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Accepting the Default?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 28 May, 2016 - 07:31

In the book, “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World ” by Adam Grant, he shares a really interesting story about people who went with Internet Explorer on their computers at work, versus those using Chrome and Firefox:

Why are the Firefox and Chrome users more committed and better performers on every metric?

The obvious answer was that they’re more tech savvy, so I asked Housman if he could explore that. The employees had all taken a computer proficiency test, which assessed their knowledge of keyboard shortcuts, software programs, and hardware, as well as a timed test of their typing speed. But the Firefox and Chrome group didn’t prove to have significantly more computer expertise, and they weren’t faster or more accurate typists. Even after accounting for those scores, the browser effect persisted. Technical knowledge and skill weren’t the source of their advantage.

What made the difference was how they obtained the browser. If you own a PC, Internet Explorer is built into Windows. If you’re a Mac user, your computer came preinstalled with Safari. Almost two thirds of the customer service agents used the default browser, never questioning whether a better one was available.

To get Firefox or Chrome, you have to demonstrate some resourcefulness and download a different browser. Instead of accepting the default, you take a bit of initiative to seek out an option that might be better. And that act of initiative, however tiny, is a window into what you do at work.

…We live in an Internet Explorer world. Just as almost two thirds of the customer service reps used the default browser on their computers, many of us accept the defaults in our own lives. (Grant, 2016)

Such a simple thing, but do we actually encourage kids to take that “initiative” and deter others that already do?  Do we do the same things to teachers?

Think of this simple little thing…have you ever been part of a school or known of a teacher that was actually told NOT to download a browser other than Internet Explorer on a computer because it doesn’t fit into the guidelines of what is “allowed”?  Such a little thing, but if you look past the browser, did we actually deter those that were willing to push further to do something better for themselves and those kids?

Culture is not just the “big things”, but it becomes all of the little things added up.  It is great to promote initiative, but deterring it is simply unacceptable.

Categories: Planet

You’re the Variable

One of my big goals this year has been to make my classes more interactive. I want to get kids involved and not be just passive listeners. Surprisingly students seem resistant to participate. They like sitting back and pretending to pay attention. That's not very good for learning though. Yesterday I tried something different. I’d like to say it was well planned and laid out in advance but it wasn’t. It sort of just happened. But it worked out well so I thought I would share it. Maybe someone can help me make it better for next year.

So hear is the set up. We have about two weeks left to the school year and I’ve been introducing my freshmen to coding. Lately we have been discussing loops.  My idea was some code that simulated a horse race multiple times while counting which horse won the most times. I decide to talk about coin flipping first.

I assigned four roles for students:

  • A student to flip coins and report heads or tails.
  • A student to count how many flips happened and call stop after the 10th flip
  • A student to keep track of heads
  • A student to keep track of tails

We ran through several iterations of students flipping coins and having my “variables” report results.

Next we wrote some code together during which I made frequent references to the initial people based “code.” We translated the various student roles into variables, actions (like flipping and counting the for loop), and let’s not forget displaying results. It seemed to work well as the level of involvement in creating the code was up from usual. We’ll see about retention today but I am hopeful. I want to find more ways to do similar things. Suggestions anyone?

Categories: Planet

5 Alternatives for “I Don’t Have Time for That”

The Principal of Change George Couros - 26 May, 2016 - 08:29

Blogging has probably had the biggest impact on my learning, not only in the last six years, but my entire educational career. The process has been absolutely amazing, and it has really pushed my thinking. I try to take a 360 degree view of my learning and think of the perspectives of others before I press “publish”.

What will be the arguments against what I am saying and how do I address them?

Would someone be offended by what I share, and if so, how would I do my best to curb that?  

How will this impact teachers, leaders, and students?

I have grown a ton from the process and am thankful that I have started. The ability to be able to “google” my own stuff has also helped tremendously, especially through the process of writing a book. I couldn’t imagine going through hordes of notes, compared to the easy access that I have.

Yet when I try to explain the power of this learning, people will sometimes say to me, “I don’t have time for that.”  I then start thinking, “You don’t have time to learn?”  When would our students get away with that statement so easily?

Now part of my job is to show the relevance and potential impact this could have, but as educators are part of “learning organizations”, should we simply dismiss things with “I don’t have time for that” as a statement?

So instead of making that statement, could we say something like this instead?

  1. How will my students benefit from this practice?
  2. I am not seeing the relevance of this for teaching and learning…could you give me specifics of how this would impact my practice?
  3. How would you suggest incorporating what you are suggesting into my position?
  4. What has been the biggest benefits for your own practice?
  5. If I was to do this, what would it replace that I am doing now?

As someone who leads professional learning opportunities, I should be able to answer these questions in meaningful ways. But here is the catch…if the answer makes sense, you should do something to move forward.

In this post from Leslie Wangeman, she talks about openly about her change of heart once she started seeing the power of what blogging could look like:

Blogging is stupid. That is what I thought up to about 2 months ago. I barely have time to update my Planbook  so, how do I have time to sit and write about what I do in my classroom, much less take time away from curriculum to have students blog in class?

…Well this blog is proof that I have to eat my words. Creating classroom blogs has been one of the best things that I could have done. It has created a level of transparency in my classroom, that I did not believe possible.

…Blogging has allowed parents who work hard to support their students, to still be involved in the classroom. The response has been overwhelming positive. If you ever need a self-confidence booster, start having your students blog. I have gotten so much positive feedback from parents. However, we all know that teaching is not about us! It is about our kids.


This post is not necessarily about blogging, it is about being open to learning, in whatever form it may appear to us.

We should never be dismissive of learning because we simply “don’t have time”. There is only so much that we can do, and there are ample opportunities to learn things that would make a difference with our kids, but let’s not be immediately dismissive and be open to asking questions.  If it is not important or won’t have an impact, that is a totally different story, but let’s seek to find that out first.

Categories: Planet

You’re Having Fun Wrong #CSforAll

In several episodes of the comedy TV show “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon, the main character, complains that people are “having fun wrong.” What he means of course is that they are not doing what he thinks of as fun. We see that sort of thing a lot these days. “You’re not using Twitter right” or “You’re not using Facebook right” or today I read “American schools are teaching our kids how to code all wrong” The author of that article suggests strongly that the courses and curriculum their company sell are doing it right of course. It’s everyone else who is doing it wrong.

The article above takes particular aim at drag and drop programming in general and code.org materials in specific. I don’t think either criticism is really fair. Drag and drop programming languages are being very effectively used to teach real computer science concepts as well as programming. Even Harvard’s famous CS50 course starts with Scratch! The author of that article makes it seem as though short exercises like those for Hour of Code are all that code.org is producing. That is far from the case. They are producing a wide range of curriculum for a wide range of age groups. Much of this is very extensive and goes into a lot of detail and complexity.

I think that what bothers me the most about that article is the implication that it is addressing US computer science education in total or at least in large part. That is also not the case. Just the two Advanced Placement courses have multiple popular curricula many of which don’t use any drag and drop tools at all. Certainly the APCS A course is Java all the way. We teach three text based programming languages at my school and last I checked we were an American school.

This is typical of the naysaying I have been reading about the CS for All movement that is getting so much attention. People keep saying “but they’ll do it wrong!” as if that is a reason to keep computer science for some small subset of people where it can be done “right” for their specific definition of “right.”

There seems to be a fear that CS for All means we will wind up with a lot of people just doing some simple stuff like a short experience with block or tile programming and call it computer science. I don’t think anyone pushing CS for All wants that. I’ve talked to enough people at code.org to know they don’t want that. No one I know involved with CSTA wants that. In fact I don’t know anyone at all who wants that.

People don’t really trust government to do the right thing with regards to CS education. I get that. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try to develop programs of CS education for everyone. There are lots of ways to teach CS. No one way is best for every student, every school, or every teacher.

We are fortunate that there are a lot of different ways to teach CS these days. From CS Unplugged (no computers necessary) to block and tile languages to fun little devices like the BBC Micro:Bit and Ozobots to easy to use Integrated development environments to old fashioned text editors and command line compilers. We can teach CS to everyone. We may not bring everyone up to a professional level but we don’t do that in any other subject we teach in school either. Differences in depth, breath, and mastery are fine. But everyone should have a chance to learn computer science. Even if they don’t have fun with it the way you have fun with it.

Categories: Planet

Cyber Savvy | Embrace Civility

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 25 May, 2016 - 18:25


  • "Cyber Savvy is a student-led, positive norms approach to teach upper intermediate, middle, and high school students (grades 5 – 12) about digital safety, including effective digital decision-making, safe posting of personal information, digital relationships, social networking, cyberbullying, and digital dating/exploitation. The schools that have used this program in the pilot testing have been very pleased with the results.

    " - Paul Beaufait

Tags: children, civility, cyberbullying, digital safety, education, high schools, Internet safety, middle schools, online relationships, personal information, privacy, resources, relationships, social media, social networking, students

by: Paul Beaufait

Categories: International News

NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship Study Tour: San Francisco #4

Darcy Moore's Blog - 25 May, 2016 - 11:38

San Francisco is a wonderful city to explore with many homes and buildings having memorable architecture.  Tacy Trowbridge hosted my visit to Adobe in San Francisco (located in an amazing building). Tacy is Head of Adobe’s Education Programs and I had the privilege of meeting with her team including Johnson Fung and Terry Fortescue. Tacy, formerly an English and History teacher, has a solid background in education prior to working for Adobe.

Each person explained their roles and we talked about the potential of Adobe mobile apps in education, especially Adobe Spark, which interests me for several reasons:

  1. It is easy for students and teachers to create pages, videos, graphics and text without fussing about the tech
  2. NSW students can now login with their school email address
  3. It is free and a good tool for a BYOD context
  4. It has the potential to allow students to document and represent their citizen science projects easily
  5. My employer has a longstanding agreement with Adobe*

In short, students, with phones in their pockets, are able to make products very easily and quickly using Adobe Spark. Students engaged in citizen science projects can easily keep a record of their progress and use this to represent their findings, progress and learning. I like that there is potential for just voice, with a still image, rather than just having a video option.

Here is a FAQ for Adobe Spark for those who wish to explore the educational potential.

Tacy, Terry and Johnson were very attentive and I appreciated their questions about my ideas and enthusiasms. Johnson frames his role at Adobe by thinking about what the user experience will be like in the first three hours, then three months followed by the next three years. A very holy trinity that. He is clearly very switched on to how creativity, imagination, society and technology intersect. Johnson seemed particularly interested in (and thoughtful about) the creative opportunities afforded to students participating in citizen science projects (and can see how this will also nurture our democracy and creativity). I hope we can collaborate into the future.

Terry is focused on tertiary institutions and design projects. It was good to hear that some Australian institutions are making great progress. We talked about the challenge of really embedding technology into practice effectively and creatively in a sustained way. Terry seemed very receptive to ideas about citizen science and also the potential of students wrestling with the new knowledge unravelling our genome has brought to society.

As an aside, while waiting for Tacy in the foyer of this beautiful Adobe building, I could have watched the photography displayed of the six screens for hours. The loops were cleverly timed and the images diverse. Some were heavily and creatively photoshopped, others photographs completely traditionally shot and framed. All were masterful. I snapped a shot so you could see.


On return to Australia I have meetings with several academics and educators about Big History, citizen science, mobile apps, ethics and research to discuss how schools and teachers can be supported to bring the most contemporary learning into classrooms.

Some brief reflective thoughts follow about what can I see that weaves the various threads of this study tour into a rope that teachers can use follows:

1. Citizen science is an opportunity that needs to be supported by many players including government, educational authorities and business to help teachers provide authentic, cutting-edge opportunities for their students
2. Social media is essential for connecting with experts and sharing; teachers need to be more engaged and educational authorities need to relax filtering
3. Students and teachers must represent their citizen science projects using a range of media to document and share their stories
4. Students and teachers mostly have smart phones every day at school. Many have iPhones but of course Samsung, HTC and other brands get a good look in. These are the essential tools for accessing citizen science apps and to document/share. BYOD is fundamental to contemporary schooling.
5. Emerging technologies like mobile DNA sequencing – if supported – provide exciting opportunities for students and teachers in classroom settings as “Moore’s Law” takes effect
6. Tools and technologies come and go but Adobe Spark mobile apps are likely to engage students in telling their citizen science stories and sharing them effectively. They can now login into these free apps using their NSW school email accounts, Facebook, Google or their Adobe account.
7. The focus on non-medical DNA analysis in education should be broadened to considering aspects of what medical analysis can offer. This is a vexed issue but healthcare in the 21st century will increasingly use complex data, our own and our family’s, to assist with the best outcomes for our wellbeing. There is a golden opportunity to engage students with this understanding this data. See this recent journal article considering the ethics of having students participate at American Ivy League universities. “Innovation” is bandied about in education but far too often the innovations are very safe options and less than spectacular for students. If we value providing opportunities for personalised learning students and teachers need to be guided in how to use emerging technologies to support learning.

There is much to consider and I would really value your feedback about the above; some completely unexpected ideas before I commenced on this study tour.

Next stops: Sydney and Wollongong!

Featured image: Flickr photo by Darcy Moore https://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/26623684334 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

*My scholarship is funded by Adobe but I have used their products happily for many years and happily recommend them to educators and students with no hesitation. I think this new wave of mobile apps really worth exploring.

The post NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship Study Tour: San Francisco #4 appeared first on Darcy Moore's Blog.

Categories: Planet

Seeing Past the Behaviour

The Principal of Change George Couros - 25 May, 2016 - 08:19

Just something I have been thinking about…

Some teachers seemed to really enjoy me when I was a student and some teachers (at least it seemed like it) hated me.  When I look back at it, was it me that was different, or was it the teachers?  In reality, it was mostly me.  Here’s what I figured out.

The classes that I struggled the most with (math and sciences) were typically aligned with the teachers that I also struggled the most with personally and acted out the most.  I could get people to laugh, it would take the light off of how much I struggled.  Would you rather be perceived as dumb or funny? I would prefer the latter.

Is there something that teachers could do to help out with this? Absolutely. But it is not the purpose of the post.  It is to remind myself and others that sometimes the kids that you may struggle with the most aren’t necessarily bad kids, they are just struggling.

Sometimes academically.

Sometimes personally.

Sometimes they are simply bored.

Just being aware of that can make a significant difference.

Categories: Planet

Practices and Concepts in Computer Science Education

Work on a framework for computer science education in grades Kindergarten through grade 12 continues with many of the writers and advisors meeting over the past few days in New Orleans. It is somewhat humbling to be involved as some of the smartest most involved people I know of in CS education are working on this project. It’s also forced me to think a lot about my own teaching.

The framework includes concepts that every student should learn as well as practices they should develop. My role is focused on writing about practices so that has taken up a lot of my thinking time. One of the things I think about is how do or perhaps can what we teach in CS can contribute to learning and development more generally. We know that, much as we’d like to believe that teaching CS transfers automatically to problem solving generally that is not the case.

Can we do things that make some transfer happen though? I’d like to think so. As I look through the practices we have been describing in the framework I see a lot of what I think of as problem solving techniques and practices.

I think we can teach problem solving and that it can be a part of teaching computer science. Too often I think we get hung up on teaching how to program by which I mean things like syntax and basic concepts of programming languages. Of course we need to teach those things but that is really the easy part. The hard part is teaching students how to apply these concepts. We can give students step by step instructions and they can create working programs. Do they learn from this? Probably. A lot of textbooks take this approach. But at the same time too much and too detailed instructions also remove the need for creative thought or problem solving.

Done right computing is a creative endeavor. And of course we often want to use computing to solve real work problems. Are creating thinking and problem solving unique to computing? Obviously not. I don’t think we can expect transfer to occur automatically because we have research that shows that it doesn’t. But perhaps we can teach things in a way to help some transfer along. Helping students learn good practices along with good concepts should be a step in the right direction. Right?

BTW the next formal review period for the K12 CS Framework starts on June 8th and you can sign up for updates. We really need full community involvement to make sure this work is as good as it can be.

Categories: Planet

Join the Free EdNextGen Conference about Social Emotional Learning

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 24 May, 2016 - 21:11

Free this Week! Learn about Social Emotional Learning and the Impact on Kids

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Social Emotional Learning is so important. The free online conference going on now put together by Jason and Ceilia Hilkey with experts like Alfie Kohn, Tony Wagner and many more experts on this topic is a must-listen and share.

Register now for the free conference

My interview will air on Friday about Using Projects to teach Compassion AND Technology to share how compassion-based engineering works in the classroom.  Teachers, administrators, homeschoolers, and parents will find inspiration.

Please join me for the Education: Next Generation Online Conference! This is a FREE global online event from May 23-27, 2016, bringing together the voices of over 25 experts and thought leaders in parenting and education. The conference is hosted by Jason and Cecilia Hilkey, educators and creators of Happily Family.

You’ll get access to cutting-edge interviews full of inspirational ideas and practical tools to raise and work with children using connection and cooperation. These educators, researchers, and authors support parents and teachers who desire to live more creatively and compassionately at home and school. You will leave more aware, more empowered, and with the tools you need to help children (and yourself) LEAD, LEARN & LOVE! (See below for the schedule.)

Some of the speakers (I’m one too):
  • Alfie Kohn (Author of Feel Bad Education and Unconditional Parenting)
  • Scott Noelle (Author of the Daily Groove and founder of PATH Parenting)
  • don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. (Author of 5 Levels of Attachment)
  • Dr. Ross Greene (Founder of Lives in the Balance, Author of The Explosive Child)
  • Tony Wagner (Expert in Residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, Author of Most Likely to Succeed)
  • Daniel Rechtschaffen (Author of The Way of Mindful Education)
  • Vicki Davis (Classroom teacher and Author, Creator of Cool Cat Teacher blog)
  • Maurice Elias (Psychology professor at Rutgers University, Author of Emotionally Intelligent Parenting)
  • Todd and Cathy Adams (Hosts of Zen Parenting Radio)
  • Naomi Aldort (Author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves)

Register now for the free conference

Conference Schedule

My Interview will air on Friday of the conference but wow, there are some amazing presenters.

Available via Recording

I’m a tad late so you don’t want to miss these, now you can purchase all of the videos to use from the conference site for those interviews which have already aired. So if you want to see these videos, you’ll want to go that route.

See More and Register at NO COST here.

Each day, from May 23-27, there will be 5 video interviews with expert speakers, available for viewing for 24 hours.

The full schedule of interviews and instructions for how to tune in will be emailed to you each day, so be sure to register!

This conference will bring tens of thousands of parents and educators together from all around the world to explore how we can raise happy, self-motivated, resilient kids.

The post Join the Free EdNextGen Conference about Social Emotional Learning appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 23 June 2016

It’s getting to be the end of the school year. I know teachers who are finished already and others who finish up this week. I have about three weeks to go. Trying to keep up the energy level at this time of year can be tough but I think most teachers are managing ok. Thinking ahead to the summer helps. Lots of professional development in my summer plans. How about for you?

The nation’s largest school districts are rushing to fill the coding gap via @NewsHour Seems like a lot of stories like this one are appearing all the time. It makes one wonder about the small school districts though.

Montana is full of small districts and at least some people are talking about CS for All there - Candidates push computer science training in Montana

mlbgame is a Python API to retrieve and read MLB GameDay XML data.  If you are teaching with Python and looking for projects this might be something you can use.

“‘Eat, sleep, code, repeat’ is such bullshit” by @dankim We need students to realize that having a life is a good thing for software developers and computer scientists. Because it is!

Shark Tank is back! This time we'll focus on coding with featured sharks @alfredtwo, @ed_saber & @kburtonr This will be a webcast focusing on some educational apps that teach computer science. Should be fun to be a part of.

  Girls Explain How Boobs, Menstruation and More Keep Them From Coding in Satirical Campaign Women I know are sharing these videos like crazy. They make me a little uncomfortable. Because I am a man of a certain age? Probably.

Starting out with the BBC Micro:Bit. @mashable shows how to build a metronome with one

Nine amazing BBC micro:bit projects. From rocket cars to score predictors. Just in case you were wondering what else these little devices could be used for.

Speaking of the Micro:Bit, Is anyone else looking at the MI:power board for the BBC micro:bit? It uses a coin type battery to power the Micro:Bit. It looks like it might make some Maker projects easier. I bought one but it came just before I went out of town so I haven't tried it yet. Note: It cost a lot more to have it sent to the US from the UK than to buy it.

They actually have a bunch of other accessories that I just noticed while getting this post ready. This may cost me some money.

Computer Science Education Blog Roll – I added @MrAColley to the list

Microsoft Research is seeking interns to help them reveal how Minecraft can be used as a testing ground for AI This is based in the United Kingdom. Not everything at MSR is in the US.

Categories: Planet

Which revolution?

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 23 May, 2016 - 16:41

It is really the combination of computing technologies with communication networks that has formed the basis for the digital revolution we are now living in. The internet and digital connections has taken us to a world where billions of people are connected, billions of emails are sent over this network every day and hundreds of millions of people search Google and other search engines for information spread across the plethora of web pages and institutional repositories around the world.

So thinking laterally is probably becoming an essential feature of every educators toolkit.  But what do I mean by this?  Well, I don’t have all the ideas, but thankfully my personal learning network and my information feeds keep me in touch with the possibilities.

So you know about the Internet Archive, right? My visit today tells me that there have been 484 billion web pages saved over time.

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.

There are many options for how to use the Internet Archive (so do check these out).

Unique Search

Something I wanted to share from a while ago was Alan November’s post on the Wayback Machine, which he called The Essential unique search tool your students may have never Used.

The Wayback Machine is as basic a reference tool for the Internet Age as a dictionary. When was the last time you saw a student use it?

Alan tells the story of his conference presentation, and the reality check that he offers the audience in terms of digital identity and digital information stored or deleted?? on the web.

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to index the Web, runs the Wayback Machine. Since its launch in 1996, the Wayback Machine has saved more than 466 billion web pages and counting—including many pages their owners believed (or hoped?) were long gone.

As many students are recovering from their own sense of naiveté, I ask them a simple question: What happens when you’re reading an article online, and you come across a link and you click on it, but it’s dead? They’ll say, “Well, I just give up.” And I say, “Watch this: You just copy the link, and you paste it into the Wayback Machine, and presto—there’s the website.”

Students are shocked to learn that it’s so simple to recover lost links. This is like knowing there’s a dictionary when you’re learning to read. It is that basic and that important of a reference tool for the Internet Age.

Best get busy and share this information with your students and colleagues – many will not know!

But don’t stop there – use the Internet Archive to find other treasures!  Here’s another of piece of fun gaming information shared last year:-

Long before Oculus Rift and MMORPG games existed and way before high-quality graphic cards and roaring sound effects were around there was another type of game genre. DOS. And depending on your age (hello, early 1980s) you may have even played DOS games as a kid. Fortunately for those who like to wax nostalgic the Internet Archive has released nearly 2300 MS-DOS PC games that you can play directly from your browser. Hurray!

There are mountains of old favorites in the release. All DOS games are played through DosBox, which streams to your local computer. This makes it easy to search for a game and then click to play once it’s loaded.  All DOS games are emulated—command prompts and boot screens—and one important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t save gameplay. Because it’s running as a virtual machine (of sorts) once you close your browser tab/window the game is over and you’ll need to start from the beginning (boo).

So what we are seeing here is a way to look backwards, digitally, while we move forward.

How we think about our place in the world has been transformed through revolutions of ideas from big thinkers such as Galileo, Darwin and Freud. Philosopher Luciano Floridi, Oxford University believes that we are now into a new revolution in the mass age of information and data. Before you go deeply into any of his academic work, let’s put his thinking into context – with this cheesy video!

Image: Pre computer games flickr photo shared by Robin Hutton under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Filed under: Cloud Computing, Curation, Future Directions, Students 2.0 Tagged: DOS games, Fourth revolution, Internet Archive, Luciano Floridi, Wayback machine
Categories: Planet

When it’s time to leave…

The Principal of Change George Couros - 23 May, 2016 - 05:01

Recently in a conversation with students in the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, one of the questions posed to me was (paraphrased), “What do you do when you work for someone that doesn’t have the vision to make the things happen in classroom that you believe are important?”

I referred to a prior post and had given four strategies in how to “lead up”:

  1. Start by asking, “We are here to do what is best for kids, right?” If you disagree with something and you believe that it is in the best interest of kids, start with the question suggested and wait for the obvious “yes” answer.  Once you start from that point, it is now your job to prove why what you are asking for is in the best interest of kids.  Prove your point like a lawyer.  But if you can’t prove that what you are asking is best for kids, maybe your boss isn’t in the wrong? Always start from that point.
  2. Ask questions more and make statements less. Covey’s notion of “seek first to understand” is crucial in all aspects of leadership.  We may be bothered with a decision and why it is made, and it is easy to tell people all of the reasons are wrong, or that your way is right, but there are many times where there are things behind the scenes that you may not know or understand.  What is crucial here is to help people explain their position and work backwards from there, as opposed to trying to bring them to your side.  Something might be brought to your attention that you had no idea was happening, but a conversation is more likely to lead to positive change than two people simply stating their sides.  You might find a middle ground that you didn’t know existed.
  3. Pick your battles wisely. Although I encourage people to ask questions and try to understand, there are times when you need to be more adamant about your position. The key here is that your voice is heard.  If you complain about every decision that is made in your organization, the voice becomes more like “noise” than anything. Sometimes we have to realize that there are some hills that we do not need to die on, in chase of a much bigger prize.
  4. Show that you see value in your leaders. This one feels hard to write for me, but there is some truth to it.  Statements like “that’s why you make the big bucks” are somewhat condescending to leaders, and create more division than cohesion.  We have to realize that we are all connected as partners in education, and just because someone is in a formal position of leadership, does not mean that they do not need to feel valued.  The higher you go up, the less you will hear compliments of your work.  It is a reality of the work.  What I am not saying is “suck up to your boss”.  All people need to feel valued, and when we look for strengths and mentorship, we are more likely to create a bond built on trust, which is helpful for people to move forward in organizations, as opposed to distrust. Do what you hope is done for you, and ignore title or position.2 People work better together when they all feel valued for their unique abilities and strengths.

Yet what if none of those strategies work?

Then maybe it is time to leave.

Now I know that this is not a cut-and-dry solution. People need to make a living, family situations might dictate staying, and there are a myriad of factors that may really put you in a tough spot where you have to leave.  But are you even looking at the option?

Here are some of the warning signs that leaving is something that could be considered:

  1. You feel that you are not growing.
  2. What was once a “passion”, has now become solely a “job”.
  3. Your lack of enthusiasm for what your career is trickling into other aspects of your life.  
  4. You just don’t want to be there.

When I have given this brutally honest advice to come people, one of the concerns that people share is that “they will feel bad for the kids.”  Our reality is that kids need great teachers everywhere, but if you are miserable doing what you do, are you at your best serving those students in the way that they need?

This isn’t quitting, but finding a new beginning.

When a once strong fire has been all but extinguished, it is crucial to look at other options.  Change can be scary, but it can be liberating as well.  As I have told audiences over and over again, change is an opportunity to do something amazing. Sometimes we need to embrace it before it is too late.

Categories: Planet

Connecting Professional Learning and Leadership

The Principal of Change George Couros - 21 May, 2016 - 08:01

Years ago I heard about a great program from a school district that wanted to work with their teachers on deepening their understanding about using technology for learning.  They created 50 spots for teachers that would have to attend 12 sessions,  on their own time, to further their learning in this initiative.  As incentive, at the end of the 12 sessions, they would be given their own laptop to use at their discretion.  The district explaining the process was very excited about these 50 teachers that had developed these new skills, but something stuck with me.  What about all of the other teachers in the division?  How would they develop these skills? Would the program run with 50 teachers at a time, or would it only be for these 50 teachers?

As an adaptation of this program, I developed a program that was similar, but with less sessions, and more focus not only understanding what learning can look like, but also how to spread these ideas with their colleagues.  Instead of teaching 50 that would simply gain knowledge, we would work with 50 (actually turned out to be more), that would share their knowledge and help develop others.

As the proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” But what if you adopt the idea that if you teach someone to fish you could also teach them to lead others to fish as well?  The possibilities the become endless.

Joel McLean shared the following image below and it sparked this idea:

As many professional learning opportunities tend to have little impact division wide, how often do we ask the question, “how will this learning spread to their colleagues?”  Simply sharing a YouTube video that shares the ideas learned to others, is not enough.  Time should be spent on working with leadership strategies. How do you work with others that may be reluctant?  How do you deal with what has already been done, and replace it with this?

That being said, if you want ideas to spread, we must take time developing ideas together.  It is not only about getting people to “buy in”, but it is about creating a vision together and moving forward.  The more advocates there are for any initiative, the quicker it can spread, yet for people to become advocates, many of them need to feel (and should feel) ownership over the process. It is much easier to spread “our ideas” than it is to spread “your idea”.  Empowerment needs ownership.

So instead of simply asking or identifying, “What will be learned?”, you should also ask, “How will we support others to lead this initiative?”

We should not only focus on developing professional learning opportunities, but leadership opportunities as well.  Teaching others to lead will ensure that ideas worth spreading will flourish, not die.

Categories: Planet

NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship Study Tour: Washington #3

Darcy Moore's Blog - 21 May, 2016 - 01:20

“The Genographic Project is an ambitious attempt to answer fundamental questions about where we originated and how we came to populate the Earth. Through your participation, you can play an active role in this historic endeavour.”

The National Geographic Society is headquartered in Washington. The Society believes in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world and its stated purpose is to inspire, illuminate and teach. National Geographic has always used photographs and words to this end brilliantly. This is the most venerable of organisations, established in 1888, and it felt special to be here.

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license 

With all this in mind, it was great to have a meeting scheduled at National Geographic HQ with Dr Miguel D. Vilar* (Manager for Science and Exploration) who is in charge of The Genographic Project. We have discussed educational perspectives about this important, long-running and well-known project at some length via Skype and face-to-face and there are genuinely exciting opportunities for students and teachers to be developed. He continues to be very generous with his time and towards my enthusiasms.

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

You may know that for over a decade National Geographic has encouraged participation, as citizen scientists, in their Genographic Project. This project is anonymous, non-medical, and nonprofit, and all results are placed in the public domain following scientific peer publication. To be explicit:

“With a simple and painless cheek swab, you submit a sample of your DNA to our lab. We then run a comprehensive analysis to identify thousands of genetic markers on your mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down each generation from mother to child, to reveal your direct maternal deep ancestry. In the case of men, we will also examine markers on the Y chromosome, which is passed down from father to son, to reveal your direct paternal deep ancestry. In addition, for all participants, we analyse a collection of more than 700,000 other ancestry-informative markers from across your entire genome to reveal the regional affiliations of your ancestry, offering insights into your ancestors who are not on a direct maternal or paternal line.”

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

It is clear that the Genographic Project can potentially become a transformational citizen science opportunity for schools and students around the world. I would like to see many more students  aged 13-25 access the project and, on Miguel’s invitation, made a brief wish list of ideas from and educator’s POV (in no order of particular importance) especially about the website:

  • if educators could log into a portal at the site which allowed them to upload student names, email addresses and confirm parental agreement would be much better than the current emailing system for schools to access the project
  • an improved online payment system for educators/students with international currencies in mind would also be great
  • it would be great for the price to be reduced for students. One way to do this is to minimise packaging and offer bulk discounts to systems.
  • more interactivity generally at the site
  • activities for students (perhaps partly created/shared/submitted by educators)
  • imagine if all the data for a class group could be looked at simultaneously at the website (i.e. all students see their common route(s) out of Africa by haplogroup and see where each headed off in a different directions). This should allow them to see each individual’s ancestral route visually. My class did this with each of us looking at our own websites (it was a great lesson but clunky). The following screenshot will give you the idea – just imagine clusters of names moving with each arrow).

As regular readers of this blog know, I use the Genographic Project as a teaching tool in the context of delivering Big History. A partnership between National Geographic the Big History Institute just makes brilliant sense from this educator’s POV to ensure more students have a quality, personalised learning experience.

The good news is that Miguel will work with one of our Big History classes after they have had their data returned from National Geographic by allowing them access to the DNA Analysis Repository (DAR). Into the future we may trial new website features as they become available for students and educators. I also believe that working with the Genographic Project will become more affordable for schools.

Thanks Miguel! I believe this to a brilliant opportunity for educators and the project to engage more students in their learning as citizen scientists.

*BTW Miguel’s PhD is in genetics (molecular anthropology).

“Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Wayne Gretzky

Dr Eric D. Green is Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Washington. This is a very senior leadership position and I sensed Eric feels privileged to have had such a front row seat watching the development of this most exciting, transformational branch of human knowledge. I asked him what’s changed since he wrote this plan back in 2011. He responded with many points but the general theme was that research and interest in genomics has grown exponentially, especially the technological capacity and innovation. The field is moving incredibly quickly; much more so than envisaged when formulating the plan.

This is particularly a challenge for educationalists at all levels and society in general. The general public is beginning to understand the potential of the knowledge gleaned from our genome could save their lives. We all need to learn more and grapple effectively with ethical, practical, legislative and technological challenges.

Eric emphasises the necessity of interdisciplinary teams in research and development; in fact, it is all so complex there’s no way it can be done without gathering expertise working together cooperatively. By extension, this is what is needed in education. It is obvious. School structures are still preventing this from happening (that last point was more Darcy than Eric but he nodded in agreement). I will go on to say that Eric’s commentary just makes me more determined to keep pushing the notion that cross-curricular planning and flexible structures that are are needed; not just syllabus documents that intimate this. Technology is essential as is personalising student pathways. High quality and high equity are key ideals to keep in mind.

In our conversation, I mentioned that my ideas were changing and developing since this study tour commenced, especially in regards to students talking a more active role in actually analysing data they collect using new and emerging technologies. When I mentioned what I’d learnt about mobile DNA sequencers, Eric stood up and and left the room returning with a MinION a few moments later. I should have taken a photo. We discussed this (chocolate bar, and I mean small chocolate bar-sized) technology and Dr Green employed the famous Gretzky quote above (well not so much used in Australia but we know it) in reference to thinking about using the mobile sequencers for citizen science in Australian classrooms. Educators and systems need to stop playing catch-up and skate to where the puck will be (as challenging as that may seem). We can do that in NSW, especially as expertise and advice is so close at hand.

Dr Carla Easter is the Chief, Education and Community Involvement Officer for the National Human Genome Research Institute. I was deeply impressed with Carla who is enormously friendly, organised and very, very professionally helpful. Her assembled team – Jeff Witherly, Christina Daulton, Belen Hurle,  Beth Tuck and  Faye Brown  – showed me what it is they do to generate quality educational opportunities (and provided a tonne of resources).

DNA Day, which falls on the 25th April, is a particularly interesting initiative and one that may resonate with Australia educators, especially due to the memorability of the date. I really enjoyed one initiative held on that day – Harry Potter and the Genetics of Wizarding – thinking that Dr Eric Spana had a fantastic hook to engage students (you should watch him reeling in the fish).

The NHGRI has developed some genuinely wonderful resources for the general public and school. For example, Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code is the website that supports the travelling exhibition (in partnership with the Smithsonian). You really need to explore how cleverly designed and comprehensive a resource this site is for students and teachers. I particularly like how the metalanguage of genetics is deeply embedded in the learning. The analysis of aDNA (ancient DNA) is truly fascinating and this timeline at the site shows the development of this new area of research into our human origins. Every week we seem to find out more about our human origins and one of the challenges, of keeping such a site current, is certainly being met.

Thank you Carla for organising such an informative and professionally rewarding day at the NHGRI. Your team were all so passionate and on “the ball” (the social media engaement ideas were great) and I will definitely take up your and Dr Green’s offer to work with Australian students and teachers into the future. Much appreciated.

BTW Carla, I finished the book and it is brilliant, important and readable.

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Dr. Briana Pobiner has the best job in the world (as far as I am concerned) and I know she thinks this too. She is a Research Scientist and Museum Educator working with the Human Origins program and also with Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I love that her own research is focused on “paleodiet”—the evolution of human diet – with a focus on meat-eating and she gets out into the field, usually in Kenya. You can read an article, The First Butchers, recently published by Dr Pobiner.

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license 

Briana has been integrally involved for the last decade in the Hall of Human Origins. It is a wonderfully curated space. The imagination, in concert with evidence, that artist John Gurche brings to the exhibit something special. I noted in a meeting that I attended with Briana that the museum has hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, many of them students. Made a memo to self to see if the Australian Museum In Sydney has a similar program of volunteerism and how it links to citizen science opportunities.

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Brian Schilder is an intern whose research focuses on the evolution of the human brain and cognition. He does much outreach to secondary schools and today I had the privilege of seeing him in action at the Smithsonian as part of the Human Origins, “Scientist is In” program. His ‘cart’ engaged students and members of the public in thinking about our genes. Brian is further developing his questioning but the whole process of working out what it is we know about the development of humans, chimpanzees and gorillas is a whole lot of fun. He has skulls and balloons that represent developing brains; what’s not to love?

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

While chatting I realised that Brian is one of Professor Bernard Wood‘s students here in Washington and, funnily enough, I will attend his seminar in Wollongong on Thursday when I catch up with Professor Bert Roberts about my study tour. Six degree and all that…

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Next stop: San Francisco where I am looking forward to discussing the updates to Adobe’s mobile apps with their Education team. Adobe Spark may prove to be one of the best tools a young citizen science has for representing their work in the field and I keep thinking about the success of National Geographic in achieving their goals, set all those years ago, by choosing the right words and pictures.

Featured image: Flickr photo by Darcy Moore https://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/26948715611 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

The post NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship Study Tour: Washington #3 appeared first on Darcy Moore's Blog.

Categories: Planet

1 Easy, Fun Way to Ignite a Love of Reading

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 20 May, 2016 - 19:25

A Tip for Parents and Teachers

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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He was dyslexic. I’m not sure if there is such a thing is “very” dyslexic. If there was, he was.

I had a trick that worked with my older children. But would it work for him?

The “trick” was simple. On a long trip, I would start reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I would put as much excitement and energy my reading as I could. Usually, I would read for thirty minutes to an hour each day on the book.

I would wait until the kids were fascinated by the book. I could tell. For example, when we would stop for gas, the moment we were back in the car, they’d beg for me to read again. It was almost cruel to stop reading right there. But that is what I did.

I would yawn, stretch my arms, and say,

“You know what? I’m really tired.”

I would hear howls from the backseat.

They wanted to know what happened next.

So, I would turn around and say,

“Read it for yourself. I won’t stop you.”

(My older two kids never asked why I happened to have two copies of the book with me on the trip!)

And with that, there was no stopping them. My kids read. And read. And read. Within weeks, they would be finished with the whole series. That summer, each of them read thousands of pages of books.

I can’t take credit for this idea. My fifth-grade teacher Ginger Collins used it on me.

Mrs. Collins was very pregnant. Huge. Miserable. On those hot South Georgia days, she would sit in her rocking chair. She read A Wrinkle in Time to us. Sometimes we got a chapter; sometimes we got a little less.

But I remember getting frustrated when the book got great. I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! So I went to library got the book and finished it. It was such a good book that even though she read it after I finished it, I still enjoyed it the second time.

That was the beginning my journey. There was no stopping me. The summer after fifth grade, I read everything. From Homer to James Michener, I inhaled books. 

So, would this work with a child who struggled with dyslexia?

I only needed one copy of Narnia, but that summer changed everything. There was no stopping my youngest child. He became an amazing reader. He still is.

To be fair, I have to note, this event was the turning point. But this was not the FIRST time I read to the kids.

To put it simply, I read with all of my children until they were motivated to read for themselves. But it took a challenging book a bit past their reading level and several hours in the car. 

Taking time to read shows kids that it’s important. We read to them just about from the moment they were born. Books represented warm, snuggly time with parents who loved them. But in that plot twist moment in the car, books became riveting. 

So, on your next trip — put up those movies! Put up those games! Read! It might just be the most worthwhile trip you’ll ever take. You may just start your child on a journey that lasts a lifetime.

This post is part of the Global Search for Education series with Cathy Rubin of CM Rubin World. Be sure to find out all the answers on her blog. 

The post 1 Easy, Fun Way to Ignite a Love of Reading appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Stop labelling; start doing

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 19 May, 2016 - 12:12

This week I got to learn about rockets and it wasn’t via a NASA podcast but sitting down with a group of Year 7 students reflecting on their learning.  It was as John Hattie states a demonstration of the teacher becoming the learner and the learners becoming the teacher.

What I found impressive (apart from their inherent curiosity), was the recognition that their learning was enhanced through the the ability to problem-solve in teams, communicate their ideas and use technology.  While these students won’t graduate until 2021, they know that their success will be largely dependent on these skills. Although they admitted to the content being challenging (I’m told this is taught in Year 12 maths), each of the students admitted to enjoying the challenge enough that they were willing to work on the project during the school holidays!

Most telling was the sentiment expressed by one student who said being in control of their learning was a big shift from primary school where he had been ‘spoon-fed’.  That statement in itself illustrates the vast gap that exists between pre-school, primary and high school in how we view individual learners, how we teach them and how we successfully monitor progress.

To paraphrase Yong Zhao, to get our students to Mars, we need to put away the spoons and build the equivalent of an educational bottle rocket (that is launched at a trajectory of 45 degrees – yes I did learn something!).

Categories: Planet

8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset (Interview Questions)

The Principal of Change George Couros - 19 May, 2016 - 09:52


This was an awesome idea from Emily Day Harrison, and I wanted to build upon it.

As many people are going through the interview process right now, I have drafted some questions that may help display “The Innovator’s Mindset” in potential candidates, or could even be potential blog posts for those not applying for jobs at this point.   Here is the first draft of some of the questions:


Characteristic Interview Question Your suggestion for questions? Empathy Describe your classroom from the viewpoint of a student.  What would they tell me if I was to walk in? Problem-Finders/Solvers How do you encourage students to make an impact both locally and globally?  

What are some ways that you help tap into their passions for learning? Risk Takers Share a time that you tried something that didn’t work with students.  What did you learn from the process? Networked Outside of teachers that you have worked with, who is a “current day” educator (or thinker) that has influenced your teaching? How have you connected with them?
How have you made connections both locally and globally?  What does being “networked” mean to you?
What opportunities will students have in your classroom to make connections outside of it? Observant Share a time you were inspired by something outside of education and brought it into the classroom.

Where do you find your “best ideas”? Creators What have you created from your own learning?  What impact did it have on you?
Explain opportunities you have developed, or you would develop, for students to “create” to delve deeper into the curriculum. What about outside of the curriculum? Resilient Talk about a time that you overcame adversity in your life, either personally or professionally.  What did you learn from the experience?  

How do you model resiliency to students?
How do you develop resiliency in your students with varying levels of learning? Reflective How do you make time for reflection in your practice?  What impact has “reflection” had on your teaching?
How do you implement reflection time in learning for your students?


A few things to consider…

  1. Although these are called “interview questions”, it does not mean you have to do them in a traditional “interview style”.  Candidates could have access to questions before and discuss what they choose, or they could develop their own questions based on the traits and prompts and answer as they choose.  We do not want to promote “innovation” in candidates by necessarily using the same process we have used for years.
  2. These wouldn’t be the only questions that would guide an interview for me.  As an administrator, I need to know how important relationships are for potential candidates (both with colleagues and students), as well as other questions pertaining to the situation of the opening.  It doesn’t matter how smart someone is if they are unable to connect with those they serve. I have seen this time and time again.These are not “set in stone” questions, but just prompts or suggestions.  Consider them in beta.
  3. If you are going to ask these questions, you should be able to answer them as an administrator or educational leader.
  4. “Innovation” is not in lieu of best practice.  The two should be connected. That being said, I think it is important to find people who are problem-finders/solvers, critical thinkers, and have access to ideas and people outside of their organization.  People need to be comfortable with “not-knowing”, but also have an urgency and sense of wanting to find out.

I would love your thoughts, feedback, and sample questions.  All I know is that if we continue to ask the same questions we have always asked, will we get the same output from school?  We need to not only think different, but act different, to get different that is better for our kids.

Categories: Planet
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