Breaking Out #IMMOOC


Today I spent time doing breakouts with sixth grade classes. For those who aren’t familiar, think breakout rooms but on a smaller scale.

Students work in small groups with clues tied to given content. In today’s breakout, the content was tied to Gary Paulsen novels and adventures. Once the groups solved the clues, they could attempt at the locks which are either directional, numerical, or word.

Students must use clues, collaboration, problem solving, and content knowledge to solve the clues that will unlock the box.

This is an exciting and new way for students to learn and demonstrate learning. It is the 4Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity) pulled into content in different ways.

I was taken aback when one student asked for the point of as we were debriefing after the break out. So I threw it back at the class; I took a deep breath, wondering if anyone had gotten it. I knew we hadn’t wasted our time. I had watched them work together; have great discourse; use their brains in new ways. BUT had they?

Deep breath. One student responded: we have to collaborate.

Ahhhh. Yes.

Another: we have to work together.

Yes, you do.

We have to look up information on our iPads. Figure it out.

That is true.

They had gotten it. Learning. Wrapped up in a new package.

They got it!

Purpose of School #IMMOOC

The purpose of education is simple and complex. It is simple because we must prepare our students for the world they will graduate into. This is complex because this world is ever-changing. It isn’t the factory line driven world of the 1900’s that our Prussian-style education system is still preparing our students for.

Because of this, we must make some drastic changes to our classrooms and schools to meet our students where they are and prepare them for the unknowns that the world brings.

We know that many careers that our students will choose post-graduation have not even been thought of yet. The best thing that we can do for them is to make students good at learning; good at thinking; good at problem solving; and most of all, good at relating to others. These are the skills that are important in this century.

In this century we can Google any fact or any calculation faster than we can retrieve it from our head. With critical thinking skills students can figure out how to access information and the accuracy of the information that they’re accessing.

The innovation that we most need is open-mindedness to imagine the unimaginable. To recreate schools and get away from low-level trivial knowledge into deeper levels of thinking.

To embrace this change, I try to model it. As an instructional coach, I meet people at their level of comfort and show them how a tool or strategy can enhance learning in their classroom. It is my responsibility to take them from where they are to a place they might not realize even exists: slowly and within their comfort zone.



As educational leaders we often talk about taking risks; this week I took one. Our school needed a coach for the tennis team, so I thought, Why not? I coach. I play tennis. Just never both together.

This week I did both together. Most likely with some students who may or may not play better than I do. But could I teach them something? Coach them?

So we got started, and headed to the courts, a bit of self-doubt in my head but never outwardly. I mean, technology coach by day, teacher by day, but was I a tennis coach by night?

Can we wear different roles? Can we be agile and seen differently with different expertise by the same people. Risk taking?

I tell teachers this all the time. Take a risk. Try something new.

Sometimes we have to be pushed out of the bird’s nest. So here I go. Nobody laughed at me.

I will model what I tell my teachers and my students. Risk taking. Trying something new, something that makes me a little uncomfortable.

When do we grow? Just outside of that zone of comfort. And so I will grow in this experience.

I will grow as an educator.

I will grow as a tennis player.

I will definitely grow as a human being.




As each year begins, I make new goals. New resolutions for the school year. What will this year bring? I am in a new, exciting position this year, so it is certainly easy to make a laundry list of goals —so many that I could never achieve them all. When I consider what the major focus would be, I think they come down to the following:

  1. Working with teachers and administrators to create an engaging, student-centered environment where technology helps transform students’ learning in meaningful ways. This is a big one that is where I will spend most of my time. Through modeling, co-teaching, conferring, and learning together, I hope to move toward this goal.
  2. Keeping a healthy balance. Somehow this always is a goal of mine that is rarely achieved. Since I can never get enough of reading professional literature, watching podcasts and webcasts, Voxing, blogging, for me like many of you, balance does not come easily. I can read, write, communicate late into the night neglecting other things that I enjoy much less.
  3. Continue to model risk-taking and growth. Through the above I hope to model to those around me the mindset of being open-minded and ready to try new things even when they might make us nervous.

For now I will keep it simple at that.

What are you looking forward to in the new school year? What are your GOALS?

The Future is Now!

As I watch this video, as few things stand out to me.

1. Personalized learning: students are doing what seems to be interesting to them and therefore it engages them. This is so much of what we’re talking about in the world of education these days. Just today, I spent much of my day at a conference talking about our district’s personalized learning initiative and how that looks from a broad view as well as getting into some of the nitty gritty details of it. Our students need to have learning be meaningful to them. I think back to the early years of my career when I had to write out each student and the instruction he/she would get per group and then change that at the end of the day for the next day based on what had occurred. As more devices become available, this process will become so much more streamlined and classrooms will even be able to have a blended environment for learning.

2. Student engagement: students are engaged in the video. Whatever the content, with or without technology, I want my students to love what they’re doing and find meaningful connections in it. As we continue to add technology and more sophistication to what we do, teaching is still an art first and foremost. The teacher gets to guide students to find that meaning and help those light bulbs go off.

For me, I look forward to this time of the year so much! There is always something special in the air as we set up rooms and get to know our teams. This year I set new goals in a new role. I cannot wait to work side-by-side with teachers so that those student light bulbs of engagement and excitement can explode. We might not be able to pull a science beaker out of the air, but we certainly can inspire students through the connections that we make.

The future is here.

The future is now.

Education Articles 01/11/2014

tags: culture schools education

          tags: education

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