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How do you begin to talk about shifts in classroom practice / pedagogy with colleagues? As you plan to share professional development how do you start? You want those attending to be excited to learn, as facilitators we want to be positive, upbeat and enthusiastic, yet many times we start with statistics which point to all that is wrong, we know the world is flat, and we are in danger of being outsourced. So how can we approach the conversation to build interest and excite people into action? I started to think about how to frame the conversations differently and I found this TED prize winner, Cameron Sinclair who in 2006 began the Open Architecture Network, he sponsors a yearly challenge for teams of teachers, students, architectures and designers to work together to design classrooms of the future. As I watched the video I thought why not use the analogy of physical building redesign –  to the redesign of teaching and learning practices?  How can we design a better learning environments – visioning better classrooms. What new learning spaces do you envision, both in physical structure as well as the what and how of learning? Enjoy the video which I am attempting to embed below, if it doesn’t work click here to watch.

Last night PLP held its first Live Event of 2010.  Will Richardson interviewed Allan Collins and Richard Halverson, the authors of Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. A very brief overview of the conversation: The authors believe schools will not disappear anytime soon, but they contend we are not going to fix education by fixing schools, schools are a 19th century invention trying to cope in the 21st century.  They assert, learning will leave schools behind if schools cannot change fast enough to keep pace with the advances in learning technologies. They also discuss the positive and negative issues associated with a changing education system such as home schooling, learning centers, distance education, workplace learning, technical certifications, equity, the role of web communities in learning. Others have weighed in with their thoughts on the authors views, take a look at what Darren Draper posted a month ago.

The interview was interesting, with a great deal of conversation taking place in the chat of Elluminate. If anyone is interested in listening to the interview, here is a link to the Elluminate session, please take some time to listen and offer your thoughts here on the conversation as well.

My thoughts for Christmas

This Christmas

Mend
a quarrel.
Seek   out   a
forgotten   friend.
Dismiss   suspicion,
and   replace   it   with
trust.   Write   a   love   letter.
Share   some   treasure.   Give   a
soft   answer.   Encourage   youth.
Manifest   your   beliefs   in   word   and
deed.   Keep   a   promise.   Find   the   time.
Forgo   a   grudge.     Forgive   an   enemy.
Listen.   Apologize   if   you   were   wrong.   Try
to   understand.   Choose   peace.   Examine   your
demands   on   others.   Think   first   of   someone   else.
Appreciate.   Be   kind:   be   gentle.   Laugh   a   little.   Laugh
a   little   more.  Deserve   confidence.   Take   a   stand   against
malice.   Decry   complacency.   Express   your   gratitude.   Let   go
fear.   Welcome   a   stranger.   Gladden   the   heart   of   a   child.   Take
pleasure   in   the   beauty   and   wonder   of    the   earth.  Speak   your   love
Speak   it   again.
Speak   it   still
once   again.

My wish for everyone for the holidays – love the time you have to spend with your families and friends!!

I have been doing a lot of research about communities lately; currently I am reading Roland S. Barth’s Learning by Heart (2001), which I am enjoying very much. In one section of the book he talks about communities of learners, definitions of what they are, and what influences them in schools. He speaks of school culture and communities of learning being intertwined and I agree with him. I would like to share some thoughts and ask for yours as well.

Learn

Learn

In my experience working in two school districts I believe school culture effects everything that happens in a school and historically school cultures have been very resistant to change of any kind. The only way to change the culture of a school is from within, no easy task, but needed. School culture affects all the learning that takes place, for students as well as adults.

There is lots of talk in schools about Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), but the more I read about them the more I question if they are true learning communities. In a learning community we make a commitment to one another to learn together over time, we hold one another accountable; we are all responsible for the welfare and well being of the community as a whole. In other words, we care about one another. We celebrate successes, we work together to overcome challenges, we are eager to share and learn from, and with one another because we believe we are smarter and more effective together as a community of learners than we are as individuals.
Please share your thoughts with me; in your school or district do you have true learning communities?

“Schools exist to promote learning in all their inhabitants. Whether we are called teachers, principals, professors, or parents our primary responsibility is to promote learning in others and in ourselves. That is what it means to be an educator”.

How many of you can honestly say this statement would accurately describe the school or district within which you work or teach? I love the sentence, “Promote learning in others and ourselves”.  I am not referring to the mandatory learning that takes place in all schools, the new math program or grading program being implemented this year. What I am referring to is our own learning, something we are interested in and want to learn about.

There is lots of talk in schools about Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), but the more I read the more I question if they are true learning communities. In a learning community we make a commitment to one another to learn together over time, we hold one another accountable; we are all responsible for the welfare and well being of the community as a whole. In other words, we care about one another. We celebrate successes, we work together to overcome challenges, we are eager to share and learn from, and with one another because we believe we are smarter and more effective together as a community of learners than we are as individuals.
Please share your thoughts with me; in your school or district do you have true learning communities?

Head Up – Looking Forward

I have been absent for the past few months due to an unexpected change in my life that has taken me some time to get used to. These events have caused me to rethink what to do next in my life, to begin a search for something I felt would be meaningful, challenging, and full of hope. So I have changed the look of my blog, added a new header, a picture of sunrise over Lake Ontario from the back of our camper just this week. Fitting for what I believe to be a new beginning for me.

The circumstances of the past couple of months have pushed me to examine what I wanted to do for some time, but the uncertainty of change held me back. The elimination of my position at the end of the school year allowed me, forced me, to truly think about what I wanted to do next in my life, what I believed in, was interested in, and thought was important.  I believe strongly in public education, in enabling students to be architects of their own learning, and helping those who are charged with “teaching” students to understand why some things we do in the classroom needs to shift directions. I want my grandchildren to have a different educational experience than I did, different from the education my children received. I am happy to say I have found something, which I feel, will fulfill these hopes.

I am working with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson in Powerful Learning Practice helping to shape the development of international communities of teachers participating in cohorts for a year of their own learning. I am excited to have the opportunity to learn with so many and I hope anyone who is interested will join me here on my journey as I share my thoughts and experiences along the way.

Self Directed Learning

In the November issue of Educational Leadership there was an interesting article Students at Bat, I found a correlation to the article and conversations about self directed learning, both for students and adults. The article used an analogy of how playing neighborhood baseball taught many skills to children, for example: they chose teams, picked positions, decided where bases were located, what was considered a home run and determined batting orders. Older children taught younger children how to bat, run the bases and how to field the ball. Children resolved their disagreements through compromise and consensus.

Today most children don’t have the chance to play neighborhood baseball, their leagues are structured and run by adults who pick the teams, determine who plays what position, create the batting order and the schedule of when games are played. Organized sports today are much like school, kids are told where to sit, who they will work with, when to eat, when to get up, when they can talk, what they will learn, and how they will be measured on their learning. As students move up in grade levels their choices become fewer and fewer, schedules are more structured, and course requirements make their time in school more restrictive. They have fewer opportunities to learn about sharing, resolving disputes through compromise and consensus. They are rarely asked to participate in conversations to decide about their learning goals, rules of conduct, or classroom procedures.

Yet we talk of self directed learning and its importance education today. When decisions are made for students and arrowsthey are given little voice they are unlikely to develop a sense of responsibility. If they believe their opinions and preferences don’t matter they are unlikely to take ownership of their learning. Without ownership what is their motivation to succeed? How do we begin to involve students in their education? What are we doing to prepare them to be self directed learners, what is taking place in your district to move students and forward in this area?

Flickr Image Source stefan

Learning that Sticks

stickyI read an article on the weekend by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, called Teaching that Sticks, it parallels the book they wrote Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. The article focuses on 6 traits that make ideas stickier, a sticky idea is simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and depicted in a story. The authors give an overview of how these traits apply to education.

As I think about it, this is what I am always trying to do,  convey ideas to students that stick, whether in the classroom or with colleagues through professional development, I want them to remember and relate to something. Here is a brief description of the concepts in the article.

Simple – Prioritize, find the core of what you want others to remember.

Unexpected – The use of mystery to pique curiosity. J.J. Abrams, one of the creators of Lost, did a presentation at TED last year on using mystery boxes to keep others interested in story plot, we can do the same in our classrooms. I wrote about this in an earlier post here.

Concrete – Creating something that allows us to etch ideas into our memory.

Credible – When we see or experience something yourself will help you to believe it is true.

Emotion – When we connect with something that evokes emotion in us.

Story – People will pay more attention to a story.

Do these concepts make sense to you?  What do you do to make learning in your classroom, or professional development stick?

Flickr image source Laughing Squid