Friday, November 30, 2012

Five for Friday-Links and Ideas

Here are some great thoughts about why we collect data surrounding student growth in an authentic way. 

I hope that we are on the way to more deep project-based learning opportunities for kids.Here is a great chart showcasing the difference between projects and project-based learning. 

What type of teacher are you. This blog may explain.

piece about the importance of learning networks and the strength of things like edcamp.

How do we get kids to learn after 3:05 without making it mandatory?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Learning over Break

Are we promoting physical fitness in our 1:1 environment? Some thoughts are the importance of the balance.

The Digital Media Learning Research Hub has some incredible videos to promote thinking and learning.

We are always looking for grants that fit our dreams and passions. This seems like a great clearinghouse.

Research about the power of moving schools to more intrinsic motivation continues to overwhelm me in a positive way. Here is another piece on the topic.

Does authentic assessment produce better quality data that minimizes cheating? Great thoughts in this article.

Higher Order Thinking Strategies and Tools seem like they were an educational wave that should have taken more of us with them. These research-based ideas can add to cooperative learning, reflective learning, and project based learning.

How do we connect kids with the concept of compassion. This TED talk attempts to start the conversation.

Free lesson plans surrounding Common Core standards.

Is there a way for us to do asynchronous digital citizenship or does it require community conversation?

This is some stretch curriculum ideas for middle school, but it would be perfect for a high school economics classroom. Make economics come to life through these videos.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Urban Ecology Center

The Urban Ecology Center is one of my favorite dreams that has come true. The city of Milwaukee now has three locations where the staff of the Urban Ecology Center helps kids and community members connect with nature and foster an understanding of place. This dream began when one man looked at the possibility of Riverside Park becoming reborn into a place of wonder from a place of crime and urban decay. Though I live six hours away in Saint Louis, I can still feel the power of this dream on the community of Milwaukee and beyond. The video below showcases how the Urban Ecology Center is changing communities one hike at the time. In Saint Louis, we have an incredible system of well-supported county and state parks that give our students and families and opportunity to connect with nature, but there is more work to be done. How do we support the inherent desire of families to find happiness, peace, and connectedness with nature? How do we model this for families in nature? How do we make sure that families have the resources and supplies to make this possible? Schools and communities needs to continue to support ways to connect families to communities especially the natural beauty of their community. Thanks to Ken, Beth, and the entire staff of the Urban Ecology Center for living this dream and being models for the rest of us.

Get "Outside" The Box on Science

The video below got me thinking about the future of science education. There is no subject that is more stuck in tradition with the easier road forward that science. Every business and university is pumping money into STEM classes, looking for partnerships, begging teachers to do it differently. There is truly a treasure trove for resources in this area including grants, experts, and opportunities, but too many science educators are still making volcanoes, foam ball solar systems, and having students decorate poster boards for the science fair. Everyday science doesn't happen in rows in classrooms. It happens outside. It happens when students interact with nature. It happens when students are talking about real, serious adult problems surrounding food, water, and energy. Students will never be future scientists learning science in a classroom. Put down the books, pick up the sticks. Stop with the multiple choice tests (science is never multiple choice) and start having kids keep a scientific journal. Have your student engage in a citizen science project, do an energy audit in your school, test the water quality in your fountains, analyze the impact of noise or indoor air quality in your classrooms. Leave some room for the unknown. Create an authentic audience. It is no longer about resources. It is about the will to do things the right way. Push back against the standardization of science for the healthy of our kids and our planet.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas ThanksGIVING edition


Cooperative Learning and Project Based Learning- Two Cousins that Need More Time to Play Together. 

As we return to talking about our TEDxMRH conference in April, how we put together our first TED talk 

We need to stop preparing our kids for the real world, and prepare them to shape the ideal world

Our best chance to stop bullying is to connect kids with nature

Are we doing enough to foster creativity? Can it really be supported every day in every class?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Innovation Requires Design Thinking

I'm ready to do this whole thing differently. It is rare when a mid-career teacher, principal, parent, or anyone else really used these words with the genuine gusto to carry this desire to reality. It is hard to shed the baggage of the past, push aside your mental models, and embrace a new path. Systems grow roots. Change becomes really hard. The more that I read and experience the concept of design thinking and design thinking in education, the more that it seems like it is a way forward for people and schools that are beginning to grow roots. How can more schools create space for design thinking in their growth process? How can we allow the necessary adult failure inherent in design thinking to occur safely? How can we build a passion for new and better ways to serve our dynamic system? I'm thankful this break to give more thought to moving systems forward in a sustainable way that results in healthy kids, families, and communities.

EcoLiteracy and BioEmpathy

Being part of a healthy learning community means so much more than producing kids that can memorize knowledge and do well on multiple choice tests. This fact seems to be growing into common acceptance in larger and larger circles in our nation, but the question remains about what the rest of the learning should look like. What opportunities and experiences for growth should we provide students in order that we build the whole child? What skills, knowledge, and understandings are necessary to help to mold our future leaders, citizens, and stewards, so that they can fulfill their duty to leave the planet better than they found it.

Below is a great video about the habits of highly empathetic people. Empathy seems like one of those necessary cogs that we should be nurturing in our kids at school as often as that we can. The second chunk of sharing comes from the Center for Ecoliteracy. It highlights five areas that seems like the starting point for a great conversation surrounding ideas and skills that should be filling our schools. See if those five vital practices ring true to you also.

It is a great time in our work as we are growing a model of education that is whole, healthy, and hopeful.

With a goal of nurturing students to become ecoliterate, the Center for Ecoliteracy has identified five vital practices that integrate emotional, social, and ecological intelligence. They are described at greater length in our book, Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence (Jossey-Bass, 2012), from which the excerpt below is taken.

We work to inspire teachers to use a variety of learning opportunities that help students consider and apply these practices in a diverse range of contexts. These practices allow students to strengthen and extend their capacity to live sustainably.

1. Developing Empathy for All Forms of Life encourages students to expand their sense of compassion to other forms of life. By shifting from our society's dominant mindset (which considers humans to be separate from and superior to the rest of life on Earth) to a view that recognizes humans as being members of the web of life, students broaden their care and concern to include a more inclusive network of relationships.

2. Embracing Sustainability as a Community Practice emerges from knowing that organisms do not exist in isolation. The quality of the web of relationships within any living community determines its collective ability to survive and thrive. By learning about the wondrous ways that plants, animals, and other living things are interdependent, students are inspired to consider the role of interconnectedness within their communities and see the value in strengthening those relationships by thinking and acting cooperatively.

3. Making the Invisible Visible assists students in recognizing the myriad effects of human behavior on other people and the environment. The impacts of human behavior have expanded exponentially in time, space, and magnitude, making the results difficult if not impossible to understand fully. Using tools to help make the invisible visible reveals the far-reaching implications of human behavior and enables us to act in more life-affirming ways.

4. Anticipating Unintended Consequences is a twofold challenge of predicting the potential implications of our behaviors as best we can, while at the same time accepting that we cannot foresee all possible cause-and-effect associations. Assuming that the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life, students can adopt systems thinking and the “precautionary principle” as guidelines for cultivating a way of living that defends rather than destroys the web of life. Second, we build resiliency by supporting the capacity of natural and social communities to rebound from unintended consequences.

5. Understanding How Nature Sustains Life is imperative for students to cultivate a society that takes into account future generations and other forms of life. Nature has successfully supported life on Earth for billions of years. Therefore, by examining the Earth's processes, we learn strategies that are applicable to designing human endeavors.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

Do we let folks see how hard we work? Should we expose our grit and effort more often? This is great piece from Seth Godin. 

Building technology literacy continues to be an essential duty of schools. Check out this infographic

Can we make all of our students citizen scientists? Project Noah believes that we should. 

VocabSushi seems like a great site for blended learning surrounding vocabulary. 

Are you concerned about students having empathy? Here is a fresh way to think about this complex topic. 

BONUS: I'm exploring a new app. Ringya, you should give it a look.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Story of the Common Core

We don't do standards or standardized tests very well. We've had a lot of practice. We've tried, but we just don't do them well. Should we keep trying? I sometimes think that it is the only thing that we know how to do. Have we entered a lost generation where everyone thinks that the options are just standards and standardized tests? This is what worries me about the Common Core. I sort of like the story that David Coleman tells about the Common Core, but I fear that the only lens and common language that we have is through standards and standardized tests. What if we viewed this as an opportunity to recapture the joys of learning that comes from experiencing learning, project-based learning, and connected learning. I want this type of learning to be the legacy that I helped to build in education.

Keynote Speech from David Coleman, Contributing Author of the Common Core Standards from NYC Public Schools on Vimeo.

Stop Stealing Dreams

There is no doubt that even the most innovative places can lose their way quickly. Innovative places don't stop to take breather; they learn to breath in the moment. Innovation isn't something that you did. Innovation is something that you are. You can't stop to enjoy the past because the innovation itself was enjoyable. There isn't time to let everyone catch up to you while you plan your next move. It is too hard to accelerate again. Cruising altitude is fast, but it feels comfortable. Terminal velocity brings clarity. Innovation defies all normal. Can schools really handle this? Do they have the capacity? Listen to the video below, then tell me if we have a choice.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fail Faster

Have we come to a place in our world where fear impedes change at the highest levels? Is it still possible to find solutions without an unhealthy sense of urgency? Has the disconnect between rich and poor become so great that we feel like time is our friend and not our enemy? When will we learn that failing is about progress? How can we support learners in their efforts to fail? Can we have space to fail? At no point in time is there a greater need than now to fail, so that deep innovation is possible. Let's walk together. Let's fail together. Let's serve our mission together? Let's find deep happiness together.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

First Generation

I continue to work everyday for these kids. I have something deep in my soul for helping that first student in a family not only make it to college, but find success in college. I'm blessed to work in a school district that understandings that lifting kids from poverty means going deeper than literacy and numeracy. We realize that it is about being leaders, citizens, and stewards that know how to reconnect with their community, and build a life and a career based on personal passions. How many families are you introducing to college this year? How many of your kids will break the barrier into college and inspire aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews into believing that college is the beginning of the path to a lifestyle that creates enough space economically in their lives that they have time, talent, and treasure to serve and have empathy for others. Are you dedicated to the First Generation?

Are You Ready to Push to the Education Hilt?

A lot of folks have talked about this incredible video over the last month, but I wanted to throw a different wrinkle into the equation. Being a school innovator takes courage, not just the type of courage that comes from being different from those around you, but the courage that comes from being willing to leave a comfortable place because you don't agree with the leadership even though it will hurt your family. I'm talking about the courage to tell the largest contributor to your school that her views aren't good for kids, and she should look at reshaping her views. I'm talking about the courage of standing tall in a room of "yes" people to say "no" because it is the right thing for kids, and if everyone was viewing it through a systems thinking lens they would agree. Educational courage is in limited supply. Most people that talk about innovation either have no skin in the game or they aren't in a position to truly do the hard work of implementation. This video shows a courage of words, but it has to be coupled with a courage of action, a courage of action that truly is as risky as placing a bet on the future of our schools and our kids.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Jamie Cloud- TED

I have had the great fortune of having dinner with Jamie Cloud, learning from Jamie Cloud, and feeling the brilliance of Jamie Cloud. She is one of those passionate individuals that has remained focused for decade on teaching our youth about the essentials of education for sustainability. Her focus has inspired schools, teachers, and others to fight for a greater voice surrounding the social, economic, and environmental justice issues facing our planet. This TED talk is an incredible synthesis of those ideas that should be a part of the learning of all students in all schools throughout the country.

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

“It’s going to be more about teachers having nimble classrooms.” This was the quote in the middle of this article about blended learning. 

Brooklyn Castle seems like a great documentary about schools, budgets, and overcoming those obstacles. 

Great piece by Angela Maiers about the importance of telling our story and helping students build those skills. 

Slides to help us think about learning differently. 

Should we all be teaching like preschool teachers?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Expanding the Definition

Just the beginning of some thoughts in this area....

Education based on a limited definition of success will always create conditions in schools that promote some of the worst teaching and learning practices. Cheating, teaching for the test, and the elimination of minutes in the schedule for the arts and physical education are all by-products of a narrow vision of what excellence in education means. Currently, schools looking to grow their definition of success are meeting incredible external resistance. The process of overcoming this resistance requires a continuous conversation between students, staff, parent, and the greater community. 

Thoughts? Comments?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

Great trailer about a documentary on First Generation college kids and the difficult road they have. 

The Sunshine of Your PLN in the Dark Moments

There are dark and lonely days in our work. These aren't the days when someone doesn't turn in their homework or when there is a disruptive class or even when lesson plan bombs, but these are the days when none of what we do makes sense anymore. These moments usually creep into our heads and souls when the pressure of the day has lifted a bit or the quiet of life find us just for a moment, and this usually follows with an incredible sense of loneliness, fear, and emptiness. It sometimes lasts a few seconds, but it can hover like a cloud for weeks or longer.This is the quiet side of education that is rarely exposed for anyone to see. It is hidden behind spirit wear, a forced smile, and need to have it together for the kids. We need to be able to share these moments with our PLN. In these moments, we need the power of our connections to sustain us, listen to us, comfort us, and rebuild our mindset. We can always share stuff (resources, tools, strategies), but are we ready to share ourselves, the private fears, the moments of darkness? True communities and networks of empathy and caring grow to this incredible level. While many of us have turned to our PLN into a place learning, the key to a sustainable PLN is becoming a growing ecosystem that supports its members in these darkest moments to believe again that the work that we are doing is noble.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Love Hate and Everything in Between

I've been spending a lot of time reading and thinking about empathy in schools. It seems to me that building an empathic schools is a proactive effort to combat bullying and teacher citizenship. I stumbled across this great trailer for the movie Love Hate and Everything in Between recently. It seems like one of those films that would really hit home for students. I spoke with the folks involved with the film, and they let me know that it will be featured on November 13 on New York as part of the dialogue at the Imagine Science Films series. The film is also available to schools and institutions through their US distributors: