Monday, April 28, 2014

Teacher Leadership Challenge | April 28, 2014

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PMThis multipart series is intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online, through blogging, and in person.
The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond to the prompt in 500 words or less via a post you publish to your blog. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.
You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at tlc2014.posts@blogger.com Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published by sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

This Week's Challenge:

What message do students really need to hear from teachers?

Recently, a rather poignant blog post by Chase Mielke, a high school psychology teacher in Plainwell, MI, came out. The post was entitled What Students Really Need to Hear, and it caught the attention of a lot of educators. It was shared thousands of times on social channels, but came across my Twitter feed from the 2014 MD Teacher of the YearSean McComb:
I read the post and immediately knew why it was shared as much as it was and why it caught the attention of some of the 2014 State Teachers of the Year. This week's #TLC2014 prompt is inspired by Mr. Mielke's message to his students.
Your blogging challenge this week is to read Chase Mielke's post entitled What Students Really Need to Hear, and then to craft your own blog post with a message about what your message would be to students.
IMG_2766Think about how you would address your own particular class. Do your kids need a pep talk? Do they need to be inspired? Does every student in your classroom know how much you care about them, their learning, their life? Have your students learned about you as a person? Do they know it's okay to make mistakes and learn from them? Maybe your students need encouragement to keep being awesome, or perhaps they are hyper-focused on the wrong things in school. Could your message help redirect them to a better path? Could your words recharge them? Do they need a message to push them finish out the school year strong? Maybe they need to know that someone in their life is in their corner at the time they were considering giving up on school. Or maybe, your message is just what your students need to hear at this point in their life.
Thinking in terms of their development, their needs, their experiences, and their education level: what do your students really need to hear? What would be your open letter to your own students if you had the chance to tell them something important?
After you've blogged your message, then share your post on Twitter using #TLC2014, or email it in to the showcase blog using the email address above. This week, consider sharing your post with @mr_mccomb and @chasemielke, and of course follow them on Twitter, as thanks for helping share this inspiring message and getting more educators blogging. And as always, consider bringing this question to your next PLC, staff meeting, or teachers' lounge discussion!

Image Credit: Gary G. Abud, Jr.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Learning: It's not Just a Student Thing | April 7, 2014

Jessica Anderson



A lot of individuals go into teaching thinking they'll just be interacting with kids all day. However, that's far from the case. The adults in the building, your colleagues, are a pivotal part of building a positive, collaborative environment in order for students in your school to flourish. With the absence of collaborative efforts, students begin to see the negative culture being built between the staff in the school and start assimilating that behavior. This is everything we want to avoid as educators. So how do we do that?

As a teacher you begin to learn more about your teaching positives and challenges once you start breaking down the brick and mortar walls of your classroom. Small steps can be taken by collaborating with an individual in your building that has skills you wish for students to acquire, yet you don't feel professionally capable of providing. For instance, I am capable of writing, but I am not an expert at examining students' work, helping them pull it apart, and form a coherent piece of work that still reflects their personality and writing style. That's where our librarian, who was formally one of our english teachers, comes in. By working together, students get a solid science background all while working through the writing process with an expert in their field. Through these collaborative efforts, as teachers, we begin to learn about each others' teaching styles, strategies to help students in content areas, and really reflect on what are the best methods for our students.

I'll admit, I am better at collaborating with individuals outside my school, but that's not always a bad thing. With a growing Professional Learning Network (PLN) I'd be silly not to take steps to further my practice through interactions with those who are doing what I'd like to be doing. One of the best ways to learn from these teachers is to begin sharing what you are doing or want to be doing and asking a lot of questions. When you begin interacting with individuals, collaborative relationships form, and students benefit. The best learning comes from others' challenging your ideas and pushing you to think about the positives and negatives of what you are trying to achieve. As an educator, you have to be willing to take the steps towards learning in order to achieve the greatest learning results from other teachers. We ask the same of our students everyday, why not ask it of ourselves too?

Teachers Best Learn From Other Teachers | April 7, 2014

Mike Lerchenfeldt
http://mlerchenfeldt.blogspot.com/2014/04/teachers-can-best-learn-from-other.html?spref=tw

Teachers need to keep up with the forward progress of education, the developments in research, and the latest classroom approaches in order to improve student achievement. 

Since educators need to learn in a social context, classroom teaching must be more than a private practice. Educators need opportunities to develop professionally in a supportive environment. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) provide an excellent opportunity for teachers to learn from each other in order to meet the diverse needs and learning styles of students. When teachers are exposed to different teaching styles or strategies by watching other teachers teach, it is possible that their teaching style can evolve. 

However, it is not possible to learn from others if no one is willing to share, collaborate, or communicate. Teachers can learn something about their own classrooms by sharing their daily activities with colleagues and by reflecting on the teaching practice at conferences, workshops, and meetings. Blogs and social media allow teachers to tell the story of their classroom in such a way that it triggers reflection, inspires others, and advances teaching. The school culture needs to support the sharing and learning among teachers that mirrors the classroom climate.   

Monday, April 7, 2014

Teacher Leadership Challenge | April 7, 2014

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PMThis multipart series is intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online, through blogging, and in person.
The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond to the prompt in 500 words or less via a post you publish to your blog. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.
You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at tlc2014.posts@blogger.com Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published by sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

This Week's Challenge:

How can teachers best learn from other teachers?

20140407-090109.jpgA single teacher in a single classroom teaching a single group of students. The door might be open, but there is not really a good vantage point to 'see' inside. As the nature of education and schools have evolved over the decades, along with the rise of the information age and the ability to share on demand through myriad media modalities, classroom teaching has remained largely a private endeavor.
As teachers, we have become accustomed to the autonomy and independence that is classroom instruction. While the state sets standards, our schools establish curriculum, and our departments might have curriculum frameworks, we largely get to craft and deliver our own lessons as we see fit. Then where do all the ideas come from for our lessons?
The private nature of classroom teaching is coupled to the notion of individual teaching style, or the unique aspects of ones own teaching. We say things like: "everyone has their teaching style" and "that's an effective teaching style." Teaching style is developed through ones own lessons, interactions within the classroom, and relationships built with students. As new teachers become more experienced, they settle into their teaching groove and eventually style. Some teachers continue to expand and develop their classroom practice, but others remain steadfast with their methods.
Just like in other professions, the body of knowledge about how students learn, how instruction can be optimized, and how technology can enhance teaching and learning advances. What means do teachers have for keeping up with the forward progress of education, the developments in research, or the latest classroom approaches?
The daily responsibilities of classroom instruction seem so full to the brim for teachers, it can be challenging to think of learning anything knew, collaborating, communicating, or connecting with anyone else, let alone applying anything new in the classroom. It is very easy for teachers to just close their classroom doors and focus only on their students as they have been doing, but is that what's best for kids? We know that learning happens in a social context and that individuals learn from others, but what about for educators?
Opportunities exist for teachers to attend conferences, workshops, meetings, and even to pursue new knowledge independently, but with the availability of digital media, teachers can also share in real time. When there seems to be no time to leave our classrooms to pursue professional development with other teachers, can classroom teaching become anything more than a private practice? Is there an opportunity where teachers can truly learn from other teachers? Could we share what we do with fellow educators? Are the opportunities there for teachers to learn from each other? If so, how can teachers learn from one another? How can teachers get exposure to different teaching styles? Is it possible that your teaching style can evolve by learning from other teachers or watching other teachers teach?
Some schools are taking a page out of the book of the medical profession and conduct instructional rounds. Others send a cohort of educators through academies, to conferences, or workshops. Learning from other teachers by observing them teach, hearing them speak, or participating in workshops together are all ways that teachers can learn from others, but can sharing your own ideas from your classroom help you develop and advance your teaching?
Is it possible to learn from others if no one is willing to share? Can we learn something about our own classrooms by sharing what we do with others? In what ways can teachers make their private practice public? How can we tell the story of our classroom in such a way that it triggers reflection on our part and inspires others? How can we best learn from the classrooms of others and the work that other educators share? Many educators regularly share their classroom ideas at conferences and using social media, but how can teachers best learn from one another to advance their teaching and ensure high levels of learning for all?
Ultimately, teachers would love to have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues more, but the reality is that is not always possible. What policies, processes, and norms are established at the classroom, school, district, and profession level to allow for teachers to share their classroom practice with others and engage in professional learning? Is it acceptable to share what you do in your classroom at a conference, workshop, meeting, or on social media? How can teachers share and learn from one another within the confines of their schools as well as in the boundless arena that is social media? What supports need to be in place to create a culture of sharing and learning among teachers that mirrors that classroom climate of learning we want for our students?

Image Credit: Galileo Teacher Leadership Academy | Gary G. Abud, Jr.

The Role of Standardized Tests in Education | March 24, 2014





http://mlerchenfeldt.blogspot.com/

Teachers need tests to determine if students have learned what was expected of them and if it is the right time to move on to the next objective. The data gathered from tests identifies areas of difficulty which can help teachers adjust instruction for subsequent cohorts of students. Tests show teachers which students are achieving and the instructional strategies that are effective. Results from standardized tests can help inform educational policy, school improvement, or instructional practice and develop an action plan.


However, tests cannot be the only assessment used to help with the rating and ranking of schools, teachers, and school systems. There are inequalities in school funding between wealthy and impoverished areas which can have an impact on test results. Standardized tests are just one of the many markers of progress, and alternative assessments such as observations, performance tasks, or portfolios should also be used by teachers. Results from alternative assessments can be more effective in communicating outcomes.     

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Teacher Leadership Challenge | March 31, 2014

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PMThis multipart series is intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online, through blogging, and in person.
The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond to the prompt in 500 words or less via a post you publish to your blog. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.
You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at tlc2014.posts@blogger.com Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published by sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

This Week's Challenge:

How important is blended learning to modern education?

IMG_3039Consider the some of the noteworthy teaching and learning that takes place in a classic brick-and-mortar classroom. It’s likely that there are some great things going on there already. Class discussions, hands-on activities, and group projects might be a few of the first things that come to your mind; however, what if you were asked to identify some of the highlights that occur in an online classroom? Are you familiar with digital pedagogy? Should you be?
Online learning provides an opportunity to streamline some of the perfunctory elements of a traditional classroom by leveraging digital tools; however, it also opens the playing field to create opportunities for learning that would otherwise be impossible, such as real-time collaboration. Across the country, schools are considering 1:1 student-computing environments in their classrooms or a Bring Your Own Device pilot to see how students and teachers can be supported using computing devices in teaching and learning.
Video-based lecture has become all the rage in the flipped classroom instructional model; meanwhile, formative feedback and assessment for learning can be made possible with services such as WebAssign. The fundamental flipped classroom model is just one of many examples of blended learning, where components of a course are done online and in person. Now with the available library of massive open online courses (MOOCs) approaching a tipping point, you could easily farm-out some of the activities that take place in a conventional classroom to online services, freeing up classroom face-to-face time for more productive things, such as project-based learning.
This potential for incorporating digital elements into the classroom has encouraged a rapid foray into online learning by many educators. Currently, 45 states have an online school option for students in their K-12 system, though the majority of those opportunities exist for high school students. Though online learning provides many opportunities that the brick-and-mortar school building cannot, the virtual learning environments still lack some of the authentic experiences and genuine interactions of a face-to-face course. Furthermore, some research is suggesting fully online education may not be successful for all enrollees. If the advantages are there for digital learning, but the challenges make fully online education less embraceable, one emerging resolution is a hybrid of both traditional and online learning, referred to as blended learning.
The notion of blended learning is nothing new, actually, since hybrid or mixed-mode classes have existed for quite some time now, but the dedicated approach to understanding, developing, and implementing blended learning has become much more focused over the past few years.
Many educational trends and classroom strategies emerge and fade away all the time, but is blended learning here to stay?
With an increased demand on teachers to teach more standards in their content areas, an increasing number of teachers are capitalizing on educational technology to help accomplish the task. Educators are retooling their teaching style to offset class time spent on direct instruction or independent practice by outsourcing those tasks to online modalities, such as video tutorials and online quizzes. This is freeing up more and more classroom time to spend on guided practice, application activities, projects, and performance assessments. Many classrooms have teachers and students working together like never before in a constructivist and cooperative way. Some suggest that a 'magic recipe' might exist that could make blended learning more effective than face-to-face or fully online courses.
Is online or blended learning merely something that the elite and innovative educators do? Are there more advantages or more challenges to blended learning? Is blending the online and in-person environments really the best of both worlds, or do we have reason to believe that the brick-and-mortar model can persist in a digital world? Do we need to be concerned with the fundamental question of whether technology is intended to support or supplant great instruction in the first place with blended learning? Is this just the latest education trend that we can wait out over time, or is blended learning something to be taken seriously? If so, what role should blended learning play in the classroom? Does it have the same appeal to all students? Can blended learning support instruction in all grades and subject areas, or does its impact depend on the classroom? In the end, if we are to prepare students for a digital world, then some elements of digital learning must be embraced by modern education, but to what degree should blended learning play a role?

Image Credit: Middle School Science Students in a 1:1 iPad Classroom via Gary G. Abud, Jr.

Testing Ourselves | March 24, 2014


The last cartons of standardized state test booklets were just shipped back from the school buildings I serve, hopefully marking the end of an asinine era of high-stakes test administration in the Fall. Michigan is rumored to be moving to a Spring testing schedule, using more advanced and frankly harder assessments next year, but at least it will be after children and teachers have shared mostly a year of learning together, rather than a summer apart, a new teacher, and content from the prior year.
But testing's not all bad and it's hard to articulate why. Some folks believe learning shouldn't or can't be measured because it's experiential and contextual. Others believe that we must measure things receiving tax funding, regardless of validity of the results, so that we can filter down to only the "best of the best".
Who hasn't been in this scenario? Two people are in a car, not yet to their destination. One, usually the passenger, is holding a map or GPS that indicates the vehicles location. One or both are fervently fussing about where they are versus where they should be. Perhaps someone is also pointing out all the details of where they went wrong and reiterating how they aren't at their destination. What the white-knuckled driver really needs is clear feedback on where s/he is and guidance on the next step to get there. Do either of these people blame the map or GPS? Do they question its validity? Could they take ownership and control of the situation, knowing what they know now?
To be effective at anything, people use indicators of success and feedback for adjustment toward ultimate success of a goal. If one starts with a clear goal, one should be able to exhibit progress and completion of that goal. "Where do I want to go? How am I doing? What am I doing next?" are the questions John Hattie summarizes about how an individual, or a system, makes learning visible (Visible Learning, 2009).
The real question is not about the testing itself. The real question is how do we enculture continuous improvement without inciting fear, or affirming reality, of ulterior motives to sort and select people? It is a complex proposal that we gather evidence to guide teaching and learning, knowing full well that the same evidence that showing where we need to go, defines where we are not yet. How do we measure student learning and our own work? Testing, as it were, is not a simple activity and not simply an activity, but a measurement device or a map if we are to take responsibility for the next generation of humans, or someone else's child.