Friday, September 21, 2012

I Am Not A Twit

Originally posted on my work blog http://techintegrationblog.blogspot.com/

Some basic resources for effectively using twitter as a teacher.

http://twitter.pbworks.com/w/page/1779796/FrontPage
A wiki to introduce people to twitter. Yes, you can tweet all about your boring breakfast (and worse) but if you would also like to get past that you can.


http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com/w/page/22554534/FrontPage
A wiki specifically for teachers to learn about using twitter in education.

The real question is:

Why would I bother using twitter as a teacher?

It does make one wonder. This Internet time suck used by celebrities and sports stars, how can it possibly be an effective tool for a serious endeavour like teaching?  

That is the beauty of twitter, you make of it what you want or need. Twitter, along with many other similar social media sites (Google +, Facebook, “yes, facebook”, pinterest, scoop it, etc...), has the ability to connect like minded people. Imagine if you will the teachers lounge, except the other teachers don’t know your students. All they can do is respond to questions with best practice advice, what I did in similar situation, what worked for me.

Twitter in this case has suddenly become what they call a Professional Learning Network as described in “The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age” by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall.

Professional Learning Networks are about individuals gathering information and sharing resources that enhance their personal and professional learning.

That’s great if I want to spend my evenings with teacher talk. Is it possible to be a bit more formal with our professional development?

As a personal learning resource use one of the links up top to find thousands of quality teachers to follow then check in once a day to see if there is anything interesting. Of course going through thousands of tweets is time consuming. We can sort through all of that by getting out daily twitter paper delivered right to our laptop.

http://paper.li/dendari
Paper.li collects all the links and articles referenced in my twitter stream and  organizes them in a newspaper format based on how often they were tweeted out.

Still that isn’t formal learning. It isn’t professional development.

Social media is about connecting like minded people. Twitter and other media are great places to begin, to get ideas, but they are also great places to meet and connect while working as a more formal group. Below are a list of great weekly teacher meetings held on twitter.

General chates
#ntchat - New teacher chat - learn or mentor - http://newteacherchat.wikispaces.com/
#edchat - The grandaddy of them all a general education chat - http://edchat.pbworks.com/w/page/219908/FrontPage
#cpchat - connected principal chat - http://cpchat.org/
#spedchat - Special Education chat - https://spedchat.wikispaces.com/
Subjects
#sschat - Social Studies -http://sschat.ning.com/
#musiced - Music
#scichat  -Science

There are hundreds more find and learn about them here

Spending an hour once a week chatting on twitter doesn’t seem too big of a deal at first, but then again when it becomes a requirement it can be a big deal. Imagine this scenario though: This weeks #mathchat is "Is mathematics more important than numeracy?" this would be a great topic for elementary teachers to discuss. We decide to discuss it as part of our regular professional development in school. 


A professional learning community, again defined by Beach and Hall.
Professional Learning Communities are traditional school-based structures in which staff--both teachers and administrators--learn together with the goal of improving student achievement.
A teacher(s) or principal could participate in the #mathchat (held at noon or 7PM) then during regular team meeting times a discussion could be held. If nobody can make the chat, or even if they did, the archive can be distributed to the team and a discussion can be based on that. http://mathschat.wikispaces.com/Archive+of+mathchat

Discussions are held, teaching practices are modified or strengthened, and the school as a whole is improved.

So there you have it, two, of many, ways twitter can and does provide professional development for teachers. There are more, many more ways networking through twitter and social media can be a catalyst for growth in our personal and professional lives. I can directly connect my twitter use to a graduate school program, CPDU opportunities, and and even a few job opportunities. In the end though twiiter is what you make of it, good or bad.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Competing Philosophies of Education

Perhaps this is just my view, but it looks like education is slowly inexorably changing and we have two choices competing for the dominant theory of what constitutes a quality education.

TECHNOLOGY BECOMES THE TEACHER

This is a nice model for the business community, because, eventually, the costs will drop. The basic premise is that if we design adaptive software students can sit in front of a computer all day and just follow the learning program. Costs will be limited to the hardware (less than $1,000), software, ($5 per student), and a person to monitor students (minimum wage). $45,000 for a class of 30, or $1500 per student, $65,000 for a class of 60 or $1,100 per student. Or about 10% or less of the cost to teach a student now.

TEACHERS AS MENTOR / FACILITATOR.

Instead of the presenters of knowledge teachers become the facilitators of knowledge. Experts in their craft who guide students through individualized learning experiences.
  • Teachers of young children focus more on learning milestones and owning the skills that are the building blocks of different subjects.
  • Middle school teachers focus more on developing burgeoning critical thinking skills.
  • High school teachers give students a wide latitude in finding, creating, and solving problems that are central to learning standards.
Students use technology to explore, question, collaborate, practice, and create.

Which system of education seems better to you? Why?
If you had the choice which school would you enroll your children?

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Best Teacher

I've read a several times in different articles this week the author saying something to the effect of If a student can learn from the best teachers then why shouldn't they?

This is a great sentiment, but I find the underlying assumption being that the idea of a great teacher is a person who wrote a great book, made a great discovery, presents a great lecture.

I think they are missing the point. Teachers don't present the material so much as they set up the learning environment. Teachers facilitate learning.

Sure it could be a lecture, or a presentation, or a power point-keynote, whatever. On the other hand it could be a project, or following a misconception all the way to it's end.

Teaching is more than filling the empty vessels, it is igniting the fire.
"For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth."
Moralia, On Listening to Lectures 48C (LCL 1.256-259)

Teachers respond to students questions, follow tangents, and allow the student to determine the direction of the class.

On the other hand we can just lock children in the classroom turn on the TV and let them be educated.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Master Learners

Master Learners by Clint Hamada
Master Learners, a photo by Clint Hamada on Flickr.


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Friday, September 7, 2012

Dont Give Up

So I get this in the mail the other day.

Dear Friend:
Today, we are excited to announce that more than 1,700 schools will plan and hold events during National School Choice Week 2013 (January 27-February 2, 2013). Please check out our press release below.
National School Choice Week 2013 is going to break all records — so please help spread the word on social media about our big news today! If you're on Twitter, be sure to retweet this tweet. I know many of you are on Facebook too, so please like this post. You can also check out our new video.

Now is the time to start thinking about how you will participate in National School Choice Week 2013 — and we're excited to have you celebrate with us.
Best,

Andrew

And I think to myself. What do they mean by school choice, don't they really mean I give up?


Our public schools are what we make it. We vote the school board in and we sit on our butts and watch Tuesday night TV while school boards decide what to do with our money. We didn't care as our schools went down the tubes. And don’t let me hear any excuses like my kids weren’t in school then or I didn’t live here then. We all live in a school district.

Oh, but this doesn't include school districts like Chicago and New York. They were taken over years ago by mayors who ran their little dictatorships right into the ground.

Nope this isn't school choice this is giving up on our local, community school.

Please oh please let me give my tax dollars to some "For profit" education company. I want them to cut costs so my tax dollars can actually fund some rich man's yacht. While my kids continue to get a sub-par education.


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Saturday, March 17, 2012

What am I thinking Right Now

Try this, type ruby yacht of khayyam into Google or Yahoo or Bing. Go ahead I’ll wait.

Bullwinkle
Bullwinkle (Photo credit: bbaltimore)
Did you come up with a Rocky and Bullwinkle episode? Did it come up even before you finished typing yacht?

I find it amazing that a a bad pun for a children’s show that has been off the air for years comes up so quickly and easily.

I guess this goes to show you that I am not part of the digital native generation. I grew up with the idea that computers were stupid, if you didn’t spell things out exactly the way you wanted then you didn’t get what you wanted out. It even had its own acronym GIGO garbage in garbage out.

I suppose we shouldn’t read too much into this. The pun after all is probably the only one like it. Then I’m sure some geek heard the pun as a kid years ago and spent hours searching the information in dusty encyclopedias in the library. With the invention of the Internet and Wikipedia and finally Hulu s/he then created the page and as it turned out there were thousands of other geeks who did the exact same thing. Then when I introduced Rocky and Bullwinkle to my sons and got curious about the pun I could suddenly tap into the research in seconds.

This is the natural skepticism of the digital native. I question what seems like to amazing ability of technology to anticipate my needs. I’m sure it is getting pretty good right now, but it isn’t actually thinking. It is using the data it has about me and building a model of what people with similar data models might be thinking about.
What I’m wondering now is do our digital natives think the same thing?
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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Evolution of a Gate

This post can also be found on my blog

It has been interesting to watch Bill Gates grow and evolve in his efforts to improve U.S.

Betonwerksteinskulptur "Lehrer-Student&qu...
Image via Wikipedia
education. Just an informal overview of the highlights I remember.
There is High Tech High School in San Diego, which I think is a pretty successful group of schools. Technology infused with project based learning.
There was the small school initiative which didn’t work out so well. Reduce the size of the student population. I thought there were better methods (Leads, research) to reduce school size without reducing the options available to students, but Bill tried his methods and admitted failure.
He also tried measuring teacher effectiveness. The idea that teachers are the determining factor on student success has hinged on the research that states teachers have the greatest influence in student success. However influence and determining factors are different.
A lot of educators are wary of value-added measurements and so-called teacher accountability, because used incorrectly it can be a weapon. Most statisticians will agree that the value added measuring done on teachers has too much of a margin of error to have any meaning.
In Bill Gates 2012 Annual Letter it seems he has realised the error of his ways, or at least refined how he proposes to measure teacher effectiveness.
Looking at test data has been relegated to a smaller piece of the puzzle. Instead training teachers and administrators to observe and evaluate teachings plays a central role.
Feedback was a major point in Bill’s letter. Feedback that comes immediately and has specificity is useful. A general statement such as satisfactory is useless to help a teacher improve. Positive feedback is just as important as negative feedback (I added this part).
Let’s try an example:
In the observation I saw three students off task while you were giving instruction.
As opposed to:
Yesterday while you were giving oral instructions the three students in the back row were not listening. Is this normal behavior for them? Do they hear and understand the instructions you are giving? Are they a disturbance to the other students? The school wide expectations are that students listen attentively to the instructions? In this instance they are not meeting school expectations. You as the teacher either need to address the expectation with the students or develop an alternative method of delivering your instructions. I would suggest either moving them closer to you and/or reminding them of classroom expectations, by practising or modelling the expectation. If not that I would suggest delivering instructions in an alternative manner such as written directions.
I kind of combined several different ways of not only providing feedback, but adding corrective measures as this is an essay on Bill Gates’ change in attitude towards education and not a book on supervision and feedback.
BUT I think Bill’s letter is still missing a few pieces of the puzzle.
  • Retaining teachers and administration
  • Too often teachers don’t put effort into changing because they see programs implemented by one administrator only to see that person leave and be replaced by another administrator who emphasises something completely different.
  • Often these programs are based on a small numbers of similar general concepts but teachers are judged ineffective because they are implementing the specific methodology of this particular program.
  • I wonder sometimes if principals should be asked to sign 5 year contracts. That would also require the building leadership team to be involved in the hiring process.
  • To often the best teachers in the worst schools will either leave education all together or transfer to a better school. (I don’t have statistics to back this up)
  • Safe classrooms
  • When the principal comes around to do formal evaluations I see teachers time and again setting up a dog and pony show. Creating that one perfect lesson that meets all the criteria necessary to receive a satisfactory or excellent on the evaluation.
  • Do peer reviews mean reviewers work with the teachers to improve what the teacher is doing in the classroom or is it to make sure they teach the right way?
  • Is there one set of standards that says this is the right way to teach or is it at least partially individual based on the teacher and the needs of the classroom?
  • Differentiation
  • There is still talk about changing the pay scale, but I don’t see talk about increasing the autonomy of the educator.
  • I’m not talking old school autonomy where the teacher closes the door and does what s/he wants. I’m talking about allowing the teacher to choose the method of teacher s/he thinks is most effective. (with justification of course)
  • Whole schools can be differentiated like this. I just think real school choice actually includes choice between the methods of teaching.
  • This doesn’t mean schools are factories that each teacher teaches in the exact same manner, but that they have similar philosophies of education. Then parents can choose how their child is taught and not just who does the teaching.
  • Currently in most district tenured teachers just don’t get evaluated as often
  • What if this were changed to something along the lines of peer reviewers are different for various groups of teachers and/or they look for different aspects of teaching.
  • Newer teachers often struggle with classroom management, but other teachers might have a nice quiet classroom and struggle with engaging students or critical thinking.
The pressure for school reform is having a positive effect.
  • SB7 in Illinois has a large section on teacher evaluations and though test data does play a part it is not tied specifically to one test and the percentage can be negotiated as long as it is replaced with another qualified measure.
  • School districts around the country are working with teacher unions to create better evaluation procedures for teachers. Here is just one example.
I think we can and will continue to evolve in the area of teacher quality and effectiveness. I have been looking at the Regional Office of Education a lot lately. Part of the description of the office as written in Illinois school code is:
To give teachers and school officers such directions in the science, art and methods of teaching, and in regard to courses of study, as he deems expedient.
 To labor in every practical way to elevate the standard of teaching and improve the condition of the common schools of his county
I think schools and districts working on improving the educational practice of their own teachers is paramount to improving education. And I think the method of doing this lies in local central offices empowering teachers and administrators to make the changes they feel appropriate then sharing those changes with educators in the larger area for feedback and suggestions for improvement. Similar to the way an individual teachers would make and apply changes to his or her classroom and submit those ideas to a peer review group for observation and feedback.
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