Monday, December 31, 2012

The Innovative Educator's 10 Memorable Quotes of 2012

A well formed quote, like a picture, is a great method for painting detailed concepts. Each year I capture quotes that had meaning to me that year. 
This year, I've collected a hodgepodge of quotes that made their way into the "Quotes I like" memo on my phone. Here they are.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 5 most popular technology solutions in 2013

Here are my predictions for the five most popular technology solutions we’ll begin seeing more of in 2013.

1) Lifting the ban
Policymakers will stop banning and start embracing the use of cell phones and other student-owned digital devices in school. This will help provide equity and access to students using the tools they use in life and need for success in the world.

2) Customizing learning with digital lectures and learning resources

Innovative educators will realize that instruction can be customized to learners when lectures and other learning resources are available anytime, anywhere, to anyone that needs them. These classrooms will look very different with students moving at their own pace using materials customized to their needs. The teacher will be able to focus more time on supporting individual students and small groups.

3) Embracing social media

Schools and districts will realize the importance of empowering students to responsibly use social media. These pioneering districts will be examples of what happens when we support students in effectively using the resources they need for academic, career, and citizenship success.

4) Providing home internet access
Home internet access will start to be seen as a right rather than as a privilege. School districts will begin working with internet providers to offer special rates and packages to students who qualify for subsidies such as free lunch.

5) Going paperless
Schools and districts will re-allocate resources away from paper and toward digital solutions. Savvy decision makers will find ways that this can save schools money as they realize savings in reduced costs of items such as textbooks, copy machines, toner cartridges, etc.

Beyond 2013...
My prediction for the future is that students will have more opportunities to show what they know with badges like Modzilla Open Badges, BadgeStack, Uboost and products like Knowit.  

What do you think?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The hottest posts that everybody'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.

School Today....What they don't tell you. (Written...
Dec 24, 2012, 2 comments
Teacher dropouts
Dec 23, 2012, 10 comments
9 Ways to Assess without Standardized Tests
Apr 22, 2012, 15 comments
Ed Tech Speak
Dec 26, 2012
Answers to 8 hard questions abt ed in American...
Dec 20, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tell Diane Ravitch that bashing homeschooling & online learning is not a gift

Diane Ravitch has a gift this holiday season that I hope innovative educators and parents will reject.  

Here it is:

"This article is a Christmas gift from me to you.
Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic has written one of the most eloquent explanations of why we need teachers, schools, and universities.
At a time when we hear hosannas to online learning, home-schooling, inexperienced teachers, the business model of schooling, for-profit schools, and the commodification of education, this is bracing reading." 

The article that has the "eloquent explanation" Diane Ravitch's is praising calls homeschooling "the demented idea that children can be competently taught by people whose only qualifications for teaching them are love and a desire to keep them from the world—constitutes another insult to the great profession of pedagogy." 

While there are those that agree that the business model of schooling, for-profit schools, and the commodification of education are not the best for our children, lumping online learning and homeschooling into this bucket throws an unnecessarily divisive wedge as our society should be coming together to do what is best for children. Ignoring the research that says those who are home educated generally out-perform their public schooled peers undermines the credibility of both Ravitch and Wieseltier and will make knowledgeable parents and educators think twice before following their advice.  

When it comes to hearing those hosannas to online learning Ravitch should read up and learn about the amazing options that such learning brings to our children and take the time to find out why many students say they prefer it. People around the world now have free access to classes at places like MIT. Students who could not take classes in traditional schools now have the chance, and students who live in places were options were limited now have many more courses they can choose from.

Ravitch's ignorant and bold attack masked as a gift, has alienated a large segment of the population that knows better. The real gift Ravitch gave this holiday season was revealing her true colors for all to see.

I invite you to comment with your thoughts below and join the conversation on Facebook where innovative educators have left more than 100 comments on this topic here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

School Today....What they don't tell you. (Written by a teacher)

Guest post by Ed J. Komperda, III | Originally posted and shared with hundreds on Facebook

"What did you do in school today?" "Nothing."
Ah….the generic response of children when confronted upon their parents arrival home from work. No need to press the issue. As a 15-year veteran public school teacher, I'll share the 411 from an insider's perspective -- with a well-deserved angle of candidness and transparency for parents and tax payers.

Your child is becoming highly proficient with filling in little circles on bubble sheets and is acquiring a wealth of knowledge on the questioning and structure of standardized tests.
Gym class now requires sitting. Due to new federal and state educational mandates, students are required to trade their gym clothes for pencils and paper while attending physical education class on a number of days during the school year.

Today's students are test-taking gurus, a direct result of being instructed via a curriculum driven by high-stakes standardized testing. A 4th grader in New York, for instance, will spend around five weeks in which they'll be subjected to some form of standardized assessments. This figure does not account for far more time which is allocated towards test preparation -- aka "teaching for the test". Live in NY and thinking about moving? Don't. Analogous situations exist in the other states.

Your child is being shortchanged of basic academic skills, life skills, crucial thinking, social interaction, and creativity as more time, effort, resources, and money are spent on standardized testing.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Teacher dropouts

Editor's note: This is a living post to which I will continue adding the stories of teacher dropouts as they are brought to my attention.

More than 20 years ago John Taylor Gatto wrote a letter announcing his departure from the teaching profession, titled I Quit, I Think. The letter was published in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal where he said he no longer wished to "hurt kids to make a living." He gave this advice:
"We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can’t teach this way any longer."
Fast forward 20 years and we have Kris Nielsen's letter published in the Washington Post in an article called, "Letter from disgusted teacher: I quit." From Nielsen we find that nothing much has changed since Gatto did the same thing in 1991.  He explained that he quit because:
 “I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible,” and “I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests,” 
Nielsen's not alone.  Just last week a teacher self-described as female, black and southern shared her story on her Tony Giving Lip Tumbler site in this story:
I am an American Teacher. I Love My Profession. So, I Quit.

She explained that she was no longer able to fulfill her role of institutionalizing children which required her to be the person who was made to do the following:
To corral them. To oppress them. To rob them of true educational experiences. To attempt to standardize them. To test them. To test them. To benchmark them. To rank them. To drill them. To worksheet them. To blow whistles at them to move. To ring bells for them to stand. To watch them like a hawk as they visited the restroom. The PE coach once remarked that I “looked like their CO” (correctional officer) as my students walked in line and I watched them to be sure they did so with the absolute perfection mandated by my boss, the school founder, who, although they were of age, did not enroll his own children, who were eligible because they, too, lived in Orleans Parish, in the school which he founded. He said that it wouldn’t be fair to them to have them attend the school of their father’s creation. He said they would be the only white children. And the principal’s kids. He sent them to the only public school in the parish where the rest of the white children attended. It was best for them to learn there without all of the things at his school which he imposed on Black children: non-descript uniforms, trailers, inexperienced and unqualified teachers, longer school days by way of three additional hours, and adults all around them who were as battered, abused, and depressed as they were.
It seems this public quitting thing is catching on.  

The teacher below read his letter and uploaded it to YouTube creating a video that already has had hundreds of thousands of views. 

He complains of the same issues that causes those before him to quit. He points out that socialization and learning from the world are no longer a part of the school experience,  recess is nearly extinct, and of course the over-emphasis standards and prepping everyone for the one-size-fits-all test even though we know learning should be customized.  

In this video Ellie Rubenstein tells us why she has had enough. Rubenstein explains the reasons that have led to her decision to quit and addresses several major problems she says she has faced as a teacher in our current education environment.
"I was proud to say I was a teacher," Rubenstein tells the camera, after describing how she abandoned a career in public relations to "do something meaningful" with her life. "But over the past 15 years, I've experienced the depressing, gradual downfall and misdirection of communication that has slowly eaten away at my love of teaching." 
"Raising students' test scores on standardized tests is now the only goal, and in order to achieve it the creativity, flexibility and spontaneity that create authentic learning environments have been eliminated. ... Everything I love about teaching is extinct," she continues.

Ron Maggiano, a social studies teacher at West Springfield High School in Fairfax County won the Disney Teacher Award for innovation and creativity and he also won the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Family Teaching Prize for outstanding K-12 teaching. But, now, as shared in the Washington Post,  he is resigning, because he’s had enough of the high-stakes testing obsession that he believes has undermined public education

The teacher in the following video brings the painful testing process to life as he shares the day in the life of a ranked and sorted young child of immigrants. Through his story we see not only this child set up for failure, but a system designed to label those that teach these students failures too because if their students don't succeed, they risk losing their jobs, and schools risk being shut down.

But here's the sad truth that Gatto started investigating after he quit 20 years ago. As the principal boss in the "Tony Giving Lip" blog alluded to, and Gatto explains in the video below, there are two school systems.  

There is one for the masses and this system is doing exactly what it was designed to do. Rank and sort compliant workers who have been indoctrinated to conform to life in the corporate cubical.

The other is for the powerful and/or rich who do not send their children to these common public schools. As Gatto told us, those making the decisions for other people's children, send their children to schools that provide an uncommon experience covering 14 themes that are purposefully absent from government run schools

The jobs these teacher dropouts are yearning for exists outside government schools. Unfortunately, as long as our society tolerates government control of schools, our teachers will be forced to follow orders resulting in the deliberate dumbing down of the masses and a departure of good teachers frustrated by their inability to provide all children with the education currently reserved for the elite.  

Saturday, December 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.

Article                                                                               Page Views
Dec 16, 2012

Dec 11, 2012, 13 comments
Dec 18, 2012
Dec 14, 2012, 1 comment
Dec 19, 2012
Jun 24, 2012, 9 comments

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Answers to 8 hard questions about education in America

I was recently asked 8 questions about education for The Daily Journalist.  Here are the questions:

  1. Is there something wrong with the system and education in the U.S.?
  2. Are high school students in the U.S. unprepared and surprisingly unaware of the hardness college presents to them, once they decide to get a higher education? Is the transition from high school to college to harsh?
  3. Does college increase creativity or does it diminish it?
  4. What is your main concern about education in the future for kids all across the U.S.?
  5. It is said that in today’s generation, Facebook and Youtube are much more powerful tools than Video Games were in the 80′s and 90′s for high school students. Perhaps because the newer generation has not only access to Facebook but also to video games as well. Is Facebook and Youtube helping kids get better grades, compared to later generations?
  6. Are kids going to forget what a library is in the next decade?
  7. What ought to be done to increase kids awareness to become more educated?
  8. Is the government doing its job right, when It comes down to education?

You can read my responses here.

The Daily Journalist is a site that shares opposite sides of ideas and news stories. The goal of the Daily Journalist is to educate the public, by asking the hard questions that the modern day media often avoid so readers can decide for their own.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How leaving traditional school saved a life

Guest post by Lisa Cooley - Cross posted at The Minds of Kids

The blog of the Institute for Democratic Education in America now features an autobiographical post by John Dubie, a senior at the Big Picture South Burlington school in Vermont. Dubie writes, "When I got to high school, I was a particularly snarky and jaded student. Every teacher I saw was an enemy and every classmate was a douche. I cut class and talked back to teachers. I was a bad kid. I was once again the Dishonor student." Then he learned about Big Picture South Burlington.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Make Dropping Out of School Work for You

I have the good fortune to be able to call Deven Black a colleague and friend who has never disappointed when it comes to stretching my thinking. Deven helps me become smarter and look at things in new ways. Every time Deven and I communicate, I'm always surprised by some other amazing accomplishment of his that he mentions in passing.  As I was writing my Teens Guide to Opting Out of School for Success, Deven mentioned he was one such teen and he agreed to contribute to my guide.  I shared what an inspiration his story was and that I hoped he'd share it more widely.  Guess what? He did! This year I had the pleasure of seeing Deven speak at the #140edu conference in NYC on the topic. To follow is what he said, reprinted with permission and cross-posted on his blog Education On The Plate. If you'd like to watch him speak, you can find that below as well.

How many of you here graduated from high school?
(Hands go up)

#140edu stage - via digital camera
#140edu stage – via digital camera (Photo credit: NJ Tech Teacher)
How many of you liked high school?
(Hands come down)

Just as I thought. 

Despite the laws mandating it, despite the ominous predictions of what will happen if you leave it, not everyone should go to high school.

Let me say it again, not everyone should go to high school.

This sounds like heresy, especially coming from a teacher.

But even in a time when it seems like you need a college degree to be an auto mechanic, not everyone should go to high school.

When I dropped out of high school for the first time, yes — I’ve done it twice — dropping out was considered a sure path to economic and social failure.

Not much has changed since 1968. Dropping out of high school is still labeled a sure path to ruin. That there are students dropping out of school is still called a crisis.

It is not a crisis. It is a message.

Thinking of drop outs as a crisis leads to solutions that focus on compliance– things like raising the age at which one can leave school, or more truant officers to track down the education fugitives.

But if we look at students dropping out of schools as a message, drop outs tell us is that school sucks, that it is not reaching them, or that they feel they have no hope for success, in high school or beyond it.

They tell us that they are not being challenged enough, or not being allowed to follow their interests, or just that school doesn’t fit them: it is too big, too small, too cliquey or too dangerous.

The reasons students leave school are as differentiated as the lessons we teachers are being told to teach them.

You have heard, and will continue to hear today and tomorrow, about ways to make school better, more enticing, more encouraging, more engaging and more effective.

All that is good, but it is almost impossible for any modern high school to meet the needs of all students.

This is not for lack of intent or lack of effort. It is a result of an increasingly centrally-mandated standardized world. Now we’re all supposed to hone our lessons to the common core. Really? Does anyone really want to be common?
Instead of focusing on how to make school better or teaching better, I’m going to talk about how to make learning better.

My idea of the perfect school is one in which you can  learn what you want to learn, when you want to learn it, where you want to learn it, and how you want to learn it.

I say, do what teachers have been telling you to do for so long, take charge of your education and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

I dropped out of high school twice, and college once, because attending was interfering with my learning. I got tired of teachers calling my questions and observations distracting and disruptive. I got tired of being told what to learn and when to learn it.

I figured out that knowledge doesn’t come in neat little packages called math, science, English Language Arts or social studies. Art is not a subject, neither is music, or health.

Knowledge is a massive, ever growing, completely interconnected all enveloping mass. It is the butterfly effect writ large, where everything we learn, every insight we gain, every understanding we come to, changes EVERYTHING.

So I left.

My parents were not happy about any of it, but I had the biggest, most cultured and most diverse city in the world to explore.

I still got a great education because I asked questions, followed tangents and never stopped being curious.

The real key to making dropping out — or opting out if you prefer– is to do it soon enough. Don’t wait until you’re beaten down by the system and have lost interest and hope. Leave school while you still have curiosity, a hunger to know something, to know anything or everything, and before you have to support yourself financially. It may be after 10th grade or it may be after 8th. You will know when it is right for you.

Now you can sleep a little later, but don’t spend the day in bed, or watching cartoons or talk shows. There is a world to explore.

Today it doesn’t matter if you live in Manhattan, like I did, or in East Nowhere, the whole world is available to you.

Think of the tools you have now that didn’t exist when I dropped out. Computers, the internet, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, and more are all there to help you access the world and learn anything you want.

You don’t need a curriculum, a road map or a plan at all.

Just ask a question and seek an answer.

Then ask another question.

Listen to the answers you get. Follow tangents. Focus like a laser or wander aimlessly. Tinker. Play.

All knowledge is connected and things will all start to make sense as you note commonalities, wonder about discrepancies, make connections and develop insights.

Are you in love with baseball? Study it. You’ll learn about statistics – figuring pitcher’s earned run averages takes complex mathematics — develop strategies, learn the science of the curveball, learn about the history of race relations in America, and more. You’ll learn about why the Dominican Republic produces so many major league shortstops and why Japan doesn’t, but produces pitchers. Follow baseball as far as it will take you…then ask another question.

Do you like to knit? Study it. Learn about different kinds of wool, how they differ and where they come from, how they become shocking chartreuse or majestic magenta. Learn math as you figure out how much you’ll need to make that sweater, the physics of tensile strength.
Into dolls, dogs, drumming or debate? Are you passionate about golf, gardening, guitar, grapes or Greta Garbo? It doesn’t matter what. Take the paths   your interests and passions give you.
Greta Garbo in The Joyless Street. Alexander B...
Greta Garbo in The Joyless Street. Alexander Binder (for Atelier Binder) made the portrait during the filming. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After a while you’ll become an expert, an authority. You’ll wander off one path and discover another one, perhaps the secret of life, the universe and everything.
Just keep asking one more question and you will find many more answers. Each of which will lead to more questions.

Joyce Valenza calls it “a never ending search.”

Here are some things you are likely to discover:
  • People are eager to talk about what they do and what they know, to someone who is interested in learning.
  • People are eager to tell you their stories, what they think, what they feel, to someone willing to listen.
  • Your bullshit meter will develop and become more accurate.
  • You will find the joy of learning again, the joy of teaching what you learn, and you’ll rediscover the excitement of wondering.
  • You will learn that all answers lead to more questions, better questions, deeper questions.
    • Keep asking.
    • Keep learning.

Do all the things school doesn’t leave you the time to do and you will get a better education than any institution can give you.

Don’t worry about getting into college. Getting into a good college requires standing out from the crowd, somehow distinguishing yourself from the hundreds of thousand other high school seniors.

So while all those other kids are all taking the same classes, cramming for exams and spending every extra minute doing every imaginable community service and extra credit assignment, you’ll be having different experiences.
While they’re being told what to learn, you’ll be deciding what to learn. Their learning will be limited by the curriculum, your learning will be free-range, going as far as your curiosity takes you.

Just think of the application essay you’ll be able to write.

And somewhere in the process of writing that essay, you might begin to wonder whether you really need to go to college.
Once you start becoming a free-range learner it is almost impossible to stop. And that is the best part of it all.

If you want to hear it from Deven, here's his talk:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Real Alternative: Degree AND Credentials Without College

Guest post by Alexandria Potter

Is college easy? 

I have heard that it is not and I can believe that. So you may be interested to know why I refer to going to college as “the easy way out."

Let's start with a Q&A.

How many people do we know that go to college and don’t know
  • What they want to major in
  • What they want to do in life
  • What other options are available


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The hottest posts that everyone is 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.

Why the flip’s a flop (With new addendum!!!)
Dec 11, 2012, 13 comments
Dec 7, 2012, 2 comments
Dec 9, 2012, 6 comments
Dec 8, 2012, 1 comment
Dec 2, 2012, 5 comments
Dec 10, 2012, 2 comments