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8 Top Tips for Highly Effective Professional Development [Link]

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 2 hours 46 min ago
8 Top Tips for Highly Effective Professional Development Vicki Davis on Edutopia
April 15, 2015

Highly effective classrooms can result from highly effective professional development. Recent research (Butler et al., 2004) has shown that effective professional development includes creating classroom content, modeling techniques for teachers to use in their classrooms, and feedback on lessons (Harris, Graham, and Adkins, 2015). It’s not enough to teach the right things to your teachers — you have to teach your teachers in the right way.

Here are some top tips for delivering highly effective PD to your teachers.

1. Use What You Are Teaching

If a method of teaching works, that method should be used for teaching the teachers in your PD sessions. For example, if you’re teaching cooperative learning but you’re lecturing about it, that’s undermining the message. Teachers notice what you do, so model what you’re teaching by teaching with it. If you don’t have enough time to use the methods that work, then you’ve just given an out to the teachers who will say that they don’t have enough time to do it either.

Read the rest of this article on Edutopia

Edutopia is a fantastic resource. I appreciate the opportunity to write for them.

The post 8 Top Tips for Highly Effective Professional Development [Link] appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

10 Terrible Traits of Lousy Leaders

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 3 hours 12 min ago

There is a short, three letter hop from leading to misleading. Having a position of leadership is a paramount calling in life. You have a lot of responsibilities. It is hard to be a leader. The truth is, as flawed humans, most of us who lead in anything have a very short step to being a misleader. Teachers are also leaders of their classrooms. Here are ten ways leaders become misleaders:

 First published May 16, 2012. Updated: April 20, 2015 1. You become a misleader when you let popular opinion steal your purpose.

Having a purpose will bring you joy. Eric Liddel, the famous runner depicted in Chariots of Fire, said,

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

Purpose gives meaning to your work.

“Study after study shows that people who have created meaning in their lives are happier and more satisfied with their lives.” (Steger, Oishi & Kashdan 2008) quoted in The 5 Skills that Will Increase Your Happiness

An educator who loses purpose quickly loses hope. Sometimes popular initiatives run counter to the purpose of why we teach.

Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it is RIGHT.  Just because someone is a respected authority does not mean you check your brain at the door. Weak leaders hide in the herd even if the herd is heading for a cliff. Afraid to stand alone, they are forgetting the purpose of keeping those in their charge safe and on track. Good leaders break from the herd when it is running the wrong way.

Protecting the love of learning is not a line item in the budget. Children can be counted, but they aren’t numbers. Learning can be observed — sort of — but it is as hard to measure as how much I love my husband. Anything that obscures the purpose of our profession should be watched vigilantly like an enemy at the gate. I’m not saying things like data-driven analysis can’t help us — it can help us know our students and personalize learning. But the moment you see numbers and not students, you’ve lost sight of your purpose. Lose your purpose, lose your joy.

When I think of this struggle for keeping the purpose of education versus popular opinion, I think of an interview with visionary superintendent Pam Moran  on Every Classroom Matters. Pam said,

“A number of years a go we started a path that we needed to do much more than No Child Left Behind, we saw it sucking the life out of classrooms. The more we saw schools get pulled into the “test prep curriculum” that what we saw was both kids and teachers consumed with and worried with and constantly focusing on how to take a four choice, one answer right test. Very soon we said after the implementation of NCLB, we said that isn’t what we want for our students or teachers. We know we’ll have to test but the reality is that we want something more… we looked to see how a school system could implement a balanced assessment system that centered around what we thought was important.”

Don’t think that Pam is making excuses for poor test scores. Her district (which also has many Title I schools) has a 93% graduation rate and is in the top 3% of all districts in the US and Canada for their AP Test scores. She did not let popular opinion or even mandates keep her from her PURPOSE of doing what is best for students.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the anti-Nazi dissident, said,

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”

Pam and her district leaders got off the train but still made it to a destination of better learning. Martin Luther King, Jr said,

“Our lives begin to end when we begin to be silent about the things that matter.”

Be brave enough to stand against yourself when you’re wrong. Be courageous enough to jump off the train. Have enough hustle to go out and assemble a new train. Always question popular opinion when it goes against the purpose of helping students. 2. You become a misleader when you become mislead by flattery or too deeply wounded by insults.

Pride will kill you faster than a poison blowgun dart in a rainforest. When people start praising you, it is better to turn a deaf ear than listen too much. We may crave recognition, but good leaders would rather be useful. Flattery believed becomes a person deceived. All too often, leaders would rather “be ruined by praise than saved by criticism” (as Norman Vincent Peale says).

I’ve found that lousy leaders make poor decisions and then throw out a cast net for validation. They surround themselves with people who agree with them, not people who will offer an opinion and give wise counsel. Samuel Goldwyn, the famed movie producer, said,

“I don’t want yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell the truth, even if it costs them their jobs.”

If you don’t have problems, start worrying about your leadership. Colin Powell, a US general, says

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

There are many ways to solve problems. Complaining isn’t one of them. John Maxwell says in How Successful People Think,

“The truth will set you free – but first it will make you angry.”

Criticism stings. But all criticism is not equal. In Michael Hyatt’s “The Real Difference Between the Wise and the Foolish,” Michael outlines the three types of critics. Some critics are trolls. They love drama. A recent study on Internet trolls found

“Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

Hurting people hurt people. Some love the drama. So, you have to learn to recognize the trolls and learn to avoid them. If you have to deal with a troll, keep your ears open and your heart behind a bulletproof vest. The second type of person Hyatt discusses are the critics. These people have no agenda and usually have a valid point. Finally, your friends who criticize should be listened to deeply. They love you and want you to do well.

As American politician Adlai Stevenson said, “Flattery is all right as long as you don’t inhale.” The American author Mason Cooley said, “Flattery and insults raise the same question: What do you want?” Flattery and insults are all about the person giving them — not you. These people don’t want what is best for you. In the end, problems and criticism are part of life, and the effective leader responds and adjusts to both. 3. You become a misleader when you think you can make everyone feel good about change or when you leave them out of the change making process.

There is an excellent chapter in 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done about change. It says if you know you’re going to jump into a river, it is worse to hang on the rope swing than it is just to jump. No matter how inevitable the river of change is, some people are going to hang onto that rope until pushed or pulled off of it. If you wait until everyone feels good about the change, you’ll wait too long.

There are lots of smart, legendary people who didn’t like change. The Greek Poet Callimachus said books were “a great evil.” Plato didn’t like writing either. His character, King Thamus says that a dependence on written words will

“weaken men’s characters and create forgetfulness in their souls.” (The Organized Mind p 14)

They had always educated orally. Indeed, they had  significant experiences sitting on rocks and memorizing what they heard. But as baseball Hall of Famer Babe Ruth said,

“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.”

But so often the problem is not about change. Ken Blanchard says in Leading at a Higher Level

“People often resent change when they have no involvement in how it should be implemented. So, contrary to popular belief, people don’t resist change – they resist being controlled.” (216)

Todd Whitaker’s 1993 research on the best principals (mentioned in What Great Principals Do Differently: Eighteen Things That Matter Most) says that the best principals

“Routinely consult informal teacher leaders for input before making a decision.”

Most schools have V8 engines running like a V4. If I’m on a mountain in my SUV and I have a big challenging hill to climb, I want all of the pistons in my engine firing! Why wouldn’t I hit the button and engage the full power of my engine? Principals who lead without teacher input aren’t firing with all their cylinders, in more ways than one.

Organization change requires a change from everyone in your organization. Leave them out and lose momentum. Expect to make them all happy and lose your mind.

Toxic meeting syndrome can cause meetings to be little more than face to face announcement sessions. Highly functioning teams collaborate; they don’t just congregate.

4. You become a misleader when you mistake meetings for action.

American journalist Dave Barry said,

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and will never achive its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’

Economist Thomas Sowell went as far to say

“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

Highly functioning teams collaborate; they don’t just congregate. Too many organizations are dying because of toxic meeting syndrome.  A syndrome is a characteristic of habits that typically occur together. Organizations with toxic meeting syndrome have dysfunctional meeting habits that poison the organization’s productivity. Symptoms of toxic meeting syndrome include:

  • meeting because you always meet at that time not because you have anything to do,
  • using meetings for low-collaborative tasks like announcements,
  • as a substitute dysfunctional communications,
  • letting participants hijack the meeting for unproductive conversations that demoralize others,
  • an agenda set by the behavior of the lowest-performing employees instead of helping everyone move to higher performance,
  • and even worse– verbal abuse.

Why does a meeting need to take an hour? It is because people aren’t aren’t reading their emails or doing their jobs? Some leaders use meetings as an announcement time. Announcements can be handed out on paper. Deal with problems. Collaborate. Hypocritical leaders want classrooms to be exciting but let staff meetings be boredom central.

You can use the words productive and meeting in the same sentence. Leaders study how to run effective meetings. They know when to hold them. They know how to engage collaboration and get input. They know how to neutralize time-wasting morale-killing Grumbledores.

(OK, I’ll let you in on a private joke. Dumbledore is the master of Hogwart’s school in Harry Potter. He is in charge of everything. In my mind, Grumbledore is my name for the lead whiner. Somehow they think they can straighten out the school by propelling it forward with their whining. Whining is a diminishing activity. It never builds up. Ever. I admit I remind myself when these one or two people corner me that they are Grumbledore, and I should listen at my own risk lest I become one too.)

5. You become a misleader when you pretend.

Imagine a beautifully wrapped present under your Christmas tree. What if you opened it and nothing is there but air? I’ve been to rah-rah sessions that were nothing but air – no content. (Sound like testing pep rallies?) Don’t pretend something is what it isn’t. Rah Rah Rah – I’m cutting your pay – this is a good thing.

Rah, Rah.I say Bah. Be real. The psychologists who wrote Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change found,

“People become far less willing to believe what you have to say the moment they realize your goal is to convince them of something.” (59)

What are you selling? Why? It is not your job to defend everything that happens because some things stink, and everyone knows it.  A pig in a dress isn’t a princess. SPut a positive spin on everything and people will think you’re phony. Not everything is positive.

When talking about hard decisions, my pastor, Michael Catt, said,

“If you prune, people are going to resist you. If you don’t prune, they won’t respect you.”

If you have to do it. Do it. Some people need firing. Some budgets need cutting. Sometimes your best employees or students are going to be mad at you. Sometimes people won’t or can’t understand. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, says,

“I believe you have to be willing to be misunderstood if you’re going to innovate.”

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was a General Manager for a cell phone company was being too open about some of the pressures I was under to make the numbers. When I told my employees too much about that pressure, I put them in a position they weren’t able to handle emotionally.

Great leaders are buffers. They are like sea walls, breaking the waves and preventing erosion of morale. They don’t mislead and pretend things are great when they are not. They make hard decisions that just are what they are. They also buffer against the big stuff that will prevent their employees or students from focusing on the main thing that is their task to do.

Don’t pretend everything is perfect. It isn’t. Here’s the deal. You’ve got to be honest on one hand and a buffer on the other (and have the wisdom to know the difference). 6. You become a misleader when you handle private issues publicly or play favorites.

The teacher who openly “calls out” a child without “naming names” is a coward. Everyone knows. The principal who publicly “calls out” a teacher or group of teachers without “calling names” is a coward too. Cowards are afraid of dealing with issues in the right way: privately and directly. They use their position of authority to deliver a backhanded slap that erodes the respect of all who hear. If you don’t have the guts to deal with a problem face to face then to resort to just “calling out” in public will only make you look even more impotent. If only one person is the offender, deal with that one and let the rest in the room not feel false guilt for something they haven’t done.

A woman dealing with an aging parent may need to be treated differently for a time than someone not in that situation. When you make blanket statements in public, you put everyone on alert to see if you’re going to treat everyone the same. It is always best to handle it in private because it isn’t your employees’ job to determine what is fair – it is yours.

For example, if you only “call out” the unacceptable behavior of some but put up with it from your “favorites” it reeks of favoritism. Every situation is different, so it is best to handle everything privately — except favoritism issues.

Interestingly, I’ve found that people who are impassioned about keeping everything “fair” are the most unfair people I know. They mistake treating everyone the same with fairness. But consider this quote from famed basketball coach John Wooden,

“treating everyone the same is the surest way to show favoritism.”

In the article Favoritism is a Huge Problem, Bob Whipple makes the point that there is a difference between having favorites and playing favorites. Some people have strengths that others do not have. When you ignore this concern of favoritism, you risk problems. Whipple recommends:

“Be aware of the issue of favoritism and use the word when a decision might be perceived as practicing it. Say, ‘I’m asking George to do this budget revision again. Since I have done this in the past, I do not want to be perceived as playing favorites. George has the accounting background to do this work. If others of you would like to work with the budget, let me know and I will help you get some training so you can do it in the future.”

I love this answer because you can help others see what you need to do that task, and you open up discussions. But also be willing to test your bias. I had two students come to me recently and tell me that they thought I was playing favorites with a student. I was shocked and crushed. I totally didn’t see it that way. But after I reflected, I realized what I had done and how that was perceived. I’m grateful that they thought enough of me to tell me. Managers need to be told too. Just be careful that you don’t ask your “favorite.”

You can be fair without treating everyone the same or playing favorites. Being open about why tasks are assigned to people and to listening to others tell you if you play favorites will help you. When you address behavior issues privately, you give yourself more flexibility in management. 7. You become a misleader when you have no self-discipline.

You lead by example. If you can’t get to work on time or stay there when times are tough, you don’t belong in leadership. If you want a comfortable life, don’t sign up to be a leader. Have the self-discipline to show up for work and do your job. James Dashner says in The Maze Runner

“You get lazy, you get sad. Start givin’ up. Plain and simple.”

In this book, the children trapped in the maze had to run and move forward to survive. You do too. Forward progress is progress. Basketball great Julius Irving said,

“Being a profession is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.”

Passionate professionals still have to do work. Teaching is hard. Leading is hard. Sometimes driving yourself to work when every fiber of your being wants to hit the couch is the most difficult thing of all.


“Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.” Simon Sinek

8. You become a misleader when you use your platform for a personal agenda.

These people shout “you’re just a stepping stone, not my home.” Full of promise, it is hard to follow them because they are on their way up and out. They’ll do just enough to be able to claim something grand, and they are off to greener pastures, over the hill or on the Hill. We have hard problems to solve and need some consistent leaders who will stay the course in tough jobs for a period.

Simon Sinek says in Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’’t

“The true price of leadershp is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self interest.”

Great leaders serve others. Take the time to connect with those you lead. 9. You become a misleader when you care more about words than actions.

Words are important. They can hurt. But I’d rather use the wrong word in a sentence that describes what I should do than to do the wrong thing. Good leaders look at meaning and “cut to the chase.” Weak leaders consider themselves Semantic Saviors – who have shown up in the nick of time to keep us from using the wrong word that might send us on a path of death and destruction. Words are important (and I’m not counting profanity and gross offenses here) but actions are often more important.

In the Forbes  article 12 Signs of Cowardly Leadership, author Jeff Schmitt says

“How people live is far more important than what they say. That’s especially true of leaders. When there’s a breach between rhetoric and reality, you’ll find a drained and demoralized organization riddled with distrust, dissension, and doubt.”

What gets you more upset: a misspoken word or a misdeed? Take care to back up words with action. Words alone are impotent. 10. You become a misleader if you need popularity to lead.

Booker T. Washington, one of my edu-heroes, said,

“Most leaders spend time trying to get others to think highly of them, when instead, they should try to get their people to think more highly of themselves.”

Help others see their strengths. Realize that no matter what you do, some things aren’t going to be popular.

Human judgment is harsh, and it is meted out to those in authority with an extra measure. Someone is not going to like you. Get over it. Try to be at peace with everyone if it is in your power, but if it is not, be as kind as you can, and move on.

In one of my favorite television dramas, Blue Bloods, New York Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (played by Tom Selleck), says,

“I’ve got skin thicker than a catcher’s mitt.”

Popularity is a fickle thing and rarely belongs to revolutionaries until after the war is won. There are times in our lives that doing the right thing means doing the unpopular thing. Thank goodness Winston Churchill didn’t need everyone’s approval to lead. His country needed someone to speak against the widespread pessimism of his countrymen. They needed someone to yank them up out of the ashes and encourage them to fight for existence. We need that in education today.

If you’re going to serve in schools as a teacher or administrator for longer than a week, you need to have a thick skin. Pleasing everyone is a recipe to please no one. You’ll have no one’s respect, not even your own. Sometimes you must stand against popular pessimism and lead others into a brighter future. The end of the school year is a hard time of year to be a leader in education. Whether you are in the classroom or the boardroom, everyone is tired, and it is easy for tempers to flare. Just like my other post 10 Ways to be a Terrible Teacher, it is so easy to criticize and many of these things we may all be guilty of doing. There are certainly more on the list, and I challenge you to consider and share in the comments. I have to note that these 10 are a compilation of things I’ve observed over a long period. You’ve told me your stories, and I get them over email. I have good leaders at my school as proven our results in the classroom and on the athletic field. Also, remember that sometimes the dysfunction starts way above the leader’s head. If you’re in an organization (like a board of directors or school board) that works with leaders to LET THEM LEAD but hold them accountable. A board that micromanages is creating an unhealthy organization stymied by the whims of a diverse group of people who may or may not be an expert in the type of organization they are intended to advise. Boards should set policy and leave day to day operations to those in charge. If you’re fortunate enough to have a great leader at the helm or in the classroom, appreciate them and treat them well, leadership seems to be a scarce resource these days. Be a great leader. Serve. Have vision. Lead on. Photo credit: Bigstock

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Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 20 April 2015

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 20 April, 2015 - 20:15

Daffodils are blooming, golf courses are opening, and buds are appearing on trees and bushes. Looks like we’re going to have spring in New Hampshire after all.  We’re well into the fourth and final quarter at my school. It’s a great time of year. And I have a nice harvest of interesting links to share. Hope you find something you can use here.

Microsoft is usually good about making platforms that can be  developed for so I was pleased but not surprised to see this Developing for the Microsoft Band Link Round-up (Channel 9) If only I could think of an app I wanted to developing I might buy one.

Mark Guzdial on BBC [] giving away 1 million mini computers so kids can learn to code: Prediction — little impact on broadening participation. I put in my two cents at Is the BBC’s ‘Micro Bot’ the Silver Bullet

Code Kingdoms teaches kids JavaScript through a puzzle adventure game: I haven’t played with this yet because it seems to only be available in the United Kingdom. Any one out there have a review for me? 

Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist Some things we need to be aware of in the classroom. Not just we as teachers but also making sure we don’t allow this sort of thing on the part of our students.

I ran into this quote last week. "That's the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers" - Larry Niven It’s one of those things that makes you really think. What does one mean by a lousy programmer? Is this user interface design? That’s probably part of it. Bug in code? Part of it as well. It’s complicated but something we need to work on both as people who develop code and people who teach people to develop code.

5 Myths Busted About Hackathons and The Maker Community Interesting article. I’m still trying to decide if hackathons are that helpful or not. Opinions?

Great Free Resource to Learn Game Development (Channel 9) Seems like a lot of options are available these days.

As encryption spreads, U.S. grapples with clash between privacy, security This is a topic we have been discussing in some of my classes.

Sheena Vaidyanathan, CSTA Board Rep for K-8, blogs on the CSTA blog about How to prepare educators to teach coding/CS

Categories: Planet

You Don’t Have to Do it All

The Principal of Change George Couros - 20 April, 2015 - 09:02

Voxer is something that is being brought up over and over again as a great way to collaborate with people all over the world and have deeper conversations.  I love reading posts like this one on “How School Leaders are Collaborating Over Voxer“, which I tweeted out last week.  What I noticed immediately was both people jumping in on how they use it, while also talking about wanting to explore it more.

What was my reaction? I shut it down.

When one of the people shared how they used it to listen to conversations on their way to work in the car, and I immediately felt overwhelmed with that thought.  My morning drive is filled with listening to music, or podcasts about ANYTHING other than education.  I have realized how I need that more than anything lately.

Here are two pictures that push my thinking.

The following is an image of a bunch of people at a concert that I took several years ago who are creating and sharing content to others all around the world.

People look at this picture and many will say how kids are not “living in the moment”, or they are so connected to their devices that they are missing out on life.

Then I show this picture:

Two points that I make here…the people in the second picture are actually not talking to anybody, where in the first picture, they are connecting with people, but it just looks different from what we have been accustomed to as adults.  The second point, which to me is more crucial, is how is that I am not really in a place to judge.  I look back at my time listening to music, reading a book, or going to the gym, and I actually love the solitude.  In fact, sitting in a coffee shop, listening to music and writing this post, is not only something that gives me the opportunity to reflect, but it also has some therapeutic aspects in the way it allows me to release my thoughts.  What is important is that I find what works for me and sometimes a personal learning network pushes people towards “group think”, where I need to find what works for me to become successful, at different points of the day.  That self-assessment and reflection is critical to people in our world today.

Do you have to do the same thing and ignore something like Voxer? Not at all.  The point of the “personal” in “personal learning network”, is that you make it what you want.  There are definite advantages of being on Voxer (this article talks about the power of podcasts for your brain, which many people have started using Voxer for), but as I see it, there are advantages of not being on it for myself as well.  Ignoring it at this point is what works for me.  Do I see educational uses of Vine? Absolutely.  But I also see it as a way to check out and watch ridiculous videos that are there for me to not think.  I need that and although I am extremely interested in the medium, I am trying to stop trying to “edufy” every social media site I see.  The appeal for social media in many cases was to have fun and sometimes I think that it is easy for myself to lose that initial idea and appeal that drew me to things like Facebook in the first place.

What I believe is that it is important to be in spaces that you can connect with other educators and grow as a teacher and a learner, but those spaces and the use of them, is up to the person. If you hang around in those different spaces, the best stuff will find you.  I have no doubt about that. But one of the NCTE 21st Century Literacies is to, “Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information”, and I wonder if sometimes “managing” them is by choosing not to be on them in the first place?

There is a lot of great information out there in the world, but in a world where we need to focus more and more on developing the “whole child”, if our entire life revolves around education all of the time, I am not sure we are modelling “appropriate use” ourselves.  Not using something is also part of the appropriate use as we move forward.  There will always be something “awesome”, but to try to use everything is not possible or helpful in the long term.

Categories: Planet

Learning From Tic Tac Toe

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 18 April, 2015 - 23:29

The other day I created some teams (3 to 4 students per team) and asked them to create a program to play tic tac toe – a human player against the computer. I have asked students to create a human vs. human version of tic tac toe in the past. It’s a nice little project that requires they use a lot of concepts that they have learned. Adding an AI is a bit more though so that is why the teams. Since I have never coded a tic tac toe AI myself (how did that not happen?)  I decided that I had to write a version myself.

I had a version of human vs. human tic tac toe to use as a base so the first thing I did was modify that so that it would call a module for find a computer move and incorporate that into the game. First learning – this is not as trivial as it sounds. Oh it’s not hard but one really has to think it through or you wind up with weirdness like the computer taking two moves or missing moves. It might have been easier to rewrite some key code rather than munging it up. Next time.

To test the code that allows the computer to move I made a very simple algorithm. I just randomly picked squares until I found an empty one. It worked. It allowed me to test the rest of the program but of course it didn’t play very well. Step two was to check to see if there was a square I could move in to win. A short time later I had a group of 24 if statements that checked every possible winning opportunity.

Then I made a beginner mistake. I copied and pasted that code and changed checking for “O” into checking for “X” to find a place where the computer needed to move to block a win by the human player. It took me a day away from the code to realize that this doubled the chance for me to make an error on this sort of check. I know better than that! So I broke the code out and created a single method that took as a parameter either an “X” or “O”. Much simpler code and it opens the door for me to more easily modify the program so that the computer can play as either “X” or “O”.

Since them I have done a bunch of refactoring and breaking complicated code out into individual, more simple, methods. It should make for good discussion when we talk about these programs as a class.

My students all want to try their hand against my AI.They helped me refine my program by finding things that I missed by not thinking things out enough. Students liked that of course. Now they don’t win anymore. In fact they frequently lose to the AI. That surprised me at first. I watched how they played and it became clear. They were so totally focused on what they could do to win that they missed seeing what the computer could do to win. That’s something else we’ll talk about in class. The computer doesn’t miss those opportunities.

BTW if you want to see a graphical solution of tic tac toe, the cartoon xkcd has a useful diagram.

Categories: Planet

The Evolution of the Employee – do schools understand this?

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 18 April, 2015 - 22:47

If there’s something I’m pretty sure of, it’s that the structure of school is difficult to change. Hopefully we will see some shifts in how we organise the day for our students, providing opportunities for our older students to learn in anytime, anywhere, virtual scenarios and giving them greater autonomy over their learning to prepare them well for university and working life. But for our younger students, I don’t see the organisational framework of school changing anytime soon. Let’s face it, people need to send their children somewhere during the day, and schools are the best fit and will continue to be that for some time to come.

What’s different is the kind of workplaces the students we teach will find themselves in at the end of their school or university lives. This is happening already, and the infographic above* outlines the changing scenario well. Just because the environment we work in as teachers is one that finds it more difficult to morph to this model, doesn’t mean that it is an unlikely notion for the students sitting in our classrooms right now.

We need to understand this. We need to comprehend the workplace of the future (in some cases, the workplace of the now) and help our students develop skills that will enable them to adjust to this when they branch out and try to make a living for themselves. I see people on Twitter question whether or not it is our responsibility to help our students become ‘job ready’. I contend that it is. While we may not be priming them for specific careers, we do need to be thinking seriously about the skills we can be fostering in classrooms today that will be beneficial for a working life scenario like that proposed above for the future employee.

* Infographic from Jacob Morgan’s book, ” The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization.

Categories: Planet

Genius Hour - Why we scaffold

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 18 April, 2015 - 13:18


  • Genius Hour - The idea is simple, identify a block of time and give it over to the students as an opportunity for them to create a learning experience of their own. But while the idea is simple implementing such a plan can be challenging and there are aspects of such a project that require careful planning and a clear philosophical understanding before you begin. - Nigel Coutts

Tags: Education, resources, learning, teaching

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

The Opportunity To Further Bring Parents Into the Learning

The Principal of Change George Couros - 18 April, 2015 - 00:00

My friend, Mark Renaud, took this short video of me speaking about the opportunity that social media has given to us to change the conversation at home between child and parent.

If social media is used in a thoughtful way to make learning visible, the hope is to change the conversation from “What did you learn today””, followed by the usual “nothing”, to something much more powerful.

Thanks to Mark for sharing this!

Categories: Planet

Self Taught Coders and Ugly Code

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 17 April, 2015 - 21:59

I love this cartoon from xkcd. Of course some self taught programmers write really nice looking code. And some formally taught programmers write ugly code.  The message I take away from this is that learning how to write clear well organized code takes some work. Training and the use of standards can help. I’ve written some ugly code in my time. I try to demonstrate clear good looking code to my students though. I want to give them the best start that I can and that involves modeling good practice.

Categories: Planet

Sometimes It is How You Look At It

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 16 April, 2015 - 22:55

A couple of days ago I saw an interesting program on the Small Basic blog.  The featured program was one that let a beginner write a turtle graphics program. I liked the image it drew but frankly I found the code not as clear as I’d like. This is not meant as a criticism of the program, which is actually pretty cool or of the language it implements. I can see real value in both. It’s just not the way I visualize things.

I decided that I would write the example in this image in something else to help me understand what is going on. Lately my Turtle graphics language of choice is TouchDevelop so I opened a web browser and started duplicating the code.

My code looked like this:

Well that is a lot better. For me anyway. But I was curious. Could it be easier? TouchDevelop has three skill levels – Beginner, Coder and Expert. This example is in Coder which is my favorite unless I need something from the expert feature set.

Just as the sample I was working from was not my cup of tea I thought that my style might also not be for everyone. I’ve had students who really preferred Beginner. So I switched skill level to see that that would look like.

It looks like this:

Wow! Colorful! And the nesting of the loops is abundantly clear with indentations and color coding. I like it. I can see how a beginner would find that much easier to understand. I still prefer coder for my own work but I can see real value in this Beginner mode.

We have an abundance of coding tools these days. Drag and drop languages, traditional text based languages, tools like TouchDevelop which are sort of in the middle and they all have valid uses. I’m not sure it is fair to pick one or two and say this is the right way to do things. Different people see things differently. I’ve seen students who have been taught multiple drag and drop languages (Alice, Scratch and Kodu for example) and they can all justify their favorite. There is no unanimous agreement on the best one. We visualize things differently. Sometimes the best use of time is experimenting a bit to find the set of tools that fits ones individual learning or visualization mindset.

Of course once one is out of the classroom one often doesn’t have a choice of tools to use. At least once the concepts are learned and internalized learning the new tools becomes easier. And easier still with each new tools. Variety is a good thing.

BTW, this next image is a side by side look at the three skill level views in TouchDevelop. Note that you can easily do some really advanced things in Expert mode.

Categories: Planet

Qualities of an Effective Teacher #gesf

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 16 April, 2015 - 19:33

What are the qualities of an effective teacher? This was one of the main questions that one of the panels at the 2015 Global Education and Skills Forum tried to answer. Over and over again, all the panelists seemed to list the same characteristics that they believed an effective teacher possessed: knowledge of the subject, motivation, emotional intelligence and empathy, stamina, and passion.

This session was recorded at the Global Education and Skills Forum. Student Elizabeth Glass writes her views on this session which she attended at the forum in Dubai. — Vicki Davis, Teacher

Studies show nothing is as critical to a child’s education outcome than their teacher. However, in many societies the role of the teacher has been strongly critiqued. This plenary explores how we might rethink education systems so that they champion the teacher in society.

Moderator: James E. Ryan, Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA
H.E. Vedran Mornar, Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia
H.E. Esteban Bullrich, Minister for Education, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Geoffrey Canada, President, Harlem Children’s Zone, USA
John Bangs, Senior Consultant Education International and Honorary Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University, UK
Jacqueline Jumbe-Kahura, Bofa Primary School, Kilifi, Kenya

Find out more at: https://educationandskillsforum.org/

  1. Knowledge of the Subject: First off, this quality is an absolute necessity to being an effective teacher. It does not matter how motivated, passionate, or creative you are if you cannot teach your students what they are there to learn. How can you expect them to learn if you don’t even know what they are supposed to be learning?
  2. Motivation: To be an effective teacher one has to be motivated, motivated to learn and to help others learn. That motivation for learning and self-improvement is what separates the truly great teachers from the rest. They are always trying new ways of teaching and engaging their students and they never tire of being students themselves. Effective teachers are always learning different ways of doing things and take the time to learn from other effective teachers.
  3. Emotional Intelligence and Empathy: Understanding your students is an integral part in being an effective teacher. Being able to connect with students on an emotional level and help them through the problems that come with growing up is what effective teachers do. For many kids, teachers are the ones they turn to for support when they can’t find it anywhere else. This emotional intelligence and empathy can go a long way in not only helping those students be able to learn but in changing their lives as well.
  4. Stamina: As most teachers will agree, it takes a lot of energy to teach and keep students engaged. It also takes a lot of stamina, because you never know what will happen next. Every day as a teacher is an adventure, and you have to be able to handle it in stride and keep on going.
  5. Passion: To me, this is the most important characteristic of an effective teacher. Passion in teachers is what inspires students to want to do their best and to dream big dreams. Passionate teachers are not those who chose to teach because they could not do anything else. Passionate teachers are those that find true happiness in their profession and in the everyday aspect of helping kids discover who they are and who they want to be.

Teachers are some of the few people who have the power to change the world because the future of the world is sitting in their classrooms. Those teachers who have knowledge, motivation, emotional intelligence and empathy, stamina, and passion are able to make an impact in the lives of their students. They inspire them to dream their wildest dreams while giving them the tools to achieve them and those are the ones who have the greatest impact.


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Categories: Planet

Similar but different?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 16 April, 2015 - 08:25

As I was walking through several schools today, I noticed objectives and goals that could have been the same when I went to school. How we get there today and what they mean, may be different, especially as we learn more about pedagogy, but also connect learning and opportunities to the changes that have happened/are happening in our world.

Here are some questions that I have that are pushing my thinking.

If we promote students learning in a “safe” environment, do we mean only in school or in learning?  Does ignoring technology in a world where we learn so much from “strangers” keep our kids truly safe?

If we want students to be literate, what does that look like today in schools?  How does it go beyond basic “reading and writing”?

If a school has a focus on “citizenship”, how does a world where we are all connected to one another change what that looks like?

If parent participation is beneficial to the learning of a child, how do we use technologies that are easily accessible to both schools and parents to tap into our community?

If you look at the key components of each question, they are the following:

1. Keeping Kids Safe.
2. Promoting Literacy
3. Citizenship and Social Responsibility
4.  Parents as Partners in Education

If I would have shown you those as objectives in a school in 1980, they might not look any different in the wording, but in practice, they look significantly different.  I was taught over and over again how to cross the street so that I could access what was on the other side, but do we teach kids how to keep their information safe while they are connecting to others across the world?  The idea of “safe” has changed.

There is a lot of areas where schools have changed, but some of the objectives are the same.  How do we make sure that we are keeping up with what our students need for today and tomorrow?

What do you think?


Categories: Planet

Sketchnoting Fans: Paper 53 Built a Sketchnote Community

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 15 April, 2015 - 21:11

Paper by 53, a favorite sketchnoting app of many, gets major updates like cloud backup and Activity Center where you can share and find sketchnotes of others. This is very cool for sketchnoting fans and those who just like information. While I struggle with sketchnoting, I have this app and will be playing with it more this summer.

Via Paper by Fifty Three Gets Updates on App Advice

Sketchnoting is awesome!

3 Resources To Get You Started with Sketchnotes
  1. Sylvia Duckworth’s incredible presentation Sketchnoting for Beginners.
  2. Kathy Shrock’s Sketchnoting guide
  3. Smashing Magazine’s Article on Sketchnoting


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Categories: Planet

Why Would You Do That?

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 15 April, 2015 - 03:10

Students ask interesting questions. One of the more frequent questions they ask is “why would you do that?” Often it comes, not because you didn’t already explain why one would do something, but because the answer doesn’t really register in the abstract. For example we are spending some time on creating methods (subroutines/functions) in our programming class. When I introduced them as a concept I explained multiple reasons why we use them. Simplification, ease of testing, reuse, etc. Then we worked on how they are created and used. As is typical I started with something very simple. Perhaps too simple? In any case what we did was to break out some equations (temperature conversions) and put them in their own methods.

The methods are very simple. Sometime like this:

1: private double CtoF(double x) 2: { 3: return x * 9.0 / 5.0 + 32; 4: }

My goal of course is to explain the mechanics of setting up and calling a method. So a method with very simple code in it seemed like a good idea. And then the dreaded question “why would you want to do that?” This actually adds some complexity to the code in some ways. It feels like extra work and it is hard to argue that it is not.

The discussion was now open though and that was a plus. I asked the student if they’d like to write code to replace the ToString method. Of course he said yes and it working on it but most of the class is fine reusing the existing method. Having done some string and char manipulation the students have some ideas about what is involved. Asking them if they would want all that code in their program everywhere they currently call the method makes the value of methods start to sink in.

It will become even more evident when we start writing our own classes in the near future. But I have a feeling that at some point, probably when talking about data hiding and using methods to access class data I will once again hear someone say “why would you do that?” No matter how many times I have already tried to answer the question in advance.

Categories: Planet

If I’m Such a Great Teacher, Why Do I Want to Quit?

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 14 April, 2015 - 21:16

April and May are tough times of the year for me. Every year. Right now, I teach straight from 8:11 until 2:11. Then, at 2:11, my room is usually full of kids working on projects for other teachers — needing password resets and help. Then, at 3:03, I sit down to try to grade and plan lessons but I’m so tired, I just wonder what to do.

I’ve written about How to Step Back from Burnout, but this is more than that. Right now, I’m approaching 100,000 Twitter followers, and that is awesome. But in some ways, it is intimidating to me. I don’t feel special. I know I don’t have all the answers. All of you have caused a tad of crisis in my tweeting (which I will get over). Being paid attention to sounds like a very odd problem but really, it is a reflection on responsibility. I want to do right by those of you who trust me and right now, I don’t feel at my best. I’m struggling to stay in the classroom.

I want to encourage and be helpful to teachers. No doubt, that is my calling. And yet, I have this agreement with myself that when I’m too down and have nothing good to say, that I will be very very careful about writing. I am a professional, and there are right and wrong ways to handle problems. There are those who  air their issues on the Net and wait for thousands of vigilant friends to come to their defense. Come on! Grow up. That isn’t how we handle things, in my opinion. There are times but not every time. There are lonely battles I fight by myself.

Exercise is a big part of my coping mechanism. I take time every day to do it. It helps deal with the stress and makes me feel better. Even a walk around the building can clear my mind and yours.

The truth is that I’m having an epically hard time right now. Each morning I get up and work hard to exercise and eat well — anything that I know will boost my mood and help me teach for six hours straight. I stay late grading and have adjusted my schedule to spend time helping students after school. I often wonder how I’m going to make it through the next five weeks. I work hard to keep hold of my thought life and not let it spiral into despair.

So much of my energy is being tied up in “making it” that it becomes quite overwhelming to try to inspire others. I feel insufficient. I feel like you need someone who does everything perfectly, has a perfectly clean room and has all the answers. Yet, one thing I have also discovered: if I see a person who says they are a perfect teacher, they are a liar. Because perfect teachers don’t exist. There are no perfect humans. We all mess up.

A pull towards excellence as the school year ends can help you make it. Let’s encourage each other.

There are many days when I think that the best answer is just to quit.  And yet, I know that it is not my time to leave… yet. When I leave the classroom, I will not quit – I will decide to leave and know that I have another classroom of another kind to tackle. Quit implies giving up. Sometimes there is a time to move on after you finish well.

I think that perhaps it is my time to feel the depths of the struggle that most normal teachers feel. It is my time to push through and find answers for myself that can help others. I had vented a tiny piece of a struggle I had last Thursday, and someone else tweeted back at me, “somehow knowing you had a rough day too, makes mine not so bad.”

I always ask myself: “What direction am I moving?” I may only take a small step but if it is in the right direction, I’ll take that as a win.

So, maybe this post is just to encourage those of you out there who are real teachers. Some may struggle with the fact that I am not, despite some who argue to the otherwise, a modern day Pollyanna.  I am a realistic optimist. I know the reality of how hard it is going to be to go for another five weeks teaching 6 hours a day straight. I am also optimistic that, as always, I will find a way to soar (even if I feel like I’ve fallen in a mud puddle right now.)

Maybe this post is to help you know that many of us struggle to make it one day to the next. In fact, I’m down to one-minute-at-a-time right now.

Maybe this post is to help you know that you’re not alone. So many of us struggle.

It is not a lack of love for the kids. It is just the reality of all of the bazillions of things that we deal with as a teacher that no one could put in a book. Kids who get sick at the worst times and parents who think they prove their love to their children by how loud they yell at their teacher. People who yell at you without even getting their facts straight. Too many responsibilities and too little time and a struggle to achieve a balance that never quite gets there. I’m not resentful against this profession I love; this profession is what it is. No one can change this for me. I either accept it, or I don’t.

I am a teacher. I am glad to be a teacher. I am glad that it makes a difference in the lives of children. But this profession, like few others, wears on the soul of the person who dons the mantle. It is worthwhile, but it is hard work.

If you’re with me, and you get every word I’m writing then let me tell you this.

I love you and your sacrifice. If I could reach through this computer and give you a hug, I would. If I could sit across from you and buy you a cup of coffee and tell you that you’ll make it, I would. But I can’t do that.  I can only write these words:

Teacher! You are important. Your job is noble and incredible. And you will make it. One foot in front of the other. Do your best, and that is enough. Keep going. Wait and make the big decisions about life when you’re a little more rested and I will too.

We can do this.

KEEP GOING! Teacher! Your job is noble and important. And you will make it!Powered By the Tweet This PluginTweet This

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Categories: Planet

The Mindset of an Innovator

The Principal of Change George Couros - 14 April, 2015 - 04:21

The notion of the “Innovator’s Mindset”, and what it actually looks like, is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately.  The more I dig into the topic, the more I believe that this should be the norm in education.  Innovation is not something new to education, but it is something that we can do better.  The access to people and information changes a lot of the opportunities that are available both for students and educators, which calls for all of those being involved in education to see ourselves as learners.

As I thought about this, I wanted to write some statements on what this means, and what it looks like in our world today, ultimately leading to one statement for myself.  This is what I came up with:

I am an educator.

I am an innovator.

I am an innovative educator and I will continue to ask “what is best for learners”.  With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point.

I believe that my abilities, intelligence, and talents can be developed, leading to the creation of new and better ideas.

I recognize that there are obstacles in education, but as an innovator, I will focus on what is possible today and where I can push to lead towards tomorrow.

I will utilize the tools that are available to me today and I will continue to search for new and better ways to continuously grow, develop and share my thinking, while creating and connecting my learning.

I focus not only on where I can improve, but where I am already strong, and I look to develop those strengths in myself and in others.

I build upon what I already know, but I do not limit myself to myself. I’m open to and willing to embrace new learning, while continuously asking questions to move forward.

I question thinking, challenge ideas, and do not accept “this is the way we have always done it” as an acceptable answer for our students or myself.

I model the learning and leadership I seek in others. I take risks and try new things to develop and explore new opportunities. I ask others to take risks in their learning, and I openly model that I’m willing to do the same.

I believe that isolation is the enemy of innovation, and I will learn from others to create better learning opportunities for others and myself.

I connect with others both locally and globally to tap into ideas from all people and spaces. I will use those idea along with my professional judgement, to adapt the ideas to meet the needs of the learners in my community.

I believe in my voice and experiences, as well as the voice and experiences of others, as they are important for moving education forward.

I share because the learning I create and the experiences I have help others. I share to push my own thinking, and to make an impact on learners, both young and old, all over the world.

I listen and learn from different perspectives, because I know we are much better together than we could ever be alone. I can learn from anyone and any situation.

I actively reflect on my learning, as I know looking back is crucial to moving forward.

I am an educator.

I am an innovator.

I am an innovative educator and I will continue to ask “what is best for learners”.  With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point.

This is meant to be more of a process of my own thinking, as opposed to a finished product.  But going through this process made me realize that similar to how we are dropping the word “digital” off of many terms (digital leadership, digital citizenships, etc.) because it is becoming invisible and just implied, will we get to the point where what we see as being “innovative” simply become the norm in what we do in education?  Is there anything above that is out of the realm for any educator?  I hope not.

Categories: Planet

What Should We Teach the Teachers Who Will Teach Tomorrow?

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 13 April, 2015 - 20:58

Jim Ryan, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, talks with Vicki at The Global Education & Skills Forum in this episode of Every Classroom Matters. Jim shares his opinion on how teachers of teachers should be presenting coursework in college. He also talks about the hypocrisy of many professional development and college courses that teach teachers. All college professors and those responsible for teacher professional development will want to listen to this show.

Listen to Dean Jim Ryan

Add @DeanJimRyan to your PLN

Listen to Dean Jim Ryan

James E. Ryan is one of the nation’s leading scholars of education law and policy as well as the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Dean Ryan is also an award-winning teacher who served on the University of Virginia faculty since 1998. He strongly feels teachers of teachers should model methods for teachers. He advocates the use of projects, maker education, and the same type of methods professors want teacher candidates to use in the classrooms of the nation.

Jim Ryan also holds ideas about professional development. He feels teachers want to learn PD from other teachers and the quality must be higher raised. He feels even Harvard should be doing more in professional development courses offered at the institution. Dean Ryan urges teachers should never stop learning.

Listen to Dean Jim Ryan

Every Classroom Matters is a bi-weekly Radio Show by Vicki Davis on BAM Radio network with best practices for busy teachers. Subscribe.
Show notes prepared by Lisa Durff, Production Coordinator for Every Classroom Matters. Need help listening to the show?

If you’re clicking “Play” on the BAM Radio Site, this often works best in Internet explorer. Or subscribe in a podcatcher. If you need help, use this tutorial.

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Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 13 April 2015

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 13 April, 2015 - 20:08
Spring may actually be coming. Only of few piles of snow left on my property and I was able to take done the Christmas lights on the tree in front of my house. Usually I can get to them a lot earlier but we had a lot of snow this year. I also filed my taxes. Not my favorite thing but I have to say that modern software makes the job a lot easier than it used to me.

Speaking of leaving things to the last minute – if you are a CSTA member have you voted for the board elections and by-law changes? Please do so. It is a key opportunity to make a difference in your organization.

I spent some time over the weekend checking out the TouchDevelop curriculum by @michaelebraun. Looks pretty interesting. 

I’ve really been seeing a lot of Kinect resources lately so I am really looking forward to the Tuesday session at the annual CSTA Conference called "Out of Your Seat Comp Science: Coding Using the Kinect"  being presented by: Doug Bergman.

Which reminds me that early bird  registration for  CSTA 15 ends 4/15/15 - save $50, register now! There's only a couple of days left for you to take advantage:

Speaking of Kinect, - Kinect to Small Basic is now available. That is pretty exciting I think as it makes Kinect more approachable to more developers.

Scratch Jnr is now available for Android  which seems like a good thing.
Some articles to think about:
Everyone gets excited about these but are they as good as we’d like to think they are? And what do they prove anyway?

Categories: Planet

3 Things That Have Slowed the Change Process Down in Education (And What We Can Do About It)

The Principal of Change George Couros - 12 April, 2015 - 02:30

There has been a lot of talk on the idea that education as a whole takes a long time to change.  As an educator, this is a challenging notion, since we are seeing many people doing some amazing things that did not exist when I was a student.  Change is happening but sometimes it is hard to see when you are in the middle of the process.

Some things are out of the hands of schools. Budgets and government decisions can make creating new and better learning environments for students tough, but not impossible.  Educators are not powerless, and in some cases, more powerful that ever.  The story of education can not only be told from the perspective of educators, but also from the students that are currently in the system.  Although there is still a lot of work to do (as there always will be in organizations that focus on continuous learning and have an emphasis on becoming “innovative”), there are also opportunities in education, now more than ever, that we will need to take advantage of and create a different path.

Here are some of the challenges we have had in the past and how we can tackle them

1. Isolation is the enemy of innovation. 

Education has traditionally been an isolating profession where we get some time together, but not nearly enough.  Even if we wanted to change this significantly, in most cases, the current physical structures do not allow us to work with other educators.  Some administrators have been very innovative in their planning of teacher prep time and have embedded collaboration time into the regular school day, but it is not necessarily enough to make a significant impact.

How so many educators have shifted this “norm” is by using social media spaces to connect and learn from educators all over the world, and making a significant difference in their own classrooms, and creating much more engaging and empowering learning spaces.  Isolation is now a choice educators make. Where the shift really has to happen is using things like Twitter is for educators to connect and share learning that is happening with educators in their own school.  I challenged people to do the following (as shared in this visual from Meredith Johnson);

We need to make this happen and create transparency in our own classrooms.

How does a song like “Gangnam Style” go so viral that most people around the world not only know the words but the dance moves?  Social media.  If a song can spread so quickly, so can great learning.

Make it go viral.

2. A continuous focus on what is wrong, as opposed to what is right.

Think about the traditional practice of what school has done with many of our students.  If they struggle with the subject of math, we often send the more math homework to do at home.  Does this really make sense?  If they are struggling at school, making them struggle at home with the same content is often counterintuitive.  It is not that we shouldn’t struggle, but it is important that we are very thoughtful of how we spend our energy.

The shift that has happened with not only our students, but also our schools, is focusing upon building upon strengths as opposed to focusing solely on weaknesses.  This is imperative as building upon strengths often helps us to not only build competence, but also confidence which leads us to the mindset that we are more open to tackle our other challenges along the way.

I love this quote from Forbes on putting people in the right positions to be successful:

Leadership is a privilege, not a right, and we need to treat it as such. Leadership means encouraging people to live up to their fullest potential and find the path they love. That, and only that, will create a strong culture and sustainable levels of innovation.

Many organizations outside of education are hiring not on need, but finding the best people and empowering them based upon their strengths.  Schools should try to do their best to follow suit and put people to be in the best situations to not only do well, but to lead.

3.  Experience is a very powerful teacher.

I remember sitting and listening to Bruce Dixon at a conference and something he said has always stuck out to me:

In no other profession in the world do you sit and watch someone else do your job for 16 years before you go and do it yourself.

Wow.  That is a powerful message and shows why so many new teachers aren’t coming into school with all of these “innovative ideas” and changing our school system like so many people predicted.  Many educators simply replicate their experience as a student. If you think about it, at least one-third of many teachers educational experience is as a student, not a teacher.  That is a tough thing to overcome, but not impossible.

Innovation has no age barrier, and if we can tweak the experience for educators in their professional learning, they are more likely to change the experience for their students.  Writing ideas about “21st century classrooms” on gigantic pieces of paper with a felt marker is not going to create cultural shifts; changing experiences will.

People are starting to look differently at professional learning, and create experiences that are much different from what I first experienced as a teacher.  I think a major reason for this shift (going back to point 1) is that educators are seeing the shift in practices in so many other organizations, and are trying to create a different practice where more educators are not really focused on teaching as much as they are about learning.  This empathy is crucial since to become a master teacher, you must become a master learner.  

Changing experiences to shift the focus on the learner from the teacher helps to disrupt routine.  If you would want to create an environment where students would want to be a part of your classroom, we have to experience what learning could look like for ourselves and start from a point of empathy.

“To become a master teacher, you must become a master learner. “
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One shift that was not mentioned was the mindset of looking at obstacles as opportunities. As mentioned earlier, not everything is in our control, but as educators know, they can make an impact every single day.  It is not always easy, and teaching can be a very daunting and tiring job, but I believe that every day we can make a difference if we choose.  Having that mindset is the only way that we will ever truly be able to make a powerful change for ourselves and our students.

Categories: Planet

Help expand K-5 computer science education

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 12 April, 2015 - 01:58

Saw this item via the CSTA announcements mailing list.

Code.org is hoping to expand K-5 computer science education by recruiting qualified computer science teachers who will prepare local elementary teachers to teach Code.org's elementary courses. If you have a background in computer science or experience hosting professional development, you may be a great candidate! Apply now: http://bit.ly/1Bu5Bhk

What is the K5 Affiliate Program?

Code.org has developed an online Computer Science curriculum for Elementary School students comprised of Courses 1, 2 and 3, which are free and publicly available at studio.code.org. Our goal is to spread this curricula to tens of thousands of classrooms across the US through the development and implementation of a train-the-trainer model for teacher professional development.  

We implemented this model in September 2014 with 80 affiliates nationwide. So far, approximately 6,000 teachers have participated and have rated our workshops a 4.8 on a 5 point scale. The majority say, "It's the best professional development I've ever attended." We want to expand this program, and we want you to consider becoming an Affiliate.

How do you become a K5 Affiliate?

Become a Code.org K-5 Affiliate by attending a two-day, expense-paid workshop in Chicago, Illinois (July 17-19th). Code.org will prepare you to deliver your own one-day, in-person workshops to local educators interested in teaching the Code.org K-5 curriculum.Apply now: http://bit.ly/1Bu5Bhk

What does a Code.org K-5 Affiliate receive?

For each workshop you host, Code.org affiliates will receive supplies to host the workshop (including curriculum guides and swag bags for teachers), a per-teacher stipend to compensate you.

Are you interested? Apply to become a Code.org Affiliate and host workshops for K-5 teachers in your region. Link to application:http://bit.ly/1Bu5Bhk

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