Insights Into Learning

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’


My 2013 Edublogs Award Nominations

Nothing like waiting until the last minute… Nominations close tomorrow!!!! So, here are my 2013 Edublog Nominations:

edublogs

A special guest on the next PrincipalCast Podcast…

principalcast

Have you heard the PrincipalCast Podcast? We’ve recorded 5 episodes now on the following topics:

#1 Social Media and Facebook

#2 Social Media in the School District

#3 You know you’re a connected educator when…

#4 Observing and Evaluating Teachers in the 21st Century 

#5 Evaluations and Observations

You can find PrincipalCast on iTunes or on Stitcher/Beyond Pod for Android.  If you watch us live (Sundays at 8:30pm CST) on teachercast.tv you can also chat with us in the live chat box or using the twitter hashtag #principalcast.

This Sunday we are inviting our first guest to the show and we are going all out by having Todd Whitaker join us.  We are excited to talk to him about his newest book coming out this month, The Secret Solution. Do you have a question you want us to ask him? Share your question with us HERE.

Starting at page 100: My Skype With Paula Naugle

12-12-11-The-ever-awesome-Ms.-Paula-Naugle-4th-grade-teacherWhen I was young, my mother told me it was rude to ask a woman their age. I have always remembered that and for the most part, have adhered to it. However, today, as I skyped with the infamous Paula Naugle, I couldn’t help but wonder about her age. See, age plays an important role in her story.

 

A few years ago, Paula was considering retiring. She had put in 30 years of teaching, and admittedly was feeling the effects of burnout. She attended the 2004 ISTE conference for 3 days and walked away from the experience realizing that as much as she knew about education, she knew nothing about 21st Century, connected education. It peeked her curiosity and left her wanting more.

 

Fast forward five years to 2009 and Paula continued to provide the best education to her 4th graders in Louisiana. Yet she still didn’t feel connected. She revisited the concepts from her ISTE experience and put together a grant proposal to redesign her learning environment. She ended up winning the grant which was 15,000 dollars! She used the money to purchase netbooks, interactive white board, and other goodies.

 

paula-brenda-at-receptionPaula then connected with Jan Wells a fourth grade teacher from Kansas. They worked together for 4 years connecting their 4th graders on various assignments, before ever meeting in person. Once they did meet in person, it was like they had been reading the same book and were able to start at page 100. Paula credits Joan Young for coining that phrase describing when connected educators meet in person. “We end up knowing so much about each other online, that when we meet, we already know so much about each other,” said Paula.

 

plnaugle_1372958072_81Similar to most people who become connected, Paula lurked and learned on twitter and blogs for some time. She didn’t think she had much to offer, but that all changed as she learned and connected with other educators throughout the world. As you check out her blogs, wikis and twitter, you will see that she has so much to offer!

 

Paula is committed to helping educators get connected. She is a tireless leader and when she goes to conferences she makes sure to spend time in the “newbie” lounge. She loves to pay it forward! When connecting educators to social media, she often shows them the graphic on Jeff Utech‘ blog (The Thinking Stick).

 

As for the future of education, Paula wants to see a 10-15 minute social media period added to the school day. That way, no one will have an excuse for not having the “time” to connect and learn. Since Paula came out of her comfort zone of 30 + years in education, she feels that other educators will be able to do the same and that will have lasting impact on our understanding of learning. She sees blended learning opportunities  become more prevalent. Paula also sees education becoming more individualized.

 

And I listened to my mom…. I never asked Paula her age because we started the conversation on page 100.

 

Take a few minutes to watch Paula’s story in her own words.

 

Connect with Paula

on twitter

on her classroom blog

on her classroom wiki 

#4thchat (every Monday at 7pm CDT)

on her professional blog (no wonder her initials are PLN)

 

Blending the future of learning with Rich Kiker

This is the first edition of my summer 2013 Learning Project.

kikerTalking with Rich Kiker was like talking to one of my high school buddies…. He is energetic, focused, futuristic, passionate, funny and loves to push the envelope.  In fact, when I asked him what type of student he was in school, he laughed and said, “Terrible! I was more concerned with selling sneakers, fooling around, then I was in school. For me, school was boring!” Yes, Rich and I would have definitely hung out in high school (and college for that matter).

 

I actually first met Rich at Educon in January. He came into the session I was facilitating (with Dana Sirotiak and Danielle Hartman ). He immediately breathed light into the discussion and made this remark that stuck a chord with me… “We need to invest in bandwidth.” Simply stated. Passionately delivered. Yet, I understood exactly what he was referring to…. No matter the device, app or online tool, if your bandwidth is not large enough to support it, your 21st century learning opportunities are meaningless.

 

Rich is a risk taker. A few years ago he gave up the comfort of tenure and a full time teaching  job to start his own company, Kiker Learning. At Kiker Learning he built one of the most successful consulting businesses in education. He blends learning through face to face, online and hybrid. In addition to building Kiker Learning, he came back to the public education realm as the Director of Online Learning for the Palisades School District. Rich blends learning with the best of them!

 

kiker trainerAt Palisades, he works with the district to provide online learning opportunities for teachers, students and administrators. His vision is to meet the needs of the various stakeholders in a blended learning atmosphere. So whether kids want to take an elective, are Gifted and Talented, need remediation, or get assigned to a course, Rich ensures that their needs are met. Rich uses resources for the program such as K-12, Blackboard, edmodo and the Blended Schools Network. He believes that the online curriculum should complement the mission/vision of the public schools and address the common core as well as the local curriculum requirements. To me, Rich is creating a paradigm shift within the system by blending the learning.

 

kiker w peopleWhen I asked Rich to talk about the future of education, he wasted no time in telling me that it is in bandwidth! He used the example of how the global learner can learn from a kid in Singapore through YouTube, but if the bandwidth isn’t there, then how can they access it? Rich believes that the investment also needs to be in the Human Resources of a company. He thinks its time to “stop buying stuff” and move to a digital space. He sees MOOC’s as the opportunity to let students and teachers build the process of their learning. He sees great value in continuing the social aspect of schooling. Rich values the art of teaching and the important place a teacher and student have in the learning continuum.

 

The future of  learning is Blended through bricks and clicks.

Suggestions by Rich

  • Project Loon – Balloon powered internet for everyone
  • The Element - by Ken Robinson – A great read for finding your passion
  • Be Our Guest - Great read for understanding the importance of customer service
  • Google in Education - Check this out for learning opportunities beginning in August
  • MentorMob - An ambitious project to re-imagine how learning works
  • Seth Godin -  Linch Pin - Want to make yourself indispensable? Read this book!
  • Kiker Learning  - Rich’s online company that provides state of the art consultation

 

 

 

Let’s talk about …. Cheese!

As I was driving into work last week, I was thinking about our final staff meeting of the school year. I had an agenda, and was fully prepared to carry out the agenda. Then I thought about all of the changes facing my school next year: Model Curriculum (NJ’s transition to the Common Core), Model Assessments (NJ’s transition to the PARCC), new teacher evaluation, new principal evaluation, increased state monitoring of student data and not to mention any other changes that we would want to address our own, unique needs. Then it hit me… A great clip to show the staff (and myself included) would be the classic video, Who Moved My Cheese? based off the book by Dr. Spencer Johnson.

 

After the clip concluded, the staff actually began to clap. In talking about the clip, I stressed that I too have had my cheese moved and that next year we will all be in the maze… together. Throughout the rest of the week, teachers referenced cheese moving…

 

As you think of next year, what cheese has been moved? How will you deal with this change? Do you have a person definition of how you deal with change?

 

 

The end is coming…

summer sunYes, the end is coming to  the 2012-13 school year. We are in our last days. We are so close….. so why does that matter?

 

I feel the traditional school year (based on the agrarian calender) is antiquated and I am not alone in this thinking. For many students we provide something they are not getting at home, or in their community… What a juxtaposition… In a few short weeks teachers and administrators will be cheering, celebrating, and making their summer plans a reality…. and many students will be sad, upset, and realizing their summer will pale in comparison to the school year. Sad isn’t it.

I certainly do not have the answers but I sure do have a lot of questions as to why we continue to follow this antiquated system.

summerlearning1-10b

- Do we make school calender decisions based on our needs, or student learning needs?

- Could we restructure the school year to build in more time for students (Currently we have 180 days beginning in September and ending in June, can we get everything accomplished during this time?)

- Does the current calender maximize student and teacher effectiveness? (I hear a LOT of chatter about burn-out during certain times of the year)

- If given the opportunity to restructure the calender, what would YOU suggest? What are some other states, countries doing to maximize their calenders?


 

Let’s discuss… I’ve got all summer :)

 

 

 

 

 

We can do better…

Our school recently participated in the annual state testing of students in grades 3, 4 and 5. I noticed after the first day was complete that we had a lot “free” time in the afternoon. Not to mention, there were a fair share of kids who ended up in my office for discipline related issues that emerged from…. you guessed it…. “free time.”

 

Considering the fact that the actual assessments were only about 90 minutes (at the most) I was a bit dismayed at the lack of structure after the testing. I heard a lot of comments such as “they need a break,” “this testing is overwhelming,” and even “these kids can’t take anything more today.” I sent out a blanket email detailing my expectations, and highlighting what I valued. This whole situation took me back to my first year of teaching when I learned a valuable lesson about how we can do better.

 

 

I was finishing up my first marking period and I had to get my grades finished. In order to accomplish this task I put in the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about fall, Halloween or anything other than keeping the kids occupied so I could get my work completed. I needed time. My mentor, a fantastic, passionate teacher who I admired, asked me about the movie I was showing. I told him that I really needed to get my grades finished. He was understanding, but then he said something to me that I will never forget. He said, “I really hate it when my son comes home and tells me that he just watched a movie in school. I really think, as educators, that we can do better than that. These kids can watch movies anytime, we should be able to do more.” That was like a dagger through my heart. Ouch. He was right. We can do better.

 

Since that time I have never showed a mindless movie, and refuse to allow it as an administrator. I firmly agree with my mentor…. we can do better. Sure, kids can watch movies that are connected to the curriculum, or even parts of movies but we should always make sure that what we do is connected. We should always be raising the rigor, extending the line, raising the bar. Always! We can do better!

 

So what happened the rest of the week? Honestly, I saw more engagement, projects and even more of what I had seen before we started the assessments. I had to have some conversations with teachers about my expectations and why I feel so passionately that we need to continue to send the right message to the students, parents and community. I know some of the teachers were not happy with me and I understand. I was there before and I am so thankful that someone challenged me to keep the bar raised high! We can do better! 

 

We can do better! 

 

Teachers, You Make Kids BLOOM!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Dear Teachers,

My wife developed and implemented the idea…

You have no idea the power that you possess. You make kids BLOOM!

 

When I think of teacher appreciation, I start by thinking of my second grade teacher Mrs. Levin. Second grade was tough for me and I almost didn’t make it through. Yes, I actually had to go to summer school in order to pass into 3rd grade. I missed a lot of school that year, chose not to wear my glasses, had trouble focusing, rushed through assignments, did silly things to end up on the bench and was an overall pain in the (you know what).

 

My second grade class (I’m back row second from left)

Despite all of that, Mrs. Levin cared about me and was patient with me even though I probably let her down very often. Reflecting back on second grade, I realize that she taught me a lot more than just Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science, she taught me to believe in myself. Had it not been for Mrs. Levin, I would not be where I am today.

 

The down side of teacher appreciation is that you may never hear or know the impact that you have had on a student (in my case I never told Mrs. Levin) but you must realize that you too have made a difference in the lives of children…. There is someone, somewhere who truly appreciated what you did for them (or their child)…

 

Here is a video I had the students at RM Bacon make to show appreciation to their teachers while they are still here! The message of the video is quite clear… Students like teachers because they are nice, help them learn, and support them…


And that is why we are teachers!

 

Thank You!

Solving the achievement gap through cooperative grouping

Part 3 of the ongoing series where students are solving the achievement gap issues at RM Bacon….

Cooperative learning requires patience

During our 3rd week we had the students spend the entire day steeped in cooperative learning. In preparing  for this, we thought a lot about how we teach kids to work cooperatively as opposed to just having them work on an assignment in close proximity. Cooperative learning is difficult… especially when you combine students in grades 3, 4 and 5 who may have never worked together prior to this program. Honestly, how often can adults say they really work collaboratively? (that’s another blog for another time).

 

We spent the first part of the morning teaching the students how to work cooperatively. We made sure that they understood that everyone in the group needed a responsibility  We taught them how to honor brainstorming ideas. We taught them group consensus tools (thumbs up, down or in the middle). Everything had to be voted on and the students had to learn the art of consensus. For instance, in one group the discussion boiled down to one question… How could they get Timothy from thumbs down (he opposed it) to thumbs in the middle (he could live with it).  Ironically, it was Timothy’s own idea that he eventually couldn’t live with and the group had to re-work their plan. Frustration! Tears!

 

Cooperative learning is not always fun

All three groups had tears. It was difficult for students to truly honor ideas, plans and even concerns regarding their projects. Even though we modeled cooperative learning and facilitated the groups, we still had struggles. The students became very frustrated with each other, some felt left out…. all of the kids wanted to give up at some point. We stayed with them and helped them through the struggles. After seeing the frustrations evident in each group we all looked at each other and said ‘they need a break.’

 

During the break, we took the kids outside for some fun team building exercises. Although it was a simple activity, the kids loved it. They had to get a ball around the circle (without giving it to the person next to them and they could only touch it once). We modeled manners (which actually helps the students understand the pattern of the game). Anytime they passed the ball they had to say the person’s name. Anytime they caught the ball they had to say “Thank you” and then the person’s name. As the students figured out the pattern, they were able to add in multiple balls and one team were able to have 7 going at the same time. Success!

 

The second half of the day went much better. Eventually the groups were able to able to plan their PBL projects. One group chose to do an imovie, another group chose to do a dramatic song, and the 3rd group chose to do a classroom skit. Next week we begin filming!

You need to watch this… I will not let an Exam…

I was just sent this video by a good friend of mine… Besides feeling like I am a generation away from this spoken word artist, I had to step back and listen (twice) because he was teaching ME a great lesson… I hope he does the same for you (no matter what your generation)

 

 

Let’s discuss!