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Learning is everyone's job!

The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) is a place where educators can turn for assistance, inspiration and information about teaching and student achievement.

Our purpose is to help teachers and administrators develop the competence, commitment, and courage to do whatever it takes to improve student learning.

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Giving Students Ownership of Learning: the 21st Century Fishbowl Protocol
February 24, 2015
by Amber Pope and Beth Sanders
What do you get when you put students in a fishbowl and add some iPads? Something @Socrates might call a dialogue!
You need some backstory. We know that if our youth are going to thrive in and create the world of the future, they have to be learning and communicating in classrooms of today, not yesterday.
And if students are going to skillfully navigate the constant evolution of communication, they need multiple opportunities to practice and develop oral and written communication skills, engaging in critical and productive dialogue offline and online.
Notice the written and the online in the last sentence. We can't leave those out. Communication is no longer just happening face to face in a local physical space – it's happening virtually in a multitude of text, audio and visual formats, all of which incorporate the writing process in important ways.
In the ideal classroom, today's students are supported as they develop their individual voices, explore passions, create and share content to an authentic audience, and practice and develop contemporary skills that will carry them into adulthood.

Students fortunate enough to be in such classrooms are empowered to use and choose tools to support their learning and receive consistent, specific feedback on their growth from a variety of sources: teacher to student, student to student, digital community to student, and self to student through reflection and metacognitive thinking.

The 21st century fishbowl protocol
One method that we have created to support development of student voice is the 21st century fishbowl protocol, a new spin on a classic method. The incorporation of Twitter introduces a new level of authentic audience while also supporting students in practicing a multitude of critical thinking and digital literacy skills.Read More
Good to Great to Innovate: Up-Shifting Our Teaching and Leadership
January 19, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer

When I was in school and needed to do some research, I turned to two things: the World Book Encyclopedia and the card catalogue. The encyclopedia, neatly arranged A to Z, offered a publisher's selection of facts about a limited number of topics.

The card catalogue held more promise of "knowledge," but if it led me to sources that were in the “Research Section” where books could not be checked out but only used inside the library, I had to either read the source there or hope to find a photocopy machine to capture the pertinent material for later reference.
Because this hunt-find-copy cycle was cumbersome and time-consuming, my focus was often more on obtaining the physical artifacts than thinking deeply about the actual research content and its implications.
Things have certainly changed dramatically when it comes to accessing information. Yet too many schools still seem to operate as if that pair of “go-to sources” from my youth were still viable. Students still spend too much time learning dates, facts, formulas and formats, but don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about how this information can be connected and applied in creative and purposeful ways.
Clearly, we need to make a shift, and Alabama’s College and Career Standards provide the impetus for that change by challenging us to promote deeper thinking and more real-world application in our classrooms.
An idea-filled roadmap to better schools
The vast majority of educators want to innovate and change, they just need some help figuring out how to strategically change in ways that improves teaching AND learning.
That’s where the new book by Lyn Sharratt and Gale Harild can help. Good to Great to Innovate: Recalculating the Route to Career Readiness, K-12+, provides a roadmap to help districts and schools embrace innovations that improve teaching and learning.
In his foreword, education thought leader Michael Fullan says "the book is crystal clear on charting the course, showing how leadership matters, bringing all children into the picture, closing the gap of learning, positioning choice of pathways, and being explicit that skilled teachers matter a great deal."Read More
John Hattie: "Do We Really Know the Impact of Our Teaching Practices?"
January 4, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer

“Success is all around us!”
These encouraging words kicked off the keynote presentation by author/researcher John Hattie at the Learning Forward conference last month. As many of the educators in our networks know, Hattie is a professor and director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
He's also author of the international bestsellers Visible Learning and Visible Learning for Teachers. The Visible Learning findings and recommendations result from Hattie’s review of more than 1,100 meta-analyses (that involved 65,000 studies and 250 million students), probing the impact of various teaching strategies.
Despite Hattie's opening exclamation, he was quick to note that almost everything tried in the classroom is successful at some level. “[Almost] everything works…all it takes is a pulse!” But which practices are worthy of the time and effort invested?Read More
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