Sunday, June 17, 2012

How to Get and Use Free Microsoft Points?

How to Get and Use Free Microsoft Points?
We all are aware of the fact that Microsoft has a good contribution to the digital world. It is also important to know that it is a very powerful corporate world. Free Microsoft Points is a fake type of currency. You buy them by giving your credit card number in order to exchange the US dollars into points. This may annoy many, however, it is a good deal for the ones who are looking forward for Xbox 360 and Zune because Free Microsoft Points will be accessible to use with both these devices.

But before you can do any of this you have to find out where and how you can obtain these points. You can of course buy these free Microsoft points but obviously if you had the choice them I am sure you would much rather acquire them free of charge or at least a little bit cheaper.

Currently, free ms points are accepted in such online stores as Games for Windows Live, Xbox Live Marketplace, Zune, and Windows Live Gallery. To clarify, however, they are not exactly free since you need to buy them so that in turn, you can get to purchase your favorite online product. Without the points, a credit card purchase is your remaining option.

Free Microsoft Points makes the process of buy songs easily online, specially for the ones who are on a tight budget. In this method, they can predetermine the number of songs they wish to buy each month. Then, move into the Xbox 360 Marketplace and keep on depositing small amount of sum each month in order to maintain your technologies current. This will enable you to maintain a good budget rather than going for Best Buy.

There is always the option of browsing around the internet to see if you can buy them at a discounted price. You may find you come across a site that are offering them at unbelievable prices but be aware that they may be too unbelievable in that they are just scams and are only interested in taking your money and not delivering on the points, they may even just be after your credit card details, so if you find a site which you think is a bit too good to be true, check it out first, see if anyone else has had dealings with the site and whether or not they have had good transactions with them. The other things you can do once you have generated these points is maybe use them to rent a film or even to purchase some shows that have been on the TV, whatever you decide I am sure you will be pleased with what you are able to do with these points as the list is endless and items are being added to the list all the time. These points are actually like an online bank for you and more and more people are now using them to enhance their games or to be able to watch movies, so check out the internet today and make some inquiries about how you can get your hands on these points, you will not be disappointed.

Since free Microsoft points are not actually free, some online gamers might find the price a bit too stiff. Still, by doing a few researches, they should be able to find several good sites that offer the points free of charge. However, a certain degree of caution should be taken when doing the research; otherwise, you could end up being scammed.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Skip College, Go to Work in a Hot Startup

Guest post by Tom Vander Ark | Getting Smart
Skip College, Go to Work in a Hot Startup

The much vaunted American higher education system coasts on the reputation of the top three dozen schools which themselves gain much of their stature simply by excluding 85% of applicants.   Most post secondary institutions just don’t add much value and can no longer justify outrageous tuition.
As recent graduates of American universities, Shaila Ittycheria and Kane Sarhan came to this conclusion and they decided to build an alternative.  E[nstitute] is a two year apprenticeship program empowering young adults to learn from and work with top NYC entrepreneurs.”
“Higher ed is not working,” Kane said, “but internships do.”  Shaila and Kane are targeting 18 to 24 year olds with no bearing on where they are in formal education. The first class of 15 young people will begin working with 35 entrepreneurs in August.
Their geeky website explains that “In probability theory, E[x] stands for expected value, which is why E[nstitute] uses brackets in its name.”
Participants will start their two year work study at the bottom of totem pole but they will gain valuable experience and exposure to top entrepreneurs in fast-paced startup environments.  In their second year, apprentices pick a “major” and focus on building a marketable skill.
Kane and Shaila have been learning from two of my favorite people, Dennis Littky from Big Picture Learning, and Bror Saxberg from Kaplan.  If they can combine what Litkey knows about internships and what Bror knows about online learning, they’ll create powerful alternatives to traditional higher education for many young people.
Formed as a nonprofit organization, E[nstitute] seeks to create transformative learning experiences for young people.  Kane and Shaila are fundraising to launch and scale the program but think it can become largely self-sustaining in the future.
In the process, E[nstitute] may just redefine the higher education landscape by turning thousands of startups and small businesses into classrooms.
See the HuffPo feature on E[stitute]. Read more at The Next Web and PSFK. Read an interview with one of the partners of E[stitute]. Read why one innovative educator isn't impressed with E[stitute]. For more higher ed disruption, see Start Making: General Assembly Launches Online.
This post first appeared on Huffington Post and Getting Smart. 
Note:  Applications for this year are closed. Applications for next year are expected to open in the fall.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Considering BYOT / BYOD next year? Get started with this sample policy & answers to FAQs

One of the best ways to prepare students to be prepared for the world is to help them use the tools of their world responsibly. Allowing students to bring their own devices is a terrific way to do just that, but even though some schools may have the wireless capacity and infrastructure, the admins / teachers may want to have a policy in place.  Below is the policy shared with me by Tim Clark who serves as the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County, GA Schools.  

What is great about this district is that they empower schools to modify the policy to their needs.  Standardizing a policy in a district that can be customized to the needs of the students in a particular school is a best practice that all innovative districts should consider.  

Of course the policy is just one of the ingredients needed for success.  Forsyth County Schools addresses many of the others in their frequently asked questions which you can find here.  

Check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning for more ideas about thinking outside the ban to harness the power of student-owned devices for learning including policies, contracts, management ideas, and research.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Parents don’t look the other way

Written by Lisa Nielsen | Edited by Lisa Cooley, The Minds of Kids

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Humans come equipped with a primitive defense mechanism aimed at reducing anxiety: "If I ignore it, it'll go away."  Very human, very natural, very understandable. We all do it. It may even have some evolutionary advantage. After all, facing away from a problem can lower blood pressure and keep stress under control.

But problems have a momentum of their own; they only get worse when they're ignored.

When we don’t face the truth because it might frighten and upset us,  we move to the place called Denial. But emotions have little to do with logic. (Article Source). If denial is a small dark room, joining with others and facing the truth together brings out the light of day.

But denial is where some parents are living. They are looking the other way. Ignoring problems or worse, justifying them.

I suppose it’s understandable. Parents across the nation are faced with the reality that the education system that they placed their faith in, that they experienced themselves, may have flaws that are not being fixed and they are led to believe they have no control over them. This is a hard reality to face and would turn the world of any parent upside down. So these parents sometimes turn their faces away. They throw down mattresses and close the blinds and live happily in their room of Denial.

This is exactly the reality that New York mom Christine Dougherty had to face after her 12-year-old son Joseph, with her guidance and support, decided he was going to opt out of his school’s standardized tests. Instead, he requested the right to engage in more meaningful learning. Despite the wishes of Ms. Dougherty and her child, bully principal Thomas Capone forced Joseph to take the test.  Joseph’s teachers called him a fresh little boy for not following their orders to do as he was told.  

Joseph’s mother fought back doing everything she could to counteract a number of manipulative tactics by her son’s principal and the teachers under his charge. The principal furthered the lie that parents have no rights when it comes to the best interests of their child. He flat out refused to respect the wishes of Joseph and his mother demanding they comply, “OR ELSE...he’d have no choice but to look into having Joseph taken away from his mother!”

Christine was not living in denial and was not dissuaded. She stood up to the principal and did everything she could to have her son’s wishes granted.  

Unfortunately, not all parents are as brave, strong, or able to face facts as Ms. Dougherty did. Instead, when they heard of the situation, some took up residency in a horrible state called denial.  

They went after this mother and defended the principal rather than looking at the facts behind what this principal had done. They refused to acknowledge that across the state New York  teachers, superintendents, and principals one and all were speaking out, starting petitions, writing to the ed secretary all expressing agreement with Ms. Dougherty’s belief that these tests are not good for children. Those who learned of this principal’s actions were horrified that a man, entrusted with the care of children, had overstepped his bounds in such a way and violated the rights of both parent and child.

There was also an explosion of Tweets by administrators, teachers, and parents alike appalled by the actions of this school’s leader and his minions. Fortunately, many citizens are guided by a moral compass that puts the rights of kids first; they did not condone this man’s actions.

Unfortunately, several of the parents at Ms. Doughterty’s son’s school found a comfortable home in their state of Denial and to solidify residency, they  started a  Facebook page that bashed the mother and those who outed the bully principal (like here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). What they did not realize was that instead of the support they expected, they received a flood of comments from those who supported the mother and did not agree with these parents or the principal. Since the intent of this page was to keep a Denial alive, all those who posted comments stating they supported the mother and disagreed with the principal were swiftly bashed, banned, and censored from sharing the other side of the story.

Such tactics are understandable when you take into consideration that they were made by those who have no intention in giving up residency in their state of Denial. (Perhaps the river in Egypt is nice and warm and good for swimming? Too bad about the crocodiles.)

Parents like those who rose up against this mother for standing up to the system and protecting her child represent an unfortunate segment of our population that has lost faith in themselves or other parents to decide what is best for their own children. We have come to a point in America where many parents are all too willing to hand their children over to an institution to raise them even when it is as clear as day that impositions such as these tests are hurting children like Joseph.

How can the mega billion industry of one-size-fits-few, standardized test-taking be mistaken for what is best for children? You can believe it is what’s best for the system if you choose, but that is a system that cannot bear the burden of criticism, and needs full compliance in order to survive.

There are parents who dig their heels in and continue to ignore the truth rather than acknowledge the harm that is taking place with children in their schools. There’s a name for what they’re doing. Denialism: which means choosing an alternate reality as a way to avoid an uncomfortable truth.

Because, here’s the thing: much of traditional education as we know it today is not good for children. Many of the practices we all know and have lived with are not serving our children best.

And that is so hard to face!

“The human mind isn't a terribly logical or consistent place. Most people, given the choice to face a hideous or terrifying truth or to conveniently avoid it, choose the convenience and peace of normality.” Jim Butcher, Turn Coat
Parents have been indoctrinated by the system that says: do as you’re told.  Drop off your children and parental rights at the door. They have been conditioned not to trust themselves or their instincts when it comes to their kids. They have accepted that (as shared on the Facebook page and in blog comments), “the best interests of their children are left to the experts.” They explained that, as a professional, the principal, NOT PARENTS, know what is best for children, explaining that Mr. Capone, “obeys rules because he has the experience that should be trusted.”

And here’s the scary part.  

The parents at Ms. Dougherty’s school who “liked” this Facebook page had this advice for her:
Do not let your heart decide what is best. There is not a scintilla of doubt in my mind that the principal had best interests of the child in mind when he took this action.”
The action they are referring to was the disregard of the judgment of a parent who feared for his well being. These parents were defending a principal who forced a child to do something against the wishes of himself and his mother and falsely (informed his family that failure to follow orders could result in him being taken from his parents.


Despite the fact that they were surrounded by parents and teachers who told them they believed the principal was right and they should just do as they’re told, Joseph and his mother stood strong. Ms. Dougherty had done her homework and knew  that the government did NOT have the right over her as a parent to force her child to engage in an activity she did not condone.After contacting child protective services it was also revealed that had this principal wasted the time by making a false report of abuse and maltreatment, he would actually be endangering the ability to properly focus on the children who had real abuse issues.  Note opting out does not fall in the category of child abuse or maltreatment. Visit this link to learn what does.

Joseph’s mother had EVERY right to act as she did.  She took ownership of her son’s freedom to learn in the way that serves him best.  

If these parents had left their state of Denial behind, they’d have to face a hard reality.  For now, parents like these are much more comfortable defending the status quo.  Though several did admit that they understood that forced testing was wrong, they believed  their children still needed to do as they were told.

I hate these tests and that we are forced to give them, and what they represent..reducing children to numbers and data. However, unfortunately it is the law that children take these tests.”
She went on to say that as long as the principal forced her child to do this in a professional way, then he was right.  This well meaning parent goes on to explain, 
“The only way this testing goes away is if voting parents take an active interest in changing the politics surrounding education and voting for candidates who truly have the children’s interests at heart, and not statistics that make them look good.”

Americans never voted on a law that made our kids the mega billion dollar profit bearing guinea pigs of the school system! This was not a referendum placed on a ballot.  This is an illegal imposition that is hurting kids and making mega-billions for greedy corporations who care nothing about children but followed the money into the “Race to the Top” testing frenzy.   

It’s time to WAKE UP! Listen to your heart. Leave the dark room. It’s sunny out here; there’s fresh air and fresh debate and clear thinking about children and what is best for them. And our numbers are growing.

Don’t trust principals, politicians, or corporations that push bad policies that harm children. Be on your child’s side, and trust your instincts if you feel your child is suffering! Take back your parental rights. Give the freedom to learn to your children. Do not let anyone bully you into doing otherwise.  

Know the facts!
“Child protective services would not take a report on a parent who is opting their child out of standardized tests due to emotional stress or illness. Opting out of standardized tests is NOT something that teachers and principals should call in as mandated reporters.” -Jason DeSantis | Central Register for Child Abuse | 8006351522
Principals or others who convey this information are threatening parents and violating their rights.If anyone tries to do so, you have the ACLU and the Office of Civil Rights on YOUR side. Both are filing complaints against this principal and others like him around the nation. If your child’s rights are being violated, contact them. You may also want to contact your local child advocacy group.

Parents, not the government employees or corporations, have the best interests of your children at heart. Fight to protect your children! Protecting your child is your right.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Hottest Posts That Everyone's Talking About This Week

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

May 20, 2012, 2 comments
2,314 Pageviews

May 23, 2012, 2 comments
2,029 Pageviews

May 22, 2012, 2 comments
1911 Pageviews

May 21, 2012, 15 comments
1701 Pageviews

May 18, 2012, 11 comments
1353 Pageviews

May 13, 2012, 25 comments
1248 Pageviews

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Key to Making Every Child’s Dreams Come True – Found at SAR Academy

~Guest post by Sharon Marson
Schoolwide Enrichment Program Coordinator, SAR Academy, Riverdale, New York

A teary-eyed parent says, "Now my child feels really successful. Thank you for what you are doing.” Another shared that Tuesday (the day our new program is scheduled) is “a day my child refuses to be absent. I'm not allowed to pull him out of school for a doctor's appointment and he has even tried pretending he is well when clearly he has fever, in order to not miss an E-slot." The children themselves ask, "How many days until next Tuesday?" and stop me in school regularly to thank me for "making" this program.  
What has brought such joy and excitement to parents and children? The Schoolwide Enrichment program. This has enabled me to bring to fruition the dream of providing every early elementary child with the opportunity to participate in an Enrichment slot (E-slot) during the course of their week. It has been an incredibly fulfilling journey. No longer are only a select few of those who are high performing in reading or math given the opportunity to participate in Enrichment. Now, more than 450 children are able to choose among seventy offerings that are aligned with their passions, strengths, and/or interests. The offerings, primarily facilitated by a talented faculty and parent-body, correspond with multiple-intelligence theory, engage children in project-based learning, and are built on the pedagogy of Dr. Joseph Renzulli, seminal thinker, innovator, and researcher in the field of Gifted Education.  
The program is based on the idea that we should apply the pedagogy of gifted education to enrichment opportunities for all students. The broadened conception of giftedness, allows children to explore an area of interest, talent, or passion in depth, while in a small multi-age group with other students and a facilitator who also shares this interest. Enrichment Clusters are a delivery vehicle for disseminating enrichment pedagogy to every student and is founded on the belief that everyone has the potential to demonstrate gifted behavior. They are organized around interdisciplinary themes and are built on inquiry and advanced content and methodology, which allow students to secure and then apply new skills to real-world issues that are personally meaningful. The challenging learning pursued is grounded in the production of a product, performance, or service for an authentic audience. Our ultimate goal with this broad enrichment initiative is to help children discover and take pride in the diverse gifts and talents with which he or she is endowed, develop their interests and strengths, and understand how they can share their gifts with the world.

What is success? 
Just ask the kids and you’ll find there isn't a child who can't tell you when he or she feels successful or which activity engenders a sense of accomplishment. That is what our program is doing for children. We are giving students the equal-opportunity to succeed. They are happy. They are defining themselves as gifted in multitudinous ways. They feel accomplished. That is why they can't miss a moment of it.
See what this looks like in action at the video below. You can help the school raise money to grow their endeavor to create life-long, impassioned learners with a vote for the video at this link.

Want to connect with others who are discussing the Schoolwide Enrichment Model?  Join us on Facebook here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Simple Ed Reform Solution - Connect School Life to Real Life

"Dennis Littky provides a setting where young people and adults can explore the world together, discover their passions and apply themselves to solving their own and the world's problems!"
- Deborah Meir

Many high school students complain they don’t like school for some very good reasons. They report it is boring, irrelevant, and disconnected from real life. They have a passion for life, but not for school. But it doesn’t have to be this way and there’s a place where it isn’t. It's called The MET and it is one of dozens of schools around the world that make up the Big Picture Company.

These schools are havens for public school students who have struggled in conventional classrooms. There is a waiting list to get in and once they do, not only do they have one of the highest attendance rates, but there is also a 98% college acceptance rate. What’s more, unlike many graduates of traditional schools, Big Picture graduates say they feel prepared for college and career success.

What’s their secret?
Connect school life to real life by doing things differently.

Here’s how

  1. Instead of teachersThere are advisers who work with students making a multi-year commitment to serve as their coach, mentor, teacher, and friend who guide and supports them in managing their personalized learning plan and Learning Through Internship/Interest placement. Home visits are not only encouraged, they’re a part of the relationship.
  2. Instead of gradesThere are authentic assessments such as public exhibitions of work, check ins, reflective journals, portfolios, and feedback from their real world mentors at work.
  3. Instead of desks in rows in classrooms where the focus is the teacher… There are chairs around a table in what resembles a conference room where the focus is each other.
  4. Instead of bells and classes… There are meetings and appointments.
  5. Instead of relegating all learning to be locked inside the school building... Students spend two days a week pursuing their interests and/or passions with mentors where they are learning through internships(LTIs)  that they seek out in the real world. Additionally, all learning that happens outside of the school day and year is captured and documented for in school credit.  
  6. Instead of banning and blocking… Students are empowered to learn with the tools they own and choose. This means they can borrow or bring their own laptops, cell phones, etc.
  7. Instead of administrative school policies that are handed down… Students are encouraged to take a leadership role in the school and student voice is valued in decision making processes.
  8. Instead of starting the day in class... Students get: an early morning Pick-Me-Up. Blogger Ewan McIntosh explains it this way: Someone shares a story, what they've been doing: a student, a teacher, the Principal, an 'outsider'. They effectively give a face-to-face blog, where the comments come thick and fast and a dialogue begins.
  9. Instead of only focusing on being prepared to work for someone else… Students can participate in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship program where they learn to run businesses, and the best are supported and funded. These students are provided with real offices in which to do run their real businesses.
  10. Instead of standardizing to the system… Learning is customized to each student via their individual learning plans which look like this and this that are developed based on the student’s individual interests, talents, and needs. These are created and updated with the learning team which includes, but is not limited to, the student, parent(s), advisor, and internship mentor. Students share and celebrate their work via exhibitions.
  11. Instead of grades and test scores as the primary measure of student success… The main goals of assessment are to help the student reflect on his or her work, create strategies to improve, and develop his or her own internal standards.  Evaluation processes should be learning experiences within themselves, strengthening the quality of students’ work and their understanding of themselves as learners.  The use of multiple assessment tools is vital to determine a student’s progress and finding creative solutions to help students build on strengths and address gaps.  The whole student must be addressed, looking at each project and activity in light of the student’s personal learning plan. MET students learn to reflect on their work with the question, “Is it good enough?” the work is measured against standards of the real world held by the mentor and internship worksite as well as the exhibition panel.  Everyone involved in the student’s life and learning – including their family, peers and mentors – is asked to participate in the evaluation process.  The MET’s key elements for student assessment include: exhibitions; digital portfolios; narratives; and, transcripts.
  12. Instead of test scores as the primary measure of teacher and school accountability… The schools is held accountable to the students and parents via School Accountability for Learning and Teaching Surveys, which are the culmination of intensive surveys of parents, students, and teachers. When it comes to students, of utmost importance to school leaders are things like, that students feel respected, cared about, and inspired by their teachers, they feel comfortable talking to school staff, that staff keeps them interested and will work with students until they understand the area of study. When it comes to parents, school leaders want them to know that staff cares about their children, that the child is learning to their potential, and that they are safe.  At The MET school they had high parent engagement and the school scored highest in the state in most every category.

There is a method to their magic.  Here are some of the components that drive the work at The MET. Many of these practices are incorporated at varying levels at all Big Picture Schools.

Learning goals*
There are five learning goals for students which are guided by four arenas explained below. Learning goals are a framework for looking at real-world concepts and abilities necessary to being a successful, well-rounded person. The learning goals are not content-oriented curricula, nor are they completely distinct categories. Good project work incorporates many overlapping elements of the learning goals.
  1. Empirical reasoning - How do I prove it?
    This goal is to think like a scientist: to use empirical evidence and a logical process to make decisions and to evaluate hypotheses. It does not reflect specific science content material, but instead can incorporate ideas from physics to sociology to art theory.
  2. Personal qualities - What do I bring to this process?
    This goal is to be the best you can be: to demonstrate respect, responsibility, organization, leadership, and to reflect on your abilities and strive for improvement.
  3. Quantitative reasoning - How do I measure, compare or represent it?
    This goal is to think like a mathematician: to understand numbers, to analyze uncertainty, to comprehend the properties of shapes, and to study how things change over time.
  4. Social reasoning - What are other people’s perspectives on this?
    This goal is to think like an historian or anthropologist: to see diverse perspectives, to understand social issues, to explore ethics, and to look at issues historically.
  5. Communication - How do I take in and express ideas?
    This goal is to be a great communicator: to understand your audience, to write, read, speak and listen well, to use technology and artistic expression to communicate, and to be exposed to another language.

Here is what student learning looks like in these four arenas.

1) Real World Learning*
These are the core elements that make real-world learning work at Big Picture schools.
  • Learning plans for EVERY student - There are neither formal courses nor a standard curricular sequence. Instead, with an advisor, mentor, and family, each student charts quarterly planned activities against the school’s five learning goals and a series of questions.
  • Interest exploration -
    In a school that views students’ passions as the spark to deep learning, an early task facing Met students is to uncover their own interests.
  • Learning through internships (LTI) - The primary vehicle for learning at The Met, LTIs push students to gain knowledge and skills in the context of authentic work and to develop one-on-one relationships with an adult professional—real world learning in name and practice.
  • Making academics come alive - Advisors and LTI mentors work in concert to provide students with the academic content needed to complete project-based work, with advisors and other staff typically providing whatever tutoring or assistance is necessary back at school.
  • Summer learning -
    Pursuing activities like travel, adventure programs, apprenticeships, or college classes is a requirement for every student. These summer experiences should push students into unfamiliar territory—teaching special needs kids in a camp or building a school in the Dominican Republic. Advisors help students find such opportunities as well as the financial aid or funding they may require.

2) Reflection and Accountability*
These are the key structures through which students demonstrate accountability for their learning.
  • Narrative assessment - Narrative assessments take the place of grades and report cards. They document a student’s academic and personal progress, noting specific areas of growth and areas needing attention, and suggest revisions to the subsequent Learning Plan. At the end of each year, students use their narratives to prepare, with help from their advisor, a one-page transcript, an official and public document that records the year’s work and learning.
  • Exhibitions -
    Each quarter students give a roughly 45- minute exhibition presentation of work to a panel comprising the advisor, mentor, family, peers, and other staff. Students present evidence of progress in all aspects of their Learning Plan and respond to questions and critique from panelists.
  • Senior Institute Gateways - Tenth graders apply to the senior institute (11th/12th grade). In addition to a portfolio, they present letters of recommendation (from the advisor, mentor, family, and a peer), plus a written defense that shows they are ready to take increasing responsibility for their own learning and to play an active leadership role in school.
  • Internalizing high standards - Students report that they work harder and learn more than they ever have before. The processes of giving and receiving feedback, collecting a portfolio of work, and making regular public presentations contribute greatly to a school culture that embraces high standards.

3) Voice and agency*
Students are encouraged to speak up, to find and tap their voice, to identify their strengths and pursue their passions.
  • Journals - Journals help students express ideas and concerns that are still rough or not meant to be broadly shared. Students practice putting down on paper what they think, supported by an adult committed to listening.
  • College portfolios - Students apply to college, even if they do not go—right away or ever. (Over three-quarters head straight to college.) The school embraces the college application process as a tool for helping students dream big, set high standards for their work, and hone their presentation of self.
  • Public speaking and writing - Speaking and writing for public audiences are a constant.  Morning “Pick-Me-Ups” (the school-wide gathering that starts each day) provide a ready stage, as do “town meetings” and other school events. Internships offer another forum, as students make presentations to their adult work colleagues. Students are also encouraged to raise their voices as citizens.
  • Success stories - The book-length autobiographies written in junior and senior year stand alongside the unwritten personal stories they weave, day in and out. As seniors receive their diploma, advisors deliver the “short version” of these success stories, an oral tribute to the graduate for all to hear.

4) Sustained relationships*
Relationships under gird all learning. Keeping adults and other students at bay is not an option. Students build close relationships with an advisor, community mentors, and other faculty, if they are to fulfill their personal learning plans. They must also commit to an advisory group made up of peers, plus substantial give-and-take with the larger school community and  students accept their parents as learning partners.
  • Advisors - Teachers are known as advisors and facilitate the learning of the students in their advisory group. They help students create learning plans, identify interests, find internships, develop projects, and manage their time. They also work closely with their advisees’ mentors. Advisors stay with the same students until they graduate resulting advisor-student bond runs deep.
  • Mentors - Mentors guide and coach students in their Learning Through internships (LTI) work. As part of the student’s learning team, the mentor helps students develop projects that have real consequence and value—to the student, mentor, and workplace. Mentors stand as living examples of career possibilities and as role models of contributing community members.
  • Advisories - Advisors and their students—are home base, the close-knit unit where students and faculty gather for an hour each morning to launch their day and where they return every afternoon for a half-hour before the day ends. Advisories give students a place to practice new skills and develop their identities with a safety net.
  • Parents - Families, not just students are enrolled in the school. This means parents are essential “learning partners” who sign a contract agreeing to attend quarterly learning plan meetings and exhibitions.. Parents, teachers, students, and siblings frequently gather on campus for shared activities.
  • The School as Family - Small size, intimate advisory system, and insistence on parent participation go far towards making the school feel like a family and several features extend these connections and family feel even after graduation.  

Thanks to the innovative leadership of Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, Big Picture Schools are one of the few learning models that manages to get public funding despite the fact that they are devoid of the cornerstones that make up most schools such as classes, teachers, incessant testing, or grades.  They’ve been doing this for 17 years by helping student to capture real-world/real-life learning and translate it as necessary into the buckets required by the traditional public school system or transcripts required by some colleges…though in many cases colleges find the authentic and insightful portfolios and learning plans more useful than transcripts.

Unfortunately, due to the accountability movement as of late, the school has been forced to cut important services and programs, such as social workers, to increase spending on standardized test success. Despite this setback that limits choices and freedom, Dennis Littky advises that “We must determine that for which we will fight and never compromise those values.” In the case of Big Picture Schools that means they can still remain true to the core values that lead to real, relevant, and meaningful learning.

For you visual and auditory, learners, this video from Big Picture Program Leader, Geoff Allmand, does a great job of showing what his school is like. Big Picture Education - Interest based learning by scratchie on GoAnimate

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*Information excerpted from preceding links at the MET school site.