Well - maybe jog!

While I am all for using Web 2.0 tools in our classroom and engaging students in a manner that makes sense (i.e. is relevant to them), I am a bit concerned by Ray Kurzweil's latest predictions for the future:
Actually, we'll hit a point where human intelligence simply can't keep up with, or even follow, the progress that computers will make, according to Kurzweil. He expects that non-biological intelligence will have access to its own design plans and be able to improve itself rapidly. Computer, or non-biological, intelligence created in the year 2045 will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.

While I'd like to live forever (maybe) and never have to worry about a cold - two other predictions in the article - I'm not sure I am crazy about having my computer be smarter than me. There's just something about losing my personality, my creative juices, my ability to tweak something that leaves me a bit cold. Even though I might be predictable to some, I'd like to think that I am not that predictable that a computer could replicate what I do (only do it better!)

Hmmm...need to ponder more of this one!

Run, Don't Walk to Web 2.0

I had the honor of spending Pie Day at G-Town working with Physical Education teachers on the tools of the Web 2.0. It was one of their superintendent conference days and although I normally take that day as vacation, my tremendous respect for Kim Mortiz and her leadership got me to say “yes!”

What a great day we had!! While I had the day mapped out – as usually, technology and enthusiasm for learning took over. Once the teachers discovered YouTube and the physical education opportunities there, they were hooked!! I saw more wrestling moves, basketball drills and football plays to last me a lifetime!! I had never really thought of YouTube in that manner before (I personally use it more for fun) but this group really opened my eyes! Check out how Amy integrated video into a blog she created for an upcoming fundraiser.

Many of the teachers were excited by the prospect of videotaping their own kids doing drills or parts of games/practices to put online and reference for the kids (think of saving papers from previous students to show them your expectations.) We had a healthy conversation about parental permission forms, what to tape and not tape, and how the world is changing when we need to do these types of things to keep our kids safe.

We ran into some technical glitches along the way with blogs and wikis, but I think the group has a firm idea of where they would like to go. (And thanks Fritz for fielding our phone calls!) We worked out way through Technorati and Bloglines trying to find PE sites that would inspire them and I threw out the challenge that G-Town should become the first and best PE blog out there!! (I had already done some searching and didn’t find much out there beyond information pages.) There was a great deal of commitment to the profession in that room and I was duly impressed!!

It will be interesting to watch the development of their wiki over time so see what they are able to put into practice. We didn’t have much time to work on wikis at the end of the day and I suggested they think about what they might like to include, get it into some sort of electronic format and we might be able to meet again to put the pieces together. Each teacher will have their own page and we discussed posting current health articles for kids to read along with the written response guidelines, posting coaching and other permission forms, and other information for parents. Some teachers discussed creating a wiki with proper weight lifting techniques and sample exercises (No Rob, I will not be trying that ab move you demonstrated for us!!)

These teachers inspired me in my fight to show that blogs and wikis are more than educational phenomena – I can’t tell you how many times they referenced the fact that their students or children had referenced many of the sites we visited and now they knew what they were talking about. They might be “digital immigrants” (as noted by Coach Footy when he lamented not having typing in high school) but they were brave enough to start the journey…..are the rest of you?

What's Your Mindset?

At a recent inservice date in my district, a comment was made by a teacher that students haven't changed in the 37 years he has been teaching. Hear! Hear! Shouted a voice from the back of the room - they are lazy and unmotivated!!

The other 20 participants turned to look at me for a response - and I was torn. First, I wanted the other teachers in the room to jump in and debate that point. Second, I was trying to figure out the point that the teacher was trying to make with that comment. Third, I was stunned that someone who felt that way was still in education after 37 years.

So I've been thinking hard about who is called to the teaching profession and who just shows up expecting a hefty paycheck and summers off. What does that have to do with my current ponderings on blogs?

My Director recently shared the Motivation Matters blog with me and I am hooked! This one in particular caught my eye:

Dweck, who served as a featured guest in August for an Education Week chat, "Student Motivation: What Works, What Doesn't," writes about how children or adults who operate under the fixed mindset see success as confirmation of their innate intelligence or creativity and failure as proof that they are not smart or creative, according to the review. Those who are growth oriented, on the other hand, see success as confirmation of their progress or improvement and failure as a learning experience.

The conflict between these two mindsets gets at the very heart of what motivates people...I think most of us prefer to operate under the growth mindset, but are often held back by the fixed one.

The teachers that supported the "students haven't changed" opinion are fixed - those who are willing to challenge themselves, take risks, and learn from the inevitable mistakes will grow. Those are the ones who will take Web 2.0 tools and run with them - will see that they need to change as our students have changed. Those are the folks who when they are asked to reflect on their practice and are pushed to think about how they do things, can articulate changes they would like to make. They accept that life in not about constant kudos and pats on the back, but about putting yourself out there as a learner. These folks can articulate why they were called to the profession - and these are the ones I want teaching kids!

Second Wave

From my last post, you can see I am a bit fired up but I take some solace in knowing that I am not alone!! I agree with Kim over on G-Town Talks that I spend a great deal of my time reading what others have to say on their blogs - much more time than I spend on writing my blogs. For me - other blogs act almost like mentor texts in writing - giving me something to chew on and sometimes, to model in my own writing. I think that is one reason that I love the new "playlist" feature of Bloglines! Now I can focus my reading according to my playlists when I have a quick moment...

I've found a new blog to chew on recently - and I apologize that I can't remember who gave me the lead. Full Circle Online Interaction Blog, "a place to capture and share ideas and links about online interaction, community, distance learning and distributed COPS (Communities of Practice), is a blog by Nancy White who seems to be thinking about the same things I am right now. Her post on Second Wave Adoption has prompted some interesting comments. One in particular has helped me to understand why some educators might be reluctant to adopt blogging as a part of their practice. Michele Martin wrote:

Many organizations still exist within a command and control, closed communication loop. Their institutional practices and relationships to stakeholders are built on this model. But Web 2.0 breaks that wide open, expecting a focus on process, on transparency, collaboration and openness that is simply not a part of the daily culture of many, many organizations.

Well - doesn't that describe traditional education in a nutshell? Don't we always talk about wanting to break down the classroom doors, having teachers become more reflective practioners, utilizing the wisdom of practice that resides within their schoolhouse? Why not use the Web 2.0 tools to start building that professional community? As Kim posted in G-Town:

It’s professional reading, reflecting, and responding. It’s thinking about my audience and what I want to say that potentially can influence thinking or serve a purpose to another educator, student, or parent. It’s about learning. My time spent “blogging”, and by “blogging” I mean reading on-line sources including blogs, writing, and reading comments left on my posts, is all about my own learning. It’s free, it’s accessible 24/7, and it’s what I choose.

Here is the Rogers Innovation Adoption curve that many utilize to determine how they will enact change in their organization:

Isn't it funny that this time our students are the early adopters?

Blogs: Phenomena or ???

A person I respect and admire has challenged my thinking about blogs recently. That challenge sat at the back of my mind for a week now and it took an in-service in my district to pop it out to this blog.

I led a group of teachers through the first day of a literacy strand on Thursday. The goal was to create literacy competencies in various subject areas so that we could take a step back from what our students are reading/writing to see the individual components that make up reading/writing and then address those areas that needed support with strategies (that comes with Days 2 and 3). The conversation veered substantially just before lunch………to student motivation.

The conversation bothered me on many levels – but the one that is most relevant here and to the challenge to blogging, is the sense of some educators that students haven’t changed. School isn’t meaningful or engaging to them and that, I think this is what I heard, they are just plain lazy if it doesn’t interest them.

Watch this and tell me students haven’t changed since you were one of them:
(Thank you 21st Century Collaborative!)

Now watch this:

(Thank you Fischbowl!)

I have come to believe that educators (and in fact our entire concept of education) is where the change must happen. Our kids are bombarded by information from lots of sources – we need to teach them to be discriminating consumers of that information. The world has given us MySpace and Instant Messaging – we need to teach students what is appropriate information to put out to the public and the appropriate words to use.

I’m not advocating that students write their essays in IM language – the real world still demands complete sentences (and words!) but we do have a responsibility to recognize that our kids are living in a different world and IM language is a literacy competency they need to have to have power in that world. You don’t need to embrace it – but you do need to acknowledge it.

And so – I think – it is with blogs. Blogs are more than online journals. They can be used in powerful ways by teachers and can engage students in the content we value using a medium they value. So why aren’t more teachers using them? Why aren’t they a part of each and every classroom across this globe?

Lots of reasons, or at least I am told. Here are some I have heard:
1. They are not safe – don’t you watch Dateline?
2. My school blocks all social networking sites.
3. Real life requires pen and pencil, not just a computer. Sure they can type – but they can’t type their state assessment.
4. I don’t have the time to have kids blog when I have content to cover.
5. I don’t have time to learn how to blog so I can teach my students.
6. I don’t blog because I don’t have anything to say – why should I have my kids blog? (Followed by – It’s just an on-line journal!)
7. Blogging doesn’t create real relationships – I want my students to discuss things in class.
8. Blogs are another fad in education– don’t you remember whole language and the damage THAT did?

I have learned so much since being introduced to the Web 2.0 tools this summer. And I have learned it from other educators who have put their experiences out there. As a result, I am bound and determined to make sure blogs aren’t a fad – and I’ve tried with the community of educators that I thought could push the envelope with this blog. So far – it is Blogging 0, Tradition 1. But I’ll continue this investigation and report back here.

In the meantime, I’d love to know…..what’s your excuse?

Brain Food!

What I read:
Willis, J. (2006)Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher.Alexandria, VA:ASDC.

I’ve read lots and lots of articles and books on how our brain works (or doesn’t!) but this one is different! It is written by a classroom teacher who previously practiced as a neurologist!! This powerful blend of neuroscience and education makes for some great reading – the author has a friendly, engaging manner and you don’t need to have a medical degree to understand the text. The pure science is contained in “Gray Matter” sections that give your brain a break but that you can just as easily skim/skip if you want to get to the classroom applications.

Classroom examples of how to enhance brain-functioning are also including. Nothing too earth shattering here but it does give new meaning to “research based.” For example, in Chapter 1 on Memory, Learning, and Test Taking Success (which can be viewed online) the author talks about the need for the brain to have “syn-naps.” This word play on synapse (the gap between nerve endings) is a brain-friendly way to remind teachers that after repeated release of neurotransmitters from a nerve ending (such as in an intense class involving complex material which might take the form of lecture!) the brain quite frankly needs a rest! These breaks are important for retention of information, but they also help to maintain a positive emotional state (no fidgeting!).

I also enjoyed Chapter 3: How Stress and Emotion Affect Learning, particularly the sub-heading “Where did the joy of learning go?” I have a real connection to that this year as my niece has started first grade and I can already see her love of writing change as she has been gifted with a teacher consumed by the need for perfect hand-writing. (More on that on my writing blog!) This chapter has some great connections to the adolescent learner as well – and would be great to share with middle school teachers!!

The last chapter (there are only four) deals with Assessments That Build Dendrites. Again – the strategies aren’t anything new but the connection to how the brain works is powerful and there is a nice section on my favorite subject – rubrics!!

The book also has a nice glossary in the back if you tend to confuse your amygdala with your hippocampus (I don’t of course – I was just looking for a way to get those words in!)

I would recommend this book for anyone looking to build classroom connections to how the brain works. It is a quick and easy read that helps to make some nice connections (with an online study guide from ASCD available as well!))

Google for Educators

I just finished reading Alife Kohn’s new article around research (especially research related to homework) and my musings keep turning into anti-Rush Limbaugh rant. I put down that article and read a great chapter about writing – so while I beat my rant into submission, I wanted to pass along a great resource. I’ll warn that I’m a Google junkie (adore gmail – don’t know how I lived without it – but the new Yahoo! E-mail ain’t too shabby) but I think they’re really going in the right direction with this new site: http://www.google.com/educators/index.html Not only do they collect some of their better services into one location, they offer instructional examples, and training and certification. I can’t wait to become Google certified! (certifiably Google?)

More on teaching as a profession...

Found some more conversation about teaching as a profession and the comparison to the medical field over on Jenny D. Seems some doctoral students were discussing the point and they have an interesting perspective:
But one of the conclusions was that teaching is measured (for whatever reason) by outcomes. Whereas other professions are not measured in only that way.

For example, physicians worry about process first. The correct process leads to the best outcome, so process is first. Physicians share a common language for discussing process and procedure.

Doctors who work with the sickest patients are often the most skilled doctors, and their outcomes are probably not as good as doctors who work with less sick patients. So measuring a doctor's skill might not be best done using outcomes.

It also goes on to mention some process orientated practices - such as Japanese lesson study - and ponders how we might begin to build a process orientated approach.

I don't know how others feel - but working in professional development - we try to integrate these "process" pieces into everything we do. In fact, at our regional curriculum meetings, we have begun to use a tuning protocol to guide our discussions of district and regional issues. Our hope is that something like "pay it forward" will happen - folks who work with and learn the protocol will then use it back in the district as part of their process, who will then use it in their buildings, where it might eventually translate into the classroom. Is that overly optimistic of me?

So we are trying to implement the process piece - but we seem to get stuck! Why is that? What is it about our educational systems keep us spinning in one place?

Annual Review: Ups and Downs

What is it? A strategy from “Data Driven Dialogue: A Facilitator’s Guide to Collaborative Inquiry” used to structure collaborative conversations about their programs and progress.

When would I use it? Since this strategy is designed to promote group reflection, this strategy is best at the midpoint or end of a project/program, upon the implementation of a new program, or when reflecting on the entire year. I used this to guide district teams in analyzing and reviewing their current AIS plans before we conducted a regional “swap meet.” My goal was to have them reflect on what was working in their plans that they wanted to share with others, but also to determine where they thought their plan needed improvement so that they could listen for or question their colleagues about how they were dealing with that particular issue.

Materials needed: Post-it notes (two different colors), chart paper, markers (a.k.a. the Staff Developer’s Toolkit!)

How does it work?
1. Individually, participants think of three high points related to the topic of the meeting. They write one idea on the same color post-it note, one idea per note.
2. Next, they think of three low points related to the topic. Again, they write each idea on a different color post-it note; one idea per note.
3. On the chart paper, draw a grid as shown in the picture above. Have participants post their “highs” and “lows” on the chart paper, rating them by degree (+1, +2, +3, -1, -2, -3).
4. As a group, review the wall graph. At this point, I veered from the protocol in the book and had participants try to categorize their post-its and group them. They then labeled the axis with those categories. (The book provides meditative questions instead).

Note: I posted additional photos of the grid and group work on my Flickr account.

Reflections: As I wandered the room touching base with each district group, there were very powerful conversations happening!! It was interesting to see that what some people thought were “high, “others had marked very low. It prompted some nice discussion and clarification of the issues. I thought it was helpful to have them categorize the post-it notes, as I know from previous experience that it seems that not everyone feels comfortable speaking up when questions are asked of the group. I felt that it promoted discussion and even deeper reflection of the AIS plans in this case.

Some groups wanted clarification of how to place their post-it notes on the grid – was the -1 the lowest of the low or the least of the low. When that came up, I explained that it didn’t matter to me, as long as it made sense to the group. I probably should have made that point more clearly to the groups, but it wasn’t a real focal point for me – the conversation was. If you prefer that all groups have the data grouped similarly for some reason, you might want to be a bit more explicit than I was!

Reference: Wellman, B. & Lipton, L. (2004). Data-Driven Dialogue: A Facilitator’s Guide to Collaborative Inquiry. Sherman, CT: MiraVia, LLC.

EPAA: Education Policy Analysis Archives

My new favorite work is snark. So, I begin this entry with the following snarky comment: If you don't have the good fortune to be enrolled in a graduate program, accessing educational research can be a pain. However, there are a vast number of resources available even without a student id. ASCD offers a daily summary of national educational headlines and regularly offers an Educational Research Brief. You probably remember ERIC from your college days – after a brief sabbatical, it’s back with even more full-text articles. (I always felt so research-y when I had to go request microfiche or microfilm while doing an ERIC search as an undergrad. I wonder if they even use those any more.)

Another resource that is actually a braoder electronic journal than its title implies is EPAA. EPAA: Education Policy Analysis Archives offers a comfortable and broad foray into educational research for both the novice and experienced educational researcher. Once you get past the sort of juvenile loading effects, the site is relatively simple and easy to navigate. For those who are bilingual, the Archives offer documents in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, on occasion. The editorial board is large and diverse (editors come from across the country - Harvard to UCLA) and all articles must go through the peer review proess.

The volumes are not thematic but a collection of a variety of articles in the three publication languages. The English articles in the most recent volume include:
Nichols, Glass & Berliner: High-Stakes Testing and Student Achievement: Does Accountability Pressure Increase Student Learning?
Successive Student Cohorts and Longitudinal Growth Models: An Investigation of Elementary School Mathematics Performance
Lustick, D. & Sykes, G.: National Board Certification as Professional Development: What Are Teachers Learning?
Young, I.P. & Miller-Smith, K.: Effects of a State Mandated Policy (Site-Based Councils) and of Potential Role Incumbents on Teacher Screening Decisions in High and Low Performing Schools.
Braun, H. I., Wang, A., Jenkins, F., & Weinbaum, E.: The Black-White achievement gap: Do state policies matter?
Howley, A., & Howley, C. B. (2006). Small schools and the pressure to consolidate.
Chatterji, M., Kwon, Y.A., & Sng, C. (2006). Gathering evidence on an after-school supplemental instruction program: Design challenges and early findings in light of NCLB.
Wright, W. E., & Choi, D. (2006). The impact of language and high-stakes testing policies on elementary school English language learners in Arizona.
Lubienski, S. T. (2006). Examining instruction, achievement, and equity with NAEP mathematics data.
Wenglinsky, H. (2006). On ideology, causal inference and the reification of statistical methods: Reflections on "Examining instruction, achievement and equity with NAEP mathematics data."
Lyons, J. E., & Algozzine, B. (2006). Perceptions of the impact of accountability on the role of principals.
Ragan, A., & Lesaux, N. (2006). Federal, state, and district level English language learner program entry and exit requirements: Effects on the education of language minority learners.

I did a quick search of the site using their search feature using “assessment design” and got several dozens articles – all of which appear to relevant. One, which I’m sure I’ll post in another entry – is titled “What Does the Psychometrician's Classroom Look Like?: Reframing Assessment Concepts in the Context of Learning.” You gotta love it.

The Web 2.0 is Coming! The Web 2.0 is Coming!

Will Richardson, Darren Kuropatwa, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach announce the first annual “K12 Online 2006″ convention for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice. You can read more about this FREE! professional learning opportunity at any one of their sites linked above!!

Updates!! There is now a conference blog which can be found here!!

Feeling Better: A Comparison of Medical Research and Education Research.

What I read: Riehl, C. Feeling Better: A Comparison of Medical Research and Education Research. Educational Researcher v. 35 no. 5 (June/July 2006) p. 24-9

Background Babble: So - here we are. Originally I drafted a framework for my "recommended reading" through the lens of professional re-commitment with concise arguments for why we are a profession. Then I realized - so what? If we conclude, en mass, that educators are professionals on equal footing with doctors, lawyers, and accountants will things suddenly change? Will students begin to learn more and better? If we decide we're not a profession, but something else (a professional/service hybrid) would the public perception of educators change? So what if we are? So what if we're not? Perhaps one of the struggles about defining teachers as a profession leads to the obligations that are inherent in that word. An obligation for continual self-improvement. Knowing the most current and relevant research in order to ensure you're doing your job as well as everyone else in your field. Attending conferences and workshops. Working until the job is done. This blog is Theresa's and my way of moving toward that goal for ourselves and whoever joins our community. I had no doubt about my first post as the article below arrived in my mailbox days after Theresa and I talked about the blog. I want to recommend it because the author talks about this very type of community as a page we can borrow from the medical field playbook. In ten words or less - educational research is now being held to a new, higher standard - unwittingly set for us by our brethren (sisthern?) in the medical field.

Summary: "Feeling Better: A Comparison of Medical Research and Educational Research" by Carolyn Riehl appears in the June/July 2006 edition of Education Researcher from American Educational Research Association (AERA). I joined AERA for one my doctoral classes last year and renewed my membership when I found I actually enjoyed reading the journals.

There is a feeling - actually, it's been stated explicitly by the federal government - that educational research isn't good enough. That it doesn't meet the standard - when the standard is defined as the medical model. The purpose of Riehl's article is straightforward. ". . . to explore whether the comparison can be a source of solace and inspiration, not just embarrassment." (p. 25) Riehl explains the gold standard for research in medicine as "experimental methods, especially randomized experiments". When we think of medical experiments, we generally think of control groups, random assignments, someone getting a placebo and someone getting the "real" medicine. Though this method is used in medicine - it's not the only research occurring. Medical researchers match the method of research to their research question. Although the double-blind design with random clinical trials is preferred as a means of eliminating bias, it comes "at the end of a laborious, time-consuming, and expensive progression through basic experimental discovery and initial tests of efficacy." (p. 26) Educational researchers, she says, should be allowed the freedom to follow the same path with confidence, and not feel as if their research is failing to measure up.

Riehl cites examples of "fool's gold' in medical research - where one random study revealed one thing and another study, meeting the same high standard, reached different results. Furthermore, the existence of one random, "gold standard" study does not invalidate all of the other research that has occurred. She cites examples of case studies and single subject studies in the medical field that lead to new lines of research (i.e. AIDS research started with a series of case studies). "Calls for more 'gold standard' research seem to suggest that if the results of randomized experiments were available, policymakers and senior-level school officials would know exactly what educational treatments they should require teachers to adopt. But, like doctors, teachers are also knowledge workers." (p. 26) Meaning teachers are expected to make professional judgments based on research and the child in front of them. Additionally, there are multiple philosophical arguments against the logic of randomized experiments. Finally, doctors aren't always willing to trust the results of clinical studies if the results contradict their experiences. What makes the federal government think that teachers are less able to evaluate and think critically about their field?

Riehl raises concern about the significance of research findings. There are two million medical research articles published each year (p. 26). This means even the most well-read doctor cannot be sure if a gold standard study is the final word or just another round of research in an on-going conversation. This begs the question of finality. Which study gets to cry eureka? When a particular instructional strategy works for 100,000 students? 1 million? If it doesn't work for just one student, does that mean the research is invalid? Additionally, who gets to decide which research is definitive? The teacher? The state? The feds? (Would that mean that the prevailing educational research would change every four years?)

Finally, Riehl speaks to the matter of disseminating the results of studies. She shares the model of the New England Journal of Medicine which is frequently cited in the media as the authoritative voice on medical research. Yet, one media source may select key statements from the study, while another may ignore a study all together. Interestingly, NEJM doesn't offer summaries of their articles, they provide only the full text so a practitioner can draw their own conclusions. This calls to mind the research blurbs that sometimes appear in ASCD or other teacher resources. How many educators read past the summary blurb? Using NEJM as a potential model for the bridge between research science and professional practice, Riehl cites the various types of research in the article. (Including the feature called "Images in Clinical Medicine" that recently had a man with a nail through his skull. He suffered no ill effects in case you were worried. Imagine the fun teachers could have with this picture. "This is Billy, moments before he dropped the hamster into the snake cage.") Riehl recommends the "Case Records" or medical rounds feature as one that educators could benefit from. See, Theresa, we were onto something!

Conclusion: The world of medical research isn't perfect. Educators hold a unique role in the social fabric and educational research should have its own identity and role. Although medical research is "better funded, better organized, and considered by some to more prestigious" (p. 28), education professionals face similar issues as practicing doctors. Small steps like this blog and similar initiatives, could be a start toward establishing a system-wide method of critiquing, disseminating, and performing educational research.

How this article can help an educator: Shaping an argument against adopting a medical model for research or increasing funding for educational research; augmenting a perspective on the disconnect between the research and practitioner

Why Grand Rounds?

Coming to education from another field - I was shocked to hear that some folks don't view us as professionals!! This was a bit hard for me to take since I came from a field that is (and has been for centuries) fodder for millions of jokes - but teachers, they are respected!!

Anyway - after many discussions with colleagues this summer about what our "expertise" is and how do we disseminate it to other educators, my co-moderator Jenn and I have decided to embark on the education profession's equivalent of "Grand Rounds." Our hope is to have educators and professional development folks share the research they are doing or have read about in an effort to increase the knowledge of our profession.

We all belong to various state and national associations, subscribe to numerous journals, attend conferences, and develop our expertise in many areas. This is the space to share and learn from each other!!

So - what have you been reading lately?