Monday, December 19, 2011

How To Be An Education Innovator - Education Outside of the Box

Stan Heffner, Superintendent of Schools for the State of Ohio, is challenging districts to think outside the box and begin to change the way education looks in Ohio's schools. (article link)   Educators like to talk about change, but the focus usually is on how students, budget, parents or curriculum needs to change in order for learning to change.  Teachers who are innovators in their classrooms move past the limitations they face and look for ways to use their resources in new ways. Over the next few weeks I will focus on strategies innovators are using to change the way education looks moving into 2012.

Part 1 Using Time Resources In A New Way
Traditional schools have standard class periods or segments of the day devoted to one specific content area.  Students in traditional classrooms spend class time focusing on learning new information, then go home to practice or apply the new information. 

Flipping the classroom - In this innovative approach to class, the teacher uses video and audio technology to record the "lecture" component of the lesson.  This is posted on a class or school website.  Students watch the video at home.  Actual classroom time is then spent on applying the lesson material to real world problems, guided practice, collaborative group work and formative assessment to measure student mastery.
Article Links

Integrated Instructional Units - This approach has been around for a long time, but still has a lot of potential for innovation.  The classroom teacher uses a content web to map connections between science, math, social studies, language arts and fine arts standards.  From this content map, the teacher than develops a teaching unit that helps students see connections across contents and to real world applications.  This kind of unit planning allows teachers to focus key standards without having to "short change" a content area. This type of unit planning also works well with Performance Assessments and Service Learning.
Article Links

Flexible Scheduling - Teams of teachers are given a block of time to divide up as they feel is necessary to accomplish the learning targets established by the team.  This means that one day, more time might be allotted for a science lab to be completed, with less time for other content areas, the next day more time might be spent on a social studies presentation etc.  A related concept is Block Scheduling, where students can complete the curriculum for a year long course in a semester, allowing them to take a wider variety of courses each year. The blocked class is usually 80-90 minutes long. Teaching in the block allows teachers to spend some time on direct instruction, time on guided practice or cooperative learning and time on individual learning and enrichment or support.
Article Links

Virtual Classroom - this concept can take many formats, from using web based collaborative tools like Google Docs that allow students and teachers to work together outside of the boundaries of the standard school day, to a true web-based classroom.  By offering students opportunities to participate in an online course, schools can go outside of the 7:30-3:00 school day and meet the needs of a diverse group of learners. Florida is now requiring that students participate in an online course as a way to prepare them for the types of learning they will be doing as college students or professionals.  Students and teachers participating in an online course may meet at a regular time during the day for live chat, but then also have the flexibility to post comments and assignment responses during a defined time window.  Districts can use tools like Moodle to help teachers create an online course component in their traditional classes.  Some districts are working in partnership with their teachers and outside agencies to develop hybrid courses where students spend some time in an actual classroom and some time in the virtual classroom.
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