Archive for learning

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.

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.