Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Change What You Do (or else improvement will never happen)

     It seems we are constantly hearing and reading statistics that say American students are not achieving very well.  We rank low in reading and mathematics compared to other industrialized countries.  A quarter of our children never graduate from high school and the graduation numbers are even worse in college.  Our poor children and learning disabled children and minority children have lower rates of achievement than our white and economically advantaged children.

     All of this is true.  And we don't like it; and we want it to change.  We want all students to be successful; we want all students to graduate from high school; we want all students to be grow to be capable, responsible adults.  But this is a difficult problem--as is evidenced from the years and years of data with very little improvement on these fronts.

     Something has to change.  We cannot keep teaching the same way we have always taught and expect different results.  Teachers give their best everyday.  It isn't a matter of "not trying" or "not doing our best".  We have to do things differently.

     If I knew the solution(s) to this problem, I would tell you.  The best I can do is offer my ideas:

     (1)  We need to instruct students in a way that they respond to; we need to know what they "get" and what they don't get--so we can help them.
     (2)  We need to use more technology in a more effective way.
     (3)  We need to be more concerned about learning and less concerned about grades.
     (4)  We need to use valuable classtime for addressing student questions and much, much less classtime forcing students to complete worksheets.  (If they already know how to do the work, why force them to show us again and again and again.  If they don't know how to do the work, why force them to do ten problems that they can't do.)
     (5)  We need to increase student engagement every minute of every class.  There should be less teacher-talk and more student-talk.

     What are your five best ideas for changing teaching?  If you could do anything in your classroom to help students to learn better, what would you do?  We have to do something different if we want different (and better) results.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Faculty Lounge of the 21st Century

     I am taking a MOOC (That is a: Massive Open Online Course) on Coaching Digital Learning (check it out here).  Recently they held a twitter chat and I said that the PLN's--Personal Learning Networks--are like the faculty lounge for the 21st century (see tweet here).  This tweet got a lot of retweets and favorites; a lot of people seemed to agree with this comment.

     I know that a lot of educators are on Twitter and I've heard (read) many say that they learn a lot from others on Twitter.  But, it is not just Twitter.  I believe that professional learning today and in the future will come from sources outside of our schools and school districts.  And many of these sources will be regular teachers with full class loads who also happen to be very well connected.  These are the teachers who tweet and blog and write books and speak at conferences and are always very willing to share their experiences.

     Back in August (2014) I planned a Professional Development session on digit learning and all of the speakers came to us via Google Hangout.  From the comfort of their own homes or offices, four companies spoke and interacted with 250 teachers.  We could see them and they could see us.  We spoke to them and they spoke to us.  But it was done without them having to board a plane and come to our school district.

     I am going to do it again in December as I plan a meeting with all of the Mathematics Supervisors in Maryland.  This time the topic is Using Technology in the Classroom.  The speakers will be influential people that I have discovered via their tweets and blogs.

     This is how we learn in the 21st century.

Public Schools and Choice

       Is it true that public school kids and their public school parents don't have choices?  I'm sure that I will expose my igno...

Teach100 blog