Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Epic Saga of UbD

My first "introduction" to Understanding by Design was when our English department was talking about the training for the new Georgia standards we'd been rushed through during one of our professional days last year. Our department head, who was the school's standards instructor, said she'd recognized the templates we used to "unpack the standards" from UbD. Well, I liked our standards. I thought - still think - they're thorough without being nitpicky. My one grief with them is that I think whoever wrote them should have used normal language.

So because I liked the standards, and because knowing where you're headed before you start out seems like, I don't know, a bit of a DUH (well, it IS!) I decided to look into this "Understanding by Design," whatever it was. I knew I didn't have the whole picture - there were all these boxes on the template and I didn't know what they were there for, and I didn't understand how - or why - an activity (aka "performance task") was supposed to serve as an assessment; I mean, isn't the activity what students do to learn the content, and then the assessment comes after?

On a bit of a fluke, my class won an award for one of the school's fundraisers. They got $5 gift cards to Blockbuster and a McDonald's breakfast one morning. I got a $100 gift card for the mall! Obviously, there were only two possible candidates for how that money would be spent: books, and shoes. As it happens, I am VERY picky about both - I usually only buy a book if I've checked it out of the library and loved it (or if it intrigues me and is under $2 at the used bookstore anyway - I mean, c'mon, that's like... not even enough for a Happy Meal these days!) and I demand that my shoes be comfortable, durable, and stylish.

I got the gift card back in September. The mall is BIG - but it had only one bookstore (Waldenbooks) and the selection was pretty good, but... I have so many books already that I have to want a book fairly desperately before I'll buy it. Nothing jumped out at me. (I did, however, get the Pirateology banner after they were done with the display!) Nothing at Christmastime. Nothing for my birthday (March). And then the unthinkable happened...

The bookstore closed!

I mean, I was: "WTF?" It boggles the mind! How can you have a mall without any bookstores? Isn't there, like, a law against it? (No? Well, there SHOULD be!!)

That set me back another couple of months. Then I was browsing in Barnes & Noble (it's a wonderful research library - bring a notebook and a pen and you can find out all kinds of stuff!) and - oh look! - there was a copy of UbD 2nd. After paging through it briefly I was intrigued and confused, so I went up to the register and LO AND BEHOLD, they accepted my mall gift card! VOOT!

So I had a chance to do some studying on my own, and then I (somewhat tentatively - I'm the n00b in my department) approached the department head and mentioned that I liked the ideas in UbD and it might be neat if we could see if it helped us understand and incorporate the state standards. She seemed to like the idea, but didn't exactly pick it up and run with it, and as I wasn't exactly feeling like an expert yet, neither did I. So I decided that first, I'd make sure I knew what I was talking about, and then I could present it to the department as a whole during pre-planning.

Thus began my quest to become an Expert Designer! So far, it's mostly consisted of pestering those who might know more than I do, usually along these lines: "Hey, d'you know anything about Understanding by Design? It sounds great, but I have no idea what I'm doing. Uh, wanna work together?" Woo, go me. ;p

So, my fellow intrepid explorers, stay tuned, for the continuing EPIC SAGA OF UBD!

(PS: I finally bought a new pair of shoes on Friday.)


Ms. Q said...

Have you checked out HuffEnglish--Dana's doing her reading journal of UbD on her blog and has started a wiki for UbD educators.

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