Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Remixing Curriculum: An Interview With Lisa Stewart

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco. The areas of focus were: brain plasticity, learning styles, reading development, emotional responses, and mindsets. If you're interested in more details in these areas, I've been posting my notes, albeit slowly, to Watsoncommon. What I want to write about in this post is a question I asked at the conference for which there wasn't a research-based answer.

It goes like this:

I was in a session about engaging students emotions with curriculum and leveraging their brain's social needs with activities in class. As you can imagine, the examples covered in the session were things like group work, task-specific stations, anticipatory sets that give students the opportunity to generate the essential questions for a unit. And there was all kinds of brain research to show that these kinds of activities trigger the best hormone balance for long-term, meaningful learning to happen. My question was if virtual social environments and activities also create the same ideal brain chemistry for learning.

Apparently, there is no research in this area yet, according to the presenter. So at my school, this has become somewhat of a guiding question. What are effective practices with technology and what are the results? And there are a handful of teachers who are purposefully employing and reflecting on new kinds of activities with these questions in mind. To frame the creation of these activities, we've been using Marzano's research on effective instruction as structure: Identifying similarities and differences, Summarizing, Reinforcing efforts and providing recognition, Practice, Nonlinguistic representations, Cooperative learning, Setting objectives and providing feedback, Generating and testing hypotheses, Cues, questions, and advanced organizers. Let me know if you're interested in the full article.

Lisa, mentioned in my first guest post, is one of the teachers (she's a technology resource teacher too) designing and implementing activities in her class that not only use the technology but explore these essential questions. The other week, I subbed her class and learned about a remix project that she'd given to her students. It was an opportunity to create a nonlinguistic representation of their understanding of Holden Caulfield. In this podcasted interview, Lisa describes the design of the assignment, some observations of the products, and how it led to a different kind of essay. Also embedded below are some example projects, one of which she references in the interview. The Voicethread blew me away! Enjoy.

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