Differentiation Self-Assessment | How are you doing?

Champion blogger Bianca Hewes, someone I reference here often as she is brilliant, prolific, and indefatigably generous, has done it once again with today’s Evidence Based teaching Practices Self-Assessment – Standards Aligned offering. Below is a sample image. If you fancy yourself someone committed to differentiation of instruction, try her self-assessment on for size and see how it fits. If you wonder about this kind of instruction, wonder how you might need to adjust your practice to provide for all your students, or maybe just wonder about all the fuss, I’d encourage you to give it a look as well.

bh_diff

For the California readers of this blog, the Department of Education provides resources on  Multi-Tiered System of Supports that comprise best practices standards for California Educators, and Core Component Number One is Differentiated instruction. Visit the CDE webpage MTSS Core Component 1: Differentiated Instruction for more information.

And a quick reminder to my California Ed Tech colleagues, in the 2012 Education Technology Task Force Recommendations was the strong and clear message that 1:1 student:device ratios were optimal for modern instruction. The Task Force observed that the ready availability of Internet-connected devices was key to the provision of differentiated instruction. See page 9 on the report.

If there was ever a time to make the case for making learning happen for every child in our classrooms, this is it. The plunging cost of devices, the vast ocean of knowledge available to all those connected, and the systems available to deliver it to children of the world make this a sweet time to be an educator!

Data: our reputations – our students – our collective future

testingIn learning environments, particularly schools, where teachers have yet to engage in a conversation about common assessment, that is, participating in a shared instructional environment and reflecting on teaching with colleagues, it is all too common to hear the following statement offered in argument against it:

“It may reflect on me negatively as a teacher if my students do not perform well on a given test.”

This is a true statement.

Like all true statements, though, it deserves some unpacking, and I’ll do that by asking the following questions:

1. If your student doesn’t do well on a test, whose problem is that, really? Is your ability to make a living and function in the culture threatened? In the long run it is clearly to our collective detriment as the social fabric will be weaker, but will next month’s paycheck shrink?

2. Let’s say you can teach circles on a given topic around the teacher in the room across the hall, and your students do better than his/hers on a test as a result. What right do you have to secret mastery in teaching that topic? Do the students in class across the hall have any rights? If it’s a competition (and no doubt teachers become very competitive), who are the actual winners and Hanshin-Awaji_earthquake_1995_Kashiwai-building_001losers?  If you and a friend suffered from the same cancer and your friend’s doctor had the cure, would you feel entitled to the same access to the cure your friend enjoys?

3. Do you have the right to a good reputation just because you show up and have the keys to the room? Does an architect with a cool studio but whose buildings fall down have a right to a good reputation? How about the doctor who judges his own competence based on the bell curve?

4. Do the people who sign your paycheck and the kids whose futures you hold in your hands have the right to expect that some evidence exists, somewhere, indicating you know what you’re doing?

5. Should each student expect you to figure out how best to educate them, or should every 15-year-old already know the best way to learn whatever you choose to offer up? (I said 15 because my own 15-yr-old just left the room).


Staff_meetingSo the above is all very negative, but do grant that the phrase in question has the word “negatively” actually in it.

What teachers discover when the competition no longer makes any sense, when they start to share the best practices available to get the job done for students, that they begin to grow again, and that teaching returns to the joyful, vital, hopeful profession they thought they entered in the first place.

Teachers, students, the world, deserve no less.

Are you worried about Minecraft?

Minecraft has grabbed the attention of parents and educators alike due to its phenomenal appeal to kids, and now it’s international news in this BBC story today. One of my favorite bloggers, Bianca Hewes, has even suffered through battles as her own son has worked to educate the world on the awesomeness of Minecraft as an educational tool. In fact, Minecraft, now owned by Microsoft (never the slouch in identifying a great opportunity) is marketing itself as a teacher’s secret weapon.

With ten-year-olds making YouTube channels for sharing their creations, setting up home servers to make it all go, and building virtual Lego worlds with their friends, if you haven’t paid attention to this growing world before now, I suspect it’s time to start. I’m rather looking forward to having a little time to spare to get into it myself. I’m told it wasn’t created exclusively for kids. Heh heh.

minecraft

Free online video/audio editing for Chromebooks

Geek’s Life editor Dave Curlee brings you this quick video on a number of tools including Pixlr and WeVideo you can use on your Chromebook or other App-loving device. Check it out!

SAMR in 120 Seconds

I am a home coffee roaster. After my first batch of roasted coffee (granted, it was delicious) I thought I was pretty good at it, until I realized I really didn’t know anything about what I was doing. More roasts, sharing with friends, some failures, some sharing of failures with friends (sorry!), and I realized there was far, far more to know and learn. Life is like this, in every endeavor and adventure worth seeking.

And so it is with teaching and technology:

People who have wallowed in education technology for awhile will recognize themselves in this nicely designed video on tech evolution in teaching practice. I’ve always seen Interactive whiteboards as giant play spaces for teachers moving through these stages, and these folks have described those stages of development nicely.

Here’s the blog post that first led me to this video in the first place, and shame on me if I don’t pass it on.

And what about worksheets?

Just part of the air we breathe, teacher

heart rhythmLast Saturday my wife, Danielle, and I sat with my cousin Jim in the intensive care unit as he neared the end of his life. Not only did we accept that his vital signs would be monitored by several machines in the room and displayed in vivid colors with large font displays, over the several hours of our vigil, those numbers, sounds and traces became part of our collective experience, together with our dying cousin. Through medical technology, he was including us in his transition, sharing the data that has become commonplace in today’s hospitals, something unknown to humans a couple generations ago. Before, families watching a quiet bedridden relative would look for signs of breathing, listen for hints that life remained or had passed, but it was only through the stethoscope of the doctor (who may or may not be present) that they would eventually know for certain. Today, we have real-time data. We know, and it informs our way of thinking and perceiving.

Sitting under our plastic gowns, we could see that Jim was nearing the end of his illness, and his life. The nurse stepped over to Jim’s bedside, approached the monitor, switched off the display, and returned to her electronic charting. Danielle and I turned to each other with a look of “Wha?!” I looked at Jim, and instantly felt a broken connection, the frustration of information denied rising inside me. I turned to the nurse and said as politely as I could muster, “I assume you turned off the monitor because of all the alarms that will be going off shortly?” She looked mildly surprised, and said, “Oh, you want them on? Some families do, some don’t.” She restarted the monitor, and for another half hour or so we followed our cousin to his last breath and final heartbeat. It was intimate and precious and utterly unmediated by a third-person stethoscope, all thanks to the telemetry. I would not have given that up for anything.

It is important to this post that I cop to taking all that medical technology completely for granted. It felt familiar and necessary, and it is a comfortable part of my 21st Century experience. If I had walked into his hospital and had not seen evidence of data collection and display, not only would I have been disappointed, I would have demanded my cousin be moved to a decent hospital.

This is precisely the experience of our students when we, by force of law, pull them from their data-infused world and into school that often does not meaningfully follow their common access to data. We persist in demanding they break their connections, and most teachers want to be the stethoscope in the room to tell their students whether the heart of the world is still beating, or if it has a heart at all. And like our nurse, we are surprised when students are confused that we want them to disconnect from their data stream. They know their life is richer because of it. Can’t we see that?

Yes, instructional change is tough, but it begins with an awareness that humans’ relationship to technology has changed the culture of living and learning, in school and out. When students turn to us with a look of “Wha?!” in their eyes, it is simply incomprehension as they power-down, not insolence. Find what you can do to make your teaching and their learning as vital and meaningful, as intimate and precious as they know it can be.

Prince Ea on Ed Tech

The creamy center of virtually every discussion on education reform, use of technology, and how people learn is directly related to our belief systems. “Systems” is plural here because we all carry around several, and here are some examples of a few of mine: Who I am, who you are, what I’m worth, what you’re worth, how adults learn, how children learn, why I think the way I do, what you’re thinking and why you’re thinking that, ad nauseum. We are walking catalogs of interplaying belief systems. When children don’t learn, it is useful to examine what we think about that. When we don’t get along with each other, in any context, it is helpful to consider why.

Right now, Ferguson, MO, is not far from the surface of our awareness if we are aware of anything at all. In the video linked below, St. Louis-based spoken-word artist Prince Ea shares his thoughts about what’s at the heart of events in Ferguson, and his words point to the heart of so many challenges we face as educators and as humans on the planet. Please give him 3:42 of your time and let him do what he does so well.

PBL Hangouts

Buck Institute LogoThe Buck Institute for Education, creator and host of Edmodo, hosts weekly Hangouts in Google that are quick and excellent. For 30 minutes you get to bask in the light of PBL in the middle of the day. Bring your lunch!

The next Hangout on October 28th, from 12:00-12:30 PM PST is on The Importance of Project-Based Teaching with BIE Executive Director John Mergendoller.

See you there.

I miss the days of trust, really I do

Vicki Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher blogger and Ed Tech guru of many years standing, has issued an impassioned and earnest plea in Why I now friend my students on social media for school and government authorities to back off the over-regulation of communications via social media between teachers and students. You will feel as well as hear her plea in her presentation here:

My reply to her blog post is below. I will also mention that she is a teacher in a private school in Camilla, GA, and has always enjoyed certain benefits not available to us in the public sector, including an expectation that students in her classes enjoy sure access to technology at home, for instance. There are any number of regulatory spaces not carefully attended to in the private sector, permitting a certain kind of choice-making not available to the rest of us.


Hi Vicki,

I am entirely resonant with what you are saying here, and I share the desire to be able to connect with kids when they are reaching out to us. At the outset of my career, I was the teacher who gave out his home phone number, and that was waaay before cell phones, and before Internet. It was during that time I intervened with more than one suicidal student because a friend had my number, so my heart is certainly with you.

Our world has changed, though. Currently, a local physics teacher is serving time for seducing and raping female students, and his primary mode of communication was Words With Friends. Not long ago in our area a local teacher had to be hospitalized, and her Facebook-based classroom help group became flame central to the point one of her students was afraid to come to school, with everything happening out of sight of the teacher who had (legally and effectively) extended the teaching/learning space into the back channels of a medium that was undiscoverable and unsupervised. She had unintentionally left her classroom without a teacher present, and the potential consequences of vicious online bullying are too well known.

Federal and state statutes have defined our responsibilities in terms of how student information, student-teacher communication, and learning spaces connected to terms of employment are to be managed. What you would like to see as possible has been overtaken in drastic measure by FERPA, state Education Codes, and board policies which seek to limit the liability of education systems when things go wrong.

In the past, teachers were able to use their discretion when meeting privately with students, and while there have always been bad apples among both teachers and students, teachers generally knew which students were not trustworthy behind a closed door, they knew when to leave it open with a colleague not far away. This has been particularly true for male teachers. Commercial social media, however, has made the risk of covert back-channel communication high risk for all because any teacher who connects online in undiscoverable (as in invisible and unverifiable) channels is exposed to great risk of unfounded accusation, and the law has done much to protect minors in those same spaces.

What you are hoping to see in the way of reform would require major retooling of many statutes to restore the freedom of discretion we once enjoyed, but because of the actions of a few spectacular exceptions, this is highly unlikely to occur any time soon. I think our best strategy, at least until the current spasm of social media over-protection has run its course, is to make sure our students receive education and socialization that recognizes the necessity of quality face-to-face relationships so that social media is not their only option when life goes sour.