Author Archives: sfarnsworth

About sfarnsworth

Educational Services Consultant: Literacy, Technology, and AIW. Certified Google Innovator. Staff Developer

Parallels Between the Iowa Education Blueprint and #IACoPI

Hello, I am Shaelynn Farnsworth, a high school English teacher at BCLUW.  We are a rural school located about 15 minutes from Marshalltown. We are also currently in our third year of 1:1 laptop implementation, meaning that all of our students have laptops that they take home with them. Last year I was given the opportunity to be part of Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation, I was excited for the opportunity and feel that this work must be continued to offer students in Iowa the best education in the world.
Being an educator at a laptop school, technology infusion and blended learning is status quo. IACoPI does this but in a community setting. Passionate teachers from around the state creating curriculum that is aligned with the common core in a collaborative setting has changed the way I teach and allows my students access to a multitude of engaging units. After reading the Iowa Education Blueprint, it is clear in my mind that IACoPi must be continued and supported if we are to meet and exceed goals set by our Education Department. There are 5 points I wish to highlight that show the parellel between IACoPI and the Iowa Education Blueprint.
1. The Centerpiece: “Great Teachers” The Blueprint specifically mentions the need for quality educators in each classroom to create a world-wide school and education for our students. Nothing is more powerful than when these educators are given time and means to collaborate together to plan, discuss, and create curriculum that is engaging, relevant, and aligned with the Iowa Core. IACoPI does this. Nancy Movall brought together carefully selected educators to pilot the project. The time that we spent together was amazing. Broken into content areas, I met with 40 other English teachers across the state, and together ideas were shared, best practice strategies demonstrated, and innovative curriculum designed that would provide students rich content within a 21st century model. When my students work through the various English units they have 40 great teachers in their classroom not just one! If you ask any of the members of the group, they will all agree, the time we spent together was a key to success. A model that all of us wish would be replicated in the future.
2. “Learning how to design dynamic and engaging lessons and greater support” is another important piece in the Blueprint on how to support “Talented Educators”, and although it states for new teachers, this should be a goal in every school district. If we continue to teach the way we always have taught, ignoring the ever changing world around us, we become dated and students’ learning decreases. IACOPi offers training in pedagogy and tools to aide in the development of the blended curriculum. We learned about Project Based Learning, Symbaloo, and Moodles last year. Organically, we also taught each other. Wikis were created, resources shared, and google docs compiled suggestions. In fact, I offered 2 webinars on how to blog in the classroom to support student learning. IACoPI offers educators opportunities to learn new skills and then utilize what they have learned in curriculum development. This support strengthens the groups knowledge and teaching practices.

3. Educator Leadership Roles – Under this heading it suggest “a weekly meeting with small groups of educators to plan and collaborate as well as a teacher-led curriculum committee.” Again, I feel that IACoPI is a perfect example of how powerful these opportunities can be for students. It would have been easy for the state of Iowa to purchase an on-line curriculum that is avaliable for use, this would not sit well with the educators in our state, and I bet would be under utilized. We know our students best, plus developing our own curriculum allowed us to align it to the Iowa Core, as well as, collaborate together providing students with a collective greatness found within the groups. We all have invested interest in this project. It is our work and our voice that is being represented. Supporting this would be a powerful message to educators in Iowa that we trust you and we value your talent and time.

4. Improve and Expand the Iowa Core – one key bullet is “under the direction of educators across Iowa, designng a rigorous ‘model’ curriculum that can be used as a starting point.” This is exactly the aim of IACoPI. Together, we created stellar units and paths for students to investigate and ignite an engaging learning environment. These units were created by Iowa teachers collaboratively, keeping the Iowa Core in the forefront. Our vision would be to continue this work, adding to the repository, units that meet all of the goals of a world-wide education teachers and students. Much like we have done this year, teachers could pull out these units and design a specific curriculum strand for each student. An individualized plan that is relevant, engaging, and chosen by the learner all while teaching the important skills outlined in the Iowa Core is a new vision of education for Iowa Students.
5. Finally – According to the Blueprint, under the Spirit of Innovation and Education section, “the plan to provide our students a world-class learning environment and curriculum praises educators who are always working to improve, innovate, and accelerate, who arent afraid to try new things and take chances. Educators who are evaluating approaches and continuously seeking to raise student engagement and achievement.” This, in essence, is what brought us all to IACoPI. We are life-long learners ourselves. We understand the role of technology in society and its impact on education. Students need different paths to recieve an education that is tailored to them. Many of them turn to dual credit or online classes. IACoPI provides these opportunities for our students. This blended state curriculum will only increase in demand as technology saturates our schools. We want to make sure that the blended curriculum that our students receive is up to our state standards. By supporting IACoPI we are doing just that, the momentum and excitement will only grow.

Thank you for taking the time to allow me to share my story with you. Three years ago, I would have never dreamed I would have the opportunities to change the future of education in our state. I urge you to continue supporting our efforts. In its earliest stages many stories of success have been shared. Iowa Community of Practice and Innovation Teachers are forever changed by being part of this group. Our students find fun and relevance in learning. They just need the right delivery system mixed with a collective energy from Passionate Iowa Educators! “Better Together Iowa” is a slogan that Nancy continually uses. I agree with this and hope that you allow us to continue the revolutionary work that is ahead of its time. We owe it to Iowa students and  we have built a foundation in which to work from!


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Filed under blended learning, Buck Institute, ecurriculum, iowa blue print, iowa1to1, moodle, PBL, students, teachers, technology

Carver: “Printing Press Moment”

Preparing for the last large group meeting of IACOPi educators later this month, a small group of leaders met to discuss the plan of action. It was most fitting to have Mr. John Carver,  Superintendent from Van Meter, Iowa, speak to the group. As a leader in educational change in the state and across the country, Carver spoke about the struggles and joys that accompany change. He shared his own story about the transformation of Van Meter  into a 21st Century School, as well as his inspiring grandmother who predicted a return to “one-room schoolhouse” type of education. We appreciate the continued support of Mr. Carver in helping to give a voice to the innovative changes made by Iowa Educators! The following is a twitter story from his talk created on storify.


Read the story here




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Brief Overview for the July #IACoPi…

Guest Blogger, Monte DeArmoun is a 7-12 Social Science Instructor at Northwood-Kensett Jr./Sr.  Are You Ready For July’s #IACoPi Meeting?

We are a month away from meeting at the Sheraton Inn West in Clive for our July training and the continuation of the development of blended units for the modules. Hopefully you have been prepping yourself for using the eCurriculum this coming school year since our last meeting in April. The “Facilitating eLearning in a Blended Classroom” course is wrapping up for most of the CoPi group and starting for the Social Studies teachers. The CoPi Design Team has been planning the July training focused on providing the best possible training for you. There are roughly 20 members that have met via conference calls since the April training. Below is a tentative agenda:

Thursday, July 28

8:00-10:00 Registration

8:30- 10:00 Meet to socialize/network (Breakfast provided)

10:00-10:10- Welcome and agenda overview

10:10-11:00 Scope & sequence conversation

11:00- 12:00 Web 2.0 walkabout/Poster session

12:00-1:00 LUNCH (provided)

1:00-2:00 Symbaloo introduction and overview

2:00-2:15 BREAK

2:15-5:00 Module work

Friday, July 29

7:00-8:30 Registration and Breakfast (Breakfast provided)

8:30-10:00 Innovation Fishbowl

10:00-10:15 Director Jason Glass, Iowa DOE

10:15-10:30 BREAK

10:30-12:00 Module work

12:00-1:00 LUNCH (provided)

1:00-3:00 Module work

3:00-3:30 Blended Pedagogy video activity

3:30-3:45 Closing

I am part of the Design Team and member of the Blended Pedagogy subcommittee. During the Blended Pedagogy segment on the July training date we will discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of teaching in a Blended Classroom. See you all in July! “Better Together”

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Living the Project

Guest Blogger – Leslie Pralle Keehn (@LPralleKeehn) is a 7-12 Social Studies teacher at Northeast Hamiliton CSD

The first IACoPi Buck Institute on project-based learning took place June22-24 in Coralville. The venue for the event, the Coralville Public Library, was quite fitting in terms of the themes of project-based learning. To paraphrase a favorite show of mine, libraries offer learners of all ages a place to hunt the white whale aboard the Pequod, fight alongside Napoleon, sail with Huck and Jim, ride a sad train with Anna Karenina, or live alongside the Swiss Family Robinson. Libraries, and books, let the reader be in the moment. In project-based learning (PBL), it is equally important to let the student “be in” the project.

PBL can be an opportunity for students to realize that they can do whatever they want to do and be whoever they want to be. PBL should offer a real-world role for students, providing them with an opportunity to be the change they want to see.

As the teacher, we should provide an outlet for students to not only create a meaningful project, but to present that project to an authentic audience. The role of the audience inspires the desire to create a “finished” final product.

Giving students “voice and choice” in the project allows them to take ownership. Ownership, student- inquiry, and passion will produce results far superior to those of a purely teacher-driven project. Let students discover or feed an interest within the context of your driving question (the question that communicates the purpose of the project and focuses on a philosophical or controversial issue). Never forget the “Why should I care” component. Students should be inspired by the project.

Finally, make the project the main dish. Pre-teaching the project or adding the project as dessert causes disconnect between students and the project. Give students the opportunity to filter learn through the project; even “drill and skill” work with commas can be part of an end project letter to the editor. Let students apply learning to the project throughout a unit. Revision and reflection through continued learning allow students to gain mastery of concepts and skills.

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A Mouthful of Metaphors …

Inspired by the Buck Institute facilitators: Jen Cruz, Erin Sanchez, and Andrew Miller

(created and edited by Shaelynn Farnsworth and Tim Hadley)

“My Advice for Those Educators Just Starting Out With PBL(Project Based Learning).”

-paralleling Ron Koertge’s poem “Do You Have Any Advice for Those of Us Just Starting Out?”

Give up sitting behind your desk. Get out there. Leave

your classroom or building. Go out into the world, and bring your students.

It’s all right to use food analogies. PBL is the main course, not the dessert.

The meat and potatoes of the lesson. Delectable steak, medium rare;

a slab of butter melting, dripping onto the new baby reds.

Avoid daily, traditional lecture. Let the lesson grow organically. Start

with the End in mind. Be wary of neatly packaged textbooks

promising hundreds of “proven examples”

they LIE.

Not surprisingly, students like to share and explain

their work. A public audience ups the stakes.

Surrounded by experts interested in

their deliverables.

Often teachers need to be opportunists.

Seizing upon one headline or one connection,

pushing students into the world around them

headlong into the throes of Living History.

The more relevant the project, the greater the purchase.

You, who are embarking on PBL, listen: reflecting on

your lessons, dark chocolate is sweet, sure, but fleeting.

It is that buttery, juicy steak that keeps you full.

Now get going!

(Nancy Movall and Tim Hadley on the last day)

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Buck Institute: Lie, Cheat, and Steal

Guest Blogger – Tim Hadley ( @MrHadleyHistory), Social Science Instructor at Pekin High School

“I teach you to lie, cheat, and steal, and as soon as my back’s turned you wait in line?” -Dr. Gregory House, main character from House, M.D. This quote is used in the context of Dr. House scolding his colleagues for not taking every possible avenue to fulfill their hippocratic oath to heal the sick. The scene is not only one that can play out in any hospital, but could easily be transcribed to the classroom setting.
The Buck Institute, with the philosophy of Andrew Miller (@betamiller)  – “lie, cheat, and steal” has retooled this phrase to apply to educators. Espousing Project Based Learning, the Buck Institute is encouraging classroom leaders to use every opportunity to engage students in learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. By choosing to use Project Based Learning, online environments such as Iowa CoPi, are giving students the opportunity to interact with content as never before.
Dr. House has no problem with being willing to deviate from the norm to solve a patient’s condition. We as educators should not only wish for students to reach optimum engagement, we should be willing to make it a reality, with whatever means necessary. Project Based Learning serves as a vehicle to make this happen, will you be one to step up and drive?

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Introduction to Moodle

This summer, the teachers in the IACoPi project are gaining an understanding of Moodle, one of the Learning Management Systems that will be used to deliver the on-line content of the blended classroom. The teachers are supported by AEA staff and are traveling through the various modules as both students and teachers. This allows participants to understand moodle, see potential problem areas, and also the advantages that moodle has to offer as compared to other on-line delivery systems.It also allows participants the opportunity to review the on-line eCurriculum, as well as consider the implications of teaching in a blended classroom. The units the teachers are working with form the backbone of the ecurriculum. Adopted for the state of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) and the National Repository of Online Courses (NROC), Iowa teachers are evaluating and enhancing the different modules adding content and activities appropriate for our students as well as aligned with the Iowa/Common Core Curriculum.

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