Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sit Still and Stop Learning?

I attended a presentation by Dr. Dieter Breithecker at Fanning/Howey Inc. on October 22, 2010. Dr. Breithecker studies the complexity of movement and its relationship to learning. The focus of the presentation was on Ergonomics in the School Environment. I think as educators we are aware of the difficulty students have remaining seated for long periods of time. Specifically, the research states the elementary students can only remain seated for 5-10 minutes, adolescents for 20 minutes and adults for only about 30 minutes. I believed this to be true in the context of attention span. However, the length of time a person sits and the particular way they are sitting, directly impacts the ability to learn and retain knowledge.

When posture is discussed, sitting upright with the knees pointed slightly outward provides the best lower back support and opportunity for the diaphragm to expand easily. The human body cannot remain in that position for long and will eventually slouch, thereby creating discomfort in the lower back and compromise the abdomen and the performance of the internal organs. This same experience can be recreated when students are sitting in static chairs and are asked to work at a table. The optimum seating when at a table would provide for movement in the pelvic area so when you lean forward the angle that is created between the upper body and lower body is the same as when seated upright.

Studies have shown that when the body is receiving messages via multiple sensors (eyes, ears, touch, smell, and sound) the more learning is taking place. Not a new concept. However, Dr. Breithecker stated that there is yet one more sensor that increases the ability to learn more than the others listed above, and that is activating the muscles and joints in the body. It is the body’s natural instinct to move. Our ancestors were always moving. We teach our babies to crawl, walk and then run and then we teach them to “sit still” when they get to school. There are physical and biochemical reasons why people cannot sit still. How can we incorporate movement in the learning process? Can educators be OK with students standing, sitting, lying, and walking around the classroom at various points during a lesson? Can we create lessons that provide for such movement? If we know that movement creates stronger synapses in the brain, why do we want our kids to sit still in class?


Friday, September 17, 2010

What is It about? It is about the CULTURE!

My first exposure to the New Tech Network (NTN) was last year when I took several staff members to learn about Project-Based Learning (PBL)…or at least that is what we thought we were there for. The workshop seemed to be more about implementation of NTNs around the state of Michigan. This was not necessarily what we signed up for, but was interesting information none the less.

Just last week I was asked to visit a NTN High School in Indiana and I agreed, as our district is exploring the implementation beginning with a segment of the ninth grade class in 2011. So I made the three hour trip to Fort Wayne after our Open House, arrived in the hotel and fell into bed at 11:00. I woke up this morning looking forward to seeing this school in action.

We were one of three districts visiting; Willow Run and Niles are also in the same exploring stage as we were. New Tech Academy @ Wayne High is in its second year of implementation, there are 100 freshmen and 100 sophomores at this school within a school. As the philosophy was explained, the key elements of the teaching strategies were shared with us and used to guide us in the inquiry process. What do we know (about NTN)? What do we need to know (about NTN)? were the guiding questions used in all NTN lessons as well as with the visiting groups. PBL in a 1:1 environment is the basis for all instruction in NTNs.

The next session of the day consisted of a panel of students who were open for questions regarding PBL. These students were able to articulate the advantages, challenges and examples of PBL projects in their courses. Most courses were integrated such as BioLit, ICAP: Integrated Chemistry Algebra and Physics, and GeoCad: Geography and Computer Aided Design, to name a few. One particular project consisted of working with Edy’s Ice Cream to help them design a packaging method to ensure the same volume of ice cream with less overhead for how they packaged their product. The final projects were presented to a member of the Edy’s organization…Freshmen, yes freshmen accomplished this task!

The next session involved student led classroom visits—phenomenal! The students in the class clearly articulated what they were doing and why, worked collaboratively and independently on their laptops. The sophomores were clearly able to function in this setting with very little direction from their facilitators (as the teachers are considered more of facilitators of learning rather than the teacher who relays information). On our tour we noticed that there were no locks on lockers, how could that be? Students don’t worry about having their valuables stolen? "No we trust each other" they said…WOW!

Our next session had the same students address CULTURE! The driving beliefs of NTNs are Trust, Respect, and Responsibility. It became very evident that the students in the NTN had a very different culture than those in the “other” school, Wayne High. These schools are in one building, which made me wonder how do they interact? How they treat each other? The students described feeling that New Tech was “their” school. There were signs on doors that did not permit the Wayne High kids to come into the New Tech part of the school. This still makes me uneasy, but most kids seemed ok with it, New Tech kids and Wayne High Kids as I got to talk to both. There seems to be an accepted feeling that kids in New Tech are “better” than the other kids, and New Tech kids believe it. Why wouldn’t we want to offer this experience to all kids? The CULTURE that New Tech has created is we are about learning, not the drama that comes with traditional high school settings. Why can’t all schools have a CULTURE of Trust, Respect and Responsibility? They can…#edreform!

In an effort to shorten this already long post, what New Tech is about is CULTURE! It is not the 1:1 initiative, the focus on 21st century skills, the link to the future workforce environment, or a small house setting. It is the CULTURE. The students are immersed in a respectful environment where they have a voice, they create their own norms, they create solutions to the problems that are developed in their course, and they are in charge of their own learning! I can only hope to take back ideas on how to create the same culture in our traditional setting (I beg to differ that our school is really all that traditional, but we are) and make it work with our kids!

As always I am an optimist and this CULTURE is and what should be in every educational setting—I want it! I want it bad! What is student achievement about? It is about the CULTURE! What are high performing teachers about? It is about their CULTURE! What is a successful school about? It is about the CULTURE! What are supportive building and central office administrators about? It is about their CULTURE! What is an Exemplary District about? It is about the CULTURE! It is about the CULTURE, folks, it is about the CULTURE!


Friday, September 3, 2010

Summer "Should've Been Blogs" Part 1: Enjoy the Cruise

So many moments I thought about blogging this summer, why did I pass them up? Will I ever catch up? Will I simply do one huge blog right now when everything is on my mind? Let’s see?
One conversation happened before the seven teachers retired from our building has been on my mind ever since…She told me not to tell anyone her idea until she was gone because she did not want to be considered “sucking up to the principal or creating one more thing on thing on their plate” Wow, how I have struggled with this conversation, if teachers feel like they should keep great ideas a secret how are we ever to improve our entire school? Anyway, very bothered by this philosophy, how many teachers really feel this way? Are we not in this together? We all go down with the ship or we all enjoy the cruise!


Teacher welcomes texting in class

Teacher welcomes texting in class


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

#ISTE10 TakeAways Part 3: A New Passion Full of Lessons...

Google Forms with @tammyworcester was amazing and gave me a great deal more info than I had already had on this topic. Her tips and tricks are endless and her website is one to share! Numerous templates are available and I will be sure to share the ease with which Forms can be used for data gathering, rubric creators, self-checking quizzes, journal moderating, and class voting. Check out her website for more info Work smarter, not harder with Google Docs…Lesson #6!

The last session I attended was Crap Detection with @hrheingold. The topic was determining what we decide is accurate and reliable content on the web. One piece of advice that was given to the audience was to see what your PLN talks about and regards highly. His handout provides lots of resources to help work with students to evaluate the material they find online. “If it sounds too good to be true, it is probably not true”…Lesson #7!

Needless to say the conference invigorated me, inspired me, and got me thinking about how to integrate this new information into my work, share with colleagues, and use in presentations for my students and parents. The possibilities are endless! I can’t wait to plan for next year’s conference, as I will be sure to attend the leadership boot camps and many of the ticketed sessions so I never have to miss a session due to overcrowding. #ISTE11 Here I come! Encourage more administrators and teachers to attend...Lesson #8!


#ISTE10 TakeAways Part 2: A New Passion Full of Lessons...

The next session was presented by another person I follow on Twitter, @dwarlick on Cracking the Native Information Experience. Several points stuck with when I left this session. He spoke about the fact that our students live in a social networking, gamer, and hyper-connected world. How can we crack the code and teach the way they want to receive information? How can we change the paradigm of kid-think being “how many pages does it have to be?” to “What do I need to show so that it is evident that I have mastered the concept?” How can education encourage kids to ask questions? Blogging and using video games let them be the creators of their knowledge. Video games with no directions interest students so much that they will spend hours trying to figure out the objective. Do we encourage risk-taking in our kids and encourage them to learn through their mistakes? Don’t chop our kids’ tentacles off when they come to school …Lesson #3!

@reneehobbs gave me a great deal to think about at the session on Copyright and Clarity and Fair Use. I created a presentation for my students last year on Digital Citizenship, and was unaware that I had tapped into her resources already, but they provide a wealth of info for all educators. The message I heard loud and clear from this session is know what transformative use is and how it falls under Fair Use! How interesting it was for the US Library of Congress to decide jailbreaking of the iPhone and mixing video as Fair Use! If your information adds value or repurposes old information then it is transformative use…Lesson #4!

The next session I attended was a Panel discussion on 1:1 Learning—an Update on Mobile Learning Programs in K-12 Schools today. Three schools presented on how they implemented a 1:1 environment and the issues they faced. Most people expressed the fear that the mobile learning devices (MLDs) would come up missing, and everyone was pleasantly surprised to see that the students valued the tools so much that they brought them every day—if not they knew they would have to use paper and pencil to complete tasks with which they normally used the MLD. One school in particular had a great story to share. The school was very old and had difficulty even having two overhead projectors on at a time on a given floor. So with the given infrastructure concerns, there was no possibility of charging a mobile laptop lab let alone have a 1:1 environment. The district decided to work with Verizon and each student received a smartphone that they could then take home to charge at night! Kids brought them back every day as these MLDs are a motivating technology tool for the classroom…Lesson #5!


#ISTE10 TakeAways Part 1: A New Passion Full of Lessons...

I would never have thought that I would go to Denver, Colorado for a technology conference a year ago. I still can’t believe that it has only been a year since I took a dive head first into technology! This past year has really opened up my eyes to a new focus, a new passion!
I went with my Assistant Principal and his wife as they planned a professional vaca-development experience for themselves, which I so graciously became their third wheel and joined them!

As a newbie to an ISTE conference, I soon realized how much I missed from the ticketed sessions and the leadership bootcamps, won’t make that mistake again! So my first experience was the Keynote on Sunday night. Jean-Francois Rischard, an author and former vice-president of World Bank, began with a crowd that I have only seen at concerts in Detroit! I was very awestruck! Only until he began, as many of us soon learned that his presentation skills were lacking. Watching the Twitter stream was both funny and sad; as I think most people could not be believe that he would elect to use a PowerPoint presentation filled with words on every screen. In an arena so large, I am not sure who could see the presentation. I remember tweeting that he actually had his back to audience while he was speaking. Needless to say, it was difficult to give the presentation my full attention, especially with the very ferocious Twitter stream I was receiving.

The first presentation I went to on Monday morning was Backchannel: Let Everyone Speak with @Michael baker, @chrischampion, and @khokanson. This tool interests me as I think this will be extremely useful in the classroom and during staff meetings. I can’t wait to find opportunities to use it this year. One message that hit me loud and clear during this session was what we preach about digital citizenship… When you are tweeting or backchanneling, be positive in our comments, or at least be constructive what we say so that someone can use it to improve…Lesson #1!

I proceeded on to Steve Dembo’s Policy, Safety, and Social Networking session. As a rather new Tweeter, I had no idea that I followed so many experts, as many of those I follow were presenting! Steve was one of them! I felt his session was info packed and much of what I learned; I am taking back to my district. I write a lot about how we must educate our kids to use this technology rather than just ban it from our school systems. He provided many resources for my district as they explore new technology plans and AUPs for our students and staff. The message I heard loud and clear from this session was that putting information on the web about our students should not be prohibited, but encouraged as long as it is appropriate and beneficial to them in the future…Lesson #2!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

#ETLC10 Take Aways: Ride the Wave!

The keynote for this conference was Jamie Casap an Education Evangelist at Google. I was looking forward to hearing him speak as the company Google interests me; I wonder how I could work for Google? That seems like a future career move for me one day; I am going to look into that soon! Some points that I took away from his speech were how new technology has impacted the different generations. It is hard to believe that children today do not know a world without cell phones and instant communication. Mobile learning devices (MLDs) are the largest growing technology in underdeveloped nations as they are affordable and easily obtained. As schools continue to ban these “pocket computers,” educational leaders have to educate themselves as well as our children to learn the benefits of these devices and practice the safe use of them inside and outside of the school. Jaime shared that he spends a great deal of time educating his children on the safe use of the internet, social media, and various interactive technology. He is confident they practice good digital citizenship, so much so he does not check their status of Facebook or the history of the sites they may have visited.
Jaime predicted that the laptop will be dead by the year 2013. This statement alone reinforces just how slow education changes, especially when we are talking about embracing technology. Currently, every child does not have access to laptops in every school even with a goal of a 1:1 setting. Are we already saying laptops will be outdated in three years…? How can we get technology into the hands of every student?
The mobile learning device is the next wave to ride when it comes to increasing student achievement!

IPads in Education was the next workshop that I attended. Joanna Montgomery works for Apple and was/is an educator. Tons of apps were discussed in this session, many of which I was already familiar. One that sticks out in my mind is the sign language app Sign 4 Me that is also available for the iPhone. This app shows the various angles that people view sign language, such as viewing upward if you were a small child and down if you were a tall adult. Another very cool app is the book of the periodic table The
Elements: A Visual Exploration which is only available on the iPad. This app gave 3D views of each element on the periodic table an awesome way to show kids in a chemistry class where an element came from up close and personal. The last app that was highlighted that was new to me is the iBook app that is also available for the iPhone. This app enables your iPad to be an e-reader. When will textbooks no longer exist? Will there ever be a day that libraries will no longer exist? In my lifetime?

A panel discussion took place during lunch. The topic of the discussion was virtual desktops. I remember hearing about this when I went on a school visit to Holly High School in Michigan. No longer, did each student space require a hardrive. The monitors were at each student space, but the information was held on a virtual server for the school district. As I still do not have a full understanding of this topic, it does seem like another wave of the future. As cloud computing increases and people feel more comfortable with the security of this technology, I expect this feature to explode in public schools. When data can be housed and accessible to students and staff whenever, wherever, and however. What a breakthrough! I am ready to ready to ride that wave!

ITunes U is the next session I attended with Judy Paxton from MACUL. This session was informative as I have not explored this component of iTunes. I think this might be a hidden gem for educators. Michigan educators have linked lessons to the standards. Not only does this provide a wealth of teaching resources, but also provides an opportunity for students to upload videocasts of lessons as well as earn a stipend for quality uploads. I need to explore more of this resource and share with my staff. There was a lesson on an Algebra activity for middle schoolers that was addressed; I still need to check this one out!

The next hot topic revolves around disruptive innovation. Fred Sharpsteen describes disruptive innovation and how it relates to education. His research specifically relates to how students need a customized learning environment that compliments their individual needs. Technology is the rogue wave that needs to disrupt the educational systems of today. Teaching methods must not just integrate technology but must imbed it into the teaching and learning process. Therein lines our dilemma, with continued cutbacks and loss of funding how do we do that if we don't have the technology?

Finally, my last learning experience is one that will help me reach my goal for next year, I want to produce podcasts or, more appropriately coined, videocasts. I explored the Camtasia and Snagit software produced by TechSmith a Michigan company, gotta love the homegrown folks! I was able to create a brief podcast, as no video was available on the computers in the lab. We created a brief podcast to show others how to change the size of the cursor, very cool and very easy! I want to create my own very soon! The main take-away from this session, other than how to use the software was to create a script prior to recording, this was very helpful to have as it was your safety net!

So, what is your definition of an educational leader? How do they use technology? How do they build capacity in their staff to embrace technology in their classrooms? How do we keep up with our kids? How do we afford the technology and the support that comes along with it? Why do I have so many questions? How do I ride the wave of technology to increase student achievement?


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Will you come out and play with me?

At the end of the year last year, I vowed to make it my personal/professional goal to become technology literate and a user of web 2.0 tools. I purchased my first iPhone last June. Since then, I have become a blogger, tweeter, Facebooker, wiki creater, open source media user, a Google fanatic, video uploader, web 2.0 promoter, 21st century skill advocator and overall supporter of the need to integrate opportunities for our students to collaborate, create and communicate using 21st century tools.

With my new found dedication to “eating up” everything I can get my hands on regarding new tools and resources to help teachers make changes in pedagogy, curriculum and assessment for today’s kids, I have encountered more criticism than support.

I have learned more this year through Twitter, than I have in the entire 3 years I have been doing my coursework for my doctoral degree. So I will continue blogging and tweeting with the hopes educators will get bitten by the curiosity bug and just explore!

The more I read and learn through my PLN, the more urgency I feel in sharing the wave of the future. Unfortunately, the request is to slow down. I know the importance of not doing too many things at once (or at least I try not to implement too many things at once), but technology integration is not one of them. Our kids are already leaving us behind. The longer we wait the more exponential the increase in knowledge our students will have about technology compared to teachers.

What is our solution? How can we get teachers to “play with” and explore these free resources? Can we really create 21st century schools?


Friday, April 2, 2010

It is Not my Cell Phone it is my Mobile Learning Device!

I thought I was an iPhone freak. I thought I was maybe a little obsessed. I had free resources to access current trends in education at my fingertips any hour any day. My friends and family became annoyed by my constant references to the “latest tweet” or from an app that allows me to speak into my phone and dictate to my blog. I became defensive. Why are you making fun of me when I am learning outside of a regular classroom setting, compared to when I carried the latest educational magazine or book in my hand?

I tease back, that “I am learning new things 24/7 and what are you all doing with your phone that only makes and receives calls?” I said,  “This is not my cell phone this my mobile learning device! “

Then two weeks ago, I was with my sister, who is not an educator, and she got her first Smartphone, a Verizon Droid. Guess what, she was acting just as weird as I was when I got my iPhone! She was talking about her new apps, playing the guitar and looking at stars. She is much more “in the know” with her “current trends” that have nothing to do with education, but they keep her informed of what is going on in her world. Exactly the purpose of technology in the 21st century.

If you could have seen the excitement in her eyes when she showed us her new “tools” you would agree, if we could see that light in all of our students’ eyes we would find a way to get these tools in all of our students’ hands!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Go into the Light, Carol Ann...

As I continue to struggle with our current vision and model of school, I have recently had an opportunity to go to an enlightening and inspiring conference entitled, Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL.) The conference had numerous presenters that have revamped what they do in the classroom while using technology to make their life a great deal easier. Now, their lives were not easier at first, during the learning process, but now could not imagine their life without Google Apps.
The word on the street was that I might be so inspired after this conference, that I might expect staff to engage in various new experiences and use new tools and strategies in the classroom. Well, truth be told, I had those expectations before I went to the conference, but now I have a better idea of how to explore those topics without overwhelming the staff who are at different comfort levels of technology integration (hopefully.) I do not want any of our staff to "Be Left Behind." Google is going to revolutionize education, and we cannot ignore it or refuse the wealth of opportunities that comes along with it.
There are some myths that Jacobs (2010) states in the Curriculum 21 book:
Myth 1:"The old days are good enough--There are real dangers in glorifying the good old days and and clinging to our schools myths and stories. How can we grow the curriculum if schools are shackled by memories?"
Myth 2: "We are better off if we think alike -but don't think too much--Often times those who use the word elite use it in a pejorative sense when referring to a well educated person who has made a significant accomplishment." Society tends to give props to those people who have  "made it" by pulling themselves up by the boot straps and find them more highly regarded than those with higher education. I know there are times when I have met new people, I have felt a little embarrassed to say I have almost completed my doctoral degree or I won't even admit to it at all, which sounds so crazy as I sit here and type...
Myth 3: "Too much creativity is dangerous--and the arts are frills": Clearly the 21st century skills require learners to collaborate, create, use real-world tools, be personally and socially responsible, and be culturally and globally aware-we have to foster this kind of creative learning environment.
If technology is going to help us create our new vision of what schools look like (or don't look like in a virtual classroom) we have to embrace it.
Carol Ann's mom in Poltergeist said, "Go into the light, Carol Ann, it is OK, go into the light!" Carol Ann was afraid and didn't want to, but her she trusted her mom, and believed that her mom would not send her in the wrong direction or down the wrong path. Think of the light as the world of new technology. Although it can be scary, you have to go into the light if you are going to survive, but go there seeking support from those asking you to go there, and be brave, you will come out on the side and lead our kids down the path to the 21st century!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

To Do More with Less, or Do "Different" with Less, That is the Question.

In my last post, I stated that in light of the dismal financial future and the demands that are being placed on public educators, we will have to do more with less. This really struck a nerve with a colleague. So much so that we had a conversation about the statement and I shared the number of times I have heard "we have to do more with less" in various settings. The response to me was "maybe it is not doing more with less, but doing things differently." I think I am fully aware we have to do things differently, but what things? The problem is that no one really knows what those things are. When the future is filled with uncertainty, it is difficult for us to forge ahead when we do not know what the end result will look like. We struggle when we do not have an example of what it should like. When we have to create something from scratch, fear and anxiousness begin to set it. This happens only because we want to do things right...once again, what things are we talking about?
When I feel like I need guidance or inspiration I turn to my "teacher" books, a joke I share with my colleague mentioned above, as we tease each other and say we are "teacher geeks" because we seem to share the same interests in books that help us perfect our craft. So the book I just finished, Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, Jacobs (2010) states that we need to create new versions of school as well as update the curriculum. In the description of updating the curriculum, it is vital to define essential curriculum. This definition should include removal and replacement of outdated material, skills, and ways we assess students. Rather than take on the huge challenge of upgrading all aspects of curriculum at once, it is recommended that schools take one piece at a time. Targeting one unit a semester can feel a lot less daunting than revamping everything you use to teach and assess at one fell swoop.
The author also describes that maybe we really need to redefine what it is we call school. The structures that we can begin to redefine would be scheduling (daily and yearly, even what it means K-12); the way students are grouped (age and grade); the way we configure staff; and how learning environments are used (physical and virtual.) These structures can also impact curriculum as we now know it.
If we have schedules, groupings, structural space, and a curriculum that still models the schools of the 1930s, we are overdue in taking on the challenge to make schools support what our students need to be able to know and do. Our students should not have to conform to what we so rigidly keep in place, because if we change it, we won't know what the end result might look like.
In the words of my fellow doctoral cohort member, We can't say that because we use an overhead instead of the chalkboard, or an LCD projector instead of an overhead, or a smartboard instead of an LCD projector that we are progressing and using 21st century tools, we are still doing the same thing just with new bells and whistles. This is not the "doing things differently" that we mean is it? Or is the "doing things differently" mean we have to "blow up" those traditional models and start from scratch, with the ultimate goal of creating the most engaging learning environment and curriculum that there is not any type of learner that cannot succeed and that any teacher would not love to teach everyday! Yes, I know maybe my head is in the clouds again, maybe it should be my dissertation topic...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Students Pledge to Go Paperless on Earth Day...

Earth Day Pledge...
The Green Team ran across a blog entitled "TeachPaperless: Seeking social solutions for the mysteries of 21st century teaching that has created an interesting challenge--How many teachers could pledge to go "Paperless" on Earth Day? The Green Team at South Middle School has now created the challenge of having our entire school go "Paperless" on Earth Day! The link to the Blog is if you would like to read more about the challenge. Teachers can pledge to go paperless by clicking on the link found in the Teachpaperless blog and students can pledge to go paperless right here!

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Powering Down" in 21st Century Schools

We have finally taken on the challenge of working with our colleagues within the district, across grade levels in core content areas, to define what is essential for our students to learn and to create the common assessments that will be used to assess those skills. I am thrilled that we are finally moving in a direction that begins to create a K-12 curriculum in our district. However, I have begun to grow concerned as I read Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. Are our schools and curricula frozen in time? Do kids "power-down" when they come to school and then return to the 21st Century as they exit the building? I am afraid that at many schools this is the unfortunate reality for students. Does the current middle school that I work in, function and look like the same middle school I went to? Sad, but true.
As we begin the endeavor to define what is essential curriculum, it seems the charge is to use the content we have always used to articulate the minimums for what a student must know. What happens if the minimum eventually turns to into all of what a student must know? Is this the right message? With educators facing a time where everything is being cutback; from instructional time, teaching staff, extra curricular opportunities, collaboration time, and worse, salary and benefits, the message is: do more, with less. Often times staff feel that the state, district, and building initiatives are too much to ask. The fact is we are all going to have to do more with less. If our students' success depends not only on defining essential curriculum, but that the curriculum is relevant and replaces outdated material, activities, skills, and assessments with those that do not require students to power down when they come to school, is this too much to ask?
How is this task accomplished for our students' future success? When the Race to the Top Initiative is no longer an initiative, it will require that all schools have a rigorous and relevant curriculum that embraces technology in every aspect of student life. How do we get there if we are asking too much?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thoughts on Motivation and Kids...

My last reflection on Pink's book, Drive, is about how can we use more motivational strategies in the classroom or eliminate some of the demotivating behaviors we use in schools as described by the author. The first topic is about the never-ending debate on the purpose of homework. There are three questions teachers can ask themselves regarding the purpose of a particular homework assignment and how it may affect a student's motivation for completing the task:
1. Am I offering students any autonomy over how and when to do this homework?
2. Does this assignment promote mastery by offering a novel, engaging task (as opposed to rote reformulation of something already covered in class)?
3. Do my students understand the purpose of this assignment? That is, can they see how doing this additional activity at home contributes to the larger enterprise in which the class is engaged?

Offer a day that you "turn your class over" to a student or group of students. Could you do it? What planning on the students' part would be necessary? Can you imagine the responsibility you'd be putting on the student and how much they would feel valued and respected in your classroom? How often could you do it? What is the old saying on the percentage of knowledge learned when you teach it? 90%? It is more than worth it.

Have students evaluate themselves every nine weeks when you complete report cards. Have them determine proficiency on the essential skills or "big ideas" that were focused on each quarter. Don't forget those work habit grades as well. Self-reflection is tremendously powerful. Speaking from experience...

Praise--use "now-that" rewards rather than "if-then" rewards. Praise effort and strategy, not intelligence. Be specific. Keep each child's praise their own, it is not necessary for others to hear their private feedback. Only praise a student when there is a reason for it, they know when you are being fake. This information is based on the work of Carol Dweck, psychologist.

Help students answer the question, "Why am I learning this?" Why is the information essential for them to learn at that point in time?

Finally, are these new topics? No. Have I read about them before? Absolutely. So why does current research still focus on these topics? Because education has still not fully embraced what science knows is true, but continues to repeat the past. What can break the cycle?
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's Not Personal...

As I reflect on the last chapter of Drive, I want to awaken my motivation, professionally and personally. There are several of Pink's nine strategies that interest me. The first strategy I would employ is to give myself the "Flow" test. At forty random times in a week, I would need to set an alarm to go off and record what I am doing, how I am feeling and whether I am in "flow." I need an iPhone app to help me in this could I set a timer to go off randomly forty times in one week? This data would be interesting! What would my trends show? How many times could it catch me not in "flow"? Would there be a time of the day that I am in more "flow" than others? How could I use this information to help me make better "life" decisions?
The next strategy is to define myself in one sentence...The author states that in 1962, Clare Booth Luce gave advice to President Kennedy. That advice was, "A great man is one sentence." Abraham Lincoln's sentence was: "He preserved the union and freed the slaves." Franklin Roosevelt's sentence was : "He lifted us out of a depression and helped us win a world war." What is my sentence? I think this is always hard for educators; to toot our own horn.
This would make a great staff activity. Have people write each other's sentence. This could be an eye opening experience.
To focus on mastery, Pink recommends these five steps:
1. Deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
3. Seek constant, critical feedback.
4. Focus ruthlessly on where you need help.
5. Prepare for the process to be mentally and physically exhausting.
The most crucial area is probably the most difficult area, seeking constant, critical feedback. Critical feedback requires "thick skin." Many years have gone by and people say, oh you have to get thick skin. Which I think my skin has gotten thicker, but it must have been see-through in the beginning if it is only as thick as it is now. People always say not to take things personally, which seems logical, but not possible. I am on a never-ending journey to mastery that has more than a few potholes, with one being finding ways to accept critical feedback without taking it personal...

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thoughts on Purpose...

Purpose is the final element of motivation that Pink describes in his book, Drive. Pink shares that a large number of baby boomers are turning 60. When people hit the "Big -0" birthdays, people tend to reflect on their life and think about whether or not they have met the goals they had set for themselves. This is where purpose comes into play. People that are most satisfied and task oriented, are also very motivated people, have usually connected their "purpose" in life to be something bigger than just making themselves happy. As people in education, we have clearly defined our purpose to be something more than just about ourselves. Can adolescents see their purpose as something more than just themselves? I think at times some do, but as Erin stated the last post, many of these skills needed to attain motivation are very adultlike, for people who have the use of a fully developed brain, not our teens who have brains that are unable to reason and make sound decisions.
There has been research done that shows if goals are solely revolving around ideas that do not contribute to the greater good and that have no impact on well-being can actually contribute to ill-being. Scientists that Pink quoted state that "rich, well off, people may reach goals to have a great deal of wealth and spend all of their time figuring out ways to make more money, are not truly content as there has been less room in their lives for love and attention to those that really count." Profit cannot always be the end all, be all. The purpose is what provides the motivation to burn the midnight oil just as much or more that the amount of money you will earn by completing a task.
The "if-then" rewards (carrot and stick rewards) can be ineffective in many situations. These rewards can have a negative effect on creativity the ability to think conceptually which are most important for the progress of our world socially and globally. The author continues to describe the discrepancy between what science knows and what business does. Is there a connection here to education?
The author states that as adults we can look to children when it comes to the elements of autonomy and mastery, but when it comes to purpose, it is harder to see the big picture, and to realize that one day we will no longer be here, and that attaining some of the gaols we think we are supposed to have may not be important after all. I love this last paragraph:
"We know that human beings are not merely smaller, slower, better smelling horses galloping
after the day's carrot. We know--if we've spent time with young children or remember
ourselves at our best--that we're not destined to be passive and compliant. We're designed
to be active and engaged. And we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren't when
we're clamoring for validation from others, but when we're listening our own voice--doing
something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Have we failed them?

Thoughts on Mastery...

The second of the three elements of motivation that Pink talks about is Mastery. There were several points that got me thinking. The first phrase is described as a "Goldilock's Task." A task that is "just right." Pink states that frustration in the workplace (which can also be translated into the classroom) begins with a discrepancy of what people want to do and what they can do. When people encounter a task that is beyond their capabilities, the person will experience a high level of anxiety. If a person encounters a task that is below thier capabilties, the result is bordom. When the task is "just right" the results are stupendous! When the task is just on the fine line of challenge and comfort, a person is reported to be in the "zone" or "flow." Flow is crucial for reaching mastery. However, just because you are in "flow" doesn't ensure mastery. Mastery takes time (a long time) to reach and you may be in "flow" more frequently, we have to use flow on our journey to mastery. 

There are also three laws of Mastery. The first is that Mastery is mind-set. There are two schools of thought on the intelligence needed to reach mastery. One being that a person can increase their intelligence by continuing to learn and grow and challenging themselves. Another thought is that you will either have the intelligence to reach mastery or you won't.  One school of thought is driven toward mastery the other is not.
The second law is Mastery is pain. The road to mastery--"becoming better at something you care about--is not lined with daisies and ends with a rainbow." Mastery can be reached by exerting effort over a LONG period of time. Julius Erving once said "Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them."
Lastly, Mastery is an Asymptote (what is an asymptote, Mrs. Stamm?) An example of a horizontal asymptote is straight line that a curve approaches but never quite reaches. Mastery is then something we can work towards, get very close to, but never put our hands on it.

So why strive for something we can never reach? Is the journey more fulfilling than the end result? How do we entice kids to strive for mastery when we cannot guarantee an "end" to the process?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Grade Fog? Or Effective Grading?

Grade Fog? Or Effective Grading?

Thoughts on Autonomy...

Pink's book, Drive, describes three elements of Motivation. The first being Autonomy. The concept of autonomy is based on the fact that for individuals to truly be motivated to do their best work, conditions must be provided so that a great deal of freedom and choice is available to reach individual goals. This requires those in leadership positions to understand that individuals have different desires, so the most effective strategy to increase motivation would be to figure out what is important to individuals. Therein lies a concern that autonomy may discourage accountability. Pink (2009) states that "Motivation 2.0 assumed that if people had freedom, they would shirk--and that autonomy was a way to bypass accountability. Motivation 3.0 begins with a different assumption. It presumes that people want to be accountable--and that making sure they have control over their task, their technique, and their team is a pathway to that destination."

How does Pink's belief in autonomy relate to students in a classroom? How does the belief in autonomy relate to educators in public education? How would an educational environment based on freedom benefit/hinder student motivation and growth? How would an educational environment based on freedom benefit/hinder staff motivation or growth? What are your thoughts regarding autonomy?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"The Death of Education, the Dawn of Learning..."

Very intriguing video! How do you feel when you watch this video? I feel quite anxious when I realize the direction we need to go with education and how slow we are moving...How much time do we engage in technology each day/week compared with our students? I know how many hours I spend reading and researching and I know it is no where near the time our students spend using available technology! How do we begin to "catch up" with what our students are capable of doing online?

Monday, January 18, 2010


I am currently reading Daniel Pink's book Drive. He states that we are all born intrinsically motivated. He provides evidence of this by describing a baby who falls down over and over when they are trying to learn how to walk, but yet continues to get back every time! There have been several companies that offer opportunities to work at home and even devote some of their work day to solving problems that do not pertain to their careers. This practice has developed a more intrinsically motivated staff and they actually work outside their normal work day for the sheer sense of accomplishment and self-improvement. There is no belief in the practice of "doing the least amount of work possible." Could this practice be replicated in public education? There obviously becomes a time when some people lose that intrinsic motivation, or it begins to disappear. When and why does this happen? If we worked to find this answer and stop doing whatever it is that tends to make this happen, what would the future look like for our students?