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Archive for the ‘cooperating Teacher’ Category

Reposted from the Blog of Mark Barnes, Brilliant or Insane: Education and other intriguing topics.

8 EDUCATION BOOKS FOR THE DIGITAL AGE:

CONNECTED EDUCATORS SERIES

via: Corwin.com/connectededucatorsAsk any of the thousands of teachers who regularly use Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook about connected education, and you may get an earful about using digital tools as a means to connect with educators and students worldwide.

But if you ask teachers who have never used a social network, blog, or mobile device for learning in their classrooms to discuss connected education, you are likely to be met with blank stares, furrowed eyebrows and shrugged shoulders.

Enter Corwin Press and the Connected Educators Series.

In an effort to connect all teachers, EdWeek author and Corwin editor Peter DeWitt enlisted the help of his professional learning network (PLN) in order to launch a series of books on digital learning, digital leadership, mobile learning, digital citizenship, and everything else that is connected education.

“It is our hope and intent to meet you where you are in your digital journey, and elevate you as educators to the next level.” Peter DeWitt, Connected Educators Series Editor

Corwin’s Connected Educators Series features short books, about 70 pages, in both paperback and electronic formats, aimed at helping educators improve classroom practice and educational leadership in the digital world, something that has been sorely missing in the education book world.

The first books in the series will be published in August and September.

Corwin Connected Educators Series

The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, by Tom Whitby and Steven Anderson: Two of the profession’s most connected educators explain how to effectively use social media to build a professional learning network.

Flipped Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel, by Peter DeWitt: If we can flip the classroom, why can’t we flip faculty meetings and other kinds of communication with parents and teachers? According to DeWitt, we can.

Connected Educator Series

The Edcamp Model: Powering Up Professional Learning, by The Edcamp Foundation: Professional development has never been so simple than when teachers create it. The Edcamp model connects educators to PD like never before.

Teaching the iStudent: A Quick Guide to Using Mobile Devices and Social Media in the K-12 Classroom, by Mark Barnes: Knowledge is in the palm of learners’ hands, making them iStudents. This book helps teachers understand how to maximize this incredible power.

The Corwin Connected Educators series is your key to unlocking the greatest resource available to all educators: other educators.

Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away, by Spike Cook: In the 21st-century, it’s critical that principals create a transparent school for all stakeholders. Principal Cook shows school leaders how to author blogs, PLNs and more, in order to open up a digital window to your school for parents and community.

All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities, by Brad Currie: The connected educator doesn’t just connect with students and colleagues. He connects with parents and community, using 21st-century tools. Currie shows readers how this is done.

Empowered Schools, Empowered Students: Creating Connected and Invested Learners, by Pernille Ripp: Connecting also means empowering. Ripp shares a variety of methods for teachers and school leaders to empower colleagues and students to help each other build a strong learning community.

The Power of Branding: Telling Your School’s Story, by Tony Sinanis and Joseph Sanfelippo: Connected educators must teach students about digital citizenship, and what better way to teach this lesson, according to administrators Sinanis and Sanfelippo, than by showing students how to brand their own schools?

These eight books are the first in Corwin’s ongoing Connected Educators Series. Several more are currently in production and scheduled for publication in early 2015.

For updates, author biographies and other valuable information, visit the Corwin Connected Educators Series website here.

You can order Any books in the Connected Educators Series here. Let us know what you think and what you’d like to see next.

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I recently put out a tweet that was meant to be provocative. I often do this to stir things up in order to benefit ye olde creative juices. I tweeted that I recently had a heart procedure done, (which I did) and I did not ask the doctor to use any 20th Century methods or technology to complete the task. I thought it might stir up a discussion of relevance in education as an offshoot of that tweet. That did not happen. Someone asked, based on that tweet, why I thought educators could not be good teachers if they were not connected. My intent was to point out relevance. The idea I attempted to convey was that any profession, especially medicine, can no longer employ technology and methodology of the 20th Century, since we are well over a decade into the 21st. It was the tweeter who attributed a value on a teacher who was not connected. It was the being connected part which that tweeter took as being relevant, but there is more to relevance than just being connected.

Relevance is something that is important to the matter at hand. Of course in education, the matter at hand changes with every topic in the curriculum. Since educators need to be masters of content in their subject area that covers a great deal of ground in which educators need to be relevant. To complicate the teaching profession even further, educators need to be masters of the methodology and pedagogy of education as well. Educators need to maintain relevance in both areas. An understanding of this begins to offer insight into how difficult the position of educator can be.

Education however is based on relationships. There are student/teacher relationships, and collegial relationships. All of these relationships take place in an environment of learning. The idea of what is relevant is not something determined by the teacher, but it should be weighed and judged by the student. It is the student who needs the learning that will be used in the space that the student will occupy moving forward. If the student finds the teacher’s ideas and information irrelevant, it won’t matter how relevant the teacher finds it, the student will move on to something he, or she determines is relevant, leaving the teacher behind.

Will an educator be able to determine when he or she has become irrelevant? Does everyone become irrelevant? How does one maintain relevance? Do educators have a moral obligation to point out a colleague’s irrelevance? Is relevance something that is measurable? Is it fair to include “relevance” comments in an observation? What about irrelevant administrators? Is irrelevance always a generational condition? These are all the questions that are flying through my head that I would love answers to.

Of course being a huge advocate for connectedness, I feel an obligation to point out that collaboration and collaborative learning go a long way in keeping people relevant. It is only part of the answer however. We need to keep an open mind, as well as a mindset to continue learning. There are many, many ideas of the past that are relevant today, but we need to be able to exhibit that in relevant ways to new learners in terms that they understand, because if they don’t understand it, or question its relevance, they will not accept it.

I think awareness is a key to staying relevant. One needs to be aware of changes that happen so quickly in our technology-driven culture. Having a willingness and courage to step away from the comfort of the status quo is essential. Developing an ability to listen more than lecture should be a goal. It will take willingness to be more of a learner than an expert. It will require a flexibility to examine, question and reflect on what we know in order to see how it may, or may not fit in with what we will need moving forward. These are all traits of life long learning. Educators talk about life long learning for their students all the time. It should be a goal for all learners. Educators sometimes forget that they are learners as well. To be better educators, we need first to be better learners.

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When it comes to an understanding of the term “literacy” most people understand it as the ability to read and write in an effort to communicate, understand and learn. That has been the accepted understanding of literacy for centuries. Of course with the advancement of technology in our world today that simple understanding of literacy has rapidly expanded. It has probably expanded so much, and so fast that most people have yet to grasp all of the new literacies that have come about in this technology-driven society in which we live. There is actually a growing list of new literacies.

The very tools that we used for centuries in support of literacy have disappeared under this wave of technology. The typewriter is no longer with us. Photographic cameras using film are becoming scarce. The print media itself no longer relies on huge printing presses. VCR’s, although state of the art at one time, are now DVR’s, even more state of the art. The world has been changed and continues to do so at a rate never before imagined. Technology continues to expand and catalogue all knowledge. The methods we use to access, curate, communicate, and analyze all of this information have undergone continuing change in the last few years.

We have come to recognize that technology has expanded our access to so much information, in so many different forms, that there is a need to recognize many other literacies beyond just reading and writing. In a technology-driven society being literate enough to only read and write may be enough for our kids to get by, but will they be able to compete, thrive, and succeed? Digital Literacy has blossomed with this digital age. It provides an understanding and ability to adapt and use digital tools to access, curate, communicate, and analyze information in this time of digital access. It also enables us to collaborate on a global scale. These are all necessary skills for success moving forward into the world that our kids will occupy.

Education has always taught literacy. Education’s function is to create a literate citizenry. In order to accomplish that, we have always used educators with credentials of proven literacy to educate our children.

That may not be the case today when one considers additional and necessary literacies that may or may not be being addressed in Higher Education, or in the professional development of existing educators. That is certainly true of digital literacy.

Does the hiring process of teachers and administrators call for a proven demonstration of digital literacy? Are schools directing and supporting professional development to address digital literacy for all of their educators. Are Administrators digitally literate enough to recognize a digitally literate educator during the hiring process? Does a school have a model of what skills a digitally literate educator should possess if not master?  Hopefully, those skills exceed the ability to do a Google search, or a Power Point demonstration. Even the CCSS recognizes the need for digital literacy and requires that it be demonstrated within the curriculum. Are all of our teachers prepared for that component?

A literate educator in the 20th Century is not the same as a literate educator in the 21st Century. Our education system is loaded with many 20th Century holdovers. Most are great people, and good teachers, but they are illiterate in 21st Century terms. We need not cast them aside. They are valuable and revered sources and educators. We need to support them with methods to upgrade their literacies. It must be a priority.

Additionally, we need to update our hiring procedures. We need to better define the educators we want. They need to be literate in every sense of the word. They need to possess multiple literacies in order to accommodate the needs of today’s learners, our kids. If we continue to support illiterate educators to teach our children, we can only expect our children to be illiterate as well. That is not properly preparing our kids for the world in which they will live.

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After a marathon attendance at a number of education conferences this year I have stored up many observations on the approach these conferences use to engage educators in their profession. Since I began attending them over 35 years ago I do have some historical perspective. More often than not my experience on the planning of the “Education Conference” is: So it is written, so it shall be done! Many reshuffle the deck and deal out the same old hands. If we always plan conferences on what worked last year, progress will never catch up to relevance.

In our technology-driven society we have come to recognize that our students are learning differently. I would suggest that our educators are learning differently as well. That difference needs to be addressed by the conferences that help educate our educators. The reasons we as educators are reflecting and changing our methods of education to meet the needs of our students are the very reasons education conferences need to change to meet the needs of our changing educators. Resistance that we too often provide does not prevent the fact that there comes a time when we just must reinvent the wheel.

If all educators need to do, in order to keep up with modern education, is to listen to lectures, they can do that cheaper and more conveniently with webinars and podcasts over the Internet. What do conferences provide beyond the lecture? If the answer is face to face networking, then provide the spaces and times to do that. Select venues with ample lounging spaces or build them into the venue. Sessions must be planned with time between sessions for educators to connect and network. Schedule, encourage, or incent presenters, and featured speakers to circulate in these spaces.

Reflection rooms might be a unique addition. Spaces where speakers, presenters, and attendees could gather for reflection and discussion. This would be the best place for educators to connect face to face as well as digitally through social media to continue discussions online, beyond the conference and through the year. Those creative juices that flow during the conference will continue throughout the year. Current models get people thinking during the conference and in many cases the juices will not flow again until the next conference.

Planning the sessions is key to success in any Edu conference. If, as educators, we know that lecture is not the best way to learn, why would we encourage it in sessions? Interactive sessions, as well as discussions, and even interactive panel sessions are the very things that excite, engage, and educate educators. These should be encouraged and highlighted. The method of delivery should always be a prime consideration in addition to being clearly stated on the session description.

The selection of speakers and sessions needs to be examined. Connected educators are often on the cutting edge discussing education topics as much as a year before it hits Faculty meeting and lounges. If the committees made up to judge and select RFP for sessions than those educators need to be relevant as well. Again, a topic that was popular last year may not be as relevant this year. What upset me was that some of this year’s presenters were filling out and submitting RFP’s for next year’s conference. Maybe we should have staggered RFP deadlines with a quota for each date. Planners could then observe trends and avoid replication over a period of time. It also offers the opportunity to analyze the needs and send out requests for specific RFP’s.

Of course the biggest change in PD for educators in years has been the EDCAMP model of conference. Sessions are planned on the fly based on interest and expertise with the assembled group. These sessions are dynamic discussions, which dive into the depths of the selected topic. Every conference should set aside time for the EDCAMP model. Four hours should do it. Planning it for the middle of the conference will enable educators to get a handle on the topics they would need to delve deeply into.

Today’s technology has enabled educators to connect and collaborate globally. Only a few conferences have understood how to harness the power of the tweet. In order to show a conference to the world, the attendees, when moved by engagement will tweet out all that is needed. This draws into the conferences many who are not physically in attendance.

Every conference should have a connected educator space. Many Bloggers have claimed the Blogger’s Lounge as their space and have continued with great connections with other bloggers. We need that for all educators. The connected educator space must be present at every conference.

My final concern is in the Registration fees. Conferences are expensive to run. There is no option on charging money for attendance. The structure however may be flexible with several options. Consideration should be given to discounting for teams of teachers coming from the same district. Maybe we should have a discount for first-time attendees.

I have traveled the world going to Education conferences. All have good points and bad points. All of these conferences have come from the sweat, tears and blood of many volunteers. They are all well-intentioned and I believe in their necessity in our system for Professional Development. The point I feel we must fight for however is the need for relevance in the world in which we teach. This is the same thing we should strive for in all of education. Many of the goals we strive for to support our students should also be the same goals to address our needs to educate our educators.

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When it comes to education reform, there are in general two major camps, but there are also several variations of each. The first camp would like to blow up the system and start all over. The other camp wants to continue the status quo while working to change it in directions governed by whatever dominant force of change has the ear of the public at the time. I find my own inclinations falling somewhere between the two camps. I want to blow some stuff up while improving upon some existing stuff. Like most educators, or any people with a basic understanding of authentic assessment, I do want to blow up any notion or hint of compliance with high stakes, standardized testing. The area of improvement that I think will get us the biggest bang for the all-important, tax buck is professional development.

It has long been my position that to be better educators, we need to be better learners. Since I have worked in higher education now for a while, many teachers have said to me how they love having student teachers in their building, because they can learn so much from the “young people” about all the new stuff in education. Some variation of that phrase has been repeated by more than one educator every year since I have been working with student teachers. To me that is a big RED FLAG. It causes me to ask, “Why does a veteran teacher need to have a student bring them up to date on the latest methodology, pedagogy and technology in the field of education?” If our students are to get a relevant education, should we not have relevant educators? Why on earth would experienced educators need students to provide that which every school district in the country should be striving to provide teachers within their system?

We need to examine the way we approach professional development in education. Too often it is left up to the educators to seek out their own PD. That is good for some, but not all educators have an understanding of what they do not know. If you don’t know about something, how would you know to seek PD in that area? This is especially true of learning with technology. I have a master’s degree in educational technology. The fact is that not any of the applications or computers that I learned on, as well as the methodology in the use of those components, exists today. Very little of that degree would be relevant, if I did not continue to learn, adapt and progress with what I know. The same holds true with any degree in any profession. From the day one gets a degree, things in that area of expertise begin to change. With the influence of a technology-driven culture, things move at a much faster pace than years past causing a more rapid rate of change. Therefore, the pace at which things change has increased exponentially, while the way we provide PD to deal with these changes is relatively unchanged from years past in many, if not most schools.

PD is offered by many schools in an annual or semiannual teacher workshop day. The other method is to allow teachers to seek out their own PD on their own time, often at their own expense. Technology training for teachers is often addressed in schools. The method of choice, however, by many schools is what my friend Brian Wasson, an IT guy, refers to as the “Home Depot Method.” The district goes out and buys all the cool tools from the vendors and then tries to teach, or force feed them to the teachers. That is a sure formula for failure.

We need to change PD. It must be part of an educator’s work week, and that includes administrators. We need educators to connect with other educators to collaborate and maintain relevance. Educators need to explore their needs and address them with solutions of their choosing after exploring the options. Faculty meetings can address procedures in shared documents with educators, while using the time in meetings to discuss pedagogy, methodology, best practices and new ideas. Educators need to be supported in trying new endeavors. When we address PD as evolving and continuous, and not as a teacher workshop day, we will begin to bring relevance back to education. Schools that do this now will be the first to tell us this. Of course, we need to connect with them for that to happen. Connecting educators is a first step.

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Today,  #Edchat’s first Topic was:  Which should we support first for the best result, a reform in student learning (teaching methods), or a reform in teacher learning (PD)? I did have a preference when I made up the question, but I saved my opinion for the chat. There were a few comments about this being a question similar to: which came first, the chicken or the egg? I didn’t see it that way. I was simply looking for the most immediate way to affect needed change in a system that by many accounts is failing to meet goals, as its shortcomings are exacerbated by deepening dependence on data driven decisions based on high stakes testing results.

I have a unique position as an adjunct in the Department of Education in a small private college. I am a supervisor of student teachers in secondary English. My position enables me to visit and observe students totaling 40 to 50 visits a year in middle schools and high schools on Long Island, in New York. In addition to doing observations I often engage with cooperating teachers in discussions about their teaching experiences in their schools. I have observed over a long period of time that each school has its own culture. Some are teacher centered, and some are student centered. Some are tech infused, and some are tech deprived. Some districts are affluent and some have large pockets of poverty within the district. The differences not only vary from district to district, but also from building to building within a district.

It is the combination of the culture of the school combined with the leadership that determines the direction that any new teacher will take. They begin the job with the methods that they have learned, but the application of those methods, and their practice, more often than not, will be influenced, if not determined by the culture and leadership of the schools in which these young teachers have managed to secure jobs.  The career span of an educator goes from 35 to 40 years in the system. The big question is: How do teachers stay relevant in their profession over that span of years? If our society was based on stagnant information that had little change over the years, teaching would be an easy profession. However, over a three, or four decades of teacher’s career in the Twenty-First Century there are huge changes. Changes in methods, technology tools, and even content.  How do teachers stay relevant in this ever-changing world.

Many schools are set up with mentoring programs. Even without official programs the older teachers often take the fledglings under their wing to teach them the way of the school. This all works well as long as there is a healthy culture and a vibrant leadership. If however, there is an unhealthy culture, teachers who are burned out, resistant to change, unwilling to experiment and just putting in the time, that tends to perpetuate itself.

Professional Development is not usually done on school time. The school week is for instruction. There may be workshops offered on a voluntary basis after school hours. Usually there will be some type of Conference day during the year where development is scheduled. Occasionally, a consultant may be provided by the district for a training session on a pet project that an administrator saw at a conference. If there is a technology or IT staff, they may provide occasional workshops, but that is often a bells and whistles presentation of applications. For the most part PD decisions are left up to individual teachers to secure for themselves. This can be done by approved courses or workshops provided by colleges or professional organizations.  Again we are talking about decades of professional development along these lines. This is not true for every school in every district, but I believe it happens in some degree more often than not.

The idea of educators needing to volunteer time and in many cases money to obtain professional development is also a losing battle. As new teachers mature and begin having families, both their time, and money become scarce commodities. There is less available time after school hours. Money is needed for the family before Professional Development. Once an educator falls behind in developments in the profession it is difficult to know what it is he or she does not know. Many view this as a generational gap. I see it as a learning gap, having little to do with age. After not learning new methods, or technology tools of learning for a long period of time, and considering the rate of change with technology, how can educators make informed decisions on what PD they need? This again continues the cycle of poor PD and a resulting lack of reform.

How do we break the cycle? How do we address the needed Professional Development in an ever-changing culture over four decades for each individual educator. The present system does not appear to be meeting the need. There are no simple solutions. What is obvious to me as a connected educator would be to get everyone connected using the internet. Of course for all of the reasons elaborated here most educators are not ready for that solution. Stagnant Professional Development promotes stagnant professionals!

We need to take a fresh approach to Professional Development. We can’t hold people responsible for what they do not know. PD must be included in the work week. We must provide the time and support it with meaningful development. I do believe in giving people choices, but I struggle with the idea that some educators may choose to stay in their comfort zones when we need them to leave those zones behind. The PD must be tailored to specific courses and in some cases to specific teachers or administrators. Education must be addressed and discussed as a profession. Trends should be examined. Experimentation needs to be encouraged. Administrators must lead the PD and not just mandate it. By continuing to educate our educators professionally, we should be able to expect a resulting reform. I don’t see this as a chicken or the egg thing. To be better educators, we need to be better learners.

 

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I am often intrigued by the controversy surrounding the contraction, “ain’t” which, to the best of my knowledge, has been created by the American education system. Contractions are an informal form of the English Language and should not be used when formal language is required. We generally speak informally, but when it comes to writing, we employ the formal language. That being said, the acceptable contraction for “am not” is “ain’t”, therefore it can only be correctly used with the pronoun “I” as in I ain’t going to do that!” The problem occurred when people tried using it with other nouns or pronouns. “We ain’t going!” would then mean “We am not going!” “Jim ain’t here” would be Jim am not here, hence the misuses grew. The solution was easy. Rather than teach to correct use of that contraction, teachers banned its use altogether and made every attempt to have it stricken from every lexicon in the English-speaking world. Even as I write this post, the application, Microsoft Word is red-marking this paragraph like there will be no tomorrow. Of course I will need to ignore the rule, since it has now been established as a rule. The banning of this word from our language is so engrained in the minds of Americans that I will probably get comments from readers taking issue with this entire paragraph. Of course that works to underscore the success of the “Ban the word ‘AIN’T’ Campaign”.

Now that the stage has been set, let me get on to where I want to take you on this journey. This week I took my student teacher group to listen to a guest speaker. The speaker was a personnel director from a local school district who was discussing the ins and outs of securing a teaching position in today’s job market. After we got past the usual things about resume’s and panel interviews, the speaker delved into what she thought first year teachers should do to protect themselves as new teachers. When she told the group that they should not email anything to parents for their first three years of teaching, all of my students turned their heads to see if mine blew off my head. Some of my colleagues nodded and voiced their agreement. I said nothing out of respect for the speaker, but later told my kids that I totally disagreed with that strategy.

Our world is rapidly changing. I will not debate whether it is for the better or worse, but I will clearly agree that we are a culture that is connecting in many ways beyond the age-old face-to-face method employed for thousands of years. We talk, phone, email, text, tweet, Skype, post, and sometimes write letters in order to communicate. If involving parents in the education of their children is a goal for educators, we need to employ whatever form of communication that parents use to accomplish that. We can’t demand that parents conform to our limiting choices that are convenient for us. Email and texting are becoming the methods of choice for communication in our world today.

I fully understand the reasoning behind telling teachers to avoid emailing or texting parents. There are times when these things can be used against a well-intentioned teacher. Teachers live in a fishbowl and are held to a higher standard. They are also targets for people who need to place blame on anyone rather than accept personal responsibility. These are the hazards of our profession and they seem to be being amplified in a society which is growing more dependent on what social media and technology have to offer. The solution to the problem, however, does not lie in banning its use. As teachers, we should always rely on education as our first answer. Learning how to do something correctly is always a better alternative to not doing it at all.

Rather than condemning the use of tools that our society is embracing, we need to teach the correct way to use them. It is true that the written word can be used against a teacher, but any words written or spoken can be turned. Look at our political system where that happens every day.  We need to teach teachers to consider their words and communicate clearly no matter what form of communication they use. It is not the tool that makes teachers look bad; it is what they say that does that. A parent who is informed about his or her child’s progress and shortcomings has a fighting chance to affect change in their child’s education. The sooner they have that information the quicker things can happen. Of course if the parent has been informed and chooses not to act that is not the fault of the teacher. If email or texting is the preferred method for the parent to get this information then why are we trying to fight that?

We need to streamline the communication for quick results. For years teachers complained that they had no phones in the classroom to communicate with parents. In its day the phone was the technology tool for communication. Today, many, many classrooms have phones for accessing parents. The technology however, has developed forms of communication beyond the phone as we once knew it. For that reason most schools provide email accounts for teachers. What schools now need to do is teach the teachers how to best use that tool. Schools need to teach what to say and how to say it for best results, because this stuff is not intuitive. As I often say, we no longer have a choice about technology. It is what we use in our everyday lives. It does not matter that we can remember when we did not have it. We do not move backwards in time. We need to teach people how to move forward, because no one has been there yet.

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I had a busy morning today. I observed a student teacher for her final observation, and I made it home in time to participate in the weekly noon #Edchat on Twitter. As I participated in the #Edchat I was struck by the fact that it had a great deal to do with a conversation I had with my student’s cooperating teacher in a high school that morning.

The conversation that I had with this high school teacher took place in the school’s computer lab. It was a very relaxed session, as all of the students were involved in a Web Quest in support of their recent reading of  Inherit the Wind. They were now learning first-hand about the “Scopes Monkey Trial”.  I observed that the computer Lab had an Interactive White Board installed on the wall. I remarked to the teacher that it struck me that this is not the most effective place for an IWB, since every student sat at a desktop computer. A simple, less-expensive digital projector could serve as well, and that would free up an IWB for a classroom. That started the conversation ball rolling.

The teacher told me that the school received a grant for the IWB’s and Boards were placed in many of the classroom’s two summers ago. There was little regard for where they were placed in the rooms, or what rooms were to receive them. Since, according to our discussion, it was not evident that teachers were consulted in the planning stage, or the implementation stage, so the teachers had little to say in what rooms or where in those rooms boards were to be installed. That is why the board in this teacher’s room is not at a focal point, but on the side of the room. No one ever asked! The teacher continues to be upset over this every time she uses the board. Students must be repositioned or redirected to use the IWB.

Of course, professional development always at the top of my list, I asked if the staff received adequate preparation before using the IWB’s in the class. The staff received an overview workshop was the answer. There was a second training workshop later in the year for those who attended. Obviously, someone must have thought that just the mere fact the district is installing technology in a classroom should be incentive enough for a teacher to self-teach him or herself in order to use that technology. Could you imagine the airline, or medical industries using the same strategies for their people to learn and be incented to use the technology in their respective industries? Here’s a 747 pilots. Aren’t you excited?  The overview will be next week. Here is Robotic Laser, doctors. Be careful when you use it. You can sign up for a workshop at our next training day.

So, here is what seems to have happened. The district got a grant for IWB’s. It had to move quickly to install them, since they arrived in the summer. They put the IWB’s where they could be easily installed in classrooms that gave good visibility to the public. Professional development was either not part of the grant or too expensive to pay for in addition, so they settled for the overview provided by the manufacturer. There is little time during the year to provide Professional Development, so teachers had to wait for a conference day.

The result could have been predicted. Teachers were never on board or even consulted. Teachers begin to resent the entire effort. They use the IWB’s as projectors and cite this as another example of wasteful spending at the expense of larger classes. The administrators say that they are providing cutting edge Technology to the teachers, who refuse to use it. Of course the New York Times could pick up the story and say Schools are spending too much on technology that teachers fail to use with any positive outcome for student learning.

Of course, there must be more to this than I was able to get from a brief conversation. I do know that I have heard many similar stories from many educators from all over our country. I do not think this scenario falls too short of the mark even with my liberal use of poetic license. As you read this, I am sure many similar cases are speeding through your head. Of course, I will get comments from some IT people and administrators who just don’t get it. That is to be expected since they view things through a different lens.

When I participated in the afternoon #Edchat the topic was:  What changes could be made to the present management structure of education to make it more effective for educators? Of course this topic had my head swimming with the ideas from the earlier conversation. Administrators need to lead not mandate, or dictate initiatives and policy. They need to engage their staff. Education has the highest percentage of educated people in its industry. They are education experts. They have degrees in education. Why not consult with them on affairs of education? The more that we involve teachers with the development of policies, the more they will buy into the success of those policies. The more teachers point out flaws and misconceptions, the stronger the policy becomes in consideration of those shortcomings. Administrators should not view teachers as a problem. They are not the enemy. Teachers have much to offer as education experts. Lead and work with them as consultants. Education administrators need more staff consultation and leadership and less control and reactive policy directives.

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Ever since I started writing my blog, I wondered when I would reach the end of my road and run out of things to rant about. It seems that every time I approach that point, something pops up to get me started again. As luck would have it, two such events occurred today. One incident happened early today and the second came later in the day. Of course, for dramatic effect I will begin with the later.

Late in the afternoon I had an appointment with my dentist for a cleaning. It’s one of the many ways my dentist has arranged for me to pay his rent. I see my dentist quite often. When I arrived at the waiting room, the receptionist greeted me with a big smile and three pages of blank forms. She apologized for inconveniencing me, but THE LAW required her to have me fill out the forms. I immediately looked at her desk and asked what catastrophe had befallen her computer? She was puzzled. I told her that all of the blank spaces on three pages of forms were requiring me to complete information already in the computer. She agreed, but again said THE LAW requires us to have you fill out these forms. Again I said, “You already have all of this information and more in your data bank.  Why am I being required to handwrite out on three forms information that already exists on your computer?” She quickly left the waiting room in search of a supervisor. I must admit, I might have been strongly influenced by the Occupy Wallstreet demonstrations that I had been following all day. They were also being shown on the TV in the waiting room. Was this my stand against THE LAW for the 99 percenters?

Emerging from the dental-technology-filled rooms in the back, the supervisor approached me. The first two words from her mouth were THE LAW, and then continued; require that you provide this information on these forms.  Again, I said, “you have that information already.” She reluctantly wrote a line at the top of the top form” nothing has changed” and placed a check next to it. I signed the form.

The other incident, earlier in the day, was more education oriented, but just as vexing. As a matter of fact it was probably more egregious, because educators should know better in 2011, almost 2012.  I observed one of my pre-service teachers today. She has a student teaching assignment in a high school English position. She delivered a great collaboration lesson and we were debriefing the lesson after the class. I asked about the next lesson planned for the class. She looked at me with a reluctant look on her face. I sensed that she was about to tell me something, that she knew, I was not going to be in favor of. She qualified her answer with the fact that she was obligated to do as her cooperating teacher directed her. I agreed, and again asked what was next, since she referred to an upcoming essay in her lesson. She came clean. The class is to handwrite an essay in class before we go to the computer lab so they can type the essay on the computer.

My students know that word processing enables kids to write at a higher level, and they are more likely to make corrections and rewrites when using a word processor. A word processor is not a typewriter. We write in a word-processing world and our students should learn in the same way. My students also know that this is my strong belief. However, I could not fault my student, since it is not her choice for the students, but that of their teacher. I have been burned in the past when I approached cooperating teachers on some ill-conceived methods used in class. I have learned to smile, say thanks, leave, and then have a long talk with my students in the safety of my own classroom.

If we, as educators, do not understand the reasoning and potential of technology, we will not use it effectively and then blame that inefficiency on the technology. It is too easy to use technology without understanding and find fault with it not fulfilling the implied promise. We assume everyone understands that computers collect, manipulate, and communicate data in any form needed. We assume everyone understands the power of computers in regard to writing, publishing, and communicating the written word. Unfortunately, I have come to believe that we cannot make these assumptions. We need to educate or educators if we are to have any hope to educate or children.

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For the first time since I have been supervising student teachers, I have a group at the start of the year, as opposed to my usual assignment at the latter half of the school year. This has brought to light a subject that I often fought against as a teacher, and now have to counsel student teachers on how best to approach the subject. Summer Reading: how do we assess it?

New York State’s recommendation for reading is that each student completes reading 25 books per year. Most adults don’t even approach that goal, but adults have to work and their time is committed  to other stuff. It is understandable that adults’ time must be dedicated to other stuff. Kids have more time to read than adults. In a 24 hour period a kid’s time is taken up by: one hour preparing to get to school, seven to eight hours in school, two hours extra-curricular (depending on the sports’ season), and one to two hours of homework. Let’s allow an hour and a half to eat dinner and chill. That has accounts for Eleven to Thirteen hours. If we consider the ten to twelve hours of recommended sleep, that would leave one to two hours per day that a kid could be, and should be reading to get to 25 books per year. It all works out on paper. I always loved the expression, “Man plans, and God laughs”.

For all of the reasons mentioned it is difficult to get all 25 books done in the school year. Of course, if you ever went into a Border’s Book’s during the summer when there was a Border’s Books, you would see an awesome display of Books for the Summer Reading Lists for your school. Summer reading is highly recommended to keep those young brains sparking away. Many districts assign multiple books to really charge up those summer-lazy brains. Hopefully, thought was given to those  book lists to be high interest level books of brevity, so there would be at least a chance of accomplishment. War and Peace is not a beach book. It has been my experience that those who make up these lists are often people who love reading and actually read 25 books per year or more. In their day, they must have been the best students, if we are to consider  the New York State recommendations as an indicator. I do believe that reading is important, and we should, most definitely, provide suggested lists to students for summer reading.

That being said, I need to talk a little bit about my understanding of assessment. I always approach assessment as a tool for the teacher. Formative assessment tells the teacher how well the teaching is going. Is there a reason to re-do something, or is it time to move on? Summative assessment is the final result. After all is said and done, how much was learned? It is like a chef who needs to taste the cooking until the diner gets the plate (formative). The diner tasting the meal is the final assessment (summative).

Now we move on to the point of all of this. Students are told that they MUST do the summer reading. This may be in more than one reading and in more than one academic subject. They are also told that there will be a test within a short period of time from the start of school which will go into their average. By the way tests are one form of assessment, so this test should be formative or summative. If the teacher is using it as formative assessment than it is testing how effective the lesson was, but there was no lesson. Therefore, it must be a summative assessment. How much learning was accomplished from the activity?

One would hope that in an ideal situation, we could get most of our students to at least an 85% achievement level. If the entire class did not get there, it might be necessary for the teacher to revisit a number of things to clarify and expand on some ideas. After all a good chef does this to complete the course for the summative assessment of the diner. Sometimes, if at first you don’t succeed… There is always a re-test after fine tuning. This would be wonderful if that was done.

This does not always occur in the real world of education. Some teachers give the final test and what  a student gets is what student gets. “You should have completed the reading.” “You had every opportunity and all the time of the summer to get it done.” “ You knew the rules going in.” “ This is the way our department does it.” “ That is what summer reading is all about.” “ I don’t make the rules, I follow them.” Does any of this sound familiar?

What does a failing grade on the summer reading test indicate? After all it is a summative assessment so it should tell us something. Does it indicate the student has a reading problem? Does it indicate that the student fails to make connections. Is it an indication that there is a problem with higher order thinking skills? Does it indicate a need for remediation? Are there emotional problems interfering with learning? These are all possibilities. This is what teachers should be asking of any summative assessment that identifies a student’s failure to learn.

Of course if these are not the questions being addressed by the teacher, there might be another reason for this assessment grade to be averaged into the student’s average. It is not assessment, but PUNISHMENT. The student did not do what he or she was told, and the student needs to pay a price in the form of a lowered average. That should require an asterisk on the grade at the end of the year stating that the average is not a true account of the student’s ability to learn. It has been skewed to account for punishment for not reading over the summer.

Many of those students who receive punishment for not reading do not take it as a constructive criticism, for that is not what it is. It is intended to be a negative experience, as all punishment is. That does not promote reading. There are many ways to assess things beyond a test. Group discussions, and projects based on the reading give reasons to students to complete the reading. Teachers need to remember that we are here to promote and nurture learning and not to punish students into submission. Leave that for the behavior policy. Assessment is not for punishment.

I am sure there will be comments on this and they are welcomed. I am off to read book number two, the year will soon be over!

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