Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Future Learning...

Currently the staff at the ILC is reading through the book "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess. A must read if you have forgotten about your passion and purpose in education. 

During yesterdays book talk after school our Director (Brent Wise...who kind of resembles Jake form the Neverland Pirates animation) shared with us an amazing video that challenges what the future of education holds. It was titled Future Learning:


This video brings to light many concepts that are outdated with the current state of education. It brings together numerous thoughts from some of today's most innovative thinkers and pushes you to think about where we are going as educators. Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, in summary states that education today has only taught students how to sit, be quiet, and take it for 45 minutes while not being engaged in the learning process. My Co-teacher (Cathy Gongwer @cathygongwer) and I decided to take some time to show the video to our Academy EDU class. After all, who better to bounce ideas off of than future teachers themselves. We then held a brief Q & A session to get their perspective on the Future of Education. To the best of my ability here is a list of some ideas and thoughts they generated:

  • Core Schedule dictates too much- High Schools are too rigid with core academic classes and scheduling. Students are missing out on electives that they want to take because their schedule does not allow them the flexibility to do so. Some express the redundancy from one year to the next and the need to fast track some core classes. 
  • Flip it- Lectures are good but not while sitting in class for 45 minutes. Flip the classroom....videotape or record lectures so students can watch them for homework. Then use class time to practice concepts while teachers are able to interact and move about the class. Building the student teacher relationship and strengthing student owneership in the class. 
  • Voice-n-choice- Students should have choice in what they want to learn daily. Example given: If a student is solid in Math and only needs it 2-3 times a week to master it then let that student work on other subjects or passion projects the other days. Why make them sit through class daily if they could do it in less time? Give them the choice and allow teachers to act more as guides and mentors.
  • Hybrid-High School- This one really caught my attention. Students should have the flexibility to take some-part-or all of their classes online and work at their own pace. Students can then set benchmarks/checkpoints with their teachers as they progress through the year. During the school day half of their day would be spent working online or with selected core teachers on concepts they are having trouble with. If they can prove mastery on certain subjects then great! The other half of their day becomes project/ elective based. Students could choose to work on projects that make a difference in their community or on a bigger scale....the world. They could then have more time to take elective courses that they truly want to be in and possibly explore their passions. 
  • School Environment- Students want the ability to move about while learning. Why should they be isolated to a certain room every period? Create a culture in schools where students have the ability to work independently in quiet rooms, collaboratively in functional collaborative spaces, in unique labs for hands on experiences, etc. No bells are needed to herd them around like cattle. Have a designated wing where teachers specialize in core curriculum classes and students can seek help as they need it. 
I am sure I did not do all of their thoughts and ideas justice but these were a few that really stood out. Yes, I know logistically some are thinking this is impossible or are you thinking (as I am) why aren't we doing this! Understand that these ideas came from students. The ones that are sitting in your classrooms daily and they are screaming out they want change! They verbally admit that the current state of education is squashing their creativity and the way they process information. We can not continue to go down the same tracks expecting our destinaitons to change. How can we as current educators pave the way for Future Learning?

Please share this with others that want to make our system more meaningful and engaging for the future. Leave a comment with your own ideas about the future of learning or give some new perspective to think about.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Living Under the Influence

With it being the start of a new year many of us have made resolutions. My colleagues and I all enjoy the One Word challenge and have shared them with one another. My family is on board this year and we spent one evening creating our One Words together. Mine for 2015 is STRONG. My wife JOY. My daughter MOTIVATION. My son CHALLENGE. I could not think of a better way to spend an evening with my family. I personally find it more effective than creating a long list of wordy resolution statements. After all, only 8% of the 45% of people that make resolutions actually keep them. How sad is that? Many stop within the 1st week. Just look at your local YMCA. The first Monday back after New Years is insane. You can't find a piece of cardio equipment open and the workout area is full. Yes, there is a benefit to working out early in the morning....beating the resolution crowd.  If you are a regular in the gym you see the trend every year but you know that by February the crowds will be back to normal. Teachers are no different. We make resolutions to stay on top of our grading, contact more parents, prepare lessons plans in advance and so on. Why is it that we fall short? I believe it all goes back to INFLUENCE.

I recently heard a story about Carrie Underwood's new hit "Something in the Water." As I listened to the radio (Yes.. the radio was on country in my car and I did not turn Carrie off) on New Years day the DJ told the story about how the song was literally written and recorded in one day. Carrie and her team came into the studio with an idea and out of excitement the entire process unfolded instantaneously. They had no clue they were recording a hit. All they knew was that they loved the meaning of the song and felt they were all connected for a single purpose in that moment. I call that living under the influence. Pastor Brad Kochis of Lifepoint Church in Hilliard, Ohio recently shared about this in one of his sermons. He stated that when we are able to approach each moment driven by a purpose greater than ourselves we are living under the influence. Most of the time when we hear this phrase we tend to give it a negative association. We don't recognize that influence can be positive and play a significant role in the way we approach our day to day. We all allow things to eat up our time and influence us to make decisions good or bad. Let's face it, time is valuable but we can't control it. The clock keeps ticking no matter what we do. However, what we can control are the influences in our lives and the activities we allow to consume our time. I, more than anyone, need to work on my activity management skills.....just ask my wife she will confirm this.

Influence is defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone, something, or the effect itself (thanks Google). As educators we constantly allow outside influences to impact our world. In turn these impact the way we teach and interact with students. We place more value on things like standards, lesson plans, and evaluation systems. All while devaluing the student experience, relationships, and culture. Influence is a multiplier. It has a ripple effect when properly used. Let's break down that definition; Effect on Character...Effect on Development....Effect on Behavior of SOMEONE.....SOMETHING....or the EFFECT itself. As an educator think about your influence on SOMEONE-Students-Peers-Parents-Community. Your Influence on SOMETHING-Culture-Professional Development-Policy Making. Your Influence on EFFECT-Change-Positive-Negative. We have way more power than we think. We build the CHARACTER of our students. We shape the DEVELOPMENT of our peers by sharing ideas. We affect the BEHAVIOR (perception) of our communities by being a positive force. Now, think about this, what are you UNDER the INFLUENCE of? If we truly can be change agents and influence is a multiplier than we must be aware of what influences us.

“No matter what your goals are in life, you can achieve them faster, you can be more effective, and the contribution you make can be longer lasting if you learn to develop your influence.”
- John Maxwell

Four ways to harness the power of influence in education and elsewhere:

  1. Have Faith! I am firm believer. You may not believe in what I believe but you put stock into something that guides your daily efforts. Understand your WHY! Just last week I was asked what my gift is....without hesitation I said to TEACH. We each have a gift that we are meant to share. Don't be selfish with it. Do I have to be in a classroom to teach? No. Any moment provides an opportunity to use your gift. Share your passion and purpose with others. 
  2. Build relationships-Developing integrity and trust is the foundation of healthy relationships. Want to increase your influence....develop trust in your relationships. Be open and honest with those you come in contact with.  Connect with others, empower others, LISTEN to others, hurt when others hurt and take advice when it is given. Start with your family first. These are the most important relationships. Then build on your friends, peers, students, and so on.  
  3. Admit your faults- We all make mistakes. We all fail. Admit it when it is your fault and identify what you can do to change it next time. Nobody is perfect and others will connect with you when they see how you react to struggle and opposition. Stay positive!
  4.  Be Social- I don't mean increase your followers on Twitter or LinkedIN. You may have hundreds or thousands of connections on social media. Great! But in reality you only pay attention to a few; those who share the same values as you or provide unique perspectives. What I am referring to is the face to face conversations that occur daily. The moments at the water cooler, the after class conversation with a student, when your child needs your attention,when a friend is in need or asks for advice, and the unplanned off the cuff conversations. Just be in the moment. Be open to social interactions that help lead to influence.
I finish with a quick story from class yesterday. I teach in a different district than I reside in. My kids were out of school for a snow day and my family decided to come by and visit for lunch. I love having them drop by the building to see what I do. My son (2nd Grade) decided it was best to dress up because, in his words, he wanted to "walk in school like a Boss!" He shows up in a shirt and tie while I am wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. Truly showing me up. After lunch he asked if he could stay. He joined me in the classroom and became my assistant for the rest of the day. My students loved him and commented on how he was dressed up more than me. He had a blast pretending to be a teacher and leading the class. When we got home my wife asked him what he thought. He gave the basic answer of he thought the girls were cute. But then hit us with the....I think I want to be a teacher when I grow up! He stated he enjoyed watching Dad teach and helping his students in class. Influence! 

Always be under the influence! Let it ripple throughout your life, your classroom and throughout your building!