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Showing posts from November, 2014

Do Your Students Take the Red Pill?

Is the devil you know better than the devil you don't?

I want to thank my friend and colleague Andelee Espinosa for providing me with the topic and inspiration for this blog post.   

As outlined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the hero begins her story as an individual who may feel out of place in the ordinary world.  A spiritual aid will come to the hero and give her a call to adventure or quest that is usually initially refused, leading to disaster.  After this disaster, the hero has no choice but to embark on the adventure.  It is the spiritual aid who gives our hero the tools to complete the quest, but the hero must finish it on her own. Through the journey our hero faces a series of tests and at the end she reaches the Supreme Ordeal, or the ultimate test.

The film The Matrix follows the hero's journey to a tee. In the film, Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo, is living in a world that appears to be normal, but he keeps questioning if there is something more t…

If My Students Are Being Asked to Take Risks, Why am I Playing It Safe?

When I looked at my first set of AP Physics 1 video projects on momentum, I thought they were very good.  Groups took them into some very unexpected and interesting places.  I'll share more examples in future posts as the inspiration strikes me.  This project in particular struck me because in it I saw the seeds for something greater. In this project, I saw the possibilities for tying together seemingly desperate content areas such as physics, art, and history.

Watch it and hopefully you'll see what I mean:




I realized that all of my students showed great ambition in their projects.  They all took risks both emotionally (acting like a fool because the script called for it) to physical (playing simulating collisions while riding in trash cans and tacking each other in the snow.)  It was me who lacked the real ambition to try to find the ways that this project could truly bring in standards from other content areas.  I can just imagine this video becoming so much more if I had a…

Using CCI to Crack the Enigma of Initiative Fatigue or How Benedict Cumberbatch Will Save My Sanity

Alan Turing was a British cryptanalysis who helped crack the code of the German Enigma machine, a cipher machine, during World War II. By cracking this code, Turing helped turn the tide of the Second World War. 
 In the new film The Immitation Game, Turing is played by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame)




As educators, we have our own code to break. This year at Brookfield Central High School teachers were presented with a code, a cipher, an Enigma of our own.

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How could we as teachers ever hope to crack this code? Well, I recently discovered the key to unlocking the code into its different pieces (educator effectiveness, student learning outcomes, professional practice goals, personalized learning communities, positive behavior intervention strategies, plan, do, study, act cycle, A3 forms, unit by design, and response to intervention). This new key not only decoded the enigma, it put them into a frame work where they made sense and could …

What Is CCI?

Having been an educator for 15 years now,   I have been to many professional development sessions.  Most of them had been uninspiring.  
This clip is a perfect example of bad PD.  (So, the clip I had planned on putting in here would be entirely inappropriate for any blog intended for general audiences.  It is without a doubt the greatest monologue from the past 50 years - either in the stage play or the film adaptation.  But, again, entirely inappropriate. So in its place, here's a more tame but still edgy version.  Please forgive the ad at the front end of the clip.)





I was lucky enough to be a part of a great professional development opportunity today presented by the School District of Menomonee Falls.  The professional development was focused around the continuous classroom improvement model, CCI, the district has implemented within all classrooms K-12 and across all components of the district operations from facilities management to human resources.   In this blog, I will onl…

What Students Want in PBL Classroom: Round 1

When students have completed and presented their work, the project isn't over. We don't just throw it out like the trash.

One of the key design features of Gold Standard Project Based Learning is reflection.  We ended our first project in AP Physics 1 today,  and I asked students to reflect on the project process and reflect on what helped them learn and what improvements could be added to the system.  So, here is what they said was good for their learning.




The big takeaways for me are that although I assign problem sets to be completed outside of project time, they still find them beneficial.  Project time does take away from the ability to go over problem sets together or correct them as a class.  So, having a posted solution has been key.  Also, I have the feedback board where students can list problems that we can go over as a class when necessary.  We used this a few times in the momentum unit and I though it was a great way to help with the most difficult problems that …

Performance Data PBL vs. Traditional

When making changes to our instruction, educators need to know if these changes are leading them in the right direction.  Sometimes this data is hard to come by. But, responsible educators need to look for any signs they can face going the wrong way too fast.






The 2013-14 school year was my initial implementation of project based learning in the classroom.  I have lots of anecdotal and qualitative observations of student achievement that tell me I am going the right way with my curriculum redesign.  It is still important, though, to have some quantitative data to back up my decision to stay the course with PBL.

Following the completion of term 3, I administered a test to 51 students in the project based setting and 29 students in the traditional setting.  The test measured mastery of 7 key physics objectives taught during term 3.  The test was given 3 weeks into term 4.  Students were given no prior warning to the term.  This means there was no chance to prepare for the test by any stud…