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John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy, Ed.S. @JMcCarthyEdS


 


 


 


Author of the new book, So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide for Differentiation, coming out February 2017. Register for information of preorders.


 


An education consultant with extensive teaching experience, John McCarthy supports instructional practices around Differentiation, Student Voice, Authentic Learning Experiences, Project-Based Learning, Instructional Technology, Writing, and Assessment.


 


 


 


His website, OpeningPaths.org, offers rich resources in many instructional areas, publications, and support areas.


 


 


 


He currently travels across the United States working with schools and also coaching internationally. He teaches online graduate courses for Madonna University and online educator courses for Dell. See his LinkedIn profile for more details.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


John responds to comments on the blog and via social media such as Twitter @JMcCarthyEdS.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Posted by on in Project-Based Learning

Multiple paths

When my kids get excited about school it’s a wonderful moment. This is especially true as they are teenagers who attended a Project Based Learning School. Those moments occured “only” (yes I’m being absolute) when the topics and outcome are connected to the world beyond school.

I share in my book, "So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide for Differentiation" that during my son’s freshmen year at Ardis New Tech High School, a Geometry-Art project focused on students creating soup bowls to be auctioned off at an event known at Empty Bowls. Local potters also craft bowls that are donated, like the students’ work, to the auction. The proceeds support the food pantries in the local area. The students learned art and Geometry concepts throughout the PBL unit. At the evening event, parents and community were invited to see the artwork and participate in a silent auction for the bowls of the local artists. Parents got first dibs on buying their child’s bowl.

The power of that experience remains today because students had a voice in their community. They understood the connections of curriculum and context with the world outside academia. As a parent, I see the growth this experience had for my child and value every opportunity that the school provides in this area. As a PBL consultant, I would like to see such experiences happen more often than the pretend scenarios that tune out students, including my own. Scenarios can be intriguing at first, but lose momentum when students realize that the work will go no where and to no one once it’s done. The results, like most traditional assignments, are submitted to the teacher for a grade—and goes no further.

Having an authentic audience and purpose has so much upside. Students engage into the work, sustained by the energy that the results are purposeful and awaited by an audience beyond the school. It snaps them out of the Checklist Mentality that I discuss in an Edutopia article. They connect the curriculum with real purpose, and not—as students perceive—just academic hoop jumping.

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

Authentic2

 

An important need and big challenge is making curriculum relevant to students so that they “want” to do the work because the content makes sense to them, and has meaning through their usage beyond the classroom walls. The value of such experiences cements learning as students have a real-world reference to recall the content when needed.

For example, students are more likely to remember their work on a fund raising campaign that raised awareness about cancer while soliciting donations that are given to cancer research. Such an experience is more powerful and lasting than approaching the same curriculum in the traditional format: memorizing the functions and structures of different cells, practicing research skills as an isolated skill for English, and completing a list of math functions without a real-world context. In the case of the fighting cancer campaign, the students developed understanding and application of all of those skills and content areas, while having a positive impact on their community.

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Posted by on in Differentiated Instruction

Hike

While visiting a high school in Michigan, I talked to students about their learning experiences. Understanding what they saw as valuable could have an important impact on how the teachers may strive to further elevate student voice in the school. One senior shared a perspective that I repeatedly heard from others. “I want more times when I get to say how I make products for projects. Not just do papers. Maybe videos or some other way to do the work.” Students want opportunities to forge their way for learning. How can we as educators share the reigns of instructional learning experiences?

 

A common practice used to engage students is to give them choices for how they can create products to demonstrate their learning. This is a good practice as some learners struggle when not given options. From a management perspective, choices jumpstart students into the tasks at hand. Yet choices do not equate to student voice.

 

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