Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Seeking balance and a niche--out of the middle, behind the scenes or ?

Thinking on this for some weeks now. Seeking balance and grappling with a tension that continues to trouble me, I’ve not been blogging for a while. And so I’m looking to this writing as a way of sorting through and clarifying the possibilities— and finding where I might belong in all of this. I spent hours working on a post and deleted it.

I’ve been engaged in whispering questions to young people in the comments of their blogs and cheering in celebration with their successes and growth. Behind the scenes, out of the middle (long stories about this and that is what I deleted)– hopefully contributing to the learning and construction of meaning.

Blogging feels in the middle to me, particularly when my contributions seem to echo or celebrate what’s happening here, or here, or here (and reading these folks is far better). I’m not convinced that being up front, in the middle is where I can best contribute—

I’ve spent hours reflecting upon this tension; wondering if it’s the transparency of the blogging, the risk taking that troubles me. And concluding no— I'm just feeling right now the possibilities abound with my connecting with young people--

So there may not be many posts here; unless suddenly I find a passion-- I’ll be out behind the scenes and out of the middle in the comments encouraging conversation and the making of meaning, and celebrating the learning.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Exemplary Scaffolding for Active, Engaged Learning!!

From grade one to high school, exemplary pockets of extraordinary scaffolding for active, engaged learning validate my belief that accountability, sound pedagogy, and innovation can work to serve our children well. I'd like to celebrate four instances and know there are many more!

The Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia

"We've been given the task of reimagining the core curriculum in Philadelphia. We're mapping our curriculum to have the same set of skills and content as the School District of Philadelphia, mapping back to them and to the state standards in our staff development meetings. We certainly believe that we won't be short-changing our kids come PSSA time." From Chris Lehman
And there are no scripted lessons, in fact, inquiry based learning rules at SLA (Science Leadership Academy)! I've followed the birth of SLA on Chris' blog. What an incredible adventure! What possibilities abound! I look forward to hearing more as the year progresses.

Darren Kuropatwa's calculus classes, Winnipeg
"In the course of my recent research and learning about assessment, the idea of making success criteria transparent is emphasized again and again. I want my students to succeed. As a class our goal is for everyone to achieve between 80% and 100%. I have structured my assessments (above) so that students can achieve, with a reasonable amount of effort, marks in the high 80s. ... I spent a lot of time discussing with the students what excellence looks like. I showed examples of past students work." From Darren

I can recall a teacher in a local high school who told his students that his goal was to fail 50% of the class and he did. The students were discouraged and dismayed, and I was incredulous! I couldn't imagine such an attitude was tolerated by the administration. Not only does Darren want his students to succeed, he provides a clear explanation of the criteria for excellence AND his students have a voice in that criteria. How can youngsters not succeed! Imagine what they can learn as they internalize the criteria of "excellence". In addition, Darren encourages creativity in math with a digital story! Now I'm really math illiterate, despite my dad's best efforts (he was a mechanical engineer) and can't help but think that had I had a clear picture of excellence in math and the opportunity to create such a project, I would have an entirely different outlook on this subject.

Teacher C at Blogical Minds
"I think you can take these writings and really turn them into some masterpieces. Are you ready to put your shoulder to the wheel? Want to make them worthy of all that outstanding photographic work which Chris so graciously shared with us? That’s my challenge to you. Do you accept? This part can be fun because we can all put our heads together and help each other. Plus you have a head start with all the comments you have received from your readers!" From Teacher C

The Blogicians had just finished their first blogged photo stories. Can you imagine being in 5th grade and reading that wonderfully warm, encouraging challenge to improve your writing? And Teacher C's creativity abounds as she provides each student with a podcast of their story so they can hear their writing!! No bubbles to fill, or red marks to read -- encouraging excellence and the joy of writing and suggesting they can help each other. Now that's an environment in which I'd like to learn!

Kathy Cassidy's grade one, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
"Today we spent some time talking about the things that we needed to learn in math this year, and the things that we had already learned. We now have a chart in our classroom that we can look at to check our progress." From Kathy
Student podcasts follow that blog post. To hear those little ones share what they have learned and what they planned to learn, setting goals in a way so appropriate to them and sharing those goals with all of us is a real joy! And there is more! The students are wanting to know what 1000 is; Kathy's number sense pedagogy is incredible!! They are collecting 1000 names on a wiki!! I just know they will reach a 1000.

Innovative, sound pedagogy that scaffolds engaging learning experiences that ensure excellence! Well done!!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

No Child Left Behind --One Size Does Not Fit All!

Chris Lehman's comments on NCLB really resonated with me.
"With NCLB and the pressure to conform, to pass the test, to teach to the test, so many schools, adminstrators and teachers have no incentive to innovate, in fact, they often have a disincentive to do so. With the focus on "Research-based curriculum," many folks fall back on what has been done before because there's less risk in doing so. With so much content in the average state standard, too many teachers just try to get through all the content and think, "I'd love to do new things, maybe in the two weeks after the [Insert State Test here.]"

"And that culture of fear that is slowly gripping the American educational system under the current version of NCLB will kill us. It will drive out innovation. It will drive out the brilliant, exciting teachers who want to take the lessons they've learned in their lives and bring it to the kids. To take the NCLB mandate in its most charitable inception, we have created a system where we were so concerned about raising the floor, that we have lowered the ceiling."
In the large urban district in which I used to teach, that culture of fear strangles teacher creativity. Scripted lessons and timelines, rigid rules, and the push to improve test scores rip from children the opportunity to explore areas of interest and develop a love of learning. The drop out rate explodes exponentially. When I recall the youngsters with whom I worked --their needs, their strengths, their weaknesses and their resilience-- tears well in my eyes, for it's my heartfelt professional belief that NCLB has created for them even greater obstacles as they attempt to escape a life of poverty.

And now a group of educators, seeking signatures on a petition calling for the dismantling of NCLB.
"We, the educators, parents, and concerned citizens whose names appear below, reject the misnamed No Child Left Behind Act and call for legislators to vote against its reauthorization. We do so not because we resist accountability, but because the law's simplistic approach to education reform wastes student potential, undermines public education, and threatens the future of our democracy.

Below, briefly stated, are some of the reasons we consider the law too destructive to salvage. In its place we call for formal, state-level dialogues led by working educators rather than by politicians, ideology-bound "think tank" members, or leaders of business and industry who have little or no direct experience in the field of education."
I find the following compelling reasons to add my signature:
7. Requires the use of materials and procedures more likely to produce a passive,
compliant workforce than creative, resilient, inquiring, critical, compassionate, engaged members of our democracy.
9. Allows life-changing, institution-shaping decisions to hinge on single measures of performance.
10. Emphasizes minimum content standards rather than maximum development of human potential.
11. Neglects the teaching of higher order thinking skills which cannot be evaluated by machines.
13. Forces schools to adhere to a testing regime, with no provision for innovating, adapting to social change, encouraging creativity, or respecting student and community individuality, nuance, and difference.
14. Drives art, music, foreign language, career and technical education, physical education, geography, history, civics and other non-tested subjects out of the curriculum, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
I don't fully agree with the wording and content of some of the other points; however, it seems to me that this might have the potential to set the stage for a meaningful conversation on the efficacy of this law. Perhaps we can persuade our legislators to consider a bill that will allow for teacher innovation and creativity AND provide for accountability. --And once again allow us to create for our children learning environments that celebrate their diversity and meet their needs.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We need a "how to" --creating an environment that encourages assessment AS learning

"How's school?" I asked our neighbor's son, as he and his Dad delivered the Cub Scout popcorn we had ordered this afternoon. He shrugged and said "Ok". I pushed a touch more--"Am I getting the feeling you're not fond of school?" Another shrug and "I like gym." Third grade and not liking school! And I've heard that more and more. In my day, in third grade, we loved school. As a matter of fact, we enjoyed school throughout our K12 years. I looked to his Dad who said all they do is talk about the test and preparing for the test. I nodded in agreement. Our school district has been rated "excellent" by the state. Our doctor has shared with me that he sees more and more younsters, younger kids with migraines and stomach problems, especially around "the test". What are schools doing with our children? The joy of learning, the opportunity to reflect upon what is learned have been hijacked and "high stakes" summative testing has taken their place.

Now I've realized that for sometime; its just difficult hearing it again from someone who is so young. And even more so with Darren recently sharing his thoughts and practice around the concept of Assessment as Learning. I became excited when he shared his thoughts last year. In his recent post, he has shared not only how this concept is evolving in his practice but also a great list of resources (oh how I wish NCTM would make all their resources available with a trial membership). With the exception of the NCTM links, the research he cites seems to be European and Canadian. I had read the PDK article when it was published in Phi Delta Kappan, the authors of which are from the U.K. And the Assessment is for Learning website is from Scotland. I find the resources there to be extremely exciting and full of potential for engaging youngsters in assessment as learning. I set out to find the "U.S." take on what I see as a critical component in learning. I couldn't locate any resources-- sigh! Perhaps it was lack of skill in locating information on my part?

I can't help but think that if the child I spoke to this afternoon had had some input into his learning goals, and had had opportunities for reflection and self/peer assessment --that his responses about school might have been far different!! How can we help U. S. teachers and districts, burdened by the summative testing of NCLB, understand the importance of assessment as learning and assist in the creation of an environment that encourages such practice? How can we help them learn from the Europeans and Canadians?

Using the power of technology-- over evil!!!

Tom Hoffman at Tuttle SVC has an incredible idea!!!! He's is encouraging all to use the power of technology to move the site, which many use as an example of the need for information literacy, off the top of the google list!!!!

He exhorts:
Anyway, enough ranting… what we need here is a good old fashioned Google bomb. So without further ado:

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Here’s the code under this link. You should be able to just paste this into a blog post.

What possibilities for lessons this will create!!!!! And what good!!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

One vision--who will accept the task?

Meg commented on my last post in which I just mentioned the possibilities for a model virtual school and she inquired:
“You mentioned a "virtual school"- what exactly would this look like?”
In my mind’s eye, this model virtual school would showcase classrooms:
  • in which students are regularly engaged in authentic, multidisciplinary learning tasks
  • where collaboration is a regular part of teaching, learning, and assessment
  • where collaborative relationships are common among students and staff
  • where students are flexibly grouped based on interest and need, and these groupings often cross grade-level boundaries
  • where the teacher is the primary architect of the learning environment and purposefully facilitates student learning with overt strategies for nurturing student independence
  • where students in these engaging environments:
• “Self-regulate, taking charge of and investing themselves in their learning.
• Develop and refine their learning and problem-solving strategies.
• Derive excitement and pleasure from learning.
• Collaborate with each other, their teachers, and their communities.” -source
So far, I haven’t even mentioned technology! That’s because I agree that:
“These learning environments that engage and motivate diverse groups of learners often rely heavily on technology in order to meet their goals. However, they don't meet the needs of diverse learners because of technology integration; they succeed because of careful design. Planners first must have a clear picture of the kinds of interactions and processes they want to achieve. Technology integration, then, should not be an outcome, but rather a part of the larger instructional design process.” --source
We’d see extensive use of technology in this model virtual school because:
“Appropriate technology integration happens because the instructional design of engaging learning environments requires an infrastructure that supports the communication, collaboration, and access to information central to the instructional paradigm.” -source
And I think that populating this envisioned school might take awhile because:
“The ability to implement an engaging instructional design does not come overnight. ACOT research shows that the evolution in thought and practice for most teachers undertaking the change from a traditional to a more engaged form of teaching is three to five years (Apple Computer, Inc., 2000). This evolution requires a shift in perceptions about the relationship between teachers, students, and knowledge, and these new perceptions must be agreed upon by all stakeholders.” -source
Right now, I think we are still stuck here! We need to encourage teaching practice whose focus is engaged learning and we need support from all the stakeholders!! I reached this conclusion following 3 years as a resource teacher in the instructional technology office of a large urban district. I left the classroom in 1998 because I thought, at that time, that technology had enhanced the learning of my students. Three years later, I returned to the classroom; I had slowly become very aware that it was not the technology but the pedagogy that had altered the learning in my classroom. My mindset as an educator had been profoundly altered upon my return. In my last classroom, my role was dramatically adjusted from “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side,” from “giver of information” to designer of learning experiences. As my youngsters eagerly anticipated the new learning experiences I designed, I implemented more authentic, project-based lessons. I tried to change the face of the how I taught, what I taught, and how I requested evidence of student mastery. The technology became a transparent tool—the laptops, the online course, the video conferencing, the use of IM to focus students on the task— those were the result of intentional instructional design which was not easy, but was oh so powerful!!!!

If a virtual school could model all of this and become a nurturing environment, one that recognizes and addresses the fears of those resistant to change, one that helps to shape new behaviors, one that serves significant, meaningful and effective professional development, one that supports with suggestions and “Teflon lessons,” one that sends the message to educators ‘you are valued, you are an educator’-- then more educators may feel empowered and this virtual model could become the wind beneath their wings as they then seek to change the way children learn, what children learn, and how children share what they know using technology.

This doesn’t speak to how to plan the environment but perhaps a vision of??

In the planning, some energetic, inspired group of educators might collaborate to seek a grant to create such a model perhaps seeking various types of assistance from these types of resources:

Just as the K12 Online conference arose from a grassroots effort with a $0 budget, so could a model school, perhaps building off David Warlick’s, New Century Schoolhouse.

What learning and possibilities abound!!! It makes my entire body tingle with excitement!!!

Who might grab this vision and just run with it?? Or are we past my time??

Friday, November 10, 2006

K12 Online: What do you think?

If you have viewed any (even one or just part of one) of the presentations for the 2006 K-12 Online Conference, please take a few minutes and complete the post-conference online evaluation form. The deadline for submitting the survey is Sunday November 12, 2006.

Input is anonymous, and will be both shared and used to improve K-12 Online for 2007. :-)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Learning--- More Compelling Than the Tools Themselves?

Will's post, Owning the Teaching ... and the Learning, has fostered quite a conversation in the comments. That conversation really struck a chord with me, brought back lots of memories and spurred me on to thinking! He writes:

I hate to generalize, but the thing that seems to be missing from most of my conversations with classroom teachers and administrators is a willingness to even try to re-envision their own learning, not just their students. .....

But I’m still bothered by the fact that very, very rarely do I see new pedagogies to go along with them that prepare students for the creation of their own learning networks. That allow them to take some ownership (or at least envision the possibility of it) over their learning. That help them learn self-direction and get them to stop waiting for someone else to initiate the learning. And even rarer is to find one of those teachers exploring his or her own learning through the tools. ...

Many of our kids are already doing this without us. Many of them have much more of a clue of what it means to learn using these tools than we do. Imagine if we could teach them to leverage their connections even more powerfully, if we could show them how powerful they are in our own learning. That we are not just engaged teachers but engaged learners. That we’re not afraid of what’s ahead because we know how to learn. ......

He concludes:

"And I’m wondering, like the survey question from a few days ago, what classrooms might look like 10 years from now, if they will be fundamentally different from what they are today."
And in the comments were many references to teaching and learning the "tools", the technology. The comments that resonated the most for me were more about the "learning" and suggested paths for moving forward :

Teachers and especially administrators and politicos are not going to sanction doing something differently unless you can prove that it works on more than a one classroom model. Brian Crosby

We should be moving towards creating a few schools that demonstrate the true potential of collaborative, digital learning. Mike Guerena

We need more models showing this “stuff” in action. We need classrooms that are models, places that people can visit, CDs filled with videos of lessons and projects in action. We need model networks of kids and teachers working in these ways and collaborating in their learning over the distances…. People need to relaize that it is about learning and how learning can be and needs to be different. Clarence Fisher

This post really resonates with me. Maybe it’s time to build the school of tomorrow, instead of waiting for the school of yesterday to catch up. Bud Hunt

We do need those multiple examples of those model classrooms! And I'm wondering if a virtual school might be a perfect venue to share the excitement of active, engaged students. It surely would make it easier for all of us to visit and to learn! And I'm wondering if the name of such a school should really suggest its purpose--- showcasing exemplary, extraordinary engaged learning rather than the future. --- but I'm digressing here from my original intention for this post.

I am thinking more and more that conversations whose focus is meaningful, engaged learning, and how people learn—those conversations and deeper understandings may encourage educators to consider and adapt their pedagogy to scaffolding learning experiences for all that by their very nature utilize these “tools” that many now leave behind.

Some years ago, I was fortunate to design, develop and teach a new career tech program for high school students who were interested in education as a career path. The pedagogy for that course design was built largely upon my learning from 3 sources:

Carroll, T. G. (2000). If we didn’t have the schools we have today, would we create the schools we have today? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 1(1), 117-140.

How People Learn
by John Bransford et all
For these purposes specifically Chapter Two:

Meaningful Engaged Learning from NCREL

Now none of these is new, but I’m feeling they each lend voice to adapting to a pedagogy of learning which engages all. A reading of the paper suggests a model classroom of expert and novice learners, not teacher and learners. It speaks to the notion of life long learning, and of active engaged learning. Bransford, in research based How People Learn, notes the specific characteristics of expert and novice learners. These plus indicators of meaningful, engaged learning informed my design and scaffolding of learning experiences. I was incredibly excited and frightened at the prospect of such a learning environment. Some pretty incredible learning for both expert and novice learners transpired. Family circumstances led me to retire, but I shall always cherish and never forget the excitement, the rush from learning with my students.

It strikes me as strange that now when I share the program with others I talk about the technology--- the video conferencing, the laptops, the online course—when it was the pedagogy that fostered the learning. And I'm focusing on the tools???

I’m wondering then, if conversations surrounding the NCREL indicators, Bransford’s work, and Carroll’s paper could lead to “the classrooms our children deserve”. Can that dialogue, along with the models of excellence, be more persuasive and compelling?

A Standing Ovation!!!!

"A vision without a task is a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery.

But a vision with a task can change the world." -- attributed to Black Elk (Oglala Sioux)

Following months of planning, the k12 Online Conference continues!

What an extraordinary concept and intent--that although the scheduled "fireside chats", the keynotes and presentations, and "When Night Falls" are over, the conference would and does live on in the comments on the blog, in the K12 "Tapped In" room, and on the k12 Wiki. As do the conversations, the connections, and the learning--

And so this standing ovation for Darren, Sheryl, and Wes!!!

For your vision
For your talents
For your skills
For your perseverance in meeting any and every challenge as a possibility
For your willingness to share
For your sincere desire to empower and engage
For your determination
For your pursuit of and achievement of excellence

This one's for you!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Energy expended for the possibilities!

I've not been around here much lately. I've been spending time commenting-- to students--encouraging, validating, celebrating. Students on the AP Calculus AB, Pre Cal 40s, and Pre Cal 30S blogs are sharing some pretty incredible learning. The youngsters at Blogical Minds are just getting started, full of enthusiasm and great ideas.

In addition, in response to some encouragement, I submitted a proposal for the K12 Online Conference on commenting as I am really convinced that deeper dialogue on the blogs can lead to so much more learning. I was surprised, and that is an understatement, to find an email of acceptance. What an honor to contribute to a unique new venue, yet really feeling way out of my league! And so the presentation has been humbly submitted to what I believe is an opportunity full of possibilities for those who chose to read, and learn, and comment and create. What might occur in classrooms following this learning is an exciting thought!! This sense gave rise to my volunteering to assist the conference organizers in any way I could prior to submitting a proposal; I'm glad to act as the "continuity editor" as Darren so graciously and generously titled what I'll be and am doing. To contribute to a sincere effort to improve learning for students and assist teachers in becoming more accomplished is pretty special.

The possibilities seem enormous--already the first online preconference keynote that was heard by educators around the world and a fireside chat to continue conversations. Those conversations deepen in the blogosphere where Darren with great passion articulately reflects upon the work and energy, the synergy of the keynote, and the challenge before us all:
"In my day job I will continue to use blogs and other online tools in my teaching. I will continue to foster excellence in my students by having them contribute to the world's knowledge commons via their online presence. And, as one of them said in our recent podcast, I will continue to try to make them feel as though "the ordinary in our class is extraordinary."
..I teach other people's children to grow into making the ordinary extraordinary. Who will do the same for my kids? I'm trying in my own way.. "
...making the ordinary extraordinary... Now I really like that; recognition of the challenges but lots of powerful energy expended for the possibilities!!! --making the ordinary extraordinary-- Darren I hope you don't mind my using that eloquent phrase with proper credit, of course.

I spend many hours these days engaged in opportunities to contribute to education. My retirement has provided time for that--I am fortunate and thankful. Hopefully these contributions are always positive energy expended for the possibilities that might result-- for teachers, youngsters and learning. I'm sure others might disagree and that's ok. But I'm wondering if in the disagreement we might just choose to go our ways and expend the energies for the possibilities we each see as opposed to taking time to fault the other. Oh that the discussions about the K12 Online Conference at Half an Hour focused on possibilities and what we can do in education. Couldn't we learn more to improve our teaching practice, to make the ordinary extraordinary, and then assist our youngsters in becoming life long learners if energies were expended on just that, the possibilities?


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Words of hope that touch my soul--

I've read some posts on teaching recently that really got me excited! I wanted to jump up and down and issue a resounding 'Yes!' They give me hope and more than just a great big 'yes' they really touch my soul!

David Jakes, On being good, was one of them, especially when he ended:
"Frankly, I'm tired of technology as a second class educational citizen. It's not OK not to use it.

Simply put, a good teacher must know when and how to use technology to help kids learn, and must demonstrate it conscientiously, creatively and continually.

It's one of the most important steps in becoming a great teacher--."

That conclusion followed some really thought provoking questions! What a read!

And then this morning David Warlick really touched my heart when he concluded:
"It is not a time for teacher-technicians, trained lab clerks who observe a deficiency, and prescribe a scientifically researched strategy. It's a time for teacher-philosophers, who love their world, love what they teach, love their students, and who love what their students will be."

Now that, to my mind, is really what it's all about! I love the passion in those words, I treasure their meaning! I will go beyond hope to work in my small way toward the time described!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

K12 Online2006--Possibilities do abound!

Possibilities do abound when educators have such an incredible opportunity to share, learn and collaborate online!

Darren Kuropatwa, Will Richardson, and Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach have combined their energies and expertise to call all to "K12 Online 2006".

Read about it HERE!

How will you participate? A presenter? A collaborator? A learner? How about all three?

Technorati Tags:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A revised ballet and a new group of bloggers!

Yesterday, with a revised ballet on the web, I had the honor to work with Keith, Sara, and Tony in Botkins, Ohio. They teach and learn in a small district in West Central Ohio. Connie Schneider, their superintendent, and a team from the school were funded for a competitive grant for $32000 from eTech Ohio to improve student achievement in reading and writing. They have handhelds with keyboards for all sixth grade students, and laptops for the teachers and monies for professional development. Really neat!

They are a dedicated group who are working hard to help youngsters learn and prepare for our global society! And work hard we did, with no breaks or time out for lunch, we enjoyed a salad as we talked with Darren who skyped in to share how he uses blogs in his classroom. Anne skyped in too to talk about her Write Weblog project. Oh, the learning and excitement as two master bloggers shared their wisdom and experience!!! We didn't even have time for the wonderful looking peach pie that Mrs. Schneider had made for us!

I left sensing that really good things would be happening in 6th grade classrooms at Botkins and that Keith, Sara, and Tony were truly anticipating the changes occurring in their classrooms this fall. They are going to be blogging at Blogmeister! I can't wait to read their students' blogs!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Beyond Hope

Earlier this year, I reflected upon hope for educational reform following Barbara Ganley's post on that topic. At that time I had suggested that I would continue my work even more passionately. And I've done just that.

Tuesday I'm off to a small district in Western Ohio to work with a few teachers on integrating blogs into their curriculum. The superintendent of that district wrote a grant to fund the workshop, indicating her view that blogging may have great potential to improve student achievement. The tech coordinator has been so helpful. I'm excited at the possibilities. We'll be looking at educational uses of blogs and setting up classroom blogs at David Warlick's Blogmeister. I've done my best to create a framework for the workshop that is participant centered and blog centered with me as far out of the middle as possible in a Blogging Ballet.

So what does this have to do with "beyond hope"? I haven't totally decided where/if I should include much about DOPA. Now that I'm writing this, it has come to me that using the quote from that post:
"I have to stop hoping that anything can change; instead I must go about getting the work done. Inside. Where it counts."
And encouraging the folks in attendance that we must go about getting the work done--helping our youngsters prepare for lives in our global society--might be the best approach. I know that it will be the honest one.
And now I've answered a question from another posting when I asked:
As this leg of her journey begins, she wonders where the greatest power may be found-- in the development of conversations and community, or in the possibilities to make her thinking clearly visible to her.
--making my thinking clearly visible to me may be the greatest power thus far!

Monday, July 17, 2006

The changing role of the teacher

What good reading! At The Blog of Proximal Development, an Unending Conversation unfolds. How much richer will a youngsters' education be in Konrad Glogowski's classroom. How much time do most classroom teachers take to reflect upon and change their practice? Just think how youngsters react when "My students write to construct knowledge. I refuse to correct attempts to construct understanding and improve cognitive development." No judgment, no red marks, just scaffolding to construct meaning. Pretty powerful--

Thursday, July 13, 2006

How successful can an education law be that makes teachers the enemy?

Wow! What a question and what an answer! I thank Chris Lehman for pointing the way to this column. Unfortunately I hadn't read Michael Winerip until this, the last of his columns.

His writing brings to mind that of Kozol in his Shame of the Nation. He has spent lots of time in classrooms with teachers and students. And he suggests that with reauthorization of NCLB, there be provisions to mandate small class size. In addition,
We need a No Family Left Behind Law. This would measure economic growth of families and punish politicians in charge of states with poor economic growth for minority families.

And finally a new slogan from William Butler Yeats: "“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

What do you think of that?!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Refreshing Model of Excellence, Pedagogy, Sharing, and Learning!

Back in the days of cut and paste and copy machine, I always found myself in the library of my school full of planning for the coming year as others wound down their final days in June. I was gathering resources, planning, and cutting and pasting in hopes of applying what I had learned from the year just finished. I could see my practice change and grow, nothing that compares with Darren's energies and sophistication, and would have loved an opportunity to share and get feedback from other teachers. But those were the days of what some called "I've got a secret" and open collaboration was not viewed in a favorable light, at least in my situation. Had I had such an opportunity, my students' lives would have been the richer and their learning and mine deeper from what I could learn from colleagues.

Now the possibilities do abound when educators blog! The isolation felt by a classroom teacher (I do remember that vividly) can be an artifact of the past! The sharing, that I so yearned for, overflows the blogs of educators. The models of excellence, and life long learning on a path to providing what is best for young people are no longer hidden in one classroom in a school, or reserved for those summer weeklong or daylong institutes.

Darren at A Difference has, IMHO, modeled throughout his blog, his quest for the best pedagogy to help his students learn. That pedagogy is one that truly resonates with me! His youngsters are active learners, in control of their learning with an exemplary expert learner as a guide. For me who feels a true appreciation for his pedagogy, for others who may be open to consider this kind of classroom, and for those who now live in the world of drill and rote for NCLB, his unselfish willingness to share all he has learned and is learning opens endless possibilities. His sharing enriches the lives of all who read his blog. His open reflections upon his practice are a model, if adopted by more educators, could transform teaching and learning for youngsters across the United States, Canada, and beyond.

In his recent post, The Next Movement, he details his journey with his students with remarkable detail. What a treasure! He has offered all the opportunity to replicate or adapt his successes and to reflect and plan "the next movement". My name appears in that posting. I was surprised and honored to read it there. Thanks goes to you, Darren, for the opportunity.

How the times have changed! Sitting at my computer in Ohio, learning from a master math educator in Manitoba! What could be more exciting than that!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Incredible student comments on scribing and learning

There's something pretty special going on over on the Pre-Cal 40S (Winter '06 blog. The student responses to Darren's questions are insightful, articulate, and so exciting. I didn't want to interrupt the student voices in the comments so emailed Darren with a message for them. Then it occurred to me that perhaps my celebration of their learning should be public too so I'm pasting what I put in the email.

Hi there Pre Cal,
I've read your comments with great excitement! Your insights into what is important to your learning, your ability to describe the criteria for posts eligible for the Hall of Fame, and your enthusiasm for learning are exemplary!!
Abr31, your comment on asking questions and your reasoning " I still ask just to make sure what I'm thinking is right now just good enough." shows how much you know about learning and the critical importance of questioning.
Manny, your comment "That is my first priority because I want everyone in the class to do well, "we're all in it together" (at least that's how I feel anyway). " You are so right, everyone is in it all together when learning. I only wish everyone had your great attitude of wanting success for all!
Jefferson, are you considering teaching because you've got some excellent ideas with: " Create an opening sentence that draws a lot of attention to the reader. Make it really interesting. And then, end it with an but kicking ending, so when the reader finishes, he/she not only be satisfied but looking more forward to learning." And your posts do just that!
T3DDie, you are teaching and I think you have really nailed a key element for a true hall of fame scribe when you say: " Well described but short enough explanations so that it is like you're teaching the whole lesson over again so that people that don't get it would have a chance to understand when you read the scribe. "
And Emile, you understand how you have taken learning to a new level when you say: " But when you are scribe you should understand and know how to explain the lesson in a way everybody will understand."
This Winston Churchill quote really speaks to all this class has done this year:
"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."
Your climb has been glorious and I hope that you have found it such!
I look forward to reading the comments that I know will follow with anticipation!

Congratulations on such excellence!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Celebrating excellence and the opportunity to collaborate!

Something's happening at Kennesaw State University in their Blog2Learn project! Some 20 teachers have entered the blogosphere until the excellent guidance of Will Richardson and Anne Davis.

Today was Anne's day. You can view her wiki which she used as a guide for participants here. Her session was exemplary with a real sense of passion for good learning for youngsters. A real teacher's day IMHO!!

I was so very honored when she asked if I might skype in to share my thoughts on commenting. It was indeed a pleasure to do so and I can't thank her enough. She seems to feel that I do ok with commenting. I enjoy making connections with students and work to create meaningful ones in the comments I compose. I'm glad they are seen as valuable! It's great fun and hard work too.

Our collaboration and sharing send me into those "real life highs" that touch our inner beings. Thanks, Anne!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hope, Beyond Hope, Work

I've always been the one in the family who talks of hope and has hope--- hope that a student will succeed, hope that our American system of public education can transform and change, hope that our ever increasingly violent world can find a way to peace, hope that we can return to a kinder, gentler America.

Today Barbara Ganley's post truly resonated with me; especially the following:

"I have felt myself losing hope these past months that we can effect essential change in education. I have wanted to burrow down into my own practice with blogs and shut out the cacophony. I have faltered even in my own blogging practice during the past month for fear of having nothing positive to say.

And then, a couple of days ago, the latest issue of the provocative American environmental magazine, Orion, helped me see a way out of this mess. Writing about the state of the environment and environmentalism, Derrick Jensen writes in the lead article, "“Beyond Hope" :
"Frankly, I don't have much hope. But I think that a’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth. To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother…All these false hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities… When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to hope at all. We simply do the work."

He'’s right, of course. I have to stop hoping that anything can change; instead I must go about getting the work done. Inside. Where it counts."
And I realized that although I have never stopped hoping, that's what I have always tried to do--get the work done. I am thinking that she has articulated something that lives deep inside me, that I never could have put in words. And now that I have read and reread her words, I think that recognizing "beyond hope" will cause me to work even more passionately----

Monday, May 08, 2006

Assessing AS Learning

Students, as active, engaged, and critical assessors, can make sense of information, relate it to prior knowledge, and master the skills involved. This is the regulatory process in metacognition. It occurs when students personally monitor what they are learning and use the feedback from this monitoring to make adjustments, adaptations, and even major changes in what they understand. Assessment as Learning is the ultimate goal, where students are their own best assessors.
from Earl, Lorna (2003) Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximise Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Press. Viewed at

It seems to me that this model is of great value! I thank Darren for introducing me to it here. I have spent some many years sharing with teachers the concept of assessment of learning and the need for a greater move to assessment for learning but assessment as learning is a new term for me. I think that intuitively I was trying to wrap my practice around it but never seemed to quite catch it. Oh that I had been able to lay out the strategies and categorize assessment as learning years ago. My students and I would have been better learners for it.

I am thinking that this is what Anne refers to when she talks of students reflecting. She has looked at reflecting many times this spring; it's so clear to she and I how important that is; I wonder why those 'in charge" keep missing it. It was something that was never as successful as I hoped in the Teaching Professions program. And now that I've had time to reflect, I'm sure it was because I wasn't asking the right questions and/or scaffolding the experience properly.

I was really excited to see Darren"s scaffolding for his students. IMHO, he has really provided an exceptional structure for his students:

The kids think the "Significant Contribution" is the hard work. This week I've explained to them that the purpose of the "Significant Contribution" is there for a variety of reasons, but mainly to enable them to make their "Constructive Modifications" which is the real hard work. ...

The actual content generated this way may be small, in comparison to a "Significant Contribution," but it requires deep metacognition and critical analysis -- an awful lot of thinking and (hopefully) an awful lot of learning.

I am sure there will be an awful lot of learning going on if his students can move far enough from what I call "get the answer for the teacher mode". I'd be really interested if students are more interested in the significant contribution, not yet really understanding the power of the constructive contribution. I think I'd have difficulty moving students to that level; although now that I've studied his model, I know I'd be more successful. And I have no doubts that Darren has all the skills needed to encourage students in this "risk taking". And I think this is how students view the opportunity at this point since they so rarely experience this kind of learning.

In an earlier post, Darren mentioned his hope students would see the power of collaborative learning. I think the technology of the wiki is perfect for that and should really move the students in that direction.

The editing of others work, in the search to make a Constructive Contribution, will require them to look at several different problems in this way. If nothing else, I hope they walk away from this experience with an appreciation of the powerful learning experiences inherent in collaboration.
Clarence adopted the model and found:

These categories of possible contribution seemed to be something that the kids could understand. It gave them a structure of how knowledge building happens, either in strides, or in the drips and drabs of improving what we already know.
This is really powerful pedagogy!!! I am so excited to learn of assessment AS learning AND to be on the sidelines watching something really special happen as kids take control of their own learning.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

National Board Certification

I've been reading the Edweek blog Certifiable since its inception with great interest. I was looking forward to seeing if the journey of a colleague might be similar in any way to mine. The blog description reads as follows:
Emmet Rosenfeld is an English teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. He has 13 years of experience as a teacher and writer. In this blog, he is chronicling his experiences as he works toward certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.
For the first weeks, there were numerous comments on his posts and reflections. Recently there have been few.

I remember my certification process as the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. I recall saying at different points that this is really about what they want and not how I teach. And I think in many ways it was. BUT, I learned an incredible amount about my practice during the process, perhaps because I saw that as one of my goals. I had a sense of my practice but hoped I could feel more validated. My reading of the standards really excited me. I saw myself; I saw areas in which I felt there was lots of room for improvement. Had I had those standards when I began my career I would have been a much better teacher much sooner and for much longer! From the portfolio entries, I looked for the first time systematically, analytically, and reflectively at my practice. I watched myself with young people on the videos. And I worked to improve the area of assessment; one for which I knew there was great room for improvement. I was extremely proud of my demonstration lesson, although never convinced that I would pass. My extraordinary mentor was a wonderful coach and I truly enjoyed the collaboration that NBPTS encourages among it candidates.

The assessment center exercises were challenging. I'm not a "high stakes testing" person. And I left feeling that what they would read didn't really let them know what I knew, that 3 hours of testing couldn't represent what I had learned over the course of many years of teaching.

The day the scores were posted late in November brought great joy to me. I had accomplished board certification, had scored well above the minimum required. I had completed a strenuous, rigorous process successfully. Tears of joy overflowed.

Since my retirement in July of 2004, I have ementored 3 teachers as they worked to achieve certification. Each of them has viewed the process as demanding, overwhelming, yet important to their practice.

I guess I am wondering if I really don't understand Emmet's humor and seeming sarcasm in his blog, or why then he is attempting what many teachers see as a special process to validate their accomplished teaching, since he views it with seeming disdain. And if it is his perspective on this process that has left him without commenters? I am finding his journey doesn't resemble mine at all-- and I am finding I'm losing interest except in how his readers respond to his writing.

I am glad that standards have been identified to help teachers improve their practice. I'm happy that a respected national certification is available to so many accomplished teachers! And I'm proud to be able to use the acronym NBCT.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

From the silence--

Many, many years ago a young girl with a traditional Protestant background (many hours of sermons, ministerial prayers and Sunday school experience under her belt) went away to a small Quaker College. Within the first month, there appeared on the dorm bulletin board an invitation to attend Quaker meetings on Sunday. As transportation to a church of her custom was unavailable, she crossed the threshold of the "Meeting House" one Sunday morning in search of --she wasn't sure. This environment featured no altar, no decoration, no lectern. Its stark, warm beauty--– simple wood benches arranged in a square (participants faced each other) and bare walls with large open windows--– signaled something different. She sat down in the quiet with others gathered there. The silence was deafening. After what seemed an eternity, one man rose to speak. The silence following seemed thunderous again. Some time later another rose and shared a personal experience. Again, silence. An hour and one half later, a gentleman arose and said Amen. The people in that meeting silently departed. The young girl, bewildered by the lack of sermon and direction usually provided in her tradition religious setting, left in a most unsettled state. And on the following Sunday was strangely drawn back to that Meeting House. With each comment shared, she began, without “seemingly” acknowledging the speaker, to construct a framework of knowledge and belief upon the scaffolding provided by others. With each successive Sunday, the deafening sound of silence gradually became sweet notes of quiet to her ears. One Sunday she rose to speak and upon her sitting and the silence, knew that she had experienced one small piece of true self-knowledge and revelation in that sharing and ensuing silence.

Today, that woman's hair is streaked with gray. She does continue to cherish opportunities for constructing knowledge upon the scaffolding provided by others. And so, after years of reading, print and edublogs, she enters the blogosphere. Treasuring the ideas of other edubloggers, and anticipating the learning that will ensue, she looks to blogging for those sweet notes of quiet and knowledge construction. As this leg of her journey begins, she wonders where the greatest power may be found-- in the development of conversations and community, or in the possibilities to make her thinking clearly visible to her.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Safe blogging resources

Again from Darren.

See the resources.

No one should allow fear to keep them and their students from blogging. The benefits of blogging far outweigh the sometimes perceived dangers.

Darren's Paying It Forward

Darren has a great post on Paying It Forward. It is a powerful voice for blogging in the classroom. I can't imagine anything more exciting than the student ownership of learning that is described here.

eTech 2006 Conference!

The conference was good! In particular, I really enjoyed the opportunities to listen to William Dagget, David Pogue, Alan November, and David Thornburg. I always come away inspired and this year was no different. I attended a few teacher sessions which were also good but hearing the ideas from the folks I mentioned is really important to me. I loved David Thornburg's comment on a pedagogy of joy. He is so right that we have lost this.

Anne's participation in the blogging workshop I conducted was really special. It's so much fun when the technology pretty much works well. Skype did everything it was supposed to. Blogger went quirky on us but I think the participants were really there for Blogmeister. Someday I will learn to do a better job planning so there isn't too much. I'll also make sure to interrupt those engaged to do a reflective wrap up. I feel badly we didn't get to that.

So on to thinking about next year!