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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

Interesting Links 18 May 2015

Last week I made my travel arrangements for the Annual CSTA Conference. Less than two months away and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll also be at ISTE this June. Not as much CS stuff there but a lot of edtech stuff that I find interesting as well as a lot of great educators to talk to. But big as ISTE is, the CSTA conference is the one I would go to if I could only go to one conference a year. Hope to see a lot of people there.

http://Code.org targets high school computer science via @usatoday Great news for the districts involved. I have some thoughts on what about the rest of us to share soon. In the mean time you will want to read Mike Zamansky’s blog post - What's Expedient vs what's good - curriculum vs teachers

The new partnership will encourage high schools in 35 of the nation's largest districts, including New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, to offer Code.org's computer science course this fall.

Code.org will provide curriculum, tools, training and funding to school districts that qualify, said Code.org CEO and co-founder Hadi Partovi.

Dawn DuPriest @DuPriestMath  had a couple of good posts on teaching loops last week.

If you go to this link:   and click on the YouTube tab, you will see a list of links to Alice 3 tutorial videos.

I could not help myself. I backed another educational Kickstarter last week. The banana piano was just the beginning. Makey Makey GO, the portable invention kit, is here! How I’ll use it I have no idea. It may go to my wife for use in the MakerSpace in her middle school program.

Microsoft Band SDK Release and Band Studio Introduction (Channel 9)   via @ch9

A Speech Library Helper for Cortana – may make for some interesting projects.

9 Anti-Patterns Every Programmer Should Be Aware Of – what do you think of these? 

Amazing how fast memory is getting bigger on the inside without getting bigger in the outside. 

Categories: Planet

Coming soon – 2015 Computer Science Teachers Association’s annual conference

With the Computer Science Teachers Association’s annual conference coming up in July there are a few things we thought you should know now that we’ve sprung into spring and we’re less than two months away:

– Several workshops are at, or nearing capacity

– There will be NO onsite registration for workshops, so if you are interested you must sign up online in advance

– Housing reservations close on: June 17

– The online registration deadline is drawing near: June 26

– We will be providing workshop and conference certificates for CEU’s (check with your state board for regulations/requirements)

The bottom line is, we don’t want you to put off registering any longer. This year is sure to be amazingly, wonderful, and memorable. Please come join us at DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas, July 12-14.http://www.cstaconference.org

Categories: Planet

Is STEM the key? (Part Two)

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 17 May, 2015 - 17:49


  • The call for improved STEM programmes has gained momentum in the past two weeks with an address to the National Press Club by Catherine Livingstone AO of the Business Council of Australia and an occasional paper released by the Office of the Chief Scientist. - Nigel Coutts

Tags: education, technology, learning, science

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

The Impact of a Teacher

The Principal of Change George Couros - 17 May, 2015 - 05:06

It has been hard watching the news and hearing about strike action and funding cuts to education in so many provinces around Canada.  Being a part of education, I am not only seeing educators go out of their way to do more for their students, but also continuously tweak and innovate their practice.  Of course, as in every profession, there are weak parts, but I have been lucky enough to travel around the country and see so many dedicated educators that go above and beyond what is expected of their profession.

This made me think of my own teachers and their impact on me.  There are so many different stories I could share that go way beyond one teacher.  Like my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Stock who was one of the most kind and caring people I have ever known, sending me messages 30 years later congratulating me on becoming a principal.

Or my grade 3 teacher Mrs. Penrose who sparked a love of drama and “being on stage” as an eight year old, that has never left me, who wrote on my report card, “You can achieve any dream you want if you put your mind to it”, and constantly pushed me throughout my entire time in elementary to love music and acting.

Or my grade five teacher Mrs. Sloan who had my class run a business at our school and taught us about “entrepreneurship” long before it became a “21st century competency” and was just the best teacher ever.  She even made lawn bowling seem amazing.

Or my grade eight teacher Mr. Hill, who is the principal of my former elementary school, who made a bet with me that his Seattle Supersonics would beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs one year, and had to wear a Lakers sweater I gave him in 30 degree celsius temperature for the entire day.

Or Mr. Bellamy in grade 10 who inspired us to create commercials in class that I can still remember to this day and wish YouTube had existed because I am sure ours would have got at least 100 hits.

Or the countless coaches that put in so much of their own time to help me explore my passions and teach me way beyond any game.

Or Mr. Steele, my high school principal, who didn’t judge me by the kid I was, but treated me like the person I could be, and believed in me even though I was huge brat for many years in high school.

Or the huge group of teachers that came to my father’s funeral to support my family even though I was the last of my family in school and it had almost been 20 years since that time.

I could go on and on about my teachers that made such an impact on me, and the current educators that I serve every day that make such a difference.  This is not meant to be a political statement at all, but more just showing gratitude to the many educators who have made such a difference in the lives of so many.  I have often said, “if we only teach the kids the curriculum, we have failed them.”  This is something that was not told, but has been shown to me by so many educators throughout my time in school.

Thank you.

(I encourage you to share your stories about your teachers to the #EDUin30 hashtag, as this week’s question asks for that.  My 30 second story is below.)

My teachers went above and beyond the curriculum and for that, I’m so thankful. #eduin30 #EDUin30w11 #fb pic.twitter.com/ZsUvwT4E0E

— George Couros (@gcouros) May 16, 2015

Categories: Planet

Why Twitter could hold the secret to better #CPD | tesconnect

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 16 May, 2015 - 12:16


  • "Get your hashtags ready: Twitter is a far more effective source of CPD than more traditional approaches, research has found. Indeed, teachers believe they derive more from the 140 characters of a tweet than they do from several hours of seminars or lectures. Academics from two US universities surveyed 755 members of school staff about Twitter. They found that the most popular use of the social media website was for CPD, with many praising Twitter’s advantages over more traditional methods. Twitter, many teachers told researchers, allowed them to create a virtual staffroom, filled entirely with their own choice of colleagues. Indeed, a middle school English teacher explained: “I have learned so much from other teachers. It has transformed my teaching. And this is my 18th year [in the profession].”" - John Pearce

Tags: twitter, professional development

by: John Pearce

Categories: International News

Top 10 Tech Tips for Teachers #SketchNote - Shake Up Learning

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 14 May, 2015 - 18:41


  • "Ten tips for successful technology integration in the classroom - the Sketch and Canva versions" - Rhondda Powling

Tags: tech tips, classroom activities, tips, classroom practices, technology integration

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Free Technology for Teachers: Create Rubrics and Email Grades from a Google Spreadsheet

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 14 May, 2015 - 18:18


  • "This option provides a useful way to build rubrics, mark assignments and send out marks to students. Also, because you can collaborate using Google Spreadsheets, this option could provide teams of teachers with a way to collaborate on the development of rubrics. It also provides an opportunity to share in the responsibility of scoring assignments." - Rhondda Powling

Tags: rubrics, assessments, spreadsheet, google, Online rubric add-on

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Exploiting Opportunities

Chris Betcher - 1 April, 2015 - 19:58

The following is from an email I wrote to someone who asked if I was going to be presenting at the EduTech conference in Brisbane this year. As you can see, my answer is no, but I think what’s important is my reason for saying no. If you’re planning to present at EduTech, I hope you consider the effect of saying yes.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of EduTech, mainly because I really don’t like their policy of non-payment for Australian speakers. I find it quite insulting that they are willing to pour outrageous amounts of money into getting overseas speakers but are not willing to pay anything for local speakers. I think they need to approach this with greater equity and offer ALL their speakers some form of payment, even if the locals just get a token amount. As I’ve no doubt pointed out before, this is a (very) commercial event run for profit by a professional conference-running company, and yet they expect the vast majority of what they are offering to their customers (at a significant price) to be provided to them for free.

On http://www.edutech.net.au/apply_speaker.html it clearly states that “in the vast majority of cases, we do not pay speakers”. Obviously that blanket statement is not true, as they pay many of their “big name” overseas speakers. What they mean to say is that they don’t pay local speakers because they feel they can get away with that. They also make the very generous point on that page that they “don’t charge speakers to speak”. Woop-de-do, EduTech.

While I’d be very happy to present something, on principle I’m not really willing to be exploited by the EduTech organisers who expect that all Australian presenters should be willing to present for them for free. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I’d love to see all Aussie presenters just say no to EduTech but it probably won’t happen.

There are many many great things I’m happy to give my time freely to… helping other teachers, sharing resources, giving time and energy at the grassroots level. But I’m not ok with helping EduTech carry on their culture of exploitation of Australian presenters just so they can make more money.

Featured image: CC BY-SA www.flickr.com/photos/neubie

Related posts:

  1. A Question of Value
  2. Big Dreams, Big Opportunities

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