PLP Experience

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 12, 2011 by gfreducation

Over the past school year a team of teachers at my school participated in PLP (Powerful Learning Practice). The purpose of PLP is to allow educators the opportunity to participate in job-embedded professional development  and action research centered around the changing learning landscape of the 21st century.

The goal of our action research project was to institute changes in teaching practices that would involve students in more authentic learning experiences, the impact of which would expand beyond classroom walls, and to consider the effects of these changes on students’ knowledge of the use of technology for communication, collaboration, and research. A secondary goal of the project was to evaluate the impact our PLP team teachers have on the school’s faculty through their modeling of innovative teaching and learning.

The participation in the action research project has led to many interesting discussions about how teachers can lead positive change from within a school building.  Some of our discussions have revolved around:

  • how schools might look different in 10 -15 years
  • how teachers can encourage other teachers to change
  • how schools might better allocate resources to gain the technology necessary so all students can be connected
  • how we can use teacher “experts” to lead professional development
  • how we need to shift from teacher directed to student directed learning
  • teachers acting as the lead learner of the classroom
  • taking into account student interests, learning styles and passions when planning instruction
  • the importance of connected learning for teachers and students

I would be interested to hear how your schools are changing and what you envision schools and learning looking like in the future.

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2010 Edublog Award Nominations

Posted in Uncategorized on December 3, 2010 by gfreducation

I would like to thank the following people for contributing to my learning.  This is my first year blogging and tweeting and and these are my first Edublog Award Nominations.

Best Tweet-Based Discussion:  #edchat

A great discussion each week and a great place to ask questions and get resources. I have found many teachers and administrators here who have become part of my PLN.

Best School Administrator Blog:  Lyn Hilt-The Principal’s Posts

In the interest of full disclosure Lyn is my principal and our school is incredibly lucky to have such a great teacher, learner and leader.   Her posts are enlightening, thought provoking and passionate. I have the opportunity to see her passion come to life at school.  Thank you Lyn for your outstanding leadership!

Best Individual Blog: Scott McLeod-Dangerously Irrelevant

One of the first blogs I read and still one of my favorites.  Dangerously Irrelevant always makes me think and question current practice, two things I enjoy most.

Best Resource Sharing Blog:  Richard Byrne- Free Technology For Teachers

Continually amazed at all of the tech resources shared here.

Best Individual Tweeter:  @L_Hilt

Not only does Lyn share and endless amount of education resources and anecdotes but she also introduced me to using Twitter to build my PLN.

Thanks to all for enlightening me and contributing to my professional growth.

 

 

Does Data Make Us Dumber?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 3, 2010 by gfreducation

Anyone who knows me can attest that I love data.  I can’t get enough of it.  I love numbers . I find data intriguing to the point of obsession.  Right now I can tell you that 43% of Americans want the Federal Government more involved in education with 56% of parents wanting more involvement (Gallup), the average American spends about 38 days of their life brushing their teeth and classes at my school spend about 10 school days per year on bathroom breaks. I have acquired nicknames from friends and colleagues such as “Graph Man” and “Chart Boy.”  Enough said.

In addition to having an interest in the numbers themselves, what I find  even more interesting is how data can be manipulated and how it can be misleading if used out of context.  In a poll for example, the results can easily be manipulated by simply framing the question in a certain way.  With assessment data, you can manipulate the format of the reporting depending upon the outcome you want.   With research data, a company can base the effectiveness of the product they want to sell on a certain sample size or chosen group of people.

Numbers can’t lie. They can’t tell the truth either.  They are just numbers.  People still have to think.  When used with caution numbers can guide us and help make us more effective communicators, teachers and learners.  When we try to assign numbers to things that are not measurable or when used solely without thought or used haphazardly numbers can, I would argue, make us look foolish.

Numbers are foolishly being used in schools across America to unofficially label students.  And believe me, in education, once you have a label it is very difficult to get rid of and if you can’t get rid of it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Year after year.  Teacher after teacher.  “Look at those scores. This student can’t learn.”  “They are so low.”  “My whole class is below basic.” “They shouldn’t be in this class.” “How can I possibly teach someone that low.”  “How can they possibly be in grade __ .  They can’t even _____”  “They shouldn’t be in this grade, they just came from [insert country here].” “They don’t even know ____”  These numbers were supposed to help teachers identify the needs of students so teachers could take them from where they are and move them to their fullest potential.  They were not supposed to be reasons for why students couldn’t be taught.

Let me repeat, numbers don’t lie or tell the truth.  What is hindering education today is not the numbers, not the data but the mindset of “me,” the attitude of “can’t” and the work ethic of “don’t want to”  that exists in some classrooms in every school today.  Instead of “what ever it takes” it is “I don’t have time to.” Instead of “What can I do?” it is “Someone needs to.”  It is true that it is not like this in all classrooms.  But just as a label can become a self- fulfilling prophecy for a student the selfishness, negative attitude and poor work ethic of a few teachers can and does infect the whole school.

So let’s not be data dumb. Use data with caution. Children are people, not budgets, batting averages or burgers.   They are all different.  Our job is to teach all students from where ever they come.  Our job is to meet student needs whatever they are.  Period.  So when you hear an educator making an excuse, do not let it go.  Challenge it.  Make it clear to them that teachers can teach all students and that all students can learn.

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

Building a Community of Learners

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 15, 2010 by gfreducation

I had the opportunity to attend the first session of Professional Learning Practice (PLP) today with my principal and a great team of teachers.  The focus of the session led by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson was building  communities and networks of learners.

When we think of a community of learners many times the visions of students working together comes to mind.  One point that hit home today is that we as educators need to think of ourselves more as learners than teachers.  WE need to be a community of learners.  The more we learn, the better teachers we will be.  Sounds simple but sometimes we forget the importance of learning. We need to continually be building our network and strengthening our learning community.  Of course if we are going to strengthen our learning community, we are going to have to share, share, share.  It is hard to move from the mindset of competition to collaboration but it won’t happen unless we take action.

I have total confidence in my PLP team.  I believe we have the talent, the drive and the passion to make a difference.  Together we will grow in our knowledge of the possibilities of technology, make connections with our colleagues and build our capacity to create change.

Bottle the Excitement

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 30, 2010 by gfreducation

Nothing beats the first day of school–nothing!  I compare it to the feeling of running on the court for a championship game as the crowd roars.  At exactly 8:45, teachers, most likely running on little sleep due to butterflies and a weekend of final preparations, anxiously waited as hundreds of excited students began pouring off their buses, traveling to their classrooms on floors shining  like mirrors.   At no other point in the school year are teachers and students so excited.  Parents, support personnel, and the principal greeted students and helped younger students and  new students  find their classrooms.  It was truly an amazing sight.  Equally amazing are the efforts, going unnoticed by many, of custodial staff, secretaries and other staff who worked tirelessly behind the scenes in the weeks leading up to this day, to make the building look its very best.

In 14 years of first days, I have never seen an opening day run so smoothly.  The feat of getting 450+ kids  off buses, to recess and through the lunch line on time was an amazing one in itself – and that doesn’t count the learning that began the very first day.  The credit goes to all teachers, staff, students and parents working together.  Without teamwork, chaos would ensue.

Traveling through the building as teachers returned to their rooms after saying goodbye to students for the first time this year, I inquired about their first day.  The answers I got were  incredible!  Not one teacher mentioned a complaint or expressed a negative about the day.  One told me that the children were so excited to be at school they couldn’t stop talking about it.  Another told me of a student’s comments during a story about fear that she was reading:  “I can relate to that.”  One teacher, who was searching for a class pet that somehow escaped, said that this is going to be a great year.  Still another said that this was the best first day they had ever had, and the kids were great.

So the question is how can this level of  excitement be maintained?  In reality, it probably can’t. We can’t physically or emotionally maintain that level of intensity every day.  What we can  maintain – although not without effort – is the positive attitude, with the “cans” far outweighing the “can’ts.”  We can strive to keep the atmosphere of teamwork, working together instead of in isolation, collaborating instead of competing, and sharing in successes and problem-solving together.

I will try to bottle this excitement as a reminder of what can be.  Together we can achieve incredible things.

Back-to-School Challenge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 23, 2010 by gfreducation

It is that time of year again. For most educators it is the beginning of a new year.  A chance to start over and try new things.  Unfortunately, many educators will not take this opportunity to commit to change, collaboration and improvement.  They will isolate themselves in their classrooms and repeat the things they have done year after year regardless of the results.   They will continue to complain about “education,” that there is not enough time to teach everything and that students just aren’t like they used to be.  Yes, the curriculum is gigantic and students change.  But, the problem does not lie with the students.  It lies with priorities, commitment, attitude and the willingness of teachers to work together.

One of the most common reasons that teachers give for their lack of collaboration  is “There’s not enough time for that.” I think this statement confuses time with priority.  If you truly want to build a collaborative learning community, if it is your priority, if you are committed to it, then it will happen. If you want to collaborate then you will make the time.  To remind myself of this, I placed this quote in my room from H. Jackson Brown, Jr. : “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

As we begin this school year, I challenge all educators to honestly and critically reflect on their practice.   What are your priorities?  Do you have a “whatever it takes”  attitude? Are you committed to collaboration or do you want to maintain the status quo?  In other words, are you part of the solution or part of the problem?  Our students will be arriving soon.  They deserve the best.  Let’s not let them down.

School Technology Leadership

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 30, 2010 by gfreducation

To celebrate Leadership Day 2010 here are my top 5 things school administrators must know/do to be technology leaders:

5.  They must empower and support those teachers willing to take risks integrating technology into their classroom.  Let’s face it, it is very difficult to get teachers to take the leap, especially when students may know more about technology than they do.  So teachers who are willing to leave their comfort zone and take risks must feel safe, be supported and be rewarded.

4. They must be teachers.  Even though many administrators have left the classroom, they haven’t stopped instructing.  Administrators must set high expectations, take every opportunity to teach new technologies to teachers, encourage them to use it and build a community of learners.

3. They must lead by example.  Administrators must embed technology into their everyday routine if they expect teachers to embrace it.

2. They must be learners.   They must WANT to learn. True leaders know that they don’t know everything and are never satisfied with what they know.  They thirst for learning new tools, exploring new ways of doing things and finding ways to improve what they are already doing.

1.  At all costs, students come first.  Since the students we are teaching will no doubt be using technology now and in the future it is vital that they learn how to learn new technology.  So it is an administrator’s obligation to make sure students have teachers who are learning  and embedding  new technology into their lessons.