Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Beatles' Decca Audition and Why We Should Be Open to Genius in our Schools

The Beatles Van in 1963, after Pete Best was replaced by Ringo (2nd from left)
New Year's Eve, 1961.  Around mid-day, the Beatles piled into their road manager Neil Aspinall's Commer Van for a trip to London.  It was frigid and they were driving through a snowstorm, which turned the trip into a 10-hour lumbering journey of missed turns.  They got in at 10:00 at night, "just in time to see the drunks jumping in the Trafalgar Square fountain", as John put it.  They were on their way to London to make history, although they didn't quite know it yet.  More specifically, they were on their way to the London Decca studio for a now-historic and infamous audition.

The next morning, New Year's Day of 1962, the 4 young men (John, Paul, George, and their drummer at the time Pete Best) showed up to Decca for their audition.  They started at 11 and played for about an hour.  Having been an already-seasoned club band, they chose 15 songs directly from their act- 12 covers and 3 Lennon/McCartney originals.  The boys were nervous (this was a big deal- an audition for a major record company) and tired.  
The order of the songs at the session:
  1. "Like Dreamers Do" (Lennon/McCartney)
  2. "Money (That's What I Want)" (Gordy/Bradford)
  3. "Till There Was You" (Meredith Willson)
  4. "The Sheik of Araby" (Smith/Wheeler/Snyder)
  5. "To Know Her Is to Love Her" (Phil Spector)
  6. "Take Good Care of My Baby" (King/Goffin) (not released)
  7. "Memphis, Tennessee" (Chuck Berry) (not released)
  8. "Sure to Fall (In Love with You)" (Cantrell/Claunch/Perkins) (not released)
  9. "Hello Little Girl" (Lennon/McCartney)
  10. "Three Cool Cats" (Leiber/Stoller)
  11. "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" (Buddy Holly) (not released)
  12. "Love of the Loved" (Lennon/McCartney) (not released)
  13. "September in the Rain" (Warren/Dubin) (not released)
  14. "Bésame Mucho" (Consuelo Velázquez)
  15. "Searchin'" (Leiber/Stoller)

The tapes have since survived and been bootlegged/released in various forms throughout the years.  Here are a few samples, pulled from Youtube:

Besame Mucho

Like Dreamers Do


The Sheik of Araby

The songs were selected by Brian Epstein to show the range of the band- they were plainly eclectic selections, from ballads to obscure songs, to flamenco, to blues, to rockabilly.  But this was exactly who the Beatles were- eclectic.  Paul's father had been a trumpet player and jazz pianist- Paul had grown up listening to a huge variety of music and it clearly impacted his eclectic tastes.  John had a troubled childhood, was an artist and player with words.  George joined the group as a friend of Paul's, had been hooked by Elvis, and was obsessed with guitars. Pete Best was....well, Pete was just along for the (short, as it turned out) ride.  It was this rich, eclectic, varied background in music and poetry that set the stage for 7 years of creative, world-changing impact.

Decca took a few months to decide on whether to sign the Beatles and, ultimately, passed on the greatest band in the history of music.  Explaining their rejection of the Beatles, they used these now-famous words: "Guitar groups are on the way out" and "the Beatles have no future in show business".  As far as historical mistakes go, this one ranks right up there with starting a land war in Asia.

As the magnitude of this mistake became clear, we've now come to know that one of the main reasons Decca passed on the Beatles was because of that very eclectic nature that they actively sought to put on display.  The songs they presented were so varied and sometimes obscure, that, as Paul said years later, "they just didn't know what to do with us."  

And Decca wasn't the only one and certainly not the first to overlook the genius that the Beatles brought to the table.  Not by a longshot.  Sir Ken Robinson related these stories from Paul in his recent book, The Element:

Paul said "he'd always loved music, but that he never enjoyed music lessons at school.  His teachers thought they could convey an appreciation for music by making kids listen to crackling records of classical compositions.  He found this just as boring as he found everything else at school....(Paul) went through his entire education without anyone noticing that he had any musical talents at all."  (p. 11)

(in Paul's words)- "The music teacher completely failed to teach us anything about music.  I mean, he had George Harrison and Paul McCartney in his classes as kids and he couldn't interest us in music.  George and I both went through school and no one ever though we had any kind of musical talent at all." (227-228)

Here was a teacher who had 2 of the most gifted (and passionate) musicians the world would ever know in his music class, and he never noticed a thing.  How many kids are sitting in schools right this moment, geniuses ready for the making, that we aren't recognizing?  This brings a lot of questions to mind:
  • How do we recognize the early signs of genius?  
  • Why do we miss these signs?
  • Early signs of genius will often look like nonconformity.  Breaking out from the pack.  How do we encourage this?  How do we move away from stifling this in schools?
  • How are our procedures and rules impeding kids from expressing themselves?
  • How do we foster an environment of mutual respect so that kids feel safe expressing themselves, even if they will be looked at as different?
  • How can we make "different" safe, and celebrated?

The most important thing we can do as educators is to keep an open mind and recognize genius within our students, in all it's forms. We need to expose our students to a myriad of experiences, let them dive in deeply, then pay attention to them and be open and receptive to what they come up with and what direction it leads them.  

So the question for us really is- Do we know what to do with these kids?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Crowdsource Me

I've started a new, hopefully 50+ year project, and want to share the journey.  This year I've been thinking a lot about how I want my girls (Emily, 5, Kenna, 3, and Hannah, 0 in February...) to grow up with a love of learning and trying new things.  I kept trying to think about how to model that and engage them in that process. What I came up with is this "Crowdsource Me" project- a lifelong, annual learning adventure in which I'll keep my learning open, transparent, and in public at http://crowdsourceme.wordpress.com . I'm excited to get started and I think as I go through it I'll be able to make a lot of connections as to how to introduce ideas like this to our students to foster this same love of learning.

Here is the rationale and nuts and bolts, cross-posted from that new blog space:

This is a learning adventure that I plan on carrying with me until the day I croak.  Every year, around Thanksgiving time, I’m going to put out a survey asking people what they want me to learn in the following year.  Topics can be wide ranging, but may have some restrictions based on how much money I have to spend, how much time I may or may not have, etc.  Once I gather a bunch of ideas of what people want me to learn, I’ll pick 5-8, give my thoughts on each and how I might go about giving them a shot, then let folks vote.  The winner of the vote is the one I’ll start learning about in January of the following year.  I’ll learn all the way through the end of November, when I’ll be crowdsourcing the next topic!
This whole process will take place, published for all to see, on this blog.  I’ll post video, possibly audio, and will write about what I’m trying, what’s working/not working, and reflect as I go.  Depending on the topic or task, I may “pretest” and “post-test” myself at the end of the year.  I’m a big believer in being open and transparent.  All material will be backed up in several places so I never lose it.
Why am I doing this?
  • I think it’ll be a blast to see what people come up with and then give it a shot.
  • I want to model a love of learning for my girls (Emily, 5, Kenna, 3, and soon-to-be Hannah).
  • As my girls get older, I’d love to have them join me (my wifey too).
  • I think open, transparent, published learning is important.
  • It’ll make it easier for people to buy me Christmas presents for the rest of my life….just buy me something to help with the coming year’s topic!  I always used to feel bad for my Grandpa- all we ever got him were peanuts and carpenter’s glue…
  • Maybe some others will give this idea a shot- who knows?  Maybe others will try it, love it, find a subject they love and follow it, learn with their own kids
  • I believe that the more diverse your knowledge and interests, the more creative you will be…the more connections your brain can make to truly innovate.
  • Why not?  Life’s too short not to jump in.
How this came about
I’ve been interested in the idea of crowdsourcing (defined by the ultimate crowdsourced resource Wikipedia as “the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to a group of people or community (crowd) through an open call”) for several years now.  This past spring as I was floating in the pool in my Mom and Dad’s retirement community, I started thinking how cool it would be to, once I’m retired myself, take on an entirely new learning project every year.  Learning to speak Spanish, Learning about Greek Mythology, figuring out how to create things out of wood…just countless possibilities.  Since I’m always crowdsourcing my ideas over Twitter to get new perspectives and input, it was a natural link to think that it’d be cool to let people tell me what I should try, then let them vote on what I’d be learning for the year.  Then I’d document it all via video, audio, and blog posts…
So I shared the idea with my wife and she says….”Why not do it now?”  Not only is she gorgeous, but also brilliant (I married way up).
I also think that all my life I’ve been intrigued by sharing decision points and getting input.  When I was a kid I absolutely devoured a series of books called “Choose Your Own Adventure” (remember those???).  I loved not only seeing the effects of my decisions but also the effects of all the other options within the books.  When I taught 2nd grade, I bought a whole case of these old books on eBay and read them to my students- letting my class vote on which choice we’d go with.  They loved them as much as I did!
So the idea mashed together with old Choose Your Own Adventure Books, being interested in crowdsourcing, being interested in learning, and wanting to model a love of all of this stuff for my kids.  And I’m stoked to get started. :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thoughts on plagiarism, social media, etc.

I got this email from an intern at Maupin House, asking me for some thoughts:

I’m currently working on a blog post focused on the ethics of digital plagiarism.  It’s based off of an eSchoolNews article that states students are increasingly using social networking sites for their essay material.  In the article, Turnitin.com has made the discovery about these newfound sources of plagiarism, but the interesting thing is Turnitin is owned by the same company that owns a program that allows students to check their papers for plagiarism, WriteCheck.  In this program, students can put their essays into WriteCheck and figure out a way to manipulate their plagiarism to make it undetectable in Turnitin.

I’d love to get your perspective on all of this. Please check out the eSchoolNews article and the WriteCheck article and tell me what sticks out to you.  Here are some questions to consider:

-It seems that students have forgotten (or have not been taught) the value of critical thinking and original writing and have instead sought to get the most amount of work done with the least amount of effort.  Why do you think this has happened?  Has social media played a part in this?
-What resources do you think teachers (technological and otherwise) could use to impress upon their students the value of that mentioned above?  Where do you think teachers’ focus should be in lessons that warn against plagiarism?
-Any additional points you think should be made?

Here was my response:

1. Students have always searched for and have found the path of least resistance.  Social media has just made it much easier to share that path with a hundred of your friends.  I think the real issue at hand are the assignments themselves- if you're assigning something that is easily plagiarized or you don't know your students well enough to tell when it's their voice or someone else's, then that's on the teacher.  The critical thinking aspects have to be built into the assignment themselves.  Instead of just asking kids to regurgitate an essay on the civil war, ask them to compare it to a modern event.  Ask them to analyze two things together.  Basically, if you're giving an assignment that can be easily plagiarized, then you're not creating an assignment that provokes critical thinking in the first place.

2.  I think the focus needs to be on students creating impactful, meaningful products.  Products that show their own personal creativity, passion, and thinking.  If you get something from a student and you can't tell which student created it, that's a problem.  It should scream their name!

One more additional thought- I think a lot of these issues stem from an over-reliance in the past decade-plus on grades, tests, bubble sheets, etc.  Kids have been told for quite awhile now that there is one right answer to everything, and one way to solve a problem.  That, of course, is far from the real world truth.  There is a focus in schools on "getting it right" instead of learning.  Which is a shame!  It's not about getting it right- it's about the attempts, the mistakes made, the growth, solving problems, looking at things from different perspectives, and all that other good critical thinking stuff that has been too often shoved to the side.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Introducing TeacherTechVids.com

So I've been working my little fanny off on a project and am now ready to finally share it out! It's TeacherTechVids.com.

So what is this? It started off as some tutorial videos I was creating for my staff at JN Fries Middle School. As I created this resource for their use this coming year, I thought these videos should be things I should share out. So I bought the domain name last spring and started creating more videos than I ever intended to create (whoops)...

To focus the videos I put up, I decided to align them with my book and put them into three main categories- tools for newbies, tools for developing users, and tools for advanced users. Then I pulled a sampling of each section of the book and went from there. I think the pages turned out well, plus I put links to download any of the tutorials for your own use (mp4, wmv, and ipod versions).

What I would really LOVE to see happen with this site, however, is for teachers to have a hub of classroom ideas that they can learn from and also contribute to- real ideas with examples of how each tool has been used with students. So each tool page has 2 links- one to a Google Form, where we can submit ideas for classroom use. The other link is the output of those submissions and should update automatically for each tool. Let's see if we can make this grow! I shared the site with Kyle Pace while it was still halfway done about a month ago and wondered if folks would actually start contributing. As he said, you never know until you try....so let's give it a try. =)

I also started a blog for people to subscribe to, to stay aware of any updates or additions that are made to the site going forward. Find that at http://teachertechvids.blogspot.com .

So there you have it! Please share with anyone you think will benefit and I will start spreading it around my school system so we can start generating ideas!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reform Symposium Session - Let's Talk About Kids That Come To Us From Poverty

I'm honored to be a part of the Reform Symposium this year and am excited to lead a conversation that I feel has fallen by the wayside too often in education conferences, for whatever reason. The conversation will be about how we can build empathy instead of pity in teachers who work in high-poverty areas and then what specific actions we can start taking to have a larger and longer impact on these types of students. This will be a conversation, so if you plan on coming PLEASE also plan on thinking and contributing some ideas. I'm selfishly hoping to get great strategies from folks who attend and I know we'll all benefit from learning together.

What: Let's Talk About Kids That Come To Us From Poverty
When: Saturday, July 30th at 21:00 (9:00 PM) EST
Where: Elluminate Room: Direct Link
Who: Anyone that wants to talk more about this issue and walk away with more ideas of how to have a greater impact on the kids that need it most

Here's the survey I'm asking folks to submit prior to the session

Here's the presentation/questions I'm using to drive the conversation:

Here's a video of me describing what I hope we can do in the 30 minutes we have:

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In defense of conference sessions

"What sessions did you hit today?"




I feel like I had this conversation a bunch at ISTE 2011 in Philly this year. It seems like more than ever, a lot of the excellent folks I like to hang with online and off are abstaining from going to sessions and instead hitting the lounges to have informal conversations. This is great and a real source of connections and learning in a conference atmosphere, but I wonder if the trend has swung too far the social way. I'm not here to disparage anyone's personal way of learning at a conference, but rather explain how it works for me and maybe push others to think about the full conference experience.

The 1st question I ask myself at any conference is- why am I here? Why did I come? First and foremost, I go to conferences to be able to bring fresh ideas and strategies back to my fellow teachers, admin, and students. I don't go looking for fads or trends. In short, I go to help students. When I'm looking over my potential daily schedule, I focus on what my school needs most right now. This year, the answer is easy- we're converting to a STEM and International Studies magnet school next year. So I had a clear idea of the types of learning I was hoping to do- anything that would help support these programs.

Others might have socializing and meeting up with people as their primary purpose. Others still might have the informal ed conversations as their primary purpose. There may even be a couple folks out there who are keynote freaks and wouldn't miss a single one. All of that is fine, but it's not me. (Don't get me wrong....when the night rolls around I'm all about a Google/Gaggle/Edutopia party or three...)

I'm an intrapersonal kind've dude. I really enjoy going to sessions I know will help my school, jotting down notes, and then reflecting on how this new info can impact students in the coming year. I have to take information in, roll it around in my brain, make sense of it, then relax and let the ideas for student use flow. That's just how I operate.

And at a national conference such as ISTE, there are SO MANY amazing, intelligent people presenting sessions about things they are GREAT at. It's such an opportunity to see folks that are really passionate about what they do and are given a platform to share their ideas in a focused manner. In an informal conversation or social setting, someone putting their ideas forward in such a manner can often come off as arrogant or self-promoting, which I tune out immediately.

I also think that going to sessions is a great conversation starter for the deeper conversations we all want to have at conferences. Being able to share what a great session was all about is a great springboard toward making sense of everything you're immersed in.

With all that being said, here are the best sessions I went to at ISTE this year:
  • Becoming a catalyst for change, with Erin Gruwell, the teacher who put together the book "The Freedom Writers Diary". This was an AWESOME experience, getting to hear the stories of a middle class, white, young teacher and the powerful impact she had on a group of 150 inner-city youths, many of which were utterly without hope when she first met them. The power given to students, having them published, having a movie made about them....all from a powerful and inspiring teacher. I felt very lucky to have been able to hear her speak.
  • Beyond Robotics: Project-Based Design and Engineering. This was a cool session where a student team of robotics/engineering students got to show how they built their award-winning robots. I enjoyed seeing how the competitions worked and especially liked seeing the kids as experts, doing real projects and solving real problems. We're getting robotics equipment in the fall and I'm stoked to help.
  • Infographics as a creative assessment - Kathy Shrock. I'm always looking for better ways of assessing students and I thought this was a neat way to go about it. There were some great ideas that I'll definitely be able to bring to my teacher's this year, as we're moving toward much more authentic assessments. Site: http://linkyy.com/infographics
  • Students as content creators. This was a session done via Skype with two teachers from Pittsburgh and Ireland, describing how they had their students connect and share information about their area and culture. It opened my eyes to some of the possibilities of creating connections with our IB kids to other areas of the world and how to structure these types of projects. Site: http://kc3.cilc.org/
  • ITSI-SU – Science Inquiry stuff. The first thing I thought of once we got started in this BYOL session was "Man oh man, our STEM teachers are going to EAT. THIS. UP." This is a free site that has a ton of great inquiry-based lessons that teachers and students can use in conjunction with probes such as Vernier. The great thing about this is that all the data collecting is embedded right into the site- no need to open a separate program to record data then drag it into another spot to analyze. Everything is right there and it's all web-based. Very cool stuff and will lead to a lot of thinking and discovery next year!

I think the bottom line of all this for me is that it's not about my learning or my experience, it's about how I can be a better conduit for others. And along the way, I learn a ton.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Some Photoshop practice

It's my anniversary (8 years- woohoo!!! I married waaaay up) and I was looking through some photos from our wedding. I found the picture below with my sister's ex-husband in it and decided to photoshop him out. I figured I'd share, even though it's not my best work it's still fun to tinker around with this kind've stuff!



If you've never tried photoshop (or other image editors) before, here are some quick tips as to how to do this stuff.
  • First remove the objects you want out. Do this by using the lasso tool to select the objects. I used the magnetic lasso tool in photoshop, which kind've "sticks" to the sides/pixels of the object to get a more accurate selection. Once you've selected what you want to get rid of, delete the selection.
  • Next, take a good look at the walls and items in the rest of the picture and figure out what belongs where. For this one, the molding was there as well as a pillar. I also had to recreate a pew on the left side where the dude's arm came down. Try to use the same picture to pull what you need from- if you try to match with another picture the odds are pretty high that the lighting will be slightly different, which stands out when you try to match it up.
  • The next tool in photoshop that works this magic is the stamp tool. Basically you give a destination spot (alt-click on where you want to pull from), then go to the area you need to fill in and click/fill in. You might have to zoom in to get tight around the other objects in the picture (in the case above, the hair of my beautiful wifey, the hair of my sister, the molding). Stamp as much as you can get away with.
  • Next, there might be some areas that you simply have to create. In the pic above, I had to create the lefthand side of the pillar on the left. To do this, I selected the pillar on the right, copied it, then flipped it to the left. It turned out OK. It's a little wider than it's supposed to be, but I'm probably the only one who would ever notice.
  • Next, clean up- zoom back out to the full picture and look carefully for things you've missed or need to fix. In this one, I had chopped off some of my wife's hair so I had to go back to the original picture, select the left side, copy it, then paste it over top the new pic. That worked well.
So there you have it- how to get rid of doofuses or ex's out of your pictures. Can't wait to send this to my Mom...she's gonna love it. ha!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dweck's "Mindset"- Review and what it means for schools

A couple months back I read Carol Dweck's "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success." I was interested in it from both an educator and parent point of view. I had read some articles summarizing what it was all about and they intrigued me. Here's a quick summary, review, and some pieces I pulled out for thinking about how this info can help schools:


The book hinges on the idea that it is our mindset, not just our abilities and talent, that leads to our success. The basic idea is that there are two types of mindsets you can adopt- fixed or growth. The fixed mindset, she explains, is when you view your talents, abilities, or intelligence as something that is innate and cannot be improved upon. Either you're smart or not. You can either do art or you can't. And all the practice in the world would not help the situation.

The growth mindset, on the other hand, views ability, talent, and intelligence as highly malleable things. Folks who have the growth mindset see that through hard work and perseverance, you can improve in just about any area you choose to improve in. If you can't do something correctly, it's not that you don't have the ability, it's that you need to work at it more to improve. Mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities instead of failures. The growth mindset leads to a more fulfilling view of life and learning.

In short- fixed BAD. Growth GOOD.


I enjoyed this book and wholeheartedly agree with it's central premise. I've seen in myself, others, and my students that those that employ the fixed mindset are much more likely to give up, not try harder problems, and to view themselves through labels. The research Dweck outlines to show the power of these different mindsets is very compelling and jives with what I've seen with my own eyes. This book helped me make sense of my world and my students' worlds, and will help me push my students and children more towards a growth mindset.

The only negative I have about this book would be it's repetitiveness. The message is clear and cogent from the very beginning but then is just hammered home over...and over...and over... I would have liked more strategies of how to move from fixed mindset to growth, rather than simply rehashing "Fixed BAD, Growth GOOD" throughout each chapter.

Takeaways for school

  • The first overall takeaway is that schools need to be places where students aren't labeled one way or another, where mistakes are truly viewed as learning opportunities, and where growth is pushed for students in many different areas, rather than a heavy focus on "the basics".
  • The wave of differentiation as practiced in many schools may have some harmful side affects. On p. 64, Dweck writes "Most often when kids are behind- say, when they're repeating a grade - they're given dumbed-down material on the assumption they can't handle more....the results are depressing." This really makes me think about how we differentiate for students by dumbing down assignments, tests, and class work. Are we really doing them any favors by letting them have 2 choices instead of 4 on a multiple choice test? By simply having less spelling words? By lowering the bar? In my opinion, instead of viewing differentiation as an opportunity to dumb down the work, true differentiation should be aimed at giving different approaches to content (instead of limiting it). We should be enriching instead of dumbing down. We should be giving choices to students of different paths to mastery.
  • More unintended negative effects of standardized testing. On p. 66, Dweck tells of research done of German teachers to see how their mindsets affected their view of their students. Teachers with a fixed mindset took a careful look at their students scores from the previous year and automatically made judgments and predictions for their success in their class the coming year. As I thought about this, this could be an extremely damaging side effect from all the testing we're subjected to in the U.S. The more we test students, the more they become numbers and growth charts instead of children. Teachers are pushed to be "data driven", which I'm sure has made more and more teachers look at their students in fixed ways- "This student came in scoring here and we can predict that they will end up HERE." In my state of North Carolina, this is common practice. Teachers are told at the beginning of the year how much growth each child is expected to make. I can't help but wonder how subconsciously damaging that way of viewing kids is.
  • On pages 71-76, Dweck talks about labeling and it's powerful negative impact. Students that identify with a label that they are not smart will inherently affix it to themselves in whatever tasks they do at school. Labels lead to fixed-mindset behaviors such as seeing themselves as failures/not smart, etc. It makes me wonder how much damage we do by pulling students out for resource classes. It makes me wonder how much damage we do by pulling EC students out to separate rooms to test them. Before they even begin the test, they've already been fully given the impression that they're not as smart as the rest of the kids. I also wonder if the reverse angle is true- when we identify students as gifted are we damaging them as well in the long run? If they come to see themselves as intellectually gifted, might that lead to a fixed mindset as well? When they finally encounter difficulty in their studies, will they have the perseverance to push through as another child who was not labeled as "smart"?

My main takeaway from this book is that schools need to be environments that are free of labels of all kinds, where mistakes are cherished as learning opportunities, and where effort is seen as the cornerstone of success.

Learn, push, grow!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Simple Truths from Clearing Brush

Right after ISTE, I drove straight to western PA, (Champion, to be exact), to help my Dad get ready for our yearly 4th of July family reunion. My Dad bought 70 acres of land for $20,000 before he went to fight in Vietnam, over 40 years ago. He, my Grandpa, and uncle built the pond and the whole area has been his baby ever since. Every year he adds another layer to the area, something fun for the kids, something fixed that needed fixing, some amenity that will make people more comfortable...

Each year I try to get here a day or two early to at least lend a hand in the last 5% of prep work. This morning I spent a couple hours clearing brush from the edges of the pond so people will be able to fish easier and so the area would just look cleaner. As I did, some simple truths occurred to me:

  • "Work smarter, not harder" is not something you should say, it's something you should show
  • If you try to rake everything in the pile along at once, you'll lose a lot. You have to go back a 2nd or 3rd time to make sure everything gets pulled along
  • Seeing tangible results of your work is really motivating
  • Your eyes will deceive you. Have someone else look at your work
  • Work should result in something useful or beautiful. Or, ideally- both
  • Meaningful work is never "done"
I hope all that read this have a chance to move, improve, and reflect.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Teachers know assessment. Policymakers don't

I had the outstanding opportunity for three days last week to join our STEM staff in problem-based learning training. It was provided by Wake Forest Medical, who utilize PBL extensively to prepare their medical students to become highly effective doctors. Their approach has produced incredible results and they now share their strategies with schools, as it has been shown to be effective with students of all ages.

At the end of the 3 days, they asked us to create the ideal assessment system. There were about 40-50 teachers and we worked for about two hours. We worked in small groups and then came back together to share out.

Here's what I saw: In 2 hours, 40-50 classroom teachers came up with a more robust, authentic, powerful assessment system than any policymaker could ever DREAM of creating. Some of the features:

-Portfolio/WORK driven
-work as a conversation starter for reflection
-students able to justify their decisions when self-assessing
-no zero's.
-assessment shows mastery and if students have not obtained mastery they're given choices and options of different ways they can prove mastery of a concept.
-Ongoing, both informal and "formal"- in the sense of sitting down and reflecting and thinking of ways to improve.

There were other features built in, some of them nuts and bolts stuff about how to fit a good assessment system into the mess we're required to do by state and federal policy.

The more time I spend with other teachers talking about assessment, the more I'm convinced they know this stuff. Policymakers just don't seem to(and they're willing to spend millions of millions of dollars coming up with systems that teachers working together could do for free in a few hours).

We need to give this back to teachers!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My book is getting chunky

No, the book has not gained weight. It's still at a svelte 136 pages of pure learning fun....

But my publisher has started a new program with my book as one of it's pilots- Maupin House a la carte. Through this program you'll be able to download small chunks of my book for $3.95 each. The packs are separated as shown below and you can head here to buy some of the chunks. Hope you enjoy and I hope this helps you use more digital tools to help your students collaborate, create, and publish!