Online Resource: Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a great, free, online resource that we have begun to implement in our Math Workshop curriculum. Math workshop is an additional math class to support students who are struggling in their regular math class.

Khan Academy includes a huge video library covering topics from basic addition to calculus, and ranging in topics from biology, chemistry, and personal finance.

In addition to its video library, Khan Academy also as a interactive problem solving section that addresses each mathematical topic. Students begin by clicking on the Practice tab that is located on the front page. Students then sign in by using a Facebook or Gmail account. Once they have entered the practice site, they can pick any topic from the knowledge map. For each topic students have to answer 10 problems in a row in order to become labeled “proficient” in that topic. If students need help, they can either watch the tutorial (which doesn’t hurt their streak) or they can ask for a hint (which brings their streak to 0). Students also have the option to print the problems, or to “show a scratch pad” which acts like a whiteboard.

The mathematics teachers at our site, have taken the time  to compare our curriculum with the topics on the knowledge map and found which sections correspond to each unit. Once a week, students in the math workshop class will have to complete the desired topics for each unit. Teachers can set up a class including their students so they can check on each student’s progress. Teachers can tell how many topics have been covered, the proficiency of each student, and the amount of time spent on each topic.

Overall, Khan academy is a great technological resource that individually meets the needs of each student. Students are allowed to move at their own pace throughout each topic and get extra help when needed. Check it out! 


Seven Survival Skills for Today’s Students

The Global Achievement Gap by Tony WagnerRecently I read a book called The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner.  This book gave a compelling answer to why students don’t seem prepare for the modern world.  More importantly, he has intriguing questions, and that’s his bottom line: right answers may have been okay in the old world, but knowing how to ask the right questions is the key to survival in the new, global world our students are entering. Socrates knew that eons ago. Why have we lost that critical skill, and what can we do about it?

Wagner outlines Seven Survival Skills for today’s students:

  •  Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
  • Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
  • Agility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  • Effective Oral and Written Communication
  • Accessing and Analyzing Information
  • Curiosity and Imagination

Wanger developed this list by interviewing a large number of business leaders — from Apple to Unilever to the US Army — and by reviewing numerous studies about the skills employers want and the deficiencies in the current workforce. Many of these studies listed dozens of skills, so he used the information gained from business to determine which were the most important skills needed to adapt to a rapidly changing world. And so they are not just the skills one needs for work, they are also the skills all of us need to be engaged and effective citizens in a 21st century democracy, as well as to be life-long learners.

Learning and the Brain: STEM Symposium Recap

We recently attend a STEM Symposium put on by California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. At this symposium one of the four speakers Anne Marie Bergen, who is currently a Teacher in Residence for the College of Science and Mathematics, Biological Sciences at Cal Poly.  During her speech, she shared with us some very interesting information about an organization call “Learning and the Brain.”  Below is some information about the organization, what they do, and how to get involved.

Learning & the Brain has been bringing neuroscientists and educators together since 1999 to explore new research on the brain and learning and its implications for education. These conferences and summer institutes bring cutting-edge neuroscience and educational research directly from the researchers themselves to educators, clinicians, counselors, speech-language and special education professionals to improve their practice. Research centers and labs at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins,and other leading institutes have joined forces with us to provide the latest findings and co-sponsor our efforts. Today, Learning & the Brain produces three multi-day conferences a year, a one-day symposium in New York City and three hands-on summer institutes. It also provides awards to upcoming and senior researchers in the field of neuroeducation through our ‘Transforming Education Through Neuroscience” award and the Learning & the Brain Foundation. In addition, Learning & the Brain sponsors the online Learning & the Brain Society and an online store.

If interested in attending a conference or learning more about this organization please click on the following link:

Learning and the Brain

Learning & the Brain is produced by Public Information Resources, Inc.

Becoming An Expert Project

Each year I have my students complete a project called “Becoming An Expert.”   For this project I put them in groups of 3 or 4 students (depending on the size of the class).  Once they are in their groups we go over the directions for the project.

Once students have a clear understanding of the objective then they begin working together to create a lesson plan on their given topic.  All groups must have their lesson plans approved by the teacher before proceeding to the next step.  The following is an overview of how I lay-out the project:

  • Day #1: Go over project objective and put students in groups. Assign a leader for each group.  Make sure that the leader understands their role and responsibilities.
  • Day #2: Have students pick a topic (from a given list) and let them begin working on a draft of their lesson plan.  Students should decide who will be in charge of each part of the lesson plan.
  • Day #3: Groups meet with the teacher one on one to go over their final lesson plans.  Teacher must sign off on lesson before the group can proceed.  Teacher also gives the leader a “completion of work” form to fill out and turn in on the day they present.  This form asks the leader to describe the role that each person played in the group, a description of what each person did, and an signatures from each member agreeing to what the leader wrote.
  • Day #4: Allow students time to work on lesson plans (i.e. practice problems, guided practice, PowerPoint, posters, worksheets, lesson quiz, etc)
  • Day #5: Have students complete remaining tasks needed to present their lesson.  Each group will also be required to complete a “dress rehearsal” of their lesson to the other members in their group.
  • Day #6-9: Groups will present lessons to class.  Members of the class are required to take notes on the lesson, participate in the lesson quiz and fill out a feedback form.  Once lessons are complete the class will discuss what they liked about the lesson and the group who presented will be able to share what they think went well and what they would do differently in the future.
  • Day #10: Students will write a one page paper reflecting on this project.

This project has left a profound impact on both my students and myself.  For information on this project, please reference the book: Hands-on Math Projects with real-life applications by Judith A. Muschla & Gary Robert Muschla.  Enjoy!

High Tech High, San Diego California

 High Tech High began in 2000 as a single charter high school launched by a coalition of San Diego business leaders and educators. It has evolved into an integrated network of schools spanning grades K-12, housing a comprehensive teacher certification program and a new, innovative Graduate School of Education.

High Tech High was originally conceived by a group of about 40 civic and high tech industry leaders in San Diego, assembled by the Economic Development Corporation and the Business Roundtable, who met regularly in 1996-98 to discuss the challenge of finding qualified individuals for the high-tech work force. In particular, members were concerned about the “digital divide” that resulted in low numbers of women and ethnic minority groups entering the fields of math, science, and engineering. Gary Jacobs, Director of Education Programs at Qualcomm, and Kay Davis, Director of the Business Roundtable, were key participants in these discussions.

In late 1998 the group voted to start a charter school and engaged Larry Rosenstock, then President of Price Charities in San Diego, as the founding principal. The founding group was clear about its intent: to create a school where students would be passionate about learning and would acquire the basic skills of work and citizenship. Rosenstock, a former carpentry teacher, lawyer, and high school principal who had recently directed the U.S. Department of Education’s New Urban High School project, brought a vision and a sense of the design principles by which this mission might be accomplished (see Design Principles, below).

From January 1999 to the opening of the Gary & Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High in September of 2000, Rosenstock and the founding group, led by Gary Jacobs, worked in tandem. Rosenstock located a site, prepared the charter application, hired staff, and oversaw the development of the program, while Jacobs and the business community took the lead in addressing issues of financing and facilities development.

For more information about this innovative school please view the video below:

Digital Portfolios

One of the BEST ways to implement 21st Century Learning into your classroom is to ask students to create a digital portfolio showcasing their work. Not only do students reflect on their learning from the year, but they also demonstrate their mastery of each topic through the use of technology. The great news is that digital portfolio software is more widely available and offered for free. (Wagner, 2010).

Interested in getting started? Click here to view student and teacher portfolio software.

Here is a video that further explains digital portfolios:

High-quality student digital portfolios have been used in successful schools such as High Tech High. Here are some examples from some 6th grade students at Hawthorne Elementary in San Luis Obispo:

Teachers have also used digital portfolios to reflect and collaborate. Here is an example of teachers portfolios from High Tech High.

Here is a PDF to help you get started! Digital Portfolios

Wagner, T. (2010). The global achievement gap. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Learning Walks

“Isolation is the enemy of improvement” (Wagner, 2010, p 157).

In order to improve 21st Century Learning, schools must implement Learning Walks. Learning walks allow teachers and administrators to get a snap shot of learning that is taking place in their schools. We LOVE the idea of learning walks because it opens the door for teachers to collaborate and reflect on their teaching.

In Tony Wagner’s book The Global Achievement Gap, he describes how learning walks changed the way teachers viewed “rigor” in the classrooms. In 2003, Wagner was asked to help “reinvent” several high schools in South Kona, Hawaii.  After implementing “learning walks” with the administration and staff, teaching practices were transformed. Faye Ogilvie, an elementary school principal, summarized her expereince:

“My thinking has definitely changed since we’ve started working together and it continues to evolve…When we started these conversations, I realized that just because teachers were using research-based strategies and providing a quality learning environment, they weren’t necessarily engaging students in using their minds well. By engaging teachers in conversations about rigor, we prompted them to reflect on their own practices and to make gradual changes to instruction that focused on student thinking rather than right answer responses” (Wagner, 2010, p. 162).

Here is a video of teachers reflecting on their learning walks:

Wagner, T. (2010). The global achievement gap. New York, NY: Basic Books.