Believe

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up:

A misfit. A rebel. A troublemaker. A round peg in a square hole. Someone who sees things differently.  Not fond of rules. No respect for the status quo.

 

Not really….or at least I don’t quite want to be quite most of those things…  I already am seen as many of them, but it’s because I think differently than most people.  And, most of you probably recognize that from the “Think Different” Apple ads of the 90’s. I have some of those posters, given to me by a dear friend, Marianne Jolley, who used to be our sales rep. I’m in the process of hanging them in our school, and wanted to send a link out to the staff, so I googled them and found the wikipedia article on them. What I found surprised me.

Not only did the wikipedia article describe the ads, pictures and share the text of the message (which I have always loved!), but it also shared part of an interview with Steve Jobs from 1994.

 

Steve Jobs in interview for PBS‘ ‘One Last Thing’ documentary, 1994
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

 

I’ve written sometimes here and on the Cooperative Catalyst blog about how my thinking, my ideas, my sharing, my work has gotten me  in hot waters….but I persevere to do what’s right for kids and I continue to strive to interest and engage them each and every day in meaningful, real ways. Some folks can’t handle that constant thinking and are threatened by it….those are narrow minded folks I try to avoid.  Because I want to, as the text says, “push the human race forward.”

 

I am so lucky that I grew up in a household where it was verbalized that I could do or be anything I wanted to do or be. I heard that all my life growing up and it has always impacted me–so I ask why when I am told no.  I ask why not when someone says something can’t be done. I keep my eyes out for opportunities and don’t hesitate to ask when I see one of those…and more often than not I am told yes.

I grow from those yesses more than I grow from the nos.  I learn from the yesses more than I learn when told no.  I learn from the responses when I ask why and why not, and  get a thoughtful, thought-provoking reason.

Steve’s response really spoke to me when I found it yesterday–we need to instill this belief in every kid we teach. We need to honor and celebrate their strengths and not beat them up with their weaknesses. When we have kids doubting themselves because of grades on a report card, or believing they are incompetent because we only harp on what they cannot do, we do them a tremendous dis-service. It’s only when they have confidence, when they believe in themselves, when they feel comfortable with their own strengths and weaknesses that they will begin to be one of these who will

“change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.”

I see my goal as one which will support my students to  do as Steve says, “shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.”

I have made a mark upon this world, however small.  I want my kids to make bigger ones. So I’ll continue to show them I believe in them with all of my heart and soul.

Engage Them, and You’ll Get Amazing…

These kids will be taking our state writing test in a few weeks.  It’s a shame they’ve had to spend the year practicing writing prompts, as they obviously need practice to get their point across and be creative, compelling, cohesive writers. Don’t you agree?

What we did:

THINKING! about our THINKING!

Then look at Jordan’s creativity:

What Are You Thinking Now!

and Abby’s fun (when nudged a bit, I admit)

Deeply Thinking About What Goes On In Our Heads

Then look how Evan and Lucy explored the verbs

Thinking With More Understanding……

Thinking about how I think

and how Noa played with words and definitions:

The Long, Long, Thinking Map 

See how Ashley made connections?

What’s Going on in Your Head

And, finally, I’m honored as to how Blaine describes our class:

Metacognition 

 

These were written after these kids participated in a “Silent Chalk Talk” which is an activity I learned about at Educon from  Sean Nash (@nashworld on Twitter). His initial question was: “What does it mean to be a “Tech-Savvy” teacher?”  Mine was:

When you tell someone you are thinking, what kinds of things might be going on in your head?

(from Making Thinking Visible)

Beyond the Assessment Institute…

This is cross posted at the Cooperative Catalyst.

I do think words matter. (See a previous post here.) I think how we define words matter and it’s important to have common definitions, language and belief systems when working together and sharing kids.

Joe Bower ended his post today with a quote from Socrates about the beginning of wisdom and defined, “…assessment as a process where the teacher and student work together to nurture a desire to go on learning…” That made me wonder…Is that how I would define assessment?  Is that how YOU would define assessment?

I KNOW it’s not how many teachers would define assessment. This summer, I’m going to participate in a professional development opportunity in my county, one we call the CAI (Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction) Institute and the topic is assessment.    Two of the outcomes are supposed to be:

  • A shared model for a process of assessment among stakeholders
  • Develop knowledge and skills for participants in assessment:
    • process
    • task and item creation
    • leadership

So, clearly the leaders of this work see assessment as a process.  But, is it a process “where the teacher and student work together to nurture a desire to go on learning” as Joe says?  Is it a process to find out what is known and unknown?  Is it a process to define future steps for learning and evaluate past actions? Is it all of those and more–or less?

Will teachers leave after three days with new skills in assessing? Will we have an opportunity to define assessment and come to a common understanding of the purpose of assessment? Or will we simply go back to our schools and continue to do weekly multiple choice tests to see what kids have learned in math, or drill kids with online programs like Spelling City and Accelerated Reader to define what they know and don’t know?

In looking at this year’s purpose of the CAI Institute, will we change our practice and how will we know whether it has made a difference? Will the representative teachers chosen to go then return to their schools and share what they learned to make changes in more teaching practices? Will we see language shifts in talking about student learning?  Will “item” mean a multiple choice question and “task” mean a real world one? Will we spend time on developing common language and exploring beliefs and building on current understandings to deepen knowledge and experience? Will there be opportunities to really delve into the work of creating high quality assessments that will make a difference in classrooms and in students’ lives? Will students see a difference in how they are asked to show their learning, or will worksheets still abound?  Will principals allow that to occur or will they be the leaders who set guidelines that drive a change to deeper ways of assessing?

HOW will the Institute be set up to forge common beliefs, to change the language we use in describing student learning and to refine assessment literacy to move beyond traditional methods to ones that make sense to the learner?  How would you set up a workshop like that?

What advice would you give the people who are setting up this opportunity, and how would YOU structure my day to have the biggest impact on students when we return to our schools to share what we’ve done?  How would you ensure that this three day institute would actually change what teachers and students do in school?

Wiki Work

Recently someone asked for wikis to share in a wiki presentation, and thinking about how to explain mine, I decided it would be easier just to blog about them.

The first one I’d show is Potatoes, Pumpkins and Plenty More which is a wiki fourth graders put together to make their learning transparent to the classroom teachers while reading a couple of Megan McDonald’s books. The setting of both books is the early 1900’s and both books begin with grandpa telling the grandson and granddaughter a story of when he was young.  The story ends with a set-up for the next book and the kids clamoring for the story, but grandpa says something like “Not now.  That’s another story for another day.”

When I asked the kids if they wanted to make a wiki based on these books, they immediately wanted to write the third story in the series, which Ms. McDonald  never published. So some began composing while others immediately went to the wiki and began making new pages.  Two students began creating a dictionary page for  The Potato Man and when two others saw that, they asked if they could then do one for The Great Pumpkin Switch. Of course I said yes.  Without prompting, kids created an author page, a character page, and then an opinions page showed up!

But the most incredible thing to me were the stories the 4th graders wrote. The stories were filling up this wiki, though, and so we decided to move them to a separate wiki and connect that one to this one. One student’s Lucky Penny story amazingly captured Megan McDonald’s style and even set up yet a fourth story at the end of her writing!  Thus another wiki, the Brown Box Stories was born. Another student went down a different path and suggested yet another connected wiki, the one called Plenty More.  A great piece of this work for all of the students was the amount of self direction and creativity they showed.

Wiki #2 is one I created as part of a collaborative lesson these same fourth grade teachers and I planned together. The name of this one is “When is an estimate close enough?” In this one, I wrote up the lesson we planned to do together and set up additional pages  for them to use later when back in their classrooms.  On the resources page is an estimation calculator that is fabulous!  There are also videos about how to estimate in specific situations. It’s worth showing a teacher-created wiki.

And, wiki #3 would be either Nicolas’s wiki, specifically his iPad Review pages or the Crozet LED Kids wiki, specifically the report pages from each group. Nicolas is a self-directed learner who “gets” social media and how important the connecting piece of that is. One could spend hours studying the work he has done on his wiki in the two years he’s had it, and the quality is pretty sophisticated for a young man who wrote it as an 11 and 12 year old. This is an independently designed and created wiki.

The Crozet LED kids shared the process they followed while participating in a contest that was aimed at middle and high school kids where they were the only elementary kids designing an LED project. The honesty and the forthrightness is refreshing and they clearly understood how to show what they know. It’s about making learning transparent and sharing.

Kids truly never cease to amaze me. Their willingness to work hard on stuff that matters, to share their thinking and to support each other to create quality work is simply astonishing to watch and support.

Expect More. . .

I have been thinking about a statement Adora Svitak made in her TED talk...”Adults often underestimate kids’ abilities. We love challenges, but when expectations are low, trust me, we will sink to them.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations as we have implemented our schoolwide mastery extension this year.  See my post here to get an idea of what my dreams were for that time: Time to Explore Passions in School? It hasn’t come to full fruition for my groups yet, I don’t feel, and even so, the kids are clamoring for more. (See the comment here: Scream When Someone Takes Your Spoon.)

“Adults often underestimate kids’ abilities.” Adora says. . . and I think about my working with a fourth grade literacy group, where I asked them to choose one of three books to read and some followed through to read their book and some did not. I kind of let that go because I am an “extra” class to many of my teachers–and while they send their kids to me, they also expect them to do every single thing they miss in the classroom as well–so the kids DO get double duty. Then, there’s the fact that these are typically kids who LOVE to read, so they have their own books to read (Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Mysterious Benedict Society, H.G.Wells’ The Time Machine, etc. . . not easy reading necessarily.) Today, though, I talked with them about why they didn’t read their book, and basically the one that wasn’t read was because the kids didn’t like it–they didn’t relate to the historical period it was set in, they found the action way too slow and they were confused by the set up in the book of the chapters being time driven and jumping around in the time described within each.

I asked one kid to give himself a grade on the book, deliberately not describing the standards for the grade, anxious to see what he came up with. He gave himself a C, and when asked why, he said it was because he didn’t finish it. He could describe what he liked about the part he’d read, and what he didn’t like. He specifically spoke to the confusion he felt with the chapter names being dates and jumping around. He cited details about the characters and their actions, making comparisons to other books and other characters.  WHY would he give himself a C because he chose to stop wasting his time, and do something more worthwhile?

How incredibly sad that was to me that he saw that as something that wouldn’t be appreciated in school. It blew me away that he saw his perfectly good common sense behavior as not valued. We DO underestimate kids, and beyond that, we often negatively reward the very behaviors that will stand them in good stead in their own life experiences.

No matter your position or place in life, it is imperative to create opportunities for children so that we can grow up to blow you away.” Adora again, near the end of her TED talk…I would add, and be open to those opportunities.

Today, some kids were playing Blokus Trigon. (I had gotten it for Christmas and brought it in for the kids.) One of my girls was unfamiliar with Blokus, so we got the duo version and I said I’d teach her. This is an absolutely brilliant child–she can read and write like nobody’s business, has an amazing general knowledge of the world, catches onto mathematical concepts fast–and makes connections with other similar ideas–and is just a delight to work with in any and all areas.  So, I figured that after I showed her the general idea, she’d easily give me a run for my money in this game.

Surprise, Surprise… She began putting pieces down randomly, and seemed to be paying me no attention whatsoever. I was offering suggestions, sharing my strategy, and she really wasn’t giving me the time of day.  The pieces she placed seemed almost  without thought, and as I monitored the 30+ kids in my room doing different activities and tried to be strategic in my placement of game pieces, and as I answered other kids’ questions or responded to their comments, I was also thinking that I really needed to do some spatial thinking/reasoning work with this kid.  I was thinking that I needed to help her visualize better how shapes could fit together better.

Turning back to our game after helping another child with a laptop issue, she gently touched my arm, smiled her sweet smile and said, “Look, I spelled nature.”

nature

Adora says, “it is imperative to create opportunities for children so that we can grow up to blow you away.”

My student doesn’t need to grow up to blow me away. She managed it just fine.

Oh, and by the way, I wasn’t smart enough to get the camera to take a picture of her rendition of the word nature. . . this picture is of a word that three of us (2 adults and a 10 year old) created after struggling for about 10 minutes together to build the word with these odd shaped blocks.  My little thinker did it in about 2 minutes by herself.

So, does she need help in spatial thinking and visualization?  Don’t think so. . .I simply need to be open to opportunities to see what I didn’t think I was seeing. I need to be open to learning from my kids, and I need to know them well enough to think about what their strengths are as well. Oh, yeah, and when I was listing her strengths, did I say she’s also crafty and artistic?

“You need to listen and learn from kids, and trust us, and expect more from us.” says Adora at the end of her talk.

For me, it’s not just about expecting more, but it’s also about providing the right kinds of support, the right kinds of materials and changing the environment so that kids can be themselves and use those brains in ways that both make sense and stretch themselves. Don’t underestimate, let them blow us away, and trust them.  What would schools be like if that was every school’s mission?

Solid on the How, Struggling with the What

Yesterday I participated in the Reform Symposium as a keynote speaker. I’m not quite sure what distinguished keynoters from presenters, but it was pretty cool presenting virtually and having an audience of over 100 people that participated with questions and comments. Their intereaction in the chat made my ability to share much more powerful and I appreciate every one of you who were there. You have certainly made me think more deeply as I read your comments and questions. Not only did I reflect with you then, but I am continuing to reflect on  the what and why of my work with students’ wikiwork.

I shared the work my kids have done on wikis and blogs and talked about the reflecting I was doing on that, the questions that guide me into a new school year, and the concerns I carry as well. I celebrated what my kids have done, as they far surpassed anything I could have imagined as we began. Some of their wikis are creative, some are creative acts of curation and all model communication in some way. All of them are connected.  All of them are personal. All of them contain passion and work worth doing.

Yet I’m NOT satisfied with what we’ve done and I am struggling with how to set it up this year to help students rigorously pursue inquiry. I am constantly thinking about how to help them work and worry and struggle with complex content that stretches them and causes more questions and more inquiry.

Having worked with wikis for three years now, in both structured and unstructured ways, I have seen students show passion around the projects they design.  I have seen intricate projects and ones with little depth. I have seen collections of pictures, or videos, or games, or game codes, but little curation going into those collections.  I have seen some collaboration, but much more parallel play online–the collaboration often happens in my classroom as they collect and post. I have certainly worked with them on the technology and understand the pedagogy of using technology, but something, in my opinion, is still missing in how they work with their wikis. It’s NOT just the issue of parallel play versus collaboration as I spoke to over a year ago.

I know they haven’t collaborated outside of our school much with other kids. When I have set them up to participate in online projects, though, it has only been parallel play, and not true collaboration. I decided to back up– back into my school to work on collaboration there first. I was thinking of Ryan Bretag’s comment in the parallel play post about pedagogy, about kids needing to be taught collaboration skills. So, I watched, prodded and led this year to help kids learn a TON about online courtesy and communication. They learned how to allow others to work in their space and be diligent about the need to monitor it. They learned to ask questions others would be interested in answering on their polls as they became more aware of their audience. There was a tremendous sense of serious play, feelings of power over their content, and a sincere belief that people would read what they wrote as they found their voice and developed niches for themselves–or struggled to do so. I aiding in building their readership by tweeting out links to their wikis, by inviting my colleagues into their conversations, and by blogging about their insights and incredible creativity and commitment to the work.

Are these pre-collaboration skills? Because I work with elementary students, is part of my quandary because my kids need experiences with collaborative activities and they need ways of understanding global connections and audiences??

As I begin to plan for this next school year, I am struggling with my learning objectives for getting kids to work with wikis.  Our county has a goal that we will “prepare all students to succeed as members of a global community and in a global economy.” I am attempting to do that by enlarging their view of the world. I am attempting to do that by helping them learn about publishing in a global community.  I am attempting to do that by helping them become aware of digital citizenship and their digital footprint. So, is letting them have pretty free rein over the content on their wikis okay, or enough, or should I be tying it more to the designated content for their grade level?  Your thoughts?


Why Don’t Schools Have Innovation As An Expectation?

Dear God,

I love my PLN. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to learn from some of the smartest people I could ever imagine (besides my brother, Rod, and my friend Becky, of course).  And thank you for helping me be smart enough to follow the links all of these smart people tweet and read the stuff they write.

Paula

The other morning I saw Mike Gras‘ tweet:  Coffee

I think he does this every day–but I’m not up that early and on Twitter every day to know for sure.  I just know that when I see it, a part of me feels like I’m watching a friend settle in to “hatch” with his coffee. You see, I know Mike drinks coffee and he tweets it as he’s joining the Twitterverse. I also know he’s a hunter and he taught me what a wild boar looks like about a year ago.  I know he still hunts the darn things and that I had no idea you could still do something like that in Texas-or even in the United States! He’s got great hunting stories to tell and he’s shared some of them online. He loves to grill/barbeque/smoke meat and sometimes shows pictures of what he has cooked or what he has found in a restaurant.  He also enjoys sharing good food finds with friends.

Mike is also modest.  He tweets things like: “It’s a funny world. So much of what I do I owe to bloggers that know little of their impact.” How true that is for all of us, I think.  Tonight someone tweeted a link to something Mike wrote. I clicked on it and found this gem from him:

One of Wikipedia’s definitions is “Innovation – a change in the thought process for doing something…” If  that is not done daily in the world of techies, I don’t know techies. Notice the definition does not include arguments for good or evil. That is up to the individuals involved. But the converse of that change is also true as it is instinctual in technology to solve a problem by jumping on a Web site and seeing what others have done. Ten years ago, this was copying. Now that same behavior has standing as “the integration of innovation.” The copier is the innovator. Something feels quite unnatural about that conclusion, but it is the way it is. What reputation I’ve gained as an innovator has been acquired by doing nothing more than presenting an environment where the classroom innovators can find expression for their own innovations and that of the charges they are to educate.

Not only does Mike abdicate any responsibility for the amazing things happening in his district, but he also gives others credit for his reputation. As I said, he’s modest. And Mike, here’s a blog that I hope tells you what an impact YOUR writing has on at least one other. Thanks for sharing your thoughts online!

“Innovation – a change in the thought process for doing something…”  A change in the THOUGHT PROCESS…

Recently I’ve been retweeting Scott Mcleod’s comment, “Our mental models are the biggest barrier to moving schools forward into a digital, global era.” Then I read Mike’s “the copier is the innovator” and that behavior is “the integration of innovation”.

I think back to when our county held monthly conversations among early childhood teachers and how that changed the daily practice in many classrooms. I remember when our central office folks organized visits between classrooms and then facilitated conversations among the observed and the observers to talk about the craft of teaching. I remember that many times what someone said triggered a thought in me that changed what I did the very next day. I remember learning from the genius of the and.

Innovation as a change in the thought process…

Where does creation fall into innovation and into our schools and classrooms? When are we to implement innovative practices and beliefs?  Where do we get the opportunities to talk to others and share ideas and thoughts that could lead to that “copying” and innovative thoughts/actions?

Teaching IS an isolated activity for many. Even when one is active online, the day is filled with isolationist practices. . . working with children gives a teacher no time to engage with colleagues around practices of any kind, much less time for the deep conversations that innovative practices would generate. There’s simply no time to talk about the craft of teaching.

Michael Josefowicz tweeted me last night and  suggested, “Suppose school districts allowed the great teachers to train…David Berliner says, in his work on levels of expertise, that the most expert practitioners are often NOT the best teachers of the craft, as they do many things intuitively and so can’t explain or describe why they do certain things.

The fact of the matter is that we KNOW what works for learners to learn. We know what behaviors of teachers work for learners to learn. Teaching is a craft, it is an art, it is a science.  So why, simply, don’t we do those things in the classrooms?  Why do we teach to low level multiple choice tests?  Why do we organize our classrooms around learning simple factoids that rely on memory alone?  Why do we watch group after group of students leave our classroom with no passion for learning and no care, pride or joy in the work they do in school?

Is it because we have no mental models for innovative ways to teach and learn?  Is it because we are so resistant to change that we can’t imagine any other way than what we have always done?  Is it because it is hard work and that takes more time than we have to give? Why is it that we don’t follow our hearts, our intuition and our philosophical beliefs in our classrooms and treat our learners and our own learning with respect, sharing autonomy and collaboration, continuity and change, conservatism and progressiveness, stability and revolution, predictability and chaos, heritage and renewal, fundamentals and craziness. (The green words are Jim Collins’.)

Why don’t we, as Jim Collins says, “Preserve the core and stimulate progress”–because we DO know how to teach. We just often get caught up in NOT teaching well, but teaching to the low level multiple choice tests. Our kids deserve the best we have to offer them, so why do we get caught up in other stuff?  Why do we not, as Mike Gras says, “present an environment where the classroom innovators can find expression for their own innovations?”

Michael Gras serves as technology coordinator for White Oak ISD in Texas.

Framing Your Environment

A while back someone asked this question on Twitter:

How do you frame your environment with resources to help students learn? Is it an enabling environment? What does it enable students to do?

Other times, I have seen people asking:

How do we arrange our classrooms or what kind of physical spaces do learners of today need?

In thinking about the optimal environment for learning, I am not sure we need to be thinking physical spaces. In fact, Will Richardson states, in the blog, A New Era Of Learning.

In networked, global classrooms, we learn in ways that physical-space classrooms can’t offer. We’re self-directed, inquiry- and passion-based learners who are finding our own teachers and classmates, writing our own curriculum, and learning anytime, anywhere, with anyone. It’s a learning environment that looks little like what happens in physical space classrooms

I’m thinking we need to be talking and working with the emotional environment–about the trust and support we seek out and provide ourselves for our own learning opportunities, and how we do that.

Look at these two examples from adults about the power of the people with whom they interact and what they count on in those interactions:

The Follis Files–space for a newish teacher to collect and reflect and, Tania Sheko’s Brave New World.

Will has recently been writing and sharing about Allan Collins’ and Richard Halverson’s new book, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology. He describes how they note that access to technology has the potential to change education as we know it.

They frame a compelling case that we are entering a third era of learning, one of lifelong learning that is replacing universal schooling, which replaced apprenticeship. And they argue that the “seeds of a new education system” are already taking root, one that builds on the potential of technology that will ultimately leave schools with a “narrower role” in learning.

Will goes on to cite Collins and Halverson as suggesting that

despite the growth of access to technology in classrooms over the last 10 years, schools rarely allow technology’s transformative potential out of the box. In general, schools either condemn the technology, focusing on risks rather than rewards, or they co-opt it, using it in ways that leave fundamental curriculum and pedagogy unchanged, or, finally, they marginalize it, allowing teachers to create “boutique” programs but never changing “the very fabric of education.”

I agree. I think we have so underutilized the potential of the technology in our classrooms–sometimes because we simply can’t think out of the box, sometimes because we don’t know what will happen and perhaps are afraid (or unwilling) to lose that control, sometimes because the network or computer isn’t set up to be user friendly, and part of it may be that people don’t have a picture in their minds as to how it could work or could look. Not only have we not used technology to transform education,I think many of us haven’t opened up our schools, our classrooms and our own minds to transformational learning in any kind of structured way, so that we can begin painting those pictures for ourselves and others. We have absolutely got to start having the open conversations mentioned here, and open our minds to transformational learning for ourselves, sharing how we go about that–then think how we can support our students in building those experiences.

Perhaps all teachers should experience unfettered learning…perhaps all teachers should decide upon something to learn and design their own assessment and develop their own path instead of following the “one size fits all” PD lemmings.  How well would this go over with your teachers, principals, and school boards?  If we don’t have confidence our adults can do this AND our adults don’t have experience doing it, how can we possibly move in that direction with students? Teachers have been conditioned to rely on someone else (principal or district) to provide PD when, in reality, we should and could provide our own.  Maybe it’s less about a “digital divide” and more about a “learning divide.”

Will speaks to that equity issue in his blog post as well, citing,

older students will be more and more able to carve out their own educational experiences, whether these are online classes, games, technical certification programs, or something else. Halverson and Collins warn that this raises huge concerns around equity and social behavior.

How are you framing YOUR learning environment? How do you do it for your students?  is it equitable?  is it equitable in a transformative way?


Being Connected in Jammies

I spent the weekend in my jammies.  I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t cook.  I ate out of the fridge. I went to bed early and slept late. I didn’t watch much TV–even the Olympics. I talked to hardly anyone on the phone. I played hermit, basically.

A hermit with connections. . .

Because you see, I also:

  • joined a new collaborative blog, Cooperative Catalyst, that went live today with a welcome message (first posts tomorrow)
  • co-wrote the vision and mission for Cooperative Catalyst on a google doc with two folks I’ve never met f2f and one I have
  • Skyped on Saturday with the people collaborating with me on this new blog (Chad Sansing, Adam Burk and Aaron Eyler.  I have decided each is brilliant in his own way and I am absolutely honored to be able to listen to them think.
  • Created a Jog on http://jogtheweb.com for my parent workshop Tuesday night
  • Talked to at least half of my kids on wikimail
  • Spent an hour or so wordsmithing the welcome post for the new blog Cooperative Catalyst with another of the contributors, Adam Burk. I loved doing that, as working together to make the words say JUST exactly what we wanted them to stretched my way of looking at writing and using words
  • Shared my first post for Cooperative Catalyst with my collaborators and got to read theirs before they are posted.  We all took the same topic and yet each of our posts is so very different.
  • Worked on the eTeacher course I am taking with others in my county, posting to the forums and responding to others’ posts
  • Skyped on Sunday with Mike Fisher and Becky Fisher to finalize our plans for our ASCD presentation this coming weekend
  • Used email to plan Monday morning’s math class with the second grade teacher
  • Skyped on Sunday with one of Dean Shareski’s students who is working with my students this semester on their wikis.
  • Worked with Glen Bull and others at UVA to plan for several of my 5th graders to visit a UVA class Monday afternoon to see Hod Lipson from Cornell demonstrate a variation on the digital fabrication lab that I have in my classroom.
  • Worked with the same group to plan a field trip for Thursday for fifth graders to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony of UVA’s Children’s Engineering Lab
  • Tweeted with several folks and caught up with some friends I haven’t seen online for a while
  • Started a new personal blog where my goal is to be brief  If…Then
  • Collaborated with several teachers from my county to create a new wiki, Diigo Does IT, for us to become competent at and share our uses of Diigo together, and finally,
  • Blogged here

So while the first paragraph may have sounded like I had a lazy weekend, I had an incredibly cerebral one that was full of connections, learning, sharing and meaning making.

I realized how very connected I am and how much I want to support my kids making connections and learning from others all over the world as well.

How very different my life is from even five years ago, now that I have a PLN online. I appreciate you all.

Sparks of Learning

Recently I have read a series of other people’s posts and websites that have helped me realize  that we, as teachers, often sit down, roll over and play dead when we should be questioning, expressing our opinions, trying new ways in our classrooms and sharing with our peers. WE are the experts in our jobs and we should be educating parents, students and our administrators NOT to expect the same thing we have always seen or done in schools.

I have NEVER had a parent say  to me, “I don’t want my child learning the topics s/he is interested  in and learning to read and write in real contexts.”

I have NEVER had a parent say  to me, “I don’t believe you can see what my child knows and doesn’t know about reading and writing by looking at their writing (blog, wiki, etc.)  as they read and write in real ways.”

I have NEVER had a principal say to me, “Your students are so animated and alive with excitement about learning every time I come into your room. PLEASE STOP MAKING THEM  FEEL THAT WAY!”

You see, I began as a primary teacher.  I became a primary teacher because a saleslady discriminated against me as a child, and when it happened, I decided right then and there I would grow up and work with children and NEVER treat them the way that  saleslady treated me. I am not the only one who has had a childhood experience shape their views about education.

As  a primary teacher, one constantly has to be teaching social skills and showing students HOW to learn. In the primary grades, it is all about processes–learning to read using many strategies, looking for patterns and relationships in math and numbers in our world, doing science as scientists do,  studying history through stories and books, and writing about what we were studying.

I am NOT a cog.

I NEVER believed in being a widget myself.  I have never believed in producing my students as widgets. I refuse to believe that teachers are SUPPOSED to be widgets or create them.  (Read The Widget Effect for more info.)

I recently had a friend share that her son had told her he believed “teachers were people who were unable to get jobs as dictators.”

I am not a dictator, either.

I believe, instead, we DO need to be cheerleaders at times and that we need to also be important to our students–which means we need to cultivate a caring, respectful relationship.

I believe we know what is best for our students and that we buckle under to pressure NOT to do that, in the name of standardized tests, raising state test scores, time  issues, access problems,  and a myriad of other things that interfere with us following OUR passions.

I’m not going to roll over and play dead anymore. I am not going to sit by quietly while my Board of Supervisors and school board make budget cuts that will kill some of the best parts of our world class school system.  I am not going to watch programs be decimated by the economy without a fight.

I am going to become a gladiator for my kids, for my colleagues and for myself.

I am going make sure EVERYTHING  I do looks, feels and sounds like who I am as an educator–an advocate for the children.  I am going to do so with all of my heart and in ways that impact upon others’ hearts, so that they too will feel the call of leading the learning in ways that matter in our division and in our world.

I am going to share my kids’ passions with our school board–with our money guardians–and with my students’ parents.  I am also going to share their words  and their ideas as they share them with the world as to what they want THEIR school to look like and be.

Will you join me and follow your heart in your classroom, your school, your interactions with students?  Will you plan a lesson or series of interactions for tomorrow that will light a fire in some reluctant student and help them want to come back?  Then, will you share that lesson, that idea, that spark with a colleague to ignite them as well?

Let’s BE the experts and begin to lead from the heart, from the classroom, from the base as we build a quality way of doing business that does NOT kill curiosity, wonder and willingness to problem solve and figure things out. Let’s build that love of  learning we all dreamed about when we first began OUR trek into the world of school.  Let’s make sure the people who make the decisions that impact our very essence understand the effect their decisions have upon our future. . and our students’ future.