Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thing 23: Administrators - Reflecting on Leadership

In education, a plan for success is rooted in the kind of person we want to see when they graduate from our school, our district, our post-secondary institution. Keeping the End in mind, what do our students need to be successful in the next stage of their educational and life journey? Once those qualities are identified, we need to analyze the structures, resources, and people expertise available to ensure that our students achieve those end goals. It takes ongoing reflection on practice by all school stakeholders to identify and provide support so that students become successful.

23 Things for Administrators offers, not necessarily tools--though those are in plenty, rather a look into the culture that is the lifestyle of our students, including the tools they take for granted like those of us who think nothing of a VHS machine, cassette player, refrigerator, or the pre-personal computer era. While there is a diversity, often disparity, of experience and access to resources that are continually expanding and growing--to some--more complex, there is one constant...

Development of a learner's mind is crucial to the individual and society. Growth in critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, communication, and collaboration are the coin for success and survival. While these skills do not require use of technology, it is the social networks, multimedia, and participation in the knowledge explosion that is the world we live in. Classrooms or schools that "close" the door to these realities, are frozen in time, walled out and left behind the common practices and usage in the real "real world."

Leadership, in part then, is about guiding staff to communicate, collaborate, critically reflect, problem solve, create, and innovate ways to let in the world as the students understand so as they might more effectively learn curriculum. The adage applies here: practice makes better skilled. Teachers model to students what they do themselves. As leaders, then how do we model to our administrators and teachers?

Here are some ideas, some in addition, to the tools offered in 23 Things:

  • Back Channel
    Example: Todays Meet
    During instructional talk or video viewing, participants post comments and resource links on a website as a way to allow learning and conversation to be non-linear. It's a back channel to the main conversation. Have you ever been to a session where the speaker sparks an idea or mentions an article or resource? You look for it and then post it along with your thoughts for the benefit of the other participants.
  • Slideshare
    This was addressed in Thing 18. Maintain an electronic portfolio of documents and presentations that tracks progress, thinking, and support for staff. Include resources for conversations. Here's one from a Dell presentation about Connecting students to learning:

  • Pageflakes
    Create your own portal for where information comes to you. Include sites and information you'd like to have your staff get resources. If staffs have their own Pageflake, they could RSS your Blog or Wiki or news sites or school resources. iGoogle is another one that does the same. Here's an example.
  • Google Wave
    This will be a great innovative tool for collaboration and development of resources with all tools at your finger tips. Great for building and district committees. Let's not forget collaborative teams on a state, national, and international level.
Keeping the End in Mind is crucial. Communicating and collaborating in a reflective process around problem solving, creative synergy, and innovation is how we use Web 2.0 to meet the needs to supporting staff who in turn help students develop themselves.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thing 23: Teachers - Reflecting on Practice

I've been thinking a lot about this Web 2.0 journey, and the resources that are available to teachers and students. There is so much to access, which can feel overwhelming with the choices--but using the lens of 21st Century Skills, it's less about knowing what all or most of the tools are out there. The students can help in that area. I'm thinking it's all about how as educators we use and teach 21st Century skills to our students.

Communication and Collaboration come to mind as a vehicle to getting rolling. Learning new ideas and creativity can grow from exchanging ideas and working together to discover new perspectives. I attended a Dell Computers sponsored event where the topic was on how do we support student learning. Consider that this is a Dell event without a sales presentation. Instead, the presenter Adam Garry, who has lengthy experience as an educator and user of instructional technology, facilitated a conversation about what best supports student learning based on the kid culture in the cyberverse: Connected. Participants were encouraged, sometimes prompted, to share their opinions, stories, and resources. By the end of the session, no Dell products were sold, yet Dell as a business that gets the important message that teachers need to focus on academic achievement, and Dell is committed to involve themselves in understanding this focus, and thereby intelligently share how their tools will help academic learning. Engagement is no longer acceptable as "the" reason to have technology. Here's Adam Garry's presentation slides from Connected:

From the presentation, I left with some great instructional tools and a deeper understanding of how kids through their online world connect with learning, collaborate, communicate, create, work independently, problem solve, --oh, and are engaged.

  • Back Channel
    Example: Todays Meet
    During instructional talk or video viewing, participants post comments and resource links on a website as a way to allow learning and conversation to be non-linear. It's a back channel to the main conversation. Have you ever been to a session where the speaker sparks an idea or mentions an article or resource? You look for it and then post it along with your thoughts for the benefit of the other participants.
  • Trailer Mashups
    Create a trailer using snippets of a movie to present it as a different genre. How does this lend itself to study the power of media, changing voice, or organization and details? Many possibilities...
    --Shinning (Classic Horror) presented as a Romantic Comedy

    --Lord of the Rings (Fantasy) using Transformers (Science Fiction)

    --Avatar (Science Fiction) using Pocahontas (History+Disney)

  • Google Features
    Google has a number of tools and features that are best explored than for me to go into a lot of detail. Suffice to say that these tools can lead to assignments that allow students to spend more time with critical thinking and collaboration, because the fact organization is done. Think of the possibilities. Explore at your pleasure:
    Timeline - DipityGeneral - News
  • Wolfram Alpha
    Ever have a student who struggles with understanding a concept. Abstract explanations just do not work. This site takes such ideas as Math concepts and breaks down answers in a way to show the steps and mechanics. Opens possibilities on how to help students understand what their learning, and not just "do it" without lasting comprehension.
  • Pageflakes
    Create your own portal for where information comes to you. Include sites and information you'd like to have your students get resources. If students have their own Pageflake, they could RSS your Blog or Wiki or news sites or school resources. iGoogle is another one that does the same. Here's an example.
  • Google Wave
    This will be a great innovative tool for collaboration and development of resources with all tools at your finger tips. Great for student teams in a classroom, multiple classrooms in the building, across district, across the state, country, or internationally.
These ideas for the classroom were sparked by the opening of doors of RESA 23 Things. 21st Century Skills are necessary for everyone to navigate the constantly expanding realm of information, knowledge creation, and collaboration. Kids and adults are already using the networking tools out there for personal use. How we help students harness the experience and navigate the information flow and creativity is critical to their success...and ours.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thing 22: Admin & Teacher - My Wiki sites

I use PB Works for 2 professional development areas.

  • Leading Project-Based Learning
    This is for a Michigan initiative to develop PBL skills by classroom teachers. I co-developed this site for the facilitation work that a colleague and I do.
  • Differentiated Instruction
    I developed this site based on the extensive work in Wayne County, Michigan, and for use by anyone who is looking for online support in Differentiated Instruction.
Wikis allow for non-linear navigation more easily then Blogs. Although there are blogs like Wordpress that allows you to make pages similar to a website with navigation links. Nings are another way to combine Blogs with non-linear functionality. Blogs are good for sharing ideas and having conversations through the comments option. As 23 Things for Teachers and Administrators are examples of a tutorial build on a blog platform, Wikis are easier to develop for such a purpose. Wikis are not as intuitive for conversations as a Blog or Ning.

So many great choices!

Thing 21: Admin & Teacher - Wiki Exploration

When I first explored wikis, I saw value in having it available, but I did not see purpose in the work I do. What a year a difference makes. Now I have two wikis used for supporting Instructional Practices:

Wiki is a great tool for learning and reflection, or even as a message place, e.g. traditional website. One site that I am constantly referencing as a student site is: Comparing Hemispheres
A school in NY (Northern Hemisphere) and one in New Zealand (Southern Hemisphere) collaborate on science experiments. Students upload their findings so that both groups can compare and analyze the data. Students are active in their learning as scientists. Important note: These are not high school students. Elementary students are doing great complex work.

Another great example of how to develop a learning classroom is:
7th Grade Science
This Michigan classroom offers many opportunities for students to be deeply engaged in complex learning.

I've spent a lot of hours looking at sites that offer free Wikis. Here are four, in order of preference:

  1. PB Works
    This has the second most user friendly advanced functions. Plenty of space and security options, plus for educational classrooms up to 100 accounts that do not require an email address--good for using in elementary classes.
  2. Google Site
    The best set of tools that are user friendly and effective for designing a site. Connection to other Google Apps tools. Has limited storage.
  3. Wikispaces
    Very educational friendly. Lots of storage space. Tools are simple, which is part of the company's mission. It is a great option for anyone looking for a simple and quick way to put up a site. Advanced formating is difficult and limited.
  4. Wet Paint
    This is a social network environment. Easy to create pages. Has a large education community. Two challenges is that each site has a limit of file attachments, making it difficult to have students post assignments and other files. The other challenge for some schools is that it is a social network, with access to other networks through accounts made.

Thing 20: Admin & Teacher - Subscribe to Podcast

Through iTunes there's a podcast called, Writing Excuses. A panel of authors answer questions about craft and publishing. Part time humorous, yet thoughtful on craft. Makes for a great tool to provide students to listen in class or outside of school as a resource or assigned homework. Teachers could benefit from podcasts like this one for building expertise or staying sharp on the craft of writing. If we grow in our skills, we see the nuances for instructing students. I could see linking to a podcast on the blog and facilitating a conversation. Another location is iTunes U. Several college level podcasts on multiple subjects. I, no surprise, have subscribed to several writing topics.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thing 19: Teacher & Admin - Podcasts

Podcasts are another way to get information, which can be played on computers, mp3 players, and in the car. I use iTunes for podcasts for NPR and education sites. There are other places to get podcasts. For example, publishers record interviews by authors to talk about their book and/or issues around them.
Rick Wormeli on Differentiation | Borders Media
I picked these two sites because they illustrate the use for staff development (former) and students' author study (latter). There are many to choose from. That can be a challenge.

Thing 18: Teacher & Admin - Slideshare -- Grade Fog

I'm getting a better handle of Slideshare. It is a useful tool to get resources. Now with Social Networks growing, Slideshare could be a means to network as well as use as a portfolio for current and best work for adults and students.

One area of my work is facilitating educators (administrators and teachers) in reflecting and redefining grading practices. Focus assessments on academic focus and scoring without including non-academic practices into the grade. For example, not taking points off a test or assignment because a student did not write their name on the paper. It's an important organization skill to teach, but taking points off skews what we should know about the student's academic understanding of checks and balances in the U.S. federal government, or demonstrate proficiency in solving long division. Here's something from Slideshare:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thing 17: Admin & Teachers - Online Productivity

Trailfire is an online tool to create a list of related sites such as for Shakespeare, Algebraic Equations, Writer's Craft, Weather, or other. The list can be annotated for directions or explanation of the site's usefulness. Two views are given, one is a slide show-like display where you view each site with a message box of annotated comments, or in a summary view where you see at a glance the site links.

This could be as useful as Delicious in that students and staff can view each site with directions for a task (in case of the students) or explanation of resource (in case of the staff). The slide view enables web site viewing as you read the annotated comments.

Here are two examples:
Students studying Weather
Trail link:

Teachers studying Project-Based Instruction
Trail link:

When setting up such lists, it's important to check for broken links so as to keep the list up to date.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Grade Fog Diaries: What's most important

Sometimes the tendency is to focus on what's broken, when what works can model for what is possible. This was illustrated for me when one of my children got a detention for not completing an assignment on time. Many of the students in Music did not know the song that they'd practiced for several weeks.

The academic focus was that the students must know the song fluently. In some classrooms, a punishment would have been meated out, such as copying the song multiple times or writing lines, like "I will do my homework." The former might help a few students, most may have seen it as a punitive measure rather tan a learning tool. The latter work would have no bearing in helping kids acquire the fundamental goal: Learn the song with fluency. Neither approach actually would provide little hope that the  problem would be solved.

The teacher responded by scheduling extra time for students to practice singing, either in place of recess or after school. This was not optional. With parental input, students picked the slot that allowed the child to give up their free time to address a deficit.

Some might question the teacher's action: "How does this teach responsibility?" Take points off their music grade. That will send a clear and strong message. When we take points off for non-academic reasons, we create grade fog. Whether the penalty is 10%, 10 points, 50%, or a Zero for late work, the resulting score ofuscates data on what students know or don't know regarding the learning outcomes. Now before you shoot the messenger, consider that if a consequence is necessary, it can happen through non-graded means. What do students value the most? Personal time.

Traditional consequences may or may not improve responsibility, but it guarantees that:

  1. The teacher does not know what the student understands about the learning focus, because the work remains incomplete.
  2. Or the student was allowed an easy out if he is not allowed to make up the work to show full knowledge.
The music teacher understood that requiring students to serve a "detention" where the focus would be on practicing the song sent the message: 
  • This work is important and will be completed.  
  • Accomplish work by scheduled timelines, or lose personal time to get the tasks done.
Result: Kids learn the important outcomes, and progress.

Thing 16: Teacher & Admin - Google Docs

Google Docs is a great tool for completing work from any Internet ready tool, and for collaborating on work with others remotely. My kids use Google Docs for their work, which they can access from home and school as needed. It allows for Word docs, Powerpoints, and Spreadsheets. Students work on collaborative projects, while school staff develop and revising work for units and school improvement remotely.

Teachers can have view access of the work of all of their students. Administrators and teacher leaders can have view access of the various committee work, and, yes, throw up a lesson template, and plans can be completed remotely, allowing for "readers" to monitor progress for support. Consider, two or more classes in different buildings (potentially in different countries or continents) could team together and used Google Docs to compile research or finding, and develop learning products.

There are many possibilities...

Thing 15: Admin & Teachers - RSS revisited

RSS is a very helpful tool. Bring the information to me means that I'm more likely to read it. Some places will send email when there is an update, so I'm a click away from reviewing. I think my challenge is that there are several programs to capture the information. I have Google Reader and Bloglines. And doesn't Yahoo have one? Facebook allows you to embed feeds from certain places. As a result I have them in different areas. One key is to consolidate to one place all RSS, and stick with it.

Thing 14: Admin & Teaching - My Bookmarks

 Delicious can be a useful tool for teaching and leading. Making available useful sites for projects, lessons, and professional growth and work resources via a link is a great way to give access anywhere on any Internet browsing device. I've currently used Storywind as a screen name. I can privatize the bookmarks that are not relevant to the professional support I am providing. The tagging is how to be efficient in communicating the kinds of links that my students, peers, or staff should navigate.

Some examples might include:

  • Shakespeare: Links about the bard, or support sites to do literary analysis and critique
  • Multiplication: Links include different tools and strategies to mentor understanding
  • SI (School Improvement): Links provide the tools to complete research and/or planning goals
  • Instruction: Links to various ways to support learning in the classroom.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thing 13: Admin & Teaching - Tagging

Online bookmarking is a useful way to maintain bookmarks in a productive fashion through such sites as Delicious. What makes this useful for my personal use and as an instructional tool is Tagging. The concept of tagging is to assign keywords to bookmarks to categorize them. Traditionally in bookmarking on a computer browser, you set up folders and drop the bookmarks in. I tend to put the same bookmark into different folders based on usage. For example, Amazon is a site I might keep in a Shopping folder and the Education folder. With tagging, I assign the keywords: Shopping and Education. Selecting either keyword gives me a list of sites I have in that category. Students can learn the value of identifying keywords through this meaningful approach, and then use the same thinking when doing online research.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Leader in Me: 7 Habits-based Schools

I've gotten questions about a program by Stephen Covey's organization known as "The Leader In Me" (Book link one, two, and three) The program resonates with me because I use the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in my work as a School Improvement consultant for a county consisting of 34 school districts, plus charter and private schools. I'm always recommending the 7 Habits to staffs during PD work I do as it's an effective way to manage one's personal and professional life. Just as important, the Habits are a way to develop students' voice.

With regard to "The Leader in Me" program, to be honest, I only know what Dr. Stephen Covey and his team said during their talk for Galileo Leaders and Alumni in February. Dr. Covey was inspiring and his executive was thorough in describing the program. Two things moved me to want to explore further this program that has gone national. The first were the videos of students, administrators, and stakeholders from an elementary school, A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary in Raleigh, NC:

2001 Lorimer Road                                       View Videos Here
Raleigh, NC 27606-2661
(919) 233-4300

The second helpful piece was the data the presenters shared about the schools having success. Unfortunately, no handouts on this information was shared, but you can call them at 800-272-6839. Although, I'd suggest calling A.B. Combs. It's something I'm considering.

7 Habits is a great culture building standard to incorporate into curriculum. For example, I volunteered for my kids' school trip to a program called Exchange City. For a day, the students take on adult work roles and manage businesses and municipalities. It was an enriching experience that I'd recommend to any classroom interested in helping kids connect the subject of economics to the adult working world. During the process, some children seemed overwhelmed with the tasked needed to be done. An accountant for one business has responsibilities to input all payments and expenditures, pay bills, and collect payments on certain bills from other businesses. She felt pulled in so many directions that little was accomplished and her frustration grew. "Begin with the End in Mind" and "Put First Things First" would be a great learning experience for all of the students, incorporated into the economics unit. Overall, the children had a positive experience, which could have been further deepened.

Begin with the Leader in Me trains teachers how to embed the 7 Habits into curriculum so that students build them into their lives, and pass on the learning to their family. Check it out, it's worth the exploration.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thing 12 - Admin: Tweeting

I've had a Twitter account for awhile: wb4all. It seems most beneficial to me in terms of some of the organizations and people I follow who focus on posting work-related information. Usually, they give links to articles and resources. An administrator might do the same, to find and share resources with colleagues in their building or district. Or, a resource person might post based on the latest state or federal update that people want to know, such as conferences, licensing, or when the state test results will go public.

Some of the ones I follow are:
David BIE: David Ross is one of the leading thinkers on Project-based Learning. He is part of an organization, Buck Institute, comprised of, not surprising, great people who have an incredible impact on PBL. David's Tweets revolve around sharing quality information in the arena of PBL.

New Tech Network: NTN is a group of schools, nation-wide, who's culture includes following a standards-based Project-Based Learning curriculum. It's one of the quality approaches to school-wide pbl.

New ones that I'm exploring...

Thing 11 - Admin & Thing 12 - Teachers: Widgets

Widgets are useful tools. I like the poll tool. It's a way to get feedback from students, parents, or staff about an issue or idea. Keep a poll open for a couple of days and than review the results. There are some interesting counters. The globe on mine is nice for showing 3D flags of the locations of people currently viewing the site. There are so many interactive tools. The key of course is to use the ones that support your purpose for the blog, or entry.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thing 10 - Admin & 11 - Teachers

Posting on blogs is an important way to think, reflect, and have potential conversations. I find worthwhile the dialogs that are respectful in the midst of disagreement. It is an opportunity to understand another's perspective and, perhaps, grow our own. It's what Stephen Covey describes as Seek to Understand before being Understood and Think Win-Win. In the first, I strive to see the other perspective, which helps me communicate more effectively and show that I am "hearing" the other. The latter is about not one upmanship or "attack" another's view to beat them. Rather it's about finding a place of understanding. From there grows mutual respect.

There are several people who try to model after in terms of how they respond to others in such conversations. Rick Wormeli and Carol Tomlinson. Both do a remarkable job of communicating effectively.

We can help students develop this craft for respectful dialog in discussion and blogging. In their learning, they can impact their families. In modeling, the teachers develop a similar practice when addressing difficult and often passionate issues in school improvement. Administrators can do this by maintaining a positive and constructive attitude in what they blog. Transparent communication is good, and it also can be draining when some responders use hard or harsh language, and speak in absolutes. But it's worth it...

FranklinCovey's The Leader In Me Video Preview: Thoughts on The 7 Habits

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thing 9 for Administrators & 10 for Teachers - video download

Zamzar is a great tool for collecting a video library to use during class instruction and staff meetings without risking that the internet streaming is sticky or stuttery. Zamzar is free. Another tool is Real Audio Player and, my personal favorite, Replay Media Catcher (RMC). RMC is not free, but well worth the purchase price, particularly if you get the Suite version. What's great about RMC is that you can download potential PD and instructional videos immediately and convert into the format of your choice.

Thing 8 for Administrators & 9 for Teachers - Videos

I find videos are an excellent learning tool for students and as PD for staff. Videos can make a point through visuals that text may not always do alone. Student videos now have a forum through Youtube. Adults can develop videos for staff development. Here are some that I find useful...

Thing 8: Teachers - Flickr Montager

Flickr has many tools to use for picture collection. Montager makes for an interesting tool with shaping a picture out of pictures. There's also the Spell With Flickr that I used for the title of this blog.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thing 7: A&T - Photo Sharing: Project Pallooza

Project Pallooza @ MACUL = Huge Success

At MACUL 2010, 24 of the teachers from Leading PBL displayed and talked about the great learning experiences had by their students through Project-Based Learning. The participating teachers showed passion and expertise about their students' learning experiences, and their personal journey to embrace and embed PBL into their practice. Here is a photo gallery of the session through Flickr.

Beginning last June, a cohort of about 80 Michigan teachers learned about standards-focused project-based learning, developed and implemented at least one PBL during the year. The phenomenal results led to MACUL sponsor 2 more years of funding to facilitate another 300 teachers through the program. See results at

Registration for the next Co-hort of 150 Michigan teachers opens now, until April 12, 2010. Check here for details, and registration directions.

On another note...
Flickr is a great tool to display work of students by teachers, and accomplishments of colleagues (as is the case above) by educational leaders. The results serves as an electronic portfolio of accomplishments that can be returned to for review. There are also opportunities to do writing prompts around topics based on the posted picture. Or how might this stream of pictures be used in mathematics?

Thing 6: Teachers & Administrators - Grade Fog

The Edge
Originally uploaded by ~jjjohn~
Working with teachers and administrators about grading and assessment, images help to illustrate that unclear assessments lead to foggy results. This picture reminds me of my drive home from MACUL conference. It was night time and vision was limited on the ill-lit highway. Just for the record, I dealt with rain, not fog, but lack of visibility was the same.

Poorly constructed assessments offers limited views, which can obscure what we really need to know. Just as at times last night, it was difficult to see the road markers on the turns through a mist of rainfall.

Pictures such as this make for a great metaphor that an audience, such as a classroom of students, or a staff in-service, can relate to the image and make personal connections that lead back to the concept. In this case, driving on a foggy road, which many of us have done, is as dangerous as gleaning results from an assessment that doesn't quite assess what it's intended. For example, if a Science test on definitions has points taken off for spelling, it's possible (and likely) that a student could show 100% accuracy on terms but get a B or C because of lost points for misspellings. Or, an administrator evaluates a teacher's performance during Halloween celebrations.

Would you want to navigate that result when explaining to a parent or lawyer?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is Grade Fog

I met with a school staff the other day to facilitate learning and reflection about grading and assessment practices. We started with a sample of student work. The geography assignment asked that students be able to name the Mid-Atlantic states (US).

The student's score was 80%.

I asked the staff, "What does the 80% tell you about the student's knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic states?"

The responses captured were that the student pretty much knew the states with some errors in knowledge of all the states in the category: Mid-Atlantic. This seemed reasonable given the score. I then asked them to look closer at the assignment, review the correction marks where points were taken off, and see if the assessment of the student's knowledge held.

The directions asked students to take the list of states, capitals, and bodies of water and do two tasks.

  1. Label the outlines of states and bodies of water with the correct names, and include the capitals in their corresponding state. All names had a specific color to be written (students used colored pencils).
  2. Shade in each state with an assigned color.
On closer inspection, the staff discovered that the student made all labels correctly. Each state had the correct name, with its capital. The bodies of water were also listed correctly.

While the states were shaded in with the correct color, the labels were all in black pencil, not the assigned colors. Points were taken off for each of the labels that did not have the correct color.

Final score: 80%

If the focus was on students' understanding of the Mid-Atlantic states, this student demonstrated 100% proficiency. If the outcome addressed following directions with color coding, this student showed 80% proficiency. Might have potential confusion been eliminated by listing two assessment scores?

Knowledge of Mid-Atlantic States: 100%
Following Directions regarding color coding: 80% 

Grade Fog is when an assessment becomes unclear due to unclear learning targets. Or when several targets are combined into a single assessment score. It's like taking a grilled glazed salmon, roasted herbed chicken, and a seasoned steak, and mash them together, then conduct a taste test to determine the cook's quality for each of the proteins. 

Classroom assessments are valuable to how a teacher can track learning progress. Clear data allows for strategic interventions where needed. Foggy data conceals who needs help, and in what fashion of intervention or challenge should be provided.

In another instance, a student had on the report card a failing mark for Reading. The exam asked students to complete short answer essay questions based on a novel the class read. Based on the student's written responses, the assessment results appeared accurate. The teacher took the student aside and through an interview, asked the student questions about the novel. The student spoke on the questions with far greater depth than the written responses.

The teacher had realized that for the student, poor writing skills impeded demonstration of understanding. The assessment was on Reading, but writing skills became an obstacle to accuracy of the learning targets.

What grade fog might you find in your work or realm of influence?

Thing 5: Teachers and Administrators - RSS Subscriptions

I'm using Bloglines and Google Reader, yes I actually use both, to follow a couple of educational related blogs, and for personal use, I get a couple of writing/author related sites. I find them very useful, as I've culled the ones that after first blush did not fit the limited time I've set for myself to read feeds. The challenge for me is that if I don't read them for a week, the box fills up fast. The sorting out begins, sometimes taking up my reading time.

But I always read the ones that are important to me, needed for my work or what I'm learning about. I think that's an important point. Make your blog relevant.

Thing 4: Teachers and Administrators - RSS feeds

RSS feeds is a great way to get information without having to seek it out. It's like having a subscription to a magazine or newspaper. Rather than going to the store, the material is dropped, or tossed, at your doorstep. Something to consider is that you can set up an RSS feed link to your blog, which means stakeholders can stay in touch with the classroom teacher (students and parents) and administrators (parents, teachers, and district staff). Consider how a newsletter sent weekly or monthly is not posted on a blog, and the information is automatically dropped into a person's Bloglines or Google Reader account. Announcements, assignments, district related news, and other forms of information can be sent out.

The more we can keep open communications, the more efficient our work, and that of our colleagues and clients, can be.

Check out my RSS link :)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Administrators: Thing Three

As the curators of school culture, building and district administrators can use blogging as a means to foster healthy conversation. Dissent is welcomed, so long as the conversation, on both sides of an issue, is civil. I was drawn in to Kimberly Moritz's blog (Superintendent of a district in Western NY) because of the dialogue that people are invited to do as she shares what's happening in the district, such as the great work by a 7th grade math class in What is a prism? (Check out the student videos), and especially initiatives, which leads to discussions about Resistance to Change. This blog exemplifies the productive power of involving community into curricular thinking.

Teachers: Thing 3

The EduBlogger has a an interesting list of blogs to explore. It also has tools of its own that I found interesting, such as the rss Tweets. That could be great for announcements or an information source to provide like news sites. I was particularly interested in the primary grade sites because it's intriguing to see how younger kids could be included. Some interesting approaches includes Receptions--Room 25@Willunga PrimaryWojtera's Words, and Mrs. McDonald's Blog.

Blogging with students, and for supporting student learning is one way to develop 21st Century skills. Take traditional essays, opinions, and multimedia projects that occur in classrooms, and post them on a classroom blog, or a blog maintained by each student. The conversation opportunities are enormous. Feedback is considered to be one of the top ways to improve student learning ("Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback",Classroom Instruction that Works, Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock). Security can be a concern, except that many blog sites have security tools that, for example, only allow posts by registered users, or users who have been approved or screened by the blogger. Teachers might use a blog to provide information or incorporate activities and resources for students and parents.

Administrators: Thing One and Two

Instructional leaders and Servant Leaders are critical to the progress and success of learning institutions. Whether school culture is top down, bottom up, or flattened, the work begins with the leader who is responsible for the caretaking of the culture, and progress of mission and school improvement. Web 2+ tools are pervasive in the lives of students, outside the school doors. Bringing those tools in, as 23 Things would show, can dramatically impact learning and instructional practices.

21st Century Skills are critical for students to develop. For this to happen, school staff need to master the same skills set. Incoming new teachers do come with a technology skills set, and perhaps including Web 2+ tools. But the culture of schools tend to be early 20th Century institutions where collaboration and communication among staff and the global society is in its infancy. How can we as leaders build a 21st Century skills based culture? Part of the answer is to model and walk the walk. 23 Things will provide some answers.

Blogs can be an effective tool for adult learning. 23 Things is an obvious example. As a leader of a writer's group, I developed a writer's version of 23 things, modeled from 23 Things for Teachers. As school leaders, the same can be done for staff, developed alone, or better yet, collaboratively with school improvement or other teams. I look forward to seeing more of how 23 Things can be used by administrators.

Teachers: Thing 1 and 2

21st Century skills are crucial today. Collaboration and communication skills are honed by practice within the global society. Students generally use the technology tools with intuitive efficiency and understanding outside of school. Harnessing those skills in academic curriculum would seem liberating for instruction. The video Pay Attention is excellent. It continues to be required viewing for anyone with doubts about why technology is important to developing 21st Century skills. Another video that goes to the heart of instructional needs is: A Vision of K-12 Students Today

When I last explored these concepts, it was as freshman exploring a new world. Now as a wise-fool (sophomore), I'm looking for the layers. 21st Century skills are the venue through which technology (Web 2+) can be efficiently integrated into teaching and learning.

Thing Two (reprise)
When I first started this blog, I wasn't sure where it would go

Now, the focus is rooted in exploring concepts and ideas about education. Why? To ask questions and make decisions through the filter of "What's best for all..." learners. I'm exploring other blog ideas. Yet I find staying consistent with this one is about all the real demand I can maintain for the moment.

Monday, March 1, 2010

23 Things for Teachers and 23 Things for Administrators

Learning is in part a cyclical process. I will be reengaging 23 Things for Teachers to analyze, what I hope to discover, that my understanding has deepened from a year ago. Also, I want to support my colleagues as we dialogue on supporting 21st Century Skills that students need to develop and refine. 23 Things for Administrators is an opportunity to study the nuances for how Web 2.0, and by extension 21st Century Skills, can be used to support their work as leaders. For administrators who live up to or aspire to become Instructional Leaders, or Servant Leaders, to foster growth in their staff, Web 2.0 tools are means to forward student learning-centered agendas.

I will continue to post about educational contexts, other than Web 2.0 tools. The vision is not abandoned or remotely set aside. While we strive for What's Best for All, this forum will continue to further that cause.