Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How To Learn? From Mistakes

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Educon 2.1 Conference at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. One of the highlights for me was the chance to tour the school and sit in on classrooms to learn some of the pedagogy that makes SLA so unique. One of the classrooms I visited, was Diana Laufenberg's Government Class. Students were sharing their stories from public meetings they had attended and were sharing their learning.

Last month, Laufenberg presented at the TEDxMidAtlantic Conference. In the talk, she shares the story of learning from the perspective of her grandmother, father, herself, and now her students. In her grandmother's world, school was where you had to go to "get the information." She points out that today, that is no longer the case. By asking students questions, allowing them to make mistakes, asking them what they can do with the information, we can offer a richer learning experience. She challenges us to provide experiential learning opportunities, to empower student voice and embrace failure in the learning process. The video is about 10 minutes long, and gives a great message of how schools can change to reflect the information world we live in.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TIES 2010 Keynote: Bernie Trilling-21st-Century Skills: Learning For Life in Our Times

Bernie Trilling, co-author of 21st Century Skills, Learning for Life in Our Times, spoke in the Tuesday TIES 2010 Keynote. He started by thanking TIES, and remembering "Oregon Trail," which you can still get on your iPhone!
His focus today is on 21st Century Learning and the current progress on it.
This is an interesting time for education right now.
A tale of Two Cities...The best of times and the worst of times!
What is really going on in Education right now:
  • 1 Foot in the Industrial Age model-An old boat that looks a little rusty
  • Drop out rates are high because the kids are "over-bored!"
  • 1 Foot in the "iBoat!"
  • The boats are moving apart from each other
  • At some point we need to make a decision on where we are headed.
  • This is the case all over the world

How do we get through this transition?

Churchill said, "You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing...After they have tried everything else!""

The critical question: What do students need to learn to be successful in the 21st Century?
The Rear View Mirror
Unfortunately, we have a "rear view mirror" syndrome. We were all in school.. this prevents us from moving forward! We need to toss out the rear view mirror and focus on the future!

The Future:
It Ain't what it used to be!-Berra
The best way to predict the future is to invent it! -Kay
Why do we need 21st century learning?
What do students now need?
How do we get there?
Trilling then lead us through "The four question exercise"
1. In 20 Years, when the child leaves formal education, what will the world be like?
Audience Response:
  • Like the Jetsons!
  • Independent/Personalized Learning
  • Paperless
  • Increased Computer Capability
  • Overcrowded and too warm
  • Work from home, anytime, anyplace
  • Digital Natives in control
  • Disparity between haves and have nots!
  • Learning is entertaining
  • More communication, less boundaries, more connected!
  • Quality of life based on access to technology
2. What skills will your child need to be successful in the world you just painted?

  • Ability to learn and adapt independently
  • Not always a "right" answer
  • Culturally aware AND Globally responsible!
  • REALLY good communication skills
  • Growth minded!-Willing to believe that they can and should continue to learn!
  • Keeping up with the technology
  • Synthesize and evaluate information
  • The easy way is not always the right, moral or ethical way!
  • Finding Balance-Mind, body and spirit
  • Collaboration
  • Connection with the natural world!
  • Flexibility
  • Open minded
  • Know how to "brand" themselves!

3. In your own life, what were the conditions that supported your peak learning experiences?

  • Enthusiastic/passionate teachers, content and students
  • Supportive parents
  • Choice
  • Learning more important than behavior
  • Not driven by grades-Importance of topic is valued
  • Taking responsibility for own learning
  • Connection and empowerment to rest of the world
  • Travel, people skills
  • Involved positive risk-taking
  • Part of a learning community

Trilling: We have created a blueprint for learning!
What would learning look like if it was designed around these
Which skill is most important? Trilling says, "LEARNING! The profession of being an adult in the 21st Century!"

Trilling reminded us of home media technology in 1975 to today. He also notes that students are different today from how they were then as well.
Tapscott study:
  • Personalized Learning
  • Speedy access to online research, writing, sharing, project tools
  • Social Tools
  • High School Survey of Student Engagement from Indiana:
  • 65% of students are bored every day
  • 82% Material not interesting
  • Not relevant
  • No Teacher interaction
The world IS flat!, but workers need 21st Century Skills to compete! Are students ready to work?
Businesses want: Oral skills, teaming, project management-AMA 2010 Critical Skills Survey
The Future World of Work-Routine work done by people or machines going to the lowest bidder. Creative work is where it's at!
He then showed the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Framework. If you look at the framework, almost all were mentioned in the audience response above!
He calls this the 7 "C's"
  1. Content Understanding
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Cross Cultural Understanding
  4. Collaboration
  5. Communication
  6. Computing Skills
  7. Career and Civic Learning and Self-Reliance

3R's x 7C's =21st Century Learning
How do we do this?
Trilling then showed a clip from Dan Meyer's TEDxNYED talk:

"Every student is intuitively involved." There is no answer in the back of the book! Trilling says that like Dan Meyer, We need to "Be Less Helpful!"
When we "learn about learning" we know that we need context, caring, construction, competence, and community.
He then shared a "Deeper Learning" School Network whose schools use a project-based approach that introduces an authentic essential question to start the learning process. This network includes Edvisions Schools, which includes the Minnesota New Country Day School.
Trilling talked about the importance of the Essential Question in the Project Based Learning process.
He closed his talk with a wonderful story about a school in California that for 18 years has been working on a project that started with a simple question...
And then we read the pledge...(Thanks to @recessduty for the picture)

TIES 2010: Exceptional Teachers

At the TIES 2010 conference, Mark Walace and Kathleen "KC" West were honored as Exceptional Educators for modeling best practices and engaging students in learning! Congratulations!

Monday, December 6, 2010

ISTE 2010: ABC's of Advocacy with Hilary Goldmann

Hillary Goldmann, Director of Government Affairs with ISTE presented on Educational Technology Advocacy issues. The session was attended by Technology Directors, teachers, educational consultants, administrators interested in advocating for curricular and funding needs.

State Level
Carol McFarland, a Minnesota State Representative from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, came to share her thoughts on educational advocacy issues at the state level. Before she became a legislator, she was a parent volunteer and school board member. She reminded us that democrat or republican, you can not pigeon hole legislators, as they are all individuals. It is important to talk to both parties. Education is NOT about partisanship. She is on the Education Policy committee, and believes that there needs to be better alignment between K-12 and post secondary. What are issues regarding collaborating. Currently, cities, counties and townships do not have to go to the voters regarding expenditures. Schools do. This needs to change.
Tell your story, to ANYBODY and EVERYBODY! Engage your legislators, not just your local legislators. Contact committee members, but don't stop there! If you have individually done your work telling your story, when bills get to the floor, all will have heard it!
Build coalitions! How many know that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has Education as a high priority! The problem is we speak different languages. They want a return on investment, and a strong work force. The battle scars of political elections make it difficult for people to get together to work on issues, but work together they must!
Letters are more effective than e-mails, since people took the time to write, rather than copy and paste an e-mail. This is significant! Make appointments to talk with legislators. It is more effective to write a short, sweet letter to tell your story. Robo-e-mails are less effective. Sometimes students are the best advocates, but make it genuine, not prepped! "Bills are a start of a conversation!" It may not pass, but it gets the conversation going! The Minnesota Department of Education has been cut so much that it is hard for them to advocate. Many omnibus bills are voted on whether bills have more good than bad. Approach legislators with opportunities and solutions rather than just telling them to fix it. Tell your story! She shared how her granddaughter's 3rd grade teacher has received grants to integrate technology into his curriculum. Ananth Pai, the teacher happened to walk by as she spoke. He said, the best thing you can do is invite people to your classroom! TPT did an interview on what he is doing as well!
Hillary pointed out that when teachers scrape and hunt for funding, it causes a difficult issue when trying to move something to scale. As advocates, this makes things tricky, because not every teacher can do that, and there are only so many grants to go around.
Just Show Up!
Jennifer Bergland, Director of Government Affairs for the Texas Computing Education Association Skyped in, to share how she started and what she does.
Legislation happens from those who show up! So show up! Instead of being intimidated by the process, remember that you are the expert that has information that can help legislators. The more you know them, the more they seek out you! Sign up for ETAN or other resources that push information to you!

She majored in Political Science, but she went into education because she loved kids. She worked as a Social Studies teacher, Technology Director and now the TCEA. She felt that her organizations were not doing enough to advocate for Ed Tech Funding. 7 years ago, she received funding for a Middle Level 1:1 initiative. As that project evolved, she realized the need to advocate at the state level for funding.
She worked with Tech Companies, the Texas School Board Association, and teachers organizations. She worked on a bill to allow districts to use textbook funds in a flexible way, so that they only have to buy classroom sets rather than one for each student, so that remaining funds can be used to purchase digital materials and equipment.

Advocating with Members of Congress

Joe Campbell, a member of Senator Amy Klobuchar's office who works on educational policy issues came to talk about what Senate offices are like and how they operate. They have 17 staff in the Minneapolis office, 25 in the Washington office, along with regional offices for out state.

At each office, there are staff who work on specific issues.
Senator Klobuchar reads every response from her office that goes to 5 or more people.
When engaging with a legislator, it is a strategic decision. If it is something that affects a small fraction, you may want to choose a smaller pool to meet with, where if it affects more people, you may want to contact more people.
To schedule a meeting, a member of the staff are always available. Be flexible.

Assume that staff know nothing, but that the member of congress knows everything. Use that time to get into the meat and potatoes. We are the experts! Senator Klobuchar will usually ask questions. Keep it simple, and stick with the agenda. Staff will stay after to discuss further! Be ready to share "the ask!"
It's important to make the effort. The more information legislators have, the better decisions they can make!
Another option is to talk with staff about issues and ask them to write "Dear Colleague" letters to advocate with other legislators to advocate and share stories that way.

Next we had a chance to share our stories and needs in EdTech Funding, and concerns over NCLB reauthorization. I had a chance to share my views on making the National Educational Technology Plan play a more important role in Educational policy.

Campbell stated that Senator Klobuchar is a strong advocate for investing in our national infrastructure, expanding access. Session participant, Josh Sumption, from Marshall, Minnesota discussed the issues in South West Minnesota, where at school there is great access, but at home they are still dial-up. The "school-to-home" option is a good one, but Hillary pointed out that it should happen, but not at the expense of E2T2 funding!

If you have an issue you would like to discuss with a representative from outside your district, right now, you are limited, because on the Web sites, you need to be a member of that district to contact. Campbell said that you should simply state, "I'm not from your district, but have an issue I would like to discuss with you. What is the best method?" Senator Klobuchar has also participated in video conferences from her office. She also stops in every county, every year. Given that Klobuchar is on the Commerce Committee, she may not have as much to say about ESEA reauthorization, but she will play a huge role in broadband infrastructure! Senator Franken is on the Education Committee, and will have an influence on ESEA re-authorization.

We closed the session discussing what we can do moving forward. For those that send an EdTech Advisory Network letter, Hillary would like us to send the response that we get, so that she can track responses. There are more resources on the conference Wiki if you would like more information.

TIES 2010 Keynote: Sir Ken Robinson

The Keynote Speaker at this year's TIES Conference was Sir Ken Robinson. I had seen his TED Talks and was really excited to see him present.

He spoke today on The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything!

Winnepeg is the coldest place on earth! He talked about taking a cold shower in Winnepeg. "California doesn't do cold water!" Winnepeg does!

Not sure he's happy to be hear in Minnesota!

He talked about a recent trip to Las Vegas to renew his vows. Las Vegas doesn't have a reason to be there. Some do have a reason, natural harbor, water way. There is no advantage to the location of Las Vegas. The reason it's there is that it represents the most powerful capacity that we humans have! It is unique to human culture. The power of immagination! This is unique to human beings. To conjure up the possibilities. Entering the hearts and minds of others, visit the future, etc. Though it is impossible to predict the future.

J.K. Gallbraith-The primary purpose of economic forcasting is to make astrology look reasonable.

The power of immagination has underpinned everything that has sprung up in our history. It's failure has helped create our greatest mistakes as well. There are forces at work now, unleashed by our immaginations that make the some tremendous challenges. This may be the most tumultuous century in history.

Taken as an aggregate there are several forces that are making things

  1. We are living in a period of revolution.

  2. If we are to collectively meet this revolution, we need to think differently about ourselves.

Too many adults underestimate their talents. Many don't enjoy the things they do. Others really DO like what they do, however the majority do not. This is another type of "Climate Crisis." The crisis of human resources. We currently have a 40% drop-out rate. They don't feel it's about them. And their right! All of the remedial programs to bring people back to education are based on personalized instruction. If they had that to begin with, they wouldn't drop out!

Like in every profession, there are good teachers and bad teachers. The bad teachers should do something else! The systemic issue is that it is enherrently blind to the needs of individuals.

The Correction System is the fastest growing system in the U.S. California spending on the correctional system will soon be greater than what is spent on education. The costs of "mopping up the damage" of drop-outs is to high. We must have different strategies.

It has to begin with talent and ability. Go "back to basics!" Talent of ever teacher and student in the system!

In the 1950's if you had a record player, phone and TV, that was the extent of consumer electronics. His 8 great-grandparents were all born within 2 miles of each other. "I just think people bumped into each other on the street and said, 'You'll do!'"

Contrast that with today!

Digital technology has mostly happened in the last 10 years. Todays iPhone has more computing power than all the computing power on earth in 1950. 10 years ago, Google was a novelty! No Wikipedia, Facebook, Youtube, etc. When he was working in the 1970's on his Ph. D., he would spend 3 hrs. in the Library to scour the shelves to find 6 authentic references. That was a good day! Today, 100 pages of great stuff can be Googled on your cell phone, and if it takes more than 15 seconds, you get irritated!

Our children have grown up with this stuff, and they take it for granted! It is true, however, that the gadgets we are using now, will be antiquated very soon!

He told the story of a conversation with an Apple Engineer who said, "the most powerful computers in the world today have the computing power of the brain of a cricket!" Computers are inert calculators. Within 10 years, they'll have the capacity of a 6 month old child. At that point, computers will be able to learn, re-writing their own operating systems.

Kurzweil-in the 2020's will have OS that will be close to the human brain. How will it feel when you sit down at a device and it is as smart as you are?!

"We are reaching a point where information systems will simulate human conciousness."

No one knows for sure what the world will look like in 5 years.

Education is still getting used to the idea of how technology can be utilized in the classroom. There is an opportunity of collective conciousness that is unpresidented. We need to get on with it, because culturally, we're no where near keeping up with technological changes. For most of human history, there have been 1 billion people. Now there are 7 billion, and by mid-century we'll be closer to 9 billion. BBC program, "How many people can live on Earth?" with David Attenborough. If everyone consumed the same as someone in Ruwanda, the Earth could sustain 15 billion. If everyone consumed as much as the U.S., the earth could sustain 1.5 billion.

We need to educate our students to understand this fact.

Our classrooms are designed for the 19th Century. We need to get back to the basics of "people."

"Finding Your Passions Changes Everything!"

Most people don't understand their true talents and don't connect with them!

He told the story of having to introduce the Dahli Lahma on a panel last year. The Dahli Lahma was asked a question, and after a pause, he said, "I don't know!" How many teachers say that?

If you think about all the circumstances that caused you to exist, the odds on you being here are stacked against you! Being born at all is a miricle! So you should do something worth-while!

Robinson spoke of Terrance Tao, a math prodigy, who at age 7 was taking Calculus!

If you have to do math, and can't, you assume you're not smart instead of realizing that you are not smart in Math, but may be smart in something else!

He was "chilling" with Sir Paul McCartney, who said that he HATED music in school. No one at the school thought George Harrison had any talent either. So there was a teacher in Liverpool in the 1950's who had 1/2 of the Beatles in their classroom and didn't see that they had any talent! Elvis didn't get accepted into his Glee Club! How many of our students untapped potential is sitting in OUR classrooms?

To be in your element, you have to love it, and then you never have to "work" again. Bart Connor learned how to walk on his hands at age 6. Not much use at the time, but when he was 8, his mother arranged to have him go to the gymnastics center. For him, that place was like Santa's House and Disneyland, combined. Is that how we feel when we walk into a gym, a classroom? Connor's mother could have said, "stop it with the hands thing!" but instead she encouraged it! She couldn't have known that the journey would take him to the Olympics. Life is organic. "It's not what happens too you that makes your life, it's what you make of it."

Our educational systems have to be predicated on our diversity of human talent!

If you have the potential to be a talented violinist, basketball player, etc.

All you can do is invest in the moment and encourage the passions you see in front of you!

Cultural-We need to educate our students to be informed members of society.

Economic-We're educating students for the old economy rather than the new.

We need to change metaphors! At the curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, design!

We need to move away from the industrial model of education. Most of the assumptions of this are now broken. In the 70's if you had a college degree, you had a job. Not any more!

Now education needs the organic metaphor, based on human beings!

He told this amazing story to emphasize the importance of nurturing student passion and potential:
Near Las Vegas is Death Valley, the hotest, driest place on earth. In the winter of 2004, it rained. In the Spring of 2005, the floor of death valley was a beautiful flower garden. Death Valley isn't dead! It's dormant! and with the right conditions they will produce a harvest. The same is true with students and education! Running a school is more like agriculture, encouraging growth! There are no schools better than it's teachers, principals and superintendents.

Schools can NEVER be fixed permanently.

Schools need to be personalized around people's creative talents! Plants don't grow by themselves! With organic systems, miricles can happen every day!!

After his talk, Carl Anderson asked Sir Ken a question. "What is the purpose of school?" You can see his reply here.