Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tough Week

This past week has been one of the toughest in my professional life.  I was faced with a decision that was the best for me and my family, but one that I knew would create stress and anxiety for staff (and possibly students).  I was offered a position as an assistant principal at the high school in the district where my family lives.

The building I currently work at is one hour from my house.  This new position would allow me to be closer to my family and have some flexibility in attending my children's activities during the school day.  The conflict for me was the timing of the new position.  I would begin within the next two weeks - so I would be leaving the staff and students in the middle of the year.

The last week I have listed the pros and cons and what it really boiled down to was - what affect would this move have on my family versus the effect on staff and students?  I sat down with my family last Tuesday night and we talked about the possibility of me changing jobs - this would also affect my 9th grade son since he would be in the building I would be moving into.  I was a little surprised when he said it would be "cool" for me to be in his building.  A little later he even asked if we could ride to school together.  The solidified my decision.  It was clear to me that being closer was important to my family.

Now how to tell staff that I was leaving in the middle of the year.  We met as at staff and I broke the news Friday morning (thank goodness this was a work day).  The staff knew something was up (especially when the superintendent was there as well).  I am not a big meeting guy and only meet when we need to.  So when I asked them to meet they were suspicious, but I don't think they knew me leaving would be a possible topic.   I broke the news and the looks on their faces broke my heart.  Shock, disbelief, fear. 

Staff were awesome as I continued to talk about how I came about the decision to take the new position.  I had always supported their family needs and they knew this would be a very positive move for my family.   My main goal as an administrator was to support my staff so they could focus on student learning.  As I met with staff individually throughout the day my greatest fear had come true - I could not support them through their fears of "what next."  And and hated the feeling.

Over the weekend I have been able to reflect on my decision and I am at peace with it.  I know the staff and students will be ok because the staff are great people who focus on students.  My family will be better off. 

Never did anyone in my building  (or district) say anything to me if I needed to leave early to get back to one of my children's activities (as a matter of fact my secretary would get mad at me if she saw something on my calendar and I wasn't going to go), but I always felt guilty.  What if something happened?  It was my responsibility to be there and deal with it so staff could focus on student learning.  This is the conflict I believe all administrators feel.  I preached the importance of family with my staff - I guess this decision is me living it.

I want to thank my staff for the support Friday, and want to apologize because I will not be able to help much moving forward.  I know this was tough news for them because of how it will ultimately affect them.  I also want to thank the other administrators and superintendent who were very supportive as well.

I am sad to be closing one chapter of my administrative life - the staff, students, and families has been great to work with.  At the same time, I am excited to begin the next.  The next couple of weeks will be tough, but nothing compared to the last week.

Monday, November 26, 2012

This is on a poster in one of our rooms

Watch your thoughts
they become words
Watch your words
they become actions
Watch your actions
they become habits
Watch your habits
they become your character

Friday, September 21, 2012

What to Trust??



Schooling Beyond Measure

By Alfie Kohn

The reason that standardized-test results tend to be so uninformative and misleading is closely related to the reason that these tests are so popular in the first place. That, in turn, is connected to our attraction to—and the trouble with—grades, rubrics, and various practices commended to us as "data based."
The common denominator? Our culture's worshipful regard for numbers. Roger Jones, a physicist, called it "the heart of our modern idolatry ... the belief that the quantitative description of things is paramount and even complete in itself."
Quantification can be entertaining, of course. Readers love Top 10 lists, and our favorite parts of the news are those with numerical components: sports, business, and weather. There's something comforting about the simplicity of specificity. As the educator Selma Wassermann observed, "Numbers help to relieve the frustrations of the unknown." If those numbers are getting larger over time, we figure we must be making progress. Anything that resists being reduced to numerical terms, by contrast, seems vaguely suspicious, or at least suspiciously vague.
In calling this sensibility into question, I'm not denying that there's a place for quantification. Rather, I'm pointing out that it doesn't always seem to know its place. If the question is "How tall is he?," "6 foot 2" is a more useful answer than "pretty damn tall." But what if the question were "Is that a good city to live in?" or "How does she feel about her sister?" or "Would you rather have your child in this teacher's classroom or that one's?"
"To be overly enamored by numbers is to be vulnerable to their misuse."
The habit of looking for numerical answers to just about any question can probably be traced back to overlapping academic traditions like behaviorism and scientism (the belief that all true knowledge is scientific), as well as the arrogance of economists or statisticians who think their methods can be applied to everything in life. The resulting overreliance on numbers is, ironically, based more on faith than on reason. And the results can be disturbing.
In education, the question "How do we assess kids/teachers/schools?" has morphed over the years into "How do we measure ... ?" We've forgotten that assessment doesn't require measurement, and, moreover, that the most valuable forms of assessment are often qualitative (say, a narrative account of a child's progress by an observant teacher who knows the child well), rather than quantitative (a standardized-test score). Yet the former may well be brushed aside in favor of the latter by people who don't even bother to ask what was on the test. It's a number, so we sit up and pay attention. Over time, the more data we accumulate, the less we really know.
You've heard it said that tests and other measures are, like technology, merely neutral tools, and all that matters is what we do with the information. Baloney. The measure affects that which is measured. Indeed, the fact that we chose to measure in the first place carries causal weight. His speechwriters had President George W. Bush proclaim, "Measurement is the cornerstone of learning." What they should have written was "Measurement is the cornerstone of the kind of learning that lends itself to being measured."
One example: It's easier to score a student writer's proficiency with sentence structure than her proficiency at evoking excitement in a reader. Thus, the introduction of a scoring device like a rubric will likely lead to more emphasis on teaching mechanics. Either that, or the notion of "evocative" writing will be flattened into something that can be expressed as a numerical rating. Objectivity has a way of objectifying. Pretty soon the question of what our whole education system ought to be doing gives way to the question of which educational goals are easiest to measure.
I'll say it again: Quantification does have a role to play. We need to be able to count how many kids are in each class if we want to know the effects of class size. But the effects of class size on what? Will we look only at test scores, ignoring outcomes such as students' enthusiasm about learning or their experience of the classroom as a caring community?
Too much is lost to us—or warped—as a result of our love affair with numbers. And there are other casualties as well:
We miss the forest while counting the trees. Rigorous ratings of how well something is being done tend to distract us from asking whether that activity is sensible or ethical. Dubious cultural values and belief systems are often camouflaged by numerical precision, sometimes out to several decimal places. Stephen Jay Gould, in his book The Mismeasure of Man, provided ample evidence that meretricious findings are often produced by impressively meticulous quantifiers.
We become obsessed with winning. An infatuation with numbers not only emerges from but also exacerbates our cultural addiction to competition. It's easier to know how many others we've beaten, and by how much, if achievements have been quantified. But once they're quantified, it's tempting for us to spend our time comparing and ranking, trying to triumph over one another rather than cooperating.
We deny our subjectivity. Sometimes the exclusion of what's hard to quantify is rationalized on the grounds that it's "merely subjective." But subjectivity isn't purged by relying on numbers; it's just driven underground, yielding the appearance of objectivity. An "86" at the top of a paper is steeped in the teacher's subjective criteria just as much as his comments about that paper. Even a score on a math quiz isn't "objective": It reflects the teacher's choices about how many and what type of questions to include, how difficult they should be, how much each answer will count, and so on. Ditto for standardized tests, except the people making those choices are distant and invisible.
Subjectivity isn't a bad thing; it's about judgment, which is a marvelous human capacity that, in the plural, supplies the lifeblood of a democratic society. What's bad is the use of numbers to pretend that we've eliminated it.
Skepticism about—and denial of—judgment in general is compounded these days by an institutionalized distrust of teachers' judgments. Hence the tidal wave of standardized testing in the name of "accountability." Part of the point is to bypass the teachers and indeed to evaluate them, too. The exalted status of numerical data also helps explain why teachers are increasingly being trained rather than educated.
To be overly enamored of numbers is to be vulnerable to their misuse, a timely example being the pseudoscience of "value-added modeling" of test data, debunked by experts but continuing to sucker the credulous. The trouble, however, isn't limited to lying with statistics. None of these problems with quantification disappears when no dishonesty or incompetence is involved. Likewise, better measurements or more thoughtful criteria for rating aren't sufficient.
At the surface, yes, we're obliged to do something about bad tests and poorly designed rubrics and meaningless data. But what lies underneath is an irrational attachment to tests, rubrics, and data, per se, or, more precisely, our penchant for reducing to numbers what is distorted by that very act.
Alfie Kohn is the author of 12 books, including The Case Against Standardized Testing (Heinemann, 2000) and The Homework Myth (Da Capo, 2006). He lives (actually) in the Boston area and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.



Our superintendent shared the above article which was published in this week's Education Week with our staff this morning.  I think it makes some very interesting points - which I have highlighted.

I believe the biggest take away from this article is that there is a general distrust of teacher's judgements.  Probably a bigger distrust than any other group of professionals.  This is institutionalized under the mask of educational reform by "reformists" and politicians.  Standardized tests and the idea of accountability have not taken the subjectivity out of education.  The subjectivity has just moved to a different group - those as far away from out students as possible.  If we truly want to help all students learn and achieve we need to trust and allow educators closest to the students make decisions based on what is best for their students.  Until we start trusting educators again we will not be able to move forward.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jimmy V - Don't Ever Give Up


I heard this speech again as I was driving to work and it reminded me how important it is to be positive.  If you have never seen or heard this it is very powerful.  The video is 11 minutes long, but well worth it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

video
I just wanted to share the video from our Identity Day.  Students took all the pictures and one of our teachers put the video together.  Each person in the building (staff and students) created a project and we took time for everyone to see every project.  It was very fun to see all the talents, strengths, and passions of our Lincoln community.  We had over 550 projects displayed around the building!!  I want to thank Chris Wejr (K-6 principal at Kent Elementary in Agassiz, BC) for sharing all his resources.  It was nice to see what others had done before beginning this journey.  He has a great blog - worth a look - chriswejr.com.

This day fit so nicely with our Leadership theme and our integration of Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  This was another way for our students to see leadership is not a position, it is a principle.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Defending American Education



If you have not seen this video it is very good.  Diane does a great job of dispelling myths that are used by various reform movements.  There is no doubt changes need to be made to our education system.  We need to make the right changes for the right reasons.  Change for change's sake is a waste of energy, time, and money.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012



Now that school is almost out for spring here is some of the things I learned during my first year as a principal (I am sure these are similar to what others have learned, but this was good reflection);


  1. The office staff makes the building go.  I am blessed to have a great office staff that made sure I did what I was supposed to when I was supposed to do it.  They provided great feedback when I had questions or ideas.  The made sure I did not make any major mistakes.  They handled many situations before they got to me which allowed me to focus on students.  Sara, Pam, and Julie - thanks for all the help this year!!
  2. Take time to be the undercover boss.  I found time to help every person in the building with their job a couple different times during the year.  I served lunch, cleaned lunch tables, picked up trash, filed, answer the main phone line, checked out books, cleaned bathrooms, modeled lessons, created flipped classroom lessons, and cleaned the microwave in the staff lounge to name a few of the things I helped with.  If people see you willing to do what ever it is that needs to be done they are much more willing to pitch in.  If you are not willing to do it then don't ask someone else to.
  3.  Set some parameters and then let professional make decision on the best way to get the job done.  Allow people freedom to chose and take risks.  Build a culture where it is ok to fail.  You can learn more from making mistakes than being safe and doing the easy thing.  Failure is not a bad thing.  Learning lies in mistakes and misconceptions.  Being not afraid to fail frees you up to take risks and try something new.  Try to do something new on a regular basis.
  4. Get into classrooms daily.  I made it a point to get into a multiple classrooms on a daily basis.  This lets you know what is going on and you can talk to students and teachers about what you saw.  This is a great way to engage students in their learning and teachers in their instruction.  
  5. Talk to every adult in the building everyday.  I stopped by and talked to every adult in the building on a daily basis - even if it is just to say hi.  Great way to build relationships and find out what is really going on in the building.  
  6. Get out and play with the kids.  School and learning is supposed to be fun - go have some fun every day.
  7. Smile.  A smile will change any one's mood. 
  8. Talk to other principals.  Tap into their expertise and knowledge. 
  9. Don't waste people's time.  Cancel meetings if there is nothing to meet about.
  10. Be a great listener.  Sometimes people just want to talk/vent.  If there is one skill that is vital to being an effective principal it is the ability to listen.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Testing Season is Almost Over


This Friday will mark the end of the testing season here at Lincoln Elementary.  Since the middle of February we will have had only four weeks where our students have not had some sort of state testing.  I fully understand the need for accountability and measurement of student progress, but as I see our students around the building they continually say one thing "When are we done testing?"  

I want our building to be alive.  I don't want our students confined to their desks or rooms.  I hate the silence that the testing season brings to our halls.  Our students want to be engaged and we have spent a lot of time and energy to integrate inquiry as the basis of our instruction.  Our students want to ask questions and find answers to the those questions.  They want to take what they have learned and apply it. Students want to move around and work with each other.  Students want to talk.  

The amount of testing we ask our students to do gets in the way of authentic learning.  It takes the fun out of school.  I am glad we are nearing the end of the testing season.  We will have two weeks to light that fire again  before our students take off for the summer.  If we are not careful students will leave elementary school thinking school is boring and nothing but tests.  If we truly want to raise achievement of all students it is simple - increase engagement.  Tests are not engaging, tests are long and boring.  I can't wait for the testing to be done so we can have some noise in the building - it has been too quiet for too long!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Create A Culture of Failure

I want to create a culture of failure in the teachers and students I work with on a daily basis.  You may be thinking what??  This is the age of standardized testing and accountability!!  In some respects, if you feel that way you may be right, but I would say if that is indeed true then there is an even bigger need to create a culture of failure in our schools.

For our students to succeed in the world they are going to live in they need to be very good at problem solving and be flexible in their thinking.  Preparing for standardized tests does just the opposite.  Those assessments teach students there is one right answer and a specific way to get to that answer.  I would say these assessments and the preparation that some teachers/schools do to get students ready for them are sucking the creativity and flexibility our of our students.  And in turn taking away the joy of learning for all.

Failure and doing something wrong is a great way to learn.  The wrong way can lead to the right way if teachers and students are willing to fail.  In our society failure is a dirty word and the fear of failure paralyzes many people.  Most would rather do nothing than do something and fail.

We need to allow students (and teachers) the freedom to fail.  Encourage students to try something when they are struggling.  Don't be in a hurry to give them the solution.  Use what they have done as a teaching tool.  When I taught high school math I would have students stop by after school and say "I don't get #21!!"  My reply would be "what did you try?"  If the answer was nothing I told them I would help them once they helped themselves by doing something.  At the beginning of the semester this was difficult for many, but once they understood there was no punishment for doing it wrong and their wrong answer could be used to help get the correct one students began to be ok with doing something wrong as long at it helped them learn.  And isn't that the goal?  Have students help themselves learn?!?!?

The same holds true for teachers.  They need permission to fail.  If a teacher comes to me and wants to try something (as long as it is sound instructionally) I tell them to go for it and not worry about if it does not go well.  If you try something you think will be good for students and it does not go well chances are you can improve what you did.  But you can't do that if you don't try!!  Teachers worry about "what if it doesn't work?", my response is "what if it does?".

Dr. Reeves said this at a conference "try it, test it (assess it), improve it".  We can do this, if we are ok with failure. Don't be afraid of failure, embrace it and grow from it!!  Instill this in your teachers, teammates, and students.  If you do, our kids will be better off for it!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Are you a victim of TTWWADI?

As educators we must change the way we deliver instruction to our students.  The school system most of  us currently work in is based upon decisions that were made for another time.  Most people in education have no idea why they do the things they do on a daily basis.  Little do they realize most of what they do was developed in the early 1900s - the prime of the industrial age.  We are now in the information age and the students who we see everyday have not only grown up in a digital world, but this world has affected their thinking patterns.

If the world around the education system has changed - especially in the last 15 yrs - then why has it been so difficult for the education system to meet the demands of the new world?  It think it is pretty simple.  Many people in education suffer from TTWWADI.  It is the mindset that develops as people form habits - That's The Way We've Always Done It.  TTWWADI becomes a powerful force that prohibits change as people embrace doing things the way they have always been done without ever examining the original decision to do something a particular way.  People just accept the preexisting mindset because it is the path of least resistance.

Ted McCain said "Conventional wisdom is that it takes great strength to hold on to something.  In my view, it takes the greatest strength to let go of something you have done the same way for a long time."  I would encourage all educators to look at how they instruct on a daily basis.  Is it the same as how you were instructed when you were a student?  If so, then you suffer from TTWWADI!!

If you are not engaging your students in asking and answering good questions then you are not preparing them for the world they will live in.  Schools can no longer focus on information.  Students have instant access to all kinds of information.  Memorization and low-level thinking problems are taking the enjoyment out of school for our students.  We must focus on higher-level thinking skills and instill a love of learning in every student that walks into our schools.  The only way to do that is to reflect on what you do in the classroom and question why you do it.  If you can't answer why you do something then you suffer from TTWWADI.

Be willing to let go of something you have done for a long time.  Especially if you just assumed that is the way it's supposed to be done.  Challenge yourself and your teammates to look at instruction differently.  Our students need all educators to show great strength in this regard.  The way things have always been done in education is no longer good enough for our students.  Don't allow TTWWADI get in the way of positive change.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Committed Sardines

I received this from a teacher in our building - it is awesome!!


What's a Committed Sardine? 

First, an aside. A blue whale is the largest mammal on earth. An adult blue whale is the length of 2 1/2 Greyhound buses put end to end, weighs more than a fully loaded 737, has blood vessels large enough for an adult to swim down, a heart the size of a Volkswagon Beetle, and a tongue 8' long and weighs 6000 lbs. A baby blue whale is estimated to gain more than 50 pounds an hour from birth to age one. (now that's a high fat diet - certainly not Atkins). The blue whale is not only the biggest, but the loudest animal. At 190 decibels, a blue whale's call is louder than a jet (140 decibels), and much louder than a person can shout (70 decibels).

A little known fact is that a blue whale is so large that when it decides to turn around, it can take 2 to 3 minutes to turn 180 degrees so that it can swim in the opposite direction. As a result, some people have drawn a strong parallel between blue whales and our school systems. It just seems to take forever for schools to turn things around. Our ability to adapt to changing times helps explain at least in part the rise in demand for vouchers, charter schools, home schooling and virtual schools. There are some people who just don't believe or don't want the public school system to turn things around in time.

But compare the way a blue whale turns around (slowly) to how a school of fish turns around - specifically a school of sardines - which has the same or even a greater mass than the whale, does the same thing. A school of sardines can turn almost instantly. So the question that comes up is - How do they do this? How do they know when to turn. Is it ESP? Do they use cell phones? Are the using the Internet

The answer is simultaneously a little simpler and quite a bit more complex. If you take a careful look at a school of sardines, you'll notice that although the fish all appear to be swimming in the same direction, in reality, at any time, there will be a small group of sardines swimming in a different direction, in an opposite direction, against the flow, against conventional wisdom. And as they swim in another direction, they cause conflict, they cause friction, and they causes discomfort for the rest of the school.

But finally, when a critical mass of truly committed sardines is reached - not a huge number like 50 percent or 80 percent of the school, but 15 to 20 percent who are truly committed to a new direction - the rest of the school suddenly turns and goes with them – almost instantaneously!
 
Isn't that what has happened with our attitudes towards drinking and driving? Isn't that what became of our feelings about smoking? Isn't that exactly what happened to the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union? Isn't that what caused the Internet to suddenly appear overnight. Each and every one of those events was an overnight success that took years in the making. Overnight successes that took a small group of people who were truly committed despite the obstacles, challenge, yabbuts, and TTWWADIs to make the necessary change.
 
Noted anthropologist Margaret Mead once wrote:

"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world -
indeed it is the only thing that ever has."

That's why we're Committed Sardines - Thinking Outside The Can!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Inquiry - Let the fun begin!!


Our district had the opportunity to have Steph Harvey come and speak to all our K-8 teachers on a staff development day.  The foundations for our K-8 buildings is leadership (based on 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and inquiry.  We have had an opportunity to really integrate leadership into our schools.  Steph was our kick off to integrating inquiry.

Below are some random take-a-ways from our day with her:

  • kids really want to know stuff
  • all kids are desperate to learn
  • instantaneous access has changed our lives, but the need to be curious never changes
  • we need to cultivate the natural curiosity that all students begin school with
  • most direct rout to learning is engagement, the most direct route to engagement is FUN
  • every 5 minutes of whole group instruction students need time to process - turn and talk
  • if students can't make up their own minds someone will do it for them
  • learning is a consequence of thinking
  • we turn info into knowledge by thinking about it
  • smart is not something you are it is something you get
  • the questions students ask after reading a text are a better assessment than the questions the student can answer about the text
The final take-a-ways are that teachers need to be the chief learners in the classroom and principals need to be the chief learners in the building.  The adults in the building need to learn something completely new so they can experience what our students are going through on a daily basis.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Simplify "Reform"





This is an e-mail I wrote to the legislator from my district in Minnesota after getting into a discussion on Twitter regarding education reform.


Pat,

Sorry this took so long to get to you, but it has been a crazy couple of days at school.  I am not sure this is what you were looking for, but this is my thoughts on strengthening our education system in Minnesota.

Most of what I believe I have gotten from Mike Schmoker, Doug Reeves, and Rick DuFour - so I don' t claim to have come up with any of this on my own, but I do believe strongly in the principles and have worked to implement these in the districts (Farmington and now Owatonna) I have worked in over the past six years.

We have over complicated "education reform".  I learned along time ago - mostly in coaching - that when I focused on the essentials my teams and students did better.  As I was asked to do more (added initiatives) or became distracted with things that were not essential my players and students performed worse.

If we truly want to improve education we must focus on the essentials.  I contend those are not that hard to figure out.  We know the number one factor in student achievement is instruction.  Teaching has six to ten times as much impact on achievement as all other factors.  So if we want to impact the achievement of all students we need to improve instruction.

Here is what I think needs to happen to improve instruction:

A) Each district needs to identify a coherent curriculum based on state standards that is actually taught.  These power standards should be about 1/3 to 1/2 of the state standards.  This would allow these standards to be taught in adequate depth with adequate time for reading, writing, and discussion arounds essential topics.  Instead of simply covering standards to get them all done, students would be able to apply their learning.  Teachers would also have time to do frequent checks for understanding (formative assessments) and react to student needs immediately.

B) Implement structurally sounds lessons.  These lessons would involve 1) teacher modeling -where the teacher explicitly thinks out loud so students can hear how an expert in the subject thinks while working with the content.  This is a significant departure from lecture.  2) there would be intervals where the students are allowed to practice or apply what has been taught while the teacher is there to guide and observe (guided practice).  This would typically be done in pairs or small groups.  3) Throughout all of this there would be forms of checking for understanding.  This on-going check for understanding allows the teacher to see what needs to be clarified, who has mastered who has not, when instruction needs to slow down, and when it can speed up.  Teachers can react to student needs immediately.

C) There needs to be more authentic literacy within our schools.  Authentic literacy is purposeful reading, writing, and talking.  This is the key to learning both content and thinking skills.

D) The above suggestions are much more effective if teachers work in teams. This type of team work - work focused on student learning - is commonly called a PLC.  PLCs work is centered on four questions 1) what do want students to learn (power standards) 2) how will we know if they have learned it (check for understanding/formative assessment) 3) what will we do if they don't learn it 4) what will we do if they have already mastered it.

Does this sound too simple?  I don't think so.  Jim Collins found the "essence of profound insight into organization improvement is simplicity.  If priorities are not simplified and clarified they are at the mercy of the next new thing.  This is what has happened in education.




Monday, January 30, 2012

Flipped Classroom

I just got back from a school visit at Lake Elmo Elementary School in the Stillwater Area School District. We had the opportunity to hear about their pilot program, and go into classrooms and see what a flipped classroom could look like. I loved it. Kids applying what they have learned, and teachers acting as facilitators. An active, engaged classroom. A room I would want my kids in!!

When you hear about flipping a classroom technology immediately comes to mind, but after seeing the classrooms in action the technology is just a tool. Flipped classrooms are about instruction, plain and simple. By flipping the classroom and having a majority of the direct instruction outside the classroom the teacher is actually creating more time to work directly with students in the classroom.

To make use of the additional time teachers need to effectively use formative assessment to be able to group their students according to need. To me, formative assessment is what drives any classroom, but especially the flipped classroom. Teachers may still do some whole group instruction, but it will be very targeted depending on the formative assessments.

Flipped classrooms also give students the opportunity to move ahead, or go back and review. They have the direct instruction at their finger tips for when ever they want to access it.

I have introduced the concept of the flipped classroom to our staff by doing some flipped staff development around technology. We have screencasted some videos for staff to look on using Twitter, and creating Smart lessons. We then set aside time for teachers to come in and work on lessons or play with Twitter with people to support them while they are using what they have learned. Teachers appreciate this help, why wouldn't students???

Monday, January 9, 2012

How Can Gamification Help Improve Instruction?

This is a great Ted Talk by Gabe Zichermann.  Gamification brings together game mechanics (game thinking)and marketing to create engagement and solve problems.  I had a change to list to Zichermann speak at the TIES conference in Minneapolis, MN in Dec.  I truly believe a lot of what he speaks to can be used to increase student engagement, and we know if we increase engagement we can increase learning.  The first video is only 16 minutes and to the point.


The second video is a little longer and goes into more detail.  Both are worth a look!!
Our students today are not the same as the students schools had 10-15 year ago.  They way they learn and want to be engaged is different.  My goal is to continue to learn more about digital learns and find ways to use their strengths to help them achieve.