PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research – #NspiredatT3

Today, Sam and I are presenting at the T³ International Conference in Las Vegas. In this session, we are going to ask the participants to practice, to go on a learning walk and tweet and then come back and analyze the results.  Experiential learning rather than sit-n-get. (We are going to use #JillandSam in addition to #NspiredatT3.)

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With the mountains of “stuff” our teachers need to learn, practice, and do, how do we get it all accomplished? How can we, the adult-learners, practice and learn while continuing our work? In other words, how do we create PBL experiences for adult-learners that teach through experience and out of isolation?

What if we created a movement to learn more about Twitter and formative assessment while investigating the primacy-recency effect as described in How the Brain Learns by David Sousa?

“This research indicates that there is a higher probability of effective learning taking place if we can keep the learning episodes short and, of course, meaningful. Thus, teaching two 20-minute lessons provides 20 percent more prime-time (approximately 36 minutes) than one 40-minute lesson (approximately 30 minutes). Note, however, that a time period shorter than 20 minutes usually does not give the learner’s brain sufficient time to determine the pattern and organization of the new learning, and is thus of little benefit.”
How the Brain Learns, David A. Sousa

What if we integrate reflection and quick-writes as the down time or cognitive break as the bridge between the 2 prime-time learning episodes? What if we leverage social media – Twitter – to share learning and questions across our school to paint a picture of learning?

Here’s the idea and implementation plan for a 50-60 minute period.

    1. Pause at approximately 18-20 minutes and ask our student-learners to do a quick write about what they are learning or doing in class.  (a form of self-assessment; do I know what I’m supposed to be learning?)
    2. Let learners quickly share what they wrote.  (a form of formative assessment, are they learning what I intend?)
    3. Tweet a summary of what is being learned or done using a common hashtag. (this models using social media for learning)
    4. Follow the tweets from this hashtag to be more informed about each other and what we are learning/doing in class to possibly find curricular connections and common ground.

What if we check for understanding 20 minutes into class and let this check inform our practices for the rest of the learning time – the 2nd prime-time interval?

Many teachers can’t find purpose for Twitter.  It is too much information, or they feel they have to be connected all of the time.  What if we change that? What if we use Twitter as a communication, learning, and celebration tool? (I think Grant’s post last weekend supports this and the need to change.)

Keep your fingers crossed!

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Developing a Virtual Learning Community – #T3Learns session

How might we stay connected, offer additional ideas, and share experiences with others? What if we leverage social media tools? How might we continue to lead learning without stretching ourselves too thin? How might we continue to contribute to our learning community when we are apart? How might we be more intentional in PD sessions to foster continued learning? What if we explore effective use of tools to develop and maintain connectedness and build learning communities? Will we learn and share?

Jeff McCalla, @jmccalla1 and Confessions of a Wannabe Super Teacher, and I facilitated a session for T3 instructors on building and maintaining learning communites to learn, share, and support learning.  Our lesson design, strategies, and resources are shared on the Developing a Virtual Learning Community Google doc.  We were charged with the responsibility to lead a session for T³ instructors to  brainstorm and share useful strategies to connect and learn from and with others. At the end of this session, our community should be able to say:

    • I can contribute to learning communities both face-to-face and virtually.
    • I can use social media to connect with fellow T3 instructors before , during, and after PD.
    • I can use social media to connect with participants before, during, and after our PD.

We ran 4 sessions today – all very different.  Jeff is a master of the art of questioning. He guided the discussion and connected to the learning plan while accommodating the learners in the room.  At each session we answered questions concerning the how and why of Twitter and blogging. His blog post What Super-power do you want? offered a grounding story for our discussion.  (Read comments by Bo and Jill to learn more.)

Here are snippets of our conversations, learning, and questions.

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Posted in 21st Century Learning, Conferences, Connecting Ideas, PLC, Presentations, Professional Development Plans, Questions, Social Media | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Goals and Self-Assessment – Reflecting on My Learning as of February 9, 2014

I submitted a goal on April 8 which I updated on September 3October 3, and November 10, 2013.   Have I made progress on my goal through the action steps?  What will I learn if I review my intentions and collect evidence that supports my goal? If I take the time to check in and self-assess, will I be able to determine if I’m on a good path?

My Goal:

To purposefully act to forward Trinity School’s mission, faculty-learners and student-learners will grow significantly in their use of reflection and the formative, diagnostic, and self-assessment knowledge that come from such an approach to learning.

Action Steps:

  • Intentionally reflect and question to grow and learn. Publicly publish my reflections at Experiments in Learning by Doing. Connect with others by broadcasting each post via Twitter.
  • Reflect on learning by keeping a running record in an e-portfolio. Encourage and provide opportunities and support for others to develop professional portfolios that document learning, growth and reflections.
  • Support reflection, questioning, and growth of learners by designing and engaging in professional development opportunities for teacher-learners to learn by doing. Examples:
    • MyLearningEDU 1.5  for teacher-learners to model and experience My Learning from the student perspective.
    • Twitter for Learning  for teacher-learners to foster and develop connections with other educators and experts.
    • Leading Learners to Level Up  for teacher-learner teams to design and implement formative assessment that diagnoses and differentiates while leading learning.
    • (Added in November) Observation of Practice takes on the task of seeking and gaining perspective.  How might we help teachers focus on what is happening in classrooms in a systematic, purposeful and focused way? How might we model and embrace formative assessment of our practice? How might we leverage peer-to-peer assessment and feedback?

Shelley Paul (@lottascales) and I have facilitated two more rounds of Leading Learners to Level Up (#LL2LU) for The English Connection at Woodward and for Kindergarten-9th grade math teachers at Trinity, Walker, Woodward, Westminster, and Mount Vernon.  We also hosted a conversation at EduCon on writing learning progressions.  Our EduCon session was in collaboration with the Martin Institute and was broadcast to seven cities in the US with a total of approximately 140 participants.

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Broadcasting to multiple sites was a great learning experience.  Our site facilitators offered feedback on several areas.

Jill’s session was excellent. I’ve had great feedback from Renbrook teachers, especially US teachers from 3 different departments-English, World Language, and Science, who said they can see immediate application of the concept. They felt the presentation was a good blend of instruction and opportunity for collaborative practice. They plan on sharing this concept at department meetings this week. The Lower School teachers who attended will present the concept at a meeting in the near future.


Although we got behind schedule given the tech issues, the most informative moment was when our group was working on the creation of examples of LL2LU.  Although we thought the task would be simple as we set out to do our work, it actually was more difficult than we imagined.  Hence, the “I like,”  “I wonder,” and “What if” was very effective.  We weren’t able to post many examples given we were behind schedule, but viewing the myriad of postings on Flickr was equally exciting.  The group continually shared various findings as they were clicking around the sites.  Additionally, we collectively appreciated the “I can” and scaffolded approach to reaching a learning goal.  Much to think about here ….


Overall we got good feedback from this session.  We lost the feed a few times and it was hard to know exactly what was happening at times, but all of the preplanning that Jill and Shelley had done paid off – the lesson plan, agenda, etc helped keep us on track and we were able to continue the conversation even when we lost the feed.

There is a new team at Trinity piloting Observation of Practice this month, and I’ve shared the learning plan with interested teams at Westminster and Woodward.

Twitter for Learning had a plus this month too.  Karen Boykins (@K_Boykins) has requested the next course in the Twitter for Learning series.  Karen and Samantha Steinberg (@spsteinberg) collaborated with me to develop a list of essential outcomes for the second course in this series. How exciting to have learners ask for new learning experiences and challenges!

I like what I’ve done so far.  I continue to see products of my action steps in our Faculty’s #TrinityLearns tweets and with #LL2LU participants. I love this tweet from Kato – a nice mashup of assessment, feedback, and assessment.


I wish I could interest and inspire more faculty to participate in MyLearningEDU 1.5. I wonder if I should design MyLearningEDU1.0 as a simpler first step.

My to-do list now includes developing and securing PLU credit for Connections and Furthering PLNs in the Twitter for Learning series and developing MyLearningEDU1.0.

Have I made small course corrections when needed?  What additional action steps need to be added?


To see the development of this goal, see iterations

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#EduCon #MartinConnects #LL2LU to 8 sites

How might we learn and grow together when we are far apart? What if we leverage the power of connectedness and social media to learn and share?

Shelley Paul and I presented Leading Learners to Level Up at EduCon. Working in collaboration with Grant Lichtman of The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence, SLA broadcast our session live to 7 additional sites across the country.

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We generally followed the plan shown below.

We loved using Flickr to share our low-fidelity drafts across sites.

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Here’s one comment from feedback collected at the end of the session. I appreciate all of the learning that was acknowledged.

  1. I had not sent a picture to Flickr before.
  2. I had not got into Wi-Fi before on the iPad.
  3. I like the “I can” statements for giving feedback to students.
  4. I appreciated connecting with other teachers in the room to know what they are doing.
  5. I thought the story about playing basketball was effective in helping us see that kids may not be getting what we are teaching.
  6. The people around the room from Parish were very helpful when I had technical questions.

Unfortunately hearing the online presentation was difficult, and we could not see what the presenter was talking about on the screen online.

The workshop was beneficial despite its drawbacks.

As always, here is the full set of feedback offered at the end of the session.

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Reflection: gift of time and reflection with Honors College learners

Leveraging the power of PLNs, Grant Lichtman (@GrantLichtman) connected Bo and me with Dave Ostroff (@DaveOstroff) sometime last summer.  In November, Grant suggested that I might enjoy spending a day learning with All Saints Episcopal School and Dave.  He was right.

Today the freshmen of the Tad Bird Honors College, Dave, and I gathered to learn together.  We accepted the challenge of the Gift Giving Project. Each member of this community committed to reflecting on some aspect of the experience tonight.  So, I am fulfilling my commitment to share what I learned from and with these 17 exceptional thinkers.


I like the tone and spirit of this group of learners, because I felt invited and accepted even though I was a stranger.  I wonder if this was because it was the second day of class and everyone is new to each other, or if this is a cultural norm.  What if we intentionally designed learning to be this open and accepting of others in all classrooms? How might we change education and learning by having this strong open door, all are welcome attitude everywhere?

I wonder if these learners know how powerful their work is and will be as they continue to problem find and problem solve together. I like how easy it seemed for them to roll up their sleeves and do the critical empathy work to actively listen and probe to uncover the root problem of their user.  What if we apply this work to local and global problems? How might we serve our communities by taking the time to ask enough questions to really hear and uncover needs?

I really like how fearless these learners are in their pursuit of understanding others and how they might serve one another.  I wonder if their fearlessness is understood, noticed, and acknowledged.  How might we bright spot the beauty of the risk and reward of listening with your heart? What if we practice sharing the unnoticed gems that require such bravery?

I love seeing the ideation of ideas. I love seeing them turn their 2-D drawings into 3-D prototypes to visualize point of view and possibilities. I wonder about the impact of the process and the product. What if we took the time to show what we know and think by building models of our ideas? How might we embrace additional creativity, communication, and collaboration by such acts?

I love the stories that accompany the ideation and prototyping. I wonder how we might capture the emotion, energy, and connectedness in these stories to share with others. What if we build to learn, create to communicate, and share? How might we better understand each other?


Accepted as a co-learner and embraced as a colleague, I learned with this community today.  How might we learn and share and connect and serve? What if we accept this as a responsibility?

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Success accelerants and stamps of positive success

I love having GPS access in my car.  I often need help to arrive at my destination.  She gives me in the moment directions and helps me feel confident that I can get to where I need to be.  I will admit that I am not always kind to her.  I find it frustrating that she does not give me credit for what I already know.  For example, she directs me out of my neighborhood to I-75 – something I do every day.  It makes me wonder how we might teach from where students are rather than from “the beginning.”

In Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, Shawn Achor writes about success accelerants.

The researchers repeated the coffee shop experiment, but this time half the customers got a “buy ten coffees and get one free” card, and the other half received a “buy twelve coffees and get one free” card— with the first two already stamped. So in both cases a person needed to buy ten coffees to get a free one— the goal was equally far away— but group 2 was given a perceived head start. Think about it this way: before even buying a single coffee, group 2 seemed to be one-sixth of the way toward the reward, whereas group 1 hadn’t even started their long road to a free coffee. If you were in group 1, your first coffee would bring you only one-tenth (10 percent) of the way toward your reward, whereas in group 2 it would bring you one-third (33 percent) of the way there. How did this affect purchasing behavior? Fascinatingly, the people in group 2— those who perceived the goal as closer even though it was the same distance away— burned through those ten stamps significantly faster than the people in group 1. (Achor, 117 pag.)

How might we credit students for what they already know and offer success accelerants at the same time? What if we create stamps of positive success throughout learning?

The closer you perceive success to be, in other words, the faster you move toward it. (Achor, 109 pag.)


Achor, Shawn (2013-09-10). Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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Meaning markers and routes to success

Are we intentionally designing learning experiences that highlight and utilize meaning markers?

Meaning markers are what point us in the direction of opportunity and possibility, steer us toward a state of positivity and full engagement, and highlight crucial intellectual, emotional, and social resources. (Achor, 85 pag.)

Whether the topic is fractions, commas, constitutional amendments, the color wheel, squats, the predicate imperfect, or a host of other content specific essentials, are we embedding opportunities that point learners in the direction of opportunity and possibility? Are we facilitating experiences that inspire full engagement?

Sometimes we haven’t highlighted enough meaning markers and thus can see only a limited number of routes to success. (Achor, 66 pag.)

I wonder if we see ourselves as “feeder” teachers.  Do I teach what I teach simply because they will need it later? I don’t know about you, but if I don’t need it right now, I can learn it later.  I wonder if this might be why some learners do not retain what they learn.  Is success in the next class the primary meaning marker offered?

Or, can I show a need, application, or connection for what we are learning? Do I know enough about my learners to use examples and ask questions that offer context and meaning to them?   Do I know enough about my curriculum?  In our team meetings, do we discuss meaning markers? Are we willing to experiment with order of presented content to engage with others?

A lack of meaning in our reality robs us not only of that joy but also of our ability to use our multiple intelligences to increase our success. (Achor, 65 pag.)

How many routes to success are offered? How many meaning markers can we find and use to illuminate possibilities for learners?


Achor, Shawn (2013-09-10). Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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