Winter Newsletter | Remarkable Learning Environments

Updates and information from Dr. Marie Alcock

Learning Systems Associates and Tomorrow's Education Network


Designing Structures for Modern Learning

If we have new kinds of learners, then we need refreshed contemporary and responsive learning environments. We need new kinds of schools. Even if the most creative and competent teachers shape an emerging curriculum employing dynamic learning strategies, they will be restricted - and most important, their students will be restricted - by the parameters of the school program.


Bold Moves Boot Camp is a 2-day workshop that examines expanding the options for each of the four structures that make modern learning possible: schedules, learning spaces, student grouping, and personnel configurations. We will look at the relationship between these structures, and how to research and develop programs tailored to the student population in your school. Action plans will be developed onsite.

Bold Moves Boot Camp
in Wilton, Connecticut 

Facilitated by Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs

and Dr. Marie Hubley Alcock

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Fall Newsletter | Curriculum Mapping In School and Online

Updates and information from Dr. Marie Alcock

Learning Systems Associates and Tomorrow's Education Network


Thinking About Curriculum Mapping

Curriculum Mapping can be described as the relationship between two sides of a coin. The first side is the creation of a database which includes the essential elements of a curriculum map. The other side of the coin is the review process - examining, discussing and revising maps within and across disciplines and grade levels. Dr. Marie Hubley Alcock provides an overview of curriculum mapping, connections to standards and essential questions, unit planing, assessment design and more in Curriculum Mapping 101 Online. This 10-module video course walks teachers through the curriculum mapping process from definition to critical assessments. The self-paced program includes downloadable templates and resources and is available to all TEN List Digital Library subscribers.


Curriculum Mapping 101 Online

with Dr. Marie Hubley Alcock

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Curriculum Mapping and Assessment Design - 2-Day Boot Camp


During this workshop we will briefly review your schools curriculum mapping mission and strategy, and focus on implementation, integrating assessment data and upgrading unit maps for contemporary learners.

Two Day Boot Camp | Patchogue, NY - May 20-21, 2019

During this workshop we will guide each participant through:

  •     an overview of curriculum mapping
  •     aligning curriculum and assessment to standards
  •     integrating digital, media, and global into teaching and learning
  •     developing an action plan for moving the work forward at your school
  •     drafting a quality unit map' as a professional development mode
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Happy Spring! Workshops & Professional Development Planning

For many students the feel of Spring means that Summer is near. For faculty though, it's that 'special time' when we're both preparing for the end-of-year crunch and thinking about how to improve teaching and learning for next year.

We're delighted to offer unique options and opportunities to administrators and teachers who are engaged in curriculum upgrades, interested in contemporary instructional strategies, and/or focused on assessment design.

Our services are delivered through a series of onsite leadership consulting, step-by-step curriculum coaching, and meeting facilitation for school boards and parent groups. We also offer virtual options for teams in need of curriculum audits or other remote support.

In addition, we're happy to partner with schools and school districts to offer Boot Camp Workshops featuring Drs. Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Marie Alcock. The popular Curriculum Mapping and Bold Moves for Schools workshops, offer specialized topics, tools and time to develop a strategy with your team, and personalized on the spot consulting from Heidi and Marie.

Learn more about our Boot Camp Workshops.

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Learning and The Brain Conference - Promoting Social Skills, Interactions, and Collaborations in a Digital Age

Teaching Social Skills In a Digital Age

Children today spend more time using digital devices than ever before, but it has come with a loss of face-to-face interaction and social skills. A 2018 Pew Research Center study found that with 95 percent of U.S. teens now having access to a smartphone, 45 percent feel overwhelmed by social media drama, 48 percent feel they don't fit in with peers, and 36 percent feel they have too little face-to-face time with friends. However, brain and psychological research has shown that having face-to-face interactions and developing social skills are essential for learning, making lasting friendships, and for academic and career success. Join us in New York to explore how our brains are wired for face-to-face social interactions, how digital devices are affecting social skills development and addiction, and how social groups, and using classroom collaborations improve learning. Discover ways to help all students, including the socially awkward and those with autism, feel accepted, make friends, and develop the social and emotional skills needed for school and life success.

Follow on Twitter (@learningandtheb / #latb53) for conference updates and news

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New Year, New Professional Development Goals

Learning Systems Associates is proud to support school organizations that are embracing curriculum change, contemporary instruction, and assessments that are authentic and standards based.

Dr. Marie Alcock works personally with school leaders and faculty to improve curriculum and transform learning environments to meet district and state-wide goals, while providing students with meaningful and measurable learning outcomes.


New Jersey Schools: Invite Marie to your school for a leadership meeting, strategic planning session or curriculum review and we will schedule a virtual planning and review session follow-up, at no additional cost. Or, partner with us to host a 1, 2 or 3 Day Professional Development Workshop at your campus. Partnering schools experience increased faculty engagement, broader connections to neighboring school groups, 20% discount on registration fee's and a complimentary full-day strategic planning session with Dr. Alcock.

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Bold Moves for Schools | Bring 'Bold Moves' To Your School

Learn more about this project at:


In November 2018, Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Dr. Marie Hubley Alcock, for the second year in a row, began a series of professional development sessions with Tri-State Consortium.


Sessions are offered so that school and district teams might:

  •     Develop long term strategic plans to engage community
  •     Share existing plans and obtain feedback review
  •     Consider program structure research ties to program goals
  •     Examine case studies
  •     Develop PD for faculty
  •     Build and share upgraded curriculum units
  •     Sharing long term and short personalized learning exemplars
  •     Revise assessment and evidence analysis
  •     Build community and parent support process and samples

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Five Tenets to Shape Education Policy

When thinking about education policy around assessments, Bold Moves for Schools proposes 5 tenets to transform accountability, leadership and performance in schools.

  1. Authentic Student Work -- Authentic student product or performance should be the goal
  2. Realistic Audience Feedback -- Feedback connected to the purpose of the product or performance can be gathered from an audience outside of the classroom
  3. Long-Term Projects -- Long term projects where deeper learner can occur should be favored over short-term memorization of processes and ideas
  4. Collaborative Assessment Design -- Teachers and students can work collaboratively to identify indicators of innovation for assessment purposes
  5. Self-Navigating Learners -- Students as self-navigating professional learners can monitor, reflect upon and feel connected to their personal learning path and progress
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What's Wrong With Standardized Testing Anyway?


In a previous blog post we stated, "Standardized testing has its place in education, however, it is insufficient and has the potential for far-reaching unintended consequences." Here we'll discuss 4 detrimental outcomes of standardized testing.


Misuse of Data

Standardized tests used to rank learners, faculty and schools assess a few limited proficiencies but falls short of measuring what we value as learning – that which is educationally significant. This singular method does not factor in varying student conditions and environmental factors that impact scoring. In addition, grading practices are inconsistent state to state and scorers are often encouraged to favor quantity over quality reviews.

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Contemporary Assessments for Innovative Schools


Educators and policymakers have a unique relationship – they share responsibility for shaping learning systems and preparing students for an interconnected and ever-changing world. We often think of teachers and administrators on one side and legislators on the other in a virtual tug-of-war, each side firmly planted in ideologies that inform programs and regulations. On the contrary, diversity of thought exists among teachers, administrators, superintendents, unions, governors, legislators, taxpayers, parents and students. And in fact, we’re all in this together.


Accountability and assessment methods emerge as the single most contentious policy topic. While policymakers have the extraordinary task of making decisions that impact all aspects of education, faculty struggle with administering programs that are meaningful, effective and result in satisfactory test results.

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Habits of Mind and Generation Alpha, with Special Guest Bena Kallick

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

This month, we are very excited to be joined by the wonderful Bena Kallick, co-founder of the Habits of Mind Institute, and author of the recent Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind, written with Allison Zmuda.

Last August, we wrote a blog post entitled “Meet Generation Alpha: Teaching the Newest Generation of Students.” In the post, we described the unique needs of the newest generation of learners entering our classrooms right now... [click below to keep reading]

How the Design of Learning Goals Can Launch a Student Quest

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

Learning-goal maps are a way to organize a learning experience that focuses on the demonstration of learning first, then aligns other elements of the experience accordingly. It also creates an opportunity to co-create with students using a student version of learning goal maps.

This month, we’d like to share a recent upgraded experience we wrote with a media arts teacher using new arts standards in New York State and show you the associated student version as a model for upgrading your own and your students’ learning experiences... [click below to keep reading]

Affinity Spaces for Educators: Shift and Deepen Collective Knowledge

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

When we write and share ideas with the world, we hope it will inspire conversations and new questions about how our work will impact professional practices. This is especially true for blog posts, where we can push the envelope a little further and be provocateurs who launch discourse. With social media, sometimes that discourse becomes more limited, as many readers align themselves with folks who agree with their own thinking. That’s not really discourse, though; it doesn’t push thinking or change anyone’s opinion or create actions toward better ways of doing things. Which brings us to the focus of this month’s blog post on affinity spaces...

The Power of Driving Questions

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

In our current contemporary educational landscape, it has become more important than ever to invite student voice into our curriculum and instructional decisions. Their voices invite opportunities for personalization, authenticity, buy-in, motivation, and increased performance.

In this blog post, we are continuing to discuss last month’s theme of the first Learning Tenet from The Quest for Learning: 'The learner engages with relevant, worthy inquiries and experiences that are interesting or emotionally gripping'...

Engaging Inquiry: Bring Students to the Table with Different Types of Questions

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

In a previous blog post on why games work, we shared our three learner-engagement tenets from our book, The Quest for Learning. In this blog post, we’d like to revisit Learning Tenet One: 'The learner engages with relevant, worthy inquiries and experiences that are interesting or emotionally gripping.' The teacher might think a topic worthy, but without conversation or negotiation with students, the topic may not be as worthy as the teacher thought...

Modernize Your Instructional Practice in 11 Ways

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, Michael Fisher, Allison Zmuda

In our new book, The Quest for Learning we ask teachers to consider how they might make their instructional practices more contemporary. We’ve talked to literally hundreds of teachers as we explore some of the facets of “right now” interests and skills, and we’d like to share some of what we’ve discovered. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of questions, just a few that were generated from our work with teachers over the last few years and have influenced what we wrote in the new book...

Natural Learning Experienes

Contributed by: Craig Gastauer

This post was originally shared on Just Start for Kids & Schools and the author has given his permission to post it here.

Natural learning experiences are generated by observation and questioning.  As individuals share their different perspectives, each of us begin to make meaning of these experiences and deepen our understanding of the world.

Hiking on the cliffs above the the Pacific Ocean with my nine year old son creates for us a safe space to explore the world.  Questions abound as we come across animals, plants, rock strata, and even the wonderful variety of people we encounter. 

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Teaching is Changing

Contributed by Marie Alcock, PhD.

The truth is that teaching is changing in America.  As a profession we have been in a state of flux for more than 20 years.  In the big picture that is not much time and we can all agree that one day we will look back and note this period and the changes that resulted from it.  Here are our top ten things about teaching that have changed.

We made this movie as a way to note the key characteristics of this change. Teaching is Changing.

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Video Games for Social Change

Contributed by: Marie Alcock, PhD

When is a video game useful?  When is it a tool for education?  Or even a tool for social change?

I enjoyed a TED talk featuring Jane McGonigal and her ideas about using video games as training grounds for saving the world.  Check it out here.

Jane raised some good points about the addictive rush from being on the “verge of an epic win” and the motivation from “epic quest” that is trusted to us as players.  What would we need to upgrade about our curriculums to get this kind of “epic quest” feel for the learner?  How do we make each skill progression for reading or writing feel like the addictive leveling of the “imminent win”?

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