During the summer, Rich worked with CILC, Dawn Collita, to help together a CILC E-note for their newsletter. This recently was published, and it is a fantastic article. But it also gave Rich a great chance to verbalize exactly our philosophy. So below I have pasted in the original thoughts he put together. You can also view the article here.
What is the role of topic in motivating learning across Content Standards?
The idea is that the passion for a topic that the presenter truly feels exists. Projects can then be contagious- inspiring students to self-motivated learning. Teachers can then guide that self-motivation into the specific academic subjects that they need to cover based on the content standards they are individually working on in the classrooms.
This could then carry into the concept of teachers as Guides- passionate themselves in the topic of how people learn (which is a somewhat hidden concept to most students).
As Guides, they can tap into the topic specific passion and knowledge that "Content Providers" can deliver. And going further, a well structured system of using IVC events in series and ongoing Web 2.0 tools centered on how to adapt the Topic to the Content Standards can act as a hub for teachers and “content providers” (who should really be called “Topic Providers”) to work together and build a longer lasting relationship than the typical one hour virtual field trip allows- to the benefit of the students overall learning experience, as well as, their success on specific Content Standards.
Again, all premised on the basic assumption that the best learning is self-motivated learning. And that the best teachers are the guides that excite us to learn through our own, and others, passion (founded on teaching via research supported Best Practices).
Have you actually pursued this idea far enough to have an example to share?
A fair amount actually, we originally created Kigluait Educational Adventures based around this concept with two main curriculum "modules." The first is the "Virtual Sled Dog Race
," the we still organize each spring, and the second is titled "The cultural Map," and was a piece of curriculum we created for the remote Bush-Alaska school district of Bering Straits.
Both pieces of curriculum were created to address identified needs in specific Content Areas. The Topic for each was chosen based on our personal passions- in the case of the Virtual Sled Dog Race- and a district wide student body survey for the Cultural Map.
Each uses single and multiple IVC events to hook students into the Topic and then relies on various, and ever evolving, Web 2.0 tools to build on the energy of the events. A big part of this is accomplished through continued communication between students, teachers, and content provider, as well as a central clearing house of resources, base-activities, Rubrics/scoring guides, a place to post activity adaptations, examples of student work, etc.
Also, we have developed all our Mushing series virtual field trips around the idea that a teacher could participate in any one of them individually- having a complete and whole experience- or could choose to run them in a sequence, building a bigger unit around the Topic of mushing based on their content area needs. This past school year we worked Decatur School in Texas to do just this using the Web 2.0 component as a bridge between the IVC events.
All of this is centered around the idea of using the Topic as a hook and identifying (and referencing) Content Area needs to drive the academic methodologies.
Really, all this is is simply using a typical Project-Based, or Experiential Learning based approach to meeting academic goals and then taking advantage of the incredible power of modern communication to reach out and extend the teachers ability to bring in Topic experts to his or her curriculum. The twist, as I see it, is that the if the Content Provider also understands the academic goals of the teacher they can become more of a partner than one-time presenter.
1) What are the benefits to using a Project/Experiential-based learning system when teaching Academic Content standards?
- Allows more than one Academic Content area and specific standard to be addressed at one time
- Allows room to structure learning to address multiple learning styles
- By giving many project opportunities each year it delivers a more holistic learning experience than simply isolating the Content Standards and teaching them sequentially- it more closely mimics the natural learning process and is frankly, just more in line with how we all want to teach and be taught.
2) What are the Best Practices associated with Project/Experiential-based learning systems? And how can the use of modern communication technology support those practices?
- Based on Wiggins and McTighe’s concept of Backwards Design
- Establish learning objectives
- Determine how to asses if objectives are met
- Lay out learning steps to meet objectives.
- Plan in a “Real-World” component to the outcome that provide a reason for the learning that the students can sympathize with.
- And from personal experience have a STRONG HOOK to get students excited about what they are going to learn.
Content Standards play the role of determining what your learning objectives are going to be. Topic provides the strong hook and real-world connection. And modern communication technology, h323, Skype, web-based social networks, etc, provides an opportunity to increase the “real-world” portion of the project and vastly enrich the resources the teacher has to work with when developing his/her learning steps plan.
3) How can a strong working relationship between Content Providers and Teachers improve the effectiveness of the student's learning with regards to Content Standards? Why would the Content Provider be the "hub" in that relationship?
This is a simple question if first you accept the concept of Project Based Learning guided by the principals of Backwards Design.
- Teachers are the experts in the Content Standards that need to be addressed in their classroom
- “Topic Providers” are the experts in their respective fields
Clearly, working together is the way to achieve the best results. Not sure much of an argument could be made against collaboration along these lines.
Content/Topic Providers should act as the “hub” in this collaboration for the very simple reason that teachers and technology coordinators currently approach them to determine what topics are available to incorporate into their classroom. Because of this Content/Topic Providers- with some work on their side- can easily maintain a data bank/social network for teachers interested in their particular topic to share how and what Content Standards they have addressed through exploration of that particular Content/Topic providers field of expertise (there does, of course, need to be some consistency in how this is done and I could elaborate more if you would like).
From the teachers perspective this works much the same as how they currently use Cilc to determine what topics from Content Providers are available. Once they determine a topic then they make sure the Provider is flexible in adapting to their Content Standard needs during an event(s) but also see how other educators have used and adapted the topic to meet Content Standard needs, and finally have the ability to share their own adaptations.
1. Best Practice: As a Content Provider, please give a Best Practice
example of this concept--reaching beyond the norm of a one time event chosen by the teacher.
So our Best Practice for this involves a few things:
- General curriculum development:
- Uses ideas from Backwards Design to develop base units for each program
- Start with the model of a 3 session event- 1)teacher led Pre-activity, 2)live videoconference event, 3)teacher led Post-activity
- Ensure that videoconference event is “stand alone” for classrooms that don’t do pre and post activities
- Build web 2.0 “course” around program that utilize a number of different web-based technologies (specifics ones ever changing as new applications are developed) in order to allow platform for teacher to build the program into larger classroom units/curriculums
- Provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate with provider as well as other teachers
- Open line of communication with individual teachers as soon as possible to determine teacher’s classroom goals in participating in the program. Adapt and flex to help meet these goals.
2. Lesson Learned: What in particular have you learned from this
experience that would encourage others to dive in?
Well, first, personal experience has led me to understand that I can learn anything- including statistics and calculus- if I have a real-world, personally meaningful, reason to learn it. The many different Topics covered out there by the various content providers is a huge opportunity for teachers to tap into that type of motivation in their students.
We have seen this many times when we see excitement build from the introduction of a good hook about sleddogs through to the nitty-gritty direct instruction of complicated Content Standards (statistics, genetics, etc, etc) that are required to truly understand the fine art of mushing.
Of course this requires a few things: First, Content Providers need to do a better job of setting up the flexible system infrastructures needed to develop real collaborations with classroom teachers. Second, teachers need better training on how incorporate this type of resource into their teaching fundamentals.
3. Lingering Question: What question would you like to throw out to our readers related to this topic?
That’s easy! I would ask them to look back into their own learning histories and describe the environment of their best learning experiences. Then I would ask them to analyze the learning environment they create everyday in their classroom. And, finally and would ask them to think about how modern digital communication technology could help bridge any gaps between those two learning environments.