Four Things First: Big Ideas from #ASCDSC11

ASCD’s Summer Conference really helped deepen my understanding of Understanding by Design (UbD) and formative assessments, while expanding my knowledge and repertoire of ideas to better assist teachers and administrators implementing 21st century skills in our district’s classrooms. I feel validated in the work I have been doing, knowing that the respected leaders at ASCD are promoting the same ideas and strategies.

These were the big themes that shaped my conference experience:

1:1 Technology

We have to find a way to get digital devices into the hands of every student. If (as one group of teachers estimated) students spend 85 percent of their school time with only paper and pencil, then we are not preparing them for their future.

Purposefully Transformative Technology

We must use Web 2.0 tools purposefully to meet learning goals. A fun or creative project that doesn’t demonstrate understanding of learning goals is just fluff, whether technology is used or not. Technology shouldn’t just replace one way of doing things in the traditional classroom; it should help us reimagine what school looks like. Technology can transform the classroom by enabling global communication and new levels of collaboration.

Aligned Assessments

Assessments must be aligned with the learning goals. Formative assessments are critical to learning and teachers should use many different types to have multiple opportunities for effective feedback. Specifically, I’ll be bringing back to my district

  • the revised UbD Template shared by Grant Wiggins, as a way to lead in to my new understandings around formative assessment in district presentations;
  • the GRASPS process shared by Jay McTighe—a much easier way to help teachers understand what is meant by designing instruction that is relevant and engaging; and
  • having a colleague look at your assessments to see if they can identify the learning goals—a process McTighe shared for checking assessment alignment.

Assessments should be FOR learning, rather than OF learning. E-portfolios could potentially transform assessment processes. However, just collecting stuff in a fun, digital format is of no value. Setting and reflecting on learning goals is what makes portfolios powerful.

Front-Row Tweets

I get a good start on reflecting on my conference learning from the tweets I’ve posted to Twitter during the conference. This is how I take notes: I’m constantly processing the information as I hear it, tweeting the ideas I find valuable, which at the same time adds them to an archive of my tweets that I can review and reflect on later. Tweeting at conferences has also helped me build an incredible professional learning network, which is the greatest source of my own professional development year-round. My conference tweets are a chance to give back to the incredible educators in my PLN who share great ideas and resources with me daily. I know it’s not for everyone, but I highly recommend it!

Post submitted by Nancy White, 21st Century Learning and Innovation Specialist, Academy School District 20, Colorado Springs, CO. Follow her @NancyW on Twitter.

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