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Chapter Five Exploring Collaborative Problem Solving

William M. Ferriter Solution Tree Press ePub

For the students involved in Michael Furdyk’s DeforestACTION initiative (http://dfa.tigweb.org)—an extension of Microsoft’s Asia Pacific Partners in Learning Program designed to empower learners to “take control of the planet that they will inherit” by fighting back against global deforestation—learning is anything but traditional. Instead of working on isolated lessons with small handfuls of individual classmates, participants are mastering required curricular objectives while simultaneously wrestling with a complex real-world problem—a practice that educational expert Michael Fullan (2013) describes as an example of meaningful pedagogy in action:

Over 80,000 students from more than 60 countries are developing as global citizens by collaborating to solve global problems; reviewing and evaluating the causes, impact and politics of deforestation at the local and global levels; analyzing, planning, and organizing by using collaborative technology; preparing and implementing action plans by engaging in interactive activities; and taking part in valuable conversations with peers and mentors. (p. 50)

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Chapter 3: Purpose-Driven Blogging as an Example of Doing Work That Matters

William M. Ferriter Solution Tree Press ePub

Chapter 3

Purpose-Driven Blogging as an Example of Doing Work That Matters

My favorite part of every day is second period, the dedicated time our school sets aside to provide students at every grade level with enrichment and remediation opportunities. Stop by and you will see my room filled with sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. They are working to raise awareness about the amount of sugar in the foods teenagers eat by researching and creating content for our dedicated blog (http://sugarkills.us). They write comparison posts (showing readers how simple choices can help to quickly cut the sugar they are consuming), healthy option posts (encouraging readers to turn to fruits when they are craving a quick sugar fix), and posts reviewing public health policies passed by local, state, and national governments (to address the obesity epidemic in America). They use infographics and influential visuals to capture the attention of audiences, share their content through social spaces, and regularly read and respond to comments and requests left by readers. Known as the #sugarkills gang, they are another example of the motivational power of doing work that matters.

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Appendix Technology Permission Slip

William M. Ferriter Solution Tree Press ePub

Often, teachers and administrators feel uncomfortable about introducing digital tools to students because of Internet safety risks that are widely reported in the media. These fears are completely understandable! In fact, moving forward with digital projects before articulating specific actions that parents, teachers, and students should take to keep safe online would be nothing short of irresponsible. Teaching students strategies for self-protection is a basic requirement for any educator interested in using digital tools to facilitate instruction.

This document outlines both the reasons that digital tools should play a larger role in classroom instruction and the behaviors expected of parents, teachers, and students in 21st century classrooms. It can be used as a permission slip to generate commitment to Internet safety before digital projects are started.

Dear Parents,

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing parents and teachers is preparing students for a future that is rapidly changing yet poorly defined. New content and information is constantly being created, new partnerships developed across global boundaries are becoming commonplace, and new tools are connecting workers who once would have remained isolated.

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Chapter 2: How Am I Doing?

William M. Ferriter Solution Tree Press ePub

Whether feedback occurs in the workplace or in the classroom, it has almost always flows downhill. Managers use feedback as a tool for evaluating employees and for reinforcing the organization’s goals. Annual reviews summarize an employee’s strengths and weaknesses—and compare an employee’s performance against the performance of their peers (Goldsmith, 2002). Traditional schools have mimicked this flow: teachers most frequently use feedback as a tool to critique and assess student performance against grade-level standards. Those critiques and assessments then determine the grades students earn, which become the de facto sorting tools for rating and ranking learners. In both circumstances, the primary purpose of feedback isn’t to improve a learner’s performance. It is to justify an authority figure’s evaluations. The result is discouraging: feedback is rarely helpful or hopeful, leaving learners with little more than lists of ways that they haven’t met expectations.

For noted executive coach Marshall Goldsmith (2002), the solution is to prioritize feedforward—information that can help learners better understand future expectations and identify next steps—over feedback in our organizations:

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Chapter 4: Making School Different

William M. Ferriter Solution Tree Press ePub

Chapter 4

Making School Different

Like every educator, I care deeply about the kids who roll through the door of my classroom each day. They are at once funny, creative, determined, and hopeful—and they serve as a constant reminder that learning is an inherently joyful act worthy of celebration. But for many years, there has been little worth celebrating in our schools. Instead, we’ve let coercive policies designed to “hold schools accountable” completely destroy our learning spaces. Our classrooms have moved from places of discovery and inspiration to places driven by mastery and memorization. Schooling really has become a distant cousin to learning.

In many ways, even I am ashamed of what my classroom has become. The strain of balancing what I know matters the most for my students with the need to produce results on simplistic (yet essential) end-of-grade exams has left me professionally broken. And as the stakes get higher—like many states, North Carolina’s legislature has moved to tie employment, evaluation, and compensation decisions directly to the scores students produce on end-of-grade exams (Hui, 2013)—I catch myself making more and more questionable instructional choices. It is difficult to find time to let my students wonder, explore, and question when I am held accountable for little more than their ability to remember and recite.

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