event, What I'm Writing

Free #edchat Resource: The Secrets of Self-Directed Learning

Today is the release of The Secrets of Self-Directed Learning: Strategies for nurturing and stimulating independent learners. What started as a whitepaper for FreshGrade is now an eBook. Click here to download this resource today.

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In The Secrets of Self-Directed Learning, I make the case that we need to start releasing more responsibility of the learning to the student. The challenge is: How do we do this? The false promises of praise and administering measures of compliance in the name of accountability have made this task that much harder. To help, I offer four clear steps that any teacher can use to better develop self-determining learners:

  1. Cultivating the Conditions for Success
  2. Clarity Above All
  3. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback
  4. Real Work for an Authentic Audience

I’ll be honest: there are no secrets described in this resource. Most of the suggestions shared here are based on sound research, as well as practice from my own experiences as a public educator. I know how busy teachers can be. Let this eBook be a practical guide for fostering true independence in the classroom.

To read my eBook immediately on your mobile device, click here. Registration is free.

 

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What I'm Writing

What I’m Writing: February 2016

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How Google Apps Help Develop Online Learning Communities (EdTech Magazine K-12)

Three tools – Google Groups, Google+ Communities, and Google Sites – are highlighted in this article. Brief directions are provided for readers on how to use these digital forums for online learning communities. Also included in the article are some suggestions for getting things started and keeping the conversations going. Frank Smith revised and edited my initial offering into an acceptable submission for online reading.

Interview with Kemp Edmonds for the FreshGrade Blog (blog.freshgrade.com)

I spoke with Kemp Edmonds, Director of Marketing at FreshGrade, about the principalship and education in general. We discussed a variety of topics. Here is a sample of our Q and A:

What’s the most impactful technological change you’ve seen in education in the last 5 years?

In my opinion, it is the inexpensive, $100-200 mobile device. They are in the hands of virtually every kid now. Even in financially challenging environments there are smartphones, laptops and other devices that are not prohibitively expensive. Whether this looks like a laptop for every kid or they are bringing their own devices is still being determined. The policy of no devices in schools is not helpful. How do we teach kids to use devices in ways that enable learning? Can we use Instagram to highlight learning or assignments? It’s why we like FreshGrade, as it infiltrates the students’ and parents’ social media-centric world.

Taming the Screen Beast (ASCD Education Update)

This was not written by me, but I did contribute to this article in another interview. Sarah McKibben looks at the pros and cons of allowing mobile devices in the classroom, K-12 and beyond. While smartphones and tablets can become a distraction during instruction, they can also serve a tool for powerful learning experiences when planned with intention.

The Art of Visual Notetaking (www.readingbyexample.com)

This post on my blog has received over 1000 views so far. It was a short post, highly visual, and specific in topic. I described how my serendipitous seating gave me a close view of how another educator uses images as well as words to take notes during a learning experience. I share my own initial offerings and my process for improving my practice.

If technology is at the forefront…

All of these articles revolve around using digital tools to augment and possibly redefine learning in the classroom. I have found that our natural inclination is to declare technology as the main factor in student achievement and success. Here are some of the key terms and phrases that are often referenced when connected educators making the case for implementing technology en masse in schools:

  • The digital divide
  • Education 3.0
  • “If you won’t tell your school’s story with social media, who will?”
  • 21st century learning
  • Technology integration

Cliché city! Many of these phrases have been used by me as much as anyone. I’m not saying they are poorly chosen. But what evidence do we have to support these calls to action? There are schools out there, such as the Waldorf schools, where students are experiencing great success with minimal to no digital tools used. I’ve been in these schools and have observed exceptional learning in action. The kids are doing just fine.

21st century learning is not necessarily synonymous with technology integration. Critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration can all happen in the absence of the digital element. It is when we recognize through our instructional preparations that these technology tools become necessary, instead of merely nice.

 

What I'm Writing

What I’m Writing: December 2015

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Maximize Learning, Not Technology (ASCD EDge, October 2015)

In this promotional post for my new book, I highlight specific examples of how the necessary vs. nice dichotomy applies to classroom technology choices. For example, having one device for every learner in a classroom would be nice, but the lack of academic benefits identified with this type of initiative leads us to keep the ratio down in our own school. By identifying the purpose for the learning, schools are able to take a reasonable approach to the inclusion of digital tools in classrooms.

Online Learning Communities: Real Conversations, or Mere Connections? (Chalkup, December 1, 2015)

The concept of “community” has been redefined in the digital age. Whereas a 20th century understanding would have included some aspect of face-to-face interaction, today’s world does not. Google Hangouts, Voxer, and Facebook groups all seem to provide a sense of community, especially when focused around a specific topic. But do these interactions replace real conversations, which includes being in the physical presence of others?

BYOD in the Classroom: Necessary or Nice? (Middleweb, December 9, 2015)

BYOD, an acronym for “Bring Your Own Device”, garners many opinions. Technology purists might say that by not allowing every student to have access to a world of knowledge, we are depriving them of the necessary connections available. Traditionalists point to the distractibility of students when they bring their smartphones and tablets to class. This post highlights a specific situation where technology helps deepen student understanding in a secondary English classroom around a conceptual study of isolation.

A Principal Shares Tech Benefits for the 1:1 Skeptic (Ed Tech K-12, December 15, 2015)

One of the biggest myths out there in education is that every student needs to have access to mobile technology while at school. This idea pervades despite the evidence that young people’s abilities to read emotions and empathize with others is decreased the more they use social media via their smartphones. These online connections tend to replace in-person relationships. However, having one device per student can be necessary given the context of the learning. For example, students with dyslexia greatly benefit from word prediction software while reading.

A Better Resolution

My wife and I have plans to eat at a new restaurant soon. The owner has two other eateries in the area which we’ve enjoyed, so we are excited for this new experience. Friends of ours will be joining us, as this occasion is also in celebration of my wife’s birthday.

We don’t eat at one of these restaurants often, as this type of dining is more expensive than your standard fare. Even so, when I share with others how much we spend on one of these evenings out, they are sometimes surprised. “You could eat out for a lot cheaper elsewhere!” someone brought up. True. Yet we continue to come back to these establishments.

How we spend our limited time and our finite resources represents what we value. We bring joy to our lives through these experiences. They are about us. For example, I write because I enjoy writing. I find it both personally and professionally rewarding. My work benefits others, as what I share online has been found useful by educators. But I write more for myself.

Is this selfish? Some might think so. An article in the New York Times today discusses how many acts of gratitude are often self-serving and have little impact on those who actually need support and appreciation.

It’s good to express our thanks, of course, to those who deserve recognition. But this holiday gratitude is all about you, and how you can feel better.

Probably true, yet I don’t think the author had educators in mind when she composed this article.

Educating students is the lifework of teacher and administrators. We guide the marginalized and disadvantaged every day.  This profession we’ve chosen is one of the most selfless in the world. Depending on one’s beliefs, you could say we are doing God’s work every day. Do we need to give even more? Many of us do regardless. But I don’t think I am wrong in justifying that those who work in schools could benefit from a little self-indulgence.

So I am suggesting to all educators to make one resolution this year: Take care of yourselves. How might this look? Sleep in on the weekends. Watch a movie without a pile of papers to grade on your lap. Read a book that has nothing to do with school. Attend a rock concert. Eat at a fancy restaurant. Whatever you choose, do what makes you happy. You’ve earned it. That you will be a better educator for the time you take for yourself is gravy. As we prepare for a new year, I hope you make you a priority.