To help encourage conversations about the ideas of relevance and connections, our topic/question of the week is: Often people have great ideas - or plant the seed for an idea - when doing something that is relaxing to them, such as taking a walk. But they won't have as many of those ideas if they do not have any new challenge to think about.
After the blizzard week and broken up school schedule, hopefully everyone enjoyed a nice weekend - as we all geared up for more snow! The weekend was busy and enjoyable for me - BU Hockey game Friday night with Katie's father and the family, attending the Technovation challenge event at Microsoft's NERD center on Saturday with Blake's Technovation team, and then seeing Darcy's Cinematic Life Saturday evening. The students did a fantastic job and I want to thank Tracy Allen, Kathleen Caprio, and Nancy Deveno for their work with the students - only 13 rehearsals! As I shared with some of the parents after the show, I am so impressed with the presence, poise, and confidence of our students. We all enjoyed watching the Super Bowl together and celebrating (hopefully)!
Inspired by Tom Whitby's work I have been thinking a great deal about the ideas of tradition and relevance in education. They both play important roles in education and should be at the forefront of our thinking (assessments, feedback, homework practices, study skills, etc.). By keeping them as part of our vernacular at Blake - pushing ourselves and one another to reflect upon our lessons - we will be able to better articulate our vision and then follow through with our students. While at the Technovation kickoff event with our students, these ideas were very present - hearing from speakers in the industry, collaborating with students and teachers from other schools, encouraging thoughtful integration of technology, and fostering opportunities for growth. Seeing some of our students take risks, meeting new people, asking questions, and taking creative risks was inspiring and centering - what more would we want for all of our students?
With Medfield's Digital Learning Day (#DLDMedfield) this Friday our staff has a wonderful opportunity to connect, learn from our colleagues, and find ways to bring our beliefs about student-centered learning to fruition. The posts I am sharing this week helped me to focus on relevance, connections, learning from others, being open to new ideas, and focusing on the 'big picture'...
What Does A Relevant, Connected Educator Look Like-Part 1 and Part 2
post by Steven Anderson (@web20classroom)
Anderson's posts provide a nice snapshot of the book he co-authored with Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby), The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, outlining the eight tenets they believe embody relevant educators: Practices and Models Lifelong Learning; Believes in Sharing and Collaboration; Willing To Explore, Question, Elaborate and Advance Ideas Through Connections With Other Educators; Views Failure As Part Of The Learning Process; Uses Technology And Its Connections To Other Educators To Learn And Teach; Uses The Tools Of Technology To Personalize Their Professional Development; Comfortable With New Technology And Shows A Willingness To Explore; May Put Creation Over Content And Relevance Over Doctrine. I believe each of these tenets are important and worth reflecting how they connect and reflect our beliefs and teaching practices on a day-to-day basis.
"Being a Relevant, Connected Educator is something, we believe, should be embraced by all educators everywhere. Today, with so much access to information, the way that learning is done is drastically different than it was just a handful of years ago."
What's Worth Learning in School?
by Lory Hough in Harvard Ed. Magazine
This article poses some challenging questions about the model of schooling that is currently being practiced, based on the work and writing of David Perkins, author of Future Wise. Perkins challenges the status quo and asks us think about education as an 'investment' - pushing us to think about what practices would give us a better 'return on our investment'. Although this may sound cold and business-like at the initial reading, I think this idea of an investment is an important framework or mindset to ponder. Perkins encourages students to ask 'Why do we need to know this?' and wants educators to be ready to answer it, providing avenues for the conversations of 'what to keep' and 'what to let go of' in our teaching. These can be scary questions to ask and answer, but they are critically important.
"...even though most people would say that education should prepare you for life, much of what is offered in schools doesn’t work in that direction, Perkins says. Educators are “fixated” on building up students’ reservoirs of knowledge, often because we default to what has always been done."
"...we should be moving away from an understanding of something — the information on the test, the list of state capitals — to an understanding with something. With the latter, he says, students are able to then make connections to other things."
Unexpected Tools That are Influencing the Future of Education
by Katrina Schwartz (@kschwart) in MindShift
Schwartz references the ideas of 'unschooling' in her post - a definite challenge to the 'status quo' or traditional modes of schooling. While I do not fully endorse all aspects of this model, I do believe that some of the beliefs provide great food for thought and are worth considering as they encourage curiosity, inquiry, and project-based learning. There are direct connections to much of our work at Blake: standards-based grading, mindfulness, being open to change, and using technology to adjust and enhance our teaching and the learning environment for our students.
"...many educators continue to focus on the more personal issues behind these headlines: how to improve their craft, serve students better, nurture well-rounded, emotionally intelligent students and make educational change in more fundamental ways."
"Shifting to an education model that produces people who thrive on interconnectivity will take a dramatic revisioning of society. But that type of shift might be just what is required to ensure that the education children receive in the future meets that dramatically different end goal."
Being asked to articulate what we want for our students and answer questions such as 'Why do we need to learn this?' can be daunting as they push us to really look at our work and think about the 40/40/40 rule/concept (Applying the 40/40/40 Rule in Your Classroom) - What is it that we want our students to know in 40 minutes? 40 days? 40 weeks? 40 months? or 40 years? What centers me and helps me to answer these questions is our mission statement: 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.
This Friday is a great opportunity for all of us think about these ideas, be open to them, and move forward. I encourage everyone to take some risks, get a little uncomfortable, ask questions, and connect with others. I am looking forward to it and hope you will continue to hold me accountable as well. I know I have a great deal to learn and it starts with the connections we make and a willingness to listen, as Schwartz shares at the end of her post: "It doesn’t have to happen all at once, but if every teacher pinpoints one way to make his or her classroom more dynamic, these grand ideas might slowly become a reality for more schools, educators and kids."
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