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If new teacher evaluation systems were really about growth and constructive feedback

Anthony Cody says:

while Gates and his employees constantly talk about growth and constructive feedback, they always seek to embed these systems in the evaluation process, where there will be huge consequences for those involved. 

I asked:

If I am wrong, and the new evaluation system described by Bill Gates really is all about feedback and collaboration, then why not remove the model from an evaluative framework? Make the sharing of videos voluntary and low-stakes. Provide teachers dedicated time for collaboration. Offer a variety of structures such as Lesson Study, Critical Friends, and Teacher Inquiry that have been proven effective at generating authentic reflection and growth.

If I turn out to be right, then smash those cameras, boycott those tests, opt out of the data systems, and refuse to be standardized and scripted.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/12/2013_in_review_part_3_gatesian.html

Less submissiveness. More voice.

Shout out loud

George Couros says:

As a teacher, would you prefer to work in an environment where [your] principal (who is [your] boss) wants feedback on the things that are happening in the school and actively listens? This doesn’t mean [she] always agree[s], but that you know [she] genuinely takes feedback in the workplace and figures out a way to implement some suggestions.

Or would you simply want to do what you were told, because that’s what you should do?

And in a comment to George’s post, Jim Cordery says:

We want people to act/think outside of the box, until those students end up sitting in our rooms. Then, the questioning of things is seen as defiance.

We need less submissiveness. We need more questions. We need more voice. From students. From educators. From citizens. From you.

I’m ready to kick my blog up a notch or two this year. Consider yourself forewarned…

Image credit: Shout Out Loud, Gary Denness

Three central problems plague public education in the United States

Arthur Camins says:

The biggest problem with education is the U.S. is not test scores. Rather, three central problems plague public education in the United States. The most dramatic is inequity. There are vast inequities in educational resources and in the conditions of students’ lives, resulting in persistent race- and class-based disparities in educational outcomes.

Second, we are far too focused on a narrow range of outcomes – reading and math test scores – and not enough on a broader range of subject matter or essential domains, such as critical thinking, creativity and collaborative skills. Third, we gravitate toward partial quick solutions, rather than thinking systemically and having the patience to allow strategies time to develop, take hold, and be refined.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/04/arthur-camins-on-international-test-scores

PD should be about learning, not control, compliance, and permission

Tom Whitby says:

[Social media] was at first thought to be the bane of all educators. As soon as educators stopped yelling at kids who used it, and tried it for themselves, things changed. Educators began connecting with other self-directed learning educators and shared what they had learned. The learning has become more collaborative and through observation, and reflection, and based on the interactions of other educators, it has become more popular and more clearly defined.

There are two factors that seem to be holding many educators [back] from this self-directed collaboration. First, it requires a minimal amount of digital literacy in order to connect and explore and collaborate. This seems to be lacking for many educators, as well as a resistance to learn the literacy. Ironically, educators are supposed to include digital literacy in their curriculum for their students to be better prepared.

Second, educators have been programmed to the model of Control, Compliance, and Permission for professional development. That is also the accepted model still employed by most districts, and a huge roadblock. As tough as it is for educators to buck the system, it seems worse for administrators. They too have been programmed but, additionally, they are in the position that has the Control, that demands the Compliance, and that grants the Permission. To give that up by some who are in a position of power is a much more difficult leap of faith. Maybe administrators need to be reprogrammed as lead learners rather than just administrators. It becomes an obligation to continually learn. If they become self-directed learners collaborating with other educators globally, what effect would that have on their leadership capabilities?

In regard to professional development maybe it would prove more effective to have teachers demonstrate the effects of their learning, instead of a certificate for proof of seat time. That would become the portfolio of a teacher’s learning, placing more emphasis on the brain and less on the ass.

via http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/pd-roadblocks-control-compliance-and-permission

Open source scholarship is a radical transformation for researchers

Alex Fink says:

Open Source Scholarship is a massive attitude and orientation change for scholars. What’s it really about, in my mind? It is about transforming a history in academia of using secrecy, privacy, and private ownership of ideas into one of shared, participatory, co-designed and developed, public, and free work. It is about – especially because I’m at a public institution – helping to build a commons, while simultaneously attempting to dismantle the histories of oppression that knowledge generated in universities has been used to promote and the limited knowledge systems we’ve propagated. Open source scholarship is a radical transformation in the universities’ relationship with ideas, in scholars’ relationships with students and colleagues, in relationships with communities. It is an explosion of the concept of “inside” and “outside”, of “expert” and “lay”, of privileged knowledge and everyday knowledge. Whether or not academics and universities want it, this is the coming world. More and more people will be empowered to use and conduct research, it will be available and evaluated more broadly, and the state of knowledge will be opened up in new ways we can’t yet even predict.

via http://www.hastac.org/blogs/alexanderjfink/2013/11/16/open-source-scholarship-github-academics-next-steps

Banned from the biggest library in the world

George Couros says:

If we got rid of a library in a school, people would be outraged that [we were] taking away information away from students, yet kids often hold the biggest library in the world in their pocket[s] and schools ban them from using it in the classroom.

via http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/4278

They can use it at home but, hey, let’s just ignore that. Blocking is always better than educating, right?

Playingwithinformation

Image credit: playing with information, Will Lion 

Making judgments about technologies we haven’t used and don’t understand

George Couros says:

“Kids don’t have enough balance.”

“We are dumber because of technology.”

“People are disconnected from one another because of how we use technology.”

“Technology kills our face-to-face interactions.”

In my travels, I have heard all of these arguments.

You will hear people say things like “Twitter is stupid.” Just to clarify, Twitter is a thing and can’t be stupid. It is the equivalent of a student not understanding math and then saying “math is stupid.” It is often our lack of understanding that leads us to make statements like this, which I made myself. One of the questions that I ask people when they make these remarks is, “from your use of Twitter, tell me why it is stupid?”, which is sometimes followed by, “Well, I have never used it.” That would be the equivalent of me saying that a Lamborghini handles terribly. I could say that, but I have never experienced driving one, nor have I ever done any research on the vehicle.

via http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/4271

12 education guidelines from Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn says:

  1. Learning should be organized around problems, projects, and (students’) questions – not around lists of facts or skills, or separate disciplines.
  2. Thinking is messy; deep thinking is really messy. Therefore beware prescriptive standards and outcomes that are too specific and orderly.
  3. The primary criterion for what we do in schools: How will this affect kids’ interest in the topic (and their excitement about learning more generally)?
  4. If students are “off task,” the problem may be with the task, not with the kids.
  5. In outstanding classrooms, teachers do more listening than talking, and students do more talking than listening. Terrific teachers often have teeth marks on their tongues.
  6. Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.
  7. When we aren’t sure how to solve a problem relating to curriculum, pedagogy, or classroom conflict, the best response is often to ask the kids.
  8. The more focused we are on kids’ “behaviors,” the more we end up missing the kids themselves – along with the needs, motives, and reasons that underlie their actions.
  9. If students are rewarded or praised for doing something (e.g., reading, solving problems, being kind), they’ll likely lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.
  10. The more that students are led to focus on how well they’re doing in school, the less engaged they’ll tend to be with what they’re doing in school.
  11. All learning can be assessed, but the most important kinds of learning are very difficult to measure – and the quality of that learning may diminish if we try to reduce it to numbers.
  12. Standardized tests assess the proficiencies that matter least. Such tests serve mostly to make unimpressive forms of instruction appear successful.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/30/a-dozen-basic-guidelines-for-educators

Shareski and Stager on inauthentic student voice

Dean Shareski says:

I think the words were important but when it comes from someone who didn’t write them and it’s positioned as if it is, it becomes disingenuous and very pretentious. . . . [L]et’s advocate for student voice but not fake ones. Our students do have a voice. Most of them are childlike, full of child like ideas and most aren’t as eloquent as adults because they aren’t adults. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, helping them develop that voice. Yet we do have some that are ready for prime time and we should provide ways for them to share. I know some districts have had students keynote. I think that’s great, as long as the core of their story is their own, not the districts or their teachers. I’d way rather listen to a student share a less polished message that was their own than using them like a puppet to further other adults’ agendas.

Gary Stager says:

Student voice without what Seymour Papert calls “kid power” is worse than empty rhetoric, it is a lie. . . . Too much of what is offered as “student voice” offers a false sense of agency, power, or freedom to the powerless.

Both posts are well worth reading. (hint, hint)

We need to stop putting words in the mouths of children and pretending that they’re theirs. It’s disingenuous and calculating and an insult to our youth.

Writing on an iPad

Justin Reich says:

Educators come up to me all the time with concerns that students can’t word process on an iPad — I have pretty much zero concern about this. Kids can write papers using Swype on a smartphone with a cracked glass. Just because old people can’t type on digitized keyboards doesn’t mean kids can’t

I’m not concerned that kids can’t learn to write English on an iPad, I’m concerned they can’t learn to write Python.

via http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/2013/11/in_defense_of_messiness_david_weinberger_and_the_ipad_summit.html

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