Author Archives: chargers93

Need a “Pep Talk”?

I came across this video posted by SoulPancake (Rainn Wilson) and love it! Some important take-aways:

1. Don’t be boring. Boring is easy, everybody can be boring.
2. If life is a game, aren’t we all on the same team?
3. Take the path that leads to awesome, not the road most traveled. (Even if it leaves you saying, “Not cool, Robert Frost!”)
4. What if MJ had quit? There would be no Space Jam. What will be your Space Jam? Don’t stop believing.
5. We got work to do…are we gonna cry about it or we gonna dance about it?

“CREATE SOMETHING THAT WILL MAKE THE WORLD AWESOME.” ~ Kid President

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Love Learning, Yet Hate School?

This morning, in an email from TIE, I received a link from Greg Limperis to watch a viral video related to education. The title caught my attention…Why I Hate School But Love Education. I was hooked…had to watch. You should too…

Now, I should mention that I’m currently reading Tony Wagner’s latest book, Creating Innovators. I’m only a chapter or two in, but something clicked as I watched Suli Breaks‘ video sermon about re-envisioning the role of school in education. No, I wasn’t thinking that schools are no longer needed just because a handful of famous, wealthy, successful people didn’t stay in school (and I don’t think that was ultimately his point). Rather, schools are at risk of failing to serve students who want a more meaningful learning experience (which reminds me of Dan Brown’s An Open Letter to Educators video rant back in 2010). Could schools actually be on their way to earning a failing grade in their own course, Education 101?

We must evolve our approach to teaching and learning. If we don’t, schools WILL become obsolete. It’s NOT good enough to hand our students a laptop or an iPad and proclaim, “There, now we’re 21st century school.” It’s about changing the fundamental way in which our schools and classrooms operate to best serve the needs of the modern day student. We have to make a shift from a pedagogy founded on  knowledge-delivery to one that promotes creativity, innovation, and differentiation.

Suli makes this point with prose that brings words to life…true “education” is education that is meaningful to it’s possessor. Picasso learned the art of, well, art. Shakespeare mastered the art of words and Colonel Sanders perfected the art of fried chicken. Each did it their OWN way, not one that was prescribed in a school’s curriculum. As Suli vividly describes in my favorite example of his about passion-based learning, Beckham didn’t learn to “bend it” (a penalty kick) at Chingford Foundation School. In fact, David once said,

At school whenever the teachers asked, ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’ I’d say, ‘I want to be a footballer.’ And they’d say, ‘No, what do you really want to do, for a job?’ But that was the only thing I ever wanted to do.

So he did. Beckham bends it with such skill and precision, not because Chingford Foundation School successfully coaches all their kids to do so, but because he had a passion for the sport that drove him to study and perfect the art of penalty kicking. Imagine how scary he would be on the pitch had his teachers fully accepted and promoted his passion for soccer as a career!

Ultimately, schools must learn to inspire and promote our students’ inherent passion for authentic, meaningful, and individualized learning. After all, our future depends upon it.

What are your thoughts about Suli’s video? How can we shift our approach as a school to provide a more relevant and authentic experience? Please share your thoughts.

The Bully Project: What’s the Solution?

13 million kids will be bullied in the U.S. this year. That’s the problem. What’s the solution?

Recently, I was blessed to attend a private screening of the new documentary Bully, arranged by my school as part of a professional day. The movie is a powerful and emotional portrayal of one of America’s biggest social problems – and probably the most significant issue faced by American schools today. On a side note, I thought the cinematography and film editing were phenomenal. Lee Hirsch has outdone himself on this documentary. But I digress…

The problem is obvious. The most profound observation I am left with following the movie is a question of solution fluency; that is, how do we solve the problem?

Traditionally, bullying is viewed as an act of agression and the focus is on punishing or rehabilitating the bully to protect the victim. However, this movie illustrates the global nature of this problem across several demographics. Bullying isn’t just about the bully. It’s also about the victim. It’s about witnesses. It’s about parents. It’s about teachers. It’s about administrators. It’s about law enforcement. It’s about politicians.

Why haven’t any of these groups found a solution to this insidious social problem? I think the answer lies within another fluency…collaboration. There is no one person or group that can solve this problem. We have to work together to put an end to this. It’s about us. Teamwork will lead us to the solution.

Please, comment and share your thoughts on the movie and the issue.

Deprogramming Students for 21CL

“Just give me the answers.”

“Why won’t you help me? You’re the teacher.”

“This project is going to take FOR…EVER. Ugh.”

“You mean I actually have to think on this assignment?!?”

Ever heard one these grumblings from one of your students? Believe it or not, it’s a good thing. It means your learning environment is transitioning. Our students are programmed to succeed in the traditional educational system. They want to continue to use BASIC while the world now requires them to know Objective C.

FACT: The recent shift to 21st century learning – promotion of skills like creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, curation, and innovation – is just as difficult for students to embrace as it is for teachers. Shocked?

Our kids are accustomed to the age-old game of content acquisition (passive learning) and testing (regurgitation). And many have gotten downright amazing at it. You know them. They’re typically your honor students. The ones who breeze through the homework and ace all your tests. They average a 98% or better in your class. And they’ve found a nice, warm, cozy niche in your educational environment. The problem is that information, once scarce, is now abundant and instantly available in today’s world.

So now, you’re challenging them to move. You’re asking them to take knowledge  and do something with it (other than just spew it back to you). You’re asking them to design. Create. Innovate. Share. Debate. Present. Choose. Imply. Ask questions. Manipulate the content – and do so in a team with others.

It’s not going to be an easy adjustment for some of them. And, as teachers, we must understand the challenge involved in figuring out the rules of this new game – 21CL. So, what can we do to help our students then?

Have you encountered student resistance to 21CL activities in your classroom? How have you handled it? Found anything that works? Share your experiences with the E21 blog community. Comment on this post.

We have to “deprogram” our students by increasing the 21CL opportunities. We have to talk with them about the fact that the game is changing. Discuss the new “rules” when you implement a PBL unit. Explain that it may seem at times like you’re not teaching them, but that’s because you want them to learn. The active process is now theirs, not yours. It’s because you want them to take ownership of their own learning. Assure them that you are not abandoning them – and they can call on you for help and guidance as they explore. Expect mistakes along the way…and encourage your students to learn from failure. You are their 21st Century Tour Guide.

Failure is okay. Some of the world’s most successful people failed miserably while learning to succeed. Remind your students that they fail time and time again playing video games.

And yet, in the end, they always save the world.

RIP, Textbook O. Mine…

I can see it now. The tombstone will read:

Here lies an ol’ pal, Textbook O. Mine.
Since the 1800’s he worked mighty fine,
but the iPad is here so now we do fear
that he’s reached the end of his line.

College students agreed (see the recent Pearson Foundation study). Almost two-thirds of them believe that tablet devices, like the iPad, will replace the printed textbook in…get this…five years. That’s 2017. This survey produced several more astounding statistics:

  • 1 out of 4 college students in 2012 owns an iPad or similar tablet device; up from 7% a year ago.
  • 17% of high school seniors own an iPad in 2012; quadruple the 2011 figure of 4% ownership.
  • 63% of college – and 69% of high school – students believe that tablet devices will replace textbooks by 2017.
  • 36% of college – and 25% of high school – students plan to buy a tablet device in the next 6 months.
  • 63% of college students are considering the Apple iPad, compared to 26% Kindle Fire and 17% Samsung Galaxy Tab.
  • 70% of college students have used a digital textbook.
  • 58% prefer a digital textbook to a print version; a switch from last year where the same percentage preferred print.
  • According to the survey, the above statistic holds true for high school seniors as well.
  • 90% believe that tablets are a valuable tool in the educational experience.

What do you think about the battle that appears to be imminent between digital and print textbooks? Cast a vote and/or leave an expanded comment below. We want to know what you think.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Bob Pearlman on PBL

Bus driver…move…THAT…(school) bus!!!

And reveal the new learning environment of the 21st Century. Is it time for an Extreme Makeover: School Edition? I think so. And so does Bob Pearlman, nationally renowned educational reform consultant.

An example of “connected learning” (see my previous post), this topic is relevant on several levels for me right now. You see, Pearlman is going to speak at Heritage Hall in April regarding project-based learning (I absolutely can’t wait!). I am currently in the midst of dreaming and blueprinting a redesign of our Upper School computer lab. To top it all off, our E21 Team is thrilled about our upcoming road trip to see one of the premier examples of 21st century learning environment (21CLE) in our region – New Tech High at Coppell, Texas.

We all know that students learn best when they are engaged and allowed to do most of the learning on their own. Research has proven such about this generation of students. So what is the best way to accomplish this phenomenon? The successful formula seems to be:  PBL based pedagogy + 21CL environment + performance assessment = meaningful, connected learning.

Pearlman cites a Buck Institute of Education definition of PBL:

PBL is a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.

Sounds intense, doesn’t it? It is. According to Pearlman, PBL activities at New Tech schools usually last 1-3 weeks long. Examples include presenting a plan to Congress solving the oil crisis and inventing a sport that astronauts can play on the moon so they can get exercise. Students usually receive a rubric up front, so they know what amount of work will be required to achieve basic, proficient, or advanced scores.

Here’s an idea I absolutely love…when students finish a PBL unit of study, they present to an external audience. That could mean community experts, parents, Board members, other teachers, peers outside of their own class, or more. And students self-evaluate throughout the project and write a summative reflection on what they learned and how the project can be improved. And, in the spirit of 21CL, why not share with a global audience…online?!? This could be done with a partner classroom, or simply through a blog or Wiki open to the world.

So what about changes to the physical environment? 21CLE’s are large open spaces with mobile furniture. Every student has access to a computer. Tables or desks can be easily moved together for collaboration or “break-out” sessions structured around student “need to knows.” Many 21CLE’s use glass walls or windows to make learning transparent to all students and visiting adults.

The best 21st century schools provide every student with a computer, which increasingly means a laptop in a wireless environment. [Bob Pearlman]

But it’s not just about the technology. It’s the pedagogy behind technology that makes for successful learning in a 21CLE. Students use the laptop to conduct Internet research, Skype with experts, work collaboratively outside of school to construct products of learning (i.e. videos, podcasts, websites), and utilize technology to present their findings. In other words, according to Pearlman, “Students utilize all these [digital] tools to be investigators and producers of knowledge.”

At New Tech High in Coppell the school has adopted new language to refer to students and teachers. They have become “learners” and “facilitators,” respectively. Pearlman goes on to describe the physical landscape of NTH@C, both in the classroom and in hallways & common areas. Because our E21 team will be visiting NTH@C in early April, I will save discussion on these revelations for a future blog post. For now, check out these links to five schools ID’d by Pearlman as “the best of the new learning environments:”

Columbus Signature Academy (Columbus, Indiana)
New Tech High @ Coppell (Coppell, Texas)
The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (Providence, Rhode Island)
High Tech High (San Diego, California)
New Line Learning Academy (Kent, England)

The bottom line: These findings, yet again, suggest that our E21 mission is true. We are on the eve of implementing at a 1:1 laptop program – not based on simply dropping in technology, but based on years of our own research about 1:1 and 21CL. Our program is founded on technology rooted in tried and true pedagogy. By moving forward, we further enable our students to go beyond passive consumption of information and actively CREATE their own knowledge and experience true lifelong learning.

And that is what it’s all about, friends.

Teaching on a “Need to Know” Basis?

Below is an interesting video about how “Connected Learning” is causing a shift in education. It was put together by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, which can be followed on Twitter @DMLCentral. Underneath are some highlights and my reflections. See if you agree…

Material and pace are clearly dictating our nation’s current systematic approach to education. It’s more important to cover as much content in as little amount of time as possible. This inch-deep, mile-wide approach is hurting our kids; we’ve got to allow them to explore learning on a deeper level. I feel so blessed to work at a school that recognizes – and always has – that learning isn’t just about content acquisition.

According to the DML experts in this video, we can do this by starting all learning initiatives in class with an emotional, intellectual, or identity question that inspires a true “need to know” in our students. This kind of approach will not only lead to increased retention of relevant knowledge, but also promotes a passion for learning, in general, among our kids.

Who contributes…and who is ultimately responsible for helping young people survive and thrive and grow up to be curious, engaged citizens?
[Katie Salen, DePaul University Professor]

Education is no longer solely the job of the school. It is a community endeavor; we must all embrace learning together. Schools do not wield knowledge and control learning. By doing so, we instill a notion in our students that learning is a one-time thing that spans 14 years and then you graduate. Learning is, in fact, forever. Let us inspire our students to become self-motivated, lifelong learners.

How can we use these resources to bring people together who want to learn together – and not the model of how can we deliver content more effectively from a single source to many listeners?
[Mimo Ito, Cultural Anthropologist]

The central principle, according to DML, of 21st century learning is CONNECTEDNESS. This ties directly into the modern ideal of open knowledge. “It’s about expertise that’s widely distributed in our society culture…the fact that anybody can help somebody get better at something,” says Ito. Connected learning is a work in progress…and will always be such.

At HH, we are clearly already on the right path…let us stay the course…and help our students reap the rewards of connected learning.

Make them need to know.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Teach Less, Learn More

I know, this blog is turning into the “Rethinking How Students Learn” blog lately. My apologies, but I like reflecting on what I’m reading and I hope you’re enjoying reading the posts. By all means, don’t be passive; chime in with some comments if you please.

The country of Singapore has undertaken a massive initiative, with four key “visions,” that will help them take education to the next level – “21st century learning.” They are:

  1. Thinking Schools, Learning Nation.
  2. Teach Less, Learn More.
  3. Tight, Loose, Tight.
  4. Professional Learning Communities (as discussed in my last post)

“Thinking Schools, Learning Nation” is about fostering in students a core set of life skills (thinking, creating, problem solving, collaboration, wonderment, tolerance for ambiguity, and persistence). “Wonderment” and “tolerance for ambiguity” are two characteristics not often included in 21st century skills, but I find them intriguing – and may just have to revisit them in a future post!

The “Teach Less, Learn More” is closely related to the first vision and promotes “teaching in ways that help students learn without being taught.” It seems paradoxical at first glance; how will my students learn if I don’t teach them? The truth is, when we provide students an essential question and allow them to explore the potential answers, we are building in them skills that will make them lifelong learners. As stated in the book:

The change process is about evolutionary thinking, not revolutionary thinking, and it all begins with critical collaborative conversations. While their system has traditionally compartmentalized the curriculum by disciplines that honor quantity…they find that this structure can be deliberately shifted to…honor the quality of student outcomes.

“Tight Loose Tight,” is also very intriguing approach. According to the authors of this chapter, Robin Fogarty and Brian M. Pete:

The T-L-T formula combines an adherence to central design principles (tight) with expected accommodations to the needs, resources, constraints, and particularities that occur in any school or district (loose), when these don’t conflict with the theoretical framework (tight) and, ultimately, with the stated goals and desired results.

The best part of the T-L-T philosophy is the message that schools CAN evolve without sacrificing the educational philosophy and characteristics that have defined them in years past. As a school, we can still promote rigorous learning, quality leadership skills, and compassionate service to others. We just have to figure out how to do it in a 21st century context – for our students’ sakes.

That’s where the PLC (the fourth Singaporean vision) comes into play. If we (the teachers) work together as a team, through various scopes and methods, we can achieve success for our students, our school community, state, nation, and the world.

With our help, Heritage Hall students will continue to learn, to lead, and to serve…the world…in the 21st Century and beyond.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Richard & Rebecca DuFour

Professional Learning Communities…did your stomach churn when you read that phrase?

Like “21st Century Learning” (see my last post), PLC is one of those buzz words that has been used ad nauseum. And it implies that teachers sharing ideas with one another is a new thing…in fact, it is not a novel modern-day concept at all. Teachers have always depended on each other for support and new ideas. It’s how sharing occurs that is changing.

In Rethinking How Students LearnRichard and Rebecca DuFour explore the role of PLCs in the evolution to a 21st century learning environment. One of the early charges the PLC gurus and the Partnership for 21st Century make is for educators to share knowledge in three ways:

  1. Via face-to-face interaction.
  2. Through “virtual” communications.
  3. By “blended” communications.

In this blog post, I would like to discuss the second method, virtual communications, because I know teachers here on our campus and all over the world already collaborate via face-to-face interaction.

As referenced by the DuFours, Ken Blanchard (2007) writes:

There is no reason that time and distance should keep people from interacting as a team. With proper management and the help of technology, virtual teams can be every bit as productive and rewarding as face-to-face teams.

So, what would a virtual team look like? It could be done locally, but through technology; the Charger Ning is a great example of local virtual sharing. Or your team could be a global group; are you part of the virtual team of educators using the “Twitterverse” to share resources, news, and ideas?

I also love this passage written by the DuFours, which references the ideas of Malcolm Gladwell:

The tipping point is reached when a few key people in the organization who are highly regarded by and connected to others (the Law of the Few) present a compelling argument in a memorable way (the Stickiness Factor) that leads to subtle changes in the conditions of the organizations (the Power of Context).

This has me excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for this team of pioneers and our colleagues. And, I can’t wait to witness the resulting explosion of educational transformation on our campus when crest the “tipping point”.

In fact, I think that’s the tipping point I see now on the virtual horizon…

Rethinking How Students Learn: Chris Dede

Are you sick of all the talk about 21st century skills? I mean, we are almost 12 years into the new millennium. Some educational pundits go so far as to demand we stop using the term, but Chris Dede attempts to rationalize the “21st Century Skills” movement:

Inventing new problem-solving heuristics when standard protocols have failed is an important skill; when all diagnostics are normal, but the patient is still feeling unwell, for instance, a skilled physician can think outside the box and become an expert decision maker.

Will your students fit IN the box, or think OUTSIDE of it?

Our kids NEED to learn how to think outside the box. This isn’t always an easy skill for them to pick up. You see, they’ve grown accustomed to the 20th century educational method whereby the teacher provides the answers and the student regurgitates them on paper homework, quizzes, or tests to prove they’ve acquired knowledge. They have already mastered this educational “game” and they like winning it. Our students want to be able to finish tasks quickly and easily, with great success. But what they want isn’t necessarily what they need. How will they answer those difficult questions that may not have a clear or easily-accessible answer?

Dede goes on:

…the nature of collaboration is shifting to a more sophisticated skillset. In addition to collaborating face-to-face with colleagues across a conference table, 21st century workers increasingly accomplish tasks through mediated interactions with peers halfway across the world whom they may never meet face-to-face.

Our students NEED to be able to collaborate; this goes beyond mere communication skills. They need to be able to work in groups to achieve project success. They need to know how to use modern-day tools like Skype or Apple FaceTime to connect and work with colleagues on the other side of the world. The only way they are going to begin life after Heritage Hall with that skillset is if we, their teachers, allow them time and setting to develop the essential skill of collaboration.

I love the comparison Dede makes next:

Conventional, 20th century K-12 instruction emphasizes manipulating predigested information to build fluency in routine problem solving, rather than filtering data derived from experiences in complex settings to develop skills in sophisticated problem finding.

Ask yourself, “Do I provide ‘complex settings’ for my students to work in? Do I allow them to find problems instead of memorize information? Do my students create their own data?” Hopefully, the answers to these questions are affirmative. Our students live in an information age – in fact, some have called it the “Age of InfoWhelm.” As Dede suggests:

The ability to separate signal from noise in a potentially overwhelming flood of incoming data is a suite of 21st century skills.

The 21st Century Charger needs to be prepared and able to filter the meaningful information out of the endless deluge of data. He needs to be able to ask questions about the data and explore resolution to such problems in a journey mapped out by himself. It is critical that the teacher becomes the “guide on the side” in this process for meaning can only be 100% relevant when it originates from oneself (the student).

In the book I read, Dede refers to Henry Jenkins’ interesting list of digital literacies. They are: play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transformed navigation, networking, and negotiation.

To me, those are clearly skills that would make a person successful in the world of the near-future. The question that lies ahead of us is…

How can we prepare our students for life and the workplace of their future?