Monday, February 25, 2013

PBL Grammar - Half-baked project idea

Recently, I had the chance to visit Compass Academy in Idaho Falls.   Great new school in our network with a ton of interesting things happening.

Spent some time with one of their ELA facilitators who was having the not-uncommon problem of figuring out how to incorporate grammar instruction into PBL in an authentic way.   Their solution is to have student's create personalized writing handbooks that they can use as resources in all their classes to improve their writing.  What I like about this project is the potential for exploration of the world of writers, the tools they use, and the ways they work to continually hone their craft.  Additionally, I think there is real potential for strong self-reflection about thinking and the process of writing.   I was able to sit-in on their critical friends session and it was also fantastic to see the other teachers in other subjects seize on the possibility of having this resource as a reference point for writing in projects in their classes as well.   Excited to see how it turns out!

In follow-up conversations with the facilitator, we stumbled into what feels like a really interesting question to me, and maybe a project idea.  There are TONS of online grammar checking programs.  Something that we were grappling with as we thought about using some possible resources for the project as bread-crumbs is which of these to recommend.   Which lead me to the following half-baked idea:

"Which online grammar checker is the best?"  

Now an obvious way to approach this would be to have students determine which of these was the best  and have the audience be themselves or their class.  It's personal, its relevant.  But I will say I am a fan of changing the lens of a question to provide fresher ways of thinking and different sorts of challenges in addition to engagement.   So I started asking, "Who else might be interested in knowing the best online grammar checker?"

Two possible twists on this question:

Grammar for Google
We all know that google is on a quest for web and world domination and that they frequently buy up smaller companies that have tools they want to incorporate into their package.  What if the project was to make a recommendation to google for which on the online grammar tools they should acquire to add to google docs?

Grammar for New Tech Network
Another angle that teachers in our network might consider is making a proposal to New Tech for what grammar tool we might promote in our growing work on literacy and college readiness.  Maybe a connection with @HortonAlix - Alix Horton NTN's literacy guru about a tool to promote?  Maybe a recommendation to @fitzwalsh - Chris Walsh, NTN's Director of Innovation and Echo Designer?

Done something similar? Have another half-baked project idea?  A way to push this from half-baked to fully baked?  Want to actually DO this one?

Post below or tweet me @edutwitt!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Four must-consume resources

My whole purpose in having this second blog was to have a place where I posted things more rapidly and less hesitantly than I do on my other blog.  And I've been a miserable failure at that so far.  Back to it!

Lately I've had the luxury of encountering a ton of great things that I want to think more about and pass on to people I'm learning with.  Here are a few for this weekend:

Back to Basics:
My esteemed colleague Kevin Gant recently did a wonderful TEDTalk that is steeped in New Tech Network values and beliefs about education.  Watch and be recommitted and re-inspired.

Pushing the Model:
This 8-minute TED from Ewan McIntosh represents, to me, the next frontier in our work in PBL. As an organization, we have always pushed to make sure that when we teach and learn, we are not doing the most important work FOR our students, but rather helping them to do that work for themselves.  We have long talked about the importance of helping students learn to solve complex problems.  McIntosh pushes us a step further to fact that we really need to develop problem finders. As I think about the evolution of our own model, I am beginning to see PBL as the first big step in transforming our sense of ourselves as learners.  The end-in-mind is independent problem solvers - perhaps the scaffolding for students (or more so the system) is structured problem solvers.
Watch this and then tell me what you think.

Good Question is Better than a Great Answer
New Tech's own Paul Curtis provides a more contextual application and exploration of this notion of divergent and convergent thinking here in his recent blog post.

Finally - something to simple DO ON MONDAY - check out this great video and text from Dylan William on "basketball questioning."  Watch it, you'll get it, and you'll do it.  (So will I).

Have a great weekend.