I had two administrators approach me yesterday and start a conversation.
One told me about how their IT department had closed all social media in their school and about how their fear that if they were to open it. The fear shared was that their would be so many more issues of cyberbullying, inappropriate content shared, amongst other things.
The other told me about how their school district has all social media sites open to their students and have very few issues. In fact, he had shared that since the network was opened, the issues lessened because of their focus on teaching digital citizenship.
The question that came to my mind was, are these districts talking to one another? My other thought was, do the districts that have things opened even try to talk to the ones that are open? Seriously, people have open networks and have very few issues yet so many others with closed networks talk about the fear of what could be if schools decided to open their network.
Does looking only within our own organizations and focusing on the “fear factor” really help our students? I am guessing you can figure out what I think.
During a session I was facilitating, one of the questions a participant asked was,
How do we prepare students for a future that we are all uncertain of?
My first thought was, are we even preparing them for right now?
You look around at our world and you see everyone have a mobile device (there will be more mobile devices than people by the end of the year), yet many schools are still struggling with putting devices in the hands of students, or worse, won’t allow kids bring in their own devices. Our students should have real time access to information, know how to evaluate it, use it, create because of it, and be able to share to an audience. Do our schools today look anything like our world now?
If we worked with students to give them the ability to critically think, adapt, change, and connect and share their knowledge, wouldn’t they be prepared for whatever the future brought their way?
I love the notion of preparing students for the future, but I think that preparing them for their world right now is probably a good place to start.
This is just me thinking out loud…I have no idea where this post is going to go.
I showed this video today:
Although I don’t think it is the best video, it is always nice to hear voices of kids as we move forward in education. I showed this video knowing that it was from Pearson, a company that I do not know much about, but I am guessing I would not really be pushing for in our schools. E-textbooks are cool but not 21st century learning. Other than that, I don’t know much about what they do. In fact, that video might actually start a conversation about what they do and how they can help kids, which is what I am sure that they are hoping for. Still, that video is not going to sell me on any product.
Now some might be against sharing a video from that company but I think that the people that work there are actually trying to make a difference in the lives of kids. I may not agree with their beliefs on education and learning, but honestly, I can guarantee there are people there who want to do good. I could also probably say that there are people there who are interested in making a ton of money and are just wanting to sell a product. I honestly don’t know though.
So some might be against supporting a company that makes money off of selling something to a school yet I see something like “Powerful Learning Practice” share a ton of good stuff and get supported by many educators. I think one of the big differences is that many in the “Twittersphere” know the people that work with that group. Signing up for their professional development program isn’t free, yet they share a lot of extremely valuable stuff for educators that many of us benefit from freely (like this Connected Learner Manifesto).
But Pearson is sharing stuff we can use freely as well? So what’s the difference?
I also think about how Dan Meyer wrote about not sharing “Top 100 Posts” by Online Colleges. I try my best to avoid linking to these sites on Twitter but I am going to be honest, I have shared them before. When I have shared them, I actually have had people share Dan Meyer’s post directly to me. I get that the intent is not to improve learning, but to drive blog hits because lists do that.
So what happens when a blogger starts to make lists incessantly, not necessarily for their own learning, but to drive hits to their blog? I think that most bloggers (including myself) enjoy when our work is looked at, but I struggle when “hits” become the focus. Isn’t that what the “Online Degree” sites are trying to do? Get hits? Should educational bloggers have their work discredited because of what their intent may seem to be? People love lists because they are short, get to the point and helpful. I have written posts that have lists in them and I often refer back to them myself or refer others to them. Sometimes those lists are helpful.
So what am I saying in all of this? To be honest, I have no idea. I do know that it is important for us to know where the content that we share comes from and be thoughtful of the purpose. I also don’t believe that all educational programs or companies are bad yet I am still going to be highly thoughtful and critical in my thinking of what they are doing and what they are “selling”.
What I am trying to figure out is what is the conversation that we should be having with kids around sharing this type of content, what they should share, or even should they share stuff that comes from a particular source? Many are comfortable with sharing stuff from a company like Pearson or Discovery Education, but others are not so much? Should we be critical of either party? I am really unsure and clouded on this topic.
I was honoured to be a part of Dean Shareski’s Keynote presentation at the K-12 Online Conference and have our Identity Day featured in the presentation. Identity Day was a major highlight of my year since it was our school community coming together and doing something so simple, yet so powerful. It was a great day to be a part of.
In Dean’s keynote, he discusses how as educators it is essential, not optional, that we share what we do as educators. When Dean first brought this idea to me when we talked, I thought it may be a little much. As I move further into my own development though, and see the power of learning from a global community, I believe his words more everyday. I have learned so much from connecting to others while also having the opportunity to share my ideas as well. As our Forest Green School site develops into a collaborative blogging site, I am learning so much about our school and students, while being able to share any resources with them. I am hoping that many see the power of these types of projects for developing their own school culture. As Dean discusses, sharing is what we do as educators, and now it is time to take that next step.
The video below is about 25 minutes long, but is definitely worth watching.
One of my favourite activities is going through tweet and my RSS reader to catch up on what others wrote. This week I wanted to share stories on everything to technology, testing, and ultimately what is most important in our schools.
Books “are not the shape of knowledge,” he says. “They’re a limitation on knowledge.” The idea of a single author presenting her ideas “was born of the limitations of paper publishing. It’s not necessarily the only way or the best way to think and to write.”
It took an offer to appear on a national TV show for Wade Warren to reluctantly give up what he calls his “technology” for a week. That was the only way, his mother says, that he would ever pack his 2006 MacBook (with some recent upgrades, he’ll tell you), his iPad tablet computer, and, most regretfully, his Nexus One smart phone into a cardboard box and watch them be hustled out the door of his room to a secret hiding place.
Wade is a “digital native” whose world – half in cyberspace, half on terra firma – is breeding what might be called a new species of thinkers. The early 21st century may be a watershed moment in how humans learn and communicate, a change perhaps not equaled since the invention of the printing press nearly six centuries ago.
“As we practice these very busy modes of skimming and juggling tasks, we think we’re being productive and, you know, sometimes it can be quite entertaining and quite fulfilling,” he says in a Monitor interview. “But what I don’t think we fully realize is that we’re altering in a deep way our ability to pay attention, our ability to be contemplative, to be reflective – the things that we might be losing.”
Each device had its strengths. For some it was speed; for others it was capacity. Some were better with shorter articles; others with longer works. And cost, as always, was a factor. But in the end, one e-reader stood out. (And the winner is!?!?!?)
Children perform best in exams when teachers are not overly concerned about their test results, according to research published today.
Pupils show greater motivation, are better behaved and are more likely to be independent and strategic thinkers when teachers are not obsessed by grades, the study by the Institute of Education found.
“Nowhere is this more apparent than in science learning where relentless preparation for tests and exams drives out the important and engaging aspects, especially the practical work,” he said. “All the evidence suggests that ‘teaching to the test’ results in superficial learning and a level of boredom that can turn pupils away from science.”
Weekend Essay by Jonah Lehrer: How Power Affects Us – WSJ.com – Paraphrasing a quote from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.” It is important that as people gain leverage in the organizations they work, they continue to be respectful, kind, and moral. A very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal.
There is no easy cure for the paradox of power. Mr. Keltner argues that the best treatment is transparency, and that the worst abuses of power can be prevented when people know they’re being monitored.
Blogging through the Fourth Dimension: Love Them Before You Know Them – I was so glad that someone who I have recently come to know wrote her first blog post and shared a story regarding her own education. Greta Sandler (who I always refer to as Great!) touched many with her personal story about the importance of connecting with students. The response to her post was absolutely amazing and proved to me that educators know that connecting and building a school on the foundation of relationships is key to continuous improvement. All of the initiatives that we want to happen in our school will fail if we have not connected to our students, staff, and community. I am hoping that I will see more stories like this being shared in the future, as there is definitely the need to read them.
“The secret for a successful connection with students is loving them before actually meeting them.” For some reason, that phrase stayed in my mind. I wondered what she had meant by that, I couldn’t actually figure it out, but it just felt special.
This week I have read some great articles ranging from advice for new teachers, to becoming transformational leaders. I also read one article that talks about inquiry based learning on one hand, while supporting standardized testing. I do not always agree with the articles that I post, but I put them up here if they have made me think about my own practice. Isn’t that what a good article should do?
Short summaries and snippets from the articles are listed below:
Sign on to Twitter if you are not already there. Start following the smartest people you can find in your areas of interest. Build a great PLN – personal learning network – of the smartest and most helpful people you can find. Follow people with whom you agree and follow people with whom you disagree. Follow people like you; follow people not like you. One place to start looking: Twitter for Teachers wiki.
Assume that your older colleagues want to be helpful and see you succeed. This includes administrators. Invite them to your classroom. Ask their opinion. Ask to see them teach – or whatever it is they do. See if you can find a project of theirs in which you can participate.
Seek out colleagues and learn with them and from them. Appreciate the wisdom of veteran teachers. Avoid at all costs those who are cynical about children, have stopping learning and are nodes of negativity about the school. This may means avoiding the faculty room. Seek out colleagues who share your commitment to learning. Hang out with them and do something fun.
Top 10 Roadblocks to Change – Principal Eric Sheninger gives some great points on what is stopping schools from change. Eric believes that if you are truly a “transformational leader”, you will take people where they need to be. Read this article.
Upon reflecting on my keynote, as well as other presentations given by Steve Anderson, Tom Whitby, and Sarah Brown Wessling, (2010 National Teacher of the Year) I have been able to identify common roadblocks to the change process. If identified and addressed appropriately these roadblocks can be overcome.
Successful principals “were setting the conditions that enabled the teachers to be better instructors,” she said.
“It is not the case that the principal is the only person who can lead a school to higher achievement,” Mr. Pauly said. “If nobody in a school, or few people in a school, see it as their priority, then that school has a big problem.”
Some district policies intentionally rotate principals into new buildings every three to five years out of a belief that frequent moves eliminate complacency, Ms. Wahlstrom said. “To move them around just to move them around is probably not a good idea,”
By the same token, district leaders should think carefully before moving “star” principals into struggling schools—a strategy also emphasized in the U.S. Department of Education’s initiative for turning around failing schools
He also said he appreciated the study’s promotion of collective leadership among principals, teachers, and parents. “In the best performing districts, all of those elements have a voice in the decision making process,” he said.
In a neighborhood where safety is fragile, Roepke’s all-clear was a statement about much more than a make-believe animal.
“Our kids need a peaceful place,” the school’s principal, Eileen Reiter, told me in her tidy office lined with baskets of children’s books. “Our kids’ lives are so chaotic, I can’t even tell you. There are kids in foster care, or whose parents are in jail. I have a hundred million stories. So it has to be a place where kids can come and feel relaxed and feel safe and get a lot of support.”
Support, in this case, means more than just academic training and a hot lunch. Reiter has embraced a philosophy known as social and emotional learning, called SEL by its proponents, that focuses on teaching children the skills and strategies to recognize and moderate their own emotions and to manage conflicts with others.
Studies show that students in SEL programs not only perform better on achievement tests, but also have significantly fewer suspensions and expulsions, better school attendance, higher grades, and decreased prevalence of high-risk behaviors such as violence and drug and alcohol use.
Additionally, multiple studies show that students who develop emotional bonds with their classmates and with teachers who have high expectations adopt a positive attitude toward academic achievement, learning, and school in general.
How to Ignite Intellectual Curiosity in Students – I wanted to share this article because it takes about critical thinking and inquiry on one hand, but the author also states that they are not against the standardized testing that is happening in the United States. I have never seen those two ideas working together in a similar article. What are your thoughts?
If we are trying to get our students to participate fully in the inquiry process, we have to remember that most likely, they have been conditioned to do the opposite of inquiry — shut up and listen. Depending on the severity of the case, this may take a while to get them “unconditioned.”
Just so you understand where I come from, I believe that there are many things in the current educational system that need to be changed, however, state standardized testing is not one of them. I firmly believe that NCLB, although not perfect, is a great step in the right direction. I believe this because I have seen administrators and teachers, who, previously concerned only about local grades and behavior for some students, now are concerned with all students actually learning something.
YouTube – Personal Learning NetworksWill Richardson talks about Personal Learning Networks and helps to explain the importance of having students leverage their own PLN’s since they are already using their own personal networks.
Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest.
Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.
Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
I Am A Teacher | Avenue4Learning – Michelle Baldwin’s blog is becoming one of my favourites to read as she is passionate in her writing and has some amazing ideas. This is a definite blog you should add to your reader and Michelle is a great conversationalist in her comment section. If you ever have a question or comment on one of her posts, she always comes back with something insightful that will really make you think and learn along with her. Here are some highlights from this post by a very passionate educator:
How do we as educators change the public view of what we do in the classroom?
Contact the media more often. Invite them to my classroom (again). Share, through multiple methods, what it is we’re doing.
Bring parents into the classroom more. The parents in my school are already welcome in my classroom, although not many of them take our offer to visit. I want them to share their expertise in my classroom more often. Side note- I actually have really great and appreciative parents in my school, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
Bring more attention to other teachers and students who are doing great things. Not every teacher has a powerful network where he/she can share successes. I have a great learning network of people who love to share ideas, collaborate, and celebrate with each other.
My action plan is not that complicated:
I am a teacher. By choice. Not because I was incapable of doing anything else, but because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else that would make me as happy as teaching does.
Re:Focus: I Hate You: A Tale About Advertising –Simon Sinek wrote this great article about the advertising industry but it could definitely be about our focus at schools as well. There are many things that companies can learn from schools, and vice-versa. It is always important how we use business messages though since we are in the business of children and learning.
The reason we hate advertising is because the ad industry has no idea who its customer is
Steve Jobs recently shared his thoughts about how the entire music industry failed to innovate something like iTunes. His answer was as profound as it was simple (fancy that). The music industry, he expounds, thought their customer was Tower Records or Virgin MegaStore…but it never was. Those were their distribution channels. The actual customer is the person who consumes the music. And it is the end user, not the intermediaries, whom Apple focuses on in all they do.
Producing a product for the consumers who are the ones actually consuming the product makes more business sense, too.
Least Restrictive Environment – Practical Theory – Chris Lehmann wrote this short but important article on giving our students the best opportunities in the classroom to create an environment that helps them feel comfortable in their learning. As bringing Ipods into our classrooms this year came with many questions, it is articles like this by proven leaders that show me that we are on the right path:
I was thinking about the Special Education concept of Least Restrictive Environment and the idea that many of the concepts of special education, such as an Individualized Educational Plan, are concepts we should want for every student.
…there are some kids who struggle – despite many opportunities to figure how to manage it – to use technology in a classroom without it serving as a distraction…But banning their use or locking up every laptop would hamstring so much of what we do, and it would not be, for the overwhelming majority of students, the least restrictive environment in which they could – and do – learn.
Let’s take a tip from Special Education and in the coming school year, try to make sure our schools are the least restrictive environments for learning they can be.
It’s hard to find anyone here who believes that Joyce Irvine should have been removed as principal of Wheeler Elementary School.
Ms. Irvine wasn’t removed by anyone who had seen her work (often 80-hour weeks) at a school where 37 of 39 fifth graders were either refugees or special-ed children and where, much to Mr. Mudasigana’s delight, his daughter Evangeline learned to play the violin.
Ms. Irvine was removed because the Burlington School District wanted to qualify for up to $3 million in federal stimulus money for its dozen schools.
under the Obama administration rules, for a district to qualify, schools with very low test scores, like Wheeler, must do one of the following: close down; be replaced by a charter (Vermont does not have charters); remove the principal and half the staff; or remove the principal and transform the school.
even she understood her removal was the least disruptive option.
“Joyce Irvine versus millions,” Ms. Irvine said. “You can buy a lot of help for children with that money.”
Under No Child rules, a student arriving one day before the state math test must take it. Burlington is a major resettlement area, and one recent September, 28 new students — from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan — arrived at Wheeler and took the math test in October.
This is part of the “you should watch” portion of the post. To end off, here is a school division that is really pushing technology integration and sees teachers and students as learners. Is this something we want our schools to look like? If it is, how do we get there?
I recently read an article called “30+ Ways To Use Foursquare in Education”, and I was amazed that this article even existed. I am an admitted foursquare user and have often told people that it is an application that I did not really find to have any educational benefits but was really just fun. I have never sat down and really critically thought about foursquare in the classroom, since I guarantee that I am the ONLY one in my school using the application (which I am both principal AND mayor according to my foursquare check-ins). When I saw this article, I was actually quite shocked.
Although this seems to be an article written for a post secondary level, I am becoming more critical of these “ways to use” articles in the classroom, looking for the deep thinking that could happen in the classroom. Here is one of the ideas that I am curious about:
Okay, the have found me. Now what? Is this turning our students into critical thinkers by knowing where I am. I definitely believe in sharing aspects of your life with students to show that you are a real person, but when are we sharing too much?
Here is another one that I am not sure of:
20. Give bonus points: Transfer Foursquare points into bonus points for tests and quizzes relating to those specific locations.
This is just bad assessment as a student could fail a test but pass because they checked into the post office ten times that week? This actually makes educational practice WORSE in my opinion and I would be disappointed if this was a basis for marks in a class at my school.
There definitely are some interesting ones that could be beneficial in the classroom:
I love this idea! The more we can connect and learn from each other, the better.
In essence, what we really need to do is ensure that we are looking at these types of articles and critically thinking about how they will improve learning in the classroom. We also need to know where we are getting our information from. This site seems to be a “Search Engine Optimizer” (SEO) that is looking for more traffic to head to the site; it’s focus is on making money, not furthering education. It is important that we do not bring technology in for technology’s sake and critically think about where we are getting our information from. This is essential if we want to improve the learning process for our students.
Going through so many articles that I receive through my RSS feed, twitter, and diigo links, I have decided to start a new weekly web posting called “You Should Read” (I wish I had a “The More You Know” picture flash across the screen), sharing some of my favourite stories and posts that I have read over the week. Since Diigo makes it easy to share these links, I thought that I would share them with my PLN.
Here are three articles I really enjoyed this week with some highlights:
A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future.
Around the world, though, other countries are making creativity development a national priority.
Researchers say creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom.
Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process. Scholars argue that current curriculum standards can still be met, if taught in a different way.
Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, why—sometimes parents just wish it’d stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they’ve pretty much stopped asking. It’s no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didn’t stop asking questions because they lost interest: it’s the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions.
While our creativity scores decline unchecked, the current national strategy for creativity consists of little more than praying for a Greek muse to drop by our houses. The problems we face now, and in the future, simply demand that we do more than just hope for inspiration to strike. Fortunately, the science can help: we know the steps to lead that elusive muse right to our doors.
Over the years, teacher tributes have come in broad formats, in movies like “To Sir, With Love” and “Stand and Deliver” and in television series like “Room 222.” Now, on Facebook, the praise is personalized, more widespread and more democratic.
Looking Ahead at Social Learning – 10 Predictions – The question is often asked “what will our schools look like in ten years. Here is an article that talks about what the future may look like for our learning. I highlighted some of the predictions that really stuck out to me as an educator.
Prediction 2| Most learning incorporates use of a mobile device
Prediction 3| Games and simulations are used for every content area
Prediction 5| Peer-to-peer learning blossoms
Prediction 8| Governments will become more involved in ensuring that its citizens have access to training and retraining
Prediction 10| You will be rated publicly, much like a Yelp or Amazon rating for people
What do you think of these articles? Anything stick out to you? I would love to hear your thoughts and learn from the discussion as well as the writing.