Sackstein: Learning…Not Productivity


Reposted from Starr Sackstein’s Blog:

This past week I’ve been conferring with students about their learning, asking them to assess themselves and equate their level of learning (approaching, proficient or mastery) to a traditional grade (I still have to provide those for the system I teach within).

One sad, but consistent thing I can notice, is that the first default for student is to talk about the amount of work they have completed or haven’t completed and/or when they were able to get the work in. What this tells me is that students have been conditioned to think that grades are about compliance and productivity more than they are about learning.

It is our job to start shifting the focus back to what matters, what students are learning and how they know they are learning it.

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10 Ways to Foster An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Reposted from Getting Smart:

soilThe Getting Smart team has spent the last quarter thinking about building an entrepreneurial mindset and what that looks like in schools. We’ve had a chance to talk to deans of nursing schools, K-12 leaders and education start-ups about the skill set needed and what great entrepreneurs have in common. Below is a quick list of 10 ways to foster an entrepreneurial mindset both individually and as an organization.

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Creating Memes to Explore Themes


Reposted from Catlin Tucker’s blog:

Yesterday, I stumbled onto the KQED YouTube video about making memes. I love memes! A meme is a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied–often with slight variations–and spread rapidly by Internet users. I decided I wanted to find a way to incorporate memes in my English class. The timing was perfect. We are just wrapping upThe Joy Luck Club and I had the computer lab booked!

I decided to have students create an original meme focused on one of the major themes we discussed from the novel. I was clear to tell that the meme was not about the novel, but rather dealing with a similar theme. I wanted their memes to be clever commentaries on life.

I shared a few memes that deal with the power struggles between children and their parents, unrealistic parent expectations, and the challenges of growing up. Here’s a progression you can follow to guide students…

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Sackstein: What if Education Honored Students’ Individuality…


Reposted from Education Week:

What if there was a way to bring individualized learning back to every student, putting them in charge of what and how they learn and redefining the idea of “teacher”?

In today’s educational climate, teachers are forced into rigorous testing schedules and then by their very nature, rigorous prepping schedules that shoves content and real pedagogy to the side most unceremoniously. Generally, educational reform moves slower than a turtle, but this testing epidemic actually sped through like the hare with little regard for loss in its wake.

For real education to make a resurgence and for more of the master teachers to come into the light, educational leaders, students, and parents need to take back the learning. No test can show what any one individual is capable of, nothing that comprehensive or meaningful exists. Whether on paper or now online, test questions whittle down the very uniqueness of learning to 4 or 5 “right” or “wrong” answers and nowhere in life is that applicable.

So what would individualized learning look like? Imagine this…

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Using Design Thinking to Create a New School


Reposted from the Hechinger report:

Students don’t usually get to design their own high schools. Neither do parents or community members who lack experience in education. But, in what could become a national model, all of these people have been asked to weigh in on the plan for a new high school in San Jose, California. That’s because the school, soon to be the first high school in the Alpha Public Schools charter network, is using a process called “design thinking,” which puts the user’s needs first. In this case, the users will be students and parents. Design thinking is a method of problem solving developed largely by Stanford University professors who sought to codify a product design process that emphasized creative solutions to meet users’ needs. Eden first heard about design thinking in an undergraduate class on urban planning at the University of Virginia. As a teacher, he used the process with his students to develop a disciplinary system that made sense to them. When he was hired to launch Alpha’s first high school, in the heart of Silicon Valley, he decided to apply design thinking to the entire process.

Using design thinking to solve education problems may not come naturally, said Susie Wise, director of the K12 Lab at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, known on campus as the “Education is not that nimble,” Wise said. But she thinks it can be. Wise said she and her team at the’s K12 Lab, which focuses on helping teachers apply design thinking in their classrooms, were already experimenting with the idea of expanding this training to school leaders when they heard about Eden’s school design project. At the time, Wise said she thought, “Oh, here’s someone already using it. I wonder what we can learn from him?”

Intrigued, Wise invited Eden to participate in a one-day seminar for school leaders that her team conducted last October. Wise said Eden’s participation in the seminar may have helped the other Bay Area school leaders in attendance more than it helped him. He was already a year into his two-year planning process for Cindy Avitia High School, so he was able to explain to other principals how the somewhat esoteric methods of design thinking could be applied to real life issues at schools. Wise was so pleased with the response she received from school leaders at the October seminar, and at a few other one-day seminars held at the, that she’s now expanding the program. A three-month fellowship, dubbed “School Retool” will launch this month with 20 Bay Area principals. The idea is to help leaders change the way their schools operate by making small, transformative changes, called “hacks” in parlance, without overhauling the whole system at once—something Wise sees far too often.

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Wireless Kiosks Keep 1-to-1 Initiative Running After Hours

University students studying, from above

Reposted from Ed Tech Focus on K-12:

Faced with economic troubles, Kent School District, in Washington state, is finding success in overcoming the digital divide by reinforcing a one-to-one device strategy with every student, starting in the seventh grade. The technology programs in the Kent School District are supported by the state-funded Replacement Technology Levy, which provides $7 million to $8 million. The district has used these funds to equalize students’ access to technology since 2004, when school leaders launched a pilot one-to-one notebook program at the Kent Technology Academy. The program has since been expanded to include every student in the district, starting in seventh grade. This fall, more than 11,000 notebooks were distributed, according to the district.

But what happens when school ends for the day, and these notebooks aren’t connected to the school’s network? Modern teaching methods, such as blended learning, often require students to review online content as homework. Kent is not a wealthy area. More than half of the district’s students participate in the free or reduced lunch program, according to district statistics.

To address the lack of wireless access away from school grounds, the district has been distributing digital kiosks that resemble ATM machines throughout the community. These kiosks are equipped with touch-screen computers and double as wireless hotspots for areas that don’t otherwise have wireless Internet connections. These kiosks are a pilot program for the district, according to The Hechinger Report, and their $7,000 cost is paid for through partnerships the school district has fostered with area businesses, which can advertise on the machines. The district has also struck a deal with local Internet service providers to offer low-cost, high-speed connections to families for less than $10 each month.

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Can Students Have Too Much Tech?


Reposted from the New York Times:

More technology in the classroom has long been a policy-making panacea. But mounting evidence shows that showering students, especially those from struggling families, with networked devices will not shrink the class divide in education. If anything, it will widen it.

In the early 2000s, the Duke University economists Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd tracked the academic progress of nearly one million disadvantaged middle-school students against the dates they were given networked computers. The researchers assessed the students’ math and reading skills annually for five years, and recorded how they spent their time. The news was not good.

“Students who gain access to a home computer between the 5th and 8th grades tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math scores,” the economists wrote, adding that license to surf the Internet was also linked to lower grades in younger children. In fact, the students’ academic scores dropped and remained depressed for as long as the researchers kept tabs on them. What’s worse, the weaker students (boys, African-Americans) were more adversely affected than the rest. When their computers arrived, their reading scores fell off a cliff.

The problem is the differential impact on children from poor families. Babies born to low-income parents spend at least 40 percent of their waking hours in front of a screen — more than twice the time spent by middle-class babies. They also get far less cuddling and bantering over family meals than do more privileged children. The give-and-take of these interactions is what predicts robust vocabularies and school success. Apps and videos don’t.

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Secret Teacher: I want to be like Yoda, but I feel more like a Stormtrooper


Reposted from the Guardian Teacher Network:

I think Princess Leia was right. The more that management tightens up in this way, the more our students will disengage. Already, the stress that teachers are put under seems to have been passed on to our students. More of them are suffering from anxiety and depression, hiding under the duvet and refusing to attend. Their eyes glaze over: all that hard talking about what was at stake in those management-led supposedly inspirational assemblies on that first day back in September didn’t give our students the self-belief or the determination they needed to succeed. It left them demoralised and defeated. One student the other day expressed a quiet cynicism that I had never heard before: “I can’t do it. I can’t. You only want me to pass because it affects your pay.”

I wonder if this will continue, if more will switch off. Perhaps things won’t get better, perhaps they will get worse. And if next year’s results aren’t back on track, some new draconian measure will be introduced. There’ll be a bigger Death Star, more powerful than the first.

When I started in this profession, part of me just wanted to be Yoda – brilliant, wise, thoughtful, able to make my students realise their potential. Today, almost 20 years later, I feel more like a stormtrooper: faceless, dispensable, following orders. It’s not a great feeling. I don’t want to be a stormtrooper. I want to be Obi-Wan Kenobi, finally training Jedis again. I want to be Luke Skywalker, finding a way to put everything right. I want to be Leia, standing up to the regime. I want to be the spark of inspiration again – that proton torpedo that sets up a chain of events that will ultimately change the universe.

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What If Assessment Elevated Learning Instead of Ranking Students?


Reposted from the Teaching Channel:

The most important assessment that takes place in any school is not the end-of-year test; it is the assessment that is going on all day long in the mind of every student. Each student is continually assessing his or her attitude, behavior, understanding, and work — “Is this piece good enough to turn in?” “Do I actually understand this concept?”

If we hope to improve student learning, we need to get inside student minds and turn up the dial for quality. Most importantly, we need to build into every student agrowth mindset — the confidence that he or she can improve through hard work — and a passion for becoming a better student and a better person.

In many schools, assessment practices provide little of this information and inspiration for students and their families. Assessment is typically seen as something “done to students,” not as a set of tools they can use for their growth. For those who are regularly ranked below average (almost half the students in any school), assessment practices often take the heart out of personal motivation. At Expeditionary Learning (EL), we focus on student-engaged assessment — a system of eight interrelated practices that positions students as leaders of their own learning.

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The Importance of Grit [INFOGRAPHIC]


The Department of Education is recognizing the importance of grit by calling for educational programs that will help students of all ages develop this key characteristic. While formal programs to develop grit are still in the early stages of discussion and design, there are things you can do every day to cultivate your inner grit. This Importance of Grit infographic created by WorldWideLearn looks at the reasons it is important to add grit, and the things you can do to develop it. Do you have what it takes to thrive in the 21st century?

View the original post here.