Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making the Shift Happen: Embracing 21st Century Learning at Your School

Kim Coffino from Yokohama International School came as part of the NESA Fall Institute to our school, and had created this wiki of great strategies, lesson ideas and links to help schools with their 21st century learning goals. Take a look!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?

A very powerful article that speaks to character education and its role in helping students succeed. Some interesting quotes:
  • “Learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying – but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging… To help chronically low-performing but intelligent students, educators and parents must first recognize that character is at least as important as intellect.”
  • Early research showed that self-control was a more reliable predictor of grades than
    I.Q., but she subsequently zeroed in on another quality: grit – the passion for a single mission, unswerving
    dedication to getting there, and perseverance in overcoming obstacles
  • “And yet we all know – on some level, at least – that what kids need more than anything is a little hardship: some challenge, some deprivation that they can overcome, even if just to prove to themselves that they can..”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores


From the article:
To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.
This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade — which include powerful educators, Silicon Valley titans and White House appointees — say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets.....more..."
Wow! What a title and story. It really opens up some debate for the validity of using computer technology to assist teaching- how much bang does it give for the buck? Especially when teachers are losing jobs and money spent on technology could be used for teachers. I like to present many sides to a story or issue. I would be mis-informed if I weren't. But to be honest, I am biased towards using technology in education. I wouldn't be in the line of work that I am in if I weren't :-)

One interesting paragraph, read:
"There are times in Kyrene when the technology seems to allow students to disengage from learning: They are left at computers to perform a task but wind up playing around, suggesting, as some researchers have found, that computers can distract and not instruct."

The key point I want to make is that the author writes that computers are to "instruct"...I would argue that computers should not be instructing- people should. Technology should be assisting in the process. Technology does not make a bad teacher good. Just the opposite in fact- it can make a bad teacher worse. No computer can replace a teacher and the human interaction. But technology can enhance the teaching process and engage students and take them places where an overhead projector and chalk cannot. In the modern world, communication and business are done electronically, and students have to be prepared to do this when they join the world after graduating high school.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Teachers Say That Google is the 3rd Best Search Engine???

An interesting article about some research the author did to see what search engine was favored. This is not an exhaustive study, but it did do a good job of talking about the differences between the search engines. 

Dogpile seemed to win...I haven't used this search engine for a while, but it did inspire me to try again. Results were very good! 

Another little-known kid safe-friendly search version of Google that I would like to mention is:


Excerpt from the article:
The results were completely surprising.  We expected Google to consistently provide the best web search results.  According to our teachers this was only true 1 out of 7 times.  Bing consistently outperformed Google’s results.

Dogpile, a meta search engine that pulls their results from both Bing and Google, had the best overall ratings.  Dogpile had a knack for always choosing winners from both Bing and Google. Here were our overall results:

5th  Place – Ask

4th Place - Blekko

3rd Place –  Google

2nd Place – Bing

1st Place – Dogpile

While Dogpile did produce consistently great results, please be aware that we just provided our teachers with the organic search results and did not include the ads that they throw in there. If you look at Dogpile’s web site and perform a web search, you will notice that about half of the results are ads. This didn’t sit well with our teachers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Funding for Public Schools- Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine Case Study: Pennsylvania Public Schools

Even though I work overseas, I like to keep a close eye on what is happening with education in the USA. STEM education, keeping our country competitive in the world are all concerns. But funding is a huge issue right now, with public employee benefits and salaries getting decimated in cost-cutting moves by various groups right now. Funding leads to quality teachers which leads to..quality kids. The article above talks about these issues as well as reform measures such as merit pay, vouchers are being looked at. I have been back and forth myself on some of these issues, but the author raises a good point about the actual cost of some of these reform measures including:

The Corbett administration supports funding a voucher system that has been demonstrated not to raise achievement test scores and ends up costing taxpayers more money. Voucher programs are not funded by some magical pot of money. Taxpayers pay for them!
Corbett also wants to develop a grading system for public schools that has the ability to wreak chaos on property values. The governor plans to implement the Keystone exams (exit exams) that national research has shown add nothing to a child's education, and in the state of California is estimated to cost over $500 million dollars a year to administer. Additionally, Corbett wants to create a merit pay system for teachers that will narrow the curriculum, end teacher collaboration and cost taxpayers even more money. As Diane Ravitch recently pointed out, "when the Vanderbilt study of merit pay was published, the U.S. Department of Education immediately released nearly $500 million for -- what else -- more merit-pay programs, and promised that another $500 million would be forthcoming. Data mean nothing when your mind is made up." Therefore, Corbett's plans for public schools will end up costing taxpayers more than the initial $589 million cut.

The point which was most interesting was about merit pay. In a competitive world, it's dog eat dog and teaching has always been and should be non-competitive. It should be collaborative. That is the hallmark of schools in Finland, Singapore, and Canada which consistently have the highest scores around.

If you know that you are being judged according to how your colleagues are performing, and you have a method that consistently keeps your test scores high for your kids, are you going to share it? Doubtful- because then it means you won't get that extra pay because the teacher down the hall now knows the method if you share it with them, and your competition is that much higher. Whose loses out? The kids of course. Good teachers will consistently shine through and share their knowledge. Those that are bad, still won't learn the tricks of the trade, and should and will be washed out of teaching anyway....

More from the article (made some good points about how the public is being "Shocked" into making uninformed decisions...)

In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein pushes the concept of how the public can be manipulated during times of catastrophe or perceived crisis. Lately, it has been argued that the "financial crisis" is being used by market-driven reformers to undermine the public services sector. Specifically, if we look at public education, lawmakers are explicitly telling public schools that they will need to deal with less in the future because of state budget deficits. All of this is done with large support from the citizens because they are "shocked" and believe there is an economic crisis and that any publicly-supported service should be drastically cut to help bring back balanced budgets. Simultaneously, "the shockers" offer rewards in corporate tax cuts and in some cases implement new programs that end up costing the taxpayer more than the proposed cuts....more....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Technology Literacy Framework Project

NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment

Something that is coming down the pipe is that technology proficiencies are going to be measured in students just like other core classes (such as Math, Science, Writing, etc), starting in 2014. The US government has commissioned a group called WestEd under contract to the National Assessment Governing Board, to develop the test.

Check out their website and download documents here:

At my current school, we are developing a student self-assessment to get a snapshot of how students feel they are learning technology and 21st century skills at our school. However, we also devote time to assessing students using the NWEA test for core subjects. This does not allow much time for giving another performance assessment so a survey was felt the best we could do now. We follow an integration model where teachers with the assistance of technology coaches/coordinators, plan and deliver and assess lessons that incorporate 21st century skills and technology. Teachers do try to map tech integration into their curriculum maps, but it takes time, and we all know teachers are lacking in...time...

Monday, April 11, 2011

21 Things That Will Be Obsolete by 2020


21 Things That Will Be Obsolete by 2020

Inspired by Sandy Speicher’s vision of the designed school day of the future, reader Shelly Blake-Plock shared his own predictions of that ideal day. How close are we to this? The post was written in December 2009, and Blake-Plock says he’s seeing some of these already beginning to come to fruition.

The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: ‘Our concept of what a computer is’. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we’re going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can’t wait.

The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don’t need kids to ‘go to school’ more; we need them to ‘learn’ more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn’t far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work.

Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it’s time you get over yourself.

Books were nice. In ten years’ time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the ‘feel’ of paper. Well, in ten years’ time you’ll hardly tell the difference as ‘paper’ itself becomes digitized.

Bio scans. ‘Nuff said.

A coat-check, maybe.

Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade’s worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT — software, security, and connectivity — a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

School buildings are going to become ‘homebases’ of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modeled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.

No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN (professional learing networks) in their back pockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of schoolwide professional development programs. This is already happening.

There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.

Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $3.00 bowls of microwaved mac and cheese. At least, I so hope so.

You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade — in the best of schools — they will be.

Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we’ll have finally woken up to the fact that there’s no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and I.T. in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).

In ten years’ time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaching Methodologies: A lost art? Building a Better Teacher

Building a Better Teacher

Even veterans need reminders about what makes an effective teacher. This article in the NY Times: Building a Better Teacher, details what makes a good teacher by hitting on a point that is sometimes forgotten- how to get the attention of students in class.

I found this article extremely interesting and a good reminder about classroom management and how this huge to getting students to achieve.

Here are some videos of effective teachers in action.
The Youtube Channel for Uncommon Schools:

Here is Mr. Lemov's organization with more information about it: Uncommon Schools

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Return to Sender

Schools continue to deliver new graduates into the workplace lacking the tech-based "soft skills" that businesses demand. Experts blame K-12's persistent failure to integrate technology.

In the 2007 report "Maximizing the Impact: The Pivotal Role of Technology in a 21st Century Education System," a task force of leading employers, ed tech advocates, and educators concluded that schools were barely using technology, much less developing the tech skills needed of those entering the workplace.

"To a wireless nation," task force members wrote, "which relies on technology for ordinary tasks and extraordinary achievements, it is shocking and inconceivable--but true--that technology is marginalized in the complex and vital affairs of education."

The upshot of this neglect, the report goes on to say, is to leave students unsuited for a work environment in which knowing core subject content can be secondary to being able to use technology to demonstrate the so- called 21st century skills that employers now demand: "Even if all students mastered core academic subjects, they still would be woefully under prepared to succeed in post secondary institutions and workplaces, which increasingly value people who can use their knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate, and solve problems."

The report, published jointly by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), was a loud, disruptive clarion call to schools to move purposefully toward the use of technology to develop 21st century skills.

Or it should have been, anyway......more...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Visiting another school

Yesterday several members of our tech department including myself, went to Dubai to visit their school to see how they manage their tech infrastructure, tech integration, and to see how their new facility was coming along. We are preparing for a possible 1-1 laptop program, and a future new campus so were doing a bit of homework. It was definitely well worth the time as we spent all day visiting with their tech integration specialists. I have always felt that networking with peers is the most valuable part of any conference and this was well worth the time and drive to Dubai. We went with a list of questions to help guide our discussions that we sent ahead so they could be prepared for our "onslaught of questions".

We focused on how they managed their tech resources and laptop program. We asked what they would do differently in the implementation, what they would do the same, what integration techniques they used, and saw several examples of how they use their systems.

From this we learned some infrastructure tips such as:
  • Put the projector and speaker ports off to the side of screens (rather than below in the middle), and one in the back of the room and one in the front
  • Put electrical outlets into lockers if possible
  • Have outlets around the classrooms and hallways for charging
Some other neat software and hardware they use:
  • Insight from Faronics to manage laptops
  • Casper management software
  • Document cameras in every classroom
  • Put speakers in the ceiling
  • Inklet- a mac trackpad drawing program
  • Gpanel to manage Gmail accounts
  • xroads internet load balancers/aggregators (like the Mushrooms)
  • Palo Alto network security firewalls
  • Power-Over-Ethernet cameras that are motion activated, and one can speak through them
  • A VoIP system that has a component that can work with Skype to call outside of the UAE.
  • They had developed a home-grown database system for report cards in elementary, and it also pulled grades out of PowerSchool for MS/HS. They called it "hafeel school" named after the gentleman from Sri Lanka who developed this system. It was very interesting how he pulled demographic information from PowerSchool into this system, that is web based and created using Microsoft .net. It then generates object reports. It also uses a Filemaker system to create a system that pulls grades into the object reports, then Filemaker emails them all out to parents.
Laptop Tips:
  • Train teachers early and get them on board
  • Train parents and
  • Get the AUP up to date
  • Make them school-owned, and then issue them to the students.

Integration Ideas:
  • Create teacher/staff proficiency skills checklist to let them see where they are
  • Create a survey for staff to take to help guide our tech integration with individuals and departments
  • Develop a student survey that lets them rate their tech skills based on our standards (or have them do a tech assessment)
  • Let the MS be in charge of making their own yearbook section (Viper Vision)
  • Elementary subscription to a typing website
  • Require one transformational tech integration project per semester
I am sure there will be more I remember later, but this should work for now :-)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shutting Up the Naysayers in Your PLC


This is a great article about how to effectively initiate PLC's in a school faculty community, that helps focus on student learning. A good point to make since many times PLC's start to help the faculty. Read the quote below:

THE Journal: Schools and districts seem overrun with seemingly arbitrary policies that can affect teacher performance, morale, and productivity. How can a PLC help address that component of the environment?
Jackson: Ironically, my previous comment answers that. In fact, I think too many PLC programs focus too much on teachers and teacher feelings and morale. But it's fascinating when you see teachers transition from a focus on teacher needs to student results. You start to see the cream rising to the top.
[In] PLCs that focus totally on looking at student assessment results and on strategizing how to help students meet the assessment targets, all the other stuff becomes less important. The true professional teachers step up and want to make sure their students make progress. They also start to see how this laser beam focus makes their instructional practice more efficient and gratifying. Some teachers will focus on making excuses, blaming policies, and complaining about expectations, but that only happens when the PLCs are organized in a way that enables that kind of behavior. It all goes back to developing a culture focused purely on student results.