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Podcast – How to take our leadership and teaching to new levels

I recently had the good fortune to talk with Aaron Maurer, an amazing Iowa educator who I’m proud to call friend. Aaron also received one of ISTE’s 2018 Making It Happen Awards! Aaron invited me to participate in his Coffee for the Brain podcast and the end result is below.

Happy listening!

Podcast – Moving from digital substitution to deeper learning

Harnessing Technology for Deeper LearningBetsy Corcoran, CEO of EdSurge, asked me to do two podcast interviews with her while I was at the EdSurge Fusion conference in San Francisco in October. The second recording is now available. Betsy asked me to discuss the 4 Shifts Protocol; my new book, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning; and how we should be thinking about instructional redesign for deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion.

Happy listening!

Unthoughtful consumption

We spent the last 200+ years (at least) pushing consumption models of learning on most of our students. We asked them to be passive recipients of whatever information came from the teacher or textbook. We gave them few opportunities to question the reliability or validity of the information that we spoon-fed them. We trusted that someone else did the filtering for us and them beforehand. And in many cases, we actually punished kids who dared to ask questions or present alternative viewpoints.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that we now have an information / media literacy problem with our adults. We shouldn’t be surprised that most of our citizens have trouble determining the validity and reliability of digital and online information sources. We shouldn’t be surprised that we are easy prey for those who spread misinformation, deception, and outright lies.

It’s going to get even worse as new tools for creating and spreading falsehoods proliferate. We should be more alarmed that we’re not doing more about this issue in our elementary and secondary classrooms. But we don’t seem to be. Not yet, not in most school systems. A few token ‘digital citizenship’ lessons from a teacher or librarian and we seem to think we’ve addressed this concern. A few conversations that in no way prepare students for this:

Our new information landscape

When will we take seriously the challenge of preparing our graduates for our new information landscape? And what are we going to do about all of our graduates?

If you want deeper learning…

Deep eye… you must have deeper teaching.

You can’t get to deeper learning with worksheets and end-of-chapter review questions.

You can’t get to deeper learning with self-paced adaptive learning modules that emphasize facts and procedures.

You can’t get to deeper learning with multiple-choice software and apps.

You can’t get to deeper learning without actually changing day-to-day lessons and units.

You can’t get to deeper learning without shifting toward critical thinking, problem-solving, student agency, and authentic work.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your teacher observation and evaluation rubrics.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your classroom walkthrough templates.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your hiring criteria and interview protocols.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing what you ask PLCs to focus on.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your professional learning structures.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your budget.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing the types of concrete ‘look fors’ and ‘think abouts’ that you prioritize as a school leadership team.

You can’t get to deeper learning with replicative, shallow instruction and status quo leadership behaviors.

You can’t get to deeper learning without taking risks.

Your new 21st century learning framework is awesome. How are you going to ensure it’s more than just lip service?

Image credit: deep eye, carlosdiazwa

Be proud of your pockets of innovation. AND…

PocketsEvery school system has pockets of innovation. Those three forward-thinking teachers in the elementary school, that one grade-level team in the middle school, the department that’s really trying to do something different at the high school, that amazing principal over there, and so on. As school leaders we’re proud of – and point to – that cutting-edge work and rightfully so.

But we also have to recognize that pockets of innovation mean that inequities exist. What if you’re a student that doesn’t have one of those forward-thinking elementary teachers, who isn’t on that middle school team, who has nominal exposure to that innovative high school department, or who doesn’t attend that principal’s building? You’re out of luck.

We always will have educators who are ahead of others. That’s inevitable. What’s not inevitable is our lack of a plan to scale desired innovations. What’s not inevitable is our lack of a guaranteed viable curriculum that strives for every student to accomplish more than mastery of factual recall and procedural regurgitation. If we want our pockets of innovation to ever be more than just pockets, we have to intentionally and purposefully scaffold and design and support to move the entire system to something greater. We also have to be smart about the design choices that we make. For instance, that intervention / remediation / extension time block that you created in your school schedule? During that time, who suffers through low-level thinking work in order to ‘catch up’ and who’s building robots or rockets? The very mechanisms that we create to close achievement gaps often intensify life success gaps.

Who in your schools gets to become future-ready and who doesn’t? Are you remedying traditional inequities or exacerbating them? What’s your plan to scale your innovations so that every student has opportunities to be prepared for life success, not just a few?

Image credit: Pockets, Astera Schneeweisz

Most educators do not have ‘change fatigue’

Will Richardson said:

As schools and classrooms, why do we exist today? What do we believe? What are our values? What are our deepest commitments to the children we serve? And do we live all of that?

Without coherent, clearly communicated answers to those questions, no serious change will survive. And, importantly, there will be nothing to judge the next “new thing” against.

I know “change fatigue” is real. But that’s not what most people are tired of. What they’re tired of is incoherence, of flailing away at change that isn’t driven by a belief system everyone is committed to living.

via https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6473548129395318784

Nicely said, Will…

It’s 2018, not 1918. Basic skills are not enough.

NYC Schools Opening (U.S. Library of Congress)Here is a quote from Kentucky Education Commissioner, Dr. Wayne Lewis (who is a friend of mine). The context is a statewide conversation about higher education standards for Kentucky high school graduates.

On Tuesday, Lewis said the current system already penalizes students by not actually preparing them for success.

“When we give them a diploma without ensuring that they have basic skills and they go to post-secondary education and they hit a brick wall – when they get into those English and math gateway courses, when they don’t have the necessary basic skills or preparation to get a job and take care of themselves,” he said. “Those kids are held accountable right now.”

Compare this with the following quote from Dr. Marc Tucker, outgoing CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy:

The jobs that were lost to globalization are not coming back. They are being automated. American manufacturing is actually doing very well, but much of the manufacturing work that was done by people a few years ago is now being done by machines. The same thing is true of mining and steel making. The jobs of gas station attendants were automated years ago. The jobs of retail clerks are ebbing fast. Even the jobs in Amazon’s warehouses are being automated. AI-powered systems are doing legal research, diagnosing cancer, writing music, serving as network newscasters, and doing surgery.

The thing that unites the “left behind,” whether they are rural whites in communities with boarded-up storefronts and peeling paint on their homes or urban African-Americans without jobs or any prospect of getting them, is lack of the kind of education and skills that employers are willing to pay decent wages for. . . . The difference between the young people that Facebook is hiring at $140,000 per year for their first jobs and the UBER drivers in the same cities for $10 an hour is their education and skill levels.

With due respect to Wayne, I think Tucker is right. Basic skills aren’t enough these days for many/most American high school graduates to succeed in postsecondary and/or ‘get a job and take care of themselves.’ Basic skills are necessary but insufficient. If we don’t frame future readiness and life success as more than basic skills, we’re doing our students and graduates a grave disservice. As Tucker notes,

What unites the first phase of globalization with the second phase of globalization is the fact that, whether the work is manufacturing or services, whether it is highly skilled or low-skill work, the employer can look for people with the requisite skills anywhere. Whatever your skill level, you are now in competition with people all over the world who have similar skills and who are willing to work for less.

That is bad news for Americans because we charge a lot for our labor. That is especially true for our low-skill and semi-skilled people – people who have basic literacy, but little more. Many nations that were largely illiterate in the 1970s have now built education systems that are capable of producing levels of basic literacy equal to those in the United States, and those newly literate people are now competing directly with the workers in the United States who have only basic literacy, which is roughly half of our workforce. The cruel fact is that our low- and semi-skilled workers – roughly half of our workforce – are very high priced in the global market for labor. That is why their real wages have not gone up in decades. They are a commodity, and the price they charge at the minimum wage level for that commodity is more than they are worth on the global market.

Neither state nor federal policymakers can change that fact. And it is that fact, not unfair trade practices, that is leading ultimately to the kind of anger and despair that is corroding our politics. I refer here not only to the anger and despair of rural and urban working-class whites, but also to the despair of inner-city African-Americans and many Latinos who are also trapped by the dynamics I have just described.

We must have a bigger vision for our graduates than basic skills. And we need to stop using this term as if it were enough.

SIDE NOTE: While we’re at it, we also know that 3rd grade retention is one of the dumbest things we can do in school. As a researcher and former university educational leadership faculty member, Wayne should know better than this.

Image credit: N.Y. schools opening, Library of Congress

Why we don’t recommend using the 4 Shifts Protocol as a classroom observation tool

Harnessing Technology for Deeper LearningJulie Graber and I often get asked if the 4 Shifts Protocol can be used as a comprehensive walkthrough or observation tool. While the protocol is open source and people can do whatever they want with it, we do NOT recommend using it in this manner. Here’s why…

The protocol is made up of numerous sections and discussion items. Unless a teacher is creating a many-week, interdisciplinary, group project for her students, it’s nearly impossible for her to address all of the items on the protocol in a short lesson or unit. If the protocol is used as an observation or walkthrough instrument, the teacher inevitably will not be doing many of the items. It seems unfair to penalize the teacher for not doing the impossible. The last thing we want is for principals, coaches, or mentors to walk into a teacher’s classroom with a big list from the protocol saying ‘nope, nope, nope!’

The protocol is designed to honor instructor purpose. In our workshops and new book – and as the #1 suggestion on the protocol itself – we emphasize that it’s much better if a teacher identifies a protocol section or a few bullet points to focus on. The goal of the protocol is to help educators gradually shift their instructional practice and build new skill sets, mindsets, and competencies. If we force teachers to work on areas that they’re not ready for or comfortable with yet because it’s on a walkthrough template, we risk alienating them from the important work that we want them to do. We encourage giving teachers as much choice as possible regarding which sections to work on, which items to work on within a section, and how deep to go on any particular item. If we use the protocol in this manner, it can be very accommodating of teachers’ different instructional orientations, skill sets, and comfort levels.

The protocol is designed to be as nonjudgmental as possible. One of the problems with SAMR and the Arizona / Florida Technology Integration Matrices, for instance, is that there is inherent judgment when we place teachers’ instructional practice into levels. As soon as we tell a teacher that she’s at the Substitution level on SAMR, for example, she’s going to feel at least a little bit judged and perhaps a lot defensive. That is not the stance with which we want to approach instructional redesign conversations. We frame the protocol as a discussion tool that hopefully can help us accomplish the goals that we set for a particular instructional activity. We’re not interested in judging anyone. We ARE interested in helping educators identify what they want to work on and then using the protocol to help them get there.

As we say in the book, we encourage educators to think about the protocol sections as sets of experiences that we want students to have multiple times each school year. Do we want students to have multiple opportunities for deeper learning this year? To have multiple opportunities for agency over their own learning this year? To have multiple opportunities to engage in authentic, real world work this year? To have multiple opportunities to use technology in meaningful ways and boost their communication and collaboration skills this year? A big YES to all of those. But today or this week – for this particular lesson or unit – we’re just hitting a few bullet points. Don’t bug us about the other ones – those happen at other times during the year. It would be okay to ask us about our plans to cover each of the sections multiple times over the course of this year. But please don’t mark us down for only focusing on one section or a few items in this lesson or unit. That’s exactly what we should be doing. Give us some feedback and suggestions in a pre- and post-conversation about what you see regarding the few questions that we’re focusing on, but please honor our intentionality.

I hope all of this makes sense. The only way I might be comfortable using the protocol as a walkthrough or observation device was if it was used occasionally as an environmental scan, just to take a pulse of what’s happening – or not – within a school across classrooms. Otherwise, we encourage everyone to use the protocol as a conversation sparker and redesign tool, not a mechanism for judgment.

Thanks. Let me know your thoughts!

Career-ready capstones [VIDEO]

America Achieves has been sponsoring an Educator Voice Fellowship program here in Colorado. They have an upcoming event where they will highlight the work that these awesome educators have done regarding authentic performance tasks and career-ready capstone experiences. Thought I’d share the video… we need more of this kind of student work and authentic assessment!

Happy viewing!

SEL shouldn’t be a canned curriculum that we buy

Teacher in library with studentsJennifer Rich said:

It has been lamented before that our children are overprogrammed and our schools are pushed to the brink with standards and standardized tests. We have also managed to slip down the rabbit hole with character education and social-emotional learning. Somehow, rather than following Mister Rogers’ lead, rather than being responsive to what our children need when they need it, our school districts buy expensive social-emotional learning programs.

We spend thousands to import standardized curricula to teach young children about regulating their emotions, while never pausing to ask the kids in front of us what feelings they have, and why. Schools embrace “character counts” programs and offer students rewards for kindness, rather than simply expect kindness from everyone and model it ceaselessly.

What if we took the bold, brave step and did what Mister Rogers did in each episode: slow down? Rogers took time to explain things to his young friends: feeding the fish, how long one minute really is, how to control “the mad you feel,” and what it means to be a friend. Perhaps our classes would be a chapter behind in math. It is possible, even likely, that they would be better human beings learning math, better able to envision using their new skills in democratic ways.

via https://hechingerreport.org/opinion-mister-rogers-voice-of-reason-in-the-tumultuous-60s-still-rings-true

Great point. Reminds me of all of those awful advisory period / home room curricula that schools can purchase… Hey, teachers, connect with your students by implementing this artificial activity that we bought for you to use!

We can’t purchase meaningful relationships with students from a vendor.

Image credit: Teacher in library with students, weedezign, BigStock