Teaching in a Silo 2

I just got this on email:

After I read your post on teaching in a silo I got {this poem} out and thought I’d share it with you.

“Oh, the comfort,
the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person,
having neither to weigh thoughts or measure words
but pouring them all right out,
just as the are, chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping
and then with the breath of kindness throw the rest away.”

I am so very blessed.  Thank you, friend.

Teaching In A Silo

This sentence was in my last paragraph in my timeline blog @ http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/epiphanies/.
Leading and learning with the adults that surround your kids is just as important as leading and learning daily with your students. Teaching in a silo-especially when you are good at it–is like living in a well, deep and cold.
I can’t point to one thing in my teaching career, because I have been building a PLN my whole career. My PLN spans the globe right now,b ut ever when it was just in a building, that sentence is true–leading and learning with the adults is JUST as important as doing it with your students.
The experience of writing on the Cooperative Catalyst blog, and the power of building and being a member of a PLN outside of my building, my county, my state, and even my nation has made me look not only at my own practice differently, but also my own life.  I am more committed than ever to teaching adults as I do my students–with all of my heart and in ways that impact upon their hearts

Again, I’m working smarter, not harder and using this post as an assignment in the course I am taking.  Our job is to: Consider one timeline event that falls within your teaching career.  Why did you include this event in your timeline? How did this event impact your teaching?

So, looking back at my timeline blog, this sentence was in my last paragraph  @ 5 Decades, 6 Schools,  and 1 Dedicated Teacher.

Leading and learning with the adults that surround your kids is just as important as leading and learning daily with your students. Teaching in a silo-especially when you are good at it–is like living in a well, deep and cold.

I have spent much of my career thinking about teaching in a silo.  I have spent much of it thinking about making connections across classrooms, grades, schools, localities and even the world.  I have been building a PLN my whole career, and my PLN and the connections I have through it are a critical and crucial part of my career, I think.  It is with my PLN that I often think deeply, question, learn tons, question, collaborate, question, get new ideas, question, find new resources, share and question. My PLN spans the globe right now, but even when it was just in a building, that sentence is true–leading and learning with the adults is JUST as important as doing it with your students.

I originally included this comment about leading and learning with the adults in my building in my timeline because it is central to who I am as a teacher. However, revisiting it has made me realize there’s another piece to it as well–connections.

Just as kids want to connect to others, wanting to belong, so do adults. In fact, our adult identities are often wrapped up in who we connect with as we grow up.  Our work is often connected to who we connect with at work, because as adults, we STILL want to belong–we want to be accepted, liked and honored for who we are, and we want to interact with people who help us be better people.

The experience of writing on the Cooperative Catalyst blog, and the power of building and being a member of a PLN outside of my building, my county, my state, and even my nation has made me look not only at my own practice differently, but also my own life.  I am more committed than ever to teaching adults as I do my students–with all of my heart and in ways that impact upon their hearts.

I learned a long time ago to stay out of the gossip mill in the school–so I am often the last to hear of news anywhere–kids moving, people having babies or getting married, teachers transferring or switching grades, etc.

I learned a long time ago to be careful about being too bullheaded and ticking people off, because you never know when you’ll change schools and that person may be there, too, in a different position where your past behavior may come back at you in a not-so-pleasant way.

I learned a long time ago that parents talk among themselves and even when they have promised not to share whatever you said, you cannot count on that, so don’t.

I learned a long time ago that if you try to stay in your silo, that isolation backfires on you, EVERY time.

So, if you don’t gossip, you’re not interested in making your school colleagues your out-of-school friends, and you don’t belong to a team per se, how do you NOT live in that silo?

You lead and learn with the adults. You try to connect in many ways, keeping in mind that the personal connections are always the most powerful. You support them every way you can and you always, always be nice. One thing  to remember, as a resource teacher, in dealing with a staff is that their personal lives are the most important thing to them–so always, always, make that your most important thing with them as well. Realize that you may be concerned about the schedule, but if their kid is sick, they won’t care about your schedule. If you call them with a question when they are lining their kids up, they can’t think about it. And, if you want to have a deep conversation that includes theory or research, perhaps it’s best  to make an appointment.

The people I most connect with most easily and most deeply are really intense people who think a lot. Those are the kind of people with whom I do my best leading and learning. They’re mostly teachers, as that’s who I am.  I have lived most of my life in a classroom (as both a student and teacher) and while I LOVE interacting with my students, they move on–they grow up, go to other teachers, move on in their lives, as well they should. I have changed schools before simply because I didn’t have a connection with other adults. . .and I move to schools where I know the principal will “get” me–an intense, smart person who has high expectations for myself and everyone around me.

I’ve loved the years I’ve had someone in my building that really understands gifted education, who really asks hard questions, who doesn’t mind struggling in ambiguity for a while before coming to clarity in determining conceptual ideas or essential questions or planning big units.  Those people are rare. But those conversations rejuvenate me, they stimulate me and they help me grow. That having a critical friend, one who has unconditional support while also modeling unconditional critique is unparalleled in helping a person grow.  I’ve felt very blessed when I’ve had that experience.

Just as kids need like-minded and appropriate peers, so do teachers. I’ve only had a couple of times I had a person in my building who really enjoyed intense conversations about theory and practice as much as I do. (I can’t even imagine what I’d be like if I’d had that most of my career.) I’ve often wondered if that’s why so many of our bright young teachers leave–no appropriate peers to make school a thinking, stimulating place to come each day.

I’m a big kid now, and while I’m involved in some great online conversations that completely challenge me at times, I still need a thought-provoking friend in my building. I’m actually feeling like my kids right now–I’m wishing schools would take into account providing that critical friend for all kinds of teachers, too, so that none of us would even be tempted to teach in a silo. Just as we carefully place kids in classrooms each summer, so should we place teachers to be their best–and that may mean clustering,  just as research shows works with our kids. As I make my recommendations for class placements, I think about silos–and not creating them for kids in a classroom. I wish people doing the adult hiring for schools could do the same.

(update: July 18, 2010–a blogger who wrote about similar needs:  Dynamic Reflection)

Wisdom and Wonder

Been thinking a lot lately about my years as a Kindergarten teacher.

Saw a tweet the other day that said something like, “We could learn a lot from watching a great Kindergarten teacher.”

Used to have this poem on my classroom door:

All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

– by Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.

These are the things I learned:

    • Share everything.
    • Play fair.
    • Don’t hit people.
    • Put things back where you found them.
    • Clean up your own mess.
    • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
    • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
    • Wash your hands before you eat.
    • Flush.
    • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    • Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day.
    • Take a nap every afternoon.
    • When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
    • Be aware of wonder.
    • Remember the little seed in the plastic cup. The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
    • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK . Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology and politics and sane living.

Think of what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

I just keep thinking we’ve lost sight of the goal of school–and that, for me, is to support students becoming self-reliant, independent learners who care about themselves, others, and the world and who will “always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes.”

“Wisdom was not on the top of the graduate school mountain.” Is it in our schools today?

“Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day.” Is this Google’s 80/20 philosophy? Is it Gardner’s multiple intelligences?  Is it learning styles? Does it matter what we call it as long as we provide out students opportunities to “draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day“?

“Be aware of wonder.” Do we even provide time for this in our classrooms? I remember little ones bringing me four leaf clovers.  I remember painting ice in the winter with food colored water and seeing the delight in the faces around me as they squirted the bottles I had so meticulously saved. Do kids have time to even look for clovers in the 10 minutes of recess the state defines? Do they have time in their day for wonder?

I wonder: Why do I teach?  Why am I still in this job after 35 years?  Why do kids like my classroom better than some others?  Why do they find it a “safe haven” in a relatively benign school building? What do I do–what do I teach–how do I talk to kid that makes them want to be in my room? What are my goals for them while they are in there?

For me, the curriculum of factoids comes last–because the big ideas in our core content areas are more important for students to understand than who rode a horse shouting “The British are coming, the British are coming!” WHY was someone shouting that?  What difference did it make? Who cared and why did they care?

For me, it’s not about totally unfettered learning, or completely student- directed learning, but tying student’s prior understandings and experiences to some common springboards. And I believe those springboards should help our next generation tie history and math and science to their world in meaningful ways that help them make sense of their lives and build ideas for the future–for their next generation.

And while it’s not about preparing them for their future world of work, for me, it is sort of, in really important ways.  We should teach our children to live their lives today so that they can make informed choices in the future–so that they have understandings of MANY areas of study and can find-or share-the things that ignite their love of learning and fire for exploration. We should teach our children about the choices they have and give them practice making choices in our classrooms so they can learn how to evaluate their choices to get better at making wise decisions.

For me, it’s about supporting our students to become wise–to think before they act, to look at issues from many perspectives and always listen to learn before responding. It’s about helping students understand themselves and how they learn best; helping them understand social code switching and developing the social skills necessary to get along with all others.

It’s about understanding differences and similarities–and honoring both.  It’s about supporting each other and sharing and celebrating and creating rituals that mean something to the group.  It’s about building relationships of trust and caring that transcend the factoids and instead move to deep understanding and thoughts and questions and challenges that help us all grow and change as we work together and support each other’s independence and interdependence.

And, for me, it IS still true:  “no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

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.

What Kids Take Away From Our Lessons

Many of you know I have been complaining on Twitter lately about all the snow we’ve had–over 50 inches in a state that has about 18″ in a normal season–storms of 1-2 FEET where we normally have 2-4 inches at a time. . . I’m really tired of it!

But, it’s been an interesting ride to see how many of my kids have gotten on wikimail and tried to interact with me or work on their wiki on our snow days.  Several have actually written and asked if there was anything they could do for school, so I set up an assignment for them this morning.  We’ll see what happens with that!.

I got a REALLY cute wiki mail this AM.  I have my mail set up so that when I get a wikimail, it flashes in the bottom right corner of my desktop.  If I’m on, I respond right away.  So this morning, I was working on a blog when a kid began interacting with me. On about the 6th exchange, he wrote: “So it’s really true you respond within seconds.”

The other night I had two girls at a sleepover asking me questions about some links I had sent out.  Realizing they really wanted to think, I sent one of them the following email: (My words are in purple)

Remember about two weeks ago when I was telling you something and you asked me if it was going to be on the test and when I said no, you said, good, because I don’t understand it? And you weren’t willing to push through to get it? And I told you I couldn’t believe you said that?

An online friend of mine, Scott McLeod, blogged this today:

“Just tell me what to do”

Seth Godin wrote toda
y that:

People are just begging to be told what to do. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is: “If you tell me what to do, the responsibility for the outcome is yours, not mine. I’m safe.”

I think another big reason is that most people spent at least 12 years of their life being deeply socialized in the “just tell me what to do” model.

We know that schools strongly emphasize compliance in the name of order and discipline. We know that the fact-regurgitation model that still dominates schooling mostly leads to the student mentality of “Just tell me what to do to get a B,” rather than “Inspire me to follow my passions and interests and learn more about this on my own.” We shouldn’t be surprised when our graduates take that mentality with them into higher education and/or the workplace.

from http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2010/02/just-tell-me-what-to-do.html


Now read this:

http://www.eduratireview.com/2010/02/students-should-graduate-with-resume.html

Here’s my question:

What would be on YOUR resume from Crozet?

PW

(I did exchange several wikimails helping them understand parts and pieces of the Edurati article and telling them to skip parts of it.)

I totally expected something content driven. After all, I have taught these kids off and on since they were in first grade. These are smart kids, used to me posing hard questions and asking them to reflect on their learning.  I currently have them for math every day.

However, this is what I got back from one, the next morning, after the friend had gone home:

in my resume, I would say…
1 I have learned to work better in a group. (I can do it better than when I started at Crozet)
2 I have learned to exept (accept) whatever someone throws at me.
3 I have learned that ALL teachers have different ways of teaching, and some of them I like, and some of them I don’t like.

I have learned…
4 You should NOT have a boys table or a girls table, no matter what you think.
(My rule-they can choose seats, but have to be gender mixed at the table.)
5 Everyone thinks differently, and you should listen to what other people think, to here (hear) what they think. (Why they think the question is wrong or right).
6 Laugh at your mistakes.
7 There is ALWAYS more than one way to work the problem.
8 Make learning fun.

Here are some of the ones that I thought of.

Thanks,
5th grade student

Pretty insightful, hm?

Would love to hear your thoughts. . .

Big Paradigm Shifts

Several weeks ago, Matt Guthrie and I decided to pre-load #Edchat with entries on our blogs. Last week Chad Sansing and I did the same. They each call it the pregame show, so I’m going to begin to use that language as well. 🙂 In the conversation on my blog about grading, though, Matt Townsley stated that, “Allowing new evidence of learning to replace the old is a big paradigm shift.” Since then, I have been thinking about the big paradigm shifts we need to undergo to really change our schools.

I  lived Educon last weekend, participating in some amazing conversations.  I encourage you all to go to the Educon site and live through the conversations vicariously, and join in any way you can. I’ve also been exploring some Edutopia links (thanks to a tweet I read sometime this past week) and am also involved in an online eTeacher course through my county while I’ve basically been at home snowbound!

So I’ve had lots of time to think, reflect and the question I’ve been thinking about since Matt’s comment is

What are the big paradigm shifts that need to happen for education to be most meaningful for students?

In the past week or so, lots of people way smarter than me have put proposals out there based on Educon conversations or Twitter interactions or life experiences. Some of the suggestions I have seen include

  1. Teaching kids HOW to think, rather than “to think critically.” (Thanks to Kevin Washburn.)
  2. Students graduating with a resume rather than a transcript (Thanks to Ken Bernstein)
  3. The link between inquiry and care-Chris Lehmann’s reflection from Educon
  4. Teachers encouraging their students to evaluate them ( (Teacher Gets A Report Card from Deven Black)
  5. from a new hashtag #rbrc (rubric without the vowels)
  • Students designing assessments for learning
  • Students designing their own learning plans
  • Students creating rubrics
  • Students pursuing their passions and being taught how to do so (research, etc.)
  • Community supported inquiry–learning from each other

A visual from Kathy Sierra that I found from reading Pair-aDimes for Your Thoughts from David Truss

6a00d83451b44369e200e54f7eb7638834-800wi

Then, in my Edutopia reading, I saw this:

“Today’s students will enter a job market that values skills and abilities far different from the traditional workplace talents that so ably served their parents and grandparents. They must be able to crisply collect, synthesize, and analyze information, then conduct targeted research and work with others to employ that newfound knowledge. In essence, students must learn how to learn, while responding to endlessly changing technologies and social, economic, and global conditions.”

Okay, I don’t think the people I interact with on Twitter and #Edchat would argue too much with that statement. I think all the parts and pieces listed above it could fairly easily be included in learning experiences that allowed students to do the things listed in that quote. I also think about my student who clearly showed MY emphasis when she made a “Cool Math Words” page on her wiki–look at the first word.

So, I proposed the following question to #EdChat :

What should be the essential learnings that students get from attending school?

(and maybe “attending school” should be “our lessons” so it would read

“What should be the essential learnings our students get from our lessons?”)

I’d like to see what others think and what you’d add to that quote.

And, beyond that, what would lessons look like if we designed them so that they clearly showed what we value in education?

‘SNOW WAY (to keep up with #edchat!)

Dear snow: Back off. Thanks, Chad

was a tweet from a friend of mine today.

AMEN!  I have had MORE than enough!  It’s Wednesday–we haven’t been to school this week, and this weekend they’re calling for even MORE snow!   AAGH. . . enough complaining.

Last night’s Edchat was WILD. . . I used  tweetgrid to follow it–ahem–to TRY to follow it–and could not even begin to read that fast. Is it time to morph it?


Last week Matt Guthrie and I tried to have what he called “pregame” conversations on our blogs, and we hoped postgame conversations would occur as well. Both of us got a fair number of responses on the blogs (curriculum overload and grade fog) and I believe it DID make a difference in the chat.  This week Chad Sansing and I tried it with the top two topics and while folks read both, not much conversation occurred this time on the blogs. (
Chad’s and mine)

Last night (or yesterday at noon), several folks discussed perhaps keeping the same topic for two weeks to allow for those “after-the-fact” revelations we all have, or to have an opportunity to respond to the thoughts we didn’t catch the first time around. That told me I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed by this fast-paced, furious spate of great thoughts flowing.

BUT, on the other hand, others were saying they loved the fast and furious pace– one person even tweeted me and said that’s why she loved Edchat–and that she would love to have this buzz from her faculty room.  (Wouldn’t we all–but, for me, a bit more slowly so I could think about my wording some as I responded!)

Yesterday, I saw some folks in the edchat stream on my Tweetdeck get in a snit about edchat being all about technology (which I don’t see it being.) They were saying it’s worthless if it doesn’t address education (which it certainly does, IMHO). I’m not sure where they were getting their info. . .

So, all that having been said, obviously #edchat is valuable.  Obviously, people are looking for the conversations.  Obviously, the conversations cause reflective thinking and, according to edchat comments, further change, BEYOND the chat.

A HUGE thanks goes to Jerry Swiatek for archiving the chats so folks can go back to them, and Tom Whitby and Shelly Terrell for organizing them, and Steven Anderson for setting up the polls each week! If you have more questions about Edchat, see Tom Whitby’s recent post explaining it.

So, my questions are:

Is there a need to change the format to allow more actual conversation to occur rather than a fast spate of comments and people either retweeting with a quick YES! or responding to one sentence declarations?

If people choose to blog about the topics, could we have a place on the archive wiki to post our blog addresses WITH the topic it addresses so folks could have further reading? OR, would that be better on the PLN ning, as Matt suggested last week?

Could/Should we do a topic two weeks in a row?  Would that help?

Is there a better tool to use than Twitter for conversations such as we are looking at having with a large group of educators?

And, last, but certainly not least, am I trying to improve something that doesn’t need improvement?

Would love to hear your thoughts. . .

What Would You Like To Read? Part 2

Boy, when I asked what people would like to read about, I got lots of suggestions. So I began my book chapter.

I began my book chapter.

And I began my book chapter.

(Yeah, I was having a hard time focusing on one idea.)

So, I wrote 6 pages,, called it “Transformation,” and sent them to Darah.

(I did title my email subject line as “I know this is long, but. . . ” and give him permission to cut as needed.)

But I still felt bad I didn’t/couldn’t focus, and I also knew that everyone else’s had been 2-3 pages, so I felt like I was being Miss Piggy, taking up so much reading real estate.  So, continuing to ponder all the ideas my Twitterfolk had shared,  I slept on my guilt and lack of focus.

And I slept on my guilt and lack of focus.

And I slept on my guilt and lack of focus.

Until I came up with another idea and wrote 3 pages this time, called “The Creation Generation.”  It begins like this:

Many words have been written about Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and now Web 3.0, delineating the use in each era as consumers, producers and now collaborators. What our current students have gotten out of their use of technology, though, is that it is easy for them to create—a wiki, blog, a photo mosaic on Flickr, an online presence through sites such as Club Penguin and Webkinz for younger students and Twitter and Facebook for older ones. Heck, we even have students as young as 10 building applications for technologies such as the iPods. Students not only see the web as interactive, and their world as connected (through their phones, texting, chatting, Skypeing and even their DS and PS2 game devices), but they also see it as directed by them—they control how they use it to a great degree.

In this chapter-to-be, I cite  Ira Socol, David Cushman, and Larry Cuban, but I won’t steal any thunder from Darah’s book by posting that writing here. I will tell you, though, that both Ira and David have blogs worth reading, and the influence of me reading their thinking WILL show up in my blog thinking.

But, for those of you who made suggestions–many of which I attempted to incorporate into ONE writing–THAT, I will post here. . . but in bits and pieces, so you don’t have almost THREE THOUSAND words to read in one go.  AND, I offer my sincerest thanks for the ideas.

To begin, this paragraph is for @maryjanewaite who said, “I’d like to read how kids view schoolwork, teachers, technology and use that valuable kid info to change how I do my job” and sort of for @jasondeluca who “would want to read… where are we now? and… where should we be going with use of technology?” (More to come later, Jason!)

A 2001 contest for children to describe “The School We’d Like” clearly showed that “teachers and pupils all over the country (UK) realise that the system is outdated, that it does not allow decent expression of the values of creativity and independent thought that are needed in the new post-industrial world,” said John Clifford. Furthermore, “It proves yet again that young people are not a problem that needs to be corralled and curfewed, but an incredible rich resource of wisdom and creative thinking that we should learn to listen to.” See below for a children’s manifesto of what the schoolchildren of Britain would like to see in their school. The most poignant quote for me was a HS student’s: “Education should not close children’s eyes to the wonder of learning as it presently does, but should give children the opportunity to feed their mind and never get tired of life before theirs has even begun.”

We, the schoolchildren of Britain, have been given a voice. This is what we say:

The school we’d like is:

A beautiful school with glass dome roofs to let in the light, uncluttered classrooms and brightly coloured walls.

A comfortable school with sofas and beanbags, cushions on the floors, tables that don’t scrape our knees, blinds that keep out the sun, and quiet rooms where we can chill out.

A safe school with swipe cards for the school gate, anti-bully alarms, first aid classes, and someone to talk to about our problems.

A listening school with children on the governing body, class representatives and the chance to vote for the teachers.

A flexible school without rigid timetables or exams, without compulsory homework, without a one-size-fits-all curriculum, so we can follow our own interests and spend more time on what we enjoy.

A relevant school where we learn through experience, experiments and exploration, with trips to historic sites and teachers who have practical experience of what they teach.

A respectful school where we are not treated as empty vessels to be filled with information, where teachers treat us as individuals, where children and adults can talk freely to each other, and our opinion matters.

A school without walls so we can go outside to learn, with animals to look after and wild gardens to explore.

A school for everybody with boys and girls from all backgrounds and abilities, with no grading, so we don’t compete against each other, but just do our best.

At the school we’d like, we’d have:

Enough pencils and books for each child.

Laptops so we could continue our work outside and at home.

Drinking water in every classroom, and fountains of soft drinks in the playground.

School uniforms of trainers, baseball caps and fleece tracksuits for boys and girls.

Clean toilets that lock, with paper and soap, and flushes not chains.

Fast-food school dinners and no dinner ladies.

Large lockers to store our things.

A swimming pool.

This is what we’d like. It is not an impossible dream.

‘I know money doesn’t grow on trees and if every school had all these things it would cost thousands of thousands of pounds. But even if one of my ideas was just thought about being made a reality I’d be happy.’ Nicole Rennick, 11.

‘But most important of all was not the fact that the headmaster had ordered the equipment, but that he had listened.’ Holly Mackenzie, 11.

Remember this was written in 2001. I think today, students would STILL ask for a beautiful, comfortable, safe, respectful, flexible, relevant school for everybody, where everybody listened and everybody’s voice was heard.


Mimicry-Ya Got That?

As I’ve been working on thinking about “LEARNING”  for the project at Thinking About Words Through Images,  my camera has been my constant companion at school.  That’s not unusual, for me to pull out my camera and snap pictures of my students working, but the difference is that I have told them WHY I am taking pictures and some of what I am thinking.  I have shared the link to that wiki, and it’s been interesting–knowing that I am collaborating with educators from all over the world seems to have had an impact on my students. I notice them commenting on each others’ wikis more, offering strategies in class more explicitly and asking each other questions that imply accountability to the community (like, have you finished your  geometry wiki page, I’ll call you tonight to remind you to bring in your iPod, etc.)

But, I wonder– am I seeing these things more because I am looking for specific instances of learning to photograph?

I have learned a lot in the first week of January, trying to take pictures of “learning.” First, it’s HARD trying to capture a still picture of the active learning in which my kids engage. I find myself wanting to describe the pictures, to explain what’s going on, to share the amazing thinking I see in my kids. While the images can capture some of what is going on, I need words as well.  I find myself posting my lessons (both adult and student ones) to the web, describing what happened and what I was hoping to happen. It’ll be interesting to see what I think and how I’m looking at the world through the lens of my camera at the end of the month.

What else I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter what age kids are, they still mimic their teacher.

In teaching kindergarten, one of the funniest things to watch was when kids were in “free choice” time and they chose to play school.  I would hear my words coming out of their mouths, just as in housekeeping, I would hear their parents’ words.  It was eye-opening in both situations, and I often changed the ways I worded things based on the feedback I received watching my kids mimic me. (In parent conferences, I often told parents I wouldn’t believe half of what their kid told me about them if they’d promise me the same–because we ALL know that age also has a very active imagination!)

Yesterday was a hoot–the mimicry happened with fifth graders. In my class, when students are explaining their thinking, I often play confused so they have to be more explicit in their explanation and they learn how to explain their thinking more logically, sequentially and in depth.  I check for understanding with the group listening frequently by stopping the explainer periodically and asking the group things like, “Do you understand what s/he is saying?”  or “Did you get that?”  or “Does everybody know what s/he means when s/he says. .. ?”   I guess my most used is, “Did you get that?” Kids in my class don’t hesitate to ask for more explanation because this is part of our day-to-day conversations, AND they see me model confusion and asking clarifying questions.

Ms. White, Tzstchr

In a lesson where these pictures were taken, I was playing my confused self.  I had been taking pictures, but sat down at a table to probe a student who was making an assumption she shouldn’t have been making. Setting my camera on the table, I began asking the child to show me her thinking. After several minutes of interaction, another student picked up my camera and began taking pictures of our interactions. I paid no attention to that and continued with my questions.  She put the camera down, and throughout the next 5-10 minutes, several students took turns picking it up and taking pics as others gathered around to hear the conversation and support the child being questioned if they could. watchingThe pictures they got were pretty good (I had to leave out two because they have students whose pictures may not be put on the web.)

However, the funniest part was Toria taking over the explanation for the child I had begun with and explaining to me the way she saw to work the problem.  (She describes class on her wiki page, MathIDidToday.)   She was showing me her way, and I made her do it three different ways, apparently not understanding each time. (I asked her to, NOT because she didn’t get it, but because she was so adroit at thinking flexibly, choosing various shapes and changing her approach and modeling descriptive language for the others watching.)  By the third time, she was getting a wee bit frustrated with my lack of “getting it”, so she finished and, (truly) standing up, with a hand flourish, asked,  “Ya got that?”

The class erupted in HOWLING laughter. . .that’s why they all left with the red faces Toria describes!

UPDATE: the kid who picked up the camera first just wiki-mailed me and asked if I had ever figured out whether S4 was half of S5 (which was the problem we were working on that’s described in this blog.). I wrote her back this message:

Hanna, I’ll share a secret that you cannot share.
Please read this: http://tzstchr.edublogs.org/mimicry

PW

Her response back to me was simply priceless:

wow that is so cool i have never known but i did notice that you ALLWAYS didn’t get what we were telling you