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What's in a Name?

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CommonCore Standards … College and Career Readiness Standards … Corporate takeover of our schools … evil incarnate … the greatest change in education in the past 9,000 years …

Over the past two years, I've heard these new CommonCore standards called a lot of names by a lot of different people. In fact, some states are even changing the name of the CommonCore standards while not actually changing the standards themselves.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

But the reality is, at it's core -- common or not -- we're being asked to shift our instructional practices from students memorizing/regurgitating more toward students practicing learner skills as they interact with the academic content. And we're being held accountable for those skills as well.

Shifts in ELA/Literacy (pdf)
Shifts in Mathematics (pdf)

Yes, in addition to learning traditional academics, we're going to be asking our students to THINK. To DISCERN. To CRITIQUE. To be active participants in their learning. To dig deeper into content. To see connections between subjects. To be able to actively demonstrate their learning beyond pencil/paper assessments.

In short, students are now being asked to be learning by doing…not learning by being told what to memorize.

And make no bones about it, this is scary for many educators. It's scary because we're used to being The Ones Who Know Everything in our classrooms. And what if -- gasp -- what if, in their exploration students find information we weren't prepared to teach them? What if they find facts that weren't in the text book? Or that are usually addressed in other classrooms by other teachers? What if we have to learn our content in a different way than we were prepared?

I call this a good thing.

Sure, it is scary. It's especially scary if we aren't sure how to address these issues. It's even scarier if we don't think our kids are able to be self-directed learners.

video: Common Core State Standards to Improve Student Learning - New Tech West HS


I don't know about you, but I hear "Project Based Learning" all over this. High student engagement? Integrated content? Technology integration for individualized learning? Students learning to collaborate? To be authentically challenged by applying real world solutions to real world situations?

This isn't your mother's classroom projects of popsicle sticks and paste! PBL works beyond handing students a simple checklist and expecting them to magically become "self-directed." No, true PBL is about students who are learning as they solve problems. As they answer big idea questions.

If you're not seriously looking at Project Based Learning as a way to manage this shift in learning environments, you might be trying to put a bandaid on an open heart wound.

Some great resources for getting you started down the PBL path: -- a great starter kit of already-created ideas and driving questions for those who are new to PBL, but is also extremely useful (and flexible) for those who are PBL experienced. K12, all content areas, extremely user-friendly -- a deep resource of information with many freebie checklists and articles for inspiration.

Edutopia has a wonderful set of educators on their PBL staff, including Suzie Boss and Andrew Miller. Check out their posts and supports.

New Tech Network is a non-profit organization that transforms schools into innovative PBL learning environments.

Very smart people to follow on Twitter, to help you get the feel for what PBL is, what it's not, and great resources to help move you along that path.

And of course, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter ‏@GingerLewman and/or follow our LifePractice PBL Facebook page.

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