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3355 Search Results for "learning"

  • Service Learning Service Learning

    • From: Mike_Hennessy
    • Description:

      Many school districts in America have a Service Learning requirement. An idea well-intentioned but poorly implemented in most schools. Teachers and Administrators who have never even done volunteer work now demand that their students do what they have never done. Needless to say these administrators offer nothing but lip service to the cause. We set the requirement but then we back off, we want nothing to do with these service learning requirements. "That's your problem kiddo" go get it done. And by the way stop whining about it, just go do it. The teenager is now left to fend for themselves with little help from the adults in their world. Oh, sure we offer the opportunity for the students to meet after school with their counselor or the service learning coordinator to discuss upcoming opportunities but what about the adults who stand in front of them every day? Where are they? They are nowhere to be found.

       Let's be honest we forced this requirement upon our students because we believed it's so damned important but the truth is we do not walk the walk and talk the talk. If teachers and administrators truly believe that service learning is so damned important (and even if they do not) it is about time educators began to support the service learning agenda. It is about time educators stopped hiding behind empty rhetoric and began including service learning into the curriculum.

       Every single requirement for students is supported at school except service learning. Driver’s education is supported with classes and books, so is physical education, the constitution exam, health, sex education and the arts. But when it comes to service learning we kick the kids to the curb and wish them luck. Then we blame them when the appropriate number of hours is not met in the given time frame. If schools are going to make service learning mandatory then it's about time these educators began supporting this requirement with more than slogans and suggestions.

      The solution is simple. Every teacher at school must include two service learning projects into their unit plans every year. If the subject you are teaching is relevant then there must be some practical way to integrate this into your instruction. If you cannot do this then your subject is not worth teaching.

      Schools exist to prepare our young to be productive members of society. How is this possible if we do not demonstrate how the topic presented in class each day applies to a real world situation? Service Learning is the only graduation requirement we throw at students with little or no support. If we really believe in the value of service learning then let's start supporting that requirement in deeds not just with words. Let’s bring service learning into the curriculum front and center. Let’s give everybody a stake in the responsibility to complete and implement the service learning requirement

       

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  • Teaching with an Adventurous S Teaching with an Adventurous Spirit

    • From: Tiffany_Della_Vedova
    • Description:

      

      As much I flooded my blog Teach on the Edge with shameless bragging over my preparations for and "reasons" to, it was hard to miss that I was in a triathlon race this weekend. When it was over, my 28 days of race blogging also came to an end, and I was left thinking about the connections between two central pieces of my identity: fitness and education. I feel strongly that one informs the other constantly, so I set out to explore these connections in an April blogging series: Teach Fit. 

      Teach Fit Tip: Teach with an Adventurous Spirit

      One synapse through which energy flows between all the facets of my personal and professional life is adventure. When I think of adventure, my heart returns to my childhood favorite The Goonies, in which an eclectic crew of well-intentioned, ill-prepared teens sets off to find the hidden pirate treasure that will "save the Goondocks" from foreclosure. With no forethought, the group hops on their bicycles with nothing more than an old map and key, an asthma inhaler, and a ton of brash courage. Along the way, they find friendship, purpose, compassion, inner talent, and (of course) the treasure.

      While it would be hardly responsible to send students off to impending doom by booby trap, it seems today that too many teachers are fearful of teaching with an adventurous spirit. As I stood in front of the waves on Sunday's race day, it was not without a fair amount of trepidation, but I also felt sure that I could at least survive and succeed given my level of preparation. In an age of so many creative and collaborative possibilities, educators would benefit from confidence in their abilities in order to dive into an adventurous sea. When facing something new or unexpected, we need to remember that we have arrived on this shoreline of possibility with no trivial amount of preparation. Unlike our beloved Goonies, we have far more in our packs to help us avoid danger and find the learning treasures with our students. Here are five adventurous seas most teachers face and should feel confident diving into...

      1) Tech Integration: Beyond checking age-appropriate guidelines for platform use, which are clearly outlined in the user terms, the integration of technology, especially that which has been specifically designed for the classroom, is a safe sea. While there will be waves to contend with, nobody is going to drown. Allowing students to play around in the surf and share with each other how they used different techniques to arrive at the same task completion is a great practice.

      2) Project-Based Learning: The best projects are often the most open-ended ones. It's uncomfortable for teachers to set forth projects with vague rubrics, but students can benefit from ones that set high standards for creativity, collaboration, and quality, with very little else detailed. 

      3) Choice-Based Exploration: As long as the prerequisite standards have been set so that students know how they must show they have learned, allowing students to choose what they learn and design their own demonstrations of learning is an excellent way to foster agency and creativity.

      4) Unfamiliar Topic: In today's data age, information is as easy to come by asking Siri. What is far more difficult to find is guidance, rapport, and connection. Allowing for student choice sometimes means allowing for topics outside our expertise. That's okay though because teachers are adept at the latter skills so as to guide students to the best resources and connections. We are boosters of brain power and creative, critical thinking...not databases for facts. Think Socrates--he never answered any questions!

      5) Being Ourselves: This is a personal and sometimes polarizing topic. Teachers cannot and should not try to be separate people in class and outside of school. While it would be unprofessional to over share information about one's personal life, our families and our interests make us human and relatable. These are two qualities a computer can never be. Yet, teachers are understandably fearful of sharing about their family if they feel the environment is intolerant. A moving example is Chris Friend's Edutopia blog "Silence is not Golden" in which Chris explores his missed opportunity in helping students embrace their own identities and differences. "Because I never brought up my sexuality on campus, I continued the discrimination. By hiding, I silently expressed my fear and added to the problem I feebly wanted to protect students from. I was trying to make sure that students felt safe in my classroom. Instead, I showed them that even I was not." 

      There is no shortage of fear in teaching. Sometimes we fear for ourselves, but mostly we fear the impact our mistakes will have on our students. We feel the weight of each interaction because we know that there are no neutral moments or do-overs. Still, with safe boundaries for exploration, we can trust in our skills as educators when faced with some trepidation. Our adventurous spirits can inspire our students to learn at new heights if we provision our packs with trust, creativity, and strong rapport. 

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  • Leader to Leader News: April 2 Leader to Leader News: April 2014

  • Five Ways for Teacher-Leaders Five Ways for Teacher-Leaders to Bolster the Effectiveness of Peers

    • From: Krista_Rundell
    • Description:

      This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “How to cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to http://edge.ascd.org/page/ascd-forum.html


      How many educators have “fallen” into a teacher-leadership role without intention?  As a high school social studies instructor, I continually strived to refine my skills both the art and science of teaching.  In my ninth year, I was encouraged to apply for a grant-funded position that would take me not only out of my classroom, but also out of my comfort zone.  However, I also knew that I would regret passing up this opportunity for personal and professional growth. 

      During my five years as a Curriculum and Instructional Technology Coach, my growth was exponential.  My most pivotal insights involved learning how to best move the district towards achieving its mission and vision through ongoing, job-embedded, collaborative, and supported professional development. 

      It is my hope that what I have learned can serve not only as a guide for other teacher-leaders, but for all educational stakeholders interested in building a climate and culture dedicated to staff development and student achievement.

      1.     Be a life-long learner: Model continuous learning alongside peers.

            Learning can be engaging, enthusiastically contagious, and invigorating.  Experiencing that “AHA!” moment-of-realization continues to be remarkable, even in adulthood.  Teacher-leaders share the joy of this adventure with peers, engage curiosity, and spark momentum for knowledge-seeking.  Similarly, they also recognize that everyone has valuable contributions that add to the collective learning of a group, and thus, encourage the facilitation of learning over the “sage on the stage” mentality.

      2.     Be a contributor: Build a Personalized Learning Network.

            Connecting with other dedicated educators opens doors for the permeation of new concepts, astute advice, and best practices.  Teacher-leaders exchange ideas with their network, then share these perspectives with peers in the district to help direct next course of action.  Better yet, teacher-leaders invite interested peers to join their online network (see #5 below).  These additional viewpoints can help direct the movement of initiatives forward or provide guidance when the path needs to be altered. 

      3.     Be a canvasser: Seek input and multiple perspectives when introducing, modifying, or deepening initiatives.

            Valuing the opinions of others, even those who disagree, builds character, collegiality, and a positive climate in which learning and growth can flourish.  Teacher-leaders suspend judgment, actively listening to and incorporating the ideas, concerns, and solutions of others.

      4.     Be an advocate: Create a communication bridge between administrators and teachers.

             Uniting stakeholders helps reinforce our common goal to provide a valuable, meaningful educational experience for our students.  Oftentimes, our own vision is limited by the constraints of our daily schedule, the pressures of external forces, and the determined focus on accomplishing our own tasks.  Teacher-leaders weave connections between administrators and teachers to address the “whats, hows, and whys” to create a deeper understanding between both groups.

      5.     Be a capacity-builder: Stand next to colleagues as they integrate their new learning into practice - and reflect with them afterward.

            Offering to co-teach with teachers integrating a new practice can alleviate feelings of uncertainty, promote confidence, and lead to fun, engaging collaboration.  Teacher-leaders spend time with colleagues reflecting on the effectiveness of lessons in relation to student learning, focusing what went well, and addressing what could be improved.  In addition to building capacity among staff, this interaction shows students that teachers work collectively to provide the most effective instruction in order to meet their varied needs.

      “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”  ― W.B. Yeats

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  • Curating Content with Students Curating Content with Students: 4 Steps

    • From: Mindy_Keller-Kyriakides
    • Description:

      Content Curation is a relatively new term for educators to consider as they flex their Web muscles. After all, many of us are used to content being synonymous with "what's in the textbook." Or from a student perspective, we've hopefully moved past the bibliography cards (shudder) as a way of gathering content. We may not have started out with the idea that information or strategies or tools are available with a search, but now we need to know that the act of gathering them is also a skill. It's time to figure out the best way to get students on board with this crucial 21st century skill.

       

      Mullan (2011) defines content curation as "the act of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds specific subject matter." Thus, our role as a facilitator of learning is to figure out the general why and how, so we can help students better understand their specific why and how.


      1. Start with the end in mind.

       

      Our planning of the use of content curation will be somewhat backwards from our presentation to students because we first need to figure out why we want them to curate content before we jump into having them do it.

       

                          If you don't have a good reason for kids to curate, then...don't.

      Without a clear alignment of this task and the learning, you'll soon find them off-task and/or whining and complaining, no matter the tool. So, we need to first consider:

       

           What is the end goal of the assignment or project? 

           What do we want students to be able to "do" with it?

       

      These questions come before the "curation" question:

       

           Why is curating content the BEST thing to help students reach those goals or demonstrate their   

           learning?

       

      For example, let's say I have a project idea that I want students to complete a research project on one aspect of education for sustainable development. The topic is certainly significant, and I want them to decide on one problem they want to tackle under the umbrella of this topic, and research solutions and ideas for overcoming it. Finally, I want them to present their findings in a comprehensive way for others to learn from. They are expected to choose their intended audience for this compilation of information. My reason for curation is then germane to the learning. They need to find the sources, so having a spot to put them all is a logical, practical exercise.


      2. Scaffold the skills.

       

      Then, I'll want to brainstorm some thoughts on what the kids will need to know about content curation before they tackle this project.

       

      What immediately stands out for content curation as a skill is the credibility and/or reliability of what is discovered or gathered, etc. Evaluating sources can be tricky, so students may need some help understanding what is/is not a viable source. Providing them with examples in discussion prior to sending them out on their own would allow them more solid footing. They should be asking questions such as:

       

           Who is the author of this source, and why is he/she credible?
           Does the source provide references or at least links to information that supports the discussion?
           How will this source help me reach my goal?

       

      3. Distinguish the tools.

       

      Another thing kids will need to know is what kind of tool will work best. There are so many options! Paperli, Pinterest, Symbaloo. Since the use of the tools is probably not going to be too much of an issue (they are very user-friendly and easy to figure out), then, we'll need to do a bit of background on a few. What is it that curation tools can actually DO?

       

      contentcuration.jpeg

       

       

      From Webby Thoughts http://www.webbythoughts.com/content-curation-tools-resource/

       

      For example, some curation tools, such as scoopit and paperli lend themselves to actually being the final project whereas Symbaloo, Diigo, and Pinterest are more like warehouses that store information for something else.  Thus before you open up Pandora's box of tools, make sure you know what you want it to do.

      A quick comparison of a few--you can find some listed in Moss (2014) "Content Curation Tools"--can aid you in guiding students to the choice that will work best for them. This is actually good spot in the unit/lesson to offer students some choice because you want them to hone the skill. The tool is up to them!

       

      4. Set clear expectations.

       

      Of course, you'll want to make sure your expectations for the final product are clear! Using rubrics and checklists that help students understand how you'll be assessing their skills of curation for the purpose of the final project will offer them a solid foundation for moving forward in the magic of content curation.

       

      Working with the backwards design approach really offers us a powerful way to approach this valuable skill! Students who can curate have a definitive advantage over those who don't know what it is or how to use it.

       

      And they need all the advantages that we can give them.

       

       

      

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  • Alternatives to Standardized T Alternatives to Standardized Tests: Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      As a high school teacher, I used an array of diverse assessments to measure and evaluate student achievement and success. Many varied components would go into each student’s grades and narratives – test and quiz results, the quality of projects, writings and self-reflections, observations of students, and judgments regarding effort, growth, and class participation. Given the multiple student cognitive abilities, attitudes, character traits, and strengths and problems, it would have been foolish of me to use only one type of measure to determine a students’ success in my class.

       

      Given that multiple types of assessments such as the ones I used above are used by most teachers, one would expect that appropriate, multiple assessment approaches would be also used to assess school and district success. Thus, it is surprising that “one size fits all” standardized tests, with their major emphasis on multiple choice-short answer questions, are touted as the major, and often the only way to judge school success, student achievement, and even teacher effectiveness.

       

      Unfortunately, the sole use of these traditional tests pose many problems for assessing actual student knowledge, skills, abilities, talents and interests. First, many educators and lay people suggest that standardized tests often do not do a good job of measuring the purported skills associated with them. For example, as recently pointed out by a New York State teacher in a NY Times op-ed piece, the New York English Language Arts test questions do “a poor job of testing reading comprehension”. A student’s answers to the questions on this test have “little bearing on [his or her] reading ability and yet [have] huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools”[i]. Some students also might be good readers but do poorly on the reading test because of their poor test-taking skills.

       

      Second, standardized tests have limited use in evaluating whether students have learned many of the most important skills required for college work or for living in a 21st century world, such as interest in learning, motivation to learn, research and study skills, coherent writing abilities, effective oral communication skills, project and problem-based development skills, problem finding and question asking, the ability to apply learning to authentic situations, scientific investigation skills, “deep” thinking, student “grit”, and the development of each individual student’s talents and abilities.

       

      In addition, the tests usually provide schools and teachers with limited, if any, feedback to help them figure out how to improve teaching and learning. And, unfortunately, they also have a number of negative side effects, such as increasing sterile test-prep activities, narrowing the curriculum, increasing student anxiety and frustrations, and reducing student interest in learning. Many of our best teachers write about how the emphasis on testing plays havoc with their curriculum, the interest and motivation of their students, and their joy of teaching. Some have even left the teaching profession altogether because of their school or district emphasis on preparing for standardized tests.

       

      As opposition to the use of these tests increases, and a greater understanding of their limitations and negative consequences develops, it is imperative that opponents to standardized testing suggest alternatives. In fact, there should be many varied assessments used to determine school and district success, just as there are many and varied types of educational goals, results, and students. This is a very different paradigm from the “one size fits all” standardized testing results model of measuring success. So, described briefly below are some examples of types of measures that might be combined into an assessment plan useful for judging district and school success, student achievement, and the school or district conditions that limit or reinforce success. The first number of measures are designed to measure output – achievement and successes of students, their involvement and participation in multiple types of activities, perceptions of stakeholders in how the school is meeting their needs, and so on. The second set of measures focus on input: characteristics of student population, conditions under which students learn, amount of resources available, the quality of curriculum and teaching, and others.

       

      Assessing Output:

      Achievement, Successes, Activity Involvement, and Perceptions

       

      Student graduation data

      What do students do when they graduate, where do they go and how successful are they both during their time with us and after they leave us?

      In analyzing school success, data should be regularly collected on the % of students who graduate and what they do after graduation (types and names of colleges and universities attended, financial aid obtained, military enlistees, technical school attendees, etc.); what % of those who attend college graduate and why do they drop out; college majors. Student data also should include surveys and interviews with graduates to find out their levels of satisfaction with their K-12 school programs;

       

      Mission-related achievement data

      How well do our students meet the mission of our school or district?

      Student data should be collected and analyzed that demonstrate achievement and success based on mission-related goals. For example, a school specializing in the visual arts might collect data on the type of artwork students complete and a sampling of student portfolios; a school with an emphasis on music may focus assessments around the types of student performances given by students and the skill level of its music students. Vo-Tech schools might collect data on the types of training received by each student, their post high school plans and career goals, their job placements and acceptance levels into advanced programs.

       

      Report card results

      How successful are our students, based on the results of their daily and yearly work?

      We know that the best predictors of student achievement and success lie with how well students do in their classes and in the recommendations of teachers and others in the school. We therefore need to make sure that each school or district develop specific, “standards-based” report cards, built around measures of 21st century goals, that reflect how well students succeed and grow in their classes and courses. Report cards should be broken down into specific cognitive and social expectations, with ratings that use levels of achievement as well as grades. Narrative comments convey specific information to parents-guardians about the strengths of individual children and areas that need improvement.

       

      Report card data can be summarized to provide a picture of how well the school or district is doing to meet the needs of its students. Randomly selected report cards, along with narrative comments, can also be collected and shared.

       

      Cornerstone-graduation project(s) results

      How well do our students complete “cornerstone” projects that both develop and assess core 21st century skills?

      Cornerstone projects consist of research projects and “authentic” performance tasks that culminate in presentations and exhibitions and demonstrate in-depth understanding of ideas, the ability to use 21st century skills, and the ability to transfer and apply learning. Students who are able to develop questions around their interests or suggested topics, conduct research, read and comprehend, write essays and research papers, and make presentations to others demonstrate an understanding of content and competence in using significant skills.

       

      Cornerstone project results at different school levels demonstrate progress towards the development of these skills as well as final mastery of them.

       

      Student plans for the future

      What are student plans for the future?

      Every student should be required to develop a plan for his or her future, indicating their next steps after graduating from high school and their more visionary goals for the future. Part of the development of a plan should include research about future educational goals, career options and choices. A summary of these plans is an important indicator of school and district success.

       

      Student portfolios

      What is the comprehensive nature of individual student work?

      Portfolios - collections of student work - help us to assess actual student work and incorporate “real learning” into the assessment process, not the artificial, “out of context” kind of learning assessed through standardized tests. Portfolios are also individualized and customized to demonstrate an individual’s nuanced and varied skill levels, talents, abilities, and interests. Today, with Internet capability, an individual student’s best writing and/or artwork, project results, tests, self-reflections, plans for the future, and other student work can be scanned and placed electronically into portfolios.

       

      Students should be asked to develop portfolios of their work throughout their K-12 experience. Sample portfolios, or parts of portfolios, can be used to illustrate the types of work students are doing within the school or district, and how well a school or district is helping students master key 21st century knowledge and skills.

       

      Survey-focus group data

      What do parents, students and teachers think about us?

      In this day and age of the Internet, it is relatively easy to develop, post, and summarize survey data. Every school and district should collect data from parents, students and teachers at least once a year, and then use the data to review its programs, applaud its strengths, and figure out ways to improve what it does[ii].

       

      What do graduates and dropouts think about us?

      Once students leave school and move on to colleges and other post high-school experiences, they have greater perspective on their experiences and can often provide valuable insights into the strengths of a school program and “needs improvement” areas. Data from graduates should be sought after, even if it is often difficult to collect.

       

      Attempts should be made to collect and analyze data from dropouts, even if this data might be difficult to collect, in order to indicate why they dropped out of school and therefore suggest ways to help other students stay in school.

       

      Student reflections

      How do students view our school? What do they see as our positive and negative features?

      Students who will be leaving one school to go to another school within the district (e.g. from elementary to middle school) or leaving a school to transfer to a school outside the district, or graduating from high school should be the focus of special attention when it comes to surveys and data collection. These students should be asked to reflect on their school experiences and focus on what they perceive as the strengths of the school they are leaving, the major learnings resulting from their school experiences, and suggestions for improving their learning experience. This data should be collected, analyzed and shared.

       

      Community service and field-based activities

      What are our students’ opportunities to connect with and apply their learning to the outside world?

      How do students provide service to the community? How do students connect with the outside world via field trips, career days, and so on? How do outside individuals and groups provide services to and work with students within a school? These and other similar questions should be part of data collection that is shared and used to provide feedback on connections to real world, outside resources.

       

      Extra-curricular, support, or enrichment activities

      What opportunities are there for students to participate in extra-curricular, support and enrichment activities? How much do our students take advantage of extra-curricula, support and enrichment activities?

      “Extra curricular” activities provide opportunities for students to explore and learn about a variety of options that are beyond academics. What extra-curricular activities are available? Data should be available that indicates which students are partake of which extra-curricular activities, and how often they do so.

       

      In a similar vein, are their support and enrichment activities available for students? Data should indicate which students participate in these and why.

       

      Assessing Input:

      Conditions, Culture, Teaching, Curriculum, Resources,

       

      School and district student population, resource availability and conditions

      What are the characteristics of our student population? What resources do we have available to support our teachers and students? What school or district conditions help or hinder us in meeting achievement goals?

      This data helps us to understand the characteristics of the school, district and student population, and resource adequacy, needs problems and challenges. The data include information about student populations, such as ELL, special education, identified gifted populations; the number of students on free or reduced lunch. Other data includes the % of students who drop out of a school or district before graduation and the reasons why they leave; % who are “lifers” within the same school or district, % of students who are absent 10 or more days a year, % of students given suspensions and other discipline data, and mobility rates.

       

      District and school information include, among other things, resources available for technology, supplies, materials and other needs; class sizes; adequacy of library-media centers, art-music, and extra curricular programs; and support personnel available (NTA’s, nurses, counselors, community laiasons).

       

      Curricular programs and instructional activities

      What are the common types of curricular programs and instructional activities used in classrooms?

      One part of a school or district assessment plan might include examples of the kinds of curriculum, teaching and learning experiences that are incorporated into classrooms and other activities. Suppose, for example, that the school or district promotes inquiry learning. Do teachers in the district use an inquiry learning model in their classrooms? If yes, what does learning look like? What are the essential features of the mathematical curriculum? The reading-language arts curriculum? Are there any special programs in place (e.g. leveled books, writing process, deep learning, competitions) that provide the opportunity for a different type of learning experience for students?

       

      School and program reviews

      How can we increase the amount of “objective” assessment data in order to determine our successes and improve our programs?

      When I was on the staff of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, an educational service agency in Bucks County, PA, we conducted a number of program reviews for our constituent districts each year. We would enlist a number of teachers, administrators, and experts from across the county and the area to spend three days in a district examining and analyzing all or part of the district’s program. Our final report would list the strengths and needs of the program, and also make suggested recommendations for improving the program.

       

      These types of reviews are extremely valuable for a school or district, especially since an outside agency is conducting the review. It provide a wealth of objective information and data, along with suggestions for improvement, that help to assess a program and provide the impetus for making changes.

       

      Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP)

       

      Just as we should expect teachers to build a comprehensive assessment plan to measure student success and achievement in their classes, so should we expect schools and districts to build a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP) that measures both output and input: a broad array of types of achievement, successes, involvement, perceptions, conditions, culture, and resources. The plan should both assess student achievement, growth, and development, and also be useful in improving school conditions and success in the future.

       

      The selection of a set of a core set of assessments, built into a Comprehensive Assessment Plan, may be best determined by each school or district, depending on its resources, options, and viewpoints. My own view is that a combination of student population and school and district conditions-resource data, strong report card and student portfolio data, cornerstone project results, and surveys of and reflections from current students and graduates will provide significant and important data on how well a school or district is doing as well as the conditions under which schools, districts and teachers operate.

       

      In today’s world of e-mails, Internet surveys, smartphones, computers, tablets, much of this data would be relatively easy to collect. Many of these measures, taken together, can become part of a holistic school-district annual report card, presented by a principal or superintendent to school boards and available to the general public. They can be used to identify problems that need to be addressed. They present a much more nuanced picture of how well a school is doing, the qualities of student graduates, what issues a school or district are facing, and what steps need to be taken to improve the results.

       

      Unfortunately, a broad, varied array of assessment data just doesn’t get collected and developed by itself. A school or district needs to assign someone who is responsible for the development, collection, and analysis of this complex data. The person responsible might even be part of a collaborative, regional effort. The development of this more comprehensive approach will also take time to develop, and a long-term goal should be to enable every school and district to develop a significant assessment process for judging success with students and the conditions and resources necessary for success.

       

      How Federal and State Officials Can Help This Assessment Process

       

      Here are some ways that state and federal officials can provide support for a the use of a much more comprehensive assessment process:

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to collect and synthesize a wide variety of data, provide funding, resources and examples to help them;

       

      • Provide examples and models of report cards, surveys, cornerstone assessments, portfolios, and the like. Provide the technical means for collecting and analyzing data from these examples and models.

       

      • Provide support for school, district, or regionally-based individuals to be hired to build assessment systems, organize data collection, and prepare summary reports around data.

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to develop their own mix of data alone or collaboratively with others, develop new measures, and share their methodology with others;

       

      • Forbid the use of a single number to describe a school or district’s success;

       

      • Encourage the development of data summaries that are easy to understand and posted for the community to see;

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to develop a wide variety of ways to use data as feedback and to experiment and find solutions to problems that arise from the data, including curriculum adaptations, community liaisons, ways to motivate students to stay in school, and so on.

       

      • Encourage high performing schools and districts to share what they do that makes them high performing, especially when they have a significant number of students that need special help and attention.

       

      • Provide support for professional development that enables staff to review and draw conclusions from data; encourage professional development to develop potential solutions to problems discovered through data collection.

       

      • Encourage school and district experimentation with potential solutions, even if they lead to failure (that’s how we learn).  

       

       

      Ultimately, a trust in a decentralized assessment process, a belief in the value of multiple, diverse assessments to measure school and district success, along with a combination of strong leadership at all levels, will provide the necessary impetus to move us away from the primary reliance on standardized tests to assess student, school and teacher success. We should be moving towards the use of varied sets of data that provide nuanced, helpful pictures of success and student achievement and help to improve the conditions of learning. Let us hope that we move in the right direction soon, because the current direction is leading us away from the kinds of education that our students need to prepare for living in a 21st century world.

       

      -------------------------

       

      Elliott Seif, Ph.D. is a long time educator, author, consultant, educational advocate, and trainer. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, read more his blogs on ASCD Edge and go to:  www.era3learning.org

       

       

       



      [i] Elizabeth Phillips, We Need to Talk About the Test: The Problem With the Common Core, The New York Times op-ed page, April 9, 2014.

      [ii] A High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) is available free of charge from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. Go to:

      http://ceep.indiana.edu/hssse/index.html

    • Blog post
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  • 9 Ideas You Can Steal from Tea 9 Ideas You Can Steal from Teachers

    • From: Suzy_Brooks
    • Description:

      This blog post is listed in its entirety at :http://blogs.falmouth.k12.ma.us/simplysuzy/2014/04/13/9-ideas-you-can-steal-from-teachers/

       

      After stumbling across Portent’s Content Idea Generator, I had a bit of fun… I threw in some favorite topics and generated some pretty giggly blog post ideas:

       

      10 Freaky Reasons Creativity Could Get You Fired.

      How Learning Can Help You Predict the Future

      12 Ways Technology Could Help the Red Sox Win the World Series.

      20 Things Spock Would Say About Schools.  <~someone should totally write this!!

       

      But those are all topics for another day….

      9 ideas you can steal from teachers

      So I started thinking about one of the topics that Portent generated….  What are ideas we teachers have, that others would find worth stealing?

      Here goes!!

       

      1: Attention Pleaseattention

      Whether teachers are clapping, chanting, counting, calling out, or throwing up Peace Signs – they are getting the attention of students coast to coast.  So, next time you need to get attention at the dinner table, or at the deli, or on the subway – try some tried-and-true teacher tricks.  Clap a rhythm, shut the lights off, or count backwards from 10.  Soon you’ll have the rapt attention of all those around you.

      2.   Everything is more fun with Music

      Music is a powerful medium. I can still remember all of the words from all the Schoolhouse Rocks videos of my youth. I can still sing my multiplication tables from 3rd grade (thank you, Mrs. Lynch!).  Classical piano and guitar help drown out all of the distractions of Real Life so I can focus on one thing at a time.  Sharing music in the classroom helps keep things calm and lively; serene and silly.  Students respond to rhythm, to rhyme, to rap, to relaxing tones.  So, try rapping that pesky list of chores to be done around the house, or singing the steps to cleaning a bedroom.  A little classical music during dinner never hurt anyone.

      3.   Read-alouds are good for everyone.  

      Read-Aloud time is one of our most favorite in Room 204. Whether we are sharing the next chapter in Charlotte’s Web, or rhyming along with Dr. Seuss, during read-aloud every student is engaged and involved.  Perhaps the next time you’d like to get an important point across to a family member, you could do it in the form of a read-aloud.  Gather them on the rug in front of you, muster up your best fluency skills, and have at it.  Whether you read the DVR user’s manual, summer camp brochures, or the latest junk mail, I guarantee you’ll have a committed audience.  Sell it.

      The remaining 6 ideas can be found here:

      http://blogs.falmouth.k12.ma.us/simplysuzy/2014/04/13/9-ideas-you-can-steal-from-teachers/

       

      As a teacher, what ideas do you have worth stealing??  Share them!!

      

      

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  • The Obsessive Educator The Obsessive Educator

    • From: Barry_Saide
    • Description:

      A hot buzzword in education is the term ‘connected educator.’ For the past year, I’ve gone to unconferences, EdCamps, and had countless Twitter interactions. We always talk about what a ‘connected educator’ is.


      Well, what about an ‘obsessive educator’?


      It’s important to recognize this type of educator, too, as they are a strand of the ‘connected educator’. An obsessive educator is eternally hungry for teaching and learning knowledge. So hungry, that they’re never full. They’ll attend Saturday free conferences the weekend before Thanksgiving because they want to learn something, be inspired, meet others like them, and go home with their passion ablaze. Snow on a Saturday in Philadelphia? No problem for the obsessive educator. The pros way outweigh the cons. The obsessive educator burns the candle at both ends, only because there isn’t a third end.


      The default setting for an obsessive educator is to communicate. Once an obsessive educator learns something new, they need to try it out immediately. And, then share out: not to brag or show off, but to deconstruct what just happened -- so more learning can occur. They want to break down why something worked, why something didn’t, or what they can do better.


      They also want to help others get better. Making an investment in someone else by sharing new knowledge makes the obsessive educator happy. They know at some unknown future point, their investment will pay a dividend because a student will learn. And, that’s in their job description..


      The obsessive educator is a teacher first, next, and always. And with teaching, there will be times when their peers don’t comprehend the material. They won’t see its relevance. Why do that? Who has time? Everything is already good the way it is, the obsessive educator hears. However, the obsessive educator sees a different picture than others hear. They don’t see the forest or the trees. Their vision is longer term, and it’s beautiful: a place where we are all connected and an obsession with learning becomes the norm.


      But, they understand that their obsession is not the norm now. They understand that not everyone gets stoked when Tom Whitby and Todd Whitaker follow them on the same day. They understand that by taking pictures of the educational badges from the conferences they’ve attended that people they love, respect, and even marry may call them “Nerd Camp.” Because, the obsessive educator believes they get it -- the rest of the world will just catch up soon.

    • Blog post
    • 5 days ago
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  • We need to talk about the test We need to talk about the test...

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      This op-ed piece in the NY Times is an important article about standardized tests...

      Read it at 

      http://nyti.ms/1iABhJS

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 6 days ago
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  • Revoked Rights For Educators Revoked Rights For Educators

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      At what point in time did schools obtain the power to suspend a teacher’s constitutional right to free speech? I know that social media is relatively new to our modern history, which is reason to give some institutions a little breathing space to catch up to all of social media’s ramifications on our society, but it doesn’t give any institution the power to suspend the constitutional rights of an individual, or to punish in any way an individual who exercises a constitutionally guaranteed right.

      I read a post today about a teacher in a New Hampshire school district who was forced into retirement for refusing to unfriend students on Facebook. This is not an isolated incident. As a connected educator I have had many discussions with educators from all over the United States who are fearful of retaliation from their districts for involving themselves openly in social media communities. 

      I lived in the community in which I taught for 25 years. This is not unlike many educators in our country. At no time during my tenure in that district did anyone call me into an office and instruct me on how to interact with the children of the community. No one told me I could not be friends with children in the community. I was never told where I could, or could not go in that community. I don’t think any administrator would have even considered such a discussion. Yet, these are the discussions some administrators are having with teachers today about their social media communities.

      I understand the need to protect children from a range of inappropriate adult behavior even to the extreme, contact with pedophiles. This however is not a reason to suspend every teacher’s right to free speech. Just because there are some inappropriate adults on the Internet, we can’t jump to a conclusion that all adults on the Internet are inappropriate, especially, those who have been vetted and entrusted with children face to face every day. Statistics tell us that our children are more in danger from family, close family friends, and even clergy, much more than people on the Internet. If we really want to protect our children on the Internet we need to educate them early and often, not ban them from what has become the world of today. They need to live in that world. I heard a TV celebrity say recently that parents need not prepare the road for their children, but they must prepare their children for the road.

      Social media communities are open to the public where everyone sees all. It is transparency at its finest, and in some cases at its worst, but that is what we have come to expect from social media. We need to learn how to deal with that. There is no fixing stupid. Some people will be inappropriate, but the community will deal with that as it develops and matures. People are still adjusting and evolving in these social media communities. Having educators participating and modeling within these communities is exactly what is needed. The more they participate, the better the communities will all be. We, as well as our children, benefit.

      Administrators are quick to use social media as a public relations tool to shout out the accolades of their schools. They have control over that. They do not have control over what others might say about the schools in a social media community. The blemishes are often exposed. If administrators are fearful that their image, or that of the school will be tarnished by people speaking publicly about the school, then maybe these administrators should look at themselves, or their policies. It may be indicating a need to assess a few things. Instead of trying to shut people down by limiting their right to free speech, they might try asking them to speak up. This is where listening skills become very important. This is why transparency is important. 

      Eventually, someone will take this issue to some court of law. After all, we are a very litigious society. It will be litigated and maybe even travel up to the Supreme Court. I cannot see any court supporting the idea that a person gives up a constitutional right, just because they are employed by some backward thinking school district.

      Schools need to better understand the world our children will be living in, as well as the world that we live in today. Social Media communities are not going away. Technology is not moving backwards. It will always move forward bringing us new problems to deal with. We need to deal with the problems and not tell people they can’t use the technology.

      It amazes me that I am even writing about this. It is very clear-cut to me. I know however that not everyone looks at this the same way. Before the comments start coming from protective parents and teachers, I need to say that I am the father of two girls. They were brought up using technology. They were taught the good and the bad, as well as how to deal with it. I live what I preach when it comes to kids and technology. I understand every parent has the right to bring up their kids as they see fit. I also believe that every person has the right to free speech. We need to find a way to respect everyone’s rights without denying anyone’s. The world is continually changing and we need to adjust and adapt if we are to survive and thrive.

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  • psst...What's Hiding in Your C psst...What's Hiding in Your Curriculum?

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      Do you remember the film “Starman" (Jeff Bridges plays a being from another planet)?  There is one scene, where he is in the car with the leading lady and observes her speeding through a yellow traffic light.  Unsurprisingly, he learns to respond the same when he encounters a yellow light later in the film.  There was no intricate lesson plan or core curriculum involved, but Jeff Bridges’ character learned something from his environment nonetheless.  Let’s use this example to begin our exploration of the hidden curriculum-the learning that occurs as students are shaped by their environmental experiences.

       

      A big part of understanding the hidden curriculum concept boils down to the word "hidden". First, let’s focus only on this term.  It is necessary to debunk the idea of “out of sight, out of mind” when we think of the hidden curriculum.  Although hidden implies that something is beneath or under the radar, this does not mean forgettable.  Further, when we don’t see things physically, this does not indicate insignificance.  For example, think about all the important health risks associated with lead (most commonly found in paint and toys) BPA (material found in some baby bottles) or bacteria.  In contrast, let's acknowledge the benefits of some of the things invisible from the naked eye-such as ultra violet light (detection of counterfeit bills, signals food on flowers for insects, sterilization of equipment).

       

      After considering the value of hidden material, I wondered about its impact on my students.  I decided to try an informal experiment to get a better idea.  Typically, I begin each of my classes with a question, thus a couple of weeks ago I asked my students to share (in writing) their thoughts on their learning outside of class work and homework. Below is a few of their responses:

       

      "We were able to use all of our notes on a final test in high school.  So that taught me how to stay organized."

       

      "In my chemistry class, you could sell a Cadillac converter for $80."

       

      "During a highschool play, even if it's funny, its known backstage to be quiet and nobody has to tell you..."

       

      "During the group activities I learned to come to an agreement without taking total control."

       

      My student’s responses spurred interested as to how other students would define their experience with the hidden curriculum.  I soon discovered a student blog on hidden curriculum.  There were various accounts on how the hidden curriculum provided insight about others. For example, I was fascinated to see what the students learned about teacher behavior (the students concluded that teachers could be more punitive-based than thought provoking).  In addition, the hidden curriculum was a great resource in learning about their peer’s needs.  For instance, both physical survival lessons (such as when classmates ate large food portions at lunch because of the lack of food at home) and rules for academic survival (such as students storing items in classrooms because the school could not afford lockers) were imparted by peer behavior.

       

      In addition to learning about others, the hidden curriculum provides self-awareness as well. I found a powerful article about a medical student's schooling experience, that highlights the struggle of going against the rules dictated by the hidden curriculum. The student retells the process of confronting his feelings (conflict of instinct versus hidden curriculum expectations) as a necessary step in developing as a learner, a professional, and a member of society.

       

      After a while, it occurred to me that the hidden curriculum's impact on students is huge. It varies with the culture of the learner (think again of the film "Starman" and how the adjustment to a new culture made him more prone to follow). It differs with the ability of the learner (or inability to pick up on environmental cues such as students with Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, or those with cognitive-based learning disabilities).  Further, teachers may need help in guiding students through the unwritten or unspoken rules for success in the classroom.  Strategies such as the use of scripts to assist in getting the needed information, identifying a safe person to approach for help, and exploring commons idioms are all ways teachers can help. 

       

      I will conclude with an excerpt from a radio ad that allows us to hear the consequences of forgetting to address the hidden curriculum in our classrooms:

       

      In Biology, I learned I’m fat, stupid.

      In English, I learned I’m disgusting.

      In Gym, I learned I’m a joke.

      The only thing I didn’t learn is why no one ever helps…

       

      To hear the complete radio ad please visit Public Service Announcement Central Website. 

       

      So, am I wrong about the impact of the hidden curriculum?  The next time you develop a lesson plan for your students, why not take a second or two and consider the hidden learning that may accompany your lesson?  Let me know what secret lessons are embedded within your classroom/school-and how your students successfully rise to the hidden curriculum challenge. 

       

       

       

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • Is this 2014 . . . or is it 19 Is this 2014 . . . or is it 1978 (all over again)?

    • From: Craig_Mertler
    • Description:

       

      @craigmertler

      www.craigmertler.com/mec

       

      Unfortunately, I’m writing today as an opportunity to “vent” a little bit.  Let me preface what I'm going to write by reiterating the fact that I started my career as a public school teacher, taught and researched in colleges of education for nearly 20 years, and am a huge supporter of public education and of teachers, in general.

       

      You see, our son is a high school junior.  For the previous 11 years of his education, he’s been a great student: worked hard; typically received straight A’s; positive attitude; you know, an all-around good kid.  However, suddenly this year has become quite different.

       

      For example, for the first time in his life, he’s struggling in math (specifically, Algebra II).  Now, I know Algebra II can be difficult; however, he received straight A’s in both Algebra I and in Geometry, and even scored 5 out of 5 on his Algebra I on his End-of-Course (EOC) exam.  He just received his SAT scores—he received a 680 on the quantitative portion, which placed him in the 90th percentile in the nation.  Bottom line: when it comes to math, he knows what he’s doing.

       

      As I said, however, he’s struggling.  He fights to receive a C in the course; sometimes he receives D's on exams.  He's incredibly frustrated, as are we (I’ve been educator for more than 28 years; my wife, for more than 22 years). 

       

      Here’s part of my frustration.  He has met with his Algebra II teacher; I have even met with her, the guidance counselor, and our son together.  Her explanation to us was that Algebra II is difficult, and if he isn’t learning the material, he needs to get a tutor.  She proceeded to provide him with a list of tutors (most of whom were last year’s Algebra II students who passed the course).  Basically, she wants to do nothing “above and beyond” her basic responsibilities to help her students learn.

       

      I simply do not understand this attitude.

       

      She teaches more traditionally than I have seen in decades.  When I took Geometry in 1978-1979 (wow!!), my teacher spent 50 minutes every single day sitting in front of an overhead projector working problems so we could watch him.  Believe it or not, our son’s Algebra II teacher provides instruction in the exact same manner.  Some 35 years later—with all of the technological advances and things that we can provide to our students to help support their learning—she’s teaching as if it were the mid-1970s. 

       

      Since when did the attitude that “my job is to provide minimal instruction; if you need further help, find it elsewhere” become an acceptable approach to public education?

       

      Apparently, this attitude and approach is widely accepted in his school, which houses nearly 2,500 students.  Over the last three years, I’ve come to know a lot of students in his school.  I have never been witness to so many students who employed outside tutors for multiple courses each and every school year.  And what further defies explanation is that these tend to be the better, more capable students. 

       

      Can anyone explain this to me?

       

      By the way, it’s not just his math teacher.  He’s in the midst of doing a project in an Honor’s class.  During one of the stages, his teacher indicated that he needed to go back and redo some work.  She wasn’t very clear on what he needed to do, so we suggested that he talk to her either before school or before class.  Yesterday, he informed us that he’s not allowed to speak with her before class because, according to her, the breaks in between classes are “my time” where she refuses to be bothered with student questions.

       

      Really??  Again, is there anyone out there who can explain this attitude to me?

       

      Let me return for a moment to his Algebra II teacher.  When he takes one of her tests and receives a poor grade, we suggested to him that he use the feedback on the test to identify what he needs to work on for the next time.  Makes sense, right?

       

      Guess what?  She doesn't allow them to keep the tests and to go over their mistakes. She returned the test, quickly runs through the correct answers, and then collects the test back.  Last time, our bright, tech-savvy son pulled out his phone and took a pictures of the exam so he could have it to refer to after she collected them back.  He showed me the pictures he took:

       

       

      IMG_5253.jpeg

      IMG_3197.jpeg

       

       

       

      Check it out: next to no formative feedback whatsoever; just red lines through his answers and the number of points that he missed—with no explanation as to why he missed that number of points on each problem (ideally, a rubric should have been provided to students for this kind of subjective scoring).

       

      So, is this 2014 . . . or is it 1978?  As a profession, I thought that we had moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach to providing instruction.  I thought we were collectively trying to focus on differentiated instruction, meeting the instructional and learning needs of individual students, and stressing the importance of formative assessment and feedback.  I wonder . . .

       

      So, we’ve tried numerous things and continue to try to help our son be successful.  We may just have to chalk this up to one of life’s lessons.  It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

       

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • How Do We Keep on Keeping On W How Do We Keep on Keeping On When Our Time is Limited?

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:

       

      Image

       

      How do we as educators do everything we need to do in a given day?  Better yet, how do we do it all as well as we need?  It is a difficult task, and I do not believe there is a magic answer.  There’s no way to get it all done in a single day.  I’ve found that a great challenge in schools today is finding enough time to collaborate effectively.  I should not just say today, as this has been a problem for quite sometime.  When I was in the classroom, I often felt like we lacked planning time.  I frequently thought I was flying solo on jet soaring at a million miles an hour.   At that time in my career, my current school did not function as professional learning community; nor did we collaborate in meaningful ways that supported learning and growing of teachers.  Our meetings were built around an agenda that served the purpose of announcing dates and information on upcoming events.  After the meetings, we went back to our classrooms to prepare for the next week and then graded a mound of papers.  My first year as a reading coach, my new principal began the transition of our campus to a professional learning community, or PLC.  It has been an arduous process but not without great gains and benefits for our students and staff.  For three years now, our school has been focused on living as a community of learners.  Using the DuFour-Eaker model of PLCs, we have slowly morphed into a different institution keeping ALL students at the forefront of our focus.  We have sent more than 60% of our staff to Solution Tree’s PLC summer institution, which has been beneficial for our campus.  As a real-life, living, walking, and breathing PLC campus, we have totally changed our perception on learning while revamping the ways we practice and meet together.  During our weekly collaboration meetings, teams dive into an intensive analysis of student data.  The data is the key that drives our instruction and decisions about students.  These meetings are vital for the continuing success of our organization.  However, even with built in weekly time and using a great model for collaboration, we always need more time to gain more insight. 

       

      Like I stated earlier, there is not a magic answer to how to gain more time.  So, what if we challenged ourselves to think a little differently than we have in the past?  Is there a way to collaborate differently?   Sure there is!!! It is right at your fingertips- computers, smart phones, iPads etc.  What if the whole educational world was your PLC, which the virtual world calls a professional learning network (PLN)?  Thousands of people are on the professional development front 24/7 using digital sites.  My favorites are Twitter and Google, but there are others that function quite similarly.  Team meetings are a critical part of the collaborative process.  Now, as an assistant principal, I still highly value the face-to-face meetings with colleagues; however, I can tell that we must realize and take advantage of the digitized mediums we have available to us.  When educators get outside the four walls of a school and participate in digital chats and feed, they will gain a network with access to more knowledge and wisdom than one could ever acquire from just a weekly meeting inside a classroom.   Can you envision how regular participation in digitized learning could take a regular PLC meeting to an augmented state of learning if all its members are participating in PD like PLN Twitter chats simultaneously?  Can you imagine how it might enhance the face-to-face conversations?  For so many of us Generation X citizens, that is not an easy task but one that is becoming necessary.  As our Generation Y colleagues enter the workforce, they will rely heavily on their tech savvy skills to engage themselves and their students in learning.  I cannot blame them since this is their world and it is how they thrive. 

       

      Okay, so maybe this does not solve our time issue so much.  We cannot find more time to add to our day when we’re only given twenty-four hours.  But… what if we helped each other in such a collaborative way that we are working smarter with the 24 hours we are given?  We all have something to offer one another.   Connected learning using social and digitized media is an underestimated and underused resource for educators.   Teaching and learning is never-ending, and it most certainly cannot happen just once a week to bring home optimal results.  As educators, we do not have to fly solo anymore.  We have so much to learn from the vast amount of resources in our networking system.  Your time may be limited but your networking resources are not!

       

      Please follow me on Twitter @MandyVasek (TeacherCoach)

      source for graphic www.gettingsmart.com/learnboost.com/socialmediaprclass.blogspot.com

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
    • Views: 397
  • What was the quote again? What was the quote again?

    • From: Jason_Smith1
    • Description:

      I love finding inspirational quotes about leadership.  I am often inspired by the words of others, these great pearls of wisdom that help you reflect and hopefully refine you.  The only problem is there are very few I remember.  “Oh, that’s a great quote. I need to remember that one.”  Then, within a few hours (Who am I kidding, it’s usually only a few minutes.), it’s lost – forgotten. 

      One of very few that I remember is the following:

      “Work for a cause, not for applause.Live life to express, not to impress.Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, make your absence felt.”

      I probably had heard it before, but found it again in a gas station in eastern Washington on my way to our family cabin in Montana.  I made my wife take a picture of it with her iPhone so I could refer to it later, just in case I forgot it.  Knowing me all too well, my wife printed the quote and framed it for me for Christmas last year. 

      While I certainly agree with the quote and I think it’s a good reminder for all leaders, I can’t help but question some of the underlying messages.  Of course, every leader has a cause. For us educators, our cause is a great one – make the world a better place, inspire the youth of our schools/districts, bring hope to the disadvantaged – all valiant purposes!  However, leadership can be a thankless job.  We often have to take appreciation in indirect, less tangible forms because we are supposed to be on some pedestal where direct appreciation for our work, time, and dedication is unwarranted, undesired, and unnecessary.  While this appreciation is not the reason for our drive in leadership, we have to stop and appreciate it when it comes our direction.  We should be giving applause to our teams regularly, but we shouldn’t be above receiving it, relishing it, and being motivated by it.

      Leadership in the realm of education is, of course, about doing what’s best for our students – no matter what.  It’s about inspiring a common mission/vision for education within a community.  It’s about expressing yourself as a leader in ways that build individuals, teams, colleagues, and the larger community.  Yet, I feel a good leader should also impress those with whom he/she interacts.  I feel leaders should impress others with their knowledge, dedication, humility, desire to learn, and relentless pursuit to make a difference.  Effective leaders impress others not through an intentional focus on being perceived as great, but as an unintentional byproduct of being great.

      Finally, good leaders build capacity and try to work themselves out of a job.  As effective leaders transition, they ensure that the work continues in their absence.  They strive to make their departure not impact the great work happening within the school community.    During my experience as a principal, I’ve transitioned to several different schools.  Each time, I’ve wondered and secretly hoped that the teachers, students, and administration would miss me when I left – that my absence would be felt.  If I’m doing my job well, the school will continue to flourish with students and teachers continuing to learn and improve, teams will work collaboratively around improved student learning, the community will keep a focus on the future – despite my departure.  Moreover, they’ll have the tools and capacity to do this independently.

      I still love the quote and will hang it in my new office next year - it’s still one of my favorites.  The ebb and flow of leadership is a crazy, but awesome thing.  We have to seek inspiration, motivation, and wisdom from whatever sources we have available.  Sometimes, this means understanding that we can get multiple perspectives from the same thing, based on what challenges this wonderful opportunity called “leadership” brings us. 

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • Pointing To Your True North Pointing To Your True North

    • From: Sandra_Trach
    • Description:

           Instructionally savvy educators know that personalized learning is the heart of student success.  As schools strive to customize education through instructional design, technology efforts and professional learning, highly successful schools know that these initiatives in isolation are not nearly enough to improve and sustain student learning.  Strong schools know that deep levels of personalization are found in an enriching and responsive system of teaching and learning, that stretches and supports learning in individual and flexible ways.  In order to achieve a truly personalized education for every student, one must articulate, architect and actualize practical ways to engage with such a system, and support the school to ambitiously strive toward a noble vision.  Strong leadership, clear school structures, continuous collaboration and monitoring processes are vital elements that help ensure personalized success for every student. When these essential elements are employed, they create directionality for a school to reach their instructional True North.

       

      Strong leadership


           A leader must have one foot in the vision and one foot in the reality.  She must hold an almost unattainably high vision for her school, while embracing the evident truths about the school culture, data and instructional practices.  An instructionally savvy leader knows how to continuously bridge the ground level reality to the top story vision in small and achievable ways.  Her steady direction and encouragement is essential to regularly point the way to the instructional True North.  It is widely accepted knowledge that if the leader does not believe and practice the vision, the endeavors needed to reach that vision will never take root, grow or flourish.  While the instructional vision may seem distant, the leader must model and maintain a laser-like focus, that this instructional work is our moral imperative.  At the same time, she is laying a solid instructional foundation and supporting schoolwide incremental footsteps toward the vision.  Coaching and feedback are essential leadership tools.  An effective leader uses every moment of everyday to indicate the True North, fostering the conditions for school success and celebrating visible learning.

       

      Clear school structures

       

           Clear school structures are the vertical frame on the instructional foundation.  It is imperative to establish collaboration time and structures within the school day.  Collaboration is the work of teaching and learning.  One cannot effectively reflect, strategize, design, analyze, implement and monitor alone.  Instead, educators must have time and structures within the school day to have continual conversations about the fine points of teaching and learning.  Professional learning communities, data teams and a school leadership team are requisite to ensure a highly effective school.  These particular structures are the column supports for learning; educators depend on them in order to personalize education for their students.

       

      Continuous collaboration

       

           Collaboration takes many forms, and it must be a goal, norm and value in the organization.  In establishing collaborative structures, it is a necessary first step to ensure the team norms, purpose, goals and process.  For example, a professional learning community may employ a protocol that helps them look at student work.  A data team may center on a progress monitoring procedure.  A leadership team may use problem-solving model.  Collaboration rests on clarity of structure.  The absence of a clear collaboration structure leads a team to chaos or congeniality.  Neither promotes learning.  It is important to highlight that conflict is a natural part of the collaboration cycle.  It has been said that one is not really collaborating unless there is conflict.  Professional discourse reveals different points of view, and is necessary when collaborating around personalized education for a student.  Often when teams fail to embrace conflict as a growth opportunity, passive forms of meeting take over, which do not result in instructional growth.  There is no question that highly effective schools are steeped in collaboration as an authentic means toward personalizing student learning.  In fact, highly effective schools will tell you they would not be successful without collaboration.

       

      Monitoring processes

       

           The success of schoolwide systems and routines depend on careful monitoring procedures.  The leader must blend formal and informal processes to continually ensure that instructional efforts are helping the school advance in measurable ways.  Effective forms of monitoring involve transparent efforts, such as classroom walkthroughs, data work, instructional conversations and professional reflection. Savvy educators participate in monitoring procedures for instructional feedback at the student, team, school and district levels. In turn, this helps them ensure that the student’s personalized learning is successful, while promoting their own self-reflection in the process.

       

      Personalization as a goal and an outcome

       

           Highly successful schools know that building and engaging in a system that adapts to students’ strengths and needs is critical in fostering personalized education.  Educators in highly effective schools ask themselves, “How can I foster the conditions for success?”  They embrace an ambitious vision through a shared leadership model, and actively collaborate within the school structures to design, implement, measure and monitor learning.  Strong leadership, clear structures, continuous collaboration and monitoring processes comprise a educational direction for every school, and when properly employed, will point to the True North of personalized learning for every child.

       

      Sandra A. Trach, Principal

      Lexington, Massachusetts

      Cross-posted from sandratrach.blogspot.com to Connected Principals and ASCDEdge         

      

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
    • Views: 758
  • Taking the "Byte" out of PD fo Taking the "Byte" out of PD for Teachers

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:

       

      2013-12-02-tweet-thumb

      Constructivists, like myself, in education today would agree that technology is redefining the way we think, practice, communicate, and carry out the routines of day-to-day living. In my personal and professional life, I have become increasingly dependent on my personal devices, such as my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac.   I may leave home without matching shoes, but you can bet I will have all my tech gadgets.  My iCali is synced to at least 4 systems and so are my reminders.  My life has changed for the better due to the synchronization of my tech tools.  Evernote, Drop Box, Google Drive, Live Binders, iCalendar are just a few ways I can manage my career and family.  One of the best things is that my devices have afforded me the luxury of having access to personalized professional development at any time of the day or night.  Because of the technology, my leadership skills, pedagogical practices, content knowledge, etc. have soared during the past two years.  I have allowed social media, blogging, and other web 2.0 tools to become a consistent standard in my life.

      Professional development has always been a part of the educational system.  Rebore (2012) described that the main purpose for a staff development program is to “increase the knowledge and skills of employees and thereby, increase the potential of the school district to attain its goals and objectives” (p. 112).  Cooper and Johnson (2013) believe learning needs are always present, therefore, educators find staff development necessary to stay abreast of current trends and practices. Many districts will perform a needs assessment to gain useful information regarding the types of professional development that should be offered to employees. Using the data from the assessments, the district pays attention to employee deficits. These shortfalls will show up as gaps in staff knowledge and/or skills in certain areas of the profession. To orient staff with new knowledge and skills, a district or campus may provide professional development to help close the learning gaps between those educators who display strengths in a certain area and those who do not (2012).

      Traditionally, many staff development models try engaging their audience with a single presenter, who shares new knowledge centered around an idea.  These models are mostly called workshops or seminars.  Research has shown that these particular models are frequently presented in isolation without the motivation needed to change practices (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). This delivery style is very common in the educational world.  Who needs this old-fashioned, "sit-'n-git"* approach to learning??  As a campus leader, I have the ability to move us away from tradition learning models and into the current era where there are means to personalizing PD for every single member on my staff.  (* Thanks @ambercldrn for the "sit-n-git"…love it).

      Research indicates that professional development is most effective when:  “it involves the participants in concrete tasks; is participant driven while rooted in inquiry and reflection; is collaborative, connected to and derived from teachers work; and includes ongoing support” (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). With purposes quite the same as face-to-face counterparts, online teacher professional development (oTPD) operates using Web 2.0 tools, which  have the potential to maximize principles due to flexibility and personalization for the educator. Web 2.0 oTPD engages and provides motivation for learners through reflection, review, connection, and immediate action, which are key to the constructivist experience (2013).

      Our district administrators recently had the pleasure of hearing Maria Henderson, an Education Development Executive at Apple, Inc., speak to us about new and innovative ways of developing students and teachers on Web 2.0 tools. Henderson (2014) defended using 2.0 tools as an innovative way to personalize professional development for staff. I agree 100% with Ms. Henderson!  Online professional development (oTPD) is not new but becoming more alive in the world of education.  On my campus, I have tried using new apps and online resources to ease the time constraints that accompany traditional staff developments in an effort to deliver information. I have implemented the use of tools like Screen-Cast-O-Matic, Google Drive, Padlet, iMovie, YouTube, Teacher Channel, Blogging, Twitter, ScoopIt, Haiku Deck etc.  Unlike traditional professional development, oTPD can be tailored to the professional or grade level, which increases engagement and the likelihood that the educator will apply what was learned or discussed.

      With less time and more to learn than ever before, I often wonder why teachers do not embrace online learning more.  Henderson (2014) stated it best when she said, “There has never been a more exciting time to be an educator or a student.” She is right!  As an educator, I cannot wait to see where we go next.  I am not afraid but rather anxiously await the next new, innovative tool to take us through our life's journey.  #EXCITING!

      We have always lived with and adapted to change; however, today’s changes are fast and furious. In education, building networks globally can help us stay abreast of current research and tools. Using Twitter, users are able to collaborate professionally with other educators about interests personalized to them (Cooper & Johnson, 2013).  Books and magazines have much to offer but, once written, they stay the same and are not able to update immediately.  Online venues, such a Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook provide educators with current feed with around the clock access in real-time. Almost nightly, I am able to read a plethora of new information and decide what best relates to my needs.  I am able to share and learn skills and content on my own time with others who I have accepted in my professional learning network.  By participating in #chats, I am able to discuss even more specifically the topics, which are more relevant to me.  This method sure does beat sitting in a cold, sterile meeting where I might (or might not) walk away with something worthwhile.  When I am on Twitter, I walk away with new learning each time I log off.  (Which…by the way…logging off  Twitter is hard…VERY HARD!).

      Blogging is another user-friendly Web 2.0 feature that puts professional learning at your fingertips.  Blogs are intended to prompt dialogue between people who have a vested interest in the material presented.  Well…like this one!!  I hope the material I am presenting makes you think.  Sometimes blogs can embed other attractive and engaging features, such as YouTube videos, graphs, media clips, trailers, etc.  Cooper and Johnson (2013) found that most research on blogging and teacher development has taken place with preservice teachers. New teacher bloggers have shown ability to critically reflect and interact with others in their online communities. My own Learning and Leading blog has taken me to new levels of learning. For me, it has given me a voice and a platform to speak.  I also know that it has helped other educators reflect and think about their own practices in education.

      Online professional development using 2.0 tools and other online resources can connect and give authentic experiences to the constructivist through reflection, review, and collaboration with network members.  Not only that, but it can making learning simpler and easier.  Another added bonus, as Cooper and Johnson (2013) stated in their article, “Exploration of professional development with such technologies presents possibilities for their use in the educational settings, while also engaging teachers in 21st century learning.”

       

       

      References

      Cooper, T., & Johnson, C. (2013). Web 2.0 tools for constructivist online professional development. EdItLib2013(1), 1923-1926.   Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/112231

      Henderson, M. (2014, 0320).Apple learning. Lecture. Waco, Texas.

      Rebore, R. (2012). The essentials of human resources administration in education.(1st ed.).Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

      Source for graphic:  AppEducation.org

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 187
  • Inquiry Project Learning Inquiry Project Learning

    • From: Lee_Anna_Stirling
    • Description:

          

         Inquiry learning is integral to project-based learning.  In project-based learning, students can learn about a topic in a variety of ways - for example, from speakers, reading, giving surveys, conducting interviews, field investigations, experiments, videos, and other information sources. They reach conclusions about the topic through analysis of data and present their findings to an audience. Presentation can be in one or more ways, such as verbal presentation that might include a slide show or other visual, inventions, brochures, web sites, podcasts, videos, dramatic performances and other art forms.

         Buck Institute for Education (BIE)  provides resources for managing project-based learning. On BIE’s web site, in Google Hangouts, videos, and articles - elementary, middle, and high school educators describe and demonstrate strategies they use in managing project-based learning. 

      Buck Institute for Education's web site address is 

      http://bie.org

       

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 63
  • Shut The Front Door Shut The Front Door

    • From: Steven_Weber
    • Description:

      As an educator, I am often surprised by the things I hear other educators say. You hear these comments at conferences, read opinions shared on Twitter, overhear opinions shared at other schools, and possibly even hear one of these statements at your own school. These statements make me cringe. When we are working with students, it is difficult to understand the statements that some educators make.

       

      Ten Statements That Make Me Say, "Shut The Front Door!"

       

      "Those students can't go to college. We should just prepare them for a career, starting in middle school."

      In 1903, Saunders, a professor at the University of Mississippi, described the perspective of many Americans at the turn of the century.  He wrote, "College education is desirable and theoretically necessary for preeminence, but it is not for the masses, and it would be but a utopian theory to plan for the day when a bachelor's degree shall be a qualification for suffrage or a necessity for success and happiness" (p. 73).

       

      In 2014, several Americans still share this perspective. The recent move towards College and Career Readiness is a positive move in education. This movement does not guarantee that every student will enter a four year college. It is the idea that every student should be provided with the opportunity to learn (OTL) key skills and concepts. Furthermore, adults should not determine a child's plans after high school when the child is in the seventh grade.

       

      "Our seventh graders made a PowerPoint, so I would say that I am proficient with technology integration."

      I am not offended by teachers saying that they require students to make a PowerPoint. However, it should be a red flag to administrators if any teacher hangs their hat on one project that incorporates technology. Technology integration should become seamless. In other words student projects will require technology integration, but the focus is on student understanding, not the device or program. After all, did you ever hear a teacher say, “My students used a pencil and paper today?” 

       

      "The Common Core State Standards are not new ideas. I have always taught this way."

      Regardless of your stance (for or against) the Common Core State Standards, there are obvious changes in the way teachers should approach curriculum development, instruction, and common formative assessments. "These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step” (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5). Be aware of teacher teams and administrators who claim, “This is how we have always done it.”

       

      The new standards will not fit into your state’s old standards like a jigsaw puzzle. The Common Core State Standards provide an opportunity to change how teacher teams communicate, collaborate, and reflect on standards. In the absence of ongoing communication, it will be easy to revert back to teaching in isolation and struggling to understand each standard. “Failure to understand the Standards and adjust practices accordingly will likely result in ‘same old, same old’ teaching with only superficial connections to the grade level Standards. In that case, their promise to enhance student performance will not be realized” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012).

       

      "I require the gifted students to do double the work. They can handle it, because 'they are gifted.'"

      You do not hear this myth as often as you did at the turn of the century. However, there are still misconceptions about rigor and about homework for gifted students. Giving gifted students more work does not support student understanding. If you hear a teacher bragging about giving the gifted students double the work, you should refer them to resources such as (Edmonds, SERVE) and Rigor on Trial (Wagner, 2006).

       

      "How do you expect me to read a journal article or blog. There's no time for that."

      The field of education is changing and professional growth is not optional. Online journal articles, blogs written by teachers and administrators, Twitter chats, webinars, and teaching videos provide educators with a multitude of resources. As a professional, I grow frustrated when someone claims that there is no time for continuous improvement. As educators, we should continue to grow and seek to understand best practices. It is professional malpractice to claim that there is no time for learning.

       

      "Those aren't my students."

      Teachers in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) change from saying ‘those kids’ to ‘our kids’ (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008). If the goal is to prepare all students to graduate College and Career Ready, then the teachers and staff members in the school district must collaborate to support students. Principals within the same school district should share ideas and discuss instructional strategies. Competition is good when it comes to athletics, marching band, academic clubs, and science fairs. It is also appropriate to see which school has the highest graduation rate, lowest dropout rate, and highest number of students enrolled in advanced courses. The idea that “Those aren’t my students” should be a thing of the past. As adults, we should share ideas within our school district, across state lines, and even around the globe. When more students graduate prepared for college and careers, the world wins! These are “OUR” students!

       

      "Do we get credit for attending this meeting?"

      Have you ever heard a colleague whisper, “I hope they are giving us credit for this.” Most school districts require a number of credits over the course of one year or a five year span. If a teacher is more focused on receiving credit than learning, it is a red flag. Have you ever attended a meeting until lunch and then your co-worker goes to the mall, because the credit was given in the registration packet? It is a shame that some educators view the credit as the purpose for attending. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that educators should receive credit in order to renew their license. I also believe that more school districts should begin recognizing blogging, Twitter chats, and webinars as ways to earn credit. Asking for credit is similar to the following scenario:

       

      A high school basketball coach asks the starting five to run a play in practice, one day before the game. The starting point guard pauses before running the play and asks, “Will we all five get to start in the game if we run this play right?”

       

      Running the play several times is part of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the reason for professional development, not credit or a certificate.

       

      "We are no longer teaching during the last nine weeks. We have started benchmarking and test prep."

      Test prep is one of the worst things that teachers can do during the last nine weeks. Did you ever try to cram for a test in college? It usually does not result in transfer or understanding. There are multiple approaches that educators can take which will virtually guarantee instant gains or increases in student achievement. Curricular reductionism is a test prep strategy that eliminates arts education, social studies, character education, and soft skills. If it’s not tested, then it’s not taught during the last nine weeks (or even semester in some schools).

       

      Taking shortcuts to improve the data at an individual school is akin to a professional athlete taking steroids. When our students graduate from high school, we do not want them to reflect on their K-12 experience and see that the shortcuts adults took created long-term detrimental effects.

       

      When educators choose to give students multiple assessments that look like the high-stakes test, eliminate subjects, and create a test prep boot camp atmosphere, then students lose. High-stakes tests have changed the way some teachers and administrators approach teaching and learning.

       

      "I would assign more project-based learning, but it interferes with the pacing guide."

      Pacing guides provide students with a ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum’ (Marzano), if the curriculum is implemented in each classroom. Pacing guides can support teaching and learning. Alignment in a school district is important and pacing guides can provide an outline of what should be taught to each student. Pacing guides should allow for flexibility in pacing and the readiness level of each student.

       

      The statement above is often overheard at high schools that teach on a block schedule. While there may be 90 minute periods, some teachers cannot overcome the fact that a one year course is taught in one semester. If student understanding is improved through project-based learning (PBL), then teachers should identify days of the week and units of study that provide students with time for PBL.

       

      I say, “Shut the Front Door” to this comment, because it is an example of putting the needs of adults in front of the needs of students. We are paid to prepare each student for the next level of learning. Some educators say, “Research be damned, I am going to get through the pacing guide and make sure that I cover the content.”

       

      "I believe that soft skills are critically important, but they aren't tested by the state."

      Soft skills include, but are not limited to, teamwork, decision-making, and communication (America’s Promise Alliance, 2007). “The goal of college and career readiness for all high school graduates is no longer a radical reform idea promulgated by a handful of states: It has emerged as the new norm throughout the nation” (Achieve, 2010, p. 23).

       

      Employers seek applicants who are problem solvers, communicators, team players, and have perseverance. These skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, are needed by all high school graduates to ensure that they are college and career ready, regardless of whether they plan to complete an apprenticeship after high school or attend a two-year or four-year college.  While employers are seeking students with strong academic skills, they are having trouble finding applicants who can collaborate, create, think outside the box, and communicate. When educators focus on tested subjects at the expense of soft skills, students pay the price. If test scores are the reason for teaching and learning, then someone forgot to tell the employers who are seeking qualified applicants (Wagner, Seven Survival Skills as described by business leaders in their own words).

       

      Closing Thoughts

      I believe in instructional leadership, teacher leaders, the Common Core State Standards, curriculum alignment, professional learning communities, and College and Career Readiness. When teachers and administrators make statements that you disagree with, you should challenge the statement. As a professional, you owe it to students and to the profession to challenge broad statements or beliefs that are not in the best interests of students or the profession.

       

      Share your thoughts below:

      What makes you say, “Shut the Front Door?”

        

      Steven Weber is an elementary school principal in North Carolina. During his career, he has served as the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools, High School Social Studies Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, K-12 Social Studies Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Public Instruction, and as a classroom teacher and assistant principal in the West Memphis School District. Weber blogs on ASCD EDge. You can connect with Weber on Twitter at @curriculumblog.

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 11609
  • 3 Ways Students Can Help Save 3 Ways Students Can Help Save the Earth

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Earth DayIn case you forgot, Earth Day is just around the corner! To help you celebrate, we’re sharing three activities from a book we’ve been reading called The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth.

      Pack a no-garbage lunch
      You may not know it, but lunch trash is the second-largest source of waste in American schools! Every year, Americans discard 380 billion plastic bags and nearly 2.7 billion juice boxes—and just think about all of the other items that we turn into trash every day!

      To cut down on waste, try packing a no-garbage lunch. Here are a few tips to get you started:

      • Use a brown paper bag. When you’re done with it, save and reuse for tomorrow’s lunch
      • Even better, pack your lunch in a lunchbox; you can reuse a lunchbox for years!
      • Carry a sandwich or other food in a reusable container
      • Save your zip-lock bags; these can be rinsed and reused
      • Buy snacks in large packages instead of individual ones. Not only do you get more food, you also get less packaging
      • Bring more natural snacks. When you eat apples and bananas, your “packaging” is always biodegradable
      • Bring your milk or juice in a reusable thermos
      • Instead of using paper napkins, bring a cloth napkin

      Be a Water-Leak Detective
      Even a tiny leak can waste a lot of water. For example, a leak that fills up a coffee cup in 10 minutes will waste 3,000 gallons of water in a year! Cutting down on water waste is not only good for the environment, but it can also be a useful learning activity at school. 

      For example, students at the Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School in Bel Air, Maryland investigated their school to find leaks; then they analyzed how much water was being wasted by leaky faucets in their school. After crunching some numbers, the students all wrote letters explaining the problem and sent them to the faculty to find solutions.

      Here’s a simple way to check toilets for leaks:

      • Take the top off the toilet tank. Now put about 12 drops of red or blue food coloring in the tank
      • Wait about 15 minutes. Guard the toilet so no one uses it while you’re waiting
      • Now look in the toilet. If colored water shows up in the bowl, you’ve found a leak!

      Raise awareness about endangered species
      When students hear about “endangered species,” many of them think about animals that are thousands of miles and many continents away. Unfortunately, there are many endangered species in our home states. In Michigan, where we live, the northern long-eared bat, the Kirtland’s warbler,  the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and the piping plover are all on the endangered species list—and these are only a few of the species listed! So what can students do about this?


                                                               New Call-to-Action

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 264
  • Jennifer_Priddy

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