July 20th, 2016
Can you believe it ?!? MasteryCon is only one week away! To help you plan for the ultimate MasteryCon experience, we’ve compiled a list of last-minute info and reminders.
Schedule & Check In
The session schedule is now live—check it out! There is no need to sign up for sessions, but be sure to snag a program when you arrive. Check-in opens at 9:00 am on Wednesday, July 27th, at the Grand Summit Hotel. Pick up your conference materials any time before the welcome keynote at 5:30 pm. (You can skip printing conference tickets, schedules, or maps; we’ll have everything you need when you check in!)
Special Pre-Conference Workshop
We’ve added a free (yes, FREE!) pre-conference workshop on Wednesday for campers who want to start the MasteryCon fun early! A limited number of seats are available, so register now!
Bunks & Transportation
If you haven’t already booked your lodging, NOW IS THE TIME to reserve your room at the discounted rate. And, if you need to hitch a ride from the SLC airport to MasteryCon, may we suggest scheduling with our preferred transportation partner.
If you’re not staying onsite, you can park for free in the Red Hawk lot, located just below the Silverado Lodge.
Get Your Gear Ready
Dress is casual and comfortable (it is summer camp). But, because MasteryCon is nestled in the most beautiful mountains in the whole wide world, it’s best to bring along the right gear. You’ll want to pack up that sunscreen and a light jacket (warm days, cool nights). And, if you want to join the vista-filled group hikes, don’t forget comfy hiking boots and anything else you may want on the trail.
Make the Most of It!
You’ll want to take in everything at MasteryCon! Be sure to attend conference meals and evening entertainment; they’re all included in your registration, and they are awesome for networking. Also, keep your eyes peeled at the conference for ways to get involved, including earning MasteryCon merit badges and participating in activities wherever you see this guy.
See You Soon!
The MasteryCon counselors can’t wait to meet you at summer camp! Join the fun NOW by connecting with MasteryConnect and other attendees on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Remember to use our conference hashtag, #masterycon, and follow us for updates while at the conference.
See you in seven, campers!
Have you ever looked at a standard—local, state, or national—and wondered, “What is this? And how am I going to teach it?” If so, you’re not alone!
In the ever-changing world of which standards are we using this year?!, the work of learning and implementing new standards must often happen quickly. Implementing standards effectively requires teachers to dive deep into the standards to fully understand expectations and make them clear to students.
Why “Unpack” Standards?
Because standards are sometimes written as overarching—and often complex—statements that can be interpreted in different ways, it’s important that teachers share a common understanding about the goals and targets of a standard. (You’ve probably been in a PLC conversation and thought, “I had no idea that’s what that standard meant!” or “Whoa, we’re reading the same book, but we’re not on the same page.”)
“Unpacking” is a technique teachers can use to make sense of standards, and then create focused learning targets to make them actionable. This process, also called “deconstructing” or “unwrapping” standards, fosters a collaborative dialogue that supports growth and effectiveness.
Once you have unpacked standards to identify what students should know and be able to do, you can do three important things:
- Craft your vision of mastery for specific standards.
- Align lesson plans and accompanying resources to that vision.
- As you teach and report progress, create student-friendly learning objectives to better communicate required skills to students and community stakeholders.
So what does unpacking look like? Read on as we break down the unpacking process and go through a couple examples to help get you started.
The Unpacking Process
There are four key steps to unpacking standards:
STEP 1: IDENTIFY KEY CONCEPTS & SKILLS
Identify what students need to know and what they need to do. We like to highlight nouns (content) in blue and verbs (skills) in green.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY LEARNING TARGET TYPES
Next, you’ll determine which concepts are content/knowledge targets, reasoning/cognitive targets, skill/performance targets, and product targets.
STEP 3: DETERMINE BIG IDEAS
The next step is to list the conceptual understandings that students discover during the learning process (the ah-ha! moments).
STEP 4: WRITE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
To focus and guide classroom instruction and assessment, write open-ended questions to help stimulate student interest and make new connections.
Think of this unpacking process as a journey with a destination in mind. The journey will include packing and preparation, travel arrangements, perhaps some new experiences, and ultimately an endpoint (student learning), which may very well begin a new journey.
An Unpacking Example
With the journey theme in mind, let’s use the analogy of planning a destination trip to help illustrate the process (it’s summertime, after all!). We’ll start with the learning target and break it down with Steps 1 and 2.
DESTINATION TRIP 101.1
Organize and plan for a trip to the beach.
What should I know?
- Lodging availability
- Location of area restaurants
- Day/night temperature at location
What should I be able to do?
- Locate the surf shop
- Apply sunscreen evenly
What should I understand?
- Recognize changes in tide
- Assess surroundings for safety
- Devise a plan if stranded at sea on catamaran
This breakdown of the familiar process of planning a trip makes sense: It provides clearly outlined steps and a better vision of the target after unpacking the original standard.
Example 2: Unpacking a Complex Standard
Now let’s take a closer look at examples of Steps 1 through 4 with a more complex, real-world standard. For this demonstration, we’ll use a sixth grade English Language Arts national/state standard.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY KEY CONCEPTS & SKILLS
We’ll start by highlighting the nouns (concepts) in green and the verbs (skills) in blue, just like we did in the destination trip example.
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY LEARNING TARGET TYPES
Next, we’ll identify the types of targets the standard represents. You may benefit by using a graphic organizer like the one below.
|Knowledge Targets||Reasoning Targets|
|Evaluate an argument
Distinguish between supported and unsupported claims
|Skill/Performance Targets||Product Targets|
|Trace an argument in a text||Not applicable for this standard|
Identifying specific targets within a standard provides clear direction for instructional planning. It helps to not only focus on important content students should know, but also what skills they should develop. This is a critical balance that can easily get a little lopsided if there’s too much on content and not enough the skills.
STEP 3: DETERMINE BIG IDEAS
You’re halfway there! Determining Big Ideas is next, and it’s one of the most important parts of the learning process. This is where we help students to make connections and attach relevance to new information.
We want student thinking to extend beyond fact retention, because, let’s face it, facts alone aren’t going to get you where you need to go unless you’re a contestant on Jeopardy!
Below are some examples of Big Ideas for our standard:
- Presenting an argument with evidence is more persuasive than sharing an opinion.
- Unsupported claims can lead to an invalid argument.
- Identifying a claim supported with evidence is a skill applicable to all areas of life.
These Big Ideas go beyond one standard, unit of study, or even a class. They are the key learnings that move with students to new targets, new applications, and new connections.
In our opinion, the real fun begins in Step 4. As teachers, our favorite moments were those that allowed us to watch a student learn, grow in understanding, or have an ah-ha! Moment. Essential Questions can get you there every time!
These questions are open-ended opportunities to stimulate interest, stretch thinking, make connections that haven’t been made before, and much more. They can be used at the beginning of the instruction on a learning target or during instruction to advance the thinking process.
Examples of Essential Questions for our standard include:
- Why is evidence important?
- Why do we need to be able to recognize an argument that has support versus one that does not?
- When do we use argumentation in daily life?
One important point to remember when using Essential Questions is to keep them truly open-ended. Craft questions to have more than one possible response or to generate discussion when different or conflicting ideas are presented. As teachers, our role in this process is to facilitate thinking and discussion, not to validate. Be wary of responding with, “I agree with you” or “That’s correct”; other students may not speak up if their thinking is different than the answer you’ve identified as “right”.
Congrats! You’ve now gone through the unpacking process. By unpacking this standard, you now have a clear path forward. This process will enable you to plan effectively and ultimately save you time to focus on your students. Not only will you have a deeper understanding of the standards you teach, but your students will be more engaged in their learning. Sounds like a win-win for everyone!
Be sure to check back in a few weeks for Part 2 of Unpacking Standards – Moving from Content Standards to Student-Friendly Learning Targets. We’ll explore priority standards and student-friendly “I Can” statements.
MasteryConnect has Every Standard for Every State!
July 9th, 2014
MasteryConnect acquires Socrative to bring you integrated student response for FREE. Learn more.
January 20th, 2014
MasteryConnect is proud to announce a partnership with Microsoft Education. Microsoft has an incredible history of supporting technology in education, and is recognized as a leader in providing solutions for educators. Out of the 17,000 education apps on the Microsoft platform, MasteryConnect will be one of six that are highlighted at the upcoming Florida Educational Technology Convention (FETC) and in other presentations throughout the country.
Here’s an awesome statement of support from the Microsoft VP of WW Education, Mr. Anthony Salcito (author of the widely-read DailyEdventures Blog).
“We’re excited to support student learning with MasteryConnect’s commitment to build on the Microsoft technology platform. MasteryConnect is an important partner and supports our focus to have a positive impact on student learning, and our education vision of anytime anywhere learning for all.”
Check out the video below highlighting MasteryConnect on the Microsoft Surface Tablet.
September 24th, 2013
Our CEO, Mick Hewitt, recently spoke about the changing education technology landscape and the influences of the Common Core at a VLAB event at the Stanford Business School. VLAB is the San Francisco chapter of the MIT Forum at Stanford University. The night got kicked off with Mick’s short presentation that highlighted the changing market in education technology and the opportunities and challenges presented by the Common Core for entrepreneurs. The night went on to include a rousing panel discussion that included Karen Lien from ImagineK12, David Reilly from Sequioa Union High School District, Lane Rankin from Illuminate Education, and Scott Drossos of Pearson. Lauren Hepler highlighted the events of the night in the Silicon Valley Business Journal article, “Online Kindergarten? Tech bets on K-12 Disruption”.
March 18th, 2013
It’s a magical time each Spring in Austin, Texas when the education technology community gathers at the SXSWedu conference. With so many new edtech companies entering the market over the past couple of years, you can really feel the energy of the entrepreneurs and companies all working to move the needle to help teachers make gains in student achievement.
This year, Bill Gates gave the keynote address and discussed some critical issues in education technology including the market landscape, current levels of funding, and personalized learning. After the keynote, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down in a small group setting to have lunch with Mr. Gates and some fellow edtech entrepreneurs/CEO’s (Jessie Woolley-Wilson of Dreambox, Eric Westendorf of LearnZillion, Jordan Meranus of Ellevate Education, and Laurence Holt of Amplify). It was a wonderful discussion and I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Gates’ great sense of humor, and impressed with his insight and optimism about the Common Core and technology being a game-changer for education. I even had a chance to tell Bill about MasteryConnect’s Common Core app being launched on Windows 8! Many thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation team for the wonderful invitation to be a part of the discussion as well as give Mr. Gates some insight into the successes and challenges of our growing edtech startup.
Keep on Trackin’
Mick Hewitt, CEO
December 28th, 2012
It’s been an amazing year here at MasteryConnect, so I thought I would take just a moment to reflect back on where MasteryConnect has been, and talk a little bit about our plans for 2013. As the CEO of an Edtech startup, it is an incredibly rewarding experience to be part of a team that took an idea from a teacher’s brain and built a technology solution that has a far reaching impact on students, educators, and parents across the country. As the year draws to a close, we are humbled and grateful to our customers and the raving fans and supporters of MasteryConnect.
We started 2012 off with a bang after receiving financial support and backing from some amazing organizations in Edtech such as NewSchools Venture Fund, Learn Capital, and ImagineK12. Their support jump-started our mission to help teachers across America share formative assessments and track mastery of state and Common Core standards.
At my desk in our offices, I have a close view of our “start-up dashboard,” which is a big TV screen that flashes the latest information and statistics about everything in the MasteryConnect community. As I sit here today, I’m blown away and humbled by the amazing educators in this country that are working to implement mastery learning in the classroom. A few highlights from the dashboard as of today:
- Teachers from 22,108 schools have now joined MasteryConnect (representing about 25% of schools in America)
- Teachers from 7,601 districts are now represented in the Learning Community (over 1/2 of districts in America)
- Teachers have scored 2,763,291 assessments for mastery learning
- Our Common Core app has been downloaded over 500,000 times and standards within the app have been viewed over 39 million times
2012 saw an incredible amount of feature development including tools such as curriculum maps, benchmark assessment features, and simple SIS integrations and API’s. We’re excited to be working with some amazing new partners such as Solution Tree, Edmodo, and Clever. 2013 looks like another incredible year. We’ll be announcing more financial supporters in early January, a new book in the early spring, and some Common Core features that we’re sure will knock your socks off! Cheers to an amazing 2012 and wishing you a happy new year!
Keep on Trackin’
Mick Hewitt, CEO