Have you seen the new Google Pixel 2 commercial? Before you read any further, take a look:
What’s your first impression? Mine is That’s brilliant. But it’s not just the commercial that’s brilliant (although the advertising executive who dreamt it up sure deserves a bonus)--it’s the message:
A question mark changes everything.
As the Google design team makes abundantly clear in this ad, statements are limiting, and placing a period at the end of a sentence indicates finality. No more ideas. No more moving forward. The end. Game over. ‘Nuff said.
But what if?
As we Google fans know (and as the company itself affirms), Google is a company “built on questions.” And as more schools go Google (70+ million G Suite for Education global users), we need to change our mark of punctuation:
We are learning.
We are learning?
Think about our CCSS “I Can” statements--the ones prominently displayed in every classroom to indicate content learned by students. Here’s one for high school biology:
I can use a model to illustrate the role of cellular division (mitosis) and differentiation in producing and maintaining complex organisms. (LS1-4)
How do we know they can?
Well, traditionally, a teacher will prepare slides about mitosis, give lecture notes about mitosis, copy study guides and worksheets about mitosis, assign homework and reading about mitosis, and then finally administer a unit test about mitosis.
No more ideas. No more moving forward. The end. Game over. ‘Nuff said.
(By the way, notice the verbs I used above to describe the traditional learning process: prepare, give, copy, assign, administer. While these aren’t passive verbs--and this former high school English teacher should know!--they certainly designate passivity when it comes to learning. And notice that all the “work” is being done by the teacher. The students will watch the slides, copy the notes, complete the study guides and worksheets, do the homework and reading, and take the test. Check out the verbs I used in that last sentence. See a pattern? Those verbs make a point, and the point is this: If whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning, then we’re doing it wrong.)
A question mark changes everything.
What if we changed that period at the end of a traditional "I Can" statement into a question mark?
I can use a model to illustrate the role of cellular division (mitosis) and differentiation in producing and maintaining complex organisms?
Imagine projecting that question to a class and simply saying, Can you? Imagine allowing them to pursue their own learning, to show, to demonstrate, to create. What if we said, “Figure out a way to show how you can master that standard, whether it’s a screencast, a song, an infographic, a story, an animated Google Slides deck, a carefully-curated assemblage, a playlist...a whatever you can imagine! I’ll be here to guide you, to coach you, to encourage you, to direct you, but I will not do the work for you.” Imagine stepping to the side and allowing them to be active participants and owners of their learning.
I can learn.
I can learn?
Statements finalize possibilities. Questions open them up.
Still not convinced? Think about this for a minute: Google didn’t create the latest in innovative smart phone technology by making statements. Google did it by asking questions.
So why aren’t we?
A question mark changes everything.
Note: To learn more about asking questions to inspire learning, check out inquiry-based learning.
Today, I attended the last of four scheduled Cleveland Diocesan workshops designed to assist teachers in adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in our classrooms
As a result, I'm feeling rather reflective.
Love it or hate it, the CCSS is here to stay, adopted by 46 states, and expected to be implemented for the 2014-15 school year.
Honestly, I'm still on the fence about the whole CCSS debate. The OCD side of me likes the idea of consistency and uniformity, but the rebellious side of me doesn't appreciate the government issuing mandates. And then I read Jacqui Murray's recent article about the 7 Ways Common Core Will Change Your Classroom, and I now kind of get it. Murray fairly and succinctly summarizes the expected major changes to the current curriculum, and I don't necessarily think these are bad things:
1. Depth over width
Fewer topics will be covered in greater detail.
2. Nonfiction over fiction
Expository writing and critical reading take precedence over inferential reading.
3. Evidence Is required
Regardless of the subject matter, students will be required to back-up their claims with clear and authentic evidence.
4. Speaking and listening
These two skills, necessary in college and employment, will be emphasized.
5. Technology is part of most/all standards
Collaborating, sharing, and publishing are real-life skills in our global community, and tech tools will be integral to all subject matter.
6. Life skills are emphasized across all subject areas
Critical thinking, writing, and cognitive processes will be performed--in every subject.
7. An increase in rigor
Students and teachers will be expected to dig deeper, to show more evidence of learning, and to create more authentic products of learning.
I believe most teachers (and parents) would agree that these seven pedagogic changes are not only necessary, but necessary in a very crucial way in 21st century education.
And that's what makes the workshop I attended today pretty timely. It addressed performance-based tasks & assessments--an approach to learning that covers all of the points listed in Murray's article.
What's so great about the application of PBT & PBA is that it provides for authentic outcomes, it involves collaboration, and it makes use of different learning styles. Instead of having students show what they know in a passive way (e.g., multiple choice tests), students show what they know in an active and engaging manner (e.g., podcasts).
Performance-based tasks aren't simply just "cool" and "fun" alternatives to tests--although they certainly can be cool and fun! They have proven outcomes clearly in line with the CCSS purpose to better prepare our students to require less prompting and scaffolding to show what they know.
Don't believe me? Take a good look at the "Cone of Learning" above.
I don't want to belabor the point about PBT & PBA; you can get a quick overview here. What most performance-based tasks have in common, though, is the use of collaboration through cooperative learning, and it's that on which I'd like to focus with some quick information to get you started.
With that said, here's the condensed version of the very best and the most useful of what I learned today--and even some stuff I found on my own:
Cooperative Learning Resources
Cooperative Learning Assessment Tools
Finally, here's my very favorite resource of the day from iLearnOhio. I suggest you type "performance" in the keyword search engine before you choose the grade level and discipline. As for resource types, be sure to choose "lessons."
Of course, being from the Buckeye state myself, I'm unapologetically biased, but this resource from our neighbor to the south isn't so bad, either. :-)
Educational consultant + #pedtech coach in Cleveland, Ohio sharing innovative technology ideas for educators.