Go deep

Bob Lenz said:

Teachers have long struggled with the tension between breadth and depth.

It’s a hard choice, hard enough that we are tempted to avoid it, dismiss it as a false choice, or contend that it is a dilemma we can dissolve through tinkering. Maybe we don’t have to choose between covering a lot of content and focusing on a particular concept or skill. Maybe we can find a way to do both at the same time.

We shouldn’t kid ourselves. The tension is inescapable, and the choice is unavoidable: go with depth.

Depth is what the world demands of us. The explosion of human knowledge is not a 21st century phenomenon; it happened in the last century. Today, in this era of Big Data, explosive can hardly describe the exponential rate of growth. “Every two days,” says former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”

So the answer to exploding knowledge is not more schooling but a different kind of schooling. This is what the concept of deeper learning is all about and why it came to be. To pretend that we can “cover” everything that students need to know is to tilt at windmills. We must rid ourselves of any residual notions that education is the transmission of needed knowledge. Rather, we must embrace the reality that we are teaching skills, and one skill most generally: how to ride a tsunami of knowledge whose future content we can’t even begin to imagine.

What this means, ultimately, is that content, though still vitally important, is always a means to the end of some underlying, conceptual understanding. Decades of research bear this out: when deep, conceptual understanding is achieved, learning is enduring, flexible, and real.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2015/03/designing_for_deeper_learning.html


School is broken

Will Richardson said:

I think the fact that only 44% of our kids reporting engagement in high school strongly suggests [that school is] “broken.” I think the difference of educational opportunities for the kids in Camden v. the kids at Lawrenceville Prep is “broken.” I think spending an inordinate amount of time on curriculum that will soon be forgotten, curriculum that most kids don’t care about despite our best efforts to make them care, curriculum that then gets assessed in ways that really don’t show if kids can actually apply it and is used to evaluate teachers in a blatantly unfair way… all of that is “broken.” 

via http://willrichardson.com/post/114524327210/can-we-talk-about-change-without-hurting-feelings


Notes from the 2015 Iowa STEM Summit

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

Here are my notes from today’s 2015 Iowa STEM Summit

Welcome, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds & Mary Andringa

  • STEM should be a catalyst for active learning
  • Launching a STEM Council Seal of Approval for programs (e.g. Exploring Iowa Archaeology)
  • Over 5,100 applications were submitted for STEM Scale-Up Grants
  • Numerous STEM externships are available for teachers
  • Peek Into a STEM Classroom: Sioux Center High School
  • Peek Into a STEM Classroom: Davenport West High School
    • Design a lunar space station

Opening Address, Kwizera Imani

  • Used to live in Kigoma, Tanzania
  • Family fled genocide and was chosen by the U.N. to move to the U.S.
  • Learned enough English to transition into regular classes in 8th grade, finished all high school coursework by 11th grade, now taking 5 AP classes as a senior
  • Will attend Iowa State U. this fall, majoring in Aerospace Engineering
  • In 9th grade, participated in an aviation program at the Des Moines International Airport

Iowa’s STEM Teaching Endorsement Partnership – Higher Education Plan, Jeff Weld & Kris Kilibarda

  • What does best practice for integrative STEM pedagogy look like?
  • How do endorsement seekers get engineering experience if the university doesn’t have an engineering program?
  • Can we graduate preservice teachers that come out of the gate with interdisciplinary STEM competencies?
  • Is ‘STEM pedagogy’ just layering applied PBL and inquiry lenses onto STEM subject areas?
  • There are many questions about these endorsements that still need to be answered

Lunch and STEM Education Awards for Inspired Teaching, Gov. Terry Branstad & Chris Nelson

STEM in Iowa’s Re-Envisioned Economic Development Roadmap (2014 Battelle Report), Kathryn Kunert & Carrie Rankin

Northwest Iowa STEM Region Breakout Session, Molly Faber & Mary Trent

  • Created a STEM and Scale-Up Introduction short course on AEA PD Online (explains each scale-up grant in ways that are easier, more accessible for teachers)
  • Wish this wasn’t locked down behind AEA PD Online (with quizzes!) instead of being openly accessible via a blog, web site, wiki, etc.
  • Breakout group questions
    • What’s going well in the NW region?
      • Outreach that Mary’s doing – PD for teachers – STEM day for 6th graders – there’s a lot of outreach occurring right now that is creating awareness
      • We also are seeing more business partnerships, co-sponsorships
      • Scale-up grant impacts have been favorable – are using them well in our district
      • World Food Prize – lots of supportive communities – we believe in making this happen
      • First Lego League – still getting emails about what’s going on – possible grants that are coming up – great communication
      • Girls Scouts – all girl Lego leagues, Engineering is Elementary – girls are empowered – Flying Monkeys prosthetic device patent!
      • Belie-Blank – Spencer CSD is doing math-science extracurricular with 6-8 graders
      • Prairie Lakes AEA – seeing lots of depth with Defined STEM
      • Sioux City CSD – opening a K-5 STEM specialty school in Fall 2015
    • What would we like to see more of in the NW region? What’s missing? What/who/where is the solution?
      • How do we assess student growth / development? Our current assessments aren’t up to the task.
      • Teacher preparation – higher ed isn’t giving us what we need – it could be better
        • Higher ed should be ahead of us, not behind us
      • We need more volunteers / mentors
      • Transportation is an issue – have to get a bus to get home
      • A continued focus on extracurricular instead of curricular – need to get this stuff into core classes, not just after school
      • Ongoing PD for teachers is an ongoing need
  • Rock Valley CSD – student-run manufacturing business?
  • Local college of education just touted this past fall that they had a smartboard that preservice teachers could learn on!
  • Can DE help us align all of these initiatives (e.g., STEM, Teacher Leadership, MTSS) together in better ways?
  • We need to do a better job of attaching learning standards to our STEM activities – we want to see learning progression occurring

STEM Education Award for Inspired Teaching Awardees (Panel), Kacia Cain, Lisa Chizek, Jason Franzenburg, Allison Gregg, Shelly Vanyo, Mike Wedge

  • SV – I no longer think of our space as a classroom – instead, we’re an innovative learning center – no textbooks, we’re a community that solves problems using every resource available to us (including others elsewhere)
  • LC – I try to model learning from mistakes
  • KC – I bring scientists into my classes a lot, but not as talking heads in front of kids – they help with projects – I identify where I could use an extra set of hands, brains, etc. – my kids then send a mass thank you note! – 
  • Jeff Herzberg – why aren’t we giving $20K+ award to a school, not just individual exceptional faculty? – a group of teachers and administrators working together to make this happen?
  • Embrace the chaos, embrace messy learning
  • As a parent of an elementary student, my son has had no science this year – his principal says it’s because of the increased emphasis on reading and math [UGH!]
  • SV – I create opportunities for myself to give up control – I create dramatic chances for other teachers to ‘help me out’ – teachers were getting upset so I had a semester where I pretended that I wasn’t doing SBG – parents are our biggest advocates – I send brown bag experiments home with students to do with parents – homework: teach parents and have them email me what they learned
  • What have administrators done to infect others with your STEM awesomeness? 
    • LC – I lead an annual STEM excellence fair and bring other teachers, community members in that way
    • KC – all of the people at Central Campus are experts in their areas so I had to be sure that I was on my game from Day 1
    • JF – teacher leadership program – we’re doing PBL training for all teachers – I assumed they already knew and were doing it, had to start over and go slower
    • AG – admins just let me set up a science club and I talked a colleague into joining me
  • Differentiation is often easier during hands-on performance tasks – have to listen, keep eyes and ears open to see/hear what they’re doing

Promoting STEM Careers From a School Counselor’s Point of View (Panel)

  • On average, Iowa counselors serve 429 students each
  • Counselors are uniquely trained in career theory and career development and uniquely positioned to bring various resources together to bear for the whole child – when you have 800-900 students, it’s physically impossible to do this, however
  • Most counselors have 60+ graduate hours – that’s a lot of expertise to waste serving on bus duty
  • At no time in my administrative licensure training did I receive guidance on how to most effectively use my counselor
    • Could say this about any role, not just counselors?
  • Local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations are nice resources for career / workforce information, speakers, data, etc.

Closing Remarks, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds & Mary Andringa

  • A book for everyone who made it to the end of the day, courtesy of DMACC

[As is typical for these statewide summits, the day was heavy on sit-and-get with extremely little interaction… As I’ve said before, can’t we figure out some way to tap into the collective wisdom, expertise, and experience of the 500+ people here?!]


Humility

When you approach your work with the humility that everything you do is open for dialogue and can be made better, the rewards you reap are immeasurable.

#makeitbetter


Be awesome, 7th graders [VIDEO]

The 7th graders at the International School of Brussels had an entire day of technology- and Internet-suffused awesomeness yesterday. I was asked to send them a short kickoff video for their day since they had previously watched my TEDxDesMoines talk. Here’s what I sent them…

ISB 01

ISB 02

ISB 03


Students already know much of what we’re supposedly ‘teaching’

Graham Nuthall said:

Our research shows that students can be busiest and most involved with material they already know. In most of the classrooms we have studied, each student already knows about 40-50% of what the teacher is teaching.

via The Hidden Lives of Learners, p. 24

We could solve this by pre-testing, yet not enough of us do…

Hat tip: Carl Hendrick


It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics

Storm cell

It’s been a tough year to feel positive about Iowa education politics. For example…

Our governor wants Iowa schools to return to the top of the NAEP rankings and reclaim their ‘world class’ status but is endorsing a 1.25% budgetary increase that doesn’t even keep up with inflation (while requesting a 9% increase for his own office). As a result, most schools will have to cut people just to keep the lights on and the buses running. We can expect teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms, and other disinvestments in the needs of students, despite a solid state economy and a healthy reserve. We may fall as low as 40th in per-pupil spending. So much for being a state that allegedly cares about education.

Our outdated school start date legislation clearly fails to meet the needs of schools (336 out of 338 school districts asked for a waiver last year) but suddenly is being tightly enforced. Our state department of education says that it believes in principles of ‘local control’ but then this year notified districts that it no longer would automatically grant school start date waivers and that essentially every reason they might give for an earlier start date will not be considered legitimate. The school start date consternation is apparently being driven by the tourism industry. Educational needs are being given short shrift.

Of course we’re seeing lots of posturing from both sides of the political aisle (e.g., polarizing comments, Twitter wars, and ‘public’ hearings in rooms that are too small for the public to attend). And we’re seeing some really goofy stuff occurring during what should be important discussions and debates.

We’ve got a superintendent who’s decided he must break the law just to meet the needs of his district’s students. He’s being condemned by some legislators, despite the fact that they themselves break the law year after year when it comes to meeting deadlines for setting school spending authority.

Last week we were notified that our state department of education has now chewed up and spit out its second talented director in less than two years. We’ve got a misbegotten student retention law that’s about to go into effect. Our state assessments don’t align with our state standards. Budgets for our regional educational agencies – which provide essential services to our districts – keep getting reduced. And we’re starting to see proposed legislative attacks on teacher unions that are inconsistent with our rhetoric that we honor and develop teachers. I don’t know if we’re one of ‘those states’ yet when it comes to education but it sure seems like we’re getting closer.

After last year’s legislative session I said to several folks that I was glad it was quiet and positive compared to years past. Apparently last year was just the calm before the storm… [sigh]

Image credit: Storm cell, Tom Gill


A culture of teaching and learning often produces great achievement but a culture of achievement rarely results in great teaching and learning

Drew Perkins said:

Perhaps the most saddening part of a Culture of Achievement is its low ceiling. While it may be politically and strategically smart to pursue the quick hits of raising test scores, it’s a fool’s bargain that limits the potential of our students in a myriad of ways.

What if we pursued a Culture of Teaching and Learning? One that placed an emphasis on things like deep, rich inquiry and craftsmanship? What if the learning had no ceiling and students were authentically assessed and did real-world work where they uncovered and discovered content? What if instead of disaggregating data our teachers engaged in quality professional discourse about their work in ways that excited them and their students? A Culture of Teaching and Learning often produces great (test scores) achievement but a Culture of Achievement rarely results in great teaching and learning. A Culture of Teaching and Learning rewards and professionalizes teaching and helps create students who are empowered by their possibilities and less than concerned with test performance.

If your school is looking to create great thinkers and learners and not just students stuffed full of content take a look at your culture. If your school is wishing your students were excited to be there instead of feeling the tension of just trying to attend and endure take a look at your culture. Is your focus on test scores and “achievement” or do your teachers and students engage in ways that allow them to grow and make meaning out of their learning in ways that tests don’t measure and quantify? Is the purpose of your school to produce great test scores or students capable of thinking creatively and critically about things that matter? 

via http://perkinsed.blogspot.com/2015/01/how-culture-of-achievement-is-hurting.html


Forcing students to read certain books

Pernille Ripp said:

Why do we continue to force students to read certain books when that is the number one thing ALL of my students report kill their love of reading?

via http://pernillesripp.com/2015/03/21/can-we-discuss-the-whole-class-novel-for-a-moment


ISTE 2015: (Re)designing tech-infused lessons for deeper thinking

Hope you will join me and Julie Graber in June for our ISTE workshop… Register here!

Title

(Re)designing tech-infused lessons for deeper thinking

Short description

Avoid the pitfalls of tech integration – technology for technology’s sake, focus on tools rather than the learning – by being thoughtful and purposeful about lesson (re)design. Bring your own lessons and units, and we’ll help you make them better.

Date / time

Sunday, June 28, 12:30pm to 3:30pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time)

Standards addressed

ISTE Administrator Standards A-2, ISTE Teacher Standards T-2, ISTE Coach Standards C-2. Although we selected only one of the NETS-T standards, this session actually will focus on the first three. These three standards – as well as the selected NETS-A and NETS-C standards related to digitally-enabled learning – are at the heart of this workshop. The purpose of this workshop is to help administrators and teachers assess when higher-order thinking skills and student agency factors are (or are not) present in classroom uses of technology by students and teachers. Right now most educators are poor judges of deeper, richer technology usage, which is why we see lots of lower-level technology use instead of schools taking advantage of the rich affordances that digital learning technologies could bring to our classrooms.

Participant device prerequisites

Laptops and Chromebooks tend to play best with Google Docs and Sheets, which is what we will be using to facilitate some of our work together. Ability to access Google Docs and Sheets is needed. In addition to bringing a computing device, participants also should bring a unit or a few lessons that they would like to redesign.

Purpose and objectives

This session focuses on the intersections of digital learning technologies, higher-order thinking skills, student agency, and authentic, real-world work. In this workshop we will redesign lessons and units with the intent of getting beyond lower-level academic work and technology usage. By the end of the workshop, participating administrators and teachers will have practiced using the trudacot protocol to 1) diagnose and redesign others’ lessons, and 2) create new lessons, or revise existing ones, of their own.

Outline

In addition to bringing a computing device, participants also should bring a unit or a few lessons that they would like to redesign. | 10 minutes – We will start the workshop by looking at some different technology integration and/or deeper thinking frameworks (TPACK, SAMR, RAT, Bloom’s, Webb’s, IPI, AIW, etc.) and quickly discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each. | 10 minutes – We then will introduce participants to a technology-rich unit design and classroom observation template (trudacot), which pulls from the strengths of multiple frameworks while simultaneously covering existing gaps in those frameworks. | 60 minutes – We will spend most of the first half of our workshop applying trudacot in depth to one or two video examples of technology-infused lessons (with accompanying lesson plans) so that administrators and teachers can practice utilizing the template with actual lessons to make judgments about the presence/absence of higher-order and active learning; critical thinking and problem-solving; collaboration; authentic, real-world work; and other high-leverage characteristics. In short, we will redesign one or two lessons from elsewhere to make them richer and more robust. | 10 minutes – We will take a break! | 90 minutes – Moving beyond others’ lessons, we then will rebuild (or build new) lessons of our own using trudacot to facilitate our dialogues. Participants will work in triads throughout the workshop to ensure that multiple lenses and perspectives are informing our design work. | This will NOT be a sit-and-get session with a few questions at the end. We will be talking continuously with each other throughout the workshop, so questions will be actively solicited throughout rather than waiting until the end and letting just a few folks ask questions.

Supporting research

There is a wealth of research on the TPACK and SAMR frameworks, Bloom’s taxonomy, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, the Authentic Intellectual Work framework, the Instructional Practices Inventory, the Florida/Arizona Technology Integration Matrices, and other mental models of technology integration and/or higher-order thinking work. Unfortunately, each of these is limited in terms of utilization as a lesson (re)design framework. We will be pulling these together into a comprehensive template that draws from existing frameworks but also remedies their individual gaps.

It is absolutely critical that educators have the ability and tools to examine, dissect, and rebuild student and teacher classroom technology uses for the purpose of achieving higher-level thinking, greater student agency, and authentic, real-world work. Right now we are doing a poor job of helping educators with these tasks. The purpose of this workshop is to help with this concern.

Presenters

Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on K-12 school technology leadership issues. After 14 years as an Educational Leadership professor, Dr. McLeod currently serves as the Director of Innovation for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency in Iowa. He also is the Founding Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens). He has received numerous national awards for his technology leadership work, including recognitions from the cable industry, Phi Delta Kappa, the National School Boards Association, and the Center for Digital Education. In 2011 he was a Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. In 2013 he received the Technology Leadership Award for the state of Iowa. Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at Dangerously Irrelevant and is a frequent keynote speaker and workshop facilitator at regional, state, national, and international conferences. He also is the co-editor of the book, What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media.

Julie Graber is a passionate educator who is most interested in seeing teachers and administrators improve learning opportunities for students. Deeper thinking with technology, authentic learning, curriculum design, and performance assessments are some of Julie’s many areas of expertise. After 13 years as a technology coordinator and business/computer teacher, Julie currently serves as an Instructional Technology Consultant for Prairie Lakes AEA by supporting educators with effective teaching, leading, and technology practices. Julie was one of four coaches in the state of Iowa to first be trained in Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW). She has served on several state leadership teams, including the North Central STEM Hub Advisory Board and the Design Team for the Iowa Competency-Based Education Collaborative. Julie is certified in the Instructional Practices Inventory and provides training for Defined Learning. In 2014, Jay McTighe asked Julie to join his group, McTighe and Associates, to conduct workshops for educators using the Understanding by Design curriculum framework. Julie is a regular local, state, and national presenter focusing on student-centered learning, authentic work, and project-based learning.

Register here!


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