Archive for the ‘(03) Curriculum:’ Category

Capstone–Standards 01 and 03 Meta-Reflection: Instructional Planning and Curriculum

Standards 01 and 03 Meta-Reflection: Instructional Planning and Curriculum

01:       Designs and monitors long and short-term plans for students’ academic success.

03:       Provides knowledge and skills that bring academic subjects to life and are aligned with state content standards.

Initial reflection during C & I Orientation:

In my role as a special education teacher, my primary obligation is to ensure that both long and short-term goals are clearly articulated within each student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) and addressed on a consistent basis. I must also ensure my high school students have a transition plan and course of study which addresses the student’s post-high school goals.

Meta Reflection following the completion of EDU 6524Curriculum Design:

At the beginning of this course, along with my anticipation of fresh perspectives, up-to-date research and invigorating dialogue, I also expected that I might have difficulty selecting a project topic from a particular content area. In my years of experience moving from parallel special education classes to nearly full inclusion, I have found myself having to redefine my role as a teacher. My somewhat diminished view of myself has been compounded by the fact that for the past five years—I have not had a classroom. My current setting in a school which is only five years old, my colleagues and I continue to advocate on behalf of our special education students to ensure that a “continuum of services” is available.

Fortunately, I have seen many students “rise to the occasion” and perform successfully within the general education setting. The author refers to Vito Perrone, former director of teacher education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who “believes all students—including those assigned to remedial or low-track classes—should have opportunities to reach understanding, not just knowledge, by “making connections among and between things, about deep and not surface knowledge, and about greater complexity, not simplicity” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 533). I agree with Perrone and have witnessed the success of students who have been exposed to classes offering “greater complexity”, however, also believe that our high schools must recognize that our students possess of range of needs.

I responded to the discussion question of “values imbedded in the curriculum”—specifically related to the topic of “college ready”. My high school lists on our webpage the mission statement: “…students will graduate college ready. They will be prepared to act as informed citizens in a global society and empowered to care for their community”. A separate line states that “students will complete gateway courses for college enrollment”. Parkay, Hass, and Anctil, in Curriculum Leadership, convey the great challenge before us as educators: “To provide all learners—from those with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and with their variety of needs, abilities, learning styles, and prior educational experiences—meaningful and growth-promoting curricular experiences…” (p.). Before our school opened (in response to controversy around the phrase “college ready”) the team of educators and community members crafting the wording to “qualify” the college focus in the vision statement by including the words “post-secondary endeavors.” The concept of differences in student needs is expressed when Inlay writes that “community and belonging” is critical in “creating a safe place that accepts the different qualities of each individual” (p. 44).

I voiced the sentiment in my initial post that although the website displays “inclusive” language—acknowledging that we have a diverse population within our community, the course offerings appear to be heavily geared toward the college bound students. In support of this direction, I note that a surprising number of my students are finding success in their general education classes. I agree with the following research in the article, Authentic Assessment and Student Performance in Inclusive Secondary Schools: “…with more challenging tasks, students with disabilities performed better than students with and without disabilities who received less challenging tasks” (King, Schroeder and Chawszczewski cited within Parkay p. 237). It seems, however, that as standards and graduation requirements continue to increase, the number of options and course offerings that appeal to the “less-likely-to-be-college-bound” students decreases. I sometimes wonder what “imbedded values” some students perceive. Unfortunately, I see a number of students who become discouraged and simply drop out after finding little success in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Within the article, Engaging the Disengaged Student: Research Shows Why Some Are Immersed in Learning While Others Are Indifferent, author Susan Black, provides suggestions for remedying  issues related to disengaged students. The article refers to what Charlotte Danielson, of the Educational Testing Service, describes a “’distinguished teacher’ as [: one] who has mastered a number of skills in four broad domains: planning and preparation; classroom environment; instruction; and professional responsibilities” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 531). Although my role as a special education teacher requires that I advocate for students with special needs and I sometimes voice my concern about unreasonably high standards, this does not mean that I am opposed to encouraging students to strive to achieve levels as high as possible. I agree with the author who states: “ Students stay engaged when teachers create lessons centered on ‘big ideas’ and design assignments at the correct level of difficulty—not too easy and not impossibly difficult—so students are challenged but still able to succeed” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 532).

As module 2 drew to a close, I began to focus on a predominate need in my setting. Specifically–to prepare my students to ask and reflect on the “big picture” questions pertaining to their life beyond graduation. My students must be encouraged to lift their sights beyond the day-to-day activities of high school life and consider the broader scope of what lies before them. While I believe it is true that we should encourage students to pursue training and education beyond high school, we must also keep in mind what Parkay, Hass, and Anctil (2010), state: “…curriculum goals can be clustered into two broad areas, each of which should always be considered in curriculum planning: goals that relate to society and its values and goals that relate to the individual learner’s needs, interests, and abilities” (p.8).

About a month into this course, I experienced an unexpected insight—somewhat strangely related to my understanding the topic of curriculum and backward-design. It came in the form of a highly personal application of keeping the “big picture” or “long-range view” in mind. Learning of the rapid progression and devastating effects of early onset dementia of one of my sisters—I began to come to terms with the perspective of “backward design” as it relates to life in general. As a family we are having to “lift our sights beyond the day-to-day activities and consider the broader scope” as we together consider her “needs, interests, and abilities”—in relation to the future. Somehow the importance of some aspects of life wane and others emerge as “overarching” and take precedence as they come to the forefront of our thinking.

Within module 3 I experienced an increasing excitement and enthusiasm for the curriculum project for this course and greatly enjoyed my focused efforts preparing for the peer review process. Both then and now, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the transformation in my own perspective and the greater sense of optimism within me regarding opportunities to collaborate with others in my school on behalf of all students. Early in the module, I responded to the following discussion question from my vantage point as a special education teacher: How have the purposes for high school changed, and what should guide communities as they plan new high schools? Author Vivien Stewart in the article, Becoming Citizens of the World, discusses significant and new challenges facing secondary students in today’s schools represented by four major trends: economic, science and technology, health and security, and changing demographics. (p. 524-525). Merely from my perspective as a classroom teacher over the last three decades, I have seen incredible changes in all of these areas—especially considering that when I began as a high school teacher no one had a personal computer and needless to say, the world-wide-web did not exist. Many of my students who struggled in school academically could still find success in more of the hands-on classes such as carpentry and manufacturing. In the midst of the increasing requirements and demands to strive for rigorous standards, I as a special education teacher am concerned about those who are not able to meet with such expectations. Following a long list of skills needed by today’s high school graduates who will be engaged in global commerce and collaboration, Stewart expresses that, “U.S. schools are not adequately preparing students for these challenges….compared with students in nine other industrialized countries, U.S. students lack knowledge of world geography, history, and current events” (Stewart in Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 525). If U.S. students in general are falling short, where does this place many of my students?

Other colleagues voiced similar concerns within the posts for this module—although many postings were centered on the expectations for students in the very early grade levels. While reading these posts, I sensed that behind the academic dialogue were the voices of parents concerned about the increasingly demanding expectations for their own children—particularly in relation to the “Common Core”.

I have mixed perspectives on the issue of high expectations. While I believe that all students should be encouraged and challenged to perform to the best of their ability, I am concerned that those who are unable to compete at a high level will sense that they no longer “belong in the race”. I believe that high schools have an obligation to help all students develop themselves in preparation for a realistic future. I agree in particular with the following segment from the Coalition of Essential Schools, 1998: “…Curricular decisions should be guided by student interest, developmentally appropriate practice, and the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement. Students of all ages should have many opportunities to discover and construct meaning from their own experiences” (As cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, 2010, p. 522).

My response as a special education teacher is to continue advocating for my students as we together embrace these challenges. Additionally, having “lived through” 30 years of legislative changes and their corresponding effects on service delivery models at the high school level, I have witnessed a wide variety of impacts of these changes on individual student achievements. While inclusion has offered clear benefits for many students, I have found this to be the most challenging model to implement. In the article entitled, The “Three A’s” of Creating an Inclusive Curriculum and Classroom, author, Anctil, clarifies with regard to inclusion that “supports will be brought to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than keeping up with the other students)” (Rogers, 1993, p. 2) (as cited within Parkay, Hass, and Anctil, 2010, p. 82).

In the readings for module 5, I noticed Parkay, Hass, Anctil (2010) refer in Chapter 5 to “two dimensions of curriculum: the target and the time orientation”. State standards are seen as “target(s)…at the macro (level) due to the fact that they are geared toward large numbers of students while decisions that are made in individual classrooms are considered to be at the “micro level”. The “time orientation” is found along the continuum of “the present or the future”. A further distinction is drawn between “student-centered versus subject-centered curricula” (p. 251).

I see myself as standing in the gap striving to find that balance between “macro” versus “micro”, “present versus future”, and “subject-centered versus student-centered curricula”–for each of the students on my caseload. Much like trying to stand in the middle on an old-fashioned teeter-totter, I continue to find myself leaning first this way–then that, as I endeavor to sense what is best for each student. I appreciated the suggestion by Parkay (2010) that “student centered curriculum…(which) emphasize(s) the growth and development of students”(p. 252) is most often applicable at the elementary level, however, find this focus seems to be at the core for special educators at every grade level.

In many respects, I see standards as improving student opportunity. For instance, the inclusion model of special education service delivery strongly encouraged by my principal requires that all incoming 9th graders be placed into general education English classes (unless the student’s IEP team determines that this is clearly not the student’s least restrictive environment). The thinking behind this stance is to expose each student to the general education curriculum which is in turn geared toward preparation for meeting standards on the 10th grade state test (which I believe is not simply “teaching to the test”). This is an example of “Standards-based education (SBE) [which] is premised on the belief that all students are capable of meeting high standards” (Parkay, 2010, p. 253). On many occasions, I have observed students with qualifications in the academic areas of reading and/or writing (who in previous decades might have been placed in special education classes), respond well to the challenge. In some cases, students have subsequently tested out of special education as they have been found to no longer qualify for services, based on their three-year reevaluation.

With regard to standards, one particular colleague wrote this week: “If we’re teaching towards mastery of standards, and the tests assess the standards, the phrase teaching to the test means something different than the negative connotations traditionally associated with that phrase” (Lyle, 2012). Expressing my agreement and adding my thoughts to the discussion thread, I suggested that we consider the Common Core English Language Arts Standard for Production and Distribution of Writing: # 5. “Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience”. I then raised the question: Is it even possible to “teach to the test” in the traditionally negative manner when focusing on this type of standard? As with so many things in life–I believe balance and flexibility are key components to consider. I see great benefits to the presence of the standards, yet I also believe there must be room for appropriate “discretion”. I recall hearing professor/speaker, Anthony Gregorc, give an illustration many years ago during a Learning Styles class at Seattle Pacific (1984). Dr. Gregorc stated something to the effect of: “There are many ways to get to Chicago”–stressing the importance of acknowledging alternate ways to achieve the same results.

My curriculum project for this course, entitled: “Advanced Preparation ‘A.P.” for Culminating Project: Senior Portfolio”, began with the focus of addressing the needs of students in special education. Often, IEP students need extra time, struggle with confidence and self-advocacy skills, and lack experience in setting and achieving goals. However, as I have been talking with students who have recently completed their senior presentation, as well as school counselors and teachers who oversee the implementation of the current culminating project, each person has independently voiced that all students would benefit from the advanced preparation toward to 12th grade requirement and the newly designed features I have added to the existing curriculum–based on the Understanding by Design format and the requirements for this course. They have asked if I would share my ideas and products with our principal for possible consideration and inclusion into next year’s requirements. I must say that these discussions have broadened my view of the students within my “sphere of influence”, offered opportunities for increased collaboration, and provided significant personal encouragement. Therefore, the project continues to be a “work-in-progress” as many creative ideas are generated as a result of each new insight that is shared. I am hopeful that this new inspiration will allow me to see with “fresh eyes” my current opportunities in my school and that collaboration on behalf of all students ( “Backward Inclusion”?) will become a reality.

Artifact for Standards 1 & 3

EDU 6524 Project: Advanced Planning for Culminating Project: Senior Portfolio

References:

Common Core State Standards Initative (2012) Retrieved May 2, 2012 from: http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards/anchor-standards-6-12/college-and-career-readiness-anchor-standards-for-writing/

http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards/anchor-standards-6-12/college-and-career-readiness-anchor-standards-for-speaking-and-listening/

Conley, D. (2011) Building on the Common Core Educational Leadership, Volume 68 | Number 6 What Students Need to Learn, Pp. 16-20 Retrieved from: http://sae.lausd.net/sites/default/files/3-Conley%20Common%20Core%20Article-March%202011.pdf

OSPI webpage for Common Standards, Retrieved from SPU Blackboard, Curriculum class March 30, 2012  https://learn.spu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_57148_1%26url%3D

Parkay, F.W., Hass, G., & Anctil, E.- 2010: Curriculum Leadership; Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs, 9th ed.; Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, USA .

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ISTE NETS for Teachers – Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership—Goalview IEP System–Training to Become a Trainer

EDTC 6433: ISTE Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership—Goalview IEP System–Training to Become a Trainer

Goalview screenshot

Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

  1. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.
  2. Exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.
  3. Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.
  4. Contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching.

Within the first couple of weeks of this course, EDTC 6433, I noted that our district was in the midst of selecting software for creating and managing online IEPs . I also shared a screen shot of one of the options, Goalview. As of today, I am now in the midst of training to become a trainer for other teachers within our district on how to implement Goalview. Having served on the software adoption committee 15 years ago and teaching others to use the software from then to the present,  I am delighted to have once again been selected to represent the high school team of special education teachers. I am eager to move beyond the “test site” we experienced today. Due in part to what I have learned within this course, today I was able to ask insightful questions during the training, move ahead to see a sneak preview of the benefits of this program, and envision ways that I will provide support to my colleagues as we go “live” within the next month. I definitely see myself actively engaging in part b. of ISTE Standard 5.

In the article, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology1, authors Collins &Halverson (2009), state:  “The revolution that is occurring in education will alter not just the lives of students, but the entire society”. I am continuing to realize that as a public school educator who has served for over three decades, the changes I have already witnessed may be just the beginning. Thankfully, I am not dismayed by this fact, but rather, encouraged.

Recently a colleague complimented me for being recognized and validated as evidenced by my district selecting me to be trained to become a trainer for the new IEP software being used nationwide. Today, during our second day of training, it was easy to see huge advantages to the new features we discussed. A couple of us laughed as we recalled the “IEP system” we used at the beginning of our teaching careers—5-part NCR forms which I later experimented with feeding into the “cutting edge at-the-time dot matrix printers”! Ironically, I need to remind myself to be patient as we make the transition to the new system and agree with my colleague,  David Spencer, that “It is amazing what we can do and learn from each other as educators when we are given/take the time to discuss topics”.

1  Excerpted from our book Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The

Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009.

EDCT 6433: Participation in an Online Educational Community –Blog

Participation in an Online Educational Community –Blog

During this EDTC 6433 Teaching with Technology course, taught by Professor David Wicks, the new experience of using Google+ as a regular means of participating in an online community of educators has opened my eyes to seeing new opportunities for personal and professional growth. As much as I hate to admit to this, I am a person who is rarely even on a social networking site such as Facebook (perhaps twice a year) the extent of my participation in an online educational community has been limited to interacting within the Blackboard setting for classes for my master’s in C&I program. Honestly, I rarely even text. Now, it is like I have been introduced to traveling on the “freeway” as opposed to taking the “beaten path of the backroads”. Although I  must say I have felt a significant degree of stress in the process of adjusting to the high speed and seemingly endless options of on-ramps and off-ramps, I have begun to feel more comfortable with navigating my way forward.

One of the greatest benefits of this online community interaction has been to engage in the weekly Google+ Hangouts” presented and/or facilitated by Professor Wicks. I fact, if I am not mistaken, I took part in each and every hangout. The two-way interaction with other classmates and our professor and the advantage of seeing the “live screen traversing” has been invaluable to me. I anticipate that in my final capstone class next quarter as I finish up my degree, I may use the connections established with others in this community as well as others such as Schoology (an online educational community joined recently along with a few other teachers in school) to assist me in the preparation of  my SPU C & I Portfolio, my current participation  in my school’s pilot group for the new teacher’s evaluation  process, and most of all–my teaching.

On a slightly different note, but related to engaging with educators around technology, I have recently been selected to become of trainer in my district on the new IEP software, Goalview. This is a web-based management tool to create IEP and track student progress and is currently in use nationwide. Our first “training of trainers” was today and I am enjoying the opportunity to be among the first to learn to use this new tool.

Here is a clip (below) noting one instance of my participation in Google+ Hangouts within EDTC 6433:

 Laurie James

Feb 21, 2013 (edited)  –

Hangout

–  Limited (locked)

EDTC 6433 Week 8 Thursday Night Live Hangout

3 people hung out with you

Only you can see this post


Thanks +Laurie James for participating in today’s session. If you enjoy seeing technology teachers struggle with technology then you should watch today’s session. 🙂  Digital Storytelling Workshop Part 3 of 4.

EDTC 6433: Career Interest WebQuest–A Quest for the Best~

#EDTC 6433, #ISTE 2, #WebQuest, #Culminating Project, #Senior Portfolio, #Career Interests Assessments

woislogo_sm

In looking over the requirements for this course, Teaching with Technology, I was eager to learn that I would engage in the process of creating a WebQuest as one way to address ISTE Standard 2: Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments –Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessment incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS•S.

In previous courses, I had read numerous articles about the benefits of using WebQuests, however, did not have first-hand experience with completing one as a student nor had I been exposed to the step-by-step templates as found within QuestGarden. I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of detailed options available to assist teachers in creating lessons that provide the type of structure that benefits all students, yet is vital to many. I find the extremely structured nature of the WebQuest templates rather appealing, although the design options can seem overwhelming (at least to me as I juggle the current responsibilities in my life in addition to attending two memorial services this week–one for a teacher friend with whom I have worked for 20 years, and the other for my brother-in-law).

The particular focus for this WebQuest is to assist students in completing the preliminary steps for their senior portfolio and culminating project required for graduation. I have utilized online resources from Kingston High School’s website including WOIS.org. Our school district used WOIS for quite a few years, then we were without it for the last couple of years. It has been nice to have it back. Actually, it was used at both the junior and senior high level along with a program called Navigation 101—focused on preparing students for their culminating project. Decreased funding has led to an extreme paring down of opportunities. There had been hopes of requiring each student to create and maintain a full online portfolio, however, we simply do not have the enough access to computers to facilitate this comprehensively. I would love to use this tool for each of my students with IEPs because the process creates a wonderful way to address their Transition Plan–a legally required component of their IEP. The beauty of a WebQuest format is that it provides a wonderful guide for students that can be customized as needed to address a wide variety of needs.

Here is the link to my WebQuest: http://questgarden.com/156/32/7/130316001901/

EDTC 6433: ISTE4: Technology–From Mimeograph to Digital and Beyond~

Student using computer to edit    EDTC6433: ISTE4 Blog 4

During this module designed to address ISTE NETS for Teachers Standard 4 – Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility,  the emphasis has been on broadening students’ perspectives to include their responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and to ensure appropriate modeling of legal and ethical behavior by the professionals in their midst. The original question I proposed was, How can I encourage my students to use technology to the greatest extent possible for their needs and to do so appropriately and wisely?

As educators, our roles do not remain static. On the contrary, we must not only adjust to the needs of our individual students, but also to the ever-changing needs in our society. When I first began to teach in the early 1980s (long before many of my colleagues in this class were born!), the newly obsolete technology at my school was the “mimeograph machine”. (If you do not know what this is, you can be thankful.) Reel to reel, film strip, and overhead projectors were standard items to be checked out from our library and rolled down to the classroom on a cart—and of course, returned by the end of the day. There were no personal computers, CDs or DVDs, and the word “digital” was associated with fingers. Having witnessed the huge technological transformation over the past thirty-plus years and given my interest as a special education teacher, the aspect of Standard 4 I find myself most drawn to is “b. Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources.” 

At the beginning of this week’s module, I noted one of the concerns I have always had is for those families who do not have even the most basic access to technology. As one option to address this very real issue I shared a resource my school librarian had posted with a phone number on our website regarding information to assist families with obtaining affordable service.

http://www.nkschools.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=2491&ViewID=047E6BE3-6D87-4130-8424-D8E4E9ED6C2A&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=1866&PageID=5181

While reading Millennial Learners and Net-Savvy Teens? Examining Internet Use among Low-Income Students, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there appears to be less of a difference in internet usage between high and low income students than teachers originally believed (Greenhow, Walker, & Kim, 2009, p. 67). Despite this good news, the authors acknowledged that teachers will need to be mindful of how they might “minimize what still exists as a participation gap” [Jenkins, 2006, p. 13) in level and sophistication and duration of technology and Internet” (p.67).

As one might expect, this “participation gap” can be found among teachers as well as students, and while I am not located as close to the far end of the continuum as some of my “low-tech” colleagues with whom I work, I am competitive enough to want to move further along toward the more “high tech” end. That being said, I do find that my “pre-P.C.” and “pre-web” experience allows me to relate to families who may not have sufficient access. “More” and “most” with regard to families with access reflect that in education we are moving in the right direction, however, for those “relatively few” without access, accommodations must be made to ensure participation. Somehow this reminds me very much of the role of special education teachers in ensuring student access to the general education curriculum….No wonder my focus tends to be on meeting the needs of those who “have not”.

For my students who regularly use internet resources, I must rise to the challenge of helping them to consider the-adult-they-will-become—and to understand the complex and cumulative effect of each keystroke or pressing of the “send” button as well as the responsibility and role they play in the development of both their present and their future opportunities. In light of the fact that much of my work with students is supporting them in completing assignments given by other teachers, I see particular value in encouraging use of editing resources. I agree with a comment shared by a colleague in this course who conveyed that when writing and creating, “students (must) know how to use and reference these tools correctly” (Powell, 2013). She then proceeded to share what I know from personal experience to be an extremely valuable tool, http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2?. Another resource shared by my blog buddy, David Spencer, can be found at: http://www.turnitin.com/ This resource is very helpful in addressing issues surrounding plagiarism. I was pleased to realize I was somewhat familiar with this site, but also, David was very familiar with the resource which I had shared in my original post called Easy Bib http://content.easybib.com/you-are-what-you-write/ This link takes you to a particularly interesting sub section called You are what you write and seems to be very informative, straightforward, and user-friendly. There are numerous links for students and teachers alike.

Owl at Purdue site

Creative Commons photo–Retrieved from:

https://www.google.com/search?as_q=student+using+computer+to+edit+writing&tbs=sur:fmc&biw=1689&bih=703&sei=Lkw0Ua2sDemMiALqvoDoCQ&tbm=isch

Greenhow, Walker, & Kim (2009) Millennial Learners and Net-Savvy Teens? Examining Internet Use among Low-Income Students, Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, Vol. 26, Number 2, Winter 2009-10.

Reflecting Back; Moving Forward by Design~

Curriculum Design Meta-Reflection

At the beginning of this course, along with my anticipation of fresh perspectives, up-to-date research and invigorating dialogue, I also expected that I might have difficulty selecting a project topic from a particular content area. In my years of experience moving from parallel special education classes to nearly full inclusion, I have found myself having to redefine my role as a teacher. My somewhat diminished view of myself has been compounded by the fact that for the past five years—I have not had a classroom. My current setting in a school which is only five years old, my colleagues and I continue to advocate on behalf of our special education students to ensure that a “continuum of services” is available.

Fortunately, I have seen many students “rise to the occasion” and perform successfully within the general education setting. The author refers to Vito Perrone, former director of teacher education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who “believes all students—including those assigned to remedial or low-track classes—should have opportunities to reach understanding, not just knowledge, by “making connections among and between things, about deep and not surface knowledge, and about greater complexity, not simplicity” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 533). I agree with Perrone and have witnessed the success of students who have been exposed to classes offering “greater complexity”, however, also believe that our high schools must recognize that our students possess of range of needs.

I responded to the discussion question of “values imbedded in the curriculum”—specifically related to the topic of “college ready”. My high school lists on our webpage the mission statement: “…students will graduate college ready. They will be prepared to act as informed citizens in a global society and empowered to care for their community”. A separate line states that “students will complete gateway courses for college enrollment”. Parkay, Hass, and Anctil, in Curriculum Leadership, convey the great challenge before us as educators: “To provide all learners—from those with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and with their variety of needs, abilities, learning styles, and prior educational experiences—meaningful and growth-promoting curricular experiences…” (p.). Before our school opened (in response to controversy around the phrase “college ready”) the team of educators and community members crafting the wording to “qualify” the college focus in the vision statement by including the words “post-secondary endeavors.” The concept of differences in student needs is expressed when Inlay writes that “community and belonging” is critical in “creating a safe place that accepts the different qualities of each individual” (p. 44).

I voiced the sentiment in my initial post that although the website displays “inclusive” language—acknowledging that we have a diverse population within our community, the course offerings appear to be heavily geared toward the college bound students. In support of this direction, I note that a surprising number of my students are finding success in their general education classes. I agree with the following research in the article, Authentic Assessment and Student Performance in Inclusive Secondary Schools: “…with more challenging tasks, students with disabilities performed better than students with and without disabilities who received less challenging tasks” (King, Schroeder and Chawszczewski cited within Parkay p. 237). It seems, however, that as standards and graduation requirements continue to increase, the number of options and course offerings that appeal to the “less-likely-to-be-college-bound” students decreases. I sometimes wonder what “imbedded values” some students perceive. Unfortunately, I see a number of students who become discouraged and simply drop out after finding little success in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Within the article, Engaging the Disengaged Student: Research Shows Why Some Are Immersed in Learning While Others Are Indifferent, author Susan Black, provides suggestions for remedying  issues related to disengaged students. The article refers to what Charlotte Danielson, of the Educational Testing Service, describes a “’distinguished teacher’ as [: one] who has mastered a number of skills in four broad domains: planning and preparation; classroom environment; instruction; and professional responsibilities” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 531). Although my role as a special education teacher requires that I advocate for students with special needs and I sometimes voice my concern about unreasonably high standards, this does not mean that I am opposed to encouraging students to strive to achieve levels as high as possible. I agree with the author who states: “ Students stay engaged when teachers create lessons centered on ‘big ideas’ and design assignments at the correct level of difficulty—not too easy and not impossibly difficult—so students are challenged but still able to succeed” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 532).

As module 2 drew to a close, I began to focus on a predominate need in my setting. Specifically–to prepare my students to ask and reflect on the “big picture” questions pertaining to their life beyond graduation. My students must be encouraged to lift their sights beyond the day-to-day activities of high school life and consider the broader scope of what lies before them. While I believe it is true that we should encourage students to pursue training and education beyond high school, we must also keep in mind what Parkay, Hass, and Anctil (2010), state: “…curriculum goals can be clustered into two broad areas, each of which should always be considered in curriculum planning: goals that relate to society and its values and goals that relate to the individual learner’s needs, interests, and abilities” (p.8).

About a month into this course, I experienced an unexpected insight—somewhat strangely related to my understanding the topic of curriculum and backward-design. It came in the form of a highly personal application of keeping the “big picture” or “long-range view” in mind. Learning of the rapid progression and devastating effects of early onset dementia of one of my sisters—I began to come to terms with the perspective of “backward design” as it relates to life in general. As a family we are having to “lift our sights beyond the day-to-day activities and consider the broader scope” as we together consider her “needs, interests, and abilities”—in relation to the future. Somehow the importance of some aspects of life wane and others emerge as “overarching” and take precedence as they come to the forefront of our thinking.

Within module 3 I experienced an increasing excitement and enthusiasm for the curriculum project for this course and greatly enjoyed my focused efforts preparing for the peer review process. Both then and now, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the transformation in my own perspective and the greater sense of optimism within me regarding opportunities to collaborate with others in my school on behalf of all students. Early in the module, I responded to the following discussion question from my vantage point as a special education teacher: How have the purposes for high school changed, and what should guide communities as they plan new high schools? Author Vivien Stewart in the article, Becoming Citizens of the World, discusses significant and new challenges facing secondary students in today’s schools represented by four major trends: economic, science and technology, health and security, and changing demographics. (p. 524-525). Merely from my perspective as a classroom teacher over the last three decades, I have seen incredible changes in all of these areas—especially considering that when I began as a high school teacher no one had a personal computer and needless to say, the world-wide-web did not exist. Many of my students who struggled in school academically could still find success in more of the hands-on classes such as carpentry and manufacturing. In the midst of the increasing requirements and demands to strive for rigorous standards, I as a special education teacher am concerned about those who are not able to meet with such expectations. Following a long list of skills needed by today’s high school graduates who will be engaged in global commerce and collaboration, Stewart expresses that, “U.S. schools are not adequately preparing students for these challenges….compared with students in nine other industrialized countries, U.S. students lack knowledge of world geography, history, and current events” (Stewart in Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 525). If U.S. students in general are falling short, where does this place many of my students?

Other colleagues voiced similar concerns within the posts for this module—although many postings were centered on the expectations for students in the very early grade levels. While reading these posts, I sensed that behind the academic dialogue were the voices of parents concerned about the increasingly demanding expectations for their own children—particularly in relation to the “Common Core”.

I have mixed perspectives on the issue of high expectations. While I believe that all students should be encouraged and challenged to perform to the best of their ability, I am concerned that those who are unable to compete at a high level will sense that they no longer “belong in the race”. I believe that high schools have an obligation to help all students develop themselves in preparation for a realistic future. I agree in particular with the following segment from the Coalition of Essential Schools, 1998: “…Curricular decisions should be guided by student interest, developmentally appropriate practice, and the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement. Students of all ages should have many opportunities to discover and construct meaning from their own experiences” (As cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, 2010, p. 522).

My response as a special education teacher is to continue advocating for my students as we together embrace these challenges. Additionally, having “lived through” 30 years of legislative changes and their corresponding effects on service delivery models at the high school level, I have witnessed a wide variety of impacts of these changes on individual student achievements. While inclusion has offered clear benefits for many students, I have found this to be the most challenging model to implement. In the article entitled, The “Three A’s” of Creating an Inclusive Curriculum and Classroom, author, Anctil, clarifies with regard to inclusion that “supports will be brought to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than keeping up with the other students)” (Rogers, 1993, p. 2) (as cited within Parkay, Hass, and Anctil, 2010, p. 82).

In the readings for module 5, I noticed Parkay, Hass, Anctil (2010) refer in Chapter 5 to “two dimensions of curriculum: the target and the time orientation”. State standards are seen as “target(s)…at the macro (level) due to the fact that they are geared toward large numbers of students while decisions that are made in individual classrooms are considered to be at the “micro level”. The “time orientation” is found along the continuum of “the present or the future”. A further distinction is drawn between “student-centered versus subject-centered curricula” (p. 251).

I see myself as standing in the gap striving to find that balance between “macro” versus “micro”, “present versus future”, and “subject-centered versus student-centered curricula”–for each of the students on my caseload. Much like trying to stand in the middle on an old-fashioned teeter-totter, I continue to find myself leaning first this way–then that, as I endeavor to sense what is best for each student. I appreciated the suggestion by Parkay (2010) that “student centered curriculum…(which) emphasize(s) the growth and development of students”(p. 252) is most often applicable at the elementary level, however, find this focus seems to be at the core for special educators at every grade level.

In many respects, I see standards as improving student opportunity. For instance, the inclusion model of special education service delivery strongly encouraged by my principal requires that all incoming 9th graders be placed into general education English classes (unless the student’s IEP team determines that this is clearly not the student’s least restrictive environment). The thinking behind this stance is to expose each student to the general education curriculum which is in turn geared toward preparation for meeting standards on the 10th grade state test (which I believe is not simply “teaching to the test”). This is an example of “Standards-based education (SBE) [which] is premised on the belief that all students are capable of meeting high standards” (Parkay, 2010, p. 253). On many occasions, I have observed students with qualifications in the academic areas of reading and/or writing (who in previous decades might have been placed in special education classes), respond well to the challenge. In some cases, students have subsequently tested out of special education as they have been found to no longer qualify for services, based on their three-year reevaluation.

With regard to standards, one particular colleague wrote this week: “If we’re teaching towards mastery of standards, and the tests assess the standards, the phrase teaching to the test means something different than the negative connotations traditionally associated with that phrase” (Lyle, 2012). Expressing my agreement and adding my thoughts to the discussion thread, I suggested that we consider the Common Core English Language Arts Standard for Production and Distribution of Writing: # 5. “Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience”. I then raised the question: Is it even possible to “teach to the test” in the traditionally negative manner when focusing on this type of standard? As with so many things in life–I believe balance and flexibility are key components to consider. I see great benefits to the presence of the standards, yet I also believe there must be room for appropriate “discretion”. I recall hearing professor/speaker, Anthony Gregorc, give an illustration many years ago during a Learning Styles class at Seattle Pacific (1984). Dr. Gregorc stated something to the effect of: “There are many ways to get to Chicago”–stressing the importance of acknowledging alternate ways to achieve the same results.

My curriculum project for this course, entitled: “Advanced Preparation ‘A.P.” for Culminating Project: Senior Portfolio”, began with the focus of addressing the needs of students in special education. Often, IEP students need extra time, struggle with confidence and self-advocacy skills, and lack experience in setting and achieving goals. However, as I have been talking with students who have recently completed their senior presentation, as well as school counselors and teachers who oversee the implementation of the current culminating project, each person has independently voiced that all students would benefit from the advanced preparation toward to 12th grade requirement and the newly designed features I have added to the existing curriculum–based on the Understanding by Design format and the requirements for this course. They have asked if I would share my ideas and products with our principal for possible consideration and inclusion into next year’s requirements. I must say that these discussions have broadened my view of the students within my “sphere of influence”, offered opportunities for increased collaboration, and provided significant personal encouragement. Therefore, the project continues to be a “work-in-progress” as many creative ideas are generated as a result of each new insight that is shared. I am hopeful that this new inspiration will allow me to see with “fresh eyes” my current opportunities in my school and that collaboration on behalf of all students ( “Backward Inclusion”?) will become a reality.

UbD Final Curriculum Project Laurie James

References

OSPI website 2012, Retrieved on May 1, 2012 from:: http://www.k12.wa.us/CoreStandards/ELAstandards/default.aspx

Parkay, F. W., Hass, G., & Anctil, E.  (2010). Curriculum Leadership: Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs, 9th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Standing in the Gap–Striving for Balance~

Module 5 Blog:

In this module, Parkay, Hass, Anctil (2010) refer in Chapter 5 to “two dimensions of curriculum: the target and the time orientation”. State standards are seen as “target(s)…at the macro (level) due to the fact that they are geared toward large numbers of students while decisions that are made in individual classrooms are considered to be at the “micro level”. The “time orientation” is found along the continuum of “the present or the future”. A further distinction is drawn between “student-centered versus subject-centered curricula” (p. 251).

As a high school special education teacher, I see myself as standing in the gap striving to find that balance between “macro” versus “micro”, “present versus future”, and “subject-centered versus student-centered curricula”–for each of the students on my caseload. Much like trying to stand in the middle on an old-fashioned teeter-totter, I continue to find myself leaning first this way–then that, as I endeavor to sense what best for each student. It is suggested by Parkay (2010) that “student centered curriculum…(which) emphasize(s) the growth and development of students”(p. 252) is most often applicable at the elementary level, however, this focus seems to be at the core for special educators at every grade level.

In many respects, I see standards as improving student opportunity. For instance, the inclusion model of special education service delivery strongly encouraged by my principal requires that all incoming 9th graders be placed into general education English classes (unless the student’s IEP team determines that this is clearly not the student’s least restrictive environment). The thinking behind this stance is to expose each student to the general education curriculum which is in turn geared toward preparation for meeting standards on the 10th grade state test (which I believe is not simply “teaching to the test”). This is an example of “Standards-based education (SBE) [which] is premised on the belief that all students are capable of meeting high standards” (Parkay, 2010, p. 253). On many occasions, I have observed students with qualifications in the academic areas of reading and/or writing (who in previous decades might have been placed in special education classes), respond well to the challenge. In some cases, students have subsequently tested out of special education as they have been found to no longer qualify for services, based on their three-year reevaluation.

With regard to standards, one particular colleague wrote this week: “If we’re teaching towards mastery of standards, and the tests assess the standards, the phrase teaching to the test means something different than the negative connotations traditionally associated with that phrase” (Lyle, 2012). Expressing my agreement and adding my thoughts to the discussion thread, suggested that we consider the Common Core English Language Arts Standard for Production and Distribution of Writing: # 5. “Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience”. I then raised the question: Is it even possible to “teach to the test” in the traditionally negative manner when focusing on this type of standard? As with so many things in life–I believe balance and flexibility are key components to consider. I see great benefits to the presence of the standards, yet I also believe there must be room for appropriate “discretion”. I recall hearing professor/speaker, Anthony Gregorc, give an illustration many years ago during a Learning Styles class at Seattle Pacific (1984). Dr. Gregorc stated something to the effect of: “There are many ways to get to Chicago”–stressing the importance of acknowledging alternate ways to achieve the same results.

Lastly, another colleague posed a question about “creativity” and asked where its place is among standards, lesson designs and such. I suggested that by way of analogy, when a person comes into a home, they will most likely notice the “creative” furnishings, pictures on the walls, intriguing items on display etc. as well as enjoy and learn from entertaining conversations with the people living in the home! However, it is doubtful that a visitor would come into a home and comment on the alignment of the walls, beams, plumbing, doors, carpet etc. On the other hand, a visitor might notice if the running water did not “run”, the placement of the doors required them to duck their heads, the absence of a step caused them to fall, or if misaligned and rumpled carpet caused them to trip. Creativity without background, stability, and careful “behind the scenes” design–and without any evidence of skills—someone would take notice, however, depending on the context–it might not be with pleasure! A student or teacher may have creative thoughts to share but format, methods of delivery, and standards have their place!

Parkay, F. W., Hass, G., & Anctil, E.  (2010). Curriculum Leadership: Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs, 9th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.