Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chance to share your ideas for Banned Websites Awareness Day!

Wednesday October 3rd is the American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) Banned Websites Awareness Day (#BWAD on Twitter), which provides policy makers, educators, parents, and students with an opportunity to talk about the impact of arbitrary filtering and overly restrictive policy in K-12 learning environments.  

The librarian community is championing the initiative, and they're engaged in a conversation about it with authors, policy-makers, bloggers, educators and students and they want to hear from you! 

There's a call for all innovative educators, parents, and students to be a part of the bigger conversation by contributing to the Banned Websites Awareness Day collaborative presentation. 

Participating is easy!

Share your testimonials and pictures that respond to this question:
"How does filtering constrain your learning, and your personal and professional growth?

Here's how to contribute:

Check out what's in the presentation below then go add your voice to the conversation. Just click this link to visit the instruction page where you will learn how easy it is to add your testimonial and picture.  Can't wait to see what you write!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The hottest posts that everyone's reading.

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Big news! Turns out it is okay if you don’t go to college.

Didja hear it?  If you were able to catch any of NBC’s Education Nation conversation, It was ever so subtle, but it was there. The part of the conversation that disturbingly has been the banned from the Common Core College and Career Readiness mantra.

If you heard it you noticed that the language is changing, slowly but surely, from the lips of the politicians, corporate funders, and even from the administrators who feel they must not deviate from the party line (even when they know it's wrong) lest they lose their jobs.

So, what's the big idea that is ever so softly slipping through the lips of those engaged in the politically correct education conversation?

The new and improved stats and facts have arrived, and....

College AND career readiness is OUTTA HERE!

In its place is an important conjunction that many of us were shut down and smacked down if we dared to utter those two ugly letters.

So what are the two little letters that could change everything?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

3 ways to assess students, teachers, & schools without standardized tests

A theme at this week’s Education Nation was the failure of standardized tests as a measurement of student achievement and teacher effectiveness. Those who know better know that standardized tests tell us more about a student’s language acquisition, parental involvement, poverty level, and developmental level than they do about teacher effectiveness or student ability. But, it is hard for anyone to imagine how we would possible assess student, teacher, and school effectiveness without the mindless drill, kill, bubblefill that forces students to memorize and regurgitate on demand.  Yet we all know these are not the skills that our students need for success in life.  

So how might we measure students, teachers, and schools if there were no tests? There are countless ways besides the mega-billion testing industry model, but here are three ideas for our policy makers like Mitt Romney who admit they don't know a better model than a testing system.

Romney Promises Teen He Won't Back Down from High Stakes Tests

Nikhyl Goyal: Considering standardized testing has increased to historic levels causing a lot of teaching to the test, billions of dollars spent, and killing creativity, how would you as president change this trend

Mitt Romney: I don't have a better model than a testing system.
And there ya have it.

Nikhil Goyal, the teenage author of One Size Does Not Fit All, presented Mitt Romney with a hard-hitting question during NBC’s Education Nation exposing the presidential hopeful’s extreme ignorance when it comes to education policy.

Romney made a patronizing attempt at schooling the younger and wiser student but as he uttered each word of his response his ignorance on the topic became uncomfortably clear.

Romney explained it this way...

First he said...
“You will find throughout your life there are tests.”

Really?  For most Americans, tests (including the one for driving) occur while we are in school. Many of us have not had another test after high school.  Yes, some people choose to take a one-time certification test, but...
1) They are extremely rare in “life.”
2) They are taken by choice, not forced upon us.  

Then he said...
“I don’t know a way to evaluate progress without tests.” Yikes!!!! So Romney’s ignorance on more effective measures of assessment should guide our nation????

I wished the audience had chanted:

“Ask the kid!!! Ask the kid!!!!.” 

Hell, Mitt had an expert right in front of him and it didn’t occur to him to ask for advice.  But if asking the kid or reading his book is too much for Mitt, he could just think about how we evaluate progress in life? Spoiler alert: It almost never involves tests!!!!

Lie and Ignorance
And after that he said...
“There is no other way that we’ve found out to determine if a student is succeeding or not and no other way to find out if the teacher is succeeding or not.”
Really? Is he telling the teen (who’s much more knowledgable than him on the topic) that this is it?  This is the only way?  Of course, it’s a lie, but is Romney too stupid to know he is lying or is he lying and just thinking the rest of us are too stupid to figure it out?  

Then he explained that...
“When I was governor of Massachusetts I took the graduation exam which assesses basic math and everyone should know basic math.”
As he explained the tests he goes on to describe geometry, algebra, calculus as BASIC math!  Really? Many of us Americans get through life mighty fine without those fancy basic maths known as geometry, algebra, or calculus.  It's basic for those who wants to follow pursuits that require these subjects, but this is not basic and it is not necessary for success in life for their entire population.  

Romney explains that he passed the graduation test with an, “If I can do it, anyone can” grin.  
Within that grin is held complete ignorance of the realities that many of our students have.  No, they don’t have tutors.  No, they may not speak English.  Yes, they may have learning disabilities.  No, they may not have basic health care. Yes, they may not have parents. And...No, they may not have spent their lives in elite private schools or being homeschooled!

Avoidance / Ignorance
Romney completely ignored the part of Nikhil’s question about the billions of dollars being allocated toward testing.  Feh.  Billion, shmillion! Let’s move on.

Teacher Bashing Finale
Romney wanted to drive his point home to the questioning teen about his fear behind no having tests.  You know what that was????

We can’t trust dem teacher folk.

He said this:
“I was afraid before the tests that teachers would go off on a different tangent than the basic math, english, and science that our kids need to succeed.”

We need these tests or those teachers are gonna go off teaching some crazy irrelevant crap.  

But, wait! There’s more.
Romney concluded with his promise to the people.  There’s more where this came from!
He explained, that we won’t stop here! “I’ve added science so people will get tested in biology and geology and so forth.”

And, he concluded...
“Let’s make our testing more effective and expand it ways that haven’t even been thought of!”

Wink Wink to the mega-billion dollar testing industry that more is headed their way.
The sentence
Then he admitted...
“I don’t have a better model than to say we’re going to evaluate our kids through some kind of a testing system.”

So there ya have it folks.  Parents, your kids are gonna get tested and test prepped to death.  The presidential hopeful doesn’t have a better model and gosh dang it, reading Nikhil’s book or those blogs educator’s write just ain’t on his agenda.  

You can watch the video here.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back to school reveals that we need to refocus on what matters for success

This American Life episode of Back to School questions what really matters when it comes to helping students find success and looks at what teachers can truly be responsible for.  Host Ira Glass asks are we really measuring the right thing and takes a look at if test scores really matter or do they just tell us what we already know.

Not surprisingly what Glass uncovers is that when we focus on test scores not only are we focusing on the wrong thing, but we are completely missing the boat when it comes to helping our students succeed who need it most. Need translates into youth living in poverty who do not have support at home and are being raised in an unstable and chaotic setting. Glass looks at how poverty-related stress affects brain development and provides a birds eye view from the perspective of a teenager who had this experience growing up. 

Experts like Paul Tough, author of the new book How Children Succeedeconomist James Heckman, and doctor Nadine Burke Harris discuss more effective ways to meet the needs of school children and it doesn't have anything to do with test prep or scores.  Instead of viewing students as data points what we need is to help young people with the development of non-cognitive skills like tenacity, resilience, and impulse control.  Tough discusses research that suggest these skills can be learned and points to the success of various programs that revolve around early interventions both in the home and in school. Economist James Heckman then discusses they ways in which this shift in emphasis could change the way we practice education and the way we think about learning.

This is an important program for all those accountability, high-stakes testing nuts to pay attention to.  If you know one of them, send them a link to this show.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reflect on Education Nation’s Student Town Hall During Tonight’s Student Voice Webinar

"When the student voice awakens, the national conversation will change." -Diane Ravitch

Viewers of Education Nation’s Student Town Hall watched students from across the country attend and speak up to share their ideas. Tonight during a special webinar, participants will have a chance to connect with those who attended the conference to respond to and discuss their perspectives and solutions to the issues explored at the event.

You can join students, parents, teachers and others to reflect upon and discuss what happened during NBC’s Education Nation Student Town Hall today, September 24 at 9 pm EST. The webinar will give participants the opportunity to reflect on the Town Hall and discuss what can be done to enhance and empower the student voice nationwide.

Participants will have an opportunity to engage in a stimulating dialogue where they can respond to the panelists’ remarks and discuss how we can continue to elevate the student voice in our communities and on a national stage.

This personalized, solutions-driven webinar will provide a platform for students, parents, educators, and anyone interested to unite in a collaborative effort to not only give students a voice, but also a seat at the table in education policy discussions.

Be a part of the solution and join this webinar on Monday evening from 9 pm to 10 pm EST. You can participate by visiting this link.  

Student Voice
Student Voice is a grassroots organization that works to unite and elevate the student voice. This support network serves to aid and empower students in their efforts to be heard and earn their rightful seat at the table.

Keep the conversation going.
You can keep the conversation going with #StuVoice chats (hosted by on Mondays at 8:30 EST, with weekly topics that focus on enhancing and empowering the student voice nationwide.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NBC’s Education Nation puts the spotlight on students

Education policy is an ever-polarizing issue where students, the real victims of the system’s failures, are often ignored or entirely forgotten.

NBC's Education Nation is putting the focus where it belongs and amplifying the voice of education’s most important constituents, the students, with the broadcast of its first-ever Student Town Hall on a special edition of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show.

Harris-Perry’s believes this is an important conversation to have sharing that, “Far too often we talk ‘about’ young people without bothering to talk ‘to’ young people. Students know what inspires them, what challenges them, what impedes their progress and what facilitates their learning. We cannot have a fully informed conversation about education reform, without the perspective of students themselves.”

The esteemed panel includes high school student, 17-year-old Nikhil Goyal, who is the author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student Assessment of School.   

Viewing details
Tune in to NBC today, Sunday, September 23 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST to hear students from across the country sharing their ideas about education and how it will effect their future. Viewers can share their insights, solutions, and expand the dialogue that arises during the program using both the #StuVoice and #EdNatSTH hashtags on Twitter.  

Student Voice
Student Voice is a grassroots organization that works to unite and elevate the student voice. This support network serves to aid and empower students in their efforts to be heard and earn their rightful seat at the table.

Keep the conversation going.
You can keep the conversation going with #StuVoice chats (hosted by on Mondays at 8:30 EST, with weekly topics that focus on enhancing and empowering the student voice nationwide.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The hottest posts that everyone's reading

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Sep 17, 2012 0 Comments 2035 Views
Sep 16, 2012 0 Comments 1701 Views
Sep 20, 2012, 2 comments Views 1650
Sep 19, 2012, 1 comment Views 1613
Jul 15, 2010, 23 comments Views 1589
Jun 24, 2012, 6 comments 1398 Views
Sep 14, 2012, 4 comments 1342 Views

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Does Apple Care About Education?

Guest post by Steve Kinney  
Editor's note: This post was born out of a Twitter conversation between myself and Steve Kinney  which you can read here

I get asked from time to time whether or not I think Apple cares about the education market. Apple, in specific, comes up because we’re knee deep in implementing a one-to-one iPad pilot in the seventh and eighth grade and also because education was Apple’s thing back in the 1990s.

My answer is yes and no. 

On one hand, they obviously still care. In his biography, Walter Isaacson described a conversation with Steve Jobs, where he talked specifically about revolutionizing the textbook market. In addition, Apple did have a big event for education last January. At this event they announce partnerships major textbook publishers and—more importantly—released the free iBooks author software to anyone and everyone interested in creating rich, multimedia textbooks for their students. At the same event, they also rolled out a major overhaul of iTunes U. The expanded service allows universities to get a full course materials for interested autodidacts who want to play along from home.
At the same time, if you compare Apple over the last decade to the 1990s, it’s clear that they’ve lost some of that fire and passion for the education market. I should point out, that I think that this has nothing to do with the return of Steve Jobs to Apple. NeXT, Steve’s company while in exile from Apple, was exclusively focused on the education market. And part of the reason Mac OS X is so easy to manage in a school environment is because it is based off of the NeXTStep operating system.
The Verdict
It’s not that Apple doesn’t care about education as much anymore; it’s that education doesn’t care about integrating technology as much. In the 90s, very few people had computers at home. You went to university computer lab or used the Mac in your classroom if you needed to use a computer. Getting computers into the classroom was a way for Apple to expose students to their potential. Now, the opposite is true. Most adults have exclusive access to a least one computer at their workplace and many have access to more than one. Adults as well as students carry computers in their pocket with them on a day-to-day basis. 
The situation is much more dismal in schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (2010), the ratio of students to computers in the classroom in 2009—the most recent year that data was available for—was 5.3 to 1. In addition, even if students do have powerful computers in their pockets, most school district policy forbids them from using them in their schools.
Apple sells more devices through just one of their New York City retail stores in a month than they sell to the entire year to the New York City Department of Education—the nation’s largest school district—an entire year. In addition, most large school districts are known for being notoriously hard to work with. To this day, the New York City Department of Education still has not found a way to allow its schools and teachers purchase apps for school-owned iOS devices. Word on the street is that they’re demanding their own App Store despite the fact that Apple has Volume Purchasing Program in place.
The point is this: if Apple or any other technology company wants to get their devices into the hands of the artists, scientists, writers, thinkers, and creators of tomorrow, then going through the education market is the absolute least efficient way of doing that. Why cut through the red tape when you can bypass the middleman? 
There needs to be a shift in our priorities. And there needs to be a drastic reduction in the amount of bureaucracy involved in deploying technology in schools.
This is important, because while a lot of students and families have computers at home, a lot more don’t. For those that do, is not uncommon for that one computer to be shared by the entire family. 
A moral imperative for schools is to provide equity and access to education. Part of an education in the 21st century requires being able to use and solve hard problems with the tools of the world today. Until schools prioritize this for all students, we will continue to do students a disservice and the education market will continue to be tangential to companies like Apple.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don't Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Schools.

All these people are out there at the one year anniversary of occupying Wall Street as if this is the reason they don't have jobs. Poor kids were duped into blaming and blocking what consists of a lot of average Joes putting in their 60 hours a week just doing what they know how to make a living. These protesters aren't occupying the real culprit behind the unfair economic system that benefits the rich and corporations at the expense of the rest of us...our public schools.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lights, Camera, Learn

Check out my thoughts on the flipped classroom and using video in this month's TIME Magazine TECHland. Bonus is that John Hutton, a tech coach I worked with is also featured!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Influential educators, bloggers and twitterati recognized at the Bammy Awards

What would happen if instead of being bashed, blamed, and scrutinized, educators were lauded, celebrated, and recognized. That is among the goals of what might become the annual Bammy awards.  The Awards aim to foster recognition of excellence in education, encourage collaboration and respect, elevate education and education successes in the public eye, and raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field.

In what is usually reserved for the actors and athletes of our society, instead, it was us on the red carpet in our flowy gowns and tuxedos who were being treated like movie stars as we were chauffeured in limos where we were photographed by paparazzi, taped, and interviewed as we made our way into the Arena Stage at Kreeger Theater in Washington, DC.
Posing for a picture on the red carpet.
Photo credit: Kevin Jarrett

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Enriching literacy with cellphones: 3 ideas to get started

Cross posted at SmartBlog on Education
September is National Literacy Month, and what better way to celebrate and promote literacy than focusing on the tools that students own and love: their cellphones! Using cellphones to enhance learning does not require that they be used in class. If you are in a school where cellphones are banned, the ideas shared here are also applicable outside of class.
Cellphones are a great tool for enriching literacy instruction. Here are three ways innovative educators can use the tools in their students’ pockets for learning inside or outside the classroom.
Texting drafts
Students are reading and writing more than ever. In the 21st century, reading and writing often takes place through the lightening fast thumbs of teens. Although some parents and teachers complain that text messaging is ruining the language, research shows that it is, in fact, a benefit to students’ phonemic awareness, spelling and use of words (Yarmey, 2011; Plester & Wood, 2009, Malson & Tarica, 2011; Fresco, 2005; Dunnewind, 2003; Miners, 2009; McCarroll, 2005; Elder, 2009). When we rethink and re-envision what is happening when our teens and tweens text, all sorts of learning possibilities emerge.
In the classroom: Texting has become the shorthand of the 21st century. When writing first drafts, allow students to write a draft on their phone or laptop and use text abbreviations to get their thoughts down. Encouraging the quick, free flow of ideas in a format they prefer can help young writers capture, compile and create new ideas. These can be translated as they edit and revise, resulting in a final draft written in standard language.
Oral reports
Google Voice is one of many tools that can capture students’ voices. It is free, easy to use and enables educators to capture voice messages from students without providing them with their direct phone number. The power of this kicks in when you realize that what Google Voice does is become a repository for oral reports, assignments or sound bites. Teachers can also write notes on each clip, share and post them. Get an account.
In the classroom: Have students do their oral reports using Google Voice. If they don’t like how they sound the first time, they don’t have to send the message. They can rerecord until they have something with which they are happy.
Most cellphones today can shoot video. This can be a powerful learning tool even if there is only one video-enabled phone in the classroom. Allowing students to take video can help them with their speaking and listening skills by providing them the opportunity to see and listen to themselves speak as well as listen to others’ recordings.
In the classroom: Have students record themselves acting out chapters of a book they are reading. Acting out a chapter helps solidify understanding.
Let’s take the devices students own and love out of their pockets and into the classroom for learning. Even the simplest, voice-and-text-only cellphones have more complex and powerful chips than the on-board computer that landed a spaceship on the moon! Children deserve nothing less than for their teachers to embrace the power of this technology and support them in becoming learners who can use the powerful computing tools to which they already have access to soar to new heights. For more ideas on using cell phones for learning, check outTeaching Generation Text and The Innovative Educator blog.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The hottest posts that everyone's reading

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Sep 9, 2012, 3 comments
Sep 10, 2012, 3 comments
Sep 12, 2012, 5 comments
Nov 10, 2011, 5 comments
May 10, 2010, 39 comments
Feb 5, 2011, 23 comments
Jun 24, 2012, 6 comments
Jul 15, 2010, 23 comments