by Julie Coiro
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Common Core Standards and the implications of these standards for how we might use technology to promote effective teaching, deep learning, and critical thinking. While exploring online resources last month, I came across an amazingly thoughtful blog, created by Dr. Jackie Gerstein, called User Generated Education. Jackie is a faculty member at Boise State University where she focuses on Online Learning in Teacher Education. Currently, Jackie’s blog is ranked number 49 on the Teach 100 list of top educational blogs around the world, and you will quickly see why when you stop to peruse any of the ponderings she has crafted monthly since December 2009. Four of her posts especially caught my attention.
In May 2013, Jackie articulately summed up the importance of what she refers to as, “The Other 21st Century Skills” or the skills and attributes she believes will serve learners of all ages in this era of learning. Beyond cognitive skills like critical evaluation and close reading, Gerstein adds to Tony Wagner’s seven survival skills for the 21st century with a set of personal attributes including grit, resilience, hope and optimism, vision, self-regulation, empathy, and global stewardship. Jackie’s summary artfully weaves images and relevant quotes about each of these attributes with brief lists of research-based guidelines and additional resources for teachers to help visualize the “soft skills” that are not explicitly mentioned in the Common Core Standards, but, in my mind, reflect the critical underpinnings of what learners (adults and children) need to be successful in college and into their careers. Positive feedback from readers encouraged Jackie to provide more in-depth discussions of each disposition in separate posts; thus far, she has more deeply explored ideas related to resilience and empathy and global stewardship.
A second post that impressed me was Jackie’s concrete examples of Technology Enhanced Celebrations of Learning. After outlining an open-ended assignment she gives her college students to provide them with multiple choices in ways to demonstrate their insights gleaned over the semester, she describes additional ways that technology can be used to further differentiate instruction and assessment based on content, interest, and ability. Jackie gives her students choices to create technology-enhanced products of their learning and the results are often both creative and compelling.
A third post from June 2011, The Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture, provides both a useful overview of the Flipped Classroom Concept and a series of suggestions to most effectively use video lectures and vodcasts within a larger framework of meaningful learning activities. This powerful sequence of activities, based on Experiential Learning Cycles and the 4MAT Cycle of Instruction, includes opportunities for experiential engagement, concept exploration, meaning making, and demonstration and application. As Jackie suggests, the practice of using Flipped Classroom videos is most successful when used as “part of a larger picture of teaching and learning.” Jackie also provides links to a Slideshare version of how to apply the Flipped Classroom Model in higher education and a workshop version that focuses on how to use authentic and experiential learning activities during classroom time.
Finally, one of the reasons I am most impressed by Jackie’s blog is her message that amidst the glitz and wonder of learning with technology, what’s most important is the human and social side. Her post titled Beginning the School Year: It’s About Connections, Not Content, offer teachers several engaging team-building activities that can help begin the school year in ways that are more personalized and tailored to learner needs and interests. Each activity is designed to communicate to learners ideas such as, “You are important,” “You will be expected collaborate and actively engage in learning activities during class time,” and “You are the focus of the class, not me.”
These are just four of thirty-six posts that have caused me to think differently about learning in today’s classrooms. For anyone who is serious about promoting relevant learning experiences for your students with and without technology, I would highly recommend you add this blog to your summer reading list. And, if you are inspired, you might also enjoy exploring Jackie’s set of 39 Slideshare presentations on these topics and others including mobile learning, digital citizenship, and online communities.
Enjoy August and return to your classrooms invigorated with new energy and new ideas!
Julie Coiro is Associate Professor in the School of Education at The University of Rhode Island and Chair of IRA’s TILE-SIG. You can reach Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about her work at http://uri.academia.edu/JulieCoiro.