A Typical Day At Pine Glen

Today I had the privilege of filling in for Mr. Lyons at Pine Glen. As is normally the case, there were too many fun things happening to keep up.  Below are a few of the pictures from my time in various classrooms. Thanks to the staff and students for being so welcoming and taking the time to fill me in on all of the exciting learning activities that they are involved in. I look forward to filling in again on Friday, February 7!
When I arrived in Ms. Hayes’ classroom, she and her students were on a train ride through New Hampshire.   
The second graders are involved in a research project on famous people from Massachusetts. It was great to talk to them and hear how much they know about their historical figures.  A couple of the girls told me that they are excited to make a visit to Oxford, MA to see Clara Barton’s House. I am impressed with how excited and committed these students are about their research.  I am excited to see visit their wax museum at the end of February when each student will take on the persona of their historical figure.
It was neat to see the different methods students utilized to go about their work. Some with iPads, some with Chromebooks, and some with pencil and paper.
More research from Mrs. Lynch’s class.

They were also working hard in Mrs. Cunha’s room.
Mrs. Cunha’s class doing their research.

Some great art work of the banks of the Merrimack River through history.

#Rhizo14 Week Two – Enforcing Independence

My second post for the open course that I am participating in called Rhizomatic Learning that is being offered through Peer-to-Peer University (P2PU).  The course is being facilitated by Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communications and Innovation at the University of Prince Edward Island.

I absolutely love this week’s theme of Enforcing Independence! The oxymoronic nature of the theme is clear like so many of the other contradictions we see daily in the world of education. However, it is equally clear that one of our primary goals in schools is (or should be) to help students develop the skills to be independent learners. In order to help support students in the development of these skills, we need to ensure that the educators in our schools have learning experiences where choice and learning with others are the norm and not the exception.

As someone who has a significant voice in the Professional Development offerings in my district, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to provide educators in our district with a greater degree of flexibility in leading their own learning.  While we have had fleeting success with some learner-led days, we have not developed a formal structure where educators are able to create individualized plans that are flexible based on their needs.

Thinking about what our students need to be prepared for a world where things are changing at a speed that is sometimes incomprehensible makes it clear that our educational model needs an overhaul. We are educating our children and attempting to equip them with the skills that will allow them to be able to compete for a jobs that have yet to be created. The problem for me (and I’m guessing other who were educated in a traditional setting) is that I sometimes lack the vision for what is possible.  My own experiences as a learner are a severe impediment to my thinking when it comes to preparing meaningful learning opportunities for staff members.

I agree with Dave’s description of what the end result will be if we are successful in designing learning opportunities for our staff members:

“People need to self-assess and self-remediate. They need to be able to say that they don’t understand something and then be able to figure it out. There is no freedom until people can do this(unfortunately) we have crushed it out of our education system.”

With this in mind, I have been reading a lot about the professional learning of adults and I have seen some models which I think could help give us a start on the right path. Shelly Blake-Plock was spot on in his post last month regarding PD fore teachers:

“The point of professional development shouldn’t be in having teachers check off a box that they attended a session or watched a video or took on a project. And it surely shouldn’t be in having an administrator check off a box for them. The point of professional development should be in helping human beings–who in this case happen to be educators–become more fully engaged and connected with their peers and fellow professionals. The goal should be helping them to develop the profession themselves.”

One of the more concrete examples of this comes from Albermarle, VA where the district is making teachers the architects of their own learning.   Their Seven Pathways to Ensuring Life Long Learning Capacities for Every Child is a great model for other school communities to employ to ensure a greater degree of independence for learners.  As we plan our PD opportunities for next year, I look forward to the challenge of providing our staff with these types of learning experiences.

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My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (January 26, 2014)

Image representing Diigo as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

In an attempt to reflect back upon the numerous blogs and articles that I peruse online each week, I have decided to autopost the items that I bookmark on Diigo each week. Below are all of the links that I compiled last week in my Diigo account, with a few of my favorites highlighted in more detail at the top.

  • Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.
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Must Watch Video: The Amazing Sam Berns

I came across this TED Talk by Sam Berns today as I was scrolling through my RSS feed.  Sam is an amazing young man from Foxboro, MA who passed away earlier this month from Progeria  at the age of 17.

The video below was from a TED Talk Sam did back in October. The title for Sam’s Talk was “My philosophy for a happy life.” You simply need to take 13 minutes to watch Sam’s words of wisdom and then share them with someone else.   (I’ve added another clip of Sam below from his HBO film Life According to Sam).


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#Rhizo14 Week One – Cheating as Learning or Cheating our Learners?

I’ve decided to jump into an open course just starting called Rhizomatic Learning that is being offered through Peer-to-Peer University (P2PU).  Thanks to Lyn Hilt for blogging about the course earlier in the week in her first #Rhizo14 post Skirt the Rules.  The course is being facilitated by Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communications and Innovation at the University of Prince Edward Island.
The description of the course is what drew me in because it sounded so different from anything I have experienced in any course I have ever participated in. Here’s a bit from the description on the P2PU course page that piqued my interest:

“Rhizomatic learning is a story of how we can learn in a world of abundance – abundance of perspective, of information and of connection. A paper/location based learning model forces us to make decisions, in advance, about what it is important for students to learn…What happens if we let that go? What happens when we approach a learning experience and we don’t know what we are going to learn? Where each student can learn something a little bit different – together?” 

Week One Post 

The topic for the first week of the course is “Cheating as Learning.” I used tube chop to grab the clip below from the week one video on Community as Curriculum where Dave talks about how he takes the idea of cheating out of his classroom by creating a problem that is complex enough to force his students to have to work together in order to find a solution.

I have gotten into discussions about cheating before and I know how passionate people can be about this being a very cut and dry issue where there is no room for interpretation. However, I cannot help thinking that we can do a much better job in setting the stage (like Dave) where students are tackling authentic problems that create situations where they need to work collaboratively. 

“In school, looking at someone else’s paper to get the right answer is forbidden.  But in the work world, the people who rise the fastest are the ones who know the right person to ask to get the answer.”  Penelope Trunk

While I am not here to argue about the merits of someone copying an answer from someone else’s paper, I do wonder about an assessment that calls for someone to regurgitate factual information. I think we need to reflect upon the types of assessments that we are administering and eliminate those that require rote memorization of inane facts. I firmly believe that if this is the primary method for us to chart the progress of our students, then we are the ones cheating. We are cheating our students of valuable time that could be used for more significant learning activities that would help prepare them to be true collaborators.

In closing assignment one, I can’t help thinking back to Tony Wagner’s book The Global Achievement Gap and his Seven Survival Skills (below) that our students need whether they are going on to college or the workplace. How many of these skills would be best developed alone?  

  1. critical thinking/problem solving
  2. collaboration/leading by influence
  3. agility and adaptability
  4. initiative and entrepreneurialism
  5. effective oral and written communication
  6. accessing and analyzing information
  7. curiosity and imagination
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My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (January 19, 2014)

In an attempt to reflect back upon the numerous blogs and articles that I peruse online each week, I have decided to autopost the items that I bookmark on Diigo each week. Below are all of the links that I compiled last week in my Diigo account, with a few highlighted in more detail at the top.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

More Pondering On Midterm and Final Exams…

image via http://edsworld.files.wordpress.com/

Last week’s initial post on the value of traditional midterm and final exams drew quite a bit of interest. Due to the great discussions that I had with people in the comment section of the original post, on Twitter, and face-to-face, I was made aware of a few posts and articles that also touched upon this topic. You can check them out below:

Are Midterms Really Necessary In A Climate Of Assessment? – By Dawn Casey-Rowe on Teach Thought

In this post, Casey-Rowe describes is clear about her disdain for mid-term exams and also the fact that we have much better options to monitor the progress of our students in this day and age.

“It’s time for midterms. I hate midterms. They take up so much time–several days of review, a week of administering, and then all the correcting. To top it off, they place students in a high-anxiety environment. I feel like I’m hazing them rather than teaching…And all of this is unnecessary. I can tell if a student understands without a week of exams. We have the technology and the pedagogy to microassess students.”

The Procedure’ and how it is harming education – via Marion Brady in The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet

In this article Brady discusses the “The Procedure” which has come to play such an integral role in our nation’s schools. 

“The Procedure: 1. Take notes during lectures, and hi-lite key sentences in the textbook. 2. Before a big test, load the notes and hi-lited passages into short-term memory. 3. Take the test. 4. Flush short-term memory and prepare for its re-use. 

It’s no exaggeration to say that just about everybody in the country thinks The Procedure isn’t just acceptable but essential. It’s so broadly used, so familiar, so taken-for-granted, that many schools and universities go to great pains to accommodate it. Some even have rituals to enhance it. 

 The Procedure, of course, is called “cramming.” Do it well and it leads steadily up the academic ladder.

But here’s a question: Does The Procedure have anything do with educating?”

Bye-bye, Blue Books? – Harvard Magazine

This article from Harvard Magazine actually ran back in the summer of 2010 regarding a change to the faculty members’ handbook which took away the mandate of a three-hour exam at the end of each course. 

“The administrative logic aside, reversing the default procedure for scheduling examinations reflects a pedagogical reality. It appears that finals are going the way of the dodo.”

American Schools Need More Testing Not Less – by Ezekiel J. Emanual in New Republic

My short summation of this article is that it is a call for more formative assessments in an era where high-stakes standardized testing is taking to much of our focus.

“In the modern era, when information can be more easily—and accurately—Googled than mentally recalled, old-fashioned testing strikes its critics as obsolete…
But it turns out that the right kinds of assessments—frequent, short tests—can actually yield big educational benefits. It’s called the “testing effect…”

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