Change Agent Champions

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So I figured out what was bothering me about the grandstanding in my newsfeed this past week. It’s easy to jump on the latest cause celebre being saturated with media coverage. It requires no effort. People celebrate whatever they like on social media and feel good about themselves. And this past week I was inundated with images of stars-and-bars and rainbows.

dogood1But here’s the rub for me: if I want to make a difference, I can’t just sit on social media jumping on bandwagons that make me feel good about my opinions and biases. I need to get out there in the community and make a difference by DOING something that makes a real difference in people’s lives.

dogood3I know, I know, it takes risk and hard work to help disenfranchised children, the poor, the sick, the unpopular people in my community upon whom everyone looks down….but going out of my way to be champions for them actually will make a difference, as opposed to spouting off on social issues online and changing my profile pic accordingly.

dogood2In reading this, please don’t make any presumptions about my stance on any of the huge issues that received media (and social media) over-attention this past week; because I was sincerely happy with each decision. My point is, it’s not a good use of my time and potential to make a difference safely jumping on bandwagons or settling for attention-grabbing grandstanding.

What have you done to make this world a better place? Do the people who know you right where you live recognize you as a change agent champion for others? If not, may I suggest a little less time online and a little more time doing good…not just feeling good about what others have done to make the landmark accomplishments of the last week a reality.

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Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America

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Reposted from Psychology Today:

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof’s actions on America’s culture of racism and gun violence, but it’s time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation’s culture of ignorance.

In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president, it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value. Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price, could eventually be our downfall.

In considering the senseless loss of nine lives in Charleston, of course racism jumps out as the main issue. But isn’t ignorance at the root of racism? And it’s true that the bloodshed is a reflection of America’s violent, gun-crazed culture, but it is only our aversion to reason as a society that has allowed violence to define the culture. Rational public policy, including policies that allow reasonable restraints on gun access, simply isn’t possible without an informed, engaged, and rationally thinking public.

Read More…

Report: Effective Use of Video in Online Learning [PDF]

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Reposted from Philip Guo:

Videos are a widely-used kind of resource for online learning. This paper presents an empirical study of how video production decisions affect student engagement in online educational videos. To our knowledge, ours is the largest-scale study of video engagement to date, using data from 6.9 million video watching sessions across four courses on the edX MOOC platform. We measure engagement by how long students are watching each video, and whether they attempt to answer post-video assessment problems.

Our main findings are that shorter videos are much more engaging, that informal talking-head videos are more engaging, that Khan-style tablet drawings are more engaging, that even high-quality pre-recorded classroom lectures might not make for engaging online videos, and that students engage differently with lecture and tutorial videos.

Based upon these quantitative findings and qualitative insights from interviews with edX staff, we developed a set of recommendations to help instructors and video producers take better advantage of the online video format.

Read the entire report here.

 

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Meet the Modern Learner [INFOGRAPHIC]

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In this infographic, Bersin makes the case that learners today of all ages are very complex knowledge brokers who define and pursue their own learning through unique, personal learning modalities. The data presented makes a compelling case for instructional design and delivery implications for educators. How effectively is your district or institution accommodating these quickly shifting learner characteristics?

View the original post here.

Second Chances

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My best friend often says, “People deserve lots of second chances.”

“But why?” I ask, trying to grasp the concept. “At some point don’t you risk people taking advantage?”

“Walter, people do the best they can. It makes no sense making it harder on them.” I dedicate this blog post to my best friend and this wisdom I have come to adopt as my own.

In an age of cynicism and competition, I find the notion of second chances refreshing, intriguing even. But is it practical? Individually and collectively, how can we afford lots of second chances? Then again, are life and learning value equations? Is there some economic benefit to separating the men from the boys, so to speak? Or in reality, do we all rise to our own potential over time, given the chances and support we need to succeed?

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As I look back over a lifetime of opportunities and challenges, how many times did I nail anything on a first try? Not many. How many second chances have I used? How many mentors supported me as I tried and failed and tried again? How many practice sessions? How many retests? How many mulligans? How many “I’m sorrys”? How many times redeemed by forgiveness? More times than I can count. And that’s just my lifetime. How about yours?

Learners grow in expertise and understanding the closer and closer they get to learning targets. They approximate their aim, try to hit the target, make adjustments, and try again. The more they continuously refine their efforts, they not only get closer to the target, they learn about the area around the target, and about their aim. Both accurate and inaccurate, every attempt is new information learners integrate into their learning experience. It not only informs their current learning, it’s practical learning knowledge they can apply in new situations in the future. What are the conditions that allow this to happen?

  • Give yourself permission to take risks.
  • You are supported in making multiple attempts.
  • There are no value judgments of right or wrong, good or bad.
  • Both successful and unsuccessful attempts to reach your target are valued as learning.
  • The only requirement is continued improvement, incorporating new learning into existing understanding.

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One-chance, go-for-it-all, win-or-lose feats of skill may be a staple at carnivals, but they have no place in the classroom. At least on the boardwalk you can pick which games to play based on your perceived chances for success. Some games you can win if you’re willing to put down enough cash. Some games are rigged so the odds are against you. And some games are a flat-out sucker’s bet. If carnies gave their customers lots of second chances, they’d never turn a profit. Compare that with the ways we asses students. High-stakes tests reward those with skills that match the test format while penalizing those who demonstrate learning using alternative test formats or don’t perform well under pressure. Is this any way to allow all students to show what they know?

A generation ago, memorization of rote facts and mastery of discrete skills were the measurements of student success. Being accurate was the ideal, and this lent itself to the notion of testing as pass-or-fail snapshots in time. Now we can access such basic information on the fly without memorization, and new benchmarks measure higher level tasks. Assessments today should not measure quantifiable learning assets but sophisticated learning processes: problem solving and new product-development targets.

Where are the second chances in our current system? It isn’t acceptable to have students live and die by one-shot, high-stakes tests. It isn’t fair to label students based on those test results. It isn’t appropriate to build an entire year of learning around these tests, as if the test provides incentive to teach and learn. It isn’t realistic to expect all students to find success through the same learning methods, or to demonstrate what they’ve learned in the same ways. And it isn’t right to look a young person in the eye and tell them they are out of second chances … ever. We should be in the business of creating lots of second chances for our students.

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It’s no different in life once students are out of school. One of my favorite movies of all time is My Favorite Year (MGM, 1982), in which young staff writer Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) is charged with babysitting washed-up Hollywood star Alan Swann (Peter O’Toole) to ensure he will be sober, present, and ready to perform on the live TV variety show at the end of the week. Through the twists and turns of the plot, Stone and Swann become fast friends, in spite of the many close calls the actor’s larger-than-life persona precipitates. Benjy has Swann at the studio the night of the show, so that when the host is accosted by local thugs on the live set, Swann appears from up on a balcony, swings down onto the stage in full costume and sword, and helps the show’s star fend off the attack. As Swann basks in the redemption of the applauding audience, Benjy stands in the broadcast booth and looks on pensively: “The way I see him here, like this. This is the way I like to remember him. I think if you were to ask Alan Swann what was the single most gratifying moment in his life, he might have said this one right here. With Swann you forgive a lot, you know? I know.” In life, as in learning, we gain growth and understanding through second chances.

People deserve lots of second chances. Where would you be today without all of the second chances you have been afforded in life? Second chances are the pathway for all students to be college, career, and citizenship ready. As educators, we should all be the champions of second chances for young people everywhere.

Inside the School Silicon Valley Thinks Will Save Education

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Reposted from Wired:

If you are truly fed up with the school status quo and have $20,875 to spare (it’s pricey, sure, but cheaper than the other private schools you’ve seen), you might decide to take a chance and sign your 7-year-old up for this little experiment in education called AltSchool. Except it’s not really so little anymore. And it’s about to get a lot bigger.

Founded in 2013 by former Google head of personalization Max Ventilla, AltSchool has poached high level executives from Google and Uber. It’s got users—in this case, parents—applying by the thousands. It’s actually making money. And as of today, Mark Zuckerberg just became one of its largest investors.

AltSchool is a decidedly Bay Area experiment with an educational philosophy known as student-centered learning. The approach, which many schools have adopted, holds that kids should pursue their own interests, at their own pace. To that, however, AltSchool mixes in loads of technology to manage the chaos, and tops it all off with a staff of forward-thinking teachers set free to custom-teach to each student. The result, they fervently say, is a superior educational experience.

Read More…

Randumbness

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We live in an age of randomness…an expectation that things don’t have to make sense. And the more we celebrate it, the more it distorts our frame of reference. From Flo the Progressive agent to Jan the Toyota receptionist to Aaron Rodgers’ discount double-check, it’s almost a competition of mindlessness, pushing us to the point where things not only don’t make sense, they don’t matter. It’s randumb…a mindset without context.

What started as a fad of ironic detachment has become a shift from substance to style: if it looks good and sounds good, then that’s good enough. There’s no actual vetting of ideas or working to find the facts. If it feels good, go with it. If enough people buy it, believe it. We actually purchase status via brand identification…self-identifying with corporate mythologies…and losing ourselves in the process.

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To be randumb is to be intellectually lazy. If nothing matters, then anything goes…flocking as birds of a feather around opinions that conveniently support biases and beliefs. As long as we feel good about it, we can discount anyone who questions us, insulating our thinking. It escalates from randumb to randumber…like Lloyd and Harry playing out their magical, farcical thinking to its ridiculous-yet-logical conclusions…

It’s so much easier to laugh at self-constructed chaos that defies any sense of responsibility. Want to poke a jab at reality? Post a meme! Want to counter someone else’s jab? Post another meme! None of it matters. We like and share and post and comment, and none of it has any impact on reality. Idiocracy is not just a bizarre cult comedy; it is a cautionary tale.

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This escapist anthem is as old as Mick Jagger’s scowling “get off of my cloud” and as recent as Aloe Blacc’s smarmy, “I didn’t know I was lost.” What was supposed to make us more communal has driven us underground into exclusive randumb bunkers…and we can wait anything out, so long as it doesn’t impact us. What could possibly go wrong?

While it is quirky and fun, randumbness isn’t reality resistant. I can create my own little insulated existence, but right outside lies real world contexts: disease, hunger, injustice, ignorance, hate…and it is in these contexts we can make a real difference…impacting the real world as profoundly as it impacts us.

As educators, this is especially true, because it is on our classrooms and communities that all of these very real challenges manifest themselves as we work with children and their families. Our charge is to help them reach their full potential by making school a place where they can be healthy and safe and engaged and supported and challenged. There is no smug, aloof, irony-embracing mindset for dealing with reality. We have to be immersed in it to impact it…and there’s nothing randumb about that.

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The pendulum will swing back again, and this age of randumbness will be a faint memory. That’s how reality rolls. But after we’re done looking back, shaking our heads, wondering what we ever saw in it, where will we be? Where will our children be? What is the impact of this current no-context culture on our future?

Should we form a bubble to discuss and come to agreement on what makes us feel good…or hunker down and get to the hard work in front of us, immersing ourselves in contexts that are not relative nor negotiable, being responsible for forging our own legacy as educators?

No brainer?

I hope so.

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