Beth Holland

Food for thought…


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Around the East Coast in 30 Days

I started to write a post yesterday and then didn’t. No real excuses, just didn’t get there. However, this morning, Cathy Rubin (@cmrubinworld) gave me a shout-out in her Around the World in 30 Days post for June, so I figured out my angle.

June 1 – Asking Essential Questions

Ever since I heard Jay McTighe talk about the concept of Essential Questions and read his book, I’ve been inspired about what it takes to get people to engage in deep inquiry. Leveraging the power of Visible Thinking, I spent the morning of June 1st with the teachers from the Williston Scholars program at Williston Northampton School in MA wrestling with the question:

How can the Williston Scholars teachers design a curriculum that encourages deep inquiry and exploration across cohorts as well as creates experiences unique to the individual courses?

June 3-4 – Strategies, Literacy, & Fluency

From Williston, I traveled South to work with teachers in Charlotte, NC. This group was preparing to go 1:1 with iPads next year. With a team of 5th and 6th grade teachers, we tackled questions of strategies – how to address note taking and active reading with digital tools, literacy – how to build an understanding of media and address the impact of possessing a global library inside of a tablet, and fluency – how to develop a growth mindset such that learners become comfortable regardless of the interface of various apps and tools.

In many ways, it’s because of these early workshops that I wrote about empathy as a key trait for teacher leaders.

June 6-10 – iPads & Chromebooks in Atlanta

To kick off our EdTechTeacher Summer Workshop Series, I flew down to Atlanta, GA and set up at Woodward Academy for the week. What most impressed me about that week was the amazing educators who arrived with open minds and a thirst to learn, explore, and challenge their own ideas. We continued with those themes of empathy, strategy, fluency, and literacy with a constant objective of empowering students to construct understanding and create artifacts as evidence of their learning.

With the Google & Chromebook group, we also had a chance to explore the power of DocHub for active reading and collaborative note taking. I wrote this post about it for Free Technology for Teachers.

June 17-19 – Minnetonka Institute & Skokie, IL

When I submitted my problem of practice to Johns Hopkins for the EdD program, I talked about the need to provide high-quality, sustained, professional development to teachers as a means to create lasting change. These three days helped to shed significant light on the subject.

In Minnetonka, the district has made an investment in PD. They provide consistent, high-quality opportunities inside of their schools and also invite in neighboring districts. For their institute, teachers drove from as far away as 3.5 hours (I now know where Worthington, MN is located) to take part in 2 days of learning.

After leaving Minnesota, I flew down to Chicago to kick off my first full-year program with the K-6 teachers in Skokie, IL. I am a huge fan of these learning opportunities because there is no pressure to race through concepts and ideas. We can iterate over the course of the year and build on various concepts over time. It’s after participants can begin to see the power of leveraging all technologies (yes, even paper and pencil) that they realize the power of student-centric learning. However, it’s also this experience that led me to write about the need for A New Metric for Learning.

June 22-26 – Chromebooks & PBL

Last week, I continued summer workshops in Chicago. For the first few days, I worked with a number of teachers in a Chromebook Classroom workshop. These three days reinforced my believe that we really need to address the concepts of strategy, literacy, & fluency in professional development. More on this coming soon…

With my Project Based Learning workshop, I hit a few snags – namely a misunderstanding of the concept. More on this coming soon as well.

Rounding out the Month

To end June, I’ll be kicking off an extended program with teachers in Westborough, MA as well as catching up on my homework. Keep an eye out on Edutopia (@Edutopia) as I have a new post running either today or tomorrow about The Art of Reflection.

July is going to get interesting as well!


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5 Ideas to Kickstart Your Summer Learning

Funny thing about this post… I wrote it MONTHS ago. However, Edutopia said that people were getting fried in May and decided to sit on it for a bit. I will say that this post was a bit of a team effort. Major thanks to Suzy Brooks, Jen Carey, and Sabba Quidwai for the suggestions and ideas.

Without further ado, here are 5 Ideas to Kickstart Your Summer Learning.


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My Technology Workshops NOT about Technology

Are you a teacher? Do you know a teacher? Have you ever spoken to a teacher? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, please keep reading…

This summer, I’m teaching eight DIFFERENT workshops with EdTechTeacher in Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston. Some of them are very obviously technology based: The iPad Classroom, The Chromebook Classroom, iPads in the Elementary Classroom, and Google & Chromebooks in the Classroom. During these workshops, we will be hands-on with all sorts of devices, tools, apps, extensions, and other digital features. However, I have been doing considerable research for three of my other workshops that are more focused on process and pedagogy and less on the tools themselves.

Project-Based Learning, June 25-26 in Chicago

Project-Based Learning (PBL) encourages students to engage in inquiry, explore real-world contexts, and share their learning with others. Now, there is a huge difference between teachers asking students to complete projects (think exploding volcano, giant posters, and short videos) and incorporating PBL as an instructional strategy. Though many teachers may feel as though it’s difficult to fit in PBL given the constraints imposed by state curricular requirements, standardized tests, in these two days, we are going to prove otherwise.

Sure, we will use some digital technology. In fact, participants are encouraged to bring anything that their students may be able to access in the next school year. However, the focus will be more on the pedagogy and how to ignite student curiosity in order to encourage them to engage in deeper thinking about a particular subject. Don’t believe me? Sign up and come find out!

Digital Portfolios, July 9-10, in Boston

Digital portfolios have almost reached buzzword status. Students are using Google Sites, Blogger, Weebly, KidBlog, Evernote, and a whole host of other online sites to create these compilations of their work. However, in my workshops, we may spend the entire first day using paper.

Alvin Toffler, the futurist, wrote “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” If truly literate people will be those who can easily adapt and evolve as emerging technologies change the ways in which we communicate, create, and think, we need to provide students with an opportunity to keep track of not only what they learn but why and how.

I have a post about all of this coming out on Edutopia in June. In the meantime, here’s some of the background information that won’t be published and what we will be doing on Day 1 of this workshop. First, we are going to look at Understanding by Design by Wiggins & McTighe. Rather than focus on portfolios as the final step in a learning activity, we are going to examine curriculum with the idea of beginning every unit, project, and even school year with the concept of reflection in mind. Here’s what that may look like.

Original Learning Objective New Learning Objective
I want my students to demonstrate their understanding of the relationship between ecosystems, habitats, and animal traits. I want my students to document their discovery of the relationship between ecosystems, habitats, and animal traits.
I want my students to make  a personal connection to the characters in the book/story/novel. I want my students to share how and why they made connections to the characters in the book/story/novel.
I want my students to understand how US involvement in WWII set a precedent for responses to future conflict. I want my students to identify “lessons-learned” from WWII and explain how those lessons could be applicable to how they personally respond to future conflicts.

In all of our EdTechTeacher Summer Workshops, we stress the importance of beginning with clearly defined learning objectives. During this Digital Portfolios Workshop, we are going to do the same thing. Once we have identified our objectives, then we will explore what may be possible with regards to the actual digital component.

Reading, Writing, & Research, July 16-17 in Boston

There has been considerable research published in the last 18 months about the effectiveness of reading and writing with digital tools. As I’ve written on several occasions, I strongly disagree with much of this research as it focuses on the device rather than the process.

Whether your students have access to iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, or smart phones, digital tools can have an enormous impact on how students access and analyze content as well as how they then communicate their understanding through written text. Yes, we will explore a number of tools. However, our primary focus will be on how we teach reading, writing, and research strategies given the functional improvements afforded by technology – whether it be Google Docs or pen & paper. Seriously, come find out!

Differentiating with Technology, July 23-24 in Boston

I think we can all agree that students learn in different ways and at different speeds. When in the classroom, I had students who constantly needed a challenge as well as those who needed considerable support given their specific learning needs. From text-to-speech and speech-to-text to alternative assessments, we are going to take a deep dive into the concept of Universal Design for Learning in order to develop tools and strategies that both support and enrich.

This will be the third year time that I have taught this workshop and every year it evolves to address new capabilities as well as meet the needs of my participants. I think differentiating for students is a challenge for all teachers and this workshop is a great place to start.

Come Play!

I work with an amazing set of instructors. We have workshops in 5 cities this summer on a whole host of topics. Again, if you are a teacher, know a teacher, or just want to learn for yourself (you don’t have to be a teacher), please pass the word along and come play!

ETTSummer


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Organizing Research with Diigo Outliners

For the past few years, I’ve been heavily reliant on Diigo – a social bookmarking tool. For the most part, I’ve just used it to save and tag bookmarks. However, in the past few months, I’ve begun to take advantage of the annotation features as well. While this system is great because I can search my notes and links, I still found it a bit cumbersome to then do anything with all of that content.

However, a few months ago, Diigo introduced Outliners and everything changed!

Now, not only can I save research but I can organize it in outline form as well! This is a complete game changer for teaching research skills. To learn more, check out the article that I wrote for Free Technology for Teachers.

Shameless Self Promotion

With EdTechTeacher, I’m teaching a two-day workshop, July 16-17, in Boston this summer on Reading, Writing, & Research. I can promise you that we will look at using Diigo to support these processes. Registration is open!