Personalized Learning Buzz Words: What are they and what do they mean?
I talk a lot about personalized learning in this blog, which I'm not sure I've ever explained. I just talk about it here as if everyone knows what it is. Everyone likely has a basic understanding of it based on the words themselves. It's learning that is personal. Students learn by having their personal needs met and interests considered. Personalized learning by nature accounts for and works around differing abilities and skill levels.
Some words associated with personalized learning that I often use here include: competency-based learning; autonomy, mastery and purpose; differentiation; student-directed; mastery-based; proficiency-based; interest-driven; project-based; and self-efficacy.
This article does a really great job of defining these words and explaining why they're important. As a parent I want my children going to school where the meaning of those terms are considered and applied to my child's education.
What approaches do you take to personalize learning in your classroom? I'd love to hear some ideas. Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!
Hope, Agency, Mastery and Other Terms Educators are Redefining, by Anya Kamenetz
Learning Lab: A Project-Based Learning Case Study
I came across this article today and wanted to share. It's such a great example of project-based learning. which is something I talk about a lot on this blog. Project-based learning is one element of experiential learning. It promotes observation, asking questions and exploring the world around you.
Plainfield Schools in Indiana recently launched their "Imagination Lab", which is a project-based learning environment for students of all ages. Learners build, create, problem-solve, experiment and inquire.
Whenever I broach the subject of project-based learning I'm hyper-focused on the way PBL fosters a passion for learning. That is very important to me because I know you need a love for learning before other skills and competencies can be achieved, such as motivation and productivity.
Friends of mine, family members, community members, and even some of my students' parents often had concerns about project-based learning. Is PBL preparing my child for the real-world? College classes are typically lecture-based. How will my child transition from a student-directed learning environment to a teacher-centered one? My answer to that is that project-based learning gives students the skills and competencies they need to adapt to any environment they land in. Learning Lab is a fantastic demonstration of this point. Check out the article for more on PBL and one school district's success story.
"In Plainfield schools you'll find fun, slime, and the joy of learning"
4 Reasons to Integrate Current Events into your Curriculum
Ok, so you're not a social studies teacher. Current events don't apply to you or what you're doing with your students. Or do they? You don't have to be a social studies teacher to fuse current events into your curriculum. All subjects can incorporate current affairs into the curriculum.
I'm a life-science teacher, and I incorporate science news into my classes regularly. All teachers can and should include current events to some degree in their classroom, and this is why:
1) Bring current events in class, and 21st C. content will follow:
It's important as teachers that we stay up-to-date. The world is changing, and it's changing quickly. If we want our students to have a shot at a decent life in the 21st. century we have to prepare them for the 21st. century. Part of helping them prepare for that world is giving them ample opportunities to know what's going on in it. Raise your hand if you've had a teacher that has clearly been delivering the same lesson for 30 years. You know the one. Don't let that be you. Our students deserve better.
2) Awareness of local and global issues help students build important life skills:
A deeper understanding of current topics in the news expand students' world view. This alone helps student develop essential competencies for a happy, healthy and productive future. Insight on what's happening in the world engenders empathy and compassion. It fosters responsible and active citizenship, a curiosity about the world outside of one-self, and an educated viewpoint. Education is a catalyst for change in the world. Student can and should be a part of that.
3) Incorporating current events is low-prep:
What educator doesn't want low-prep? We can be great, caring educators and still want to be smart with our time. The content is already there when it comes to current events. The only thing you need is an idea of how you want to implement it, what structure you'll apply, when and how often you'll work current events into your class, and what resources you'll utilize.
4) Current, relevant pedagogy nurtures intrinsic motivation to learn:
It shouldn't be surprising to any educator that students learn more when they can connect with the material. The material should be relevant, compelling, and important to the students. Providing student choice is a plus. News is interesting, especially if you're hitting up the best resources. You know your audience. Try a few different approaches with your students to see what works. If you're an art teacher, for example, try assigning a project on "art and activism."
Current Events Resources for all Subjects:
Vice News Series Worksheets and Extension Activities:
Vice News is super gritty, which students, especially teenagers love. They cover a wide range of topics, which is why it's great for a variety of subjects, not just social studies. The link above will bring you to a "bundle", 22 episodes, but you can pick and choose episodes in my store as well. I show a Vice episode every Monday in class to start off the week. My students love "Vice days".
Project-Based Learning - Current Events:
This is a good one for a variety of subjects as well because it's a generic template. If you want your students to focus on a specific discipline, ask that they're current event for this project relate to that concept.
Community Action Projects:
This is my latest resource. I like this one because it gives students an opportunity to act on a local or global issue. If you're an environmental science teacher, ask your students to focus their action plan on an environmental issue that's hot in the news. If you're a health instructor, ask that students act on a community health issue, and so on. This project gives student choice and provides all of the those life competencies that I mentioned above.
Experiential Learning Depot cyber sale ends today, so check out these resources before midnight tonight! Get those kids reading the paper! Good luck!
Student Activism with Community Action Projects
My entire teaching career was at one school, Jennings Community School. The philosophy is written right there in the name. Wayne Jennings started the school with "community" as the foundation for learning. In nine years teaching there I developed a deep appreciation for student involvement in the community.
Students have the capacity to make massive waves of change because they are young, technologically savvy, and many injustices happening in the world today are happening to them, impacting them directly. What they need from us are the tools, skills, and knowledge to have their voices heard. They have opinions, they have ideas. They just need a nudge and some guidance.
I designed a project that gives students the tools, skills and knowledge they need for a lifetime of community activism. Check out Community Action Projects at Experiential Learning Depot. Community Action Projects teach many important social-emotional skills such as empathy and self-reliance. They help students develop essential life and career skills such as networking and responsible citizenship. Most importantly, action in the community gives students the tools to make a positive impact long after they have completed the project, finished the class, or graduated from school.
There are many ways students can take action in the community! Here are four such ways:
1) Giving Time/Volunteering/Community Service:
Service learning is one way students can be active in the community. Encourage students to give thanks this holiday season by giving back! Help them organize a community involvement club, have a weekly community clean-up day, regular visits to a food shelf and so on. Inspire students to identify community issues that matter to them, and give their time to that cause.
Students love fundraising! Encourage them to direct that spirit toward a cause that is meaningful or relevant in their lives. Many people don't have the means to donate money from their own pockets, especially students. They can plan and host a fundraiser for a specific cause and donate money to a worthy cause that way.
3) Advocating for Legislation:
This is a really important learning experience for students to have in my opinion. In many cases it is the most effective course of action one could take. The Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs (MAAP) coordinates an annual "Legislative Day", where students from across the state come to the capital to speak with their legislators. This is a powerful way for students to be heard. This type of action also teaches students important citizenship concepts, among other things. I had a student who personally contacted her legislator, who traveled all the way to Jennings to meet with this student. They met one-on-one to discuss a bill that would help ex-convicts get jobs, an important and personal issue to this particular student.
4) Education/Raising Awareness:
Education is the most effective course of action in making long-term change. Say what you will about social media, but in this case it is a huge ally. Information travels fast, far and wide when shared on social media platforms. Students are especially competent with technology. A simple awareness campaign poster posted on social media will reach more people in 5 minutes than a flier would in weeks, for example. Encourage your students to utilize these 21st C. communication skills to their benefit and the benefit of the community.
There are so many ways students can be active members of their communities. They don't even have to get radical if you're not up for that. What seems like a small and simple gesture may not be small and simple for some. I had a student who wanted to get a crosswalk put into a high traffic area near the school. Getting a crosswalk put in may not bring world peace, but it's something, and an important something to that student and her community.
Change the world one project at a time! Have a great school week everyone.
Give your Students the Gift of Experiential Learning this Holiday Season with Experiential Learning Depot
Happy holidays, everyone! A couple of notes:
1) This website is no longer Classroom Unbound. I've changed it to Experiential Learning Depot to streamline my brand. Now you can find this blog at experientiallearingdepot.com instead of classroomunbound.weebly.com. I'm still ironing out the technical details a bit. If you don't see a change yet, just wait for it!
2) I'm having a cyber Monday and Tuesday sale at my TpT (Nov 26-27.) All store products will be 20% off. Check out the bundles, Project Based Learning Bundle and Vice News Series Bundle, for additional savings. If you've been spying on these products and have been unsure if you've wanted to make the investment, now is your time. Check it out at Experiential Learning Depot.
I changed the name of my blog for a couple reasons: 1) to streamline my brand, 2) to better represent my teaching philosophy and skills. I love the name "Classroom Unbound" for this blog because it promotes learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom. Experiential Learning Depot, however, promotes experiential learning, which is so much more than that. Experiential learning can be anything that fosters hands-on learning, critical thinking, student choice and voice. It essentially gives students the opportunity to learn through active experience, regardless of whether that experience is in the school or out in the world. That includes project-based learning, problem-based learning, inquiry, experimentation, speakers, "sparks", field trips, exhibition nights, and more.
I stumbled across an article this morning and wanted to share it with you all. It is the epitome of on-site experiential learning. To summarize, Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County (CCESC)’s 4-H program is putting on a holiday shopping event. Students (ages 5-18) have hand created holiday gifts using upcycled materials, and are hosting a community event at which they will sell their crafts. Each student's sale item is different, from spices, to home decor, to clothing.
This event is a concept that goes from a simple activity (upcycling) to a profound, deep learning experience. Students not only learn how to hand-make a craft item, they also learn planning, organizing, what needs there are in the community and how best to meet those need. They learn about marketing and design by participating in the creation and distribution of promotional materials. They create networking opportunities within the community. This educational strategy is what I write about, both in my blog and the products I create in my TpT store, Experiential Learning Depot. I have done very similar learning activities with my own students. For more details on this article, click here.
Incorporating Authentic Presentations into Project-Based Learning
There are variety of essential components of project-based learning: personalized project proposals, innovative final products, collaboration with community experts, periodic self and peer-assessments, and most importantly in my opinion, authentic presentations. An authentic presentation is the demonstration of new skills and knowledge to a relevant audience in the community. Students are expected to share their work with the public.
For example, I had a student who wanted to learn more about "coming of age" traditions around the world. She created a children's book as her final product and read it to students in a nearby elementary school class. That is an authentic presentation. She shared her information with a relevant audience in the community. Public presentations of this type might be a logistical nightmare for some educators. Luckily there are a variety of ways students can share their final products to a relevant audience in the community without leaving the building. This isn't necessarily ideal, but if that is your only option, go with it for now.
Check out the graphic below to get an idea of how this works. Feel free to use this graphic organizer with your students as a brainstorming tool. A free printable version can be found at Experiential Learning Depot.
Let's go through an example of a project-based learning authentic presentation:
You assign a project to your life science class. They are to do a PBL project on symbiotic relationships. One student decides to create an info-graphic on the different types of symbiotic relationships. She collaborates with an ecology professor from a nearby university and a graphic designer in the area. They work together to create a professionally done info-graphic with solid, accurate information. The student then needs to figure out how they will share their final product with a relevant audience, that will benefit from the information and/or the final product itself.
Examples of Authentic Presentation Options for this Project:
***Ideally this student would authentically present their info-graphic using all of the examples above.***
The purpose of authentic presentations vs. a standard presentation to the class is that they encourage project quality. Students don't want to share work that they aren't proud of to a public audience. The result is deeper learning and intrinsic motivation to learn and improve.
I have several project-based learning products in my store, Experiential Learning Depot, that incorporate principles of project-based learning such as authentic presentations. Check them out if you think project-based learning is something you might love to try in your classroom.
Have a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend everyone!
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Happy Wednesday, everyone! Hope you're having a great week. People in Minneapolis are stoked to have our first sunny day in what seems like three weeks. Still cold, but sunny. In November that's a big win!
Ok! Down to business. Most of you know by now that I am currently a stay-at-home-parent, running a TpT store on the side - Experiential Learning Depot - where I post experiential learning products. Some are free and others are for purchase. Check out my updated store front! Experiential learning, if you don't already know, is exactly what it sounds like. It's learning through experience.
Before I became a teacher I was a field technician on endangered species projects around the world. I got amazing grades in college, passed all my tests, memorized what I was asked to memorize, and yet felt completely clueless about this career that I was about to dive head-first into. I felt completely clueless about life in general to be honest. And I was.
I got an internship in the field right out of college. I moved to Hawaii to work with USGS on their palila translocation program. Palila's are small, critically endangered song birds on Mauna Kea. I very quickly realized how ill-equipped I was to be working with this group and how little real-life experience I had. I spent so many years with my face buried in textbooks that didn't prepare me for this career I just signed up for. I spent the next four years building a career in endangered species research by putting myself in the thick of it, by doing and experiencing. I learned more about endangered species work in two days on the job than I did over the course of my entire undergraduate experience. I needed to experience it to truly understand it. That is experiential learning.
Experiential learning is the learning approach I use with my own children, my students, and the with the products I sell and give away in my store. I want to encourage you to explore experiential learning in your own classroom.
I like to provide a lot of free resources for a few reasons:
1) I think sharing is an important part of the teaching culture. Supporting each other is essential to curtailing teacher burn-out.
2) To give you an idea of what you're paying for if you ever decide to purchase any of my products. It's a difficult decision to spend $50 on a bundle that you haven't seen. Even previews don't always do justice. My "freebies" are snapshots of what you'd be paying for.
3) I want to encourage you to explore experiential learning. It can include travel, community collaboration, hands-on activities, stem, inquiry, problem-based learning, project-based learning. It doesn't have to happen outside of the classroom, although that's better. But there are ways to tap into experiences for your students without leaving the classroom. I'll write about that another day.
Check out these free resources and reach out if you have any questions. I LOVE to talk about experiential learning! Have a great day filled with experiences!
Free Experiential Learning Resources from Experiential Learning Depot
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Instagram and TpT for great experiential learning resources and teacher tips.
Happy college season! For some, that season is long over, having completed early applications over the summer. Phew! Now all you have to do is wait! For some, you're still trying to get everything figured out. Preparing application materials for deadlines, considering a gap-year. Maybe even wondering if college is for you at all. I get that. I've been there! College is truthfully not for some in my opinion. You do you!
There is a lot to consider when choosing your path. If the path you have chosen is to go to college, your job isn't over yet. You still need to find a great fit. There are a lot of variables to consider, such as tuition, financial aid and scholarships, location, academic programs, and acceptance rates. If you're interested in exploring college options, check out this FREE college search activity that helps you determine what you are looking for in a college experience, and which schools will best provide that experience.
And if weighing those basic options wasn't challenging enough, colleges also differ in how they're grading student work. In fact, some colleges are not grading at all. No A-F grading system, no failing, no GPA. Some schools do this to mitigate the pressure of grades; to measure learning based on student-performance, quality of work, and growth; and/or to provide detailed feedback on student work to foster the desire to improve.
This post isn't about which assessment method is better. It is about providing information and alternatives. It is up to you to determine which method is the best for you. Consider your learning style, interests, past experience, and goals moving forward.
I've compiled a list of colleges and universities in the United States that offer alternatives to the traditional A-F grading system. Check them out, and who knows, maybe this is just what you need?
Note: this list is not exhaustive. I'm sure there are others. Do your research. If you have a particular school in mind, but wonder about their assessment approach, find out!
Narrative Reports - a narrative report is a detailed, written evaluation by the professor on student work and progress. It often times is the entirety of the student's transcript. The purpose of this is to provide important feedback and opportunity for growth. Some schools provide grades with the narrative, but is typically the choice of the student. The following colleges provide narratives on transcripts.
Colleges with Alternative Grading Methods to the Traditional A-F Approach:
ePortfolios - many colleges and universities have turned to ePortfolios rather than letter grades. ePortfolios are online portfolios where students submit evidence of learning. The portfolio can then be shared online.
No fail grading systems - some schools have eliminated failing grades entirely along with GPA's. Transcripts usually include alternatives to the A-F grading system along with narratives.
What's interesting about this is that there is a huge range. It's not just super-progressive schools that have taken on new methods of student grading. It's private and public, ivy-league and community colleges, traditional and progressive. They're all great schools trying to do what is best for the students. So don't think you can't consider a school that doesn't offer a failing grade. There are no rules! Do what is right for you. To figure that out you may have to do some soul-searching. Happy hunting, and good luck!!
Several years ago I brought six students to California to study ecology. California is such an amazing place to do this. A one hour drive from one city to another and suddenly you are in a starkly opposing climates and landscapes. We studied the variety of habitats and biomes across the state. Not the purpose of this post, but if you're a science teacher, it's something to think about!
Before I go on I want to promote a FREE activity for your students! I clearly believe in travel as part of the educational journey, and think you should too! Even if you don't want to or don't have the resources or support at your school, you can still get your students enthusiastic about travel by completing some of these classroom activities. Check out travel brochure classroom mini-project for one such activity.
If you read parts 1 and 2 you know that students typically plan our school trips (with guidance) as projects (PBL). The particular student that planned this trip wanted to snorkel. I told her that California isn't really known for their snorkeling, but we decided to set something up anyway. We worked with an outfitter that snorkels the kelp forests in Monterrey, a marine habitat we studied before the trip. Kelp forests are only found off of the United States' west coast because of the unique landscape and topography.
The day we were scheduled to snorkel was rainy and windy. Central California often is. We arrived to get suited up and get out there, but the guide urged us not to go. The water would have been murky and turbulent. I took his word for it and canceled.
Suddenly we found ourselves without any plans. Our students got to talking to the guide, a young guy, probably 22 years old or so. He told us that a little later he would be going inland to some hot springs to meet up with his coworkers, and that we should all meet him there. It would be warm, the kids could swim. It would be great. It was even more convincing when he said it's a spot only locals know about. Of course my students were all over that. He gave me his phone number and very vague directions.
It was supposedly a 30 minute commute. The drive inland was stunning, with winding roads through the mountains and idyllic ranches around every corner. Somewhere along the way I missed a turn on the guides very nebulous directions. At first I didn't think much of it. I just thought I could turn around and retrace my steps.
Wrong. I proceeded to get us more and more lost. There were no other cars, no shops or restaurants, and NO CELL SERVICE. I couldn't call the guide even if I wanted to. In the meantime, one of my students was getting violently car sick because the roads were so windy. I had to pull over every so often so the poor guy could vomit.
At this point we had been driving around for 5 hours. Yes. Five hours. That is not an exaggeration. We were so lost, my students were so sick, my phone didn't have service and deep down I was completely panicked.
Suddenly by complete coincidence, we stumbled upon a little town. That little town by fate ended up being the town with the hot spring. I pulled into a gas station to find out exactly where this hot spring was. I asked the gas station clerk if she happened to know of this particular place. She looked at me and paused. "How did you hear of this place?" I told her our story of the snorkeling guide, how lost we got, how long we've been driving, that I had six students in the car waiting on me.
"You have teenage students in the car with you?" she asked. Yes! I didn't want to make small talk at the moment. I was so exhausted. I just wanted to get there. Then the words I will never in my life forget came out of her mouth. "You can't take your students there. It's a nudist colony."
No! No, we must have been talking about different places I thought. Turns out we were talking about the very same place, and after some cross-checking discovered that she was very correct. This guide convinced 6 teenagers and a 30 year old woman to drive out to a nudist swimming hole. I was completely stunned and had the displeasure of walking back to the car to tell my students that we just spent the day driving around and throwing up for nothing, because no, I will not be bringing my students to a naked swimming party.
What lesson was learned here? I now know better than to take travel advice from a stranger that is lusting after my students, in a town that I am unfamiliar with! Hopefully my students learned the necessity of asking questions and critically thinking. Can't trust everyone unfortunately. I wish that wasn't a lesson that needed to be learned in life. I think it is a great thing to take advice from locals when traveling. They have the best insight into the best experiences. There were red flags though with this particular individual. I should have questioned him more. Would have saved us a lot of time and stomach pain!
Until next time! Happy Wednesday
Check out my Pinterest page and my TpT store, Experiential Learning Depot, for more educational resources. I also want to invite you to join a Facebook group I recently started called Curriculum Share Unbound, where you can share and view any educational resources (free). Thanks!
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.