Monday, February 28, 2011

How to Spend $100 Million to Really Save Education. Really??

Please take time to read this article.
How to Spend $100 Million to Really Save Education

My first thought is, "Do we really think $100 Million will do it?"
Second thought, "Wow, that's an overwhelming idea!" If we were talking about a car that wouldn't start, the mechanic knows it could be one of maybe 4 things that is causing the problem. On the other hand, if the car has been in an accident and has been totaled, sometimes it is just easier to scrap it and start over. That's how I feel about our education system. Yes, there are things that work really well, but we have been putting bandaids on and plugging holes for so long it is no longer fixable.

In this article KAMENETZ says,  "I wish he [Zukerburg] had taken his $100 million, and some of his smartest people, and designed a new framework for education from the ground up, much the way he built Facebook from a dorm-room idea to a global brand. Is it possible to craft an education platform that's as participatory, offers as much opportunity for self-expression, and is as magnetic to young people as Facebook itself? That would be a theory of change worth testing."

I agree, let's get really creative. Not just taking what we have and tweaking it, but take our existing system apart, set aside the parts that are working well (we'll use those again) and build anew. We need to get over the way we did school when we were growing up. The world doesn't look the way it did then, so why should school??

Some of my thoughts-
Year round school, yes.
Longer school days, maybe.
Alternative ways to access information, yes.
Digital classrooms, textbook,  yes.
Distance learning, yes.
More professional learning for teachers, yes.
More time for teachers to collaborate, yes.
Start kids in school at a younger age, maybe.
Rethink our tests, yes.
Build in required time for parents to interact with the teachers and students, yes.
Saturday school, maybe
(If school was a fun and exciting place to be kids would want to be there even on Saturday.)
Build a 21st Century classroom, yes.

I know many parents might object to the year round school idea, so maybe those parents could choose to keep their kids home during the summer as long as their kids were meeting the standards for that grade level.  In a brand new system we can set up multiple paths of learning for all students. 

What does a 21st century classroom look like? This is an exciting question. Well, there wouldn't be isolated computer stations. Students would be traveling around the "learning environment" with their own laptops or IPads, after all isn't that we really do? I'm not sitting at a large computer on an uncomfortable chair writing this blog, no, I'm sitting on the couch with my laptop, flipping between websites. 
You wouldn't see students sitting at desks in rows in the 21st century classroom. Students would be checking with a master calendar to see where their learning stations are for the day. This, of course, would be based on formative assessments, teacher observations and student-teacher conversations and would change frequently. 
You would see multi-sensory activities happening around the "learning environment". Teachers would be working with small groups of students or individuals. Students would be working with other students and parents would be present in the classroom.

If I were to rebuild our education system teachers would have plenty of time for planning and collaboration. This has been missing for so long in our current system. We have tried to squeeze time in for collaboration, you can't quickly collaborate, it takes a lot of time, but the end result is powerful. 

In the end, I am glad that many more people are coming to the table to have these discussions. The results can only benefit our kids in the long run.

Wow! Resource website for teachers.

Have you seen this resource website, ? You could spend hours, probably days, on this site. I like that you can search by grade level and content. If you want to get really specific, let's say you want a video for first graders in science, you can do that too.
Here's what Curriki has to say about itself:

Curriki is more than your average website; we're a community of educators, learners and committed education experts who are working together to create quality materials that will benefit teachers and students around the world.
Curriki is an online environment created to support the development and free distribution of world-class educational materials to anyone who needs them. Our name is a play on the combination of 'curriculum' and 'wiki' which is the technology we're using to make education universally accessible.
Curriki is the result of work done for GELC - the Global Education and Learning Community - an online project started by Sun Microsystems to develop works for education in a collaborative effort. The leadership team consists of people with a long-time commitment to exploring the use of technology to improve education.

Most of what I reviewed was quality instructional activities, websites and resources.
If you are looking for new ways to present your curriculum this website could be your new best friend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Are you making these four differentiated instruction mistakes?

Read this article from ASCD Edge.
1. Multiple Assignment rather than Multiple Pathways
This is a common mistake, since differentiation is often presented to teachers as multiple assignments or projects going on at once. To be perfectly honest, it is easier to explain to teachers that they can find and copy multiple "worksheets" on the same topic rather than create multiple paths for learning.

2. Differentiating by learning style vs. learning needs
We can classify students into learning styles and prescribe learning activities for them without much gray area. Learning needs is more vague and uncomfortable for teachers since these learning needs change constantly.

3.Differentiating by achievement level rather than by students' current learning level.
Here again students learning levels change constantly based on the content, the interest and background knowledge. This requires continuous assessment and adjustment to grouping and instruction.

4. Differentiating up rather than down.
I really think this should say "down rather than up". We tend to differentiate by "dumbing down" instead of starting at the standard and looking up. If students have trouble getting to the standard we need to look for ways to support them to reach that standard. 

I read this recently and thought it was a great way to think about the teacher's role in a differentiated classroom.

“Teachers in Differentiated Classrooms are students of their students”  Author Unknown

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yet another national trend

Read this article about Michigan high schools. Many Michigan high school grads not ready for college
This hits home for me because I grew up in Michigan. I started my career in education, my marriage and family there, it will always be home. However, this is not just a Michigan problem. I sat in a meeting just this morning and heard how the high schools in my current community are missing the mark when it comes to preparing students for college. Our world of work and business has changed dramatically since the 1970's and 80's, but not much has changed in the world of K-12 education. Yes, we have added computers,  SMART Boards and some teacher collaborate, but the framework of how we "do school" is essentially still the same.
Now, as a mother, I have a new concerns, will my kids be prepared for college and the workforce? What are my husband and I going to have to do to supplement their education? Are we equipped to handle this task? As a proactive educator I am worried, but I can only imagine what other parents are thinking.
I find myself lately, caught between the two roles of professional educator and parent. I can see each side's perspective. I hadn't thought about this much until my oldest started kindergarten this year. It is a new chapter in my life, something to ponder.