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Integrated Curriculum

July 14, 2013 Leave a comment

My students have an alarming tendency to compartmentalize their classes.  They aren’t prepared to discuss science in English class or math in history class.  Some of them are quite uncomfortable when asked to do so.  I think this is partly because teachers don’t integrate curriculum so students are out of practice with it.  Also, they walk in to English with a set of expectations that do not include being graded for math.  So, educators do need to break down some barriers and stereotypes to get the students on board.  It doesn’Jigsaw Geographyt usually take me long to get them to understand how English and history are related.  But why is this important?  Because life is not compartmentalized.  If school is about teaching the skills students need for life, then they should expect to use those skills in ways they would in life.  This means that educators need to teach students how to recall prior knowledge regardless of discipline when the knowledge is needed.

Integrating curriculum seems so important and, yet, is so rarely done on purpose.  Why is that?  Maybe because I have Aug-May to teach skills that will master a set of standards, and I could easily take twice that time.  Also, I am unsure how math or physics is going to enhance the English curriculum to meet those standards.  So, I am a bit gun shy about turning over my time to another discipline.  That being said, I have always thought that integrating curriculum was a must.  I cannot teach English without engaging with history and language.  Perhaps some teachers can do this, but I feel that we need to have a solid idea of the time in which literature is set and when it was written.  Authors are a product of their environment like everyone else, so we should know what that environment was like.  It’s fairly easy to integrate English and history.  The harder part is to integrate other subjects that don’t seem as involved, science and math come to mind.  However, when I think about it, the scholars and writers of the past were also the philosophers and the scientists.  They knew how to write and speak multiple languages.  So perhaps the disciplines are more closely tied than I first thought.

I think the biggest challenge of integration is to get an entire group of teachers and administrators to see the benefits of interdisciplinary projects.  There is much at stake if the project fails and students can’t perform on standardized tests because the curriculum failed them.  I dislike using the standardized test as the benchmark of success, but that’s what’s done whether I see the value or not.  So, the challenge is to get the teachers to discuss and find value in an interdisciplinary project and then propose an integrated project to administration.  This means that much work has to be done before going to admin.  However, this is a crucial step to ensure that all the teachers are on board with a project and plan to contribute and work through it in their own classes.  If even one teacher drops the ball, the project could die.  I am currently working on an integrated curriculum project with the AP history teacher.  I see where I can and should do more, which means that I need to make some plans and add some activities to enhance the project.  It takes planning!  I think that’s the issue.  Teachers are all so busy that no one wants to add to the amount of planning we all do daily.  Using some success stories as inspiration should help everyone see that the planning is worth it.  The way to get the interdisciplinary project started at my school is to start it!

PBL Assessments

July 6, 2013 Leave a comment

I have to say that writing assessments is my least favorite part about teaching.  I like the process of learning, discovery, and discussion, although, I do find as an English teacher, that essays are a great way to check student understanding.  I am including a final essay for my PBL project, but there are many more steps along the way.  I h800px-Abacus_2adn’t considered how many steps I would need until I started breaking the project into pieces and considering the formative assessments.  For some reason, my mind tends to fixate more on the summative.  I really like the formative process of project-based learning because it informs the project from start to finish.  The formative assessments help the students to focus their efforts and guide them through the learning process.

I have decided upon 3 formative and 3 summative assessments.  In planning my assessments, I have learned that this project should take much longer than I had planned for it to be successful.  The assessment process is helping to see that I need to build in more stops and checks for understanding and student discovery.  I may need to add one more formative assessment to my plan, but so far, I think I am on the right track.  I like the mix of assessment that seems to go with PBL.  I have a rubric for a research journal, peer evaluations for essay content mapping, assessment by an outside expert, and the final essay that students turn in to me.  The assessment that I am considering adding is a self assessment of the student’s own performance as I think a little reflection might be a good thing.

Here is the link to my PBL assessment page.  I think it is coming along nicely!

My PBL Site and plan

June 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Well, this week was really busy!  We had quite a bit of work to do to get our project-based learning ideas started and planned.  (Here’ the link to my PBL site).  I decided to call mine:  Guilty as Charged?  While not entirely original, it does spark a little interest about the justice served up in The Merchant of Venice.  I am having a hard time coming up with the presentation part of the project.  My idea for a mock-trial is more of an activity than a PBL deliverable.  So, I am thinking about having students find a current event that deals with injustice in some way.  Students will have to apply what they’ve learned about justice from their research about the play to propose a just solution for the current event.  Also, students will need to create a presentation that compares Shakespearean justice with modern justice.  It’s still a work in progress.

We’ve been asked to consider this question:  Is it still PBL without an authentic audience?

Based on my research about PBL, I say that no, it isn’t truly PBL without an authentic audience.  The authentic audience raises the stakes for everyone involved in the project and allows for authentic feedback.  That being said, I am having a hard time finding another audience for my project.  I just don’t know who would be a good choice of audience for a literature project.  My first inclination is to use real lawyers or judges for the mock-trial, but the PBL deliverable is going to be at the History Fair.  So, this is still something I am working on…

I have found some great tools that I think will help students with their presentations.  I really like Wordle for definitions of justice.  I also like the idea of video and infographics for the final history deliverable.  I like WeVideo for video and Visual.y for infographics.  I plan to keep adding resources to my PBL site as I continue to develop the project.  These are currently listed under Instructor Resources>>Tools & Resources.

I am looking forward to developing this project more thoroughly.

School Envrionment Evaluation

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I must confess that I am a bit disillusioned after completing this School Environment Evaluation (embedded below).  Prior to this process, I thought I had it better than many other teachers.  This survey has actually helped me to see that my school needs much more in the way of technology planning that involves teachers and curriculum.  We do little long range planning.

This assignment addresses several AECT standards starting with 4.1 Project Management.  Technology planning requires both planning and managing current and future resources while identifying necessary projects for future integration.  The assignment also covers most of Standard 5:  Evaluation.  In conducting the survey, I had to gather information regarding my school in order to determine the parameters present in my school for technology maturity.  The evaluation included an analysis of the school’s current processes and a suggestion for solving the problem.  This meets standard 5.1 for Problem Analysis.  The assignment also addresses 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation and 5.4 Long-range Planning.  As part of this project I used summative evaluation to gather date and make decisions regarding the technology maturity of my school.  I used formative evaluation to determine steps for future improvement.  I employed standard 5.4 to discuss the school’s own long-range planning for technology and how it can be better improved using more faculty support and curriculum integration.