Trapped

CagedAdministrators: We want to be more innovative but we feel trapped by our schedule.

Administrators: We want to do things differently but we feel trapped by our curriculum.

Administrators: We want to go in new directions but we feel trapped by our PD model.

Administrators: We want to _____ but we feel trapped by _____.

Me: Aren’t you the ones who are in charge of those things?

A gentle reminder that we pay leaders to LEAD, not be helpless victims…

Image credit: Urbanely caged, Stuart Williams


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!


Band-aid

Band aid

 

Attaching band-aids to our current work doesn’t change much

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Image credit: Patching up school items, Penywise, Bigstock


Doomed

Doomed

 

Until the life success of our students is more important than our own comfort levels, any change we initiate is doomed.

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Image credit: Shipwreck, sbuwert, Bigstock 


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


North Dakota Innovation Academy: We launch tomorrow!

David Flowers tweet 01Tomorrow I have the privilege of launching a 7-day Innovation Academy with school leaders across the state of North Dakota. The dates are spread out across the year. We end next May. 

The Innovation Academy is sponsored by my national center, CASTLE, and the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders (NDCEL), with the extremely generous support of Ted Dintersmith, author of the excellent book, What School Could Be, and executive producer of the amazing film, Most Likely to Succeed. North Dakota’s Governor and other state organizations have been focusing on school innovation for many years now. I am honored to have the opportunity to build upon their past work.

We have 72 participants – yes, that’s right, 72! – in the year-long Innovation Academy, representing a variety of school districts and other organizations across North Dakota:

  • Alexander,
  • Beulah,
  • Bismarck,
  • Fargo,
  • Grand Forks
  • Jamestown,
  • Mandan,
  • McKenzie County,
  • Northern Cass,
  • Rugby,
  • Solen/CB,
  • Valley City,
  • Williston,
  • Legacy Children’s Foundation,
  • Missouri River Education Cooperative,
  • North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders,
  • North Dakota Department of Public Instruction,
  • North Dakota Governor’s Innovation Task Force, and the
  • South East Education Cooperative.

THIS is my favorite kind of work: long-term investments in leadership capacity-building. Previous statewide or in-district innovation academies in Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and Kentucky all have gone incredibly well. I can’t wait for tomorrow! 

What are you doing to invest in your leaders’ ability to facilitate transformative school change?

Image credit: David Flowers


Lose and lose and lose until you win

Woman rolling a giant stoneJournalist I.F. Stone said:

The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.” Or, as Camus put it: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

via https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/06/opinion/sunday/climate-change-global-warming.html

Although this article is in the context of climate change, I thought it quite apt for our efforts at school transformation. It’s so easy to feel down about the slow pace of change and our perceived lack of progress. As leaders and parents, we must be determined and persistent and dogged in our quest for something better for our children.

We must.

Image credit: Woman rolling a giant stone, Sergey Nivens, BigStock


Our new book, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning, was released today!

Harnessing Technology for Deeper LearningAfter 4+ years of piloting our 4 Shifts discussion protocol with thousands of educators, I am delighted to announce that our new book, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning, is now available!

Over the past few years the protocol has really started to take off. In schools and districts all around the world, we have teachers, principals, instructional coaches, and technology integrationists who are integrating the protocol into their instructional (re)design work. We are finding that the protocol accommodates a variety of educator starting points, skill sets, and comfort levels. It’s a great complement to SAMR because it’s an instructional discussion tool, not just a technology usage continuum. And it’s occupying a wonderful design space between more traditional practice and full blown, ‘gold standard,’ multiple-week PBL projects.

To celebrate the book’s release, Julie Graber and I are inviting educators to participate in the #4Shifts Challenge and publicly (re)design a lesson, unit, or instructional activity using several of the sections or bullet points in the protocol as levers for (re)design. If we want deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion to happen, we have to design for them. We hope that you will join us in sharing what powerful instructional redesign can look like. We need examples that we can point educators to for inspiration! If you’re game, simply post your redesign and share it using the #4Shifts hashtag, which will help us find your post and drive some traffic to your site! Thanks!

Why buy the book when the protocol is free?!

The protocol is open source and always will be, as will numerous other resources on the 4 Shifts Protocol resource page. Feel free to use and/or modify those resources as desired. The new book, however, takes a deeper dive with the protocol. In the book we provide eight concrete examples of lesson and unit (re)design so that you can see the protocol in practice across various grade levels and subject areas. The book is aimed squarely at practitioners and their day-to-day instructional (re)design needs. We also explain in the book why we think the protocol is a great complement to SAMR, TPACK, RAT, PIC-RAT, and the Arizona and Florida Technology Integration Matrices. And we include numerous tips and suggestions for using the protocol in your school(s)!

Let Julie and I know what you think. Please reach out if you have questions or if there are ways that we can be of support to you. We are happy to set up a chat to address questions or concerns and share how we are using the protocol with educators. And if you feel like leaving us an Amazon review, we’d love that too! 

A great big thank you to the thousands of educators who have helped make the protocol better!


Inspiring… or not

Stop stealing dreams, by Seth GodinLearning math by building bridges or designing aircraft wings is inspiring. Chugging through the odd-numbered practice problems at the end of the chapter is not.

Improving our community by collecting data and investigating the causes of local environmental challenges is inspiring. Participating in artificial, recipe-like science ‘experiments’ from a publishing company is not.

Wrestling with controversial but important political issues is inspiring. Regurgitating decontextualized historical names, dates, and places is not.

Writing for and advocating to authentic audiences around societal issues that we’re passionate about is inspiring. Writing 5-paragraph essays about books that we don’t care about is not.

Investigating our own questions about the world and how it works is inspiring. Spitting back the ‘right answer’ to someone else’s low-level questions is not.

Finding areas of interest and passion is inspiring. Slogging through a lifeless textbook is not.

Active, energetic, enthusiastic, maybe messy, and probably noisy collaboration is inspiring. Working in isolation and sitting quietly in rows and columns are not.

Using technology to learn with and from students in other parts of the world is inspiring. Using technology to complete digital worksheets is not.

Interdisciplinary learning that is seen by students as meaningful, authentic, and connected to the real world is inspiring. Subject-siloed, isolated, disconnected learning is not.

Internships and community partnerships and impactful service learning opportunities are inspiring. Pretend word problems and scenarios are not.

Learning spaces that honor children’s dignity and value their worth are inspiring. Learning spaces that are overwhelmingly focused on compliance are not.

And so on…

Inspiring… or not. What vision are we selling to our students, parents, and communities?

And, no, we don’t have to do the uninspiring before we can get to the inspiring, particularly if we rarely get beyond the former…

Image credit: Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin