Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Continuous Professional Development

Came across this thought while reading Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System. It struck me as something worth sharing as so many of us are returning to school. A former New York City administrator was quoted as saying, "Professional development is not an isolated activity, but a daily routine in every school."

The capacity exists within schools to ensure that professional development is a continuous process and not relegated to "special" days on a school calendar. Moreover, control over professional development rests in the hands of each individual. The growth of our global digital infrastructure has enhanced the ability of educators to share experiences across a broad audience of peers and to become engaged in conversations where ideas are openly exchanged. It is in these conversations, both local and global, where professional growth is likely to occur.

There has to be a willingness for educators to see themselves as a source of professional development and be committed towards creating open learning environments. To a certain extent, student expectations should mirror those for professional educators. The dynamic of scholarship is changing. No longer does the top down / single expert in the classroom approach to learning apply (nor did it really ever). We encourage learners to see themselves as sources of information and that individual ideas, research inquiries and conclusions can assist others in the process of making meaning. We encourage students to post their work and develop an understanding that products are submitted for viewing and feedback from an audience that extends beyond a teacher or single classroom.

If we hold students to these expectations the same can be said of educators. It might be said for all professions, but teachers learn by doing. Reflecting on personal and professional success and failure leads to growth. Personal growth can be extended to present the productive friction or inspiration others need to be progressive.

As the year begins, let's make a commitment to nurture an environment where professional growth is continuous and that we rely on one another to help fulfill our potential as educators.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Podcast about the need to engage and actively participate in collaborative spaces.

"Ultimately the most valuable search is the one that connects us to people; they are often the best sources of information and knowledge”

Consider the need for educators to connect with their peers both within their school and district and on a global level.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

21st Century Education

If you have a six minutes watch the following watch the following video put together by the New Brunswick School District. The video was put together as an opening day piece for teachers.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fostering Creativity

A recent Newsweek article, "The Creativity Crisis" shared a poll taken by IBM. 1500 CEOs were surveyed and the responses identified creativity as the number one leadership competency that will be valued in the future.

The same article also presented a research study conducted by a professor at William and Mary

"Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

Professor Kim's study is alarming and compromises the beliefs of current CEOs. This divide also presents a challenge to educators. Considering how much time children spend engaged in activities related to school, what is our responsibility to foster creativity amongst students?

Educators have to seriously consider experiences constructed for students. As cited in the article other countries have made it a priority to privilege creativity through engaging students in authentic problem solving scenarios. "The European Union designated 2009 as the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, holding conferences on the neuroscience of creativity, financing teacher training, and instituting problem-based learning programs—curricula driven by real-world inquiry—for both children and adults." Countries such as Finland, South Korea and Singapore out-class American students on a wide range of assessments.

Further studies have shown that creativity can be a skill that is developed in classrooms. The challenge is to see that students are consistently engaged in creative problem solving endeavors. While content or foundational information is critical, it ceases to be relevant if students are not able to apply, reflect, make connections and continue the process of constructing meaning. Consider each classroom as a think tank where ideas and perspectives can be accessed and freely expressed by engaged participants. Empower students with the freedom to tackle challenging problems and to develop strategies/process for determining possible responses. Encourage learners to consider a broad range of possible solutions and welcome productive friction in the classroom.

While mentioned in response to current obstacles such as the BP Oil Spill, the following sure applies to classrooms and what students could experience.

"Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others."

To sustain a "martketplace of ideas" we have to see classrooms as a place of innovative and creative thought and see that students are actively seeking solutions to complex problems.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Passion Leads to Pursuit, Which Creates Connections

I have been reading the Power of Pull by John Seely Brown. I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy and start reading. Brown discusses the "Big Shift." The Big Shift has been characterized by a profound transformation in the way information is exchanged and also, how changes to the digital infrastructure connects individuals together in a manner that challenges traditional forms of scholarship and power.

In Pull, Brown talks about Yossi Vardi. Yossi Vardi founded his first company when he was 27 years old and over the past four decades, Yossi has been involved in launching 70 Israeli tech companies. Yossi was also instrumental in helping Larry Page and Sergey Brin make some critical decisions regarding Google. As was quoted in the book, Yossi is one of the best connected people in the world.

Brown cited an intriguing observation regarding Yossi. At conferences, Yossi spends a majority of his time sitting in the hallways as opposed to attending lectures. This is not to be rude, but instead, Yossi enjoys engaging conference members in informal conversations that could potentially lead to an enduring connection. Yossi assumes that people attending the conference share similar interests and passions and that these informal interactions could open the door to greater possibilities as ideas are freely exchanged. I just found this observation to be interesting and it caused reflection regarding the need to connect with those who share similar passions.

Schools would seem or rather should be a perfect place to cultivate connections between individuals who share similar interests. A critical element is to create a school culture in which educators are encouraged to follow their interests and embed these passions into classroom experiences. Teachers who share their interests will enhance the likelihood of establishing worthwhile connections (both parties benefit from the interaction) and consistently engage in an organic flow of knowledge.

Looking towards this upcoming school year we should all be willing to share our passions and be provided with the space to pursue interests inside of school. Students will benefit through learning engagements that are authentic and genuine. Educators will grow professionally through a viable social network.

The title of the post, "Passion leads to pursuit, which creates connections" should be kept in mind as we get closer to the start of school and begin to solidify goals and how we can accomplish personal benchmarks.