What is the Academy of Discovery Model for middle school?


The Abstract:

The Academy of Discovery Model (ADM) is research-based, student-centric pedagogy for teaching middle school students. The ADM fully realizes the potential that technology has for creating engaged learners through authentic education.

The Academy of Discovery Mission:

To join collaborative and inquiry-based technologies of discourse with the pedagogy of project-based learning, constructivism, and interdisciplinary study to create an authentic learning environment that necessitates student ownership, engagement, and achievement.

The Academy of Discovery Model does not supersede state and district standards, but rather channels them into an authentic learning environment.

A Culture of Authentic Learning

The Academy of Discovery Model creates a culture of learning that will not fit into the traditional classroom. The ADM does not assume that by throwing technology at students, learning will occur. It systematically works to ensure that students own their learning by making it valuable and relevant to their lives, thus incentivising the learning process by intrinsic means. The essential question, "How do you create authentic learning," must, therefore, be answered.

Authentic Learning is created by ensuring that all content and teaching decisions are made based upon what the ADM outlines as The Six C's of Authentic Learning, a kind of definition of what makes assignments, assessments, and instruction different in an ADM classroom:

  • Contextual (Relevant) - All information that is disseminated, and content that is uncovered has a greater context in the past, present, or future lives of the students.
    • In the classroom: Isolated concepts do not exist. The connectedness of learning is made obvious to all students, providing easier contextualization between disciplines and standards within a single discipline. Transfer of knowledge is an expectation from the first day. Students are accountable for bringing scientific inquiry into the cause and effect situations of history. Attacking a math equation or deciphering a difficult word problem are skills learned from creating meaning in a compound-complex sentence with multiple sesquipedalian words, and vice versa.
  • Connected (Hyperlinked) - All concepts are linked to others' ideas, whether they be original source documents, experts in the field, student experts who already have an advanced understanding.
    • In the Classroom: Each student has the power to look deeper into the texts being explored in class. They do not have to go searching for greater meaning because all sources are cited, just as they would be in a scholarly paper. If teaching is all consuming profession, so should learning be also. Each resource created by students must be linked to at least one other resource that led to the student creation. The web that is created by professionals and students is both virtual and concrete. It is virtual in the sense that many of these links only exist in digital documents, but it is concrete in that students and teachers can bring support for every decision made and work created, seamlessly.
  • Collaborative - Each assignment has the potential for working with others to brainstorm, create, refine, or revise.
    • In the Classroom: Collaborative note taking allows students to join learning together and collect resources to aid all who are working together.. Collaborative documents allow students to work asynchronously on projects and analyze data gathered in far-flung locations. All communications are archival, so that no great idea is lost or overlooked because of a loud voice or a lack of time.
  • Change-directed - All knowledge is constantly changing, and so are students understanding and demonstration of knowledge.
    • In the Classroom: Both teachers and students have the power to change curriculum and methods. Constant reflection and feedback guide instructional and learning decisions. By working together and receiving constant feedback from one another, teachers and students can truly differentiate for the greatest learning effect.
  • Conversational - Understanding is created through thoughtful discussion, conversation, and debate.
    • In the Classroom: Making meaning of any text is a personal process that involves taking a concept or idea and relating it in terms that make sense to the individual. This process is visible in the ADM classroom. It comes in the form of backchannels during class and debates and discussions after class. That conversations make meaning is no surprise; putting the conversations into the learning space shouldn’t be either.
  • Continuous (Spontaneous) - Students can pursue all of their inspiration for learning. It does not have to wait until they get to the next class or until they get home because they have access to the technology and the freedom of the environment.
    • In the Classroom: Students will have access to collaborative, aggregative, and investigative tools at all times. They will be able to use these tools whenever they request them, and they will be expected to request them a lot. They are responsible for taking ownership of their learning and continual and successive lines of inquiry are the basis for this ownership.

The Academy of Discovery creates this type of learning environment by making The Six C's explicit in the classroom. We liken The Six C's to the six strings on a guitar. The more in-tune that each string is with one another, the more beautiful creation and learning can take place.
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By teaching these skills within the four following interdisciplinary principles of the model, the students have the incentive to pursue learning that they see as benefiting their own lives.
  • Real literacy has a real purpose and a real audience.

  • All history has a context.

  • Math, logic, and problem-solving are fundamental to every-day experiences.

  • Observing and learning about how the world works is a hands-on process.


These principles ensure an authentic classroom environment filled with student ownership and engagement. Instruction focuses upon project-based learning with a constructivist base, in turn creating a platform for interdisciplinary study and thematic exploration. Basic skills are more deeply understood because students can see their relevance, and higher-order thinking skills are enhanced because teachers use the methods of inquiry.

As the Science Leadership Academy puts it, both teachers and students become Educational Heroes:
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A Culture of Collaboration

Because the Academy of Discovery Model is built upon collaboration and connectivity, all major software and resources are based upon open-source and Creative-Commons platforms. This means that all of the connections made with experts, all of the collaboration with classmates, and all of the information resources can be accessed virtually for free. The financial incentive plays a major part in this decision, but by teaching students to use and improve upon existing free resources, the ADM teaches them that learning is a open and collaborative process. Below you will find a list of open-source, web-based, or creative-commons applications that are essential to the Academy of Discovery Model:
Cost
Application
Notes
free
Word processing
Google Documents and Wordpress blogging applications will be used in order to write out and connect concepts. Open Office is also available for more sophisticated applications.
free
Concept mapping
Bubbl.us, Gliffy, and FreeMind provide both creation and publication of mind maps for organizing ideas.
free
Spreadsheets and Databases
Google Spreadsheets, Zoho Sheets, and Open Office will be used for data collection and analysis.
free
Audio and Music editing
Audacity will be used for editing podcasts and audio field notes. Gcast will be used for recording on-the-fly observations and reflecting upon the learning process.
free
Photo editing
Gimp, Picnik, and Fauxto will be used for editing digital learning artifacts.
free
Video editing and Multimedia Authoring
Jumpcut, ChapterToolMe, and Bubblr will be used to create digital stories and presentations of knowledge.
free
Painting and Drawing
Fauxto and Litha Paint will be used for drawing out simple ideas. Gliffy will be used for creating complex diagrams.
free
Presentation
Zoho Show, Thinkfree, and Open Office will allow students to create PowerPoint compatible presentations for their learning. They will also use SlideShare in order to share these presentations with the world.
free
Calendar
Google Calendar will be used to synchronize all assignments and collaborations.
free
Videoconferencing and Videoconferencing
Skype will be used to collaborate and create a flat classroom.
free
Website authoring
Students will create a web-presence through the creation of their Wordpress blogs, Wikispace authoring, and through the use of Google Pages.

How does the Academy of Discovery Model for middle school benefit students?

  1. Online interactive notebooks.
    • Students have all notes in the same place.
    • Students can add pictures, graphs, and video to their notes.
    • Students can hyperlink to other information that gives a greater context to the text.
    • Greater reflection can occur when students can make significant connections between the four major disciplines.
  2. Collaborative note taking.
    • Students can work together on creating a master set of notes that can be used by the classroom.
    • Because each student will get something different from a classroom session, they can add their unique knowledge and perspective to the notes.
  3. Curriculum Wikis that are edited by students.
    • All directions, instruction, and resources are easily available and editable online.
    • Students can influence the curriculum by making directions more clear or adding a great new resource for the lesson.
    • Lesson plans become both more refined and expansive when students can add new options that teachers may not have thought of.
  4. Thematic strands of curriculum that students could learn all disciplines within.
    • Students can see how each discipline affects the others.
    • Students won't have to artificially separate events from their context, literature from the economic concepts that helped to create it.
  5. Synchronous and Asynchronous online discussion.
    • Students can voice their opinions both at school and at home in audio forums, discussion boards, video comments, and textual critiques, thus providing an avenue for all voices to be heard.
  6. Online Digital Portfolios.
    • Students can take their work with them from year to year.
    • They can showcase their best work and receive feedback from peers, teachers, and other interested parties around the world.
    • Each student's body of evidence is unique, and because of this, more clearly shows their particular interests and skill sets.

How does the Academy of Discovery Model for middle school benefit teachers?

  1. Online Digital Portfolios
    • Teachers will not have to:
      • Keep track of stacks of paper
      • Decide which pieces of evidence to keep for a body of evidence
      • Carry student work to and from school to home.
  2. Online lesson plans and curriculum.
    • Parents can check to see what is going on in the classroom on any day of the week.
    • Teachers can edit curriculum on-the-fly according to the pace and depth that the students are engaged in.
    • Teachers can collaborate and more easily institute the interdisciplinary thematic units that the ADM is based upon.
  3. Teacher reflective blogging and podcasting.
    • Teachers can reflect upon their practice and have a forum for discussing issues specific to the Academy of Discovery Model.
    • Teachers can give quick reminders to themselves and each other on what is working in their classrooms.

What resources does the Academy of Discovery Model for middle school require?

  • 60 laptop computers (for .5:1 computing)
    • $3,200 for four laptop carts that can accomidate up to 64 computers.
    • $78,000 for 60 Macbook laptops.
  • Software to run all Academy of Discovery Applications
    • Free
  • 4 digital cameras for the constant documentation of learning artifacts.
    • $500
  • 4 digital video cameras for the both formal and informal presentation of learning and video conferencing.
    • $1,000
  • Domain space for publishing digital portfolios of student work.
    • Free
  • A constant connection to wireless internet access
    • Free
  • Academy of Discovery Fund for further model development (conferences, subscriptions to web-based services, etc.)
    • $1000

Total Operating Budget: $83,700