Building a School from the Ground Up: Part II #IMMOOC

I started this blog post about three years ago, addressing the idea that we often do what we’ve always done without reflecting on the WHY. We tend to go about our daily business and not stop to consider what if?

What if we changed the schedule?

What if we got rid of this furniture?

What if we got to the root of why students misbehave rather than giving them consequences to change behavior?

What if school was relevant to life?

So many what ifs.

What if the school schedules were changed so that subjects were no longer taught in isolation? Think real world. I’m not just talking elementary kindergarten, either. We know that we need connections for learning to stick. By making connections across content, students learn in a way that is relevant and authentic. Learning feels meaningful and has connections to the world. Project-based learning is one powerful way this might be done.

What if we took the time to understand our students deeply?As educators we often operate in a reactionary way. A student does something we don’t agree with: check or consequence. It happens again –> more severe consequence. And so the story goes. On a given day,  the same students receive consequences over and over. What does this tell us? Are those consequences effective?

OR

We walk by a primary classroom with that dreaded stoplight or card system. By the end of the first month of school, what have those students learned? Often a tracked system where the red kids are quickly labeled, and they themselves find it difficult to change who they are after September. I have often had students tell me, “I am red.” What an awful thing for a five-year-old to believe. Why is he given the label? Because he is excited about school and can’t contain that excitement? By taking time to get to the root of students’ issues, we can properly handle them.

Now, we also must be sure that there are even issues there. Excitement and wanting to stand…. not issues for a five-year-old child!

If I am rebuilding school, my school is engaging. So that busy little 5-year-old from the above example. He won’t be sitting in a desk. There won’t be desks for him to sit in. Before being hired, every staff member will follow the path of a students all day in a traditional school, so that never becomes our school. Our kids will learn through projects and singing and dancing and authentic learning.

They will be outside learning. Recess will be recess. Several times a day. Not moderated by adults. It will involve problem solving by students.

And homework. Nope.

Until we consider ideas we haven’t before, can we really take our education to the next step?

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The Connected Educator #IMMOOC

Continuing on my journey this week with George Couros and 1800 of my closest friends in #IMMOOC, I continue to reflect on this concept of innovation: what does it mean for me and our schools? How can I innovate to help the students in my school learn better?

A few things came across my Twitter feed this week, which makes me think of one huge thing: CONNECTEDNESS! For me, being connected has been an enormous asset in my path to innovation. The more teachers I can get connected, the more innovation will be happening in our schools.

Across my Twitter feed in a given day, so many ideas come across. Here are a few highlights from this past week that show innovation in different ways:

This school is looking at discipline which can be a hot topic. If what we do doesn’t change behavior (suspension, detention, time out, rewards), we haven’t done anything. Maybe meditation is truly the answer or one answer.

Here we see a principal building rapport with his students through the simple yet powerful act of read-aloud.

Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey use UDL to move our thinking from looking at students (and students to looking at themselves) through a fixed mindset to one of growth. Using UDL in our classrooms is so powerful!

In each of these cases, I can’t imagine not having had Twitter to connect me to these people and this information. Innovation through my PLN has been so powerful. It has changed my practice time after time.

Can’t wait to see what this week brings!

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.

 

Innovation #IMMOOC

For many we know that change can be difficult. People get comfortable, cozy and “it works.” Sometimes, though what we deem as working is more existing. Sure, compliant students leave the K-12 system reading, writing, doing basic math, knowing some level of facts in their other classes, but is this really all we want from our students?

Our schools need to take a hard, deep look at themselves. Reform is one thing. Transformation is something entirely different. For our schools to truly meet the needs of the world that our students are graduating into, we need adults who are ready to innovate in every sense of the word. We all know that schools are one of the only industries that look and function much like they did 100 and 200 years ago; neither the business world nor the medical profession does –can you imagine? Yet we continue to tweak here and tweak there. Trade a white board for a chalk board. Trade a tablet for paper. Without changing the functionality of these, it’s just not enough. We need true innovators to wipe the slate clean and dream up a system that will work in 2016 to prepare our students for their present and future.

The impact will be students who are ready for the world.

Students who can think.

Students who are not compliant but are creators and innovators themselves.

Our world cannot wait. We must innovate.

 

 

Implementing Change: ISTE 2016

I was fortunate to attend ISTE and bring some ideas and technologies back to my school. Below are some of my favorites!

Bloxels

Bloxel

This is a way for students to create their own video game. First you use cubes and a board to build the structure. Then you take a picture of the board and it becomes the actual video game board….so cool! Create a character and you’re off!

CUE STEAMpunk Playground

Hopscotch: this is an iOS app that is a FREE way for students to learn to code. It’s available now  and so. much. fun.

Swift 3: iOS also. This is a free app for students to learn to program. Powerful application for schools!

Drones/Sphero: why not use drones and Sphero to teach content? Think STEAM rather than giving it lip service. By integrating these into our subjects, we can better engage our students in their world and make content come to life! My students will be coming up with a way to create a Sphero/Ollie obstacle course for our tech lab…..

Virtual Reality

Whether it’s Google Cardboard or another, this is the perfect way to take a 36o degree field trip under the ocean or abroad. Students will love it as it opens your classroom to the world in ways never seen before. We can create our own with students through older technology like Pano360 or newer technology like Ricoh Theta and a selfie stick. Easy and educational.

Risk-Taking

iFLy

Finally, conquering fears. I went to iFly for some indoor skydiving with some others from my district. I have no problem taking risks when it comes to my professional life, but my personal life, well, I think I speak for most of us there when I say we were a bit scared. I conquered a fear and modeled what I preach.

Getting to this Point…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going through the National Board process early on in my career certainly helped shape me as an educator. Additionally it had provided me with opportunities I would not have otherwise have: I have spoken with district and state superintendents, local politicians, and one of the highlights was speaking before members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

But our career is not made up of highlights but of day-to-days…..how we impact students, educators, and the field overall: that is what will make a career.

For me going through the process solidified my reflective nature. I have renewed also and that process gave me the opportunity to reflect on the professional learning I had gone through and how that learning actually impacted my practice. I took months to reflect on the training that I had completed and determine how worthwhile they were; what impact they actually had. As a result, I am particular about how I spend my time. Particular about the professional learning I take part in. Particular about the degree programs I choose.

I am currently the Innovation & Technology Coach at a middle school. I oversee the professional learning at the school as well as coach teachers as we move our school to one that is project-based learning and 1:1 iPads.

I work hard to use that same high standard to create personalized professional learning for my teachers and staff that I want for myself. I am reflective after each PL session that I plan and ask for feedback to better it for the future.

The National Board process is one that allows us time for reflection. Reflection to become better teacher. Reflection to become better coaches. Reflection to become better educators.

Change the World.

Image

I recently read a blog written by George Couros about change and how it’s impossible to get the pace right for everyone. I, not shockingly, am one of those people for whom change in education is not quick enough.

I want our students to learn in the best way possible based on what we know today. Students should learn through play in buildings that look like they were created in this century with furniture made for….you’ve got it! Today.

I would like to see the curriculum re-made from the ground up. No more memorization of rote facts or consumers of content but creation and play. Problem solving. Making. Risk-taking.

Students can be ready to leave school and change the world just like education changed to be ready for them.

 Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Photo by Alan Taylor


Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Photo by Alan Taylor

 

In the South this is our last week of school for students. A parent commented to me, Aren’t you glad the school year is almost over, Jodi?

To which my response was something like….

It gets quite quiet around here without the students. Our entire purpose is them. No. I’m not glad it’s almost over. I get sad and miss them while I’m alone in the quiet building.

I think I caught her off guard. There are Facebook postings, Twitter captions, and on and on about teachers being off for the summer. What message are we sending? Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that we all need time off. Time to re-charge. Time with our families. Time for some choice professional growth. Time to rest and recuperate.

I get it. I’ve never been one to count down until the end of school, though. I hear people starting in February. Fourteen more Mondays.

Being around students and teachers invigorates me. I allows me to learn, grow, and be who I am.

Soon the process of closing down and getting ready for the new school year will begin. And the building…

Well, it will be just a little too quiet for me!

https://jodimoskowitz.com/2015/05/18/754/

Smore Flyers

Smore online flyers are a way to communicate with staff or community members. Check out this screencast video about how to use it.

The Future

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) by Celestine Chua

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) by Celestine Chua

How do we begin to prepare our students for a future that we don’t know? Jobs that don’t yet exist?

This is what we face in schools today. This is our reality. Yet we continue to teach this curriculum that looks a lot like the one we learned decades ago that was similar to the one our grandparents learned before we did. How do we truly transform our education system rather than just making little tweeks here and there –adding a computer or a Smartphone or becoming BYOT.

Don’t get me wrong. These are important components. But to truly meet the needs of our students, we must prepare them to be ready to create, communicate, and think like never before. We know from the business world of today that the students coming to them are compliant; but they don’t want compliant –they want graduates who can think and figure it out on their own. Adults who don’t need constant direction. Adults who lead initiatives.

Our schools need change.

We keep saying this, but it will take bold leaders to stand up for our students.

It will take educators to give our schools back to our children.

It will take our country to stop using our students as negotiation tools in politics.

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