Sunday, October 10, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Features of the Visual and Active
Portfolio Method – Steve McCrea
I came to know that “there is another way” after trying to teach 6 classes of 20 kids, 45 minutes per class. The focus was on presenting the material efficiently and effectively. The Madeleine Hunter method of teaching is the standard of “good teaching.”
The research by Howard Gardner makes it clear that the Hunter method is effective in ensuring that more than one teaching method is used and more than one learning style is given a chance to “latch onto” the material.
However, most people who study Gardner have not gone one step farther. They didn’t read pages 161 and following about how to evaluate the learning.
Even we who have taking the RSA course for CELTA (teaching English to Adults) have a false sense of knowing what to do next after presenting the material of the day. We know we have to check understanding and then move on to connect the material to real examples in English for practice. The effort is designed to ensure that materials are presented to a variety of learning styles.
However, let’s take a moment to breathe and reflect on the purpose of the language school (and on any class): it is not to present an effective curriculum. The purpose of a school is to meet the needs of each individual student. The idea expressed by Gardner and put into action by Dennis Littky is to ensure that teaching changes to meet the needs of the individual student. The steps include:
Adding an element of relationship.
(mobile phone and email contacts, invitations to lunch or snacks outside the classroom)
Building the curriculum from relevance . (What does the student want to know or learn?)
Creating opportunities to learn through action, through performances of understanding and mentoring.
Evaluation is not through written tests but through recorded exhibition so that the student has to feel and see the gaps and know where the next step is. Through feedback from the teacher and (if the student isn’t shy) from the audience (and self evaluation after looking at the video), the student then knows the next layer of learning that needs to take place.
Independent Work Time takes up a larger part of the class schedule. Building a portfolio is more important than running through a check list of grammar and vocabulary (listen, speak, write, read). The expectations of the students are changed, because most people who go to Littky’s school have to be persuaded to see that studying only what you want to study will lead to a rigorous result.
How can effective teaching and “Teaching for Understanding” (the code phrase developed by Lois Hetland, Ed.D, a disciple of Howard Gardner) be accepted by students who have come to expect “traditional classrooms”?
Samples of a portfolio created by other students and standard “packages” showing what students have produced is a good example. Performances of Understanding can be produced at lower levels of proficiency, but this method is more obvious at advanced intermediate.
EVERY PART OF THE CLASS CAN BE VIDEOTAPED for later review (since some students find it difficult to take notes and pay attention). The videos can be converted to a video on CD at a rate of about 2 hours per 700 megabytes.
The key is found by making a parallel set of key standards. The Met Center, Littky’s group, does not teach Math, History, Science and English – they ask students to develop their own goals for qualitative and quantitative reasoning, empirical reasoning and communication. These areas can be supplemented with ESOL or EFL structure and the EFL teacher can restate what needs to be sought by the students. In the Visual and Active Method, the students learn skill areas or interest areas, not artificial "chapters" related to grammar and vocabulary.
(Some students will not accept this functional description of a language class, and they will need to pursue the making of a portfolio based on the structure of the textbook.)
We can see some similarities – and therefore the materials developed by Littky have some relevance to all methods of teaching. The Madeleine Hunter model remains in place (to support students who want structure) and the classes have a textbook and class time (as they do in the Littky school). The key focus is on asking the student to seek outside learning opportunities that are connected to their aspirations. An executive at a power plant in Japan should spend time touring a plant… but do more. He should sit and shadow the mentor. The chapter on Mentoring in Littky’s book shows that there is not always a burden of mentoring… there is a feeling of adding a dimension to the mentor’s job. “I get paid to show another person why I love my work.”
The focus for teachers could be on pushing and guiding students to develop a portfolio to show that students have demonstrated or performed understanding by making presentations. The exit portfolio can be a CD with performances on video showing basic skills of pronunciation and grammar (with students teaching units to the camera). The teacher can then ask students to go out to the “real world” to video themselves in situations with shopkeepers and volunteer situations.
BAD EXAMPLE of mentoring
I was studying Spanish in a small program in Chalchihuites, Mexico near Zacatecas and the program offered an “experience in real Mexico” working side by side Mexican employees. I filed cards for 3 hours in the city hall (no interaction with the staff). After the initial hand signals I didn’t have to talk or listen for the next three hours, yet I was “immersed” in the culture of the work place.
GOOD EXAMPLE of mentoring
One of my students, Johana, said that she loves being corrected by young kids. “They tell you exactly the truth.” The EFL teacher (Mr. Mac) got her the volunteer sheet for Virginia Shuman Young Magnet school and she plans to volunteer two hours next week in a school. That’s using English in a real sense. A photo of that opportunity or a video camera on Johana can be part of her portfolio.
Small cameras if the student doesn’t have a digital camera.
Burning software on a laptop in the school. It's best that the computer is NOT connected to the network.
Portfolio system (clear plastic sleeves with three punched holes for storage in a three ring binder) needs to be set up to engage the students.
List of potential mentoring and volunteering locations in the area of the school.
Most students learn another language better in a classroom that is visual and active.
Students can be pushed to create portfolios to show their understanding. (See Gardner, Littky and Hedland)
Students can be pushed to find relationships outside the classroom to pursue interests and build their vocabulary through use in mentorships and volunteering positions.
Video equipment will allow students to bring back information that they want to practice.
Video equipment in their home allow them to practice pronunciation and listening on computers (see the series of CDs that I distribute to my students).
For more information, write to VisualAndActive@gmail.com
The purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. -- Dan Pink, Free Agent Nation
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Superbroke, Superfrugal, Superpower?
In recent years, I have often said to European friends: So, you didn’t like a world of too much American power? See how you like a world of too little American power — because it is coming to a geopolitical theater near you. Yes, America has gone from being the supreme victor of World War II, with guns and butter for all, to one of two superpowers during the cold war, to the indispensable nation after winning the cold war, to “The Frugal Superpower” of today. Get used to it. That’s our new nickname. American pacifists need not worry any more about “wars of choice.” We’re not doing that again. We can’t afford to invade Grenada today.
Ever since the onset of the Great Recession of 2008, it has been clear that the nature of being a leader — political or corporate — was changing in America. During most of the post-World War II era, being a leader meant, on balance, giving things away to people. Today, and for the next decade at least, being a leader in America will mean, on balance, taking things away from people.
And there is simply no way that America’s leaders, as they have to take more things away from their own voters, are not going to look to save money on foreign policy and foreign wars. Foreign and defense policy is a lagging indicator. A lot of other things get cut first. But the cuts are coming — you can already hear the warnings from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. And a frugal American superpower is sure to have ripple effects around the globe.
“The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era” is actually the title of a very timely new book by my tutor and friend Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert. “In 2008,” Mandelbaum notes, “all forms of government-supplied pensions and health care (including Medicaid) constituted about 4 percent of total American output.” At present rates, and with the baby boomers soon starting to draw on Social Security and Medicare, by 2050 “they will account for a full 18 percent of everything the United States produces.”
This — on top of all the costs of bailing ourselves out of this recession — “will fundamentally transform the public life of the United States and therefore the country’s foreign policy.” For the past seven decades, in both foreign affairs and domestic policy, our defining watchword was “more,” argues Mandelbaum. “The defining fact of foreign policy in the second decade of the 21st century and beyond will be ‘less.’ ”
When the world’s only superpower gets weighed down with this much debt — to itself and other nations — everyone will feel it. How? Hard to predict. But all I know is that the most unique and important feature of U.S. foreign policy over the last century has been the degree to which America’s diplomats and naval, air and ground forces provided global public goods — from open seas to open trade and from containment to counterterrorism — that benefited many others besides us. U.S. power has been the key force maintaining global stability, and providing global governance, for the last 70 years. That role will not disappear, but it will almost certainly shrink.
Great powers have retrenched before: Britain for instance. But, as Mandelbaum notes, “When Britain could no longer provide global governance, the United States stepped in to replace it. No country now stands ready to replace the United States, so the loss to international peace and prosperity has the potential to be greater as America pulls back than when Britain did.”
After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. “Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place,” Mandelbaum predicts.
How to mitigate this trend? Mandelbaum argues for three things: First, we need to get ourselves back on a sustainable path to economic growth and reindustrialization, with whatever sacrifices, hard work and political consensus that requires. Second, we need to set priorities. We have enjoyed a century in which we could have, in foreign policy terms, both what is vital and what is desirable. For instance, I presume that with infinite men and money we can succeed in Afghanistan. But is it vital? I am sure it is desirable, but vital? Finally, we need to shore up our balance sheet and weaken that of our enemies, and the best way to do that in one move is with a much higher gasoline tax.
America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.
An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Our original book, The Learning Revolution, sold 10.2 million copies there. But all sold by bookshops and at seminars by independent educational software companies.
So we don’t have a permanent record of their names and addresses (and, at the time rthe sales were made) no one ordered online and provides email and other physical addresses.
We have not launched “UNLIMITED: the new learning revolution and the seven keys to unlock it” we have decided to switch all our international editions and future ones to become digital, online touch-screen editions. We are working through that right now. Among other things, we will be launching a global competition to get the brightest students in the world to reinvent education. This will be launched through facebook (and its 500 million members) andf YouTube before the end of this year.
You’ve asked my opinion of your videos, and, from the tone of your email, I think you’re asking for genuine honest appraisal. And, to do that, I can only quote from my own experiences from both making presentations, running workshops and seminars around the world: and seeing some of the world’s best nvolvers in action at educational/learning conferences.
So my first genuine impression, of each of the first two videos: I found the opening of both so boring I couldn’t really go on:-)
So first I had better summarize my own strong beliefs (and my experience from many years as a national TV presenter):
- Particularly with video or other online material: you have to start with a big “Wow!” Think of what I describe as the new 80-20 rule: Students today spend 80% of their waking hours in a year outside the school classroom (only 20% in it). For 80% of their time they are 21st-century citizens: using 21st-century instant-action digital tools .
I’ll demonstrate some ways I use or have seen used to actually involve entire audiences in immediately learning-the-message by acting it — and then I will leave you to draw your own conclusions . . .
2. You really have to (actively involve people from the first impact), and even before that. For example, as teachers or other seminar attendees are moving into a room or conference, I will always have some involving video/ music/montage etc on to set the entire theme. And then (if the theme is to convince teachers or students that the students – or teacher conference participants – should be in charge then put them in charge:
This is how we opened a one-day think tank of New Zealand entrepreneurs last year:
That BEFORE anyone had spoken:-) (You’ll find thousands of similar great “ice breakers” on YouTube. In fact you will find dozens of adaptations of that one presentation. They set the scene for the entire proceedings. By the way, four of us came up with tht same idea, off the ingernet, well before the conference started.)
And immediately the conference chair, on his feet, immediately said: “Today we’ve got 580 of New Zealand’s most innovative entrepreneurs in this convention center. During the rest of this day we’re gong to come up with art least 580 incredible ideas to reinvent New Zealand. And together we’re going to boil those ideas into 20 great ones by the mid-morning break. Then we’re going to drilll them down into the 10 best ones by lunch. Then, by the mid-afternoon break, the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zeland will be here, and we’re going to present to him the one incredible idea that will make the difference. Entrepreneurs can change the world. Let’s start.”
Or look how, this year, during a five-day New Zealand sporting-tourism congress for 100 Australians, I had to run a two-hour interactive session on both New Zealand history and sporting history (bearing in mind that there is a three-hour, across-the-ocean flight to get from Sydney to Auckland). And then, by the end of the day together
- The interactive multimedia session was announced with this title: “What every smart Australian should know about New Zealand since we drifted apart 65 million years ago”. Then: “Welcome to the Youngest Country on Earth” — with this video clip:
Now Australia and New Zealand are great sporting rivals, especially in rugby union and rugby league football. Traditionally New Zealanders international sporting teams do a Maori (native Polynesian) war-dance challenge at the start of international sporting games [later, check YouTube + New Zealand rugby haka), in Maori, but Australians never know what the words mean: so, right after the video, we had all the Australian guests stand up and perform the welcoming-challenging haka in Maori and in English. Until 240 years ago, the Polynesians had no written language: they passed on their heritage by song and dance — so our Australian guests actually learned that by doing it
So that is the next point: a good involving opening (and throughout a seminar) to demonstrate (in all different learning styles) etc) the theme-of-the-day in action.
So let’s get back to your message: to prove that students themselves (or an audience of teachers) should really (and immediately) act out that theme, to prove it: with actions, movements, songs, dancing, fun, humor, involvement.
So over straight into that. My co-author, Dr Jeannette Vos, is fantastic with music and dance. So she often starts one of her seminars by getting everyone up, immediately to a vigorous dance to music to get through that you can only learn well if your brain is fully activated and oxygenated.
And then she say something like: “What an incredible volume of talent and brainpower exists in this room today. Imagine if we combined it all — right now. So let’s do that.” In front of each participant (or at the top of individual folders) has a US letter sheet of paper with a grid of 12 squares, four across and three down. And (depending on the seminar topic) you’ve have had typed along the bottom of each square such “experiences” as:
Plays a musical instrument
Speaks a foreign language
Loves public speaking
A great cook
Can do computer animations
Can edit video
Then (as you start playing the music theme “Getting to Know You . . . Getting to know all about you” you ask each person to find 12 different people who can perform one of those great achievements, each person has to find 12 people to match the squares: introduce each other and write down the person’s name to march each specialty. First to get a full set of 12 yells out “Bingo” (a game we play in the British commonwealth) and wins a prize.”
And then the seminar presenter may say something like: “I am reasonably good as three of those talents. But look how the big majority of you are much brighter, much more talented in your own way.” And that applies to every group, every class, every school, every company.”
Everyone has a talent to be highly competent art something. Combine your talent, your passion and your dream and you can become truly great. Then keep adding on skills (often by working with other people who are talented in different ways) you become multi-skilled. (we’ve got hundreds of examples of those in the photos and paragraph I our book). Use the photos to illustrate your slides.
(I happen to be designing a multimedia game on that subject at the moment: I have attached a pdf of the slides, but stress that the original Apple Keynote slides are very interactive. I have also attached the seminar board game I designed to teach British high school teachers how to teach “business innovation”- at ten one-day seminars around their country: on how to turn their talent into a great business plan.
Now I do this professionally for a living (I am NOT school teacher): teach creative business management – but using the same “involve them” principles that are the core of good teaching – and especially if teaching by videotape.
“If you want to learn it, do it.” . . . Don’t just talk about it. Get ‘em involved in different ways to embed the message naturally, in their own learning style or stmyles.
All I can say, mate: compare some of those “involvement methods” to starting with two lifeless fingers on a video, over the top of a one-color one dimensional long sentence . .. and then a closely-typed list of questions (with hand-writing under them) - thst telegraph a message of another boring lecture: “This is what I am going to tell you” . . Rather then involving them in “doing it – and thus learning it.”
Maybe you don’t fell like cribbing great live demos from the Internet (Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital team which won five Academy awards in a night for the digital effects they made for the movie Avatar, also made that “youngest country on earth” video. Steal only the best!)
So why not start off by asking (directly) for a show of hands from your participating audience:
“Let’s start today with a simple show of hands:
“How many of you first learned to talk in a school classroom?
“How many of you first learned to walk – in a school classroom?
“How many of you learned to ride a bike by first reading a textbook on riding a bike?”
“How many of you learned to speak by reading a book on speaking?”What none?
“So how many of you learned to talk by talking, and chuckling with your mum or dad? Wow, all of you.
“How many of you learned to walk by walking, by first creeping then crawling, then tottering up, holding a chair; then finally wwalking?” Great.
“And how many first learned to ride a bike by sitting on a tricycle? Etc.”
(Now, using a slide of our first graphic photo on page 1 of “Unlimited”: the plugged-in world.
“Now let’s take some of the things you do every day, in this age of the internet and the world is the touch of keyboard away: how many of you learned keyboard skills by first reading a book right through? None! How many of you learned to type by actually typing.”
So what is the main lesson we learn from this? Get some quick responses.
360 years ago (photo from our book), Comenius invented the so-called modern classroom: with backboard, chalk, slate, and children sitting in rows listening to a teacher talk, with chalk, 95% of the time.
“Now one of the finest research universities, in America, Carnegie-Mellon, has spent a fortune getting rid of boring lectures . “
“Today we don’t just read about science, we actually become computer scientists - by making computers.”
Dinner time here. I feel a good wine coming on.
Hope that helps
END OF letter by Gordon Dryden
Let's talk about the points made by Dryden. This guy should be cloned. +1 954 646 8246
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Steve McCrea Online SAT Tutor $20/hr
I believe in narratives, portfolios and alternative forms of assessment (exhibitions and stand-ups). I believe that schools should have walls of quotations to fill blank walls and many of those quotes could come from the Pink Team: Hetland, Postman, Steiner, Montessori, Dan Pink (danpink.com), Thomas Friedman, John Corlette (JohnCorlette.com), Dennis Littky (BigPicture.org), Dennis Yuzenas (WhatDoYaKnow.com), Gardner, Thomas Hoerr (newcityschool.org) and others found on VisualAndActive.com.
I believe that Rocks for Jocks, Physics for Poets and Literature for Rocket Scientists are courses that will be more valuable to most students because these courses are integrated and show connections that many students find fascinating. James Burke, the presenter and creator of the TV show Connections, ought to be my advisor in charge of curricula. A copy of Littky's book could be on the doorstep of every parent of a tweenager, with extracts fed to Twitter or Facebook walls from the time the parent has a two-year-old.
I believe more voters and politicians should read Abe Fischler's blog, The Student is the Class; more people would enjoy history if they started with Dennis Yuzenas' site (WhatDoYaKnow.com) and listened to the lectures of Timothy C. F. Stunt. More students will learn from youtube.com/freeenglishlessons and MentorsOnVideo.org than from lectures and textbooks.
"We must transfer responsibility for learning to our students gradually—and offer support at every step."
I invite you to visit IndependentEducator.com and to find venues for these observations. Yes, you, the reader, know some magazine or newsletter where this column could appear once a month. Become an agent of change and send a short message: (1+ 954) 646.8246 or VisualAndActive@gmail.com
Steve McCrea SteveMcCrea.com
Let's look at the Independent Educator TheIndependentEducator.blogspot.com