Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Enduring Learning Experience

If you have not already, take 20 minutes to watch Brian Crosby's talk form TedxDenver. An engaging and reflective video about an educator working to create meaningful experiences for his students.

The engagement shared in the talk is rich, cross-disciplinary, rigorous, creative, student-centered and authentic. Also, it honored the perspective of students through posting commentary on blogs and wikis. Student work in Mr. Crosby's class can serve as a resources for students in classrooms across the world.

Another point to consider is the need for consistency across a school district. What students are experiencing in Mr. Crosby's 4th grade class has to be continued until they graduate from high school. As we think about instruction, the conversation should be K-12 and not building centric. While content or intensity of content knowledge may vary, strategies, vehicles and expectations should remain consistent. What is happening in Mr. Crosby's class one would expect to see across a school district.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Walking the Highline

“Walking the High Line”

Next year shapes up to be an exciting session at MHS. Access to the MHS wifi will continue and with expanded broadband capabilities problems that have plagued the building will become a distant memory. Students will be able to use hand held devices in classrooms and the school will be linked through common usage of accounts. Class Moodle pages will be further developed and all freshman will start experimenting with the Social Bookmarking service Diigo.

Additionally, we have move beyond the growing pains of working in a new schedule. Hopefully, teachers will feel more comfortable having had the chance to spend a summer reflecting on 09-10 school year. We will also have two classes, the 9th and 10th graders that only know the current schedule.

The Strategic Plan will influence decisions made at the high school and provide a common vision for all MHS stakeholders. As the strategic plan takes hold, more of us at the high school can have an active role in shaping a model school for 21st Century learning.

While all of these developments are exciting, personally, I am anxiously awaiting the start of next school year to sit in a string of classes being introduced for the first time at the high school. American Studies I and II and African American Studies are interdisciplinary Humanities courses that will be taught by several English and Social Studies teachers. Another Academy will be launched at MHS. The Classics Academy will involve teachers from 5 different departments, support co-teaching models and provide students with the space to study independently. Just based upon the thought, commitment and effort put forth by educators involved in each program there is no way these course will not be successful. The fact that these course will run next year has inspired other educators to conceive of cross-disciplinary opportunities.

The evidence is compelling when supporting interdisciplinary/co-teaching models. Research also suggests that schools should be broken down into smaller academies or houses. I suggest reading Linda Darling Hammond’s The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. Programs such as the Science or Classics Academy could be the future of how MHS is structured.

The thought of academies and what can be accomplished at MHS came across my mind this weekend. I finally had the chance to walk the High Line in NYC. I have been waiting to walk the High Line since it was refurbished and opened last June. Within a year, the High Line has become one of the most trafficked attractions in NYC. It is hard to think that the decrepit weed infested rail line that ran through the meat packing district could be transformed into an urban botanical thoroughfare. I was able to walk the High Line at sundown and return after dinner (Dos Caminos great Mexican) to stroll some more. The transformation is impressive. A new lens has been created to view the city and for the city that never sleeps, the High Line had this vibrancy that’s hard to explain.

Besides the beauty of the walk, the High Line also represents human ingenuity. Thinking about the High Line’s transformation stimulated reflections about MHS.

Any small learning community that is created needs to be relevant in that students are being challenged with authentic scenarios and can apply skills and knowledge to current dilemmas. Let’s say we wanted to construct a pathway through the high school that connected to sustainability/environmental consciousness.

We could ask students to consider the use of space within existing communities. Morristown could be a think tank for our students as they investigate was to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly community. Is there a parallel between community gardens projects or converting vacant lots into functional space and the transformation of the High Line into a pedestrian thoroughfare? If students were presented with a problem to transform an abandoned rail spur, consider the different disciplines and skills involved in crafting and presenting a possible solution.

I urge those who have not to put aside some time for a leisurely stroll on the High Line. While walking and taking in the surroundings, consider what went into the current and future planned development and the impact it has had. Also, consider how the highline could be a model of engagements we would privilege for students.

Thanks for listening and again, find some time to take stroll with friends and family.

Summer Goals

June 22, 2010

This morning Will Richardson came to the high school and delivered a presentation to 80 educators who volunteered attend. Mr. Richardson frequently blogs about education or issues related to schooling. Mr. Richardson is the author of several books and spent 22 years as an English teacher. Much of the educational blogging world is influenced by the pioneering work Mr. Richardson has done since starting his blog nine years ago

Informal feedback from those who attended appreciated the opportunity to hear Mr. Richardson speak. The presentation lasted for nearly three hours. There was a break in between and the small setting allowed for those who attended to ask questions during the presentation. The perspective Mr. Richardson shared was that of a parent. Even though he was a teacher for twenty years and has been a respected consultant for the last eight years, Mr. Richardson is the parent of a 6th and 8th grader. During the presentation, he kept saying what are schools currently doing and will do for to prepare his kids or any kids for that matter to be successful after graduating from high school.

Among the various sites, videos, tools and stories Mr. Richardson has collected and observed throughout his career, he said that change could not happen or at least would not alter from the “glacial pace” that characterizes academic reform, unless educators are able to articulate an extensive Professional/Personal Learning Network. Educators need to embody what it means to be a life-long learner and model for students how to build, in an ethical manner, a supportive learning network. Whether it is through Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Youtube or all of these social networks and more, educators need to build relationships with those who share similar passions.

In the spirit of this message, I wanted to share a few posts that I came across the other day. It is important to set professional goals for the summer. In sitting down with teachers during annual review conferences, a consistent goal set by teachers was to increase their use of technology. While that is a worthwhile focus and especially when considering where we will stand come September 1, 2010 as opposed to past opening days, technology is a powerful tool and not an entity separate from the curriculum. Technology is being infused because it adds value to the teaching and learning process. In my opinion, I see how harnessing what exists (hardware, software, Web 2.0) can alter the dynamic of the classroom and allow us to confidently address Mr. Richardson’s question of how we are preparing students.

Fellow educators posted self-design programs related to improving the effective use of technology in classrooms. Along with this cast, I shared links to some of the programs. Check out the 30 goals challenge. Over 1500 educators have joined the The 30 Goals Challenge since January 2010. This free e-book challenges you to accomplish 30 social media and professional development goals in 30 days. These are short-term goals, such as guest posting, setting up a Google alert, causing a ripple, and contributing to a blog carnival. Download the free e-book to get started.

Also, consider the 23Things Web 2.0 project created by Steve Anderson. The 23 Things Web 2.0 Project is designed to introduce you to the tools that can transform your classroom, school or district. Activities can be completed independently, as a small learning community or as a large staff.

Also included are some additional posts to read including a post on Shelly Terrell’s Teacher Reboot Camp blog about free E-books dealing with Web 2.0 professional development ideas.

Thanks for listening and good luck in your efforts to set and reach some personal/professional goals.