Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Poverty Matters

Schools that serve students of poverty should be taking direct measures to develop a coalition of care surrounding the students and their families so as to allow learning to take place as often as possible without the wounds of poverty impacting the natural wonder of all children. More reading and more math aren't the golden path to closing the achievement gap or the experience gap. The experience gap inhibits so many of our students of poverty from realizing their passion in life. Only with a passion and desire to grow and understand will students be hooked to this thing called school, and only with the effects of daily poverty softened through effective comprehensive programming with families can clarity to learn be possible. As a nation, we are with a dialogue surrounding poverty, its effects, and its consequences.
Poverty In The U.S. By The Numbers
Browse more Economy infographics.

Can We Really Name It?

I've been watching the new Aaron Sorkin show, The Newsroom, and it has left me wondering how often we are asking question that we already know the answer. It is clear in this clip that everyone in the audience and on the panel knows the answer. It is a great monologue for fostering discussion. Just this week, Mitt Romney was asked about the London Olympics, and he gave an honest answer about what he saw with regards to the organization of the games. Everyone was shocked because they already knew the right answer, and it wasn't the one that he gave. (It was also mistimed, possible not true.) Are we asking the questions that we already know the answers in our schools? Do you have the courage to place the elephant in the room? Great schools bend, but don't break when the hard questions are asked. Great schools want the most important questions on the table. Great schools need different opinions in the room. Great schools are a true marketplace of ideas that have voice from teachers, students, and the leaders.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Filling The Instructional Hole in our Standards Conversation

I have been spending the last two days thinking about the impact of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) along with the New Generation Assessments (NGA). I'm leaning into the process and remaining neutral in my opinions about their impact on the system of education. There are a lot of vultures waiting to swoop in to fill the instructional needs (units, books, professional development) as these standards and the subsequent tests become the lay of the land in the entire country.

It is worrisome that educators would allow externals designers to barge into all of the educational spaces across the country when teaching professionals should be the designers of the instruction in their classrooms that meets the needs of all students in a personalized manner.

It is growing clearer that passion-based and problem-based learning sit at the core of the instruction needed to prepare our students for the new jobs and careers of the future and on a much lesser note prepare our students for the NGA. In order for schools to to truly reshape their mission around passion-based and problem-based learning, it seems essential that the following elements sit at the core of the mission. Without these elements, schools will become test score chasers and stuck in other people's definition of a successful school.

1. Engage a larger definition of success including balancing the building of scholars with the building of leaders, citizens, and stewards of their communities.

2. Allow students the opportunity to experience learning outside of the classroom. We as a nation are fighting an opportunities gap and experience gap as well as an achievement gap.

3. Be proactive about the civility of your school by building the empathy of students. Dealing with bullying is reactive and not enough for an excellent school that can achieve well.

4. Grow the interdisciplinary capacity of the building. Our 100,000 honeybees have become the source of incredible cross discipline thinking, writing and presenting for our students.

5. Promote Healthy Living. Active healthy citizens are positive contributors to the community and our classrooms. This should extend through physical education, lunch, air quality in classrooms, and the aesthetics of building in which students are learning. This could mean great focus on programs like the Green Ribbon Schools.

6. Demand excellent student work. We have to provide space and time for students to draft, receive feedback, revise, extend, and grow pride in their work that comes from perseverance

7. Focus on the arts. Students with a passion for drawing, mastering an instrument, showcasing their voice or acting talent on stage build grit and the connection of their brain allow for easier attainment of our knowledge and understanding.

8. Realize the power of student voice. There are never enough student voices in the educational process. Students should be presenting to adults on their learning. They should be the voice of the successes in the building. Students should be shaping the school that they want.

9. Unleash the power of high-level technology integration. Students using technology to build and tell stories of their learning are powerful assessments. Many of the tools of technology integration allow for authentic audience which fosters higher quality work.

10. Celebrate Risk-Taking in students and teachers. We must open the doors for innovation, and that means accepting and learning from mistakes. Schools that remove loss aversion generate incredible spaces for learning.

11.  Release the trapped wisdom. So many incredible things are happening in the classrooms and schools around the country. Teachers need time to absorb ideas, share ideas, and generate ideas. Don't allow your school to be idea poor.

12. Teach teachers to teach teachers. A professional staff is one that is growing and learning from sharing their work with other professionals.

13. Make your default setting YES.



Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Healthy Schools Matter

When will schools stop looking as lunch as a zero-sum time of the school day as opposed to a place to teach kids what healthy food looks like, smells like, and tastes like. Our cafeterias hold incredible potential to shape habits, build knowledge and skills, and combat the cost of obesity. No other time during our school day is designed to be cost neutral. Invest in healthy kids now. 

Experience Gap, Opportunity Gap

For the past decade of my career, there has been a clear message from school leaders, politicians, and a convinced larger education audience. The message was that closing the achievement gap was our paramount task as educators. Even though it is hard to argue that closing the achievement gap isn’t an important goal for our American education system, it may be worth looking at the possibility that closing two other important gaps will bring the same results or better. As schools look for ways to grow their places of learning, it seems essential that they examine the work surrounding the closing of the opportunity gap and the expectations gap for all learners.

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

During the school year, I get in the habit of pulling resources and ideas for my staff at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School. It is a way to inject new wisdom into the system, and ignite conversation surrounding learning and understanding. I usually cross-post  these into my blog, so that they can be shared with the larger community of educators. Here is the latest.

Can we help students become problem finders?

Great piece by the winner of the Ironman triathlon about her dedication to her mental training

I have been continuing to explore these Learning Routines from the folks at Harvard. 

Disconnect about technology between parent and kids. Read the numbers. 

Student voice is so essential. I really enjoyed reading this. 

Opportunities and Experiences are critical for our kids of poverty and all kids. Read More

Solving Bullying is reactive; Building Empathy is proactive. 

Still believe that we are underusing this incredible website. Socrative. 

Digital Citizenship doesn't grow on trees. It has to be taught and retaught. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Teaching Students Technology: Avoiding the Myth of the Digital Native

Please enjoy this guest post from Neven Jurkovic:

Neven Jurkovic’s interest in teaching mathematics with technology developed while pursuing a Master of Science degree at Southwest Texas State University. Apart from publishing a number of papers on the application of artificial intelligence in elementary mathematics problem solving, Neven is the creator of Algebrator, a widely used math tutoring software. Currently, he lives in San Antonio, TX and is the CEO of Softmath: http://softmath.com/

In 2001, Marc Prensky wrote a highly influential, memorable article entitled, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.” In it, he asserted that “today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” He goes on to assert that as a result of the new and widely expanded uses of technology to which the students have been exposed, today’s students are “digital natives” who intuitively understand and have an affinity for all things technological.

This line of thinking held sway for most of a decade, but in recent years, numerous studies have shown that today’s young students are not inherently better with technology than older adults. One study involving over 4,000 participants concluded that “there’s no evidence of a clear-cut digital divide [based on age]” and that “there is evidence that a good attitude [toward] technology, at any age” is what really matters in terms of whether or not a person will be successful in using technology powerfully. The New York Times, citing a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, recently published a piece declaring that there is a “new digital divide” between students who use technology
primarily for entertainment purposes and students who use it more effectively and consistently for educational purposes.

The lesson in all of this is clear: The notion that young people are inherently proficient with technology is a myth; using technology well, especially for educational purposes, is a skill that must be learned. Although secondary students will typically come to school already proficient at things like texting, using Facebook, and watching YouTube videos, educators must not assume that students come to school knowing how to use technology effectively to enhance their learning.

Elementary and secondary schools alike must teach students how to harness the power of technology to conduct research, communicate and collaborate with a global audience, and create educational content (in a wide variety of forms, such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, presentations, and so on). Not only should technology be used as a tool to enhance learning in various content areas, but the proper use of technology as an educational resource must also be taught and seen as an important outcome in its own right. Educators should also teach students about the importance of their digital
footprint and help students to become more thoughtful in deciding what types of information they choose to post online.

As long as the myth of the digital native persists, students will fail to receive the critical instruction they need to ensure that they become technology proficient.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lateral Capacity Building

The Tour de France is one of the most beautiful events on the sports calendar each year. I'm amazed by the limits of the human body, and the ever increasing innovation of the equipment used. Today, I heard about a helmet that could save two bike lengths over 600 meters at a full sprint. It is incredible to think about how this competition breeds more and more innovation while dealing with the standardization and rules placed on the cyclist to create a level playing field. Maybe our education world should celebrate innovation the way that cycling does while recognizing the need for some standards and rules to eliminate a wild west atmosphere in education. The Tour de France values hard work, team work, healthy living, focus and intensity in the short-term while simultaneously holding the long view that comes from innovative practices. Below is a great video about the hour record and how it properly blends standards and innovation. Enjoy.