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Following President George Washington’s death in 1799, his February 22 birthday became a perennial day of remembrance. To help you pay tribute to this national holiday, we’d like to share a few of our favorite Presidents’ Day resources.
We thought it was about time to dispel one of the most common Washington myths out there: that he had wooden teeth.
Stop by Retronaut and you’ll actually find a photo of the dentures Dr. John Greenwood created for Washington. Contrary to common misconceptions, our first president’s false teeth were not made out of wood, but hippopotamus ivory, gold and brass.
While you’re browsing Retronaut, be sure to check out photos of Washington’s life mask.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Our homes say a lot about our tastes, our socio-economic status, our accomplishments and personalities. Taking a virtual field trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate is an excellent way for us to gain insight into the personality of one of our nation’s most iconic figures.
Discover George Washington: An Interactive Timeline
In addition to the timeline of major events in Washington’s life, you’ll also find photos of his personal belongings including his harpsichord, toothbrush, and even a bust depicting what he would have looked like at age 19. This bust was created by a team of scientists who worked backwards from laser measurements of Washington’s life mask and a sculptured bust, both done when he was 52.
The Portrait: An Interactive
The Lansdowne portrait—named after the Marquis of Lansdowne, an English supporter of American independence and the owner of the painting—is probably one of the most famous images of George Washington in existence.
Thanks to the Smithsonian, you can explore this portrait in detail, from three very different vantage points: the symbolic, the biographic, and the artistic.
Each filter highlights an element in the portrait and provides unique information and a distinct interpretation.
While you’re at the Smithsonian’s site, check out the Patriot Papers, a collection of puzzles, quizzes and fun historical features to learn about the life and times of George Washington.
The Papers of George Washington
Here you’ll find a collection of letters written to Washington as well as letters and documents written by him. Currently there are over 135,000 documents in the project’s collection. As you browse, take note that you can customize your search by subjects including colonial life, early American culture, Washington’s friends, Mount Vernon, Native Americans, and more.
There are a number of ancient misnomers about teaching, but today we’d like to take on four of the most common myths about the profession.
My students are resistant
Sure, some students resist, a few my act like they couldn’t care less, but often those we label “resistant” are simply unsure of our expectations.
For example, when we ask students to “try harder to pay attention in class,” we think we’re issuing a straightforward request. But as Robyn Jackson reminds us in her book, How to Motivate Reluctant Learners, this request is vague, lacks specific instructions and does not give the student a clear picture of what we expect from him or her.
Instead of asking students to try harder to pay attention, say something like this: “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”
Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.
Teachers shouldn’t smile until Christmas
This is one of the most ubiquitous teaching myths. Although we disagree with this adage, we see the line of reasoning: “It’s better to be feared,” as Machiavelli says in The Prince, “than it is to be loved.” Rule by fear may be appropriate for a dictator-prince, but we’ve never believed dictator-princes to be very effective teachers.
Most students begin the school year enthusiastically: they are quiet, attentive and respectful. From the outset, students need to know that they can trust us; they also need a reason to invest in the journey they’re about to embark upon. If you want them to set sail with you, make the first day—and every day thereafter—a celebration. Smiling doesn’t make you a pushover.
Teachers have to be the smartest person in the room
Give yourself permission to be human and admit it when you make mistakes or don’t know the answer. Students respect teachers who admit their mistakes and take steps to correct them. Why? Because it lets them know that the classroom is a safe place—a space where both students and teacher are free to make blunders, take risks and learn from them.
Students don’t read anymore
It’s funny how many of our students vehemently claim that they don’t like reading. Teachers reinforce this fallacy when they echo their students’ claims.
Students read. In fact, they read all the time. Ask your students if they text. Ask them if they update their Facebook account or read and write comments on their friends’ walls. Do they send email? Do they read magazines, comic books or celebrity gossip blogs? You bet they do.
Like it or not, if we want to nurture a love of reading in our students, we must acknowledge that these are legitimate forms of reading. Believe and reinforce this.
Photo credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis
In the last few weeks, I’ve published three blog posts dispelling some of the myths surrounding the Common Core Standards and their implementation around our country.
My first thought this morning was to share them individually over Twitter and Facebook but I thought multiple tweets and status updates would overly saturate the stream. I decided it would be a better idea to collect the blog posts here in one container post. What follows are just the tip of the iceberg of conversations we should be having about the Race To The Top implementation for the sake of doing what is best for children as well as preparing them to be successful in life.
The first post, entitled The Problem is Not The Standards, details the minutiae around the standards that many folks are concerned with, though the standards themselves are almost always NOT the target of the conversation.
The second post, entitled An Alternate Take on the Close Reading Standard, discusses the emphasis on Close Reading in the standards rather than opportunities for metacognition and students providing evidence for thinking what they are thinking.
The third and most recent post, The 70 / 30 Delusion, explores the oft-overlooked page 5 of the ELA Common Core Standards dealing with the balance between literary and informational text.
I write often about the Common Core standards and I hope that readers understand that I am writing from an authentic place that matters to many teachers’ professional practice. I see a lot of different versions of the way that Common Core standards are implemented nationwide and I think that teachers are to be valued for adding their professional experiences and expertise to that implementation. What we’ve all learned about instruction and children should not be displaced by what vendors say is important. All of these new resources add to the menu of instructional options but shouldn’t become a verbatim checklist of what we must “cover.”
Stay tuned, more to come on this topic! I hope to see many of you reading this at the ASCD Conference in L.A. in March!
Follow Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000
This is the third in a series of blog posts dispelling some of the myths surrounding the Common Core Standards implementation. The first blog post in the series can be accessed here at ASCD EDge dealing with standards not being the root of our educational issues and the second post is at Smartblogs on Education detailing what’s really going on with the close reading of text.
In classrooms across the country, informational text is becoming a more integral part of everyday instruction. ELA teachers are using informational text to support their literary texts and in some cases, the literary texts are being deleted from the curriculum in favor of using only informational text.
The rationale behind this major shift to increasing amounts of informational texts is largely coming from a seemingly innocuous table on page 5 of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. I would encourage you to leave this page either during or after your initial read through of the blog post and read that page for yourself. Closely read it. Read it with a pencil in hand. Annotate it. I’ll be referencing it.
Of the instructional shifts in English Language Arts that inform the Common Core Standards, shifts one and two deal with information text, shift one as a balanced component of English Language Arts and shift two with Content Knowledge in grades 6-12.
There is a need for more informational texts, I believe, but there’s been a misinterpretation of how much informational text should be in the ELA classroom and where the breadth of responsibility lies.
Let’s dissect Page 5.
This document begins with a table that represents the distribution of literary and informational texts in grades 4, 8, and 12 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP Exam). Those representations are 50/50, 45/55, and 30/70 respectively.
The first sentence after the chart states that the “standards aim to align instruction with this framework.” The rest of the first paragraph details the types of informational text and literary nonfiction that would help get the balance in place. There’s also a sentence that states, “a great deal of of informational reading in grades 6-12 must take place in other classes.” That’s other classes besides the ELA class.
The rest of the page deals with the distribution of writing types and the lessening of narrative writing as students progress through grade levels and how integration of standards through rich tasks are better than a separate focus on any individual standard.
The problem here comes when a surface skimming by teachers and administrators create and support some commonly held “misconceptions” that I see in multiple districts around the country. These “misconceptions” include:
70% of all text in every grade level must be informational.
If 70% of text should be informational, then we should do better, let’s go for 100% informational text and delete the literary.
Sometimes I see the flip side, that 70% of all text should be literary.
ELA teachers are solely responsible for this shift.
That is not what’s going on here. And we haven’t even dealt with the footnotes on this page yet.
Footnote number 1 states that “70 percent of student reading across the grade should be informational.” (This is specific to 12th grade, by the way.) The important words here are “across the grade.” Meaning that this percentage of informational text is not the sole responsibility of the ELA teacher.
What’s really going on here:
Every teacher’s identity should be shifting to that of a teacher of reading.
70% is a 12th grade intention.
70% is a 12th grade intention across multiple content areas, not just ELA.
ELA should NOT be deleting literary texts from the curriculum.
ELA teachers should be enhancing comprehension of literary text with supporting informational texts. (This is not a specific piece of evidence from page 5, just a general comment based on my knowledge of the standards and the PARCC content frameworks.)
Bottom Line: Every teacher in every school is responsible for the percentages detailed on Page 5, but with the understanding that they are based on the NAEP assessment and only a framework for instruction, not a specific set of instructional rules. The compartmentalization of who learns what where is not necessarilary a benefit to overall learning. We should be looking to integrate and overlap and connect. We should read closely the documents that are directing our instructional decisions. If we expect children to do it, then adults in the classroom should model it.
Every teacher is a teacher of reading.
All teachers are responsible for these instructional shifts.
If we reduce or delete the literary texts, then we reduce or delete engagement with reading. We definitely don’t want to do that.
Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000
How do you know when one of your students is struggling academically? Is it a particular look that they give you (or is it an avoidance of eye contact altogehter)? Could it be a certain behavior (or misbehavior)? In trying to understand the indicators a little better, I found a few blogs helpful. Paul Cancellieri conceptualized the student struggle as a cry for a second chance. Similarly, Jim Dillon described the struggle as students becoming stuck in a "fixed mindset" that limited their ability to compete with their peers. I believe that it is terribly difficult to define exactly what a struggling student looks like (it could be based on effort, expectation, disability, etc.), but nonetheless, educators are required to face and support struggling students everyday in the classroom. So, with all the different conceptualizations and characterizations of struggling students, the intervention waters become muddy. How can we best assist our students that are in academic need? to help begin the conversation, I have created a short list of myths that may get in the way of understanding and thus supporting struggling students:
1. Educators must rely on research to assist struggling students.
At first glance, this sounds like a probable strategy. The problem is in how we view and apply the research. For instance, the research that teachers are supplied may be misrepresented (the effectiveness of the classroom intervention may be exxagerated or minimized). Similarly, the research may be misunderstood in terms of expected student response or specific intervention implementation guidelines (Duke & Martin, 2011). The problematic nature of applying research is common (it is often referred to as the research to practice gap) and thus as educators we have to be cautious as to how we interpret or use research findings in our classroom.
2. Any support for struggling students is better than no support.
As educators, we are helpers. When we see a student struggling, we automatically respond. Because teachers wear so many hats, we often delegate tasks and reach out to paraprofessionals, parents, or even student tutors to assist struggling students. The problem becomes the type of help that the students receive. There is evidence that students gain more academically when help comes from an expert (a person trained, certified, experience in content area etc.) instead of a lay person (Slavin, Lake, Davis, & Madden, 2011).
3. Grade-level work should be the goal for typical developing students that are struggling.
As educators we want the world for our students and sometimes we push too hard. In order to keep students engaged, the level of the work should match their ability level. When the assignments breed a high success rate, the student is more likely to participate, comprehend the material, and get frustrated less often (Allington, 2013).
4. Struggling students should follow the mantra "practice makes perfect".
Of course students must practice, but what deserves attention is the type of practice. If a student practices with math problems all day but uses the incorrect formula, they are practicing/focusing on the wrong material. In addition, the practice must take into consideration the student's ability (please refer to #3 above). In short, the practice must be focused and ability-based in order for it to be effective for the student.
5. Struggling students simply do not want to do the work.
Attitude is important, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Brain and biology play a part as well. Scientist have revealed that the brain develops at a different rate and a different degree for boys and girls (Gurian & Henley, 2001). These brain differences are reflected in classroom behavior (boys are more prone to movement and girls are more likely to express emotion). In addition, practices and philosophies outside of the classroom impact student effort (parents, neighborhood, access to educational materials etc.).
I know that I am guilty of believing in these myths, do any of them sound familiar to you? Are there other myths that need to be added to the list? Please continue the conversation in the comments below.
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.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Shutdown 101 for Educators
The first federal government shutdown in 17 years did not lead to immediate consequences for most schools and districts, but as each day goes by it becomes more problematic for the nation’s educators and students. See the ASCD policy team’s key takeaways and behind-the-scenes details on what the shutdown means for schools by reading our special edition of Capitol Connection and our ASCD Inservice blog post. They cover everything from how health and nutrition services for children and families are being affected to the long-term repercussions of the shutdown. And, for ongoing coverage, read your weekly issues of Capitol Connection!
ASCD to Host 23 Common Core Implementation Institutes November 2013 to February 2014
Starting in November, ASCD is holding institutes across the United States to help guide educators in implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The one- and two-day institutes will be held in nine U.S. cities and are focused on Mathematics; English Language Arts and Literacy; Formative Assessment; Leading the Change to CCSS; and Common Core and the Understanding by Design Framework. View the full institute schedule on ascd.org.
New Whole Child Publication
The Korean Educational Development Institute’s KEDI Journal of Educational Policy publishes scholarly articles and reports on research that makes significantcontributions to the understanding and practice of educational policy on an international level. This month's special issue, “Promoting Students’ Social-Emotional and Character Development and Prevent Bullying,” includes an article written by ASCD’s Sean Slade, director of whole child programs, and David Griffith, director of public policy. The article, titled “A Whole Child Approach to Student Success” (pp. 21–35), describes the whole child approach to education and its global education policy recommendations.
Integrating Health and Social Programs Within Education Systems
In August 2013, ASCD and the International School Health Network began work on a new draft statement, titled “Integrating Health and Social Programs Within Education Systems,” at a global school health symposium held in Pattaya, Thailand. The two organizations would like to encourage readers to review and comment on the draft, which was developed to explain how health and social programs can be integrated more effectively within education systems.
Leaders in Action:News from the ASCD Leader Community
ASCD Welcomes the Competency-Based Education Professional Interest Community
ASCD invites you to join our newest Professional Interest Community, facilitated by ASCD Emerging Leader Jason Ellingson. The Competency-Based Education group is a place to share your ideas and connect with one another.
2012 Emerging Leaders Will Use Pilot Grant Funds to Benefit Students through 2013–14 School Year
This year for the first time, ASCD accepted grant applications from 2012 emerging leaders. The grant program, now in its pilot phase, is designed to give emerging leaders the opportunity explore new and innovative ways to support the success of each learner.
This year’s grant fund recipients are Jessica Bohn, Krista Rundell, Fred Ende, and Amy Murphy. Jessica and Krista are working independently; Fred and Amy are working as a team.
ASCD would like to thank all the emerging leaders who participated in the grant application process as we continue to learn and improve the program over time.
ASCD Leader Voices
Common Core Myths & Facts
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and are preparing to fully implement them—including administering tests based on the standards—in the 2014–15 school year. But rumors and myths about the standards have run rampant, causing confusion among educators, policymakers, and the public. The latest ASCD Policy Points (PDF)clarifies what the CCSS are and are not and tackles these myths head-on.
Read the issue for straightforward facts and explanations that help combat common misperceptions about the federal government’s involvement in the standards, the cost of their implementation, the role of local schools and districts, concerns about student privacy, and more. We hope this Policy Points provides you with useful information about the CCSS that you can share with your local communities to help dispel confusion, counter opposition, and establish yourself as a trusted resource on the standards. If you have any questions, contact the ASCD policy team at email@example.com.
Throughout October at wholechildeducation.org: Early Childhood Education
What does “education” mean for our youngest learners? The first years of school are as important for an educated population as any other period, perhaps more. Research shows that implementation of high-quality preschool programs can be beneficial for the lifelong development of children in low-income families and that an upfront commitment to early education provides returns to society that are many times more valuable than the original investment.
With the current focus on standards and academic achievement, is learning and testing coming too early? Curriculum and assessment should be based on the best knowledge of theory and research about how children develop and learn with attention given to individual children’s needs and interests in a group in relation to program goals. Young children have different social, cognitive, and emotional needs than older children and early childhood is where they begin to build skills and behaviors such as persistence, empathy, collaboration, and problem solving.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on the importance of early childhood education with ASCD’s Walter McKenzie, authors Thomas Armstrong and Wendy Ostroff, the New America Foundation’s Laura Bornfreund, and ASCD Emerging Leader Jennifer Orr. Throughout the month, read the Whole Child Blogand tell us what has worked in your school and with your students. E-mail us and share resources, research, and examples.
Something to Talk About
In an earlier post I mentioned that teachers are increasingly having students work in groups or with a partner. Within these groupings students are required to “turn and talk,” “work with their group” or “share their thinking.” Furthermore, students are asked to “share out” their thinking to the larger group who in turn will either validate or challenge their thinking through the teacher’s skillful prompting. Thankfully, we all do this. It is a very good strategy on multiple levels. I have been realizing, however, that while teachers are increasingly asking students to do these things, they have devoted the same amount of time (close to none) to teaching students the social skills to do what they are asking—engage in academic discussion.
On the surface it seems simple. Easy even. Students simply have to share what they think about a certain teacher-directed question with someone sitting within earshot. No big deal, right? It‘s not like they have to give a long speech or share something deeply personal. Wrong. It is a big deal. At least it is a lot bigger deal than we act like it is. Not only is the concept of a discussion difficult for students, their inability to effectively engage in discussions is detrimental to their learning. In essence, some teachers are just wasting time by implementing a valuable strategy that students do not fully understand and cannot carry out effectively. This is partially due to student misconceptions about discussions.
1) A discussion is when we all share what we want to, if we want to. First, many kids don’t’ understand the concept of a discussion. From my experience, it seems as though some students think a discussion simply involves voicing your own thoughts, regardless of what was said by the people that spoke before you. Furthermore, participation is voluntary.
2) If you know the answer then I don’t have to talk. In a group of people the dominant voice usually speaks first and is often times assumed to be correct. This is simply human nature and kids are especially susceptible to this false notion. Students who require more time to think about things or are confused about the topic are especially comforted by this myth and use it to support their idleness. Not having a confident comment or not wanting to appear “stupid”, they erroneously think they have no part in the discussion and tune out.
3) If I use an idea you shared I am “copying” you. Unfortunately, the mindset of most kids is that if they hear something from a peer that resonates with them, they better not share it or else they will be labeled a “copier.” Copying is a grave offense in a kid’s mind and it can make an immediate and almost permanent scar on a kid’s school life.
4) If I disagree with you I am “mean”: Disagreements are fundamental to academic discussions, yet they are often not aired due to fear of being perceived as mean. Similarly, many students do not want to share their thoughts because they fear the same “meanness” pointed their way.
Assuming students really do operate under these myths, the question is: What do we as teachers do about it?
1) Teach kids about discussions. If kids don’t understand discussions, we must teach them, plain and simple. This is especially relevant when considering the decline of the family dinner (a time usually spent discussing a single topic such as a current event in the news or within the family), because school might be their only chance to learn this important skill. Teaching tip: Model and diagram a discussion as a web for students to see the flow of participation and the inclusion of all participants centered on a common topic.
2) Teach kids to become active participants in discussions: First of all, we all think about things at different rates. Those that require less thinking time to formulate an idea or opinion should not have the right to rob those that require more time of the same opportunity. Second, me must let kids know that being confused is part of the learning process. In addition, we must teach them to express their confusion with a certain level of specificity. Teaching tip: Honor all students by giving them ample time to think but also respect “quick thinkers” by giving them an extension thinking point. Help students express their confusion by giving them sentence starters like: I understand ___________ but I am confused about ___________.
3) Teach kids to give credit for other’s ideas. We must help kids realize that agreeing with someone’s thinking and adopting their point of view or idea is part of learning. In fact, the whole reason we have our students talk to each other is to learn from each. We must, however, teach kids to give credit to the originator of the thought they adopted so their peers do not view them negatively. Teaching tip: Help students by giving them sentence starters like: ______(name)______ shared with me that ___________.
4) Teach kids to disagree respectfully: Disagreements are fundamental to academic discussions and are often signals that learning is truly happening. Therefore, we must teach kids to embrace disagreements (both giving and receiving) by doing so respectfully. Teaching tip: Help students by giving them sentence starters like: I agree with you about ____________ but I disagree with you about ____________ because ______________.
In all of this, maintaining trust between teacher and student is paramount. Some students are apprehensive about discussions due to past experiences in which their peers looked down upon them as a result of their comments during a discussion. A lot of times, however, we as teachers add to student apprehension even though we might not realize it. Here is an example that plays itself out in my class more often than I would like to admit. Perhaps it will sound familiar. Even though I tell students time and time again that being confused is a part of learning and that I will honor their confusion when they express it . . . it happens. Responding to a raised hand, the student honestly and confidently divulges, “I’m confused.” Suddenly, all that talk about “honoring confusion” flies out the window and I hear myself say, “I told you three times. Were you even listening?” Just like with anything else, our actions speak louder than our words. In this case, confusion isn’t honored; it is punished. Once that trust is broken it is nearly impossible to it earn back. That student will disengage from future discussions with huge consequences for their learning.
From the perspective of student learning, students’ willingness and ability to share their thoughts are too critical in today’s schools to be ignored or lost due to issues of trust. We must both teach the skills and create the climate necessary for the academic discussion to be a truly effective strategy. We must walk the walk.
I just finished an #edchat that I left me with a feeling of not being able to add any authority to the discussion. For those unfamiliar, #Edchat is a weekly Twitter discussion on Education topics. This week’s discussion was based on this statement: There is a strong belief among some educators that poverty is the biggest factor in a failing education system.
It is difficult to have any discussion on this topic without people, including me, entering it with all of the biases built on myths and facts over the years. It is a mixture of biases not just of poverty, but race as well. It is not a comfortable place to be, since we are very aware of how incendiary these discussions can get with just a few poorly chosen words by well-intentioned people not thinking things through.
I am an average white guy who grew up on Long Island, New York in the 50’s in an all-white community that was designed to be just that, segregated. My college experience offered opposition to the Viet Nam War, and supported the Equal Rights Amendment in demonstrations that are now a part of history, and can now be only experienced through video clips on YouTube, or TV newscasts. I was a socially aware, late 60’s college student.
Nevertheless, I entered this Edchat discussion hoping to shed what little light I had on the subject of the huge effect that poverty has on today’s Education. To add to my total lack of credentials, I have never taught in a school that was considered to be in an impoverished community. In all honesty, when I devised this topic for the Edchat discussion, it was my hope that educators from poverty areas would join in to offer a credible voice on the subject.
It has been my experience that poverty comes in two large varieties, urban and suburban and they have both similarities and differences. Each community however, seems to have its own culture. How, and where education fits into that culture varies with every community. All are hindered by poverty and language barriers further hinder some. In a nation populated by immigrants, we are a host to many languages. If educators coming from English speaking cultures to communities of non-English speaking students, that is a problem for education.
Many impoverished communities must deal with higher crime rates, as well as violence that are expressed with open gunfire. Communities are finding themselves under siege in many instances. How can Kids concerned about getting to school safely, making it through the school day there, and returning home safely, ever concentrate on learning?
The idea that the parents of poor students are sitting home all day without jobs is another myth. That prevents us from addressing poverty as a problem for education, and not as a bad result of some liberal social welfare programs. I was stunned to hear that the average age of fast food workers is 34 years of age. That tells me that people are trying to carry their families with jobs that are minimum wage dependent. How can anyone adequately support a family that way? It is however, the bulk of jobs that are available. Retail jobs, and service positions are also high on the occupation list for the poor. If most poor people are working, but not earning a living wage, that is another problem for education.
The very goal of what most educators strive for is that college education as the pot at the end of the rainbow. Educators see it as a way out for their students and can’t see why the kids drop out. If kids from poor families can hardly support the financial needs of a public school education, why would the goal of an over-priced college education be an incentive to graduate? The financial needs of the family often dictate the direction of the student’s need for education. That is another problem for education.
Research has shown us that nutrition and proper sleep are two components of a child’s home life that will determine his or her success in school. For a number of reasons, tied directly to poverty, this is rarely the case for students in poverty. This is yet another problem for education.
I have always supported the whole child approach to education expressed by ASCD:
Whole Child Tenets
Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.
All of these are necessary for a student to succeed in school. The first three of the five are a struggle for students in impoverished schools. That is a problem for education.
I do not disagree with the belief that the most important element in a student’s education is the teacher. The teacher however is not the only factor in a student’s education. There is no level playing field here. That is a problem for education.
Educators adhere to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, but before schools in poverty can even get there, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is a more-needed consideration. This is a problem for education.
I am the last person who should be talking about poverty, but I do feel confident in talking about education. As an educator it is obvious to me that unless we deal directly with the issue of poverty, we will never address the issue of education in any way to improve it. I have heard it said that if we factor out the schools in poverty, the U.S. education system is very good. A blind eye never works in the real world. If we don’t deal with the real issue we will continue with the real problems. This is the biggest problem faced by education. Nobody is pulling themselves up by their bootstraps in this world of poverty. That is a ridiculous expectation!
I attended a wonderful conference this week in the Greater Clark County School District in Indiana, which is just on the other side of the Ohio River from Louisville Kentucky. They have committed to a huge undertaking of providing a Chromebook to every teacher and every student. Needless to say, many of these teachers came to this conference with Chromebooks in hand to get whatever they could before school begins for them in a few short weeks.
In addition to me, Shelly Terrell, @ShellTerrell; Kyle Pace, @Kylepace; Nick Provenzano, @TheNerdyTeacher; and Tim Gwynn, @Tgwynn were all invited as guest speakers. The entire conference was conceived and executed by Brett Clark, @Mr_Brett_Clark and his staff.
This was the first time I attended a conference where the goal was to equip and train an entire staff with technology tools for learning. I know I have read about it, tweeted about it, and have even written about it, but I have never seen it happen for real until this conference. It was a great opportunity to examine the responses of the teachers in both their excitement and their fears concerning this systemic change in their district, as well as each teacher’s personal career.
As to be expected there were different reactions from the staff depending on their familiarity and comfort level with technology. Some teachers were eager to go, others not so much. I was told that a number of teachers had yet to even remove their Chromebook from the box that it came in, and they obviously were not in attendance at the conference. That does not make them bad teachers. It does however point to a greater problem where an education system has failed to prepare, and maintain its educators in terms of relevant methods and tools for learning in a technology driven culture.
Most of our educators are experts in education, as well as content, and as such, many have been conditioned through school and culture to believe that the teacher cannot make mistakes in front of students. That mindset strikes fear in the heart of every teacher who believes kids are digital natives and know more about technology than any adult, especially if they will be required to use technology to teach. The convergence of these two myths is the biggest obstacle to integration of technology in education. Many teachers are further discomforted in their belief that they must know everything about the technology and all its applications before they consider taking it into their classroom. In reality, that will NEVER happen with the frequency of change in technology and all applications.
Another very big consideration when we talk about integrating technology into education is the change in the learning dynamic for teachers, as well as students. It requires a commitment to life long learning which goes beyond just the words. It also requires a commitment to personalized education, which, if not enabled by technology, its ability and impact are certainly enhanced by it.
Technology drives change. Change requires that we are flexible, and adapt as we go, which promotes more change. This will continue whether or not some individuals participate in that change or not. Individuals who do not adapt and change should never be our educators. The constant in education should be the learning and not the status quo. If society is moving to change at a rapid pace, then we need to develop in our children the skills and abilities to change as well, and that requires the same abilities in the educators who are charged with teaching our children.
Before we can get educators to accept technology as a tool for learning, we may need to change the culture of education. We need to address the fears of the educators that restrict their abilities to teach with relevance. In assessing the effects of technology we need to first assess if it is being used properly. Equipping an entire district with Chromebooks, or Ipads does not insure proper use. Training, support, collaboration, and encouragement will take a district beyond the limits of just purchasing and handing out the tools. It does not bode well for technology to assess its impact on learning if it is not being properly used with students.
I commend Dr. Andrew Melin, @amelin_gcs, Superintendent of The Greater Clark County Schools, and my friend Brett Clark for embracing the learning tools of our century in order to prepare their students for their century yet to come. They are both bold and courageous in in this effort, which requires great resolve. I would encourage them to remember that we can better educate our students if we better educate their educators. We should never hold up our past as our children’s model for their future.
Common Core = Common Sense
As many of us have seen, the predominant literature in many educational publications recently has been about the Common Core, and most specifically, around ELA and non- fiction texts. As I prepare to enter my 20th year in education, I am astounded by the groups which continue to promote the “pendulum effect” for our teachers. Those would be the extremists that cry, “All reading in the Common Core era must be non-fiction, no more fictional texts”.
I wonder if some of us have lost the good judgment which led us to be educators to begin with. Do we really think that the Common Core is advocating for not engaging in fictional texts with students? Will our students get the education they deserve when we make radical departures from what we know best meets student needs?
As a young educator and teacher, I read the book, Touch Magic by Jane Yolen. In her book, Jane wrote a collection of essays about how important traditional and imaginative stories are for children, and why. I will never forget how I felt when I put that book down after reading it. I was sad at that time, thinking about the loss of mythological knowledge our children were suffering from, specifically at the hands of missed curricular opportunities. When I say missed curricular opportunities, I mean the absence of coordinated curriculum which would ensure that our students got a well-rounded education. Curricular opportunities where robust teaching would provide them the opportunity to engage in a variety of texts that would not only satisfy their curiosity about how the world works in non-fiction texts, but those lessons learned about how the world works in myths, folk-tales, fairy tales, and fables. If you were a student that was lucky enough to have a teacher that provided both non-fiction texts and fictional texts, it was like winning the educational lottery.
I was delighted many years later as an administrator to see the implementation of Common Core standards as a way to ensure that children had consistent, predictable experiences in English Language Arts that would provide them a strong foundation in both reading and writing. I continue to be excited about those opportunities, yet, I am concerned about the extremists that whisper in the ear of teachers, harkening them to listen to their slanted views of the Common Core and what that means for our children.
Have we lost the common sense and good judgment that is needed to provide students with a well-rounded education? The Common Core does not say that students should be denied fictional literature. The underlying premise of the Common Core standards in reading is that students are well rounded and exposed to a variety of literature that will lead to their success. That success lies in teachers and administrators using good judgment and reasonable interpretation of the Common Core standards for reading. Our work should not be about the OR, meaning non-fiction OR fiction, but rather the AND, quality fiction AND non-fiction texts, coupled with great teaching about how to navigate and interpret those texts. And dare I say, shouldn’t we also provide students the opportunity to read books for enjoyment. Shouldn’t we allow them to read about insects, and space exploration, and also about the Fox and the Crow, and Little Red Riding Hood?
Isn’t there room to help students learn how to navigate texts that are rich in information, and also those that provide other information, such as the importance of listening to one’s parents, or lessons learned by venturing out too far in the world, or learning a morale when faced with a dilemma?
In her book Touch Magic, Jane Yolen noted that;
“One of the basic functions of myth and folk literature is to provide a landscape of allusion. With the first story a child hears, he or she takes a step toward perceiving a new environment, one that is filled with quests and questers, fated heroes and fetid monsters, intrepid heroines and trepid helpers, even incompetent oafs who achieve competence and wholeness by going out and trying.”
For those people perpetuating the pendulum swing once more in a totally opposite direction from what is intended by the Common Core, I hope they regain their “common sense” around what the Common Core can do for our children, and what we owe our children through good teaching, the use of common sense, and what will provide them with a well-rounded, rich experience with both non-fiction and fiction texts.
Our children will only get the education they need and deserve when the adults teaching them realize the value of balance, patience, and common sense.
Thomas Martellone, Ed.S
Artwork taken from Snow White and Red Riding Hood, Trina Schart Hyman
This is probably the wrong time to sit down and address what has just happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. All of the details are not yet out, but the news media has made many statements and assumptions that seem to hold up myths about schools that we continue to hear each time another of this growing number of horrendous incidents explodes on the TV screen. Reporters continue to ask the question, “Were all of the security and safety measures in place and adhered to?”
Here is a fact: Video cameras, Buzzers on doors, People sitting at desks in the hallways of schools, even metal detectors are not security against an armed attacker. The people maintaining these items could very well be the first victims of the assault. These measures and methods taken by schools are to give an illusion of safety to caring parents and teachers. It is an assurance that schools are seemingly doing something to protect children. None of these measures however, protect children from an armed intruder bent on killing as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. In terms of schools, we must understand the people we refer to are children.
In my lifetime these tragic attacks have occurred at the college, high school, middle school and now at the elementary school level. Most recently, they also occurred at a movie theatre, shopping mall and a political open air, town hall gathering complete with a congresswoman. After each of those incidents the idea of discussion about the problem for some reason had to be put off for a few months before we could talk about it. I did not understand it then, and I do not understand it now. We need to see this as a problem. We can’t wait until we add a pre-school, or a maternity ward to the long and growing list of places where kids are being killed. This incident is now listed as number 5 in the Top school shootings. What civilized, educated country has a list like that? How long is that list?
The Terrorists of 911 have changed how we all travel today. Measures are taken to prevent weapons being taken aboard planes. Yes we are inconvenienced and many of us complain every time we go through those long lines. We comply, because it is reasonable, and it insures our right and freedom to travel. One imbecilic terrorist made an unsuccessful attempt to use a shoe bomb and today, and every day, any American boarding a plane takes off his/her shoes. We all complain about that, but it is a reasonable sacrifice for safety. The cost of us learning this lesson of reasonableness about safety and security in the air came at a huge price to our country. It took well over 3,000 lives in NYC, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.
What is the total number of dead children that we need to get to before we can begin discussions to change what we are doing now? Obviously, what we are doing is not working. We need to have a discussion based on facts and not rhetoric. Too many of the facts about guns and their control have been distorted by too many people and a few organizations, well healed with the ability to put out misinformation and propaganda. We need critical thinking skills to sort through all of the BS. We need honesty, clarity and focus. We cannot start from a position stating that “nothing can be done”. If we ask, how do we prevent another incident where 20 children, ages 5-10, and 8 adults being killed in an elementary school in a matter of minutes. How can an educated civilized culture accept that “nothing can be done” as an answer? If the solution doesn’t begin NOW with US, when will it begin? Is there an actual number of dead children that is a tipping point? More importantly, are my kids going to be in that number? Are yours?
I believe in the constitution, and I believe in the Second amendment. I believe that citizens have the right to own guns. I also believe that right comes with a very big responsibility. Not everyone is responsible. Not everyone is mentally stable enough to be held responsible. I believe that we can regulate guns with commonsense laws in consideration of the facts, and not the rhetoric. I believe that reasonable people can look at real facts and come to reasonable conclusions that can lead to reasonable controls. The process however must begin with discussion. That almost never happens after these horrific events. There will be blog posts like this, editorials, documentaries, and maybe a “60 Minutes” segment, but probably no real substantive, focused meaningful discussion to protect kids will ever take place in the political arena. Politicians need to put the right to life for our kids first. The discussions will move to protect the rights of people who may not capable of responsibility to hold in their hands the lives of our children. If not now, when? If not us, who?
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.
Leader to Leader (L2L) News: November 2012
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Congratulations to the Newly Elected ASCD Leadership
Following voting in the 2012 General Membership election this fall, ASCD members elected the following individuals to ASCD’s leadership:
President-Elect: Nancy Gibson, Illinois
Board of Directors (two-year term): Judy Zimmerman, Ohio
Board of Directors (three-year terms): Matt McClure, Arkansas and Pam Vogel, Iowa
These individuals will begin their leadership terms at the 2013 ASCD Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois. Please join us in congratulating them on their new ASCD leadership positions!
Diane Ravitch to Speak at ASCD’s Legislative Conference
Diane Ravitch, the renowned education historian, author, and professor, will be the keynote speaker for ASCD’s Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA) in Washington, D.C., January 27–29, 2013. Register for LILA to hear Ravitch’s provocative and unfiltered opinion about the current state of education reform.
Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush and onetime supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act, has undergone a dramatic rethinking of school improvement strategies as she’s witnessed school choice and standardized test–based accountability in action. She’ll share her insights about the policy and communications challenges facing educators today and how those obstacles can be overcome to prepare students to be college-, career-, and citizenship-ready. She will also advise conference attendees on how they can build public support for their profession and achieve their education policy goals.
LILA will provide you with the most up-to-date information on federal education policy; share what November’s election results could mean for educators; and help attendees become effective advocates for their students, peers, and schools. Register for this premier legislative conference today and access the conference agenda, as well as lodging and travel information.
ASCD Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
Congratulations to Bahamas ASCD, Our Newest ASCD Affiliate!
Bahamas ASCD began as a Connected Community in 2008, and was recently approved by ASCD’s Board of Directors to become an affiliate. Please read Dr. Carter’s ASCD Inservice blog post “Join Me in Welcoming Bahamas ASCD.”
2011 Emerging Leader Hannah Gbenro Featured in New ASCD Inservice Blog Series
In an effort to highlight more educator voices on the ASCD blog, we recently initiated a series of Q&A sessions featuring ASCD Emerging Leaders. Check out the first post featuring 2011 Emerging Leader Hannah Gbenro.
Please Welcome Huntingdon College to the ASCD Student Chapter Program
ASCD is pleased to announce that Huntingdon College has been accepted into our ASCD Student Chapter Program. The student leaders are enthusiastically planning recruitment events and other activities for the coming semester. To learn more about ASCD Student Chapters, go to www.ascd.org/chapters.
Brad Kuntz Writes Last “In the Classroom” Column for Education Update
Please join us in thanking 2011 Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA) Winner Brad Kuntz for writing the monthly “In the Classroom” column for Education Update. If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, check them out:
Emerging Leader Leads First #ASCDL2L Chat
Earlier this week, 2012 Emerging Leader Eric Bernstein (@BernsteinUSC) led the first #ASCDL2L Twitter chat with several other ASCD Emerging Leaders. The topic of the chat was on the effect of the recent U.S. presidential election on education policies in the United States. Emerging Leaders will be leading future #ASCDL2L chats; the next one will take place this Tuesday, November 13, from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. EDT.
Follow the #ASCDL2L hashtag or join the Leader to Leader group on ASCD EDge to learn about the future Twitter chats; the archive of this week’s Twitter chat is in the documents section of the Leader to Leader group.
ASCD Leaders on ASCD EDge
Check out these great posts from ASCD leaders on the ASCD EDge community site. Please read, comment, and share!
Emerging Leader Featured in ASCD Express
2012 ASCD Emerging Leader Jessica Bohn is a school principal in a state that has fully implemented the Common Core State Standards. Her ASCD Express article, “Setting a Common Course,” shares tips to help others be instructional leaders in common core standards implementation. Please read and share her article!
Putting the Whole Child Approach Into Action
This month, we added 100 new schools and communities to the ASCD Whole Child Example Map. Identified by an ASCD leader or Whole Child Partner organization, these school and community examples reflect a commitment to a whole child approach put into practice. Each example highlights whole child achievements and links to information about the school or community. Use our interactive map tool to find current examples of schools and communities putting the whole child approach into action in your hometown and around the world. A whole child approach to education ensures that each child, in each school, and in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
We continue to seek examples from across the world of exemplary schools, districts, and communities that are using a whole child approach. Please review the criteria for inclusion in our Whole Child Examples Map on our online form and submit an example for review.
New ASCD Publication Policy Points to Highlight Timely Education Topics
ASCD’s newest policy resource, ASCD Policy Points, will be published every other month and will provide ASCD members, Educator Advocates, and the public with important information, data, and insights on timely education policy topics in an easy to use, easy to understand format (e.g. myths and facts, FAQs, and infographics). The inaugural issue of ASCD Policy Points, published in October, spotlighted the U.S. presidential candidates’ positions on education policy.
Something to Talk About
ASCD Urges All Educators to Stay Informed and Involved—With the election decided, it is crucial for educators to become involved to ensure education remains a top priority for the Obama administration and the 113th Congress. ASCD has a few great ways for educators to stay informed and help shape future education policy. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases Report on Common Core State Standards Implementation—ASCD has released a new report titled Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core State Standards: Moving from Adoption to Implementation to Sustainability illuminating activities educators and policymakers at all levels can undertake to successfully implement the Common Core State Standards across the nation. This free report can be found on the EduCore™ site, ASCD’s free repository of evidence-based strategies, videos, and supporting documents that help educators transition to the Common Core standards. Read the full press release.
New, Free ASCD App for iPad Brings Valuable Professional Development Content to Educators Anywhere—ASCD has launched a new , free app for iPad that lets educators who purchase ASCD e-books easily access that content on their iPad. ASCD members can also use the app to access their members-only content such as Educational Leadership, Education Update and Policy Priorities. For ASCD premium online or select online members, the app will automatically sync their ASCD e-books. Read the full press release.
ASCD Appoints Mary Catherine “MC” Desrosiers as New Chief of Program Development—ASCD has appointed Mary Catherine “MC” Desrosiers as the association’s new Chief Program Development Officer. In her new role, Desrosiers will lead and direct the association’s publishing, content acquisition and development, creative services, professional development, and conferences and institutes units. Read the full press release.
GlobalScholar Renews Support for ASCD’s 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show—GlobalScholar, a provider of innovative education solutions, returns this year as a lead partner for ASCD's 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show. From March 16 to 18, in Chicago, Ill., the association’s Annual Conference and Exhibit Show, “Learning: Our Story. Our Time. Our Future.,” will explore what committed educators are doing to support the success of each learner. Read the full press release.
Meet Nikhil Goyal — a seventeen year old student in Long Island, NY who wants to revolutionize the school system. And he's taking action on that right now through his TED talk, numerous articles, and now a book that is due out this week entitled One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student's Assessment of School. (For more information about him, click here to see his website.)
Nikhil, Michael Fisher, and I are collaborating on a new project that will elicit feedback from students to create a more personalized, meaningful experience for every learner in service of what they want to do in their post-secondary endeavors. To that end, we have designed a student survey through Survey Monkey. Click here to see the student survey. Click here to see the blog post on the rationale behind the survey and why we hope thousands of students will take it.
This also connects to my newest endeavor: Just Start: Kids and Schools where I propose that kids yearn for more control over their own education. We want to engage kids, parents, and educators in a collective conversation about how to customize learning to tap into individual desire as well as prepare our children for an increasing unpredictable world. And that's where Nikhil comes in. I came across Nikhil's Ted Talk and was so moved that I contacted him directly. This interview is the product of one of those conversations.
Zmuda: Summarize the book - what do you think is really broken or outdated?
Goyal: My book, "One Size Does Not Fit All, A Student's Assessment of School," describes why we need to revolutionize the system and suggestions for how to do so. The book is grounded in my own experience in the school system as well as hundreds of personal interviews with educators, parents, students, policy makers and some entrepreneurs. It gives collective perspective and various ideas on how we can transform the system in the teaching profession, in the curriculum, and in politics.
The education system is working as it was designed to do in the 19th and 20th century. Horace Mann, proponent of the universal public school system in the United States, designed school to create many compliant factory workers and those different tenets of that system, which were standardization and compliance and obedience, still remain today in the system.
First, what's really outdated is how we teach kids. We still put kids in desks in rows and make them listen to a teacher passively. It's still this kind of intake learning model where we're feeding kids facts and figures. This doesn't make sense when the entire economy and the entire way we acquire information and interpret it has been reinvented.
The second concern is the way we group kids. First, we group kids by just their date of birth. It doesn't make any sense. We shouldn't be grouping kids by age, but rather by their skill level and what they can do. Having older kids working with younger kids creates a type of mentorship program.
Third, we don't give students the ability to shape their education. We tell them to jump through all the hoops and that's really what they're forced to do. But most kids don't understand that there are so many possible paths to success, it isn't just one simple straight line that you have to follow. It's much more complicated than that. So, those are just a few things that I focus on in the book, and I try to portray an image, where not only is the system outdated, but we to have significant steps to get to where we need to be. We need to put students in charge of their education. We need to give them some control. Let them leverage their creativity and their passions so much more than what's going on today. Students really want to see a number of things in the classroom. The problem is that that they seem to, overtime, understand that education and schooling is not supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be something that's done to you and you have to oblige or else. Your parents and teachers tell you to do the same plain vanilla procedure over and over again and you really don't have any choice, other than dropping out.
Zmuda: In your view, what do students really want to see in their classrooms?
Goyal: So, many kids really want to see a shift in the classroom. When we're born, until around age 5, most of our learning is delivered through our experiences. We're just asking questions, we're curious about the world. Then formal education hits us and everything changes; we lose our curiosity and instead are trained to regurgitate information for the test. We have to find that curiosity that really blossoms in our early ages and bring it back. I believe that the future belongs to the curious: the people who ask questions and are inquisitive about the world, not people who listen to directions and follow all the rules and fill in all the bubbles on the test. So, success is so much more defined by your ability to engage in the real world, work with people and communicate your thoughts.
Zmuda: To what extent is your vision based on your own point of view or is it based on generalities based on multiple perspectives?
Goyal: My vision in general of education is based on a number of different elements. A lot of it is part of my experience at school. When I was younger, and even just a few years ago, I was just always a person that did really well in school. I got high test grades. I did everything my parents and my teachers told me and I was a great student. In the summer of 2010, when I went on a family trip to India, I realized that the adult version of “doing well” was no longer personally satisfying. I talked to a lot of students, had some conversations about education and realized they weren't learning what they wanted to, they were forced to do something and they were forced to be in a model that didn't satisfy their needs.
I believe students right now are being the victims of their schooling. One of my friends, Zak Malamed, likes to compare the way we do education reform to as really an investigation. For example, in an investigation you'll speak with the witnesses, you'll interview them and you'll see what's wrong with them, because that's really the most important thing, but in education, we don't talk to the victims, we don't talk to the students. It really doesn't make much sense. So my vision is also, a number of my personal experiences, combined with a lot of the conversations I've had. I specifically say in the book, in one of the chapters, that I'm not an expert. I'm not an education historian, I'm not on the same experience level as somebody like Howard Gardner or Diane Ravitch, but I think that's okay. My fresh perspective can add some value to the debate, because I haven't been there many years on end in the trenches of education policy. I'm simply looking at it from a very unique perspective and that really helps. In the book, I combine my experiences with current experts. So, it's very research and interview-based, rather than just a kid talking about education and what needs to be changed.
Zmuda: What voice do you envision yourself having a stakeholder in your education as the nation shifts to new standards?
Goyal: The voice that I envision myself having as a stakeholder is really advocating for a number of things. First and foremost is advocating for students to be represented in the conversation of school reform. I like to say that there is a kids' table and there's an adults' table in education. At the kids table, even though they're just a few feet away, they're not having much of rich conversation. But the adults' table, that's where the real conversation is happening even though all the decisions the adults are making are going to affect the kids at the nearby table. We can't have a kids and adults' table in education reform. We should be having one table, where we can converse with each other and ensure that there's a collective agreement on many different ends. That's what I advocate for — students to be meaningfully represented in the conversation.
I also want to portray my views on how we can change the system and bring together everybody.
What I see now is that we are grouping people based on their role, not bringing them together and I think that's a huge problem. We need to streamline these conversations to make them more powerful and efficient. And not just teachers, administrators, students and parents, but having people like entrepreneurs and people in media, who aren't necessarily in the school system, who don't have children in the school system, but to give their perspective, because I think that's very valuable. Some of the best conversations and most enriching conversations I've had are with people not in the education space, and that tells a lot, because those are the people that are just looking at it from a different view point and I think that's important to look at, important to understand for people to look at in the conversation.
Zmuda: Give a concrete example or two of a specific contribution that any student can make.
Goyal: So, there are a number of concrete examples a student can make. I think the first and foremost thing they can do is to go to administration and start voicing their concerns. I think that's one of the easiest ways to do it, because I think you have to start talking to your own school administration. And then start getting student groups. Bring your fellow peers that have similar frustrations. Start grouping together on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media and then go to your administration after with a plan and what you want to see changed. And if they don't listen, don't back down. Make sure that your voice is heard. Make sure you go the education board meetings if you have a school board at your school. And make sure you contribute to the conversation one way or another. And another way students can get involved is to go talk to your local Patch or your local paper and write a piece about your ideas for the school system. You can start your own blog. So, if your local administration won’t listen to you, other people around the world will listen to you and that will make your voice much more stronger in the long run. I think there are a number of things we can be doing to get involved because we’re at the heart of every policy decision and we need to have a voice. If we ignore students, we are ignoring the future generation and a generation is really a terrible thing to go to waste.
For more information and ideas...
Check out my latest book: Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning (2010) and website Just Start: Kids and Schools
Check out Michael Fisher's website:www.digigogy.com
Check out Nikhil Goyal's book: nikhilgoyal.me/book/
Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared August Connected Educator Month. To the delight of many connected educators, this was a validation for much of their time spent and their many accomplishments achieved through the use of technology in general, and using the Internet specifically. Many connected educators have gathered virtually to assemble panels, webinars, podcasts and blog posts about all of the advantages of being a “connected educator” and its possibility of transforming education as we know it. You might see where I am taking this conundrum thing.
The problem with this is that the vast majority of educators who are most on board with Connected Educator Month are connected educators. Hundreds of connected-educator communities and organizations have signed on to the program and have offered online promotions for the month. This is a wonderful thing for all of the connected educators who belong to those communities. But, the obvious question: Are nonconnected educators involved or even aware?
Of course, avenues to reach nonconnected educators would be print media, television and radio, and articles in journals, newspapers and magazines. We can only hope teachers have time to keep up with such media. Much of this media requires subscription. There might even be buzz at schools that start the school year before September. Of course, the beginning of the year is the busiest and most hectic time at school. That does not allow for a huge amount of buzz.
This is the time that someone trying to sound cool using connected terms will say something to the effect of, “It is only another example of speaking into the echo chamber.” I never understood how that was supposed to lessen the impact of a good idea. If an idea is put forth to a large group of people who share skills, interests and motivations, how is that idea of lesser value? It is still analyzed, questioned and challenged by a group who theoretically knows the subject best. Participants’ agreement on an idea’s value might come from their experience and not because they share a space with other educators. Ideas are challenged all of the time among connected educators. It is the sharing and collaboration of those ideas that give power to connectedness.
No, to be a good teacher, one does not need to be connected. However, the question is if you are a good teacher and unconnected, could you be a better teacher if you were connected? Shouldn’t we strive to be the best that we can be? It’s not only an Army thing. Being connected offers not only exposure to content and ideas but also the ability to create and collaborate on ideas. Being connected fosters transparency and debunks myths of education that have been harbored in the previous isolation of the education profession. This is the stuff of a true learner’s dreams, and, as educators, are we not all learners?
Let me get to the conundrum. How do we connect nonconnected educators if the only people participating in large part in Connected Educator Month are connected educators? Most Americans have a Facebook or Twitter account. There are millions of people who maintain AOL accounts. In the strict sense of the term, these people are connected. However the term “connected educator” requires a focus for connectedness. It requires the educator to be connected to places and people advancing and enlightening the person personally as well as the profession — education. Of the 7.2 million teachers in America, most are probably connected to something on the Internet. We need to get them connected to one another. If we consider all of the education websites for professional development in education and all of the professional connections on Twitter in terms of a professional learning network, it would probably account for far less than a million educators.
We are not a profession of connected educators. We are content experts with access to content that we are not accessing. We are advocates of ideas with the ability to share ideas that we are not sharing. We are creators without using the ability we have to create for an authentic audience of millions who could benefit by our creations. We fight for the status quo of comfort and compliance. This doesn’t make sense to many of you — those of us who are connected.
If the only people benefiting from Connected Educator Month are connected educators, how do we involve the millions of others? I understand that a certain percentage will never be connected, but those who could be, would be, should be and can be are out there. How do we best connect the unconnected educator in a face-to-face method?
For several years, I have been involved with social media as an educator — asking questions and sometimes providing answers with other educators. I was once asked for my special power. My answer: “My ability to connect the dots.”
It enables me to look smart without knowing the answer to the question, because I connect people with questions to those with answers. That is one of the advantages of being a connected educator. Social media is a great vehicle for these connections because of the vast variety of collaboration-minded educators who populate it and their willingness to help. It’s a teacher thing. What I like the best about social media is that ideas are considered on their own merit, without regard to the title of the person offering them. Administrators, teachers and students are all equals.
Some of the brightest educators I have known over my 40-year career are people I met through social media. Without Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and others, I would not be connected to as many educators as I am. At best, my personal learning network would consist of teachers in my district and those I connected with at whatever conference I was lucky enough to attend. If I did not meet with them in person, I would need to call them. With social media, however, my connections are global and endless. I exchange ideas with educators worldwide. I have seen my blog posts translated into other languages.
I find that one of the big myths of social media is that it doesn’t allow for strong relationships. I have found the opposite to be true. The strongest relationships I have had with educators have all been formed through social media. I have opened my home, as people have opened theirs for me, as a result of our social media connections. Authors are more than pictures on a book sleeve to me. I exchange ideas with many all of the time. My ideas appear in their books. All of this could not happen with the frequency it does without social media.
Now, I have been offered a unique position. I am able to call on many of those connected educators to share their ideas with more educators. These ideas will be appear on SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Education. These are educators talking about education. Many have their own blogs and are on Twitter or LinkedIn, and I would encourage all educators to follow them. These are our education thought leaders. Their perspectives are a welcome refuge from politicians and business people who have dominated the national discussion on education for the past several years.
It is our intention to show you what can be accomplished in education with the latest methodology, as well as the newest technology for learning. This will be an educator’s perspective, delivered to other educators and addressing some of the oldest needs of our education system. It is a great opportunity to strengthen the educator’s voice in the national conversation on education.
SmartBlog on Education has a potential readership of almost three-quarters of a million educators. Guests whom we hope to provide represent the best thought leaders in education that social media has to offer. Your support and comments will be an important element in guiding us.
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Do-it-Yourself Steps to Create a 21st Century Skills Continuum
This is the second post — how to create a 21st Century Skills Continuum. I outlined the purpose and the vision in the first blog post. The next part is to do the work. Here is the process that I have followed in multiple school divisions. Again, I truly believe that this is the work of the collective PK-12 community rather than a school-based model.
STEP ONE. Identify 21st century skills that reflect your school community. To start, consider the four C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication. Then supplement based on what intrigues members of the local community (employers, Board members, parents), staff, and students. It should be a direct reflection of what the school community values based on shared work and life experience. A couple of suggestions from schools that I have worked with:
Keep in mind that each skill or competency that you identify requires a full-blown continuum. Too many areas identified will not only bog down the development process but the implementation process. Involve as many stakeholders as possible to identify 21st century skills, but once the list is created it should go to a “heavyweight” team for the next step.
STEP 2: Create a “heavyweight team” to create the 21st century skills continuum. A “heavyweight team” means that they are assembled for a deliberate purpose and once they are done, the team is disbanded. (Christensen, 2008) Ideally, representatives from the local community as well as the PreK-12 staff will be included. The work will then move to more permanent “middleweight” teams (i.e., departments, grade-level teams, long-standing leadership committees) to revise and implement the continuum.
STEP 3: Define each of the skills or competencies. The easy part is coming up with a list; the first real challenge is crafting multidisciplinary definitions. Parent and community representatives should take a leadership role in defining the skills because they are employed outside of the school walls. Their life and work experience is great fodder for developing not only the definitions, but also ideas of what proficient and exemplary look like. While you can divide and conquer the list by assigning 1-2 skills to each small group, this generally works to brainstorm the initial draft, but it is my experience that everyone wants to think through all of them before the work gets too polished. If you have the skills ahead of time, to define the skills takes a full day. Why so long? Because people want to get it right —they see the ramifications of how it will be used (looking at existing tasks preK-12 to identify great ones, tweaking those that almost hit the mark, and crafting new tasks that are not in alignment).
STEP 4: Create the continuum, one descriptor at a time. Everyone who I have worked with on this has a different “best way” of tackling this piece. One group wanted to do the exemplary first, novice second and then squeeze play in the middle. Another group wanted to think about developmental appropriateness so they started from Novice and worked their way up to Exemplary. Another group wanted to describe Proficient first and then work up and down from there. Regardless of the strategy, it is important to continue to ask four basic questions:
At some point community members may get restless with the meticulous nature of editing language. The heavyweight team may then turn it over to the middleweight team to finish the job. Defining each skill and creating the first draft of the continuum should take another full day or two.
STEP 5: Take it out for a test drive. Feedback from the full staff and community not only demonstrates the seriousness about this endeavor but also broadens the endeavor by having individuals wrestle with the concept and the language. While this may result in minor tweaks or significant improvements, the real objective is to have them own the work. Peter Senge (1994) once said, “It’s the capacity to hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create.” For a school staff, consider breaking them as grade-level teams, vertical teams or departments to analyze the continuum. The following prompts may be helpful to focus their work.
When it comes to soliciting feedback from the community at large, it is important to use a blend of low tech and high tech tools. Ideas might include:
STEP 6: Reexamine assessment and instructional design. Once the 21st century continuum has been created, it is vital to turn attention to examining existing classroom routines, instructional practices, exams, and projects. If the continuum does not significantly impact teaching and learning, it will just be another initiative tossed aside when the next new idea comes along.
If the goal of learning is to have students use their knowledge and skills to tackle complex problems, situations, texts, and challenges, teaching staff must give students regular opportunities to engage in this type of experience mindful of the collective definitions and descriptors of the continuum. There is a real energy to this work: staff can openly play with events, ideas, and applications as fodder for performance tasks that measure 21st century skills. This is a welcome reprieve from our test-prep, highly anxious school culture for we are teaching our students how to think deeply, become more agile, and be resilient in the face of failure.
For more information, check out my book Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning . Contact me directly via email at email@example.com. Or attend my session on July 1 at the Summer ASCD Conference
Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2008). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Senge, P. et. al. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization
What does creativity really look like?
Are students more creative in their early years than in the latter parts of their schooling?
Does this fly in the face of what we know about creativity, that it is grounded in deep knowledge and requires the patience to ruminate over a period of time?
So at an early age, what are kids doing instead? Are they more playful? Are they less inhibited about how they will be judged?
This is a window into a conversation that teachers, administrators, local employers, parents and Board members had in the development of a continuum for 21st century skills. The concept behind the conversation is simple but powerful: collectively describe 21stcentury skills so that staff can design tasks appropriately given the developmental-level and content matter.
So far, we have treated 21st century skills as a typical initiative — it has generated keynote speeches, and amorphous goals but it has not gained any real traction in curriculum, assessment and instructional design. In my latest book, Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning, I asserted,
We must move away from squeaky-clean problems with simplistic answers and resuscitate the curiosity, interest, motivation, and resilience of the learners in the classroom.
The power of a 21st century skills continuum.
Take a look at this example on Informational Literacy — part of a continuum that I facilitated for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia on Information Literacy. (To see the full continuum visit www.vbschools.com.)
Novice: Explore simple questions through the completion of a given procedure that requires location and collection of information through navigation of digital sources and/or text features in order to share information with others.
Emerging: Generate questions, locate and evaluate digital and other sources that provide needed information, analyze information to verify accuracy and relevance, categorize information using a given organizational structure, and report findings.
Proficient: Use an inquiry-based process that requires the development of questions, identification and evaluation of a range of digital and other sources, analysis of information and point of view, identification of significant information and any conflicting evidence, categorization of relevant information using a self-selected organizational structure, and production and presentation of a verifiable synthesis of research findings that lays the groundwork for conclusion(s) drawn.
Advanced: Use an inquiry-based process that requires the generation and refinement of specific questions to focus the purpose of the research, evaluation of digital and other sources from a variety of social or cultural contexts based on accuracy, authority, and point of view; resolution of conflicting evidence or clarification of reasons for differing interpretations of information and ideas; organization of information based on the relationships among ideas and general patterns discovered; and combination of information and inferences to draw conclusions and create meaning for a given audience, purpose, and task.
After we developed this continuum on Information Literacy, I showed it to several-thousand library media specialists and asked them this straightforward question — based on the assignments that are designed by middle school and high school teachers, where would you place them on the continuum?
Over 90% of respondents described that the tasks were still at the novice level.
So here is the challenge for many school divisions. IF you do not have shared consensus on what you are aiming for and how the skill becomes more sophisticated over time, THEN you cannot systematically grow the capacity of your students. To design a coherent experience from a student’s perspective requires teacher collaboration to ensure the goals of learning are guaranteed. The methods employed to arrive at those goals should be flexible to encourage teacher creativity and expertise as well as tap into a student’s prior knowledge and personal interests.
This high percentage can be attributed to several long-standing problems, including:
The first three problems delineated above have been at the heart of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s emphasis on meaning-making and transfer (Understanding by Design, Schooling by Design). The fourth problem, clarity about what the skill means, is the focus of these two blog posts. Read on if you are interested in:
Difference between a continuum and a rubric.
A continuum clearly describes how students progress in their development: how they become more skillful, reflective, sophisticated, and intuitive over time. Each part of the continuum explains as students move through the grades how their tasks should become more challenging.
A rubric defines levels of performance that clearly describe the level of success on a particular task for the purpose of feedback and guidance on future tasks.
Therefore, a teacher uses a continuum to identify the appropriate level (i.e. emerging, proficient) whereas a teacher uses a rubric to accurately describe student performance.
Continuum in action.
Another powerful model is an ongoing project that I am facilitating in Newport News Public Schools (Newport News, VA). First, staff, parents, and community representatives drafted a set of 21st century skills. Then, they created a companion document linking the drafted "College, Career and Citizen Ready Skills" to performance task Categories that require transfer and meaning making. (For more information about this type of task design, check out the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe — Understanding by Design.)
The performance task categories they created are:
Then, they created definitions of what the performance task required and connected that task to the skills. Here is a sample.
Multidisciplinary Performance Task
What it DOES measure
What it MIGHT measure
Problem/Solution- Identifies and defines a problem and generates a possible solutions (or solution paths), evaluates the viability of each solution, and offers a recommendation.
Inquiry/Investigation- Systematically develop questions and pursue an explanation/pattern based on, but not limited to, known information.
Source/Comparative Analysis- Analyze data, information, artifacts, and/or textual evidence to develop an explanation, interpretation, and/or determine impact.
So here is a sample of a new performance task developed by the World Languages curriculum design team. This is designed as a Level 1 (new to the world language) performance task for all spoken languages.
Task Summary: You have finally arrived at the airport in (TL country) and are anxious to meet your host family. Suddenly, a member of your group approaches you frantically waving her hands. You notice she has bumps all over her face and arms and yells: “I am having an allergic reaction to something in the (TL-appropriate food) we had for lunch! I need help! Within your group, you have 10 minutes to come up with a minimum of five (5) ways to communicate the problem to TL speakers who could provide you assistance in this situation. Do not assume everyone speaks English, they don’t. Be prepared to share your solution(s) to this problem with the class.
The Newport News curriculum staff continues in their efforts to identify, refine and create performance tasks that are in alignment with their College, Career, and Citizen-Ready Skills Continuum. Their goal for every student? Providing evidence of proficiency before graduation day. (To find out more about the project in Newport news, contact Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
So, if you are compelled to take action, read the second blog post — the Do-It-Yourself Manual on how to create a 21st century skills continuum in your school division.
For more information, check out my book Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning . Contact me directly via email at email@example.com. Or attend my session on July 1 at the Summer ASCD Conference
This has been such a great discussion on teaching and performing! I'd like to follow up on these points in response to "Of Masks and Myths":
Some subjects are not so interesting. If you don't perform, your efforts will only be propitious in nature. Also, teachers aren't always feeling well. They must put on their best performance if they are to reach even the most despondent of students.
If you aren't enthusiastically passionate about a given topic, your students won't be either.
For example, I have many issues with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Ugh. I’d just rather eat dirt than read it again. However, I know that it’s a rich text for AP Lit students, and I don’t want to deny them the opportunity.
Rather than work through the pretense that “isn’t this just the bestest most wonderfullest, most interesting book ever” (i.e. “perform”) and try to muster up enthusiasm and passion where none exists, I was open and honest about my evaluation of it.
They need to see the best of who we already are. : )
* From T. S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men"
Recently, my co-authors and I were guests at a roundtable discussion (a radio show) on effective teaching. The host and I fundamentally disagreed on one point: that teachers need to be good performers to be effective.
His theory was that in order to keep students engaged in the material, the teacher had to be able to present it in an interesting and somewhat entertaining way.
As performing arts educators know: the skill set is completely different. Performance skills are personal, internal, more "inside" for lack of a better explanation. Teaching skills entail the depth to which one can motivate others. It has nothing to do with me. It's comparing apples and...lettuce.
We derive part of this myth from media. If you do an image search for “teaching”, you’ll see that most of the images include a person in the spotlight, standing at the front of the class with an attentive group of children listening. That’s a performer and an audience.
That might be teaching, but is that effective teaching?
An audience, even in an audience-participatory piece, never lets go of that sense they are watching, not doing. At any point, the audience member can disengage. That shouldn’t happen within a class. Thus, one shouldn't perform at all.
Even if the teacher must demonstrate for purposes of a lesson, which entails some watching, the time spent in demonstration should be minimal. The goal is to get the students to “do”, moving the teacher from the spotlight to facilitation, which is where the learning happens.
Authentic, ingrained, mastery learning doesn’t happen when we watch someone else do something.
Another part of the myth is derived from teachers. While I’m sure most of you would heartily agree that the ability to perform doesn’t equate to effective teaching, I challenge you to gauge how much time you spend in the spotlight in your class. Ten minutes? Twenty? Thirty?
If your standard approach to lessons entails presentation of information followed by student-regurgitation of some sort, rethink it. How can you create a lesson that hinges more upon students “doing” as opposed to “watching”?
“But, what,” you may ask, “can I do if I really have to explain something? Besides, they won’t do anything on their own!”
One lesson I particularly enjoyed was teaching Oedipus to ninth graders. (My justification was that since they were required to read Antigone in tenth grade, this would help them out.) And as is the case with ancient Greek plays, the most difficult aspect of the play was dealing with the Choral Odes. The concept of a Chorus, even with the analogy to the mice in Babe, is rough for 14 yr-olds.
Rather than cope with the Choral Odes while reading the play, we “jumped” over them. (Blasphemy!) However, after reading the play, student groups dove into the text to determine what the Chorus was supposed to be and do. From there, they worked in groups to analyze a designated, particular ode, based on its location within the play—bonus, they had to read some of the play again.
After analysis, they then had to work up how the chorus might have presented this ode at this point in the play. Complete with masks, they used their voices and bodies to become the Chorus of Theban Elders.
Did they “get” the function of the chorus? You bet. Memorable? Yeppers. Me as performer? No way.
The effective teacher steps out of the spotlight.