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Once again ASCD leaders from around the world are traveling to the Leader to Leader conference to be held this weekend. Leader to Leader (L2L) is our annual professional development event for those dedicated education professionals who serve in important leadership roles for ASCD Affiliates, Connected Communities, Professional Interest Communities, Student Chapters, and our Emerging Leaders program. Over the five years I have been associated with L2L, it has evolved to be a much more collaborative event with lots of opportunity for networking and learning from one another. The diversity of thought, perspective, experience and expertise is, in my own humble opinion, what makes this conference such a success every year. It’s never the same event twice.
This year we are looking to up the ante again, focusing on the theme of Take Charge Leadership, as we continue to encourage these ASCD leaders to work with one another across their constituent groups and generate new ideas, initiatives and energy that they can take back home and implement in support of the educators they serve. And so the question we ask at the outset of this year’s L2L is, “What do you get when you allow talented, capable minds to self-select groupings and projects that will build their professional capital while providing new value and greater capacity to lead?” We are about to find out.
We look at leadership around eight very specific actions that are nurtured and sustained over time. Beginning our conference work around these actions and then moving into an unconferencing format that allows participants to take charge of their learning sets the tone for the weekend. We are also instituting for the first time Web-based polling that will allow everyone in attendance to vote and comment instantaneously using their mobile devices throughout the three days. Modeling this as participants provide quantitative and qualitative feedback to one another will provide practice and experience with a tool our leaders can take back with them to their respective, states, provinces and countries.
By the time we wrap up Saturday, everyone will be saturated in new ideas and possibilities. L2L is always an exhausting experience for everyone involved. Exhausting and gratifying. What is most gratifying for us as staff is the number of return participants we have every year, and the highly positive feedback we receive from the conference participant surveys. The truth is, it’s the ASCD Leaders who come and participate who make L2L the success it is. As a membership organization, ASCD could not make the difference it does for educators everywhere without its constituent group leaders. L2L is ASCD’s way of giving back to our leaders in the field, offering them the skills and support to be effective on the ground where it matters most.
This past week #Satchat extended it's Twitter conversation to a mobile app called Voxer. It has been an amazing experience for participants who are now able to share their insight through voice messages. Once downloaded on your mobile device, Voxer enables users to hold individual or group chats in real time or at their own pace. In terms of professional growth, over 75 educators from around the world have shared their perspectives and insight on a plethora of topics. More specifically this week our group is discussing the trials and tribulations of being a new school leader. Educators from all walks of life including teachers, vice principals, principals, supervisors, superintendents, and other stakeholders have provided tremendous guidance.
The great thing about this experience is that participants, including myself, can hear the emotion that others bring to the discussion. It's one thing to read a tweet and a whole other thing to listen to someone speak to a particular topic.. That's why Voxer is so unique. Users can listen and learn on the own time, whether it's in their car or during a lunch break. Need to have a more specific conversation based on something that was brought up in a particular group chat? No problem. Send a direct voice or text message to that person within the application. Pictures, links, and other resources can be shared during a conversation as well.
Are you intrigued by this whole Voxer rage in the educational community? Send me a direct message on Twitter or via email with your Voxer handle and I will add you to the #Satchat group. Or better yet, try starting your own group. The options are many as it relates to the impact Voxer can have in the school setting. For example, it could be used as an assessment tool or during a time of crisis to communicate with staff. Currently I am apart of a Voxer book chat on digital leadership and participate in a administrator group that shares best practices. Over the past few weeks I have recommended Voxer to some of my PLN members from around the country. Although at first hesitant to see the true value of this web tool, their minds quickly changed after conversing with other like-minded educators.
So what do say? Take that leap into the Voxer world and see your professional growth be stimulated in a way once thought unimaginable.
For many years New Milford High School was just like virtually every other public school in this country defined solely by traditional indicators of success such as standardized test scores, graduation rates, and acceptances to four year colleges. These indicators have become so embedded in the minds of those judging our schools and work that we, like everyone else, worked hard to focus only on initiatives that would hopefully produce favorable outcomes in those areas. If we were doing well we continued down the same path allowing the status quo to reign supreme. The mentality of if it isn't broke than why fix it resonated so profoundly with us that we would not have even considered changing our ways. If results were not what our stakeholders wanted this would then trigger meetings leading to the development of action plans to get us back on course.
For so long schools have resembled a hamster running on a wheel doing the same things over and over to improve sets of numbers. We were no different and had succumbed to a fixed mindset. Every excuse in the book was at our disposal not to change and continue down the same path year after year. Heck, our education system has become so good at maintaining the status quo and enforcing compliance throughout that we and many others have been brainwashed into thinking any other course of action would be foolish. If education is good for one thing it is making excuses not to move forward. There is still an innate desire to sustain a school structure and function that has remained relatively unchanged for well over a hundred years. This is a problem. It was a huge problem for us. We were in a rut and didn't even know it. Luckily change came in the form of a little blue bird that gave me the kick in the butt that I desperately needed back in 2009. Being blessed with an amazing staff, student body, administrative team, and community provided the necessary support needed to move us forward.
As another school year comes to a close I can't but help reflect on the many successful initiatives that have been implemented this past year. It is even more gratifying to see numerous other initiatives that were implemented over the past couple of years flourish. Moving from a fixed to a growth mindset and feeding of the daily inspiration that connected learning provides gave me with the fuel to create a shared vision that eventually became a reality as a result of action. For change to be successful it must be sustained. As leaders we must not only be willing to see the process through, but we must also create conditions that promote a change mentality. It really is about moving from a fixed to a growth mindset, something that many educators and schools are either unwilling or afraid to do. The essential elements that work as catalysts for the change process include the following:
What I have learned is that if someone understands why change is needed and the elements above become an embedded component of school culture he/she or the system ultimately experience the value for themselves. The change process then gets a boost from an intrinsic motivational force that not only jump starts the initiative, but allows for the embracement of change as opposed to looking for buy-in. We should never have to "sell" people on better ways to do our noble work nor rely on mandates and directives. These traditional pathways used to drive change typically result in resentment, undermining, and failure.
This gets me back to the main point of my post and that is reflecting on the many changes that have been implemented and sustained at NMHS. Even in the face of adversity in the form of education reform mandates, Common Core alignment, impending PARCC exams, new educator evaluation systems, loss of funding, and an aging infrastructure we have not only persevered, but proven that positive change can happen with the right mindset. If we can overcome these challenges and experience success others can as well. Throughout the past couple of years we have also seen improvements in the "traditional" indicators of success by mainly focusing on creating a school that works better for our students as opposed to one that has always worked well for us. Here is a short list of some of the changes that have been implemented and sustained:
· Social media use as a communications, public relations, branding, professional growth, and student learning tool implemented in 2009. So many of my teachers are making the choice to integrate social media as a learning tool that I just can't list all of the examples:
I need to stop here, but I think you get the point. We have transformed the teaching and learning culture at NMHS that begins and ends with a growth mindset. The time for excuses, talk, opinions, and fear needs to end if our goal is really about improving teaching, learning, and leadership outcomes. Leadership is about action, not position or ideas that just get pushed around. We continue to push ourselves to create a better school. So what's stopping you?
On behalf of the Zurich State Department of Education, Switzerland, I invite you to consider using and sharing the following materials with your professional colleagues and families involved with early childhood education. We are proud of the creation of our project and want you to enjoy the benefits of the quality materials in this program.
Families play the most important role in promoting the healthy development of their children, yet not all families are equipped with the information and support that help them create environments for their children to develop and learn.
The Zurich State Department of Education (Switzerland) created 40 short video scenarios for Early Childhood Education in Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Rhaeto-Romance, Spanish, Tamil, Tigrinya and Turkish.
The various video scenarios show day-to-day learning opportunities for children from birth through four years of age. They refer to a research-based framework, which was developed on behalf of the Swiss Commission for the UNESCO by Marie Meierhofer Children's Institute in Zurich.
The videos are part of a program for empowering parents and boosting the quality of childcare in any country. We believe they have universal appeal. They address themselves to parents as they are, speaking different languages. In addition, they are a tool for the professionals in the field working with parents.
The videos are in HD-quality, each lasting 2-3 minutes long. You can find the videos and more detailed comments for professionals on the website www.children-4.ch.There you can also download the videos and comments for free. You have our permission to use them as you wish without prior approval. They run best on Firefox. There are also special mobile websites for the iPad and the iPhone.
Did you know this? I had no clue until I went to the Education Innovation Summit in Scottsdale last month. Watch the interview I participated in to hear my take on the future of EdTech and what it means for the education industry.
Here’s a partial script from the vlog interview:
Anjilla Young: Hello, I’m with Suzanne Klein who recently returned from the Education Innovation Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. She’s going to share what she learned from the conference and how the EdTech industry is booming. Suzanne, what was one thing that stands out that you learned from the conference?
Suzanne Klein: That education is a 7 trillion dollar industry. I knew it was huge, but not that huge! There is so much potential to tap into this. EdTech companies are in a great position right now to not only make a difference in education, but to also get their products on the market and help in a meaningful way.
One thing I find surprising is the fact that people who are not in the education sphere are getting involved in the EdTech landscape. For example, Ashton Kutcher has taken an interest in the funding of EdTech space. He teamed up with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and others to invest $4 million to Panorama Education, a Cambridge firm that seeks to help K-12 schools improve through data analysis. He has also invested in an EdTech company called Clever, which aims to solve the problem of moving student data into any of the applications bubbling out of the high-tech community and how to ensure that the data is accurate and current.
Anjilla Young: You mentioned that education is a 7 trillion dollar industry, but what exactly does that mean?
Suzanne Klein: To put it on a scale, it means it’s 7 times larger than the global mobile industry. That is huge! One thing that we need to be aware of is the change in the industry and how going digital is key for companies in the education field. The future of education is shifting towards digital. Any company that doesn’t follow this will be left in the dark.
It’s a chance to really reflect on our practices and how we are best meeting the needs of schools and ultimately to affect schools in a positive way. To our viewers out there, to learn more about what we’re doing go to our website at http://WriteStepsWriting.com. Thanks for listening and watching!
Google Apps are a set of high leverage tools that help teachers connect with their students, as well as, save time on common teaching and planning tasks. The key to getting started with Google Apps is to take it slow and play with the many applications and features as they fit into one’s schedule and workflow. Here are three easy steps for teachers to get started with Google Applications for Education.
1. Download Google Chrome
Chrome is Google’s web browser and works seamlessly with all Google Apps and extensions. Chrome allows for painless downloading and uploading with Google Apps.
2. Explore Google Drive
Many district provide teachers with a networked ‘P Drive.’ A great place to test out the functionalities of Google Drive is to upload one’s P Drive to Google Drive. In a matter of seconds, teachers will be able to access all of their files from any internet browser or mobile device. Additionally, teachers will be able to test the sharing functions and conversion capabilities of Google Docs.
3. Join Google+
Google+ allows teachers to integrate all of their Google Apps in a fun and easy social media platform. Many teachers use their Google+ account to replace their traditional webpages to share files and assignments with students. With Google+ teachers can use Google Hangouts to video chat with up to ten people while viewing Google Docs. You can also place free Google Voice calls via Google+.
Robert R. Zywicki is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction of the High Point Regional School District. He is completing his Ed.D. at Saint Peter's University. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZywickiR.
There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.
Reading and Language Arts
Technology in the Classroom
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedic play by William Shakespeare that chronicles two pairs of lovers: Benedick and Beatrice (the main couple), and Claudio and Hero (the secondary couple). By means of "nothing" (which sounds the same as "noting," and which is gossip, rumor, and overhearing), Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar on the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful. At the end, Benedick and Beatrice join forces to set things right, and the others join in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples. (Much Ado About Nothing. Captured from Wikipedia. February 28, 2014.)
What is currently taking place across the United States regarding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Much Ado About Something, does not bring to mind a comedy; rather, it brings to mind a tragedy. Before I continue, I must state that my post is not an “I’m on this side or I’m on that side” commentary. It is simply a personal and professional reflection based on working intimately with the CCSS and scores of teachers K-12 across this country and overseas coupled with what I have observed regarding those who are making “much ado”. My hope is that I mirror Benedick and Beatrice’s desire to set things right.
Whether it be politicians, parents, or people in educational circles commenting, I most-often hear them not making comments about the standards themselves – the basic, no-frills standard statements that convey what students need to know and be able to do. For example, let’s take a Reading Literature standard for Grade 7:
CCSS.RL.7.7 Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).
This standard, here as it appears in the CCSS ELA Progressive Continuums App I created to aid teachers in collaboratively designing systemic curriculum that uses italic font to represent learning from a previous grade or grades and boldfaced text to indicate new learning in a grade, speaks directly to 21st-century (modern) learners needing to not only become literary literate, but media literate as well, as my colleague, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, promotes in her new book, Mastering Media Literacy (Solution Tree, 2013).
Before one can compare and contrast, one must know these two literacy forms as stand alones, which generates interesting conversations with teachers I work with as we develop content and skills because they were not taught media literacy when they were growing up (even younger teachers). Our conversations usually result in the seventh-grade teachers realizing they need to become deep learners themselves to best design content and skills associated with media literacy. And, as you can visually see represented in the standard above, comparing and contrasting written works to media is in italics, which means this process and learning about media-based versions has been learned in at least one previous grade (actually, starts in Grade 4 and is expanded on in Grades 5 and 6). Therefore, not only do seventh-grade teachers say they need media-literacy professional development, but fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teachers share they want to be included as well.
Common Core State Standard RL.7.7 is not saying specifically what must be read, what must be watched, or what the focus must be when read and watched, which is what I find many unhappy-with-the-CCSS commentators are up in arms over (excuse the film pun). While myriad companies and non-profits have developed recommended reading/media lists, units of study, and lesson plans that “are align to” the CCSS, these resources are not the standards. These aligned documents, programs, textbooks, etc., are how tos (instruction and assessments) based on someone or some group’s interpretation of the standards. For example, based on this standard, groups can have a wildly different take on what is an appropriate text versus movie/staged production for seventh graders – one group choosing a very liberal text and film and another group select a very conservative text and staged production.
Regardless of the selections, it is not the standard that is making a selection, human beings are. If studied closely, standard RL.7.7 is asking students to be critical thinkers and reason deeply regarding the nuances in a selected text and audio-visual representation, which is exactly what 21st-century students need to be doing – critically thinking and problem solving as well as reasoning and providing text and media evidence for their claims (e.g., requirements also found in standards RL._.1, RI._.1, W._.1). And, if we are truly trying to engage learners and wanting them to own their own learning, how about allowing students to select the text and film or staged production they will analyze?
What I often find interesting is that if you ask someone who is knocking the CCSS (let’s say in reference to a unit of study that is for some reason “inappropriate”) to tell you specifically what standard or standards he or she does not like (e.g., W.7.1a. Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.), the person will hem and haw and can’t state the standard. And, when shown the aligned standard he or she most often comments that the standard is fine, it is the reading or film selection, the activity, or assessment item or task that is not liked. Evidence once again that it is not the standards themselves that is truly the concern.
With this said, I need to make one comment at this juncture: the CCSS are not perfect. There are definitely some flawed standard statements, but the flaws are minimal when compared to the total number of CCSS K-12.
The bashing or knocking of the CCSS, which is getting louder in some states with each passing month, is frustrating to me as a curriculum-design consultant who has worked extensively with the CCSS since they were in draft form and officially adopted in 2010. I know the standards inside and out from Kindergarten to Grade 12. I have spent hundreds of hours of meaningful conversations with teachers concerning the vertically articulated standards. These teachers care passionately about their students’ learning as they develop collaborative, systemic curriculum.
My passion and work has been, and will continue to be, dedicated to aiding teachers in designing curriculum maps with the students’ best interests in mind. The CCSS are our curriculum-design building “codes”, much as an architect uses codes to design blueprints, which Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Jay McTighe, and others have used as an analogy for many years. For the first time ever the largest number of independent United States have chosen to have the same building codes. This does not mean that each state, district, or school has to build the exact same home – one can choose to design a modern two-story, another a log cabin, another a green home, and another a ranch-style hacienda. The point here is that the infrastructure of the home design remains the same regardless of where the home is built. I grew up in the military and lived around the world before I was 15 years old. Today, given our ever-growing mobile society, chances of having a similar (and thankfully not exact) blueprint-based curriculum for a K-12 education is better than it ever was when I was in my formative years.
Academic standards are not the curriculum (Concept-based curriculum and instruction for the thinking classroom. Erickson. Sage, 2007. p.48). I whole-heartedly believe this is true. And while it absolutely takes time and commitment to develop a worthwhile systemic curriculum (oftentimes two to three years to fully develop and implement), I remind myself and others that curriculum mapping is a verb and the deep conversations and collaborations across grade levels immediately impact student in positive ways through teachers who are reconsidering the learning, teaching, and assessments while embracing what is new in the CCSS content and process standards. This immediate and on-going process validates why I have been involved in this specific field of work for over 15 years. Designing CCSS-based curriculum involves a two-phase process: studying and breaking apart the standards systemically to first develop learning based solely on what the standards (and critical ancillary documents, such as the CCSS Math Progressions) explicitly and implicitly require; and secondly, develop meaningful units of study that combine the learning, teaching, and assessment tasks based on a current program or encouraging teachers to create their own program.
Well, I may have not set things right, but hopefully a little bit right, in that it is not the CCSS themselves that are the problem; instead, it is CCSS-based interpretations made in the form of instructional choices and assessment practices, as well as one area I chose not to get into here: teacher evaluations.
As I previously mentioned, I will continue to work diligently with districts and schools who have a like passion – looking collaboratively and critically at the CCSS and systemically designing curriculum that aids their students in experiencing meaningful learning journeys K-12+.
In the last few years, I've been pretty good with New Year's resolutions. One year, I promised to have a golf handicap in the mid teens. With plenty of practice and a little coaching, I made it happen. Another year, I lost 10 pounds.
My 2014 New Year's resolution is far more daunting than shaving a few golf strokes or cutting out fast food. This year, I'm promising to change education forever.
I'm going to encourage teachers everywhere to stop grading their students, using points, percentages and letters.
Sure, this may seem like an inconceivable, ridiculous, completely crazy idea.
After all, wasn't flying a plane inconceivable? Wasn't the microwave a ridiculous idea? I mean who in his right mind would eat something exposed to radiation? Wasn't the Smartphone a completely crazy thought? Could an internet-ready computer and high-functioning video camera really be placed inside a four-inch mobile device?
If these outrageous inventions could become realities, revolutionizing travel, eating and communication, why can't assessment be changed?
Any successful resolution or goal needs a plan. Here's how I intend to stop traditional grading in its tracks in 2014:
So, in 2014, I'm going to war, and my enemy is traditional grades.
Are you ready to join the fight?
For more on narrative feedback over grades, read Mark Barnes' ASCD book, Role Reversal
cross posted at the Brilliant or Insane blog
From my introduction to Dan Pink through his book Drive I was amazed at how he could write a book about business that pertained so much to what educators do. It was not in the sense of how to create widgets, which is often a business approach to education, but rather what incents people to do what they do in the best way possible. It was more than just the best way to drive students, but the best way to drive educators to their highest potential as well. For that reason Dan has been recognized and engaged by national and international education organizations to address their memberships. I have listened to several of his keynotes with never a disappointment. In personal conversations I have found him to be a really nice guy. I sought him out at a recent trip to D.C. to ask him about his new book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others . I was hoping to find his latest book to be as educator-friendly as Drive.
1. You say that today, like it or not, we're all salespeople. Is that true even of teachers?
On the first question, the answer is "yes." When you look at what white-collar actually do each day, it turns out they spend a huge portion of their time persuading, influencing, and convincing others. It's what I call "non-sales selling" or "moving" others. Money isn't changing hands. The cash register isn't ringing. And the transaction isn't denominated in dollars, but in time, effort, attention, energy commitment and so on.
This is what teachers do much of their day. Think about, for instance, what a good algebra teacher does. At the beginning of a term, students don't know much about the subject. But the teacher works to convince his or class to part with resources -- time, attention, effort -- and if they do, they will be better off when the term ends than they were when it began.
2. You also say that sales has changed more in the last 10 years than in the previous 100. How have the forces causing that change affected education?
The biggest change in the buyer-seller relationship. One reason that selling has a bad rap because most of what we know about it arose in a world of information asymmetry -- where the seller always had more information than they buyer and therefore could rip the buyer off. But today, information asymmetry is giving way to something at least close to information parity. That's changed the game in ways we've scarcely recognized. In conditions of information asymmetry, the operative principle is "buyer beware." In a world of information parity, the operative principle is "seller beware."
This has affected teaching in some interesting ways. One hundred and fifty years ago, we began to have schools in part because that's where the information was and teachers were the mechanism by which students accessed that information. Those conditions prevailed for a very long time. But now -- thanks to the Internet, mobile phones, social media and so on -- students have the same access to information that teachers do. That means that a teacher's job isn't to transmit the information, but to equip students with ways to analyze the information, make sense of the information, evaluate the information. What's more, it has begun to change what happens inside the classroom itself as more teachers move to flipping the classroom -- providing the lectures electronically and use class time for hands on work that computers can't replicate.
3. What are the underlying principles of this new approach to selling -- whether you're selling your product, your idea, or yourself?
The result of the change I just described is that sellers -- of anything -- need a new set of skills. There is a rich body of research -- in psychology, economics, linguistics, and cognitive science - that reveals some systematic ways to become more effective in moving others on a remade terrain of information parity. The old ABC's of sales were Always Be Closing. The new ABC's of Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. These three qualities are the platform for effectiveness. Attunement is perspective-taking. Can you get out of your own head and see another's -- a student's, a colleague's, a parent's -- perspective. Buoyancy is staying afloat in an ocean of rejection. And clarity is helping students move from accessing information to curating it and from solving existing problems to identifying hidden problems.
4. On your concept of attunement, what is something a teacher can do to become more attuned with his or her students?
It's important to understand at the outset why attunement matters so much. All of us today have less coercive power. It's tougher for bosses, teachers, parents, and so on simply to command something and expect compliance. The better approach is to understand another's perspective in the hopes of finding common ground.
But that can be a challenge. One sturdy finding of the social science is feelings of power and acuity of perspective taking are inversely correlated. That is, feeling powerful tends to degrade our ability to take another's perspective. This is important because teachers are often in a position of relative power with regard to their students. So being effective often requires beginning from a different position: Assume that you're not the one with the power. This of it as persuasion jujitsu, where you enlist an apparent weakness as a strength. Start your encounters with the assumption that you're in a position of lower power. That will help you see the student's perspective more accurately, which, in turn, will help you move them.
5. What is one other tip teachers might glean from your book?
One of my favorites comes from a technique know as motivational interviewing. With this technique, you can deal with resistance by asking two seemingly irrational questions. So imagine you've got a student that simply doesn't do his homework. Instead of threatening him or punishing him or pleading with him, use the two-question strategy (which I learned from Yale psychologist Michael Pantalon).
The first question is this: "On scale of 1, with one meaning 'not the least bit ready," and 10 being 'totally ready," how ready are you to begin doing homework.
Chances are, he'll pick an extremely low number -- perhaps 1 or 2. Suppose he answers, "I'm a 2."
Then you deploy the second question: Why didn't you choose a lower number?
The second question catches people off guard. And the student now has to answer why he's not a 1. "Well, he might say, if I did my homework, I might do a little better on tests." "If I did my homework, I might learn a little more." "I'm getting older and I know I'm going to have to become a little more responsible."
In other words, he moves from defending his current behavior to articulating why, at some level, he wants to behave differently. Equally important, he begins to state his own autonomous, intrinsically motivated reasons for doing something. When people have their own reasons for doing something, they believe those reasons more deeply and adhere to them more strongly.
So on a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to use Pantalon's technique? And why didn't you choose a lower number?