To help encourage conversations about reflection and continue to pushing forward, our topic/question of the week is...
Working to Think Deeper
George Couros (@gcouros) says, "This does not mean that we get rid of something we have done for a couple of years for what is new. Sometimes it means going deeper." From these options, for you what feels like the right way to be 'going deeper'?
- Create alternative digital assignment options for students
- Keep the same assignment, and implement a digital component to the assignment
- Give students a choice to do self created assignments that mirror the skills you wish to assess
- Implement a post self assessment component to the assignment (whether the same one or a new/revised one), where students determine the value of an assignment and/or what they can do with what they learned from the assignment
I hope that everyone enjoyed a nice weekend - it is hard to believe that the end of November is now upon us and Thanksgiving is this Thursday! Our weekend was both good and busy - both of the boys hosting sleepovers on Friday night, kids' games and birthday parties, and a night out with friends on Saturday evening. It's always so good to take a break from the routine that we can find ourselves in, both during the week and weekends.
This past week had a different feel, as my time at Blake was interrupted (in a very good way), due to professional development endeavors. On Monday all of the evaluators in the district were part of an on-site workshop for supervision/evaluation with our facilitator, Dave Castelline. And then on Tuesday/Wednesday I felt fortunate to attend, along with a team of teachers from Blake, the iPad Summit in Boston. As I have shared in the past, the name of the conference is really a misnomer as it is often referred to as 'the iPad conference that is not about iPads'. I have always found this conference to be inspiring and centering, and this year did not disappoint - I encourage everyone to check out the hashtag #ettipad as an archive of the experience. The keynotes, sessions, conversations, and workshops were grounded in pedagogy, student-centered learning, and relevance rather than focusing on the technology/device. As part of this work, three themes/mindsets came forward in my thoughts: reflection (taking time examine and identify lessons learned - from our own work and the work of others), maintaining momentum and 'pushing forward' (continually push the mission), and gratitude (appreciation for the efforts of our staff and students at Blake). In the spirit of sharing and fostering conversations, I am sharing a couple of posts below that directly relate to the reflections from the two days...
Dancing with Robots: The Skills Humans Need
by Justin Reich (@bjfr) in Education Week
This post from a couple of years ago references a white paper written by Richard Murnane and Frank Levy - Dancing with Robots: Human Skills for Computerized Work. This important paper helps to provide direction for what we need to focus on for our students - critical thinking and complex communication.
Levy and Murnane argue that computers do a few things very well, and they do those things very cheaply...Computers, however, are still not very good at certain kinds of tasks, and Levy and Murnane put these into three big categories: solving unstructured problems, working with new information, and carrying out non-routine manual tasks.
It's not that unstructured problem solving or working with new information are new skills for the 21st century, it's that they are newly important in the 21st century as computers replace routine-based work. In economic terms, humans have a comparative advantage over computers in these domains.
EdTech is Maturing
by Michael Cohen (@TheTechRabbi)
Michael Cohen is the Director of Educational Technology at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills, and this post is a reflection of his experience at the iPad Summit. I was fortunate to attend one of his sessions and I highly recommend checking out his work. His focus on the 'invisible iPad' and sustainable/meaningful learning for students, from my perspective, is spot on.
EdTech is becoming less about what you can do with an app, and more about what the app can do for you.
On twitter this week I read a tweet that if the technology isn’t used “right” (whatever that means) then it shouldn’t be used at all. “Losing Tech” is no longer just a punishment, it is a prevention of learning. Imagine if we took students pencils for “inappropriate use” and refused to give them back at the end of class. Such a scenario would never happen because everyone agrees that students cannot learn without pencils. If our attitude is that technology used wrong can simply be removed, then what is our objective? Are we integrating technology to support unimaginable, unbelievable, and unstoppable learning, or is it to meet a quota or claim 21st-Century status?
Justin Reich, Director of the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT shared a powerful quote from a scholarly paper on active learning, and STEM, and that is that
given our [research] results, it is reasonable to raise concerns about the continued use of traditional lecturing as a control in future experiments. This quote is beyond powerful as it speaks to the disconnect between authentic 20th-Century and 21st-Century learning environments and experiences. To play on words, it requires us as educators to give up “control” over knowledge, and where it can take us.
We can no longer expect that the mere digitization of traditional learning will lead to sustainable and meaningful learning for students...While we might not be able to rewrite our entire educational outlook just yet, it is incumbent on use as educators to begin the process of not just redefining our use of technology, but redefining what learning can occur because of it.
As I encourage others to do, I am sharing some of the thoughts that resonated with me over the two days that I hope to keep in mind and carry forward with students, staff, parents, and also for myself. Please take a look and let me know if you would like to hear more or discuss - I am always up for the conversation...
Some conference notes/questions/ideas:
- Go deep
- Polarize people (Great stuff polarizes people; Consequences of great innovation polarizes people; don’t be afraid of the polarization)
- Be unique and valuable
- ‘How does iPad use align with values consistent across your education?’
- How can we balance ‘personalization’ with ‘collaboration’? (Do our goals conflict?)
- If iPads are the answer, what is the question?
- Does our work impact changes in learning outcomes?
- Where does design fit in your classroom?
- ‘Innovation isn’t who’s first. It’s who lasts.’
- The ‘how’ is constantly changing - the ‘why’ should stay the same
- We do not need to decide what students are capable of - We need to give them opportunities to show us what they are capable of
- Tasks computers do not do well - Expert thinking and Complex communication
- Examine the homework that typically gets assigned in your school - Does the homework that is assigned push students to develop expert thinking skills (non-routine problem solving)? What about communication skills? Or, does the homework ask students to do the kind of rules-based tasks that computers can be programmed to do?
- Design Thinking, Visible Thinking, Connected Learning - keys
- Ask a question - ‘Where were you happy at school today?’
- Asking questions is at the heart of critical thinking
- ‘How might my classroom be better designed to better meet my student needs?’
The Relentless Pursuit of What Is Possible
by George Couros (@gcouros)
As you can read from the bullet points noted above, one of the underlying themes for all of us to think about is a 'sense of urgency' in moving forward - asking questions, reflecting, and always striving to improve. This does not mean that we need to continually change; however, it does mean that we should continually be open to change to 'what is possible'.
Sometimes, relieving ourselves and others of pressure, also alleviates the need to embrace something new. Pressure is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, when applied, it can sometimes create results that were not possible without it.
Great organizations constantly set the bar out of their own reach. If schools are true learning organizations, we need to embrace this constant push forward. This does not mean that we get rid of something we have done for a couple of years for what is new. Sometimes it means going deeper. But if we do not have this relentless pursuit of what is possible, we will be stuck in the narrative of what was.
I have a genuine sense of pride for Blake Middle School and this pride was highlighted and enhanced this week as well. I found myself encouraged by the conversations and ideas that were taking place this week at this conference as they were ones that could have (and are) taking place at our meetings and interactions on a daily basis. I am incredibly grateful that we have a culture of experimentation and one that truly cares about kids - being flexible and open to how we can improve and support our students and one another. Along with the professional development and 'pushing forward', it is equally important to practice gratitude in this 'relentless pursuit'. In this season of Thanksgiving, I thought you might find the three posts below of interest - one article and two resources that may be of interest for students/staff...
Raising Children With an Attitude of Gratitude
by Diana Kapp in The Wall Street Journal
Giving thanks is no longer just holiday fare. A field of research on gratitude in kids is emerging, and early findings indicate parents' instincts to elevate the topic are spot-on. Concrete benefits come to kids who literally count their blessings. Gratitude works like a muscle. Take time to recognize good fortune, and feelings of appreciation can increase. Even more, those who are less grateful gain the most from a concerted effort.
A Simple & Effective Classroom Lesson On Gratitude
by Larry Ferlazzo (@larryferlazzo)
The Science of Happiness - An Experiment in Gratitude
This is a post we have seen as a staff and I have shared in this blog before. I encourage everyone to find seven minutes this week to watch the clip and share with others.
I am looking forward to Tuesday afternoon, as we gather as a Blake community for our annual Celebration of Voice assembly to share our gratitude and have some fun. We will be hearing from both students and staff and I always want to make sure that I express my thanks as well. As I share each year, Thanksgiving is a holiday that holds great significance for me and my family since an accident I experienced while running six years ago. Katie and I find ourselves, both individually and collectively, filled with gratitude and appreciation for the response of our home and Blake/Medfield communities for the care and support that we felt at that time. I will be sharing my gratitude Tuesday at the assembly, but I also know that I can't share it enough - thank you. It is a privilege to work in a community that has both fostered and encouraged my growth while showing deep care for my family. I have shared these words from President Kennedy the last few years and will be sure to continue bringing them to light each year: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
Each year it is equally important to to recognize and remember that this time of year can be a particularly stressful and emotional one for students and adults. Personal situations, the loss of loved ones, or memories can bring forth many emotions, so please be sure to look out for one another and also rely on the community for support. Although I wish I could, I know it is not realistic for me to have the opportunity to personally wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving before Tuesday afternoon. So, Happy Thanksgiving. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of the Blake community and believe we are making a difference.
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