Posted in being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, Technology



George Couros has me thinking (again): “What is the difference between school and learning?”

His article, One Question We Should Always Ask… made me think deeply about how the relationship between the classroom teacher, the students, and technology. The battle between getting a student’s attention when all they want to do is gaze at the Mirror of Erised of their smartphone is no joke.

You do not have unlimited data, Harry…

Compare two schools’ data; one with 1:1 technology and one without:

report 1
School #1: Little or no access to consistent technology
report 2
School #2: 1:1 laptop, technology-rich-environment

The reading and math scores are both well below 50%. There is a lot wrong with the SBA test–more wrong than is right when it comes to students of poverty, ELL, and marginalized communities. But one way School #2’s district tried to level the playing field was to provide technology to all students. Is it fair to judge a single point of data as a measure of success or failure? Of course not. But since the SBA was introduced to School #2, the scores have remained flat. I would argue that one glaring reason is that teachers are not trained in the metrics of the test. This is far beyond ‘teaching to the test’ — this is a complete paradigm shift in what is being measured. And since we teachers aren’t allowed to look at the test, and sign a blood oath, there is nothing to share or discuss until released items come out.

And one tragedy of my professional life is I did have the work done and was ready to share it. But because I didn’t deliver the message in a pleasing way, (thanks again George Couros), it was ignored. Literally. Was told by admin that my SBA Brief Write work ‘had too many slides.” Reminds me of Amadeus’ problem with the King: “too many notes.”

My friend Jennie had a great idea: conduct a research study of high-functioning tech-literature teachers (such as myself, hmm-mm) and see the data associated with their students. Hmm. I know when I taught in the Technology Academy my students’ scores were between 65% and 75%, which is included in the overall population.

But ultimately, I know that technology helps if done right: it must have the intentionality of being a creative tool– not just a hammer–but paintbrush, wand, or quill and ink. And ultimately, students will never be inspired to create or learn unless one thing is taught above all:

Teach students it’s okay to be in their own heads. To make their inner life more rich, more interesting than any external force.

From The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You by Zat Rana:

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

All the technology in the world will continue to be a drain on souls and imaginations, an external reflection that never creates a new meaning for us.

Look away from the mirror, and do the work of teaching. Even if the messenger is crabby.

Posted in Being a better teacher, Connections, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Design Thinking

beautiful framing…

Amy Rasmussen wrote a piece for Three Teachers Talk:

What if We Teach as if Teaching is a Story?

And this–

Last week I attended a professional development meeting with George Couros, author of the Innovator’s Mindset. I jotted tons of Couros’ quotes in my notebook, all important to the kind of teacher I keep striving to become:

“How do you cultivate questions of curiosity and not compliance?”

“Data driven is the stupidest term in education.”

“Your childhood is not their childhood. Nostalgia is what gets us stuck.”

“Relationships matter! Nobody in this room is as interesting as YouTube. If you are all about the content, you are already irrelevant.”

“You need to make the positives so loud that the negatives are hard to hear.”

“Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?”

“Every day is where your legacy is created.”

Once I got over my fleeting envy at her having the opportunity to hear George Couros speak, the overwhelming sense of luck and joy that someone captured these thoughts and framed them in a way that speaks to me, and encourage me to be better–forgive myself of missteps and be better. Every day.

The only one I may disagree with is the nostalgia piece. It requires more nuance. A few years ago students started a Flashback Friday, where they asked me questions about my child-teenage hood, and I answered as honestly as possible. Agreeably, getting bogged down in nostalgia isn’t healthy for anyone. I’ve often said nostalgia is a heckuva drug. It’s the Mirror of Erised. But a relevant story in the context of a teachable moment is not the same as nostalgia. Just yesterday I explained why there are the terms “cc” and “bcc” on emails.

And yes, I do try to make my classroom one I want to be in. I heard the phrase ‘dogfooding” years ago, and took it to heart: basically, eat your own product. Yesterday I was frustrated with one class because they could not stop side talking. I told them what they were learning (about Outlook email–poor little future borgs, as my cohort member from WABS/STEM, told me) wasn’t the most exciting, but they had to listen and follow along step by step. That may be the hardest thing about computer instruction, and I’ve been very honest with them. Everyone in that class is all over the map, and sometimes we just have to keep in step.

Today I’ll take with me these words, and try to do better. And laugh to myself about the data-driven line.

Follow George Couros @gcouros

Follow Three Teachers Talk @3TeachersTalk

PS Newkirk is AWESOME.