A very important C. Communication.

The Four Cs.  Communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.  Tonight and tomorrow, students will be utilizing all four.  Students in Iowa, Washington, and Minnesota.

Two twitter chats are happening. The first is this evening.  A group of middle school kids in Minnesota are hosting this awesome twitter chat!

Then a second twitter chat takes place tomorrow morning!

This twitter chat features pre-service teachers in Iowa chatting about technology use in class.  We’re inviting some of our own students and staff to participate!

The power of Twitter for communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

Can’t wait for both!

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Risk.

Reading David Geurin’s great book, Future Driven.  Got me thinking about risk.  I was recently in the classroom of a 29 year veteran math teacher.  It was the first day of all of our 8th and 9th graders coming to class with brand new Chromebooks.  I saw this quote about risk in action from this teacher.

“Students will take exactly the same amount of learning risks they see their teachers take.”

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This great teacher was introducing the kids to Jo Boaler.  He had a great video cued up and was using EdPuzzle to ask questions of the kids as they watched.  Jo Boaler talks about the fact that nothing happens in the brain when kids get the right answers. Mistakes, however, make the brain grow.  Well this teacher demonstrated all of this on DAY ONE with new Chromebooks.  Nothing worked like it was supposed to.  And this great teacher turned that struggle into learning.  Modeled.  Persevered.  The kids all chimed in on how to solve the problem.  Collaboration.  Creativity.  Critical thinking. Communication. Mistakes. Brain growth.

All the result of risk.  Sure.  He could have just had kids take notes on their new device. Nope.  Not nearly risky enough.  Kids need to see educators in action.  Struggling.  Trying new things.  Learning.  Failing.  Making glorious huge mistakes.

Because our students will take exactly the same amount of learning risks they see their teachers take.

Thank you Mr. Kirk Dodge for being such a spectacular, risk taking, educational leader.

School is no longer constrained to how far the bus can travel in the morning.

Ever read something, a book, a sentence, a phrase, a passage….that you CANNOT get out of your head.  Well Different Schools for a Different World by Scott McLeod and Dean Shareski just hammered my thinking.  Their work is not a long read.  It’s about 60 pages. Don’t let that fool you.  My favorite college professor, Dr. Ruth Slonim, once said, “Good writing is not when there’s nothing more to add, rather when there’s nothing more to be taken away.”  This book is lean and dead on point.  A literal wake up call.

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The authors share, “Our six arguments for making schools different are based on the following observations, each of which corresponds to the first six chapters.

1.  Our information landscape is becoming incredibly complex and students need the skills to navigate it effectively.
2.  Automation and global hyper-competition increasingly define the economy that our graduates are entering.
3.  The role of teachers as exclusive purveyors of information is obsolete.
4.  The tasks we ask students to perform are often undemanding and tedious, leading to boredom and a lack of critical thinking.
5.  Schools are doing too little to create a culture of educational innovation that can respond to evolving student needs.
6.  The digital tools students will require for future success are too often unavailable to traditionally disadvantaged groups.”

Whoa.  Number 3.  Let that nugget sink in for a minute.  Stark and absolutely true.  To try to convince oneself otherwise is folly.  Kids with devices literally carry the sum of all human knowledge in their pockets or backpacks.

My favorite quote from the book is in the title of this blog post.

“School is no longer constrained to how far
the bus can travel in the morning. 

Yep.  So as our district considers our school facilities, we are also considering how we move our programs and learning forward.  This book is a map.

Thank you gentlemen.

Shift This.

Here we go!  Brand new school year, brand new blog, getting the brain reengaged. Did it become disengaged just because it was summer?  Probably not. More likely because teachers, kids, and building leadership were out and about.  I figured out that I need them around to help keep me powered.

Did some serious research this morning to find my next new book to read.  The research focused on Amazon and doing a search for Innovator’s Mindset.  Then looking at what other books popped up.  I’ve read a bunch of them already….but not this one.  Shift This by Joy Kirr.  Oh man.  This is why I love my job.  This book.  This gifted educator. Challenging my thinking by 8:00 a.m.

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Check this out.  With 7th graders, she offers this shocker,

“We’ll be questioning authors, questioning one another, and even questioning teachers. I let them know right off the bat that if they don’t think a lesson is relevant, they can politely challenge me. If I cannot answer, I’ll reconsider the lesson; being inquisitive and listening to responses is how we will learn together.”

If I cannot answer, I’ll reconsider the lesson……WOW!

Of course, that makes COMPLETE sense.  If we can’t justify the relevancy of a lesson…we ought to reconsider it.  Our time with kids is way too precious to just trundle out whatever happens to be next in line in our curriculum.  Reminds me of the research based effective practice of Learning Targets.  And the targets aren’t the most important thing.  The thinking a teacher does about WHAT and WHY the kids are learning.  We talk a lot about a different question to ask kids when visiting a classroom.  Instead of, “What are you guys working on?”  We ask, “What are you guys learning?”  A blank stare isn’t good.  Just like a blank stare as we ponder the relevancy of a lesson we’re having kids do. Love it.  Absolutely love it.

Also just hit this cool activity for teachers.  Have a group of teachers gather and start generating questions about their students.  Some that Joy Kirr and colleagues generated about middle school kids included:

Why do I have to repeat myself so often? Why can’t they follow directions? Why aren’t they checking out books? Why don’t they like to read? Why won’t they stop playing with each other’s hair? Why are they talking when they’re supposed to be listening? Why can’t they tell I’m upset and I mean what I say? Why won’t they revise their papers? Why don’t they turn in their homework on time … or at all? Why don’t they like me? Why do they keep pushing my buttons? Why are they late to class? Why do they have to take a bathroom break each day in my class? Why aren’t they paying attention? Why do they ask me questions I’ve already answered? Why don’t they care?

Why won’t the stop playing with each other’s hair?  You all that have ever worked with middle school kids know this is a perfectly reasonable question, among many others.

Anybody looking to make a new and more profound impact on kids in a classroom….here’s a great book to guide your fun and journey!

Thank you Joy!

The Two BIG Questions for Educators.

So here we are in the 2nd week of July, 2017.  Summer time.  Teachers are learning in our board room right now.  Learning strategies to help ELL kids.  Other teachers have just returned from ISTE.  Other teachers are preparing to go to a national AVID conference. Teachers are reading.  Teachers are tweeting and blogging.  And teachers are resting up and thinking about September.

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Some people still hold on to the crazy notion that teachers stop working the minute school gets out.  Nope.  Certainly not the vast majority.  They are professional educators who take advantage of the summer to continue learning and growing.  And they’re learning and growing for one simple, critical reason.  To be a better teacher for more and more kids. Period.

As July turns to August and September starts to appear…my two questions for myself, our TLI team, and our educators are,

“When was the last time you did
something for the first time?”

and

“Would you want to be a learner
in your own classroom?”

I’m sure I’ve mentioned both of these ideas before.  That happens when ideas become so profound and impactful, they change your thinking forever.  I believe both of these statements came from George Couros.  I also know I write a lot about George. Well…speaking of profound and impactful.  It’s safe to say his thinking has changed my thinking and giving me a new sense of energy, focus, and purpose in my career.

So educators, I’d encourage you to consider doing something for the first time in your classrooms in September.  Affirm for yourself that you would want to be a learner in your own classroom.  Experience the thrill of dancing on the edge as you try something for the first time.  Fail spectacularly and in full view of your students.  Bring them into the conversation about what you’re trying to do and enlist them to help you make it work. They’ll remember.  They’ll feel safe with you.  They’ll trust you.  And they’ll grow with and learn from you.  They’ll want to be learners in your classroom.

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Top 10 Learning Quotes from this year!

Year 33 as an educator is now in the books!  What could such an old guy still have to learn?  Well…basically everything.  Our cool profession is always evolving, growing, changing.  If we’re doing it correctly anyway.  Because kids are always evolving, growing, and changing.  Their needs and futures are always evolving, growing, and changing.

So should we.  Evolve.  Grow.  Change.

Earlier this year, I put out my Ten Must Read Books for Educators.  Well…following up on that idea, here are my Top Ten Quotes for/from Educators from this year’s learning! Thank you to these wonderful thinkers for pushing my learning!

  1.  “A questioner is driven by wonder, but a doubter is blinded by limits.” – Aaron Hogan, from his new book Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will Help You THRIVE as an Educator.
  2. “Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?”George Couros.  Innovator’s Mindset.  Best book I have ever read around education, learning, professional learning, kids, teachers, administrators, parents.
  3. Every day, I find myself turning more and more of my experiences into opportunities that I can take to class tomorrow and turn into meaningful lessons for my students.”Instant Relevance: Using Today’s Experiences to Teach Tomorrow’s Lessons.  –Denis Sheeran
  4. “Amazing things happen when a school staff shares the belief that they are able to achieve collective goals and overcome challenges to impact student achievement.” Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning – Jenni Anne Marie Donohoo
  5. “Teaching with technology is about the learning first and the tool second.”Liz Kolb Learning First, Technology Second: The Educator s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons.
  6. We do our students a disservice when we prepare them for a world that no longer exists and fail to empower them with the skills and abilities they will need to navigate rough and shifting seas. We don’t need students who can fill in bubbles on a multiple-choice test; we need students who can create, innovate, connect, and collaborate. We need students who can identify and solve complex, real-world problems. Changing the way we educate students is not only necessary…it’s a moral imperative.” Don Wettrick,  Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level
  7. “We educators no longer live in a time when our job is to help students memorize a few things they might need someday. A smartphone and quick Google search are better suited to that task. Our job is to prepare students for the future by helping them learn to access and use information in ways that are meaningful to them.”Kevin Brookhouser and Ria Megnin.  The 20Time Project: How educators and parents can launch Google’s formula for future-ready innovation.
  8. “So here’s the message we need to internalize both for our students and ourselves: Failure shouldn’t be feared. In fact, it’s integral to growth and improvement. Improvements are seldom won without risk. Changes come rarely without courage. So as educators, we need to call forth that courage to appreciate the inevitability of failure and the fortitude to overcome it.” -Jennie Magiera Courageous Edventures: Navigating Obstacles to Discover Classroom Innovation.
  9. “As we innovate, we have to make sure we aren’t just automating education or simply making it more efficient. It is critical that we keep our focus on learning, not on technology. Turning a textbook into an e-textbook or moving from delivering a lecture in a class to delivering a lecture on video are not examples of transformative education. To truly prepare our students for their futures, we must embrace pedagogy that gives students responsibility, leads them through inquiry, and allows them to create based on their own ideas.”Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts, Power Up
  10. “Another question that is as common now as it was in 1999 is, “How can I find time to differentiate instruction? It’s hard, and I’m so busy already!” Time and experience have reinforced the only answer I know to give: “Build a career. Plan to be better tomorrow than today, but don’t ever plan to be finished or to be ‘good enough.’” As I once heard a teacher say to a student in her classroom, “Of course it’s hard. That’s why it’s worth your time. And you can do hard things.” Teaching is about learning, learning is about becoming, and making a history is about taking up a profession and making a life.”Carol Ann Tomlinson, The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition

I can’t wait to see what I learn next year!