Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dear Parents,

What a wonderful year we have had and I can not believe it is almost over. We have all learned a lot this year and yes I did mean WE. Some say that an educator’s biggest job is to promote life long learning in our students and the only way I know how to do that is to model it. Honestly, your children have inspired me on a daily basis to explore, to question, to discover and push my boundaries just a little bit further, which I truly thank them for. This spring I began using this quote to sum up the general philosophy for Oneco’s Gifted Program We are a laboratory, NOT a factory. Let me explain, laboratories are places of exploration, questioning, discovery and the focus is on the learning process. In factories the focus is usually about the outcome or products. Those in factories are taught to do something one way and never expected to ask why or to try to find a better way of completing the task. With those principles in mind, we do what we can to construct projects in such a way that a multitude of cross curriculum skills are covered. These skills include: Grade Level Sunshine State Standards, The State of Florida’s Framework for the K-12 Gifted Learners and National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students. I have done what I can to include the standards covered with most of our projects we have placed on the website, but in the future if you have any questions please just let me know. Again, it has been a wonderful year, and your children continue to amaze me. They have been a true joy, and I would like to thank you for sharing them with me. It is my hope that each family has a wonderful and safe summer.
This is our fourth quarter newsletter and I thought it might share it here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Challenge Based Learning and Florida's Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners

A couple of weeks ago, someone put this quote out on Twitter , “Our classroom should be laboratories, NOT factories.” This is a statement that I personally think is brilliant and I instantly fell in love with. Actually, I have to admit I stole it, reworded it and have been using is as sort of a slogan, Oneco’s Gifted Program-We are a laboratory, NOT a factory! I have used it for our handouts on Digital Literacy and Technology Night , a presentation the third grade girls did for District of Manatee County School Board and our final newsletters for the year. It is my hope that it truly does represent what goes on in our classroom. However, we are living in a world of No Child Left Behind, Core Curriculums and high stakes state testing. Due to these things many educators out there feel that their hands are tied, and that may or may not be the case. However, as educators, we are called not only to be responsible for selecting quality projects, but also we must be prepared to justify those choices. For my personal situation, there is a need to show a direct alignment and correlation with Florida’s Framework for the K-12 Gifted Learners. With that said, through out the year, it has become obvious to me that there is a strong connection between the seven goals in Florida’s Framework for the K-12 Gifted Learners and Challenge Based Learning.

For those familiar with both CBL and Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners you are most likely nodding your head in agreement with the correlation. However, for those of you unfamiliar with CBL and/or Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners I will do my best to explain. I felt the easiest way to do this was to walk through CBL Key Components to show these correlations.

Starting with what the authors of CBL call the Big Idea, which is a broad concept that can serve as a CBL Projects starting point. This Big Idea needs to be explored and looked at in multiple ways. In my opinion, by guiding students through exploration of a CBL- Big Idea, students have the opportunity to practice all the objectives covered by Florida’s Framework for Gifted Learners-Goal 1.

Goal 1: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to critically examine the complexity of knowledge: the location, definition, and organization of a variety of fields of knowledge.
-Locate, define, and organize a field of study as it relates to the broad spectrum of knowledge.
-Identify and illustrate basic principles and the foundational concepts that are central to understanding the essence of a field of study.
-Identify and apply investigative methodologies that are followed in a selected field of knowledge.

Continuing to move through the CBL Key Components to The Essential Question. Essential Questions should be related to the students and their community. In this component students are asked, encouraged and expected to ask a variety of questions that will lead their group in defining a real world problem. I have found that this portion of the project has been both the most difficult and rewarding for my students. They seemed happy to wait for me to ask the questions (or give a problem to solve) and became frustrated when I left that task to them. I am not sure why, but I have my theories. It might be we are concerned with our outcomes therefore, we don’t slow down enough to listen to our students. Students become so use to filling in our boxes (or bubbles) that they never stop to ask any questions of their own. Still once on the right track with CBL Projects my students were able to have the opportunity to work and thrive on the objectives of Goal 2 of Florida’s Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners.

Goal 2: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to create, adapt, and assess multifaceted questions in a variety of fields/disciplines.
-Identify significant questions within and across disciplines.
Generate significant questions within and across disciplines.
Evaluate and refine significant questions within and across disciplines

After students have come up with their Essential Questions, they then generate a Challenge which is based on a real world problem. Defining a Challenge in the CBL process could have been taken directly from the text of Florida’s Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners: Goal 4. Yet, the objectives under Goal 4 seem to be better related to what the authors of CBL call Guided Questions and Guided Activities. Guided Questions are used to help define each students' role in the task as well as guiding their research. Guided Activities are completed so that the Guided Questions are answered and students are able to form a Solution. Guided Activities may include research, interviews, surveys and any other activity that will lead to a Solution.

Goal 4: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to think creatively and critically to identify and solve real world problems.
- Identify and investigate a problem and generate supportive arguments from multiple perspectives of a complex issue.
- Analyze the relevance, reliability, and usefulness of data to draw conclusions and forecast effective problem solutions.
- Use and evaluate various problem-solving methods to determine effectiveness in solving real-world problems.

Guided Questions and Guided Activities also give students the opportunity to practice

Goal 3: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to conduct thoughtful research/exploration in multiple fields.
- Use a variety of research tools and methodologies.
- Use and manipulate information sources.
Detect bias and reliability in the process of research.
-Apply ethical standards to research and analyses

Goal 5 By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to assume leadership and participatory roles in both gifted and heterogeneous group learning situations.
-Accept divergent views to positively effect change.
- Identify leadership traits and qualities as they appear in different individuals and situations.
-Manifest significant leadership skills and organize group(s) to achieve project goals

Goal 6: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to set and achieve personal, academic,and career goals.
- Identify personal strengths and weaknesses and accept challenges in both areas to maximize learning.
- Assume primary responsibility for learning, including identifying needs and setting reasonable goals.
- Design plans of action to address benefits and obstacles in achieving goals of personal interest.

After completing this process students should have enough information to begin working on their Solution. The Solution must be concrete, actionable and a publishable product. Solutions can take on many forms and should be student generated. Again, in this process Goals 5 and Goal 6 are addressed. However, I believe the real Framework focus in this stage of process is Goal 7.

Goal 7: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to develop and deliver a variety of authentic products/performances that demonstrate understanding in multiple fields/disciplines.
-Develop products that communicate expertise in multiple fields and disciplines to a variety of authentic audiences.
-Create products that synthesize information from diverse sources illustrating divergent solutions or perspectives.

As I stated earlier, I do believe educators have a responsibility to pick quality projects and be able to justify those choices. Thanks to Challenge Based Learning that part of my job has been made easier. Truth is, CBL also covers a multitude of Grade Level Sunshine State Standards and The National Educational Technology Standards as well, but that is information for possibly another post. Until then, if you would like to check out some of the other standards covered in Oneco’s Gifted Programs CBL Projects feel free to check out the following Standards Pages on these wikis: Stop Girl Bullying, Navigate Your World and Walk Our World-Oneco 2010.