Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Disrupting Class

I just finished reading Clayton Christensen's Disrupting Class How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.  I recommend Christensen's thought-provoking work to educators.  Disrupting Class furthers the notion that we need to customize learning.  Christensen points out that the pervasive monolithic approach to education in this country serves as an obstacle towards creating a support structure for  individualizing instruction.  Through an efficient and effective leveraging of technology schools can redefine experiences and present a customized program that better address the needs and interests of individual students.

I wanted to share some highlights from the book as way to share what I think are important points educators need to consider. 

When an educational approach is well aligned with one’s stronger intelligences or aptitudes, understanding can come more easily and with greater enthusiasm

Why do schools work this way? If we agree that we learn differently and that students need customized pathways and paces to learn, why do schools standardize the way they teach and the way they test?

But here is the dilemma: because students have different types of intelligence, learning styles, paces, and starting points, all students have special learning needs. It is not just students whom we label as having disabilities. Or, to put it as singer-songwriter Danny Deardorff did, we are all “differently abled.” The students who succeed in schools do so largely because their intelligence happens to match the dominant paradigm in use in a particular classroom—or somehow they have found ways to adapt to it

Can the system of schooling designed to process groups of students in standardized ways in a monolithic instructional mode be adapted to handle differences in the way individual brains are wired for learning?

Simply put, earlier technological revolutions had to do with transforming energy or transforming materials. This one has to do with the transformation of time and distance, and thus cuts deeply into the fabric of society. At least as important, it has made knowledge and creativity the number one factor of production-far more important than capital, labor, and raw materials 

In the end, the goal is not to decide on the one best model. The ideal education is different for each individual, encompassing both scholastic and empirical knowledge, taking place over a lifetime in multiple modes, with time spent out in the field, working one-on-one with teachers and mentors, batting ideas back and forth with peers, and immersed in solo research and concentrated creative problem solving

Monday, February 27, 2012

Worth Reading

Passing along some articles worht a few minutes of your time

1. Preparing Students to Learn Without Us (Richardson)- furthers the argument to personalize learning and build around passions and interests.

But now more than ever, Tucker (along with the rest of us) lives in a moment when personalizing the learning experience is not just a possibility—it's almost an expectation. We personalize our playlists through Rhapsody and iTunes, our reading through Amazon and Twitter, and our search results on Google and Bing.

But in the midst of this culture of customization, what about education? Are we personalizing learning for our students in ways that make school more relevant and inspiring? Largely, the answer is no.

2.  How to Predict a Student's SAT Score:  Look at the Parents Tax Return (Pink)- suggested evidence that socioeconomic status is a driving force behind educational attainment and performance

My hypothesis about that something — a guess rather than an assertion — is that the households in the top tier often have two parents with graduate degrees. That is, they’re rich and they’re well-educated and that’s a hard combo to beat. If that turns out to be true, it suggests that one of the most influential, but least remarked upon, social forces in America is assortative mating by education level.

3.  Instructional Segregation (Reilly)- thoughts about sorting students into tracks based on "ability

When we position students as being 'low ability'--a practice that often is used to explain instructional segregation--we also tend to believe that these students' 'inner resources' are not robust enough to warrant independent learning and instead these learners are given some 'proven' program designed to make up what is perceived as missing.

4. Engaging With Criticism (Godin)- considerations about designing a system for feedback

If you need to find out how your audience is receiving your work, it's worth considering how you've structured the interactions around criticism. Sometimes a customer has a one-off problem, a situation that is unique and a concern that has to be extinguished on the spot. More often, though, that feedback you're getting represents the way a hundred or a thousand other customers are also judging you.

5. What Does Teaching Creativity Look Like? (Dwyer)- do you see yourself as a creative person?

Schools are places where students are supposed to acquire knowledge—but to create, a person must "forget the knowledge." If you're not able to leave what you think you know behind, you can't approach problems with a fresh perspective. Students must also be taught to "desire success but embrace failure," and to "listen to experts but know how to disregard them."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Not Contribute Towards Linsanity

Just came across some interesting numbers regarding the Linsanity phenomenon.  Amazing what can happen in a couple of weeks.  Even more unreal when one takes into account that next week will be the 50th Anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game.  Compare coverage and word of Wilt's accomplishment against Linsanity as further evidence of how much the exchange of information has changed over the past 50 years and the power of people, not so much the media, to serve as a driving force behind a developing story.

While we all know he was sleeping on his brother's couch a month ago, what about his numbers? My son was following Jeremy a year ago when he had a few thousand followers. Now, he has over 400,000. With 650,000 "likes" on Facebook and a Klout score of 82, you've got a viral phenomenon case study blossoming before your eyes.

Jeremy has been mentioned on Twitter almost 200,000 times in a fast-moving flash! If you combine "Lin," "Linsanity,""Lin for the Win," "Linferno," "Linsane," "ThrillLin" and "Linderella," you have numbers that would make a New York Times bestseller overnight!- Eric Yaverbaum

The Jeremy Lin Bounce Effect:

In one one 12 hour period, Lin’s on court heroics spawned more than 3,000 tweets, according to social media analytics tool Topsy.  However, not every tweet was centered around his basketball prowess. Naturally, considering the Twitter community’s varied interests, the topics veered away from the Knicks toward Ivy League basketball, Harvard, the stereotypes of Asian males in American society, and even Tawianese nationalism. In other words: the subject bounced around to almost every and any topic Jeremy Lin can be identified with.- Tim Gray

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our Expectations

I was struck by the following statement:

We believe that unfortunately, many of us have become intoxicated with compliancy and so are no longer able to self-direct our own learning. While intoxication does have a bad connotation, the compliancy hasn't been all bad. It's gained many people/organizations efficiency. And it didn't come out of ill-intent. We believe people generally and genuinely seek to do good.- The Innovation Lab

Are we assessing students for being compliant or are we challenging students to be innovative and imaginative and assume ownership over their learning?

Check out the student testimonials on The Innovation Lab blog space and consider how genuine students are in sharing their experiences and the powerful connections these learners have made as a result of being able to notice, dream, connect and do. 

Shouldn't these "detox" sessions be the norm?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Worth Reading...

Passing along some resources worth taking a look at.

1. What You (Really) Need to Know-  Proposing ways to redesign education

Nonetheless, it is interesting to speculate: Suppose the educational system is drastically altered to reflect the structure of society and what we now understand about how people learn. How will what universities teach be different? Here are some guesses and hopes. 

2. Living Labs Global- Problem solving initiative for cities

Since 2009, the Living Labs Global Award has worked together with cities in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas to present major societal challenges affecting more than 125 million people. In response, more than 800 solution providers have in the past two editions responded with often ground-breaking technologies, ready to meet those challenges.

3.  Evergreen State College- Leveraging an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning

4. Mooresville's Shinning Example-  District sharing benefits of 1:1 laptop program

The district’s graduation rate was 91 percent in 2011, up from 80 percent in 2008. On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 88 percent of students across grades and subjects met proficiency standards, compared with 73 percent three years ago. Attendance is up, dropouts are down. Mooresville ranks 100th out of 115 districts in North Carolina in terms of dollars spent per student — $7,415.89 a year — but it is now third in test scores and second in graduation rates. 

5. Dylan William, Content the Process- Comparing the questioning of students to basketball

Monday, February 13, 2012

Key Cognitive Strategies

Next installment of my not so weekly podcast series.  Thoughts on key cognitive strategies and how the K-12 system can help prepare students for college and careers.  The following excerpt from An Examination of the Four Dimensions of College and Career Readiness offers judgment on the K-12 system.

Wondering what your thoughts are?

The success of a well-prepared college student is built on a foundation of key cognitive strategies that enable students to learn, understand, retain, use and apply content from a range of disciplines.  Unfortunately, the development of key cognitive strategies in high school is often overshadowed by an instructional focus on decontextualized content and facts necessary to pass exit examinations or simply to keep students busy and classrooms quiet.

It was further noted that studies of college faculty members nationwide found a near universal agreement that most students arrive unprepared  for the intellectual demands placed upon them and require further development in critical thinking and problem solving.


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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Need for Empahty

I wanted to pass along the following from Edna Sackson.  I came across this excerpt via George Couros and his blog The Principal of Change.  Sackson had the following to say regarding empathy:

I’ve spent many hours in a hospital this past week (not as a patient)  and have become acutely aware of the effects of every personal (and not so personal) interaction. It’s irrelevant whether the person concerned (or not so concerned)  is a doctor,  a nurse, an orderly or a cleaner. Only some display empathy. Not all are communicators. These are the things that matter. These are the things we should teach our children…

I recall sitting in on a presentation delivered by Alan November to educators in New Jersey.  Mr. November was talking about skills valued by companies and during the course of his presentation, Mr. November referenced a survey that was completed by CEOs.  I believe, if my memory is correct, that the CEOs of 100 multinational corporations were questioned about skills they value when considering candidates for executive positions. The survey showed that empathy was valued above any other quality.

I thought about Mr. November's remarks earlier this week.  I sat in on several interviews for a supervisory position.  While I think candidates were challenged to disseminate an instructional vision, I wonder if a set of questions or follow-up discussions could have focused on empathy and the potential ability of a candidate to demonstrate this quality. 

I just look at school and in my case a high school.  We are interacting with kids, as young as 14, who are learning to deal with a wide range of emotions and situations.  Consider that in some cases we are asking kids to be full-time students while at the same time care for family members or require students to stay current with work while dealing with depression.  I feel at times we are asking students to manage a situation that even adults would struggle to handle. As a supervisor over several departments and chairing services such as 504 and I&RS, you try to develop meaningful intervention strategies.  However, this is a challenge when considering the academic expectations and traditional education system that governs most schools.  We talk about placing above all else the well-being of a student, but do we have a structure that actually allows for that to transpire?

I think it is valuable to keep Edna Sackson's excerpt in mind when dealing with students.  Educators have to be compassionate and empathetic.  There needs to be a recognition of what students are feeling and or experiencing and adjust accordingly.  Herein lies a powerful learning experience.  Endeavors can be crafted where students are moved to consider the the life of an individual that greatly contrasts their own.  Important and enduring thoughts can  be generated from these guided moments in the classroom.  However, I think if we want to imbue a greater sense of empathy within students, we have to model this behavior.  In doing so, students are moved to consider our actions and reflect upon how something such as a simple hello or words of encouragement can make a difference.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thinking About Design

I was struck by the following excerpt from Walter Isaacson's biography about Steve Jobs.  The remarks are from Jonathan Ive, Chief Designer at Apple and close confidant to Jobs.  In discussing the design of the iMac launched in May 1998, Ive shared the following about why a handle was nestled into the iMac:

Back then, people weren't comfortable with technology.  If you're scared of something, then you won't touch it.  I could see my mum being scared to touch it.  So I thought, if there's this handle on it, it makes a relationship possible.  It's approachable.  It's intuitive.  it gives you permission to touch.  It gives a sense of its deference to you.

Again, I was struck by Ive's commentary about the design process. In designing the iMac significant consideration was paid to the personal relationship between the device and its user.  This excerpt highlights complexities inherent to the design process and serves as a valuable prompt to stimulate discussions with students about creative design initiatives.

Wondering what you think about this excerpt...