Monday, October 5, 2015

Most Likely to Succeed by @dintersmith @tonywagner

"Our country is the most innovative and determined on the face of this planet in a time that begs for these skills. Let's educate to our strengths instead of chasing Shanghai and South Korea on a standardized test." -- +Ted Dintersmith @TEDxFargo 

I couldn't sleep last night after reading the book Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. When I checked my FitBit after waking from a hovering dream about the open-air schools of Taipei with of white and green, polyester sweat-suited students with matching haircuts from a trip I took my Senior year of high school, it was 2:23 am. I spent a couple weeks over the December holidays at the dawn of 2001 in Taipei touring the wonderful country and visiting rural and urban schools (like the one in my dream) to meet and connect with students. As a senior in high school, I was still unsure of the answer to the question, "What am I going to be when I grow up?" But, my time as a teacher, tech integrationist, and now an elementary principal has certainly been influenced by my overseas travels (Taiwan being the first of many).

After the insistence of my 7-year-old daughter wanting to read just "just one more chapter" last night, I delved deeper into Most Likely to Succeed as she finished her 6th chapter of the Lego Elves Search for the Magic Key, both independently. I couldn't help but wonder as I was reading about the formation of the current ELA curriculum in K12 where she would fit. Is she Basic? Proficient? Advanced? And, more importantly, does it matter to her future?

As the principal of her school, yes, it matters to me as we set up to analyze scores for the upcoming in-service day. As her Mom, it doesn't really matter as much. At her birthday party last weekend, nobody asked how her preparation for the SBAC in 3rd grade is going, nobody. The audacity! Rather, most asked how she liked her new school, the name of her teacher, and if she was still going to be an engineer when she grows up. To which she told them that she is planning on being a dog sitter first, then be a Jackrabbit and an engineer. What can I say, I have an entrepreneur on my hands!

So, today, as I have blocked off two hours to work on my in-service plan to review the SBAC scores next week, Ted Dintersmith and Tony Wagner are resonating in my brain instead. How can I make this relevant? In a time when as a school administrator I supposed to be more concerned about test scores than anything else, but I would rather just suggest to my teachers that we work on real life problem solving for my students and get the basics down? That we should let our school's curriculum not be driven just by a test? No, I can't do that. Logic says no; as does the continued need for me to have a paycheck to support my family. But, in reality, even though we haven't put our students in matching uniforms with school-regulated matching haircuts, have we taken away the ability to be innovative, creative problem solvers that Ted Dintersmith claimed in his TEDxFargo talk is the greatest attribute of our country's citizenry?

I'm going to go back to data now, but with a fresh set of eyes and the optimism that I can find relevancy beyond the score.

Monday, July 28, 2014

You Matter! @AngelaMaiers

While on break between lunch and sessions, I decided to pull up some of my homework and this video came up again. You Matter by Angela Maiers was a moving TEDxTalk from a DesMoines event. I have heard Angela speak previously, but strictly about technology in education. It was great to see this and I hope to be able to use this in the near future in some way to facilitate an in-service session.

South Dakota Career and Technical Education Conference Opening Speaker

Good morning! Bright and early we headed out to the SDCTE Conference in Mitchell. A combination of High School and Post-Secondary Career and Technical Education teachers and administrators are joining here to review what is going on in South Dakota for Career and Technical Education teachers. I am glad that this conference is in the summer when teachers still have the time to tweak what is going on in the classroom, rather than at the end of the school year when change seems much more difficult to facilitate.

The opening speaker is Mark Taylor and he is facilitating multiple sessions today with the intent to talk about generational differences in the classroom and, subsequently, in the workplace. In his bio, he highlights that that there is "a serious mismatch between what they want expect from a school, and what we offer." He is a psychotherapist and a Baby Boomer with some great ideas.

A conversational presentation, Mark Taylor spoke lot about the value of each of the generations and his quick-witted humor was a breath of fresh air to start the morning. He spoke in Boston a few weeks ago and in Dublin, Ireland this summer as well, so he is not a stranger to speaking to large crowds like ours. Also, this may indicate that we are not the only people in this world that are concerned about the ability to teach the next generation.

As I am a GenXer myself, I sometimes think I may be able to relate a little bit more to some of the "under 26" population, but the lack of ability to self-motivate and the increased involvement of parents for the younger generation is something that I do not have first-hand knowledge. Mark Taylor referenced his article, "Helicopters, Snowplows and Bulldozers: Managing Students' Parents" and it is very telling of not only high school parents, but also post-secondary parents now. Parents do not only get in there to "helicopter" over what is going on, but also to "snowplow" (a reference really apt for South Dakota) and "bulldoze" obstacles out of the way! We all laughed about it, but it's hard not to think that perhaps we are guilty of it, too.

I really appreciated his comments about problem-based learning and how colleges are just not preparing students for the real world anymore. Technical colleges are really preparing students for the future and really preparing students for the workforce. These comments make me feel great about the move to Lake Area Technical Institute! I have readily admitted that I worry about being able to still be able to make a difference (yes, I still believe that I can do that in my life), but in reality, yes, I am going to be able to be a part of really helping prepare students for the real workforce and not just to continue to learn.

I linked some of his articles below as they are a great compliment to what he is saying. I can surely see myself referencing some of his articles in the future, so they are really here for me as a bookmark for future reference, but you surely could read them, too.

Teaching Gen NeXt
Teaching Generation NeXt: Leveraging Technology with Today’s Digital Learners
Meet the Parents: Managing for Student Success

I will surely be attending his future sessions today. Also, he brought up a new book that Howard Gardner and Katie Davis just completed titled "The App Generation" that I will be putting on my reading list. Howard Gardner is already famous for the multiple intelligence and learning style theories, but this is definitely showing that even one of the traditional pedagogical units of your teacher education block is now changing. Shifting paradigms... yes, the times they are 'a changing...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"The Times, They Are A Changin"

To borrow from good ol' Bob Dylan, the times, they are a changing here for me. I have moved from the Deuel School District. The experience to work in such a progressive school has shaped the way that I think about education, teaching and administration. Creative budgeting and progressive teaching strategies have kept this school at the forefront of education in the State and I'm glad that I was part of it.

Now, I am moving on to a new adventure at one of the TOP 4 Two-Year Schools in the Nation! At Lake Area Technical Institute, I get to be an Educational Technology Specialist and work with instructors to integrate technology into their already very successful classrooms and labs. I em excited for the challenge and I am excited for the change of pace! Lake Area Tech has also been named by The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the Top Colleges to Work For for multiple years in a row! It doesn't get much better than that!

As all of this is happening, we are living in what will soon be a very critical time for many occupations in our country. We are already experiencing workforce shortages across the State in many different areas. For example, I toured the amazing Electronics/ Robotics classrooms this week at LATI and the Department Head/ Instructor said that he had employers contact him with over 150 job openings and he only had 9 graduates from his program last year! The job openings range from local South Dakota jobs to opportunities across the Midwest. LATI's Aspen Institute Awards have really opened up opportunities for graduates, too!

This is the picture of his "jobs" board in the classroom. I should have taken a picture of all of the amazing projects he has going on in the classroom, too. He has everything from educational robots to industry-grade robotics in this classroom. Wow! He is also going to do a "Community U" program this year so that anybody can build their own 3D Printer. I definitely plan on working that into my schedule as that is some of the coolest technology I have ever seen! 

Back to the Changing Times... well, as I move out of K-12 education, I think I will miss a lot of things, but most of all I will miss the kids. Getting to know the kids and helping them decide on careers and post-secondary choices was the best opportunity I could have had to know first hand how the world we live in is changing. I would like to say I'd do it differently if I was a 2014 High School graduate, but I don't think I would. Education is where I am supposed to be, how that career shapes is yet to be seen. I can't wait to see where this opportunity at LATI will take me! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Legitimate Resources for the Classroom

Lately, it seems like a hot topic again in Education blogs and Google Circles to look at finding good resources for student research in the classroom. As a former English teacher, it seems as though I've never left the conversation about finding good articles for the classroom. Whether it is sourcing information or just finding legitimate information for your classroom, it is going to be a never-ending topic as our resources are ever-changing. Although, who doesn't love a good article about a Tree Octopus?

The resource I want to share with you is a tutorial that was adapted out of the University of Wyoming and it is one of the best I've seen for students doing research. The students can go through each piece on their own or you could project it on the board and have them discuss as you show them the tutorial's slides.

Now, not only are "good" resources hard to find, so is making sure that students reference all of their work properly and are not plagiarizing.  In our school system, we have been using EasyBib for years for students to cite their work, but it's important that students do not just auto-cite all of the resources. Instead, they have to make sure that they are putting in all of the relevant information that they can find from the website. And, if you can't find all of the information, maybe you need to re-evaluate the website for it's legitimacy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mathematics Resources

I have been researching different Mathematics resources and found some great resources that I wanted to share. At Illustrative Mathematics you can find PDF illustrations, drop down/ color coded illustrations and also videos of standards K-12. I think that the best part is the example problems, especially as I am a non-math teacher, it is important for me to get a chance to see how the math standards are layered.

Khan Academy has changed and developed a lot over the past few years. So, instead of just thinking, "oh, yeah... I've heard of Khan Academy." I'd suggest giving it another try. You can now create your own learning account or coach students through a program and see how they are working through their problems and moving from level to level. The coaching aspect that Khan Academy has now is much more exciting than just the videos. So, you have to go back and revisit Khan Academy... you can teach yourself coding, all levels of mathematics, chemistry, biology, organic chemistry even world history and finance! It is definitely a way that you can personalize your teaching/ learning for students as you can see where the student is struggling or advancing.

Desmos is another web app that I think has developed a lot as well. Make your graphs dynamic with interactive sliders, data tables and even challenge your students to replicate or create their own student art! You can do a lot with graphing calculators, plat circles and quadratic formulas, but how do you have them explain what they just did? Here's how: 1) Have students install Chrome Extension "Awesome Screenshot" to take a screen shot of their graphing, 2) Students can save the screenshot on their Google Drive, 3) Import the image they took of their drawing on a Google Doc, and 4) Have students explain on the doc the steps that it took for each of them to work through their problem and solve it with the graph. Students can go back to their Desmos problems to change them if they are incorrect, but it is a good way to have them do the explanation of their work and also integrate writing into the classroom.

Geogebra and it's supplementary video site, Geogebratube, are both great resources. Geogrebra is a construction piece to create three-dimensional or plane shapes. Geogebratube has tutorial videos that could be used just to be a bell-ringer activity, flipped classroom activity or even more!

Socrative is something I have used before, but I recently read a new way to use it in your classroom. First off, create your Socrative account and start creating your quizzes. The quizzes are self-graded and you can use this with iPads or Chromebooks. I have read some teachers use Socrative and have students log in with their device, choose about 5 different problems and have students just answer the problems with their final answer. Socrative self-grades and then you have just a good "check" on how students are progressing. I could see this being used easily for vocab quizzes, quick "check" for reading quizzes or even surveys. It will work well for exit tickets or there is even a feature for "space rocket races" where you could project the results on the board as the students are randomly put in groups and race to the finish.

Here are just a few ideas... for the math classroom. Hope you get a chance to try them out!