During my first week in the DLMOOC, I had the opportunity to view resources and readings based on deeper learning. As I was completing the readings and viewing different panel discussions and videos I began thinking about my current position as a teacher at a magnet school in New Haven, CT. I see the potential of many deeper learning opportunities that exists and could exist everyday in my school.
In my opinion, my school district provides a variety of deeper learning opportunities through the magnet schools in the district that offer a variety of themes. Each of the magnet schools have a focus which is supposed to be integrated within all content and grade levels. The following is a link to my school district's magnet website: New Haven Magnet Schools.
Many times I have been asked why are magnet schools important. I used to give a long drawn out answer about how the students are introduced to so many opportunities that a normal public school might not have the ability to provide them. I would go into detail about projects they take part in at my school and experiences they have taken part in from Pre K-8. After I finish my response, I am then about other magnet schools in my district. I then give examples from other schools and the discussion simply gets longer and longer because they want to hear about all the possibilities.
After this week's material from DLMOOC, I will now answer the question of why magnet schools with a simple two word answer, deeper learning. Deeper learning is happening at magnet schools. Students are provided opportunities to put into practice the academic lessons and skills that they learn in a typical classroom into real world situations. They are being prepared for their futures by examining issues and topics that they find interesting to them. Our school district provides students with the ability to apply to any of the magnet schools in the district. Since there are a variety of schools and themes, students can select the school that has a theme that interests them. When students are interested in a topic they are more likely to be engaged in lessons and motivated to learn.
Part of this week's DLMOOC lesson was for us to watch the following presentation: DLMOOC Week 1 - What is the Purpose of Education? I decided to watch this with a group of my own 8th grade students at lunch. I wanted to get their take on the content and figure out if my perception of what goes on at my school is the same view that they have with their own education. I asked them to be honest and not to worry about hurting my feelings. Trust me they did not hold back!
Overall the students feel like they are doing work worth doing, but most of that work is taking place in their enrichment courses where the magnet themes are the primary focus. They feel as if the core classes (math, science, social studies, and language arts) have a primary focus on assessments and not on implementing skills they will need for their futures even though the teachers constantly say they are teaching them skills for their futures. They do feel that the performance tasks that the core teachers have them complete are interesting and work worth doing, but the day to day lessons are boring. (As a side note, the performance tasks are given at the end of unit as a form of assessment to tie the content to real world examples.)
The conversation with my students made me want to share this presentation with my staff. I hope we can find time to discuss the opportunities we have as teachers at a magnet school to implement deeper learning in our lessons and in all classrooms on a daily basis. Even though we have enrichment courses that focus on our magnet themes, we are given a countless number of partnerships with local communities that can provide us with the ability to engage our students at another level that will motivate them to learn and become more engaged in all classes. Yes I want my students to learn Algebra and understand the concepts, but more importantly I want them to leave class each day feeling that they are learning something that is worth learning.
This is a link to a Storify I created on Deeper Learning and Magnet Schools: While creating this Storify I wanted to find examples of magnet schools that were succeeding with deeper learning. I want my school and my colleagues to challenge ourselves to take the learning that we have going on in our building to the next level. Hopefully the examples in my Storify will motivate and encourage others to implement more deeper learning strategies into their classrooms. I know I am motivated and determined to take my classroom to the next level.
Some of the highlights from the Storify: Deeper Learning and Magnet Schools Storify
- Arts Integration Video: The teacher had students dance to demonstrate rotation and revolution. What a great way to have them learn the topic and remember the concept!
- Time for Deeper Learning - Lessons from five schools is just one of many resources found on the following link: Time and Learning. For any school, whether magnet or not, teachers could use these examples to get ideas on how to integrate deeper learning lessons into their classrooms.
- Deeper Learning as a Turnaround Strategy: Although no school wants to be known as a turnaround school, this blog entry describes how deeper learning is used to help schools perform better. There are some great ideas that non-turnaround schools could use to help them continue to perform well.
- Deeper Learning at Impact Academy: The Hewlett Foundation provides opportunities for schools to take part in deeper learning. This video highlights a lesson used at Impact Academy to encourage deeper learning.
- Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet: All I can say is WOW!
- @GettingSmart Tweet: Great link to the Deeper Learning Schools
- Finally I had to include my school district's magnet website since I believe we are on the cutting edge of deeper learning with our magnet schools.