#ce14 #clmooc #etmooc Student Agency


How do we help students develop the insight and initiative to be life-long, productive learners contributing to a better world? How do we develop student agency?

We know that motivation comes from a desire to learn, a purpose, an authentic interest, and a belief that success is possible. We know that learning is a social activity, that involvement with others enhances our reflection and goals. We’ve come to understand that reflection and feedback in authentic tasks in which we can improve and develop before publication or presentation builds motivation and agency.

So we also know that project-based learning can form a structure that develops the critical thinking and reflection habits that help learners make choices that guide improved learning.

But sometimes  these more open venues based on passion or student interest can flop. We need to understand that each student is at a different stage in their learning journey.  Here’s a review of this idea in an old video I made for #etmooc:

ETMOOC Slice from Sheri Edwards on Vimeo.

How do we provide the structure, the connection to the learning and the people, so students develop their voice to create their agency?

In this year’s #clmooc,  the organizers developed a support team to monitor and collaborate with members as an encouragement to participation. Because a sense of belonging and a connection with other members provides the support needed to make choices, and the freedom to choose what and when to participate allowed members to grow in their learning at their pace and for their purpose. People skipped some projects, and then became deeply involved in others. Learning is personal; learning is social. But the key to all of this really is based on what Daniel Pink suggests: People need autonomy, purpose, and mastery for motivation. If we review the literature on motivation and behavior, William Glasser’s work provides a background for autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Glasser suggests that we “behave” to meet the basic needs of freedom [autonomy], belonging [purpose], power [autonomy, mastery], and fun [purpose].

One of the best explanations of student agency connected to Glasser’s work is by Jackie Gerstein: Learner Agency, Technology, and Emotional Intelligence.

To build agency and voice in the connected learners of today, freedom to choose the learning is high on the list — autonomy and purpose.  But to make the choice, learners need to feel they belong and that they have the power to master the undertaking.  And our task is to be the support team, the guides to understand where and how the learners will take  that next step.

Both #clmooc and #etmooc provided the connections, collaboration, and support for their learners.  How do we translate that into a transformed classroom for today?

A Twitter Idea #clmooc #etmooc #edquery #ce13

questionmarkblue This month, I’ve asked a few questions on Twitter — used hashtags and asked PLN. I really needed more than a few responses, and I know the Twitter PLN is an awesome place for answers. I’m wondering if we need an Education Query hashtag: #edquery

An #edquery hashtag would work like #comments4kids. Twitter users tune in to the #comments4kids hashtag to discover student blogs on which to comment to encourage the practice of positive social learning and sharing. I created a #comments4kids widget for our class blog so students could comment on those blogs.

With an #edquery hashtag, educators could tune in each day to respond to a question or two or retweet the ones they also are interested in. The conversations of responses could be a wealth of ideas all could learn and use. It could be the one place / tag on Twitter to discover answers to specific questions or to get referrals for apps or tools that would solve a problem. It could refer people to bloggers that provide insights to their particular situations. It’s widget would provide constant fuel for suggestions and blogging.

Here are just two of my recent questions:

A colleague is just getting text savvy, and has one iPad in his classroom he’d like to connect and display with onto his SmartBoard. Thankfully I was referred to Splashtop, but I know there are other ideas and apps out there because technology is a tool, and the tool we choose is the one that fits that moment and need. And twitter users share what they know and use so the query responses are very helpful.

Today I’m wondering about vocabulary: what tech tools and apps can enhance vocabulary acquisition? I know about Spelling and Vocabulary via Spelling City, Engrade FlashCards,  and Quizlet. Again though, I’m looking for choices, because blended learning offers the options for differentiation — and developing a repertoire of resources from those using the tools would greatly help this query.

So, what do you think? Would  #edquery be a good addition to our education hashtag helpers?


#etmooc #clmooc Week 3 Reflection #f5f

#clmooc Week 3 Reflections

How is what you create driven by your interests?

Since this is voluntary learning, it’s all based on interests; I have no preconception or grade to concern me. I love being inspired by those who jump in and share, so that I can piggyback on their ideas or find the spark that leads to my own creative work.

How is your learning and making supported by peers?
We all love receiving feedback, and this group is great at that. I believe the reflection week in this #clmooc provides the time to make those reflections and connections. Excellent leadership in this mooc. We’re given options and permission to try, to fail, to try again, or to just lurk and comment, which is also learning. Everyone is at a different place, and those places change as our lives “happen.” Peers encourage and suggest often in comments on the Google+ community and in the blogs/projects. Thanks.

How is your learning and making connected to larger systems?
Don’t you love that you can share our learning in the #clmooc and others? in Twitter and in blogs? Each of us finds the focus of the week, and then connects in ways that extend the learning to others — that rhyzomic type of connection.
How is it useful to know the boundaries of something? What do you learn from bumping up against boundaries? How do boards help board games? How do playing fields help sports? How do rules and systems shape learning? Can we describe how our learning spaces look right now for us and our kids, and can we revise those maps of learning to open them up for all of us?

In such a large #clmooc boundaries are flexible: we have a focus (maps), but each member must create the boundaries that fit the situation and vision each needs. Our boundaries are dotted lines that can be opened as needed to create our own boundaries of solid lines, contained to our situation. As I work through these, I wonder how it applies to my classroom. What it suggests is that I need to share our goal — and then talk about what that might look like, and allow students to frame the boundary in which each will meet the goal.

An example of a hacked boundary:
Grade 8 CCSS Reading For Information 8:
“Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.”



What does that mean?
Where would you find an argument?
What topic are you interested in?
Where could you find the information?
Student-driven vocabulary padlet
Shared collaborative google doc (form groups on topics; peer help for search terms and formulate topic/questions)

Information Connection:
What did you discover?
What do you believe?
What are the facts?
Team brainstorm mind map (http://www.mindmeister.com/ or other); share and discuss
Information Analysis:
What arguments/claims were presented?
What is valid?
What is relevant?
What is missing?
What are your arguments/claims/evidence?
How have your ideas changed?
Team share (tool options: presentation; prezi; mind map; info graphic; photo/captions;

Information Survey:
What do others think?
What other experts?
Other arguments?
How will you find out?
(Repeat Connection/Analysis)
Peer comments/feedback (f2f; doc; Edmodo)

Information Hack:
Annotated Media Remix: tool of choice for own article/reflection demonstrating goal based on target topic analysis
Possible: Blog/Wiki/Google Site with Animoto/YouTube/Prezi/Slides/Map

What is the connection between place and story? When is a map integral to a memory, or vital to a memoir?
Do you love to open a book, it’s faceplate a map of places within the world to be imagined, like The Hobbit? We still must imagine the place, the scene; but to have it organized helps us understand the author’s world. In our digital maps, we can provide a place for a story, and an image that hints to a part to lead the reader in. A map that adds flavor allows the reader to breathe in the aroma and imagine more, as did Stephanie West-Puckett with my map/poem/bio/story in this post.

When is it useful to have a map? When is it not? Do we become learners dependent on one set up or the other? How do we preserve flexibility to move and judge between the two?

Mind maps, visual maps, illustrated maps, flow chart maps, photo-maps: this project has helped us all to open our minds to the possibilities so that we aren’t stuck with one image of “map.” A main idea of #clmooc is to open choices, to imagine a product that fits the message for two reasons: 1) share a clear message and 2) allow others to hack or copy the form. We are learning to be flexible and fluent, elaborating on the originality of others, the process of these is called creativity.

Keven Hodgson asked:

Is there demographic diversity in the MOOC?
Yes, it seems that diversity is an issue. I noticed in one post, a facilitator asked: “Who will you bring to #clmooc next week?” Perhaps we do need to reach out to our own PLN and invite others, anyone who might want to expand their connected learning.

Why are you so Google Plus-centric?
I am glad we are in the Google+ community (I don’t usually connect to the Facebook groups); I enjoy the ease of use and the fact that we can form smaller circles. Perhaps that is what members are doing, besides using the +name sharing. I’ve connected with Google Docs to collaborate, and that works well for projects. In the #etmooc experience, several of us connected in a wikispaces, and that helped during #etmooc, but then everyone was pulled back to their usual connections — though still connected through Twitter and Google+, we aren’t using the wiki. People connect as needed for interests and projects; it can’t be contained, but must remain fluid: neighborhoods we visit (an #etmooc discussion). I still think there needs to be a way to show who’s who as far as work position, grade bands, interests. Instructional Coaches have different needs than professors or teachers. A primary teacher has different needs than a middle school teacher or a high school teacher. A writing teacher has different needs than a science teacher. Although seeing ideas from everyone is terrific, our needs determine how connected we stay, and how collaborative we can be beyond the #clmooc. My question in #f5f insights asked about this.

Is it OK that much of the activity seems chaotic?
It is difficult to watch the flurry of activities, but that’s what gives me ideas. Considering question two, I would find looking at the community ideas would inspire me, and then connecting to a smaller “grade/subject/interest community would motivate me to communicate and collaborate with those who would be able to use the project idea in the coming school year. I think it would engender more connections.

How can we better encourage folks to break off into smaller, interest-driven groups? Is there something more we can do/should have done to set the stage for that kind of small group setting?

I don’t know if there is such a thing as “sub-communities” on Google+, but perhaps people could sign up on separate Google docs created for interests, topics, grade bands, subjects, etc. Not to keep people in groups, because members could sign in at several.

What about using tags? So I could add #clmooc #middleschool to my posts, and a search would show me others. Ronnie Bincer’s About Tags


What will happen, MOOC, when the last Make Cycle comes to a close in early August?
Perhaps we need a “Follow-Up” topic in the list so we can add connections and projects that have resulted from the #clmooc. I’ve continued some friendships from #etmooc and follow on Twitter and Google+, and I hope to find some to develop projects with that connect students. I’m not sure the education community in our schools is completely ready though; the people here are connected learners, but in their schools and in the policies of their schools, the opportunities may be different and less inviting to connections. That said, the connections made here will provide the support to inspire and transform the “back home” communities and institutions. So, a question is for me is, “If you want to inspire ‘connected learning’ in your own school/community/institution, what would you share first as motivation and introduction to your colleagues?”


From David Truss

So how do I build capacity here? What are people doing to help them make their role as a leader more about what they want it to be? What strategies work? And how do people ‘find the time’ to do the things they really want to do?
I’d like to know that answer to this as well. I see George Couros @gcouros and Alec Couros @courosa online, blogging, and all their other duties, and they always find the time to answer my silly questions as a struggling leader. Do they schedule times? Probably.

That’s what I need to do, because I sometimes go for days doing what I must, but without connecting. I then feel the need to catch up, especially with the MOOCs and other places; I don’t want to let anyone down.

I’ve seen some bloggers who blog tweets with comments, and I started that (SoConsider). If I were a principal, I might do that for staff and community — helpful blurbs with links to the resources.

Hootsuite helps me connect to lists of people I follow and want to remain connected to by following the stream from that list, my one or those I’ve subscribed to.

If I were a principal, a Google+ community might be a great place to keep up to date – or a collaborative blog. I hope to add Google Plus to our staff Google Apps for Education and will do just that as Tech Liaison.

As a leader, I need to be what is possible for our needs and with our tools (fortunately, we have Google Apps for Education) in ways that provide others with a path to join in. For example, I helped several teachers start blogs, but that didn’t continue due to many factors. So, this year, I will start a collaborative blog – so when the time and topic presents itself, any teach can blog their class story. And I also try to do as much of the secretarial stuff in collaboration through Google Apps so I have more time for face-to-face interactions and the projects I want to do. I’m sure David is doing some form of these because that’s why I read his blog posts at http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/  — to learn from a master.


This reflection seems so “I” heavy, but questions were asked. I’m not an expert, so the reflection helped me consider a path to take. I hope it helps others.


Again, my question:

“If you want to inspire ‘connected learning’ in your own school/community/institution, what would you share first as motivation and introduction to your colleagues?”

















Created by http://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp

Fellowship of Open Spokes #openspokes Education in 5 Years #etmooc

Something awesome is happening on a new channel in YouTube. Ben Wilkoff has gathered together a few everyday educators who are sharing weekly vlogs about education, a direct result of ETMOOC.

This week we’re discussing what education might look like in five years.

We’d love to have you watch and comment.  What do you think?

Just head over to openspokes.com and listen to the different ideas.

What do you think?  Keep watching our hashtag #openspokes and join the conversation. We’re hoping to blend a few online neighborhoods to move education forward.

Here’s mine  – a vision of possibilities:

UnFinal Reflection #etmooc #etmetc


How do you plan on staying connected to the people and the ideas?

This unfinal post for #etmooc reviews the path I now take with others to continue the journey: #etmooc continues to drop it’s pebble of ideas into the ocean of possibilities, creating ripples of overlapping connections forever spreading and growing.

My own questions and final thoughts:

  • Given the access, technology, resources, and requirements available to me, how can I create a classroom world reflective of what my students need in the future that is theirs?
  • How do I need to adapt my pedagogy to create that classroom?
    • Of course I’m torn between what it seems students need and the reality of our school district’s focus on test success.
    • As I can, technology provides us with reflection and collaboration tools. It helps one class teach another. For instance my sixth grade students created cyber-safety and Google Apps lessons for grade five students. They also, while learning figurative language themselves are creating a resource for other students in our school by collaborating on a Google presentation.
    • In all our online work, we strive to leave positive footprints, practicing our digital footprints.
    • In one class, we are learning with Mozilla on how to code. Our first project was Six Word Memoirs. Code is the language of the future, and we’re beginning to learn to translate! It was a riot: “Change size of text on line 20,” one student would call out, then hop up to guide another students. The puzzle of code unravelled.
    • More and more I learn to share with students the overall goal of our requirements, and students choose the project and details that they require to learn: personalized learning
    • This is not easy to accomplish: the requirements of school’s today are not reflective of the reality of interactions, composition, and collaboration practiced by successful workers and thinkers.
  • How will like-minded teachers connect and collaborate to create connected spaces for themselves and with their students?
  • How will I, as a middle school teacher of language arts, connect with others to ponder these questions, create a space to act on them, and discover together ways to improve education in our own worlds.

I thank #etmooc for providing connections to inspiring people, whom I thank here:


I so enjoyed the recorded session with the participants of Jesse Strommel’s DigiWriting #etmooc, A Flurry of Cursors.

Some of us began an Adventure story. ( @mrsdkrebs)

During one session, Darren Kuropatwa asked participants to record and share 5 seconds of video with him viaDropitTOme and then compiled them into this “Beauty” short video. He invited others to Popcorn it !  Here is mine after an inspirational video remix by Rhonda Jessen.

A few of us gathered videos into which I popped this for the group: Where do you learn?

I thank Alec Couros for the #etmooc that reconnected me with Ben Wilkoff who created a Professional Learning Neighborhood in the Open Spokes Fellowship. Please stop by now and then, #etmooc’ers!


#etmooc lives on because:






Digital Literacy: Ownership #etmooc

Who owns our data?

Our School

Our school encourages in our daily work and curricula a continuous emphasis on digital citizenship and digital safety; we practice citizenship in our classrooms, virtual and in reality. This discussion and practice we hope will carry over into our students’ personal choices, online and and off. In addition, our school board believes and is adopting a school policy that explains that students own the copyright to all their work. Our Google Apps for Education allows for transfer of their data to them should they choose to continue their work with their personal accounts after their graduation. Student accounts in online networks do not refer to students’ real names; students choose pseudonyms. We balance digital literacy, privacy, and transparency.

We are still dealing with the ownership of educator’s work, since many of our staff work well beyond the time to which our contract employs us. For innovation and creativity to develop to implement the many requirements related to teaching and learning (learning and teaching standards), the intellectual work of the staff must be acknowledged and respected. We must balance the work asked of the district during district time, and the work created by staff on their own time for the benefit of student learning and professional development.

Apps for Networking and Sharing

After the amazing presentation by Audrey Watters (Hack Education and  @audreywatters ), I now will add these ideas to our curricula:

  • Terms of Service Understanding: Read your TOS — who owns your data — you or the application?
  • Ownership and Portability: Who owns your data — Can you delete it? Can you transfer it? Can you download it into a human readable format?
  • Curation: How do you track your own footprints? How do you manage your digital data — your footprints back to you? How do you create value in what you create?

I have always skimmed the Terms of Service in the online applications I use, looking for who owns the data. We need to share this with our students. Audrey provides links to various sites that clarify and support ideas on ownership, transparency, anonymity, and privacy. How do we guide students to curate and own the information generated by them? How do we do this for ourselves as teachers? And how do we encourage the concept that we should control our own data? What data are we talking about?

We need to think about JackieGerstein‘s  statement in this tweet: “Education decision makers use data to do things to students rather than empowering students with the data to do for themselves.” What data do the students want? What data will help them? What conversation will we have in our classrooms about this?

Data Collection

Why do we collect data? Why do we share? We are social beings and we communicate and create together. We “collect to recollect,” as Audrey puts it. We collect to revalue what we value. And that is key: adding, sharing, creating value for the communities, the neighborhoods of our real or virtual relationships and associations. Our challenge is to curate what we create and share, and maintain the value we create without giving it to those agencies that exploit what we have chosen to create and share.

Data Ownership

Whether a student or teacher, you create data — your work, your tests, your words, your numbers, your ideas. It’s yours. Or is it? What do you think?

In my mind, I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s words: I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor, so far as it in no wise interferes with any other mans rights.   The inference of that quote is that who we are and what we do belongs to us. Now we have a responsibility to maintain that right, as we have always had the responsibility to manage who we are and what we do in ways that promote the common good.

How do we do so? How do I do so?

  1. Document that which is ours (mine).
  2. Create more value than we (I) take.
  3. Curate, declare, and manage our (my) data.
  4. Model for others.
  5. Accept and encourage Terms of Service that acknowledge our (my) ownership of our (my) data,  its use, and its portability.
  6. Expect that the products we (I) use also creates value rather than simply takes value from us (me).
  7. If an adult, be transparent in who we are (I am). [Students may maintain anonymity with pseudonyms]
  8. Educate others on their own (my) rights.
  9. Educate politicians.

Audrey gave us some places to help us help:

Ghostery: https://www.ghostery.com/
FERPA: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
Quantified Self Movement:  http://quantifiedself.com/
Locker Project:  http://lockerproject.org/
Electronic Frontier:  https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere

Flickr CC by giulia.forsythe

 What do you think? How will you monitor and keep ownership of your data?

Digital Literacies Education #etmooc


If you are connected to and participating in a personal learning network, then you understand the culture of today’s connected and public world. Perhaps you have created lessons and projects using Google Docs, a Wiki, or Twitter to collaborate with peers you have never met ( here and here and here ). Perhaps your students have collaborated with other students they will never meet, but have developed a common project together, creating a shared space. ( here and here  and here).

What does that mean?

It means you understand the potential of the participatory culture, as explained in Henry Jenkins White Paper: Digital LearningConfronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture Media Education for the 21stCentury.

It means you understand that our youth today are already joining together in communities online, creating and communicating to solve the problems within those communities. And because they are young, these engaged youth of today may need guidance in analyzing the validity of their discoveries (transparency), in knowing protocols that enhance their social endeavors (ethics), and in providing spaces so all youth can learn and participate (equity and participation).

And it means you have moved well beyond the teaching of discrete skills. As an umbrella of digital literacies includes your skills curriculum, yet students have choice in research and question-creating– and have opportunities to expand their work to collaborate with students in other communities. Your umbrella of literacies encourages and models for them how to strengthen their own personal learning networks.

You see the need to move to this, from Henry Jenkins’s Paper:

“If it were possible to define generally the mission of education, it could be said that its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, [Creative] and economic life.”
— New London Group (2000, p. 9)

Page 5

All students actively engage in ways that produce, share, collaborate, and curate relevant content that enhances the communites, real and virtual, in which they participate.

Consider also, these excerpts:

“Fostering such social skills and cultural competencies requires a more systemic approach to media education in the United States. Everyone involved in preparing young people to go out into the world has contributions to make in helping students acquire the skills they need to become full participants in our society. Schools, afterschool programs, and parents have distinctive roles to play as they do what they can in their own spaces to encourage and nurture these skills.”

Page 4

“Participatory culture is emerging as the culture absorbs and responds to the explosion of new media technologies that make it possible for average consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content in powerful new ways.A focus on expanding access to new technologies carries us only so far if we do not also foster the skills and cultural knowledge necessary to deploy those tools toward our own ends.”

Page 8

“Blau’s report celebrates a world in which everyone has access to the means of creative expression and the networks supporting artistic distribution.The Pew study (Lenhardt & Madden, 2005) suggests something more: young people who create and circulate their own media are more likely to respect the intellectual property rights of others because they feel a greater stake in the cultural economy. Both reports suggest we are moving away from a world in which some produce and many consume media, toward one in which everyone has a more active stake in the culture that is produced.”

Page 10

“We must integrate these new knowledge cultures into our schools, not only through group  work but also through long-distance collaborations across different learning communities.  Students should discover what it is like to contribute their own expertise to a process that  involves many intelligences, a process they encounter readily in their participation in fan discussion lists or blogging. Indeed, this disparate collaboration may be the most radical element of  new literacies: they enable collaboration and knowledge-sharing with large-scale communities  that may never personally interact. Schools are currently still training autonomous problemsolvers, whereas as students enter the workplace, they are increasingly being asked to work in  teams, drawing on different sets of expertise, and collaborating to solve problems.”

Page 21

Keeping these in mind while listening to Howard Rheingold‘s #etmooc presentation, I pulled out these ideas:

  1. Keep up with the literacies, not the technology
  2. Develop an understanding of social capital – in the community: “it’s more important that people learn through me.”
  3. Focus attention — be aware of and focus one’s own attention.
  4. Apply skills to empower and enhance them  — once students learn to read (by grade three), why continue teaching “reading?” — but rather use and develop the skill while learning.

And in a related webinar from Classroom Live 2.0, I linked from Alex Dunn’s iPad information to this excellent “Inclusioneers” imperative:

…we need to acknowledge that no two students are alike and that changes need to be made to existing learning environments to reach and teach every student; “barriers to learning are not, in fact, inherent in the capacities of learners, but instead arise in learners’ interactions with inflexible educational materials and methods.  (CAST Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning, Preface p. iv).  http://inclusioneers.com/


Equity in Access and Participation

Since students are already collaborating and creating online, those students are learning the ways through the web’s processes, using whatever technology supports their endeavors. So the technology is not the point, but rather the tool or the process. The point is the social collaboration and community, a chance to participate and be heard in that community and in a democracy. Since I teach in a school with a high poverty rate, it is imperative that my students have access to the opportunities to participate as online citizens; we must develop equity in access and participation so their future opportunities are as open and available as those who have all the resources available to them.

Transparency in Perspectives

Because youth are forming ideas, absorbing information, and may not consider perspectives and motives, curricular considerations must include development of skills in analyzing validity and relevance in the discoveries students find online. If we help them to see through the motives and biases, to search through to relevant and valid information, and to develop their own strategies for doing so, we create a transparency envelope that will enhance their and our future discourse and problem-solving. As we develop curriculum, we allow student choice and provide guidance in detection of validity and relevance.

Ethics as Digital Citizens

As students move to more collaboration and creation together, we have the opportunity to teach, and they have the chance to practice in their projects with each other and with others in their online network, the very essence of civil discourse. I love how my students are learning to suggest alternative ideas to their collaborators with a simple phrase, “I wonder if…” It’s not easy to truly collaborate in person, let alone online, and yet these are the skills needed for today’s workforce and for community solutions. Teams and global connections occur often, and even in small businesses, connections to other communities and agencies demand teamwork and collaboration. Our curriculum must not only work with differentiating for the individual, but also for encouraging the group collaborative skills needed to create team projects; this requires of us the social capacity of cooperation and considerate dialogue.

Literacies as a Continuum; Skills as Foundations

Have you ever wondered how we became so skills-based? I’m wondering if , in reading for example, we began to study more deeply how good readers read. Through experts, in developing dissertations, we learned the complex processes and strategies that good readers employ. Somehow that knowledge, which helps us guide readers, became required skills to teach and test. And yet, to become good readers, a learner must read: read for a purpose (entertainment, research, opinions) and read to learn. Now, we teach reading skills through eighth grade and what do we have? Low Test Scores. What if, once students learned the essence of decoding, we let them read for their own reasons and suggested strategies when they needed them? What if the test were the ability to use reading — not do the skill — but to use reading as one of the strategies to learn and solve problems?

The usable skills needed are more universal– communicate, collaborate, solve, create, revise. The extend from simple dialogue and expression through listening and receptive comprehension. They are the literacies of mentioned by many, including Howard Rheingold’s list: attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness, critical consumption. It is these that need our curricular focus. The foundation skills, the reading, writing, research skills,  develop in the doing of research and problem-solving. As teachers, we differentiate — personalize — as students need the foundation skill while applying the needed skills of thinking, communicating, collaborating, solving, creating, revising during their choice of projects. The test is the process and product of their project solution, not the discrete skills.

An example of a school that does not test, but does expect demonstration of the literacies is the Science Leadership Academy. I had the honor of listening to students explain their day, their work, their goals, and their successes and struggles. The students articulated these clearly with grace and through examples from their portfolios. They certainly could focus their attention, set and evaluate their personal goals, participate as a team and an individual, and collaborate to solve the tasks. They could evaluate the successes and state the needed improvements. They did more than “explain with evidence the main idea of the topic;” they developed solutions and evaluated the results.

Four years ago I wrote this:

“The word “education” derives from the Latin “educere — lead out.” Education should lead students to find themselves, to strengthen what they do well, to discover hidden talents, and to learn from others who use their talents well so that students, too, become productive, creative citizens. Students don’t need to know everything, and they will learn what they need to know — when it’s needed to learn about themselves or to learn how things work as they create and interact in learning quests of which they have chosen the focus and in which the standards provide background, guidance, and focus.”

And suggested this:

How would educators do that? The standards provide the harbor, a reference point in content and process; the educators and students decide the direction of their journey into the river, planning the places and prospects that contain the current and forge the flow of learning, creating their own ports of explorations and expertise to which others connect. These ports are personal docks displaying each student’s possibilities and proficiencies — a lifelong legacy of learning. Moor to the dock to discover the scope of the scholarship and the compass of the course; a test isn’t required. I think classrooms would be more joyful, inclusive, and active places if we help and connect people in their process of developing their possibilities; classrooms would be places where students WANT to go — to augment and evince their odyssey. Wouldn’t that be something?

Do you think we have finally reached the point where this is possible? That the digital literacies of creation and fluency, participation and collaboration, provide the personal ports of entry and in the doing, they recieve guidance to become expert in process, content, and social diplomacy? Are we willing to be the constellations from which students learn to guide their own education?

Cross-posted at Pause2Play