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Here’s something that I use in digital storytelling sessions I do as an example of a script, and I think its appropriate for posting tonight, given the State of the Union Address, and all the comments by all the Twitter “experts.”  The United States isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but if you live here, well, consider yourself very lucky.  

From PBS, captured from one of their commercials many years ago.  It’s the best I can do with the citation, with apologies in advance to Stephen Downes.


America’s Story

Welcome to a place that is always just beginning.

That rouses itself day to day, and year to year…

To admire what it’s made, starting with nothing.

Then rushes to invent itself all over again.

Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.

Knowing what goes on now goes on to shape tomorrow.

Welcome to a land that is never exactly what you think it is…

And will never stay that way for very long.

There are a million stories in the streets of the cities that we never finish building…

And we intend to tell them all…

 


 

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Let’s say you have a buck’s worth of change in your pocket.  $1.00.

No more, no less.

You can spend that change on educational change.  Remember, you don’t have deep pockets, you have a buck.

Everyone reading this knows schools today in the U.S. are mandated to change.  Not because they want to change necessarily, and not because it’s probably in their best interest to do so.  Failing schools, as identified by NCLB and AYP, have to make changes.  It’s the law in the U.S.

You can tell me how stupid that is and I will agree to a degree.  But as a school administrator, I’m responsible to our school community to make sure the school does what’s required.  

Change in a school requires energy, and it is in finite supplies, just like that change in your pocket.

So you can spend 35 cents on reform associated with NCLB.

You can spend 45 cents on the new 800 lb. gorilla in the room, RtI.  

If you don’ know about Response to Intervention, which we are mandated to address, go Google it.  Be the vaunted self-learner everyone talks about.

It’s going to swallow schools and consume their efforts.

You have 20 cents left.  Better spend wisely.  Or maybe, you know what, maybe you keep that 20 cents.  The change ends here, you say.

Schools spend tremendous amounts of energy just responding to the legal mandates that they face.  It requires a tremendous supply of energy, energy that is limited and becoming more scarce by the minute.

If you face these initiatives, you don’t really worry about Facebook, you don’t worry about social media, you don’t worry about the “conversation,” and you certainly could care less about a disjointed, abstract set of tweets on a Tuesday night in Twitter, all centered around a hashtag.

You don’t even have time for  listening to presentations from a “reform” conference.  That’s on a Saturday, and I think I’ll spend it with my family, thank you very much.  I already know about social bookmarking.

The mandates are real and you have to respond, and you have to respond in a sensible way.  If you don’t, you’ll burn out your teachers, your department chairs, and your administrators.  Wise schools find solid ways to do this, but no matter how strong your school is, you have some serious thinking to do.  You have actionable steps to develop and implement and evaluate.

So, what about technology?  For most in the educational world, technology, and understanding its application to learning, and how it might support the learning required to effectively change schools, begins to drift away.  In many schools, technology is now for data collection and analysis of testing data, data that provides the raw material for the mandated changes of AYP and RtI.  Leaders look at calls for opening up Facebook and Twitter, and using social media, and that call is met with incredulous stares, and you know what, rightfully so.  There’s some serious work to do, no choice in the matter, and that just doesn’t cut it.  Sorry, it doesn’t.

And so you see new resources emerge, most recently Mike Schmoker’s new book, Focus.

What a great title. Brilliant. Consider that title carefully, and the message that it sends…

From the book:

“What is “essential” for schools? Three simple things: reasonably coherent curriculum (what we teach); sound lessons (how we teach); and far more purposeful reading and writing in every discipline, or authentic literacy (integral to both what and how we teach).”

Here’s more:

“The status quo has to change. We insult and frustrate our teachers and leaders when we keep asking them to adopt complex, confusing new initiatives and programs that can’t possibly succeed in the absence of decent curriculum, lessons, and literacy activities. These constitute the indisputable—if age-old—core of effective practice, and of education itself.”

Pushback against bright shiny objects?  You bet it is.  

And its being distributed by ASCD, and that means just about every principal and superintendant in the US will see it, or at the very least, someone on the leadership team of every school will have a copy.

I’m betting that this book, given the current climate in the U.S, will offer the roadmap. I’m betting most schools will say:  ”Yeah, that makes sense.  That’s how we will move forward, by focusing on those three things.”

And they’ll spend that last 20 cents.

 

 

 

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I'm a big fan of whiteboard space.  Draw, write, and show me your ideas.

I'm also a big fan of agile, reconfigurable spaces that can be used for multiple learning opportunities.

So when I saw these, I was hooked.

Small rolling whiteboards…

Notice they have two wheels on one end, one on another.  This is so they can slip between two tables-if you had double wheels on both ends, the table legs would block the whiteboard from slipping between two tables.  Ingenious.

The tray is magnetic so it can be placed anywhere on the whiteboard.

The edges are magnetic so multiple boards can be "stuck" together in a line, perhaps to define learning space in a way you haven't thought of.

Better yet, get a bunch and see what the kids do with them.  

Let them define their own space, in their own way, for their own learning.

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Technology Tuesday’s.

These are, evidently, events held on a Tuesday, where teachers learn some form of technology.

Technology Tuesday’s are only upstaged by the infamous “Lunch and Learns.”

Really?

Why just Tuesday, and why just lunch?  And I get that whoever plans these events are trying for a catchy title.

Well, it just doesn’t work.  At least for me.

Is this where you really want your professional learning programs going?  Relegated to going and getting your lunch, then finding some lab, choking down lunch, while at the same time trying to learn something?

Who does that?  And why would anyone think that is good?

Where is the real time in your school for professional learning?  Where is the leadership that provides serious, dedicated time for the professional growth opportunities that help teachers get better, while at the same time, helps a school move down an intentional path of improvement?

You don’t just get that on a Tuesday.

You don’t get that with meatloaf.  

 

 

 

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If you are interested in the design of learning spaces, both formal and informal, please consider attending The International Society for Technology in Education, Virtual Summit on Learning Space Design for PreK-12 Schools.  You are welcome to attend all or part of the Summit, which is free.  The pdf file contains all the necessary information.  Hope to see you there!

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As an educator with 24 years of experience, I can honestly say that schools aren’t a great deal different than they were when I first started teaching.

One significant difference is that we have the opportunity to be hyperconnected via technology.   And being connected means exposure to new ideas, new people and new conversations.

Conversations…hmmm.

Much is made about the role of conversation in the change process.  We now have 140 character conversations that occur in Twitter, conversations that occur via blogging, and the new trends of conversational conferences, unconferences, cafes, you name, we have it at our disposal, much of it always-on, always available.

But it just doesn’t really mean that much when you are talking school-based systemic change.  Yeah, its cool and friendly and sexy to engage in these conversations, meet the people face-to-face and give them a hug, it might even be…well, amazing.  Yet, having these types of conversations are exactly why schools have never really changed-we just talk about it, we never really do it.

Of course, there are a number of impediments to change in schools, which if I listed them here wouldn’t make me a lot of friends.  Let’s just say that there are obstacles which we haven’t dealt with very well.

Continually talking about the need for change isn’t helping.  At some point you have to do it what you are advocating for.  How exactly does that get done?

Online and face to face conversations at conferences/unconferences/Eluminate sessions/Webinars are for sharing ideas.  People get their ideas challenged, they have a chance to reflect and change their direction if they deem it appropriate.  Perhaps the conversation serves to reinforce the validity a person’s belief, which is good. Nothing wrong with that, but its individualistic.

But how does that exactly contribute to school-based systemic change?  That’s what I’m interested in.  Everyone going together in an identified direction, all pulling together, and believing that that place is the place.

I get that the person can bring the conversation into their schools.

But the more critical conversation begins locally, and not in 140 characters.  Not at conferences.  Not online.  It occurs as a discussion among school community members about what they want their schools to be.  Plain and simple.  It needs to be an organized process with contributions from all stakeholders.  Doing that can root conversation as an essential element in the sequence required to change schools.  Expecting that a set of conversations that occur outside of the climate and culture of a school will have a significant impact on change is a simplistic at best.

What’s first?  Engaging in these endless conversations online, and then bringing some of it in to a discussion?  Or is it simply putting heads together in a school and just talking through it.  Perhaps many of you are saying that it doesn’t have to be necessarily either or.  Maybe so, but maybe not.

Talk about education.  Talk about your kids and what skills they need.  Talk about your school.  Educators are smart people.  We know what to do.  Change is about leadership, not conversation.

Having endless conversations online, and thinking that the online conversation is required in order to change or start the change process in a school won’t get you anywhere.  Instead, roll up your sleeves with your colleagues and have the difficult conversations face to face.  Sure, bring some ideas from the never-ending, feel-good stream of educational consciousness, but talk and discuss and share with your colleagues while using the climate and culture of your school as a foundation for that discussion.

Simply stated, change begins at home.

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Game Changer.

Something, for some reason or reasons, changes the intended course of something else.

“The Apple iPad is a game changer.”

No.

It’s not.

A game changer is when every kid in America shows up at school with a proper breakfast…

A game changer is when every school in America has the funding it needs…

A game changer is when schools are de-shackled from the bad laws of politicians…

A game changer is when we rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of schools, and have places to learn that reflect the kind of country we are, the kind of country we expect to be…

A game changer is when we have equity and consistency of educational opportunities in America…

A game changer is when communities place schools as their absolute number one non-negotiable priority…

A game changer is when every parent is vested in the daily activities of their sons and daughters…

A game changer is when teachers stand up and refuse to accept mediocrity among their ranks because what they do is too damn important not to…

A game changer is when education attracts the best, the brightest, the most committed and dedicated to the education profession…

A game changer is where every group, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity has a place in schools and that diversity is understood, accepted, celebrated and used as a source of unified strength…

A game changer is when every kid, every teacher feels safe in the place where they teach and learn…

My suggestion:  choose when to use those two words very carefully.

Why don’t you add your “game changers” to the comments?

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If you are a teacher, are you a facilitator?

Facilitator?

This is generally still the first word out of teacher’s mouths when they talk about the changing nature of the role of a teacher.  I’ve always hated it, it’s as bad as…shudder…”guide on the side.”

Labeling yourself, speaking of yourself, as a facilitator weakens and devalues what a teacher is and does.  You’re a facilitator of what exactly?  You facilitate learning?

Stop it.

And don’t think I’m gonna let you off the hook by labeling yourself as a “co-learner” either.  Stand up and try that a parent openhouse…”I will be a co-learner of algebra with along with all of your kids.”

Really?

If I’m a parent (and remember, they pay your salary) I want a professional teacher.  I want you to teach my kids algebra, not facilitate it.  Do what you have to, but have enough respect for your profession to be proud that you are a teacher, and all that brings.

Don’t facilitate.  Don’t label yourself as a co-learner.  While romantic and trendy, do one thing.

Be a teacher.

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I’ve been intrigued with learning spaces for awhile, especially in regards to the development of digital components that support and extend the physical experience of our schools.  To me, the consideration of how space is used in the learning process is perhaps the most forgotten element of instructional design.  One size space does not fit all, however most of our schools, designed in an era of where classrooms were the sole place for learning, assume that learning takes place in rows with individual desks, and only there.  There is much more to consider now, and truly effective schools, and their teachers, need to consider how their legacy spaces can be modified, altered, and re-created to provide a more multidimensional type of physical support system for learning.  This emphasis towards new thinking regarding space should also be applied to the creation of digital spaces for learning.  All of us are fortunate that the emergence of connective technologies provide a fresh slate for design, and one that can be created to support the development of key skills that support the development of a shifting notion of what it means to be literate in 2010 and beyond.

My Educon session, entitled “On the Development of Learning Spaces” will challenge co-conversationalists to rethink space.  You can read about it here on the Educon site.  If you are interested, and even if you are not attending Educon, I would hope that my session resources (I think some of my best work) are of value to you.  For those of you attending virtually, I think they will help you follow and contribute to the conversation.  The resources provide an overview of my challenge to participants, a flow for the conversation, and resources targeting learning spaces and also literacy.  I finish with some questions to stimulate your thinking regarding learning spaces.

I hope to see you there on Sunday…

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googlenearme.jpeg

via readwriteweb.com

Google has released Near Me Now, access it through Google on your browser under Local. Very cool…Google continues to penetrate everything we do. But we always have the choice, don’t we.. It’s called the ON-OFF switch.

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