Monthly Archives: May 2007

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Website - Jay McTighe, Workshop Resources.

Started by showing us a selection of doctored images titled “When Graphic Artists Get Bored.”

The goal is to create a curriculum design using the UbD Template using teams of 2/3 colleagues. Stated that using the design is enhanced by working in groups. Once the designs are completed , all are posted in a Gallery walk which is a great way to learn from others you may not have met. Use the ideas for UbD to apply.

Participant self assessment from novice to expert. Use of the three minute pause to summarize key points, add own thoughts, pose clarifying questions.

Big ideas of UbD.

Teach and assess for Understanding

What is worth understanding? Too much content material, too little time to cover it all.

What is understanding?

How might we better anticipate and address predictable student misunderstandings?

Why one the best curriculum designs “backward. “

How might we “work smarter” in curriculum design? Build on other people’s work rather than working in isolation. (Use of wikis to get teacher, working together on units of work)

3 stages of Backward Design.

1. Identify desired results. Some are pre-determined, but are also customized for the learners. What are the important ideas embedded in the goals?

2. Determine acceptable evidence.

3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.

Mantra - think like an assessor, not an activity designer. Comes naturally to performance based learning areas. Although the UbD is natural to some areas, if we are “intellectually honest” then it is something all teachers need to give attention to. Less important to focus on filling in the boxes of the template than it is to understand the logic of the design process.

Primary area tends to be activity based while secondary are focused on “coverage.” Use the textbook to “uncover” important ideas, not to cover content.

Cited a story about when he and his work partner were designing a three day workshop. Firstly, they started plugging in activities until they both realised that they needed to apply their own design principles to the planning of the three day workshop. Spending quality time on the stages of 1 and 2 meant the stage 3 planning really flowed.

Stage 1 – “unpacking standards”

Consists of 4 components - established goals, understandings, essential questions, knowledge and skills. To teach all benchmarks we would need nine more years of school K -21!

Used the iceberg metaphor to illustrate the concept of “big ideas.”

Having a close look at Essential Questions. A good example - Why do we preserve the past? Why is pattern important in Mathematics? How does science help save lives during natural disasters? A poor example – When did we decide to start playing God? How do students become global citizens?

Jay pointed out these Essential Questions should be posted in the classroom on display as it is the mechanism that engages the learning of the students.

What facts and knowledge we want to know can be tested. But understanding minimally requires a student to explain and apply their own learning in their own words.

Design tips - State understandings as full sentence generalisations. (Students will understand that…)

Do not state a skill based understanding as “how to…”

Avoid truisms (e.g. Things are always changing.)

Check the link between content standards, understandings, and essential questions. Look for connections between understanding and essential questions. List only those things (o.k.’s that you plan to teach and assess

Keep the essential questions short.

Avoid “leading” questions (e.g. What is the role of the three branches of government).

Use engaging, “kid friendly” language.

Posed an essential question to us – To what extent do we have a coherent curriculum… from the learner’s perspective?

Understanding not coverage – gave an example of a Social Studies unit that was running low on time from an Ancient World unit – spent a lot of time exploring essential questions so that when he had two sections left to go, he was able to break the class into two sections, then re-assigned the ten essential questions – two per pair. After the investigation, their job was to teach their work back to the class.

Stage 2 – determine acceptable evidence.

Think like an assessor, not an activity designer. The assessments must be designed before the lessons and activities and we must be clear about the evidence being sought. The assessment evidence must match or connect with the goals.

Showed us a judicial analogy – students should presumed innocent of understanding until proven guilty by a preponderance of evidence.

“ . . the capacity to apply facts, concepts and skills in new situations in appropriate ways.” Howard Gardner.

The Six Facets of Understanding

Explanation - theories and support

Interpretation - making meaning, stories, translations

Application - to new solutions

Perspective - other points of view, critical stance

Empathy - “walk in the shoes of…”

Self knowledge –“knowing thyself”

There is an important distinction between “side line drills” and “playing the game” in gaining understanding.

Uses the acronym of GRASPS – Goal, Role, Audience, Situation, Products/performance, Standards (criteria) as a tool for Designing Tasks Scenarios


I haven't had much time for any reflective writing of late although I've written a few comments on various blogs that deserve some further exploration in my own space. It all ties back to this idea I've been toying with in terms of attracting more teachers to be part of online conversation and sharing their ideas and resources with each other. I feel that it's important that educators take advantage of the opportunities for personal learning growth and apply some of that opportunity back with their students. Way back, I pontificated about "flattening the pyramid of influence" and still see enormous potential in teachers leveraging technology to influence educational practice at the grass roots level. Over at Ewan McIntosh's blog, he raised the point that as more edubloggers have come on board, that some of the cross linking and referencing is starting to become more localised -

And I'm seeing the "can't quite comprehend" in the way the edublogosphere links to each other - or doesn't. I've certainly noticed far fewer links going to the main Scottish and English blogs from our American counterparts. NZ and Australians are linking more to each other than outside. I'm finding many of the previously fascinating insights into technology and education becoming less relevant and more, well, moany than I've ever seen before.

- the example he used was a new wave of Australian and New Zealand bloggers. Putting aside the fact that close geographical proximity can still mean vastly different countries, cultures and education systems, I put it to Ewan that the new form of cross linking has more to do with position in the education system. could be that there are more classroom based educators reflecting and connecting that are finding a voice that are changing the dynamics away from the more well known, keynote invitee, big picture bloggers. It's not necessarily a bad thing but maybe the flattening is at that level of the "ordinary teacher" is being empowered to be heard at the same level as the bigger names from a year or so ago. Maybe edubloggers are searching for people who can understand their particular cog in the education machine.

By that, I mean that I'm seeing more classroom based bloggers who, while being interested in new tech tools and the big global picture of where education is going, are more focussed on blogging about their own practice and the links that they make are more about creating opportunities for their students. Part of the shift is about voice - who's going to connect only to the Read/Write evangelists and be comment number 32 out of 45 when they can join with other lesser known educators and get an online conversation going and have their voice heard?

Ewan also suggested that, in general, the latest wave aren't as active or savvy in sussing out their readership or where their work is being referenced -

Part of the problem, I think, is that the new generation of (fascinating) edubloggers don't have the same technical literacy at seeing who visits them and who reads them. Given this, it means that they don't pursue those people to see what they have to say in the same way the bloggers of a year, two years, three years ago have done.
Do *you* think that has legs? 😉

Hence the localised clustering. I would argue that with tools like MyBlogLog or twitter, tracking and making connections is an evolving practice. My initial forays in blogging was unable to unearth many other Aussies - so every local connection made was like gold (Jo, Leigh at the time, John P., Warrick, Alex). But one thing that I look for in any blog is relevance to me. So, if classroom teachers are getting on board and looking for each other, that's a good thing in my book. I know that several bloggers in my Bloglines are publicly cutting down their feeds which makes it harder for the new wave to get a look in, then there's the debate over the use of ning as a platform for teachers who might not have had the confidence or the time to develop their own blog and associated network. 

My own personal feelings are that if I want to reap the benefits of blogging or developing any other sort of web presence, then I need to be reflective and connective. Reflect on my own practice but don't ignore what others are doing - spend time looking at their world and consider how that could improve what I do.  An Australian listserv that I subscribe has someone courting Blogger's Choice votes but their blog is full of lesson plans and tips for teachers - that's so Web 1.0 to me now, there's very little reflection or interaction of the type I'd like - and it goes against what Ewan is saying is what is really needed that we can't afford to be internal anymore. Teachers like nothing better than a freebie handout but I think we need to step beyond that mentality and think about how we can shape our own profession and systems by actually using these tools to listen and converse with each other. It's a great opportunity - but it could slip us by.


It's getting late and I have a more substantial post in the pipeline but I can't let the week end without a reference to my class's use of SurveyMonkey this week as part of our Maths program. The topic was collecting and analysing data and we had just starting contemplating what our peer review of The Horizon Project was going to look like. Of the six major trends from the Horizon Report, the one that got my class most excited was the focus on Mobile Phones. Interestingly, in the timeliness that only the online world can deliver, Darren Draper has just blogged on the use of Mobile Phones in the classroom and is looking for some information on mobile phone penetration in parts of the world beyond the US. (See, my whining has made him wary!) He might be interested in our data although in the hands of 10/11 year olds, it may muddy his research rather than clarify.

I was very impressed how the site handled the traffic from an entire class at the same time. I created a class account and everyone just logged in and started to create their  surveys straightaway without any issues. The application itself was very intuitive for students of this age group and everything saved as they went so work was not lost. The tricky part came when it was time to create an e-mail link and paste it in their EdMail - that was more an issue with mis-spelt e-mail addresses than anything else. And when the results came flowing in, it was great to throw the results up on the interactive whiteboard foBut full credit to SurveyMonkey as a useful online tool. I made a class account and we could house everyone's survey at once and not only that, kids could all work on their own survey at the same time without any hassle. They found the toolr a class analysis. Super tool - the class found data gathering via survey to be totally engaging. Thumbs up!



Skype is pretty cool - I love the way it can tell you how many members of your skypable community are online. I actually like the chat function because then you can multitask (badly, in my case) but tonight I just discovered a new feature. It tells you when someone has a birthday! So, happy 32nd birthday, Leigh Blackall! At least, you can still say you are in your early thirties....