I’ve created this 2-minute video that summarizes all of the digital learning innovations that I’m trying to implement in this class. I think it does a nice job of explaining how all of the tools work together to accomplish a single goal.
Learner Power starts with the assumption that empowering students to take ownership of their own learning is the best way to prepare them for the modern world. Today’s young people will need to continuously learn new skills throughout their working lives. This means that students should recognize what they don’t know, should seek out opportunities to teach themselves what they don’t know, and should be able to assess the efficacy of the learning opportunitites they find. The core job of Learner Power is to teach students that skill set.
A Learner Power classroom should be project based. The projects should be chosen by students, and should be determined by them as much as possible. But each project should be deeply tied to the curriculum. In an ideal scenario the project should require that students learn the curriculum in order to create the project. Students should begin the project without knowing how to complete it, and should then go and aquire the essential skills along the way while making the project. Much of the learning will occur when students work through the interactive instructional modules that are part of this model. The modules are designed to provide just-in-time learning that students can quickly use to gain the skills they need on demand.
But learning modules alone can’t answer every question, and can’t anticipate the needs of every learner at every level. Students in this situation can easily become nervous, especially if they have little prior knowledge or little experience setting their own pace. Learner Power is designed to create a scenario where the students are in the position of needing to aquire new knowledge and skills in order to overcome a problem. And this scenario is designed to create an ideal environment for a teacher to provide the human guidance and scaffolding that students need to have deep learning experiences.
The teacher’s role in a Learner Power classroom is to be a coach, mentor, and executive producer. In a Learner Power implementation the teacher is free from lecturing, and has time for individual questions. This enables the teacher to have deeper conversations with students, to individualize instruction, and to focus on the actual needs of individual students.
Teachers in this scenario should be subject matter experts who are adept at recognizing what knowledge students already have, knowing what new knowledge students need to solve their specific problem, and then providing that new knowledge in such a way as to scaffold students toward a deeper understanding while ennabling the students to take over responsibility for their own learning. Many students adapt quickly to taking responsibility for their own learning. Some do not, however, which means that the teacher must also be able to identify which students need more direct assistance so that they don’t become overwhelmed. The Instructional Technology component of Learner Power plays a role in helping the teacher manage the different needs of all of these learners at once.
The core piece of Instructional Technology in a Learner Power classroom is a shared Google Sheet called the “project manager.” Students use the project manager to set goals, describe what they’ve learned, and check off their progress through the course. The spreadsheet automatically calculates their “milestones” earned and rewards them with a resulting “level.” The project manager also enables collaboration and communication by helping students collect and share feedback with each other and with the teacher. Students see each other’s milestones as well, which gamifies the environment and helps them monitor their own progress against the rest of the class. Finally, the teacher can use the spreadhseet as a real time window into exactly how fast each student is progressing through the course. This asists the teacher by showing when students fall behind and might need extra help.
The other piece of Instructional Technology is the learning modules. These should empower the students as much as possible. Some instructional design, especially in the adult learning world, is designed to stand on it’s own, without a teacher. In a Learner Power classroom, however, the learning modules should be designed to supplement face-to-face instruction and to ennable the teacher to focus on big concepts and complicated ideas. In a Learner Power classroom students should experience the full range of learning experiences: self paced online learning, small group learning, and whole class discussion. At the beginning of a Learner Power course the teacher should provide lots of scaffolding and help. But by the end the teacher should be able to step back and allow the students to move forward on their own. The purpose of Learner Power is to ennable autonomy.
Starting this school year (2014-15) I implemented a pre and post test for Video 1a. So far 36 students have taken both tests, and 95% of them have earned scores that qualify as high growth. Georgia considers high growth to be when a student’s post-test score is at least 45% higher than his or her pre-test score. Georgia also measures teachers based on student growth. A teacher in Georgia is considered to be “exemplary” if 30% or more of his or her students achieve high growth on an official SPG test. In that light, seeing 95% of my students achieve high growth seems pretty impressive! I think that the Learner Power model is working here to both teach students the curriculum and motivate them to do well. I need to add that the Learner Power test my students take is not an official Georgia SPG test. That test is yearlong, and most of my students only take 1 semester of my class. There haven’t been enough of my students taking my district’s official SPG test to run that data, yet. I believe that my Video 1a pre and post tests are tightly aligned with the Video 1a curriculum. These scores indicate to me that the test is aligned well, and that students are learning the curriculum.