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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?
America has an urgent need to cultivate a strong workforce of innovators in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects, but too few students receive the academic support and many lack opportunity to study STEM in school. Why should we care? In the next five years it’s expected that STEM job openings will grow twice as fast as other jobs in the United States, however Department of Education figures show that only 16% of American high school seniors are interested in a STEM career. The figures for minority students are particularly low.
But a solution may be right in our students’ hands. A study commissioned by the Verizon Foundation found that more than one out of three middle school students report they are using smartphones and tablets to help with their homework. Not only that, students reported that using mobile devices at school makes them want to learn more about STEM subjects than students who don’t. As a teacher, this is music to my ears. Another study by Harris Interactive reinforced these findings. Incredibly, nine out of ten students reported that mobile devices make learning more fun.
Early intervention appears to be the key. While I believe that there is no age that is too early to introduce STEM based lessons, dynamic programs using technology aimed at middle and high school students are a way to maintain students’ interest in STEM as they progress to graduation. Last year I was the co-advisor for a team of middle school students who participated in a national contest to design a smartphone app. The students who participated in this challenge learned valuable skills, not only related to STEM, but to all aspects of learning. We had rich discussions on the topic of community challenges and concerns, and how technology and science could help alleviate them. The team decided to design the Chow Checker app, which would identify ingredients in food products to help people with food allergies. At the end of the process the students left with a greater awareness of the issues that children with food allergies face on a daily basis. Out of hundreds of teams from around the country, my students were one of the winning teams.
Our team was a diverse group of learners, each with their own level of comfort and understanding of technology. A key feature of this process was that at the start not every student who participated considered themselves a “techie” however, by the end all of them learned that STEM education was not beyond their reach, and that there were elements of STEM that they all could be experts at. I know that they will remember this process, and most of them will continue to hone their app building skills for their future.
As adults, we use mobile devices to manage our work and social lives, and we know that the current generation of kids will integrate these technologies in ways we can only imagine. So why shouldn’t we encourage kids to integrate these devices into their school lives in a fun and challenging way? I encourage students to submit their idea to the second annual Verizon Innovative App Challenge, which is open until December 3rd. They might be inspired to invent the next great innovation.
When was the last time you heard someone say, “And where were the parents?” or “What’s going on with parents these days?” You may have even said this yourself a few times.
We may not always understand parents, but we never doubt that the majority of them want what’s best for their child. And even when parents are difficult, we know how important it is to maintain positive relationships with them.
Since challenging parents are never going to completely go away, we’d like to share a few tips—courtesy of educational leadership experts Todd Whitaker and Douglas J. Fiore—to help you better navigate these relationships.
Connecting with Parents: 5 Tips for Principals
Call parents—all of them
You’ve already hosted back-to-school night, but extending a personal invitation to any major school event is a great way to connect with parents.
Round up the student council, ask for teacher volunteers and host an evening in which the group attempts to call every family and personally invite them to back-to-school night. If you’re thinking that this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right—but the payoff is well worth it.
Dare to give parents your number
At an event where you have a large audience of parents, encourage them to call you in both the office and at home if they need to. We agree, giving out your home phone number sounds a little unorthodox, perhaps even foolish, but here’s Whitaker and Fiore’s rationale:
This approach makes everyone in that auditorium feel that someone cares about them and their child. Years later parents would tell me that they always remembered that. The other benefit was that teachers began doing the same thing.
Irrational parents will always find a way to get your home phone number and will call you regardless. It may come as a surprise, but Whitaker and Fiore explain that they are consistently approached by parents who say, “I was going to call you at home. I know you said we could, but I figured you get so many calls that I decided that I did not want to ever bother you at night.”
Personal phone calls go a long way. Try randomly calling one or two families every week—or touch base with a parent who has expressed concern over a situation in the school a week or two later to ask how things are going.
Reaching out to the community
Education and educators take a consistent beating from the media. It’s discouraging, but one way you can help change this is by contacting local television, public radio and blogs with pieces of good news about your school. If they ignore you, be vigilant and see if you can find contacts through parents.
Use technology to connect more efficiently
Most schools have a monthly edition of the school newsletter. These usually include a column in which the principal shares his/her musings, updates and reminders. This is nice, but it lacks a personal touch for a variety of reasons:
As an alternative to the newsletter, try creating two or three minute podcasts, audio recordings that parents receive every Friday in their email box. These podcasts can be conversational: In addition to the usual updates and reminders you might find in a newsletter, feature short interviews with student athletes, coaches, thespian students and teachers. Once you’re done, simply embed the recording onto your Facebook page, website or school blog and email a link to the parents who have requested to receive notifications.
View Hannah's channel on YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/hg-youtube
For decades I dwelled in a school district that was cemented firmly in outdated teaching methods. Sure, we got new technology -- a mobile laptop cart here, a few new desktop computers there -- but the pedagogy remained the same. I probably don't have to tell you that the philosophy was to get kids to pass high stakes tests at all costs.
So, each year brought more workbooks, more ill-conceived online reading and math tutorials and a steady stream of district-wide test scores that were, at best, pedestrian.
I rode this ride to mediocrity yearly, until I realized that I had to make change, regardless of the path my district took. Enter results-only learning, and the miraculous transformation it brought. Meanwhile, my school district forged ahead, no change in sight.
I recently worked with some true leaders at a school in Coppell, Texas. These are people who are ready to make major change. From superintendent to building principal to classroom teacher, they are embracing results-only learning -- tossing out archaic traditional methods, in favor of a progressive, student-centered, digitally-enhanced classroom.
They are even altering the way they evaluate learning -- discarding traditional points and letter grades, in favor of narrative feedback. The courage these educators have, leaving behind what most schools in America can't escape -- the chains of workbooks, worksheets and, yes, even grades -- is unparalleled.
So, this is where it begins -- in the great state of Texas. Educators in one school will pilot results-only learning. They will begin a wave of change that might eventually turn into a tsunami.
All it took was real leaders and courage. Well done, Coppell!
Cross posted at www.resultsonlylearning.com
Don't miss ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, now available in the ASCD store, Barnes & Noble and atAmazon.com and Mark's new book, The 5-Minute Teacher: How do I maximize time for learning in my classroom
As an early adopter of transformative technologies, I have been watching the mobile app space carefully to see how it can benefit all facets of education. By being a thought leader in the use of digital technology in schools, I was approached by a bold start-up in Boston called Beeonics, which wanted to talk to me about their breakthrough technology. I had them come down and meet with several student leaders and me this past spring where I shared my vision of having a mobile app for New Milford HS, which could also be shared with other schools. This work, has rapidly resulted in, I am very excited to say, a native mobile app for the NMHS community.
My vision is for every high school around the country to have its own native mobile app. For a high school, having its own native mobile application is a tremendously valuable asset as a tool to communicate more rapidly and efficiently within its community and as a means to help administrators, teachers, coaches, students, and parents to organize more productively all school activities. Here at New Milford High School we have been at the forefront of adopting social media and the latest technologies to improve the way we run our educational and extra-curricular programs. Understanding how mobile devices can be used to benefit all the constituents of our community is a staple of our long-standing commitment to bring technology to the use of our community.
Using Beeonics technology, we have been able to quickly create a state-of-the-art native mobile application with a rich set of features. Our application can be managed very easily by our staff through a website with a user-friendly graphical interface. We envision every school benefiting from having their own native mobile application. Therefore, we want every school to benefit from our work. Thanks to Beeonics technology, any school can take our mobile application as a template and almost instantly create their own native mobile application, customized to their school. We will continue to add to our application while making these additions and improvements available to any school, public or private, so please check back often.
Where we stand today is that the New Milford High School native mobile application is now in use by the students, faculty, staff, and parents at New Milford High School on iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices (smart phones and tablets). All the constituents of the NMHS community are both intrigued and excited by its capabilities. The new school-year version of the application will be available during the first week of September.
I am sure at least some of you, maybe even many of you, are dubious that creating the app itself was easy, let alone easy-to-manage. However, I assure you any school can do it. Remember when doing a web site was hard 20 years ago? Today, a non-engineer can go to SquareSpace, GoDaddy, Wordpress, and many others and make a good web site in a few days, sometimes even hours. This is the Beeonics vision, but for mobile apps (which is a much harder problem with different operating systems, different versions within operating systems, and devices of markedly different size and dimension). Let me tell you what we did.
The mobile application was developed directly from the input of a group of students, teachers, and administrators. The process was quick and efficient. Modifications and improvements were rapidly implemented. The mobile application comes with a user-friendly website, which staff and administrators can use to easily share content and notifications with their students in real time. A group of students, teachers, and administrators tried the mobile application during the last four weeks of the previous school year. We collected further feedback and ideas for additional functionality, which were used over the summer to fine tune the application and associated website in the new school-year version. We made the changes and, voilà!, we have a richly-featured mobile app.
I wanted a mobile app for the community of stakeholders at NMHS for many reasons. First, for the students, the application helps them organize their schedule, activities, and homework, and provides them with real-time updates on classes, activities, and athletics. Specifically, for students, the app enables them to:
The students are excited because they can have all this information and all these capabilities always available and immediately accessible on their phones, rain or shine, in or out of school.
With respect to teachers and coaches, they are now able to:
This functionality helps us run the internal functions of the school more effectively, more efficiently, more easily, and with a fun factor we have not had before. The app also allows the constituency outside of the school, the parents, guardians, and other stakeholders to:
The parents are excited because they can have the peace of mind that they are always up-to-date and informed of the activities of their children and notified of any time-sensitive information. Last, but by no means least, I would be remiss if I did not address how this benefits me and the administration of NMHS.
We use the mobile application to:
What I love the most about our native mobile application, in addition to the obvious positive impact that it has throughout our community, is that I can reach all my constituents instantly and reliably, on the one device which is the most personal and which is (unless they leave it at home like I have a few times before!) always with them.
I am really excited about the mobile app and even more excited that all of you can take advantage of the work done by my students, staff, teachers, coaches, parents, and myself to bring the same capabilities we have today to your school quickly. To that end, I have asked Beeonics to offer our app to other schools for only $1.49 per user per academic year as a favor to me and because we helped Beeonics debug their software (the Beeonics app is normally $2.99 per user per academic year). The company has graciously agreed. This offer stands through the end of 2013. Please go to http://www.beeonics.com to register and use the keyword "Eric".
I have spent most of the previous month talking about my new ASCD Arias book, The 5-Minute Teacher: How do I maximize time for learning in my classroom.
In spite of the excitement swirling around the new book I am still inundated with correspondence from readers of my first book, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom. Although I attempt to respond to all emails and tweets, I decided it's time to have an open chat about results-only learning, and what better way to do it than on Twitter, using the #RoleTalk hashtag?
Monday August 12th, 7-8 PM EST
Please join me for a thought-provoking chat with some remarkable, smart educators, as we discuss Role Reversal and student-centered learning on Twitter. Mark your calendar for Monday, August 12, 7-8 PM EST, and add the #RoleTalk stream to your Twitter, HootSuite or TweetDeck feed. We'll discuss the following and more:
This promises to be an amazing chat with hundreds of intelligent teachers sharing their opinions on student-centered digital learning, assessment, feedback, project-based learning and much, much more. See you on Twitter #RoleTalk at 7 PM EST on Monday, August 12th.
I just finished reading Michael Fullan's, Stratosphere. In this book, he outlines how: "the ideas embedded in the new technology, the new pedagogy, and the new change knowledge are converging to transform education for all" (p. 3). Fullan's book resonates with a driving question I have grappled with in my own work. How do we create meaningful change throughout our system to truly innovate teaching and learning?
Fullan's argument is something to consider as we work to make our schools and systems more responsive to the students we serve. In some ways, Fullan's book treads familiar ground. In his earlier writing, Fullan has correctly warned that technology as the solution can be the "wrong driver" for school reform if it is not paired with "smart pedagogy."
In Stratsophere, Fullan issues a similar warning. I agree with him. We should not mistake the tools for actual student learning. Using upgraded technology will not automatically transform pedagogy.
Fullan is critical of those who have ventured before him to articulate 21st Century learning frameworks. After reviewing several of these efforts, he concludes:
No matter how you cut it, we are not making progress on this agenda. By and large the goals are too vague, having glitzy attraction. When we start down the pathway to specificity, the focus is on standards and assessment (which does help with clarity), but the crucial third pillar -- pedagogy, or fostering actual learning -- is neglected. And aside from its use in assessment schemes, which is a contribution, technology plays little role in, surely the main point of all this highfalutin fanfare. (p. 36)
Prensky to whom Fullan pays tribute also critiques the Framework for the 21st Century precisely because identifying the outcomes students will need is the easy part; changing our pedagogy and engaging students in relevant learning is the hard part.
While I agree with Fullan and Prensky that we can't simply identify outcomes and not transform teaching and learning, I don't think the frameworks themselves are to blame for not tackling the tough hill. The frameworks are just that -- an outline of skills and compentencies students will need for future success.
From this starting point, we, as educators, need to define and articulate what these outcomes look like, how we help students develop these habits of mind and skills, and how we can determine whether students have mastered these competencies.
Fullan's discussion of the "new pedagogy" aimed at higher-order thinking is helpful in this regard. He draws upon some of the most powerful voices calling for a fundamental rethinking about how we organize schools to make them more meaningful for students' learning. Citing the work of Tony Wagner, Sir Ken Robinson, Marc Prensky and Jonah Lehrer, he concludes that to "maximize learning", the integration technology and pedagogy must be:
Putting these pieces together will require us to make changes within our systems to ensure that all students develop their fullest capacities to meet the challenges ahead. As in previous books, Fullan proposes a systems approach to change that "helps us achieve [the vision], learning while we go."
It is not the work of isolated individuals working on bits and pieces, adding tools to our existing models that will ensure our students soar into the "stratosphere." It is the intentional effort of people throughout the system focusing on the essentials, building capacity, and leading the way.
New Smartboard tip and trick worth giving a shot this coming school year in your classroom. The Extreme Collaboration add-on has the potential of revolutionizing the way we use the Smartboard with our students and in classes that have mobile devices. Take a look at this tutorial to get an idea of what is possible with the Extreme Collaboration tool.