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Authentic audiences, student voice / choice, SAMR friendly uses of technology, academic mindsets, thoughtful exhibition of student work, big ideas, essential questions, cross-curricular connections, and critical thinking…it’s enough to make my brain burst!
In many ways I feel like going deeper into deeper learning and 21st century pedagogy through the DLmooc and Cohort 21 has been akin to opening pandora’s box of education. Now that I am more aware of all the essential ingredients of this brave new teaching and learning, I feel like I have a duty to include as much as possible in the projects I design for my students. But how can I keep track of it all?
I think it is important to note at this time that while so much of the DLMOOC was brilliantly affirming, little of what I have uncovered through the DLMOOC was revolutionary; I teach in a pedagogically progressive school that has had a institutional crush on High Tech High for many years now. We have been collectively considering the “ingredients” in the above list for many years now and I have personally experimented with many of these elements in my own classroom. However, I have rarely wound most of these items together into one fulsome project. The best analogy I can come up with is that I have eaten eggs and chocolate chips and butter and sugar and flour independently, but now it’s time to throw them together to make something greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, who is ready for some cookies?
A ridiculous list
I made a ridiculous list of all the different aspects of deeper learning explored through the DLMOOC and added to this list all the aspects of 21st century learning I articulated in earlier blog posts that I felt were not touched on by High Tech High. Then, I opened a performance based assessment planner I adopted from Wiggins and McTighe Understanding by Design and started to expand this planner to modify it from simply assessing a performance task to articulating all the different components that would make a deep project.
Before I started to plan new projects with this tool, I thought it would be wise to plug in the details from my last project, The Great Debates of Grade 7. This project had some wonderful moments and inspiring achievements, but I felt like there were some key ingredients missing (have you ever tried to make cookies without flour, for example?) for myself and my students. In other words, I want to turn this cookie-soup into something that would make Martha Stewart blush.
[The Annotated DLAP Debates File]
Once I added all the ingredients into the revamped project planner, I noticed some great areas that could be improved. I added some stickies to the PDF of this planner to highlight what I think I could have done differently (a handy point of reference if I resurrect this project for next year).
Looking through this, I am energized to start considering my next project for when I return from the March break. I know that not every teacher becomes as giddy as I do by the notion of organizing and planning projects, but this template could be a game changer for me in terms of turning good projects into great projects. Moreover, on paper, this seems like a lot: there are many little details that could block me from actually launching a project (will it take me longer to plan my projects than it will to execute them?) and considering so much of the minutia, I might not see the forest for the trees. However, I envision using this tool for a time being: eventually, I hope, this framework will become like second nature (remember making daily plans in teacher’s college and then just eventually embodying the flow of an effective lesson?) to me and something I can naturally consider and execute.
I assume that this planner would make more sense and be more effective if you have some versing in project based learning already. If you have never considered what growth mindsets mean, I don’t imagine that having a bubble on a box with the given prompt will mean anything or promote deeper projects in your practice. So for the PBL neophytes out there, perhaps I will eventually add some useful links (would this be helpful?) to anchor what I’m taking about.
While I feel like putting this planner together is really selfishly for me to polish my project design, I’m hoping that someone else out there might benefit from this, or (even better) could adopt this and then remix it to take it to the next level. In the meantime, I will be using this to plan out my next project in Grade 7 English, so stay tuned to see how that goes.
Various Versions of the Document
.docx Deeper Learning Assessment Planner (with kind of wonky, but editable, formatting)
PDF Deeper Learning Assessment Planner (with pretty, but unchanging, formatting)
Pages Deeper Learning Assessment Planner (with pretty, and editable, formatting)
The Annotated DLAP Debates File