Archive for the 'engaged learning' Category

Take note! One point for Public Schools…

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Irving ISD is not an affluent district. We are, in fact, an entirely title 1 district and a really neat place to work. We’re an urban organization with over 33,000 students in our system. On top of that, all of our high school students have laptops along with one middle school and one elementary school that are 1:1. Our community and leadership has simply committed to a 1:1 program.

North Hills is a private, and prestigious, prep school here in Irving. You may be aware of the push towards privatization of education, and North Hills would typically be considered a ‘better’ environment by those who support the concept of privatization. If you are not aware of this, it is time to read.

Sebastian Bozas, principal at de Zavala Middle School (the middle school that is 1:1), reported earlier this week that he received an email from a parent stating that her daughter had been accepted into North Hills, but had been debating whether or not to go to de Zavala despite the ‘opportunity’ to attend a more prestigious prep school. Public schools won out - Mr. Bozas continued by telling us that the daughter had decided to attend Irving Public Schools!! What a smile that put on our faces!

Now, and this is important, I am sure it is NOT the fact that de Zavala has computers that influenced this student’s decision - it IS the fact that de Zavala teachers have embraced teaching with technology and that they have a leadership that pushes them to shift towards teaching at a higher LoTI level and higher thinking levels. Again, it is not the computer that is the independent variable in this equation, it is the quality of instruction and what is possible when technology is available as a tool within a better instructional environment.

Lovin’ it - this is where the left lane ends…

Ok, I’ll bite.

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Screen plays/scripts always provide context at the beginning of the document, a way for the reader to mentally adjust to the environment of the piece of writing as well as the purpose. Well, here’s some context:

Ms. Stephens, who writes Musings from the Academy, asked why I hadn’t posted for a while. In response, I felt forced with my last writing (a review of the ASCD conference) and have been busy with class work, work and work. So, the writing bug just hasn’t hit me. THEN, she sends me this article by Lowell W. Monke from ‘Educational Leadership’ (a publication from the very ASCD organization itself) - ‘I think you should read the attached article and write about it on your blog.’

Ok, I’ll bite.

I’ve gotta tell ya’ - I am plain tired of the ‘techno-ego-centric, ‘they don’t know anything but’, ‘teenage biobots with super human text-message capable thumbs’ line. In fact, any time an educator refers to ‘them’, ‘they’ or ‘those kids’ - I shudder.

Now, normally, I would respond to this kind of article by laying out the good points and contrasting those with the bad points - but I’ve done too much of that for courses this semester and do not care to add to my list of pointless dead-end ‘publications’. This article, printed in a well respected publication, is harmful to education, primarily to those that look for pandering to one-sided perspectives in the development of national requirements, and even more importantly, budgets.

Nearly everything children do today involves technologies that distance them from direct contact with the living world.

Hmmm. ‘They’ are in trouble. ‘Those kids’ need to stop watching junk and learn. I just don’t understand ‘them’ - how can they isolate ‘them’selves like that? Oh….don’t even get me started - as if the adult political world is THAT much more connected to the ‘living world’?!?!

I heard a line recently that described how adults view text messaging compared to kids. Adults view it as very impersonal, even lacking ‘direct contact with the living world’. Interestingly enough, kids view text messaging as hyper-personal. They feel more in touch and more able to develop relationships. It seems that this may simply be an inability to see things from another Point of View (POV). I’ll come back to that.

With that in mind, lets move on to the real meat - the needed message. It is time that we stop looking at technology solely as an independent variable. Let me say that again.

IT IS TIME THAT WE STOP LOOKING AT TECHNOLOGY SOLELY AS AN INDEPENDENT VARIABLE.

Being the ‘Tech Monkey’ that I am (that is how we sometimes feel in Instructional Technology), this is a familiar concept to me. Study after study indicates the effect that computer integration has on test scores, on student thinking and every other possible dependent variable out there. It is as if one were to simply add the presence of computers (suspended from the ceiling, even!) to a classroom, that something will change. Test scores will get better or worse. Students will become more or less engaged. ‘Those’ kids will pay more attention or be more distracted. Don’t get me wrong - I am a firm believer in research, but where does research meet culture? When do we understand that these are real kids? When do we realize that it isn’t the technology that impacts the classroom, but THE TEACHING? When do we accept the fact that technology is merely an accelerant? Let’s run with that.

I read the book ‘Good to Great’ a while back and one of the last chapters struck me heavily. So much so, in fact, that I wrote the following (and previously unpublished) thoughts in March of 2003. Technology is merely an accelerant. It acts as a catalyst and makes things happen faster. However, not only does it make your communication quicker and your location of information speedier, it makes a good teacher better - faster. An effective teacher who uses current strategies to engage her students simply has more resources at her fingertips to utilize when designing/implementing a lesson. On the flip, and scarier side, technology also makes a poor teacher worse - faster. Have you heard stories about the management issues? Students being off task and not engaged? Do you really think that it is the technology that is the problem? This should be a HUGE red flag to the education world: If this is the case (technology as an accelerant), where, then, should our concern lie? NOT with the type of equipment; NOT with how well a teacher knows basic technology skills; NOT even with how technology is integrated into the curriculum. It is IMPERATIVE that our concern lie with, and HEAVILY with, the effectiveness of a teacher according to today’s definition of an effective teacher. If we do not place this concern as a priority, we are CREATING less effective teachers in our schools - FASTER. Don’t you see - it isn’t technology that is the problem, it is how we develop and embrace effective teaching.

What should we be doing? Teaching our kids through the use of POV. Getting our kids involved in the local, national and international community through the power of technology. Developing school systems that support and develop effective teachers. It is true, technology is their life - so let’s embrace that fact and find ways to help OUR kids think more effectively within that environment.

Technology is NOT the problem. Lousy policies, a national administration with a lack of vision and a lack of a balanced POV, AND a lack of vision within the educational environment - these are the problems.

If nothing else, Monke’s article is merely munitions to cut a budget that has already been proposed for elimination. After all, it seems that the policy makers and the budget creators seem to only look for bits-and-pieces that support their own POV. Please, don’t give them the quick quotes that they are looking for.

Neural Pluralism

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Saturday Morning: Opening Session

Neural Pluralism. For the most part, we encourage, if not insist upon, religious pluralism, ethnic pluralism and linguistic pluralism. BUT, when it comes to recognizing the different learning needs, the different way that we are neurally constructed, we deny the diversity and start to label. Mel Levine spoke to this issue and described his work in brain research and how we, as educators, must take it upon ourselves to accept the diversity in student learning needs and use the current research about learning and how the brain develops to customize our teaching in a way that is ideal for each individual student. This requires a shift for teachers in order to learn more about the development of the brain (based on current research) and apply that knowledge in the classroom.

You can review the ASCD notes about the presentation, OR (and I recommend this one!) listen to a story about Dr. Levine on NPR’s Website. This is outstanding material and well worth the time in reading/learning about it.

This has huge implications when you look at developing a solid one-to-one program. It all comes back to developing a faculty that is sensitive to the needs of different students in an effort to create an environment that engages. It all comes back to taking responsibility for engagement, and working individually with all kids.

Boredom

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

I am in Chicago at the ASCD conference, and having a great time! The sessions are great (quality) and I am bathing in the extra time I have for self reflection (and some good Chicago jazz!).

I started Friday in a pre-conference session all about boredom. Richard Strong started with a quote that went something like: “If boredom is different for everybody, then (are we being taped?) … we’re screwed.” We often look at the students in our classroom through the standard lens of labels that are fed to us, not by our own will. A student is labeled by TAKS, LD or ADD, and these labels blind us to the individuality of each student. When we stop to notice our own personality style and how we teach, and then compare that to the personality styles of the different students in our classroom, it becomes apparent that we frequently teach to one type of student, and label the rest.

Richard ended the full day pre-conference session by discussing the meaning of the word responsible, or as he put it - response-able. The claim was that, through diversifying our teaching and learning to match a variety of personality/learning styles, we can develop faculty and students that are ABLE to RESPOND to different needs of others, to different situations and to their life. This should be our goal.

As noted by Richard, boredom is simply a form of depression. We know through research that working with the different personality types as noted by Richard and Harvey Silver, we can trigger engagement in each student. Strong and Silver are in the process of working on a specific framework so that teachers can pinpoint how to bring out the different personality traits, not just through a general lesson, but through specific pieces of one lesson - mix and match your teaching day - RESPOND to the students’ variety of personality types.

Some quotes or thoughts from the session:

I believe that we are in danger of scientificizing education. We should not take a one-eyed view. Culture is the other perspective and we must approach our classrooms with stereo vision.

How many people have planned a great lesson, and it failed? How many people have walked into a class without a clue and had a great day? Half of teaching is design and half of teaching is response.

Boredom is a form of depression - it manifests itself in the inability to find meaning. It comes in three shapes: 1) deprivation shape (I am bored because something is not there); 2) The stimulus lacks meaning; 3) when it takes us to the edge of despair.

People have different ideas. In science, ideas become powerful with evidence. In culture, ideas become powerful within conversation.

A teacher is only as effective as, not what they know, but what the students really walk away with.

Assess, align, adjust, achieve

Concept: turn students into coaches that praise, prompt and probe. Increase feedback, increase response time

Personality types:
Sensing+Thinking=Mastery
Intuition+Thinking=Understanding
Sensing+Feeling=Interpersonal
Intuition+Feeling=Self-Expressive

You can download the PowerPoint and visit their website for further exploration. Not realizing how the morning general session would tie into this concept, I started thinking about how these ideas flow into a 1:1 environment. It is my firm belief that a solid one-to-one laptop program is centered around an institution that has solid instructional practice. That being said, the over-arcing message is that we, as educators must take responsibility for the education of our students. We CAN NOT say, ‘these students just don’t want to learn’, or ‘these kids are different today’. They are OUR students, our kids. We must take responsibility to engage our students and take the time to learn about each one. This is a tough challenge, and the solution is hard work. When we make that commitment, we establish the foundation for a successful 1:1 laptop program - a program where the computer flows through instruction as a tool that is a part of individualized instruction which engages all students.