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  • It’s All Fun & Games Until It It’s All Fun & Games Until It Isn’t

    • From: Eric_Bernstein
    • Description:

      My friend and fellow ASCD Emerging Leader, Matt Mingle, recently tweeted in a #satchat conversation that “@MMingle1: Can't help but think how easy it is to shift from leadership in action to leadership inaction. Hard to be ‘on’ all the time! #satchat.”  Matt’s tweet actually has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but it did get me started thinking about lines and how easy it is to cross them.  In the context of Matt’s quote, the line in Matt’s quote is the line between action and inaction and his quote points to how very close those two opposites really are.

       

      So what “line” did Matt’s tweet start me thinking about?  I started thinking about humor or, as I was “accused of” so many times when I was growing up: “being funny.”  What does this have to do with leadership?  Authentic interpersonal relationships (developing and maintaining) are, arguably, the most important part of leadership—our students, their families, our colleagues, our community members, and so on.  For me, I face the challenge of being authentic (which, given the aforementioned accusation, includes being funny) and also being aware of the risks of “being funny.”  

       

      From a real “whole-child” and “social emotional” perspective, humor and joking can be important for bonding and creating connections (Anyone who has interacted with @ToddWhitaker can attest to this in our professional community!).  On the other hand, it can also have the adverse effect of making someone feel like an outsider or feel uneasy or unsafe in a space.  Whether with students, colleagues, peers, or friends, joking around can bring people closer together—but there is also a line—and if crossed, can make people feel marginalized, hurt, or disconnected.  Much like Matt’s quick tipping point from “leadership in action” to “leadership inaction,” crossing from “laughing with each other” to people feeling “laughed at” or “laughed out” can happen fast and even blindside you.  

       

      @FredEnde, another friend and ASCD Emerging Leader, shares his #QuoteADay blog posts (http://fredende.blogspot.com/2014/07/quote-day-day-209.html) which reminded me to look at quotes about humor to help make my point here.  Indeed, I have found two (Fred, feel free to use either, as neither is mine!).  First, the words of adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary, demonstrates the positive social-emotional power of humor.  He said that “when you're in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when you're depressed about the chances of success, someone who can make you laugh eases the tension.”  Conversely, Erma Bombeck pointed at the line I am talking about here.  She explained that “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

       

      I’d suggest that we can often see that line coming, even if it comes fast.  Some people (especially younger students) are more obviously uncomfortable with jokes and joking around.  That is not a flaw in them, but an obligation in those of us who like to joke.  We are obliged to recognize, understand, and genuinely honor their different relationship with humor from ours.    

       

      The particularly thorny situations, however, are not with those who are less comfortable with humor than we are.  Rather, the risk of being blindsided is with those who we have the most similar personalities, those with whom we have great comfort joking with, those who typically give us back exactly what we dish out (those with whom the role of joker and jokee are often shared or otherwise are interchangeable).  When you have a student, colleague, or friend with whom you are always joking around, you can get caught inside a bubble—lost in the jokes, if you will.  Then, when you don’t see it coming, you are smacked in the face with the reality that someone you care deeply about feels like an outsider or feels like the butt of the joke, rather than feeling like your laughing partner or your co-star.  

       

      The first moral of this story, this post, is NOT that we should persistently temper our humor—it is not that we should walk on eggshells.  Rather, it is a reminder that we need to check ourselves periodically and we need to be on the lookout for times when we may not realize that we have made someone feel like they are on the outside.  Even the people we are closest with, those who give us the most leeway to joke and be silly with—especially those people.  In Happy Days parlance (love my TV show references, and apologies to a hero of mine, @hwinkler4real, for this one), the Fonz stopped being cool when he jumped the shark (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4ZGKI8vpcg).  We (read that as “I”) need to pay attention to when something that was funny “jumps the shark”—when it stops being funny to the people around us or, worse yet, when it starts to hurt someone.

       

      That is not the only moral, though.  The second moral is about healing.  It is much easier to return to leadership “in action” from leadership “inaction” than it is to renew a relationship that is “burned by the flame of a joke taken too far” (@FredEnde, you can use that one, too—that one is all me!).  It starts by you, the joker, realizing that you took the joke too far.  Then, you must make your amends.  For a moment, the responsibility then switches to the jokee—they must make the choice whether the relationship deserves to withstand the misstep.  

       

      Here, however, is the real rub.  When the jokee accepts the apology, the burden then spreads to both.  It is possible that the relationship will forever be altered—but, that is usually not in anyone’s best interest.  Rather, the pair should genuinely reaffirm to each other that they can and should continue to laugh together.  That from now on, whoever the joker is must commit to being more aware of the cues (stepping outside the bubble periodically) and whoever the jokee is should agree to make those cues more obvious—helping the joker get outside the bubble when needed.

       

      Being funny, joking, and laughing together is great medicine.  Developing relationships where that is safe and comfortable can be an important release that can lead to healthier and happier moments and lives.  But as with so many other roles in leadership, we need to be good at communicating (when we are the jokee and feel like the joke has gone too far) and empathizing (when we are the joker, getting outside the bubble to recognize the cues that the joke has gone or is going too far).  The first worst outcome is a person who feels hurt by the joke.  The second worst outcome is the inability to renew a relationship impacted by that hurt.  My hope, as I strive to be better as a person, better as a joker, and better as a jokee, is to minimize the first worst and hope the second worst never happens.

       

      As always, thanks for reading (if you made it this far)!  Until next time…peace.

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  • Leaders Taking Flight: A Refl Leaders Taking Flight: A Reflection on ASCD L2L

    • From: Kevin_Parr
    • Description:

      

      Taking off—Be Bold

       

      We are second in line for take off at Reagan National Airport.  Soon the pilot will push the throttle forward and the plane will accelerate—unwavering—until it reaches take off speed.  I realize that as an educator, I too need to move forward with my ideas with similar focus until they garner the momentum needed to lift off.  Therefore, I have to refine my goals and message.  I need to continually search for new and more effective ways to present my ideas.  I need to reinvent, recreate and innovate.  I have to be brave and I have to be bold.  I have to dream big and match it with the focus, drive and dedication necessary for them to lift off.

       

       

      In Flight—Invest in Others

       

      The plane has now reached cruising altitude and we are speeding through the sky. The plane maintains momentum and altitude because of various forces acting on it.  Similarly, in order for my work as an educator to maintain and sustain its momentum I too need the help of outside forces.  Just as ASCD had invested in me as an L2L attendee, I became more aware of the need to invest in others.  This came to light from numerous conversations I had that touched on a similar theme:  As somewhat of a lone voice for positive change in a school or district, it can get lonely. I (We are) am not alone, however, as others feel the same way and have similar frustrations.     We need to look outside our immediate environments and broadening our range of support.  When we feel lost, alone and defeated, we need to remember there are people out there to remind us that we are all in it together.  They are there to pick us up, give us a nudge, celebrate our success or give thoughtful advice.  Similarly, when we return to our respective places of work, we need to reach out and invest in others so they know that they are supported when they need it.  We are stronger together.  We need to remember that and help others realize it too.   

       

       

      Descending Through Cloud Layers—"We" Instead of "Us versus Them"  

       

      As the plane descends it passes through different layers of clouds—each separate but together making the sky as we see it from below.  L2L was a unique conference in that people with various levels of involvement in education were sitting together working within a common vision on a common task.  Too often the system is viewed as “Us versus Them.”  At L2L, however, it was just “We.”  Teachers worked along side principals, superintendents, professors, consultants and beyond.  The conversations were rich and informative in a way that would not have been possible if only one layer of representation were involved.  We all shared our unique perspective and we all listened and it made all the difference.  I am reminded that in my work I need to start focusing on “We” and help others see it too.

       

      Touching Ground—Back to Work

       

      The plane touches down.  We have arrived at our destination and as people hurry to gather their belongings and continue with their lives just as they were before they boarded the plane.  I think about the people at L2L.  We are all going home now; back to our lives and back to our work.  I am going home different, though.  I feel inspired from hearing people’s stories and seeing their work.  I feel even more dedicated knowing we are all in this together.  I feel comforted knowing I am not the only one who (among other things) struggles to find a balance between family and work.  I am touched to have spent time with such a compassionate, dedicated, hard-working and visionary group of people.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  In the words of Garrison Keilor, “Be well, do good work and keep in touch.”         

       

       

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  • An Educator's Conference Persp An Educator's Conference Perspective

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      If there is one thing that could be said of what I do professionally it might be that I do get around to many education conferences. This past month I attended two International conferences ISTE14, BLC14 and one Indiana regional conference, the Greater Clark County Schools Conference in Indiana. All of these conferences were outstanding in their offerings to educators. I usually comment on the structure and quality of the conferences, but today I think I need to address the educators who attend these conferences based on some recent observations. What set me to thinking about this post were two separate comments from very different educators.

      A short time after attending ISTE14, I flew to Boston for Alan Novmber’s BLC14 conference. It was there that I saw a keynote by Michael Fullan, a Canadian education researcher and former Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. From that speech my main take-away was that in education today Pedagogy is the foundation and technology is the accelerator. For me that was a statement that was clear, concise, and right on the money.

      After a one-day layover at my home, I was off to the GCCC14. It was the 2nd annual conference created and directed by Brett Clark of the Greater Clark County Schools. I landed in Louisville Kentucky, which is just over the river from my Indiana destination. A GCC educator, JT who was transporting me to my hotel, picked me up. I met JT when he performed the same task last year. He is quite an affable fellow and easy to talk with. On our ride we talked about this year’s conference compared to the last. JT shared a conversation he had with a colleague about the conference. His friend asked if JT was going to be at the “day-long computer training”. Obviously, some Indiana educators did not view the Michael Fullan keynote on livestream. Unfortunately, it is an attitude or a mindset that is shared by more educators than just those in Indiana. Many conferences are viewed as computer training and not education methodology or pedagogy.

      It is the way of learning that should be the focus of education conferences and the goal for the attendees. The technology should always be secondary. We should first explore the place collaboration has in learning before we talk about the tools we need to collaborate. We should explore the need and benefits of communication and understand where and how it benefits students in their everyday lives before we explore the modern tools that enable and enhance communication. We need to understand the differences and the effects between lecture, direct instruction and authentic learning before commit to developing a year’s curriculum. Understanding the need for formative assessment is essential to determining what tools we will use to assess formatively, as well as what adjustments we need to make when we get that information. Let us get a full understanding of summative assessment to determine whether to use tools for testing, or tools for digital portfolio assessments.
      Conferences should be more about the learning first and then balanced out with the tools to make it all happen efficiently and effectively. These conferences are not about computer training, but about learning and education.

      As Chris Lehmann said at the GCCC14 conference, we don’t teach math, English, or social studies, we teach kids. Conferences should not be viewed as computer training, but rather teacher training. They teach teachers the ways of education and all of the necessary, modern tools to enhance authentic learning to attain the teachers’ intended goals. Connecting with the educators from each conference is an additional way of continuing the education discussion beyond the conference. It helps create collegial sources to be called upon at anytime for clarification, validation, new ideas, sources, or just to say hello. It makes no sense whatsoever to meet great people with great ideas at a conference and never to connect with them again.

      Educators should come to conferences eager to learn about their evolving profession. It is not a stagnant profession. There are constant changes and developments that happen at a pace never before experienced in education. We need these conferences to offer a balance of pedagogy, methodology and tools for educators to learn, understand, develop, and evolve. We also need educators to connect in order to live the change and not just experience it at an annual conference. If we are to better educate our kids, we need to better educate their educators.

       

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  • Looking Forward to L2L 2014 Looking Forward to L2L 2014

    • From: Walter_McKenzie
    • Description:

      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.

       

       

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  • Five Skill Sets For a 21st Cen Five Skill Sets For a 21st Century World and Their Instructional Implications

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      In the face of major societal and technological changes, all students need to be prepared with critical knowledge, skills, and attitudes and behaviors that allow for continued learning and growth beyond high school. In particular, they need to develop critical and creative thinking skills and the skills necessary for finding and processing huge amounts of information. Even with the Common Core standards, our current educational emphases aren’t adequately preparing most students for learning beyond high school – for college, career, military or other future endeavors.

       

      While a critical knowledge base and positive attitudes and behaviors are important for future living, this commentary, along with others I have written in the past (see figure one, below) focuses on five skill sets students must develop if they are to adapt to

       

      Figure One

      Previous ASCD Edge Commentaries about Five Skill Sets

       

      Teaching the Right Skills For a New Age- Inquiry Based Instruction http://bit.ly/vVhpSQ

      Seven Principles for Teaching the Right Skills for a New Age http://bit.ly/yLVZ0M

      Using Inquiry-Research Projects to Teach the Right Skills for a New Age http://bit.ly/tU0RPR

      Six ways to Build Greater Curiosity in Students http://bit.ly/TTKPqO

       

      this new world and examines ten specific strategies to help students learn these skills. The five key skill sets that should be given a laser-like focus in order to prepare students for continuous learning in this new age are the following:

       

      Building Curiosity (Asking Questions, Formulating Problems and Challenges)

      In today’s rapidly changing world, curiosity – interest in and willingness to learn new things – is critically important. Most educators realize that the curiosity of young children seems to lessen as they go through school. Curiosity manifests itself through students demonstrating an interest in and a willingness to try new things and learn new ideas, ask questions, and pose and define problems and challenges.

       

      Information and Data Literacy (Processing Information and Data).

      New technologies that give us instantaneous access to huge amounts of information and data make information and data literacy skills imperative.  Our students need to be able to use many approaches to search for (research) information and data effectively and efficiently, sort through large amounts to find the most useful and relevant, and determine the most reliable and valid information and data. Search engine results, gleaned in less than a second, require the ability to sort through, evaluate, read, and digest multiple information and data genres and formats.

       

      Thoughtfulness (Thinking Deeply and Flexibly).

      All students need to have the ability to think deeply and flexibly in today’s rapidly changing world, and be prepared to take their place as 21st century citizens. They need opportunities to compare and contrast, analyze and interpret, and develop unique relationships among information, data, and ideas. They need to be able to translate information into visual and quantitative data. They need to “think outside the box” and solve problems creatively.

       

      Application (Drawing Conclusions, Applying Learning).

      With so much information, the ability to “pull together” and synthesize information and ideas, form educated opinions backed by argument and evidence, solve complex problems, and determine ways to apply information and ideas to the “outside” world become critical. Summarizing, synthesizing, drawing conclusions, and applying learning to new, novel, and “authentic” situations are all critical for living in a 21st century world.

       

      Communication (Communicating Effectively).

      Effective communication in many forms is extremely important in a world of e-mail, twitter, Facebook, cellphones, Skype, and collaborative projects. Students need opportunities to practice communicating effectively through all types of writing, explaining ideas to others, diverse representations, effectively participating in discussions, and oral presentations.

       

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

       

      Given the importance of these five skills sets, one would think that they would be front and center in our educational discussions. Unfortunately, in today’s educational climate, many of these take a back seat to a relatively small group of skills useful for doing well on standardized tests – namely, the ability to distinguish correct answers in multiple choice questions, to write short pieces coherently, or to state opinions and ideas with evidence from text (Common Core). So, in this commentary, I am suggesting ten simple and easy to use strategies – two for each skill set – that can make a big difference in the ability of students to learn and apply these skills.

       

      Curiosity

      Question Census. Ask students to brainstorm questions that they would like to explore for at least one unit of study. Together develop categories for the questions and then select questions or categories of questions that are the most challenging, interesting, or focused around big ideas. Use these questions to focus student learning and study the unit at hand.

      Student developed challenges-problems. Find someplace in the curriculum where students can develop their own challenges or problems to give to others. Give students a chance to develop puzzles, games, historic or current challenges, math problems, or other challenges and problems, and then have them share these with the rest of the class and see if other students can solve the problems or challenges.

       

      Information-Data Literacy

      Readings-Data search. Either as a homework or in-class assignment in a computer lab, ask students to find one or more readings or data sources that supplement current learning. Help students learn how to use search engines and find and use helpful search terms. Work with students to help them determine which sources of information and data are reliable, then how to read and interpret these meaningfully. If several readings or data sources are found, help students figure out ways to compare and contrast them and find the essential information, ideas, or data in each.

      Close reading.  The Common Core Reading Standards advocate that students do more of the work of reading and teachers do less.  “Close reading” means that students read more deeply as part of their daily activities. Instead of teachers providing answers and “feeding” students, students are asked “text-dependent” questions. Text dependent questions force students to go to the text to give opinions and justify them through the text. Students are asked to “read like a detective”; to read text more than once; to analyze paragraphs sentence by sentence, to consider the nuances of a text, to analyze data sources. “Text” reading becomes much more significant as part of the learning process[i].

       

      This type of reading should be encouraged, but takes time. If we are to foster information and data literacy, students, as often as possible, should be asked to do close reading.

       

      Thoughtfulness:

      Graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are a good way to promote deeper and more flexible thinking. Through a visual analysis, they help students take learning apart (analysis), organize information and data for decision-making, or weave a web of information and ideas. Use graphic organizers to help students extend and deepen student thinking[ii].

      Brainstorming A brainstorming strategy is a good way to help students learn to “think outside the box”. Students are provided with an open-ended problem or challenge that has the potential to have many different types of solutions. They are asked to discover as many alternative ways to solve the problem as they can, and are given four rules around the acronym DOVE to help them with coming up with alternative possibilities: Defer Judgment, Offbeat Ideas encouraged, Vast number of ideas sought, Expand on other people’s ideas. Ask students to work in small groups to come up with as many ideas as they can, with one person acting as the recorder of all the ideas.

       

      After the brainstorm, students share the ideas and make the list as long as possible. They may also be asked to indicate which five ideas are the most logical, the most unusual, the most interesting, and/or the best. Several ideas might be used to try to solve the problem and consider what would happen if the idea were put into practice.

       

      Application

      3-2-1 Reflection. A 3-2-1 Reflection activity is often given at the end of a lesson or specific time period, such as a week, two weeks, or at the end of a unit. You can use this activity to ask students many different questions to discover what they learned and to uncover their thoughts about other aspects of the class: for example, to determine what main ideas students have learned, what questions they still have (good for stimulating curiosity), and what they most enjoyed.

       

      A 3-2-1 activity that supports the development of the five skill sets might look like this: Ask students to write down 3 major ideas and-or principles that they learned, 2 conclusions that they can draw from the learning, and one way they can apply their learning to the outside world[iii].  

      No multiple-choice question test. For at least one time period, abandon the traditional multiple-choice short answer test for a test that requires students to draw conclusions about what they have learned and asks them to apply their learning to a new and novel situation. Performance tasks are good alternatives, as are long essay exams. Consider open book essay exam questions and essay exams where students take home three questions to prepare, and one or two of them are written as an in-class exam[iv].

       

      Communication:

      Five minute explanations. For this activity, students are asked to explain a concept, big idea, understanding, or principle in their own words. They may do it in pairs, giving explanations to each other, or as a writing assignment, or as a presentation to the larger class. This activity may be completed after all or part of a lecture when a teacher has shared a new understanding and wants to determine if students understand what has been presented, or as a study activity at the end of a unit.

       

      A corollary to this activity is that students use an active listening approach – as they work in pairs, one student provides an explanation and the other has to repeat the essence of the explanation in his or her own words. They then switch, and the other student provides an explanation while the first repeats the essence of it in his or her own words.

      Persuasive arguments. In this activity, students are asked to create a persuasive argument in support of a point of view – an opinion about something they are studying. They need to state or write their point of view and provide arguments and evidence that support it. Once they state or write their argument, they can share it with others, either in small groups or in the total class. Persuasive essays are also good ways to introduce debate skills.

       

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

       

      There are many additional activities that can be used or adapted to promote the learning of these five skill sets – developing questions for conducting interviews or for going on field trips, wait time to encourage deeper thinking, research projects based on student interests or related to a topic under study, oral presentations, creative problem solving strategies, individual book reflections, on-going, multiple types of writing activities, thinking skill activities, and choice of activities and courses.

       

      In sum, the point of this commentary is that teachers who have limited time for developing some or all of these five sets of skills can do short, relatively easy to implement activities, even occasionally, that can make a big difference in 21st century skill development. These types of activities, represented by the ten examples above, can be especially significant if everyone in the school supports the development of these sets of skills and institutes instructional activities designed to help students learn and refine these skills.

       

      If you are convinced that these skills are important for students to develop, chances are you will think of other activities that you can implement or adapt to promote the learning of these skills. Once you accept the importance of these skills and start thinking about how you can help students develop them, the sky’s the limit. Ironically, teaching these skills can also help students to perform better on the more traditional tests that have currently become so important for measuring classroom and school success.

       

       

                                                                                                              ENDNOTES



      [i] For further insight into text-dependent, close reading based on the Common Core Standards, see Christina Hank, Defining “Deep Reading” and “text-Dependent Questions”, at Turn On Your Brain, http://turnonyourbrain.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/defining-deep-reading-and-text-dependent-questions/

      [ii] There are many sources of information on graphic organizers. One resource is by Vicki Urquhart and Dana Frazee, Teaching Reading in the Content Areas: If Not Me, Then Who? 3rd Edition (2012), Chapter 12. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

      [iii] Many resources are available to help you develop 3-2-1 reflections. One can be found at http://www.facing.org/resources/strategies/3-2-1.

      [iv] As a student, the use of take home questions was my favorite way of being assessed, because I could really take the time to prepare and learn. It changed the nature of assessment from “mystery” to “mastery”.

       

       

       

      Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, social studies teacher, former Professor of Education at Temple University, and Curriculum Director in Bucks County, PA. If you are interested in further examining these five skill sets and ways to implement them, as well as other dimensions of a 21st century education, examine his other commentaries on ASCD Edge or go to his website at  www.era3learning.org

       

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  • Push to Talk PD Push to Talk PD

    • From: Brad_Currie
    • Description:

      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.

       

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  • 7 Tips for Re-doing the Studen 7 Tips for Re-doing the Student Re-do Process

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      In grading a recent test, I noticed that the scores were lower than usual.  I questioned if we had spent enough time on the material.  I wondered if I had failed to address the challenging content appropriately.  Was I to blame for the below average scores? Was it time for the dreaded “It’s not you, it’s me” speech.  After wallowing in this short self-blaming, “I stink as a teacher” mode, I decided to do something about it.  I decided to offer my students a re-do.  I love a good old re-do because they are wrapped in hope, second chances, and all things warm and fuzzy.   I think we all could benefit from a do-over every now and then (or every day).  Like the infamous episode where Oprah gave away cars, teachers should give away do-overs in their classrooms.  Every once in a while teachers should say, “here’s a free do-over for you, one for you, one for you…”  The only problem is that there are some drawbacks to the revision process.  Students may take advantage, the revision opportunity may limit the effort put forth on the initial work, and of course the practicality issue (in the real world we do not always get to correct our mistakes).  Lastly, sometimes students don’t follow through and do not participate in the revision process at all.  In the spirit of revision, I have developed a list of 7 strategies to facilitate the process and in turn encourage student participation:



      1.  Assess student interest in revision.

       

      When thinking about assessing interest, an online ad (it has over 20 million views) about gender stereotypes came to mind.  You can watch the entire ad here.  In the ad, there are adolescents that role play physical activities "like a girl" and then they act out the same activities "like a boy".  Unsurprisingly, within the role plays, the girls are portrayed less flatterinly than boys (for example they run less powerfully, swim less aggressively, etc.).  The best part, however is after a discussion of gender stereotypes, the adolescents are asked if they wish for a second chance to do their role plays "differently".  Instead of forcing a do-over, the children are invited to revisit their stereotypically laden gender beliefs.  And you know what-each child participates in the do-over. The big take-away here is that a simple participation request allows for instant participant buy-in and thus increases participation in the revision process.  

       

      2.  Include students as peer reviewers in the process.

       

      Even though teachers are more knowledgeable than students (we are the experts in the classroom), we can learn a great deal from our students.  The “curse of the expert” theory outlines how experts may sabotage learning (they often underestimate the level of task difficulty and overestimate potential performance of novices).  In order to get around this, try to incorporate the help of your students in the revision process.  Students share the same language or jargon, and provide a variety of feedback to help one another improve their work (Cho & MacArthur, 2010).

       

      3.  Consider how to manage time in the revision process.


      If you are not careful, all of your teaching time will turn into revision time.  To avoid this, one educator in an article titled “The utility of a student organized revision day" describes the benefits of designating one class day for student revision (Gill, Ong, & Cleland, 2012).  Another idea that I tend to use-would be to include detailed rubrics so that the students have what they need to get the assignment right the very first time.  A final suggestion would be the use of video to record assignment instructions or tips (Whatley & Ahmad, 2007). The video method is effective because conversational style is often more user-friendly than written/formal style (personalization learning principle).

       

       
      4.  Consider how your feedback influences student revision.

       

      An article titled "What does it take to make a change?" shows the that the type of teacher feedback impacts the likelihood that a student will participate in the revision process (Silver & Lee, 2007).  Specifically, when teachers offer advice about how to improve work quality, this facilitates more revision than other feedback methods (such as praise or criticism).  So, if you tell your student, “I wonder if you can provide more details”,  instead of saying “I like how you use detail in this one part”, the student may be more inclined to revise the work. 

       

      5.  Examine how students view the revision process.

       

      Do you remember Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs?  In general, Maslow described our needs in terms of layers- basic needs had to be met before we could pursue higher order needs.  A Maslow-like theory may explain how students perceive the revision process (Thompson, 1994).  In a paper from the College Composition and Communication conference,  an educator described that in revision,  students attend to basic needs (what is required to pass or not fail the assignment) and then they move on to higher order revising skills (creativity, synthesis, etc.).

       

      6.  Adjust classroom perception of revision.

       

      Students view revision as a reflection of themselves.  One study from the English Teaching Practice and Critique Journal showed that students believed that teacher revision comments indicated they were "careless" (Silver & Lee, 2007). Also, students reported that the teacher feedback lowered their confidence and made them feel angry. My take away from this study is that teachers must work to improve the way students perceive the re-do process. Perhaps reminding students that change is not bad.  Additionally, identifying real-life examples of revision (such as remaking movies or remixing songs) to help students see that revising is a normal part of life.  

       

      7.  Measure the revision process.


      If you decide to offer students a re-do, measuring how well the process works (or not) is useful.  Think about asking the students to provide feedback about their experience with revision.  Typically, students report that revision allows for an increase in knowledge and confidence (Gill, Ong, & Cleland, 2013).  Also, reviewing the grade changes (before and after the revisionn) will offer insight into the usefulness of allowing students to re-do future assignments.  
       





      

    • Blog post
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  • So You Want to Be an Administr So You Want to Be an Administrator? 5 Tips for Aspiring Principals

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      aspiring principalYou’ve already spent years, maybe even decades, in the classroom as a teacher, you know how to lead and organize, and you certainly have the “in-the-trenches” perspective that every administrator worth his or her salt must have. Now what? What should you do to make the prospect of becoming a principal a reality? To help answer these questions, we’d like to share a few tips from Peter Hall’s book, The First-Year Principal.

      So You Want to Be an Administrator? 5 Tips for Aspiring Principals

      Skip the resume—for now
      Your first inclination may be to dust off your resume and start looking for open positions, but as Hall wryly notes, the “application” process begins long before resumes, long before you had the crazy idea that “13-hour days with no lunch sounded appealing,” and long before you even had the slightest inkling that you wanted to become a principal.

      Hall suggests that you start with “those people with whom you have worked, the contacts you have made, the folks from whom you have earned support and respect.” Do you need to “schmooze” these people? Not at all, but keep in mind that “relationships with credible professionals” are a form of currency—and that currency is priceless.

      Stay in the moment
      Regardless of their career aspirations, aspiring principals should always “stay in the moment.” For Hall, this means that you must continue to “focus on students in your care and your current school organization as a whole.” In addition to this, it means aligning your “work practice and decision-making with the established school goals.”

      For Hall, there is “no reason to focus on anything but excelling in your current position.” This means going where no teacher has gone before: Set and exceed new standards of excellence and watch as your name becomes associated with positive results.

      Involve yourself in projects beyond your current position
      So you’re continuing to perfect your craft and excel at what you do? Good. Now it’s time for you to do a little more. Start by participating in district activities, committees, panels, focus groups, and other school or district groups and organizations. Just don’t take on so much that you begin to shirk your current job responsibilities or your students; doing so will only undermine the benefits you are hoping to gain from joining these organizations.

      Be respectful to everyone you meet
      You’re an educator, so you already know that the job doesn’t end when the bell rings. This is especially applicable to teachers who live in small, rural towns, but even those of us who live in the city will run into students, parents, and colleagues at the mall, the grocery store, or in restaurants. We may not even see these people, but you better believe they see us and they take note of what we say, do, and how we behave when we’re out in the community. Eyes are always on us. Keep this in mind not only when you are in the classroom, but outside of it as well.

      Find an experienced mentor
      There are plenty of books offering advice for aspiring and first-year principals, but few are as wise as someone who has been doing what you hope to do for the last five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Seek out a mentor and learn from him or her. Hopefully, this relationship will not only reaffirm your passion for the position, but also help you become better prepared for the road ahead.

       

       

                                      Download our FREE Principal Coaching Gui

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  • Student/Parent Engagement Student/Parent Engagement

    • From: John_Rimes
    • Description:

      Ok, its been a while and I know there should be more consistency in my writing.  I have made a commitment to share and reflect a minimum of two times per month.  It's the right thing to do!


      My focus this year for my faculty, students, and parents is engagement.  We can't win the game of educating our kids without engaging them and those around them.  I have made it a goal to get 100% student participation in clubs, organizations, activities, or sports.  We have also challenged the parents at our school to commit to spending 5 contact hours at our school.  Through these efforts I hope to have a better relationship with the community and frankly, if it turns out like I expect it to there will be a huge paradigm shift.  


      I believe educators must work to help students meet their needs to be significant, to grow, and make connections. By having a positive attitude, planning, and being NICE, we can make learning fun and challenging.  We can make learning a process kids want to be a part of.  Let me ask you: If you were in a meeting that was not engaging and held no purpose for you, would you get up and leave?  Absolutely!!!  We would check our email or probably go get a snack.  Our students are no different.  We need to realize they may not be engaged and ready to learn 100% of the time.  

      What should we do? 

       

      You gotta like kids and understand how they work.  We need to give them their monies worth each and every time they come through the doors.  I always like to ask the question: If they were not required to come to your class would they still want to be there?   This is also true of our schools.  Well, we will work on it and together we can make a change.  


      We made great strides at my school in my first year as principal, but we have only just begun.  There is much work to do, so stay tuned and I will keep you posted on the progress of year two.

       

      Keep working, reading, and improving your craft.  Remember to keep your students FIRST!!

       

      Follow me on Twitter @coachrimesphd 

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Learning From the Ground Up Learning From the Ground Up

    • From: John_Hines
    • Description:

      While we do not often think about it, we can start redesigning schools with the physical space. As I think about how to structure a high school, I see ways to change the school simply with the furnishing. Open spaces, natural light and comfortable seats can all take a school from “cells and bells” to a place of innovation and invention. I have often said that I go onto college campuses and I see how I wish to teach. It is amazing to have open manicured lawns, wooded paths, and some time to be outside. Being at a traditional high school, cooped up inside, it makes me wish I could escape, not stay and learn. If I feel that way, and I had a positive experience at school, I know my students feel the same way.


      Along with how the school is designed, I am interested to see how much schools could become like the best idea companies. Places like Google, Microsoft, and Twitter have to give their employees space to think. Google has become famous for its Genius Hour in which the employees are given time to simply pursue whatever interests them and some of their newest innovations (Google Glass, the Google self driving car) have come from this time. These companies thrive based on how well their employees think. This is how we should be approaching schools. We should treat our students and teachers like thinking, and developing new ideas, was their job. We should give them time to pursue their passions and interests. We have to trust teachers to develop systems and solutions for the issues they face. We then further need to trust students to learn and find passion in learning.


      When we think about public education, it is frustrating that while we want to have schools as a place of learning, growing , innovation and invention we run them like factories. With fixed amounts of credits, minutes and grades, we are trying to mass produce graduates (the all important graduation rate as the critical marker of success) with teachers working on the assembly line. We have this system, not because we think it is the best, but because accountability demands clear criteria to measure (test scores, graduation rates). Free time to generate ideas and follow passions is not as measurable as 3 years of high school science or 55 minutes of Geometry.


      While places like Google see Genius Hour as a way to allow its engineers to follow intellectual endeavors as vital to it continued success and relevance, it is hard to see this becoming part of our public schools in our current high stakes, high accountability climate. There are some educators calling for the changes, to make schools more like our most innovative and productive companies, it has failed to penetrate the average school and is not part of the much of the current popular reform conversation. Less is more is not as prevalent as more is more.

       

      If we are serious about schools being places of idea production, we have to build them to support the creation of ideas. We have also recognize that learning is an organic process, not a mechanical one. We cannot simply speed things up and have students simply learn more in less time, just like we cannot double the fertilizer we put on crops and expect them to grow twice as much in half the time. What we can do is create a set of circumstances, a climate, that can support higher growth. This can be done many ways, but one way that might need to be considered includes natural light and some free time.


      Cross-posted from: http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/2014/07/learning-from-ground-up.html


      Please follow John @jhhines57 or check out his blog at notfillingthepail.blogspot.com


    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • #WordCrimes #WordCrimes

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      If you haven’t seen the hilarious new video from Weird Al Yankovic, check it out below:


       

      It’s a play on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and paints a picture that all grammarians can relate to.


      I’m sharing it because of its hilarious take on learning proper grammar and conventions and also because of its cleverness and appeal as a parody. I would love to see students experimenting with pop culture in such a way and with all of the web tools at our disposal, we certainly have the means to do so.


      What would a library of student created music videos look like? How could they demonstrate understanding of content through the rewriting of the lyrics to popular songs and their own performances of those songs? How would sharing those student creations with others around the world impact their revisions and additional learning? What additional skills would students learn as they investigated web tools, learned about editing, and applied their new skills for a quality product?


      Viewing this video is far from just entertainment. It opens up cans of worms for me about what students could do to demonstrate learning. I would also like to point out that Weird Al is releasing 8 videos in 8 days around his new album, all of which are clever, full of pop culture references, and demonstrative of a thinking man’s perspective on the world we live in.


      His website is: http://www.weirdal.com/


      I hope you’ll take the time to view some of his other creations for this album. I think that they are spectacularly descriptive of our modern times and clever re-imaginations of popular songs.


      I’d like to thank Jay McTighe for being the first to notice and share the video. Jay’s like the TMZ of the educational horizon and shares stuff long before the rest of us have a chance to notice! Thanks, Jay!




      Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Literature Circles: A Student- Literature Circles: A Student-Centered Approach to Literacy

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Why do our students come to school? Yes, yes, of course because they have to, but why else? Is it because of you? Is it because of the mind-bending lectures we give? If you asked Michael Kahn (see his article, “The Seminar”) these questions, he’d tell you that there’s nothing intrinsically special about us or the textbooks.

      No, what makes coming to school “worth it” for Kahn is the collaborative learning experience—or in his words, the “opportunity [for students] to engage in a fantastic dialogue, trialogue, multilogue with a fantastically varied assortment of consciousnesses.”

      There are countless ways we can get students working together, talking and learning from one another, but literature circles are certainly one of the most effective. Not only do they encourage open dialogue, creativity and critical thinking, they also push students to take ownership of their own learning experience.

      What are literature circles?
      When we use literature circles, small groups of student gather for an in-depth discussion of a literary work. To ensure that students have a clear sense of direction and remain focused, each group member is given a specific task. For example, one student may be the designated artist; s/he is responsible for using some form of art to explore a main idea, a theme, or significant scene from the text. Another group member, the wordsmith, might be responsible for documenting important, unusual, or difficult words from the reading. Regardless of each student’s role, each group must collaborate as they read, discuss and critically engage with texts.

      The circles meet regularly, and the discussion roles change at each meeting. When the circle finishes a book, the members decide on a way to showcase their literary work for the rest of the class.


      To give you a better sense of what literature circles are—and aren’t—take a look at the following chart from Bonnie Campbell Hill’s guide, Literature Circles and Response:

      literature_circles_2

      What is the teacher’s role in literature circles?
      As Harvey Daniels explains in his book Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, “the teacher’s main job in literature circles is to not teach.” Instead, teachers use mini-lessons, debriefing sessions and Socratic questioning techniques as they circulate the room, moving from group to group to evaluate student progress. As a facilitator, the teacher is never center-stage. In literature circles, the teacher’s role is supportive, organizational and managerial.

      What is the role of each student?
      There are a number of approaches you can take, but Daniels believes in introducing literature circles by using predefined roles that students take turns fulfilling. Although the terminology used to name the roles may vary, the descriptions remain similar.


      Pam Chandler, a sixth-grade English, reading, and social studies teacher at Sequoia Middle School in Redding, California, defines the roles her students take on in literature circles in this way:

      • Artful artist uses some form of artwork to represent a significant scene or idea from the reading.
      • Literary luminary points out interesting or important passages within the reading.
      • Discussion director writes questions that will lead to discussion by the group.
      • Capable connector finds connections between the reading material and something outside the text, such as a personal experience, a topic studied in another class, or a different work of literature.
      • Word wizard discusses words in the text that are unusual, interesting, or difficult to understand.

      Teachers will want to begin by modeling the various roles within a small group in front of the whole class before sending students out on their own. However, you may be surprised to find out that once students are comfortable with the group-discussion format, you may be able to discontinue these roles altogether.

      How do I evaluate students?
      Literature circles are not intended to “cover material”— they are designed to empower students to take control of their learning experiences, to get them excited about literature, and to help them find creative ways to delve into books. Keeping that in mind, teachers who use literature circles do not use traditional methods of evaluation.

      Because teachers are not at the center of attention, they are better able to engage in “authentic,” real-time assessment. This can include keeping narrative observational logs, performance assessment, checklists, student conferences, group interviews, one-on-one conferences, and the like.

      Keep in mind that evaluation in literature circles is not just the job of the teacher. Just as we require students to take responsibility for their own book selections, topic choices, and reading assignments, we also want them involved in the record-keeping and evaluation activities of literature circles.

      For a more comprehensive discussion of literature circles, check out both Bonnie Campbell Hill’s guide Literature Circles and Response, and Harvey Daniels’s book, Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups.


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    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Cultivating a Trusting Environ Cultivating a Trusting Environment

    • From: Mindy_Keller-Kyriakides
    • Description:

      I’m sure we’d all agree that a trusting classroom environment is crucial for students. We know that they naturally thrive in an environment where they can reach out to be heard and possibly take creative risks. The sense of community in a trust-based classroom is stronger, and students feel more like they belong to something, which, in turn, positively impacts their learning.  All that's a given. But while teachers tend to start the school year relatively well in this area, somewhere along the line, things start to unravel. So, how do we go about actively creating this environment and, perhaps more importantly, maintaining it in the classroom? 

       

      One way to tangibly cultivate a sense of trust in the classroom is to ensure that the physical environment reflects trust.  For example, the seating arrangement of a class sends an immediate message of trust or distrust. Sitting in rows (all facing the teacher at the front) or a U-shaped arrangement (everyone facing inward) each says something different about how much the teacher trusts the students. One approach says, “I have to have you all looking at me at all times,” and the other says, “Let’s learn together.” Compare these two:

      layoutgood.jpg

       

      Granted, the types of desks in the left image are designed to be more flexible. Nonetheless, any desk type can be reorganized in a shape that is more inviting than rows. Further, we’re talking about first impressions, here, as the needs for the class will shift throughout the year. (Rows might be necessary at some point, but they aren't immediately necessary.)

       

      standard rows.jpg

      Of the two classrooms, though, which one would evoke more trust from the student perspective? Taking the time to mindfully choose a classroom layout that sends a message of trust is a step we can take before students even arrive in the classroom.

       

       

       

       

      Once school has begun, a teacher’s choice of words, whether spoken or written, can also serve to cultivate trust or distrust. Are we actively creating a sense of trust in how we refer to the class and students? Take a look at these two classroom posters: 

       

      Notice2.jpg

       STUDENT NOTICE.jpg

       

       

      (For a clearer look at these images, click here.)

      The use of “we” and “our” makes a huge difference in establishing the foundation for trust, here, particularly the vast difference in tone between “This is MY classroom” and “This is OUR classroom.” Further, the negative expectation of failure (snarkily cushioned with "if" statements”) versus the positive expectation of “will” sends out completely different messages of trust. It’s as though one teacher  expects to have all sorts of problems, which automatically sends out an “I don’t trust you” message. The teacher on the right expresses a sense of confidence in the students (and himself/herself) that is designed to cultivate trust.   

      Imagine coming into a classroom on the first day and seeing one of these posters. Which classroom would you really want to be a part of? In which classroom would you feel more likely to express your thoughts and take creative risks? (On a side note, the poster on the left is offered as a “Motivational Poster” on eBay for $8.95.  The other image is my revision of it.) Actively seeking to establish a sense of collaboration and community, once students are in the class, is another crucial step we can take.  

      Maintaining the trust throughout the year is probably the most difficult part, and having a strategy in mind to maintain patience will aid in keeping that trust alive. Well-intentioned teachers may start out the school year just fine. They’ve set up the classroom and diligently used language designed to inspire collaboration, but somewhere in October, things can fizzle. Kids start to fray our nerves; we lose patience and react without thinking. Unfortunately, losing that patience also means that any trust we’ve established will begin to dissolve.

      Acclaimed educator Rafe Esquith (2007) notes, “It is deeds that will help the children see that I not only talk the talk but walk the walk.” Walking the walk entails not only our initial actions, but also our reactions. For example, if you’ve told students that you will use a particular procedure for getting their attention (such as raising your hand or counting to five), and instead, you lose it and start yelling at them (“Alright! Everybody QUIET!”), they will no longer trust you. You are not walking the path you said you’d walk. Once you’ve lost your cool, you’ve evaporated the trust, and you’ll have to work to build it up again.

      Having a strategy for maintaining patience, even in the midst of chaotic mutiny, really helped me out with high school freshmen. My strategy was a little silly, I guess. I would visualize the calmest person I could think of: Mahatma Gandhi.

       

       

      gandhi.jpg

       

       

      Then, I would repeat a mantra: Be what I want to see (a quick version of his famous quote “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him” (Gandhi, 1958).

      This sort of “channeling of Gandhi” strategy compelled me to pause before reacting—not unlike counting to ten, but a tad more inspirational. Who pops into your head as the epitome of patience and calm strength?

       

      Another means of maintaining trust is to cultivate a mindset that is passionate for understanding. In this mindset, no matter what, you do whatever it takes to ensure your students “get” what you want them to get. Esquith (2007) offers this straightforward strategy in developing the mindset—answer all student questions:

       

      I answer all questions. It does not matter if I have been asked them before. It does not matter if I am tired. The kids must see that I passionately want them to understand, and it never bothersme when they don’t. During an interview, a student named Alan once told a reporter, “Last year, I tried to ask my teacher a question. She became angry and said, ‘We’ve been over this. You weren’t listening!’ But I was listening! I just didn’t get it! Rafe will go over something fivehundred times until I understand.”

       

      What the student described is pure trust. This approach sounds easier than it is because having one student ask you something and then having the very next question be the same question can be exhausting and annoying. However, a kid who knows that you’ll answer his questions, no matter what, trusts you. In that “knowing” is the trust. 

      This kind of trusting classroom environment is attainable if we take some time to reflect on how we present the physical environment, what messages we convey, and actively seek to maintain it. What do you want your kids to “know” about you?


      • Create a physical environment cultivates trust
      • Use language that cultivates trust
      • Find strategies that will help you maintain patience and trust
      • Cultivate a mindset that is passionate for understanding

       

      Mirror site: Joyful Collapse

       

      References

      Esquith, R. (2007).  Teach like your hair’s on fire (Reprint). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=11644

      Gandhi, M.K. (1958). The collected works of Mahatma Gandhi (Vol.19, p. 233). Delhi, India: Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Publications Division.

      

      

      

       

      

      

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • 2014 Tweet For Success Scholar 2014 Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest

    • From: Timothy_Smith1
    • Description:
      DialMyCalls.com launched the annual "Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest" last year and received over 11,000 submissions from college students. In the first annual contest, college students were asked to, in 140 characters or less, explain how advances in technology have helped the education system - four winners won $500 a piece to put towards their education.

       

      After the success last year, DialMyCalls is excited to announce that the scholarship contest has returned and is now live. This year the contest will task college students to, in 140 characters or less, explain the pros and cons of e-books versus traditional textbooks. Do you think you have what it takes to come up with a Twitter-inspired submission?
      College students will have until September 18, 2014 to come up with a clever submission for a chance at one of the four $500 scholarships - winners will be announced within 7 days after the contest ends.

       

      In order to qualify for the DialMyCalls.com Tweet For Success Scholarship 2014, students must meet the following requirements:
      • Must Be A High School Graduate Or GED Equivalent
      • Must Be Enrolled In An Accredited 2 Or 4 Year College For Fall 2014
      • Must Be A Legal Resident Of The United States Of America
      • Must Not Be Currently Incarcerated
      • Most Recent GPA Must Be 2.0 Or Higher
      For more information regarding DialMyCalls' scholarship contest and to submit an entry, please visit www.DialMyCalls.com and follow @DialMyCalls on Twitter to view all of the submissions.
    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for First-Year Principals

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      first year principal

      By the time they step into the position, most principals have already spent years—even decades—in the classroom as teachers. This experience certainly comes in handy, but rarely is it enough to keep first-year principals from being broadsided by new challenges. While experience is often the best teacher, we’d like to help new principals avoid common first-year blunders by sharing 10 tips from real principals. These tips have been adapted from Tena Green’s book, Your First Year as Principal: Everything You Need to Know That They Don't Teach You in School.

      Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for First-Year Principals

      • Principals are forced to make decisions on a daily basis. Some of these decisions are run-of-the-mill, but others are high-stakes and have far-reaching consequences. When it comes to decisions, Veteran principal James Gasparino suggests that first year principals do two things: First, resist the urge to react impulsively. Second, learn to “differentiate what needs to be settled right away and what…require[s] reflection and input from others. First-year principals may want to do everything right away, and by themselves. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get buy-in from others if they did not have a voice in the decision-making process.”


      • First-year principals often fall into the trap of trying to do everything for everyone. According to veteran principal John Fielding, it is imperative that new administrators realize (and realize quickly) that they cannot—either physically, mentally, or emotionally—“be everything to everybody.” Keep in mind that “If you are too tired to move, you are no good to anybody else. You do not really have to know and do everything yourself. That said, you do need to know these things that require your attention and those you can let others handle.”


      • Echoing Fielding’s advice is principal Jory Westberry, who urges first-year principals to “Avoid thinking you should have all the answers” or that you “have to make all decisions quickly.”


      • Despite the fact that most principals have spent years in the classroom as teachers, many of them forget—or at least appear to forget—what it’s like to teach. Principal Barry Pichard reminds us that we must never forget what life is like in the classroom and remember that teaching is “one of the toughest jobs around.”


      • A first-year principal may have only the best intentions when s/he replaces that tattered and creaky sofa in the lounge or when s/he boxes up a wall of dusty trophies to make room for a student exhibit…but faculty and staff may see these seemingly innocent changes as a direct assault on the school culture. Principal Roy Miller suggests that first-year principals proceed with caution and “learn both the culture and the ‘hidden culture’ of the building” before making any changes.


      • What’s one of the biggest mistakes a first-year principal can make? According to principal Michael Miller, it is “coming on too strong and feel[ing] you have to show [faculty and staff] who is boss. If you have to ever remind them who the boss is, you have a problem.”


      • Since we’re talking about faculty and staff, we thought Oliver Phipps’s tip would go nicely here: “Make staffing a priority. More specifically, though, make sure your staff is complete with people who share your vision.”


      • When discussing the burdensome responsibilities of principals, Tammy Brown suggests handling them “one at a time. I try to do the paperwork and office tasks early in the morning or after dismissal so that I can be in classrooms, halls, and in the cafeteria interacting with teachers and students as much as possible. Something often comes up that must be dealt with immediately, but most often, things can be prioritized.”


      • John Redd reminds first-year principals that it “is better to take your time before reacting to a situation. It will give you a different perspective if you take the time to get all the facts before making a hasty decision.”


      • Here’s another solid piece of advice from principal John Fielding: “Pick your battles. I always use the measuring stick of ‘is this decision good for the kids?’ If it isn’t, it may not be worth fighting for. There will always be one more silly thing that somebody thinks is important, but does it really help kids in a significant way?”

      Photo credit: Farid Fleifel / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

       

       

      Download our FREE Principal Coaching Gui

      

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Exercise and the Brain Exercise and the Brain

    • From: Jonathan_Jefferson
    • Description:

      Exercise and the Brain

      By Jonathan Jefferson


      “SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey, MD is the one book that all educators must read to fully understand the inseparable connection between exercise and the brain’s ability to acquire knowledge.  Long before this well structured, research-based book was released in 2008, I had admonished my colleagues that it was a misnomer to equate academic learning and exercise as two separate spheres if for no other reason than that the brain can only receive nourishment through movement.  Movement increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain priming it for the development of new neuron-passage ways.  Recent studies have also shown that coordinated movement (e.g. dance, martial arts, & yoga) are the most effective “steroids” for the brain.


      Why is this topic important?  Far too often we find well-intentioned educators unwittingly act on assumptions which are too detached from prevailing research to be anything but ineffectual.  Having students engage in physical activity before classes and exams is much more beneficial than having them sit quietly and read.  However, the “control freaks” contingency of educators are disinclined to relinquish their illusion of control, which ultimately contributes to the detriment of student performance.  Let us truly put kids first and embrace the maxim of doing what is best for them; not what is most convenient for the adults.


      Dr. Ratey thoroughly shared the success of Naperville Illinois’ school district in his book.  This district is lead by their physical education and wellness program.  On the 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Naperville’s eighth graders placed sixth in the world in math and first in science.  He also reported that in Naperville students are deliberately scheduled for their most difficult classes following physical education class.  This is done to take advantage of their brain’s readiness to learn at that time.  Imagine that; a striving school district actually applying proven research to a successful end.


      I am not surprised that “SPARK” is a best seller.  The research shared explains the benefits of exercise on stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, addiction, hormonal changes, aging, and learning.  There is something for everyone, and acting on the research shared can improve the quality of life for many.

       

      In addition to this fine work, another great read specific to movement and the brain is Math and Movement by Suzy Koontz.

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 177
  • Coming To A Finish Coming To A Finish

    • From: Chris_Arthurs
    • Description:

      For this blog I wanted to reflect upon my experience in past course, current courses, and completing this course for NLU. Since January of 2013 I have been part of NLU and have been enrolled in online courses all terms at that time. My first courses included Health Education focused curriculum, followed by curriculum development course material. The conclusion of this program has focused my mainly towards research development and creation. My final three 4 courses in the program have been research development focused and has been interesting. The main focus for research has focused on Physical Education curriculum including middle school muscular strength and development and formative assessment in the Physical Education setting. These two projects have helped improve my skill and knowledge as an instructor in the courses that I teach in my everyday classes. As we move forward in this course I hope to intertwine these programs in a nice research project of some sort. With that being said, I am also enrolled in a group research based class currently along with this one, and our study is the relation of academic improvement as movement. We have been exploring how students that participated in some sort of movement feel that it improves that ability in school. We have completed a wealth of research toward this topic, which I also believe is relevant towards prior research I have done. It was be interesting, and exciting to complete my course work for the C&I program, and I am excited to see the conclusion of my research projects for both this course, and group course.

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 99
  • Minecraft: Research Product Minecraft: Research Product

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      Earlier this week, a member of my digital network, Brent Coley ( @brentcoley ), shared the following tweet where a student created a Minecraft video that represented a virtual tour of Mission San Diego de Alcala (Wikipedia link):


       

      Link to video outside of tweet.


      I was absolutely blown away by what this 4th grader created and I thought it was a good representation of what a research project product that wasn’t a paper looked like.  I’ve previously blogged about Infographics as a research product and I advocate vociferously for digital product replacement thinking when I work with teachers. If the outcome is building knowledge and demonstrating that students can both investigate a topic and learn from it, whoever said that research had to result in a paper?


      The research standards in the Common Core are usually just the three writing standards associated with Research to Build and Present Knowledge. However, I always lump writing standard six in there as well, as it deals with how writing can be presented in a digital format/presentation. I want to share the fourth-grade-specific Common Core writing standards here, standard seven from the Research Standards, and standard six from the Production and Distribution of Writing section:


      W.4.7. Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.


      W.4.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.


      As you read through the rest of this blog post (and hopefully after you’ve viewed the video), read with these standards as lenses. Ask yourself, “did this student meet the standard?” “Did this student provide evidence of what they know and are able to do within the confines of this standard?”


      In my book, Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?, I describe several questions to ask when assigning digital student work:

      1. What is the learning objective?

      2. Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?

      3. Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task? What additional skills might have to be considered in order to engage this upgrade?

      4. Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?

      5. Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?

      6. Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?


      I wanted to blog about this student’s Minecraft project through the lens of these six considerations, annotating what this fourth grader was able to accomplish.


      • What is the learning objective?

        • The learning objective here was to learn about the Mission San Diego de Alcala. This student had to learn the layout, information about the different areas, and be able to speculate about the people that lived there.

        • This student also had to learn specific information about the founder of the Mission, Father Junipero Serra, as he both introduces the video and then explains several of the artifacts contained within the video.

      • Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?

        • In this case, I believe the learning was enhanced exponentially. Besides the research to build knowledge about the mission, this student had to do a brick by brick recreation to create the video.

        • In the comments section of the video, the student’s father includes information about the student having to develop his own system for creating the texture of the tiles on the roof.

        • This obviously had to be tightly scripted for both production and the narration, so the writing definitely occurred at some point. Everything in the video though is beyond the writing...beyond the end point of the traditional research product.

        • In terms of worth? You tell me. Was this digital upgrade a worthy replacement?

      • Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task?

        • The traditional version of this research would have resulted in a paper, most likely, perhaps a diorama or detailed schematic drawing. In this case, using Minecraft, the detail involved demanded a time-intensive process that resulted in a very professional product. The decisions this student made to develop the detailed depiction all involved discernment and critical thinking in some way. Big time rigor here.

        • Additionally, the student used multiple digital tools to get to the final product: Minecraft to create the representation, an audio tool to record the narration, and a screen-capturing tool to record the video. All of these individually would raise the thinking level of the task because they all represent learning that is above and beyond the expectation of the standard and the traditional version of the research. Together, they represent problem solving nirvana.

      • Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?

        • I get the sense from the comments on the Youtube page that the student engaged in some conversation with his dad to create the video, though I don’t see specific evidence of collaboration or communication.

        • As for creative problem solving, the student’s father references an issue with the roof tiles that the student had to discover a solution too, but the entire video also represents a finished product that is the end product of trial and error thinking. If you’ve ever been in Minecraft, you know that you have to try stuff out and see if it works. Once you discover what works, you build, literally, on it.

        • In terms of creative thinking, there’s so much here. From decisions about the design and interactive elements, to details about Father Serra’s artifacts, to the layout and navigation of the Mission for the viewer of the video, this student had a lot on his plate to think about. The finished product demonstrates extremely high levels of thinking and decision making.

      • Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?

        • This I don’t know. I’m not privy to the project’s parameters or to the population of students that were assigned this project and their access to / equity within digital tools or connected access points.

        • I do know that this student seems to be fairly comfortable creating within the digital realm, which suggests an early affinity / comfort with digital tools at a young age that allows him to demonstrate learning at this level even in the fourth grade.

        • Based on the comments from dad, I’m speculating that this student has no issues with computer / internet access and that it is just a part of his world.

      • Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?

        • Again, since I don’t know anything about what was assigned, I don’t know how much the students contributed to the design of the project.

        • Even if the design of the Mission and its subsequent creation within the Minecraft system was with the help of his father, note that the standard (#6) advocates for “guidance and support from adults.”


      In the book, I also recommend some questions to ask when assessing student work, two of which revolve around how students are reflecting on what they are creating and how they are attributing their source material, both of which are important components of research.


      In this case, there is little evidence of either. I was hoping to learn from where the student found his information. (And I was secretly hoping to discover that he used multiple verified sources.) I was also hoping to learn why he chose to use Minecraft to create his product versus other available web tools. Perhaps eventually this could be added to the Youtube comments. If I were the teacher, I might ask for this as a separate component of the task.


      All in all, though, I must say, that this effort is serendipitous. I’m struck by both the level of quality and the apparent level of learning of this student. I hope that those reading this are understanding that this is what a 21st Century demonstration of learning looks like. This is what is possible when we relinquish the limits of traditional practice. This is what is possible when we begin orbiting the boxes that we’ve asked students to think outside of for decades. This is 21st Century Learning.


      Kudos to this kid and his dad. What they created was future-forward and just plain awesome. I subscribed to their Youtube channel. I can’t wait to see what they will do next!


       


      Follow Mike On Twitter: @fisher1000

      Mike’s Website: Digigogy.com

      Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?


    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 432
  • Time-Capsule Teaching Time-Capsule Teaching

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      Have you ever been witness to a time capsule being opened?  If you are not familiar with such events it is very simple. People select items that represent their culture or personal lives, and place them in a container to be sealed up for a long period of time. After a few decades the container is opened up at some sort of ceremony and people look at what was the height of technology, and life, decades ago. I guess we older folks get to appreciate those types of events more than the younger people, because the items in the time capsule usually do not need to be explained to us, as they need to be to the younger generations. I guess the fascination with time capsules is dependent on the apparent and dramatic effect technology has had on the culture represented by the encapsulated items which were selected.

      It is one thing to study and talk about how technology and learning has made great strides in the field of medicine, but it is another conversation entirely when one experiences finding blood-letting tools in a time capsule. It prompts a great conversation that is lost in a textbook version of such events. It usually elicits from the youth questions like “What the hell were they thinking?” Of course the field of Medicine has probably developed faster and in more directions than any other field. I used to do a presentation where I would show a slide of a 19th Century operating room, followed by a picture of an operating room of today. The contrast was inimitable. Since this was a presentation for educators I showed a picture of a 19th Century classroom, followed by a class of today. It was the laughter of the audience that was inimitable at that point. There was little change. The upsetting point here is that if I were to do that presentation again, it would probably still hold true for the slow change in too many American classrooms.

      As I engaged some of my connected colleagues in Edchat last week, we were discussing how the education system pays lip service to asking for innovation in education and for teachers to be innovative, while at the same time putting in place policies and mandates to stifle any such notion a teacher might have.

      I pointed out how we are supposed to be teaching our kids how to be effective, competitive, and educated in the world in which they will live, while using tools for communication, collaboration, and creation that will exist in their world.

      One Connected colleague pointed out that there is one school, or it might even be considered an education franchise school, that prides itself in the fact that it teaches its students without the use of any technology whatsoever. I guess that school franchise really holds 19th and 20th century methodology in very high esteem. Many of us are products of that methodology, so I guess there is a comfort level for some. I do often wonder why an educator’s comfort level should supersede the real world needs of his or her students.

      Looking to the past in education and creating my own mental time capsule, I remember when calculators were not allowed in schools. The slide rule was okay. I remember the blue spirits ditto machine with a hand crank. I remember real Blackboards. I remember fountain pens, the Osmiroid Pen in particular. I remember desks with inkwell holes in the upper right corner. Again I am an old guy and this was my past.

      What would go into an education time capsule today? Maybe a “Cellphones Banned” sign. Possibly, Oregon Trail would go in. Certainly those four computers, covered with dust at the back of the room. Definitely we would include the overhead projector that is now 75 year-old technology. Maybe we should also consider putting “sit and get” methodology in the time capsule. Let’s include the idea of teaching in silos as a concept. What about adding the concept of desks in rows. Why not add the idea of a content expert at the front of the room filling the empty vessels of student minds? This might also be the right place for standardized tests.

      If we were to put all of these things into a capsule to be opened two decades from now, would we ever want to bring any of them back into the class? Maybe, Oregon Trail.

      We need to reach out to those who are still teaching kids from the 20th Century perspective. We need them to commit to being learners again. Learning is ongoing and it must be a way of life for an educator. A relevant educator must continually learn to stay relevant. We can’t have time-capsule teaching in an ever-developing culture. At what point will we stop and look at what we are doing and say, “what the hell were we thinking”?

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 484
  • 14 ways to think about good te 14 ways to think about good teaching: A useful PD exercise

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      Much of my educational career has been spent in teaching or observing teachers. I also had the incredible opportunity of attending many wonderful professional development sessions with outstanding presenters, and working with some amazing educators over many years.

       

      As a result, I have compiled a synthesis of some of the most important things that I have learned about effective teaching along the way. Here are fourteen ways of thinking about teaching that, when part of true self-reflection, can change much of what is being done in the classroom for the better.

       

      These fourteen ways of thinking can be explored with individuals or groups of teachers to raise issues about teaching and learning, focus professional development around some important issues and challenges, and help provide a framework for professional growth over time. They may also be useful as a framework for thinking about teacher evaluation.

       

      Read the descriptions below of my fourteen “ways of thinking” about teaching and learning. Get familiar with them. When you are done, consider doing the exercises at the end of this commentary, or sharing them in PD sessions, in order to better apply them to teaching and learning.

       

      1.     Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

      Teaching is about relationships. Getting to know students helps with planning, motivation, interest, discipline, and effective communication. It is about knowing how students learn, how they think, what blocks their learning, what’s on their minds.

       

      As much as possible, get to know students as individuals, with all their variety of thoughts, passions, ideas, backgrounds, humor, unique qualities. This is especially hard for middle and high school teachers, who have so many students to teach. But it is important that all teachers, whatever their level of teaching, whatever their situation,  take some time during the school year to do activities that build relationships and help to learn about students. There are many ways to both formally and informally do this, such as get-to know-me activities, written self-reflections, observing how students go about solving problems, observing groupwork discussions, making sure students know to ask for help when they are having problems, meeting with students informally after school, or talking with other teachers about specific students (not always problem students).

       

      2.     Plan goals for both the long term and the short term.

      Long term planning should be the force behind short term planning. In other words, plan for what you want your students to accomplish in the long run, and then plan each day so that your students can get closer to your goal. For example, a long-term goal might be to help students become better writers, while the short-term goal is to improve their grammar and vocabulary. A long- term goal might be a unit goal, and each daily lesson plan contributes to the goals of the unit. A long-term goal might be a yearly understanding-based goal, and a unit goal might contribute to the year-long goal.

       

      As most teachers know, this is not easy. There are many obstacles, changes, and detours along the way, depending on what happens each day. The variables are tremendous. But it is always important to consider what you want your students to accomplish over a long period of time (the big goals), and figure out how each day helps them get there.

       

      3.     Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.

      With the emphasis today on standardized test score success, learning academic content and skills become the most important focus for achievement and success. But much recent research suggests that “social-emotional” learning qualities are critical for long term success. Students who don’t see a connection between their effort and learning, are unable to be persistent, lack curiosity and resilience in the face of challenges, cannot work well with others, lack self-responsibility, are unorganized or unable to plan their time well, or lack the ability and willingness to ask for help and support when needed will have a great deal of trouble both in learning and in life. So it is important for teachers to assess these “soft” skills as well as academic and cognitive learning to help students achieve long-term success.

       

      4.     Translate learning goals into meaningful, interesting questions and challenges.

      According to several sources, Richard Feynman, a world-renowned physicist, was “heavily influenced by his father, who encouraged him to ask questions to challenge orthodox thinking”… “[His father] never taught facts so much as questions. He encouraged young Richard to identify not what he knew, but rather what he did not know… What's most important for knowledge is the well asked question”.

       

      Today, in my view, too many teachers have lost the art of helping students focus their learning around meaningful questions. My observations indicate that teachers still most often focus learning around imparting specific subject matter or stating goals in terms of “behavioral” objectives. But what if we thought about our teaching in terms of exploring open-ended questions that are interesting and meaningful to our students? What if we put “essential” questions on the board at the beginning of units and lessons, discussed with our students why they are important and meaningful, and then referred to them throughout the unit? Designed core questions that extended throughout the year? Created meaningful open-ended challenges as starting points for learning? Asked our students to develop essential questions?

       

      One of my favorite questions, used by Kathy Davis, a first grade teacher, is the following:

      What writing is worth reading? Imagine studying different kinds of writing over a long period of time with that question in mind? Another set of questions, worth studying in an American History course, is the following: “What is the American Dream? Where did it come from? Does it still exist?

       

      So here’s something to think about: How can you translate your learning goals and objectives into important, interesting, meaningful questions? How can you use these questions as starting points for learning? For skill development? For making content relevant? How can these questions repeat and recur over time? Become the focus for many learning activities over time?

       

      Much, if not most, important learning and growth starts with curiosity around questions, or perplexities around challenges. Teachers need to reinforce that type of learning, and begin student learning with questions and challenges that stimulate curiosity and interest, and motivate students to learn.

       

      5.     Teach reading (and other forms of literacy) as inquiry, exploration, and research.

      Textbook activities often are treated solely as reading assignments (e.g. Read chapter seven and answer the questions at the end of the chapter). But what if teachers thought of textbooks and other reading materials, especially non-fiction reading, as sources of information designed to help answer questions, build understanding, explore interesting topics, and help find answers to challenges. What if the reading of literature was built around some interesting, significant questions, conflicts and issues? What if students had a chance to choose some of the literature they are asked to read based on their own curiosity? Treating textbooks, literature and other reading resources as a form of inquiry, exploration, curiosity, or research to answer questions helps put reading in an important context, not as a chore.

       

      One simple textbook-non-fiction reading strategy that helps support this approach is the simple SQ3R strategy and its variations. First, students survey the material to be read, looking at headings, key words, difficult passages, pictures and other ancillary materials, and the like.  Next, students turn headings into questions or bring into play previously developed questions to begin to find answers in the materials. Finally, they read and highlight key points, recite learning from the text that answers key questions, and then review and summarize the information that relates to the answers to each question.

       

      6.     Frequently use writing as a key instructional tool.

      Asking students of all ages to continually write in many formats helps them formulate their ideas, organize their thoughts, think clearly and cogently, draw conclusions, self-reflect, and learn how to write position papers, among other things.

       

      Most teachers don’t provide students with enough opportunities to write and reflect on their learning. Opportunities include writing at the beginning of a unit to determine what students know and how they think, daily short written reflections summarizing what they have learned at the end of a class, position papers around an issue discussed in class, research and project reports, analyses and interpretations from reading, frequent self-reflections, and end of unit essays in place of or complementary to traditional tests. Not all writing has to be graded, but carefully choosing writing to provide feedback provides students with significant opportunities for improvement.

       

      7.     Develop “deeper learning”.

      I have always felt that many teachers try to teach much too much content and therefore do not have enough time for getting deeper into subject matter and skill development. Teachers need to think about priorities so that content is most likely to be limited and remembered. For example, the period of history in which the Constitution was developed is a very good time to concentrate on a few key points about the Constitution: the Bill of Rights, the Organization of Government, and the Constitutional “compromise” on slavery. While there are many other issues and facts that might be learned, these are key.

       

      “Deeper learning” also results from analysis, interpretation, or doing something with (applying) the information learned. What if students ended this American history unit by developing their own Constitution for their classroom or school? Or created a new and better Constitution for America? Or simulated the Constitutional Convention and developed a Constitution based on the interests of each of the thirteen states?

       

      8.     Involve and engage ALL students in learning.

      It is surprising how often teachers, especially in middle and secondary teachers, spend little time thinking about how to engage and involve every student on a daily basis. All too frequently, I have observed teachers who ask questions and involve very few students in giving answers; allow students to put their heads down on their desks during a lesson; stand in front of the class instead of walking around to engage students. Many students learn that it is OK to “tune out” of the lesson, and that they will be rewarded just for coming to school that day. Beginning teachers are especially likely to make the mistake of letting students “tune out” of their lessons. Here are some ways to avoid student passivity:

       

      Don’t just stand in front of a group of students. Walk around the room. Catch the eye of students. Watch what they are doing. Gently shake a student who has his or her head on the desk. Call on students who you think are not paying attention.

       

      Begin each class or new learning experience with an engaging “To Do” Activity that students must respond to as they enter your classroom. For example, a “To Do” Activity might begin with writing a short summary of what they were asked to read the night before or finding the answer to a math problem based on the work they did the previous day.

       

      Use “think-pair-share” strategies to involve everyone in exploring significant questions. Here’s how it works. Ask an open-ended question. Then ask each student to write down an answer. Then students pair up with another student to discuss their answer. Finally, teachers call on individual students to share their answer and hopefully begin a discussion.

       

      9.     Bring the outside world into the school and classroom, and the school and classroom into the outside world, and help students apply learning.

      Here’s how I think about schools and the surrounding world: The school world is for learning - the outside world is for living. People don’t live in a school. They go to school to learn. They live in their homes, in their offices, in the environment around them, in the world outside of school. Too often, school becomes an isolated entity unto itself, with little or no connection to the way people live in the outside world. As teachers, we need to remember this and, as often as we can, bring the outside world into the school and the school into the outside world.

       

      How do we do this?

       

      I remember watching Ms Tolliver, an excellent elementary math teacher who made some wonderful professional development tapes, take her fifth grade urban students on a walk through the school neighborhood looking for mathematics concepts and creating mathematics problems (Math Trail). They developed problems and found mathematics around park benches, playgrounds, subway trains, parking meters, building blocks and shapes, maps of the neighborhood, and seven step staircases in Central Park. The math that they were learning in school became real and relevant. Another example: in a local comprehensive urban high school I recently visited, a counselor organized talks in the school by local community members to help students see the variety of careers and lives led by those with similar ethnic backgrounds. Finally, new technologies provide new tools for bring the outside community into the school and the school to the outside community. There are currently many examples on the Internet and on websites of how teachers use Skype and other Internet options to bring in the outside community and world into the school and classroom.

       

      10.  Know when to maintain a strong structure for students and when to “let go”.

      Good teachers know when to provide students with significant learning structure and when to give students greater freedom and self-direction. For example, when students are first learning how to do research, they need more structure – a step-by-step process, good explanations of how to conduct research and use research skills, models of good research products, and guided practice opportunities. Once they have learned and practiced the basic components of research, then they can be given more freedom to work on their own independently. In other words, sometimes students need strong structures, especially when they are first learning how to do something. But, eventually, we need to “let go” and give them freedom to work on their own and make their own mistakes in order to keep getting better at what they are doing. One of the most difficult decisions about teaching is knowing when students need significant structure and when to let go and give them more self-direction.

       

      “Letting go” may also mean giving students greater choice and more options. Giving students the right to select their own books to read should be an important part of a good comprehensive reading program. Allowing students to select their own research question, sometimes within the parameters of a subject area, also gives students greater interest in and responsibility for their research.

       

      11.  Help students to improve, make progress, and get better.

      What does it mean for students to get better at doing something? Understand in a deeper way? What are the most critical changes you would like to see in your students over time? What does it look like when they improve? How will you know when your students have a better understanding of core content? How can you build a student culture of “craftsmanship and understanding” that supports and encourages gradual improvement over time?

       

      Unfortunately, traditional tests and quizzes don’t easily lend themselves to demonstrating improvement and progress in understanding and skill development. Seeking gradual progress and improvement is more likely to occur when students frequently do tasks related to what needs improvement, such as writing, making presentations, conducting research, performing experiments, and organizing learning for understanding. Specific feedback that provides students with specific guidance on what they need to do better is important. Showing models of good work to strive for is very helpful. An approach to teaching and learning that savors and supports gradual progress and improvement can lead to the development of a culture and way of thinking that promotes craftsmanship, deeper understanding, and improvement over time.

       

      12.  Check for understanding - often.

      When I taught many years ago, I was unaware that I needed to frequently check for understanding. This was not good for student learning. This way of thinking has been getting much more play lately, and rightly so. Teachers need to check in frequently with students to see if they are “getting it” – really understanding what they are learning. Many strategies are available for this purpose, such as application oriented math problems, end of lesson summary strategies, such as 3-2-1 (three things I learned from this lesson, two things that were the most interesting, one question I still have); and 10-2 lectures (10 minutes of lecture, 2 minutes of reflection and questions).

       

      13.  Create strong culminating experiences and assessments.

      Unfortunately, end of unit culminating experiences are often multiple choice-short answer tests. What could be less interesting for a student? What could be less relevant? Should the traditional test be the culminating experience of student work and learning?

       

      Consider developing alternatives to traditional tests, even for just some units. How about a field trip to an art museum at the end of a unit so that students can analyze and write about a specific artistic period in greater depth? Perhaps students should write a position paper about a controversial topic in American History or design an experiment as the culmination of a science unit? How about giving students two or three (or more) essay questions several days in advance of a test time to give students time to prepare outlines of answers, from which one or two are selected to be written during a two hour class period? How about giving students interesting open-book (or even open-research) essay questions? Or what about completing an authentic performance task that demonstrates the ability of students to apply their learning to a new situation? These are much more interesting, relevant, and meaningful culminating assessments.

       

      14.  Appropriately use technology as a learning tool.

      There is a tendency to talk about using technology today as if it were something to be automatically incorporated into the learning process. The reality is that technology is often hard to use or apply easily to teaching situations. Technology usage often requires a good deal of staff development, and is costly to implement and maintain.

       

      However, technology, when used appropriately, can be an extremely valuable tool that enables teachers and students to learn more efficiently and effectively. For example, simple technologies, such as Microsoft word and powerpoint are useful for encouraging and editing writing and making presentations. The Internet is a wonderful tool to support research, but students have to learn how to use it carefully, skillfully, and wisely for this purpose. Some of the more complex technologies are useful to promote “gaming” and simulations. “Flipping” uses technology to help students learn basic information outside of school so that teachers can focus on “deeper learning” when students are in class. Some technologies that promote individualized learning through highly structured, engaging learning situations are very helpful to students.

       

      Any of these technology tools, and others, should be used when appropriate to the teacher’s goals and to the learning situation. Technology tools should be used for specific goals when they make learning more efficient, but not when they might deter students from using their minds, thinking through a problem, or reading texts carefully.

       

      Teaching is very complex, much more complex than it is made out to be in the press, in government initiatives, and even in State Departments of Educational directives.  Good teaching is a moving target – goals, children, cultures, teachers,  and conditions vary from state to state, school to school, and even classroom to classroom.

       

      These fourteen ways of thinking about teaching suggest both the complexity of good teaching and the potential common core components that measure good teaching and help teachers improve on what they do. Learning about students, creating a positive learning environment, focusing on both academic and social-emotional goals, building curiosity by focusing on questions, focusing on less content and deeper learning, figuring out ways to engage and involve students, planning both long and short term goals – all of these and more are important elements of an effective teaching-learning process. I hope that an exploration of these components will help teachers and school leaders understand what they must do to improve schools and suggest a way to build a framework for evaluating teaching and improving teaching and learning in the classroom.

       

      An Exercise to Share and Learn from These Fourteen Ways of Thinking

       

      Now that you have read and learned about the fourteen ways of thinking, here is an exercise you can do to help you examine these in greater detail and apply them to your own teaching situation.

       

      Here are the fourteen ways of thinking listed without commentary:

       

      1.     Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

       

      2.     Plan goals for both the long-term and the short term.

       

      3.     Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.

       

      4.     Translate learning goals into meaningful, interesting questions and challenges.

       

      5.     Teach reading (and other forms of literacy) as inquiry, exploration, and research.

       

      6.     Frequently use writing as a key instructional tool.

       

      7.     Develop “deeper learning”.

       

      8.     Involve and engage ALL students in learning.

       

      9.     Bring the outside world into the school and classroom, and the school and classroom into the outside world, and help students apply learning.

       

      10.  Know when to maintain a strong structure for students and when to “let go”.

       

      11.  Help students to improve, make progress and get better.

       

      12.  Check for understanding - often.

       

      13.  Create strong culminating experiences and assessments.

       

      14.  Appropriately use technology as a learning tool.

       

      Some questions to consider: 

      • Do these all make sense to you? What would you add or subtract and why? How would you change the wording to increase clarity and meaning? 
      • Which to you are most important for effective teaching? Least important? 
      • Consider how you apply these to your own teaching situation? Which areas are your strengths? Which are challenges?  
      • If you could pick one or two areas that you currently do really well, what would they be? Which one or two do you need to work on the most? 
      • Can you share what you do well? What do you specifically do that makes one or more of these “ways of thinking” work well for you? 
      • Can you take some time to think about which areas do you most need to work on? Find out what other teachers do who are strong in those areas? Do some research on effectiveness in these areas? Consider one or two changes to your routines that might improve them?

       

       

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