Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Shift- Adult Learning Right

Transforming adult learning needs to be front and center as we continue our conversations about enhancing the learning experience for kids. Too often, professional development is conducted with inertia, habit, or laziness, and the results are dismal.  All humans learn deeply when they are actively engaged in the learning process through conversation, movement, and designing solutions. Many talk a good game when it comes to delivering these best practices, but few experiences leave learners fulfilled. Over the course of the last five years, educators throughout the country have taken back the leadership of their learning and have built a new path forward. Learners are leading learners in meaningful real-time conversations about what matters to them in a supportive culture that promotes innovation, best practices, and ideas. This philosophy sits at the heart of every edcamp experience. From the weekend experiences of edcamp to the use of the model in districts and with staffs, this opportunity to learn is breaking the cycle and building a new direction for meaningful adult learning. edcamp learning is experiential. It requires your voice and participation. Lean in to something new, different, and meaningful for kids. Be a part of a movement to change adult learning for the betterment of all of our schools. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Patience and Perseverance

In April of 2005, I ran my first marathon in Saint Louis. It was a grueling race. I remember each mile vividly. That same day, I told my wife that I had run my one and only marathon.  This November, I will be running number 10, the same age as my oldest daughter, Ellie. I hope that my dedication to training and perseverance when things are difficult are traits that she will choose to model over her next ten years. 

I'm super excited for the 26.2 miles through all five boroughs at the New York City Marathon. Time to go. Got a training run to complete. 

P.S. This was my fourth year of applying to run, and after four years, they feel sorry for even the slow guys like me, and they let us into the race. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Martin Institute Summer Learning 2014 - A Post Allowed to Simmer

Apparently, I forgot to publish this post in June. This was my third time attending the Martin Institute Summer Conference in Memphis. I'm always impressed by the learning here. It was actually the place that allowed my connection to the Davis Academy to begin. I worked with them today to bring some primary sources to their conversations about race, #ferguson, and the links between today's struggles and the oppression in Birmingham in the sixties. It was one of those conversations born out of passion, risk-taking, connected learning, and a bit of serendipity. 

My presentation on connected learning was only the beginning of the connections
that have been built since June. 
Rafe Esquith had a compelling story, and he reminded me that I should always show
appreciation for the village around me. 

The power of Project Based Learning was on display. Courageous teachers are connecting kids through
choice, voice, and authentic audience.

Alice Parker might be the best teacher on Earth. Heart of gold. Passionate for learning..
Learn from her each moment, and she handles my silliness. 

Jill Gough reminds me to level up everything. There isn't anything that can't be done
 with math and best practice, and I believe her. 

Jaime and Lee have taken this event to a new level, and they will be missed, and look there is a Ron Berger.
He is the zen master of teaching. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Who's Telling Your Story

Wanted to share a piece of Chapter 14 of the new book: Engage, Empower, Energize: Leading Tomorrow's Schools Today. I know that I've talked a lot about it, but never shared the tone and flow of a chapter. Half of the book tells the fictional story of Brad, a principal that is choosing to lead his school after years of just managing it into mediocrity. The second part of the book (actually it is every other chapter) provides rationale, resources, and ideas on ten areas that help connect kids to their learning. 

From Chapter 14- Who's Telling Your Story. 

Incredible things were hatching at Brad’s school. He was experiencing a new sense of energy in students, teachers, and parents. He was also truly enjoying the hard work that goes with leadership. He was working harding, but feeling better. The grind that is an essential part of school leadership was now filled with moments of innovation, great conversations, and students involved with the projects in which they are passionate. Brad knew that he had to seize this energy, and begin to make sure that the incredible work that was being done throughout the school was being archived, celebrated, and shared throughout the community. Brad had always believed in the power of story, and he knew that it was important in so many ways to begin to the craft the narrative of the learning at the school. Schools throughout his community were continuing to get bashed for poor test scores, poor handling of finances, and a number of other nagging issues. Each of these stories were building a boat anchor around the possibilities of greater innovation, and Brad knew that if the community at large could see or hear the work happening at his schools that some space would be created for first his teachers, but for the teachers throughout the area in general. In addition, Brad knew that helping his students learn the art of storytelling would be a lifelong skill that would transfer from career to career and from passion to passion.

Brad was looking for a way for both student voice and excellent student work to come to the forefront. He examined a number of tools and options before stepping forward with a two-fold concept for capturing the stories of his school. The first would be an electronic portfolio for each of his students that captured video, text, and artifacts of student learning. Many of these items would be harvested by the school for use in its communication with parents, the community, and beyond, but it would have at its core a student-designed portfolio that would maximize creativity within a structure that could be scaffolded to meet the needs of all students. The electronic portfolio captured the best of the examples of learning as well as provide a place for reflection for students. The second phase would be having each students build a capstone video that showcased a piece of how they had grow in their thinking, interest/passion, and strengths over their time at the school. This digital story would serve to showcase their technology integration skills, ability to craft a compelling narrative, and build a strong visual representation of their story.

Rolling out the electronic portfolio required an intense about of communication by Brad. He worked with a variety of teacher groups including a visioning committee, each of his academic teams, his teachers that taught students outside of the core subjects, and a final polishing and design group. In typical Brad style, he accelerated the timeline to complete the e-portfolio because he couldn’t imagine another student leaving his school without this experience, but even with this accelerated timeline, it took about nine months to bring a workable e-portfolio to the students that encapsulated the vision of the teachers. It was designed from the outset to be a public document with private spaces. The teachers and students involved with the conversation wanted the electronic portfolio to be both a showcase and a sandbox. They saw a need for final portfolio quality work to be front and center along with space for reflection and writing about these pieces of excellent student work, but they also believed that learning is a process that never ends, so the need to have a space of continuous growth and progress was valued also. Brad worked with the teachers to develop the right spaces of showcase in the electronic portfolio. There was talk about each subject area having a space, but the collective wisdom of the teacher team spoke about the importance of the places of interconnection that exists in their school now that many of the elements of excellent engagement were taking shape, and they wanted to honor is school-wide work, so they decided to build some display spaces that fed this philosophy. Students were asked to add work product to a section about personal growth over time, on excellent student work, on media (books, video, audio, etc.) that they have interacted with and growth through, and a final space to demonstrate creativity and innovation.

Once the the vision of the project intersected with the design, it was time for students to interact with the e-portfolio. The pilot team of students entered information, and discuss the bumps and friction of the new system. It was mostly surrounding the limitations that they had to make the space their own and how some items didn’t drop easily into the system. It had been decided to limit the show space of the e-portfolio that was public to remain heavily branded with the colors of the school as many of these would be shared with a public audience and served a larger purpose than student playground. It became a teaching moment for Brad and his staff as they talked about digital footprint with the students,  first impressions and design.  The feedback that they received went to the design and polishing group that was able to finalize the e-portfolio. Brad has continued to see growth in the students posting final products as well as using their private space to store personal ideas, projects, and learning beyond the school day. These portfolios are now being discussed through the K-12 space in Brad’s district, and he is excited to be receiving students in the future that will have the technology expertise to hit the ground running and grow the quality of their e-portfolio over time.

Retain, Reflect, Redistribute

As we move into our first day set aside for professional development on Friday, it has me reflecting on the barriers that professional development has to being wildly successful. The first is how do we retain information after the session. It is so easy to walk out of the door and back into reality, life, and the next thing on the to-do list. Some say that 50% or more is lost by learners before we walk out the door of a session. The second barrier is time for reflection. The key to adult learning is always just in time learning that has context to a task happening in the near future, but even when this is possible, excellent professional development transfer takes reflection to cement the learning. How can we build reflection into learning so that it is a habit that surrounds our professional development. Finally, professional development often creates trapped wisdom. One teacher learns something, and it is trapped in that classroom. It is essential that new learning is redistributed to others as quickly as possible. This mean sharing with students, teachers within the school, AND to a greater education audience. Let's make professional learning a new level of success by focusing on pushing through the barriers of retaining information, reflecting on learning, and redistributing the new knowledge to others.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Close to Home

Had an opportunity to stretch my journalism legs today as I participating in a Google Hangout with William Chamberlain 's class in Southwest Missouri. I was reporting live from Ferguson, Missouri, the emotionally and physically battered town near the city of Saint Louis.

My hope was to give the students a primary source on the scene, so they could ask questions and have a different lens than that which comes through the television. After one of the most intense nights of clashes between police and citizens, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Here were my initial thoughts.

1. I forgot how close the center of things is to a brand new Schnucks, Target, and Kohls, a half mile makes a ton of difference.

2. There was more media than protesters, and the police didn't have any work to do beyond deterrence.  One odd character was screaming at a group of police officers,  but it was clear that everyone thought it was odd.

3. Volunteers had cleaned the streets and surroundings. It was very clean, almost oddly clean.

4. The boarded buildings created by looters were very obvious. Disappointing to see, but glad to see many had reopened.

5. Being there redoubled my desire for answers, and I realized my patience is going to be a lot longer than those on the ground.

6. The complexity of the situation was obvious. Calm and peace during the day is turning into entertainment for too many in the evening.

Something about being there helped bring me perspective. Something about being there felt like it helped in that we were starting another classroom conversation about trust, justice, and racism. Something about being there was haunting and sad.

Here is a link to the video. It isn't great, but I hope it brought Mr. Chamberlain's students a realism to the surreal. I'm hoping for calm, healing, and justice.

Educators have always played a role in healing and answer finding. Please continue your work in this area for Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, and so many others that need classrooms full of solution seekers.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Engage, Empower, Energize: Leading Tomorrow's Schools Today

It has been a tough four months for my blog. It has been lonely as I have finished two different books that are set for publication. The first is available in a few weeks, and it focuses on leading engagement schools. It has something for everyone including principals, teachers, and parents.

In the next few weeks, I plan to preview parts of the book here in the blog with the hope of giving everyone a taste of the message of the book which is basically that we need to think different about how we serve the learning needs of kids...and adults.

The title of this book almost became The Courage Gap because it appears that this gap is the one that educators need to truly take on if they want to solve any of the other “gaps” that plague our system. Courage for a leader is talked about, written about, but rarely practiced at the level necessary for change. Courage is tiring, exhausting, and filled with professional potholes, but the fruit of courage is an actually chance to make a difference, not in the way that gives leaders just enough stories over their career to call themselves a success, but the kind of difference that can transform a system, create a legacy of excellence for future leaders to follow, and build a greater capacity for the changing needed for our struggle system of public education.

Thanks to everyone that have shown incredible support for my work on this book. It is an incredible dream come true to publish, and I'm super excited for my daughters to read my vision for their learning and learning of all kids.