Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Don't Kick the Can on Innovation: Why "Preparing Kids for Higher Ed" Doesn't Work

I'll admit it. I have really crazy ideas sometimes. When it comes to creating authentic learning experiences for kids, I'll try just about anything. Whether it's running a dry cleaning business, creating a catering company, or improving the way FEMA delivers flood relief, nothing is off limits.

However, I'm frequently confronted with resistance to these large, meaningful projects. And the resistance doesn't come from kids. Instead, it comes from adults.

The line goes something like this --
"We have to prepare them for college. If they don't learn how to write essays, how will they survive?"

But, new research from the Gallup Purdue Index Report shows that all those essays aren't exactly working. After studying more than 30,000 college graduates across the U.S., the report found that there were factors related to deep learning that were also predictors of workplace engagement and career success. However, most colleges aren't doing a great job of providing those experiences.

Consider the chart below:

Only 6% of all the college graduates had long projects, internships, and extracurriculars?


Given that those three factors are directly related to workplace engagement and career success, I'd say that "preparing kids for college" may not cut it.

So, let's stop preparing kids for college. Let's prepare kids for life. And, that just might require some crazy ideas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why We Attend Edcamp

Note: This is cross posted at www.edcamp.org and cowritten by 2 fabulous ladies.....

Edcamp Philly 2014
Photo From Kevin Jarrett

We Edcamp because…
-we are learners first, teachers second.
-we care about kids.
-we embrace a growth mindset, and we want to model this for our students.
-we know adults need social learning.
-we believe educators are the best change agents for schools.
-we are empowered.

We Edcamp because we are learners first, teachers second.
Remember the first time you saw a child “get it?” That “a-ha” moment is a prized possession for every teacher. You know, that moment when a student finds his/her passion, hooks on to an enlightening idea, or engages in a topic with such astute critical thinking that he/she becomes an expert.

For Edcamp organizers, this is the same way we feel when we meet teachers excited by an Edcamp for the first time. In 2010, the “a-ha” moment arrived when educators realized that, much like students, we can take ownership of our own professional learning. The Edcamp “a-ha” has been repeated over 550 times in dozens of countries.

We Edcamp because we care about kids.
The world is changing. Fast. Learning used to be isolated and linear. Today, however, modern technology has fashioned a learning environment with boundless access to information and people. In short, learning has become connected. The ways that we were taught (way back when) won’t cut it for our kids.

We care about kids and know learning has to change for them. Edcamps help us to discuss the shifts that are needed, experiment alongside other practitioners, and share stories of best practice.

We Edcamp because we embrace a growth mindset.
Learning is never finished. Edcamps allow us to find other like-minded educators to build lifelong learning communities. Edcamp helps educators feel that they are not alone in the journey of teaching. Through edcamps, we find educators igniting their passion, finding enlightening ideas, and engaging in topics as the experts they are. There’s always more to learn and more to improve.

We Edcamp because we know adults need social learning.
We learn better together. The strong bonds that form at an Edcamp continue through many different venues, both face-to-face and online. Twitter chats and blog posts all document the “long tail” learning sparked by Edcamp events. Often, Edcamp events are the beginning of both the friendship and the conversation. We consider our fellow Edcampers our friends.

We Edcamp because we believe educators are the best change agents for schools.
The growth of edcamp has been, in our opinions, astounding! But the expanding numbers aren’t necessarily something to cheer about. While it is amazing to see a network of educators interested in taking charge of their personal learning, the growth is also indicative of the need to “disrupt” the current system of professional development. Open registration for all provides for partnerships and collaboration that would not exist in singular district or school-based professional development. The blank schedule board allows for relevant topics and ideas to surface for the day’s conversation. The law of two feet gives educators the power to determine what meets their learning needs for the day. The current system of professional development still applaudes “sitting and getting.” Sitting and getting information and credits, all of which are determined by the standards of someone else. Teachers are clearly hungry for more, and as a result we should use edcamps as a vehicle for more. Educators must be change agents. Edcamps are a vehicle for that change. It’s intrinsic.

We Edcamp because we are empowered.
Edcamps empower educators to be both learners and experts. They encourage them to take control of their situation and improve their practice. They put kids and teachers first, not sponsors or credits or any other extrinsic reward.

Edcamps are about learning for learning’s sake. That’s the magic. Edcamp empowers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Carts Don't Cut It (and other findings from Linda Darling Hammond)

Broken Lock by lyudagreen, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  lyudagreen 

Every so often, I'm asked: CARTS or 1:1? And while we all agree that having technology in the classroom is a prerequisite for authentic work, it's less likely that we agree how it should look.

For me, I've always seen a cart of devices as something that is controlled by the teacher. The teacher determines when and how the devices are used. Commonly, there's a lock on the cart that the teacher has access to.

Imagine that - a lock on learning.

That's why carts don't cut it.

We live in a world with boundless access to content and people. Attempting to control learners is future. We must lead and learn alongside them. We must question and probe with them. We need to stop trying to remove the messiness that exists within the learning experience.

Further, new research is showing that access to a personal device creates better outcomes for kids. A report authored by Linda Darling Hammond, Molly Zielezinski, and Shelley Goldman cites that the most successful implementations and learning experiences required 1:1 access. 

Consider this quote from the report:
"When students were given 1:1 laptop access as well as access to the internet at schools, they made use of this opportunity at least several times a week, for purposes ranging from seeking background knowledge, facilitating 'just in time' learning, and supporting research projects. In addition to the work students were doing in math, the researchers noted that 1:1 laptop implementation increased students' likelihood to engage in the writing process, practice in-depth research skills, and develop multimedia skills through 'interpretation and production of knowledge.'
It's a new world, and the learners are in control. 1:1 computing supports learner empowerment and represents a preferential learning environment.

So, the jury isn't out anymore. When it comes to the question CARTS or 1:1, we should move towards 1:1 implementations.

It's well worth your time to check out the entire report by Linda Darling Hammond and her colleagues here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Help Us Get Funding for #Edcamp in a Box

Teach to Lead, a program designed to empower educators, is off and running.

Of course, I am always excited when I see people kickoff programs designed to empower educators. One of the coolest elements of the program is a site where you can post your idea to empower educators and have others in the community vote on the idea. Ideas at the top will receive support from the USDOED. Cool, huh?

So, of course, there's a submission in there from the Edcamp Foundation: Edcamp in a Box.

Here's the general idea:

Please vote for us or submit your own idea! See you on the other side!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Sharing Your Good Work Is Necessary, Not Boastful

Megaphone man at the Metro 4 by Hazzat, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
   by  Hazzat 

Just last week, I have having a conversation with two educators at a family picnic. They were a thoughtful pair, and they had a wonderful grasp of teaching and learning.

About halfway through the conversation, I asked them the following question:
"Have you ever considered your sharing your good work on Twitter or social media?"

I thought the question was relatively innocuous as both of them had checked Facebook or Instagram throughout our chat. However, their responses were really interesting. They both turned to me and said, "We don't do that." When probed, they explained that they felt that it was boastful to show your professional accomplishments on social media.

Their words caused me to stop and refelct. If we're not sharing the good things we're doing in our classrooms on social media (and beyond), I believe we're going to end up with a lot of misperceptions and confused educational stakeholders.

Enter the 2014 Gallup Poll.

The Gallup Poll is an annual tool that seeks to understand the general opinions and feelings of the public in the United States with regards to education. However, it also asks lots of questions that help us see the general confusion that exists about most educational policy in our nation. Some facts from the poll:

  • 48% of respondents incorrectly believe that charter schools are not public schools.
  • 50% of Americans give local schools grades of A or B, even though they believe that the national system is performing much worse.
  • Only 24% of public school parents have heard "a great deal" about the Common Core Standards.
I think it's clear that there is a lot of confusion out there, regardless of topic. I also believe that there are many competing voices from politicians, thought leaders, and others.

However, it's critical that we add our voices, the voices of educators, to the conversation. Whether you use social media or not, share your good work. Share the progress your learners are making. BRAG. If you don't do it, no one will!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

#EdcampOnline Is Back!

October is right around the corner....

And that means it's almost Connected Educator Month!

To help educators debrief and reflect on that learning, the Edcamp Foundation has teamed up with MIT Media Lab and the National Writing Project to offer the 2nd Annual #Edcamp Online.

The software, called "unhangouts," leverages Google Hangouts but adds special functionality so that we can truly simulate the Edcamp experience in an online space.

Mark your calendars for October 25, 2014 from 12:30pmEDT-2:30pmEDT and REGISTER HERE!

See you online!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Designing PD this year? 3 Things You Can't Afford to Forget

As the school year gets off to a running start, stressors are everywhere. Even things that delight us (Back to School Night, First Day of School, Fall Fun, etc, etc, etc), add extra things to our plates and change our routines.

How we cope with this stress often defines two things:

1) Who we are as people

2) The capacity we have to innovate personally and professionally

And while these two things may not seem related on the surface, every successful innovation usually relies on a set of connections and personal networks that inspire, push, and scale our craziest ideas.

So, if we plan to innovate this year, we need a lot more than good PD. We also need strategies for coping with stressors. Not only will this keep us all healthier, but it will also free us up to take risks in all aspects of our lives. Consider this chart published by NPR from the Harvard School of Public Health:

WOW! Social interactions are the most effective method of reducing stress! This study serves to remind us that designing social interactions around transformative change can serve to reduce the impact of the stressors surrounding the learning, risks, and innovation.

So, as we prepare to design learning experiences and implement change in our schools, what should we do?

1) Make sure that every learning experience has a social element. 
Don't just ask staff to read a book or journal article. Host an informal book club with casual conversation, snacks, and new faces. This will provide people with new ideas as well as increase their retention of the ideas. If a face-to-face meeting isn't possible, try VOXER to bridge the gap between learning and social conversation.

2) Acknowledge and value social connections that teachers make beyond your PD.
Are your teachers connecting with other educators at social events? conferences? Edcamps? If so, acknowledge this behavior as one that creates a well-rounded, productive learner. Share information about social meet-ups for teachers in your area and model this practice yourself.

3)  Explicitly share the purpose underlying your social designs.
Sometimes, educators will balk at social learning activities. (Why do we have to do this? Can't I just go back and work in my classroom? etc etc etc) Make it very clear to all the members of the learning community that social activities reduce stress and make us all better prepared to serve our students. I've never met an educator that said they didn't want to help kids. By explaining that taking better care of yourself makes you better able to help kids, you build a strong argument for your methods!

I'd love to hear what you're doing this year to navigate the stressors of change by using social design!



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