Archive for February, 2011

Learn with me, not like me

February 20, 2011

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”  Albert Einstein

How do you learn professionally?  When do you learn professionally?  With whom do you learn professionally? How does your professional learning change your professional questioning? 

I have not pushed Twitter on my colleagues but so much.  I have invited them in through emailing Tweets that fit interests and job-focus as well as pushing Tweets to Yammer, our walled micro-blogging community.  When someone from my district joins Twitter, I introduce them to a few others trying to help them connect but not overwhelm them.  I offer technical assistance with using a variety of Twitter tools like tweetgrid and TweetDeck.

When a few of us on Twitter started talking about having a Twitter book group on the latest ASCD member book Focus by Mike Schmoker, I invited a group of my district colleagues to join in and thought it might be the gentle Twitter-nudge some of them needed to see Twitter as a valuable tool for professional learning.  What I learned, though, is the folks I invited hadn’t received the book because they are not ASCD members.  So, I made sure they had information necessary to access our district account so they could read the book online and stepped back a bit.

I walked in to a meeting a little late on Friday and the informal discussion topic was “book groups.”  Obviously my Focus book group peddling had gotten some traction even though none of the other administrators I had invited joined.  As I was sitting there listening to a discussion about when different people want to talk about the books they are reading and what kinds of books they like to read and discuss and what kinds they just like to read, it dawned on me that I don’t really want my colleagues to learn like me, I just want them to learn with me.

“What children can do with the assistance of others might be in some sense even more indicative of their mental development than what they can do alone.” -L. S. Vygotsky, Mind in Society

I keep coming back to the notion of a “guaranteed and viable curriculum,” this time with respect to administrators.  This topic has appeared two other times in posts of mine – What does “reducing variance” mean in education? and Is it still “what works in schools”?  The fact that we have known for so long that this is the single-most important school factor in determining student achievement and we still don’t seem to get it right is one of the key points Schmoker makes in Focus.  If we can’t figure out the core experiences, content, and skills that connects all of our administrators some how or the other, why would we think we could do this for kids when we have 400 times more of them?

Does this mean I am suggesting a required reading list for all school administrators?  No, it doesn’t.  I think reading is a path to exploring but not the only one.  What I am suggesting is that all administrators should be grappling with Schmoker’s questions and statements – they are not unlike questions and statements also made by Marzano and Reeves.  We need to think about what we teach, how we teach, and literacy.  We should think about these with new information and together.  Want to join a book group about this with some of my Twitter buddies and me?



Is it still “what works in schools”?

February 13, 2011

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

We’re in a period of time when we should think about “dog years” and not calendar years when it comes to education.  For example, just 8 years ago in 2003 a book was published by a well known education writer – What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action by
Robert J. Marzano.  While Marzano’s book includes a number of findings to which most educators respond “duh,” what I found most interesting about the book then was the way Marzano frames some of his findings.  The table that shows “Factors Influencing Achievement” intrigued me.  I asked questions like “what is a ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum’?” all the way to “what is ‘motivation’?” and read the book to gain deeper understanding.

Does this book, published 8 years ago, assume bricks and mortar schools?  Does is assume a face-to-face teacher-to-student relationship?  Does it assume a connected, networked learner?  Should we throw out everything we knew or thought we knew about education up to, say, 2010?  Or, should we think differently about everything that we knew about education?  Regardless, we can’t think the same way about the same issues and expect anything to change.