About Me

My photo
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, 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.