Last Thursday, I had the privilege of presenting my thoughts and ideas at the ECOO Conference 2012. My presentation was geared around my assessment and evaluation methods and madness.
I was proud to speak in front of such an intelligent, engaged audience who asked so many great questions and provided some varied perspectives. I have embedded below the slides from my presentation.
The conference moved this year from one where the tool was the principal focus to the pedagogical shift taking shape in education. Obviously, I like this move. I think too often we spend time worrying about the what and how of teaching, and too little time is spent wrestling with the why. This conference enabled that wrestling.
However, it also enabled something else for me, it forced me to focus my thinking around assessment, which ironically I spoke about. I realized, with more clarity than I had before, that assessment is right now the linchpin to the shift in education.
John Seely Brown, Michael Fullan, and even Nora Young, all addressed the shift in instruction, but none of them offered the insight into the shift in assessment and I fear that is underlooked.
Frankly, assessment and evaluation may be the structure of the system that slows down change the most.
I see it as there are two main cogs in education, instruction and assessment, and while instruction is slowly coming to life, assessment is still in a state of disrepair. It’s rusted over and will take some serious elbow grease to get it moving again.
And we can’t disregard it.
We’ve made cosmetic changes to evaluation, however, at the end of the day will universities and colleges accept our students if they haven’t jumped through the hoops of GPAs and averages. What then becomes of the innovation, creative problem solving, and imagination?
The ECOO experience has focused in my interest in assessment and evaluation, it has left me with more questions than answers and has enabled me to connect with other educators asking those same questions. I can’t wait to see where this takes me.
It is too easy to shut off when you don’t hear what you want. It is easy as a teacher to walk away, shut your door and go on with what you are doing.
At the opening ceremonies of a Fire Chiefs conference I attended yesterday, the opening speaker, the Fire Chief of Kitchener said, “To continue the progress that is needed, we must come together and have discussions and debates. Sometimes we will agree. Sometimes we will agree to disagree, but we must always agree to keep discussing.”
This struck a chord.
Too often there is disagreement and then silence. We can lose semesters easily in poorly designed and implemented professional dialogue strategies where the only people who suffer from our lack of discussion are our students. Silence is not leadership.
We need to disconnect the idea for education from our personal investment and be willing to undertake disagreement. If someone disagrees, it is not a personal affront.
No one theory, idea or reasoning is right. I get that. It is the integration of ideas in the discussion that often determines a great course of action. However, too many voices in the education discussion are silent.
For some, it is by choice. We need to encourage these quiet innovators to open their door to the world and encourage their participation. For some, it is by habit. We need to encourage these experienced educators to join the conversation. For some, it is because they have been silenced before. We need to encourage these professionals that our students and education need their voice.
These “difficult discussions” are essential to our mitigating of the rough waters of the education revolution.
In all my blog entires, I encourage you to disagree with me. Challenge my thinking. We will all come out better on the other side. Let’s agree to keep discussing.
In Ontario, only 48% of eligible voters voted in the most recent provincial election. Pathetic.
That said, StudentVote (an organization that enables mock-student election to run concurrently with real elections) ran elections in more than 50% of all schools. Their participation is climbing.
And that’s why we came together. Well, kind of.
Last Saturday, I participated in the StudentVote Post-Election Consultation where a group of 60 or so teachers from across the country and across the educational landscape got together and talked about the future of civic engagement.
How do we move students from apathetic to engaged? The question sounds familiar because, of course, we struggle with this in every facet of education. But this was different.
Organized and run by the StudentVote staff, the consultation was structured, yet free-flowing. Basically a moderated discussion about what has worked, specifically our successes with StudentVote, and how we can engage students in further civic duty.
It was refreshing to hear so many ideas connecting our joy of democracy and ways to make learning about it, and engaging in it, more authentic.
And that’s where my head was, “Give me something real.” Not “school-ized”.
There were a few solid ideas:
- A day where students can “grill” MPs or MPPs. Get them in the classroom and don’t describe what you do, defend your [party's] positions. Students would have to be informed on the issues and be able to intelligently ask questions. Will do this for sure next semester with my FFP.
- Democracy boot camp – This was run by the StudentVote people, but I didn’t participate. From the brief snippets of info that I got I see it as a one day all inclusive bombardment of our political system including panel discussions with representatives from the parties. I like this idea. I think students can get involved and maybe run one for a feeder school, or maybe multiple feeder schools, if not our school. Heck, we could invite parents and the community. Lots of potential with this one, though right now, many random thoughts.
On top of all the discussion we had a fantastic guest speaker of Alison Loat (@alisonloat) from Samara. This organization looks at civic engagement and is a “research, think-tank” (take a gander at some of the reports they’ve published). She spoke that the civically disengaged aren’t necessarily apathetic, but often they have negative experience with bureaucracy.
How can we move politics closer to democracy?
A few questions I had going in and coming out of the day:
1. How do we keep students (heck, everyone) engaged in matters of the state between elections?
2. What “simulations” / “games” / “events” are there for students to participate in meaningful authentic ways with parliament?
3. How can we make citizenship, both digital and otherwise, part of all curriculums, not just that in Grade 10 civics?
4. Does StudentVote really work? Does it really make them voters in the future?
The truth is, I’m not a civics teacher. I teach it as an element of the Futures Forum Project, but it’s not my baby. Being civically engaged and an advocate for our civic rights and responsibilities is my thing.
How do we create meaningful, authentic learning opportunities for our students and allow them to experience success/ownership of the direction of our country/province/city? How do we include them in our community?
My other line of thinking is for a possible follow-up post, but here a few quick random thoughts:
- (1)The professional development was geared towards helping this non-profit organization. How does this effect teacher engagement on a Saturday? When professional development (or any learning) has a clear and direct goal are people more inclined to over-engage? Is that possible?
- (2)The consultation was also “paid”. We each got money for showing up. How does that affect the commitment to professional development? How would have the turnout/engagement been different?
- It was difficult to determine the hierarchy of the group. Sure, there was the organization who was “leading” the discussions, but it was a flat organization. How did this affect people’s willingness to share?
- StudentVote was open to back channelling, yet it didn’t really happen. How could this have enabled more sharing? What is our hesitation? Are these the people to start that push with?
- If a teacher is engaged in one element of school life (civics, elections, politics, sports, drama, etc.) are they less effective in other venues? Should we promote teacher specialization or breadth learning?
This blog is all over the place, I know. There are so many good, creative thoughts that came out of the day for me and I feel like this is the way I need to express them. Hope it is readable.
I am an avid reader, I like books that make me think and explore.
I have gotten a few e-mails lately from other teachers asking me to recommend some books for them to read to begin them on the path I’m on. So, here is the list that I usually send them.
These books have changed, altered, helped, nudged, pushed me into thinking about the role of education and the teacher differently. Yet, these are not about teaching.
Some draw parallels much more directly. Some are about the way we think or interact. Some are about how we market. The main thing is that these books push you. I have ranked them in order of influence and power.
1. The Element by Sir Ken Robinson – This book is the most likely to be considered a “teachers” book, but really it is about embracing creativity, searching for passion and ensuring we re-focus our lives on the important stuff.
2. Drive by Daniel Pink - This book has influenced my thoughts on marking more than any other source. Pink explores the nature of motivation and outlines the case for exploring student autonomy, mastery and re-discovering the real purpose of a public education system. The arbitrary number isn’t as effective as we thought.
3. Linchpin by Seth Godin – This book changed my way of thinking about my role in the system. Up to the point of reading this book, my thoughts always lingered to “getting out” and working alternative to the system. Godin makes the argument that people from within need to scratch out the place for themselves to “do their art”. It is tough, though it is most important. The revolution needs to happen from within for it to stick.
4. Start With Why by Simon Sinek – This book kicks the thinking into high gear and reminded me that every action, decision, relationship needs to be rooted in the “why” of my life. This means that every decision in the classroom should be rooted in the students. If life is made more difficult for teachers, but centres the learning for students, then that is the way it is. Always reframe the thinking to the why.
5. Mindset by Carol Dweck – Dweck explores the nature of how we think about ourselves and why some people are willing to more rigorously dig into the difficulty of learning, while others just give up. This book reminds me that students need help at the base of how they see the world and that this will influence everything.
6. In Pursuit of Elegance by Matthew E. May – This book is about removing the stuff that distracts from the elegance. There are so many parallels in education of the things that we add that don’t add to our why. May pushed me to thinking about simplifying everything.
7. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath – This was one of the first books that made me think about the struggle and battle of changing a system that is at times, unchangeable. It encouraged me to engage in the educational revolution.
8. Tribes by Seth Godin – All about finding your people, connecting and encouraging others (students) to find their tribe. This books has encouraged me to disengage in the negative and to join Twitter in an attempt to connect with people who will continuously push my thinking.
9. Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew Crawford – Simply a book about what it means to work and to disengage in the “storybook” image of what education looks like.
10. Outliers and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell - These two books explore the nature of re-thinking success and decision making. In classic Gladwell style, these books pushed me into being more aware of everything and taking less for granted when it comes to the factors that will affect student learning.
But this is my list, the list of books I’ve read. I’m ALWAYS looking for books that are going to push me. If you have a recommendation, please let me know.
For a complete list of the books I read, please visit http://books.mrkemp.ca.
The best professional development I’ve ever had involves conversations. It is sitting down with a colleague and discussing, debating, and dissecting pedagogy, something we read, our experiences, an assignment. It’s when I get to float my ideas out and they are supported, questioned, prodded and challenged.
In these conversations, nothing is taken personally. We have a mutual agreement that the ideas we set forth are just that, ideas. They are not tied to our professionalism. We are willing to talk in radical measures. We encourage each other to be risk takers, challenge the norm.
This is true professional development.
And thus why I suggest a day of professional conversation. I’d like to arrange a group of friends, colleagues, teachers and other educational revolutionaries to join together in an un-conference in Southwestern Ontario. Through crowd-sourcing we’ll set the agenda. Maybe four – six topics. Rather than presentations, we’ll nominate facilitators.
Together we will create the professional development we want.
I’m thinking a Saturday or Sunday in May or June. This gives us time to organize a keynote to start our day.
Please fill out this form if you are interested in joining us: Professional Development Un-Conference
Any questions, ask away…
Are we stuck in an edububble?
Are the people, like me I suppose, who are pushing the revolution, really exposed to new ideas? Or are we just listening to the same ideas, quoting each other and circulating edu-think? Do you need to be in education to know what you are talking about?
Do we need to start letting different, non-educators have a say/perspective in what is happening in our schools?
We are so protective of the space. Too often I hear, “How can someone who has not been in a classroom as a teacher really know what it’s like?” Is it time to recognize that we are not experts in education and someone from outside of education might have better answers.
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly recommend reading the edublogosphere, staying updated in many of the books that are published “by teachers, for teachers”, but do too many teachers only listen to other teachers? Do we lose our connection with the world outside of education?
I don’t have the answers here, I’m not sure I’m even asking the right questions, but I want to make sure we are moving forward, not just rolling around and around. Passing time while we wait for students to recognize they don’t want school.
Is it time for the edububble to burst?
Somedays it can be lonely. Isolating. When searching through the throngs of students and teachers to find someone who is “on your side”.
Students don’t know any better. They are reactionaries. They rarely will be the ones to ask for change. They act for change. They act out for change.
Teachers on the other hand. They know better, or at least they should know better. So, somedays when it seems like I’m hitting wall after wall. Finding land mine after land mine, it is nice to find the comrades.
Sometimes it feels like we’re all undercover. Not wanting to make too many waves, don’t let too many people know what you are doing to put students in the middle. Pushing the agenda. Most do it in their classrooms and don’t venture out for fear of vitirol, or worse another wall. They just do it.
I’m trying to find my comrades and get them vocal.
Today, I found another. He has nestled a place of true collaboration, creativity, and flexibility in his classroom. I didn’t know about it until I heard some students talking about it, about him. They were saying things like, “He gives you the choice.” “Just ask him, he’ll consider anything.” “He isn’t just about doing what you’re told, he’s about following hunches.”
I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. But I will. I’m going to tell him I know his secret. That it’s safe with me. I’m going to let him know that we are comrades in arms.
Let the revolution continue!
Teachers are afraid of taking risks. Whether it is the notion that we are constantly judging and therefore we will be judged, or whether we don’t want to reveal the lack of expertise we perceive ourselves to have, we don’t like to take risks. On top of that, other teachers who do take risks, as I expressed in my previous posts, are often looked at with hesitation and disgruntlement. That is for most teachers, anyway.
I am taking a risk. I have gathered a small, yet impressive group of colleagues who will join me in this risk. I have purchased a video camera and will be taping one of my classes. A real class, real students, no orchestration. After the filming, I am going to gather with my colleagues (from across schools) and watch the video and break down what we see. What am I doing well? Where are the areas of my improvement? I am throwing myself to the wolves.
I don’t know what to expect, except feedback, opportunity for reflection and a professional learning community who will help me continue my revolution.
If you are interested in being part of this process, please let me know.
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.
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