08/16/06

All of this is a continuation of yesterday.

Core 1:

  1. Think/Discuss-On: How will writing these goals down and sending yourself an e-mail influence your actions in class?
  2. Type up FutureMe.
  3. What should our new set of classroom expectations be for this year based upon your goals? What should we all agree to because of who we want our future selves to be?
  4. Come up with at least three expectations in groups.
  5. Re-introduce AR+ and explore website (if time allows).

Core 2:

  1. Think/Write-On: Read over your FutureMe. Think about how will you make sure that your present self becomes your future self. Write down the goals to get you point a (the beginning of eighth grade) to point b (the end of eighth grade and your FutureMe) Example.
  2. Discuss and share goals and future selves as a class.
  3. Type both future self and goal list into FutureMe.org.
  4. How will writing these goals down and sending yourself an e-mail influence your actions in class?
  5. What should our new set of classroom expectations be for this year based upon your goals? What should we all agree to because of who we want our future selves to be?
  6. Develop a list of classroom expectations which makes sure that all of our goals will be met, not just the goals of some.

Core 3:

  1. Act-On: Discuss with at least two people your list of expectations. Try to agree on the two that you think are most essential. Have one person from your group come up and write them on the smart board.
  2. Discuss and vote upon which expecations should go onto the syllabus.
  3. Introduce my Classroom Website and allow time for exploration.

Core 4:

  1. Act-On: Discuss with at least two people your list of three actions. Try to agree on the three that you think are most essential. Have one person from your group come up and write them on the smart board.
  2. As a class, format these actions into expectations for everyone to agree to.
  3. Vote on the most essential expecations to go on the class syllabus.
  4. Introduce my Classroom Website and allow time for exploration.

08/15/06

Cores 1-2 (8th graders):

  1. Reorient students to the new setup.
  2. Talk about the unique opportunity that Looping provides.
  3. Introduce FutureMe:
    1. First days are all about finding your footing again. You have been on the beautiful ocean of vacation for a couple months, and now it is time to step onto dry land again. As you get off of your well worn summer vessel,  your feet feel as though they are stepping through quicksand. Everything is shifting and swaying. Nothing seems real or easy. You were used to the rhythm of the waves, and it is going to take you a few days to lose that watery equilibrium.
    2. In order to help this process along, I wanted to start off by looking ahead. Sure, we could look back and say, “We had a pretty good year last year, I think I am just going to coast by on that for this year.” But resting on your laurels is not an option when you are given a much better alternative: making this year even better.
    3. I’ll admit, in some ways this year is a continuation of last year. You have most of the same teachers, and you are with most of the same students, but you are not the same person, and you won’t think the same way. So, acting like a 7th grade clone of yourself really isn’t a very good idea.
    4. To make sure that our eyes become open to one another for the first time, to make sure that we never become stagnant within ourselves, and to make sure that we don’t become jerks or inarticulate slobs, we are going to participate in FutureMe.
    5. FutureMe begins with looking at your future self. Who will you be at the end of 8th grade? Here is an example of what I am talking about.
    6. You then need to think about who you are right now. How are you going to get from the present me to the FutureMe? Another example.
    7. Once you have both of these things written down, you will be typing them into FutureMe.org. This is a web site that can send you an e-mail at anytime in the future that you want. I would like you to set it to send the end of the year (May 1st), so that you can compare who you thought you would be to who you actually became. When everyone receives their e-mail on the first of May, we will spend a class period laughing at how wonderfully right (and wrong) we were.
    8. Collect hard copies of FutureMe.

Core 3-4:

  1. Introduce concept of Write/Think/Draw/Discuss/Act-On:
    1. How do your perceptions of the people around you affect the way you act?
  2. Share out (with a partner) your perception words and images. Try and boil your how your partner does and does not want to be perceived into one essential statement.
  3. Introduce your partner to the class and share the boiled down statement about how they want to be perceived.
  4. What does it mean to make a promise to see each other better? How will it change your actions?
  5. Make the promise on the smart board.
  6. Introduce my classroom website.
  7. Explore the website and write down any questions about what you find there.

The 95 Theses of Progressive Teaching

I have had the busiest and most productive summer of my life. I have created a lesson planning wiki, a technology integration wiki, the beginnings of a district Edusphere, and a bloated furl account. I have been thinking both big and small about the new school year that is now upon me. This post represents the broadest thinking I have done this summer.

Martin Luther had this idea first, but I’m sure he won’t mind if I borrow it. I kept thinking that progressive education needed a good rally cry, a belief system that we could all debate, discuss, and eventually agree upon. So I decided to start this project. Here are the first 50 theses of progressive education. I have categorized each of my beliefs in order to organize my thoughts and prevent any redundancy. Please write your ideas and additions into the comments for this post.
Change:

1. Teachers should be the change they want to see in their schools.
2. Teachers should constantly reinvent the wheel to make it ride smoother and faster over any type of terrain imaginable.
3. Teachers should never teach the same things the same way twice.
4. Teachers should see tradition for what it is: the hope that things will stay the same forever.

Collaboration and Community:

5. Teachers should be a part of a supporting network of dedicated fellow teachers who challenge each other to be better.
6. Teachers should accept advice, encouragement, and feedback freely from anyone who has their best interest in mind.
7. Just like teachers should never write off a student, they should also never write off a fellow teacher as incapable of change or merely incapable.
8. Teachers should never assume that their ideas will be adopted or believed even if they have research on their side but they should always try to convince people anyway.
9. Teachers should evangelize what they believe, but never prescribe it as a program for other teachers to follow verbatim. All teachers are different.
10. Teachers should not fear certain subjects of conversation with colleagues; all teachers deserve to be challenged in a way that they can understand and accept.
11. Teachers should never participate in anything in their classrooms, departments, or districts that can’t or won’t be shared with others and perhaps improved upon.
12. Teachers should be honest and open about what they excel at and what they need help with.
13. Teachers should be addictive personalities.
14. Teachers should never have to worry that someone has their back.
15. Teachers should see gossip for what it is: the nearly irremovable wedge driven between teachers to cut off all collaborative possibility.

Curriculum:

16. Teachers should be an integral part of all curriculum decision.
17. Teachers should never merely teach their content; they should teach the usage of their content in new and different situations.
18. Teachers should disarm racial, gender, and class biases in themselves and their classrooms by always speaking honestly about the corrosive effects that these biases can have on every question asked and curricular decision made.
19. Teachers shouldn’t see a difference between teaching to the students and teaching to the test. They should trust their methods to get students to where success lies.
20. Teachers should never give an assignment that they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

Teaching/Learning Theory:

21. Teachers should always have a good answer for the question “Why is this important?”
22. Teachers should find their inspiration for lessons in anything they want. There are infinite entrances to learning.
23. Teachers should learn.
24. Teachers should never think for their students.
25. Teachers should know that they have effects farther reaching than this year’s classroom, and should teach accordingly.
26. Teachers should be an expert in what they teach, but not the expert.
27. Teachers should allow a specific entrance to every student for their curriculum, thus creating universal access to learning.
28. Teachers should promote the complex and sometimes ambiguous nature of problem solving and real world application by bringing it into the classroom and showing students how complexity isn’t a vice, but a virtue.
29. Teachers should use theory only as an avenue to creating real lessons and activities that are student-centered instead of using it to create more theory (application instead of abstraction).
30. Teachers should learn from their students all that they can about student learning, teacher practice, and the next generation of life.
31. Teachers should know who their students are, and because of this, know what they need to learn.
32. Teacher should know what is unique about their school/district, and they should use these things to add idiosyncratic interest rather than jumping on a curriculum bandwagon.
33. Teachers should never frame their days by asking, “What can I fill this time with?”
34. Teachers should be ready to influence minds at a moments notice by asking students questions and learning something from the answer.
35. Teachers should anticipate anything but assume nothing.
36. Teachers should find solutions the same way that they find problems, by looking for them.
37. Teachers should preserve their individuality because it is the only way that they can preserve the individuality of their students.
38. Teachers should be prepared for, have an affinity toward, and see the value and beauty in the inherent difficulties in teaching one child, let alone 120.
39. Teachers should use the language of their craft in their classroom, encouraging their students to know the content more intimately, but they should never shirk their responsibility to be an adaptive translator of their content language.
40. Teacher should blend who they are with what they do. Teaching should be an authentic act for the teacher, not just the student.

Professional Development and Administration Support:

41. Teacher should be confident enough in their knowledge and teaching craft to justify any decision to a parent or administrator.
42. Teacher should know that new ideas exist, and should actively search for them in colleagues, both near to and far from them.
43. Teachers should never hide behind educators’ jargon and acronyms to make it appear as though they have a monopoly on knowledge.
44. Teachers shouldn’t be forced to choose “or” instead of “and” when it comes to resource needs in the classroom.
45. Teachers should read widely from both new and old media specific to their own interests in education, rather than read teacher books from someone unconnected to the classroom.
46. Teachers should never form an adversarial relationship with their administration; no sustained curricular or pedagogical decisions can be made only at the classroom level.

Reflection:

47. Teachers should know what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t work in their classrooms.
48. Teachers should collect anecdotes as data just as often as they collect test scores because more people are convinced when stories are connected to numbers.
49. Teachers should see honest reflection as the main avenue of change in teaching.

Technology:

50. Teachers should see technology as being as integral to learning as pen and paper, an aid to but never substitute for good teaching.

I know that this list needs a lot of work. Please help my far reaching attempt to give modern educational belief a clear and powerful voice.

08/14/06

Ideas for the first day:

  1. Present how people see me vs. how I want to be seen. (talking about a fresh start).
  2. Don’t talk at all. Play a song that fully represents me. Ask students to think about the one thing (a song, a book, a character, or a movie that most accurately represents them).
  3. Introduce the concept of giftedness (the curve a la Jen Gottschalk).
  4. Tour of the room for 7th graders going over all of the little areas of the room.

Continue reading“08/14/06”

Safety

In order to build community support for technology use in the classroom, we must make the community aware of the technology, but we must also educate the public on all sides of the issue. A lot of parents seem deathly scared of social networking mostly because they don’t understand what it is. If we inform them, guiding them through the more technical aspects of web 2.0, then they would be more likely to support any use of these social elements in our classes (linked blogs, uncensored wikis, etc.).

I think that this could be done by holding meetings at local schools in order to address the myspace/internet safety issues. There should be a place where parents can ask as many questions as they want and learn about the educational benefits of moving beyond pencil and paper based classrooms. I would like to set something like this up at my school. These are the resources that I have so far. Let me know if I need to include anything else.

Safe Blogging and Social Networking Resources 

Karl Fisch’s Internet Safety Links 

A resource for CyberBullying 

A wiki introducing Internet Safety to Parents 

A sad little article about the lack of understanding among teachers about internet safety. 

I am still working out what this meeting(s) should look like. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

The first day of Pre-AP

I will be attending a Pre-AP vertical teaming conference this entire week. I was excited about discussing rigorous classrooms and genuine vertical articulation, but what I found was a lot of talk about giving access to AP classes in Junior and Senior year of high school for all students by giving kids skills to handle AP level work in the middle school. I loved our discussion yesterday about creating equity in our schools. Here are comments, questions, quotes, and group generated writings that I experienced yesterday.

Our group definition for Equity: Access to opportunity with unlimited guidance and support.

We need to eliminate the gatekeepers at our school. They treat learning as an elitist act. You need to socialize students to intelligence. Gatekeepers are teachers who prevent access to learning because they have a problem with a disposition or a type of intelligence.

You don’t have to be the smartest teacher in the world. You simply have to be resourceful.

In order to make sure that kids are prepared, there must be a discussion among teachers about what the expectations will be throughout the years.

Part of learning is failure.

Exposure alone to rigorous curriculum is going to prepare you later in life, as long as the support is there so that students don’t feel like a failure.

Be a talent scout for kids, especially the ones that don’t look like the typical AP-Student.

Strategies are a lifeline for students to be successful in the rigorous classroom.

We should echo students’ language in order to value their background, we should show how our language translates to theirs.

Learning is not a sprint; it is a marathon.

Rubric for Access and Equity

Teachers/Administration Students Parents
4 Actively promote rigorous classes for all students. Are enfranchised to make decisions about appropriately rigorous classes Advocates for an inclusive program and encourages student responsibility
3 Recognize need and working toward greater levels of access for all students Simply Enjoy the diversity Recognize value for all
2 Superficially recognize need, but no action taken (lip-service) Social Expectations Only concerned with own students
1 Gate-Keepers Grade-Grubbing or Apathetic Apathetic or uninformed

Alternate Rubric for Access and Equity

4 3 2 1
Students WANT to enroll in AP courses; there is a waiting list to get in. Teachers actively recruit students to enroll in AP classes An open enrollment policy exists but not many students are interested. Students must all qualify for enrollment in AP classes.
Population of AP classes is diverse Population is diverse Population of ap courses is only partially diverse. Population is elitest
80% of AP students take the AP exam 70% of students take the AP test 60% of students take the AP tests 50% or fewer take test
Resources and support and well established in the building and often used by students Resources are support are available and developing Minimal resources and support available to AP students Little to no support is available for AP students.
AP teachers are given time to collaborate and attend AP training Professional resources are available in building Professional Development resources are available but not well-known or used Teachers research and locate AP info on their own.

In elementary school some parents are helicopter parents, but in high school they turn into black hawk down parents.

What does it mean to be in a rigorous classroom? Does it mean that everyone can get an A or a B? How do we communicate this to students/parents?

In order for a rigorous curriculum to take hold and be sustainable, we must have coordinated support from administration, teachers, parents, and community.

Intelligence is not static. It can be honed and solidified with strategies.

Learning is learning no matter where you are or what you are doing, we only attach elitism when it comes to academics.

You cannot laugh at true learning.

There is no such thing as Pre-AP classes. All classes should provide strategies for students to succeed in a rigorous high school and college classroom.

We need students to have a repertoire of automatic strategies. Students should be able to decide for themselves which one is the most appropriate.

If we don’t use our professional development time wisely (taking it back to the classroom) then we are wasting taxpayer dollars and the time of everyone involved.

Do we need to embarrass our reluctant teachers into signing on to engage in collaboration and academically rigorous classes?

Can we get money to work on weekends toward vertical teams?

I know that as a proficient reader, I have developed my own shorthand and language for coding a text. Is it more helpful to have a set list of codes for reading, or is it better to let students make up their own and create a language similar to the way I did?

If you say: Annotate the text, how many kids would actually do it? What would they think that annotating the text means that they should do?

Never put someone down without showing them the way back up.

Purpose

I have decided that starting a new lesson plan book on paper is not a very smart idea. In fact, I have been so excited by the possibility of starting a lesson plan book online that I have been searching every chance I get for a suitible alternative. I still haven’t found an online calendar that lets me do everything I need to do, so I thought that I would start a blog instead. I can search any of my previous posts. I can do my reflection right on here if I want. I can even use the calendar feature to look back at a day I need to reevaluate. I can’t wait for the school year to start so that I can begin this new journey of planning with new technology. If you would like to see fully formed lesson plans of mine, rather than the non-sensical inner workings of my classroom, go here.

The Perfect Online Professional Development Community

I have really been thinking a lot about how to create an online community for all of the teachers in my school district who are as passionate about technology integration, reflection and collaboration as I am. The way that it stands, I feel so isolated in my quest for new and more effective ways of teaching. I know this is not the case, that there are probably hundreds of teachers who feel the same way, but that isn’t really much comfort when I don’t know who they are and I have no way of contacting them. I almost feel like I need to send out a classified ad: Young passionate teacher seeks the same in order to learn and collaborate about technology and pedagogy.

I can’t think of a better way to ask for a community than to create one and hope that other people join up. I have already run this idea by a few, more experienced, Edubloggers, Bud Hunt and Karl Fisch. They have both responded pretty well to the idea and are willing to help me get it off of the ground.

After my initial e-mails to my administration and these two great teachers/resources, I thought that there would be no way of stopping such a mammoth idea. My principal loved it, and the feeder area coordinator thought it would work well with some of our other goals. But last night, I received an e-mail from the Web Services manager of my district. In it he said that I should consider using two semi-crippled technologies (Firstclass and SchoolCenter) that teachers in my district are already fairly comfortable with (and the district has already paid for). I say that these are crippled technologies because they have real holes in their capabilities. They just can’t do everything that I want to do with this community.

Even with this minor setback, I have decided that I will not compromise (at least initially) my vision of the “Perfect Online Professional Development Community.” I would like to see just how collaborative, easy to use, scalable, social, and reflective I can make this experience for other teachers. So, without any further explanation, I would like to unveil what I think are the essential pieces of a new generation professional learning community.

A central portal will give you access to the following (I am thinking about using protopage):

    1. A master blog that would guide discussion.
    2. Blogroll
    3. Recent Blog Articles (a la SuprGlu)
    4. Archived Blog Articles (in a newsletter type format)
    5. A Google Earth Mash-Up of all of the school represented in the community
    6. Bios of the teacher bloggers (if they wish to include them) done in a social way so that collaboration is easier (an Elgg.org-type personal page)
    7. A calendar for event planning (Skypecasts, Classroom Demonstration Webcasts, Classroom Picture Flickr Stream)

The other aspects of the community that will not be directly shown on the portal’s front page except for simply linking to them:

  1. A Q+A section for both teaching questions and technical help questions (Ning.com has a great set-up for something like this).
  2. A Digg-Style Article/Website recommender.
  3. A Wiki for success stories of technology integration or improved practice (a little like David Warlick‘s Telling the New Story Wiki)
  4. Walk-Throughs (screencasts) for how to create blogs, collaborate, etc.
  5. A way of dealing with comments both attached to and unattached to their original posts. (co.mments.com has a pretty great strategy)
  6. A professional development bookshelf (akin to either this one or this one)
  7. A way of signing up for an e-mail RSS system for new posts (most teachers check their e-mail religiously)
  8. A belief statements wiki about technology or teaching in general for certain collaborating members or individuals (this could be a running list of belief statements and/or a running list of questions that these belief statements beg to be answered. I also like the idea of using standpoint.com somehow).
  9. A system for sharing lesson plans and ideas (both formatted and unformatted) including a collaborative document center.
  10. A cross-school project starter (partnering up similar teaching styles)

Questions I still have about how to get this done:

  1. How do we get as many different positions represented in this community (principals, core teachers, librarians, elective teachers, etc.)
  2. Should we try to protect anonymity on the blogs?
  3. Just how much do most people know about these technologies? Will it be like starting from scratch for most people? And if so, should I send out a formal (or informal) survey about these ideas (What have you done in your classrooms with technology? Do you like to create you own lessons? How much do you enjoy reflection? Do you want feedback on your classroom ideas from other teachers? How worried are you that this is going to take too much of your free time? How many of you already blog?)?

Well, that is pretty much it. I would like to make this project as appealing and voluntary as possible, so that everyone who is in the community has a lot of buy-in. Let me know what you think of this grand scheme. What is possible and what is not possible?

Authentic Writing (concise new ideas)

I have spent a great deal of time over the last year talking about Authentic Writing in the classroom. I have written a few papers on this subject, but I am most interested in the practical application of this idea. I am in the process of creating a Lesson Plan Wiki for next year, and I realized that I needed to define my terms. So under the Terminology Dictionary is my definition of Authentic Writing. I will continue to work on it, but it I think that it captures quite well what I have been talking about for so long.

  • Authentic Writing (aka Real Writing)

Authentic Writing at its most basic is writing that has a real audience and a real purpose.

Now to define the two new terms I have just created. A “real audience” is one that is not only the teacher. The teacher and the self can be part of a real audience, but rarely do they make up it entirely. A real audience is made up of people who are genuinly interested in the writing for what it has to say not because they are forced to be interested. A real audience is one that is likely to listen to, comment on, or attach value to a piece of student writing. Equally likely for a real audience is the posibility of using the writing to create something new. Finally, a real audience is one that does not require perfection to find importance.

A “real purpose” is one that has some intrinsic value to the writer. Getting better at writing can be a real purpose, but it is not (and should not be) the only one. A real purpose is determined by the context of a student’s life. It is made up of what the student wants to do or would benefit from doing (making a grocery list, writing a passionate eulogy, getting out some teenage angst) rather than what he/she has to do. Writing with a real purpose is a social act; it is connected to the self and to others without any educational manuvers or imagination on the part of the writer (i.e. Write a letter to your congressperson about spending a million dollars).

To further illistrate the point of Authentic Writing, here is a chart of what constitutes Inauthentic Writing versus its Authentic counterparts:

Authentic Writing Inauthentic Writing
A grocery list A CSAP prompt
A blog post A research paper on a teacher-selected topic
An intelectual passion paper A form poem that is only seen by the teacher
Student-selected creative non-fiction An essay that does not relate to the student or the current curriculum

I’m not sure if this is a good idea.

I was reading some of the articles on Karl Fisch’s del.icio.us account. I found this one and I was caught by some strange version of inspiration. It basically talks about how kids can be so innovative to post answers to tests online. I’m not a big fan of this particular act, but I find the idea of innovation in finding answers to be full of possibilities.

Here is my idea:

I will develop a quiz on new technologies that will help my students throughout the year (blogs, wikis, rss, podcasts, thinkfree, glypho, etc.). They can either follow the links and find each of the answers individually. Or they can search and follow their own path to a file (or website) with all of the answers to the quiz in one place. I need to work out the logistics, but I can imagine finding a way of hiding the file (or website) so that my students will still have to use all of the skills that they are being quizzed on.

Do you think that this is possible or a good idea?