Tag Archives: student agency

Replication or empowerment?

Let go

We’ve got to decide if our vision for educational technology is around replication or empowerment. And if it’s about empowerment, then guess what? We’ve got to give up the things that we do that feed replication. We can’t hang on to all of those and get to where we’re trying to go.

What are we going to give up? 

Image credit: Let go, Andrew Mitchell

Live blogging Oskaloosa High School’s experiences at the FIRST Championships

For the next few days I am turning over my blog to a high school student!

Molly Bleything is a student at Oskaloosa High School here in Iowa. Her after-school robotics team, the Sock Monkeys, was one of three from the state to make it to the national FIRST Championships this week. Molly will be sharing her team’s experiences in St. Louis.

Here are a couple of videos chronicling the Sock Monkey’s early successes:

And here is a short article that Molly wrote a few days ago:

Hey guys! We are Team 4443: The Sock Monkeys. We are from Oskaloosa, Iowa and we are part of the robotics club at our high school. The other part of the club is Team 3608: The Ninjaneers. The Sock Monkeys team consists of sophomores (10th graders) and older. The Ninjaneers consist of freshman (9th graders) and younger. We do not have an official team sponsor. What makes our team unique is the different ideas, logic, and people that are on it and contribute to it. All of us see things differently, so the amount of opinions/ideas is massive! A big challenge that we had to overcome is our scoop design. At competitions, one of our tables in the pit has all of the scoop designs we’ve used throughout this season. The team has changed the design three or fours times since we made the first design out of cardboard. The continuous improvement is awesome and we are now done re-making it. It’s painted blue – like our shirts – and ready to go for competition.

We as a team have done several unique things. For starters, one of our present seniors and a 2013 high school graduate made a Rubik’s cube solver over the summer. And yes – it does actually solve the cube. We have also made a balancing “segway” robot. It balances and keeps itself upright by driving forward and backwards in tiny amounts. Often times during competitions, you can find the guys in the pits putting stuff on top of the NXT to show how much it can actually hold and stay upright. It brings a lot of attention and people often get a good laugh out of it! None of our team members have had any serious injuries during the robotics season. At least, none that have happened that involve robotics. At the end of the day, we are pretty regular nerds.

One story about our team this season…I have a great one! At the 2nd qualifier (for us, it was in Ottumwa IA), we were not supposed to continue on to state. After a lot of emails, a written letter, and the coach having a conversation with us, we were offered the opportunity to go and compete at state. All of us were really surprised and happy. To be honest, no one was expecting to get anything out of state, or to be one of the greats, but during alliance selections, we were picked.

All of us started clapping, cheering, and we were really excited. After what seemed like thousands of matches, we had won state by alliance! Afterwards, we got back and everything was crazy for a while. We had a lot of meetings, where a LOT of to-do lists were made and we set a lot of goals for ourselves. A big concern was money and how we were going to be able to pay for the trip to state. So, the Sock Monkeys hosted a bake sale during parent teacher conferences. The bake sale went over really well and with that money, and the money that was donated to us through free will donations and other various ways, we were finally ready to go.

Super Regionals arrived. The team had figured as a whole that we weren’t going to come back home with anything to brag about… but while we didn’t win any trophies, we came home with an invitation to the World Championship. Although all of us were really excited and happy, Super Regionals was a reality check for us. At Super Regionals we made it to the semi-finals and right before lunch break, we competed in a match. During the match, a rule was broken. The team that we played with and the third team in our finalist alliance stood in the question box. After lunch break and a twenty minute delay, we were granted a rematch. Sadly, we lost the rematch, but this time we lost fair and square. Super Regionals was a great experience for us.

We and another team had scored the highest at the event with a total of 389 points. We were six points away from beating the all-time world record! We (and another team) had also scored the highest in our division with a total of 353 points. We knew that we had done our best, fought for what was right, and enjoyed every second. We were prepared to go home that day. All of us had said good job to one another and to the other teams. Right before closing ceremonies started, they called out four team members to go down on the floor. Logan, Kazuki (both drivers), Collin (coach) and I ( ___) went to the floor.

Rebecca Whitaker was the one who made the announcement as to who was moving on and who wasn’t. She got up on the podium and started off by saying, “Twenty-five teams will be moving on today!” The crowd went wild and then Kazuki turned to us and whispered, “We have a chance.” The whole arena fell extremely quiet and, let me tell you, you could almost feel the intensity. I swear that you could’ve heard a pen drop. She had gotten to the twentieth team advancing and all of us were eager. I kept checking the stands to watch my teammates there. They were all so still. Then she said, “….team number 4443, The Sock Monkeys..” All of us screamed and went crazy! It was all absolutely amazing. Immediately afterwards, our teammates ran down the stairs and we all hugged and high-five’d one another.

We loaded up our gear and went home after that. We were greeted by family members, teachers, friends, reporters for the paper, and Mrs. Eveland. There was confetti, signs, laughs and lots of pictures. The picture above is the one that our local news system took. The dots all over us are pieces of confetti. Kazuki (our only senior this year) told a local news source that this was one of the best days of his life. Now, we are eight days away from the World Championship. Considering we weren’t even supposed to make it to state, I would say we are doing great! This is honestly one of my favorite stories to tell about this season and it gives me goose bumps writing it. I am so happy and so proud of all of us.

I hope that you will wish the team good fortune and will interact with Molly as she blogs here. You also can follow their Twitter account, @4443SockMonkeys. Go Sock Monkeys!

‘World-class’ teacher preparation

Shelley Krause

When I work with educators, I get asked on a regular basis, “What about the universities? What are they doing to prepare educators who can facilitate technology-infused learning environments that emphasize deeper cognitive complexity and greater student agency?” Unfortunately, I don’t have much to offer them.

I’m not up on all of the thousands of preparation programs that are out there but, as I think about the shifts that we need to see in schools (and the new building blocks that we need to put in place), at a minimum any teacher preparation program that wanted to label itself ‘world-class’ would be able to affirmatively say the following…

Our graduates know…

Project- and inquiry-based learning

  • how to operate in student-driven, not just teacher-created, project-oriented learning environments
  • how to facilitate inquiry-based activities like ‘passion projects’ or ‘FedEx days’ or ’20% time’ or ‘genius hour’
  • how to facilitate students’ development as creators, designers, innovators, and entrepreneurs
  • how to integrate communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills into these types of environments

Authentic, real-world work

  • how to organize student work around the big, important concepts central to their discipline
  • how real work gets done by real professionals in that discipline (practices, processes, tools, and technologies)
  • how to find, create, and implement robust, authentic simulations for their subject area
  • how to facilitate and assess authentic performances by students

Standards-based grading and competency-based education

  • how to write and implement a ‘competency’
  • how to help students thrive in a standards-based grading environment
  • how to facilitate learning-teaching systems that focus on mastery rather than seat time (or other dumb criteria)

1:1 computing

  • how to manage and support ubiquitous technology-infused learning spaces
  • how to facilitate student success with digital tools, online systems, and social networks
  • how to help students create appropriate AND empowered ‘digital footprints’

Digital, online, and open access

  • how to leverage digital and online open educational resources to full advantage
  • how to meaningfully curate digital materials in their subject area
  • how to helpfully contribute to our online global information commons (and have students do the same)

Online communities of interest

  • how to utilize online networks and communities of practice to further their professional learning and growth
  • how to meaningfully connect students to relevant online communities of interest for academic and personal development

Adaptive learning systems

  • how to integrate adaptive learning software into students’ learning and assessment
  • how to utilize blended learning environments to individualize and personalize students’ learning experiences (time, place, path, pace)

I think most teacher preparation programs probably fall short of the mark on these, but a program that could say these things about its preservice teachers would be INCREDIBLE.

What do you think? What would you add to this list? More importantly, does anyone know of a teacher preparation program that’s doing well in some / many / most of these areas?

Newell-Fonda students decide to ‘be the change’ [VIDEO]

Students take action to make a difference. One of the two-week projects that occurred during the Newell-Fonda (IA) Community Schools’ Winter Explorium is profiled by KCAU TV in Sioux City, Iowa. Happy viewing!

Are we too scared to give students real voice?

Today the Iowa Department of Education (DE) tweeted the following:

Iowastudentboardmember

But if you go look at the application announcement, it turns out that the student participant on the State Board of Education is a non-voting member. So much for having a real voice… [sigh]

I’m not trying to pick on DE; the non-voting status of the student is encoded in Iowa statute. But it’s worth noting that, along with student councils in schools and student representatives to school boards, these types of positions mostly seem to be a way for us adults to feel good about ourselves for including students. We pat ourselves on the back for ‘listening to student voice’ and point to the token representation to say, “See? We care!” when in actuality it’s just a sop, a meaningless thing given for appeasement instead of truly honoring needs or meeting demands: “Look, you get to sit with us and listen! We might even occasionally let you speak!”

As adults we’re not willing to give students actual decision-making responsibility. We’re not willing to give them power and authority over anything that’s really meaningful. Instead, we give them these artificial input opportunities and then exercise our freedom to completely ignore them – because they’re minors, you know, and don’t really know what’s best for them or the organizations in which they’re embedded – thus patronizing and demeaning the very youth that we’re supposedly honoring.

If we want to give students real voice and real agency, that means providing them with actual decision-making power (e.g., a vote) and something meaningful upon which to decide. What do students learn from tokenistic, inauthentic, powerless participation opportunities?

I challenge us to try this locally. Let’s give a group of students majority voting power over a school’s behavior and discipline policies. Or what courses are offered. Or the daily schedule. Does this scare us to death? If so, what does that say about us?

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

Fear is a prison

Fear is a prison

As Howard Rheingold notes,

The technology affords an environment in which students [can] take on more of the power and responsibility for their own learning.

But we don’t see that. Instead, we see

a hype-and-bust cycle that goes back to the personal computer. Look at all the marvelous things technology is going to do! And then it doesn’t happen.

And the reason, as Rheingold correctly identifies, is

the secret, or maybe not so secret, agenda, which is that the classroom is really for teaching compliance. That was useful when societies were transforming from agrarian to industrial, but it’s less than useful in a world where you’re going to need to be thinking critically about the information you find.

And there we have – all tidy and neat – the biggest barrier to effective technology integration in today’s schools, even in those 1:1 environments that provide computing devices for every student. We could be (should be!) utilizing technology to empower youth at school but instead it’s still about control. That’s why we have acceptable use policies, not empowered use policies. And that’s why in most classrooms we continue to see replicative uses of technology rather than transformative uses. It doesn’t matter that computers are the most powerful learning devices ever invented in all of human history if we’re afraid to lets kids fly.

Fear is a prison. And empowerment within tightly-constrained, adult-directed parameters isn’t really empowerment.

 

[Guiding question: What can we do to give students more agency and ownership of what they learn, when they learn, how they learn, and how they show what they’ve learned?]

Image credit: Fear is a prison

Quirky kids, Frisbee, and dead fish [SLIDES]

Three great slides from Bill Ferriter. More at the Great Quotes About Teaching and Learning Flickr pool and my Pinterest set of slides!

Today’s schools have been sterilized

Schoolshavebeensterilized 

Being good at school is like being good at Frisbee

Beinggoodatfrisbee 

Students are not dead fish waiting to be stuffed

Studentsarenotdeadfish

What 64 schools can tell us about teaching 21st century skills [VIDEO]

I love to visit schools that are trying to live on the cutting edges of deeper learning, student empowerment, and digital technologies. But, like most of you, I don’t get to do that nearly as often as I’d like. So I’m jealous of folks like Barbara Levin and Lynne Schrum who get to do case studies of innovative school organizations around the country. And of whomever at Edutopia gets to work on the Schools That Work series.

Now I’ve got a new target of envy. Here’s a video of Grant Lichtman describing what he learned from his 3-month, 21-state, 64-school tour of innovative educational systems. Except for the time away from my family, that sure sounds fun to me. Happy viewing!

Schools that empower students to make a difference [VIDEOS]

Here are two amazing videos that highlight ways that educators can empower kids to make a difference in the world. Happy viewing!

Schools That Change Communities

The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice

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