17 March 2014

1 Simple Question for Evaluating Lessons

Is it cool enough to put online?

Would there be any value on sharing this with others online?
Would people outside of your classroom want to see it? (Do the people inside the classroom really want to see it?
If you posted all of your students' work, would they all look relatively similar?
Is it cool enough to put online?
Would you want to blog about it?
Would someone want to showcase it on your school or district's webpage?

Positive answers to these questions represent varying degrees of relevance and rigor in instructional design, but they are all questions I ask myself when evaluating lessons, assessments, or applications of technology.

Does the work your students do in your classroom have any last relevance beyond the end of the unit? Beyond this week? Beyond tomorrow?

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that my own interest in teaching is pretty closely related to the creativity I'm putting into students' learning activities and products. You know the feeling - you come back from a conference on a buzz because you saw the coolest demonstration of the Pythagorean Theorem, or a self-assessment tool, and all you want to do it share it with others, talk about it, and try it out.

That sharing, the excitement - we don't have to try and desperately cling to it as we survive on fumes from conference to conference. Yes, the infusion of new ideas helps to get your started, but I'd argue that high you feel from the experience is in the sharing. In talking with others about it.

Why must that feeling be confined to someone else's work? I think its a relatively attainable goal to wrap up our week in reflection with this simple question: "Did I do anything cool enough to put online?"

And there are even several activities you could reasonably answer that question with -
  • You put together a concise, clear, engaging tutorial for flipping your classroom.
  • You (and/or your students) used a web 2.0 tool as a forum for class responses to a prompt or a container for shared information.
  • Your students create presentations or videos and share them with social media
  • You enhanced a lesson you usually feel is rather dry with a video, photo, or song to grab students' attention
  • Your students explored a problem relevant to their lives. This one isn't even necessarily technology related. Our senior lit comp classes do an EXTENSIVE project that one teacher started several years ago that is essentially a semester-long, super in-depth career exploration. They write papers and create presentations, but a lot of the work I've observed secondhand doesn't necessarily depend on tech-rich environments. The point being, its a COOL project.
  • Your students created something
  • You created something
  • You used technology to enhance or improve a common task
Your answer to the 1-question lesson evaluation is in many ways reflective of where you are in your professional development, with a scale of answers being appropriate.

In the Web 2.0 class I just finished teaching after school once a week for teachers in my district, I had a group of eager learners that always came back with tech celebrations from the week before, but in varying skill levels of implementation. "Cool" for one might be "normal" for someone else. Just as an example, here are two applications of Padlet that they came up with: a space to get a discussion going, and a student-controlled medium for class art critics and portfolio.

As an excuse to show a super adorable video I rediscovered as I went to make the one at the top of this post, here's "something cool" I made after my first son was born in 2011. To link it back to your classroom (even math), why couldn't your students use Animoto to put together a review product linking unit vocab to processes and applications? #ideafornextunit :)

Landon Jude

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Thanks for sharing!