Sunday, July 26, 2015

Solving the Grand Challenges in Education... My Annual Reading Assignment Focused on #EduIcons and Progress

What do you believe are the "Grand Challenges" in Education?

The target moves, we shoot. It moves again. We shoot again. It feels like this continually moving target, that we all get caught up in trying to hit, and may likely never be hit. So let's stop shooting at others' targets and start defining our own. When you think of what you want your students to leave your class with, are there keys? Do we even know the right questions to define our targets?

What questions do you believe we need to help set up our targets for success? I'll be adding three books to my reading list specifically focused on expanding my perspective over the next year in an effort to dive deep into thinking about the targets that will help the way I teach. One is Alfie Kohn's School Beyond Measure. I've always admired Alfie Kohn's contrarian look at things and agree with him on some (but not all) perspectives. Another book from one of the people I consider an "Education Icon" (#EduIcon) is John Seely Brown's The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. I love the concept of "small moves" that can lead to bigger change. Next on my list of reading is another #EduIcon, Dr. Howard Gardner. His book The Unschooled Mind, a book that's been out there for some time but seems to have slipped past me until now, is focused on merging cognitive science with the education agenda.

I'm looking forward to continuing to challenge myself to rethink what type of education I'm providing for my students. I do this because I want every teacher my son has to do the same. Join me in reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these books.

Thanks for visiting the blog and I hope you'll consider following me as I share more over this next year.  You may also want to check out the Bedley Brothers Edchat Podcast where we highlight many of the leaders in the world of education.

Optional Reading: I just finished Ron Clark's new book Move Your Bus and was hoping the book would help me better define my targets or help to identify questions to improve education and learning. An interesting book (Please don't get mad Ron Clark followers), but I found it a bit disappointing for a title that says it is "An Extraordinary" insight at "Accelerating Success." Ok Amanda Ripley... I hope your book The Smartest Kids in the World lives up to the hype because you're up next.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Things We Have To Stop Pretending

Well it happened. I was challenged to give my list of 5 things we have to stop pretending in education by an amazing educator Jeanne Reed (@jeannereed1 on the Twitters). 

As I’ve read other posts on this blog post challenge topic, it’s been interesting to get an insight into the thinking of connected educators nationwide.  I would love to see how this topic would turn out if it was posed at every staff meeting at the end of the school year and... at the beginning of the school year. The reason I’d like those contrasting times, is the emotions are far different.  Getting the pulse of connected educators, at this time of the school year, while being entrenched in massively expensive (financial and work hours) standardized tests, open house events, and even closing out the year can be filled with higher levels of stress and anxiety. Here are the 5 I selected from my thoughts.

5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending:

  • that the “Keeping Up with the Joneses” mentality doesn’t happen in education.
  • that educational time spent on strengthening weakness is more important than time spent on identifying and enhancing strengths and talents (of children and educators).
  • that there are not deep divides in the "education world" on the topic of “Best Ways to Educate Children.”
  • that standardization is the way to improve education and that most educators like it.
  • that we can close the “Achievement Gap” without closing the “Opportunity Gap” (AKA - poverty - Read my upcoming post on Closing the Opportunity Gap).

Note: I didn’t number these opinions because to me no one is more important than another. They each carry weight. I hope, we as a connected education community, can work to resolve these things but allow for a diversity of solutions without being overly critical of efforts to provide the best possible education we can imagine for our children.

I’d like to invite about 100 people to join in this... but to follow the pattern I select Genein Letford, Oliver Schinkten, Timothy Bedley, Jon Samuelson and Christina Luce to share their thoughts. I have a tremendous amount of respect for each of these friends and educators because of the fact that they are action based.

Optional Reading… My other opinions on this topic that we have to stop pretending: That Standards Are Focusing on developing Critical Thinkers Vs Consumers; That We Aren’t Thinking to Highly of Tech Tools as Solutions; That Strategies and Pedagogy Are the Means to Improvement in In-Class Teaching (relationship is to me); That Kids Don’t Like Mindless Worksheets sometimes; That More Work/Assignments/Projects Get’s Better Learning Results; That Education’s Bottom Line is Student Learning and Not Money; That the Correct Policy or Set Of Standards Will Make Education Better; That Assigning Reading At Home (Reading Logs) Means All Kids Are Really Reading At Home; That Homework is Actually an Effective Means to Improve Student Performance.

Share your thoughts on this topic even if I didn't challenge you... We need to keep the conversations going to progress as an education community!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Giving Back to Philadelphia at ISTE 2015 = #SliceOfISTE

So many times I'm thankful for the learning that goes on at a conference. I enjoy seeing all the amazing people from my PLN and meeting new people to expand my PLN. I love the energy that surrounds learning and education conversations. Often, prior to a conference, we will share about sessions we may be considering, make dinner plans, talk about what we hope to get out of or add to the conference, but for ISTE the conversation shifted to "What is it that we feel we can give to the city and the people of Philadelphia?”

The idea of giving back is nothing original, but it is so extremely valuable. While listening to one of the best young educators Sara Boucher (@MsGeekyTeach) as she shared a story about how one restaurant in Philadelphia that was giving to the homeless, I caught her enthusiasm. She was hoping to get a group of us to visit that pizza place while at ISTE.  Her excitement for the story spawned the start of something that we are hoping expands and catches fire among attendees and those #NotAtISTE alike.

Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia has had some recent press coverage including being on the Ellen Show for their efforts to give slices of pizza to the homeless of the local community. The hopes are to have ISTE attendees flood this local business with free slices of pizza which would be used to serve any homeless who may be in need of a meal. As the discussion continued, it blossomed beyond just a small group of friends headed over for a slice, into a planning session for ways we could help the community of Philadelphia in many ways, thanks to Tracy Clark.

So join this simple movement in giving back to the city we have the opportunity to travel to for education conferences. Buy a slice of pizza for a homeless person at Rosa's or find another way to contribute to the local community. Join Tracy Clark, John Stevens, Karl Lindgren-Streicher, Victoria Olson, Sara and I by looking for ways to give as we all travel to Philadelphia. Please share about your plans for giving back by using #SliceOfISTE on Twitter or Instagram.

Not going to ISTE? You can still give or plan similar type activities at the next conference you attend. Thanks for reading. Be sure to follow @SliceOfISTE for updates and info on opportunities to give back during ISTE 2015. Check out some of my other blog posts on education.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Profession Development Gluttony? Refine your Palate.

Are you a professional development glutton? Take the Quiz:

Do you feel like there is nothing in teacher training sessions that you really enjoy?
Do you look over the session schedule and are uninterested in most sessions being offered?
Do you often wonder why so many sessions feel the same?
Do your conversations fall back to "how can we do professional development different?"
Do you feel like your wasting your time at conferences but you still attend?
Have you been to 10 or more trainings in the last year?

Did you answer yes to any or most of these questions?

So are you fat? Not physically... but are you fat with knowledge? Are you part of the growing group of educators who are eating at the ever expanding table of educations professional development?

For a while, it felt as though professional development, at least in California, had all but disappeared. Now it seems as though the opportunities are endless. I find myself feeling like I've been gorging at the PD table for the last few years.  As creatures of habits, I continue to go back to the same style of restaurant all while expecting new flavors that I can't find on the menu. I search the menu of sessions hoping to see something that sounds tasty, but it's all starting to look the same. How many ways can you have "tech-calamari" or "pedagogy-pasta?"  I've been doing my best to share all the food I've been enjoying, but more and more the flavors seem to lose their taste.

Others I know, who are also feeling full as well, are turning like foodies, to try and discover the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that's yet undiscovered. Some who are searching are even becoming their own chiefs by offering PD in ways that may not have been offered. Others are even going as far as opening their own "restaurants" or by starting "PD franchises."  And others are traveling great distances hoping to find different flavors to bring back home. Some have stuck close and are trying to demand more from the same restaurant we've been eating at for years. All these efforts don't seem to get to the heart of the matter.   When you're full your full.  Sometimes stepping away from the table is the best solution.  I'm certainly not trying to imply that anyone should stop going to professional development, but I am challenging the notion that more professional development leads to better classroom learning for students. For me, I need to refine my palate. How do I plan on doing this in the next few years?

My hopes are to put aside professional development and focus on personal development.  I want to find ways to expand the person I am, develop new passions, and learn more about things outside of education than inside. To put into practice, in my own life, all I've learned that is great for my students. I'm going to do more making, playing, and less homework! I'm going to spend more time experiencing learning through projects, choice and inquiry. I'm going to get back to the roots of learning. My hopes are that I'll discover what else I can offer my students and their families. I hope this will refine my palate.

Refining your palate and expanding your taste seems to be the way I will move forward as an educator.  Does your palate need refining? How will you refine yours? Share with me and be sure to check out some of my past blog post, point out errors or just say hello.

Monday, January 19, 2015

If Learning was a Currency, What's Your Tax Bracket?

EdCamp San Diego, Circa 2014

Walking in I was greeted by excitement, enthusiasm, and a clear desire to learn. It’s the feeling I get at the beginning of each EdCamp I’ve attended. The session board fills and you select, which is powerful. Sometimes though it’s the conversation, with other passionate educators, in the hallways that inspires the most progress in my classroom. This time it happened to be in the lounge/lunch area.

Wrapped closely around the circular lunch tables, I sat with Karl Lindgren-Streicher and Laura Spencer looking for a different conversation than any of the second session topics offered. Listening to two such passionate educators sent me a drift in thought. We discussed successful and unsuccessful teaching strategies through the sharing of experiences in our lives. In my head, I kept coming back to the question, how do we assign value to learning as educators? I started to share. Below are the questions that spun in my head from that conversation as well as a few of the ways I answered. I’d would have loved to have you there with us, since that time has past, join the conversation now, how would you answer these questions.

If learning was a currency…

We often avoid a public discussion on the topic of defining quality teaching or we spend a disproportionate amount of time criticizing poor teaching strategies without being able to truly pinpoint what makes a quality educator. The Gates Foundation has spent years and vast amounts of money trying to identify this very thing. Ultimately, the issue falls back to how do we identify what is success. I believe it is the relationships you create and the learning happening in a classroom.

As teachers, I believe we would want to be judged on the relationships we build that lead to learning, but what if learning was a literal currency? Where would each of us find ourselves financially Rich? or Poor? or Middle Class? Would we strive to be part of the wealthy class, or be satisfied with being in the middle class? (Vacations once a year, enough to feel satisfied and that you have it better than most.) Does our current education system have too large of a "middle class?" Have we become comfortable in the amount of "learning currency" we're earning in our lessons and lectures or have we become so far in debt trying to avoid leaving any children behind that we are just trying to survive. Is the learning "wealthy class" expanding at a rapid rate or is it shrinking? Do we have so much learning "currency" we should start donating the extra to others who find themselves in a less fortunate situation? Would our investments in learning "currency" be getting double digit returns or less then 1% interest?  Are we hoarding vast amounts of knowledge on investment strategies that lead to high returns in learning "currency?" Have we stopped taking the time to follow wise investment strategies? What is each of our "learning currency" tax bracket?

There were so many questions that played out in my head with regards to imagining learning as a currency, questions that eventually ended up in the conversations we had at that table. It's a thought I couldn't leave behind at EdCampSD. I'll leave you with this thought to hopefully inspire your reflection in this area. Since learning isn't a limited resource, why can't we continue to expand the "wealthy class" and shrink the "middle class" down to nothing. I really believe reflecting on the learning that goes on in our classrooms, truly taking the time to ask the question "How much learning is really taking place in my classroom?" can only push us to strive to a part of the "wealthiest 1%" and add a few zero's to that 1%.  Thanks for reading.

Check out my other posts on such topics as Optional Homework, Un-Maker Space, and more.