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

 

 

 

What’s your decision making color?

Leaders are required to make decisions. Each decision, no matter how big or small, has an impact on the organization. It is crucial for leaders to understand their decision making color. Reflection on these colors (and their attributes) may help as you continue (or embark) on your leadership decision making  journey.

 

Opaque

main.opaque

Source: http://images.yourdictionary.com/opaque

What is opaque? According to dictionary.com, opaque is defined as “not allowing light to pass through” and “hard to understand.” Is your decision making color opaque? If you do not share information with your colleagues, make decisions without the input of others, or attempt to build WALLS between you and those impacted by the decisions, then your color is opaque.

 

Impact on Leadership – Leadership can be a lonely place, but it doesn’t have to be. Granted, there are times that you are required to make decisions because you are the leader (sans input from others) yet are you able to explain why you made a certain decision? In order to overcome being opaque, it is important to seek advice from others, build a collective efficacy where stakeholders are involved, and be able to articulate decisions once they are made. Opaque leaders are viewed as shady, untrustworthy and unapproachable. Is this how you want to be viewed?

 

Translucent

2-translucent-effect

Source: http://www.designbuild-network.com/projects/litracon/litracon2.html

What is translucent? According to dictionary.com, translucence is “permitting light to pass through, but diffusing it so that persons, objects, etc., on the opposite side are not clearly visible.” Is your decision making color translucent? If you veil your decisions in an attempt to be honest and forthright, but ensure to leave mystique in decision making (or decision articulation) you may be translucent.

 

Impact on Leadership – Leaders have a tendency to want to be an open book, but may have difficulty with truly being open. The more leaders expose, as some may fear, they more they could be criticized or questioned. Translucent decision making provides others with the appearance of being open and honest, but are unable to fully commit. Decisions, in a translucent environment, are focused on the dichotomy of open access and veiled secrecy. Although translucent leaders are more open than opaque leaders, they may struggle with allowing others to get in too close, or feel that since they are in the leadership seat, they should make the decisions.

 

Transparent

Transparency-graphic

Source: http://community.qlikview.com/blogs/ theqlikviewblog/tags/transparency

What is transparency? According to dictionary.com, transparency is, “easily seen through, recognized, or detected: transparent excuses.” Think you are transparent? If you are able to articulate your decisions in an open, public forum and allow others to see through your decisions so that all questions are answered, you are probably transparent.

 

Impact on Leadership – Those leaders seeking to be progressive, data-driven strive to be transparent. For too long, organizations (insert any and all) have had trouble “opening up the books” and allowing others to see in. Transparent leaders are able to make decisions within a shared governance paradigm, and can explain rationale on their decision making. As the graphic on transparency illuminates, it is important to have the organization climate focused on transparency. Simply put… Keep it clear, and process-centered and allow others to see everything.

 

What’s your decision making color?

Who is making a difference? I need your help!

Last summer, I set out to interview 10 connected educators. The goals was two-fold… I wanted to learn from the “best” to improve my practice of being a connected principal, and I wanted to continue paying it forward through my blog. I learned so much from those amazing educators (feel free to check out the participants below).

As I reflect on this summer, I am still pondering… Since I learned so much last summer why don’t I continue the project this summer.

So I am asking for advice…

Who is out there making a difference in the lives of students, teachers, communities, etc? Who has transcended the mundane aspects of education? Who has done something different? Who should I contact this summer for a skype interview? What can I learn from them? How are they making a difference? Please send me your suggestions… I can’t wait to hear back from you!

 

Spread the word!

2012 Summer Blogging Project Participants:

George Couros

Justin Tarte

Dwight Carter

Nerdy Teacher

Chris Wejr

Todd Whitaker  

Erin Klein 

Patrick Larkin 

Kelly Tenkly 

Jessica Johnson 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the future of education, are there boundaries?

As educators, we are on the cusp of a change that has never been experienced before. Let’s face it… for the last few hundred years education has been teacher-directed, memorization focused and even a tad bit mundane…. Not much has changed and there are scores of generations who are quite proud to utter the statement, “When I went to school….”

 

So what has changed, or what will change? Well, maybe things won’t change, per say, but there will certainly be a shift.

 

The top 5 paradigm shifts in the education of the future

 

1. Assessment

Currently, the assessment and anti-assessment movements are vying for position. It’s unlikely that the assessment machine will lose momentum because there are specific reasons for its existence, namely …. accountability. Assessments in the future, however, will differ from those currently being used as companies develop individual, technology-based measures to mark progress. Students will be assessed individually and progress will be focused on the individual. In a sense, every child will have an Individual Education Plan. How this impacts you now? Become familiar with your students interests as it relates to your curriculum. Get ahead of the curve and have students set their own goals and mark their own progress to achieving those goals.

 

2. Learning

As much as we focus on teaching, there has been a significant gap in the true understanding of how an individual “learns” information. Since there is a shift to personalized learning, be prepared to be bombarded with various learning theories that will offer solutions to the age old question… How do I learn? How this impacts you now? Familiarize yourself with the major learning theories and be able to articulate how you learn information. With that same information, develop intentional teaching methods (chances are you teach the way you learn) and allow students to teach you how they learn.

 

3. Time

The current state of education has a specific formula… time is the constant, and learning is the variable… Look for this shift to be more focused on learning as the constant and time as the variable… Increased time for school, a complete 180 degree turn from the 180 day school year. In the future, with the assistance of technology, time will no longer dominate learning. How this impacts you now? Research flipped learning and how using web 2.0 tools can extend your students learning (ie NOT more homework, but rather more chances to extend learning opportunities). It starts with you…. how do you extend your own learning beyond the school day?

 

4. High School

The high school of the future will look completely different from the typical American high school that has produced generations of graduates. Gone will be the packed hallways and kids with backpacks waiting for the bell to prompt them to their next task. As high school transforms, there will be opportunities for students to attend college earlier, vocational opportunities that will allow students to enter the “real” world much earlier. How this impacts you now? Well, if you teach High School it will be extremely important to justify your position (think beyond current state mandates such as I teach Physical Education and it is required for four years). You need to make your class/learning so important that you have a line out of your class of students wanting to get a chance to learn.

 

5. Boundaries

If social media is able to allow 24 hour, 7 days a week learning and connections, be prepared to witness the boundaries currently associated with “schooling” such as brick and mortar buildings, classrooms and compulsory requirements on time spent in the system to change. Schooling, as we know it, will look, smell and feel much different than it has been and the boundaries will be stretched beyond your current imagination. How this impacts you now? Chances are if you are reading this then you have begun (or are well on your way) to self-directed, 24/7 learning. Chances are you are also sharing this information with others and connecting with educators throughout the world. Keep it up… spread the word… changes are coming!

 

In the future of education, will there be boundaries?

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 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

If this is water… what is education?

I was recently sent this amazing video made from a commencement speech title “This is Water.” The speech, given by David Foster Wallace, which was hardly known until it was discovered by The Glossary a few years after David had passed away.

 

In the beginning few lines of the speech, Wallace describes two young fish swimming past and older fish who says, “Good morning boys, how is the water?” The two young fish swim on and eventually one asks “What the hell is water?”

 

I’ve watched this video about 5 times now, and have discussed it with friends, co-workers and relatives. Now I ponder to myself, as a principal… if this is water, then what is education?

 

Let’s get the conversation started…. Tell me… what is education?

 

 

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!