Retooling Principal Ed Programs

Almost a month ago edtech administration guru Scott McLeod posted a request (How would you revise principal preparation?) for ideas about rethinking university graduate programs for school administrators. The comments continue to come in.

At the point that I was directed to his post, there were already a number of thoughtful and comprehensive ideas, so I decided to add a few less conventional or down right outlandish ones. I later dumped my comment into 2¢ Worth as a draft, thinking it might, at some point, be of interest to you.

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I arrived home yesterday, from the School Librarians’ Association of WNY conference, to my copy of What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Meda — by Scott McLeod & Chris Lehmann (editors).  What a treasure trove, with articles by Kristin Hokanson, Christian Long, Stephanie Sandifer, Vicki Davis, Steve Dembo, Wesley Fryer, Will Richardson, Karl Fisch, Mathew Needleman, Michael Barbour, Richard Ferdig, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Chris Lehmann, Pamela Livingston, Tom Hoffman, John Rice, Dean Shareski, Mary Beth Hertz, Carl Anderson, Richard Byrne, Scott Floyd, Miguel Guhlin, Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson, Diana Laufenberg, Mark Wagner, Alec Couros, Kevin Jarret, Kimberly Cofino, David Jakes, Liz Kolb, Sharon Tonner, Ewan McIntosh, Jeff Utecht, and Afterward by Christopher Sessums.

With that out, I thought I’d go ahead and post the suggestions that I added to McLeod’s conversation.

  • Make them read and talk about some selected science fiction books. School leaders need to think and make decisions with the next 10, 20 and 50 years in mind. Some of the writings of Cory Doctorow and William Gibson come to mind. “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurtzweil might be a good one. I’m sure there are others.
  • I would suggest that community-building and culture-crafting are two essential skills for school principals. You might figure out a way to include some sort of field trip, possibly virtual, to schools that are exemplary in terms of community and culture and engage future principals in conversations about those schools, including in those conversations the schools’ practicing principals and vice-principals, teachers, and students. Future principal might be sent out with microphones and cameras (or iPads) to those schools to create multimedia tours that would be used by future classes.
  • Require them to research and then design a new school library, retrofit an old building for digital learning, design a brand new school.
  • They should be able to describe their ideal school, the characteristics of its staff and then create a list of questions to ask prospective employees during interviews that would identify new staff.
  • Future principals involved in internships would be required to maintain a blog where they describe their experiences, learnings, and insights — understanding that their blogs may become part of the departments growing curriculum. Various blog entries would be selected and featured for current and future students’ considerations and conversations.
  • Much of this would be supported by a learning network of practicing educators that is cultivated by the department’s faculty. Educators who are in the program would also, as part of the program, cultivate their own learning networks that could be described and evaluated, and that would support them in their university work and be carried with them into their careers as administrators.

Steve Jobs – A Great Idea

There is much that can be said about Steven Jobs. I would like to simply say that he was a man of great ideas and the skills to make them happen.

During the creation of the original Macintosh, he told the designers that he wanted a computer that was as easy to operate as a telephone. It seems proper that last night I learned about the passing of Steve Jobs from a telephone that he turned into a computer.

I was especially moved by President Obama’s statement. He said that,

Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.

I hate to be so crude as to inject politics into this time of mourning, but if the President truly values the qualities he attributed to Steve Jobs, then he will do what he can, fire who he needs to, hire who he needs, to turn our classrooms into places where teachers are less often prompted to say,

“That’s the right answer!”

and more often hear themselves saying,

“That’s a great idea!”

– Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad

Reflections on TEDxLondon: The Education Revolution

As I said in my previous post about TEDxLondon, I spent Saturday listening to and watching sixteen thinkers and doers talk about an education revolution. Their talks were divided into three parts:

  • What’s Wrong?
  • What’s Right?
  • What’s Next?
It was a metaphor for teaching and learning in today’s information landscape.

I’ll say here and first that one of the aspects of this education-oriented TEDx that impressed me was that the presenters were not all educators talking about the same thing’s they’d be talking about at an education conference. Their ideas were mostly sideways tilted, thought-provoking, and brain tickling, and typically lasted for less than ten minutes.

It started with an orienting talk from Sir Ken Robinson, videoconferenced in from his new home — Los Angeles. In that talk he said that the fundamental reasons for education were Economic (grow/sustain economy), Cultural (awareness of one’s own culture and that of others), and Personal (self-knowledge: who am I? What are my talents and aspirations? What is my future?). He said that going back to the basics means a renewed focus on these three fundamentals, not the 3Rs. Supporting this idea, a following speaker shared an African proverb that was new to me.

Unless we continue to initiate our (children) into the village, they will burn it down just to feel the heat.

Another statement that prompted my note taking was Dan Roberts, “Technology is not a new tool for learning. It’s a whole new way of learning.” it’s one of those ideas that’s a no-brainer for many of us, yet not understanding this one very simple concept is proving to be a huge barrier to transforming education. Roberts went on to say (my paraphrasing) that education will be irrelevant unless we pay attention to how kids live and learn outside the classroom and carry that into our more formal learning environment. It’s not a simple task and there is still much that we do not know about their ‘native’ learning experiences.

This was illustrated by Nick Stanhopes’ Historypin (vid).  It is probably my background as a history teacher, but this one sizzled my brain. Stanhopes said, “Every spot on the planet has an amazing column of history running out behind it,” and much of that history is recorded in photographs.

Historypin aligns collected and submitted photographs, with their stories, to a map and to current street views of specific locations. When a learner can see the image of a historic event, or even more subtle local occurrences, overlaying the spot as it is now, then history comes alive, because it gets connected.  It’s about context.

Within context, questions come, and isn’t that where you want learners to be — asking questions.  Ewan McIntosh gave a brilliantly talk about the power of questions and problems.  He said that questions are incredibly important, and that we need to do everything we can to make sure that children keep asking them.

What really wrinkled my brain was an entertaining demonstration of interactive electronic music by Tim Exile.  As he talked, he would capture the audio of various phrases, and then replay them as music with pitch, reverb, and rhythm — twisting, turning, and tapping at a wild array of electronic devices.

Then he introduced an online real time community where members uploaded sound files, and he mixed them in, creating an almost organic stew of “music.”  It was a metaphor for teaching and learning in today’s information landscape.

There was so much more that I could comment on, but the question arises, what is the education revolution?

The education revolution

  1. ..is not about new tools. It’s a new approach to learning and teaching
  2. ..does not separate knowledge, it layers knowledge
  3. The Education Revolution is understanding that learning happens best within a context that is real, has color and flavor, and provokes new questions.
  4. ..is alchemy.  It is resourcefully, inventively, and responsibly mixing information; boiling it into new knowledge, new action, new relationships, and into richer personal identities, cultural understandings, and greater opportunities.

What would you add?

Backchannel Transcript for TEDxLondon

I spent a good part of yesterday with a front row seat at the TEDxLondon event held in the acclaimed Roundhouse. But mostly I was in my office, running the livestream through my MacBook air and Tweeting quotes and reflections to my nearly 14 followers on Twitter.

A while back I tinkered around with the code of my personal backchannel tool, Knitter Chat, so that it could capture colearners tagged Twitter posts as well as the audience members’ Knitter postings. Just before TEDxLondon started, I crawled into the code and reset it to capture anything tagged with #TEDxLondon between 14:00 and 20:35 London time — and it worked, for the most part.

Anyway, I’ve been reworking the code on Knitter to handle the volume and export it into Wikispaces, a much more sophisticated wiki service than the PMWiki server that I run. I concluded this morning that neither Wikispaces nor a couple of other high-end community editing tools could handle files of such size, even when divided into three parts for the three sessions. So I went back to my PMWiki server — the one that I use for the backchannel transcripts for my presentations and keynotes.

So here are links to the three sessions. You can edit and insert text if you are not intimidated by the coding. There is a guide at the bottom of the page, if you choose to click edit and enter the password (teacher).

Very Educational!

  1. Session 1: What’s Wrong?
  2. Session 2: What’s Right?
  3. Session 3: What’s Next?

I also uploaded Wordle word clouds from the three sessions, What’s Wrong?, What’s Right? and What’s Next?

More reflections will likely follow!

The EducationRevolution – What’s the Difference

What are the contributing factors for success? It’s a huge question for any institution that seeks to improve itself. For us, in education, much is said about the critical importance of the teacher – but also for technology, class size, economic advantages, school size, etc. Studies show one thing and then new studies show something else.

The other day I was listening to a New York Times podcast, and the speaker was interviewing Patricia Cohen, the Arts Beat blogger for the newspaper. Cohen was asked about a post she had just written, Angst Before High School, discussing a working paper by Roland G. Fryer of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard and Will Dobbie, a predoctoral research fellow.

The paper (Exam High Schools and Academic Achievement: Evidence from New York City) examines the academic impact of selective (exams-based) high schools.  They looked at New York’s Brooklyn Technical High School, the Bronx High School of Science, and Stuyvesant High School and specifically the students whose entrance score were close to the cutoff point.  They wanted to compare students whose score were close together, some barely making it into “an environment of high achievers, more advanced coursework and higher expectations,” and some just barely missing out and attending a regular public high school.  These were talented students with similar ability and achievement but, assumedly, attending dramatically different high schools.

Their findings?

..the impact of attending an exam school on college enrollment or graduation is, if anything, negative. There is also little impact of attending an exam school on SAT reading and writing scores, and, at best, a modest positive impact on SAT math scores. ((Dobbie, Will, & Fryer, R. G. (2011). Exam high schools and academic achievement: evidence from new york city. Informally published manuscript, Education Innovation Laboratory, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/MvGql))

There results were consistent across genders, baseline state test scores and type of middle school.

Now there is much that these conclusions do not explain and there are many ways to explain the findings.  But Cohen said something during the interview that struck me and my world view as true.  She said that (and I paraphrase)

The motivated, talented, interested student is going to do well, no matter what school.

The Student who cares.

Sir Ken Robinson, Ewan MacIntosh, and others will be talking later on today at TEDxLondon, The Education Revolution and I plan to watch and Tweet it.  It is my own humble opinion, though, that any revolutionary school must be a place that inspires students to creatively cultivate skills; to resourcefully seek out, gather, and grow knowledge; and to care about it.

You see, I worry for those students of similar talent who, for any of a number of reasons, do not care, may not graduate, will not continue their education, will continue their lives as failures and the cost to them — and to us — of their wasted talents.

 

 

 

Maybe I’ve been Thinking Wrongly

From the Edudemic article

This is one of those ideas (confessions) that simply can’t be compressed to 140 characters.  I tried.

I ran across this Edudemic article yesterday, “An Incredible Way to Teach Music Using iPads in the Classroom,” and upon simply glancing through the pictures, a realization flashed in front of me.

I have been reluctant to share the ecstatic delight that many have expressed about iPads and the classroom.  It’s partly a sense of skepticism that I am convinced comes with age.  I would also admit that part of it might be my own investment in information and communication technologies that have become less emblematic of the digital networked world.  When did you buy your last tower computer.

Perhaps my problem is that

I’ve been comparing iPads to laptops — when I should be comparing them to pencils and papers.

Neil Johnston, in the accompanying video says that, “The great thing about the iPad is that it is so creative — Its user interface doesn’t impede progress!”  It’s an interesting statement that I’ll have to noodle a bit.  I simply need to remind myself that regardless of the surprising and celebrated increase in access to contemporary information tools in our classrooms, a vast majority of children are still trying to learn by reading stamped content and by scratching their knowledge out on paper.

The stated goal of Neil’s company, Store Van Music, is to, “..put a stop to the 80% dropout rate of students in the musical arts.”

Applause!

Visit to the Museum

A picture of Mona Lisa rendered with spools of thread and scene through a crystal ball

It might sound more like the truth to say the Brenda got me out of my office yesterday for a visit to the museum, but it was actually my idea. The North Carolina Museum of Art has recently moved into a new building. I would love to say that it is a beautiful structure, but my most honest observation is that that it’s strange and interesting — which is often what I say about art that I like.

I’ve come to see art museums differently since some folks I met at a conference took me to a an art museum in Shanghai for a visiting collection from Europe. Three things struck me anew as I looked at those works, painted hundreds of years ago. First, I suspect that locals as they saw these works back then, must have been in awe. Pictures were probably not very common and the skill of rendering them may have seemed magical.

Secondly, I am fascinated much of the art that I see up close, because it’s like going back in time. You are looking at a scene through the eyes of someone who is there. You see that this is what they thought of themselves, not what historians think of them. I guess the history teacher in me would call it primary source documents.  But it’s a lot more organic and immediate than that.

Finally, I am astounded at the cleverness of their world, their houses, farms, towns, cities… They probably weren’t up to code, but I suspect that their houses were constant works in progress. They needed an extra room, and the found a way to add it, even if it meant digging it into a hillside.

The two biggest differences that I see between my world and the ones I saw through the eyes of those artists yesterday is that they lived without electricity and we’re living without large animals among us. 😉

– Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad

New Design to Citation Machine

You’ve noticed, no doubt, that I made some changes to the design of Citation Machine. My intent was to make the changes as minor as possible while making its operation as simple as possible. I realize now, after many e-mail queries and complaints that although I maintain that the design is simpler, I have also changed the process a little more extensively than I’d assumed.

So here, I’d like to post some of the questions I’ve gotten and the answers I have returned. This may be viewed as something of an FAQ for Citation Machine (next number up).

  1. For the APA format does not show options such as printed book, non print magazine article etc
  2. One of the goals of the new CM design is to simplify its operation. Therefore, I have combined print and non-print. When you select APA Journal, there is a place to enter a Web URL or digital object identifier. If the document is print, then those textboxes are left blank, and the citation is formatted as print. If a URL or DOI is entered, it indicates a digital or some other type of non-print document, and the citation reflects a non-print source. The result is that the list of sources to select from is shorter – by half.

  3. There is no resource list for me to click ! Just some silly memory of my recent usages. Who cares?
  4. I’ve gotten quite a few similar notes, but when seen how the new design actually works, people are fairly pleased. My goal is simplifying the usage, specifically cutting down on the amount of scrolling you had to do previously in order to find the source you want to cite.

    Today, the styles are at the top. You simply click the tab for APA, and a source panel appears. Click the source you want, and it will remain in your “Recently Cited” tab on the left.

 

We Don’t Trust What We Can’t See…

The other day I featured an infographic on IGad (InfoGrapthic-a-Day) that illustrated the declining or less than satisfactory level of confidence that the American public has in it’s education system. This was probably not an appropriate graphic to share on what was, for many, their first day back to school. But hey, what do we have to be exuberant about in the world of education today, besides the intrinsic joys and rewards of teaching — and having a job teaching. So I posted this GOOD.is graphic because I think it’s conversation needs starting.

At the top of the graphic is a not quite so striking decline in confidence since 1977 — 54% then to 38% today. Of course, we understand that this is merely a symptom of things going on that are much deeper and broader than what’s happening in real classrooms. What I found most interesting with this part of the graphic was that the decline was not steady. I dumped the data into one of my favorite graphing tools, OmniGraphSketcher, and produced the line graph at the right. It would be interesting to correlate the rather dramatic ups and downs of confidence levels with what was going on outside of our classrooms — the stories that were being told by people who had influence to gain by telling those stories.

What I found most interesting about the entire graphic was the portion that compared confidence values for other institutions, ranging from the military, with a confidence rate of 78%, down to, well, need I say, congress, with only 12% expressing confidence. ..and where did they find them?

Looking at the ranking on the right, I see an interesting, though blurry difference between the institutions earning more than 40% confidence, and the ones getting less. The military protects us and we feel it. The threat of terrorism is on our minds. We walk into small businesses everyday and we encounter the police, our churches and doctors every week — or there is a potential of encountering them.

On the other hand, most of us have very little direct weekly experience with the inner workings of our courts, schools, criminal justice system, newspapers, banks and congress. It is worth noting that Americans experience a significantly greater likelihood of being in jail, prison, or on probation or parole than we do of graduating from high school this year. ((“Total Correctional Population.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice, 7 Sep 2011. Web. 7 Sep 2011.)) ((“Fast Facts.” National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. Education Department, n.d. Web. 7 Sep 2011.))

Admittedly, there is a lot of gray space in this distinction. But my point is this. People will be less confident in something that they do not see regularly, or they can be more easily be dissuaded of their confidence by political spin. We’ve got to do a better job of inviting the public into our schools. We’ve got to sell them on “21st Century Learning” by showing it to them. We’ve got to inspire confidence by making people wish they could go back to high school. We need to ask ourselves the question, “How do we inspire confidence?

Data? ..or Performance?”

Games and Rules

When I was young I played baseball and football (wasn’t fast enough for basketball and couldn’t jump with a flip). Soccer hadn’t arrived in small town America yet, and rugby was just another word for football, we thought — and we didn’t even know that football was just another word for soccer. But I digress.

I played these two sports. I knew their rules and developed skills based on those rules — and played them for years. We also played Checkers, Go Fish, and hours and hours of Monopoly. We learned the rules and played the same rules for the duration of our childhoods. The rules didn’t change.

Fast forward to my children, the millennials. My son was telling me about a brand new video game he’s purchased. It is another immersive world game with its own set of rules, goals and game dynamics. This particular game is a sequel to another game whose rules he can only deduce since he’s never played it.

My point is this. I and my generation grew up playing a highly defined and culture-defining set of games, whose rules stayed constant and stayed with us. My children’s generation is growing up constantly learning new games, learning new rules, and achieving new goals. If this observation is correct, what are the implications. Does this contribute to some of the uniquenesses of this generation, both good and bad.

And I wonder if having to constantly cultivate new leaning schemes and communities to adjust to new information environments is exactly the kind of childhood necessary for inheriting a rapidly changing world.