Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sol LeWitt Interview Part II

We are at the mid-point of the Sol LeWitt project.  The prototyping and drafting stages are complete.  Designs are up on the panels and a few of Ms. Firavanti's sections started painting.  At this midway point the creators of the project sat down to share their observations.  Included in this post is a raw audio file of the interview. It is interesting to listen to those involved about how the process has unfolded with tangible variations between the different classes.  Additionally, some of the commentary shared by Mr. Madden (@ahab6633) and Ms. Firavanti (@intherye) shed light on the need to reconsider how we view collaboration as well as positioning students to observe the actions of others.



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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jefferson iPad Session

Session with 3rd grade teachers at Jefferson...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Teacher Meeting

We held our first K-12 new teacher meeting for the year.  Along with three other educators, our team has assumed responsibility for developing a new teacher program for the year.  We decided to start the program {(we meet once a month after school for one hour) with the Domino Activity.

New teachers were greeted and handed a Ziploc bag containing 10 dominoes.  At first a range of  skeptical looks crept across the faces of some of the new teachers.  This was understandable.  It certainly is not common practice for teachers to arrive at a meeting and be handed a bag filled with dominoes.

However, this slowly started to change after explaining the challenge.  In twenty minutes teachers had to use all of the dominoes (each bag contained 10, 40 teachers present for the session, while another hundred were scattered across the cafeteria floor) and create a pattern where one could be tipped over and the rest would fall.  At the end of providing directions new teachers were informed that this exercise was done with 9th graders and they had finished within the twenty minute time limit.  With that last statement still hanging in the air new teachers vigorously attacked the challenge.

Our new teacher cohort finished just under the time limit with only a minor hesitation during the final attempt. The activity led to a stimulating discussion about objectives associated with the challenge and how this activity could be applied across all grade levels and content areas.  Specifically, it followed a principle we agreed on that new teachers would be active in creating during these sessions.  In building a session around a design challenge, important concepts such as collaboration, communication and problem-solving are thrust to the forefront.  Additionally, new teachers are positioned to observe one another.  Sense not only has to be made about how one approached the challenge, but each participant also has to reflect on the actions and decisions of their teammates.  Empathy is inherent to any challenge and is true for the Domino Activity.  Depending on one's comfort with the domino challenge, teachers develop a sense of empathy that could bridge to those students who struggle to address academic tasks.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sol LeWitt Observations Day #1 and #2

I wanted to share a quick observation from the Sol LeWitt inspired project 9th graders started last week.

The drawing group had to move from the prototyping phase to agreeing on a design for the panel.  Each individual in the drawing group was given between 10-15 minutes to read through the directions (see below) and sketch out a potential pattern on a drafting sheet.  At the end of he prototyping phase the drawing group had to come together, examine each prototype and agree on one design for the panel.

It was interesting to see how each drawing group went about the process of reaching a final decision.  In some cases, individuals stepped forward and facilitated a conversation that led to a collaborative decision.  These individuals comfortably assumed a leadership role, but were cognizant of including all members in the conversation.  Other groups struggled to organize a communal discussion and the final decision was more the result of a few assuming the responsibility for the group to reach an agreement.

I was struck by the stark contrast between periods.  Again, some drawing groups excelled during the decision-making process while other clearly struggled.  It highlighted a need to mentor students through collaborative problem solving / decision making.  Throughout the K-12 experience students work as teams, but I wonder how much we compel learners to reflect on the collaborative process.  The differences between periods was not subtle and brings to the forefront the need for educators to think about building a cooperative capacity within each learner.  We cannot assume students know how to work together but instead, this is a skill that has to be nurtured.

Moving forward in the project it will be interesting to see if students can efficiently and effectively work together.  The project is structured in a way were decisions have to be made by students within a condensed time frame.  It's worth observing and noting whether students make a conscious effort to become more effective communicators and collaborators.   

Day #2 Drawing Directions

Friday, September 14, 2012

Process and Product: Sol LeWitt Inspired Project

Over the summer I worked with a few teachers to develop an introductory experience for 9th grade students. In general the governing framework for 9th grade has been redesigned to provide teachers common planning time and to create a core set of outcomes.  Before school ended teachers and administrators came together to develop a set of key learning outcomes (Critical Reading, Problem Solving, Research, Communication and Collaboration).  Curriculum, assessments and lessons would be anchored by these outcomes.  Additionally, an overarching goal is to ensure that students grow in each of these areas over the next ten months. 

Several of us thought it would be valuable to start the year by privileging these outcomes through a somewhat unique experience.  As opposed to just presenting and having a discussion about the outcomes, it was believed that students need to live these expectations.  It's believed by doing, the key learning outcomes become relevant  and meaningful within the lives of our students.  So we created the Sol LeWitt Inspired Project for the Freshman Experience (this link provides a strong overview, the finished draft contains rotations schedules and growth measurements).   Over the next three weeks (we hope), students will be striving towards producing a wall mural that is inspired by the work of Sol LeWitt

We are not sure how it will turn out or how long it will take.  However, to an extent it does not matter.  Another collective belief was valuing the process more than the finished product.  Often kids are focused on the end point or the relief of meeting a deadline and as a consequence fail to reflect during and after the completion of a task.  The LeWitt project is structured to where reflection is a core element and for most of the time, students are observing and commenting on their work and the work of their peers.

Included below is an unedited interview with two of the teachers involved in the experience.  This interview was conducted on the eve of the project.  At this point students had only been introduced to LeWitt and his work and a broad overview of the next few weeks was disseminated. 

Feel free to take a look at the experience and follow student's progress via #mshlewitt.



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Notes from Linda Darling-Hammond Keynote Address

Linda Darling-Hammond Keynote Address
K-12 & Higher Education:
A Shared Responsibility to Impact Teaching Practice

These are my notes and interpretation of the keynote address
Session Notes

-What do effective and equitable teachers know and do?
  • high level of structures
  • high level of planning
  • belief in what students are capable of achieving
-kids construct academic identity influence achievement and engagement
  • for example calling students scientists in a lab class or historians in social studies
-how do we prepare teachers to mentor students to be independent learners
  • work is explicit in classrooms in Finland, Singapore
  • it is part of the accountability system K-12
-Effective Teachers
  • engage teachers in active learning
  • create intellectually ambitious tasks
  • use variety teaching strategies
  • assess student learning to adapt teaching to student needs
  • create effective scaffolds
  • clear standards, constant feedback (students can define own strategies), opportunities for revising work
    • achievement impacted by information part of feedback process
    • end of feedback process is the chance for students to revise
    • educators have to create space in curriculum for revision opportunities
  • develop and effectively manage collaborative classroom
-Equitable Teachers
  • learn to see, hear and understand the child
    • always trying to find out child's strengths
    • reinforcing confidence and competence
  • continually develop culturally responsive pratices
  • reach out to families
  • culturally connected and caring
*think about these qualities as we design schools
  • do teachers have the time to connect with students in meaningful ways
  • do we provide opportunities for students to reflect and think about learning and their needs
-teacher effectiveness- individual person has certain qualities (based on large study in North Carolina)
  • strong academic background
  • quality preparation to entry
  • certification in field taught
  • experience national board certified
-what about high quality teaching
  • effectiveness of peers- gains when teachers work in teams, teaching is a team sport
  • student availability for learning
  • available resources
  • well-designed PD can improve practice and increase student achievement (must be consistent)
*Finland teacher preparation program
  • extensive focus on teaching students with special needs, know deeply how to support others to learn
  • do research, conduct a thesis about teaching (studying children and teaching)
  • spend a year in a model school
  • explicit curriculum to learn how to teach, merger of course work and clinical work
-teacher more effective
  • looping- spend time with students beyond one year
  • teach same course more than one year
  • access to high-quality curriculum materials
  • chance to learn from expert peer
  • work with a team to plan curriculum
*How does this influence teacher preparation and continually professional growth?
  1. carefully develop student teaching
  2. courses in content and pedagogy
  3. focus on learning specific practices and applying in clinical experience
  4. study local district curriculum
  5. portfolio or capstone project tying to theory to practice
  6. program coherence and common vision
  7. School- university partnership that support that vision and create a clinical curriculum
*learning about practice in practice
  • looking at student learning and deconstructing what is observed
    • How often do teachers get a chance to observe a class?  Structure established where teachers get observed but rare when examine students and peers in non-teaching role
-performance assessment of teaching
  • evaluate teachers  and preparation programs with performance assessments (California, Connecticut)
*idea of professional development schools and teaching residencies
  • do we need to more mirror medical school process
    • tiers of performance measures
*influence of teacher preparation due to Common Core and coaching experienced teachers
  • interdisciplinary learning
  • problem-solving
  • reading and writing across the curriculum

*professional development schools- rethinking partnership between higher ed prep programs and K-12 for student teaching experience
  • data sharing between organizations
  • professional development between organizations
  • collaboration between organizations

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Student Blogging

At the start of school, more teachers have asked students to maintain a blog.  Through their Google apps accounts, students are accessing Blogger to establish a personal digital space.  While communal spaces such as Moodle and Schoology  have become commonplace across classrooms at the high school, encouraging students to maintain a personal space has been slow to develop.  However, the first few days of school has witnessed a change and teaches are reserving time during the introduction process for students to create a blog.

One English teacher is having all of her 9th grade students maintain a blog.  Students will use this space to archive reflections, offer commentary on ideas shared during class and to post finished products.  Learners are also encouraged to follow one another and provide feedback on each others posts.  As opposed to a limited feedback loop, an entire class can participate in the process of offering constructive commentary.  Learners should benefit from the expanding range of perspectives fostered through a growing blogging culture.  Subtly, through their diligence in maintaining a personal digital space, students will see that writing is a public act.  As New York teacher Ileana Jimenez says,  “Writing should be public, it should give a sense of urgency and visibility… for students to feel that their writing has a voice in the world.”

I wanted to share an opening snippet from an initial assignment.  9th grade students were to read, analyze and share reactions to the Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.  In class, students were broken into small groups where they discussed and debated select parts of the manifesto.  As a class, a poll was taken to see which points resonated most.  Outside of class, students were to reflect about one point on their blog.  I want to share the following insight offered by one of our 9th grade students about #19- Work the metaphor: Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.   It's refreshing to read a personal and genuine response. The nature of the assignment, time to think and space to voice an opinion led to a insightful and stimulating post- with the chance to further a deep and meaningful communal  conversation

"Work by the metaphor," a phrase, that is, according to Bruce Mau, essential to the "incomplete manifesto for growth." Bruce Mau defines "work by the metaphor" as every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. I see this, the ability to see beyond the surface, dissect the true meaning, or in the more cliché way of saying it, "reading between the lines," as a true sign of maturity, something that goes hand in hand with growth. As people grow into the person they are destined to be, which usually happens in the teenage years, their maturity is defined. Your maturity is not only the unit of measurement for how well you can handle things, but also shows what kind of person you are below the surface. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Worth Reading...

Sharing some posts I have come across.

1. If You Could Only Teach Ten Points, What Would They Be? (McIntosh)- 

some compelling research showing how much more learning takes place when students work collectively in a team, coaching each other to create a team-based product of learning with individual accountability built in. The effect of cross-age or cross-ability coaching is equivalent to every student, not just the one "being coached", having one-on-one teacher coaching

2.  Generation Flux (Boyd)- learning how embrace and thrive with instability

Everything in the corporate world is set up for security, so you can get to the next review. People who are willing to be uncertain will be more likely to be able to move ahead. People ask me, Are you afraid you're going to get fired. That's the whole point: not to be afraid. That doesn't mean I want to get fired."

3. The Labor Day Manifesto of The Passionate Creative Worker (Hagel)-  ideals for living life passionately

As we consider the free information and universal connectivity that is now available, we are struck by the potential that each individual has to impact the world. And as we reflect on our past progress and the opportunities still ahead, we recognize that the most valuable resource we have is the human creativity and ingenuity innate in every person. 

4. The Eight Pillars of Innovation (Wojcicki)- guidelines for nurturing innovation by Google

The greatest innovations are the ones we take for granted, like light bulbs, refrigeration and penicillin. But in a world where the miraculous very quickly becomes common-place, how can a company, especially one as big as Google, maintain a spirit of innovation year after year?

5. What Bill Clinton Wrote vs. What He Said (Atlantic Wire)- copies of Clinton's prepared remarks against his speech at the 2012 DNC

6. Tim Brown urges designers to think big

7. A Japanese Approach to Khan Academy

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

PD With A Twist

We hosted our first PD sessions of the season.  Inspired by the unconference format, several educators in the building stepped forward to host a conversation.  The sessions included a mix between "how-to" segments and the open exchange of ideas between educators. 

One of the sessions focused the conversation on video production.  So You Want Your Students to Create A Video opened the door to a conversation on how film could be incorporated in the classroom.  As stated in the description the use of film as a vehicle for expression has grown within the past few years.  More and more students are creating short films to express critical understandings.  This particular unconference acknowledged a growing reliance on film and stimulated a conversation about multimodal expression.

The unique twist on this session was that two students facilitated exchanges between educators.  The session was developed by our Broadcast teacher, but was delivered by two of students.  Both students are seniors and have move beyond our program of studies to where they crafted an independent study to further their interest in film and production. 

It was refreshing to witness a reversal of roles.  In this scenario students served as experts and were positioned to offer guidance to teachers.  In Fact, the students prepared a hand-out for teachers that provided suggestions on logistics and the process.  It makes sense to tap into expertise that resides within a school building regardless of age or title.  It also makes sense to empower students and craft forums where they can assume leadership roles within the academic and not just extracurricular arena.

The hope is that we can continue both these unconference conversations and expand the role students play in professional development. An important tone was set to start the year and one that will serve as a guide throughout the rest of the year.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Google Apps and the Portfolio Process

Presentation on the integration of Google Apps in creating student portfolios

Monday, September 3, 2012

Here We Go Again!!!

The start of school us upon us again.  Teachers are back tomorrow and students enter the building Thursday.  The start of school each year brings with it a renewed sense of hope and promise.   At the beginning of school I return to the following post by Will Richardson "What Did You Create Today?"  No matter what your goals are for the upcoming school year, let's hope our students reflect on and work towards addressing the following:

What did you make today that was meaningful?
What did you learn about the world?
Who are you working with?
What surprised you?
What did your teachers make with you?
What did you teach others?
What unanswered questions are you struggling with?
How did you change the world in some small (or big) way?
What’s something your teachers learned today?
What did you share with the world?
What do you want to know more about?
What did you love about today?
What made you laugh?