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As the 9th largest school district in the state of Ohio, the Hilliard City School District serves more than 15,500 students in grades K-12, through three high schools, three middle schools, two sixth-grade schools and 14 elementary schools.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 10, 2012

How to Maximize Student Learning

Check out this video produced by the National Association of School Teachers of Youth.  Narrated by the "adolescent brain," this (sometimes cheesy) video offers some important reminders on the conditions needed for learning to truly take place.  The brain says learning happens if:

  • I feel OK
  • It matters
  • It stretches me
  • I have a coach
  • I have to use it
  • I think back on it
  • I plan my next steps

It's worth the six minutes to watch.  As you're viewing, think about how many of the seven characteristics can be applied.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Using Technology

I came across this infographic recently, and I thought it fit perfectly with many of the great things going on in the Hilliard City Schools.  Obviously, the fact that 7 characteristics are highlighted ties nicely in to our 7's, but more importantly the following characteristics really stood out to me:

  • They always start with the why
  • They embrace change
  • They actively care

Common Core: Solve Math Problems

This week's article, Common Core: Solve Math Problems, outlines a model for classroom mathematical assessment that distinguishes the student's procedural accuracy from his/her conceptual understanding.  Education professor and author, John Tapper, calls the tool 'concrete-represen­tational-abstract assessments, or CRA' and says, "It’s easy to do, and it provides a sophisticated portrait of kids’ models for mathematical concepts."   In addition, the assessment framework builds reasoning skills and could be replicated at any grade-level.  Teachers benefit from using a similar model in their math classrooms by "exploring what students understand, where they are struggling, and most important, why they are struggling."

He describes the assessment steps as follows: provide a rich problem for students to consider, then ask students to represent the problem's solution in three different ways at stations: concretely (physical items, Unifix cubes, place value blocks), representationally (drawings, charts, tables) , and abstractly (equations).  As students solve the problem, teachers observe, question, and listen as students explain their thinking.  The information gained during observation is formative assessment data.  It will be used to guide instructional 'next steps' by the teacher, such as small-group assignments for reteaching. 

The Most Powerful Educational Disrupter

I just returned from the Learning Forward Conference, where I had the opportunity to talk with professionals across the world about the ways they are moving educators and education forward in their respective parts of the globe. Scott Rocco reminds us that the most powerful educational disrupter is the educator, himself or herself. The educator can create a mountain of change, engage large groups, explore the virtual world, design and seamlessly integrate powerful learning, and richly reward self and others by moving both classroom learning and professional learning forward.

The landscape of education is constantly changing, and educators are the ones who have the power to continue morphing it. Rocco shares five ways to become the greatest educational disrupter. While attending the conference, I sought ways to evolve the delivery of professional learning experiences. I came home rejuvenated and ready to move forward, not forgetting that transformation begins with the educator.

Changing the Culture, One Teacher at a Time

This week my article focuses on changing the culture of a school through the lens of technology use. Too often educators believe that technology will fix it all.  Fix poor teaching, fix poor content, and fix poor scores. Educators dump thousands of dollars worth of iPad's into a culture that doesn't understand how to use it and what do you have? A lot of happy teachers and continued poor instruction.  This article focuses on a model I believe is one that all educators can learn from. Instead of focusing on the large problem and thinking we can fix it with large amounts of technology, the author says we should focus on those that are ready to utilize the technology and change the culture one by one. It's tough to do in the instant gratification culture we live in, but as you read you'll see the long term impact of this one by one approach gives the outcomes we are all searching for.  What if we all identified a small group of core teachers that would be our technology culture shifters? Interesting thoughts. Enjoy. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 26, 2012

Homework: It Fails Our Students and Undermines American Education

I know many of you are having philosophical debates with staff around the issue of homework . . . what it should look like, when it should be given, if it should be given, etc.  This is a thought-provoking blog entry about homework and its relevance in today's classroom.

Mark Barnes is a junior high language arts teacher near Cleveland.  He made the decision to give up homework.  Barnes writes:
"For more than a decade, I peppered students with mundane nightly activities, as I had been taught to do by education professors and mentors, all of whom ran the old-school teaching playbook, like a young football coach running the plays of Knute Rockne or Pop Warner — ancient coaching legends whose methods would likely fail in the modern era. Year after year, I watched students get low grades in my class and fail standardized tests, blaming them instead of questioning my own methods."
Check out the blog.  Do you agree or disagree with Barnes?

Homework: It Fails Our Students and Undermines American Education

Finding Balance

My selection this week comes from Dan Kerr, a middle school principal, and discusses the importance of finding balance in your life.  With the holiday season coming up, I felt this article came at the perfect time.  We all have more than enough on our plates and our lives continue to move at warp speed, but as Kerr states below it is imperative we make time for ourselves:

"We all work hard to be the best educators that we can be, and sometimes we feel guilty for taking time for ourselves…….I get it. Don’t lose yourself in the process everyone, and be sure to put yourself first. It’s my feeling that without the proper balance in your life, you’ll never be the educator that your students really need. We still have five weeks to go until the Holiday break, so take care of yourselves! You’ll be all the better for it, and your students will feed off of your new found energy. Have a great week everyone, and remember to be balanced for our students and good to each other."
Finding Balance

7 Steps to Effective Feedback

Over time, the ‘Connected Leader’ has featured several articles about providing effective feedback to students.  The focus of this week’s article is principal providing meaningful feedback to teachers.  The author, Shira Leibowitz, is a practicing building administrator who speaks to overcoming the challenges of restricted time.   

As you know, one of the Characteristics of the Highly Effective Leader is  “makes regular classroom visits and provides on-going feedback to teachers”.   In our busy schedules and demanding roles, we must make time to observe the instructional practices of our teachers on a daily basis.  Leibowitz offers 7 steps principals can take that would allow time to give effective feedback to teachers:

1.  Schedule significant time in classrooms
2.  Schedule time for formal conversations with teachers
3.  Make feedback nonjudgmental and goal-focused
4.  Focus on relationships and face-to-face interactions
5.  Compliment
6.  Be transparent with evaluation
7.  Seek feedback for yourself.

7 Steps to Effective Feedback

Healthier Testing Made Easy: The Idea of Authentic Assessment

Grant Wiggins reminds us of the extreme importance of feedback and authentic assessment experiences in "Healthier Testing Made Easy: The Idea of Authentic Assessment."  While we balk at the die of more testing, it is clear that an increase in formative assessment is the key to improvement on tests of all kinds.  He reminds us to build authentic feedback into daily teaching and learning.  As for "authentic feedback," Wiggins says it's simply performances and product requirements that are faithful to real-world demands, opportunities, and constraints.  Students should be tested on their ability to "do" the subject in context.

We are reminded of a variety of analogies we've heard in the past...the soccer player who is unable to transfer the "drill and kill" to the playing field and the annual physical we try to "pass" rather than changing to a healthier lifestyle.  Understanding how and when to put knowledge to use is an important characteristic of expertise.  This is also the case for assessment of student learning.  We have to reclaim the primary purpose of assessment, which is to help our students learn better and to help our teachers instruct better.  Students deserve far, far more feedback (and the chance to use it) in our everyday assessment processes, especially assessment that models and demands "real-world" work.

Healthier Testing Made Easy: The Idea of Authentic Assessment

Gamification 101: Why A Badge Is Better Than An A

What if your son or daughter came home more excited about the badge that proves he/she can critical think to the point that they are a "Young Sherlock" than they were receiving an A?  Is it crazy to think that perhaps we are headed that way?  Does a letter grade truly represent learning or work? Does a badge prove that our students learning was earned by them instead of given by the teacher?  Why are students more excited about earning points on Modern Warfare and where they rank globally than if they receive an A or B?  It means more to their peers.  The value of a letter grade has declined in our students eyes because they can earn a C and pass just fine.  However, if you earn a certain ranking in Mind Craft, LOOK OUT…now you've reached "cool" status.  Is it hard to imagine that for some students, being the MInd Craft master is cooler than being the valedictorian? Interesting article that will challenge your thinking. Don't discard the thought that letter grades are losing value in the eyes of our customers.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 12, 2012

On Feedback: Thirteen Practical Examples Per Your Requests

The influence of feedback on student achievement is well documented.  Of course, it is also one of the seven characteristics of highly effective teaching that we have identified for our teachers.  Many schools have chosen feedback as an SIP focus for the year, and many of you are having ongoing conversations with staff about what quality feedback looks and sounds like.  Author and researcher Grant Wiggins recently published a blog entry with real, concrete examples of quality feedback.  

Here's one of my favorites (connecting to the feedback look for - "Students give feedback to the teacher about what they know, what they understand, where they make errors, when they have misconceptions, when they are not engaged, etc."):

"Every Friday, teachers collect index cards in response to two questions they pose to their 6th graders: What worked for you this week? What didn’t work for you this week (and why)?  Teachers report back to students on Monday, with a summary of adjustments that the teachers might be making, based on the feedback."

Take a look at all 13 examples and think about how you can share and discuss these with your staff.

The Future of Learning in a Networked Society

I've selected a video this week that ties in nicely to our ongoing focus on Innovation in Education and the need for change for the types of students we see today.  

“This is the first generation of people that work, play, think, and learn differently than their parents … They are the first generation to not be afraid of technology. It’s like air to them.” – Don Tapscott

If you can't squeeze in 20 minutes to watch the entire video, at least take the time to watch the first 5 minutes, as they truly capture the entire theme.

Off the Clock: Giving Students More Time to Demonstrate Learning

As you know, our district's CIP has an action step around grading and homework practices.  This week's article, Off the Clock:  Giving Students More Time to Demonstrate Learning, provides fodder to continue our thinking about these somewhat controversial topics.  Teachers make independent decisions about how and what constitutes a student's grade on a daily basis.  Often, their grading practices mimic the way they were graded in school.  When we pause to consider if our practices make sense in today's educational landscape, we often discover that they do not.

Today's article asks us to think about the antiquated practice of restricting the time students are allowed to demonstrate their learning.  Author, Kyle Redford points out that in our professional careers, it doesn't matter how long it took us to prepare the presentation or complete the report.  He correctly states, "Individuals are evaluated on the quality of their work."  I believe a School Improvement Team could have a meaningful conversation around this article.  

Performing Innovation Before the Norming and Storming

Jeffrey Phillips defines “forming and norming” as those meetings in which leaders trying to kick off an innovation initiative are blocked by issues, obstacles, and gripes that really aren’t reflective of the innovation, but have to be addressed before any innovation can truly begin. According to Phillips, it’s quite rare that a kickoff is actually about the innovation. Let’s face it. Until folks have shared their two cents’ worth and cleared the air about other issues, innovation takes a back seat. Too often, the very roadblocks that stymie innovation should have been addressed well before the big kickoff event. Phillips calls this “skipping the forming and norming, and moving immediately to the storming.”

Leaders become frustrated when laying out and implementing an innovation doesn’t happen naturally or easily, but this frequently happens because we have ignored the layers of issues and resistance created over time. Instead, Phillips reminds us to “clean up issues, communicate [our] goals, and set a consistent infrastructure in place.” Otherwise, the intended innovation will land at the top of the stack of other poorly defined, poorly supported projects and initiatives. So, the message is simple. Address key issues early, or as Phillips puts it, “...start the forming and norming activities early, so when your team is ready the storming and performing can begin in earnest.” 

Performing Innovation Before the Norming and Storming

Preparing Students for the Real World

I had the pleasure of taking a quick vacation to Florida this past weekend for a family members wedding. It's always great to reminisce with family isn't it? Catching up on what has been happening since the last time you spoke is always worth the travel time, until you broach the subject of education. You know what it's like, you're the educator so all targets zero in on you. This time I listened to a diatribe about how our students and teachers are failing and why can't they just learn like "we" did and perform like "we" did? I bit my tongue until I couldn't take it anymore and gave my best political answer to shut down their thought process. When boarding the flight this article popped up on Zite, and I thought it would be a good summary of the thoughts I wish I would have conveyed. All students are not the same, and they are dealing with so many underlying things that sometimes we aren't aware of it until we read a story like this. 

Preparing Students for the Real World

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 29, 2012

Highly Effective Principals Raise Student Achievement

It's nothing new for us.  We have been studying the work of John Hattie for years and the impact that quality leadership can have on student achievement.  We know that principals who understand, embrace, and implement the seven characteristics of highly effective leaders are more likely to positively impact student achievement than those who don't.  A recent study published in the Education Next journal illustrates the impact that quality principals do, indeed, have on student performance.

"Our results indicate that highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year; ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount. These impacts are somewhat smaller than those associated with having a highly effective teacher. But teachers have a direct impact on only those students in their classroom; differences in principal quality affect all students in a given school."

Have you reviewed those seven characteristics of highly effective leaders lately?

Highly Effective Principals Raise Student Achievment

To read the study, click: Study

Getting and Giving Student Feedback

As Feedback continues to be a major area of focus for our buildings SIP visits, I thought this article provided us with some concrete examples to improve feedback between students and teachers.  The author, Heather Rader, describes three strategies: Schema; 10:2 Theory; and Exit Slips that are quick and easy to implement in the classroom, yet provide the essential feedback we need to ensure students are on the right track.  

"While it may sound like a Geico commercial, five minutes spent on feedback before, during and at the end of a lesson can save...a lot."

Getting and Giving Student Feedback

Knowing Your Learning Target

For the last few years, each School Improvement Team in the Hilliard City Schools selected one Characteristic of Highly Effective Teachers on which to focus.  Many buildings are explicitly imbedding the “Knows and Applies Best Practice” characteristic.  The first classroom look-for is “Learning targets for the lesson are clearly identified and students are aware of them.”  Much professional discussion has occurred in HCSD in our early attempts to gain clarity on the meaning of a clear learning target.  This week’s article, “Knowing Your Learning Target”, explains that “They convey to students the destination of the lesson—what to learn, how deeply to learn it, and exactly how to demonstrate their new learning.”  The article describes the difference between an instructional objective for teachers and shared learning targets. The article could be beneficial to teachers as they intentionally and consistently communicate clear learning targets with students.

Knowing Your Learning Target

Some Handy Tools for YouTube

“Some Handy Tools for YouTube” is simply a brief, practical blog post about tools for both creation and consumption of YouTube videos. If you’d like to get more out of YouTube for your students and/or yourself, read this blog. OK, maybe Steven Anderson isn’t necessarily the best speller on the planet, but I didn’t care so much about his spelling as I learned a bit more about getting rid of the distractions and comments that come along with some of the videos, easy editing, adding soundtracks, trimming videos to only the parts I really need, creating my own private screening room, creating playlists, and more. As an added bonus, the blogger invites comments from others so that they, too, can share some of their favorite YouTube tools. It’s certainly worth the quick read.

Some Handy Tools for YouTube

Future of Learning: Obsolescence of Knowledge, Return to Real Teaching

I'm willing to bet one of the toughest struggles teachers will face is this inevitable shift from keeper of the knowledge to being on the outside looking in at google, the black hole of facts.  If a teacher would feel the sense that their curriculum and their self worth can be outshined by google, thus preventing the evil search engine from penetrating the classroom, I would say it's time to reexamine your teaching style.  If a teacher is an outdated human version of a search engine, we are failing our students.  We shouldn't see a teacher with a list of vocab words on a transparency having the students recite them after searching 30 minutes for the definition in the back of the book.  That's google. We should see a teacher actively engaging the students in the deeper meaning of those words and the context, concepts, and any other "c" word you want to throw in.  Going from "teacher" to "coach" is the wave I want to be a part of. Walking with the students through the journey of learning and development. In this article it speaks to this point.  Have a great week!

Future of Learning: Obsolescence of Knowledge, Return to Real Teaching

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 15, 2012

College May Never Be The Same

Have you heard of MOOCs?  Massive Open Online Courses are gaining in popularity, and more and more colleges are signing up.  In fact, in a recent Columbus Dispatch article, President Gee announced that The Ohio State University would soon be participating in the MOOC movement as well.

"In a new report, Moody's Investor Service calls MOOCs a "pivotal development" that has the potential to revolutionize higher education. Questions remain whether these online courses can be profitable and whether traditional colleges will award credit for them. But if successful, MOOCs could lead to lower costs for families and access to higher-quality instruction for anyone in the world who has Internet access."

Is there a message for us here?  Absolutely!  As you've heard me say many times, our value is not in knowledge; rather, our value is in the experience we create for students.  The college world is starting to grapple with this reality now.  We've just been dealing with it for awhile longer.  So, the key question is this . . . if knowledge is free, why do students need schools (elementary, secondary, or post-secondary)?  I'm thinking of many reasons . . . . are you?  This is an answer we should always be ready to answer!

A Life Worth Living

My selection this week centers around the age old question "What if money was no object?"  As we continue to provide our students with more choice; more opportunity: and more experiences, we must help them discover their passions and set them on the right path to follow them.  Sometimes, this may be harder for us parents; teachers; and administrators then on for our kids.

“It is absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on doing things you don’t like and to teach your children to follow in the same track…What we are doing, is bringing up children and educating them to live the same sort of lives we’re living, in order they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life, by bringing up their children, to bring up their children to do the same thing so it’s all wretch and no vomit; it never gets there…so therefore it’s so important to consider this question; what do I desire?” Alan Watts

Be sure to check out the short video clip!

Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom

"Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom" might be one of the best articles that I have read in a while!  Educators use the two assessment terms often but frequently lack clarity when defining or describing them. The article clearly delineates the differences between formative and summative assessments.   In addition, several examples of each type are provided to the reader.  I believe this article could be a powerful springboard for our instructional data teams as they work to build common assessments during their regularly scheduled team meetings. 

Twenty Tidbits for New Teachers

Having just met with our Year I Resident Educators and their mentors, I couldn’t help but to notice
the issues they’re finding to be the most challenging –

“There are only twenty-four hours in a day. How do I accomplish it all?”

“They aren’t behaving the way I expect them to behave.”

“How do I get my students to care?”

“How do I get them to turn in their work?”

It never fails. The same questions arise at this time every school year. Dare I say that these same issues arise for first-year, tenth-year, and twentieth-year teachers? “Twenty Tidbits for New Teachers” offers a variety of resources that may prove to be a wonderful support to our new teachers without adding to their already full plates. While it offers advice on building professional relationships, collaborating with colleagues, growing as professionals, and becoming a part of larger educational communities, it doesn’t forget the personal side – reflecting, relaxing, and making time for other passions. Please consider sharing this information with your newbies. Oh, and don’t forget the tenth-year teachers, twentieth-year teachers, and the rest of your teaching staff when sharing these tips.

Why Kids Need School to Change

The simple reason I wanted to share this article this time around is because of the title. Yes, I judged an article by its cover. The word "NEED" just grabbed me. Change is no longer a hobby we are going to dabble in. It's not something we should keep throwing around in a focus group, waiting for data to make choices. Our kids NEED change, let's provide it for them. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

October 1, 2012

Five Myths About Learning

Brain research is getting better everyday.  And as a result, we are discovering more and more about brain development and student learning.  My selection this week tackles some common myths about learning and what the latest brain research from Princeton University is telling us.

"The human brain—a biological organ that weighs about 3 pounds—develops as a result of a combination of the genetic program children inherit from both of their parents. Out of about 70 watts of power, the human brain uses only about 15—similar to what an idling laptop or the light inside a refrigerator use.

The typical 8-year-old child uses about half of his or her body’s energy to run the brain. It is an efficient device, but one that uses a lot of energy, said Sam Wang, an associate professor of neuroscience in Princeton University’s Department of Molecular Biology. Wang, also of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, has co-authored two books about the human brain."

This research examines the following "educational" myths:
Myth 1: ADHD isn’t real, or conversely is permanent.
Myth 2: “Redshirting” kindergarteners is, on average, good for child’s mental development.
Myth 3: IQ is the biggest predictor of student achievement.
Myth 4: Learning styles are a good way to guide teaching practice.
Myth 5: Autism is on the rise and is strongly affected by environmental influence.

What Schools Can Learn from Marissa Mayer

As you know, Innovative Teaching Strategies are highlighted in our district's CIP this year.  My selection this week highlights Marissa Mayer's Nine Principles of Innovation. Mayer recently left Google to become Yahoo's Chief Executive Officer.  Her first principle, Innovation, Not Instant Perfection, illustrates the culture of risk-taking we must foster for our students and teachers.  

"What if showing your best is a state of constant evolving, risk-taking, ideating, iterating, and course correcting instead of seeking a state of completion?"

What Schools Can Learn from Marissa Mayer

Quick Guide to the Common Core: Key Common Core Expectations Explained – Mathematics

This week’s article, Quick Guide to the Common Core: Key Common Core Expectations Explained – Mathematics, highlights five critical differences between CCSS and current mathematical practices across the US.  The message is simple: math success is built on truly understanding a few basic ideas. Changing US math instruction to reflect these differences is not simple.

The author shares that the 8 Mathematical Practices span K-12 and are purposed to develop mathematical habits of mind. Kathy Kellman says, “The Common Core standards demand a balance between conceptual understanding (mathematical principles and relationships, or “why”), procedural fluency (skill in carrying out procedures, or “how”), and application (solving real-world problems, or “when”).”   In Hilliard elementary buildings, we build understanding of what digits mean (conceptual understanding) before moving to the traditional algorithm through at least two methods:  ‘Exemplars’ rich, problem-solving experiences and Number Talks almost daily.  These early learning experiences allow students to reason their way through difficult problems in advanced math courses because math makes sense, not because they are following rules to solving the problem.

I highly recommend sharing this article with teachers who instruct mathematics. 

Six Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project-Based Learning

Since we are currently hosting our Projected Based Learning cohort training for 2012-2013, I thought I would focus on embedding even more best instructional practice within this already solid instructional framework.  “Six Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project-Based Learning” explores differentiation in assessment, daily management, and instruction.  This edutopia article shares six practical ways that we can differentiate for our students:

  • 1.  through team structure
  • 2.  through reflection and goal-setting
  • 3.  through mini-lessons
  • 4.  through voice and choice in products
  • 5.  through formative assessments
  • 6.  through a balance of teamwork and individual work

While these considerations certainly apply to Project Based Learning, we know they are not limited to PBL.  They are differentiated approaches that should be considered by all teachers, PBL or not, in their daily instruction.

Coming From a Loud Place

This quick read from Seth Godin is a great reminder of what we are all trying to do.  Change is tough to handle, almost as hard as leading.  Seth Godin reminds us that the big changes don't always come from announcing a world changing idea from the front page of the newspaper and everyone instantly buys in.  It takes more than one person, more than one moment in time. Invest in the experience Godin says.  What a great message to repeat with all of the changes, the ILC, Capstone, Course of Study Revision, OTES, 3rd grade reading, and more.  These initiatives will not be successful without everyone on the fringe investing in them.  It doesn't always take the loudest voice, maybe just the majority. 

Have a great start to October.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 17, 2012

Don't Fear Feedback on Failure - Teach Like an Athlete & Tools for Teaching: The Amazing Sticky Note

The highly effective teacher gives frequent, ongoing, meaningful feedback to students and creates opportunities to receive feedback from students about the effectiveness of his or her instructional practice.  Now that we are a few weeks into the school year, it's probably a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of feedback - in particular, that feedback from student to teacher.  When the student has an opportunity to give feedback about his/her learning and understanding and can communicate this to the teacher, it promotes ownership of learning -- something that's even more important in maximizing student achievement.

I have selected two items for you this week.  The first is a brief video clip featuring Grant Wiggins who reminds us of the importance of that feedback we get from students about their learning and understanding.  The second item is a blog entry from Edutopia that offers a creative solution for collecting feedback from students using "sticky notes."

"This week, I watched a science teacher use sticky notes in a very creative way. To check for understanding, the teacher gave each student a sticky note and asked each of her science students to give concrete examples of the vocabulary that they had learned in class. As the students exited the classroom, they placed the sticky note on the door. After the students all left the classroom, the teacher collected the sticky notes and was able to tell right away which students understood the concepts and which ones needed some targeted assistance."

Flipping Parent Communication?

Recently, we have shared articles on both the flipped classroom and and the flipped faculty meeting.  My selection this week comes from Peter DeWitt, Principal of Poestenkill Elementary School in New York.  

"Too often we leave our communication to monthly newsletters or school wide e-mails. There are many changes happening in education, so flipping the communication I have with parents offered me an opportunity to let them know what is going on."

Families enjoyed the approach, and Dewitt plans to continue the flipped communication for upcoming PTO meetings; Special Events; State Assessments; and any other Educational Issues.

Practical PBL: Design an Instructional Unit in Seven Phases

Project-Based Learning is a district CIP initiative that we have embraced for a number of years now.  Each fall, a new cohort of 100+ elementary and secondary teachers participate in two days of professional development from out-of-state PBL experts.  The three follow-up sessions are where the local experts shine: small groups of Hilliard teachers share out the units that have been created collaboratively and solicit feedback from their colleagues. Tweaks are made then units are published on eCampus for all Hilliard teachers to benefit.

The training for our newest cohort is about to begin in late September and early October.  The article, "Practical PBL: Design an Instructional Unit in Seven Phases" is a nice overview for those new to PBL or refresher for educators in cohorts of past years.  

Five Reasons Why YouTube Rocks the Classroom

In light of our recent acquisition of YouTube access, you may find this to be applicable to you, your staff members, and what you do for students in your building each day.  “Five Reasons Why YouTube Rocks the Classroom” simply shares the results of a gathering at Google’s Seattle office for the YouTube Teachers Studio.  A Google Certified Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator shares five major reasons why YouTube is a terrific tool for the classroom.
  • 1.  Inspire students well beyond the four walls of the classroom by being part of the shift created by the digital revolution.
  • 2.  Have more access to your students and make yourself more available via the flipped teaching technique. As video changes classrooms everywhere, make sure yours is part of the mix.
  • 3.  Reach audiences of millions as you connect, collaborate, and innovate.
  • 4.  Customize videos! YouTube now allows online video editing.
  • 5.  Assess your students with open-ended “video quizzes” that contain live links that can potentially connect them to more information or review when they give incorrect responses.
Check out the videos embedded in this article, and consider the endless list of possibilities for our
teachers and students. Just another reason why it’s great to teach and learn in the Hilliard City

10 Ways to Build a Culture Like Apple

After the recap discussion we had thursday regarding our administrative retreat I wanted to share this one article about Apple's culture.  Dave Stewart was discussing the desire to have our staff members feel the way the apple employees feel about apple, when talking about Hilliard City Schools (or your building specifically). This article provides a list of 10 ways to create that type of culture.  I encourage all of us to look through the list and check off ones that you do effectively and ones that you need to work on. Talk with your building leadership team and and make a plan to continue your successes and build on the weaknesses. Wouldn't it be powerful to have a video created of your staff talking about the powerful culture they work in each and every day.

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 4, 2012

School is too Easy, Students Report

A recent study completed by the Center for American Progress reports that, for many students, school is too easy.  The study claims that school is only a challenge for a small group of students at the top of our schools (usually our high schools), but not for the majority of students in grades K-12.

Among the findings . . . 
  • 37% of fourth-graders say their math work is "often" or "always" too easy;
  • 57% of eighth-graders say their history work is "often" or "always" too easy;
  • 39% of 12th-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.
This study can certainly spark some great dialogue and discussion.  How can our work with homework and grading practices change our kids' perceptions of the work they're being asked to do?  How can data team work ensure all students are being challenged appropriately?  How can project-based learning unit design push students to think critically and be more challenged?

I'm reminded of the question John Hattie suggests we ask our students . . . "Does your teacher like you?" . . . Maybe we should also ask, ""Does your teacher challenge you enough?"  I wonder what kind of answers we would get . . . 

How to Turn Your Classroom into an Idea Factory

My selection this week comes from Suzie Boss, author of Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World.  She opens the article with the question that many people both in and out of education seem to be asking more frequently: How can we prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s innovators?  Boss  highlights the PBL approach and provides 8 tips to turn your classroom into an idea factory.  

As we've embraced PBL and begin to select teachers for our upcoming training, let's challenge those that have been through the training to embrace these 8 tips, making them the norm for our students and future innovators! 

How to Turn Your Classroom into an Idea Factory

Seven Keys to Effective Feedback

As I planned for the upcoming Principals' meeting, I chose to emphasize classroom walk-throughs and instructional rounds.  The electronic template is a tool the administrators of HCSD will use to provide feedback to teachers about their curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.  

We know it is important to provide feedback to teachers and students.  However, we don't often discuss the components of meaningful feedback.  This week's article is "Seven Keys to Effective Feedback" by Grant Wiggins.  He explains that "...feedback is information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal.". The author gives six concrete examples of descriptive information that helped me better understand the concept.  

Seven Keys to Effective Feedback

Connected Educator Month - One More Thing

My entry this time is from a simple blog post by Stephanie Sandifer, who participated in “Connected Educator Month” during August. She focuses on carrying the energy of connected learning and being connected educators into this school year. Stephanie’s goals of inspiring and encouraging our colleagues and seeking more connected ways of working and learning makes me think about our HALS groups and the value they can bring to our professional lives. As we think about our HALS groups for 2012-2013 and determine how best to process and communicate our learning, it is important to consider multiple ways to move beyond the texts even more and expand our repertoires when it comes to further developing our instructional leadership. “Connected Educator Month – One More Thing” just serves as another reminder that we have the opportunity to become “just connected enough” to benefit greatly from our own learning and the learning others are willing to share with us. Sandifer does remind us that there is such a thing as becoming too connected. If we find a balance, though, between connecting AND taking the time to disconnect on occasion, we can enjoy the benefits of being connected learners and educators. We are preparing once again use HALS in order to engage in rich dialogue around timely topics that will help us to better understand and address the needs of Hilliard students. Let’s stretch ourselves even more this year and dip our toes into the stream of social media. Instead of writing a “final” reflection on the HALS group experience, think about using social media in ways that will keep the conversations alive and will allow your work this year to have an impact well beyond the scope of a year-long topical study. The possibilities are endless. Stephanie wisely reminds us to be careful, though. If we stay in too long, we’ll get all pruney. 

The 3 Biggest Ways Technology Is Disrupting Education Forever

It's interesting to think that we are in the middle of the educational technology revolution.  I would imagine most of us look at the changes and think we are near the end of the bell curve instead of the bottom of the ascension.  I remember thinking to myself "How will they ever advance the CD" then the MP3 came.  In this article the author shares three distinct innovations that will change education as we know it forever.  I love this kind of thinking.  The first two we are relatively familiar with or at least having the discussion at HCSD.  The third though worries me because I wonder if we are overlooking such an important aspect of disruptive technology.  The author will mention a platform called Schoology that teachers/districts/students are starting to embrace.  I used this platform last year and I can't agree more with the author on the potential impact "social media student interaction" will have on our future.  Schoology is Facebook for school.  Legitimately they stole everything about Facebook and turned it into a Learning Management System (LMS).  Online tests/quizzes, discussions, videos, in class polling, twitter integration, Remind 101 integration, Common Core tagging, and a virtual collaborative bin to share lessons and ideas across the world.  We need to make sure we are speaking our students language as this change is happening, or else they are going to be searching for another conversation partner.  These are three ways education will change forever, what are the next three and are we prepared to embrace them?  Then again, we never thought the white board could be improved, or a smart board, or virtual reality, or 3D projectors….what's next?  Do you as a building Principal communicate with your students on their level?  Their social media level that is.