Teachers and students need textbooks to be useful and relevant. With the release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, the Science Department at Chapman High School in Chapman, Kansas, wanted to find a way to incorporate the NGSS as well as the Common Core Standards into classroom curriculum. In the process, they discovered that the textbooks they were currently using no longer met the needs of their students and classroom. In this update from Future 2,000 Common Core, you’ll hear about how educators used eBooks to meet curriculum goals for Physical Science, Biology, and Chemistry and improve understanding of standards while improving the students’ access to resources and increasing their motivation.
How does eBook creation improve curriculum?
Chapman High School science educators led by Sara Cook explained that starting with a blank canvas enabled them to “include the essential curriculum that students need to know rather than having them sifting through unnecessary material.” They planned to integrate multimedia, virtual labs, student work samples, projects, activities, and more. eBooks would allow their curriculum to come alive in ways that would engage students more than normal textbooks do. They focused on featuring student work to increase the expectation for projects over time. “They will make studying and teaching more effective,” Cook stated, “most importantly, we have the ability to revise and edit the books to best meet the needs of their students.”
According to project report, the goal was to create a book that met “the individual learning needs of their students, and better incorporates the Common Core Standards as well as the Next Generation Science Standards.”
An additional goal was to produce a textbook that the students would be able to access at anytime that could be easily updated with a changing curriculum. By saving a .pdf copy of the iBook and uploading the iBook to a website, the students could have access to the book on any web-based device.
How did educators evolve their curriculum with eBooks?
Participating educators started the project with a professional development day to learn how to use iBooks Author, a free software created by Apple for eBook creation on the Mac or iPad. Throughout the year they scheduled 4 other professional development days to work on eBook creation. During the school year, they collected student work to be featured in the book for the next group of students. Sara Cook published the eBooks online for all students to access and to share the project progress, you can view them at:
Below are some screenshots from a few of the eBook offerings created by Future 2,000 Common Core.
What did they discover?
All of the iBooks, except one, were used with students over the course of the year. The students are enjoyed viewing and using the books on the iPad and Computers. Students liked having access to the book at home especially when they were absent from class. Also, students loved competing to become “published.” They seemed to be excited about their work being used as an example for future classes.
As far as teaching, the creation of the eBooks allowed the department time to become more familiar with both the NGSS and Common Core standards. They were able to find better videos, animations, labs, websites and other resources to meet the needs of the new standards. Cook stated, “We personally feel like we have a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses of our curriculum than we did last year at this time. Since our iBooks are Standards Based, this has also allowed us to start discussing the possibility of integrating Standards Based Grading into our Curriculum. This would allow us to better see what our students know and don’t know in relation to the NGSS. Most importantly, this grant has provided us with time to collaborate and develop content that can be used in our classroom, which directly benefits our students.”
What advice would they give to others?
The biggest challenge for this team was the time that it takes to complete the eBook. It was their hope that they would complete more curriculum during the first year of the project. After the first work session, they quickly realized this process would take many more hours than initially expected. eBook creation is a time-consuming process to obtain content and find media appropriate to make the books as interactive as possible. However, they do feel that the time they are spending is well justified if it helps them meet the needs of their students.
One area of improvement for next year will be to come to the work sessions with all content, pictures and other resources already saved into files on the computer and ready to place into the book. This would allow more time to be spent on implementation & editing instead of gathering content. They plan to continue with work sessions during the summer and through next school year.
From a budget perspective, the project team learned that there were subscriptions for interactive simulations and labs that they wanted to incorporate into the eBooks. They decided to consider that as an important item in the next year’s grant budget, as the funding was not available from their institution.
If you would like to useeBook creation as a way of improving your curriculum, we recommend the following resources.
- Build Your Own Textbook (Audrey Watters, Edutopia, 2011)
- How to Create Your Own Textbook With or Without Apple (KQED Mindshift, 2012)
- CK12 Standards Aligned Flexbooks (CK-12 Foundation, 2016)
- Students as eBook Authors (The Creative Educator, 2014)
- NeBooks Teacher Resource Center (Nebraska Department of Education)
- Reading and Teaching with eBooks (EdTechTeacher)
Creating a Collaborative Co-Teaching Culture: Building Teacher Relationships to Improve Student Achievement
Developing a common language for teachers pays off
The goals of the Teacher Development Grant: Creating a Collaborative Co-Teaching Culture project lead by Seol Moon and Barbara Onofrio, Principal, at Stone Scholastic Academy were multiple:
- Build strong, cohesive, collaborative relationships amongst educational professionals within the school,
- Work collaboratively to raise student achievement, improve climate/culture and build teacher capacity by having teachers work collaboratively on tailoring content to match the needs of all students in the classroom, and
- Move toward a more inclusive environment for our special student populations.
Supporting the Teachers in Collaboration through Professional Development
Stone Academy started the first year of the project (August, 2014) by enlisting a consultant, Dr. Meg Carroll from the St. Xavier University. Dr. Carroll presented a 2 day workshop to all staff which included the following topics:
- Co-Teaching: A presentation of the Illinois Professional Teaching Standards, particularly Standard 8-Collaborative relationships: “the competent teacher builds and maintains collaborative relationships to foster cognitive, linguistic, physical, and social/emotional development. This teacher works as a team member with professional colleagues, students, parents or guardians, and community members.” Included were common Co-Teaching Models, Team Teaching key concerns and a Co-Teaching Checklist.
- Neurology of Learning: Brain-based Applications and types of learners: concrete, abstract and reflective.
- Executive Functioning and Organizational skills: focusing on planning, emotional control, attention, self-monitoring, organization and the working memory.
- Accommodations and Modifications: definition and examples of each. Included in this session were the characteristics of various disabilities and matching instructional strategies.
After having built a common language collaboration centered on two things:
(1) building strong collaborative internal relationships and
(2) digging deeper into what successful Co-teaching is and how/when to use various models.
We purchased several copies of Dr. Marilyn Friend’s publication, “Co-Teach! Building and Sustaining Effective Classroom Partnerships in Inclusive Schools.” We formed a book club, broke down chapters and held discussions related to the content. (Meetings were held on 10/20/14, 10/27/14, 11/19/14, and 4/6/15).
In addition to our book club, on January 16, 2015, 9 teachers were sent to the Dr. Marilyn Friend’s workshop: “Best Practices in Co-Teaching.” Both grant and local funding were utilized.
Teachers were sent as partners in an effort to strengthen their professional bond. They learned first-hand the components and intricacies of Co-Teaching, and had a bit of experience working with different models so that they could be more effective.
As Co-teaching is a new strategy to this school, it was important for teachers to feel supported, yet not threatened. It was felt that teachers should have the autonomy to work with the strategies and would benefit from a mentor or coach. They needed to be able to be observed and receive feedback on their progress and performance, without this being used toward their professional evaluation. Dr. Meg Carroll was commissioned to do this work. She visited the school on numerous occasions (10/20/14, 12/15/14, 1/29/15, 4/6/15, and 4/20/15) to observe teachers and teacher teams, discuss, document and provide critical feedback.
Throughout the year, the project team needed to enlist the assistance of substitute teachers and also provide extended day opportunities for teachers to work together, both of which were utilized. This time was used to have teachers observe colleagues within the cohort, provide feedback and have professional conversations. Teachers also began to work on lesson planning together. As time passed, and they were able to work together as one generalist and a specialist, and we agreed it would make sense to look at an entire year’s curriculum. A couple years ago, Stone teachers began work on curriculum mapping, but the task never fully developed. Now, with newly learned instructional strategies and stronger relationships, teachers decided to revisit that activity.
Fortunately, Dr. Carroll has experience in curriculum mapping, and provided guidance to teams of teachers as they worked together to develop grade level curriculum maps which concentrate on the areas of literacy and math. Once curriculum maps were complete for a grade level, the plan was to then meet as a team to look at vertical alignment so that the end product would be complete and cohesive for grades K-8. From there, they can begin to delve into examining and creating effective student assessments.
At the end of the 2013-2014 academic year, Stone was cited by the State of Illinois regarding student placement of students with disabilities. The school houses 629 students, with roughly 12% of our students receiving special education services. Once notified, our special education team met with administration and outlined a plan to correct these measures. We collaborated, and through teacher discussion, we identified a small group of students who could perhaps benefit from receiving instruction in a more inclusive environment.
Parents were consulted, IEP meetings were reconvened, and the internal structure was adjusted so that more Co-teaching environments were made available. Co-teaching helped us be successfully removed from the state’s Focused Monitoring after only one year, as opposed the customary two year process.
How teacher collaboration impacted learners
Students were asked directly to write about their experience in a Co-teaching classroom. Overwhelmingly, students indicated they preferred this type of teaching and offered the following reasons:
- I like having two teachers because we can learn from two different ways.
- I’d say having two teachers is good due to the fact that if there’s a long line for one, the other is able to help you.
- I like having two teachers because all of the stress is not on one teacher.
- I enjoy having more than one teacher around because if we had one teacher and 32 students, the teacher would be yelling A LOT!
- I like having two teachers because if you asked one and you didn’t understand it, you can ask the other.
Not all students like working in a co-teaching classroom. One student is quoted as saying, “I don’t really like having two teachers around because I can’t get away with secretly playing with Smartape 360 or reading.”
Teacher’s comments related to co-teaching express positive aspects as well. One teacher commented “the best results have been having the opportunity to give the students two ways to look at solving problems. Because my co-teacher has a background in Special Education, she naturally uses ways to explain the concepts in a more concrete way, for example, drawing pictures on the board. etc. “ They also said there is less stigma for children and professionals use a common language. Teachers stated they are able to do more small group work, and feel they are better supported. They also say they have developed a greater professional respect for colleagues because they learn from the others’ expertise and find out what each brings to the table. They illustrated their Co-Teaching experience by creating the attached display which they proudly placed in the staff lounge which was the only available space due to overcrowding.
Addressing challenges for future implementation
The most significant challenges we faced this first year was to find time for teachers to meet. Since we are now on a longer school day, our regular day starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m. For a good portion of the school year, many teachers also work an extended day program for some part of the week, as approximately one half of our children attend the After School All Stars program from 3:00 until 4:15 p.m. Teachers were accommodated by giving them a choice of being provided a substitute teacher, or earning an extended day stipend.
Teachers are also concerned they will have to change partners every year due to different assignments or staff leaving. Fortunately the staff at Stone is relatively stable, and administration is making a commitment to keeping as many positive teaching partners intact as possible in the upcoming year.
Grading is another area of concern. Teachers must have time to discuss individual student progress and agree on a fair and equitable grading system.
Finally, there is one teacher who is still showing reluctance to “let go” and collaborate. Offers continue to be extended to her to participate in discussions and administration is working with her to lessen her concerns. It is my hope that giving this teacher time, and keeping her exposed to her co-teaching colleagues, she will see the added benefits to utilizing this model.
A fun, creative approach to growing scientific thinking for all students
As educators, we’ve found ourselves spending most of our time and resources finding ways to better convey the STEM subjects to students that live an increasingly technology dependent world. The problem with this way of thinking is that it, without really even trying, devalues the arts and humanities as non-essential. Although no one is going to cure cancer by reading Shakespeare and we aren’t going to solve world hunger by painting pictures, we lose something by leaving these essential subjects by the wayside. The humanities help us understand what it means to be human and art is almost always fun. It’s easy to engage students, especially young ones, when you can incorporate dramatic play into your own lessons. So why not teach STEM lessons through the lens of theatre?
Triggering the joy of discovery in STEM
This is exactly the kind of creative idea that Elizabeth Bruce at CentroNia in Washington, DC is doing with her Theatrical Journeys Project. Drawing on over 35 years of experience in the arts, Ms. Bruce has developed this project as a homegrown, community based initiative, with funding from the DC Arts Council and similar organizations contributing (including the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation). According to her proposal “The Theatrical Journeys Project is innovative because it fuses child-centered, dramatic play with simple STEM phenomenon. The STEM phenomenon is explored thoughtfully through experiential lessons. STEM content is made concrete through simple simulations and multi-sensory explorations rooted in play and the joy of discovery.” Elizabeth Bruce has also ensured that visual aids are bilingual, reflecting the needs of the students in her school and making sure that all students are able to participate.
How a science lesson becomes a theatrical journey
Bruce’s lessons are simple, real world situations that kids may find themselves in some day. For example, in the sick teddy bear journey, the children (”doctors”) will diagnose their teddy bear (”patient”), checking it’s pulse, or taking a mouth swab. They then will “culture” the bacteria in an incubation oven. The next step of the lesson is figuring out which bacteria has grown and how best to cure it using antibiotics. It may seem silly at first to imagine a group of young kids diagnosing a teddy bear. But when you look closer, you can see those gears in their minds starting to shift. Connections are being made between this lesson and the real world. By taking scientific inquiry and couching it in make believe, educators are making learning more digestible, turning a lesson into into a playful treat.
The work of Theatrical Journeys is to produce simple lesson plans. Twenty was the original goal, though that may be exceeded as of this update. Documentation and video of the project will also be uploaded to YouTube for other educators to consider. Like the art it imitates, Theatrical Journeys is constantly evolving project, driven by the needs of the students in every way.
Increasing respect between peers, opening minds to STEM careers and capturing disengaged learners
As mentioned before, the project has already produced a number of new and exciting journeys, so how are the students responding? According to the progress report “the tactile and kinesthetic child-centered nature of the journeys has become a model of how to effectively engage young children who often present behavioral or disengaged learning challenged in the PreK classroom. Happily, these children consistently engage fully with the hands-on, “there-are-no-wrong-answers” approach to the Theatrical Journey Project.” Not only that, there has been the unexpected, but wholly welcome side effect of increasing respect between students. By exposing students, especially minority ones, to moments where they are refered to by their peers as “Doctor” has fostered an aspirational attitude that wasn’t there previously in many of the students. And this is a good thing.
I said earlier that no one is going to cure cancer by reading Shakespeare, but if by playing doctor with this teddy bear in PreK even one student is inspired to grow up to become one… they might just.
Microfinance in Action Revisited
It’s been an exciting, tumultuous, but ultimately productive three years for the educators and students at Southwind High School in Tennesee. Those involved with the Microfinance in Action (MFiA) project have seen a lot of success despite some setbacks along the way. But the outpouring of support from the community and other educators has helped keep the flow uninterrupted.
What is Microfinance in Action (MFiA)?
When MFiA was originally proposed, it was proposed as a three-year project that would take students through the process of learning about microfinancing, and how important it can be to stimulate the economy. Especially in resource and job depressed areas in this country and abroad. They were also tasked with learning about and distributing KIVA loans to small businesses. It also proposed that students travel to low-income areas, or areas affected by natural disasters to get a real look at what poverty looks like and hopefully become passionate about ending it. In our blog we explored what an integrated curriculum exploring globalization and economics looked like and heard about the real world skills and field experiences (Microfinance in Action, August 2013). Results were inspiring.
Exploring Local Economics through Field Experiences
One of their main goals was to leave the textbook behind and create an environment of practical learning, where students would interact with their community, and communities beyond theirs to get a greater perspective on what economics and Microfinance in particular means in their day-to-day lives. So they started a journey to some of the most economically devastated states in the nation. Beginning with their own.
Making a Global Impact
They began this journey along the banks of the Mississippi in Memphis and worked their way down through the Delta to New Orleans. From there they moved to the home of the Lakota Tribes and finally to the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic. No one could accuse them of being lazy travelers, that’s for sure. And while I could spoil you with the details of their trip, that would ultimately take away from what was the end game goal for this project; creating a book entitled Microfinance in Action: A Guidebook for Teenagers. They just recently returned from Guatemala where they finished filming the documentary portion of their proposal, which should be edited later this summer. That documentary, along with the book they plan on publishing, will be a great resource for educators who might want to try this model at their own schools.
Other goals they had proposed were setting up a KIVA Club loan program where students could work with accredited loan companies to set up microfinance loans for those in need at home and abroad. This ended up being far more successful than they had anticipated but came with an unfortunate cost. Biba Kavass, the innovative educator behind this proposal, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. And while she continues to work on the project, she will soon have to take a step back and let others lead in her place. But the community rallied. Roughly to the tune of $150,000 and climbing. Because of this community support they’ve already made 148 loans out to people in over 50 countries. The next step is setting up a larger and more focused KIVA Club loan program, working with SME Uganda to make slightly larger loans available to people in need.
Follow MFiA Online
The project website, microfininaction.weebly.com, is also doing well, having received it’s 1000th unique visitor recently. This website is where Biba, and those who will continue in her stead, chronicle their work as well as get in contact with prospective partners.
Despite the unforeseeable setbacks they faced it would seem like MFiA has been a great success, in every avenue they proposed. The students, educators, and community all benefited from this project, which is something we value here at McCarthy Dressman. We hope to see many more innovative projects, like this one, funded in the future.
In the age of the Internet, where we (kids especially) spend the much of our free time behind a screen, real interpersonal skills are at a premium. Being able to succinctly articulate your ideas is one of the greatest skills one can develop. It’s these skills that are an unintended benefit of The Workshop Model, a project funded by McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation designed primarily to help educators at Poudre High School more effectively communicate math concepts to their students. In turn, those students have practiced actively communicating with one another about how to best solve math problems. The result? Everyone learns an essential skill and everyone wins.
Maximizing learning for conceptual knowledge
The Workshop Model uses conceptual teaching (described by NCTM’s Guiding Principles for Mathematics Curriculum and Assessment, 2009) as a framework for teaching in a way that “emphasizes depth over breadth” and conceptual understanding over factual knowledge. Lessons are organized as workshops including independent and peer workshop time (see Education Week’s Minimize Lecture, Maximize Learning, 2012). According to the project proposal the Workshop Model is conceptual teaching where students engage in mathematics in three key ways:
- by solving specifically designed problems
- collaborating with their peers to discuss their problem-solving
- presenting their solutions to one another in a “math expert” type role
But before that even happens, the teachers collaborate to come up with lesson plans that foster critical thinking and reasoning from their students.
Incorporating Teacher Collaboration
With all the time constraints already placed on educators, collaborative lesson planning may seem like a tall order. While it is a lot of upfront work, the dividends (which continue to pay off) make up for the time spent. Here’s how this collaboration was organized.
- 2012-2013: Aligning Curriculum The educators at Poudre High School developed a team of Algebra I teachers to collaborate on eight units together. With each unit, the teachers created “a backwards map that included the standards, the formative assessments, right down to the specific problems students tackled to demonstrate their understanding.“
- 2013-2014: Incorporating Peer Observation For the next school year, teachers moved on to Geometry, spending eight full days to plan an additional eight units. The days were split between teacher development (lesson planning, addressing concerns, and sample tasks for students) and peer observation wherein one teacher would teach a class while the others observed and then gave constructive feedback.
The collaborative opportunities were so successful that another professional development session was scheduled in August so those teachers could improve upon their lesson plans.
In the interests of covering all their mathematical bases, they are opting to use this years funding to put together a program for Algebra II while also continuing investing in the educators they have already worked with. This enables them to both grow the program and improve upon the pre-existing structures, but it doesn’t stop there.
In order to improve the standards of the whole district, all lesson plans were scanned and uploaded to district servers for all educators in the area to take advantage of. In addition to that, teachers from other schools are invited to take part and learn from the educators already in the program. This way those teachers can take what they’ve learned and implement it in their own schools.
How can you use this model?
The Workshop Model is very flexible and can be used to teach any subject. The major cost comes from allocating days to prepare the lesson plans for the year along with any ancillary materials dictated by the specific need of the subjects and the units contained therein. At the very least, this model should encourage more educators to collaborate and learn from one another, even if this specific model isn’t officially implemented at their school. When teachers collaborate, it is clear: no one person has all the answers, but those answers aren’t far away if you are willing to work together.
- Concept Rich Mathematics Instruction (Ben-Hur, ASCD, 2006)
- Math Workshop: Using Developmental Grouping to Differentiate Instruction (Scholastic, 2010)
- Minimize Lecture, Maximize Learning: The Workshop Model (Education World, 2012)
- The Workshop Model for Differentiated Instruction (Aaron Allen, Teaching Channel)