Monday, March 25, 2013

Embracing Failure

Failure is tough.  Failure is humbling, humiliating and makes you feel inferior in every possible way.

Heck, I even wrote a post after many, many fails on my part. Blog Post Here.

At a recent event I learned about the "Failure Bow" seen here:

Instead of cringing, sulking, hiding make the choice to put your hands up!  

Welcome the humility and celebrate the transparency in the willingness to celebrate.  That transparency of recognizing your not perfect, you're human, gives you space.  That space may be the little thing called happiness.  This happiness can move from that space of failure to transform it into an opportunity to move you and other forward.

See more about the failure bow from Michael Smith in his TEDx talk below:

Hope you bow!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Questions inspired from Steve Jobs

I just recently finished the Steve Jobs autobiography.  The book was amazing and fun and irreverent, much like I'm sure Steve Jobs was.  There were many take aways and highlights that influenced my thinking about leadership and education.  It also inspired more questions than answers.

I'm going to use this post to pull out those highlights, connect them to education, and offer up questions to ponder, reflect on and give you space to determine if you value these same ideals.

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." - Apple commercial 1997

  • How can we "think differently" about our education system?
  • How can we think diferently about (insert idea: RTI, student discipline, teaching, instruction, testing etc.)

Moore's law, founded in 1965, states that technology will exponentially grow in capacity but cost will steadily decline.

  • With technology more than proving Moore's law, how is education reacting or capitalizing on the capacity?
  • Are we charging too much for what we are getting?
  • When will we reach capacity for technology?

Steve Jobs hated school: "I knew school was at fault for trying to make me memorize stupid stuff rather than stimulate me."

  • How has school changed since Job's was a student?
  • Are we still asking the brightest students to memorize stuff?
  • When will "standards" seek to focus on processing skills vs content knowledge?

"If it hadn't been for the blue boxes, there wouldn't be an Apple."

  • Where, in school, do we let kids tinker and play?
  • Where, in school, do we inspire new ideas from students?
  • Where, in school, do students get to take charge of their own learning?
"I learned the truth of the Zen saying that if you are willing to travel around the world to meet a teacher, one will appear next door."
  • Can we learn from this that readiness for learning is crucial?
  • What if students drove the learning?  Student interest will bring the curriculum to them when they are ready.
  • When we are hung, we eat.  Not vice-versa.  How does this relate to teaching and learning?

"The sixties produced an anarchic-mind that is great for imagining a world not yet in existence."
  • When will our educators of today live through their "sixties"?
  • Will our undergraduate programs that are creating the next generation of teachers create this same environment?
Woz started a computer club who's theme was 'Give help to others.'
  • This was the ethos of hackers and open source, what in education are you allowing to be open source?
  • How are you contributing from the open source environment?
  • How are student contributing?
Apple Marketing Philosophy:  Empathy, Focus, and Impute
  • Are we empathetic in what we do?
  • Do students have a "voice" in our classroom?
  • Are we responsive to student needs?
  • Are we surrounded by standards and goals, can we live without some of them?
  • Does our facility, our classroom, our environment influence behavior and aspirations?

"You did the impossible, because you didn't realize it was impossible."
  • How often do we say "Well, that's too difficult for a _____ grader?"
  • Do we give kids the ability to dream?  Can we give kids the space to create their own "possible?"
"By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things."
  • Are our expectations of students, colleagues and supervisors too low?
"Mac retreat highlights: Don't compromise, The journey is the reward, people don't know what they want until we've shown them."
  • How often do we settle for good enough?
  • Why do we focus on grades and outcomes when we could be celebrating the process and the learning?
  • When we share new and exciting experiences with students, when we can bring in or take students to meet passionate and successful adults we can open up doors to possibilities.  Are you?
"In the first 30 years of your life, you make habits.  For the last 30 years your habits make you."
  • What habits are we teaching our students?
  • Are we teaching students habits that will make them successful later in life?
  • What are the most important habits?
Jobs said: "Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind.  You are really etching chemical patterns.  In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them."

  • What grooves are you in?
  • How are our students "stuck"?
  • How do our habits shape our thinking?

What prepared him for the great success Jobs would have in Act III was not his ouster from his Act I at Apple but his brilliant failures in Act II.
  • When can we allow students to fail, while with us, so they don't fail away from us?
  • When can we give students and colleagues the opportunities to try something new and take risks while support is still there to help?
  • How can we be Act II so student's post secondary career is their Act III?

Alice: Through the Looking Glass, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

  • When do we let kids dream?
  • Do we inspire dreaming?  Or punish it?
  • Do we ask kids to strive for their dreams or reach for what is right in front of them (the what's possible)?

Jobs: "I think you still have to think differently to buy and Apple computer.  The people who buy them do think different.  They are the creative spirits in this world, and they're out to change the world.  WE make tools for those kinds of people."

  • What kind of students does our school produce?
  • What kind of students do we want to produce?
  • Are we creating the right environment and hiring the right people to help us achieve that goal?
Job learned that "a properly run company could spawn innovation far more than any single creative individual. 'I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the way you organize a company'"
  • Is your building or district arranged for innovation?
  • Most schools I see are set up to handle stimulus, not many are set up to create stimulus.
  • How would you change the way your building or district is organized to be forward inspiring instead of reacting?
Apple uses "Deep collaboration" or "concurrent engineering."  Jobs realized 'A' people want to work with 'A' people.  

  • Does our hiring process reflect our values?
  • Do we have 'A' players?  How can we pair them with other 'A' players?
Once a year Jobs took his most valuable employees on a retreat, which he called the "Top 100."
  • How do you recognize the outliers in your organization?
  • How do we get the top students/teachers/administrators together?
  • Does your district collaborate with other districts to bring together the best to inspire new ideas and next practices?
Jobs on presenting: "if you need slides, it shows you don't know what you're talking about."
  • enough said...

  • How have you utilized technology to improve your organization or classroom?
  • Can you see past your current reality to the next innovation?
In order to institutionalize the lessons Jobs was learning, Jobs started an in-house center called Apple University.
  • How do we share the lessons we learn?
  • How do we create learning opportunities for every person?
  • Do we have a culture of learning and sharing at our institution?
  • How are kids sharing what they are learning?

When our tools don't work, we tend to blame ourselves, for being too stupid, or not reading the manual or having too-fat fingers...when our tools are broken, we feel broken.
  • How are we ensuring students and staff experiences are quality and don't allow for people to feel broken?
  • Have we thought through possible scenarios that happen in our day to ensure we are providing experiences for people that empower them instead on marginalize them?
In the closed versus opened, integrated vs fragmented
  • Why do we continue to purchase resources and textbooks we often go with the lowest bidder.  If we really want a seamless environment, we should create or curate the resources ourselves.
  • Isn't our school date fragmented and closed, isn't that the worst possible scenario?
"We're doing the best we can, we're learning as fast as we can-but we thought this rule makes sense."
  • When do we apologize?
  • How do we apologize?
  • When do we take on our policies and practices to ensure we're learning and they are growing?
  • Do we have a procedure to call our rules into question?  Does that involve students and our community?
The whole world is the same now.
  • The kid in Turkey has access to the same tools as the kids in Canada, has your classroom changed?
  • When kids are allowed access to devices, they learn what they are interested in and what is available to them. SOLE project

"Teachers should be treated as professionals, he said, not as industrial assembly-line workers.  Principals should be able to hire and fire them based on how good they were.  Schools should be staying open until 6PM and be in session eleven months of the year.  It was absurd, he added, that American classrooms were still based on a teacher standing at a board and using textbooks.  All books, learning materials and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Using Learning Goals to Transform Learning

This is a post from my work blog:

Our district is working on Learning Goals as an emphasis from K-12.  We are using The Art and Science of Teaching as our model.

These learning goals are constructed from our Missouri Grade Level Expectations.

So this process of developing learning goals for classrooms brings about amazing opportunities for demonstrating great work by educators.

Below is a third grade class.  The teacher developed a proficiency scale for this learning goal:

Students will be able to compare how where you live affects how you live.

4 - Student accurately describes how Environment/Climate affect (all three) clothing/food/housing
3 - Student accurately describes how Environment/Climate affect (two) clothing/food/housing
2 - Student accurately describes how Environment/Climate affect (one) clothing/food/housing
1 - Student accurately describes how Environment/Climate 

After our conversation we proposed a student formative assessment opportunity.  

We created a graphic:

We added it to our proficiency scale.  Then we posted that scale in the room.  When proposing the learning goal as a question.

Based on this student performance was drastically improved.

Below are examples of student work:

This student was developing in their knowledge.  Before, this student wouldn't have been able to answer anything in a written format.  In this case the teacher decided to allow the student to simply tell her what they know about the topic, she wrote down the information.

In this scenario below the student needed differentiation strategies to allow them to communicate what they knew without being held back from a diagnosis of difficulty with written expression.  The teacher provided the scaffolding of the boxes and numbers to provide the student with the opportunity to demonstrate what they knew.  The addition of the boxes allowed the student the necessary tools to be successful and met the grade level expectation.

This student didn't need any scaffolding, also didn't need to write a ton and demonstrated and understanding of the content.

After this assessment the student below demonstrated partial mastery and needed either more time or more scaffolding to be successful.  Conversations with this student are ongoing.

And of course no set of examples would be complete without an exemplar.  This student has never written this much but having the rubric available gave the student the inspiration to write a ton.  This is truly amazing for a 3rd grader!

After looking over this student work we had a conversation around these following questions:

  1. What do we notice about the student work that supports our proficiency scale?
  2. What do we notice about student work that was an unintended consequence of the proficiency scale?
  3. What worked on our scale?
  4. What didn't work from our scale?
  5. Do we see a true depth of knowledge increase as we move up our scale?  Does the increasing depth of knowledge increase student engagement?
  6. Is the "4" of labeling all three really stretching to a transfer level?  If not, is the a question or experience that we could add to reach the transfer level of understanding?

Since then many more proficiency scales have been completed, here is one more example.  You tell us, does it answer our questions above?  

I'm excited to see where this goes next!!!  Way to go Betsy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Importance of Blogging

There is NOTHING more important that blogging.  Do you agree with that?  

I'm not sure where I stand but I remember the day April 15th 2009, when I started this blog.  

This blog hasn't been a place of regard on the internet, it hasn't changed education as a system.  You know what it has done?  It has given me a voice, given me a place to document my thoughts, cool tools and ideas.  

What do leaders like Seth Godin and Tom Peters think about blogging, well:

Rob Berger's work from "The Ethics of Excellence" challenges us to find authentic audiences for our students' work.

So, why not Blog?

When I went to look up the common core standards for writing, here's what I found from 5th grade:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2a Introduce a topic clearly, provide a general observation and focus, and group related information logically; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2b Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2c Link ideas within and across categories of information using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., in contrastespecially).
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2e Provide a concluding statement or section related to the information or explanation presented.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3a Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3b Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3c Use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the sequence of events.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3d Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3e Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.

How can this all NOT be accomplished through blogging?  PLUS we get a chance to allow family and friends to subscribe, comment, and all the while teaching digital literacy.  Hard to not pass it up.

Recently I listened to Michael Hyatt's podcast on "the resistance."  It's that urge we all feel when we are going to try something new.  The fear we have that creates all the doubt to try something new.  He states that the first phase to overcoming that fear is to: Just Start.

After all, What's more REAL WORLD, than the actual REAL WORLD!  

So, Start blogging today! More importantly, let your students blog.