I enjoy reading and watching Dan Meyer’s blog. He is a truly innovative teacher and I am constantly sending his material to our math department. Yesterday, he posted a recent presentation to teachers about Powerpoint and how to use it successfully. Throughout the presentation he also mentions a number of lessons from his class – a great demonstration on how visual cues can capture the attention of all. Click here for the Quicktime version.
A few weeks ago we devoted a professional development day to the performing arts. It was a great day with a mix of a keynote (Ellen Winner, professor at Boston College), mini workshops, and a panel of alumni and professionals. The day was designed to raise awareness about making more room for art in the academic day. I came into the day with thoughts that we should be integrating more art into the traditional curriculum but I left with thoughts on how the traditional curriculum (english, math, science, history, language) should take some lessons from the way we teach art. In general, art classes focus more or depth rather than breadth; reflection and collaboration are routine; and effort and risk-taking are central to assessment. I would like to see more of these attributes in other classes.
Speaking of art, there is a great conference in April put on by the Maine Dept of Ed. It’s called “Arts, Innovation, and Creativity.” There are loads of workshop offerings; here’s a quote from the conference write-up:
Workshop sessions will include:
- over 30 hands-on creative and imaginative professional develop opportunities;
- interdisciplinary connections between the arts and creative thinking in other Maine Learning Results content areas utilizing technology;
- innovative instruction, curriculum and assessment;
- a link between at least one arts discipline (music, dance, theater or visual art) and at least one other content area from the MLR’s (Career and Education Development, English Language Arts, Health Education and Physical Education, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, World Languages);
- unique learning opportunities for educators utilizing technology to impact teaching and learning for all students.
Check the website for details on the workshops. And best of all, you get to spend 2 days in beautiful Rockport, Maine and the cost of the conference is only $45!
A recent article in Time Magazine has brought the idea of 21st century learning to the mainstream media. The article raises the idea that the traditional school learning – in rows, listening, note-taking – is a very antiquated one, preparing individuals for an industrial world. The article goes on to say that schools need to adjust their expectations in order to produce global learners. This article is not news to many educators (especially those of you who read blogs), but it is a refreshing piece to see in a mainstream magazine – it caught the attention of some of my administrators.
But that article got me thinking: when I try to bring these ideas into my school, there are several obstacles to overcome (just to name a few):
1. Acceptance. Teachers must understand (and accept) that this is a real issue. They have to let go of the fact that the way they were taught is not necessarily the best or the only way to teach. I am constantly amazed by this attitude – I have found it in teachers of all generations.
2. Who should change first? As a college prep institution, we feel we have the responsibility to teach kids skills, habits, and techniques that will help graduates go on to college. This is a good theory but many college and university are teaching kids through lecture style and not incorporating any global learning/21st century skills. If we blink before colleges, will our students have trouble succeeding in college?
3. Transition. Once teachers accept that 21st century learning is important, how do we help teachers change their curriculum and pedagogy? Do we give them some sort of map that will help them begin to move their classes to the 21st century. Do we let them discover this? Whatever the answer, it will take time and that’s something we don’t have enough of in school.
4. Leadership. I fully believe that in order to make some of these changes, I need buy in from our administration (and I am not there yet). I don’t need a cheering squad – administrators that tell me I’m doing a good job and say they understand the developing 21st century skills – I need administrators who use this stuff, actually experience the importance of them first-hand.
The last obstacle is one that I am focusing on this year. I have requested some time with our administrators to do some trainings (or at least one) on tools that will help them with their jobs – RSS, GoogleDocs, Skype. I’d like to give them some tools to try and use and see the value in their own jobs so they can then see how they can contribute to student learning. I have yet to get that training time but I’m still working on it. Until then I will keep working with individuals on the faculty as they request it.
photo: “Recess in the Snow” (CaptPiper on Flickr )
(jeeesh – i can’t believe my last post was in September!)
I just was trying to catch up with some blog reading and I ran across Jeff Utecht’s post showing some great Art and Science online projects using Voicethread and video. I can’t wait to share them with some people here but it brings up an issue that keeps popping up around here – putting students online and parental permission. There is a lot of paranoia about putting students on the web. We have every parent sign a form granting us permission or forbidding us to use photos of their child in publications and on our website. Now that teachers are beginning to use video in their classes, slideshows of their students, and other ways to showcase student work, do we need to get permission from parents every time their child is involved in one of these projects? How do schools handle this? How do you educate parents without raising this paranoia?
Next week the k12 Online Conference will begin (October 8th). I hope to steal away a little time to take part in this great opportunity. Where else can you listen/watch/read keynotes and presentations by David Warlick, Clarence Fisher, Jeff Utecht, Dean Shareski, and more all in one place? There is a lot there; a little something for everyone. If you haven’t taken part, I encourage you to check it out.