Insights Into Learning

All eyes on the sky!


source: dreamatico.com

source: dreamatico.com

In a recent PrincipalPLN podcast, we interviewed Kirsten Olson and Valerie Brown, authors of the book, Mindful School Leader. I highly recommend to check out the book and the podcast. The practice of mindfulness for educators is a relatively new practice. Of course, mindfulness has been around for centuries, but it has often been relegated to eastern philosophies, yoga, and meditation. Yet, Olson and Brown provide research as well as anecdotal information from school leaders throughout the globe who are all practicing the art of mindfulness to combat the stress, sacrifice and malaise that plagues the profession.

 

During the podcast, I really tried to be mindful. In fact, I didn’t really ask many questions. I just listened. Towards the end, one question popped up in my head, and I asked, “So what would be 3 things we could try this week to practice mindfulness at work?” Without hesitation, Valerie said, “1. Take your lunch and just eat. Don’t do anything but eat, and taste what you are eating. 2. Breathe – Focus on your breathing a few times throughout the day. 3. Look at the sky for one minute each day.”

 

It’s funny how her first two responses need to actually be mentioned. Yet, how many of us actually focus on breathe, or take 10 minutes to just enjoy our lunch? And looking at the sky? When was the last time you actually looked at the sky for one minute during work? For me, it was never.

 

So this week I set out to really enjoy my lunch, breathe and look at the sky for a minute each day. I was able to achieve those goals, and I can honestly say that I had a less stressful week. For a school administrator in May that is a real accomplishment.

 

How about you? What do you do to practice mindfulness?

Instructional Rounds with the #CCDOLPHINS


hepg.org

hepg.org

If it were not for my PLN, as I have said many times, I don’t know where I would be as a school leader. Today, I got the chance to meet up with a good friend, fellow principal, and active member of my PLN Douglas Timm. Doug, and his team of dedicated coaches and teachers, have recently implemented Instructional Rounds in their school. As a side note, you have to visit their active hashtag on Twitter (#ccdolphins) to see the amazing things going at the school.

 

The purpose of our (I was joined by Dr. Pamm Moore, Asst. Superintendent) visit was to experience the Instructional Rounds at Carrie Downe Elementary School. We were given a tour of the school by Doug. It was interesting to see the pace Doug has as he walks the hall. I know that pace. It is the early morning Principal pace :) We then met our team that we would be working with: Jessica Hoban, Stephanie Jones, and Tara Amsterdam who are all instructional coaches.

 

Prior to visiting the classes, we reviewed their model. It was clear that they have done a lot of work to establish a model (Modern Teacher) that complements their instructional mission. After we prepped, we headed into the classroom with our mission of finding evidence to improve instruction. Yes, that is it. At their core, Instructional Rounds are designed to provide evidence in a non-evaluative manner to teachers to improve instruction.

 

After the “round” we went back and debriefed as a group. We sequenced the lesson, and then went through the activities to determine if we were providing evidence or inference and at what level on Blooms the instruction was taking place. At one point, Doug commented,”This process of providing evidence to teachers has helped me with my formal observations, conversations, and feedback. It has made me a better instructional leader.” Sign me up for that!

 

So, what is it going to take? The models are out there. The research is clear. In my humble opinion, it is time for teachers to build collaboration and collegiality to improve classroom instruction with meaningful, non-judgmental feedback.  I am excited for the possibilities!

What if it came down to you?


Source: authorbrandikennedy.blogspot.com

Source: authorbrandikennedy.blogspot.com

It’s always easier to think that someone else is in charge. It is always easier to think it is someone else’s responsibility. We find it difficult to understand how important we are, and we often leave the work to someone else. Think about this for a minute… what if it came down to you? Guess what? It does come down to you ….. everyday!

There are countless stories of people who have changed the world, invented things, and helped people. We love to revel in those stories, and tell them to our students. Yet, we forget how important everyday decisions are, and how they may have the same impact on the world. You never know who you are going to impact, and more importantly, how.

What if it came down to you to be……

  • compassionate
  • understanding
  • inspiring
  • open-minded
  • responsible
  • positive

 

You have that opportunity everyday. You never know how it will impact a colleague, a parent, a student, or even an administrator. You never know how much you can impact others.

 

 

How do you plan for the end of year?


source: misslwholebrainteaching.blogspot.com

source: misslwholebrainteaching.blogspot.com

I just finished Spring Break, and it hit me…. the school year is ending soon! Well, honestly we still have over 2 months, but time is of the essence. As school leaders and teachers view the calendar, it is a perfect time to ensure the end of the year goes smoothly. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Is everyone on the same page? Just because the weather is getting warmer and the field trips are blooming, the last thing you want to do is lose focus. As educators, it is important to ensure that the learning process continues to bloom and that students are engaged.

 

2. Plan for next year. Of course, this is a perfect time to begin talking about the master schedule, class lists, and a focus for next year. These things take time, so use the time in April and May when the staff are not feeling rushed (like what happens in June).

 

3. Celebrate the learning. As we get closer to the end of the school year, this is a great time to review and celebrate what was learned. How did your Genius Hour go? What did your students create? What did your students solve?

 

4. Use reflection – admit mistakes! Yes, we all set out to do so much in September, and along the way we made mistakes. I know we don’t always feel comfortable sharing our mistakes, but once you can get over that, reflecting on them is powerful.

 

5. Avoid countdowns. Nothing causes more stress then the “countdown” to the end of the year. You may be looking forward to Summer Break, but that doesn’t mean your kids are.

 

6. End of the Year Assessments – In NJ we have another round of the PARCC starting in two weeks. Students need consistency and they need to know that they are supported.

 

Here are a few resources for end of the year planning:

 

Did I leave anything out? How are you going to plan for the end of the year?

 

Are you ready to give away your patents?


Source: www.digitaltrends.com

Source: www.digitaltrends.com

Did you know that Tesla gave away all of their patents to their competitors. Yes, Elon Musk, basically said to anyone who has an interest in electric cars ….. you can have the patents. This is revolutionary because patents are created to prohibit others from taking your work and your potential earnings from the patent. Sound familiar?

 

For hundreds of years in education, we have held tight to our patents. We close the doors, erect the silos, and continue the isolation cycle. Collaboration in education is difficult. The system does not lend itself to collaboration or sharing the secrets. It doesn’t have to be that way.

 

There are so many ways that we can give away our patents so that others may benefit, but we have to be ready. For instance, PLC’s are designed to assist educators with collaboration in their building. It should be a time to share things that work, and discuss things that are not working. PLN’s (Personal Learning Networks) are designed to assist educators with collaboration throughout the world. It is an opportunity to share things that work, and discuss things that are not working. Sound familiar?

 

As you reflect, as yourself these questions?

  • Am I ready to be transparent with my PLC or PLN?
  • Am I willing to share what is working, and more importantly, what is not working?
  • Am I willing to share my patents?

 

 

Join us at #edcampsojersey


edcamp s jOn March 28, 2015 South Jersey will host its first Edcamp!  Edcamp South Jersey will be at William Davies Middle School at 1876 Dr. Dennis Foreman Drive, Mays Landing, NJ 08330.

Doors open at 8:00 AM and there will be free breakfast provided by Hamilton Township Education Association. During the breakfast, first time Edcamp attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the day. The opening remarks are at 9:45 AM and the first session begins at 10:00 AM. There will be a free lunch (also provided by HTEA), and giveaways at the conclusion of the Edcamp.

There is NO COST to attend Edcamp South Jersey. You simply need to register….. click here.

 

Here is a quick video of what to expect at an Edcamp

I think Edcamps are an excellent opportunity for those “life long learners” to expand their horizons, connect with other passionate educators, and learn how to make your classroom more engaging. Edcamps level the playing field in that there is no hierarchy.  If you want to lead a session, you can. If you need help with something, just ask. If you are a administrator, teacher, aide, parent, or student, while at an Edcamp you are like everyone else…. a learner.

 

Join us at #edcampsojersey on March 28, 2015 at William Davies Middle School. You will be glad you did!

Aspiring Admins: Blog for the Job You Want


source: profitecture.com

source: profitecture.com

I talk with a lot of aspiring administrators. I enjoy it because I feel it is a way to give back, and a few years ago I was in their shoes. Prior to Social Media, I was given a lot of advice from my mentors about leadership, management, and a few insider secrets. I was even told at one point to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Nowadays, it is critical to blog for the job you want. Unfortunately, many current and aspiring administrators are not taking advantage of this medium. I’ve sat in on many hiring committees where no one had a blog, or even used their micro-blogging  accounts to show what they are learning.

 

Those of you who are considering the administrative route, I strongly encourage you to blog. Even if you only post a few, it could really make you stand out when a potential district is considering interviewing you. Here are some topics that would be of interest:

  • Leadership philosophy
  • Change initiatives
  • Administrative internship experiences
  • Books that you have read
  • Interviews with current administrators

 

These topics could be your first step in developing a digital footprint for your administrative search.

I hope you are #futureready!


source: www.theguardian.com

source: www.theguardian.com

Picture this…. A group of educators convened to discuss the future of education. Not just planning for the next Chromebook distribution, but really looking into the issues of connectivity, innovation, creativity, and the human experience. This is my hope for the Office of Educational Technology’s initiative #futureready. If your district has not signed the pledge, or developed a group looking to participate, you need to click here.

 

Let’s face it folks, the future is here. Had we convened 20 years ago in this manner to seek ways of using technology to enhance the learning experience, we may not be facing the digital divide, reluctance towards technology, or over-reliance on experts. No one took the time to chart the course. Were educators meeting with business, futurists, or entrepreneurs to see how innovation and technology could transform education? Did we have positions dedicated for innovation? Chances are, very few districts did. Educators have become so compliance-oriented, we always seem to wait for the the next directive. That time is over! It is time to get #futureready.

 

There is no one out there that can predict the future, and that is why we need to be process-centered about the future of educational technology. In just a few short years, the following innovations will be knocking on your classroom door…. will you be ready?

The interesting aspect of these “future” innovations is that they are already here!

  • Seasteading - Floating cities seeking to revolutionize governments and communities
  • Downloaded consciousness – You mean in the future we won’t just be downloading the newest version of Angry Birds? According to research, scientists are working on developing an artificial brain.
  • Increased city population/living - City schools will be the norm, but will they look similar to today? Chances are they won’t.
  • Artificial hearing and seeing - The blind will be able to see and the deaf will be able to hear through Artificial Intelligence.
  • A new, better language – Researchers and scientists are currently exploring language. What is going to be the language of the future? Is there something better for computer interface and development?
  • Brainwave reading technology – Is there an algorithm that can understand, and interpret the human mind?
  • Holograms – Why not interact with something you would normally see in the computer?
  • Robotic organs – A working body with artificial parts.
  • Magic Leap – In the future, everything will be a game. This augmented reality is being funded by Google.
  • Exoskeleton suits – The ability to boost your running, jumping and medical advances can turn you into real life Iron-person.
  • Oculus Rift – A head mount display that can take you into another universe.
  • Robots – Life like robots that will be difficult to identify from humans.
source: bgr.com

source: bgr.com

 

 

Seem like science-fiction? Can these innovations really knock at your 10th grade biology or second grade Math class? Maybe not tomorrow, but for schools we need to consider how these innovations will impact us.

Consider these questions as you look around your classroom, school, or district:

  • How much longer will we have textbooks?
  • How much longer will be have laptops?
  • What will we do with Robot teachers?
  • What will we do with brick and mortar school buildings?
  • How will we teach?
  • How will we learn?

These may seem like far-out questions, but the important part of all this is our ability to be prepared to understand the impact on learning. Working collaboratively with other schools, states and countries will be the key to solving problems we didn’t know we had.

What do you think? Are we #futureready?

Thoughts on presenters


 

 

source: www.linkedin.com

source: www.linkedin.com

I think we sometimes really misunderstand the learning process. We are all guilty of it. We can certainly get stuck in how we feel information should be delivered. There are always ways to improve.

I’ve been to countless presentations, meetings, and conferences. No matter how many presentations I see, I am always amazed when the presenter delivers their message without considering the learning process.

 

Here are some common problems that I see in presentations: 

  • We do not all learn sequentially. I know education was founded in sequence and order, but the more we have learned about how our brain’s process information, the less we find it neat, liner, or compartmentalized.
  • Technology should not be a distraction. I agree, technology should enhance the learning space, allow you to make connections, check references, share your learning, and research. Simply asking people to turn off devices will not make them more “focused.”
  • People can multi-task. Counter to what some people may think, it is quite possible to balance the responsibility of learning. Presenters may assume that people are off task, or even take it personal, when in actuality, they are going through their own process of learning.
  • Practice what you preach. If you want your participants to create active learning environments in their classrooms, don’t tell them about it an a passive way. This dichotomy of do as I say, not as I do does not bode well…
  • Why not go ahead? If you must review a power point, there is no harm in providing it prior to the workshop or lesson, so that people could actually flip their learning. Then, you, as the presenter, could help with application of the desired outcome as opposed to delivering rote information.
  • What is a learning space? Even though it may take 5 minutes, do you ever have people introduce themselves and why they are in attendance. Maybe they will actually talk to one another during breaks or after the presentations.
  • Sit and get. No matter if it is every 20, 30, 0r 40 minutes (and that is stretching it) provide some break time. You have to get people up and moving.

What do you see when you go to presentations? What else did I miss?

 

Standardized Assessments: What’s in it for the kids?


source: www.ign.com

source: www.ign.com

Although I do not necessarily agree with the standardized assessment movement, I can see why everyone wants to use the results to judge teachers, principals, districts, etc. I get it…. You want to know how “effective” public educators are (or are not). You want to see trends, you want to see growth, you want to see the results of different types of kids. Once again, I think there are other measures that could provide you with better information.  I have one question remaining…. What is in it for the kids?

 

For instance, lets look at the education experience of Lamar, an 8 year old child in 3rd grade (the “baseline” for all things data in New Jersey)…. In school, Lamar takes assessments all the time. He tries his best, and if he struggles, his teacher provides additional support and remediation. Once a day, Lamar heads to the Response to Intervention room where he is provided research-based intervention on his academic deficiencies. On Friday, Lamar takes a “progress monitoring” assessment to see how he progressed from the previous week. He charts his own progression with the interventionist, and usually leaves with an understanding of his status (and a sticker). When Lamar works with his teacher, she helps him with his writing, math, reading comprehension and he also understands how he is progressing as he looks at his grades, written and verbal feedback from the teacher. Lamar’s mom is provided all of this information from the interventionist and the teacher. She gets a progress report, report card, and has the ability to come in and discuss Lamar’s progress at any time. She also has access to Lamar’s grades online. Theoretically, everyone is on the same page with Lamar. Then, Lamar takes the state approved standardized assessment. This is when things change. Remember, Lamar is 8.

 

source: specialedpost.org

source: specialedpost.org

As Lamar enters the room for the state assessment, he can tell that his teacher is acting different. She is much more formal, and reads the directions, and his laptop is now a state controlled test machine. His teacher usually has a helper pass out the tests, pencils, but on this day she is doing all of this. Lamar notices a bunch of his friends in class who are normally there are not in the room. They were assigned a different teacher because they need more time, extra help or redirection. Once the test begins, Lamar’s attention drifts. He thinks about basketball, the new superhero movie, and the kickball game at recess. As his teacher circulates the room she notices that Lamar’s attention is waning, and normally, she would redirect him… Not today…. Lamar does the best that he can. His teacher collects the laptops, and after the 4th day of the test, it is all over. Lamar, the 8 year old boy, notices that the whole school returns to “normal.” He quickly forgets about the state assessment. His teacher continues providing instruction, she gives tests, feedback, smiley faces, and stickers. He goes back to visiting his teacher in the Intervention room, and he charts his progress. So, in terms of the standardized assessment, what is in it for Lamar?

 

Honestly, Lamar has no idea the difference between all of the terms we use when describing his education. He has no real idea how the results of the assessment will be used. In fact, he won’t see the “results” of the test until the next school year. By that time he will be in a different grade, with a different teacher, in a different classroom. No one will review the test with him like he is accustomed to. No one will chart his progress, or point out areas he can work on. All he knows is that the test was hard, and he can’t talk about what was on it. His mom will get a letter in the mail 4 months later that will tell her how he performed. She won’t know what he got correct or incorrect because there is no item analysis. His teacher had no idea what was really on the test except the shapes in the lower corner of the screen that allowed her to ensure everyone was on the same page. No one can talk about it. No one really wants to talk about it.

 

So, what’s in it for Lamar? What is in it for the students? I can see how the students in High School see the relevance because the results of the standardized test can determine if they graduate. I can also see how High School students see the relevance of the SAT or the ACT because (even though this is changing, but stick with me) the results determine their potential college or university.  But this is about Lamar, the 8 year old little boy, that takes a test that everyone (except Lamar) thinks is very important. What’s in it for Lamar?