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Last Build Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2017 05:04:14 +0000

 



Sandlots and Outdoor Rinks

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 05:02:42 +0000

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I played a lot of sports as a kid growing up in southern Manitoba. Hockey in the winter, baseball in the spring, golf in the summer and football in the fall. In all cases, I played in leagues but I also played them without adult supervision or organization.

In Canada, outdoor neigbourhood rinks are as prevalent as sandlots and baseball fields. I remember being about 7 years old and taking my skates and stick to the local outdoor rink, tieing my skates in the heated shack and heading out on the ice. There were kids, teenagers, and adults. Everyone played. You tossed your sticks in the centre of the rink and divided them up. Then you played. If the teams seemed uneven, you’d make a quick adjustment but mostly you just played. You learned to play with kids who were way better than you and kids who were worse. Some kids certainly had the puck more than others but you just played. While you did keep score, it mattered little as the next day you showed up and totally different teams were formed and usually a slightly different crowd.

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In the summer, a similar experience happened on baseball diamonds and … Read the rest




Stop Worry About the Achievement Gap

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 19:03:11 +0000

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“Closing the Achievement Gap” is a term and movement that has been around for a while. Born out of good intentions, it’s essentially a recognition that we need to attend to students with lower grades. Fair enough. And yet I see this obsession flawed in a few ways and it once again is more about adults and accountability than caring for children.

The essence of the problem stems from the inherent flaws of our education system. We tend to focus mostly on students’ weaknesses and spend an exorbitant amount of time and money in attempting to remedy this.

When a student says, “school sucks” it might be for a number of factors but my intuition is that for the majority of them it’s because they spend time working on things they hate and an inverse proportion on things they enjoy.

Scott McLeod and I just release our new book on Different Schools for a Different World. Scott shares a graph from Gallup that offers some insight.

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While all three of these results are troubling, it’s’ the last, the one in red that addresses the problem. How can we live with the idea that only 20% of students feel they … Read the rest




The One Word Leaders Rarely Use

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 17:46:49 +0000

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The great privilege I have is working with leaders and districts all over Canada and the US and seeing what it takes to create cultures of joy. Joy is the word I use and have begun to see more and more educators use this to describe their classrooms, schools, and districts.

I was humbled to help kick of Royse City Independent School District‘s year. They’ve adopted the theme of joy for this school year. The students opened the morning’s festivities, and then they shared this video.

 

The inclusion of the school board, mayor and other community members spoke volumes of the importance of public education in this region.

(image) Six teachers were asked to share what joy meant to them. Each told a compelling story of what it’s like to teach in Royse City ISD. I wasn’t sure anyone needed to hear my message to add to what was already an uplifting, joyful celebration of learning. After I shared, Superindent Kevin Worthy ended the morning by giving every employee a $1000 that was funded by a surplus of funds. Kevin is someone whom I’ve had the pleasure to get to know over the past year or so and … Read the rest




I’m not an Expert, But Neither are You Part 2

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 17:22:40 +0000

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Yesterday’s post was intended to challenge teachers for the most not to be swayed by those who have either been given or taken the title of an expert. Anyone who spends any time working with children and helping them learn brings with them a reasonable level of expertise to be able to contribute to the conversation and question authority.

While my context was largely about online spaces I think it’s important to examine and apply this more locally. In particular, how do schools and districts work to either include teachers as experts or suggest teachers need to see those higher up on the org chart as having more expertise?

For as long as I’ve been in education, there were always those in leadership positions who were not respected and when they made suggestions or mandated policies they were met with eye rolls, furrowed brows, and heavy sighs usually behind their backs. Sometimes principals or Superintendents were the least knowledgeable people about teaching and learning. They may have had administration and management skills but didn’t couldn’t discuss pedagogy, let alone pronounce it.

In our best schools and districts, this isn’t the case. Leaders, specifically principals are asked to be instructional leaders. … Read the rest




I’m Not an Expert, But Neither are You

Thu, 27 Jul 2017 21:20:18 +0000

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I remember the first time I heard Ewan Mcintosh speak. He invited the crowd to be critical of his talk and to feel free to disagree with anything he said. That was the first time I had ever heard a person of authority, in a public setting, invite criticism in such an overt manner. I’ve since used that idea often when I talk.

Jose Vilson writes about why teachers need to see themselves as experts. This cannot be understated. Although while I understand what Jose is saying, my belief is that none of us are experts in the sense that we know it all but rather teachers are no less of an expert, and as Jose says, maybe more than those who don’t work directly with learners. I used to believe the Internet might be used to break down this hierarchy in the way I’d experienced. Through blogging, in particular, I found a space to share ideas and thoughts and positioned them in a way that was not about authority but about community. Today, it seems the vast majority of teachers who call themselves connected, live largely if not exclusively, in spaces like Twitter. They don’t see themselves as … Read the rest




A Survey on District Culture

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 18:17:22 +0000

On Friday I’m going to be offering a workshop at the Canadian School Boards Association’s National Conference entitled, “Getting Serious About Culture”: “Culture is not the most important thing, it’s the only thing.” – Jim Sinegal, Co-founder and former CEO, Costco Is this true for schools and school districts? Having worked with districts across Canada, Dean Shareski has discovered some important ideas about building community and creating cultures where students, teachers and leaders feel empowered and work together for a better learning environment for students. This session will provide an opportunity for participants to share, gain insight and develop plans to create a powerful learning culture. In preparation for this, I sent out an informal survey on Twitter to get a sense of people’s perception of their own district. I was pleasantly surprised. I defined culture as, “the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions.” I received 146 responses and here are the results: (these were the top answers) I also ask for any additional thoughts, here are a few: Empowered in my classroom, but not so much outside my classroom. Wanted to answer yes and no. … Read the rest[...]



Many of You Will Hate This School

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 17:19:03 +0000

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Imagine a school that makes students take the same courses at the same times as everyone else. Also, this school uses little or no technology. This school does not utilize contemporary texts and in fact, does not even aspire to contextualize these ancient texts to the modern world. You’ve probably dismissed this school as irrelevant and without much understanding of the real world.

You’re probably wrong.

St. John’s (image) College seems to be offering much of what many educational reformers are trying to reform. They unabashedly hold on to traditional methods like the Socratic approach and offer no computing classes, no contemporary studies and have no minors and majors. Everyone graduates with the same degree. So much for personalized learning.

This article shares the details of what they refer to as “The Program”. Let me share the highlights and things that struck me:

Fixed curriculum:

Starting with the Greeks and working through the 20th century including some “recent” science readings from the 1950s and 1960s, the curriculum is rarely altered.

It seems like they’ve determined which works best foster deep thinking and discourse and simply stick with those. Contrary to even more innovative practices like global competencies, it … Read the rest




The Problem with Curiosity

Mon, 29 May 2017 18:08:53 +0000

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I’m noticing an unusual pattern of late. In education, there’s a strong underlying message to bring back or maintain curiosity and wonder as the foundation of learning. Meanwhile the media, both mass and traditional and social is intent on killing curiosity. Whether it’s politics, racism, environmental or a host of other modern issues, the message is pretty standard.

“Unless you believe me/us, you’re stupid or evil.”

The problem with curiosity is, it’s nice in theory, it might work in schools, but in the real world, curiosity is not valued and it’s often disdained.

I understand the passion the people have about many of these issues. But the absence of wonder and curiosity sends exactly the opposite message to our children when it comes to lifelong learning. The shortage of thoughtful, welcoming conversation and discourse is alarming. For a person genuinely interested in learning about two or more sides of an issue, good luck. There aren’t many safe places to ask questions and learn. Phrase a question incorrectly, and you’ll be hammered and chastised for your ignorance. So instead of engaging in civil discourse, you’re forced to choose a side and be bombarded inside an echo chamber that paints their opposition … Read the rest




Maintaining Innovation

Thu, 18 May 2017 06:46:44 +0000

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“Innovation” might be the most used word to frame the current narrative of change in education. It’s been used to drive the use of technology but also as my friend George done, used to change mindsets. It’s difficult to argue against the idea that education was, or is still in need of change.

For those who continue to suggest that education has not changed in the last 50 years or so, I don’t think you get out much. The schools and classrooms I visit are making great strides in shifting the locus of control from teachers to students. They aren’t there yet but in the vast majority of districts, this is a driving focus.

As someone who has taught pre-service teachers, I often have them reflect on this chart.

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Almost all of them acknowledge a shift from teacher to student focus. Some of the other areas are a blend of the left and right columns but they almost all agree their recentK-12 education was not completely on the left side of this chart.

Ok, so some will debate my perspective and that’s fair enough. My observations are just that. But for those using blanket statements about how school … Read the rest




I Don’t Read Your Blog 

Thu, 11 May 2017 23:35:55 +0000

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John Spencer is among the smartest people I know. He’s creative, thoughtful and introspective. He also has a really good blog. That I don’t read.
I talk with John frequently. He’s helped me work through ideas. He’s bounced things off me regularly. I have a blog too. That he doesn’t read.  (We coincidentally confessed this to each other a few days ago. We laughed)
I have been blessed to know dozens of people like John, many of whom have great blogs. I don’t read them either. I share this as both a confession but also a reflection in my evolution of learning shifts in consumption.
Blogging has been and remains for me the best way to reflect. When I began it was also a great way to connect more deeply with educators around the world. My job was like most in that outside of my online interactions, I had few focused conversations on topics I was interested in. My job with Discovery Education has me interacting with so many smart people that I work with and as part of our community. I’m privileged to attend many conferences and connect to incredibly passionate smart people. I have regular discussions about … Read the rest




How did it go today?

Tue, 02 May 2017 02:56:11 +0000

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Today I presented a brand new workshop called “Surprisingly Awesome”. I described it this way:

 Shakespeare, The War of 1812, the Pythagorean theory are just a sample of things we teach in schools that
for many aren’t very interesting. Yet there is something incredibly satisfying and ful lling when you can help students see the awesome and interesting things they originally dismiss. This session will explore some tools and strategies that can turn those kinds of topics into learning that is surprisingly awesome. If you have a great strategy or approach that’s been effective in making something mundane become surprisingly awesome, bring that idea to share.

I blogged about that title and its origins a while back. For those of you who are classroom teachers, you get to try out new things every day. I don’t have that luxury so I’m super excited to be able to test out new ideas and concepts from time to time.

Today was one such day.

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I was careful to alert folks that this session had a high probability of failure.
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I also warned them that they would be working together and that their feedback about the session would be critical. … Read the rest




“Why Can’t Our Business Be More Like Schools?”

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 22:39:57 +0000

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“I’ll take  “Things You Never Hear” for $1000 Alex.”

The Internet is full of “Make Schools More like a Starbucks” Or “What if Schools Were More like Google” or like Minecraft.

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For years, schools have been looking everywhere for models of what to do differently. I get it. Schools as an institution are in need of a makeover and are still mired in outdated practices and systems.

But I’m also fully aware of many schools that are creating wonderful learning opportunities and spaces that take full advantage of limited resources. The aren’t really like a Starbucks or like Google but are uniquely like themselves. Schools like SAIL in Surrey, BC, Caufeild Elementary in West Vancouver and H. B. Beal in London, ON. These aren’t perfect and they aren’t much alike in some respects but like hundreds of schools around the world, they don’t need to be envious of any business culture because they’re too busy creating their own unique space.

This is not to say we can’t learn from others or other organizations but my argument is that schools aren’t like businesses or video games in most respects. The danger is leaning too heavily on metaphors which … Read the rest




Three Questions

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 04:18:23 +0000

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I say a lot of things on Twitter. Most tweets get very little attention and rightly so. Occasionally I manage a lucid thought that seems to resonate more than I anticipated. Sunday I tweeted:

I likely won’t remember a link or idea you shared. What tends to remain for me is who you are as a person. It’s why when someone shares something a bit unusual or personal, it grabs my attention because I get a sense of who they are and it becomes the basis of a continued connection. The reason I post things about golf, naps or other goofiness is the hope that it might connect me to someone with the same interests, brighten someone’s day or just break the endless stream of edusharing. I’m not opposed to sharing links and ideas, but I don’t know we need more of that. I’m trying to fill a void and spend time focusing … Read the rest