To help encourage conversations and dialogue about reflecting upon our own learning and what we have learned, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What have you learned about yourself as a learner since the school year started? Recognizing and Understanding Our Learning (Week of 9/28/20)
Blake's Guiding Lights
Blake's Core Values: Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, Reflection
Our Essential Question: How can we cultivate and curate the progression of student learning and growth?
Our Mission: Blake Middle School believes in a living mission statement, based on the concept that our community seeks and respects knowledge, integrity, character, wisdom, and the willingness to adapt to a continually evolving world.
The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning. - John Dewey
You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow. - John Dewey
Although the ‘cycle’ of this school year feels very different than in past years, I feel as though I am slowly beginning to acclimate to our new ways, routines, and structure in school. In many ways it feels as though the school year has just begun, while also feeling as though we have been back for a long time! We have had a pretty quiet weekend, trying to take advantage of the lack of scheduled events, with some time outdoors, enjoying the NBA playoffs, and trying to simply step back and just be. Oh yes - we also got a new kitten - so adorable (almost forgot to share a picture)!
Why are we doing what we are doing? What’s really important? What do we really want, and why? What do our students need? How can we get there? What have we learned about ourselves and our students? Where are we headed?
These questions are ‘big picture’ and broad in nature and can feel overwhelming at times; however, I have found them to be ones that help with the day-to-day decisions and interactions with our students and one another. And each one of them led me back to a focus on our learners.
As part of this reflective process, I also hope to share and engage with our community in fostering our theme of curiosity in all experiences - classes, remote learning, in person learning, meetings, lunch time, hallway chats, etc. This theme is one that I also believe will help us to stay active in our learning for ourselves and with one another. Two experiences that helped me do just that were webinars facilitated/led by Lynn Lyons and Justin Reich. I highly respect both individuals and the focus (although different in scope) of these webinars were reflective and centered on ‘lessons learned’ in the name of educational growth for our learners. I’ve shared some notes below (spoiler alert - we will be coming back to them at future meetings, parent/family info sessions, etc.)...
Back to School Worries: Helping Your Family This Fall
with Lynn Lyons (@LynnLyonsMSW)
- # 1 impact during the pandemic has been loneliness
- Silver Linings as a phrase during the pandemic is not helpful (too much suffering has taken place)
- What have we learned? What must we do?
- What do you feel proud of? (Keep asking students and ourselves)
- Academic rigor is not the most important thing; we need our priorities in the right place
- Our goal right now: to increase emotional management, emotional literacy, and genuine social connection
with Justin Reich (@bjfr) - failuretodisrupt.com
- Lots of claims are that the learning will be better via technology - most new technologies are minor adaptations of things that already exist; When initially used, they are used to extend existing teaching practices
- Most tech supports/ed. technology have not worked really well for our most vulnerable learners
- ‘Curse of the familiar’ - build technologies that replicated practices that are currently happening in schools (i.e. Quizlet - Flashcards)
- Do things well known, it won’t make a difference; it will get adopted
- Do things that are unfamiliar, it will make a difference; it won’t get adopted
- Digitizing flashcards is not going to move the needle
- Do things well known, it won’t make a difference; it will get adopted
- DESMOS and Scratch are the ones that have made a difference
- Desmos starts with the familiar and builds off of it
- Distribute a set of pedagogical ideas and build community across the country
- Scaling by building communities of educators, advocates, and partners - only way to get technologies to ‘get to different’ and better kinds of practice
- Desmos starts with the familiar and builds off of it
- Important Question: Who is sequencing the learning activities that learners pass through?
- Prediction of Success in Technology…
2. Algorithm-Guided/Driven (evaluate proficiency - offer sequences, adaptive tutors, Assessments, Khan Academy)
3. Peer-guided/Driven learning environments (Scratch, connectives MOOCs, rainbow loom societies)
- New technologies tend to benefit affluent learners —> expands inequality
- We are still captive to social and cultural barriers in broader contexts
- Google Classroom made things replicated for teachers for what they did (pass worksheets, put out announcements)
- Arrival of 1:1 computing and learning management systems have not shifted the needle
- Importance of community-driven efforts -- it’s not up to schools to get fiber optics
- EdTech Matthew Effect - For those who have much, much will be given; for those who don’t have much, much won’t be given
- Teachers and Machines - Larry Cuban; Tinkers vs Charismatics (Tyack and Cuban)
- How is online learning being experienced differently by students?
- We should be looking at self-paced classes and learning
- RBG: Transformational change comes very, very slowly - it is a slow-moving phenomenon
- Belief in importance of tinkerers; tinkerers have helped to move educational technology along; incremental improvements are the best
- Incremental improvement - how do we continue to get better year after year?
- Goal is to support families with ‘pandemic academies’
- Some of what parents want is child-care and babysitting and that is completely understandable
- Keep sending the message that asynchronous learning is working
- Give 40 hours of worksheets or 40 hours of Peg plus Cat (40 hours of TV would be better mathematicians)
- School Admin: we build values and communicate our values; try and experiment and some will work and some will not; we are going to do the best we can; we are going to keep trying to learn from our mistakes, especially those with fewer opportunities
Sampling of Responses from Our Last Topic/Question (Week of 9/21/20): What are you hoping to learn this year?
- I would like to learn about history and get better about every subject.
- Something I hope to learn this year would be just more knowledge. The ability to learn is a gift, and I cherish it.
- I am hoping to learn more about math
- different science topics
- How to keep track of my work better. And organize it better.
- I am hoping to learn more about teaching online and still being an effective and engaging teacher.
- One of the things I am hoping to learn more about is natural disasters.
- About science And math and English and ss
- I want to learn how to do dirt bike jumps.
- How the universe was created
- More Spanish because I want to be able to talk in a different language.
- This year I am hoping to learn how to adjust to the new learning situation and the new schedules as I move through 7th grade and into the future of my learning.
- I am not hoping to learn anything in particular, but I hope to keep moving forward from where I am in school.
- I want to learn about the Supreme Court Judges.
- I am hoping to learn about history, social studies, and insects/bugs.
- I am hoping to learn more challenging problems
- I am hoping to learn more math and get really good at it.
- I want to learn more about online learning so I don’t have any hard time when we need to do online learning.
- New things that I have never heard of before
- I want to learn more space ⭐️ this year in science.
- I am excited for the opportunity to experience a very different school year that will be filled with new and different opportunities for learning.
- I would like to learn about animals and geography.
- I am hoping to learn more about the ocean.
- I am hoping to learn about the world and the way it works.
- I’m hoping to learn well and not differently than the past seventh grade years
- I am hoping to learn information that can help me in the real world.
- This year I am hoping to learn more about different cultures, more reading and writing skills, animal behavior, and more!
- I’m hoping to learn how to cope with too many problems and stress all at once. And how to keep away from bad behavior.
- I am hoping to learn more about fractions in math, and space in science.
- I want to learn about ancient civilizations
- I am hoping to learn about math and space.
- I really like math because I have always been really good at it so when there is a difficult problem, I like thinking about it and answering it correctly(or my best shot)
- The reason why I like space is it is waaaaaaaaay bigger than earth so that means there is much more to explore than earth. Also I think that there are other life forms out there because why would god make such a big universe with no other life forms?
- How to run zoom calls smoothly and efficiently
Kids Continued to Cope Well Two Months After Schools Closed
by Peter Gray in Psychology Today
In this post Gray, author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, summarizes the findings of two surveys of parents and children (one in April and one in May) during the period of emergency remote learning this past spring. The conclusions are worthy of consideration and should guide our work this year and in the years to come.
Conclusion 1: Overall, children’s psychological wellbeing seemed to improve after school closure. Conclusion 2: Children appeared to gain a greater sense of independence and personal responsibility after school closure.
Conclusion 3: Parents gained a heightened appreciation of their children’s capabilities.
Conclusion 4: Contrary to what many might expect, parenting for this sample was not notably more difficult than parenting when children were in school.
Conclusion 5: Regardless of everything else, most children were looking forward to going back to school—because they missed their friends.
...these two surveys indicate—contrary to many reports that are not based on systematic studies—that the closing of schools and other adult-organized activities for children, overall, benefitted more children than it harmed.
I hope that we, as a society, can derive a lesson from this. Let’s realize that the “normal” that people talk about when they talk about getting back to something like what we had before the pandemic for schooling is not “normal” biologically. We have, over decades, gradually turned children’s lives into something that is not at all normal for children. Normal means time to get bored, daydream, play, discover, find and pursue your passions, and, yes, help out at home.
Do We Have the "Situational Awareness" to Navigate Into the Future?
by Homa Tavangar (@HomaTav) and Will Richardson (@willrich45)
Both Tavangar and Richardson are ‘must follows’, as they always challenge themselves while challenging others. This concept of ‘situational awareness’ is one that I hope we can foster in our students and ourselves as we are re-examining and hopefully re-shaping our practices and the ‘way we do school’: As with K-12 education, more and more are asking the existential question of what, exactly, is school for, and what does this moment demand in terms of what it becomes.
In our work with leaders over the past six months, we’ve been deeply focused on one particular aspect of “situational awareness,” namely building the skill of “reading the signs” in this moment more effectively to make better decisions about the future for students and school communities. One of the “big questions” we’re asking is what are we seeing happening now that gives us strong clues as to what’s coming around the corner? Obviously, we can’t predict the future with 100% certainty. And actually, as situations can change in a heartbeat, that shouldn’t be the goal. What we can do, however, is get a clearer sense of where we’re going by being more fully aware of where we are. In an education context, many of the signs are pointing to some big changes that require a greater sense of awareness in this moment.
In terms of work, more and more employers are losing their reverence for traditional education paths and, instead, either hiring based on an applicant’s ability to problem solve and think creatively or on their ability to learn on the job or in corporate sponsored training programs.
Rather than preparing three or five year plans, educational leaders need to be building resilient school cultures and communities that can respond to ongoing change and are ready to learn their way through whatever future evolves.
Our “situational awareness” right now suggests that we should no longer rely on traditional anchors or narratives as to how the world will act moving forward. That, as futurist Marina Gorbis writes, “we are all immigrants to the future; none of us are natives to that land.”
The last six months have thrown so many of our mental models about learning in schools into flux that if we’re not willing to learn, to gain a greater awareness of what’s happening and the consequences, we will have real trouble landing this metaphoric plane called “education” in ways that don’t disrupt all of our lives even further.
With so much in a continual state of flux (maybe that is the one constant - our state of flux?), it will be important to hold onto our mission, values, and guiding lights to steady the course as best we can...