Stopped me in my tracks.

Sometimes things stop you in your tracks.  Jar you. Make you rethink.  That happened a couple of minutes ago.  I’m reading The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros.  I just read this, “Today, isolation is a choice educators make. Our connectivity and learning opportunities have changed in recent years, and, thankfully, many teachers are taking advantage of those changes to benefit themselves and, more importantly, their students. We have access to information and, equally valuable, to each other.”

Isolation is a choice.  This almost makes me laugh out loud in its simple truth.  One of the ‘old school’ messages about teaching is that it’s an isolationist practice.  Everyone knew that when teachers share and work together, better things tend to happen for themselves and their students.  I just hadn’t thought about the point blank fact that isolation is a choice now.  There are many easy to find, enriching ideas.  The use of twitter for example is well exemplified by Couros’s brother’s statement, “Social media is not meant to be another form of email, but, as my brother would say, more like dipping your cup into a stream of information. You do not need to keep up with everything. By simply being in the space, the best ideas will make their way to you.”

The fact is that this is true.  For a teacher today to be isolated is a choice.  Professional learning opportunities are everywhere.  They do not need to be overwhelming. Be in the space.  Dip one’s cup into the stream.  The best ideas will make their way to you.

Wow.

Why write a blog?

In my office, Monday morning, nice day outside.  Why write a blog? Contemplating this idea snaps my brain back into school, teacher, and student focus.  I can see why Matt Miller (ditchthattextbook.com) recommends that all educators take a bit of time and write a blog. I’m going to share some of Matt’s latest blog post (http://goo.gl/Bu0O9j).  This is from April 28th, 2016.  The blog post is entitled “Cultivating an Innovator’s Mindset in schools today”.

Here’s some of what struck me this morning.  And the cool thing about this is….I’m reading a blog to get ideas about a blog post.  And my thinking is right back into classrooms, with teachers and students.  Matt Miller is correct.

We can’t continue doing the same teaching and learning that we did with new tools, ideas and practices available to us. They just don’t “plug in” to the old ways. To take full advantage of what’s available to us, we often have to modify and redefine what we’re doing instead of just substituting and augmenting what we’ve done before. (Hat tip to the SAMR model and Dr. Ruben Puentedura there.)

Students have access to better resources online than what teachers could possibly offer. (p. 3)

Teachers used to be the gatekeepers to information. (I wrote a whole chapter about that — Chapter 6 — in by book, Ditch That Textbook.) If we wanted to learn, we had to get it from their minds or from books at the library. Now, information is no longer at a premium. What we do with it is what’s really valuable. If we only offer our students what resides in our brains, we’re limiting them.

Kids walk into schools full of wonder and questions, yet we often ask them to hold their questions for later, so we can “get through” the curriculum. (p. 4)

I think about my own curiosity as an adult learner. When I’m curious about something, I’ll ask someone who knows the answer or will do a quick Google search to start. If I’m still curious, I’ll dig deeper, asking questions and gathering information as I work it over in my brain. It’s learner-driven, and that’s the kind of learning that’s possible with all we have available to us today. Schools need to do some foundational changing to take full advantage of that potential.

We’re expected to raise our hands to use the restroom, then three months later be ready to go to college or have a full-time job, support ourselves, and live on our own. It’s not logical. (p. 5)”

21st century skills.  In the TLI department, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about them. How we can help teachers include opportunities for kids to swim around in those skills.

And that’s why I write a blog.  Thank you Matt Miller.

More opportunities for more kids.

One of our core goals in the Teaching-Learning-Innovation department is to do everything we can to support Fife’s educators as they work with all of our students.  Different students have different needs, obviously.  One of the great opportunities we now have, as a result of Superintendent Alfano’s vision to consolidate different departments from our district office into one department, the TLI department, is that we can explore more support models for our students.  Recently, we hosted two meetings to learn about two programs we intend to offer to our educators and students.  The first program is called AVID.  Advancement Via Individual Determination.  “Simply, AVID trains educators to use proven practices in order to prepare students for success in high school, college, and a career, especially students traditionally underrepresented in higher education.”  The core phrase there is ‘underrepresented in higher education.  First generation college kids. This year, in Washington State, there are 71 districts and 287 schools using AVID.  Marlyne Johnson is taking the lead on our AVID work.  The second program is called Open Doors Youth Reengagement, or simply Open Doors.  Open Doors is a dropout reengagement system that provides education and services to older youth, ages 16-21, who have dropped out of school or are not expected to graduate from high school by the age of 21.  Open Doors reengages disconnected youth through programs that encourage community partnerships, create multiple pathways for students to realize success, and provide an on-ramp to post-secondary achievement through a performance based, individualized support model.  Open Doors programs are currently in 92 school districts in Washington.  Vanessa Lindgren will be heading up our Open Doors work. We are very proud to offer these programs to Fife’s students.  #TogetherWeAreFife

Stuff I learned about in just one week.

As I mentioned before, I was a Twitter neophyte.  I wish I had understood earlier the learning power of 10 minutes of twitter feed review.  I understand it now. I’m not going to be shy about sharing this simple personal learning network resource.  Looking at last week, here are a few things I learned over the course of one week.  One of things to which I pay attention is how often I see the same or similar ideas being mentioned.  These are often very good ideas.

  • Read an article that asked, “Business survey: Which of the following would you say are the most critical skills for employees in your organization to possess today? Select up to three.”  Here are the results.  Are we giving teachers and kids enough opportunity to practice these skills?

21st Century Skills

  • Learned a whole bunch about Harriet Tubman.
  • Professional learning for educators. Over and over again the idea that PD must be led by teachers.  Top down rarely works.  A great phrase popped up when describing what it’s like sometimes to be in education.  People have lots of conversations “about us, without us.”  This is true.
  • Lots of news and articles about the testing pendulum swinging back to sanity.  A piece of information about a student on a given day.  Helpful, but limited.  More helpful to look at larger group information, but still limited.  Not the be all and end all of anything.
  • Learned about a woman named Grace Hopper.  “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” -Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.  Bio: http://goo.gl/zDFt3t.  We’re adopting that quote all over the place, including in a draft vision we’re creating for our 1:1 work with kids and teachers.
  • Read about the idea of schools having become ‘distribution centers’ rather than ‘discovery centers’.  This notion makes me wonder when and why does curiosity fade?

These are just some of the ideas from one week.  I should have set 10 minutes aside everyday as a principal or a teacher to swim around in the resources and thinking.  I would have been better at both jobs.

 

Last week was fun!

Lincoln and the Internet

We read, learned, and shared a lot last week.  Including this great quote from Lincoln. About the internet.  Who knew?  We are swimming in new acronyms, because we love acronyms in education.  SAMR and OER.  Those are occupying our time a lot lately.  We just learned that Amazon intends to host an OER platform.  That might be something.  And we ran a workshop with all of our building administrators that started with a very simple slide that said SAMR.  We gave them 15 minutes to become SAMR experts, using any tools they’d like.  Then they shared resources and learning.  A 2-3 minute presentation was the concluding activity.  And we had some great ones!  The blatant contrast in energy and learning, doing an activity like this, compared to us simply reading from a powerpoint was obvious.

Thanks admins!

Another blog post. Because it’s been awhile and I promised myself I’d keep going.

On the road again!  A number of the TLI leadership team members are off and running, studying, questioning, and learning.  All of this work is in preparation for the 1:1 rollout, slated to begin in the fall of 2017.   We have visited Sumner, Auburn, and North Thurston school districts.  In fact, we visited North Thurston with our colleagues from Auburn.  Networking with professional colleagues is one of our favorite things to do.  We ask a lot of questions during these visits.  Our most important questions center on instructional practice.  How do we best support teachers and students in using 21st century skills?  Here’s a great quote from one of the books we’re studying, “Technology can be used as tools for consumption or as tools for creating and producing.  The first approach assumes that students learn mostly by receiving and absorbing existing knowledge, that they are consumers of knowledge, and that technology is there to help them better take in knowledge and improve their academic outcomes.  The second approach, on the contrary, views the most critical role of students as creators.  Students learn by creating projects and products, forming new knowledge during the process, and communicating and sharing their experiences, feelings, and ideas, often in a collaborative learning context.  The role of technology is to empower students in this process.”  While being aware of the first approach, we’re focusing on the second approach!

Welcome and…..this is new.

In the TLI department, we’re reading Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger.  He is an excellent resource for us.  Here’s his website.  One of his suggestions is to try something new.  I’ve added tweetdeck with a variety of hashtags to have PD ideas pushed to me.  My current hashtags are #ditchbook (Matt Miller’s excellent book Ditch That Textbook), #transformationalteaching (an idea about which I’m spending a lot of time thinking), and #thegooglegooru (https://www.thegooru.com/).  The cool thing about using tweetdeck for these kinds of resources is the instant connection to resources.  I have told a number of my colleagues that I would be a better principal already had I taken the little bit of time necessary to set up a twitter account and tweetdeck.  I had a twitter account as a principal, but I only used it to push information.  An important idea to tell our story.  I hadn’t considered using twitter to pull information.  I’m not sure I’m using push or pull there correctly.

Anyway, one of Sheninger’s suggestions is to start a blog.  I’ve never blogged. So, practicing what I want to preach, I’m trying something new.  A blog.

Thanks for reading!