Although I am not a big fan of standardized assessments and robbing children of their childhood (see my past few posts), I am a big fan of continuous learning and improvement. What does this really mean?
Educators, with some exceptions, are life long learners. They are constantly seeking to grow and understand their learners each year. This is not easy, but with the help of their peers, administrators, researchers and other practitioners the system is set up to keep improving. For instance, in my pre-conferences with teachers I often ask them what they want me to see so they can improve. At the elementary level that could mean a whole host of subjects or specific concepts. The trust that we build together allows them the opportunity to attempt to improve in an area. Quite often they perform better, and at the post conference have much more of a critique on themselves then I could…. especially if they are of the growth mindset, and focused on improvement.
I see teachers implementing new strategies all of the time. They tend to share their learning with their peers. They want to be better! Sometimes we need to just get out of their way!
It is a shame how we currently feel about the education that our children are receiving. For me, I can not remember a single learning objective from my childhood elementary education. I might be getting old, but it is foggy even though I spent the years 1979 through 1985 steeped in it. I don’t know what their objectives were, and yet there is so much I can tell you about my experience in school. I can tell you how the teachers made me feel. I can remember how specific teachers took an interest in me, and made me feel special. I can tell you that they had high expectations for all the children.
I don’t want you to think that my teachers didn’t teach, because they most certainly did. They taught lessons, but not any that were directly correlated to student growth or even a national standard. They taught me how to read, do math, and memorize things. They taught me to be nice to my peers, encouraged me to try new things, and they even let me play. Today that simply isn’t good enough.
What has changed? Well, a lot has changed. We feel that teachers do not do “enough” and that they aren’t focused on the right things. We assume from the beginning that teachers are simply coasting under the protection of their union. We are guilty of this and we are becoming so paranoid that perhaps in a corner of the world that someone, anyone is doing something better than us. We are forgetting the importance of a solid foundation that early childhood education can play in a child’s future. In that sense, we have completely forgotten that the end goal is not an assessment result, but rather an informed citizen of the world. Are there problems? Of course! Can we improve and evolve? Of course! But let’s not try to take childhood away from these kids because when they get older and can see things for what they are…. we may have some problems that we didn’t calculate.
Google thinks of everything. It is probably because they allow their employees job embedded time and opportunity to solve problems that don’t exist. The drive is taking education on a ride, and the signs are pointing to great things. There are so many aspects to the Drive that would require a few posts. For the sake of brevity, I will share a few aspects of the Drive that are extremely helpful.
The document – I have been using Google docs for quite sometime. The docs are extremely helpful when you are working with people from around the country. Our PrincipalPLN uses Google docs for our show notes, blog posts, and even the book we are writing collaboratively. Using this simple aspect of the Drive allows us real time communication, and we can literally finish each other’s sentences. We never have to attach things to email, and we are alerted when one of us are in the doc posing a question or comment. In schools, teachers are using Google docs to work collaboratively with students. Administrators can see what the students are writing and even pop in and ask a question. For schools think PAPERLESS!!!!
The form – Ever want to collect and analyze information? Looking for a way to collect Formative Assessment data? I think the Google Form can help you in so many ways. It is easy to create, and just as easy to share. Once you collect the data (no matter what it is) you will have the responses in another Google form…. the spreadsheet. The possibilities are endless with your data (just as long as you asked the right questions).
The presentation – Looking for a way to create a unique presentation? Nervous about carrying a memory stick or a thumb drive? If you try the Google presentation you won’t be disappointed. Once again, easy is the name of the game. There are plenty of presentation options for you to use, and what makes it even more meaningful is that you can embed all of the forms to make it interactive. The presentation is also helpful if you are working with someone to present with because you can collaborate in real time.
The glue to all these innovations is the Google Hangout. There are so many cool aspects to the GHO such as hosting a group of 10 people at once to collaborate. You can work on documents while video conferencing. You can even create a presentation, podcast or forum that can be uploaded to YouTube for future use.
All of these products are simple, collaborative, and easy to use. Best of all they are free! Just need to sign up with Google, and you will be on your way!
Information is growing at an unprecedented and accelerated rate. It has been said that 90% of the world’s information has been created in the past two years. How do you make sense of this? The image and quote to the left is priceless and quite true. There are many ways to filter all of this information. Here are a few suggestions to make that drink from the fire hydrant a little more palatable.
Twitter – So much has written about this tool for educators. Twitter really is the basis for connection. You can connect with other like-minded educators, follow topics, and build your personal learning network (PLN). Twitter, as you will find, also helps you build trust with others, and therefore with the information they tweet. Twitter always lists what is “trending” so that helps if you want to see global trends of people connecting.
Facebook – I actually learn a lot on Facebook. Since Facebook for me is the one place where work, friends, family, and learning coincide I end up stumbling upon information I never knew existed. I learn about everything from the latest trends, hilarious videos, and serious/compelling stories that others find.
Podcasts – I am a big fan of podcasts because anyone can do one. There are scores of podcasts available for educators that are informational and inspiring. iTunes has countless podcasts on all types of topics. Instead of listening to commercial radio, a podcast can help you sift through the growing amount of information. The benefit of a podcast is that you can listen on your time, and at your pace.
Zite (now called flipboard) – Zite is an information curator. All you have to do is put in a few searches of things you are interested in and you will have it at your fingertips. Then you can share that information on you social networks for others to enjoy. Zite can also suggest stories or articles based on your interests that can expand you palate.
All of this information can be really intimidating, but with the proper filtering sites, you can begin your journey to connection. You can learn how to take sips from the fire hydrant of information!
It isn’t an app. Doesn’t require technology, or people. The only thing it really requires is experience. Reflection is perhaps the most overlooked tool for improvement. It helps to break the cycle of whatever is holding you back. Reflect. Reflect on the day, the week, a sentence, a look, a glance, it really doesn’t matter. As you reflect on an experience, you can always find a way to do it better. That is the important work.
We all make mistakes, we overlook, we forget and yet we have the unique ability to overcome the learning opportunities to improve.
How do you reflect? When do you reflect?
For the record, I don’t like sushi, and I have never dreamed of it. I wish I liked fish, but I can’t stand the taste of it. This post, in a sense, has nothing to do with eating sushi.
I did, however, recently see the beautiful documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Wow, This powerful documentary follows Jiro, an 85 year old man in Japan, who has been working to perfect the art of making sushi for about 70 years! Could you imagine doing one thing, being razor focused for 70 years?
For Jiro it is sushi, what is your sushi?
As I watched the documentary I felt so many connections to education. In fact, Jiro talks about his educational experiences. Jiro said that just because you get good grades doesn’t mean you are going to be successful in life (how ironic because I just blogged about this yesterday). Jiro believes in hands-on learning. He wants kids and adults to follow their passion. It’s interesting, as you will find out in the documentary, that Jiro only deals with suppliers (fish, rice, etc) who are passionate about their profession.
Here are my takeaways from this documentary:
- Find something you are passionate about and follow you passion – For Jiro it is sushi – What is your sushi?
- Plan for the long term – In Jiro’s kitchen you have to apprentice for 10 years cleaning fish before you can make one menu item.
- Once you build your sushi, it is important to train everyone in your vision – Jiro laughs when people think he does everything at his restaurant. He says that 80% of the work is already done by others. He is just there to put the sushi on the plate. He has spent years training and empowering others to perfect their craft.
- Stick with it – All too often we are looking for the next mountain to climb. In Jiro’s world, his mountain, his challenge is always focused on one thing… making better sushi.
What is your sushi?
You are driving down the road and someone swerves in your lane…. what do you do? You see someone ahead in the opposite lane of traffic and they are heading right for you… what do you do?
I know what you are thinking… why don’t people stay in their lane? How does this play out in organizations? What if we all stayed in our lane? I can see both sides of the arguments, and here is why….
Why you should stay in your lane
- You have a job to do and you should do that job
- If you worry about someone else, you must not be doing your job
- Especially in education… it is all about the pay grade and the certification!
Why you shouldn’t stay in your lane
- Everyone has a perspective and your insight could help the organization
- If no one questioned anything, what would the world look like?
- People can have expertise in more than one area
Where do you stand? To stay in your lane or not… that is the question….
I saw a tweet from Chris Lehmann that really made me think. See, his kids at SLA are standing up against the cuts to teachers in the Philadelphia School District. Kids at SLA are steeped in inquiry based learning. They question EVERYTHING! So today, they questioned the budget cuts. Are we ok with this? Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone is… and that is troublesome.
The debate has a long history… do we teach students to be citizens or are we just creating workforce deployment? Honestly, we like to think we are teaching students to become citizens, but mostly we are simply creating the next phase of workers. When you were in school (or if you teach in a school) how often did (or do) you hear people saying things such as:
- “In the real world you will have to do X,Y, Z” (you fill in the blank)
- “When you get a real job, you will have to do X, Y, Z” (you fill in the blank)
- “We are preparing students for College and Career Readiness”
Guess what, if you hear (or say) those things, chances are you are preparing students for workforce deployment. Let’s face it, having a “job” is only a part of your life. So what does it mean to be a citizen? Here are some things we could say and reinforce:
- We need to be respectful of everyone despite their differences
- Honesty is necessary for us to trust each other. It could help avoid social and legal issues
- Compassion is important because sometimes people are sick, hurt or depressed
- You need to learn responsibility because we need to depend on you
- Have the courage to do what is right, and stand up for you beliefs
The truth is we do not know what jobs will in the “real” world in a few years, but we do know that the characteristics of a good citizen will help us in many ways. I think education should be more than workforce readiness…. a LOT more!
Ever feel like the educational world has lost it’s grip on what really matters? Honestly, ask anyone right now and you would be sure to get a hundred different answers. Should we be testing more? Should we be testing less? Preparing kids for Digital Age or stick with the pencil and paper…. and what about passion, desire, questions, discussion, coding, mapping, and the list could go on forever.
I would love to know… what still really matters in education?
Recently, the 5th graders at my school did a unit on CPR. The integrated unit required them to read The Red Kayak. The story is about a boy named Brady who faced a situation that required him to use CPR. After reading it, the students researched CPR using YouTube and other sites and connected it to the story. Their teacher contacted a local EMS member to come out and show the students how to perform CPR.
How we documented it….
The students filmed the project with a Flip camera. Then, they selected a student to tell me the story as we edited the film. We analyzed the story that our EMS guest was presenting, but it was the words of the student. It was a great opportunity to show students the other side of process.
We are looking forward to doing more projects with the students as the creators and producers… Stay tuned!
Enjoy the CPR Video