Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worth Reading...

Passing along some worthy reads and views.

1. Shift Your School: Creating a Networked Community of Learners- Jenny Luca shares how her school has helped students understand new technologies and how to use them effectively, become ethical users of digital resources, and learn the importance of creating and maintaining a positive digital footprint.

2. Should They Know It In Twenty Years- David Warlick pushes us to consider what we value in the classroom.

3. NYC iSchool-  Check out the instructional program at the iSchool.  Instruction is built around three core principles
  1. Innovation
  2. Individualization and Personalization
  3. Metacognitive Skill Development
4. Thoughts on SOPA and PIPA- Why it is important to engage students about these potential pieces of legislation

5. Panel Discussion on Social Media-   Dan Meyer talks about inherent incentives in social media

6. Linda Darling-Hammond- What the US can learn from successful education systems around the world

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shouldn't This Be Exciting

Earlier today a teacher shared how excited they were about the types of products and public exhibitions students were putting forward.  Students embraced the open space of a classroom setting to create meaningful resources. Products that were shared with me represented true craftsmanship and pride in one's work.  It was apparent that students valued time to think and interact with peers, educators and mentors.  During public presentations, students were making genuine cross-disciplinary connections and self-assigning utility to what they had learned.  As opposed to a single moment, for this teacher the passing week has proven to be memorable and an inspirational reminder of what students can achieve.

The somewhat strange part of this conversation is that it happened during midterm week.  For those involved, midterms can be a grueling process.  Students are challenged to prepare for an avalanche of assessments in a condensed period of time.  Teachers are pressed to evaluate student performance, provide extra help and plan for upcoming endeavors.  Teachers as well often are faced with narrow deadlines to accomplish these tasks.

I have never been a strong supporter of midterms (Midterm Season 1/24/11).  If you are going to have midterms and create a "special" schedule, why shouldn't teachers and students be excited about outcomes stemming from midterm assessments?  I offer this question with the utmost sincerity, what is the point if those involved in an assessment are not intellectually challenged and moved to explore far reaching outcomes?

It is a stretch to see the reason for midterms (or any assessment for that matter) if the end result and or finished product fails generate a prideful sense of accomplishment and sense of excitement over what is being shared.  We will soldier on with the hope that students and teachers are inspired by this week and not left questioning the value of midterms.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Preventing Mistakes- At What Costs?

Next installment of my not so weekly podcast series.  This podcast discusses a point raised by David Ginsburg in an article for Education Week.  In the article, Mr Ginsburg offers the following:

It's common knowledge that people can learn as much from their mistakes as anything. And yet traditional teaching methods often deny students the chance to learn from their mistakes by preventing them from making mistakes. 

I attempted to offer a response to this position.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Double Chairlifts

Saw this in the most recent publication of Outside Magazine and wanted to share.

In terms of intimacy, a high-speed quad chair is more Vegas buffet than candlelight table for two.  Trams?  Aerial cattle cars.  Although they're much maligned and slated for extinction by profit and vert-maximizing ski execs across the country, the double chair is skiing's perfect lift.  Part of this has to do with the social dynamic the double chair demands.  On a quad it's easy to pull up your hood, hunch into your littler corner, pretend not to hear.  On a double, going silent isn't just awkward, it's an effrontery to the social contract, a slap in the face to a fellow skier.  Besides, you're missing out.  I've argued foreign policy with snowboarders, talked about circling ravens with an ornithologist who rode shotgun, and discovered countless powder stashes thanks to locals all too willing to give them up to somebody simply willing to chitchat.  The double chair also gets the pace of skiing right.  You feel like you're part of the landscape instead of whipping through it.  Skiing isn't supposed to be about racking vertical.  It's about chatting quietly with your best friend or a total stranger as you scout your next line and appreciate the mountains in winter.  Even one kid-free lift with my wife is like a flirty date night.  It was on double chairs that my squally childhood relationship with my older brother became a lasting bond.  As a prepubescent boy, I once sat hip-to-hip and thigh with my seventh-grade crush, just hours after glimpsing her floral waffle weave underwear on the ski bus.  It was the one and only time I managed the courage to talk to her.  It was frigid, as I recall, and I'd been shivering all evening, but for that one perfect ride on the double chair, I was burning.- Marc Peruzzi

Friday, January 13, 2012

Worth Reading and Viewing

I wanted to recommend the following resources.

1. How is a Bad Radio Station Like Our Public School System (Dubner)- The main focus of the episode is a fascinating New York City Department of Education pilot program called School of One, which customizes the classroom experience for each student. 

2. Are You an Old School or A Bold School? (Richardson)-  follow some bold initiatives and programs schools around the country are engaged in.  Check out the "Learners First" section.

3. Teachers as Brain Changers: Neuroscience and Learning (Pillars)- bridging the gap between brain-based research and the classroom

4. On The Ground (Times Opinion Page)- Melinda Gates and Nicholas Kristof answer readers' questions about poverty.

5. The Value of Teachers (Kristof)- The difference between "good" and "bad" teachers and the role education plays in supporting the economy.

6. Simon Sinek:  How Great Leaders Inspire Action- Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?

Remembering Dr. King

Like many schools, we have off Monday in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King.  I'm sure we could debate the validity of whether schools should be closed on this day or what is the best way to remember Dr. King's contributions and the movement he clearly defined.

No matter what I was working with students on surrounding the King holiday, I privileged time to discuss with learners potential meanings behind the holidays.  To support our conversation, I shared with students an extended excerpt from Michael Eric Dyson's concluding chapter in I May Not Get There With You. 

Among other comments in this concluding chapter, Dyson talks about the King holiday and offers his opinion on how the day should be celebrated.  I tend to agree with his position.

When we celebrate the King holiday, we do not simply celebrate the life of Martin Luther King.  We celebrate individuals like Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses and Charles Sherrod, Septima Clark and Harry Moore, Emmett Till and Medgar Evans, Victoria Gray and Malcolm X, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young, Angela Davis and Huey Newton, Mickey Schwerner and James Chaney, Andy Goodman and Bayard Rustin, Viola Liuzzo and James Reeb, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson, Denise McNair and Cynthia Wesley, Julian Bond and John Lewis, Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams and Jesse Jackson, Diane Nash and James Bevel, Dorothy Cotton and Johnnie Tillmon, and legions of other souls who sought to bring justice and freedom to Southern black doors and Northern project apartments.  We celebrate King's insistence that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," as we extend his radical legacy to embrace citizens who are oppressed...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I wanted to share the following excerpt from Tom Vander Ark's post How Digital Learning Will Benefit Low Income Students that appeared on the Huffington Post's education site.   Mr. Vander Ark shared the following:

Good schools have a powerful culture of high expectations and strong support.  As education shifts from a place to a service, social learning groups will extend a culture of learning beyond traditional classrooms.

I wonder how many of us see school as a service and not a place individuals have to be for an established period of time.  How would viewing school as a service change school structures and the manner in which engagements are conceived?

At the school where I work, we instituted a different approach to reach struggling learners.  
In previous years, students who experienced difficulty in Math and or English were recommended for lab classes.  This year represents a re-envisioning of lab classes into a service called Instructional Seminar.  As opposed to a set curriculum, Instructional Seminar is anchored by a core set of principles and potential pathways.  The first component is to develop a profile of each learner.  The intent at the beginning of the service (Instructional Seminar operates for an entire semester) is to conduct interest surveys and deliver diagnostic measures.   Additionally, teachers who work with a particular student, that reside outside of Instructional Seminar, are surveyed as a way to provide anecdotal information.  All of this information is analyzed to develop a profile that acknowledges a learner's interests/passions and identifies cognitive strengths and weaknesses.  

This profile is needed to provide a foundation for work to be accomplished during Instructional Seminar. Throughout the duration of the service, Seminar teachers collaborate with students to build passion projects through which learners can demonstrate core proficiencies and address areas highlighted by diagnostic measurements.  Passion projects can serve to replace class assessments. For learners who struggle, for various reasons, to make connections, a passion project can exist as a vehicle to demonstrate growth.  The vision behind Instructional Seminar sees the service as a conduit between different subjects.  The service attempts to foster cross-curricular connections.  This is primarily achieved through linking class assessments.  As opposed to a student producing distinct summative assessments in Science, English, Social Studies, Math and World Language, a single engagement can be crafted. A learner can demonstrate proficiencies via a cross-curricular endeavor. Taking this a step further, the Seminar service mediates against the issuing of a one size fits all model of assessment to struggling learners. Seminar teachers can work with classroom instructors, tailoring engagements to reflect individual interests and acknowledge cognitive growth.

The key point is that Instructional Seminar is a service not a course.  A curriculum is not being delivered.  Instead a pathway is being forged that is unique to each learner.  The end goal is to service the needs of students through a truly personal approach.

Again, the idea of seeing school as a service is intriguing.  Beyond mandates (state, federal) each academic institution is accountable for achieving, school systems have to evaluate the effective ways individual needs are serviced ?  Working under the construct of a social contract, what is the give and take for learners?  Students attend school, but what are the benefits of spending so much time in the K-12 or K-16 system? 

It is worth noting the rhetoric attached to formal and informal discussions about education.  From my perspective using the word service to describe schools alters the approach to teaching and learning and the types of experiences central to school.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Welcome Back Resources

Wanted to share some resources I reviewed over break. 

1. Teachers as Brain-Changers: Neuroscience and Learning (Wendi Pillars)-  critical takeaways about  neuroscience and teaching

"Reading about all this from a neuroscientific perspective makes the learning process seem more concrete and reassures me that we don't need to scrap everything we know about effective teaching. In fact, many of us already approach teaching in ways that are consistent with neuroscientific findings—but knowing more about how our students' brains function can help us fine-tune what we do, and remind us to be consistent with those ideas that are brain-friendly."

2. Twelve Ideas for Teaching With QR Codes (Andrew Miller)-  ideas to take advantage of mobile technologies

“ As mobile learning becomes more and more prevalent, we must find effective ways to leverage mobile tools in the classroom… Mobile learning can create both the tool and the need.   With safe and specific structures, mobile learning tools can harness the excitement of technology with the purpose of effective instruction.  Using QR codes for instruction is one example of this.”

3. So Here's What I'd Do (David Warlick)-  offering solutions for school districts

"Recognize that change doesn’t end and facilitate continued adapting of all plans and documents. No more five-year plans. Everything is timelined to the goal graduate."

4. Cameron Herold: Let's raise kids to be entrepreneurs- Bored in school, failing classes, at odds with peers: This child might be an entrepreneur, says Cameron Herold. At TEDxEdmonton, he makes the case for parenting and education that helps would-be entrepreneurs flourish -- as kids and as adults