learning communities around the world. Third graders interact with PhD physicists via Google Docs and Twitter. Sixth graders interview a 9/11 survivor via Skype. Three kindergarten classes listen to a virtual reading of The Little Red Lighthouse with available references on tides, lenses, navigation, mapping. Young people cross-pollinate learning through #ccglobal projects and global fiction reading, and our Break Traditions virtual conference attracts presenters and participants from every continent except Antartica. While face-to-face learning remains critical, we’re breaking space and time barriers that once limited learners’ experiences, voices, and audiences.
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It’s easy to craft a statement of Vision. It’s hard to create real change across classrooms, schools, and school districts to bring Vision fully to life. It is even harder when accomplishing that Vision requires multiple indicators to assess progress, rather than reliance upon a single measurement system. As Edward Deming once said, “… he that would run his company on visible figures alone will soon have neither company nor figures.” (Out of the Crisis, 1986, p.121).

While public schools aren’t companies, Deming’s words ring true when it comes to creating a learning culture that embraces a 21st century Vision for educational excellence. It takes more than “visible figures alone” to assess competencies needed by contemporary learners – a range of communication, critical thinking, creative ideation and generation, collaboration skills, plus the capability to read and write analytically and demonstrate complex mathematical understanding. Our Vision demands we keep in front of us an evolving map created from observations, performance assessments, and stakeholder feedback that enables us to know where we are, and the complexities of the path ahead to realize aspirations for contemporary learners.

Building Mathematical Understanding

A Vision must be fully transformational. Our children, living their lives in the mid- and late 21st century, can’t be trapped by the limits of factory schools – created for another time, economy, and society. Our Vision is necessary to move schools out of 20th century “low orbit” – in which some children do well, some “get by,” and some struggle. This requires discomfort with and disruption of the status quo. NASA’s abandonment of the space shuttle program disrupted many, but was essential to move toward the challenges of deep space exploration.
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Just as the space vehicles of tomorrow will not look like, function like, or even be built like those of the past–as evidenced by the Mars Curiosity Rover–our schools must look different, function differently, and be “assembled” differently by students and teachers. This demands a shift from teaching places to learning spaces, from classrooms to learning studios, a complete redesign of the way we use time, facilties, resources, technologies, pedagogy, assessment, and curricula.

Today, our Vision for “school” operationalizes learning through what teachers and learners co-create: content, performance, and inquiry, in and outside of school. This shift represents a turning point as important as the invention of the printing press. The press defined information as “fixed print” and education as “write it, print it, read it, recall it.” The post-Gutenberg definitions are different, “search, connect, communicate, make”, requiring a learning revolution that supports the information, communication, and cognitive knowledge revolutions which have challenged us – individuals, organizations, governments, businesses, schools – for the past two decades. As Pascal Finette of Mozilla said in a recent Ted talk, ”…the rising culture of participation combined with technology and power of networks will instigate the most fundamental change in human history.”

Why is our Vision important? Learning must be a lifespan activity. It does not stop at the school walls, nor at the end of the school day, nor even–as we recently saw in this video–for Snow Days.

Learning cannot stop at graduation. Learning must lead our students to lifespan learning strategies. Learning must help our students build and maintain their lifespan toolbelt of communication technologies. Learning must be designed so every child succeeds, because we have no young talent to waste in a globally competitive economy filled with grand challenges – water shortages, energy issues, political and economic.
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Children also must become adults who can separate “the essential signals from the noise” of information and misinformation overload, enabling them to form and inform opinions necessary to preserving our democracy. They must become community problem-solvers. They must grow up able to communicate successfully both face-to-face and virtually, and know how to work in workplaces which look nothing like any we have seen before.

We also need our children to grow the skills to relate to humanity, from their families, to their neighbors, to our nation, to their world.

This will be our ultimate measure of a Vision made real.

The following blog post comes from Pamela R. Moran, EdD, superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools (VA). Dr. Moran is a member of the Project 24 Team of Experts, a team of nationally recognized leaders who have demonstrated records of success in their fields. Each one of the experts has effectively used technology to help advance the goals of college and career readiness. These individuals are the heart and soul of Project 24 as they lead and share through blogs, webinars, resources, and rich discussions. For additional blog posts from the Project 24 Team of Experts, visit https://all4ed.org/project24.

Categories:
Digital Learning Series, Gear: Academic Supports, Gear: Curriculum & Instruction

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.