What is Your Educational Moonshot?

Part 2 of 4 in a series of Stephen Davis’ Guest Blog Posts

By CUE Member and 2014 Online Summit Keynote Esther Wojcicki

Moonshots in Education - Launching Blended Learning

Moonshots in Education

Time is a Not a Four-Letter Word

The main thing teachers constantly lack is time. My new book, Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom addresses just that: how to manage the classroom so it is easier on the teacher and much more effective for the 21st century student.

In writing the book, the big question was: as teachers, how can we be more effective in the classroom and make our lives easier? Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But it isn’t with the Blended Learning model supporting teachers.

The goal of Moonshots is to support teachers in the classroom, to make teaching easier and more relevant to today’s world within the existing structure of education while simultaneously making it more effective for students.

Moonshots and Blended Learning…

The goal is tied to the Blended Learning movement which is defined as using traditional face-to-face instruction with online instruction. I have taken this definition a bit further to mean that it is not only online instruction, but using online tools to support project-based learning.

The book is entitled Moonshots in Education because it will take an extraordinary amount of courage, a moonshot, for teachers to rethink their classrooms and use the blended learning model. We have been teaching the same way—lecture—for the past several hundred years and it is hard to change.

When things get tough in a classroom, we all tend to go back to the lecture model. It is hard to change.

Equipping Moonshots…

  1. Give the students more responsibility in teaching themselves and the class by showing students how to access information online and share with their peers. Students who have more control over their learning do better. Studies show it makes teaching easier and engages students more effectively.
  2. Provide teachers with the PD support they need online or at their site. Sometimes it is easier to get support online.
  3. The culture of the classroom needs to change to make it easier on teachers. They should not be the only ones providing instruction. Peer to peer instruction is equally effective with the support of technology.
  4. The curriculum should relate to the real world as much as possible. The book gives multiple suggestions for all subject areas.

Uncovering Even More Moonshots…

This is a book with many resources for teachers to change the culture in their classrooms in all subject areas and at all grade levels. There is a chapter on network support for teachers using Google tools.

Dan Russell, Chief Scientist at Google, also contributes a chapter about search and how to teach it to students. Given insights from his work on User Happiness, it is full of suggestions that have been tried successfully in classrooms everywhere.

Motivation is a big issue that teachers deal with on a daily basis. It isn’t easy to solve. The chapter “The Magic of Motivation” is included in the book written by an expert, 2009 Dow Jones Teacher of the Year, Paul Kandell.

I’ve explored Moonshots in Music Education and have dedicated a chapter on how to use Google Tools in the classroom.

There is information about the Google Teacher Academy and the Google Summits, both of which are ways for teachers to get more training in Google tools. All the Google EDU products are explained and described including Drive, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawing, along with real-life examples of how they are used in classrooms.

Interested in what recommended Apps are available for teachers at all grade levels? There is a chapter that gets you started with Apps. As we all know, there are hundreds of Apps on iTunes as well as Google Play for Education. This chapter highlights many trusted Apps that teachers have been using. The idea is to get you started and excited about supporting your teaching with these Apps.

Personal Moonshot

Writing this book was a Moonshot for me. It has been a goal of mine for many years to write a book about my style of teaching developed in the 1980’s and the media arts program I founded at Palo Alto High School. My goal is to help other teachers engage and motivate kids. I never thought I would succeed in writing a book with all the demands of teaching.

However, I was passionate about writing it and so I devoted weekends and evenings to the writing. My husband supported me in my efforts, but my daughters were in the dark. They had no idea what I was doing when I holed up on the weekends. In fact, they just thought “Oh, mom, she is busy with all those papers she has to correct.”

I learned how hard it is for teachers to be the early adopters and the innovators in their schools. These teachers are the brave innovators in education.

I learned a lot more than I ever expected about styles of blended learning in doing the research for this book and was inspired by many of the teachers I met and interviewed. I learned that blended learning has multiple variations, so many that it is really hard to categorize them.

I also learned that there is confusion between blended learning, flipped classroom and project-based learning.

I am grateful for the opportunity to write the book, for the support of my publisher, Pacific Research Institute in SF, and for the support of the Koret Foundation who believed in me and supported my work. My teaching has benefitted from all the techniques I learned from others and my students are really happy that took the time and energy to write about my own Moonshot.

Editor’s note: Check out the recent interview with Esther by Larry Magid on Huffington Post.

unnamed Esther Wojcicki,  Distinguished Visiting Scholar at MediaX at Stanford, and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Creative Commons, has been involved in the Open Education initiative since 2005 and has worked extensively on the Open Textbook initiative.  She transformed the journalism program at Palo Alto High School from a small program involving 19 students to the largest journalism program in the nation involving more than 600 students.

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Esther Wojocicki

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