Learning With Lucie Archive 2006-2013

April 30, 2006

On Vacation

Filed under: Personal — Learning with Lucie @ 7:39 pm

Two months since the last post, doesn’t mean I don’t have much to say… but rather that I’ve been saying it elsewhere.  The two online grad courses I’m taking at UVM have consumed much of my web publishing energy for the past few months, as has the VT-CITE project.  But alas, April vacation took me away from much of it and brought me to Block Island, Rhode Island.  But I didn’t go cold-turkey. I purchased a mobile tech toy right before vacation (Pocket PC) and experimented with mobile computing.  But to prove that I did find some respite, I’ve chosen to experiment with a new technology resource called Film Loop to post some photos from our bike tours around the Island. Enjoy either the pictures or the presentation technology… or both! 

I got rid of the film loop here because it took too long to load.

April 27, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — Learning with Lucie @ 10:12 pm

This entry was originally posted as an entry on a VTCITE blog following discussion about Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning

Authentic Audience – The Ring Story

One April morning in 1996 –the good ole days when perhaps one or two emails per day found their way to my inbox—I noticed a peculiar subject line on an email from a man whose name I did not recognize. 

Sender: Claude Williams 

Subject: Treasure Found. 

Message:  Dear students at NCUHS,  I think you might be able to help me with something that has been on my TO DO list for more than 15 years.   In 1980 I was scuba diving in the Phillipines and when something shiny caught my eye.  It turned out that I had found a gold ring.  The ring had a bird of prey on top; the letters NCUHS on one side; the words “Class of ‘78” on the other; and the initials TKD carved inside.  Today I was trying out this new Internet thing and typed the letters NCUHS in Alta-Vista.  I found this Cyberfair Project from students from NCUHS.  Could this ring belong to someone from your school. 

I read the email to my students.  They immediately ran down to the guidance office and located the 1978 Falcon Yearbook. Todd K Durkee was the only student with those initials.  After a few phone calls they were able to locate a phone number for Mr. Durkee. “Did you ever lose a class ring?” they inquired over the phone.  He hesitantly answered “yes… in 1979 while I was cliff diving in Hawaii”.   Mr. Durkee got his ring back;  Mr. Williams crossed an item off his To Do list; and 15 students experienced accidentally discovered an Authentic Audience for what started as a project based learning activity using technology.

Probably one of the most motivating factors about Project Based Learning is the fact that you are solving an Authentic Problem for an Authentic Audience.  Today’s technology has made authentic audiences even more reachable than ever before. Years ago video production, publishing or  music production would have been cost prohibitive.  Today’s students can become web publishers,  music composers, and video producers for real audiences at a very nominal cost.   Projects like Cyberfair,  The Vermont Midi Project, The Green Mountain Mooooooooovie Festival,  provide forums for student projects with Authentic Audience.  When my fifth grade students realized that their podcast was going to be on I-Tunes, the quality of their work went up 200%. 

Project Based Learning using effective Technology integration increases engagement by making learning meaningful.   A well constructed project provides several opportunities for students to create different PRODUCTS as a result of an indepth study of different CONTENT.  A skilled teacher will create a LEARNING ENVIRONMENT for students with varied learning styles to experience the PROCESS of project based learning in a way where each of them can be a successful.   Starting with an Essential Question where the project provides the structure for a group or individual inquiry makes the Project even more powerful.  In my earlier blog entry I discussed how our Cyberfair project – Life On The Border –provided the opportunity for Differentiated Instruction.

But without the Essential Question and the Alignment to Standards the project becomes simply a “neat activity”.  Each year I search for a theme that ties into the standards of one or more content disciplines.  I look for partners who are ready and ripe to take on this type of learning.  I look for content standards from that discipline that would lend themselves to a project type learning experience.  Adding the technology standards is a natural next step.   Finally I meet with the teachers of that discipline to brainstorm Essential Questions that would provide the project with enough depth and momentum to drive the energy we are about to expend on this project.

Project based learning is hard work.  But the feeling of pride from the accomplishments of our projects is not just felt by the students—it spreads across the community.  The standards that we meet (especially those in the Vital Results) area cannot be adequately measured by standardized tests.  The challenge we face as educators is to continue to advocate for authentic assessments (such as those found in project based learning) to be considered as part of the ASSESSMENT formula that we use to measure the success of our schools.  If you have a chance to hear the student voices on  the Cyberfair 2001 video,  I think you would have a hard time spotting the ‘student’ whose learning disability would bring down your NECAP scores;  this is also the student whose performance on this project earned my highest praises in their letter of recommendation for employment.   While National Test stores tell part of the story, Project based learning tells the rest of the story!

April 20, 2006

Differentiated Instruction

Filed under: Education — Learning with Lucie @ 10:06 pm

This entry was originally posted as a VTCITE blog entry following a discussion on Differentiated Instruction

Even though my teaching experience has been mostly in Business and Tech Ed,  I was constantly seeking partnership with other teachers to bring a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching.  Our Life on the Border project (www.lifeontheborder.com )was an example of many DI strategies.  One hundred students from the Tech Center and 300 students enrolled in French classes researched their Franco American Culture and published their findings on the web.   

Although  all French student was required to interview someone from a  Franco American family and write a short report and produce an artifact about  that families’ culture, the products were varied  from electronic recipe collection, to photo albums, to family trees, to audio and videoclips.   

The content and process by which each student learned the technical skills necessary to work on the web project were not all the same;  some students wrote scripts to process forms, others learned how to compress video and sound, others learned how to create electronic versions of family trees.  Some students worked best exploring manuals and online resources on their own to learn the tech skills; others learned best in pairs or small groups; others needed more structure in the form of direct instruction, which we performed in small groups.  Some instruction was offered  to the whole class, but  each learned different skills as they took on different roles in the project. The roles were interdependent requiring each student to understand how their role integrated with other roles in the project.  Thus, even though your role was database designer, those who did scripting knew they needed to work with you to make the script variable names work with the database field names.  Although each student received DEPTH level knowledge in a few skills, they did get BREADTH level understanding of many different skills.  I think our CREDIT section (especially tech crew) and the JOURNEY section of the web site capture how this happened.   

The learning environment was key to successful differentiation in this case.  It meant a LOT more after school work by (me .. the teacher).  Each student was required to post a daily BLOG entry to outline what they accomplished for the day and what they were planning on working tomorrow.  Each day I reviewed what each student accomplished and posted a blog entry on the class blog before the start of the next class, explaining to students exactly what the other classes had accomplished and how that affected their daily goals.  They were in the habit of reading the blog entry as they staggered into the classroom (many before the bell rang) Since this project was interdisciplinary, each class participating created its own varied and diverse learning environment within the project.  The more advanced students had the basic skills and habits of minds to work more independently and on different parts of the project with less structure and supervision.  But while some students thrive in that type of environment, others get lost and drift.  As an instructor I was always scanning the learning levels and making adjustment relating to grouping and tasks based on my learner’s needs.   

Even though our project was not a WEB Quest per se in the official sense of the word,  it included many of the same strategies.  Each day the students would see their task on a Class Blog.  IN a way it was an WebQuest that unveiled itself each day and was adjusted based on the students own posting the day before in their individual blogs.  The tasks on this ‘interactive’ webquest were similar to the different task categories in the web taskonomy and were assigned not only based on student strengths and prior knowledge, but also based on student interest or need to develop a new skill.  It certainly would not be conducive to increased learning to always give the good designer in the class the Design Tasks.   Differentiating Instructions should not only create tasks that lets a student pursue their interest areas and strength areas, but they should also be design to ensure that students have the scaffolding necessary to STRETCH and develop new skills.  The final result was one unified PRODUCT  filled with different CONTENT where each participant went through a different PROCESS as part of a LEARNING ENVIRONMENT that supported Differentiated Instruction.

April 17, 2006


Filed under: Education — Learning with Lucie @ 10:01 pm

This entry was originally posted as part of Lucie’s VTCITE blog

Constructivism –
As a first year teacher in a public school in Vermont, I was a little nervous about being evaluated by an official school administrator. Back then they didn’t schedule a pre-evaluation conference or even tell you when they were coming. I vividly remember the ONE LINE evaluation I got when my principal walked into my “consumer math’ class clipboard in hand. He looked around for a few minutes, and finally spotted me circulating amongst groups of students working in collaborative groups. He acknowledged me politely and said “I’ll come back when you’re teaching”.

My constructivist teaching style was too much a part of my essence to change the learning environment I had created based on that feedback. I listened to my heart and have enjoyed years of learning WITH my students. The past five years, I
fought the pressure in Career and Technical Education to move towards what Taylor (1996) calls “The rationalist myth of cold reason – where knowledge is seen as discovery of an external truth. This can lead to the picture of the teacher in a central role as transmitter of objective truths to students. This philosophy does not promote clarifying relevance to the lives of students, but instead promotes a curriculum to be delivered.”

Industry Certification has become a driving force in Technical Education. So much so, that project based learning is being taken out of the curriculum to make room for Industry curriculums that prepare students to pass industry certification exams. I would have nothing against these exams if they were used as an assessment of skills and knowledge gained by a student “constructing” an indepth understanding of the software while working on projects that applied technology skills to solve authentic (or even simulated) problems. But instead I see TEST simulation software being installed in schools and students working through the drills that increase their speed and proficiency on test items. AARGH!!!

I was too much of a constructivist to succumb, and did everything I could to fight this trend in my classroom. It wasn’t until recently reading more formal literature on constructivism that I recognize descriptions of a learning environment that very much resembled my classroom over the past 20 years. Here are a few quotes from this week’s reading that reinforced to me that, indeed, I am a constructivist teacher.

In essence, the teacher must strive to create an atmosphere based on trust and respect and
must act as a co-learner with the student.

active and passive” space—
places where students can reflect and retreat from others to work quietly and intrapersonally, as well as places for active engagement and interpersonal learning.