Tuesday, May 31, 2011

If you think college grads make much more $$$ than non grads you’ve failed Stats 101

Seriously, you could walk around and say, “Jesus never lived,” and people nod their heads and say, “ok, there is religious freedom in America and what he just said is fine,” but if you say “kids should not go to college” its like you breached the highest, holiest, divine hymen of American religion. - James Altucher

In his article 10 More Reasons Why Parents Should Not Send Their Kids to College, James Altucher articulates the myth behind college grads making more money than non-college graduates.  This is what usually happens when data is shared by those with self interest (read making $$$) who know that they are misleading others and only giving them part of the story.  

Altucher explains why this is inaccurate logic in reason 3.  

Monday, May 30, 2011

8 Alternatives to College

In his article, 8 Alternatives to College, James Altucher suggests a reason a lot of very smart people don’t get why going to college at 18 might not be best choice for everyone is because they don’t know what else they should do.  He has a lot of ideas about what 18-23 year olds could do during the most vibrant, healthy years of their lives.

Here they are.
1) Start a business.
2) Travel the world.
3) Create art.
4) Make people laugh.
5) Write a book.
6) Work in a charity.
7) Master a game
8)Master a sport

Read his explanation about each of these on his original post here.

Related Posts from James Altucher:
Don’t Send Your Kids to College
10 More Reasons to Not Send Your Kids to College

Sunday, May 29, 2011

11 Great Reasons to Skip College

If personalization and differentiation of learning are valued in educational systems, why is it that many are being pushed to believe that college readiness is the goal for every student? Stories are popping out everywhere exposing the “College Myth,” pointing to the “Academic Bubble” and exposing “Academic Inflation.”  In his article 11 Great Reasons to Skip College (and Build Your Own Alternative), Blake Boles explains that College today sells itself on a large number of myths and assumptions. He suggests we  hold these to the light of reality and see how many evaporate faster than a puddle in the sunlight.

Here are the big reasons to consider jumping ship from sinking hull of college in America.
1) Higher education is important. College is optional.
2) College is incredibly expensive and becoming more so.
3) College degree holders earn more money over their lifetime...if they’re engineers.
4) College is a bubble.
5) A hardcore academic experience is increasingly difficult to find.
6) You can find great mentorship without college.
7) Few colleges offer lessons in entrepreneurship.
8) The internet offers a huge (and ever-increasing) number of free, college-level learning resources.
9) Social networking makes it easier to find friends without college.
10) There are excellent ways to document and certify your accomplishments in lieu of a college degree.
11) DIY is exciting and meaningful.

Read the explanations behind each reason in the original article here

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's Popular This Week on The Innovative Educator

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days.

This week the #1 spot goes to Advice from the Twitter Hashtag Queen.  It addresses why I always use “#” in my tweets and provides a list of hashtags for connecting with others who share your interests.  Next up is Sites for Using iPads in Education. iPads are hot, hot, hot...so I’m not surprised this post with recommendations from Apple made it to the top. Rounding out the top three is  Why I will no longer work to differentiate instruction. Thanks to Tom Welch for pointing out a shift in language and perspective makes a big difference. 

The next two in the top five provide information on a free guide that empowers teens unhappy with their educational experience to reclaim their learning by leaving school.  
There are several other interesting posts as well. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Want to be learn how to be a great math teacher? Have a #Mathchat

Twitter takes the cake as the best tool for professional development, self-directed learning and connecting with those who share your passions.  I recently sent a Tweet using the #mathchat hashtag asking math chatters what I should share with preservice teachers about teaching math.  Not only did they share a number of fantastic resources which I've captured here, but when I asked specifically for information about #mathchat (a forum for anyone involved with Mathematics to discuss and share ideas about issues affecting them) @ColinTGraham agreed to write a post to explain to others exactly what it was.  I sent him my explanation of #edchat (a general Twitter chat about education) to show the type of post that might be helpful. Colin Graham did not disappoint.  Just in time for my guest appearance, he wrote a fantastic post which you can visit at What’s it all about #mathchat?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Innovative Educator Discusses Breaking Out of the Boring Prison of School Live on Educator's PLN - Wednesday, May 25

Join me on Educator's PLN on Wednesday, May 25th, at 7pm EST/ 4pm PST (Convert To Your Local Time Here) in a live conversation!!!. I will explain why we need to help students break out of the boring prison of school if we want to prepare them for the real world in which they live. In this lively and interactive presentation I will shatter myths that have been used as excuses for administrators and policy makers to take the easy way out keeping 21st century students stuck in the past.I will be sharing voices of real students and educators who have experienced the success that ensues when students are empowered to think outside the ban and are given the freedom to communicate, connect, and create in real ways, with real meaning, for real audiences. Please share a question below that you'd like asked during the live during the event.

These real-time events are delivered using Elluminate complete with audio, chat and desktop sharing. To join the live event just click here.  The archive should be available in about a week here.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Guide Provides Teens with An Innovative Way To Take Ownership of Learning - Leave School

This post was also published at Gotham Schools.  If you want to read it there, click here and read their take on it here.  

I work to support schools in New York City to innovate learning and I am also the author of a guide that advises teens to take ownership of their learning by leaving school. Here’s why.

I have more than a decade’s worth of experience in educational innovation. I spend my days working with administrators, teachers, and students finding ways to innovate learning in an effort to establish student learning environments that are more engaging, authentic, and connected to real life. I’ve worked in various capacities such as technology coach, literacy coach, and educational technology professional development manager, and I currently serve as a technology innovation manager. Before that I did similar work for Teachers College Innovations at Columbia University.

I am fortunate to work for an agency that focuses on and embraces technology and innovation. Despite outdated constraints involving issues like seat time, student funding, and resource allocation, we are making progress toward bringing more personalized and engaging learning opportunities to students through a handful of efforts, such as the iSchool and the Innovation Zone. But while students are doing better in a more innovative climate, ultimately, we are just using updated tools to meet narrow and outdated measures on which our students, teachers, and school leaders are judged. It is not enough to personalize learning for everyone to go down the same path — to college, without consideration of what comes next. Instead, schools need to embrace the many alternatives to the traditional college route that would better meet the needs of many learners today. What is missing at the DOE is the important work of letting students discover, define, and develop their own passions, talents, and interests and determine personalized, meaningful, and authentic measures of success.

This is why I have published an online guide that helps teens leave school. Recognizing that I am no better than a high school dropout, I created ”The Teenager’s Guide to Opting Out (Not Dropping Out) of School” because for many students, school has become a barrier, rather than a sanctuary, for learning. You need only spend a few minutes on Facebook groups like ”Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing” and “Testing is not Teaching!” to get a sense of the frustration felt by parents about school systems that prioritize testing over the mental and physical well-being of children. You need only attend education conferences, like the recent iNacol Virtual School Symposium where the audience replied with a resounding “BORING” to the keynote speaker’s request for “one word to describe high school,” to realize something has gone very wrong. ”The Teenager’s Guide to Opting Out (Not Dropping Out) of School“ is geared directly at teens who don’t fit the standardized mold and are desperate for a life customized to their personal goals for learning and plans for success.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Advice from the Twitter Hashtag Queen - Steve Hargadon Said So!

I was honored when Steve Hargadon recently anointed me with the title of hashtag queen but many people are still in the dark about why they are important.  Hashtags provide a way for others who are interested in a particular topic to see what you have to say even if they're not following you.  In other words, it allows people to follow topics rather than each other.  Through Twitter and hashtags I have made amazing connections with people around the world and boy is it fun when we get to meet face-to-face.  In essence, I've had the pleasure of meeting the minds of so many before their faces, and Twitter provides an excellent way to keep the conversation going. 

If I've sold you on the idea and importance of hashtags, you may be wondering how the heck you know which ones to use.  My technique is doing a Twitter search for a topic of interest and see what folks are using.  For those of us interested in learning at school, at home, or in life, Online College Courses has put together a great list of hashtags.  By simply following these hashtags, you can get connected with discussion groups, resources, advice, and more. You may also want to use "@" to mention someone in particular. I'm @InnovativeEdu so if you wanted to send out a Tweet by virtually tap me on the shoulder you might Tweet something like this:
#Parenting question. I want to opt my #specialneeds child out of #standardizedtests . Hoping folks like @InnovativeEdu might have advice
You've now taped into three hashtags and you've gotten my attention as well through the "@InnovativeEdu" mention. Next it's time to let the connections and the conversation begin! 

Here's a great list of hashtags to check out and give a try. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What's Popular This Week on The Innovative Educator

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days.

This week the #1 spot goes to Why I will no longer work to differentiate instruction. Thanks to Tom Welch for pointing out a shift in language and perspective makes a big difference. Next up is Sites for Using iPads in Education. iPads are hot, hot, hot...so I’m not surprised this post with recommendations from Apple made it to the top.  

The next two in the top five are possibly my favorite posts of all time, touching on an issue near to my heart.  They are a guide that empowers teens to reclaim learning by leaving school and the story of a teen who did just that!
There was a lot of comments / controversy about two posts I wrote that question the importance of school.  
There’s several other interesting posts as well. I hope there's something here that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ten Ways To Confuse a Child: Education Edition

By Vickie Bergman, who blogs about Parenting and Education at Demand EUPHORIA.

Last week I wrote a post about how parents can confuse their children. Then I started thinking about how teachers and school administrators can do their parts as well. We can all work together to make sure no child is left thinking the world makes sense.

Here's a test to see how well you are doing.  Each of these items is worth ten points, with a few extra credit opportunities:
  1. Punish him for something that is completely beyond his control, like being late for school because of traffic or because his mother overslept.
  2. Make a really big deal about how important it is for kids to get physical activity, and then force him to sit still for 95% of the school day. *extra credit for giving excessive homework, leading to more forced sitting: 1 point for each hour

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Listen to a Principal Who Knows Banning is the Easy Way Out

Educators, administrators, and school board members interested in learning how technology, the web and social media can be used to engage both their students and their communities have the opportunity to hear from a public school principal who is doing just that.  On May 19th New Milford High School Principal Eric Sheninger will explain how to move from banning to embracing technology and social media.  

Sheninger understands that while banning students from technology and social media is certainly easier, his job is not to do what is most convenient, but rather what is right for our students.  As a result, Sheninger publicly embraces the use of social media for himself and for his students.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sites for Using iPads in Education

Following an iPad in Education workshop led by Meg Wilson (@iPodsibilities on Twitter) that was held at Apple last week, I asked an Apple employee to share with me useful materials for follow up.

Here are the sites that were suggested:

Why I will no longer work to differentiate instruction!

I used to be a big fan of differentiated instruction.  It all came together for me when I learned about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model at ConFratute and then helped schools use Renzulli Learning which is a terrific differentiation machine.  A couple years later Marc Prensky’s book Teaching Digital Natives---Partnering for Real Learning was released and he even acknowledged me in it!!  This also became part of the differentiation game to me.  I began speaking and writing about differentiated instruction more and more and explaining to teachers that this really wasn’t that hard.  Especially if we focused on student centered learning like the teachers I wrote about in my post, Student Driven Learning = Passion-Based Classrooms.

I realized that when teachers gave up control an empowered students to use the tools they want and meet learning goals in the way they choose, then true differentiation could begin and it wasn’t all on the shoulders of the teacher to figure out how to do this.  So you might be wondering why, if I’m such a big fan of differentiated instruction, I have decided it’s not something I am willing to do any longer. 

It was Tom Welch who reached out and asked me to join him in abandoning the term differentiating "instruction". He explained, it this way:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Grad School May Be A Waste of Time

I’ve written articles on why high school may be a waste (see this one and this one) and why college may be a waste (see this).  Now it’s time to take on grad school and to do that is my great friend and provocative inspiration Penelope Trunk who has been writing about how graduate school may be a waste of time and money (yes, business school and law school too).  When radio and TV producers need someone to bitch about graduate school, they call Penelope.  

I just loved her interview on NPR last week. It’s a great interview in part because of how quick she is at supporting facts and backing them up with research, but also because she completely lost patience for people still defending grad school. She explains in her wildly popular career advice blog that even to defenders of grad school it is clearly a bad financial decision. The guy she is bantering with int the interview actually resorted to saying that you need to go to grad school to be a good person. That’s where Penelope went nuts on him.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Free Guide Empowers Teens to Leave School and Reclaim Their Learning

co-authored by Lisa Nielsen and Laurette Lynn

In the test obsessed, data (not passion) driven environment of school today educators, parents, and students are all coming to the realization that schools have lost sight of what is important. Instead of personal success plans that are tied to students passions, talents, and interests, and ePortfolios that demonstrate authentic mastery and success, students have been reduced to high-stakes numbers which are tied to dollars that can result in students being left behind and schools being left unfunded and having their doors slammed shut. Students have become statistics instead of young humans.  They are measured by their ability to fill in the correct bubble rather than their talents. Their usefulness to society is determined by how taxable their potential incomes will be.  Decades of this deterioration of individual human identity has resulted in a damaged sociopolitical state of affairs in the world at large.  Ironically, the sought after ‘real world’ is being shielded from students for the sake of keeping the wheels turning efficiently. It has become about the process and not about person.  

There’s got to be a better way you say?  
There is!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Think You Need to Graduate High School to Be Successful? These People Didn't

Did you know that people didn’t always have to go to school and that it wasn’t long ago that we even had Presidents who knew they could be successful without going to high school?  Did you ever wonder why it seems like people from history seemed to achieve success at much earlier ages than they do today?  Well it's because in the past youth were not required to go to school at all in many states in most of the 1800s. By 1918 every state required students to complete school, but in most states it was only elementary school.  This meant that by the time they were teenagers adolescents had a chance to integrate into society.  Some might be learning a trade, others the family business, some might follow a pursuit of writing or singing, some became entrepreneurs, some became interested in politics, and for some of the academically minded they might continue studying academics, though people like Einstein and other great minds found school too oppressive and confining.  

It wasn't until the time of the Depression that the age of compulsory attendance was increased.  John Taylor Gatto explains that this was due in part to keep youth out of the work force and in part to create a consumer society.  However, before youth was forced to stay in school until around 16 in most states, many youth were doing just fine.  Today, if you don't choose to graduate high school, you're often considered a drop out and kids are dropping out in droves.  Our nation has about 1/3 of students dropping out of high schools and in large urban areas like those in which I've lived (Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas) the rates are around 50% which is also the drop out rate for Black students.  Clearly something is not right.  Even many of our most successful students, like this valedictorian, (and me!) weren't happy with their high school education.

Well something you may not know, is no one has to go to school and you don't have to drop out.  You can opt out and head straight to an apprenticeship, career, or you can attend college without ever having to bother with high school.  If you've bought all the hype about the importance of a high school diploma, it may comfort you to know that there are many successful people uninterested in conforming to the mandates imposed upon them by boring teachers and classes they often don’t have a saying in selecting. Below are just a few such people who didn't bother getting a high school diploma and moved on to better pastures (Source: Dropouts Hall of Fame). 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What's Popular This Week on The Innovative Educator

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days.

This week 7 Solutions for Educators Who Want 21st Century Students to Tune In is the big winner for the second week in a row. In it I combat the idea that technology is to blame for distracted students, but rather it is the fault of teachers who haven't learned to update practice. I'm happy to find that also at the top are two posts dear to my heart Developing an Authentic ePortfolio and 6 Ideas to Prepare Students for Success without Standardized Testing. I can only hope these sensible and authentic practical ideas gain popularity.

Next up are two posts that expose a school and content provider who have dismissed the pleas of a mother who wants to opt out of standardized testing because it was making her son ill.
This mother was bullied by the school who demanded she have her son report to testing or he would be kicked out.  I am happy to report that K12 stepped up after the posts and tweets about the issue and said they would talk to the mother rather than continue to dismiss her and hand off the blame to the school alone.  Big content providers like this need to take a stand on how the students who receive their content are being treated.  I have asked them to share a public statement on their stand in supporting parents who choose to opt out of tests if they feel it is in the best interest of their children.  I have not yet received a response.  I hope to have an update by next week.
Rounding out the top is my favorite post in a long time Teen Takes Control of Her Own Learning and Opts Out of School. I co-wrote this post with 16-year-old Leah Miller who opted out of school this year because she felt school was not set up to provide a meaningful education.  She took control of her learning and even put together a presentation outlining her personal learning plan to help convince her family that this was a good idea for her.  I am thrilled to share this post with you and to also inform you that this post is a sneak peak into the Teenager's Guide for Opting Out of High School. Stay tuned next week for that terrific guide.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Google Tools to Support Blooms Revised Taxonomy

In his latest book, "Teaching Digital Natives. Partnering for Real Learning," Marc Prensky discusses 21st education in terms of verbs (skills) and nouns (tools).  Kathy Schrock does an excellent job of bringing this to life in her Google Tools to Support Bloom's Taxonomy.

Click the graphic below to see her clickable image map that enables you to click on any tool to visit it. 

Teen Takes Control of Her Own Learning and Opts Out of High School

Editor's note:  Here is the story of a teen who left school to take control of her learning.  If you're a teen or know a teen interested in opting out, check out The Teen's Guide to Opting Out of School for Success.

Co-authored by 16-year-old Leah Miller and Lisa Nielsen

In a world where it seems most every teen is in school, making the decision to opt out can be very difficult. After all, this is an age when most adolescents are trying to do what they can to fit in. Additionally, most people perceive students who leave school as “drop outs” and society has labeled them as lazy, unmotivated, not bright, etc. Students who have taken charge of their learning know this is not true, but the reality is that they will be spending a lot of time convincing others of this. 16-year-old Leah Miller is one such former student who has chosen to opt out of high school so she could acquire an education that was best was personalized to her learning goals.  To follow is her story complete with the presentation she put together to convince her parents she was making the right decision.

"As a school principal I have one job and that is to expose kids to a whole lot of different things and help them to get their light bulb to go on.”
--Barbara Slatin, Schoolwide Enrichment Model Principal (read more here)

Leah Miller - School was dimming my bright light
I am an unusual case. I hope one day, what I did will be commonplace, but with my circumstances, for now, I remain unusual. I have always been a “good student”. I got straight-A’s, I did my homework without being bribed, I actually enjoyed going to class most days.

I left school because my inner light was being slowly, but surely, being dimmed. I started dreading school and losing all my motivation for the mundane daily homework I was assigned. It was hell to put myself through the day-to-day activities that I didn’t care a whit about.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

K12Online and South Carolina Virtual Charter school Choose Making Profit Even If It Means Making Children Sick

Online learning seemed to be a godsend for Gretchen Herrera’s son who was bullied and struggled in mainstream school due in part to having Asperger’s Syndrome and Type 1 diabetes.  The flexible schedule, additional freedom in class choices and the many benefits that online learning affords, worked very well for this motivated tween.  

...Until it came to test time.  Like thousands of other parents around the nation (see Facebook groups like this one), Gretchen and her child’s doctors knew that opting out of standardized tests was in the best interest of her child’s physical and emotional well-being yet, when she contacted the curriculum provider K12 Online and the local provider South Carolina Virtual Charter school (SCVC) her concerns were dismissed. K12 Online passed the buck and refused to get involved and South Carolina Virtual Charter school informed her that her concerns would be disregarded.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

K12Online and South Carolina Virtual Charter School Leave Children with Special Needs Behind

By Gretchen Herrera, parent of a child being left behind

All I have ever wanted for my child was an education he could obtain while ensuring his safety and physical and emotional well-being. It is clear though that the No Child Left Behind legislation views children as little more than testing objects to report out on and from which to receive dollars for, making the dream I had for my child impossible. 

I have been working for years to advocate for the needs of my son. Recently when I requested to opt-out of our state’s standardized test, I was met with not only resistance, but threats. Threats that my son would be removed from South Carolina Virtual Charter school powered by K12 Online and returned to the hostile environment he escaped from should we not comply. 

Hear The Innovative Educator on Passion Driven Learning Panel with Angela Maiers, Amy Sandvold, and George Couros

#PassionDriven Conversations: Guest Blogger – Patrick LarkinI'm excited to join some of the most passionate educators in the world for a second time in a panel moderated by Steve Hargadon as part of the Future of Education Series tonight (Tuesday) to discuss next steps for those who believe passion should drive learning. Passion driven learning is a topic I write about often and it's the topic of co-panelists Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold's fantastic book, "The Passion-Driven Classroom." Rounding out the panel is the creator of Connected Principals, The Principal of Change (as his blog is called) George Couros.

No one disagrees with the premise or that passion is a factor in both individual and organizational success. We just have a lot of questions about it and this panel has the answers!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Want to Build the Home-School Connection? There's an App for That!

Imagine two students in a classroom: the first working diligently, doing something very well, and the second a student who is having difficulty meeting classroom behavioral expectations. 

What if it were possible for the teacher to inform both student’s parents in 10 seconds or less, while walking around the classroom? If it were possible, would this be something teachers would want to do? Moreover, what if students were aware that their teacher had this ability, might they make an effort to be caught doing the good stuff?

In most cases, the answer is a resounding, “YES!” followed by, “But how?”


Give an idea and get dozens more for using iPads in the Classroom

I’m often asked how iPads (and other such technology) is being used in the classroom.  Here’s a great Google presentation from Tom Barrett (@tombarrett on Twitter) where viewers can also contribute their ideas.  Check it out below and then visit the source to share your ideas.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Six Reasons I’m excited about homeschooling my future children

(A post from Kate Fridkis, of Skipping School and Eat the Damn Cake)

I grew up without school and my husband grew up with school. I’m twenty-five, and Bear is twenty-six, and sometimes we sit around and talk about the kids we might have someday, because we’re not at all cool, and don’t get invited to any parties. I’m kidding. We get invited to (tons of amazing) parties. And we also talk about our future kids and how they will learn, and what kind of lives they will have. We can make a pretty good case for homeschooling. It may or may not involve a boat. 

Here are a few reasons why homeschooling our future kids will be awesome:

Osama bin Laden Dead. GoGo News - A site to help talk about those difficult current events.

GoGoNews.com is a free online news resource for children which features daily news for school children ages 7 to 13 years old.  The site provides a resource for times when we’re caught in that difficult situation when children catch a glimpse of a graphic news story on TV or sees the front page of a national newspaper with a graphic, sometimes violent photo. The questions almost immediately start peppering conversation: What is that? Who is that? What happened?

The good news is that GoGoNews is a great resource to help navigate these unchartered waters. The site offers a place for kids to learn about current events, but it does so in a way that insulates their minds by filtering the content just enough to keep them safely informed.