Archive for August, 2010

Advice to superintendents and principals considering having “technology goals” for staff

August 28, 2010


A teacher with a technology goal is like Tiger Woods with a golf club goal.  It just doesn’t make any sense.

I can spend enough money to buy the same golf clubs Tiger Woods uses and that might encourage me to spend more time and money at the golf course, but it will not impart his skills upon me.  It will not help me achieve the goal of winning a golf tournament.  It simply helps me accumulate more stuff. 

A teacher who walks in to a principal’s office and says, “I met my technology goal,” is like a contractor who shows you a portfolio of his or her tool box during your interview.  Why?  Would you rather judge your contractor-to-be based on previous projects that show fruits of the labor?

 The only thing more stuff is guaranteed to change is the amount of space you have available or not.  If the stuff plugs in, having more of it may guarantee a higher electric bill, too.

I haven’t done a sophisticated research study on this, but I would wager a bet that the quality of the teacher and interactions with the curriculum a student experiences has far greater effect on learning the intended curriculum than the newness of the stuff a teacher has incidental access to.  I have tweeted more than once, “I would rather have a smart teacher with a dumb board than vice versa.”  Of course, I don’t think it has to be an OR here, but still, the goal should not be about the stuff.

One of my new favorite blog posts is Let me save you $6,162.48.  “You can’t buy change” is a great quote.

What do you hope to accomplish?  “Using the interactive whiteboard more” is not what I mean here.  What I mean is the kinds of goals you will arrive at by asking questions “Why use the interactive whiteboard?  What difference does it make for students? How? Why? Under what conditions?”  

If you allow teachers to create technology goals, you may just be taking two steps back from supporting them realizing the potential of the power of integrating technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge to positively impact learning instead of the giant leap forward you may think.


School as we mostly do it

August 25, 2010

I said it out loud the other day to one of our lead instructional coaches, “I love learning but I hate school as we mostly do it.”  His response didn’t really surprise me, “I kind of figured that out.”  I have thought a lot about what I said and why I said it.  I am beginning my 23rd year in the education profession and “I hate school as we mostly do it.”  I am not interested in preserving the institution of “school as we mostly do it.”  I am interested in ensuring our young people have every opportunity to learn the content and skills and to develop the dispositions and habits they need to have the lives they want to have.  “School as we mostly do it” doesn’t do this.

In the past 24 hours, I have:

  1. entertained questions about how our new electronic grade book rounds grades for calculating final grades;
  2. talked with librarians about the future of research papers; and,
  3. watched as a 13 year old readied three 3″ binders for his first day of 8th grade.

At every turn, I have asked myself, “Why?”  My answer, “Because that’s school as we mostly do it.”

“Why do we grade?”  Here are some of the answers I have gotten:

  • Colleges want GPAs
  • Parents need to know how their kids are doing
  • To motivate kids to do their work

“What will research papers look like in 2020?”  What surprised me the most about this conversation was the fact that no one in the room asked “Why do a ‘research PAPER’?”  What are the skills we expect to teach through “the research process”?  Is the “research paper” more than a rite of passage?

“Why do you need three notebooks?” Fill in the blank here:  “I need three notebooks because my __________________ will give us a lot of _______________________________ to fill out in class.”

“School as we mostly do it” is in need of some serious work, no doubt.  Here’s what some new 6th graders had to say on the topic as 5th graders – – perhaps this should be required reading for all teachers.  Perhaps teachers should only be allowed to assign a research paper after their students have responded to the kid-created prompts “We know school is…” and “We want school to…” This wiki was set up by a 5th grader during the February 2010 snow storm “vacation.”

Here’s what some practitioners have to say on the topic of changing education –

I have been working on school reform (or rebellion) for a long time now.  A high school friend recently posted the following on my Facebook wall “I think about you all the time in various classes in high school and how you used to give some of our teachers a heck of a time!”  I was mostly a “rebel without a clue” in high school but when I didn’t “live up to (my) potential,” as my teachers often told my mother, my school’s first response was to move me down a “level” of class.  Hint:  I was not a jerk in your class because it was too hard for me or too fast for me.  I am thankful my mother fought to keep me in the “high” classes.

How do we ensure our young people have every opportunity to learn the content and skills and to develop the dispositions and habits they need to have the lives they want to have?  What is our battery of opportunities?  How do we ensure the opportunities a student has are not limited by the teachers he has or the school he attends?   How do kids and families find out about these?  What are the content and skills kids need to live the lives they want to have and how can anyone assume these are the same for everyone?  How do we develop dispositions and habits over time if we don’t spend time talking and strategizing about these K-12?

Let’s change school as we mostly do it – one classroom at a time, one question at a time.



August 19, 2010

I have a little inside information I would like to share with you.  Whatever you want to complain about or be grumpy about or let the world come crashing down around you about is probably not that big of a deal.  In the past few weeks, I have lost two former teachers (90 and 93 years old), gotten an email about two recent high school graduates who lost their parents in a car accident weeks after graduation and were struggling to keep their status at their new college while they figured things out financially, and learned that one of my Twitter buddies has a little angel who calls him daddy who is fighting a brain tumor.  My troubles are small stuff!

I know while there are some people out there complaining that they “have to go to work,” there are others who can’t wait for the day until they “get to go to work” again.

I know that on a day when my knee or my hip or my back hurts, I can still move better than my brother who has been dealing with MS for over 25 years.  I will get over it.  He won’t.

I know that tomorrow will be better because I am choosing to make it so.  As the saying goes, “Life is good.”  I plan on keeping it that way!