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The continuously shrinking world and the bout towards a knowledge-based economy impacted every aspect of human life in diverse ways. Even education could not escape this. Educators have sought various ways to make learning more relevant, real-life, and responsive to the changing needs of time.
Inspired by all of this, LIFECOLLEGE, the school where I am working, came up with a unique program that is an eclectic mix of educational and international exposure and travel for 4th year high school students between 15-16 years old. The travel program commenced in 2006 where students first traveled to Australia. The following year, the school traveled to Singapore and Malaysia. Indonesia was included in the succeeding year. And by 2012, students have been traveling to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
As the school envisioned to become a cutting-edge learning hub for global champions, it seeks learning opportunities anchored on 21st century skills that to prepare its students to gain a global perspective without losing their heart for local community development.
This travel program called Global Competence Class include fun and exciting activities such as visit to museums, landmarks, cultural centers, historic places, science centers, theme parks and the most important of all, one-day immersion in various partner schools.
Each activity is linked to a learning competency in various learning areas including developing skills in communication, collaboration, and respect for cultural diversity.
Through this program, the students also learn how to budget their time and money, how to commute in buses, trains, and ferries, how to read maps and follow directions, how to observe keenly and write about what they have observed, and how to understand our identity as Filipinos vis a vis our Asian neighbors.
All learnings are documented on a travel journal produced by the schools. This is a collection of mindmaps, observation notes, reflections, photos, collectible items, and daily devotions to make the educational travel a memory escapade to remember for life. To prepare for this kind of trip isn't very difficult.
The following steps would be of help.
1. Secure passports and DSWD travel clearance. By The beginning of the school year, parents must be aware of the trip's requirements, expenses and itinerary. Legal documents such as passports must be secured from DFA while Travel Clearance is secured from DSWD. These are the necessary papers needed for minors to travel.
2. Finalize itinerary. The next step is to scout for educational places to visit according to the learning goals? send proposals. Once the itinerary is finalized, search for affordable airline ticket prices and book immediately. Then look for hotels. The group would normally stay in the hotel during daytime.
3. Prepare travel logs. Since the itinerary is already set, a journal will help to document what the students learned. This is the most important part of the travel and a source of grade for those who participated. Included in this log are the worksheets for each place to visit, the checklists for the itinerary, contact persons in case of emergency, things to bring, and the evaluation sheet.
4. Predeparture and Travel briefing. Orient the students with the guidelines on proper behavior in various places such as airports, trains, ferries, and places to visit. It would be best if they know what to do, where to go, and how to behave in places where cultural diversity is the norm.
Educators who wanted to make a difference in the lives of their students must learn how to venture out and take bolder steps to innovate. Travel, at the least, is just one of the many options. In this country, where travel is now made available for every one, edu-tours is an exciting way to expose, prepare, and push our students to the real world.
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Newest Policy Points Revisits A Nation at Risk
ASCD’s newest Policy Points (PDF) takes a closer look at A Nation at Risk, the 1983 report on the state of U.S. education that launched a spirited and ongoing debate about the quality of our public schools. This issue of Policy Points examines the specific recommendations of the report, the accuracy of its dire prediction about “a rising tide of mediocrity” undermining the nation’s well-being, and the evolving school reform debate the report kick-started three decades ago.
Throughout May on www.wholechildeducation.org: The New Poverty
In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. These “poor kids” don’t fit the traditional stereotypes—two-thirds live in families in which at least one adult works and the percentage of poor students in many rural districts equals that in inner-city districts. In the United States, the economic downturn has dramatically changed the landscape, and districts that were previously vibrant are now dealing with unemployment, underemployment, and more transient families.
Join us as we share what new—and old—solutions we are using to support learning and ensure that each child, whatever her circumstances, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on the current economic downturn; its result that many families and children face reduced circumstances; and implications for schools, many of which have seen drastic changes in the populations they serve and their communities. Guests include Deborah Wortham, superintendent of the School District of the City of York, Pa., and former assistant superintendent for high schools and director of professional development for Baltimore City (Md.) Public Schools; Felicia DeHaney, president and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute; William Parrett, director of the Center for School Improvement and Policy Studies and professor of education at Boise State University; and Kathleen Budge, coordinator of the Leadership Development Program and associate professor in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies Department at Boise State University. Parrett and Budge are also coauthors of the 2012 ASCD book Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools.
ASCD Leader Voices
Arkansas Governor Signs Whole Child Legislation
Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe signed a new bill into law that promotes a whole child approach to educating the state’s children. The legislation (PDF) establishes a Whole Child Whole Community recognition program and aims to measure the comprehensive well-being of children and how well stakeholders are meeting their needs according to the five whole child tenets and their indicators as identified by ASCD.
The recognition program will acknowledge and highlight the work of Arkansas educators, parents, community members, and policymakers who support the whole child. The legislation also indicates that one purpose of the recognition program is to help spur systemic collaboration and coordination within and beyond schoolhouse doors and to promote a shift from narrowly defined student achievement and traditional education reform to broader, more comprehensive efforts that recognize the crucial out-of-school factors that influence teaching and learning. A diverse state working group will work over the course of a year to recommend a framework and process for recognizing exemplary whole child and whole community successes.
Congratulations to Arkansas ASCD, which played a crucial role in supporting the bill’s development and introduction!
Rhode Island Passes Whole Child Resolution
The Rhode Island General Assembly passed a joint resolution (PDF) supporting a whole child approach to education that ensures each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
The resolution affirms that to educate Rhode Island’s children effectively, the state must pay attention to factors within and beyond its school buildings as well as integrate efforts among schools, families, and communities. In addition, the resolution expresses the assembly’s intent to model whole child concepts in its own work and to join with other stakeholders who support the whole child.
Congratulations to Rhode Island ASCD(RIASCD), which worked hard to have this joint resolution introduced into the Rhode Island legislature!
To help the state fulfill its commitment to whole child education, ASCD and RIASCD offered some initial steps (PDF)—organized by the five whole child tenets—for educators, parents and community members, and policymakers to take. RIASCD also highlighted some of ASCD’s free resources to help the state put its whole child vision into action.
South Carolina ASCD Featured in ASCD Inservice Blog Series
Weasked some of our affiliate leaders to tell us how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been going in their home states.In the seventh post of the series, South Carolina ASCD leader Josh Patterson writes about the challenges and successes that South Carolina has had with CCSS implementation.
The Effective Principal
What we see through our research, reading, and conversations with principals and school staff is that to see what an effective principal is, don’t look at the person; look at the effects of her leadership on student achievement, school culture and climate, teacher effectiveness and satisfaction, and community relationships. As the wearers of many hats, principals are crucial to implementing meaningful and lasting school change. Read more on the Whole Child Blog.
In April, we looked at what qualities principals in today’s (and tomorrow’s) schools need to fulfill their roles as visionary, instructional, influential, and learning leaders. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Donna Snyder, manager of Whole Child Programs at ASCD; Kevin Enerson, principal of Le Sueur-Henderson High School in Minnesota (an ASCD Whole Child Network school); and Jessica Bohn, an ASCD Emerging Leader and principal of Gibsonville Elementary School in North Carolina.
Also this month on the Whole Child Podcast, we talked with educators from Oregon’s Milwaukie High School (winner of the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award) about how they meet student and staff needs, taking challenges and turning them into opportunities for all. Guests include principal Mark Pinder, assistant principal for curriculum Michael Ralls, assistant principal for student management Tim Taylor, dean of students Donnie Siel, and teacher leader David Adams.
Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read the latest newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Something to Talk About
Killeen Independent School District Deepens Professional Development Partnership with ASCD—Killeen Independent School District (ISD)—whose more than 6,100 staff members serve approximately 42,000 students—is deepening its relationship with ASCD to meet its professional development goals. Read the full press release.
ASCD Publishes Leadership Guide on Transforming Any Teacher into a Master—ASCD is pleased to announce the release of Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by best-selling education author, renowned educator, and professional development expert Robyn R. Jackson.
Never Underestimate Your Teachers offers school leaders a new model for understanding great teaching as a combination of skill and will, and it's the first book of its kind to support leaders as they facilitate teacher growth in both areas through differentiated leadership. Jackson shows readers how to design and deliver targeted professional development to help each teacher realize his or her potential and achieve great results for the benefit of every student. Read the full press release.
New ASCD Common Core Academy Supports School Leadership Teams Across the United States—ASCD is bringing its inaugural ASCD Common Core Leadership Team Academy to Chicago August 5–8, 2013. This intensive four-day professional leadership experience offers groups of administrators, teacher leaders, and nonprofit and higher education partners an accelerated plan for putting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into routine practice. Read the full press release.
ASCD Summer Reading List Identifies 10 Books That Can Transform Teaching and Learning—In the spirit of promoting year-round professional development, ASCD has assembled a diverse list of books essential to educators who seek to improve their practice over the summer months. These books—organized by how they help educators transform teaching and learning—offer readers the opportunity to dive deep into the hottest topics in education, including using data to focus improvement, project-based learning, child development, and neurodiversity. All books are currently available in paperback and e-book formats. Read the full press release.
Arkansas Governor Beebe Signs Education Reform Law Supporting the Whole Child—Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe has signed a new bill into law that promotes a well-rounded whole child approach to educating the state’s children.“An Act to Establish the Whole Child– Whole Community Recognition Program; and for Other Purposes” (Senate Bill 1051[PDF]) outlines a plan for the Arkansas education system that ensures Arkansas students receive a whole child education. Read the full press release.
New ASCD Staff Expand Association’s Ability to Design, Deliver, and Evaluate Professional Development Resources—ASCD welcomes three new staff members to the association’s Program Development Work Group. Dr. Andrea Muse has accepted the position of director of research and program evaluation, Jen Thompson will serve as director of program management and process improvement, and Elizabeth Thurman has joined ASCD as director of customer engagement and product support. The additions of Muse, Thompson, and Thurman expand ASCD’s capability to design, deliver, and evaluate the crucial professional development resources today’s educators need to learn, teach, and lead. Read the full press release.
What is the most important factor that contributes to student success? Teaching.
I recently participated in what might possibly be a one-time experience for an educator, an education conference in Las Vegas. Of course that probably doesn’t hold true for Nevada educators. Solution Tree Publishing sponsored the Leadership Now Conference in Vegas. It was a Quality event with high visibility speakers keynoted the event.
The speakers at the event were Solution Tree authors and each was a leading expert in their area of expertise. They were also all affiliated with the Marzano/DuFour group. This was a big showing of the PLC at Work institute. For the most part I happen to be a believer in most of what they preach, so I was quite happy with the topics presented.
Of course the backbone of most of what was discussed was the idea of collaborative learning communities within individual school districts. I love the idea and I believe in the concept that collaboratively we all benefit more in learning and teaching. I do find the idea of stopping that collaboration at the district level somewhat limiting however. We need global networks of collaboration. We should not stop at the borders of our own school district or just the network of a group of paying participants of some larger group. Collaboration through social media is free and global. We need to explore and use it to our best advantage as educators and as students.
The First keynotes by Robert Marzano and Richard DuFour lasted an hour and a half each. They were lectures with text-ladened slides to keep the audience (learners) on track while laying out the research and philosophy of the grand plan. There was a printed and bound compiled text of the presentations along with worksheets for the learners. I actually weighed it. It was THREE pounds.
The highlight for me was the keynote by Sir Ken Robinson. He did a keynote that covered many aspects of several of his TED Talk videos. Although I heard much of it before, it meant more live, presented in sir Ken’s unique blend of humor, irony and common sense. This was a vast improvement over the last time I saw him at ISTE with a disastrous panel presentation after what seemed like a ten-minute keynote. In contrast to that, Sir Ken’s Solution Tree retrospective presentation was one to remember.
The workshops following the keynotes were again 90-minute lectures with text-ladened slides that corresponded to the three-pound, bound, text workbook. The material covered in the workshops was essential. The research seemed sound. It was all a common sense approach to the complicated problem of education reform. Each workshop was a clear presentation of how we might best approach what we are doing now in education with what we might be doing even better.
I only wish that they applied the same amount of time, research, and development to their methods of teaching and presentation as they applied to their subject material. First rule of PowerPoint: Don’t read from text-ladened slides to the audience, even if it is from a book written by you, the presenter. To do such a presentation differently is not going to be an easy task and it will probably take several iterations of a presentation to eliminate so much text from slides, but it will help the learners or should I say audience. Although there is a certain element of entertainment in education presentations they are designed to inform and teach. That means the seats are filled with learners and not audience members.
The workshop leaders of the workshops that I attended were wonderful, knowledgeable, and experienced educators. Leaders included: Rebecca DuFour, Tammy Heflebower, Timothy Kanold, Anthony Muhammad, Phil Warrick, and Kenneth Williams. The workshops that were most striking and helpful to me however, were the workshops of Anthony Muhammad. He dealt with changing the culture of the school in order to affect any meaningful change in the structure of the school. I found him to be a shinning star in a room full of stars. He was dynamic, engaging, and most of all gave out meaningful ideas to deal with the real changes for education reform with the most “elephant in the room” problems. He later gave a rousing, closing keynote.
The low point for me anyway came when they had the panel discussion at the end of the sessions of the second day. It was not very well attended by the participants of the conference. The panel was made up of the key members of the Marzano group. Of course the lead panel members gave the longest answers. It was the questioning of the panel that struck me to be rather archaic in our world of technology. The audience was asked to write questions on a piece of paper that would be picked up and delivered to the moderator. There was no microphone stand for open questioning. There was no hashtag back channel screen. The moderator was not monitoring an iPad for questions. I guess this was made difficult because there was also no Internet service for the conference, which should be a mainstay of any education conference.
Criticisms aside, I found this to be a very informative conference. I wish it could have been live streamed to the many connected educators who were following the conference hashtag over the three days. I think the Marzano approach to collaboration and addressing the whole system in order to affect change is a sensible and sound approach. I would simply love to see an updated methodology in their approach.
What do you do when Graduate School loands and Fellowships only cover have of your expenses and you need structure too much to wait another 2-3 months about scholarships?
I tried Crowdfunding. It's actually kind of like a social experiment. I learned so much making this project funding page.
Please read it, I'm very interested to hear what people think.
Help fund my grad degree so I can help others! I'm about begin a program in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University in NYC, but I need support.
Many confuse chaos theory with complexity theory. Chaos theory is defined by nonlinear, chaotic systems, homogeneous in nature, moving toward strange attractors which may very well describe dysfunctional organizational units within a complex system. Complexity theory seeks to understand heterogeneous complex adaptive systems moving toward one or more attractor patterns with the ability for “strong emergence” with radically novel results which describes the institution of education as a whole (Gilstrap, 2005).
Theory is meant to explain in order to gain understanding to the point of accurate predictability whereas the science of complexity serves as a “conceptual framework” or paradigm to analyze complex adaptive systems (Semetsky, 2006). Bloch (2005) says, “It is in the nature of each [complex adaptive entity] to adapt to its environment and internal state to maintain its life” (p. 195). Levin (2002) defines the properties of complex adaptive systems as diversity and individuality of components, localized interactions among those components, and an autonomous process that uses the outcomes of those interactions to select a subset of those components for replication or enhancement. Schools can only be complex if they are more than their ‘complicated’ parts. Structure is not enough since those components have to be in competition and cooperation with each other to have enough tension for the system to become emergent as appropriate components within the school are replicated and enhanced. Schools are just now beginning to embrace complexity since the past has been an effort to revolve and replicate the entire institution of education around a point attractor and wait for the next cycle to occur.
In Waldrop’s (1992) masterpiece, he defines complexity as:
A class of behaviors in which the components of the system never quite lock into place, yet never quite dissolve into turbulence, either. These are the systems that are both stable enough to store information, and yet evanescent enough to transmit it. These are the systems that can be organized to perform complex computations, to react to the world, to be spontaneous, adaptive, and alive (p. 293).
While Stacey’s (1996) following piece examining complexity in human organizations speculates
what the peculiarly human features do seem to add is potential complexity; they make the operation of human systems more complex and unpredictable rather than less so…the rate of information flow, the level of diversity in schemas, and the richness of connectivity among agents all remain as control parameters [with] further control parameters added…of power differentials and levels of anxiety containment (p. 114)
which move the organization along the complexity continuum and/or edge of chaos.
“Complexity arises because you have a great many of these simple components interacting simultaneously” (Waldrop, 1992, p. 86). Since broad features of complex adaptive systems are knowable (Levin, 2002), “the challenge for theorists…is to formulate universal laws that describe when and how such complexities emerge in nature” (Waldrop, 1992, p. 86). Understandings of complex organizations coalesce around relationships, especially in schools where the density of network connections determines the level of complexity (Bloch, 2005; Gilstrap, 2005).
A supersystem such as education has “a holographic or fractal aspect in which the parts interact continually to recreate the whole and the whole affects how the parts interact” (Stacey, 1996, p. 21). As smaller organizational units or fractals, which look similar to the overall organization, paradoxically enable and constrain each other through the layers of the organization, leaders have the opportunity to understand, through complexity science, the “dynamic, co-implicated…integrated levels—including the neurological, the experiential, the contextual/material, the social, the symbolic, the cultural, and the ecological—” of the school “rather than isolated phenomena” (Davis & Simmt, 2006, p. 296). Levin (2002, p. 16-17) asks “seductive” questions surrounding the study of complex adaptive systems that make their study relevant to educational leaders facing diminishing resources, increasing accountability, a hostile political environment, rigid school structures protected by reluctant staff and unions, growing concerns of equity and social justice, and absent family involvement:
The dominant metaparadigm currently views organizations predominantly in equilibrium with members acting rationally and cooperating. Outcomes are predictable in the long run within a regular and uniform world. A metaparadigm based on the science of complexity would understand effective organizations as far from equilibrium operating at the edge of chaos, but not quite falling into chaos. The organization could embrace the paradox of competition and self-organizing cooperation in the behavior of its agents. Actions into outcomes would be unpredictable except in the extremely short-term as “the links between actions and their long-term outcomes are lost in the complex interactions between various components of the system” (Stacey, 1996, p. 248).
An educational complexity metaparadigm would serve as a framework for understanding how school systems act as complex adaptive systems within local, national, and global ecosystems (Waldrop, 1992). Because complex adaptive systems have many parts cooperating and competing, interaction is too overwhelming to reflect on at once, so, paradoxically, educators use many lenses to focus on one or two aspects of a system while keeping in mind that all the systems and agents working together actually account for what is happing on local and global scales (Stacey, 1996). Educational complexity is the matrix of cultural, social, environmental, political, symbolic, economic, historical, and directional interactions and contexts of which any given school is comprised. A school would not exist in as richly a manner and be able to provide the degree of cognitive stimulation necessary for the development of future citizenry without the complexity existent in the public school system. If we were all white, middle-class males from the same geographic location of the U. S. and would never work outside the local school community, then maybe complexity would not be as big an issue; regardless, the brain is a complex learning system that grows by being challenged and making connections through complex problem-solving situations (Nasir & Hand, 2006).
Education is constantly barraged by new programs and new practices (Marzano et al., 2005). The recent trend of comprehensive school reform recognizes the complexity of the school system and attempts “to address all aspects of school effectiveness” (U.S. Department of Education, 1998, p. 21); however, through a lens of complexity, leadership recognizes resources “not as discrete items…but as inter-related variables that are a part of a comprehensive plan to impact student achievement in high-poverty schools. This is an important step beyond one-shot remedies or magic bullets” (Machtinger, 2007, p. 7). Marzano and colleagues(2005) agree with Fritz (1984) and Fullan (2001) that education is too complex for absolute truths or “once-and-for-all answers” (p. 67). DuFour and Eaker (1998) reiterate, “The interconnectedness of the elements affecting teaching and learning makes it impossible to attribute either improvements or problems to a single area” (p. 268). Leaders prepare for structural and pedagogical changes in school function as complex, difficult, and dependent on context while gauging multiple cores of successful practice within unstable environments (Marzano et al., 2005; Schechter & Tischler, 2007; Chenoweth, 2007).
Attention to sociocultural capital in High-Performing High-Poverty Schools (HP2S) helps teachers understand where marginalized students are coming from. Teachers who share a sociocultural identity with students in the school may increase achievement in marginalized students (Chu Clewell & Campbell, 2007). Regardless of the focus on AYP in reading and math, ultimately, education is “the process of cultural transmission” (Rury, 2005, p. 10). The cultural resources imparted to students become capital “when they function as a ‘social relation of power’ by becoming objects of struggle as valued resources” (Swartz, 1997, p. 43). Cultural capital has a positive effect on all educational outcomes (Dumais, 2005). Acting as a resource for social power is why sociocultural capital is hoarded from marginalized groups by the dominant class. The power connected to cultural capital is a valuable resource “intersect[ing] with all aspects of cultural life” (p. 286). Bourdieu’s studies into capital have led him to believe that schools act as the main gatekeepers to capital giving the dominant class access to status, privilege, and symbolic power. “Schools offer the primary institutional setting for the production, transmission, and accumulation of various forms of cultural capital” (Swartz, 1997, p. 189) making restriction to capital through education a likely abuse by the privileged who already control education policy and practice (Nesbit, 2006). Even some reformers intent on social justice follow the dominant class way of thinking, valuing the expertise of professionals and managers over the working class, which presumes that “knowledge deficits” in the working class may be overcome through greater effort to move closer to dominant ideology (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005).
A long-term view of student success by educators recognizes that students are not blank slates waiting to be filled, but “are the products of many years of complex interactions with their family of origin and cultural, social, political, and educational environments” (Kuh et al., 2007, p. 5). The combined SES of students in the school along with differences in sociocultural capital is an important factor in student performance. The resulting push for accountability has narrowed education’s view of what schools should be doing down to reading, math, and science (Henig et al., 1999; Kuh et al., 2007; Rury, 2005).
Schools are middle class institutions where teachers have high levels of middle class sociocultural capital and reward students who have it, but may consciously or subconsciously discriminate against students who do not. When teacher and student capital is congruent, the performance of marginalized students is more likely to benefit. Popular society and specialists transmit values about the best way to raise children which is generally followed by middle class society aligning them with the beliefs of educational institutions. Working class parents are slower to change child-rearing practices to dominant practice keeping them out of sync with the school’s perception of the ideal home environment influencing teacher perception of the child and the child’s home life (Dumais, 2005; Lareau, 2003; Nesbit, 2006; Chu Clewell & Campbell, 2007).
The test scores of marginalized students would currently be lower if schools had not already been making progress at reducing the disadvantages of family educational background and SES previous to the passage of NCLB (Henig et al., 1999). Educational leaders, principals in particular, use an understanding of “cultural, social, and the promise of economic capital” to bring competing groups and individuals together to find common goals and shift marginalized interests to the center by “mutual choice” (Watkins & Tisdell, 2006, p. 156). Schools tap into a sense of agency in communities to bring about mutual choice to move toward federal goals, otherwise mandates like NCLB will ultimately get nowhere (Cohen & Ball, 1999, p. 23). Different forms of capital, but sociocultural capital in particular, can operate as lenses principals use to view particular educational contexts. A lens of the middle-class, white norm limits a school’s responsiveness to cultural capital possessed by students (Machtinger, 2007; Swartz, 1997).
Learning capacity is equivalent to intellectual capital (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005). All forms of capital are resources “that can be drawn on for social advancement” (Rury, 2005, p. 13). Bourdieu, one of the world experts on capital, believes there are four basic types of capital: economic, cultural, social, and symbolic with economic capital being the most important form in the United States followed by cultural (Swartz, 1997). While school cannot provide students with economic capital, schools can help students develop the other types of capital. Incongruence between the amount and type of capital students possess and the forms of capital valued in the school community can cause problems for the student (Kennedy et al., 2006).
Cultural capital has been defined in numerous ways. Church (2005) quotes Nieto’s definition of culture as
the ever-changing values, traditions, social and political relationships, and worldview created, shared, and transformed by a group of people bound together by a combination of factors that include a common history, geographic location, language, social class, and religion…Culture is dynamic; multi-faceted; embedded in context, influenced by social, economic, and political factors; created and socially constructed; learned; and dialectical (p. 48).
Or in other words: highly complex. Cultural capital comes in an objectified form such as works of art, an embodied form based in an appreciation and understanding of objectified cultural capital, and institutionalized form found in educational credits and degrees. Cultural capital is a resource used to gain or maintain power and privilege. Based on the assumption that certain attitudes, behaviors, and values are more admired and rewarded in society than others, dominant forms of cultural capital give students who possess them an advantage over marginalized students (Dumais, 2005; Rury, 2005).
Cultural capital, within the school setting, is the embodiment of the previous experience and learning of a community of people and influences how students accumulate, exchange, and utilize resources they gain from the school. Culture can be verbal facility, general cultural awareness, aesthetic preferences, scientific knowledge, and educational credentials and becomes a power source. Objectified cultural capital such as books, art, scientific instruments, and other tools require cultural abilities to use which can impact student engagement and parent involvement (Cohen & Ball, 1999; Stacey, 1996; Swartz, 1997). Parent access to the educational setting is also mediated by their personal experiences with school and other education-related institutions. In theU.S., where the dominant culture is not as strong as in other countries, cultural capital benefits both students from privileged backgrounds and all students who possess it allowing for “cultural mobility”. As cultural capital is distributed unevenly by society, schools make important decisions based on capital they have or capital they are trying to get which can be attributed to school failure as opposed to the limitations of individuals (Dumais, 2005; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Nasir & Hand, 2006; Schaughency & Ervin, 2006).
Coleman expands cultural and human capital theories into social capital which is a “community-based support-system network” that is context specific and has the two common elements of social structures and facilitation of individual and group actions within those structures. Social capital is a network of individual human capital. This view seems too limiting to the richness of cultural capital as described by Bourdieu (Musial, 1999). Social capital is the benefit derived from social networks and organizations including relationships within family and community that generates trust and schema to increase the capacity for collaboration (Dumais, 2005; Farmer-Hinton & Adams, 2006; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Rury, 2005; Zacharakis & Flora, 2005). Agents in the form of individuals and class will “struggle for social distinction” in a form of self-organization (Swartz, 1997). In this light, capital seems destined to be reproduced as “the quality of education children receive is directly related in part to the ability of parents to generate social capital” (Noguera, 2004, p. 2155).
Obviously, the forms of cultural, social, human, and economic capital are often interrelated. Cultural capital intersects with social capital to give agents more influence. This intersection means agency cannot be separated from the social and cultural contexts within the global environment in which it occurs. While social capital can be a means to a desirable end, the dominant class will most often prevail as they possess more capital (Lattuca, 2002; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Watkins & Tisdell, 2006).
More simply, “culture can be thought of as a set of behavioral characteristics or traits that are typical of a social group” (Rury, 2005, p. 9). The social setting is an organization of networks between social positions where dominant and marginalized groups compete for control of resources. Capital is specific to setting and does not exist without it. The education system reproduces social inequity where the possession of cultural capital leads to academic success. The most valuable form of capital in school is cultural capital congruent with capital valued within that particular school’s social setting (Dumais, 2005).
Whereas the social-constructivist perspective makes a distinction between the individual cognitive activities and the environment in which the individual is present, the socio-cultural perspective regards the individual as being part of that environment. Accordingly, learning cannot be understood as a process that is solely in the mind of the learner…Knowledge, according to this perspective, is constructed in settings of joint activity…Learning is a process of participating in cultural practices, a process that structures and shapes cognitive activity (De Laat & Lally, 2003, p. 14).
Nasir and Hand (2006) explain this complex interaction of social and cultural capital within specific environments as proof that educators need to attend to fostering agency in students’ focus on local problems. The number of students bringing middle class capital with them to school is decreasing and the number of students bringing sociocultural capital from the lower classes is increasing. “As in any demographic switch, the prevailing rules and policies eventually give way to the group with the largest numbers” (Payne, 2001, p. 79).
Engrained dispositions from previous experience can sub- or un-consciously limit student success. Called “habitus”, these dispositions provide the opportunity to mitigate cultural predispositions by structuring school situations and interactions with positive models and diversity-oriented experiences (Kuh et al., 2007). However, the concept of habitus does not account for the complexity and variety of hopes and dreams of different groups. Humanity is too varied and complex to be perfectly categorized into any model, but habitus does give a vocabulary to talk about how dominant and marginalized groups may be socialized starting at a young age. “Habitus…privileges the basic idea that action is governed by a ‘practical sense’ of how to move in the social world. Culture is a practical tool used for getting along in the social world” (Swartz, 1997, p. 115). Habitus is a collection of cultural habits.
Field is the social setting organized around types and combinations of capital which habitus operates. Schools act as a field for the competitive investment, exchange, and accumulation of various forms of capital (Swartz, 1997). Struggling within a local environment, schools should reflect the shifting community field. “Education clearly affects the course of social development, and schools reflect the influence of their immediate social context” (Rury, 2005, p. 1).
Schools are viewed as vehicles for individual social and economic mobility. The education field itself provides mobility of cultural capital for low SES/marginalized groups and is often one of few examples children and community members have of mobility and opportunity. This perception itself may create the reproduction of limited mobility in marginalized groups. In truth, some schools value cultural knowledge while others are more forgiving (Dumais, 2005; Henig et al., 1999; Johnson et al., 2000).
Empowerment of marginalized communities is collective, not individual. In order to realize change in the face of limited resources, communities rely on social capital for strength and agency. For school communities, this means that improved engagement can have profound consequences in improving achievement, agency, and equality (Schutz, 2006). Communalism helps build and accrue capital, generates “positive emotional energy”, and “may enhance motivation and engagement” (Seiler & Elmesky, 2007, p. 393). The social capital web is comprised of household, neighborhood, and school (Musial, 1999). But “working class peoples’ indigenous learning capacities…have been denied, suppressed, degraded or diverted within most capitalist schooling” (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005, p. 111). Overcoming cultural and historical differences “concerns activity and access to tools and mediated learning” (Portes, 2005, p. 176). Literacy, numeracy, and student well-being are practiced fluidly and dynamically across boundaries in social contexts. These pathways between family and community “need to be understood in out-of-home learning communities so that pedagogies, including assessment practices and the pedagogy of relationships can address the complexities related to children’s different life chances and ways of learning” (Kennedy et al., 2006, p. 16).
“Biological models of deficiency [such as the Bell curve have been] replaced by cultural deficit models” (Nasir & Hand, 2006, p. 451). Private and charter schools can stick to a particular ideology that does not have to concern itself with discipline, ideology, and related social problems. These schools are successful because the students who attend them possess congruent sociocultural capital. The success of private and parochial schools suggests these schools acting as self-organizing units self-organize around the sociocultural capital available within and surround them as opposed to the capital they possess being superior (Bower, 2006; Portes, 2005; Walk, 1998). Capacity becomes a non-issue in middle class schools because the ingredients for success already reside in the boundaries and pathways established within the school community.
Do you ever wonder why history facts that students have learned are not remembered after they are taught? Why many recent graduates can’t make change when they work at McDonalds? Why so many students remember so little from their previous grade level and courses?
Powerful learning is purposeful, meaningful, and contextual to the learner! We are more likely to remember the times tables when we use it to find an area, or quickly figure out how much six of any one item will cost us. Addition and subtraction skills are more likely remembered when they frequently help us make and get change. Historical facts stay with us when they help us examine an issue in history and think about present day issues. Writing skills are less likely to atrophy if they help us communicate a powerful story or communicate a coherent and well thought out point of view that is acknowledged by others.
Unfortunately, much of the time math and writing skills and historical facts are learned without enough application, without context, or without personal meaning. Math skills are learned as repetitious algorithms, sometimes with 25 similar problems at a time. Writing is boiled down to the five-paragraph essay formula. Historical facts are memorized in order to do well on the multiple-choice test. So why would our students remember facts and be able to apply skills? Why would they become good writers and use their voice to create meaningful communication?
Standardized tests only compound the problem. Almost all standardized test questions are “decontextualized” through isolated multiple choice, matching, or fill-in-the-blank questions, short, artificial reading passages, decontextualized problems, and short essays that are mostly designed to see if students remember isolated facts or use low level thinking skills. Even tests of writing skills use artificial, formulaic rubrics to rate students on how well they did in their writing, sometimes scored by computers!
While there are some people who are good at remembering isolated facts and figures, for most of us information and data fade away unless we integrate and connect them to previous learning or figure out how to use them in meaningful ways. Only when we find some use for our learning, some purpose, and use what we learn frequently in different contexts do we store it in a place for ready recall. When this doesn’t happen, students are more likely to do poorly on tests that measure knowledge or apply skills that have been taught and supposedly learned over time.
What makes learning purposeful and contextual? My next door neighbor’s daughter, age 7, is constantly coming into our house with math mysteries -- giving us math problems to solve on the calculator. She loves to do that. She’s practicing her math skills on us! When my daughter was younger, she and a cousin would go around the house measuring the area of everything. The well-known math teacher, Kay Toliver, has created a series of materials and DVD’s that demonstrate her engaging teaching strategies, and in one of them she takes walks around the local school community with her students to discover how the math that she is teaching can be used to figure out the price of an item in a store, or to measure the area of a playground[i].
Unfortunately, much of today’s commercial curricula and curriculum standards are focused on covering too much knowledge and teaching too many skills learned in too short a period of time! In Philadelphia, where I live, the social studies curriculum standards are chock full of so much content, taught is such short periods of time, that it is virtually impossible to teach social studies with any meaning and purpose. Over the years, I’ve examined too many curriculum guides and standards, observed too many teachers, watched too much passivity among students, and read too many traditional tests that emphasize the learning of too many inconsequential facts, trivial skills, and/or global generalities. For some reason, in a world of search engines that enable us to find large amounts of knowledge instantaneously, many still think that the more knowledge students are taught, the more educated they are. We’ve got to come around to the idea that meaningful learning puts greater emphasis on asking good questions, learning how to inquire, focusing on a relatively few core ideas and powerful learning to learn skills, giving students something important to think about, applying learning to new and novel situations, communicating well, giving them a reason to learn something, and slowing down the learning process.
We as educators need to concentrate on and share ways to make learning more purposeful and meaningful for our students. We need to develop good reasons for students to learn what we think is important, put more learning in a larger context, help students make connections and develop networks of learning, and provide more opportunities to apply learning. Purpose and meaning can come in very different forms. Poetry or art education classes might include a discussion of the meaning of a poem or artwork, a comparison of poems or artwork from the same author or artist, and an opportunity for students to write their own poems or create their own artwork in the style of the author or artist. A history teacher might discuss what it was like to live in a different time and place and then explore the question: which time period would you rather live in? A statistics teacher might ask a group of students to create and conduct a survey, and then to tabulate reliable and valid survey data. Sometimes meaning and purpose is created simply by emphasizing the fun of solving mysteries and puzzles, of conducting a research project on something of interest, or of being hooked by a good story.
The current emphasis on “standards” and standardized tests that promote out of context learning, without connections, without motivation and engagement, and without meaningful inquiry is one of the most serious problem in education today. The emphasis in many high schools on taking Advanced Placement tests that include too much knowledge and not enough meaningful and purposeful activity only exacerbates the problem. In place of AP classes, high schools need to offer in-depth elective seminars on a variety of topics that broaden student’s critical and creative thinking and interests, promote discussion, and offer opportunities for research into questions of interest. We need to increase the emphasis at all levels on implementing performance tasks and research projects that help students apply learning and see connections to the outside world. And we need to offer more opportunities for students to interact with the world outside classrooms and schools.
There are ways to do this, and some are already available. Understanding by Design, published by ASCD, has at its core a planning process that promotes the development of unit based essential questions, big ideas that isolate critical knowledge and skills, performance tasks, and interactive, engaging instruction. Project and problem-based design models, such as the project design approach developed by Buck Institute (www.bie.org) also promote meaningful, purposeful learning. Curricula already exist that focus on clarity of purpose, relevance, depth, contextual and meaningful learning[ii].
Until teachers, schools and districts spend more time finding ways to make learning more purposeful, and to engage students in more meaningful learning, we will be teaching too much decontextualized information, ideas and skills that are hard to remember and limited in their usefulness. In a world of so much information and the technology that enables people to find information quickly, literally in the blink of an eye, some purposeless, sterile, decontextualized learning is bound to be part of the educational experience. But without a long-term focus on creating a more meaningful curriculum, too many educational experiences will be built around a traditional learning model that doesn’t provide enough children with purposeful, context driven, and motivating learning experiences.
Let’s hope that we all come to our senses soon and make meaning and purpose a much larger focus of educational planning and practical implementation in a 21st century world.
[i] For further information on her materials, search Kay Toliver or go to: http://www.fasenet.org/store/kay_toliver/#
[ii] For examples of purpose and meaning based curriculum materials, go to:
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Attending ASCD Annual Conference?
We hope to see you in Chicago this weekend at ASCD’s 2013 Annual Conference: Our Story, Our Time, Our Future. Here are a few tips as you head out for St. Patrick’s Day weekend:
Can’t make it to Chicago? Attend the ASCD Virtual Conference instead!
Join the ASCD Forum Conversation
For the first time, ASCD is hosting a forum to focus on a topic of importance to educators across the globe. Nations, states, and provinces all around the world are grappling with the issue of educator effectiveness. ASCD invites all educators to make their voices heard in an ongoing discussion of the question, “How do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” The current discussion theme (March 3-16) is:
Educator Evaluation Systems: What research and evidence support the validity of existing evaluation systems?
Upcoming themes include:
The ASCD Forum concludes April 12. We invite educators to join the conversation by blogging on the ASCD EDge®social network, commenting on other blog posts, taking a survey, and attending a live session at ASCD Annual Conference. Results from the ASCD Forum conversations will inform the ASCD Board of Directors’ position development process. To learn more about the ASCD Forum, join the ASCD Forum group on ASCD EDge or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newest Policy Points Highlights Teacher Evaluation
ASCD’s newest issue of Policy Points (PDF) spotlights the association’s original 50-state analysis of educator evaluation systems as outlined in states’ NCLB waiver applications and other resources; it features a series of maps for easy comparison of key evaluation system components across the states. The resource provides graphic depictions of the frequency of state teacher evaluations, the rating levels used by states to rate teacher performance, and the extent to which states use student learning data in teacher evaluations.
Save the Date! ASCD Whole Child Virtual Conference: Moving from Implementation to Sustainability to Culture
May 2–10, 2013
How can schools implement and sustain a whole child approach to education? ASCD invites you to participate in the free, online Whole Child Virtual Conference from May 2–10, 2013.
· Hear from renowned speakers, including Pasi Sahlberg, Michael Fullan, and Andy Hargreaves.
· Learn from educators, authors, and experts who have successfully implemented a whole child approach in schools around the world.
· Discover the steps taken by ASCD’s Vision in Action award-winning schools and Whole Child Network schools to implement comprehensive, sustainable school improvement and provide for long-term student success.
· Discuss how you can bring a whole child approach into your schools.
Twenty sessions will be broadcast live over five days, May 6–10, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern time, with additional sessions on May 2 and 3 for Australasian and European audiences.
No matter where your school falls on the whole child continuum, be it the early implementation stage or well beyond, the Whole Child Virtual Conference provides a forum and tools for school sites and districts that are working toward sustainability and changing school cultures to serve the whole child.
Register Now! Go to www.ascd.org/wcvirtualconference
Throughout March at wholechildeducation.org: Reducing Barriers and Expanding Opportunities
Addressing students' needs levels the playing field. Or rather, addressing students' needs is only leveling the playing field. If a child is hungry, then schools can address the need by providing breakfast, lunch, and assistance as needed. The same applies if the child is unwell. Many schools have made great strides in addressing students' needs, but some schools have gone further. They have taken an issue that was initially a need and used it to enhance and improve what the school offers.
Join us throughout March as we look at schools that have taken a deficit and turned it into an asset. Some schools have used connections formed into and across the community to enhance and build on what they first envisaged. Other schools are forming alliances to improve a specific situation and have then used those same alliances to improve the entire school. How has your school or community taken a challenge and turned it into a win?
We are taping this month’s Whole Child Podcast in front of a live audience at ASCD’s 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show, on Saturday, March 16, in Chicago, Ill. Joining hosts Sean Slade and Donna Snyder of ASCD’s Whole Child Programs team will be representatives from the winning school of the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award as they discuss this month's topic and what works in today's schools. The podcast will be available for download on Monday, March 18.
ASCD Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
New Jersey ASCD Featured in ASCD Inservice Blog Series
ASCD asked some of our affiliate leaders to tell us how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been going in their home states. In the fifth post of the series, New Jersey ASCD Executive Director Marie Adair writes about the challenges and successes that New Jersey has had with CCSS implementation.
Join the ASCD Forum Conversation
The ASCD Forum has begun, and you’re invited to be a part of it! Check out these ASCD EDge posts on teacher and principal effectiveness:
Use Emotional Intelligence as an Effectiveness Tool and Both Sides of the Scale by Professional Interest Community Facilitator Mamzelle Adolphine
The Road to Principalship and Beyond by 2012 Emerging Leader Dawn Imada Chan
Making Teacher Observation Matter by Virginia ASCD Executive Director Laurie McCullough
Conversation is also taking place in the ASCD Forum group on ASCD EDge, and the #ASCDForum hashtag on Twitter. You are also invited to join us for a live face-to-face session at Annual Conference that will also stream live via Virtual Conference. For more information, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
ASCD Leaders to Ignite ASCD Annual Conference
With the tagline “Enlighten us, but make it quick,” Ignite presentations are a fast-paced, breathtaking, and inspiring way to share stories. Each presentation is 20 slides long, and each slide automatically advances every 15 seconds; this format keeps the presentations moving quickly. The following ASCD leaders will present their Whole Child stories in Ignite session format at ASCD Conference on Saturday, March 16:
Please join us for an exciting Saturday afternoon session from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.!
Welcome to the new Common Core Professional Interest Community
We are pleased to announce the newest ASCD Professional Interest Community: Common Core in the Classroom facilitated by Suzy Brooks of Massachusetts ASCD! The group will share ideas and resources for implementing the Common Core State Standards in instruction. Please join the group on ASCD EDge.
Congratulations to Matthew Cotton
2012 ASCD Emerging Leader Matthew Cotton has been selected to serve as a reviewer for the music standards by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Matthew was identified from among hundreds of applicants and nominees nationwide as an expert in an area of music education who can contribute to this process. Congratulations to Matthew on this exciting achievement!
Check Out These Great Pieces by ASCD Leaders
Something to Talk About
"What was taken away from my children's education
in order to make them better at taking standardized tests?"
- Alfie Kohn (USA Today, 2001)
Parents send their children to kindergarten full of hope, dreams, creativity, and energy. Teachers don’t use the term “joy of learning” in kindergarten, because students are curious and naturally enjoy discovery at learning centers. Students smile and laugh in whole group, small group, and independent settings. School is a place to learn with friends and to explore how things work. In the third grade, most states begin administering high-stakes tests to students. This is when anxiety begins and students discover that “The Test” is the main thing.
Test Anxiety creates feelings of fear, hopelessness, depression, low self-esteem, and resentment. Some students are naturally anxious and they would develop Test Anxiety on their own. Parents, community members, teachers and administrators are the reason a majority of students develop Test Anxiety. This article will address ways that adults have created a fear of testing and what can be done to redirect the way we prepare for the annual high-stakes tests.
Test Prep Boot Camp
What comes to mind when you hear the term “Boot Camp?” I think of a drill sergeant yelling at the troops, push-ups, and training camp. It does not seem like something that would motivate an eight year old to increase performance. Some schools purchase camouflage t-shirts and the staff walk around in fatigues. There are companies which profit off the Boot Camp mentality by selling camouflage pencils, stickers, certificates, and t-shirts. The final two months of the spring are spent in drill and kill review sessions. While this approach may sound like something from a movie about education, it happens each spring in a school near you.
Test Pep Rally
As a fifth grade teacher, I remember leading our K-5 students in a Beat the Test Pep Rally. We had cheers, songs, and skits like a high school pep rally. At a high school pep rally, students cheer and work themselves into a frenzy as their team prepares to slay their archrival. One year, my students designed a banner to run through (i.e., Friday Night Football). While the Test Pep Rally sounds like a positive approach, it raises anxiety and sends a message to students that this is very important! Don’t let your team, your teachers, or your family down with a low test score.
Test Survival Kit
When I think of the term survival, I think of a hurricane, fire, snow storm, loss of power, poverty, and being stranded in the middle of Mt. Everest without any food. I struggle to see how a Test “Survival Kit” motivates students to do their best on the test. In some schools, the PTA or the teachers create survival kits with a ziploc bag, snacks, a pencil, candy, and a motivational quote or poem. The San Diego Unified School District has directions for creating a Test Survival Kit. What is the opposite of survival? Do we want students to “survive” a high-stakes test or do their best on any assessment that they face in life. Using terms like courage, perseverance, and success to prepare students for a test may be the reason so many students end up discouraged and feeling like a failure.
Test Prep Packets
In the spring, teachers across the U.S. begin making photocopies of sample test items and preparing students for the “big test.” Have you ever noticed how often the copy machine breaks in the spring? Teachers use test prep books, released items from other states, teacher created items, and district assessments to prepare students for the “big test.” As a parent, I have witnessed test prep packets that are over twenty pages long. Teachers tell students, “Don’t worry. We don’t have to complete the packet this week. We will spend the next two months working through the packet so you will rock the test!” In some schools, there is pressure from parents to provide test prep packets. If you are the only teacher not providing a test prep packet, some families may see you as a weak teacher. Test anxiety can be created by families.
Test Prep Strategies
It is sad to see how many days are spent teaching third grade students to completely bubble in the circle. Our students have Instagram, XBox 360, Skype, and iPhones. Do we really think they need more than one class period on filling in the circle? Test prep strategies include the process of elimination, reading for the main idea, using your scratch paper to solve problems, pacing yourself throughout the test, and searching for the ‘best answer.’ It is inappropriate to send students into a test unprepared. However, I believe most of these skills can be taught throughout the year, rather than during the final two weeks prior to the test. All students need to have access to test strategies.
‘Curricular Reductionism’ is another popular method of improving student test scores. Curricular Reductionism is a narrow focus on the tested subjects or exclusion of certain skills and concepts because they cannot be measured on a multiple-choice test. This frequently means that science, social studies, and the arts are taught bi-weekly, bi-monthly, or not at all in elementary and middle schools across the United States. This type of instruction does not support student understanding.
Parent Pep Talks
I have seen more harm from parent pep talks than any other form of test prep. Principals place pressure on teachers to perform and teachers place pressure on students. When parents receive survival kits, notes from their teacher, test prep packets, inspiring poems and breathing techniques, they receive the message.
Parents can create test anxiety by saying:
1. Are you ready for the test? You really need to do your best.
2. This test will impact the teachers you get next year.
3. You have never had a test this big. Please do your best.
4. Are you nervous; because mom is nervous?
5. I am going to pray for you, because this is a really big test.
Test anxiety is a plea for help. We claim to provide a safe learning environment for students. Safety should include mental health and the joy of learning.
The ASCD Whole Child tenants are:
When we review the key terms in a Whole Child school, they do not sound like Boot Camp, Pep Rally, Survival Kit, Test Prep Packets, Pep Talks, or Curricular Reductionism. If students are taking standards-based tests, then schools will be able to prepare students through unpacking the standards and teaching the key skills and concepts outlined in the standards. There seems to be hysteria each spring. Together, adults can support the Whole Child and we may be able to cure test anxiety.
In the long term, there is just one answer to the problem of school safety: More love. The short term solution, on the other hand, lies in the unhealthy mix of force, fear, guns, security, locks, and other devices meant to barricade our children from a small, but obviously lethal, subset of the population.
I’ll leave the short-term answers to parents and politicians. Instead, let’s support advances in education that take us closer to the ultimate goal of raising, nurturing, and educating children who feel psychologically safe. That, really, is the sole purpose of whole child education.
The formula is simple. Feeling safe is the central feature of feeling secure. Secure people do not feel afraid, except in the face of dire circumstances. In the absence of fear, positive emotions bloom. When positivity reigns, the brain responds by becoming more expansive, creative, and open to ideas. Emotions stabilize. The terrible effects of isolation, loneliness, depression, withdrawal, and other outcomes of emotional dysfunction disappear or are resolved. Many fewer people feel compelled to murder a child. Those who do receive compassionate help from a greatly enlarged safety net of understanding, emotionally mature adults.
The foundation for this transformation is love. However, I don’t mean a kind of greeting card, Valentine’s version of love, as in, “Oh, aren’t little children just the sweetest little souls? I just love all of them!” Rather, I suggest that it’s overdue to recognize the hard science informing us that care counts. It’s time, really, to get out of our own way by integrating the most recent evidence-based findings about positive emotional development into schools and make healthy emotional development the centerpiece of learning.
Until society is willing to turn that corner, unsafety will plague us. With that in mind, here’s my list of simple ideas for educators to embrace that reflect the science of the second decade of the 21st-century. These findings point us toward designing schools as havens of safety and seedbeds for stable individuals who can be beacons of love throughout society and the global village:
Emotions and thinking are not separate. The 200-year misconception that emotions and cognition are separate has been disproven. The brain is an integrated organ that processes thoughts and emotions simultaneously. In fact, positive emotions help power the frontal cortex. Rather than an academic downside, a greater focus on the emotional health of young people will result in better performance, particularly in areas like 21st century skills and critical thinking. See Barbara Frederickson’s book on Positivity for the evidence.
The brain changes with the culture. There is no greater story at the moment that brain plasticity. Neurons change every millisecond, and the neural pathways work as fast as they can (and they’re fast) to adapt to new surroundings and the incoming culture. Everything about schools should be reviewed in this light. What messages do the hallways and the classrooms send to the brain? What is the atmosphere and climate of the school? Is nurturing the norm or the exception?
Let go of the brain. Now for the flip side. Not everything occurs from the neck up. Recent science shows intricate connections between the heart, gut, and the brain. Fear registers in the heart before the brain, and then communicates via the vagal nerves. The body acts as a sensory organ for safety—and the brain follow the lead. More fear equals less activity in the prefrontal cortex, the favorite part of the brain for any teacher (that’s where attention and learning take place.) In other words, holism is a reality, not a wish.
Emotions and physiology are one conversation. When you see a child in emotional distress, that means the child’s body is not working optimally. For example, stress is an over-mobilization of the natural resources of the body (too many hormones, at abnormal levels, and a high octane sympathetic nervous response.) The good news is that by calming the physiology of the body, we also alter emotional states.
Emotions are good, not bad. Research into positive emotions is shaping up as the next big advance in science. The old model of emotions, focused solely on survival mode, is a legacy from the caveman days. We’ve evolved; now science has confirmed that humans who generate and experience emotions such as contentment, joy, inspiration, and love respond by becoming more fulfilled, higher achieving people.
Relationships change emotional states. The connections between us and others alter emotional states. The mind, in fact, is not just within us any longer; it’s somewhere in that space between us, as Daniel Siegel in Mindsight shows us. The constant interplay takes place subconsciously, either through mirror neurons in the brain or energetic exchange. Regardless of the mechanism, it’s now clear that humans communicate in real time, at all times, on an emotional level. Every message from teachers, conveyed through facial expression, body language, words, or hidden assumption, carries weight.
Stress and challenge differ. Love does not preclude challenge, meaning you can still test children to figure out what they’ve learned. But it does tell us that removing the unnecessary stress of learning is a good thing. Constant testing invokes stress; a few meaningful exams pitched as a way to understand the gaps in your knowledge stirs up challenge. Here’s one clue to the difference: Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing the armpits to perspire and one set of muscles in the face to contort; challenge brings a blended response of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems—and a genuine smile.
Mindfulness works. Whether you choose mindfulness, meditation, or heart-focused breathing, they all work. Each dissolves stress and liberates a calm, safe feeling that leads to positive health and better learning. It would be interesting to see the results on high stakes testing if every school day in America began with a five-minute meditation!
Love, compassion, and gratitude make you smarter. Some of the most powerful research recently shows the impact of gratitude on brain function and physiology in the body. Love calms, and the simple, yet profound, act of appreciation seems to have forceful consequences. As we move forward in schools and society, it is the job of adults to create a world in which children have ample reason to feel appreciative. If that happens, we’ll all feel safe.
Thom Markham is a psychologist and author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for inquiry and innovation for K-12 educators, and the forthcoming book, Redefining Smart: The return of the heart. Download Tools for PBL on his website, www.thommarkham.com or contact him at email@example.com.
In an article titled Five Characteristics of Highly Productive Logistics and Operations Teams, the author wrote “For those with jobs in logistics or transportation jobs, productivity is a word we’ve all heard too often.” High performing logistics and operations teams have determined ways to increase efficiency, communication, and the quality of service to customers. In the same way, educators have started to operate as a Professional Learning Community. According to Mike Schmoker, productivity “starts with a group of teachers who meet regularly as a team to identify essential and valued student learning, develop common formative assessments, analyze current levels of achievement, set achievement goals, share strategies, and then create lessons to improve upon those levels” (Schmoker, 2005, p. xii). It’s Logistics.
In a video titled Logistics: It’s Only A to B, Right? it is evident that world class logistics require a clear set of steps to happen “in a very choreographed manner.” Are schools intentional about their work or do they still allow each teacher to operate as a freelance contractor? “Schooling at its best reflects a purposeful arrangement of parts and details, organized with deliberate intention, for achieving the kinds of learning we seek." (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007). It’s Logistics.
I am struck by the following quote – “The school leaders who embrace, design and implement customer-driven systems will be the ones who thrive in the future” (Toothman, 2004). What does a customer-driven system look like in the field of education? Rick DuFour (2011) answered this question: “Schools committed to higher levels of learning for both students and adults will not be content with the fact that a structure is in place to ensure that educators meet on a regular basis. They will recognize that the question, ‘What will we collaborate about,” is so vital that it cannot be left to the discretion of each team’” (p. 61). It’s Logistics.
Your elementary school may not ship packages across the globe on a daily basis. You may not unpack shipments when they arrive, but you should unpack standards. When you move students from middle school to high school, you won’t have an airline, eighteen wheeler, train, or moving van. The logistics that you deal with are people and those people will eventually impact the world. As a Professional Learning Community ask the nine questions that guide the work of a high performing team (Solution Tree Reproducible). Consider your school a Regional Distribution Center. The packages are passing through, but you have an important role to play! In logistics, employees try to eliminate lost profits. In education, the goal is to increase the number of students who graduate college and career ready and eliminate the number of dropouts. It’s logistics.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
I became a principal in a rather untraditional way. In the retirement of our school’s long standing co-principals, two other colleagues and I decide to apply as a leadership team. We had advanced degrees in education, but neither of us had formal administrative experience, although we had plenty of leadership roles in our professional work. My principal preparation was on the job and mentor supported. I am currently in the process of taking further coursework which combines educational leadership theory and practice, particularly through an additional leadership practicum at a local school. Having the opportunity to connect my work so far with this theory has provided me with further opportunity for reflection on my role and skills as a leader. The practicum has been a wonderful opportunity to also see how other schools are meeting the every day challenges we share as administrators.
In having this varied set of experiences, I offer some considerations for administration training and continued support throughout an administrator’s journey.
Investing in effective training AND providing continued support to administrators are key to a school’s success. Our classrooms highlight future leadership potential, now it remains the responsibility of the educational community on all levels to foster and sustain these leaders.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
I have recently been reading Sustainable Leadership by Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink. They note that there are three challenges to creating change. Change must first be desirable, then doable. The most challenging aspect of change is making it durable and sustainable (Hargreaves and Fink, 2006, p.2). These components came to mind as I was reflecting on the role of effective teacher preparation programs. (I humbly note that I do not have a background in developing teacher education programs, this merely reflects my personal experiences and observations in the field as an educator.)
Educators are individuals who have chosen this field because of their desire to positively impact students’ lives. In choosing to be a part of this extremely challenging and rewarding profession, the desire component of change is easily fulfilled.
Making change doable is the role of educator preparation programs. It provides prospective teachers with the necessary foundation for their chosen practice. Two considerations are:
How are effective preparation programs structured?
An educator preparation program must have practicing teachers, especially in curriculum development and pedagogy courses. Although I currently reside in Canada, I received my teacher preparation in the United States. I was very fortunate to have professors who were also currently practicing in local elementary or secondary schools. Prospective teachers need practice putting the theory into action. My professors had practical and relevant classroom experiences to share with me. They were able to help me dissect and reflect on my practice because they too were doing so with their own classrooms.
Integrate teachers into the classroom right away. The program I was a part of did this, much earlier than many other institutions at the time. In the first year, we participated in observations of various classrooms, which then moved to assisting the teacher in classroom duties. In years two and three, we then created a lesson to present within our supervising teacher’s unit, then constructed and implemented an entire unit of our own. We also were assigned to work with one struggling student in our supervising teacher’s class for an extended period of time.
Give prospective educators the space to understand the work is about students, not just your content area of interest. In my early years as a prospective science teacher, I was so nervous about creating the perfect lesson plan and making sure I understood my material perfectly. I had not yet understood how to effectively address the socio-emotional needs of my students. My assignment to work with a struggling student forever changed my interactions with future students. In that time, I learned how this student’s struggles at home impacted her ability to focus in school—it was no wonder that she could have cared less about labs and demonstrations. Over our time together, we devised a plan and met regularly. I carefully modified my work in response. In the end, she was able to both increase her grade significantly, improve her overall attendance and we had forged a stronger teacher-student relationship. Most importantly, she taught me the importance of taking the time to slow down, listen, be flexible and understand how to truly connect with students.
What other voices and experiences should prospective teachers be exposed to?
Give educators the opportunity to spend more time in the classroom than “required.” In my fourth year, I participated in the standard teacher practicum that is the norm in many schools. The education department at our university had close ties with the local school board and would inform us of upcoming teaching training opportunities. In my last two years, I opted to apply and participate in an optional two-year internship that this school board offered. This required me to be in the classroom for additional hours beyond my teacher education classes. Having this additional time in the classroom provided me with opportunities to learn from other practicing teachers, participate in the life of a school, receive feedback and refine my practices. It gave me a much clearer sense of what my life as a future teacher would look like.
Teachers must understand and learn how to integrate social justice issues into their work. Later in my educational career, I had the opportunity to work in a school that focused on social justice education. It was evident in the mission, diversity in the faculty and staff, as well as the culture we tried to create. The voices and experiences of our students were reflected in everything from the curriculum and teaching practices, to what hung on the school walls. I became a better educator through this experience. In our global society, our success as educators is dependent upon our ability as educators to reach, influence and engage ALL students. Prospective educators must feel comfortable speaking and responding to issues of equity and diversity. Thoughtful integration of social justice issues into one’s curriculum takes practice to ensure that they are addressed appropriately and in an inclusive manner. Therefore, preparation programs across the board must help foster a strong foundation by integrating this within course requirements, not merely making it an add-on component.
Encourage experienced teachers to continue to grow throughout their educational careers. Finally, what about the sustainability of learning in our profession? My practice as a teacher changed and further developed when I decided to leave the United States and move to Canada. In doing so, I was challenged to learn a new curriculum and had to adapt my programming, while also exploring new classroom practices. I have always been the type of person that is eager to learn new things and reflect on my work, but a complete change in school systems forced me to become a “new teacher” again and learn valuable lessons to reinvent my practice. Obviously it is not viable for individuals to move to different schools to seek this type of growth. However, I do see the value of new experiences in that they can positively disrupt and shape us to grow even further.
So it leads me to question: Who is responsible for that work? Providers of Teacher Preparation Programs? School Districts? Administrators? Teachers? All of us? The growing use of PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) is an essential piece of this growth, but these are largely driven by individual educator efforts on one’s own time. I am currently pondering how we can invest in teacher leadership programming. I am not referring to administration programs for those who are looking to becoming a principal, vice-principal or curriculum/department leads, though such teacher leadership programming could certainly include similar topic areas.
My rationale is this: If we believe that creating change in our schools is based on the work of effective leaders, then we must consider that leaders must be present at all levels of our schools. We must invest in the leadership capacity of all educators, not just those in the traditional leadership roles. The question again is what does this effective programming look like and who is responsible? The answers are critical to sustaining a culture of leadership and learning in our schools.
Hargreaves, A. & Fink, D. (2006). Sustainable Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
by Terry Heick, TeachThought.com
The Education Technology of 2013
Moore’s Law says that computer processing power doubles roughly every two years.
In the 1970s, processing speeds ranged from 740 KHz to 8 MHz. The Commodore 64, one of the best-selling personal computers of all-time, was delivered to the world in the Spring of 1982. It featured 64 bits of memory and an 8-bit powerhouse whose processing speed would have wowed the world years before Clear Pepsi even had a chance to fail.
The Nintendo 64 was released in Japan in June 1996. It featured a 64 bit processing system (and 4 MB of RDRAM), and a processing speed of closer to 100 MHz. The 14 year gap between the two commercial products would suggest huge, exponential growth. 1 MHz in 1982 should be 2 MHz in 1984, 4 in 1986, and 8 in 1988. In 1990 this number jumps to 16, 32 in 1992, and 64 MHz in 1994. 1996? 128 MHz, which fits the mathematical expectation almost perfectly.
While the above is an oversimplification, the point is that up until now, Moore’s law has proven mostly correct.
Technology in the Classroom
Obviously there is not a direct shot from cutting edge technology to the classroom. This sort of path is obscured by cultural, economic, and societal factors, not to mention the way certain trends in public education sap attention and resources. A school district focused on improving test performance may find it difficult to innovate the way smartphones can be used in learning. Finite resources—chiefly time—means less time for new ideas.
So where does this leave education—not just in 2020, but in the near-future. To get to 2020, we have to get there first.
So what might you expect to see in 2013? Processing speed can be expected to increase somewhere around 50% in the next 12 months, but the landscape of education technology will see a different kind of change—new twists on existing trends, and new tools to help dissolve existing barriers to learning.
While it’s tempting to paint a Utopian picture of students manipulating holograms to solve global challenges, the reality will be a lot closer to what 2012 looked like, but with a few key progressions you just might find exciting.
1. Better Blending
Blended learning is a mix of eLearning and face-to-face learning.
It’s also symbolic of the way education is forced to change. Being tied to government agencies, institutional policies, and a dated public image, fast, substantive changes—to pure eLearning environments, for example—simply aren’t possible. However, this also can act as a kind of built-in self-protective measure. In public education, nothing happens fast.
But what can happen in 2013 is better blending. The “flipped classroom” is the most visible example of blended learning, and as more teachers hop on-board this kind of approach, there will naturally be variations—and sharing of those variations through social media. The blending will become smarter: better content, better technology, and better sharing.
The screen capture software that’s used.
The organization of content on YouTube or vimeo channels.
The sharing of existing content from educators via Learnist.
More natural collaboration between learners at home using the blended approach.
2. More Apps
Few of these trends are certain, but this is one you can take to the bank—there will be more apps. Lots more.
And with more apps comes more content, connectivity, and access to collaborators. Not only does this mean new apps, like the “A Novel Idea” gem that helps writers organize fiction writing, but also improvement of existing apps like Evernote, which continues to add functionality like voice recording, smoother image embedding, webpage clipping, and even convergence with Skitch.
And Posterous, which allows for easy sharing of photos with groups.
And better games and simulations like “The Sims 3.”
Apps are little “episodes” of software that are limited only by the imagination of the programmer, and the hardware its hosted by. With high-res still cameras, GPS, Wi-Fi, gyrometers, HD video capability, retina displays, and other gizmos, the potential is very bright indeed.
3. Smarter mobility
The first-generation of technology integration in modern classrooms involved film—movies, television, and cameras. Application here was almost entirely passive, as students did more observation than creation.
The second-generation was built around the personal computer—most from Macintosh and Apple. Application here opened things up a bit for the students, but the work has changed enough to match the new technology. Book reports have been moved to word processors, and research has been moved—for better or for worse—from libraries to search engines.
The third-generation will be built around mobility. This was a process that began with laptops—which are technically mobile—and iPod adoption. Now tablets are making the next leap, laden with powerful apps and hand-held utility. iPods, iPads, and even products from Google and Microsoft are taking advantage of improved Wi-Fi access to at least allow for some degree of mobility within a school.
4. Non-Apple Devices
Speaking of products from Google and Microsoft, enter the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, Chromebooks, and Windows Tablet PC. In 2013, you’ll begin to see non-Apple products creep back into classrooms. While the iPad is great, the cost is not cheap. Pure eReaders from Kindle can be had for $69, and the Nook Simple Touch seen for as little as $49. Add to this the Android-powered Kindle Fire—an eReader and app machine combined–which can be had for $199, and you’ve got some powerful arguments for #edtech.
Fresh data as to exactly what kind of technology teachers are using in the classroom isn’t easy to track down, but products from Apple have dominated the wish-lists of educators since the wunder-tablet entered the market in April 2010. This is a trend that will likely continue for the near future, but has a chance to be interrupted if Android and Windows app developers can pursue their respective hardware with the same gusto they have the iPad.
At the end of the day, it’s about the apps.
5. Lower Clouds
Consistent mobility requires a smart cloud, and in 2013 you will likely see app developers and school districts alike figure out ways to improve how they leverage the mythical “cloud”—a cloud that should prove just a bit lower for a broader base of users.
Some school districts have moved their email from dedicated servers to Gmail, and are naturally using native Google apps like Google Docs (now called GDrive), Google Calendars, and YouTube to produce, share, and curate digital thinking. As the tempting seductress of “free” sings her siren song in an era of diminishing school budgets, more and more districts will take a long, hard look at how and why they use productivity suites and email servers. This means a move to the cloud.
Concerns of liability, security, and logistics continue to logjam the process, but it is likely only a matter of time until the core of student learning exists—to one degree or another—not on the district “H Drive,” but the cloud itself.
Things (usually) change not through fiery revolution, but incremental change.
Every now and again there is a giant leap forward, but for the most part Moore’s law holds true. Marked, consistent change in processing power enables faster hardware—and more bells and whistles for micro-industries like education.
Blended learning is already happening, but in 2013 it should get incrementally better.
Mobile learning is already possible, but in 2013 it should be a little bit smarter—and accessible to more and more students as logistics improve and costs fall.
The clouds will lower themselves just so in 2013, allowing more educators to understand how it can be used, and more students to use it to improve their own learning.
Because of the requirements of No Child Left Behind and the current emphasis on implementing the Common Core standards, reading and math are given priority time and attention in many, if not most public schools and Districts. Due to these circumstances, there is relatively little priority given to teaching and learning science. We frequently read in the media about the importance of science in today’s 21st century world, yet there is little emphasis on creating comprehensive, high quality science programs at all levels, pre-school through high school. It is rare to find coherent, active learning, inquiry based science programs at the pre-school and primary grade levels. Many teachers at the elementary level indicate that they have limited time to include science activities in the curriculum. High quality science programs emphasize active learning through inquiry strategies, investigation, hypothesis testing, experimentation, and science projects, but in too many middle and high school science classes, the key science program ingredients are the use of textbooks as the primary science resource, coverage driven teaching and learning, and traditional multiple-choice, short essay tests. Other priorities, time limitations, lack of attention, fragmentation, a traditional coverage based focus – all conspire to reduce the effectiveness and excellence of science programs in most schools and Districts.
Here are one dozen reasons why we must counter these trends and find ways to implement high quality science teaching and learning for all our children at all educational levels:
1. Science is interesting, important, meaningful, and motivating.
Science questions provoke interest in the mysteries and wonders of the natural world. Students learn to think about important questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? How does life exist? Why do things grow? Learning science provides students with an understanding of its massive contributions to everyday living and the comforts of life. Science programs provide an important avenue for helping students to develop a passion for inquiry and a better understanding of the world around us.
2. Science career opportunities will be important in the future.
High quality science education experiences develop scientific talents and interests. Good science programs interest, motivate and encourage students to prepare to work in the growing science-related professions, as scientists, health care professionals, technicians, and other science-related fields.
3. Science promotes democratic thinking and values.
Science teaches children to be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking in order to resolve problems. Conflicts in science are resolved peacefully through discussion, argument, further investigation and the collection of evidence. Scientists learn to “disagree without being disagreeable”. Thoughtful criticism is the norm, not the exception. The expectation is that, as Einstein once said, “critical comments should be taken in a friendly spirit”.
4. Science builds positive lifelong learning habits, behaviors and attitudes.
Good science programs emphasize the value of inquiry, encourage curiosity, and reward persistence and patience. Students learn to focus on science as a series of mysteries. They learn how to develop and explore interesting questions. They learn to solve problems and answer questions by taking small steps, being persistent, having patience, and overcoming adversity. They learn that finding “truth” is often messy and inconclusive. Students learn that successful achievement and learning often require trial and error, making mistakes, even failure. In other words, science teaches habits, behaviors and attitudes that support self-directed, autonomous, lifelong learning.
5. Science enhances creativity and imagination, tolerance for and adaptation to change
High quality science programs encourage students to ask “what if…?”. Students learn to explore open-ended questions, to consider alternatives that are “outside the box”, to invent and test creative solutions, and to try to solve problems in different and unusual ways. Science teaches students that change and adaptation is part of the nature of learning and growing by testing new ideas and adapting to changing circumstances.
6. Science teaches that knowledge is “tentative” and that knowledge, theory and explanation are all part of the learning process.
Too many students come away from school thinking that that knowledge is fixed and immutable (especially if it comes from a textbook) – that there is always a right answer. A study of Galileo’s or Einstein’s discoveries help students to see that what once was thought to be “correct” turned out to be wrong, that scientific knowledge needs to be tested, studies need replication, and theory is only an empty idea until there is data to support and explain it. Good science programs teach students that knowledge is frequently tentative and changing.
7. Science develops critical intellectual skills.
Science fosters the development of critical thinking skills that carry over to learning other subjects and daily living. Through science, children learn to carefully observe (What do you see happening to this plant as it grows?) interpret and hypothesize (Why do you think this is happening?) conduct experiments (How can we prove it?), see different perspectives and points of view (What are different points of view about why this happened?) analyze (What are its component parts?) synthesize (How does this all fit together into a pattern? What are the connections and relationships?) and draw conclusions (What are our results? Conclusions? Why?) Students learn how to create an argument with supporting evidence to justify a point of view, to question opinions that have little backing to support them.
8. Science builds reading and “learning to learn” skills.
Good science programs build strong reading skills! As students investigate physical forces, chemical reactions, biological growth, or the solar system, they also learn how to read a variety of science resources, understand new concepts, build vocabulary and background knowledge, and learn the language of science and science inquiry. The investigation skills they learn – defining problems and challenges, searching for and processing information, thinking critically and creatively, drawing conclusions and applying learning, and communicating with others and explaining results - are a significant part of the “learning to learn” skills they will need for college and future careers.
9. Science helps students to learn and apply mathematical thinking.
Math is the language of science. As students learn science, they learn that mathematics is an important tool to help solve real problems and questions. Measurement, number manipulation, and proportional thinking are critical tools of science. As students “do” science, they learn how to collect and analyze data, form patterns, develop spatial and geometric relationships, and apply many of the higher level and complex math systems to scientific problem solving.
10. Science enriches learning in other subjects.
All subject areas benefit when a student understands science concepts and ideas. For example, science concepts are helpful for understanding historical forces, technological and social changes over time, and current issues and concerns such as global warming. Science problems can be used to help students understand and apply statistical analysis. The arts are integrated into science through graphic designs and drawings that complement learning about scientific and technological principles and innovations and provide visual demonstrations of learning. Science concepts are intertwined with understanding healthy living habits and good nutrition.
11. Science develops teamwork skills.
Through science, children learn how to work together to investigate, test hypotheses, interpret data, and draw conclusions. As they work together, they learn to understand and tolerate difference and diversity. They learn how teamwork contributes to significant learning. Science can also contribute to making schools safer and more peaceful by teaching students how to work together and resolve conflicts.
12. Scientific understanding is critical for good citizenship in a 21st century world.
An understanding of science, science concepts, how science arrives at results, and science research is critical if students are to become intelligent citizens in a democratic society. An understanding of today’s complex issues, concerns, challenges and problems require an understanding of scientific principles, concepts and ideas. Global warming is the most obvious, but others include what to do about atomic waste, how to get clean water, agriculture and food issues, health and illness, hurricane damage prevention, energy issues, automation and robotics.
High quality, inquiry based science programs motivate children and provide them with intellectual skills and positive attitudes and values that help them to succeed in school and in life. Science learning raises and examines critical questions and promotes understanding about the natural and physical world, and provides students with inquiry and investigation skills that will encourage a lifetime of learning. They increase interest in a subject that is of considerable importance to the development of highly educated citizens who understand critical issues for the future and to student preparation for well-paying science-related careers. Good science programs help students learn to work together and to learn methods that help them resolve conflicts peacefully.
Teachers, Boards of Education, superintendents, principals, the community at large, and governments at all levels – all need to make a commitment to support and develop high quality science programs at all levels, including pre-school. There are many ways to do this – for example, to widely share and discuss these dozen reasons on why it is critical to develop strong science programs, to adopt high quality science curricula at all levels[i], to develop teachers’ science knowledge and skills, to train teachers on how to incorporate high quality science experiences into their classrooms, to involve local science organizations in promoting and fostering high quality programs, to apply for funds to implement and support high quality science programs at all levels, and, ultimately, to develop competent science educators in every school and at all levels.
Every child should have the opportunity to participate in a strong, coherent science program. It should be priority for a 21st century world education. Science education can have a powerful impact on children and learning, and it can make a significant difference in the lives of children. What it takes is understanding, commitment, dedication, passion, persistence, and hard work over time.
[i] Curricular programs that meet the high quality test include active, kit based elementary science programs such as FOSS (http://lhsfoss.org), secondary programs such as Active Physics (http://its-about-time.com/htmls/ap.html), and the adoption of teaching methods that promote active learning and support science understanding, such as those created by Eric Mazur at Harvard University (http://mazur.harvard.edu/education/educationmenu.php).
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, former Professor of Education at Temple University, and former Director, Curriculum/Instruction Services for the Bucks County Intermediate Unit. If you are interested in examining additional ways to improve teaching, learning, and curriculum in order to help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, go to his website at: www.era3learning.org
Originally posted on the Middle Web website: http://www.middleweb.com/5545/digital-tools-for-the-common-core/
In the next few weeks, Janet Hale and I will have our new book out through ASCD, Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students. We will very soon be launching a new ASCD Edge Group and Discussion Board around the book to discuss improvements in instructional practice and design as well as collect the awesome ideas of all the educators that would like to engage in a dynamic multi-media conversation!
In the book, we discuss different lenses and considerations through which you can view your current curriculum for a particular upgrade. This blog post is honing in on two, technology integration and Common Core alignment. The Common Core alignment is in relation to two reading anchor standards, number one that asks students to read closely, and number ten, that asks that students read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts. For the technology lens, I’ve been playing with a few new web tools and wanted to share some ideas for task-focused instruction.
Additionally, when I refer to “upgrades,” I’m speaking of a two-pronged approach, looking both for learning AND engagement. Effective instruction comes from a balance of these two considerations and while I know they can be somewhat subjective, I am, in general, looking for more student-centered opportunities than teacher-led “to-do” lists.
Just a reminder, it’s the task that matters, not the tool. However, I think it’s important to build a repertoire of tools so that you and your students can choose the right one for the task.
So, in light of adding tools to your toolboxes and doing so with specific Common Core ideas, I’d like to share three new tools that I’ve come across recently as well as some ideas for engaging these tools for curriculum upgrades.
Smore allows a user to create flyers with embedded color schemes, fonts, and templates. I used it initially to create handouts for a workshop I was doing and quickly figured out that I needed to prioritize my information so that the message I was sending would fit on one printed page. I created a Smore flyer for this blog post around Text Complexity, specifically considering Reader and Task, from the Common Core document.
Here’s the example.
I liked this tool for several reasons and see several opportunities for specific tasks/upgrades using this tool. For one, if students are visualizing their learning using something like this, it promotes eye-catching design. Brain based instructional strategies work because they are different, creating “mental glue” to help the brain retain information. Visuals stick better than text and using a tool like Smore will help students own their learning. Also, if students are writing about text, specifically after “close reading,” this might be a good tool to use for emphasizing important comprehension points or prioritizing the information they may potentially share. In fact, how awesome would it be for students, perhaps in pairs, to prioritize different pieces of the puzzle, with some focusing on text structure, some on vocabulary, some on connections to other texts, some on text based conclusions, etc. This could help establish new audiences, purposes, and tasks as students make their own choices and ultimately help teach each other! (With sideline coaching from the teacher, rather than direct instruction.)
Like Smore, Piktochart is a visualization tool. However, it’s specific purpose is to help the user create an infographic. Infographics are visualizations of information or data. There’s a really cool Flickr Group that collects educational infographics that you should check out! Piktochart lets your students create these awesome visualizations. I think infographics are where it’s at right now in education. Being able to think critically about data and draw conclusions from learning moments students participate in is vital. It’s also an opportunity to explore integrating subjects such as math into other content areas. The Piktochart I created is about Close Reading and Text Dependent Questions, both of which are represented in the instructional shifts related to the Common Core in ELA. I will say that the one I created is text heavy, as I was just trying out the tool, but it excites me to think what kids could do with this. I found the interface and dashboard easy to use and navigate and I went from complete novice to finished product in about 45 minutes. Ease of use is high up on my list when it comes to web tools, and this one is as easy as they come! Here’s the example I created:
The last tool I want to add to your toolboxes today is Yapp. I’ve been using Yapp for several months now and it became the basis for one of the technology upgrades that Janet and I advocate for in the new book. Yapp is a tool that let’s you easily create your own App for a digital device. I’ve used it to create Apps for events such as conferences, to collect information for a local library, and most recently, I created an App that lets me share all of my resources for Text Complexity based on a LiveBinder I created back in November. You can access the App by navigating, through your internet browser, to the following address on your digital device:
Note that you may need to install YappBox onto your device if you have any trouble with the link itself.
In the book, Janet and I talk about Learning and Engagement around students creating apps. There are certainly a number of ways to go about this, but Yapp is a good starting point. Right now in classrooms, teachers are clamoring to find apps for the devices they use. This translates, a lot of times, into teacher-selected, tool-based learning scenarios rather than student-centered, task-based scenarios. Now that we’ve had some “play time” and are past the first decade of the 21st Century, it’s time we shift the focus, the thinking, and the work back to the students. If students are CREATING, and making authentic choices about what to include in an app and how to share and amplify it, then they are working at the highest levels of Bloom’s and absolutely owning the learning.
So, to recap, adding tools to your toolbox is important, even though the goal is to work toward task-based opportunities. Learning and engagement are important and must be considered together for effective learning. Also, there are several lenses through which we can explore potential upgrades to the work we are currently doing.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring more of these lenses with blog posts as we lead up to the launch of the book in early March. If any readers would like to join Janet and I in Chicago at the ASCD conference, we’ll be exploring what it means to Upgrade Your Curriculum in person! You can also use the Twitter Hashtag #UpgradeYC to interact online right now!
Cure for the Common Core - eBook available now from Amazon
Mike on Twitter:@fisher1000
Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students - coming in Feb. 2013 from ASCD
Confidence, as an educator, is something that is not a skill to be taught. It is not a method to be memorized. It is an attitude. It is a state of mind. It is also elusive to many educators. How do we foster confidence? How do we enable educators to be confident in their profession?
To answer the question of confidence, I rely on my understanding of what I know of my own struggles with confidence. I am only confident in areas that I have a proven knowledge of the subject. I think most people are like that. If one has an understanding of any given subject, then it is easy to speak out on it. Teachers are confident in their subject areas because they have been well versed in the specifics of their subject.
Of course there are exceptions. I find many English teachers are lacking confidence in the area of grammar for instance. Since they lack confidence, they are less likely to emphasize grammar in their teaching, causing their students to be less than confident in grammar as well. And so, the cycle begins. Consequently, we have great number of people hesitant about putting their thoughts in print, fearful of ridicule for grammatical errors. Spelling is another area where many lack confidence. Thank God for spellcheck, but that is not grammatical, and a whole other story.
I imagine that every subject area has some aspects that teachers lack the confidence to teach well. This lack the confidence may prevent them from delving deeply into it with their students.
I think the same principles may apply to education as a subject as well. Some teachers may lack confidence as educators to delve deeply into their own profession. That not only has a negative effect on what they need to be doing for success in the classroom of today, but it retards the possibility of innovation in education all together. Educators lacking confidence in what they are doing will never venture beyond that which they know. Well, that doesn’t bode well for the paradigm shift for which we have all been waiting.
Knowledge is the key to confidence for me. I would like to think that is universal. It would then stand to reason that with knowledge comes confidence. As educators we come equipped with knowledge of our profession from our teacher preparation courses. We are equipped with knowledge about our subject areas from our academic courses. As we began our careers we were confident in our knowledge but we lacked confidence in our experience. Time enabled that experience confidence to secure itself.
As time goes on change begins to become more and more evident. The very things that we were confident about before may be different today. The knowledge that we had may no longer be applicable for today. Methods that we confidently depended on may no longer apply to a culture that has changed by time. While time is an ally of experience, it is the enemy of relevance.
Technology may provide a fix for educators if they are willing to invest some time and effort for the sake of their profession. Some schools have a supportive culture with supportive staff and supportive administrators and progressive, ongoing professional development, and unlimited funding for the latest advances in technological tools for learning. If you are not in one of those schools however, you need to connect with people who can offer some element of that support. With that connection, you will be exposed to the knowledge in any area needed that will provide the confidence to move forward. The number of connected educators available today offers a virtual cornucopia of knowledge in almost any subject imaginable to those who are connected. The number of connected educators far outnumbers the educators in your building, district, state, or region of the country. Connected educators are a global connection. Connected educators without the impediments of time or space may access boundless sources.
Now here is the Rub. Too many educators lack the confidence to try getting connected because they lack the knowledge about how to do it. Some will need to be led by those with confidence to take them there. This requires leaders to be confident. How many school districts have administrators, who are the leaders, confident and knowledgeable to lead their schools to connectedness? Maybe teachers need to take the lead here. The Internet does not recognize titles. As we must do with English teachers and grammar, we need to break this cycle. Leaders need to overcome their lack of confidence in the area of technology to lead educators to connect. Teachers may need to step up to lead administrators to connectedness.
If we can get our educators communicating, collaborating, and creating collectively, we will increase our knowledge about our profession. We will become more relevant in a technology-driven culture. We will be more confident in the face of mounting opposition driven by business and politics. All of this is possible as we individualize or personalize our learning with Professional Learning Networks. How do we enable educators to be confident in their profession? It all begins with a tweet.
American educators are big advocates for the "Workshop Model." Elementary schools throughout the United States begin each morning with Reader's Workshop and Writer's Workshop. Math Workshop is starting to become more prevalent, since the workshop model makes sense and seems to support student understanding. With a required number of minutes for each workshop model, social studies has been squeezed out of the curriculum in many elementary schools. As I have recently observed the benefits of the workshop model, I have reflected on what the "Social Studies Workshop" would look like in a K-12 classroom.
Possibilities for Social Studies Workshop:
One of my favorite resources for Social Studies Workshop involves reading, writing, analyzing, drawing conclusions, and communication. K-12 Social Studies teachers need to take adavantage of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Document Analysis Worksheets. OMG! Worksheets? I know, I dropped the 'W' word. You may cringe at the term worksheet. These interactive forms will help students develop the critical thinking skills that they need as they continue to advance through school and become an informed citizen. These are the skills that I use when I visit a museum, attend a Broadway play, read the news on an app, review a tweet about a political issue, compare three news reports, process what my co-workers heard on NPR, try to make sense of a current event, or make an informed decision.
The Social Studies Workshop has a place in every K-12 classroom. The skills that are learned in a high-quality social studies classroom can shape how a student views the world. We still need critical thinkers, problem solvers, communicators, researchers, collaborators, elected officials, community leaders, digital citizens, and change leaders. Social Studies deserves a place in the curriculum and adults should push for more social studies throughout the K-12 experience. You can call it workshop or you can call it preparation for life. This is not your social studies classroom, where you memorized key dates, events, leaders, and major rivers. This is the social studies classroom that students need. Consider what you would add to my list. What would a Social Studies Workshop look like at your grade level? What are the benefits of a Social Studies Workshop, modeled after a Reader's and Writer's Workshop?