Browsing articles in "Uncategorized"
Nov 15, 2010
Comments Off on Sheryl Nausbaum-Beach

Sheryl Nausbaum-Beach

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. Your choice?

Nov 14, 2010
Comments Off on What is Ambition in Education?

What is Ambition in Education?

B.Ed. Check. Full-Time Contract. Check. Now time to coast for 30 years.

Unless you want to be a VP, or principal.

But who would want those jobs?

I’ve been thinking about the nature of ambition in education and the struggle to maintain a competitive workforce. This aligns mightily with my consideration of adopting an ethic of professional development.

Why is it that educators who want to try something new, or show ambition are eyed with hostility and insecurity?

Is it the nature of the individuals who are attracted to teaching are inherently, unambitious? Or is it such that teachers are in an arena of constant judgement and they see another teacher’s progress and success as an indictment on their own performance?

Education may be one of the most secure professions one can pursue, yet the nature of teachers is very conservative. Constantly worried about making a mistake, many teachers are discouraged from taking risks. Unfortunately, these are the skills that are necessary for students. Very few teachers take risks in their pedagogy and therefore, very few models of thoughtful deliberate risk taking are available to our students. How do we change that? How do we encourage thoughtful, deliberate risk taking?

Being a profession of learning and judgement, I think we may have judged the risk taking out of most teachers. We are always in the midst of evaluating and assessing. This constant pursuit of “false achievement” makes teachers leery of looking out of place. This ensures that the status quo is maintained. Connected to that, is that when another teacher takes risks, or even asks big questions, teachers like to point to the safety nets (policy and curriculum).

As Garfield Gini-Newman explained at ECOO 2010 and explores constantly, in Ontario we have a “curriculum of abundance”, but we are brainwashed into a “mythological curriculum” that says we must do it one way. So why is it then, that we impose these social limits for teachers.

I have felt and heard the voices of teachers who don’t like that I am pursuing other avenues. I have been teased and ridiculed that, “I’m on the admin super highway” after talking at staff meetings or delivering PD.

I understand it is completely acceptable to be a teacher at 24 and continue until 60, but that isn’t in my character. I have always considered what advancement looks like.

But, I still haven’t figured out what is ambition in education?

Nov 13, 2010
Comments Off on My Thoughts on ECOO Echo.

My Thoughts on ECOO Echo.

Gathering together with like-minded educators is a blast. Hearing intelligent, thoughtful explorations of the intersection of education and technology is always on point. Recognizing that education needs to shift and we’ve now got the tools to do it is essential. ECOO 2010 was a conference that allowed all these thoughts to percolate.

Here are a few of my thoughts via Twitter:

  • Moving our focus from the lone genius to innovation teams. How does our teaching work for that?
  • Expertise is being redefined, easily accessible and extremely portable.
  • Drawing a distinction between engagement and motivation. Engagement is an external process (always about relationships)
  • Do we measure engagement as a means of compliance?
  • How do teachers structure and form their learning? Are teachers consistently learning? Should they be required to prove it?
  • Where do students fit in professional development? What can they teach us? Why don’t we accept it?
  • I hear many conversations about holding students accountable. What does that really mean? Does that mean, do what we want?
  • Are teachers afraid of having their knowledge/logic/intelligence/skills judged? That’s what we do to students everyday.
  • move the critical mass, by not hearing just the same voices by collaborating online.
  • Does Ontario have an “impoverished curriculum” or a “curriculum of abundance”?
  • Why do we use the “mythological curriculum” to frame our courses? We ARE allowed to teach the BIG idea!
  • “There is a difference between engagement and entertainment.” Do we misuse the word when talking tech?
  • Engagement = were you interacting with, concentrating on, relevant to you.
  • How do we create a climate of thinkers? Framing the culture of being wrong, making mistakes, and explaining your thinking…
  • Change is inevitable – growth is optional.

These thoughts are snippets. Many of them are bouncing around in my head and will be synthesize, elaborated on, and processed in longer blog posts.

Nov 11, 2010
Comments Off on The Conversation Comes First.

The Conversation Comes First.

Report cards have been submitted. I am now half done with quantitative measures for my classes. One number for mid-term. One number for semester end. That’s it. That’s all.

A few people have asked me how I did it. How did you take all that qualitative data and get to a number. Here is what I’ve done:

The Setup: I started by spending a considerable amount of time framing the conversation. I gave each student a body of evidence chart. The chart lists all curriculum expectations on the vertical and all the demonstrations on the horizontal. I had them go through all the different activities, assignments, and projects that we’ve done and place them on the horizontal. As a class, we brainstormed what some of those things were (blogs, assignments, group work, media creation, etc.). After they had them written up, I had them check off what curriculum expectations each accomplished. They were surprised to see how quickly the curriculum is checked off. I gave them a further opportunity to think of any other ways they may have demonstrated the skills that are required.
After we did the body of evidence chart, I had them write a reflection of their successes and challenges for each stream. They had a record in front of them of how they accomplished each stream and I ensured that they wrote specific to the tasks they completed. I didn’t just want what they did well, but also what they needed to work on, their next steps. All this was done in the context that they had received copious feedback for each of these tasks. The feedback had been all recorded, so they could even refer to that.
I told them continuously how this document that they were creating would be the starting point for our individual conversation about grades. I told them the more specific and detailed, the more rich and accurate our evaluation would be. The English curriculum in Ontario insists on much reflection, so this document is now a piece of evidence as well.
I then had them write a number from 1 – 100 where they thought they were. We had looked at the Ontario standard previously and so they could frame their decision. They handed this paper in so I could read it and become familiar. On my own, I had looked at the portfolio of evidence (work, comments I had made about discussions, anecdotes, assignments, etc.) and determined where they stood numerically.

The Conversation: One by one, I sat down with them and talked. The talk was often connected to the document they created. I made sure that each stream was touched upon and focused the conversation on the learning.
For the students that were below Level One, I was able to clearly explain what I needed to see from them. I was able to connect with them and establish the source of their frustration, boredom or apathy. For one student, it was my first real breakthrough with him. He explained to me where he was in his thinking and why he just wasn’t trying. I was able to discuss alternative opportunities for him to demonstrate his learning.
For the mid-range students, we were able to talk specifics and but also generally what they needed for them to take the next step. The conversation was duly framed on their reflections and the body of evidence chart they made.
For the high achievers, I was able to praise them and challenge them. They were able to speak positively about the work they were doing and I think they walked away with a renewed investment in their learning.
The talk of numbers came last. I asked them why they gave themselves that number. I listened to their rationale. Some were very thoughtful and considerate, others said, “I dunno, I just randomly picked it.”
Surprisingly, most were spot on. Many students put themselves lower then I had considered. I had a great opportunity to lay out why they deserved more and was able to connect them with their learning. Some we compromised, somewhere in the middle. Some I kept them at my number. I rarely dropped down to where they were; it is my professional judgment after all.
A few students chose numbers that were quite above their production. I listened to their rationale and then was able to talk to them about demonstration of skills, where I thought they were and what they would have needed to achieve the mark they wanted. We sometimes came to a compromise, but most often they would agree with my assessment.
A few students were not present for any of the days I conferenced and therefore, I went with my distinction.

Time: I did not give myself enough time for the conversations. I generally gave myself 15 minutes for each conversation, but many went long. This is something I will definitely have to re-think for next time.

The Report Card: Now that I had established the number, conferenced with each student (basically told them what the comment would say), the report cards were exceptionally easy. Many students still ended up with generally the same comment, but many were provided with very specific, personal comments.

Reflection: I enjoyed the process. I don’t believe that any parent will complain, as there are no surprises. Each student was given the opportunity to fully understand the value that will be placed on their report card, but more importantly, they know exactly what learning is necessary to continue. Besides the timing, which was a little stressful, the process was well worth it. I believe I stayed within the mandates of the Growing Success document and provided a learning experience for my students. I think I removed some of the mystery of evaluation and report cards.

Sorry for such a long post, I wanted to ensure the steps I took were documented as multiple people had asked. Thanks!

Nov 9, 2010
Comments Off on Away Again. And Yet.

Away Again. And Yet.

I was away from school today. Again. I know, I know. It sucks. My students don’t like it. The community of learners struggles when I’m gone. But alas, I had to be away. So too, will I be away on Thursday and Friday of this week.

I left lesson plans. Straight forward, not to difficult. Mostly independent work. You know how it is, nothing too strenuous for the supply teacher or potential on-call teacher. I haven’t been in to school yet, obviously, so I wait for the supply teacher’s comments.

And yet.

I looked at the class wiki. I read class blogs. I checked my e-mail. What I saw was astonishing. I saw evidence of community. I saw an online dialogue where students were asking questions about what I left for work, clarifying, supporting and co-learning. I saw curriculum demonstrated. I saw a classroom that was facilitated through me, by them.

Despite my absence, I have got information, evidence, that allows me to more accurately assess against the curriculum.

I don’t think this is a reflection of me. I think this is a reflection of what can be done when students are given the time, tools, and trust to take ownership of their learning. I think this is a reflection of why teachers should / must embrace social online tools.

For any teacher who continues to disagree with the use of social media, do I have a story to show and tell you.

Today, I was away again. And yet.

Nov 6, 2010
Comments Off on Nelson Mandela from the book Conversations with Myself

Nelson Mandela from the book Conversations with Myself

As I look back to those days I am inclined to believe that the type of life I led at home … introduced me at an early age to the ideas of collective effort. The little progress I made in this regard was later undermined by the type of formal education I received which tended to stress individual more than collective values.

Nov 6, 2010
Comments Off on Push the Thinking.

Push the Thinking.

I guess it’s my job.

Not formally, of course, but by nature of my engagement.

When all signs point to the revolution hitting a tipping point, it is imperative that we don’t just talk to the already converted. We need to push the thinking of some of the most ardent old-schoolers. We need to challenge them.

The edublog community is rich and diverse. Yet, the nature of our presence online and our connection means we are already on the path to revolution. It needs to be our imperative to build our capacity.

We need to include more, market to the unconverted, offer them educational salvation.

We need to push the thinking, all the thinking, of all educators.

Nov 5, 2010
Comments Off on Removing the Blindfold.

Removing the Blindfold.

To truly see myself as a co-learner, I’ve had to make a big step. I did something I’d never done. It changed everything. I gave them the curriculum document.

You know the one. The document loaded with edu-babble and overall expectations. The booklet that sums up why we are here in class everyday. I gave it to them. Let them read through it. We had to decode some of the language. We even had to talk about the relevancy and redundancy of many aspects.

Then we talked about what we’ve done so far. What expectations they’ve demonstrated. We talked about what standards they’ve achieved. We talked about ways that they could demonstrate the skills necessary to achieve success that are connected to their interests.

I gave them the information I had and joined them in the discussions about what, why, and how we are learning. The second half of the course will be very self-directed. They need to demonstrate these expectations. We’ve changed the vocabulary, an assignment is no longer that. Instead, the work they do is an opportunity to demonstrate the skills. They get it now.

I think removing the blindfold and framing the learning at the middle of the class has changed the dynamic. The individual discussion is now about how they can demonstrate what’s expected. Not about numbers or assignments.

Even more so, it is not about the assignments I create and they comply with, but rather it is about their ability to demonstrate that which they know they must. It is heavy stuff for them. It has always been talked about abstractly. Now they know what it is. I’m expecting them to start looking at the curriculum documents for other courses. I’ve encouraged them to do it. I’ve encouraged them to look for alternative ways to demonstrate their skills in other classes. I guess some teachers aren’t going to like that.

But then again, it’s not about them. It’s about the students.

Nov 3, 2010
Comments Off on Kevin Kelly in his book What Technology Wants

Kevin Kelly in his book What Technology Wants

We don’t go on as we are. We address the problems of tomorrow not with today’s tools but with the tools of tomorrow. This is what we call progress.

Nov 2, 2010
Comments Off on Count This.

Count This.

“This doesn’t really count ‘cause I don’t do it in class. I just do it on my own time. I love finding words that just fit together and sound right. But anyway, it doesn’t matter ‘cause it’s not school.”

A student of mine as he let me read his rap. One of the thirty pages he gave me. Pages and pages of well-written, considered, edited, thought provoking raps written with bad spelling and swear words.

My reply:

“Man, this counts. It all counts. I love finding words that just fit together and sound right. It makes me happy too. If this is something that runs your engine, then it matters. It absolutely matters. The real question, how are you going to use this to change the world?”

My real question:

How can something that matters so much to a student not count? Every time. How can his personal learning not be school?

6 color styles available:

Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.