Keeping the Learning Central with Digital Tools

Over the past eight weeks, we have embarked on a major undertaking to become a model School of the Future. Since our grant is anchored in digital storytelling, we have had staff development from Jason Ohler, Syliva Tolisano and our very own Mauli Ola Cook who is a Kennedy Center Teaching Fellow and our very own storytelling teacher. We have Skyped, Blogged, Tweeted, Flickrd, Photostoried and Vado’d. Teachers have embraced the new ideas and new tools and I have been thrilled to watch the initial projects emerge. Some of our first attempts have been easy and seamless but others have been a little messier. From all of them, we have learned invaluable lessons!

However, I have a nagging concern about the learning! Our curriculum has units of discovery at the core. Each grade has six integrated units of discovery with an essential understanding and 3-6 essential questions. I wonder if the essential questions and understandings are getting lost in the glitz of the projects. Speaking with our technology teacher today gave me much greater insight into the implementation challenges the teachers are facing across all grade levels. We both agreed that we need to better guide the teachers in long range planning so that she has time for students to be introduced to and practice with the new tools before they start the classroom driven projects. We are thrilled at all the communication and requests to use the digital tools, however, some lessons aren’t going so great because we haven’t helped the teacher think through a complete task analysis. What do the students need to know and be able to do to complete the project? What do they already know? How and who will teach what they need to know for this project? When will they do it?

Today at our faculty meeting, we will be planning for our second units of discovery. We typically do a round robin planning that includes 10-15 minute brainstorms with each of our specialty teachers in the areas of Hawaiian studies, visual arts, music, technology, marine science and storytelling. This time, I am adding myself into the rotation so that I can better understand and support the teachers as they develop their next units. Here are the questions that I will pose to everyone before we start the collaboration session.

Questions to Ponder When Planning

*To what degree to I consider the essential questions and essential understanding when planning my units of discovery?
*To what degree am I integrating language arts, science, social studies, the arts and technology to strengthen student learning during my units of discovery?
*To what degree am I planning on using our new digital tools to help strengthen student learning during my units of discovery?
*To what degree am I keeping student learning and reflection at the center of all that is happening in my classroom every day?
*To what degree do I consider formative and summative assessment strategies when planning my units of discovery?
*To what degree am I using rubrics to help crystallize my learning objectives, to support student mastery and to help improve student chances of success on major projects?

When teachers meet with me, I will ask them the following:

*What is your final project for this unit?
*What do the students need to know and be able to do to complete the final project?
*What do they already know?
*How and who will teach what they need to know for this project?
*When will they do it?

If you have any suggestions, ideas or other guiding questions, please share them! I’ll let you know how it goes.

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One response to “Keeping the Learning Central with Digital Tools

  1. I believe part of the problem involved in translating storytelling into education is our limited notion of the term “story.” Most connect it with something their ancestors or Walt Disney engaged in. While this is certainly part of it, it is by no means the whole story about story.Story is an information container. It differs from the list-oriented approach to information presentation that characterizes much of K-12. It is different in that it has an internal, emotionally engaging structure, specifically the story core, consisting of problem-transformation-solution. Once we latch on to this, most units of instruction or lesson plans can be converted to “story.”

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