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Missing a teachable moment

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 7 hours 59 min ago

As educators know, extraordinary opportunities for learning come from those often unpredictable and unscripted teachable moments.  Those moments that are not ‘text-book’ and yet provide students with valuable occasions for critical thinking, reflection and deeper learning.

On Friday, our government missed a teachable moment when the Prime Minister rejected appeals for the resettlement of Rohingya refugees stranded at sea in South East Asia.

The aim of government policy is ultimately designed to improve the lives of citizens whether it be access to universal healthcare or quality education. Our politicians are elected community leaders. They are also teachers – reflecting our values, sense of identity and hopes for the future.

This generation of Australian students will be key to solving future challenges including how we aid and assist those fleeing war and persecution.

I’m not sure what values were imparted or what lessons our students learned from Friday’s response but I am reminded of the second stanza of our National Anthem:

For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

With refugee week coming up in June, perhaps the word for our politicians here is – courage.

There are government and Catholic schools across western Sydney who have welcomed children from around the world (many from war-torn nations) into its classrooms and communities.  These students are all contributing to a more inclusive and diverse society.

These students have stories of courage to share – and something to teach our politicians.












Categories: Planet

What Innovation Is and Isn’t

To simplify the notion of innovation, it is something that is both new (either invention or iteration) and better. Innovation is not about the “stuff”, but about a way of thinking.

For example, it is not the iPhone that is innovative, it was the thinking that created it in the first place.   Innovation is about mindset more than anything. In fact, if you made an iPhone that looked more like the first version than the current one, it would no longer be innovative, but simply replication.  There is no new thinking, nor is it better than what we have now.

Yet often, innovation is often used as a synonym for technology (which it is not), or to describe something that is simply “new”.  Innovation can happen in all areas of our world today, both inside and education.  There are many people that are designing assessment practices that extremely innovative, because they are both new and better in the way they improve learning. The ideas behind these innovative assessment practices also start from the viewpoint of the learner, not the teacher.  In fact, sometimes the newer assessment practices, although better for students, are often more work for the teacher.  It is simple to throw a subjective grade on a report card comparatively to the rich type of assessment teachers are helping to develop students to drive powerful learning.

Think about the idea of the “flipped classroom”.  Many would say this is an “innovation” in the world of teaching and learning, but if this new practice truly is, what makes it “better” (for the students)?  To understand that, what “better” means (is it test scores, student engagement, deeper learning) has to be articulated as well.  If it is just a new way of teaching, without the “better”, it is not innovative.

Here is an example of a new practice that is happening in health that may not be innovative, at all. Many schools are wanting students to eat healthier, so they are taking their current vending machines, and replacing “junk” food with healthier options.  The hope in this case in many places is that the lack of the option of the unhealthy food in a vending machine, will give students no choice but to eat healthy.  What this has done in many cases is actually not led students to eating healthier food, but actually sometimes leaving school and choose unhealthier options at things such as convenience stores, that actually have larger portions of the unhealthier food.

Although this is a new idea, if kids are actually eating less at school and still making unhealthy choices, is it better?  The voice that has often been missing in these health initiatives is that of the students.  To help people change, it is important to understand what drives their habits in the first place.  Simply replacing “A” with “B” is sometimes not only NOT innovation, it could actually lead to something worse then what we had before.  Designing solutions with the end in mind (the person/people you are serving), is crucial for any innovation to be successful.

Innovation is about a way of thinking, and if we do not design something that is both new and better, we are not thinking with an innovator’s mindset, but simply different.  The idea that Apple is famously known for of  “Think Different” was a start, but not enough. Different for the sake of different is not only something that could eventually be a waste of time, but could sometimes even leave us worse off from where we started.

Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 25 May 2015

Memorial Day in the US today. We remember those who died in battle fighting for our country. A somber day in some ways. In other, it makes the unofficial start of summer, it is a bit of a celebration day. I’ll be spending the day with family. I’ll be remembering my father who fought in WW II but lived beyond it. On the upbeat side, I found some interesting things to share with you.

What should a K – 12 CS teacher know? by Garth Flint who updates his thinking on preparation to teach computer science. Visit his blog and see what he has to say. Let him know if you agree or disagree.

Applications for travel grants to the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing are now open! From Google “University students and industry professionals in the US and Canada who excel in computer science and are passionate about supporting women in tech are welcome to apply.”

Back in the day this would have been called a flatbed printer. We used to use similar devices with different types of pens. Water Color Bot is a flatbed plotter that uses water colors. Interesting idea for sure.

BBC reveals more details about its free MicroBit micro computer.   I’m still both curious and skeptical. Not being in the UK I don’t expect to be able to get my hands on one. When they are out if anyone has one they don’t want you know who to send it to though. :-)

Cool Excel tricks I may fit some of these into my curriculum next year. Always more interesting things to do with spreadsheet software. 

Why Technology Will Never Fix Education Commentary at @chronicle  Hint: people are involved.

Free summer workshop on App Inventor for San Francisco Bay Area teachers:  Plus a $1k stipend if you teach it next year!

Categories: Planet

10 Stress-Busting Secrets of Great Teachers

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 25 May, 2015 - 19:16

Sail Through the Stress of the Storm

If I look through a window pane and see teaching as weather, teaching would be the thunderstorm. And as we sail our classroom ship on this maelstrom of hormones, stress, conflicting priorities, and distractions, it takes rock-solid habits of mind and life to be the kind of self-assured captain who can weather the storm.

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Health professionals believe that 80-90% of all disease is stress related. Gallup’s 2014 State of American Schools reports half of teachers claim they have significant daily stress. (The highest of all careers polled.)

This month’s Global Search on Education question is “What are the quick ways to combat teacher’s stress in a classroom? ” You’ll see all of the answers collected here.

Here are some time-tested research-proven ways to be that Teacher-Captain with nerves of steel.

Stress Busting Secret #1: [MENTAL] Kill Worry By Accepting the Worst and Working to Improve It

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.” Corrie ten Boom

Many teachers house an internal storm between their ears. Worry rips through peace and electrocutes purpose.

The best technique for dealing with anxiety comes from Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Carnegie interviewed Willis H. Carrier the engineer and founder of the Carrier Corporation, the company many of us use for our air conditioning system. Early in his career, Carrier had made a mistake and installed a massive air handling system that didn’t work. After nights of not sleeping, Carrier adopted three steps that changed his life.

  1. Analyze the situation fearlessly and honestly and figure out the worst that can happen as a result.
  2. Accept the worst outcome
  3. Calmly devote time and energy to improve upon the worst which has already been accepted mentally.

When I’m worried, I grab pen and paper and start by listing the worst thing that can happen. I go ahead and accept the worst, and then, I start improving it. As it says in Luke 12:22,

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Secret #2: [MENTAL] Interrupt Negative Thought Loops and Replace Them With Positive Ones

Your thoughts can swirl into a tornado — taking you to places of purpose or pathetic places of self-induced agony.

Your thoughts create a mental momentum that spills over into your physical world. On a recent episode of Every Classroom Matters, Sir John Hargrave, author of Mindhacking, talked about “thought loops.” Thought loops are those repeated loops of things we say to ourselves. Part of self-awareness and metacognition is the ability to pull back and observe your thoughts from a distance.

For example, early in my career I was struggling with classroom management. I found myself thinking “I can’t manage my classroom.” The more I said this, the more helpless I became. I quickly switched this stinkin’ thinkin’ to “I will learn how to better manage my classroom and become a better teacher.” I did. Gandhi said,

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with his dirty feet.”

Sometimes our thoughts come from things people have said to us. We can master our thoughts and redirect our abilities.

Secret #3: [MENTAL] Keep a Joy Journal

The captain’s log of ancient yore tell stories of events but also serve as part-confidante and self-reflection for those lonely sea captains. Teacher-Captains are lonely too. You can see remarkable benefits from logging your thoughts.

Research has shown that keeping a joy journal will improve your “long term well being” more than winning a million dollars in the lottery.

Looking for joy is like looking for a color. If I ask you to look for the color blue – you see it everywhere. Now, I ask you to look for red – there it is. Most of us are naturally tuned to notice certain things. Some people always see the negative, like old Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh.

Winnie the Pooh: Lovely day, isn’t it?

Eeyore: Wish I could say yes, but I can’t.

You can start saying yes when you notice the blessings in the storm. The kind word, the fun time you had playing with the dog, the romantic dinner you had last night, the surprise phone call from an old friend. We all have moments of joy if we start noticing them instead of feeling blue.

Secret #4: [PHYSICAL] Make Sleep a Priority

A tired teacher is a powderkeg looking for a match.

When I enter the most stressful times of the year, I set an evening alarm in my bedroom to remind me it is time to go to bed. Sleep loss makes it harder to think, harms your health and worsens your mood. Women who sleep less than seven hours a night are more likely to be obese. Norbert Schwarz says,

“Making $60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night.”

Brooks and Lack found that a ten-minute nap was ideal, but that even a five-minute snooze was better than nothing.

Secret #5: [PHYSICAL] Drink Enough Water

What a tragedy to die of thirst in a sea of salt! Yet, even in a country where water is not scarce such as the US, 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration. (I would imagine many other countries are astounding as well.)

We thirst for self-discipline. We suffer not from lack of water, but an inability to take time to drink it. The effects of dehydration are real and especially detrimental to teachers who must stay positive and think clearly. Dehydration is shown to impact your mood and cognitive processes negatively.

I apply the “mud puddle principle” and put a glass by each sink in my home. I also drink a whole glass of water at the beginning of break and lunch. Drinking water must become part of your habits, so you do it automatically.

Secret #6: [PHYSICAL] Exercise (preferably outside)

Sitting is the new cigarette. Every 90 minutes you need to MOVE. We’re not stuck on a ship, after all, we can walk around the building or visit a friend across campus. Some of us can even walk to work.

You can have a positive mood-enhancing impact after just five minutes of exercise. If you want even more of a boost, exercising outdoors will increase your positive mood further.

Secret #7: [SPIRITUAL] Make Time for Faith

“If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.” Mahatma Gandhi

There is a strong correlation between religion and positive mental health. For many of us, research-proven ways of handling stress including meditation, deep breathing, aromatherapy, listening to music, visualization and prayer as part of our faith practice.

Mother Teresa worked in the harshest of situations with the poor in Calcutta. If there has ever been a person sailing a ship on the red blood of despair, death, and poverty, it is this precious woman. She said,

“The simplicity of our life of contemplation makes us see the face of God in everything, everyone, and everywhere, all the time.”

Secret #8: [RELATIONAL] Develop deep relationships

Every captain needs a comrade.

Take the time to have deep relationships with others. As humans, we need intimacy. When you’re with these people, don’t always talk about your stressful career, however. While journaling your problems is shown to reduce stress, just talking about them with another person is not. And cynical gossip has an intensely negative impact on your life. Build healthy relationships of mutual respect and common interests.

Secret #9: [RELATIONAL] Make Physical Affection Part of Your Day

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia, Author

Kissing, hugging, sex, and even massages are proven ways to reduce stress. Even a simple, appropriate hug or pat on the back can help.

Secret #10: [TECHNOLOGY] Unplug, Recharge, and Focus

A distracted captain can run his ship aground. A distracted person is a danger to himself and those he cares for most.

The constant interruptions of your  phone and notifications can make us feel like a human doing and not a human being. Three essential technology practices will help all of us live richer less stressful lives.

UNPLUG: Stop Using Technology One Hour Before Bedtime

First, we need at least an hour before bed when we are not looking at or around our brightly lit devices. Technology devices wake us up an interrupt our circadian rhythms, making it difficult to sleep.

RECHARGE: No Phones in the Bedroom

Second, we need to charge our phones outside of the bedroom. Even in airplane mode and do not disturb, some of our apps can interrupt us and wake us up.

FOCUS: Have Do Not Disturb Time

Finally, we need uninterrupted moments I call this DND (Do Not Disturb) time. For example, I use an app on my iPad to read my Bible in church. However, I put the iPad in airplane mode and “Do Not Disturb” so that nothing else will interrupt me. For the most part, it works.

Any time you’re at an event and want to focus on the event, set your phone to DND, particularly if using your phone as the camera. This way, you won’t be interrupted with an “urgent” email when you go to snap a picture of a never-to-be-repeated moment.  You will also be more productive at work. Teachers who mess around with computer instead of focusing on students, make a mess of great teaching opportunities.

In Conclusion: Sailing Our Ship

It would be nice to calm the storm and sail quiet seas all the time. But some of the most hated weather by sailors is dead calm. You have nothing to propel you forward — no wind. When you teach, you have to accept the weather we navigate. What you do not have to accept is that you have to stress out about it and have no quality of life.

For, when I read Walt Whitman’s words, I always think of a teacher.

Oh Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

Here’s to you, teacher. May you weather the storm and laugh in the rain. This profession may be stressful but is is never boring. Our destination is purposeful. We captain a great ship on an epic quest to educate the minds of men and women. We sail towards tomorrow.

The post 10 Stress-Busting Secrets of Great Teachers appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

New Teachers: Designing Learning Environments | Edutopia

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 25 May, 2015 - 16:50


  • This post on Edutopia offers a list of resources that includes tips and guides on classroom design and layout to help maximize the possibilities of the learning environment. - Rhondda Powling

Tags: learning spaces, classroom activities, learning environments, teaching

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

3 Questions Crucial to Creating the Conditions for Change

The Principal of Change George Couros - 25 May, 2015 - 00:18

Frustration is an easy emotion when you either see opportunities for change in our work, but don’t see others moving to the point that you have envisioned.  In one day, I remember talking to a group of administrators, teachers, and parents, and I noticed something amazing.  When working with the teachers, there was a comment that they wanted change, but were blocked by their administrators and parents within the community, some of the administrators said they were slowed by the teachers and parents, and then the parents said (I bet you can see where this is going) said they wanted something different but the schools (educators and administrators)  were not making it happen.

The mindset was that was change was something in the control of others, when reality states that we are often our own barriers to the change process. If we want to create conditions where others see the importance of and are willing to embrace change, is does not start with giving answers, but asking questions, listening, and understanding.  Change is not something you do to others, but something we experience ourselves.

With that being said, if we get to the point in leadership that we are frustrated that others won’t change, we are missing the point of why we are in leadership in the first place.  Simply telling someone to change will not work, but helping to create experiences where people make emotional connections where they see their own change is imperative is crucial.  Showing someone that something is “better”, does not mean they will embrace it.  People are often more comfortable with a known “average”, than an unknown “good”.  Helping others get to a place where they are willing to risk trying something new is crucial, and modelling that we are willing to take risks ourselves is crucial.

Here are a few questions that I think are imperative to creating the conditions for change to not only happen, but to flourish:

1. How do I continuously model that I am willing to grow to those that I serve?

Asking people to take risks does not happen without leaders that openly model taking risks.  Leaders continuously learn and grow, but if it is hidden in a space where those we serve cannot see, then their reluctance to change is warranted by the lack of change happening from the “top” of the hierarchy.  Many feel, “Why would I change, when those above me are not willing to do the same?”

2. Do people have an emotional connection to why change is imperative, not just what change looks like?

Leadership is about heart and mind; both elements need to be focused upon.  If we are not able to connect on a deeper level or feel why change is imperative, others will not be compelled to try something new, especially without the guarantee of immediate success.

3. As leaders, have we removed barriers that help us to unleash talent, not control others?

People always want better, but they often not only deal with their own reluctance, but sometimes page after page of policies and procedures, or structures (both physical and organizational) that are barriers to change.

As mentioned earlier, we can only control the path and direction that we decide to go in, not that of others.  What is important is creating the conditions where people are not only willing, but even feel compelled to move forward in a safe environment where risks are not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Categories: Planet

Is STEM the Key? (Part Three)

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 24 May, 2015 - 18:40


  • The message from PwC is clear, Australia needs to take action now if we are not to slip behind the rest of the world. 'Australia is waking up to the fact that the good times can't go on forever. In the face of economic challenges and a digital revolution that's reshaping business and the workforce, we need to act.' - Nigel Coutts

Tags: education, technology, learning, science

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

Australian Learning Lecture: Sir Michael Barber on ‘Joy and Data’.

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 24 May, 2015 - 13:22

On Thursday May 21st, the inaugural Australian Learning Lecture was delivered by Sir Michael Barber on the topic of ‘Joy and Data‘. The event was attended by many leading educationalists and has been initiated as a joint project of the Koshland Innovation Fund and the State Library of Victoria. Their aim is “to bring big ideas in education to national attention. The decade long project is designed to strengthen the importance of learning in Australia for all Australians.”

Here’s what Sir Michael said was the intention of his lecture:

“It is very clear that the longer the 21st century goes on, the more education matters,” says Sir Michael. “The debate I’d like the lecture to provoke is about how data, joy and learning combined could lead to much higher performance in education systems. All too often people, especially critics, create a false dichotomy between data and joy. I argue that they go together and – indeed – that only if they go together can we ensure success in future.” The lecture was recorded and you can view it below. I’ve set the video to start 22mins 16 seconds in, because there’s a lot of waiting on this video before anything happens! A storify of my tweets and some from others has been collated and can be viewed here: https://storify.com/jennyluca/all-australian-lecture-michael-barber Michael highlighted what he considered as four misconceptions about data during his lecture. I think what Sir Michael did was help us understand how important it is to be informed by the data, but also how we need to apply human judgement to our evaluation. The following tweets (derived from Michael’s words) kind of summed it up for me. I think in education there are some who fear data and the evaluations being drawn from it. Provided human judgement is a factor and we do the right thing with the data we have collected, there should be no reason for fear. In education, we are focused on children’s lives – if we keep our compasses set right, then data provides us with the ability to see where to next. And where to next could be the very thing that enables a child to find the joy that learning can bring. Thank you Ellen Koshland and the State Library of Victoria for your vision and philanthropic generosity to make education an important talking point in Australian society. I truly hope this vision is realised and that this series will elevate discussion around education and its critical importance to the future development of this country.
Categories: Planet

Performance and Development Framework

Darcy Moore's Blog - 24 May, 2015 - 08:32

“Teaching is a dynamic and rewarding profession. Good teachers provide students with rich, interesting and well-structured learning experiences. Teachers who provide these experiences enjoy the opportunities offered by the profession and recognition of their achievements by the community.”

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

My employer and union have collaborated, supported by the Secondary Principals Council (SPC), with the purpose of strengthening public education for students in NSW.

All teachers in state schools are to align the Performance and Development Framework (PDF) with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers by constructing a personal Performance and Development Plan (PDP).  By the beginning of 2018, all teachers will be accredited by the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES). Prior to this date it has only been teachers employed post 2003 that have participated in the accreditation process.

These types of frameworks are common in business and certainly familiarity with the outcomes/standards model of education prevalent this century makes teachers comfortable with the process and format. These frameworks can certainly be implemented in very negative ways with perfunctory ticking of boxes or in a cold-hearted, purely managerial fashion but our school would really like to make this work to improve what happens in classrooms for students.

We know schools that genuinely improve are really consciously trying to improve.

With this in mind, our school has agreed to a collaborative approach to implementation which focuses on improving learning in classrooms. We will have a shared school goal, as will each faculty. Assessment, especially effective cycles of feedback, have been a focus for some time and it makes sense to pursue this across the school, whatever your context.

Teachers must set between 3-5 goals, so there’s plenty of opportunity to pursue other professional interests, especially when they align with whole school planning. Our school is encouraging teachers to shape school planning with their ideas and enthusiasms for improving our community of learners.

My own draft goals are awaiting feedback:

A philosophy that values collaboration in order to learn from each other, as a genuine community of learning, is what we continue to strive for professionally. Feedback welcomed!

How is your school approaching the implementation of the PDF/PDPs?

The post Performance and Development Framework appeared first on Darcy Moore's Blog.

Categories: Planet

How do we make “great learning” go viral?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 23 May, 2015 - 06:05

A question that has been burning in my mind lately is “how do we make great learning go viral?

Many want positive change to spread quickly, but often we create conditions that limit ideas to a small community that can often be contained or die off together.  For example, seeing great practice in a classroom from an educator and asking them to talk about the practice weeks (or sometimes month) later, ensures that this great practice will not spread at a rate that we would like, whereas tweeting or blogging about it could make it visible immediately.  Not only is it visible immediately, but it can now change the conversations amongst staff immediately because seeing something great should spark curiosity and conversation.  Making something go “viral” and keeping it offline, seem counterintuitive in our world today.

Another practice that I have seen that keeps great ideas hidden is when we use “closed groups” online as opposed to opening things up.  For example, in a closed group, you may start with ten people having a conversation, but often, that group is the largest it will ever be.  At any point, two of the people in the group may be busy with something and have to check out for awhile, leaving eight left.  The posts become less, and the interest often decreases, and the group can become smaller and smaller.  There is obviously benefits of using closed groups (appealing to different comfort levels, privacy in conversations), but they are often not conducive to making great learning go viral.

Start with the same group of ten in an open environment, and you see the same two people drop out.  If the information is group is great, others might see it, and jump in whether it is through something like a hashtag or a Facebook group.  Although the original “ten” might not still be in the group, the idea lives on and grows with others, and might actually bring many from the original ten back at different dates.

The visual in my head is of the old notion of a fish in a bowl (which I learned in researching this that you should not do). The fish is limited in growth to the size of a bowl, but when the fish is an open stream, there is much more opportunity for growth based upon the environment.  Sometimes the environments we create are the exact reason that great ideas don’t spread.

What is the environment you create to make great learning go viral?

Categories: Planet

Favorite Tech Tools For Social Studies Classes | MindShift | KQED News

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 22 May, 2015 - 17:44


  • "Rachel Langenhorst helps teachers in her district find solutions for those issues. She used to teach social studies, but is now the K-12 Technology Integrationist and Instructional Coach at Rock Valley Community Schools in Iowa.

    “Really be cognizant of the digital tools you’re picking and why you are picking them.”
    She put together a list of favorite digital tools for the social studies classroom and shared them during an edWeb webinar. She emphasizes that, as with any classroom technology, teachers need to be careful not to just substitute a tech tool for an analog one. Instead, technology should be used to enhance classroom learning in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, including expanding learning beyond the classroom walls." - Rhondda Powling

Tags: Educational technology, classroom practices, learning, tools, apps, social studies

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Tomorrow's Learning Today: 7 Shifts To Create A Classroom Of The Future

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 22 May, 2015 - 17:39


  • "These aren’t single tools to “try,” but news ways to think about how learners access media, how educators define success, and what the roles of immense digital communities should be in popularizing new learning models." - Rhondda Powling

Tags: Educational technology, learning, classroom, practices teaching

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Computer Science and ?

Several conversations lately have me thinking about combining computer science with other subjects in school. My thinking regularly comes back to that for a number of reasons. One is that it reflects the real world today. Computer science does not live in isolation but has become an important part of almost every area of work and study. Teaching it in isolation does students something of a disservice. A second major reason is that fitting computer science into an already packed curriculum is a challenge that many schools do not seem interested in taking on. And yet I believe that today’s students need to know something about computer science.

I think the most common reaction to this suggestion is similar to what my good friend Garth Flint said in a recent comment “in order to integrate programming into say a math course something in that math course has to go” This is a valid concern but the answer is that we need to use computer science to allow more learning in the other discipline in less time. Let me give an example. We teach graphs to young students by having them draw graphs by hand. That takes a lot of time. It’s also inaccurate.  If we were to use a spreadsheet program to graph the data we could have them graph more data in more ways in less time. This way we could easily make up the time teaching them the spreadsheet based on reducing the time they spend drawing graphs by hand. We need to find more examples like that of course. Curriculum development and teacher training, an other issue wisely Garth pointed out, are other big issues.

My key thought here is not just teaching some CS with other subjects but changing the way we teach those other subjects in ways that make them more interactive, more interesting and (I hope) more educationally valuable. We can’t just add material but we have to improve the way we teach. This is not something computer science teachers can do alone. We need people with multi-domain expertise, probably in small teams, working together to design new ways of teaching. Computers and CS give us the chance to make learning more project based than they have been before. I believe that would make learning more interesting and effective. The key though is teaching in new ways and not old ways with new material cobbled on to the old.

This also requires a change in attitude. Far too many teachers are happy teaching the same thing the same way year after year. They learned that why so it must be the right way for everyone now and in the future. Things have to change in schools of education both for pre service teachers and professional development for in service teachers. Another hurtle to overcome. I think this is the only way we’ll really get CS into all schools though. I see it as win/win though. A win for CS education of course but perhaps even more importantly a win in using technology to improve the way we teach and to help students learn. At least that is my theory. What do you think?

Categories: Planet

Adjusting to the Room

The Principal of Change George Couros - 21 May, 2015 - 09:11

(I was asked about the thinking behind how I design my workshops so I thought I would just write it down for others to see a process.)

As someone who does a lot of professional workshops, I am often asked for an agenda ahead of time.  Although I do have some objectives in my mind of where the group could go, I usually send a rough itinerary to the organizer on a google document.  The reason I share it specifically on a google document is because I know that I won’t be sticking with it, whether it is the time or the activities.  How could I organize the learning for the day for a group without actually meeting the group?

Here is how I usually set up my day for a “new” group, no matter what the objectives are for the day.  The first thing that I do is give some kind of content that I am going to share.  It is important to start with some content, even if it is something that some people “know in the room”.  To make sure I tap into those that “know”, I always use a hashtag so that they can share their ideas with groups, or even challenge some of the things that I am saying.  This helps because it lends to collaboration through a backchannel, as opposed to only learning from the person in the front.

After content is given, what I do is try to give a “reflection break”, where I actually give time to share their ideas on a simple google form, and also connect with people in the room.  I have been in sessions where content is given, and then people are asked to immediately share their ideas with people near them, and for many, this isn’t working, because they need time to process.  Giving them a space not only gives them an opportunity to put their thoughts together, but it also allows other to see their thoughts.  Although I do this in a shared google form that everyone can see, it is not mandatory as some are not comfortable sharing their thoughts openly immediately, and honestly this is fine.

Why I call it a “reflection break” is that I usually give people 25-30 minutes to take time to reflect but to also connect with others in the room informally.  A few years ago when I was in Australia, I noticed that in workshops, there were no breaks that were shorter than 30 minutes in the day, which at first I thought was strange, but then saw the types of conversations that were had during the break that were crucial to the learning.  For years, I have been used to a North American version of professional learning where you grab a snack, go to the bathroom, and are ready to go.  Connecting with people in the room ensures that even if the presentation isn’t meeting the needs of some, the people in the room can fill those voids.

One of the key components during the reflection process is that I either ask participants to share what they would want to learn during the day, or ask them, “What is one big question you have moving forward regarding today?”  The opportunity for participants to share a question, helps me to shape the rest of the day based on the people of the room and their thoughts.  We often learn more from a person’s questions than we do their answers. After I read these results, the rest of the day is shaped based on this feedback.  So basically, the first 1-2 hours have a plan, and after that, we are going with the needs of the people in the room.

Here are some keys to this for a presenter that are almost in contradiction.  First of all, to be able to “go with the room”, you have to know your content area in a very deep manner and be able to push learning on the fly, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, you also have to be comfortable with not knowing everything and learning from the room.  As a teacher, if you want to truly create a “learning community”, you have to create opportunities for others to learn from others, not only the teacher.

As we continue on with the day, I leave spaces that I will add resources I know of, or the participants suggest.  This way, there is time for people to explore after the fact, and to be honest, use the work that we do with others.  Although I have started the day off and again, had some ideas of where we could go, it is great to be able to co-create the day with participants, and I am hoping that they used what they have learned with others, both the content and the process.  Obviously, all of this is happening through a google document so I always make sure to share a shortened link at the beginning of the session (bit.do has become my favourite URL shortener because of the immediate need to customize the link).

Here are a couple of things I think about this process and how it ties to the work we do in the classroom:

Are we comfortable with this same format in a room of learners where learning goes with the ebb and flow of the room, not the teacher?

There is an importance in being knowledgeable and flexible as a teacher.  I don’t understand how people create a year plan for a group of learners that they haven’t even met that is strict dates attached.  The learning in the room should adjust to the groups and individuals.

This would be extremely hard to do with a group of students that didn’t have access to devices of their own.  It does not mean that they will use the device the entire time, but a google document is much more flexible than a piece of paper.

I have usually between 3-6 hours with a group so that we can go deep into the learning and have lots of opportunities for questions and exploration.  Although it would be tougher in a class of 60 minutes, there are definitely variations that could be done.  But, if our schedules are in 60-80 minute chunks, we need to really rethink those time frames and how it lends to deep learning.

I know of one school in Norway that has “all-day” classes and I was told that simply adjusting that schedule created transformational opportunities.  Innovative thinking is needed to create environments (which doesn’t just mean space, but also time) where we can go much deeper with our learning.

This isn’t meant to be life changing learning process, but just a different view of the type of learning that can happen in a day when we have access to tools that allow us to adjust so quickly to the room.  The more I have done this, the more I have realized the importance of focusing on the people in the room, and adjusting to them, as opposed to them adjusting to me.  It is something I constantly tweak and think about, but it looks a lot different from the type of learning that used to happen in my classrooms.

Categories: Planet

Episode 146: Mind Hacking: Missing Skills We’re Not Teaching Students

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 20 May, 2015 - 20:54

Sir John Hargrave on the Every Classroom Matters Show

Sir John Hargrave has taken the research on the mind and related it to current self-help practices to help us learn what works. In today’s episode, we learn about essential thought patterns we should understand to be successful educators.  Metacognition is an essential skill of the most successful students. I also share how I overcame my own negative thought loops caused by four years of bullying.

Listen to Episode #146 Online

Listen on iTunes

Some of the fascinating takeaways from this show are:

  • Concentration as a missing skill in the classroom
  • How to Overcome Negative Thought Loops that Keep Us From Being Our Best
  • The Important Metacognitive Skills We Should Teach Students
  • Steve Job’s “Reality Distortion Field” Technique

Sir John Hargrave’s book Mindhacking is FREE (at least through Fall 2015) at http://www.mindhacki.ng/

“We believe everything our mind tells us and get stuck in these thought loops.” @sirjohnhargravePowered By the Tweet This PluginTweet This

Metacognition and a growth mindset are essential areas for every educator to understand. Listen to the show and dig into the research of mind hacking and metacognition.


The post Episode 146: Mind Hacking: Missing Skills We’re Not Teaching Students appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Following the journey

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 20 May, 2015 - 13:20

It is always good to listen to students and staff talk enthusiastically about their individual and collective learning. Last week I visited St Oliver’s Primary, Harris Park and saw first hand how their data walls are working and how it has helped sharpen their professional focus and thinking.

While many schools adopt a holistic approach to capturing and measuring data on student achievement, St Oliver’s has narrowed the focus to two key areas: reading and vocabulary.  Principal Anthony McElhone explained they could have just as easily measured spelling or structure but this gives them a precise focus on what they see as the critical areas for their students’ growth.

Data walls capture the process and progress of student learning and the effectiveness of teacher practice. It becomes a shared learning journey for every member of the learning community.  This was illustrated when I visited an elementary school in Canada.

Every inch of the parish hall was being used as a living data wall.  As you walk around the hall, you can follow the growth of each and every student.  The data is transparent –  teachers share accountability for student learning while students accept responsibility for their own learning path.  What is so impressive is when parents visit the school and effectively cut out the ‘middleman’ by listening to their own child explain, track and describe their learning. They know where they are at, where they need to go and how they will get there.

It is visible learning in action.

Categories: Planet

Expanding Computing Education–Are We Forgetting Rural Schools

One big announcement last week was College Board and Code.org announc[ing] an alliance to improve diversity in computer science. The plan is to partner with the 35 largest school districts in the US. Now to some 35 school districts may not sound like a lot but these districts are HUGE. New York City along has something like 490 high schools. The public schools (at all levels) serve 1.1 million students. So what will happen?

    • The College Board and Code.org will identify and help schools to adopt two specific computer science courses at the high school level: the introductory Exploring Computer Science and AP Computer Science Principles.
    • The College Board and Code.org will co-fund Code.org’s professional development of new computer science teachers, and recommend Code.org’s computer science pathway;
    • The College Board and Code.org will encourage schools to offer the new PSAT™ 8/9 assessment as a way of identifying more students, particularly those from traditionally under-represented groups, for enrollment in these new courses.

Since these large school districts have a lot of minority students the hope is that this effort will bring in a lot more minority students to computer science. Investing in efforts to increase minority participation was one of the reasons given for dropping the AP CS AB course a few years ago. This partnership seems in-line with that promise. All those extra PSAT test takers as well as additional AP CS test takers will be good for the CollegeBoard I’m sure.

There are other efforts at broadening participation as well. The new Computer Science Principles AP course is one of those. Efforts to promote that include the Beauty and Joy of Computing from the University of California at Berkley and the Mobile CSP curriculum that uses Android devices and App Inventor. 

The Exploring Computer Science program, developed originally for the LA School District, is also widely used and growing. Not tied in with AP CS Principals there is also Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, an NSF Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance. And there are many more.

It all sounds so great. Why am I still worried? I know many of the people behind most of these programs and they are great people. They know their stuff and they know how to teach. But, and there always seem to be a but, I’m still worried.

Two things worry me. One is lack of teacher preparation and the other is complacency. Let me start with the second one. Over that last several years a healthy number of states have passed legislation allowing computer science to count for graduation credits. Sounds great. But there are misunderstandings about those laws.

I have read several reports that say all these states require computer science for graduation. That is not the case. Allowing a course to count for graduation is far from being the same thing as requiring them for graduation. Many schools are still not offering computer science courses that could count for graduation. We’re a long way from requiring CS for graduation. Or even from requiring that schools offer the option. This is not a time to rest on our laurels. There is still a long way to go.

Mike Zamansky covers some of the professional development issues or perhaps I should say assumptions on his blog at What's Expedient vs what's good - curriculum vs teachers. Many people seem to think that training computer science teachers is easy or fast or both. It is neither. Worse still it must be continuous because the technology is constantly changing. Snap! is not the same as FORTRAN. PROCESSING is not the same as COBOL. Programming for a mobile device is not the same as programming a batch job in a mainframe.

I think that it is great that Code.Org is doing teacher training. I am sure they are doing a great job. I believe they plan for some on-going support which is absolutely necessary. What are we going to do for schools and students not in the top 35 largest school districts?

I live in New Hampshire and we have a lot of rural, often poor, school districts. Those kids need more options as much as they city kids do. And don’t get me started about schools on native American reservations who lack resources for the bare bones of education at times. Technology and computer science open the potential for jobs careers that they don’t even know about.

The task ahead is still large and victory (how ever we might define it) is a long way away. Please though can we not forget the small districts and the rural schools?

Categories: Planet

There Should Be More than One “Lead Learner”

The Principal of Change George Couros - 19 May, 2015 - 04:36

(Note…based on the first few comments I wanted to update the post to reflect my VERY strong belief that principals/superintendents should model their learning.  It has been updated below and I appreciate the pushback that helped me to communicate my thoughts!)

The term “Lead Learner” has been one that has been thrown around a lot by superintendents, principals, and other people at the top of the traditional hierarchy, mostly in reference to themselves.  As a principal, I actually used the term referring to myself in a blog post I wrote in January 2011, and am not sure where I heard it, or just used it on a whim.  What I do know now though is that I am reluctant to using the term when talking about a principal or superintendent, and I rarely (if ever) have heard someone else call their principal or superintendent the “lead learner”.  Does that say something about the term?

I do however, understand why it is being used so often though.  Principals, superintendents, and other traditional “bosses” see their roles changing, and see this as part of flattening the organization, or at least that is how I saw it when I first used it.  I wanted to model that I was a learner just like everyone else in my school, and, as Chris Kennedy would say,  I wanted to be “elbows deep in learning” with them.  The reality though is that the term still refers to one person being in an authority position, and for me now, evokes the ideas that the principal is seen as the “holder of all knowledge”.  This was not how my school worked at all.  There were not only people who knew a lot more than me in many areas, but they were also more passionate about going deeper in the topic.  I was definitely not the “lead learner” in many areas, nor did I want to be.  If you think about it, in any school a “lead learner” could be in any area, and can be any person, and is often our own students.  In a culture where “everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner”, the term “lead learner” could and should be applied to many.

The role of principal is evolving, but I also know that some people need the principal to be the principal.  There is a point where people need to know that in tough situations, they can count on someone to back them up and be there for them.  I had many principals step in for me when I didn’t know what to do, or supported me in tough situations.  I didn’t need them to be the “lead learner”, I needed them to be the principal.  Great leaders don’t get consensus on all decisions, but sometimes have to make the tough ones on their own.  This comes as part of the role and sometimes it is important to know who to go to when there is a struggle.

The title does not necessarily make the role, only how you do it.  

Yet words mean something and if we are truly to create a culture where all people can step up and explore their passions and we believe that everyone has the potential to lead and bring out their best, the term “lead learner” should never be reserved for one person.

Should the principal/superintendent still openly share their learning?  Absolutely.  With technology now, that is easier than ever, but note I used the term “model” their learning.  Administrators have been learning forever but it was hard to communicate and share their learning on an ongoing basis.  That being said, there is a difference between a “leader that learns” and a “lead learner”, as one creates the notion that there is a “top learner”, where we should create an environment that in organizations, both inside and outside, learning by all is essential to success.

Categories: Planet

Episode 145: 5 Essential Digital Notetaking Methods

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 18 May, 2015 - 20:47

Dr. Tom Grissom on The Every Classroom Matters Show

Whether it is digital notetaking or notetaking, many of us agree that most students are not effectively using this technique to remember, retain, and process new information. Dr. Tom Grissom is a pioneer in the effective use of digital notes, pushing us to redefine what notes can be.

Listen to Show #145

Subscribe on iTunes

Tom’s big point about notetaking is that if we follow the SAMR model, we must redefine what notetaking can be. Here are just a few points he shares in the show. Using electronic tools, you can redefine digital notes by:

  • Writing
  • Recording Audio
  • Collaboratively Writing with Others
  • Snipping Copies of the Screen
  • Recording Video
  • Recording Movements on the Screen (Screencasting)
  • Students Can Share and See Each Other’s Notes
  • Teachers Can Share Their Notes
  • Teachers Can See Notes as a Formative Assessment Tool

Tom and I also have a discussion about the vital difference between taking notes by hand and typing the notes (which leads to transcription.) Not surprisingly, transcription doesn’t require much processing and not as much value seems to be happening in the mind of the student as in taking the notes by hand.

Using One Note Classroom, Tom is a pioneer in the use of digital notes to teach, learn, and enrich our lives. Here are 4 big takeaways from the show:

  1. See Dr. Grissom’s notes from the show (In his One Note notebook)
  2. Visit His Website and Podcast
  3. One Note Classroom 
  4. One Note for Teachers Tutorials
The purpose of Every Classroom Matters is to bring practical teaching ideas and strategies from every type of classroom to inspire excellence in yours.

You can subscribe to the show on iTunes or listen to it on BAM Radio. (I have a list of past episodes as well.)

If you find the show useful, ratings and reviews on iTunes help others find the show.

The post Episode 145: 5 Essential Digital Notetaking Methods appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet
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