I was ecstatic when I found out recently that I had been selected by EF Tours for a full scholarship to travel to China last month for a Global Student Leadership Summit!  This was an opportunity to see student global collaboration and problem solving in action, and to brainstorm and collaborate with other educators from Colorado and around the U.S. In China, in addition to the group of educators I traveled with, about 400 American and Chinese high school students were brought together  for the Global Student Leadership Summit to use the Stanford dSchool Design Thinking process to design and present solutions to  global issues.
I encourage you to investigate EF Tours for future Student Leadership Summits, service learning, exchange programs, and  travel opportunities for students and educators – I am quite impressed with the programs they offer.   Also check out  Flat Connections for opportunities for technology-enabled global, collaborative problem solving. ShareDuring the past 2 weeks, I had the pleasure of working with longtime friend and 8th grade social studies teacher extraordinaire, Terri Inloes, to transform her students into curators of information as they learned about the Social Reform movements of the late 19th century in the U.S.
By the time students get to middle school, it is rare to hear them ask questions – other than to get clarification on what needs to be done for the assignment.  The good news is there is a great strategy to help get them back in touch with their own sense of wonder and curiosity –the Question Formulation Technique –or the QFT, which was designed by  The Right Question Institute.
Our school district has our own domain and server set up for WordPress blogs, and this is integrated with Active Directory, so every single teacher and student in the district already has an account set up there. Terri and I were ecstatic reading the reflections and comments from the kids at the end of the project  These kids did an amazing job, and the learning went deep.  Here are some of my favorite student quotes –reflections on the project, as well as what their understanding is of a curator. ShareI recently had the opportunity to speak at the Jefferson County School District Tech Share Fair on the topic of school libraries and learner agency.
In 2007, the American Association for School Librarians came out with a new mission statement and standards. In the Spring of 2008 – a group of teacher-librarians, technology teachers, classroom teachers from every level, administrators, and CDE personnel were convened in Colorado to dig deeply into the new standards.  The group unanimously agreed to adopt the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. It occurred to the group that to give students an opportunity to practice and master these new standards, to truly empower our students, something within this learning environment needed to change. It had become clear that something was missing in all of the content standards, educational plans, and accountability processes in education to assure students could really develop into 21st century learners. The vision subcommittee pondered over what they could communicate or create to help Colorado educators realize that something needed to change so students truly would be able to develop these 21st century skills. We ALL exist to inquire, create new knowledge, share knowledge and participate productively, and to pursue personal and organizational growth.
The Vision Sub-Committee members were: Jody Gehrig, Gene Hainer, Jody Howard, Becky Johnson, Stevan Kalmon, and Wendy Lee. After an intense brainstorming session, followed by a great deal of wordsmithing and refinement, the Learner’s Bill of Rights was born. We must find ways to keep student questioning and curiosity alive inside the walls of our school – where support systems exist to help students in their pursuit of answers.
A friend once suggested that this might better be stated as “EXPRESS” personal ideas.  This is a great idea, too – but as I recall, the reason our committee settled on HAVE personal ideas is that we believed that  somewhere along the way in formal educational settings, students forget that their ideas matter – and it is really OK to have personal ideas and opinions!  Once they get in touch with those personal ideas –then, yes! Libraries have always been about giving students choice in what they read and how they learn. Students set learning goals, following their own learning passions.  They go about meeting those goals – and have the appropriate level resources available to help them meet those goals. In school libraries, students can find the resources and help they need to go beyond class requirements – or simply explore a topic they are passionate about.  In libraries, students explore topics in-depth, and strive to make sense of ideas and concepts. If students decide on the topic, ask the questions, decide on the materials to access and the procedures to follow, they are curating and meeting a personal information need, analyzing and drawing conclusions . Gaming is not just a safe environment for students to make mistakes and learn from them –its fun! And Agency specifically is the power to make choices – this is what happens in school libraries every day!
Teacher-librarians create the conditions and the environment where students are empowered to solve their own problems and find answers to their questions.  Students collaborate, network, share, and grow – not just to meet the requirements of a class, but also following their own needs for understanding. I remember Robert, who learned about Japanese internment camps during World War II in class, and was surprised to learn from his father that he had a relative who was sent to one. And then there was Jason, who was fiercely proud of his air force father – and just wanted to learn everything that there was to learn about the air force, jets, and flying.

Nick Rate, principal at Kumeroa-Hopelands School in New Zealand described learner agency with these words: Enabling, empowering, self-monitoring, goals, feedback, meta-cognition, active, responsive, self-directed and meaningful. ShareItem #5 in Betty Ray’s article on Edutopia, “5 Awesome Innovations in 2014” sent my mind wandering yesterday, as ideas converged and my imagination soared.
Item # 5 in Betty’s list of innovations is about Airbnb and Lyft – innovations of the travel and transportation industries, that make use of social media and technology to help people find charming and inexpensive places to stay when they travel, and inexpensive and reliable rides when and where they need them. I started my education career as a music teacher, and my first job was actually at an early childhood center on Bolling AFB in Washington DC. During the height of the aerobic craze of the 80s – I taught aerobics in Hampton, VA and once was in a mall show with Richard Simmons! I have been participating in social media since the early 90s– a favorite hobby is planning vacations for my family and I used electronic bulletin boards and cruise critic travel boards via Prodigy and AOL back then to do this! I lived in Germany with my Air Force husband for 3 years, and visited 12 different countries during that time, in addition to Volksmarching in multiple German towns every weekend. I am very proud of my 2 daughters – one in Seattle who is a former Peace Corps volunteer (Guinea) & recruiter, now working for the Department of Immigration, and one who is an Air Traffic Controller in the Denver area, after serving 6 years in the Air Force.
I just celebrated my 30 year anniversary with my husband – the love of my life, and my best friend – who received his PhD last week in Engineering- Security. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. I’ve been doing some thinking about how to best define innovation in education.  I’ve been reading a lot of mission statements lately for schools and districts and keep finding the word “innovative” used, yet little sign of practices in the objectives, tactics and goals to back this up.
Implementation of a new design, process, idea, or learning environment that increases an individual student or group of students’ ability to learn, as evidenced by their ability to make meaning and transfer. Business: Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers. In education, innovation often results when ideas are applied to satisfy the needs and expectations of the students. Innovation is synonymous with risk-taking and organizations that create revolutionary changes in services and learning environments take on the greatest risk. That being said, I do believe there are some qualities that every educator should have – to be able to design learning in such a way that technology can transform the learning experience.  The more I reflect on this, the more I see a relationship between these skills and what the term “Geek” is evolving to mean. Teachers also need to know when to throw in the towel and switch to a different approach if something isn’t working.  Also, sometimes technology isn’t the best course of action—and so when technology is merely replacing an old practice – and the tech isn’t working, don’t get flustered! Coming up with ways to help teachers to “think outside the box” can be challenging, especially in this time of teacher evaluations tied to standardized test scores, implementation of common core standards, and new standards-based report cards. The idea is simple.  Use the Lego blocks to build a model, and then explain what you put in the model and why.
By labeling the initiative what it is, I believe there is a much better chance of achieving it. This was true global collaboration.  Students came together to address a topic they were passionate about, and in the case of the Chinese students, in a language that was not their own. A simple cultural exchange about weather, holiday traditions, music, and foods, while students sit surrounded by their own comforts of home,  might be a good starting point for young students, but for older students, to really grow their global understanding,  we need to design opportunities for actual cross-cultural collaborative problem solving.  It is through this kind of experience that we will develop students as future leaders.
Terri prepared pairs of photographs representing each of the reform movements, one picture dating back to the late 19th century, and another representing where that social reform movement stands in today’s society.  After checking out all of the photos, students settled on the pair of pictures that most caught their interest. This is a topic near and dear to me, after working in school libraries for many years, I understand that libraries are the heart of learner agency in a school.  Here are the highlights from my presentation, and the slides are embedded below. The more students have control over their inquiries, and it is linked to their own personal questions, the higher the students’ agency.
Many of our libraries are recognizing the importance of this, and setting up gaming spaces for learners.

The textbook information was limited, and so he sought help in the library to find the information he needed, to learn in a deeper way since he discovered this personal connection. He sought to understand why his Dad was deployed in Iraq, and sort through the multiple mixed messages in the newspapers and online about why this was right, and why it was wrong. His son developed a drive and passion to complete his schooling in a way John didn’t think was possible. He knows he needs to do well, and he should be beginning his college search, yet he just has not discovered a career area he is passionate about, let alone any reason to really do well on next week’s Chemistry exam. I have always felt truly blessed to have such a wonderful family, the opportunity to travel, meet interesting people, have a job that I love to do and the ability to continuously learn and grow.
The tactics  and action plan seem to be oriented towards producing test scores and the practices seem 20th century at best. But, if they lack this general curiosity and desire to learn, they will never know the possibilities –and neither will their students!
Without information literacy, and a critical stance towards the information they encounter, they will be less successful in their future and less productive members of society. I am convinced that this is a strategy that not only helps to develop 21st century skills and address Common Core research standards; it also is a strategy that leads to personalized learning and motivates students to learn. The other good thing we accomplished this day was insisting the students plan their research strategies.  We copied 5 different graphic organizers from the book Q Tasks, by Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan, and students were allowed to choose the one that they thought would help them the most in planning their keyword search strategies.
By the end of the day, 130 students had created 70 different blogs and published their first post describing why they chose their topic for this project. Today’s libraries add multiple ways to show understanding, to showcase the student voice, create in makerspaces, and share with a global audience. She didn’t understand what was happening to her mother, why the treatment made her so sick.  She struggled with finding information online, and when she did, it was too hard to understand.
The stress is really getting to him, between his mom nagging him to study more, his “perfect” brother, who was offered every scholarship under the sun and is now top of his class at his university, and his friends who keep telling him to “blow it off” and go shoot some hoops down at the park. To be effective in creating a learning environment where students can practice 21st century skills, the emphasis must be on good instructional design –backwards design, that begins with the learning goals aligned with the standards, with a real-world or scenario based project  or problem to solve that kids can connect with, be motivated by, allowing them to demonstrate transfer and understanding. There is a great deal of both creativity and critical thinking that goes into this task, and it is amazing what those colorful little Lego blocks can do to inspire that creativity, while helping students reach deeper insights. Library schedules are fixed and student time for independent exploration and self-directed learning is limited. We as teachers and learning community leaders must guide their work so they can develop into 21st century learners. If you want them to dig deep and think hard, then add a good dose of real-world relevance to your learning scenario. In the school library, she was able to find books written at a level she could understand, and get the support she needed in this difficult time. Vernon seem downright new – and brings an unbelievably new perspective to  a person’s thinking in a way that is difficult to describe. They will be more quantitative in nature, and probably not as focused on the learning–or the student. It was about that 21st Century Apprenticeship Program – an app he could download that would allow him to be paired up with a community business mentor based on his interests and strengths. Brief as they were, we were immersed in the culture, in my case, through the language, the music, the historical sites we visited, the food we ate, the personal stories shared by our excellent guides, and staying with host families at least part of the time.  I was excited to see this impact on the students at the Summit. It didn’t cost anything, and it would give him an inside look at some different careers and the world of work.

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