Saturday, January 22, 2011

Five for Friday- Links and Resources

After six months of observing our 1:1 environment, I can say that we clearly do a good job of making our computers very essential elements of learning, but it takes a whole different set of skills to avoid the distraction part.

This is a nice resource for ice breakers, a little late for our semester change, but a nice resource either way.

These two posts by an elementary principal in Canada continue my thinking about the right ways to build motivation in kids and how the current systems of assessment, grading, and awards supports our desired effect.

This article talks about "mission integration" projects at their school. This is exactly what I want to explore through our look at thread things together, expedition themes, and the curriculum table.

It is easy to forget how far we have come, but this article about Joe's Place was a reminder of how far MRH has come.

Finally, Is there anyone out there looking for fresh way to get feedback about their teaching. Read this about students and teachers talking about a video taped lesson. I would love to try this somewhere if anyone is interested.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Working Hard..Let the Rest Sort Itself Out

My dad always talked about the value of hard work. He lived it, and he talked it all the time. I always appreciated his words, and as things in my career continue to roll along, it is certainly nice to be recognized, but I'm trying to hold true to my dad's words, "Just work hard and let the rest sort itself out." For many of us, this becomes difficult as different phases of our career tempt us in different ways, but I know it is the right thing to do for my kids at school, my family at home, and me. I write this post at the same time that this blog is named to a top 100 list, so I was glad to catch myself before my excitement ran away from my head.

Friday, January 14, 2011

On Authentic Learning

Our staff recently talked about a section of Ron Berger's book Ethic of Excellence. It was a fantastic conversation, and I didn't feel like I could leave the conversation at its conclusion. I wrote this e-mail to staff as a follow-up.

Thank you to everyone for great conversation surrounding the article on Wednesday. I always appreciate the fact that I work with really smart people, but these conversations are huge reminders of this. Your insight, experience, and thoughtfulness shines through in these moments.

It is impressive that all of us are thinking about helping kids to learn in long form beyond tests, quiz, and rote homework. The idea of learning through doing is embedded in each of us, and I hope to continue to support, mold, and be a spokesperson for this type of learning for our school as long as I am here.

As we move forward in this philosophy of finding authentic learning opportunities, I encourage you to move slowly at a pace that is sustainable for you and your classroom, but do so with a sense of urgency because for each year of development another class misses out on your best ideas.

I too am scared about how hard that we can push into this type of learning. Questions like: how does this work effectively in math? can we cover all the skills needed in our classes? is our community ready for us to push further in this realm? resonate within me as well, but I'm not sure research and study will ever bring us clear answers on this.

Instead, I propose that we lean forward, do what feels right for kids, make mistakes in the process, and take risks because I feel confident that authentic learning, the kind learning that comes from expeditions, high quality projects, integrated learning, and reflection, will bring us the results that we are looking for. These results will include academic passion, creativity, leadership, and an internal drive to do more.

I'm looking forward to Monday as it is again another chance to help kids grow as students and citizens

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

I have been a big fan of this book Drive for a while now, and I feel like we should bring some of these ideas to the table for our review of PBIS philosophy and procedures in the summer. Check out this article as a good entry into the book.

I read this tweet, and I'm going to try to do this throughout the spring. I hope you look for ways to avoid burnout during the spring.

Steve Guditus (@sguditus)
1/8/11 10:22 AM
Write one paragraph a day on 'Why I Love Teaching' to avoid burnout #rscon11 @johntspencer

There was a great chart with alternative homework ideas at the bottom of this link.

If you ever thought about starting a blog, this may be the right time as this link can support you through your first thirty days.

I wonder if we are doing enough to build student capacity in these areas.

Goals for 2011

This was recently published over that the Project PLN site. There are some great educator goals on this page. What are your goals for making the lives of kids better.

Subtlety hasn't been on the tongues of many in the educational debate in 2010. It has been a year of transformational, systemic, nation-wide, and Superman. My hope for 2011, which can be found embedded in my goals, is a renewed sense that subtlety can leverage individual learning and understanding for kids.

Goal 1: Look for ways to extend meaningful learning beyond the last day of May.
I'm blessed to work in a 1:1 environment. I believe that we are still the only public middle school in Missouri that has this technology advantage. It is truly a blessing for our kids, 50% of whom receive free and reduced lunch. It opens doors to passions, communication, and opportunity.We are still working everyday to leverage the power of the 1:1 environment. This was the first winter break that we sent the computers home over the break. I'm hoping that we get positive feedback from family, teachers, and the technology crew. This could pave the way for crafting some summer learning opportunities where students would work at home with the facilitation of one of our teachers. We are looking at opportunities like this in all subject areas that tap into student interests and continue thinking throughout the summer.

Goal 2: Remove redundancies
What did we do without storage units? Did you know that in 2007, self storage was a 20 billion dollar industry? Schools have become as bloated as society when it comes to stuff. From assessments, to reports, to data meetings, and time spent talking and talking and talking. There is a certain level of services that we need to focus our attention on, and our attention should be painstakingly detailed in these areas. We need to make sure the things that we do to ensure quality learning are excellent and always improving, but the other things are anchors on our system, holding it back like a 250 pound marathon runner. Asking ourselves what less do we need as opposed to what more do we need to do should be a question asked not because of financial pressures, but a question asked to create room for truly incredible new innovation.

Goal 3: Build on strengths; technology, expeditions, and partnerships
The work of the last decade is paying off in my district. We have rebuild our climate and culture into a place of learning, and being new to this work, I see my role in 2011 to be a focus on the strengths that got us to this point, primarily the coupling of expeditionary learning and deep technology integration. This mix of screen time and green time is what we do best, and I hope to continue to build on these traditions. For the year ahead, we have many fledgling partnership need need to be finessed into our system. These are the types of partnership that build lateral capacity in both human and financial resources for our programming. Our strengths will feel the tension of holding onto success or risking failure. My goal is to take intelligent risks for kids as we launch into new areas of collaboration.

Anyone want to help? I'll need everyone from my PLN as well as the parents, students, and teachers to make any of this vision a truly possibility. Let me know I can help your school meet its goals.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Goodbye School- Hello Learning

Do you want to understand the challenge of modern education? Schools are changing into totally different places. This is a long presentation by Will Richardson. Take time to learn in long form, watch this video, and realize that schools as we know them have jumped the shark. Thanks to Dean Shareski for sharing.

MSDC Will Richardson Fall 2010 from msdc-mn on Vimeo.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Next Generation of Collaboration

As I walked to school the other morning, I listened to an incredible TED talk about the future of collaboration. It was one of those things that instantly got me thinking about how can education ramp up its efforts in this area and find inspiration from things like

Five for Friday- New Links and Ideas

A couple of articles on the recent international test scores. There have been a ton of analysis on this results, but I thought that these two articles stood out.

This was quite interesting to me

I can't get this TED talk out of my head. It is about consumption, community, collaboration, and I think that this sort of work will find its reach into education in the near term.

It takes some tweaking to get your computer ready for the Google Body app, but it is incredible for health, science, and a variety of other uses.

I'm really loving these sites that add layers to other great services. This link allows you to use Google Street View which is already incredible, and cross it was historical photos that have been uploaded about this location.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Remembering Something Great

Every day we have things roll back across our desks and into our lives that are symbols of the past. At times, we smile and move on, and other times, they elicit memories that are deep and without specificity. I get a lot of use from the resources at Open Culture, and today I had a chance to watch Shel Silverstein recite The Giving Tree from 1973. I was never a huge poetry fan, and I think that I missed an opportunity to love words in a totally different way. I hope that you enjoy this nine minutes as much as I did.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Restarting Momentum

This was my opening message to my staff for second semester. I'm so fired up. We are poised for great things.

As I ran this morning, my shoe came untied at the bottom of the hill. I stopped, bent down, tied my shoes, and looked up. Great, I'm at the bottom of the big hill with no momentum, so what did I do, the only thing that we can do, start again. It took a while to get back to my normal tempo, and for my breathing to come back to normal, but I did what I do best, place one foot in front of the other and get going, however painful the initial few steps are.

Tomorrow morning or the next few minutes for many of us will probably feel this way. I know that I am totally fired up today about starting the second semester tomorrow, but the morning will feel like being at the bottom of the hill with no momentum.

Let's stick to our strengths....building caring relationships with our kids, showing our passion for learning through inquiry, expedition, and technology, and remaining dedicated to teaching and reteaching.

I have believed from day one that having great people and great practices will take care of great results. We had great results first semester, and there is no reason to think that so much more isn't ahead for this crew.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas (THE DOUBLE)

I worked really hard over the break of not filling up my teacher's inboxes. Today that "dead period" ended. I sent two weeks worth of links. Here they are:

There is a lot of truth in this post about how extra credit impacts kids. Could we eliminate extra credit?

Looking for some fresh ideas, ways to take positive risks for kids.

This was an interest read about the value that teachers brings to the economy each year. Are you worth $400,000 a year?

We could do so much more about our students access to iTunes. Use this article to see how iTunes can push your student learning forward.

This a great piece of middle school and high school students on how to prepare for big tests.

This isn't our exact philosophy, but I think that our expeditionary learning does a lot of this.

This is a fun site for great math ideas. Quick things that you could use as openers for all classes.

Great video about the power of Smartboards...What can we do to push forward in this area?

Looking for ways to add visual learning to your classroom. Here is a great way.
- Show quoted text -

10K for 10 Days

All of us need new, new challenges, new adventures, new ways to bring energy into our lives. Since starting my life as a runner in 2003, I have had a number of wonderful finishes, and tons of quiet, painful moments in training. The dawn of 2011 has me looking for a new way for me to bring the joy of running into the cold winter of STL. I'm also combining some lessons from a book that I am reading, "In Motion: The Experience of Travel" about enjoy the little things as we travel or in my case run. Thanks also to Coach K for the idea of taking on the 10K for 10 day challenge.

Day 1- 10K 49:39- Wandered around Webster Groves with Tim Storck
24 degrees, sunny

Day 2- 10K 49:59- Ran the home course; listened to the Moral Math of Climate Change; saw Tim Storck;
Thought about poverty and climate change advocacy; active lifestyle and poorer neighborhoods; felt the warm beauty of the sun; cold push of the north wind
17 degrees, sunny

Day 3- 10K 50:42- Ran from school through Forest Park over Art Hill and home; beautiful afternoon; sunny shining; warm; ran through a calf strain that I think I picked up sleeping.

Day 4- 10K 48:46- Strongest day so far, hope I don't pay for it in the morning; cold though; an hour later than yesterday, sun was setting; home course; listened to interview with Jay-Z and Terry Gross.
38 degrees on bank clock

Day 5- 10K 53:07- There was something special about this morning's run. I rarely run in the darkness, and it is even more rare for me to log two runs between sunset and sunrise, but that was the case this morning. STL was still asleep at 5:53 when I headed out the door. It was quiet especially in the path in Forest Park between Skinner and Art Museum. I love in the darkness when you eyes form a bond with your animal relatives. I could see in the dark, and only the orange glow of the city on the cloud helped light the way. I saw the art museum, zoo, World Fair Paviliion, the boat house, the Muny, the visitors' center, the tennis complex, the History Museum and the Grand Basin in less than two miles on with the veil of darkness overhead. When I reached the street, the world had awakened, and I was reminded that it was time to focus again as busses, trucks, and emergency personnel all pierced the quiet of the morning. Sure I arrived at work 10 minutes later than normal, but the running buzz was still with me.

Day 6- 10K 49:06- Today's out and back to Webster was a good stress relief. It is definitely uphill on the run 25:03 out, and 24:03 on the way home. It felt good to that this energy six days into this challenge.

Day 7- 10K 48:47- Friday afternoon is a never a good time for me to run, but I took on the challenge of the Southwest Hill. If you are from STL, you will know that this hill is probably one of the longest and steepest in the city. I went through Clifton Hills, and along Columbia almost to Highshighway, hard to imagine that it is only 3.1 miles to that spot. I watch the sunset on the same back to school, and by the time that I arrived home, there was snowing falling. Crazy time of the year.

Day 8- 10K 48:55- Holy cow. It was cold, wind chill minus 3. The running north and west were the hardest. There was no joy today, just pain. It was hard to breath. It was hard to warm up. It is hard. I was supposed to run at Creve Coeur Park, but partner, probably wisely, bailed, so I ran the home course. I passed a few other runners, but not the usual Saturday morning volume.

Day 9- 10K 46:49- A bit warmer today, but it's still winter. I ran a day time version of Day 5. I must have gone out pretty hard. I didn't notice since I was trying to get warm, but half way through the run, I was totally baked. Did I dress wrong? Was I feeling the effects of eight day. Well when I got home, I realized that I was just running too hard. Best time of the nine days. I have pledged during these days not to be a watch hawk during my run and wait until the end to look. I looked, totally shocked, but everything made sense.

Day 10- 10K 49:13- I think today was the day that I was looking for all along. The beauty of running in falling snow is hard for words. It was great to be a shadow floating over snow covered sidewalks through Webster and Kirkwood. The orange glow of the street lights is incredible as the snow falls. The run was great for day 10. I am looking forward to three days off, but these past 10 days have shown my that the challenges of running aren't all P.R., but they are the adventure of thinking about what is possible, what is next.