The great Brian Eno-powered STEAM PBL Unit

Wondering how to blend project-based learning with STEAM?

Real World PBLYes, STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Earlier this year we profiled The Cabot School’s amazing public exhibition of sound sculptures highlighting water conservation. They were a big hit with the Cabot community, the students who made them and, it turns out, a fair number of you guys, too: our readers.

In this episode of The 21st Century Classroom, we talk with Cabot School educator Michael Hendrix. We hear about what it takes to pull off STEAM-powered PBL and why Hendrix feels you can’t ever really teach science without art.

Continue reading

Student-centered filmmaking at Compass

Lessons learned from a film festival

student-centered filmmakingEvery year, I watch in awe as students take ownership of their films and are challenged to exercise new skills and proficiencies: self direction, creative expression, and problem-solving. I’ve seen this assignment throw some of our most academically-capable and motivated students off-balance.

I’ve also watched many diverse groups pull together to create some powerful, beautifully-shot films.

This may be the most challenging course we offer.

Continue reading

Adventures in #realworldPBL: The Field Trip

What could possibly go wrong?

what could possibly go wrong Remember when teaching was simply planning a lecture, shutting the door, and delivering it to students? This may have been easy for the teacher, but it certainly didn’t make for deep and relevant learning for the students. The work of developing project-based, engaging, and personalized learning is much more complex.

It’s also full of uncertainty. Let me tell you about a recent field trip I took with students.

Continue reading

4 more ways to help middle schoolers get organized

Helping students get organized

help middle schoolers get organizedMiddle schoolers’ lives are multi-faceted, dynamic and dramatic. And while we talk about how to grow self-directed, engaged and motivated students, that growth can’t take place while students are overwhelmed and anxious about managing their daily lives.

Last time, we looked at how to organize the tech itself. Now let’s look at how to use powerful tech tools (shiny!) to help make middle school manageable.

Continue reading

4 ways to help middle school students organize their tech

“Where did I put that cord? My computer is dead!”

help middle school students get organized with their techHow many times have you heard this in your classroom? So much of middle school is developing systems to stay organized: “How do I get to all these classes? How do I open my locker?” And with the addition of technology: “How do I keep track of my school computer? Which Google Doc is the homework in? ”

Let’s look at 4 ways students can learn independence and grow leadership through the care and organization of technology.

Continue reading

Peer collaboration on PLPs

Peers partner on portfolios

peer collaboration on PLPsStudents at two Vermont schools have begun working together as “Portfolio Partners” to curate evidence, reflect on their growth, and prepare to share their learning with a wider audience.

Here’s how it works.

Continue reading

Can sustained silent reading help reluctant readers?

How student choice can support literacy

sustained silent readingEnglish teacher Laela Warnecke set out to answer one question: “How might sustained silent reading impact 8th graders?”

Warnecke examined the effect of sustained silent reading on the engagement and achievement of her students. She surveyed her students and helped them set aside time during the day to read whatever they wanted. And it turned out that her so-called “reluctant readers” weren’t all that reluctant after all.

This is a story about student choice, student engagement, and how action research can impact student outcomes.

Continue reading

The Crucial Role of Practice in a Proficiency-Based Environment

Practice Makes Proficient

practice for proficiencyWhat’s special about a proficiency-based environment? Practice, that’s what.

I know, it sounded weird to me too. As a former math teacher, I thought of practice as the mind-numbing repetitive stuff that students had to do in order to attain fluency. Practice was for straightforward procedural skills.

But Sam Nelson, a social studies teacher at Shelburne Community School, has broadened my perspective on practice to encompass all formative assessment, including complex skills and concepts.

Continue reading

How to fight fake news in the field

A case study from one classroom

how to fight fake newsIn part one, we explored how middle grade students are struggling to recognize fake news or sponsored posts and shared many tools for teachers looking to tackle this thorny issue.

But what does it really look like We sat down for a Q & A with Christie Nold, sixth grade educator and fighter of fake news.

Here’s her mini-unit on telling real from fake news.

Continue reading

4 resources for fighting fake news

Teaching news literacy in the social media age

digital citizenship and students onlineWe’ve been hearing a lot lately about the problem of fake news stories and how they might impact our impressions of the world. Imagine: if it’s hard for adults to spot fake news stories, then how hard is it for students?

Turns out: VERY HARD.

Let’s look at some resources for helping students determine when a source is truly credible or not.

Continue reading