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Time to find other employment

In the past decade, most everyone with access has experienced what it's like to learn from anyone, anywhere at any time. In everyday life, this is no longer an event to behold but the way we learn. Any policy maker or leader who doesn't understand and live this needs to find other employment. - Dean Shareski

Dean Shareski said:

In the past decade, most everyone with access has experienced what it’s like to learn from anyone, anywhere at any time. In everyday life, this is no longer an event to behold but the way we learn. Any policy maker or leader who doesn’t understand and live this needs to find other employment.


Can we answer this question satisfactorily for our students?

Paul Sinanis, middle school student, said:

I don’t understand the point of school. What’s the point? Everything that I am interested in and connects to my world doesn’t ever come up in school, so what’s the point?


Creating, making, and doing in Northwest Iowa [VIDEO]

My team’s most recent video about the maker experiences that we’re facilitating in our Northwest region of Iowa. Happy viewing!

Reinforcing the standardized model of low-level learning and schooling

Higher level thinkers do not just magically emerge

I’m sitting in a workshop today about early literacy supports. The presenters are personable, the resources aren’t horrible, the intent is good, and there are 45+ well-meaning educators in the room learning, talking, and thinking about early literacy success for students.

But all of our conversations are around systems and processes that reify and strengthen our traditional emphases on low-level learning. For instance, we’re discussing laws and policies (that emphasize standardized data), screening instruments (based on standardized data), ‘evidence-based interventions’ (based on standardized data), progress monitoring (based on standardized data), and data-based decision-making (based on standardized data). 

This morning I also received a pitch for a new book, Deliverology in Practice, which purports to show leaders how to

  • Set clear goals for students, establish a Delivery Unit to help your system stay focused on them, and build the coalition that will back your reforms.
  • Analyze the data and evidence to get a sense of your current progress and the biggest barriers to achieving your goals.
  • Develop a plan that will guide your day-to-day work by explicitly defining what you are implementing, how it will reach the field at scale, and how it will achieve the desired impact on your goals.
  • Monitor progress against your plan, make course corrections, and build and sustain momentum to achieve your goals.
  • Identify and address the change management challenges that come with any reform and attend to them throughout your delivery effort.

To which I say, ‘Meh.’ #terriblyunexciting (for students and educators both)

The evidence is quite clear that schools’ low-level learning focus has been a problem for decades. The last thing we need is MORE emphasis on lower-level learning (see, e.g., the economic data and the student engagement data). Yet the workshops and books and policies continue…

Let kids make informed decisions about real things in the real world

Young boy looking through round bubble window into giant aquarium

Will Richardson said:

Sure, the CCSS wants to promote and measure critical thinking skills. But the CCSS wants that to happen in the context of contrived situations within an increasingly irrelevant curriculum that most kids don’t care about and will forget as soon as the test is over. Applying those “skills” to the complexities of real life situations doesn’t much transfer if you don’t care about what you’re thinking critically about in the first place.

Give kids the freedom to make “informed decisions” about things they care about, real things in the real world, things that probably aren’t in the standards or on the test, and we’ll get a lot farther down the road to preserving what’s left of this experiment in democracy.


Image credit: the bubble, Eleni Preza

Become a reading warrior

Joy of reading

Pernille Ripp said:

I declare myself a reading warrior, and I believe you should as well. No more reading logs to check whether kids are reading. No more levels used to stop children from self-selecting books they actually want to read. No more timed standardized tests to check for comprehension. Being a fast reader does not mean you comprehend more. No more reading projects that have nothing to do with reading. No more reading packets to produce a grade that stops students from talking about books. No more rewards; prizes, stickers, lunches with the principal. We cannot measure a great reader by how many pages a school has read, so stop publishing it. Don’t publish your test scores. Don’t publish your AR levels. Publish instead how many children have fallen in love with a book. How many recommendations have been made from student to student. Publish how many books have needed to be replaced because of worn pages. Publish that, and be proud of the teachers that dare to speak up to protect the very thing we say we hold sacred.

Be a reading warrior, because for too long we have hoped that the decisions being made are always in the best interest of a child when we know at times they are not. No child is helped when we protest in silence, when we protest in the teacher lounge, or in our homes. We have to find the courage to speak up for the very students we serve. We have to practice being brave. We have to allow students to read books that they choose, to give them time to talk about their books rather than fill out a packet, and to allow them to self-monitor how much reading they are doing and then believing them when they tell us their truth. It is time for us to stand up and speak up. It is time to take back our reading instruction and truly make it about what the kids need and not what others tell us that they need.


Image credit: Joy of reading, Lord Marmalade

When all students bring home is a piece of paper

Albemarle Maker Ed Video

Matt Caduff said (about a summer maker camp):

When all I bring home is a piece of paper and I picked B instead of C, I don’t have a lot to talk about with my parents and because I picked C and the answer was B I don’t want to talk about it. . . . If I’m bringing home something I made and it’s right because I made it – it was my plan – or I know how to fix it, I’ve got a lot to do at home.

I’ve watched kids be really successful and they’ve been successful, I’m pretty sure, in ways that they never have been at school and they’ve felt things that they have never felt at school.


Happy viewing!

Image credit: Maker Spaces, Trevor Przyuski

4Q: The quadruple win


Four big questions to ask about a lesson, unit, or activity…

  1. Deeper learning. Did it allow students to go beyond factual recall and procedural regurgitation and be creative, collaborative, critical thinkers and problem-solvers? Did it really? [If not, why not? Our graduates need to be deeper learners and doers so that they can add value beyond what search engines, Siri, and YouTube already can do.]
  2. Student agency. Did it allow students to drive their own learning rather than being heavily teacher-directed? Did it really? [If not, why not? Our graduates need to be autonomous, self-directed, lifelong learners so that they can reskill and adapt in a rapidly-changing world.]
  3. Authentic work. Did it allow students to be engaged with and/or make a contribution to the world outside the school walls? Did it really? [If not, why not? Our graduates need to be locally- and globally-active so that they can be positive citizens and contributors to both their community and the larger world.]
  4. Digital tools. Did it allow students to use digital learning tools to enhance their learning beyond traditional analog affordances? Did it really? [If not, why not? Our graduates need to be digitally fluent so that they can effectively navigate our technology-suffused information, economic, and learning landscapes.]

What percentage of the learning occurring in your school system would simultaneously satisfy at least two of the above (2Q)? At least three of the above (3Q) for a triple win? All four (4Q) for the quadruple win?

If you have a 3Q or 4Q lesson, unit, or activity that you think is worth sharing, let us know below. We’d love to hear about it!

Notice the emphasis on ‘feeding them content’

Christine Willig, President of McGraw-Hill Education, said:

There’s a difference between educational technology – a single video, a single interactive, a single app – and learning science, in which we’re investing in the small pieces of data that show us where a child is at in their learning trajectory, feeding them content in a way that’s powerful and effective for them to move to the next level. 


Summer school for kindergarteners


Valerie Strauss said:

curriculum has been pushed down so much that kindergarten is no longer a time for kids to learn and socialize through play but rather for a lot of desk time with academic assignments. Sure, some schools break up the time so kids don’t sit there hour after hour, but the pressure on young children to learn to read and do math – even if they aren’t developmentally ready – and on teachers to ensure that they do learn – has become extraordinary.

Providing quality summer programs for young children is a laudable goal – and something school systems and city governments should offer. But requiring 5- and 6-year-olds to go to summer school so they can labor over academics is something else entirely.


Image credit: Kindergarten, Here We Come, Howard County Library System

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