Sunday, October 27, 2013

#fallCUE Innovation Day Preso

I was lucky enough to get to co-present at fall CUE with Sarah Press about running your own Innovation Day. Check out the preso below - lots of links and other assorted resources and goodies. More thoughts on fall CUE coming soon. Promise.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Big Brother Is Here



This picture.

This picture was posted on the door of the teachers’ lounge - which is between two hallways at my school. Do I need to start to talk about how depressing this picture is?

We’re Watching You.

Don’t do anything bad - we’re videotaping you. Have fun getting suspended!

Because, you know, using fear to control students has got to be just about the worst way to go about trying to get them to do what you want.

Ugh. Just all of the ugh.

Also, the second time ‘lounge’ shows up on the sign it is spelled wrong. #facepalm

#FailForward: Learning From The Russian Revolution Unit

I’ve already written about the unit structure for my Russian Revolution unit. It was my next step towards trying to create the most student-centered history classroom that I can. The unit happened. And it’s done. What were the takeaways? Two big ones, in no particular order…

While the crowd-sourcing activity was cool - and a neat way for students to build schema about a unit - it wasn’t enough schema. My students didn’t have enough knowledge of the Russian Revolution unit when they went out and chose their inquiry topics for the unit. Some ended up choosing questions they were really interested in. Other students ended up with questions they weren’t really interested in and floundered as they went further into their research. This was my fault - live and learn. For the World War II unit, my students will have more schema before they go out and do their own inquiry.

Secondly, and students pointed this out as the unit wound down, some felt like the need for an inquiry question took away from their ability to go out and get a broad view of the unit. They felt like they didn’t really understand the broader progression of the Russian Revolution unit until they got to watch their fellow students present on their aspect of the Russian Revolution.

Again, my bad. It is rewarding, though, to get to own these mistakes with my students publicly in class after the unit ended. I think that as you try new things in the classroom, it is so important to model your learning from these experiences with your students. It was gratifying to get to name those mistakes and explain how the next unit would be different.  #FailForward, right?

Friday, October 11, 2013

National Coming Out Day at Hillsdale

Today was National Coming Out Day. A significant portion of our students - wherever we teach - are part of the LGBT community (hereafter referred to as the queer community - the acronym ends up getting too long). A portion of our students are out, but a larger number are not out but are questioning their sexuality or are in the process of gaining the courage to come out.

Queer youth have some scary statistics attached with them. They are bullied at a disproportionately high rate. Queer youth also self-harm, commit suicide, and drop out of school at disproportionally high rates when compared to their straight peers. We must make our schools safer, happier places for our queer students, whether they are out or not. Period.

Over the last couple years at Hillsdale, the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) has taken on a more visible role on campus. For the second year in a row, the GSA has had a lunchtime celebration for National Coming Out Day. Last year I was on a field trip and missed the celebration.

This year? I was there as a straight ally as students and teachers stepped through the door that had been brought out into out great court to announce to the school that they were out. Seeing these important role models - kids (and teachers) who are out and proud of their sexuality - is such a strong message for students who are struggling with their sexuality. There is a supportive community here. There are people here who are like you. And we love you no matter what.

I left lunch proud of my school - and proud of our GSA (led by a former advisee of mine!) - for doing what is right and making a very important and often marginalized group feel safer on the Hillsdale campus.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Assume Positive Intent

Often when people talk about using technology in class, the concern of, “But what if the kids go on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc when they are supposed to be doing work for class” comes up. And my response - always - is that when you assume positive intent around student tech use, good things happen. If you assume kids are using tech to do work for your class, they will: treat them like adults and you’ll get the behavior you hope.

And this is what I do in my class. Usually.

Except for today when twice I asked kids to put devices away. And they were doing work for class. Matt was looking up a Russian colonel who attempted a coup before the Russian Revolution in 1917. Sanchit was reading an old paper of his to compare writing styles between Humanities writing and history writing. And I didn’t assume positive with their tech use.

Assume positive intent. 

Better tomorrow.

Monday, October 7, 2013

integratED San Francisco

Oh man. I don’t even really know where to begin. Well, I guess maybe I do. I’ve been to two integratED conferences before: #ipdx12 and #isf13. Darren Hudgins and his team know how to put on a conference. Like for realz they do. #isf13 was no different.

integratED SF keynote

Alfie Kohn? Let’s start there. Kohn’s keynote was supposed to start at 6pm on Friday night. It started at about 7:25 or so. Many folks had long since gone home. Oh man, did they miss out. I won’t try to go over all the things that Kohn touched on in this keynote. Sam Patterson storified the keynote - check that out here. Really though, Kohn validated a lot of the weird that I’m trying to do in my classroom. And reminded me of how far I still have to go to get to the place where that I want my classroom to be.

When making session choices for Saturday morning, it wasn’t super hard: I wanted more Alfie. So I hung out with him again on Saturday morning for three more hours of challenging thinking. Check out those notes here. The session was kind of a mix of audience Q and A and Kohn’s thoughts. My buddy Andrew Thomasson was a little jealous that I was getting to hang out with one of his educational heroes and asked that I ask a question: with all the problems with education in the US, where should teachers start - their classrooms? Their sites? Get out and organize?

Kohn’s answer was fascinating. Though he elaborated his point further, he essentially said how much risk are you willing to take on? Well then. If that isn’t a line drawn in the sand, I don’t know what is.

It’s tough to be complacent after hearing Alfie Kohn.

He also challenged my conception of rubrics and what metacognition should look like in students. Fascinating, fascinating stuff. And good to reflect on my practice and think about aspects of it that I took for granted as positive things.

4 hours with Alfie Kohn? Yup.

Other highlights? There was a bunch of awesome that went down at the unconference Friday morning. I got to start a conversation around creating a safe place for students to fail in the classroom. There was some fascinating discussion around the language we use when talking about failing in the classroom. We talked a lot about educating parents and students about failure - about dignifying it and explaining it as part of the learning process. We didn’t get any answers but the conversation was good. We also chatted a lot about the need for supportive administrators to support teachers who are willing to take risks to change their practice. Notes from that sessions are here.

I got to facilitate Things That Suck with Kristen Swanson (yes, one of the edcamp founders and one of my #EduHeroes). It was, as always, lively. It was fascinating to watch a certain presenter at #isf13 - who shall remain nameless - watch the conversation from the periphery. However, this person couldn’t stay out of the conversation and kept coming back over to the group to join the conversation.

You know what doesn’t suck? Things That Suck! Check out Bill Selak’s writeup of Things That Suck here.

Know what doesn't suck? These #EduAwesome peeps!

Feeling a little fried - and wanting to see about what the deal was with Lisa Highfill’s buggy spreadsheet that was running Doctopus - I headed to the library during Friday afternoon’s vendor session. Shhh, don’t tell. The time away hanging out with Lisa, Diane, Megan, and Barb - all MERIT badasses - was an absolute blast. The quality of folks at #isf13 - both participants and presenters - was second to none, making conversations like these awesome to be a part of.

Takeaways from the conference? Lots. I’ve got a badass PLN. Love hanging out with them. I’ve also got a LONG way to go to get my classroom to the place I want it to be at. Like a long way. It’s validating to know that I’m moving in the right direction, but man: so much more work to do on that front.

A huge thanks needs to go to Jennie Magiera for sitting down and talking about #playdate with Jon Samuelson and I at lunch on Saturday. #playdateSJ is going to happen - February 15th, mark it down now. When it happens - and when the playdate Jon organizes goes down - the playdate(s) will be far better because of the conversation I got to have with Jennie.

Additionally, huge thanks needs to go out to Darren Hudgins and his team at OETC. Once again, they put on a top-notch conference in all of the facets of conference-ness. Props, guys. Awesome job.

And what is a story like this without a postscript? While waiting for Jeremy Macdonald’s ridiculously delayed plane into San Francisco for the conference, Jon tweeted about wanting to catch a football game while in the Bay Area. Jeremy was interested too. My gang of Stanford season ticket holders had two extra tickets. However this idea, great as it was, just was never meant to be.

Kidney stone. Multiple ER visits (the first one was overflowing). A late-night In N Out dinner. And yes, live-tweeting an ER visit. Clearly that happened.

Cuz there ain't no party like a Saturday night ER party...

Two last things. Want to check out the Incredible Super Doc that Jon put together with notes on every session? Yeah you do! That’s here. Finally, Rachel Wente-Chaney took some great pictures at #isf13 - check those out here.

So there you have it. Gotta find a way to get to #ipdx in February!

The Squeaky Wheel

Yes, that in fact is my very own wifi network at school. The BYOD network that students used crashed when I hooked 28 Chromebooks up to it. After six weeks of complaining/prodding, like magic it happened. Faster wifi!

Yes, I know: the ultimate #FirstWorldProblems. But still. Digging it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Classroom Set-up

"Korean High School Classroom" by Schplook from flickr

So at my office hours today a student asked me the following question: "LS, what would you do if you came into class one day and the desks were all in rows? You'd totally freak out, right?"

"Well, I don't know if I'd freak out, but I'd definitely unrow those desks super fast."

"Nah. You'd totally freak out. It'd make your head explode."

I'm not sure my head would explode, but that's not the point. I appreciate that, without ever explicitly explaining why my desks will never be in rows, my students both recognize that this is just how my classroom is and also that it's important to me that they never sit in rows.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

20% Time GHO

I got to do a GHO with Kevin Brookhouser and Chris Cooper tonight about 20% time. We chatted about starting 20% time, reluctant learners, and the Bad Idea Factory. Among other things. Plus, we conned Chris into getting back onto Twitter. Sounds like this might become a regular thing, which would be really exciting. The conversation is embedded below.


Check out the index of Linda Darling-Hammond's latest book:

That's my name!

Okay, enough of the edubragging. Still, kinda cool though...


Last night I had the opportunity to go hear Diane Ravitch give a talk about her new book Reign of Error. So what’s the deal with the title of this post? It’s the Twitter hashtag for the event. After the talk, there was a panel discussion with Ravitch, Eric Hanushek, and Linda Darling-Hammond (hereafter known as LDH). It was, well, interesting.

First, the good parts. I love, love, love listening to LDH talk about assessment. Not about assessment data, but about assessment. Her points about the importance of the new Common Core assessments being used to learn from and improve practice and NOT as another measure used to punish teachers and schools really resonated with me. Assessment for learning, not assessment of learning. Additionally, LDH’s push to have more higher order thinking skills on standardized tests is something I’d love to see. Why are we asking kids to bubble in answers that they could Google? (LDH’s line, not mine. But she’s right.)

Basically what this comes down to is that I’d love to have an external accountability measure that I actually cared about the results of. STAR? Please. Ridiculousness. This two pronged sea change proposed by LDH would be awesome. More higher order, open-ended questions on standardized tests? Yes please. Using these test results to inform my teaching, not judge me or my school punitively? Even better. But those are two ENORMOUS changes in the way standardized testing is done. I absolutely agree with LDH. And I’m hopeful these changes happen. Man, imagine if she had been named secretary of education...

Both Ravitch and LDH talked extensively about solving societal ills - particularly children living under the poverty line. Yes. That. Needs. To. Happen. Like 30 years ago. LDH made the point that we are the only economically powerful country that allows this sort of inequality to not only persist but grow. Yes. Agree 1,000 times over.

But now the bad. The first 25 minutes of the panel discussion was spent parsing standardized test scores. Does being an educational policy leader and researcher really involve being able to explain why Texas NAEP scores are inflated because of an unrepresentative sample who took the test? Or being able to, from the tip of your tongue, toss out the latest minutiae on why Shanghai test scores are so high? Look, I get that test scores are the language that education is spoken in. BUT FOR REALZ. I don’t need to listen to smart people dissect test scores THAT THEY DON’T EVEN BELIEVE IN THE AUTHENTICITY OF!

Was the conversation interesting? In parts. Is that a shot at Ravitch or LDH? Absolutely not. That’s the game that they are forced to play. They are fighting the battle to make my classroom and classrooms across the US better places. Unfortunately they can’t choose the battlefield.

My biggest takeaway from the evening: when is the context of the conversation about education going to change in this country?

Better question: what am I doing to change the context of the conversation about education in this country?