Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't Buy the Hype

Spent some time today learning about the hype curve that is published by the Gartner Group. Not sure that I totally get it, but I certainly don't want to hitch my horse to the wrong things when I'm on the long arm of implementing trends. The hard part about being one of the first implementer of things is the possibility of failure, but one of the awesome things about being an early implementer is failure. These charts were a great reminder that learning never stops, just when I think that I have everything rolling, the landscape shifts. Afraid to failure can't be a part of students' thinking, ever... We'll be there to catch you.

Realized the images are awful, click on them for the clear ones.

Great Infographic on Bottled Water

I thought that maybe if I posted this, then I would finally purchase a real water bottle for daily use.

Term Life Insurance

Amazing Vision for Learning

Somehow I missed this video in my pile of learning, but I truly think that this piece paints the picture of the excellence that we are pursuing at MRHMS.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Five for Thanskgiving

Over the past few weeks, I have still been publishing these list to my staff, but I forgot to slide them in the blog. Sorry to those following for leaving you out.

These videos are great for opening our viewpoints to a global lens. I really enjoyed the quality of the work here. The videos are more great examples of digital storytelling.

Someone recently was talking about how to get more from students while they are at home, and I think that there is some hope from this blended learning strategy that engages students with thoughtful questions for commenting and discussion at home

Many of us are putting our toes in the Twitter water in an effort to grow and learn from educators around the country. This is a great set of resources for beginner, intermediate, and advanced users.

More great videos to support and enhance learning can be found here.

This daily post about education from the Washington Post is growing among my favorite. It has a number of voices, and it hits on issues that really matter. I think that there is a lot to the idea that best practices for gifted learners are the best practices for all learners.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Balance, Moderation, and the Tech-driven Life

Looking for more on how to help your kids with this concept. Make the trip to Birmingham in April for edcampbhm. We will be talking more about making sure that the best of technology is balanced with the best that life has to offer.

Birth of an Idea

This list by Seth Godin does a great job of capturing the birth of ideas. How do we set up our schools to let ideas be born?

Ideas don't come from watching television

Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture

Ideas often come while reading a book

Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them

Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom

Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide

Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do

Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner's mind. A little awareness is a good thing

Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week

Ideas come from trouble

Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they're generous and selfless

Ideas come from nature

Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence

Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice

Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we're asleep and too numb to be afraid

Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying

Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute

Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones

Ideas don't need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity

An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn't join us here, it's hidden. And hidden ideas don't ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Powerful Student Voice

I had a chance to listen to this over the weekend. Wow, the whole performance is quite powerful. I hope that we aren't building students that feel this same way about the educational system at MRHMS. I continue to believe that we can remained balanced, trust our process, and allow the test scores to take care of themselves.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MRHMS Technology Integration

I watched this video, and I realized that it is five minutes of gold. It describes what successful technology integration look like in the classroom on an instructional level. I think that we can get our kids here in three years, new lofty goals being laid down right now.

Information Cocoon

There are moments when I get hit over the head by something that I missed. I'm not sure if it is a piece of growing from being such a generalist to being more of a specialist or whether it is something that happens with age. Throughout the last decade, I talked a lot about the importance of lateral capacity building, meaning that I was able to absorb information from religion, politics, and pop culture for the purpose of applying the lessons in my daily work with kids. On the lowest level, this allowed me to make references and examples that resonated with kids, and at the highest level, there were ideas of change and implementation that I plucked from the vine for use in my school.

Over the last few weeks, there has been a story floating around that has gone viral about a mom in Kansas City that allowed her five-year old to dress like Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. Seemed like a non-story to me, but apparently, her blog post about the situation created a buzz This story eventually found its way to the Today Show and The View. The interesting part of this story is that I know the author of the blog, and I stumbled onto the controversy by reading between the lines on Facebook. I applaud Sarah for being an awesome mom, thinker, and advocate for what she believes in, but the point of this is that I totally missed the story.

Missing the story is rare for me. My journalism brain keeps me sniffing for the truth, looking for the stories that have legs, and knowing the stories that will fade quickly. I wonder of my new position has put me in an information cocoon, a cocoon that has you so buried in middle school vision and progress that you can't see the world around you. I worry about this because I know that I am at my best when I am orchestrating many flows of information. Maybe this is overblown, maybe I'm getting old, but hopefully, I just need a wake up call to read bigger and wider to avoid getting burned by my laser-like focus on school.

Monday, November 8, 2010

TED-Educational Design and Systems Thinking

This sort of design thinking and work gets me totally excited about learning and being in school. This is a must watch TED talk.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Top 100 Tools for Learning

I thought that this was an interesting survey of top learning applications.

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

If you don't follow this blog through your RSS, now is the time to do so as he is rolling out the best websites of the year in tons of areas and subjects..

This is a great example of transformational use of technology. I loved the headline also. We should all be asking ourselves this question.

You can now search YouTube by year. This seems like a really engaging way to learn from video, comparing two years in cartoon, political ads, game shows, etc.

I had read the post about the theory of n+1 (meaning that we always have room for one more thing), but I was struck by the power of n-1. Could we all eliminate something that we do for kids without changing the system or the outcomes that we get for kids. If so, should we make some space for ourselves.

This is an incredible list of free courses and youtube channels that you can use to enhance and stretch your students.

This is an incredible set of resources to allow you to stretch your technology use to a global scale. See if you can get a class or your advisory trying some of these global things.

What is good instruction? I think that this blog post echoes my feelings about what I'm looking for in the area of good instruction.

Learning isn't Optional for Teachers

This post was headed to my Five for Friday links, but it rose above just a link. It is an incredible call to action that reminds us that we have to learn everyday to continue to be the best in our position.

Raise your hand if you spent time exploring, challenging, refining, and enhancing your professional practice today? Now, raise your other hand if that professional learning took place in a collaborative context with other professionals?

Is your hand raised high or "tied" behind your back?

I’m not a reform expert, but if all educators are not raising their hands almost each and every day when asked, the talk about school change and 21st Century learning environments is lost to the reality that the professionals that make up educations are not professional learners and practitioners. They are simply rooted managers and defenders of their out dated environments.
In other words, these educators are on the verge of committing malpractice.

As we continue to discuss the importance of reforming school for the 21st Century, we must examine the need to reform the educational profession. There simply isn’t a more important time than now to recreate our profession into a teaching AND learning profession.

I’m talking about a collaborative learning culture where professionals are working towards continuous growth by engaging in daily learning: discussing and evaluating practices, challenging assumptions, engaging in new learning opportunities, embracing stretch moments, observing peers, etc. The research on the need for schools to embrace a collaborative learning culture is immense both in breadth and depth, yet these environments represent the exception not the norm or worse are happening in terminology only (i.e. we are a PLC).

This article isn’t another push for organizations to embrace a collaborative learning culture. It is a push for teachers to stop waiting for the organization and become a collaborative professional learner by changing fundamental behaviors inhibiting this and embracing action items that will allow it to happen.

As Michael Fullan states in The New Meaning of Educational Change, “the starting point for working towards a solution is the sobering realization that it cannot be done unless each and every teacher is learning every day” and Alan November adds, “The best thing to invest in right now is collegiality. The number one skill that teachers will need is to be team-based, collegial, sharing their knowledge and wisdom.”

Behavior to Break: Talking Time

Everyone can point to the myriad of daily “Must Dos” that prevent us from having the time to learn. However, using that as a crutch for not learning is inexcusable. If it really matters and has value, a person will make time as working and learning become interwoven.

How would we react to students if they told us they didn’t have time to learn? they didn’t have time to improve upon their skill set? they didn’t need to know that? they didn’t need to try anything new, challenge their current ideas, or push beyond the norm? Would terms like prioritize, organize, time management, etc. be part of our discussion? Many students have so many demands outside of the school day that if we as educators are demanding their learning be 24/7, shouldn’t we be practicing what we preach?

Behavior to Break: Acting Alone

Educators sharing best practices, knowledge and resources should be a no-brainer, but there are many educators still holding onto these things with their lives. Why? Is there a longing to horde these practices so you are look upon as the best teacher? Do we see collegiality as not showing teachers what should be happening in the classroom? It pains me to know end to have teachers refusing to share their knowledge, practices, and resources.

As Marc Prensky articulated in If We Share, We’re Halfway There, “In our ongoing struggle to engage our kids in learning, I believe we are neglecting (or, even worse, deliberately preventing) one of our easiest and best opportunities. If our goal is to bring our schools and classrooms into the 21st century before that century ends, we need to take advantage of the large amount of innovation that is already going on in many of our classrooms by allowing our teachers to share it. And not just with others in their own schools and districts, but with teachers around the world!” When teachers fail to share the great things happening in their classrooms, they are failing their profession and they are failing students”.

There has “to be deep engagement with other colleagues and with mentors in exploring, refining, and improving their practice”, stated Fullan. When teachers are not sharing their practices, knowledge, and resources as professional learners in a collaborative learning culture, it doesn’t matter how much learning is happening in the classroom or how great students see these teachers. To me, they are not professionals and are just as guilty of malpractice as the teacher down the hall refusing to change their outdated practices.

Behavior to Break: Closing the Door

Rick Dufour told a story in a presentation years ago about his sister going through a painful and dangerous eye surgery that would take nearly a year to fix. A few years later, he went to have the same surgery but the surgery had changed drastically. Through Lasik Surgery, he has 20/20 vision within a few days. If that doctor hadn’t changed his practice, Dufour continued, he probably could have sued for malpractice since eye surgery best practices had evolved along with the technology and skills. Dufour compared this to the current reality of the classroom where teachers are metaphorically closing the door to learning and physically closing the door in order to do whatever they want in the classroom. These teachers are in essence committing malpractice when they choose not to be professional learners and choose not to use research-based best practices.

Professional base everything on the latest best practices and constantly are evolving their practices. When a behavior is to the contrary, it is an intolerable behavior and one that needs to be remediated immediately. When a collaborative learning culture is in place, the behavior of closing the door and doing as one pleased is exposed. This exposure shows one of two things: 1. the teacher’s practices are truly best practices and the teacher needs to open the door as a professional learner so that others can learn and grow 2. the teacher’s practices are not at a high level and the teacher needs to open the door as a professional learner so that s/he can learn and grow from others.

Action Items

1. Dedicate a portion of your day to honing your professional practice both locally and digitally

2. Establish a professional learning network

3. Establish and maintain a virtual professional learning space that fosters shared knowledge and resources

4. Make professional reflection, scholarly work, and learning a priority and make it public.

5. Model professional learning for colleagues, students, and parents

6. Take a risk, rethink your norm, challenge your assumptions, and embrace the idea of being disturbed.

Be proud of your explorations. Let it be known what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how others could join in with you. Talk about what you are learning! Being open doesn’t mean being vulnerable! Share your blog and wiki with pride! Focus on collaboration and networking with all you do and bring your colleagues along kicking and screaming if need be. Thus, your action item is to share your blog, wiki, social bookmarks, and learning experiences with as many people as possible in order to promote local collaboration and networking.

These behaviors and action items are points to move on right now. What will you do with this? Will you close the Knowing-Doing Gap that dominates many schools today. As Schmoker says “we can close the gap – right now – between what we know and what we do with learning communities. The benefits for students and for education professionals will be incalculable. So let’s get on with it”. In the end, we need to stop talking about why we can’t and start talking about how we can, so I leave you with three quotes that I hope you’ll ponder in a collaborative learning culture as a professional learner:

“We effect change by engaging in robust conversations with ourselves, our colleagues, our customers, our family, the world…. Your time of holding back, of guarding your private thoughts, is over. Your function in life is to make a declarative statement” – Susan Scott

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children” – Sitting Bull

“I would like to suggest that a most fundamental best practice in a professional learning community is to promote the qualities and dispositions of insatiable, lifelong learning in ever member of the school community – young people and adults alike – so that when the school experience concludes, learning will not” – Roland Barth

Ryan Bretag
Blog: Metanoia
Twitter: ryanbretag
Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Glenbrook North High School

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rethinking Value Added

I still that we can develop a formula that helps us celebrate the hard work of teachers, but this video certainly points us to the pitfalls of many of these systems.