01 December 2014

How Rosa Parks Can Inspire Our Efforts to Transform Education in the United States

One month before our family visited Washington, D.C. for spring break in 2013, a statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled 
at the Capitol, so we were excited to snap this photo when we visited.


Today, on the 59th anniversary of Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama,  I'm thinking about how Parks' refusal to give up her seat moved the world. She was a leader who made a difference in the Civil Rights Movement because she was passionate and took a stand when she was tired of giving in to the inequities she faced as an African American. I believe there are lessons we can learn and apply to the world of education and the inequities we see as evidenced in both achievement gaps and opportunity gaps

We must be passionate about our work to transform education & act on our passion to improve the opportunities for all students to enjoy high quality learning experiences. Where I work, we often talk about "blowing up the education system." Not in a violent sense, obviously, but definitely with a sense of urgency. We are impatient about the need to change and improve our current educational system. Too many children and teens are bored in school because so many school systems are doing the same thing they've been doing for hundreds of years, and it's often focused on test prep, worksheets, and isolated learning experiences.

We can make a difference together.  Just as Parks was part of a longstanding effort to create change, we must not underestimate our individual and collective efforts to stand up for what we believe is right for children and teens. Last month I was offered the opportunity to blog for Teaching Channel, and what resulted was a post on transforming the teaching profession and honoring teachers as leaders as one strategy for improving the educational system for the students we teach.

We must shine light on bright spots in education. Granted, boring instruction is not happening everywhere, and I'm all for highlighting effective learning experiences. We need these experiences to be more widespread for all students.

 "I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people." 
One of my all time favorite quotes by Rosa Parks

30 November 2014

Sunday Salon: What I Read Online November 16-30



 Still Life with a Ginger Jar and Eggplants, 1893–94
Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906)
Oil on canvas; 28 1/2 x 36 in. (72.4 x 91.4 cm)
Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960 (61.101.4)
 


Thanksgiving

When Thanksgiving Was Weird, an article by Lisa Hollenbach, explores the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in America.

A New York Times article by Sandra Joy Stein titled An Intensive Thanksgiving provides insight and opportunity for reflection based on a year when the author spent the holiday in her son's hospital room.

The band from one of our local high schools played in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, so it was fun to read about they prepared for the big day.

My appreciation for art and my leisure time on Thanksgiving Day led me to this fantastic article by Christopher Jobson. How 10 Famous Artists Would Plate Thanksgiving Dinner.

Dreaming, Hoping, Creating

You Too Can Help Students Achieve Their Dreams @ E blog post by Next Generation Leader, Shannon Treece. Seriously, you should read this blog and see how you can help this group of students change the world.


Continued protests around the country resulting from the Ferguson decision led me to this article by Chloe Johnson. Meet Davonte, the little boy with the big heart.

An art program for low income youth in Lexington intrigued me because of the innovative way they plan to take art to students via a mobile art studio, provided they raise all the money they need for the project by midnight tonight.

A Foundation in Georgia funds innovation projects for STEM learning looks promising.

How Much is Too Much? NPR Story about an 11th grader in Florida who will take more tests his junior year of high school than any other year. Granted, there's too much testing and test prep in all grades in America, and we need to do something about it. This story shares some hope for the future.
The Great Escape, a creative nonfiction piece, by Chris Bell a friend from college, appears in a brand new online literary journal--Grand Central Review.

Picasso Plates for Creative Dining showed up as a holiday gift suggestion in the New York Times. I just thought it was a cool idea to have creative dining options.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art releases 400,000 images for non-commercial use. I actually recall this announcement happening several months ago, but when I read the Colossal post it reminded me of this treasure of images available for use.

_________
Citation
"Paul Cézanne: Still Life with a Ginger Jar and Eggplants" (61.101.4) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/61.101.4. (December 2008)

23 November 2014

Banning Worksheets or Prohibiting the Use of Cell Phones and CrayonsWon't Increase Student Learning

Banning worksheets or prohibiting the use of cell phones, crayons, or other tools in the classroom won't increase student learning. For any of you who read my blog regularly and know what I think about worksheets, you might be wondering why I would begin this post with a strong statement like this. You see, I've been thinking more about why (Thanks to my recent reading of Simon Sinek's book) we do what we do. My reading of this book collided with my attendance at a GAFE Summit (Google Apps for Education). Perfect. Instead of just complaining about the ongoing situation with worksheets, I can actually offer some solutions.

But first. A Story.

Several years ago when I was still teaching in a local high school classroom, the district conducted walk-throughs and decided too much coloring was happening in the schools.  Quickly, an across the board ban on crayons and markers ensued, and teens rebelled by wearing crayons on a piece of yarn around their necks (not because they wanted to color worksheets but because they felt their opportunity for creativity was being denied with an across the board ban on a tool). The idea of the ban was to make a point about the lack of meaningful tasks being completed in some classrooms. The problem with the ban is that it took away a tool (coloring instruments) instead of tackling the larger issue of poor instruction provided by some people. What do you suppose happened with this ban on a writing instrument? Did it improve instruction across the board?

Fast forward six or seven years to my experience now as a parent in this same district. My eleven year old son brought home a coloring sheet for homework recently. I emailed the nameless school to inquire as to the directions because I couldn't believe the directions were to color, but yes, the directions were to color tastefully and not to scribble. That was it. Now, keep in mind, this is an assignment given at one of our state's top performing schools. I refuse to blame the teacher because we have a problem with our system, and across the board bans on tools (crayons, or cell phones) clearly--

 A) do not stick over time,
and more importantly
B) do not improve learning experiences for all students.

Fortunately, we now have tools beyond worksheets and crayons, so let me share some options I learned about recently when I attended a  GAFE Summit. One of the sessions I attended was titled No More Worksheets. Here, Holly Clark, a NBCT and a Google Certified Teacher shared ideas with us for eliminating worksheets in classrooms. Thankfully, the ideas she shared were not merely electronic versions of paper handouts. Rather, she shared meaningful teaching ideas and tools for engaging students in relevant learning. She emphasized the importance of using the tools well so that students make their thinking visible. Obviously, all of the tools she shared could turn into their own type of worksheet if we aren't thoughtful about how and why we use the tools. Teaching isn't easy, but using tools properly can help ease the load and increase student engagement and learning.

Kahoot
A formative assessment tool (kind of like Are You Smarter than a 5th grader)

Socrative
Clark emphasized the importance of using the quick questions and non-multiple choice portions for deeper thinking.

PhotoMath
The point Clark made with this tool is that we must make sure to offer mathematics instruction that's more than a worksheet or series of problems in a textbook because now the problems can be scanned and completed by the computer. Watch the video--it could blow your mind!

Croak.it
This tool allows you to speak your answer (maybe use it as an exit slip?). You can even send responses to parents. If you set up a private croak and teacher site, you can avoid public site nonsense and inappropriate croaks.

Explain Everything
Here's another app that allows students and/or teachers to create a voice over on an interactive whiteboard. You can also annotate, animate, import and export presentations.

**Stay tuned for at least one more blog post on the GAFE Summit in Kentucky. I still have to share about the tools  Donnie Peircey shared for interdisciplinary learning.
__________
Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/sally_12/312460637/">*Sally M*</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

16 November 2014

Sunday Salon: What I Read Online October 27-November 15

Instead holding my Sunday Salon weekly, I've opted for bi-weekly, and I'll continue to share only a sampling of what I've been reading since there's no possible way to share absolutely everything, nor would most people want to know absolutely everything. I'll share the links I believe you, my readers, will find most interesting.

Empowerment

A thoughtful Edutopia blog post by Vicki Davis titled Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Change Makers

In this white paper, read about teachers around the United States who are empowered to start and cooperatively run their own schools because they believe all students deserve equitable opportunities to learn and succeed.

The Teachers for Teachers blog had an excellent post titled Are We Creating Schools of Engagement or Schools of Compliance. Be sure to check it out. It gets me all fired up when I think about the all too often reality in most American public schools.

With the announcement of our city's school superintendent resignation came this brilliant op-ed by Kentucky students proclaiming the need for their voices to be heard in the search for a replacement.

The child who created this Rube Goldberg machine is empowered to learn through failure. Love this video, and I think you will, too.

Parenting Considerations

I really appreciated Harvard, Schmarvard: Why Getting Your Kids Into College Should be the Least of Your Concerns, and I agree whole heartedly with the importance of encouraging my children to be creative, independent, problem solvers who are passionate about what they decide to do in their lives and who enjoy their own company.

If you read my blog regularly, you know my thoughts about meaningless homework. In this blog post, I appreciated a fellow parent who decided it was more important for her son to play with toy engines and interact with others than to scribble responses on a piece of paper. What do you think?

Global Learning

Though you can only read a teaser at this link, I strongly encourage you to order a copy of Cake & Whiskey Magazine (or pick one up at a bookstore--limited distribution, but I hear they are now available at Barnes and Noble). The article, Conflict Kitchen, is about a business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that promotes discussion of global issues of conflict the United States has with various countries, and they apparently serve up some amazing food from whatever the country being discussed happens to be at a given time.

With all the talk about project based learning and its benefits, there's some raw honesty in these posts about students from Kentucky who are building a partnership in Nicaragua, and you absolutely must read about what they are doing. Read the principal's post here, and a post by an honest student here.


Educational Resources

Since joining Achieve's EQuIP Peer Review Panel a while back, I have continued to be impressed by the quality resources and tools submitted and shared on their website. Recently they reached the goal of 50 Exemplar CCSS aligned lessons. The rubrics for evaluating lessons are useful by individual teachers or larger groups working to ensure quality materials are utilized in schools.

Kentucky teacher, Brad Clark, shared his thoughts on What a Common Core Classroom Really Looks Like. I share this article under resources because it's especially useful for anyone battling the CCSS debate.

Read about critical technology integration lessons being learned because of a mishap in California, here.

Miscellaneous Fun

We have less than a month until Cheryl Strayed's book Wild appears on film, and I've been eagerly awaiting. Watching the teaser on this website made me long to see it even more--only to have my hopes dashed when I learned the film release isn't set for any place near Lexington anytime in December. Keeping my fingers crossed that it will eventually make its way to our lovely Kentucky Theatre downtown.

I used to teach Arts and Humanities and would have loved this project I learned about at the GAFE Summit last weekend, but now I can use it for my own fun and continued learning. You won't want to miss it.

My appreciation for old time jazz brought me to this New York Times article about a man who won a Thelonious Monk competition.

Pairing traveling with teaching? What could be better? I follow this blog regularly, and enjoyed an article about short term volunteer opportunities abroad.

I've read Into the Wild a handful of times, so when I saw Outside's article about Carine McCandless's new book, I was curious to learn more. Needless to say after reading the article, I now have another book on my list of books to read.

Experience English teacher/tech geek fun when you read Adam Watson's blog post titled Star Wars, Shakespeare, and Rebels.

My sons always have me on the lookout for information about Minecraft in education. There's a great example in this article of a teacher from Louisville, Kentucky using the game well in his school.

Hope you enjoyed reading about what I've been reading.  Please take some time to comment below to let me know which articles you liked most.

15 November 2014

GAFE Summit Kentucky

A week ago at this time my head was spinning with excitement and overload from all the learning at GAFE Summit in Louisville, Kentucky. Though my teaching now happens one course each semester at the college level (pre-service literacy methods course) rather than full time in K-12 public schools, Kentucky's first Google Apps for Education Summit provided opportunities to connect, learn, and rejuvenate. 3 reasons this is important to me...
  • In my work at a non-profit, we wish to disrupt the normal systems and operations in public schools as we support teachers and leaders because we believe all children deserve opportunities to learn in relevant and meaningful ways.
  • I now spend most of my time working with teachers, and in my desire to stay relevant drives my desire to learn about new technology tools. 
  • You never know when I might just live my dream of opening a Teacher Powered school. 


Creativity, Inspiration, and Excellence: Opening Keynote by Rushton Hurley
Have fun.
Save time.
Make learning meaningful.

The session wasn't about flashy technology but about ways technology can enhance learning, make it meaningful, let you have fun and help you save time. Hurley shared thoughtful, real examples relevant in the academic world. Check out Hurley's resources for ideas about using images and videos with students and competitions for students to create their own videos.

Inspiring Your Staff with Free Technology: Featured Session by Rushton Hurley
Free tools for discussing (though I have used all of these free tools myself, I'm sharing them here in case you haven't, and I'll also say the other tools and ideas about how to use the tools were new to me...)

Ponder: Do you have something happening at your school that makes a memorable experience? What's your story? You have a story to tell!
Free tools for wondering (all except the Google Art Project were new to me)
Ponder: How do you get people to share creative ideas?
Free tools for telling digital stories (all were new to me, and good stuff for use in classrooms)

Free tools for using Chrome

Google Apps in the Classroom to Engage Your Students by Monica Martinez

My favorite take-away from this session was World Wonders, but Monica's link above takes you to her site with a treasure trove of other tech ideas for use in academic classrooms.

My biggest take-away from the entire GAFE Summit experience was about hope--hope for humanity, hope for meaningful learning experiences, and hope that we can make it happen with so much free technology available to us now.

Check out the Storify of the event created by James Allen & check back on my blog for more posts about this fabulous learning experience.


09 November 2014

Writing for an Inspiring Business Women's Magazine


My newest issue of Cake and Whiskey Magazine arrived in the mail this week, and it's arrival was made all the sweeter knowing I am a contributor to this issue. C&W is all about sharing inspirational stories of business women around the world. My article originated from an interview with Kendra Montejos, a young woman who immigrated from Peru when she was six years old. Her life experiences as an immigrant student and Spanish speaker in American public schools prompted her to create a mentoring and tutoring program for other immigrant children in rural Kentucky. If you are curious about her story, read C&W issue 7.



Educator's note:
Though it wasn't part of the article, I have to tell you that Kendra told me her most memorable assignment in public school was writing her own story. So, educators, in our quest to ensure students are ready for the academic writing that they will face in college, let's also remember that students have stories to share and we need to encourage them to tell, write, and share their stories with the world.

30 October 2014

Why Teachers are Important: Insight from an 11 year old

As my boys grow older they are beginning to think about college, jobs, and careers. On a recent afternoon drive home from cross country practice, the boys started asking me about our evening. You know--the usual--What's for dinner? (pasta because they needed to carb load before their big cross country meet) When will dad be home? (late due to open house at the school where he teaches)  May we play computer games before homework? (no)  When I told them their dad would be home late, my oldest son immediately launched into all the reasons why he would "never become a teacher." I guess growing up as a child of educators, he's seen the good and the bad, but he mostly feels impacted by a desire to make more money than his parents ever have. While my older son was listing all the reasons why he would never become a teacher, my younger son piped up from the back seat "but, we need teachers or the world would be chaos." He went on to explain how he sees teachers as essential to helping students be well educated. It's true. Teachers are important, and they have the power to influence and impact change in our world. Teachers teach students to think, to dream, to create, to learn, and so much more, both academic and social.



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