The Magic Ingredient in Milpitas' Blend: Teacher-Driven Design

By Matt Bowman     Jan 13, 2014

The Magic Ingredient in Milpitas' Blend: Teacher-Driven Design

“Whoa.”  Several visitors simultaneously whispered thesame assessment upon entering Burnett Elementary’s Room 303 in Milpitas, CA.

The teacher, Ms. Alison Elizondo, greeted our tour group. Behind her, 33 4th graders were sprawled ingroups across the room. Two huddled around a Chromebook listening to a third explainsome point of a paused Khan Academy video. Another pair used an iPad to recordtheir own math lesson. Half a dozen typed away independently, writing, as wesoon learned, narratives of how to solve sampleword problems they themselves had developed. A largebulletin board displayed each student’s personal math objectives for the year.  Elizondo herself was coaching one singlestudent when we entered, with her back to the class. She prefers sitting that way to show trust.

As we milled about the room, visitors began exchangingfurtive glances like prospectors discovering the Mother Lode.  Apurposeful buzz permeated the tech-heavy class as 8- and 9-years olds taught each other the finer points ofarithmetic.

Burnett Elementary is a Title I public school with 50%immigrant population in the Milpitas school district, whose bottom-upapproach to going blended we profiled earlier this week. That approach, which givesteachers a big say in what tech to use and how, seems to be yielding positiveresults in Room 303. Eighty percent of Elizondo’s students were proficient bythe end of last year, and the 4th grade as a whole had the highestmath proficiency rates in the school.

The district let Elizondo take the lead on creating her blended rotational model,even allowing her to dictate hardware requirements. Sheended up with a rather fine-tuned setup: 18 Chromebooks and 2 iPads, withaccess to Khan Academy and EduCreations. Elizondo developed the model with asingle goal in mind: free the teacher up for more one-on-one coaching time. Along the way, she's training her students to teach themselves, focusing on skills like goal-setting, progress tracking and checking for mastery.

To keep students meaningfully occupied as she coaches, Elizondo crafted 4 stations, with students spending 20 minutes at each in a continuous cycle. The nature and number of stations evolved last year as a result of Elizondo's intuition. “Kids would get bored just doing Khan for80 minutes,” she says.  In one station, students pair up, identify the most advanced math concept they've both mastered on Khan Academy, and create a tutorial for that concept together on Educreations. In another, they use Khan Academy to push forward their mastery, racking up "Energy Points" and badges, which Elizondo celebrates with gusto. In a third, students create rigorous math problems reflecting the concepts they've recently grasped. A fourth has them working on advanced performance tasks in groups, to practice transferance. 

Elizondo speaks a lot about intrinsic motivation, goals, feedback and metacognition, both with her students and with visitors(she’s been getting a lot recently).  Atthe end of each 80-minute block, her class debriefs together to discuss what wentwell (“Matthew was great at helping me understand how to round decimals,” is one exampleElizondo cites), where to improve (“we were too loud in transitions”), and whatthey need from Elizondo (“coach more kids for fewer minutes each”).

That spirit of reflection could serve other districts well,especially after an autumn that brought news of abortive 1-to1 tablet implementationsaround the country. One survey indicates most LAUSD teachers would prefer to discontinue their district's huge iPad program, where the devices seem a colossal source of distraction. The productive buzz in Room 303 suggests districts might do well to let teachersdesign their own blended classrooms before sending in those technology purchases orders.

Read more about Elizondo's class here and here, and check out her blog posts here.

The Magic Ingredient in Milpitas' Blend: Teacher-Driven Design

By Matt Bowman     Jan 13, 2014

The Magic Ingredient in Milpitas' Blend: Teacher-Driven Design

“Whoa.”  Several visitors simultaneously whispered thesame assessment upon entering Burnett Elementary’s Room 303 in Milpitas, CA.

The teacher, Ms. Alison Elizondo, greeted our tour group. Behind her, 33 4th graders were sprawled ingroups across the room. Two huddled around a Chromebook listening to a third explainsome point of a paused Khan Academy video. Another pair used an iPad to recordtheir own math lesson. Half a dozen typed away independently, writing, as wesoon learned, narratives of how to solve sampleword problems they themselves had developed. A largebulletin board displayed each student’s personal math objectives for the year.  Elizondo herself was coaching one singlestudent when we entered, with her back to the class. She prefers sitting that way to show trust.

As we milled about the room, visitors began exchangingfurtive glances like prospectors discovering the Mother Lode.  Apurposeful buzz permeated the tech-heavy class as 8- and 9-years olds taught each other the finer points ofarithmetic.

Burnett Elementary is a Title I public school with 50%immigrant population in the Milpitas school district, whose bottom-upapproach to going blended we profiled earlier this week. That approach, which givesteachers a big say in what tech to use and how, seems to be yielding positiveresults in Room 303. Eighty percent of Elizondo’s students were proficient bythe end of last year, and the 4th grade as a whole had the highestmath proficiency rates in the school.

The district let Elizondo take the lead on creating her blended rotational model,even allowing her to dictate hardware requirements. Sheended up with a rather fine-tuned setup: 18 Chromebooks and 2 iPads, withaccess to Khan Academy and EduCreations. Elizondo developed the model with asingle goal in mind: free the teacher up for more one-on-one coaching time. Along the way, she's training her students to teach themselves, focusing on skills like goal-setting, progress tracking and checking for mastery.

To keep students meaningfully occupied as she coaches, Elizondo crafted 4 stations, with students spending 20 minutes at each in a continuous cycle. The nature and number of stations evolved last year as a result of Elizondo's intuition. “Kids would get bored just doing Khan for80 minutes,” she says.  In one station, students pair up, identify the most advanced math concept they've both mastered on Khan Academy, and create a tutorial for that concept together on Educreations. In another, they use Khan Academy to push forward their mastery, racking up "Energy Points" and badges, which Elizondo celebrates with gusto. In a third, students create rigorous math problems reflecting the concepts they've recently grasped. A fourth has them working on advanced performance tasks in groups, to practice transferance. 

Elizondo speaks a lot about intrinsic motivation, goals, feedback and metacognition, both with her students and with visitors(she’s been getting a lot recently).  Atthe end of each 80-minute block, her class debriefs together to discuss what wentwell (“Matthew was great at helping me understand how to round decimals,” is one exampleElizondo cites), where to improve (“we were too loud in transitions”), and whatthey need from Elizondo (“coach more kids for fewer minutes each”).

That spirit of reflection could serve other districts well,especially after an autumn that brought news of abortive 1-to1 tablet implementationsaround the country. One survey indicates most LAUSD teachers would prefer to discontinue their district's huge iPad program, where the devices seem a colossal source of distraction. The productive buzz in Room 303 suggests districts might do well to let teachersdesign their own blended classrooms before sending in those technology purchases orders.

Read more about Elizondo's class here and here, and check out her blog posts here.

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