Tag Archives: Scott McLeod

Do we let “school” get in the way of learning?

I had some great conversations today in Queensland, Australia about some of the ways we need to change our mindsets about teaching and learning.  A big one that I kept reiterating was how we hold our students to a different standard than we often hold ourselves.  When I brought up that some kids are simply bored with what they are doing in class, it was brought up that some of them should just have to stick with it and that this was teaching them “manners”.  Instead of arguing I asked this question to participants; “how many have you checked your email during the time I was presenting?”  About half the hands had raised.  I don’t think that it was because they were terribly bored with what they had heard, but at times they need to check out and take a break.  I do this with email. I do this with YouTube. But I used to do this with drawing.  I  also remember constantly being told to “stop daydreaming and pay attention”, when there is actually a belief that this is not a good thing to do to people.

As adults we believe that some things are urgent.  Principals sometimes think that they have to be connected to their schools at all times in case of an emergency, but in reality, if you are a great principal, the school will be in a position to survive a day or two without you.  Yes adults have developed a higher level of maturity than our kids, but the argument of “urgency” is often overused.  “Urgency” is often personal and a matter of what YOU deem important.  Things happening at work could be considered urgent by an adult, but as a kid, I remember getting a note from a girl I had a huge crush on in high school.  That seemed pretty urgent to me and you would have been pretty hard pressed to have convinced me otherwise.

The reality is that there is no clear cut answer on anything.  I am not saying, “if adults can do it, so can kids”, but I do think we need to think about what we ask of kids and what we model to them.  Have you ever been in a session where you felt the person acted as if they were better than you? Acting as if you are superior to someone else and that affords you certain privileges that others shouldn’t have bodes just as poorly with kids as it does adults.  I think that these conversations are crucial to have for promoting a more “balanced” look at how we use and promote the use of technology in our schools.

One of the conversations that I found fascinating was surrounding the idea of mobile devices as “distractions” from learning.  The one comment  (paraphrased) I heard today was that it is disheartening when we are trying to go really deep into something and the device takes away from some really powerful learning that can be happening with the student.  I had to think about it and I wondered aloud that sometimes when we ask a student to put away their device, it is something we do because we believe it will promote learning, but sometimes it is the exact opposite.  Sometimes a student might be so deep into something that they are interested in learning about on their device.  We have sometimes stopped them from learning about something they are passionate about, and replaced with something we might be passionate about, or even worse, some content we “just have to get through”.

Again, this is not a black and white scenario, but it contains a lot of grey.  There are times when we do have to get through something, but there are sometimes that we have actually stopped the important process of learning about something that really matters.  Scott McLeod recently shared a post titled, “Reader interest trumps passage readability?”, which he quotes Alfie Kohn stating,

“how interested the students were in the passage was thirty times more important than how ‘readable’ the passage was.”

A student who is interested in what they are learning, is honestly going to become a better learner than someone who doesn’t care about the content that we are trying to get through.  This stuff matters.

Sometimes what we see as a “start” to learning,  is actually an abrupt “stop”.  I am not here to give you solutions on this because every teacher that builds great relationships with students will be able to understand when we need to refocus their students, and sometimes let them continue on with something else.  But when we have a vast ocean of information at our fingertips, some people are going to want to explore

Are there kids who use their devices to play Angry Birds in class? Yup.  That is actually my “get away” when my brain is full as an adult. I need to zone out and slingshot some birds into pigs.

But there are also kids that are exploring things that are really important to them, that they’re passionate about, and sometimes we let “school” get in the way of learning. 

This can lead to the growth of a “hatred for school”, while distinguishing a “love of learning”.  That’s kind of the opposite of what we are trying to do, isn’t it?

Why I try to follow every teacher I can on Twitter

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by stevegarfield

Tony Baldasaro wrote a blog post yesterday that is getting a lot of attention regarding why he “unfollowed 5000 people on Twitter” and how he is going back to starting over.  There is a lot of powerful thoughts in his post on how we actually connect with each other in this space:

As I pressed unfollow 5,000 times, I realized that I didn’t know most of the folks that I was unfollowing.  Actually, it was more than that, I had no clue who these folks were.  They were complete strangers.  I literally had no connection to them, which, in hindsight, should not have been a surprise.  As I said earlier, I didn’t “pay any attention to them” how the hell would I actually know them.  It did hurt to unfollow folks who brought great value to my life, but I knew if I was going to do it, I had to fully commit.

Now I don’t want to say Tony is wrong, and from my several meetings with him I can tell you he is an awesome guy,  but I do want to offer a different perspective.

Several years ago when I first started Twitter, I thought, like many do, that it was probably the dumbest thing ever.  I used it randomly, followed some educators, but mostly celebrities, because I didn’t understand how it could improve me as an educator.  My brother and others asked people to blindly follow me to help me build a network even though I had nothing to contribute in that space.  It was not that I had nothing to contribute, but that I just didn’t really understand how I could do it on a social network.  So people followed me and I offered nothing other than a wise-crack here and there.  Then after a couple of weeks I decided to take a year sabbatical from the space :)

A year later, I was coaxed into trying it again and people blindly followed me knowing how I easily gave up on it in the first place.  I actually decided to give it a legitimate try and quickly I was hooked.  I was amazed at how much I learned from others and how open people were to connecting.  I remember sending out a google form and having people share and reshare a tweet that showed my staff the power of Twitter for professional learning.  I look back at that post and some people that helped have become good friends and some people I still don’t even know.  Yet they were all willing to help some guy from Canada who was trying to help his staff.

I even watch today as my brother asks people from his network to help him get others connected:

Him asking for this help while only following a select few would be hypocritical in my opinion. (He follows over 13,000 people.)

The network that I have connected with on Twitter have helped me through some tough times.  When my first dog Kobe passed away people supported me from wherever they were in the world to make it through a difficult time.  When I was dealing with some personal issues, again people rallied around me and either tweeted, commented on my post, or emailed me directly to offer stories and support.  Some I knew and some were total strangers, but all were willing to help.

Currently, I follow over 8500 people on Twitter and that count will continue to grow.  I rarely look at my “home” column because, as Tony mentioned, it moves way to fast.  I use hashtags and lists to find information I am interested in.  Every once in awhile though, I take a peek at that home column (interestingly enough, that is how I found Tony’s blog post) and find something amazing, or see someone I follow asking for help.  Either I try to help them myself, or “Retweet” them to help them find a connection.  If I didn’t follow them, I wouldn’t be able to do that.  I do this because so many people have done this for me.  Although it is my “Personal Learning Network” it is not just about what I take from it, but also what I can give, not only in information, but in facilitating connections and offering some help.  I am, as all educators are, extremely busy, but when I can help, I try to do my best.  We are all teachers and we all should focus on what is best for kids.

I look back at when I started and if people look at what I had actually contributed, no one would have followed me.  I think they looked at what I could contribute in the future.  I remember this summer when someone with 15 followers and 26 tweets, helped me out a great deal.  If I used Tony’s way, this would have not happened.

Now some of you may be reading this that I am not following on Twitter and if that is true, I apologize.  I don’t use a “follow back” function because I do limit my network to mostly teachers (yes, I do follow Justin Bieber), and do not really care to connect with companies.  I also don’t check who unfollows me because I don’t really know how that would be helpful to me in any way. I do follow people that don’t follow me because I can still learn from them. The only reason I wouldn’t follow someone is because I find them offensive.  I try to look at who follows me when I have an opportunity, and follow them back if they are an educator because I know that I can probably learn something from them.  But unfortunately, sometimes I miss people and when it is brought to my attention I am often quite embarrassed.  Allie Holland, Jimmy Casas, and Diana Williams are all people that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t following, yet I have learned a ton from them in a short time and actually would consider them friends now.

Although there are some tweeters that I look at daily, Tony could have done what he was talking about by simply creating a list of his favourite tweeters and inserting that column into Tweetdeck.  It really is that easy.

I have learned over and over again, that I have no idea who I can help, who can help me, and who I can be the connector for between two separate parties, so I do my best to follow as many teachers as possible.  You do not have to be a prolific “Tweeter” to help me become a better educator although your sharing does help.  A ton of people trusted that they could learn from something from me a long time ago when I had contributed very little, so I am going to continue to do the same.

11 Ideas for Fostering an Innovative Culture

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by MSVG

Working with a group of administrators in Coquitlam, BC, I talked about some of the things that we have done in Parkland School Division to push our thinking ahead in the way that we are trying to improve teaching and learning.  Although the list below is not meant to be sequential, they are meant to help others focus on how they can create an innovative culture as opposed to simply having “pockets”.  Although we have a lot of work to do within our own school division, we have taken some huge steps in the last few years.

The development of a clear and powerful vision is crucial to developing a creative culture.  Yet many act as though simply the development of a vision is enough, when in fact, it is how you make that vision come to life, and model what you expect to see from you students and embody the notion of a learning organization.  Scott McLeod asks some important questions regarding the learning that we model as adult:

What would our kids gain from us if, as educators and parents, we did a better job of showing that we too are learners? What would schools be like if the adults in the building purposefully and explicitly lived and shared the process of being a learner? What would education be like if we adults intentionally created opportunities to be co-learners with the children that we serve?

As we continue to focus on our school division as a learning organization, we believe in the importance that we are all learners, and that adults need to focus on being creative and innovative, alongside our students.

With all that being said, here are eleven things that I have noticed have been crucial in the development of our learning environment:

1.  Embrace an Open Culture –  Remember the movie “Pay it Forward“?  The main character goes on a mission to change the world by doing good things for three people, hoping that they will pass it on.  Eventually it gets around the world and at the time, the whole notion was amazing.  In the world that we live in now (the movie was released in 2000), that rapid spread is not that crazy.

Heard of “Gangnam Style“?  Me too.  In the world that we live in, ideas can spread rapidly through networks, but they have to first be visible.Using software such as “SharePoint” does not necessarily help this notion (or I haven’t yet seen examples of a viral idea being shared through “SharePoint”), but if we go to networks that are open and participatory such as YouTube and Twitter, great ideas have the opportunity to spread.  If these great ideas spread, we are more likely to create a positive culture in schools than if we kept them to ourselves.

Chris Andersen discusses this notion in his Ted Talk:

“Crowd Accelerated Innovation – a self-feuling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print. But to tap into its power, organizations will need to embrace radical openness.”

As organizations move forward, we would be crazy not to embrace this openness if we want the best ideas to become viral.

2. Learning is the Focus – Too often when we have “edtech” positions, many educators believe that it is time to put away their math lesson and focus on using technology. This is not going to push learning ahead.  As a school division, we explicitly focus on creating positions that focus on learning first, so that innovation can come from all classes, not simply technology courses.  The focus on learning for many educators helps them to see the relevant use of technology in their classrooms and how it can transform the classroom experience.

3. Digital Leadership – Students live in a tough time, and sometimes I believe that they are held to a much higher standard than we were as kids.  When they screw up, it is more public than ever.  With tough conversations and questions that arise from events we see in media, how do we continue to work with our students to help them in our time?Many schools are quick to ban social media from their schools when they feel uncomfortable, but is that truly preparing kids for the world that they live in?

Dan Haesler uses a great analogy and compares how we prepare students to drive as compared to the lack of training in their use of social media:

“Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car.

In fact cars would be banned in the majority of driving schools. So students would be able to take notes, draw pictures or even present a PowerPoint on how to drive, but they would only be able to put these lessons into practice once they were out of sight of an adult.

It’s time for politicians, teachers and parents to stop burying their heads in the sand when it comes to social media.

The fact is, social media isn’t technology in the lives of our kids, but an essential aspect of their world. Social media isn’t ‘new’ anymore.”

Yes schools need to prepare students for their use of social media, but I think that we have to look at how we can push kids to do some great things with this opportunity afforded to them.  Instead of looking simply at how quickly things can go negative with kids and social media, could we not think they can move in a positive direction just as fast?  We have to start pushing kids to use technology to not only be, but to make a difference.

4.  Narrowing the Focus – Technology tools and software are inundating schools, and far too often, we focus on using EVERYTHING as opposed to using a few tools in a powerful and transformative way.

I often refer to the work of Bernajean Porter and her notion of moving from a literate, to adaptive, to transformative use of technology in our schools.  If we simply just keep trying everything and giving up on it soon after, we will continue to stay at the literate stage while maybe moving to adaptive use of technology (at most).  Yet if we narrow the tools we use, we are more likely to move to a transformative use of technology in schools, while also building capacity amongst our staff.

Although I suggest using only a few tools with the majority of staff, to build consistency and help to focus on learning, I still encourage administrators to push their innovators to be innovative and lead the way.  To be transformative culture, there should be some commonalities in how we move forward.

5.  Leadership Development– In any initiative, creating systems is more important than one charismatic leader.  For those structures to take place, leadership needs to be developed in different areas.  Currently, we are working with all of our schools to have a “hybrid” teacher on site; one that focuses on learning first, yet has the technology skills to effectively teach others how to use the tools available to really look at learning different.  As a group, they all come together, share, and will learn from one another, but they will also teach others in their own buildings.  Too many times, we place too much emphasis on the knowledge of one, which causes issues of time for one person to carry out an entire initiative, or even worse, the initiative falls apart when that individual leaves.  It is essential that we develop leadership in all areas of school so that systems can be created.

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” Tom Peters

6. The Balance Between Pressure and Support– Too many times an initiative can fail because there is not the support that is needed to ensure that the community is successful.  If you want something to work, you have to be willing to put the resources into the initiative.  On the other hand, if there is ample support, yet no pressure to move ahead, many will consider the learning unimportant.  There has to be a balance, while also understanding that people are at different points.  As long as they move forward, learning is happening, and your initiative is more likely to be successful.

One of the things that I have done in the past to encourage the use of blogging for the classroom was provide time during professional development days to write a post at the beginning of the day.  With ample notice, teachers had the option to write a post on their own time and actually come in later to work on that day, but those that needed support with the technology could come in and have others help them, setting up a little bloggers’ cafe.  Everyone was expected to partake though.  How do you create that balance?

7.  Learning Leads the Way – Information Technology services are so essential to the creation and fostering of an innovative culture, but to be honest, they should not be leading the way.  Educators should be leading the way; I.T. should be creating the conditions to ensure that they are successful.  We have to focus on creating a partnership with our IT services in all schools and tap into their valued expertise, but we cannot have anymore tails wagging the dog.

8. Disrupt Your RoutineFrank Barrett tells a great storyof how airline executives are stumped on how to create a more comfortable airline experience on their planes until a top ranking official decides to replace the beds in their hotel rooms with airline seats.  After that experience, they quickly come up with some great ideas.If you think of all the talk of how the classroom needs to change, why are we not restructuring we meet together as a staff or administrative team?

This year we made a conscience effort to not use any paper in our admin team meetings, yet to honour different learning styles, we encourage principals to print off any paper that they wanted for meetings.  It is a little change, but it is something that can be mirrored in the classroom.  Your team meetings should be about learning, so why not put ourselves in the situation or environments that we want to see our students taking part in?  Start looking at the way we meet with one another as a way to model the learning that can be happening in schools.  No more talking about hats!

9. Parents as Partners – Parents are a huge untapped resource and with the way technology is used now, it is much easier to connect parents to the learning in the classroom.  That connection to learning is more likely to lead to student success.  My good friend Patrick Larkin, in his role as Assistant Superintendent, make a strong effort to not only engage with parents through social media, but he also runs workshops to help them improve their own learning in technology that we are using at the school level.

Using technology to connect with parents is a no-brainer.  Imagine the difference in conversations that can be had at home.  Instead of a parent asking their child, “What did you learn today?”, with the child responding with the standard, “Nothing.”, the correspondence can change significantly.  A parent should now be able to say, “I read in your classroom blog that you learned about ________, can you tell me more about what that looked like?”  Totally different conversation that will more likely lead to a totally different answer.

If we can connect to parents, why wouldn’t we?

“Improving the effectiveness of the home as a learning environment is a key to promoting longterm school success.”  (Druian & Butler,. 2001)

10. Focus on strengths – Too often, we identify with what is wrong with our schools, as opposed to focusing on what is right.  With probably every initiative that is happening in your school, there are probably some experts that are there on site, yet we bring in the outside facilitators far too often.  We need to tap into these people and help them teach others, while also recognizing the strengths of others in different areas, and give them the opportunities to accelerate our learning as well.  As we have those leaders in different areas, they gain confidence and pick up skills in areas that they felt less proficient in.  Start looking at professional development plans and leadership initiatives that tap into people’s strengthsinstead of focusing simply on the weaknesses of individuals.

“It takes far less energy to move from  first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.”  Peter Drucker

11.  Leadership Determines Management – With all of these things that I have discussed, as leaders, we have to figure out how to make these things happen.  I will be honest, that I often hear how things won’t work, or “we are not allowed” in certain areas of the school.  What I believe is important, is that you figure out what is crucial and you find a way to make it happen.  Do not simply allow a “rule” or “policy” to be the end of a great idea.  Figure out how to work within your system to foster innovation and creativity.  I am not saying to be subversive, but ask hard questions and lead people to continuously ask the question, “What is best for kids?”

If you can continue to focus on that last statement, and you really want to make it happen, you will find a way.

As I look back on the work that we have done, we still have a long way to go, but we are making significant strides in our division.  But with all of the areas that I listed above, I am still wondering, what did I miss?

Time Investment #LeadershipDay12

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by lett -/\=

A few things have prompted me to write this post today and I am thankful for each one of them.

1.  An email from Beth Still asking about the “W’s” of being a connected educator.

2.  A valuable conversation with my Superintendent regarding how we connect and learn while we are at “work”.

3.  Scott McLeod’s annual blog challenge for “Leadership Day“. (A good post for anyone, but a REALLY good challenge if you haven’t blogged in awhile.)

Administrators are now more than ever seeing the value of their staff using social networks such as Twitter to learn, connect, and continuously improve the work that we are doing with students.  If we are focused on “what is best for kids”, it is imperative teachers continuously work to improve and have the “growth mindset“; social media provides a great avenue for this type of continuous learning.

Yet as many administrators know and say this is important for teachers, what are we (they) doing about it?  I learned quickly as an administrator that if I believed something was important for our staff to implement to improve their practice, I needed to put time and resources behind it.

Tom Whitby writes a great post about the “Connected Conundrum for Education“, where he refers to the idea of connected educators basically preaching to the choir during Connected Educator month:

The problem with this is that the vast majority of educators who are most on board with Connected Educator Month are connected educators. Hundreds of connected-educator communities and organizations have signed on to the program and have offered online promotions for the month. This is a wonderful thing for all of the connected educators who belong to those communities. But, the obvious question: Are non-connected educators involved or even aware?

So as an administrator, we are far too often asking teachers who don’t see the value of this to put time into learning about social media, but then not providing the actual time in school to learn this practice.  I often refer to the idea of pressure and support; if we provide too much pressure, teachers will wilt under it, but if we provide too much support without the pressure, they will not see it as important.  If we are not providing time embedded into the school day for teachers to connect using Twitter, or reflect using a blog, etc., there is all of the pressure in the world but with very little support.  How do we expect educators to really jump in to this world on their own?  How do we expect them to put a large investment of their own time when they have no idea what they are really getting into?

If we really think this is important, we need to find time during our days to encourage staff to use this technology to improve learning where they can get this support.  One of the practices that I tried to embed into my school in the role of principal (although I did not do this enough), was to provide time during our professional development days for teachers to just be able to have time to write a classroom blog.  We would then come back and read the post of each other and get some ideas of what we could learn from our own staff by providing that peak into our classrooms.  The biggest advantage that I had as a principal to grow as an educator, was the ability to see what was happening in the rooms of our teachers.  If we can use social media to get at least a tenth of this view (but hopefully more), how could schools not improve?

One thing that we are looking to do this year is provide staff professional development during the school day to learn about Twitter, blogging, and other social networking sites that are helpful to learning.  Offering these during the day and providing subs for teachers increases the likelihood that teachers will be able to attend and see the power of this tool.  It is too easy to back out of the “optional” PD (both mentally and physically) that is provided after school.  During school hours, you are more likely to gain interest and attention.

I am not even going to get started about the schools that block social media during the school day.  When you block Twitter, YouTube, and other sites, you are blocking a ton of learning while also not preparing kids for the world they live in.  If you are worried about students doing something inappropriate on social networking sites during the day, just remember they have (unfiltered) access on their phone.  Good luck with that!

So…sit with your teachers during their preps. Guide them.  Be their sherpa.  Provide both the pressure and support.  See the value with them.

So why not just expect teachers to do this on their own?  I guess I see that there are many teachers that have done some amazing learning with social media all on their own time, but let’s not kid ourselves, they are in the minority.  With that being said, if we provide time where we can work with educators during the school day to provide some guidance and support, many more will probably see the value and put in their own time to further develop their learning.

We can’t just preach how great social media is anymore.  Less talking; more doing.

What Shapes Your Learning?

In the last year, I have had several “A-Ha” moments when reading different articles, or seeing videos on not only education, but just on human characteristics.  This learning has really impacted my thinking on school and how we can best serve students. To me, it all started to come together when I saw this graphic from my friend, Royan Lee:

When I think about these “4 C’s”, I also believe there are two other essential ones that are needed in school; challenge and community.  Here are some of the influence that have really helped shape my thinking, and hopefully the links I share can be a resource for others.

  1. CollaborationSugata Mitra, a “Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University”, shared his unbelievable research on students having access to computers and the ability to teach themselves.  What I found to be the most encouraging point in his Ted Talk, was when he discusses how the students benefited from working with each others, sharing one computer.  Although many schools have 1-1 initiatives (which I can believe will be greatly successful when guided by a vision), it is essential that we continue to build opportunities for our students to learn together. Collaboration is a skill that we know is needed for our future, but we need to find better ways to promote this within our schools. (Also see Howard Rheingold’s video on Collaboration)
  2. Creativity – One of the most watched Ted Talks ever, Ken Robinson discusses how he believes current educational practices kill creativity.  Ken Robinson’s work and his book, “The Element“, have helped to shape my thinking that learning should be built around individual passion, and not focused solely on the curriculum. (See: Identity Day)
  3. Communication – I am not sure if any video has shaped my thinking as an administrator as much as Simon Sinek’s video on “How Great Leader’s Inspire Action“.  This is not only a video that is essential for leaders, but is also important for all that we do as people.  Sinek focuses on how we should always start with “why” when we move forward, as this is essential to our ideas becoming successful.  Simply, if we understand “why” we do what we do first, trust is built, which is the key to communication.  Agendas are no longer hidden, and then we can move forward with the “how” and the “what” of our plans.
  4. Critical Thinking – Although many will say Dan Pink should not be credited as an educational resource, his research on people (which students are fortunately), helps to shape our thinking on what motivates students and the importance of this on creativity.  His books, “A Whole New Mind” and “Drive” are definite must reads for educators (Alfie Kohn is however the best source on motivation in education), while this Ted Talk is definitely worth watching.  Although Dan Pink talks more on motivation, than he does critical thinking, it is definitely applicable as some of the motivational ways we have taught (rewards, stickers, charts) are not conducive to deeper learning.
  5. Challenge – I really enjoyed reading about “Flow” theory and believe that students that are challenged to the point where learning is difficult, but not attainable are more engaged in their learning.  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi gives a fascinating Ted Talk on his theory that will have you wondering how best you can differentiate learning for your students so that they can achieve “flow”.  (This could definitely fall under the category of creativity as well.)
  6. Community (This could also be filed under another ‘C’; Caring) – I have always believed in the importance of community and that we all take care of each other.  Schools are more likely to ensure our learners are successful when we work together to benefit them.  When I think of who I have learned from the most, I can not think of anyone better than those that I have connected with in my time in schools.  I have an unbelievable staff, fantastic parent community, an amazing central office and school division, as well as a caring personal learning network of educators and administrators who are committed to going the extra mile to improve our school environments for our students.  Without a caring community, the other points in this post would be moot. (I also believe that all communities need to give everyone opportunities to become leaders.  A great book that will get you thinking is Stephen Covey’s, “The Leader in Me“)

Hopefully I have not only shown you what has shaped my thinking, but have provided some resources that are beneficial to the growth of you as an educator.  What are your big ideas for education?  What has shaped your thinking?  I would love to see what you have to share.

(Below are some other resources that I would also highly recommend)

Videos that really made me think:

Here are some blogs that will really get you thinking and challenged your thoughts about education (there are so many that I could add to this list but I will start with these):

My Google Reader bundles:

You Should Read…(August 4, 2010)

cc licensed flickr photo by schani

With the Reform Symposium happening this past weekend, I was not able to read as many articles that I usually would during the week.  Hopefully you take a chance to check out the links and read the articles in their entirety.  One of the stories that I have shared has nothing to do with education, yet everything to do with education.

  • The Risks of RewardsAlfie Kohn is an author that I have read about a lot and I have enjoyed reading his books.  This article shared by Joe Bower this week echos a lot of my sentiments on rewards systems in the classroom.  I have had several discussions with teachers and how rewards work for them in the classroom.  My belief is that they are doing the best for the child, a reward system may work temporarily, but also conditions students to work for rewards, not become lifelong learners.
  • Some key points:
    • Studies over many years have found that
      behavior modification programs are rarely successful at producing
      lasting changes in attitudes or even behavior. When the rewards
      stop, people usually return to the way they acted before the program
    • Deci and Ryan (1985) describe the use of
      rewards as “control through seduction.” Control, whether by threats
      or bribes, amounts to doing things to children rather than working
      with them. This ultimately frays relationships, both among students
      (leading to reduced interest in working with peers) and between
      students and adults (insofar as asking for help may reduce the
      probability of receiving a reward).
    • Moreover, students who are encouraged to
      think about grades, stickers, or other “goodies” become less
      inclined to explore ideas, think creatively, and take chances. At
      least ten studies have shown that people offered a reward generally
      choose the easiest possible task (Kohn, 1993).
    • The implications of this analysis and these
      data are troubling. If the question is “Do rewards motivate
      students?”, the answer is, “Absolutely: they motivate students to
      get rewards.”
  • We spend 80% of our classroom time on the skills needed for 10% of our jobs | Dangerously IrrelevantThis was an interesting blog post that was quite controversial to many of those that were commenting.  I also was curious about the ending of the post.  What I thought was most powerful about this post was not necessarily the original post, but the discussion after.  Read the comment section and weigh in your opinion.  Through discussions like this, is where a lot of learning will happen.
  • Some key points:
    • The factory model high school as we now call it was designed in about 1910 or 1920. The idea of that comprehensive high school was to cream off about 5% of the kids for specialized knowledge work. They would go off to college and fill the very small number of jobs that required that kind of thinking. The rest of the kids were supposed to be prepared for the farm, the factory, the mills – for you know, fairly rote kinds of learning. And over time vocational programs were put in place and other kinds of general programs.
    • The average fifth grader received five times as much instruction in basic skills as instruction focused on problem solving or reasoning; this ratio was 10:1 in first and third grades.
    • Principals, superintendents, school board members, and policymakers: Could the problem be any clearer? Isn’t this a pretty damning indictment of our inability to change? Aren’t you all supposed to be leaders?
  • Has education changed? « What Ed SaidI have commented before that “What Ed Said” is one of my favourite new blogs in my reader.  It is with posts like this that highlight our students as partners in education, not just simply there to absorb learning from us.  Read this fantastic guest post on this blog.
  • Some key points:
    • We talked about the relevance of standardized tests and the children realised that such testing does not necessarily reflect true  learning. They brought up the fact that there is so much more to  school and we can show our learning in so many more meaningful ways.
    • One child relayed a story of an 8 year old who can name every capital city in the world and they questioned the value of knowing such facts. We spoke about concepts and big ideas being more useful than a bunch of facts that are readily accessible on the internet.
  • CTV Edmonton – Edmonton community rallies around orphaned boy – This is a story that I saw on the newspaper stand this morning and it immediately brought me to tears.  The reason why I share this story with you is because it just reminded me of HOW important it is that we care for our students and make a family environment.  Although this is an extreme situation, there are many students that come from home lives that are lacking support and care.  Schools need to be the safe haven for these children.  As a principal, I need to treat every child in our school as if they were part of my own family and care for them.  Learn the stories of your students and try your best to understand their lives.  I sometimes hate the word students because ultimately, we are all just people.  This young boy in this story will need continued support and my heart goes out to him.
    • The goal is to get Aashar Arshad through a trauma no one, let alone a child, should have to endure : in an instant, the 11-year-old lost his entire immediate family in a horrific crash.
    • A minivan carrying his father Arshad Mahmoud, mother Shakila, two older sisters Mahlaka and Dolly, as well as his grandfather and a 14-year-old family friend collided on a Hwy. near Golden Sunday afternoon, killing everyone inside the smaller vehicle.

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