Voice and choice has to be an option

It is probably the worst thing to ask a veteran teacher to do: let loose the reigns. Now, I didn’t say let go of the reigns. I’m just saying let loose a little. Voice and choice are so important for our kids to buy-in to what the teacher is selling. There are a number of ways to really accept this process including changing the title of teacher to lead learner.

In White Oak ISD, we entrust our PBL training to Dayna Laur. Dayna is a longtime, classroom practitioner and has an uncanny way of working key ideas into what the teacher can currently associate with. Take her connection of empowering authentic learning and worksheets:

If you haven’t already, perhaps you should take the time to watch the very powerful 2010 TedTalk by Adora Svitak. I could certainly write volumes on why the practice of worksheet education and low level Bloom’s is doing nothing but perpetuating a nation of students who are being taught not to think for themselves. However, Adora does an amazing job articulating this point through the words of a child. “What Adults Can Learn From Kids” reviews the lack of trust from which teachers operate in their classrooms. The lack of trust that causes teachers to place restrictions on their students, rather than letting them flourish. Near the end of her talk, Adora challenges teachers and adults, “not to turn kids into adults like you, but to turn kids into adults better than you.” In order to do this, we must move beyond the era of worksheets.

Worksheets are a prescribed curriculum no matter how you cut it. There’s no creativity in handing out worksheets, and there is little educational benefit. Sure, some short-term practice will occur, but that’s not our goal. Sure, worksheets are aligned with test prep, but that’s not our goal. Sure, worksheets are easy because they tear right out of the workbook the ISD pays tens of thousands of dollars for each year, but that’s not our goal.

Our goal is long-term learning by lifelong learners. We can be as cynical as we want about it never happening because we will never have 100% of our students who want to be in a classroom. So, is that the reason we shouldn’t improve the learning process for the vast majority of our students who really would take an interest in their own learning if it actually became their own learning. Ownership. That’s something voice and choice will help gain.

Crossposted in PLP Discussion Group.

What we need is a movement!

If you’ve never taken the time to listen to Sir Ken Robinson speak on education, please do that now. While his talk is roughly 19 minutes, it goes quickly. He sprinkles in humor amongst the seriousness of the need for change in education. The evidence he points to should encourage the educated decision makers to right the ship, but it falls on deaf ears. Folks, educators can want change. Educators can study change. Educators can even implement bits of change. What they cannot do on a full scale, is wipe the slate clean and start again in the right direction. Well, they can, but they need parents to begin the movement. Until the parents (taxpayers and voters) stand in unison, we will continue to wring every ounce of love for learning right out of our children all in the name of test scores.

Listen to Sir Ken’s ideas. We can start with one paradigm shift. He repeats one that I have been sharing with the Texas Legislature since I testified before an interim committee in 2007: make the test a diagnostic tool instead of a high stakes weapon. Then, we can actually put the $100 million a year we spend with Pearson to good use. Oddly enough, the one committee member who didn’t like the idea was Pearson’s lobbyist. Not sure how him sitting on a legislative panel doesn’t qualify as a conflict of interest, but who am I to judge?

 

Massive #FAIL. AKA: Never give up

Photo Credit: flickr user deeplifequotes

It all seemed easy enough. Christian had spent weeks putting together a 20+ minute iMovie on his iPad using the iMovie app. Basically, it was a BUNCH of pictures we took on our 10 day father-son Montana/Canada fly fishing trip that he ordered and narrated. He was ready to upload it to YouTube for embedding on his blog. Easy enough, right? Well, not so much. What should have been a 15 minute process turned into a day of problem solving.

First of all, Christian broke rule number 1 of any media creation: he deleted his source material before he published the final draft. In his defense, he didn’t know. He wanted to see the preview in iMovie, and to see a higher quality of it, he needed to clear more space on his iPad. So he did what many would do and deleted the pictures he didn’t need. After all, he already put them in his video. Right? Not so much. For those not in the know, you are really only putting a shortcut in the software to the media. You are not putting the media in. Delete your source material, and you have a bunch of blank spots in the video.

What confused him, though, is that the iMovie app showed him a little lower quality preview with all of the pics in place. It would have confused me, too. Keep this in mind: the original files are still not there. Lesson learned on his part.

Since he was seeing it in the preview, I thought maybe it did something different than other video editing software programs and decided to just push it up to YouTube. Fail. His GAFE account limited him to 15 minute max videos. So, I used my GAFE account. It said I was limited to 15 minutes, although I knew that wasn’t true. I swapped to my GMail account. Same problem. This tells me that the iMovie app is set to think all YouTube accounts have a 15 minute max video length. That’s a horrible setting inside the iMovie app, but we have to live within it. Lesson number 2 on the day.

I swapped to my Vimeo account. Another fail. It said I had a 500MB max upload size on my account. That might be true. I don’t know. I don’t use it that much. But, I do have a PRO Vimeo account we use to post higher end, longer videos. It is unlimited, so I figured I could push the video to that, download it to my MacBook, push it to my YouTube account, and then embed it in his blog. (Keep in mind, it would not let me go straight to YouTube.) Failure. Again. It said I had the same limit as my regular account. Lesson number 3 on the day: the iMovie app sees all Vimeo accounts as limited. Another weakness of the iMovie app.

My last option (or so I thought) was to just move the iMovie file to iTunes and open it in iMovie on my Air and push it out from there. Easy enough. Wrong. Lesson number 4 on the day is a loop back to Lesson number one: don’t delete the media before you publish. All I got in iMovie on my Air was a lot of black and no pics. The narration was still stellar, but that was no consolation to him. I did learn how to do this process for the first time as I had never tried it before, so that might be a win.

At this point, I went to lunch. I took him and my wife to Pizza Hut to try to get a mental break. After what amounted to two large pizzas worth of slices from the buffet, we were ready to get back to the problem at hand. On the way back to the office, he and I were running through what worked and what didn’t. He mentioned that he still didn’t get why he could watch the preview on the iPad in iMovie app and see everything there even though he deleted the media. It was something I still cannot explain to him. But, this conversation led me to think of a solution. Hence, Lesson 5 on the day.

I got to thinking. If Christian could see his preview full screen, then why not stream it to my Air via Reflector app and do the screen recording option in Reflector? It would kick it out in an MOV file (or similar) that I could put in iMovie and edit if needed. At this point, I was thinking it might work and I would just have to add the narration track to it somehow. After 22 minutes and 7 seconds, Christian and I learned Lesson number 5 on the day: Reflector did an excellent job on a long video.

When we watched the video being played back after the lengthy rendering (about 45 minutes), we got the added bonus of Lesson number 6 on the day: the audio came through like a champ. Reflector pulls in the audio built into whatever is streaming. It does not record conversation around the devices, but it does record what audio comes from the iPad. Thank you, Lord.

From that point, we just pushed the file to my YouTube account and embedded it in his blog. He’s happy. Mom’s happy. I’m ecstatic. It was the best possible outcome to what could have been a horrid lesson to him about video editing. It’s a lot of work to create a good piece of media, and it’s heartbreaking to not have it work out and have to redo it. That’s not high on a 12 year old’s list of things to do. In the end, the good Lord was smiling on us and we are now published. I’d embed it here, but he needs to see people actually do read his blog. Jump over there and take a look when you get a chance. 20 minutes is long, but it’s nowhere near as long as our day was trying to get it to this final stage.

As Audri says, “If you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Next EDU Gurus?

I’m always open to hear new voices, yet I have this piece of doubt that creeps up in me every time I see some new “Top (insert number here) Educator” list. It seems pretty random and nothing really fresh more times than not.

YouTube shared its “Meet the YouTube Next EDU Gurus” video yesterday. I expected some corporate deal to be mixed in, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some great young faces who seem genuinely excited about the video medium to share their passion for their subjects. Take a look at the video then jump over to their individual channels and see what engaging content you can find.

 

Meet the YouTube Next EDU Gurus today: http://goo.gl/SKMRB

www.youtube.com/AmorSciendi

www.youtube.com/AsapSCIENCE

www.youtube.com/bozemanbiology

www.youtube.com/hughesdv

www.youtube.com/KemushiChan

www.youtube.com/Lexie527

www.youtube.com/mathapptician

www.youtube.com/powerm1985

www.youtube.com/profspop

www.youtube.com/SpanishIsYourAmigo

Why School? Will Richardson tells you why.

Below are my thoughts on Will Richardson’s new book Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere. I have to say, this was a great read that I have already shared with my entire admin staff. We are reading it prior to a district visit with Will and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach October 2nd. Looking forward to the follow-up conversations this book will lead to. It steps on a few toes, but it does so lightly and appropriately.

The following is my review of the book I posted to both Amazon’s site and the iTunes Book Store.

I’ve read lots of “school needs to improve” books over the last decade or so. What happens is that they get bogged down in repeating the same problem with different verbiage over and over. It gets old and boring and I quit reading. Will went the right track with this text. He nails the issues at hand, offers a little commentary, and moves on. This is a quick, but insightful read for any person interested in making positive, proactive changes in their schools and classrooms. Keep in mind what you want for your own child as you read throughout. One of my favorite passages from the book:

“What doesn’t work any longer is our education system’s stubborn focus on delivering a curriculum that’s growing increasingly irrelevant to today’s kids, the outmoded standardized assessments we use in an attempt to measure our success, and the command-and-control thinking that is wielded over the entire process. All of that must be rethought.”

I would postulate that the group who contends “if it was good enough for me when I was in school, then it’s good enough for these kids” are the group causing all of the drop out issues we are facing today. The quote above describes the Industrial Revolution education systems that are still in use today in far too many places. It is that mindless, fact regurgitation system that bores kids and disconnects them from the love of learning new things they had as toddlers. Failure to adjust leads to failure to succeed.

Listening to politicians and big business has gotten us nowhere over the least several decades, unless you consider making the testing companies giant, rich automation factories. Take from this book and consider the part you can play in improving the education system. Quit letting others with their own special interests make the decisions for you.

World Peace….In the 4th Grade

Cross posted on the WOISD PBL blog.

The video and the summary below shows just how far students can reach in their learning if just given the opportunity to not have to go by the book. Want to learn more when you’re finished with this post? Go to the World Peace Game site.

Summary form the YouTube page:

THE FILM

World Peace…and other 4th-grade achievements interweaves the story of John Hunter, a teacher in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his students’ participation in an exercise called the World Peace Game. The game triggers an eight-week transformation of the children from students of a neighborhood public school to citizens of the world. The film reveals how a wise, loving teacher can unleash students’ full potential.
The film traces how Hunter’s unique teaching career emerges from his own diverse background. An African-American educated in the segregated schools of rural Virginia, where his mother was his 4th grade teacher, he was selected by his community to be one of seven students to integrate a previously all-white middle school. After graduation, he traveled extensively to China, Japan, and India, and his exposure to the Ghandian principles of non-violence led him to ask what he could do as a teacher to work toward a more peaceful world.
Hunter teaches the concept of peace not as a utopian dream but as an attainable goal to strive for, and he provides his students with the tools for this effort. The children learn to collaborate and communicate with each other as they work to resolve the Game’s conflicts. They learn how to compromise while accommodating different perspectives and interests. Most importantly, the students discover that they share a deep and abiding interest in taking care of each other. World Peace….and other 4th-grade achievements will inspire others by documenting the unheralded work of a true peacemaker.

THE GAME

The World Peace Game is a hands-on political simulation that gives players the opportunity to explore the connectedness of the global community through the lens of the economic, social, and environmental crises and the imminent threat of war. The goal of the game is to extricate each country from dangerous circumstances and achieve global prosperity with the least amount of military intervention. As “nation teams,” students will gain greater understanding of the critical impact of information and how it is used.
As their teams venture further into this interactive social setting laced with highly charged philosophical issues, the skills needed to identify ambiguity and bias in the information they receive will be enhanced and more specifically they will rapidly perceive that reactive behavior not only provokes antagonism, it can leave them alone and isolated in the face of powerful enemies. Beliefs and values will evolve or completely unravel as they begin to experience the positive impact and windows of opportunity that emerge through effective collaboration and refined communication.
In essence, as meaning is constructed out of chaos and new creative solutions are proposed, the World Peace Game players will learn to live and work comfortably at the frontiers of the unknown.

Learn more directly directly from John Hunter about why he does what he does:

Additional Links:

World Peace Game Site
Extended Trailer
John Hunter explains the World Peace Games