Saturday, August 20, 2016

Standards to Mobile App in 8 Steps

I've been wanting to design and develop a mobile app to empower our Learners to become more interested, engaged, and connected to our learning. Here are the steps I recently took to develop my first mobile app (iPhone 5S).

8 Steps:
  • 1st: Identified Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to our Course - The CCSS were identified from the Mastery Connect app. 

  • 2nd: Determined Power Standards - After careful scrutiny, the crucial or Power Standards were determined to be the Standards on which our learning would focus. The other Standards were used as supporting ones.
  • 3rd: Sequenced Power Standards - The Power Standards were listed in an order where our Learners could see the connections or relationships between them or how the Standards built on the ones prior.
  • 4th: Separated into meaningful Units - The Power Standards were broken into nine (9) meaningful chunks or Units and were organized on a Trello Board. This image is filtered to only show the Power Standards, though the link is the entire Board for our Algebra 1 course. 

  • 5th: Identified lessons or relevant sub-divisions of Units - Each Standard has lessons created for support since several learning activities are often needed to develop a Standard. 
  • 6th: Sequenced lessons to build upon background knowledge - The lessons were then ordered or sequenced in a way to hope to provide ideal connections, relevance, and understanding to our Learners. 
  • 7th: Aligned lessons to days that our class meets - Since our block scheduling has classes only meeting every other day, the lessons were aligned to calendar dates. On each date, I attached links to our "What Do You Notice?" Trello Board to jumpstart the learning for that class. Each day also has a link to our Class Practice. Somedays we'll launch Formative as our new Formative Assessing tool. 

  • 8th: Launched AppSheet and specified Google sheet containing lessons - Finally, I went to AppSheet and launched the browser. I indicated I wanted to create a new app. I specified the Google sheet as my data source and AppSheet did the rest!

It was actually that streamlined. AppSheet has a great deal of functionality and customization available so you can design and develop an app quickly, but enhance as you go. There is a very helpful community on Google+. Check them out! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Learning Through Interdependence

Effective feedback received on a learning journey makes the learning more enjoyable and more productive. When feedback is built into every phase of skill acquisition and application, we're better able to get on the track and stay on the track toward proficiency and even mastery.

I've been reviewing the ADDIE Model and Instructional Design and keep seeing how our relationships, collaboration, and feedback are vital to our learning growth. The ADDIE Model I've seen includes:

  • Analyze - This is where we determine the scope of the course or learning. This is where we ask the Who, Why, What, When, Where, and How. We analyze the needs of our Learners, the environment, and the expected learning outcomes or standards. As there are often too many standards to include in the time allotted, we often want to identify the crucial or power standards. A vital aspect of the analysis that is often overlooked is understanding who our Learners are and identifying their specific needs, passions, and interests. It was through reading "Make Learning Personal" by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey, that I realized the importance of placing our Learners at the center of the learning, rather than the center being the content or curriculum. Only after we aim to understand our Learners, can we more ideally design our learning journey. The environment often includes the culture of learning (#COLchat) being fostered, the specific time of day of the learning, whether useful technology is available to reinforce the learning, and whether any distractions exists inside or outside the learning space. Only once the components of the analysis phase have been identified and resolved, does it make sense to transition to the design phase. 
  • Design - We start by sequencing the standards (#SBLchat) or learning outcomes based on the time available for the course and the needs of our Learners. After the standards are sequenced, we usually chunk them into themed units. Unit assessments are then designed to meet the known target. This is often referred to as Backward Design, a crucial piece in "Understanding by Design" (UbD). Any needed resources are identified and collected. After we have a solid design of our anticipated learning, should we move on to develop the components in the next phase. 
  • Develop - During the development phase, the instructional materials are built. The thresholds for passing and proficiency are solidified. Course-, unit- and standard-level assessments and instruction are developed to support the design. As we develop materials, identify methods and media, we want to be aware of the variability of our Learners. When we design to the edges, we provide access to learning for all Learners. When we develop activities with low floors and high ceilings, we're better able to reach and empower our challenged Learners while offering additional enrichment to those more gifted and talented. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides guidelines and principles to reach all Learners. The following image identifies the three (3) UDL networks across the top along with what to focus on to enable Learners to access, process and internalize our learning. Once the methods, materials, and media have been identified, then we're ready for the next phase. 

  • Implement - The implementation phase is where the syllabus for the course is created, once we understand our Learners and the learning outcomes.  However the Learners will be graded, the procedures have to be documented and communicated clearly. During this phase, the learning is facilitated, the instruction is delivered, or the Learners are provided access to our learning loop (instruction, practice, feedback, more practice, formative assessments, etc.). We want to regularly refer to the above Univeral Design for Learning (UDL) reference to verify that all Learners are given learning opportunities with variability. 
  • Evaluate - Each of the preceding phases maintains its own evaluation so the learning can be clearly defined, acquired, and kept on track. Each phase should function to double check the prior phases. Once the instruction is complete for a Unit or a Course, a summative evaluation is useful to determine any aspects of the instruction that might need improvement (in the current or future year). Learners and educators should be encouraged to self-assess and reflect throughout the learning journey. This evaluation or reflection reinforces the interdependence so vital to a culture of learning. When we reflect, self-assess, and request feedback, we often close gaps and enrich the learning journey from those "aha" moments that so often result. 

As we prepare to start the 16-17 school year, let's be mindful of this iterative and phased approach to learning. The more communication and collaboration we build into our learning journey, the more engaged, meaningful, and relevant it will be for everyone. Join me in building in the Interdependence for Learning! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Five Levers to Learning

Having just finished reading "Five Levers to Improve Learning" (#5Levers) by Tony Frontier and Jim Rickabaugh, I'm in a reflective mindset to connect this new knowledge to make more sense of it. Tony and Jim focus their book on the following five levers:

  • Structure - Logistical components of districts, schools, and classrooms, such as schedules, staffing, and administrative processes 
  • Sample - Grouping of students in any classroom or program any at given time
  • Standards - Expectations for quality and articulated pathways for growth as related to student learning 
  • Strategies - The practices teachers use to help students deepen their understanding of content and improve their ability to use important skills 
  • Self - Beliefs that teachers and students have about their capacity to be effective 

The structure and sample levers are provided by administrators and district leaders and are the only visible components of their "learning iceberg". The standards, strategies, and conceptualization of self are invisible aspects, though fundamentally important to the learning. 

As a participant in our weekly Standards-Based Learning chat, #sblchat, I know how vital standards or learning outcomes are to our learning journey. We engage daily in lessons or learning opportunities aligned to one or more of our standards. Teachers and students collaboratively engage in sharing practice, feedback, assessing and reassessing until students reach proficiency or higher. As I'm integrating Standards-Based Learning (SBL) with Understanding by Design (UbD) with Trello, I'm creating Course Level learning goals or Big Picture goals, supported by Unit Level learning goals and aligned to Standards-Based learning goals. All learning activities are aligned to standards to reinforce the learning and to facilitate and foster communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in our Learners. I believe that flow happens more often when our Learners take the Driver's Seat and own their learning through facilitation. They learn so much about themselves and each other when they facilitate rather than leaving the facilitation to just me. 

Some of our learning strategies that appear to solidify understanding and deepen proficiency include having our Learners facilitate, having everyone take ownership for providing feedback, and having everyone engage is self-assessing to determine where we still have gaps. The more our Learners take responsibility for collaborative questioning, providing feedback and reflecting through self-assessing, the deeper our relationships become. Every Learner can contribute to our learning environment and can benefit from our collaborative classroom. All Learners in our environment see feedback as crucial to learning whether it's peers making connections to background knowledge, teachers offering a prompt to guide the learning, or self-assessing that seems to resolve where gaps in learning may still exist. 

I wish to thank Tony and Jim for their careful analysis and sharing of their "Five Levers to Improve Learning". If you've yet to read their book, consider adding it to your reading list. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Are Grades in our Way?

Many participants were grateful to see Starr Sackstein at our Building Learning Communities Conference (#BLC16) thanks to Alan November with November Learning. Starr facilitated our session on "Empowering Learning Through Mastery".

As is Starr's style, she welcomed us to move our seats from traditional rows to a collaborative circle where each participant had equal voice and representation. Our circle continued to expand to include more and more conference participants who found our session. Everyone felt they had a voice and was welcomed to share our challenges, questions and concerns with moving learning to the front and grades to the back.

Starr began by sharing her journey of how grades can stifle learning and some options for shifting the paradigm to focus on growth through feedback to empower more creativity and engagement in the learning. She shared her visionary journey in her district and how well her learners have responded and respected her entrepreneurial spirit. She mentioned how she conferences with her Learners to collaboratively reflect on their growth, gain and progress. Starr has seen incredible growth in herself and in her Learners. She and they continue to make their writing visible globally and challenged us to empower our Learners to not merely submit work to their teachers, but instead to share the learning globally!

Check out Starr's Ted Talk!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Global Collaboration

Craig Vroom and I have been connected via Twitter for several years now and we finally had the opportunity to meet in person as he presented a session at Alan November's Building Learning Communities (#BLC16) in Boston on "Global Collaboration for Local Impact". Craig's charisma and genuine presence created an ambiance when attendees immediately became participants. Even though many of us had not yet met, the exchange we experienced quickly became collaborative and the sharing flourished.

Craig started with The Power of Twitter. We discussed how Twitter can enable us to engage in useful Professional Development (PD), more reflective exchanges (through chats), effective communication with educators worldwide and through becoming and maintaining being a connected educator. Twitter has been the medium that Craig and I have used to encourage, support and challenge each other. After Twitter, we shared how to Find Your Tribe and the Power of Blogging. We shared how blogging is an individually reflective endeavor that is key to making sense of our learning, while also connecting to each other as we often share a similar purpose.  Next, we discussed the importance of the First 3 Days. The first 3 days is a time for building relationships, fostering a safe and trusting environment and building an interdependence that is crucial to retained and collaborative learning. Hundreds of educators will be sharing with #1st5Days on Twitter. Finally, we ended with Being a Lead Learner. We shared how one can be a Lead Learner as the facilitator of a district, a school or a classroom. In all cases, play, humor, listening, empathy and perseverance are key aspects of learning that lasts! Thank you Craig!

Humor Facilitates Learning

I've just experienced much rich learning and sharing at Alan November's Building Learning Communities (#BLC16) in Boston. After chatting with Lena Marie Rockwood this morning, I've decided to write a number of brief posts to share the learning. Here it goes...

Charles Cooper facilitated a session on how humor can be a significant component to fostering an environment in which learning, sharing, collaborating and asking questions end up being natural by-products. When I arrived to the session, there was a YouTube video on showing very young children laughing silly with their parents. The participants in the session naturally broke out in laughter. We started laughing silly, connecting with those around us and had not yet bothered to introduce ourselves. It was almost like a basic need of connecting was already established due to the silly laughter. The laughter has facilitated our connections,

Imagine if natural connections through laughter could be one of the ways our learners connect in a classroom environment! Laughter can dispel fear, anxiety and reluctance. As long as the laughter is not at the expense of anyone in the room, a more relaxed and connected environment seems to be immediately created. Whether a humorous video is showing as learners enter our environment or whether we show a silly video prior to an assessment where learners might be a bit on edge, humor can help to calm us and help to facilitate an environment where learning and connecting is more natural.

Check out this link: Contagious Laughter

Thursday, June 2, 2016


This reflective post is inspired by our Learners and dedicated to an #edchatma colleague of mine, Maureen Devlin. Every day our Learners share their intrigue, their interest and their energy with me. I'm filled with gratitude for the Culture of Learning we've fostered that enables us to learn alongside each other every day with respect, trust and honesty. Maureen Devlin continues to inspire her Learners and her colleagues in our Professional Learning Network (PLN). I am so grateful to have met Maureen and continue to be inspired by her. Check out Maureen's blog.

Just this week, I've been inspired by the following individuals:

  • One young man that has learned to appreciate math in a whole new way after arriving to our high school informed me Wednesday that his grade was "only a B" and stated, "Mr. Rowe, you and I both know I'm capable of better than that. What can we work on together so I can demonstrate my understanding at a higher level?" After I gained my composure after a statement like that, we identified one math standard where he could use Extra Practice and more get more feedback. We worked together with questions alternating between he and I. The connection we have has developed over our school year and is one reason why this is his best year of math. 
  • A young lady who shares a math class with me in addition to our Interdisciplinary Block weekly communicates with me as to how she can get more practice to connect and integrate our learning at higher and higher levels. She has become an exceptional student of mathematics with an unending desire to reach greater levels of proficiency. Her sense of humor and willingness to help me and her peers contributes significantly to our Culture of Learning. I've been asking her if I could call home to share with her parents how significantly she contributes to our learning. She has been reluctant saying "Mr. Rowe, no teacher calls home to say good things about their students." She does not know about our nationwide movement of #GoodCallsHome that continues to empower Students, Parents and Teachers about the great learning happening in our schools. On Wednesday, she finally gave me the okay to call her home!
  • A young man in one of our math classes has transformed his attitude towards math and it has enabled him to reach success like he's never seen before. He and I have worked through many challenges this year. Our dedication to each other has enabled him to finally like and look forward to math. We can both attest to the fact that our dedication to our Culture of Learning has not only improved our ability to communicate math more clearly but to also appreciate others with different strengths and interests. He gets our "Transformer Award". 
  • As I was leaving school today, another young man in one of our math classes shared with me how this year has opened his eyes to appreciate and value mathematical understanding and reasoning at a whole new level. I'm very grateful when our Learners communicate to me that they look forward to our time together and enjoy learning with me. Learning can and should be this enjoyable. As we parted today, he said, "Mr. Rowe, I'll see you tomorrow first block for math". What a way to connect with our Learners!
  • Yesterday I was greeted by a prior student who returned to our school as a substitute teacher. He shared with me his appreciation for how we learned together. He is just finishing his undergraduate study at college. He said he wanted to support learning and really enjoys the one-on-one connection teachers and students can and should have. He thanked me for my influence on his life. Seeing him again and sharing with him really made my week. 

In our classes, we Yearn to Learn every day! Thank you for reading.