Driving down the expressway this morning, I saw a sign that pulled me right out of that winter slump.
That’s right! Baseball is right around the corner and this baseball fanatic is renewed with such early signs.
However, I can’t help but shake my head at this year’s Cub ad campaign. It is obviously done from a symbolic frame so what is that saying to Cub fans?
Who cares about the game – call in sick and go frolic in a park fit for Heaven. Who cares about what the Cubs do – take that vacation and get a tan. Who cares that they’ve won 2 straight division titles, there has been huge disappointment in the playoffs, and the fans have huge expectations for a team that has mentally killed so many — get crazy and wild in the park without worry of someone knowing.
Maybe I’m just a little angry about the past 100+ years and that I expected intensity and I expected some thunder in the campaign, but it frustrating that the focus is on everything but the team.
However, I’ll say this about the campaign: it has me thinking about decisions that I make as an administrator. How many decisions do I make from a structural or human resource frame (the two I tend to focus on most) without taking into account the political and the symbolic (Bolman and Deal)?
When I look at the symbolic implications of that campaign, it shows the power of the symbolic frame and just how important it is to think about what people will interpret in decisions. For example, what can be interpreted from the design and creation of our March 2nd Mini-Conference? the student designed image? the sessions? the structure of the day? What is it saying to our educators?
Regardless of position, what do your decisions day symbolically? What do the images, banners, and other design factors say to your students when they enter your classroom? How about the structure of the room? What does it say? How about your office? Your door?
Sometimes we say a whole lot without saying much at all.
[Tags] bolmandeal, chicagocubs, gbconf09 [/Tags]
It is amazing what can be done when leaders tap the shoulders of professionals in the classroom to give them a greater responsibility and a stronger voice to encourage the personalization of learning opportunities designed as a community.
On March 2nd, this very thing, this empowerment is celebrated when our learning community engages in our 2nd Annual Teachers Teaching Teachers Mini-Conference, a day designed with elements of andragogy and professional development best practices*.
- Application and collective inquiry time
- Connected to practice and pedagogy
- Art and science of teaching
- Teacher Driven
- Learning not training focused
- Informal and formal
- Intensive, Challenging, and Thought-Provoking
As stated in Professional Learning in the Learning Profession, by the National Staff Development Council, “when well-designed, professional learning helps teachers master content, hone teaching skills, evaluate their own and their students’ performance, and address changes needed in teaching and learning in their school”.
I believe that is exactly what our teachers have done with this day.
However, these days are only successful if the community avoids making them fragmented moment in time and instead makes them a microcosm for a coherent, well-designed approach to sustained, ongoing learning for all in a transparent culture of innovation and change. And that really is the point of this post. What are we, as building leaders, doing to create this culture? What are we doing to avoid the “wasn’t that day great” mentality that paralyzes the community, culture, and learning? How are we leveraging the wealth of information in NSDC‘s Professional Learning in the Learning Profession report? How are we making sure our approach is not espoused theory but theory in use?
Sadly, professional development is often too much about getting it done NOT implementing, adjusting, changing, and sustaining. When it is looked at as certain days of the year and staff developers looked at those days as things to get done, we are failing to create the type of culture that can fundamentally shift teaching and learning.
As James Hunt states, “I know of no better way to transform the outmoded factory model of school organization and the egg-crate isolation of teachers than to give teachers the tools and support they need and greater responsibility over what happens in their buildings to ensure that all students achieve”. This questions drives my thinking in terms of how can I make what James Hunt said a reality for our teachers and our students because that is what they need, what they deserve
Thus, as I look to the arrival of this day, I’m not thinking about it being done, a moment checked off my to do list. I’m thinking about the effort of so many that went into designing this day. I’m thinking about the celebration that this day represents. I’m thinking about the energy and excitment that this day hopefully brings. But, most of all, I’m thinking in terms of the next 100 days and how we will extend the learning in breadth and depth, implement the proof of concepts in a systemic way, support the collaborative investigations with just-in time movements, sustain the energy to push forward for new heights during the Dip, and adjust the sails of our learning community in order to maintain a culture of change and innovation without restriction.
A big thank you to the technology advisors, teachers, Art 4 students, instructional technology department, and administrative team for all their work on this microcosm!
Hunt, J. (2009). Professional Learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. National Staff Development Council.
Hammond-Darling, L., R. Chung Wei, et al. (2009).Professional Learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. National Staff Development Council.
Image designed by Matt C., a Glenbrook North High School student, for the mini-conference.
*okay, maybe some are my own hypotheses that I hope my doctoral research will come to be known someday as best practices.
[Tags] professionaldevelopment, gbconf09 [/Tags]
It has been nearly three years since I last took a vacation. As an educator and a net gen., I tend to mix work with play and see little separation between the two.
This year, my family said I needed a vacation to “just disconnect a bit” so they plotted a course for Marco Island.
Reluctantly, I agreed.
So, here I am at Marco Island with my beautiful family…
Yes, sick. It isn’t bad and I’m doing everything that I would have done if I was healthy — just a little less energy. But, it surely is a sign. When I finally get a chance to disconnect and just live, my body shows just how worn down I was over the past few months not to mention I literally made myself sick about taking two days off work.
The bottom line is that I wonder how much better life would be if people like me did disconnect a bit more? How much more productive would we be if we did see separation and sought balance?
For as much as I thought I was living the good life, I wonder if I have any clue of what that really means:
What does it really mean to live the good life and am I living it? It is a question I think I’ll find myself pondering a lot more.
[/Tags] goodlife, marcoisland [/Tags]
I’m always excited when I have the opportunity to sit down and just listen to students discuss education. It is clear that they simply get it and should be a critical resource in the improvement of the educational environment.
Today, I had one of those great opportunities to facilitate a discussion with a cross-section of the student body that focused on two questions: what does it mean to be well-educated in the 21st Century and therefore, what should teaching and learning look like in the 21st Century to help develop said person.
While I’m still ruminating on the student discussion, a few things stand out in their thinking as illustrated below:
Learning – Something – Learning
First and foremost, the students wanted to talk about learning. In fact, each discussion point started and ended with the focus on learning. For example, the students talked about creating a learning environment that was about learning not just memorization. To do this, they wanted to seek out partnerships both locally and globally in order to build connections that would foster a “learning to learn” movement where students are learning for learning, open to learning, and innovative.
Current and Diverse Curriculum
Central to this discussion about learning was the curriculum. For them, there was a strong desire to get and remain current with the curriculum materials while also making sure it is coming from diverse perspectives. Clearly, textbooks were not fast enough nor diverse enough in their eyes. They longed for ways to interact with materials that were updated frequently and offered a wealth of perspectives.
In fact, a good portion felt there was a need to move beyond the textbook because “information changes to rapidly” for textbooks to be the main source in the classroom. Along with this, information and resources needed to come in a variety of formats if the curriculum was going to remain progressive and current: narrative, fiction, digital, multimedia, and non-fiction.
It was also important to have a diverse curriculum that crossed content boundaries. This led to many speaking about the value of making global connections, interacting with professionals (biologists, authors, etc), and breaking down the walls of the classroom.
Students as Pre-Professionals
Finally, it was clear that students that when discussing learning, the concept of teaching and learning in the 21st Century should focus on students as pre-professionals. To do this, the classroom needed to focus on inquiry and problem-base learning, real world experiences, research opportunities, and field work. As well, the experiences should engage them with challenges that force student application, creativity, and critical thinking.
In fact, the idea of students engaging as professionals in training was a definite theme of this discussion as they discussed hands-on field experience that engaged them in first hand exposure.
Where is all the technology?
The concept of technology was really an after thought, it seemed, for many of them. This wasn’t because it lacked importance but a belief, when asked, that technology was basically a given. In other words, technology was a key part for making all of the above happen but it was something they wanted to be transparent within the classroom, a multi-dimensional learning space they wanted to be 24/7/7.
Through connective technologies and participatory media, students as pre-professionals, a current and diverse curriculum, and learning could occur to create a well-educated person capable of success in the 21st Century. However, it was made clear with plenty of agreement that technology alone will do very little and that it should never be the only thing, done for its own sake.
Days like this remind me of just how blessed and fortunate we are to be educators! Days like this remind me that to continue creating the types of learners that will be successful, we must think past yesterday and beyond today by leveraging the voices of students!
After all, the focus remains on creating PASSIONATE learners and individuals that are capable of reaching their potential. And, when you have conversations and discussions with students, you realize just important it is to have that focus.
So I ask you when the last time you engaged your students in these conversations? What are they saying? Is it similar? different? What do we do with their voices, their ideas?
This is not meant to sound arrogant or abrasive. It is merely a rant after hearing something a wee bit frustrating today.
Basically, I had a conversation with a colleague that sat in a presentation on web 2.0 that basically went over tool after tool (honestly… not the subject of my rant) before moving to blogging for a whopping 3 MINUTES!
Now, I wasn’t there so it is always risky to jump into a rant from second hand information, but I’m going to anyways simply because I’m sure that even if this didn’t happen as told, it has happened in some form or fashion with someone.
Apparently, this expert presenter spent time discussing just how easy it is to setup a blog and get started in the classroom. There was no talk about anything other than what could have been given in a handout with screen shots and step by step directions — you know, the trainer model that has gotten so many, so little.
Granted, setting up a blog and understanding where to write a post takes little more than 3 minutes, the “selling” of blogging as easy is a disservice and doing NOTHING but setting some, maybe even many, teachers up for failure.
In fact, I would say this is just poor judgment by the presenter and even lacks professionalism.
I guess this is just another sign of the need for educators to be openly critical of ideas and challenge everything instead of just following the trumpets.
Maybe I’m wrong…
Budget time is here for many schools around the United States and in these trying times, there are sure to be more questions and challenges to technology requests than in recent memory.
As we begin these budget discussions, we need to take on this question, that is often never addressed, with full force: is technology essential or a luxury?
How will you address this sometimes hidden question especially if the budget is cut? If people answer luxury, how will you respond? How will you help others to begin shifting their thinking away from technology as a luxury to technology as an essential curriculum and instruction piece?
My Rough Discussion Starters
If we continue to see technology as a luxury, we will continue to use money as the reason for not moving forward because luxuries have a tendency to drop to the bottom of the priority list especially during these trying times.
If we continue to answer this question with the focus on technology as technology, we will continue to see technology budgets slashed because it isn’t being addressed as the essential curriculum and instruction piece that it should be viewed.
If we continue to spend money on hardware and software the same way, we will continue to get the same results.
If we continue to see ubiquitous, just-in time access to computers as a luxury, we will continue to create labs that afford little opportunity for systemic use of technology, we will continue to grow frustrated with the lack of technology immersion in most classrooms (leading to transparent use), and, thus, we will have every excuses for not taking creating and responsible steps for ensuring computer access for all.
If we continue to find every reason not to provide the best learning environment for our students possible, we will continue to see learning as a luxury not as essential.
[Tags] budget, edtech [/Tags]
I’m one that believes teachers should be actively engaged in most of the things they bring into the classroom especially when it comes to various pieces of participatory media. For example, I tend to see blogging as critical for teachers to be actively engaged with if they are to expect their students to do it.
At Educon this past weekend, the concept of whether or not a teacher needs to blog before having students blog was a point of discussion that had many different perspectives all valid. Since I’ve previously articulated my points on this topic, I’ll avoid rehashing these here but instead address one comment that struck me the moment it was said from a virtual guest (not sure who so please let me know if it is you) Vinny Vrotny that asked rhetorically something along these lines:
“Does a flight controller need to be a pilot to land planes or does a sports radio host need to play sports to discuss sports?”
Okay, I’ve heard these sorts of arguments on various subjects and while I would say the context is a bit different, I couldn’t help but want to respond to this point so here goes.
No, you don’t have to. Obviously, there are many who are quite successful at their job. However, these people have studied long and hard to understand their craft. They didn’t attend a conference on “Landing Planes in the 21st Century” or “Promoting Conversations on Meaningless Sports Topics as a Sports Radio Host” before deciding to land planes or host a radio show. They didn’t read an article and jump right into it.
So, let’s return to the question using this argument. It would say that even though teachers don’t necessarily have to blog before getting their students to blog, they must understand it both in breadth and depth through careful study, observation, and engagement (reading and commenting).
This is a great conversation and one that should be openly discussed. Again, I believe teachers should be blogging or at least have explored (and continue to explore) it broadly and deeply before having their students blogging. At the very least, teachers should begin the process with students and learn together. IMHO, there simply is no excuse for students to be blogging and teachers to not be engaged in some form.
That is just me though and I’m very open to the other perspectives that are out there on this topic.
[Tags] participatorymedia, blogging, web 2.0, modeling [/Tags]
Research is clear about the impact on student learning for a class with a great teacher vs. an average to below average one. While seemingly a no brainer, what is not exactly clear is how all schools can attain and retain the best possible teachers: higher standards, better pay, enhanced pre-service programs, mentor programs, growth models, or a host of other possibilities?
While I tend to think it is a combination of changes, I also don’t pretend to know for sure what is needed to enhance the quality of the teacher pool. However, I found myself pondering whether or not the 10,000 Hour Rule that Gladwell paid considerable attention to in his book Outliers sheds potential light on this subject.
In its simplest form, Gladwell notes that in his research there needs to be roughly 10,000 hours of practice before a person reaches a state where they are truly excelling at their craft: “The ideas that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” (Gladwell, 2008, p.40).
If Gladwell’s claim, as well as numerous researchers, is true, what does this mean for the teaching profession?
For me, it raised a number of questions that continue to be on my mind for which I don’t have the exact answer. Among many others, here are just a few:
- Are we providing the quantity and quality of opportunities needed for teachers to hone their craft?
- How do we leverage this “magic number” in our pre-service programs as well as during the initial years in the field?
- Is it a mistake to consider the school day, part or whole, as practice if there is little support? In other words, a teacher simply doing the wrong thing over and over again is not going to make them excellent at their craft no matter how many hours are put into it.
- Is there a need for an apprentice model such as the one seemingly proposed in Gladwell’s article “Most Likely to Succeed”?
- Do we need better indicators and judges of talent not just expertise?
- Do we really know what constitutes an expert teacher or is it something we just know when we see it?
- Most importantly, are we passing judgment on teachers too quickly and perhaps expecting expertise too soon?
The last question is one that I continue to ponder especially when numbers are broken down by weeks in a school year and the number of quality practice hours per week*:
Let’s assume that many schools give teachers two years to show they have talent and then an additional two before tenure is offered, the breakdown of hours is incredibly interesting. This means that the initial two-year judgment of a teacher is passed after little more than a ¼ of the magic number is reached. And, tenure is judged based on a little more than ½ of the magic number reached.
In many ways, it makes the startling statistics about teacher retention understandable as we seem to pass judgment on teachers way too early and in such a manner that has major implications for their future in the profession.
Most importantly, in thinking about current teacher evaluations as well as teacher preparation programs, I wonder if Gladwell’s discussion of the 10,000 hour rule can shed any light on ways to improve how we prepare, attain, and retain quality teachers.
*Obviously, these numbers do not reflect pre-service hours nor do they reflect what many teachers surely commit to in terms of hours of practice on their craft per week. However, it is worth noting that I believe Gladwell and others that are proponents of the 10,000 hour rule speak of practice in terms of work that directly improves performance: “before [Bill Joy] could become an expert, someone had to give him the opportunity to learn how to be an expert” (Gladwell, 2008, p.46). Thus, 40 hours seemed like a nice guestimate for this little breakdown.
I have to admit that I struggle to grasp why we educators do certain things. One of those struggles is the way we approach “blogging” in the classroom so I’m hoping someone could shed light on this topic.
What are your favorite blogs? You know, the ones that you actually look forward to the next post. What are the qualities that make these blogs that draw you in and keep you coming back for more? I’m willing to bet that our qualities are similar: unique delivery, engaging, relevant, etc.
Since many of us can agree on those qualities and “get” what makes a blog worthwhile, why do many of us fail to use these as models when asking students to blog?
When I look at a large percentage of blogs in K-12, I see much of what we love and enjoy about blogs sucked away. I see us killing the power of blogging for students.
Whether blogging has become merely a discussion forum, prompted writing, storage area, etc., the draw and energy of the blogs we read are missing in the ones done by students AND NOT BECAUSE OF THE STUDENTS.
Part of me believes we want to retrofit everything into what we know in a square peg in a round hole sort of way and we fail to use great blogs as models for teaching students when creating and sustaining their blogs.
What makes us want to make everything fit into our preconceived notions of school assignments and activities? Why do we value and appreciate the great blogs that are out there BUT FAIL TO USE THOSE AS MODELS for students and their blogs? Why do we use models so far removed from what we consider powerful?
This is not to say that every teacher is intentionally doing this but the reality is that it is happening.
I get that not all students will be writing at the level of the blogs we read but that isn’t what I’m referencing when I say use those as models. I mean modeling the qualities that draw us time and time again to blogs.
Again, I’m struggling here and trying to work through why we “make everything school worthy” and in this case, blogging. What is interesting to me is that most of us, I assume, would not want to read these types of blogs and that is the rub.
[Tags] education, school, blogging [/Tags]