Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How Do We Respond to Challenges?

How do we as teachers respond to new learning and/or teaching challenges. Do we take the initiative to solve our own problems (lifelong learner) or do we simply wait on the escalator?

Teaching, Training, Enabling

Today in long term leadership planning someone made the observation that perhaps not enough technology training opportunities have been made available. As a the main person responsible for providing said training I took exception to that.

I basically defended myself by saying "I don't turn anyone away". My principal had a problem with my statement and went on to quote the fisherman quote (see below). I have been a long time subscriber to the "teach a man to fish" philosophy but realize that people do need some basic idea of what involved in fishing. Fishing a pond, the ocean, and a river all require different techniques and sometimes you need to at least point someone in the right direction.

Tonight I come home recently re-energized about blogging after spending a day listening to Will Richardson speak with our school district. I popped open the bloglines account and Bill Ferriter was posting about a Scott McLeod post regarding codependence issues of "trainers" and their learners (teachers and admin).

The comments to each article are fascinating and may be summed up as "teachers need to step up their game". While I generally agree that teachers needs to "step it up" I wonder how many will until their job requirement or perhaps self-perception about those requirements change. I wonder how many commenters were classroom teachers themselves and not just tech staff...perhaps some were like me a hybrid position that wears both hats.

Teachers need to figure out how to restructure what they do and how they do it. I went back to the classroom for one school year several years back (after being in tech for 10 years) and one of the most time consuming parts of the job was the amount of paperpushing that happened. A teacher invests a big chunk of time in pushing papers at students and then retrieving those papers. The saddest part of the transaction is that very often this transaction is little more than an exercise in futility. A teacher is pushing paper at the students. The students may experience multiple paper pushers each day. The students' job becomes to fill out those papers and push them back at the teacher. In a perfect world the teacher reviews the papers as way to better understand what was learned and what has yet to be learned. In reality the teacher is so consumed with the retrieval of the papers from all students leaving little time for meaningful feedback. Sometimes the teacher makes the extra effort to provide that specific feedback only to find the feedback in the recycle bin. Yet, we keep on doing that. Pushing the paper back and forth and keeping track of who completed what (not who learned what) exhausts a teacher leavning little time for new learning.

Let's leave technology out of the equation for a minute. I am still amazed how little discussion might be generated about some powerful learning change on the horizon. Interesting discussions I've tried to start recently in the lounge with staff include the changing world (ie Flat World), the power of formative assessment, professional learning communities, and personal learning networks. The conversation lasts briefly and quickly shifts back to last night's episode of Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, or some other chewing gum for the brain program.

My concern is not about learning new technology...but rather the "typical" teacher's general lack of willingness to learn something new, anything new.....the lack of willingness to explore, argue, debate, discuss....all those things required to learning something new that may actually make us better teachers or at least more informed individuals.

Google for tech support!

You have to love Google. Yes, the company is great. Thank you Google for all the great stuff you make available. But what I was referring to was good old fashioned Google searching.

So many monitors have better resolution these days and I figured I should widen my blog so that objects I embed don't have to be so small. I knew this involved editing my Blogger template and the prospect of that was slightly better than changing the registry on my machine. Both are places I just try not to touch.

I figured I would give it a try anyways. With the brute force of Google I was able to find how to widen my blog appearance...making better use of most screens. That a created a new issue as one column of blog bumped right up against another column in my blog. Once again....thank you Google and thank you bloggers who post about this very thing.

Finally I realized that the line spacing of my posts were messed up which frankly made them somewhat hard to read. Not sure when that happened...it may have happened tonight when I was tinkering. But once again Google connected me to the right teacher to learn how to do this.

I took everyone's suggestion and backed up my template before completely breaking it so I would have something to fail back on. Blogger even allowed me to preview the changes to the template in a new window to see the impact of the changes. So I was able to have one window with the old blog appearance and another window with the new blog appearance. Once I was able to visually verify that the change worked all I had to do was save the template.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Are the digital texts really on the way?

The New York Times published an article today about digital textbooks making their way into classrooms. I am fascinated about the move to digital texts as it just makes so much sense for so many reasons. Textbooks are linear and most teachers I work with don't teach content in a textbook linear structure. The textbook (except for Math) has become more of a resource for teachers and students that gathers dust until someone needs to look something up or there is a relevant section. However, I think the dust gets a bit thicker between uses. It doesn't matter that is has taken an economic downturn to push districts (esp. California) to look into these changes. There was one quote that was especially fascinating to me about schools that fail to make the switch to digital texts.

“In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks,” said William M. Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County schools. “They can be better than traditional textbooks.”

Schools that do not make the switch, Mr. Habermehl said, could lose their constituency.

“We’re still in a brick-and-mortar, 30-students-to-1-teacher paradigm,” Mr. Habermehl said, “but we need to get out of that framework to having 200 or 300 kids taking courses online, at night, 24/7, whenever they want.”

I'm glad the books are somewhere in the future....but when did we do something because we could lose our "constituency"? States are tinkering with charter and online schools but are those "choices" viable options for a suburban college bound student? I've read Christensen's book Disrupting Class and I find the idea of the cycle of innovation fascinating. I also shop with my feet....I go where I think I get the best product or the best deal...hopefully both. However, can our nation's communities really do the same thing? Will schools really tumble or at least change because of the innovation on the horizon. I am skeptical if not downright doubtful. Public schools are essentially a monopoly...particularly K-12. Schools are the slowest changing and possibily most insulated social institution. At this point in time I am putting my money on schools as being able to not change their model. Our basic public education has remained largely intact for the past 100 years...and I believe it will continue to do so.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Questions for Will Richardson.....

1. I am brand new to all this Web2.0 information and can't believe how far behind I am. I am a high school math teacher and have spent some time reviewing the math examples you mention in your site, especially Darren Kuropatwa's blog. Are there any other math references that you would recommend as I begin my journey? Also curious as what tool you would recommend when it comes to working with math equations and graphing functions? I have worked almost exclusively with MathType and the TI graphing calculators. What else do you recommend for math teachers to explore?

2. Teachers that are taking this class, I believe for the most part after reading your book, are sold on Web 2.0 technologies and the whole idea that it is our responsibility to get children ready for their future...even though it is a future that we can't quite predict. However, teachers don't generally get to set policy. How does a teacher or group of teachers go about educating admin. and board members? Mark

3. The answers to so many things we had to memorize as students in school is so easily found in seconds these day via the Internet. For years we had the debate at school as to whether or not students should memorize the capital of each state. I can see this as an example of information we no longer need students to memorize. However, another part of me feels there are just some things students should know. Do you have a "rule of thumb" to help educators determine what we need to let go?
Betsy Gentile

4. Will, I've been asked to lead an online discussion in December for The Ohio Writing Project. Many of the participants (k-12 teachers) might be "tech-leery." Is there a tool I should be considering that is effective but also really easy to use?
Betsy Woods

5. Any new web 2.0 tools that you've recently come across?
Betsy Woods

6. I see tons of possibilities for using all the tools in middle and high school classes, but do you have suggestions for how to use it in younger grades where they do not have as much computer experience, access, or the skills needed to use all these tools?
Thanks, Jen Young

7. At my school I co-chair the tech committee. I am very much interested in getting our staff and students to be familiar with these Web 2.0 tools. It would be very cool to run paperless classrooms. Do most schools who run a paperless program have one to one computer access for students? Right now we have one lab and two laptop carts. How do you move staff and students towards these Web 2.0 tools when computer access is somewhat limited?
Thanks Andrea

8. I was lucky enough to be part of a PLP cohort during the past school year. What's the best thing you've seen come out of this program? Has anyone taught you anything during the process? Kristen

9. I'm really interested in learning more about how cell phones can be used in the classroom. I teach in an economically diverse district with a wide digital divide -- but nearly every student has an internet connected cell phone. Can you recommend some resources for learning more? Alli

10. Any tips for dealing with the high school grade grubbers who hate collaborative work on-line? Better yet, any tips for dealing with their class-rank conscious parents who keep track of every point on their parent access page? Alli

11. I am a fourth grade teacher. I'm also interested in hearing some good classroom uses of Web 2.0 tools for younger kids. I'm especially interested in your thoughts on creating a class blog and how to ensure internet "safety" for nine and ten year old students. -- Katie Naegeli

12. I get many questions each year from parents (and other teachers) about internet safety. How do you address online safety with your students? I would really like to address this topic much more in my technology classroom this year. Thanks! Lori F.

13. I'm excited after what I've read about Wikis in your book. I'm wondering how to manage this in my classroom. Do students build these during class time or edit these from their homes? How have teachers accessed their students' work, especially since students can play various roles including contributors and editors? Judy

14. Will, which of the web tools that you talk about in your book do you feel would be most useful in the Kindergarten classroom. In our district, some children come to Kindergarten reading & most can decode by the end of the year. We also spend time in Writing Workshop & conduct author studies from which the children are encouraged to use features of a particular author's craft (labeling, bold print, speech bubbles) in their own writing. Thanks for your time & input!!

15. Stone Age Schools
I am a 6th grade Social Studies teacher as well as on our district's technology committee. I feel that our school and education in general are behind the speed of technology. How do we encourage (but really push) administrators and teachers to move forward at a faster pace to engaging student learning through the use of technology in the classroom?

With the need for better understanding and utilization of web 2.0 technologies which requires internet access, what are your thoughts on one-to-one computing? Kerry

16. School Filters
How do we convince our administrators to loosen our Internet filter so that our students will have access to some of these social networking tools in the classroom? The "walled garden" approach is great, but sometimes we need access to the wide open Internet.

17. Communication with students
What is the best method of communication with our students? I've tried communication via email, cell phone, text messaging, facebook & blackboard with little success. I even tried all of the above for the same message and it still left some out. It seems no matter which method I use, some students either aren't connected or don't check in a timely fashion. Communication is so easily accessible these days with so many different modes, but some students don't seem to care. Games and social interactions are what they like. Hence my attempt at facebook, but apparently all students aren't there. I'd very much like to find a vehicle that would connect all when not in class. Thanks for writing a great book about a growing trend in our society in which us educators need to get in the game.

18. Read/Write Web in the Elementary Classroom
Of all the read/write to the web tools that you discuss in your book, which one(s) do think are the most powerful for the elementary classroom? I know that I cannot tackle everything in one year, so I want to pick one or two areas to focus in on including in my classroom this year. I also want to choose what would seem to be the most successful for fourth grade students. I appreciate any and all suggestions and insights.
Thank you for writing a book that a "non-techie" person could really understand and enjoy!

19. Student/Parent Response to Web 2.0 tools in the classroom
How have students and parents responded to increasing technology use in the classroom? We use blackboard at IH (for example), and some students like it. Others lament that we're trying to do too much. What about the cost involved? For example, we want our students in FL to record with voicethreads at home or maybe make screencasts. We thought about putting a computer microphone on the supplies list, but we thought it might be too much money. I went to buy one at Staples for this class, and the cheapest they had was $20. That would be on top of other supplies and the fees they already pay for a non-AP class. I know some have built in microphones, but what about the others? How about computer speed at home? I would guess that most of our students have high-speed internet and updated programs/operating systems, but again, not everyone. I was thinking too about the cuts here in the public library budget, so the kids that don't have access have less opportunity there. Thanks in advance for your comments! Kari

Sunday, August 2, 2009

2 Million Minutes--pt 1

Please use the comments area to post your thoughts on part 1 of our 2 Million Minutes viewing

Willingham--Thoughts on Part 1

Please use the comments area to post your thoughts on part 1 of our Willingham presentation.

TechTuneUP09: Assignments.PDF

TechTuneUP09: Assignments

Independent Project
We meet for approximately 25 hours during this class. Although I do present new information each day, the majority of class time is left for individual teachers to pursue their own special project in a supported environment. This project is an ideal chance for you to learn something new or to continue new learning efforts, to design a technology infused lesson/unit, or further explore any of the topics we learn about during the week. In the past people have built webpages, developed their Blackboard courses, learned new pieces of software, created instructional videos, designed new curriculum, created practice achievement test items or other formative assessment items, as well as many other different projects. On Tuesday you will give a brief “project share” to the class concerning what you are doing. On Friday you will present the progress of your project sharing more specifics of your project and the progress that you made and new learning you acquired. Specific materials you’ve created should also be shared.

Data Analysis and Implications for Improvement
Data analysis allows us to look back and see how our students did on specific tasks. It is most powerful when we use it to guide our future instruction. By the end of the week you will need to apply what you learned in this class to analyze the data available to you. Your assignment should include a look back (ie how your students performed and any specific observations you have about those results). More useful to you will be your statement of how last year’s results will impact your teaching this year. To do this you will need to think about your own teaching last year as well as the results of the students that you will be teaching this year (ie how did they do before coming to you and what implications for instruction does this have?). I also ask that you briefly share your “discoveries/plans” in your share out on Friday.

This assignment needs to be sent to Dr. Ault, Dr. Knudson, your building administrator, and me via email before leaving on Friday.

* Ideally your data assignment would guide/intertwine with your Independent project

Why Don’t Students Like School Blog Posts
Throughout the week I will be sharing information from Dan Willingham’s book Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. Willingham tells us that we learn what we think about at the time of the learning (this will make more sense later) so in following with his ideas I would like you to post comments to the techtuneup blog concerning each section as we review it related to the information presented and what you are thinking about Willingham’s information about learning.

2 Million Minutes Blog Posts
Throughout the week I will be sharing the documentary 2 Million Minutes. The hour long movie attempts to draw a comparison between US, Indian, and Chinese education systems, the students which participate in those systems, and the societies which support those systems. I would like you to post your thoughts/reactions/reflections about each section as we watch it to the techtuneup blog.

Power Up Your PLN
How do you get “better” as a teacher? Willingham talks about the difference between experience and practice. If you are in this class I would argue that you are a practitioner…you are here with the intent of getting “better” of improving as an educator.
We will go into more detail with “practice” when we discuss Willingham. One cannot improve without feedback. One cannot continue to learn without continue to building their knowledge base and although I don’t have an assignment for this I hope each teacher would consider their sources for new learning and how they can expand or perhaps focus their new learning sources.

New Tools
Throughout the class I will be presenting a variety of new tools for you to consider using personally, professional, and with your students. It is my goal that each of you try out one of the new tools (or tool new to you) and incorporate somehow into your independent project and brief share out on Friday.

Discussion Board participation/TechTuneUp Blog
There may be times in class that I need to hear everyone’s voice or ideas about a specific topic. This will be done via a discussion board or the techtuneup blog (techtuneup.blogspot.com) in which all participants can read and comment to each other to keep conversations going. I will announce if I’ve anything for discussion.

Any resources and handouts given in class will also be shared in on techtuneup.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Competition in the Classroom (7.12.09)

I am a fan of competition in the classroom. Why? Because I see how many students at the elementary age compete in sports and thrive on that competition. I don't see competition as a way to belittle anyone. Rather I see it as a motivator. Some students enjoy competition....it is a fact of life after all. Perhaps you would like to try a little competition in your own classroom. Strutta might be just the ticket for it. This web20 site allows you to setup competitions with voting etc. right on the web. Like many web20 sites this one is free. I haven't had a chance to try it out but certainly will give it some play time in the future.

National Teacher Unions and the Struggle Over Reform 7.12.09


The Citizen's Commission on Civil Rights just released a report documenting the role of teacher unions' role in school reform movements.

If you look at the people who were involved in this writing (Bill Bradley and others) you see names that are generally supportive of teachers. But being supportive of teachers and being supportive of teachers unions are two different things.

The report challenges unions to get out of the way and allow some reform to happen. Accountability needs to become a part of all teacher's jobs. Surely not everyone is as good a teacher as the next teacher. The report also advocates a sharing of resources in terms of staffing. Talented teachers should move (or at least some of them) to school where they are most needed. Just one more initiative the unions are fighting hard to block.

Once again....whose rights are the unions fighting for....the teachers or the students? Whose rights should the union be fighting for? The students or the teachers?

Comics in the Classroom (7.12.09)


Have you noticed how popular graphic novels such as the Bone series has become?

Perhaps you are looking for some suggestions on how to implement comics in your own classroom because what counts is reading and making meaning then the above post is for you.

Great information, lesson plans, tools, etc.

Making Data More Useful 7.12.09

This blog isn't very active but what it posts is very good. This is the official PLC blog and many of the questions are answered by Richard DuFour himself. Good article on 3 important keys to managing assessment data. They are:
1) data needs to be easily accessible (within 48 hours of testing)
2) purposefully arranged (best way to ensure teachers can make us of it)
3) teachers must be given and take time to publicly discuss the results.

That 48 hour turnaround is huge for us. Our current system does not allow 48 hour turn around although we could make it so if we pushed it.

I'm going to have to share this one with the boss.

Web 2.0 Survey Results

At the beginning of our course I asked each of you to complete a Web 2.0 survey concerning tools we know about and use. I was trying to differentiate between three different usages....personal, professional, and with our students.

I was very pleased with the results. It was especially interesting to read thru the last two questions to find how people learn and what tools they use.

It is interesting how we as educators have started to many of these tools in our personal lives and even in our professional lives....but it seems we aren't quite there in using the tools with students yet.

I wonder why that is? I have my own theory but would love to hear your ideas as well. I apologize if the text is too small. I'm using a tool called embedit. The service allows you to embed any type of file. Just in case I'm also attaching the PDF version of the survey results.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Public or Private?


I don’t know about you but I am tired of the perception that private is always more rigorous or better.  I’ve worked in a parochial school environment before and always accounted the success of the students to the supportive school environment and engaged parents.  The teachers I worked with were dedicated hardworking individuals that were barely getting paid a living wage, but I always felt something was missing.  Perhaps it was professional development?

A recent study from the University of Illinois might have the answer.  Science Daily reports that public schools are beginning to score higher on NAEP testing that private schools.  The authors of the study suggest that private schools have fallen behind in Professional Development and up to date curriculum.  Another interesting read….

Art and Science of Teaching


We’ve all read or at least perused Marzano’s Classroom Instruction that Works.  Did you know there is a second book in the series called the Art and Science of Teaching.  The goal of each book is to look at the research and see what classroom practices really can be attributed to increased learning/higher achievement.

ASCD is doing an interesting series right now.  Dina Strasser, a 7th grade English teacher, is reading and blogging about the book one chapter at a time.  Robert Marzano then reads and responds to her post on what she has written. 

Should prove to be a valuable learning opportunity.  Marzano has already said that teachers need to take into account their own experiences before jumping on any bangwagon.  The teacher has to be the filter.

I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Getting started with a Feed Reader

Ready learn more about feed readers?  You've come to the right place!

If you have a Google account you have access to Google reader.  Here is the Google Reader tutorial and a brief overview video:

I've always used Bloglines simply because that is where I started.  If I were starting today I would use Google Reader.  However, Bloglines is very easy to use.

Here is a very nice tutorial on getting Bloglines setup.

No stress here...remember you are just signing up for an online service....you've done this before.

More help for Bloglines and the concept of RSS feeds can found at this video made by Teachers 2.0.  I could create the same thing....but another teacher has already done it for you.

Getting started with Blogger

Like other Google services they provide excellent online help for getting started with Blogger.

Some of you noticed that my email addresses displayed while I was working from the blog today during class.  That surprised me as well so I had to look at it.  Turns out that only showed because I was logged into my iGoogle account at the same time.  If someone else was visiting the blog they would not see that address.

If you prefer video tutorials you can check out the Blogger channel at YouTube:

Class 1: Debrief/Review

Okay, our first “sort of” class meeting turned into a full blown class.  I had no intention of people staying that long but I think the discussion was a good one.

Let’s review what we talked about and agree to do.

1)     1)  We decided that it was okay to learn about new technologies in order to find new ways to raise achievement.  We decided that we would not fill out the SMART goals sheet at least at this point.  Raising achievement (ie student learning) remains our ultimate goal, but it is too early in the class to lock in to a target yet.

2)    2) Please read the Bill Ferriter article that I posted on the blog called Learning with Blogs and Wikis.  The article should help you better understand how you can harness online PD. 

3)    3) If after reading the Bill Ferriter article you feel ambitious and are ready to start with a blog and/or Google Reader or Bloglines then please proceed.  I have faith that you can figure it out.

4)    4) If you don’t have any luck with that or would like to wait for a group effort or catch me at school or just want to wait until the next class that is fine too.  At the next class I will show you how to get a feed reader account, find good feeds, and subscribe to those feeds.

5)    5)  I am a believer in online PD.  I get about 2 hours each Saturday morning looking through the feeds I read.  It is one of the highlights of my week.  I have never given the assignment for people to write blogs and follow other blogs.  I am also asking for some additional reading to be done.  I couldn’t “gauge” the class reaction to this assignment earlier tonight.  I hope we can give this assignment a try as I think it has great value.  We can feel our way through it and I will adjust as necessary.  I think the best place to start is simply to ask yourself….what do I want to learn more about? 

I feel so lucky to work with all of you and look forward to working our way through this class together.  As always please feel free to email or call me.

Tech Class Schedule

We've had to tinker around with the class schedule. My apologies for that and thanks for your ongoing flexibility.

Today's class (2.26.09) will count towards our Ashland hours....remember we need to have about 13 contact hours.

Here is the rest of the schedule. Please note we have no class on March 3rd. We also moved the Saturday class from May 9th to May 16th as someone had a conflict with that date. I understand that as we roll into spring and warmer weather we may have more time conflicts. I'm confident we can work thru them.

Here is the schedule as it now stands:

Tech Tools Meeting Schedule

  1. (Thursday, February 26th, 4-5:30)
  2. Tuesday, March 17th, 4-5:30
  3. Tuesday, Mach 31st, 4-5:30
  4. Tuesday, April 7th, 4-5:30
  5. Thursday, April 23rd, 4-5:30
  6. Thursday, April 30th, 4-5:30
  7. Thursday, May 14th, 4-5:30
  8. Saturday, May 16th, 9-12

Your class plan of attack

The administration has asked that we specific your individual learning goals.

How will what we do impact the teaching and learning that takes place in the classrooms?
How will it target achievement?

I think using the SMART goal format would be well received. http://www.goal-setting-guide.com/smart-goals.html

I know we can be specific.

Making is measureable is a bit more of a challenge. Having something to measure in our relatively short amount of time is tough. But perhaps data collection can be built into your project. Let's talk about it.

The goal needs to be attainable. Small gains are real gains. Often small gains are realistic. Keep the plan realistic. We aren't asking for 100% proficiency. That kind of work will take at least until 2014. ;)

The plan needs to be reasonable. You need to be able to pull it off and the students need to have requisite skill set to achieve it as well.

Time bound….specify start and end of the process. When will we look at our numbers, check for growth at the of the process and ideally those results wrap us around to future teaching.

I've attached this template to help us think thru our plans. Ideally I would have an electronic copy of this template before you leave today.

Day 1 of Tech Tools class….

Well, sort of day 1.

In order for the administration to sign off on the class they want us to better define our individual learning goals for the class. Raising achievement is our ultimate goal so our learning goals need to aim for raising achievement. This is not to say our goals can’t involve new learning as well because that new learning may also lead to improved achievement.

Apologies to Laura Numeroff and her demanding mouse.

If you give a teacher a computer, they will want some software or tools. And once they have the tools they will want to learn how to use those tools. And once they know how to use those tools they will want to apply those tools to their classroom practice…their teaching. And once they see how the tools help them as a professional they will seek to learn how to use technology tools with their students. Once they see the students like learning the tools as well they will focus their efforts with technology to go beyond fun and aim for enhanced learning. Once the teacher sees how technology when done well engages the students they aim for incorporating more technology into their classroom and student projects for learning. And once realize new learnings are taking place they will want more computers for the kids to use and newer and better tools as well. And chances are if they have those tools they will want to learn more about them.

PD is sometimes a touchy subject….who decides who gets to learn what. Does the teacher choose what she/he wants/needs to learn or is it the school district? Well, I would have to say both. However, if there is a disconnect between what a teacher wants/needs to learn and what the district is offering the teacher needs to accept what is offered at the district level and then reach out for what they need elsewhere. In our district it is not the quality of PD, but the quantity.

As Richard Elmore said in his influential report for the Shanker institute Bridging the Gap Between Standards and Achievement: The Imperative for Professional Development in Education:

With increased accountability, American schools and the people who work in them are being asked to do something new – engage in systematic, continuous improvement in the quality of the educational experience of students and to subject themselves to the discipline of measuring their success by the metric of students’ academic performance. Most people who currently work in public schools weren’t hired to do this work, nor have they been adequately prepared to do it either by their professional education or by their prior experience in schools. (p. 3)

Accountability must be a reciprocal process. For every increment of performance I demand of you, I have an equal responsibility to provide you with the capacity to meet that expectation. Likewise, for every investment you make in my skill and knowledge, I have a reciprocal responsibility to demonstrate some new increment in performance. (p.4)

Sadly we are limited to 2 half days of PD. Some staff meetings can be considered PD, but even with that additional time I would say our “quid pro quo” or “reciprocity of accountability for capacity” arrangement are out of balance.

That leaves you with a few choices.
1) You could just chug along and do what you do. Perhaps what you've always done.
2) You could complain.
3) Or you could do something about it. Reach out and learn something about it.

In our class we will choose the 3rd option as an ongoing assignment. I hope the length of the class allows you to start the habits of seeking external PD on a regular basis.

Bill Ferriter has written an excellent piece in the current issue of Educational Leadership about how educators can fill the gap in PD. Don’t wait for it, go get it.

To those ends we have an ongoing assignment in this class. You will start a blog using the platform of your choice. There are several options. I would recommend Blogger simply because that is the tool I use and the tool I can most easily support.

You will also register for an RSS reader. Once again, your choice. I use Bloglines, but am always considering moving to Google Reader. If you don’t have a Google account, by all means get one. There is just too much good stuff you are missing out on.

Now that you have a blog and a reader I am going to ask you to become a Web 2.0 reader and writer. Each week I want you to post at least three times related to your new learnings.

Three times he says, that is too much. Keep in mind that a post can be short. The writing can be thinking in text…sharing your thoughts.

1) One post will be related to your progress on your project.
2) A second post will be sharing something you read online that you found interesting. Perhaps something related to your project or maybe something you can tuck away for later use or just something about today’s learners.
3) The third post will be about some professional learning you are doing. This can be sharing an article you read in a professional magazine or something in a current book you are reading. In some ways a magazine or journal is best because you can change topics with each article. However, there is the finding of worthy articles. Perhaps a book is easier, because you like to go more in depth. Either way I want you to share your thoughts as you read. It can be as simple as sharing a line or lines in the book and then sharing your reaction. The rest of us will be reading each other’s posts in our feedreaders and hopefully responding to each other.

For magazines I would highly recommend Educational Leadership, Edutopia, Phi Delta Kappan, The Reading Teacher, Teaching Children Mathematics, etc. Don’t have a subscription? No worries, many of these titles are available electronically just by using InfOhio or your library card. Don’t lock yourself into one title, you can search by subject via the journal databases online.

What about books? So many good ones out there. Scott McLeod (a good blog to subscribe to) has a list of books he recommends under different subjects at http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/reading.html

Any of the books on that list would be great. I have read a few of them and would highly recommend Made to Stick. It is not teacher book, but a teacher could take away a great deal from it. I recently finished Results Now and it was pretty hard on schools and the way we work, but it provides great, useful ideas on how to raise achievement.

Other books you might want to consider include:
Of course you may have your own professional book that has been sitting on your desk, nightstand, or shelf that you’ve been wanting to read. If it is a book that will help your teaching and efforts towards raising achievement I think it would work well.

Me, I’m reading The Game of School and Readicide.

Pardon the interruption in our class schedule

As I emailed yesterday we are delaying the class in order for the administration to have further input into the design of the class. Would this happen with other graduate classes? No, I don’t think that it would.

But I understand where the administration is coming from on this one. Year after year the district pays out money to reimburse PD without knowing exactly what the result of the class will be….don’t even think about knowing whether the class will impact achievement of not. It would be hard to measure….too many variables.

Well, in the case of our class the district is trying to have its say on the content of our course. I applaud them for that. I want input on making the class valuable for IH teachers.

I teach the class not because it is generally fun (which it is) or because I learn a lot during the class (which I do) but rather I teach the class because I think it has value for the teachers I work with. Specifically the teachers at the elementary school.

When I posted the class for the ES teachers (and not the other buildings) I was not trying to be exclusive. Instead I was aiming for responsible. Who am I to try to meet the learning needs of another building, another staff, teachers I don’t know as well, building goals and plans which I am not familiar with. I perceived that as overstepping my reach as the ES tech specialist. Unfortunately that is not how it was seen by others.

So we will back things up a bit.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Effective PD says the research....

When I put together a workshop for teachers I try to make it as valuable as possible. The way I approach a workshop is always changing…hopefully for the better. My early tech workshops were all basically “how to”. “How to do this or that” type workshops. Although I still resort to this at times, the real meat has to be the “what now”. Now that you have the “how to do it/use” portion down then you need to take the step of using it with your students. This is the part of the workshop that is the most challenging and also has the most potential power.
The Feb issue of Educational Leadership was all about teaching learning…ie PD. So how do my workshops align with “best practice”?

Best PD is onsite
My workshops are in the district and in my own building. We have a great lab with reliable equipment so it just makes sense. It also makes sense for the teachers to be comfortable and not have to travel. Having access to your room resources and content materials is also very helpful.

Best PD is job embedded
I interpret this to mean that the PD directly impacts the work you do in the classroom and the goals you/we have set for our school and the teacher’s class. So ultimately our goal as a classroom teacher is for students to learn….or as the state would call it our job is to raise achievement. We are still working thru understanding the how/why of it but traditionally our kids score better on math than reading. So if raising reading achievement is a more pressing goal than we need to include raising reading achievement as part of our workshop/new learnings. I generally leave that up to the teacher to decide…but I want my teachers to focus their work on what will it mean for the students…not just making the workshop an addition to the teacher’s knowledge base. Nothing wrong with growing knowledge…but sadly there are gaps between “knowing and doing”.

Best PD is sustained
I cannot give myself a check on that one. Sadly most of my workshops are about a week in length. My typical workshop runs during the summer and teachers are highly focused on the content for a week. That is not sustained. However, this upcoming workshop will run from February to May. That is more sustained. I am looking forward to this model and hope the teachers and myself have the endurance to pull it off as we are all used to shorter classes. What sustained? Well, I want people to try to build in some new habits and that takes time. I hope to work with teachers on growing their own PLN during this course. Blogging and reading blogs doesn’t happen in a week. Sadly more workshop is spread out but it doesn’t hit what research says is the critical stat of effective PD being at least 14 hours in duration.

Best PD is active
Yes, by all means feel free to get up and stretch if I am talking too much. Hey, that happens to all teachers….I have lots of content to cover so get ready to absorb it. Although we know this doesn’t really work we still do it. We do it with our students and we do it when teaching other adults. Why? It allows us to convey large amounts of content. But perhaps we need to slow down and focus on what content is most important. The current class will be active not just because we will do our afternoon calisthenics but because the expectation will be that teachers try out some of these tools with the children. Another great reason to have a workshop during the school year.
Best PD is focused on student outcomes
Similar to job embedded comments but basically we want the PD to impact our students. We want them to grow in their skills, mastery, knowledge and abilities. And yes, we want them to get better test scores. That is not why we went into teaching, but it is a part of today’s educ. game. I dare you to take this test. Place a video camera in your class for an hour. Press play and record. The kids will eventually get over the camera being there. Now, after teaching, go back and see how many students were with you or sadly not. Technology engages and when we have engagement our likelihood of impacting those outcomes rises greatly. One of the most depressing stats I ever heard about my own class was the school psychologist compare one students level of engagement to that of the rest of the class. It really shakes your confidence to hear a chunk of your students weren’t even paying attention to the brilliant lesson you prepared. Chances are you were the most engaged person in the room. How do we change this? Put a computer, a great tool of engagement, into the hands of a student and figure out how to harness that engagement for your own learning/teaching purposes.
More on the class later.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vacation is Over

I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t blogged (in any substantive form) for more than a year. Main reason was because of a flip comment I made about a school practice that I thought was getting out of hand.
I learned my lesson on that one and even though I blog without identifying my school it wasn’t hard for someone to figure what school I was talking about. Okay, maybe it was easier than I thought it was. So bravo on the detective work. I try to teach my students that same research skills during the school year so it was good to see those same tools put to use.
The school practice in question still goes on largely unchanged. My attitude towards it has since changed….simply because I believe we do whatever we can to make learners take ownership of their learning….be it internal or external motivators. The “experts” will tell you it is best and most long lasting when the motivation comes from inside. However, a treat or status symbol such as the honor roll can also provide motivation for a child.
With that in mind I will go back to my blogging not because I feel I have anything earth shattering to share but because I need to keep practicing my writing by trying to put my thoughts in writing.