Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Top 10 Take-Aways from the Solution Tree Standards & Assessment Conference

Last week, I attended the Solution Tree Standards & Assessment Conference in Phoenix. As I reflect back on the three days of learning, I decided to put together my top 10 take-aways. Here they are:

10. On Retakes-Do you want to be a school that picks the winners, or one that creates the winners? Tim Brown

 In her talk, Cassie Erkins echoed the theme stating:
 We have a moral obligation to set students up for success!

9. "Grading is not essential to the instructional process. Teachers can teach and students can learn without grades!" -Thomas Guskey

Guskey identified three keys to moving toward standards based assessment:

  1. Begin with a clear statement of purpose.
  2. Provide accurate and meaningful descriptions of student learning.
  3. Use grading and reporting to enhance teaching and learning. Get rid of % grading and you get rid of problem w/ 0's!!

8. Phases of Professional Development from Eric Twadell

Twadell, the Superintendent at Adlai Stevenson High School in Illinois uses these phases to talk about where staff are at in the assessment process. He gave us examples of assessments teachers in his building have used, and had us rank them as to which phase the assessment represented. Very helpful. Examples can be found here.
  1. Preparation
  2. Incubation
  3. Insight
  4. Evaluation
  5. Elaboration
These phases come from the book, Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

7. Where ever you are in the process is where you need to be-Angela Freese

This quote was very helpful, as it recognizes that we are all at different places in the process of assessment, and focuses on the idea that where you are at is ok, as long as you have a "growth mindset."

6. Most Common Grading Errors-Eric Twadell

  • Use of 0's
  • Use of Average
  • Use of punishment/reward
  • Use of weighting
What would it look like if grades were based on learning rather than teaching? Twadell challenged the audience to defend these "errors" that many of us have incorporated in our careers.
Twadell also showed this video of "Mr. D," and his grading practices as an example of what NOT to do!

5. Ranking and explaining Drills Deeper than Recall-Twadell

Twadell gave a great example of an AP Economics teacher, who was very knowledge based, and hand created questions like:
List the four factors of production and give examples of each.
Moving to more proficiency based assessment, the teacher modified the question to the following:
Rank the four factors of production, (Land, Labor, Entrepreneurship, Capital) in order of their importance in an economy. Provide a short explanation for your ranking.
What they found, was that by giving the original "answers," and having the students rank them, the students actually "learned" the material at a deeper level, and did better on the AP exam!


There were several times at the conference that the audience was put into a state of cognitive dissonance, where we really were forced to question our beliefs and defend our practices. This is a good thing! Look at your own policies and ask, "What research supports this?"

3. Thomas Guskey-Professional judgement is better than mathematical algorithms.

To prove this, Guskey showed this example:

                            Learning Target
Student Name    E 1    E 2    E 3    E 4    E 5    E 6    Summary Score
Greg                     1        1       1        1        4        4

What is Greg's level of proficiency for that learning target? In the hall of 500 teachers, there was a unanimous answer of "4," as Greg had shown in his last two assessments that he understood the material at that level.
If the scores were averaged, the answer would be 2. Both the Median and Mode would be a 1. Professional Judgement seems to trump mathematical algorithm's. Guskey showed several other examples that proved this point.

2. #1 Behavior Strategy: Knowing Your Students-Doug Fisher

Have a 2 minute conversation each day for 10 days on a topic other than school to foster positive relationship. If you or the student misses a day, start over! John Hattie's research shows a .72 effect size across a year based on the teacher-student relationship!

Fisher also showed this great video on feedback that showed not all feedback is good! 

 1. Tom Schimmer's Keynote

Schimmer, an educator from Vancouver, British Columbia and author of Grading From the Inside Out, was the keynote on Wednesday morning of the conference, and it really struck a chord with me.

"True North" 

He uses these two guiding questions as his compass in regards to assessing students:

  1. Do my assessments accurately reflect student learning?
  2. Does my grading practice increase or decrease student confidence?

Standards Based Mindset

Schimmer also noted that students don't come to school with a "point accumulation" mindset. They learn that after entering the system. It reminds me that some of our practices "suck the love of learning" out of our students. I can see a change of mindset around assessment as a way to bring that love back.

By changing mindset in these three areas, a teacher can still use a traditional grade-book, but they will be setting themselves up to transition to assessment by standards, once the department, school or district is ready.

I was inspired by my three days in Phoenix, and it will be interesting to see how these principles resonate in Edina and if/how they get implemented.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Connected Learning! Live Tweeting from the White House with Erik Anderson

Last week, Valley View Middle School Government Teacher, Erik Anderson found out that he had been selected to "live tweet" President Obama's State of the Union Address, from the White House. For the last 5 years, Erik has used Twitter to connect his students with other educators, and to connect with fellow teachers around the world. Over the weekend, he was interviewed on local radio and television stations, and on Tuesday morning, boarded a plane to fly to Washington for the event.

I loved in the audio of his WCCO Radio interview that he talked about his use of social media in the classroom, and how his use of Twitter has made him a "connected educator," and the benefit it has been to his students.

During the State of the Union, students watched the speech and "live tweeted," their thoughts, using the #SOTU and #vvmsgov hashtags. It was fun to see teachers participate as well, as it gave students the opportunity for an authentic experience, and helped them develop a positive digital footprint. Students conducted themselves respectfully during the session, regardless of whether they agreed with what was being said, and were thoughtful and engaged.  As noted at the end of the Storify below, in the 2 hours students were participating, there were over 780 posts using the #vvmsgov hashtag! I've archived a few of them below. Kudos to Erik and his colleague Jason Dockter for putting together this experience for their students.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Google Classroom: Where does it fit with SAMR?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting at the TIES 2015 Conference on the topic of "Stop Looking At Squirrels," where I spoke about the need to avoid the "squirrels," or bright-shiny tools that may look cool, but don't really align with best practice regarding digital age learning. The slide deck is here:

During the presentation, I asked the question: "Is Google Classroom a squirrel?" 
Don't get me wrong, I think Google Classroom is a great tool for organizing Drive files and managing sharing! Google opening it's API for others to access and share data between systems is a BIG deal! of today, you can't track students by standard within Classroom, you can't organize units of content without a lot of savvy with Docs and Drive, and there is no parent access. 

Note: After sitting in Andrew Stillman's presentation today on Growing Wings on Google Classroom, it may not be long before these shortcomings are no longer there! Stillman noted that for the most part, you can "get by" with Classroom for most projects, and on big group or differentiated projects you could break out Doctopus to push out the assignment. As long as you are clear with them how they will access the assignment, you should be ok.

As I was talking I asked participants yesterday this question:
Where in SAMR can you get with Google Classroom?
As stated in the past, I don't see the SAMR model like a ladder, I much prefer Carl Hooker's SAMR pool analogy

Jen Hegna pointed out that it depends. Most teachers probably only use it to push out and injest assignments from students that are at the knowledge level in Bloom's Taxonomy and the Substitution level of SAMR. 

The last few years, I've done an assignment for our Hopdina Cohort, where participants are asked to create an simile for "Technology Integration is like..."

This could easily get to the augmentation level if pushed out through Classroom, where all students had access to edit the same file and each student created a slide. But I wonder if these types of experiences are few and far between. 

I'd be curious to hear what you think! Is Google Classroom a "squirrel?" Is Google Classroom going to be a tool that allows students to redefine their learning? Comments are welcome!

TIES 15: George Couros Keynote: The Innovators Mindset

George Couros, creator of was the Tuesday Keynote at the TIES 2015 Conference talking about "The Innovators Mindset, the title of his latest book." 

George's definition of the Innovators Mindset is the belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents are DEVELOPED, leading to the creation of BETTER ideas!

How do you leverage strangers? For our wedding photos, we tweeted, "Does anyone know of a good photographer in Edmonton?"

My mom is turning 80 and she's just now learning to read and write, but she's open to learning. She texts him with Emoticons. 
His dad came to Canada in his 20's with a 2nd grade education, and raised a family and went from a dishwasher to owning a restaurant, yet we complain about moving from Word to Google Docs!"

"Transformational leaders don't start by denying the world around them. Instead, they describe a future they'd like to create instead!" 
-Seth Godin

If kids leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed!

Comparing kids at a concert with their cell phones out, and business men on a train in the 1950's with their newspapers out. How are they different?
Then he shared this video:

When we tell students to put their technology away as they enter the room, what does that say about trust and how kids learn? Kids today see technology as more than a tool, that it can be used to allow them to teach, and when we teach, we learn! 

Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformative.

How are you getting kids to find the good information being shared, and creat good information?
The best person to learn about space from is not a teacher, it's an astronaut. Like this guy:

We don't give kids a device to standardize, we give it to personalize

Carol Dweck's book on Growth Mindset 
It's not about agreeing, it's about continuing to grow.

the Innovators Mindset is the belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents are DEVELOPED, leading to the creation of BETTER ideas!

Empathetic/Problem Finders & Solvers

The Big Question: Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your classroom?
Think about what other teachers are doing in your subject area: Could lead to students making "Your topic in 60 Seconds" videos like this:

Ewan McIntosh-We should be focusing on students becoming problem finders rather than problem solvers, like this. How do we make this the norm in our classrooms? 

Couros showed "WestHighBros" similar to OsseoNiceThings, where students created Twitter accounts to compliment classmates.

We don't get people innovative around things they hate... Kids can be really resilient if they are passionate about the topic.

We need to understand that failure is a part of learning and how we grow from it!

When kids see themselves as innovators and finding and solving problems, they can do amazing things! 
The people who says you can't do something get in the way of those doing it!


We watched TV, they MAKE TV! How can we give kids the space to create? Makerspaces, pages

Students should leave high school with these 3 things:

1. A Professional Social Network
2. A digital portfolio
3. An page

The shift in education has to move product to process! 

Social Media is like water. You can either let us drown, or teach us to swim. -Student

George learned a valuable lesson when inviting 2000 students to tweet out a hashtag, and the three of the students chose to tweet out inappropriate things. He thought about shutting it down, but when he asked kids to focus on the positive, they drowned out the negative voices.

We need to make the positives so loud, that the negatives are drowned out!

What if we had all teachers tweet out one thing that day they did in their classroom, and took 5 minutes to read what others send out? 
When kids do it for the teacher, they want it to be "good enough," when they do it for the world, they want it to be good!
To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection with the heart!
Adults see distraction, kids see opportunity!

What is the biggest game-changer in education? 
An educator who sees themselves as an innovator! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

TIES 2015 Keynote: Sylvia Martinez: A Global Revolution Goes to School-The Maker Movement

Sylvia Lebow Martinez, co-author of the book, "Invent to Learn," was the Monday keynote at the TIES 2015 Conference
Maker movement has gotten a lot of buzz lately. 
She noted that she was a pretty good student, and got an engineering degree from UCLA. She was invited to be on a team that designed a GPS navigation system right out of college. She notes that our students today will be given opportunities to try things that are new and seemingly impossible. 
The maker movement is giving students the opportunity to come in contact with tools that they will be seeing the rest of their lives. "Sure, I used a 3D printer in Middle School." 
People all over the world don't have to wait for a company, they can design and problem solve the things they need without big infrastructure.
We are in the "2nd Industrial Revolution!" As manufacturing changes the way the supply chain works, new jobs, skills and opportunities are arising.
What does this say about learning? People are applying their learning to change the world!
Makerfaires are popping up all over. 300,000 people came to the "World Maker Faire" last year. Here's an example:

The enthusiasm, and combination of art and science is truly exciting!
When she and co-author Gary Stager talked to people for their book, the people talked about how they wished school was like "maker faire." They hope the book can serve as a tool for teachers to see how they can make school more project based, meaningful, and authentic. Martinez and Stager now have their own publishing company, and have been working with "Super Awesome Sylvia!"

Three main components of Maker Movement


3-D Printing-Coming soon to shoes, food, clothes and the medical field. By giving students access to a tool like this, they can create authentic items and learn how they can transform the world.

"I can do this! -What more can you want students to say?"
Kids know that they are being invited for their ideas. Even YouTube! These invitations are coming to kids from the world. 3D scans of artifacts, bones, etc. It changes the meaning of primary source. 
On Saturday, I saw a video from Jen Hegna, where for around $300 you can do this yourself!

Physical Computing

Raspberry Pi-$5!!
Arduino-Turn on lights, motors, "If-Then" opportunities

These are low cost, easy to use items that allow students to create something that can be used in the real world. It's all tied in to the "Internet of Things!" 


Martinez believes programming is a skill all students should have. It helps students make sense of the world. 
LOGO is a great example, Scratch, and many of the Hour of Code sites are the "grand children" of logo.
An ecosystem is developing where modules are connecting together. Scratch can be linked into 
Beatle Blocks is the next step, that programs in 3 dimensions!

Expand the toolkit! Mix it up!

Cardboard construction using Makedo, Rolobox, or Hummingbird

The newest outposts in the maker movement is biology-Rapid prototyping a Euglena Gracilis environment.

Waterfall Design
Spiral Design Boehm 1988 (Rapid Prototyping), a chance to do something again till they get it right.
Computers make design less risky, you can try something, and then adjust.

Martinez talked about the "meaningful adjacencies" involved in designing the 9/11 memorial, so that people's names could be close to those they were close to.

Technologies are allowing us to be our best selves!
Can we do this in schools?
How do I choose, where should I start? 

Learning manifesto: Does the tool support what I believe about learning?

The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge -Pappert

Artist with arduino behind art work

Simple Design process-Get kids working on the process as soon as possible!

Making is not a shopping list, it's a stance towards learning!
Isn't this like "summer camp?" 

Finding ways for kids to find value, helps empower them and builds positive citizens. 

How do teachers learn to teach this way? Have them do it!! 

Constructing Modern Knowledge Conference is a great way to learn it!

Seize this moment in history to give kids the opportunity to change the world!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Data We Should Be Collecting...

Modified from
At the start of the school year, Burnsville Tech Director, Doug Johnson had a great post, titled, "Getting To Know You As More Than A Number." In it, he shared the work of Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez in Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes For Every School 

The post resonated with me, because for a long time, I feel like the focus on data in education has been about knowing the standardized test results, instead of REALLY getting to know the student, their likes, dislikes, passions, values and dreams.

It was just after our district kick-off workshops, where I heard about trying to be respectful of students who are either trans-gender or are questioning, and starting the year by asking the students what they would like to be called as they're first name. In addition, Sharocky Hollie had opened our district-wide staff development on Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Instruction. He spoke to the need to provide opportunities for learning in all three of the following domains:

After Dr. Hollie's sessions, I happened into Edina High School Social Studies teacher, Brad Dahlman's classroom. Taking what he learned about Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Instruction, he asked students to share their favorite song on a form, and then he found each song on YouTube. Each day, the students come into class and Brad plays the next song in the list. This provides a culturally responsive intro to each class, which is pretty cool! 

I decided to take the information from Doug's post, and what I learned during our workshops, and Brad's idea and put together a form that teachers could use to gather data to really get to know their students. 

Here is the link to the response sheet if you'd like to make a copy and/or modify the form.

My hope is that this can be a tool we can use to better know our students, be culturally & linguistically responsive , make connections with them, and assist them to personalize their learning experience and connect their passions with our curricular area. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Edina High School Staff and eLearning2

Yesterday I met with staff at Edina High School to share some updates on our eLearning2 initiative for 2015-16. While the program is entering its 4th year, this is the second year that all students are required to have a device for their learning.

We talked about our Digital Age Learning Framework and how it ties into our Educational Competencies and Next Generation learning, as well as using the SAMR framework for thinking about how students are using devices in their classrooms. 

During the session I asked the staff to share at their tables ways that they had incorporated devices in their instruction. I gave them a Google Form to record their answers and share what they discussed. Here are the questions they asked and a visual representation of the responses:

How did you incorporate student devices in your instruction last year?

It was rewarding to see so many different ways devices had been used for learning! Not just for consuming information, but collaboration and creation in all curricular areas! 

What growth steps do you hope to take this year?

It was great to walk around and hear the conversations as staff shared their stories. This coming year, staff are excited to take advantage of Google Classroom's new features and go deeper in the "SAMR Pool"  
I am excited for the coming year, and working with a staff willing to "live in beta," and grow!