Username:

Password:

Forgot Password? / Help

Author: Barbara Bray

0

The Real Value of Teachers

abstract-valueteachers3

 

I’m so upset. I watched the news about California teachers and education today. They mentioned the teacher shortage, but the reasons they gave didn’t even touch on what is really happening to teachers and education around the country. When they said that California has the most crowded classrooms and highest teacher to student ratios in the country, I’m not sure others around the country have a clue what this means. We’re talking 25 to 30 little ones in K-2 classes. In some high schools, math classes are over 40 for each teacher. Secondary teachers are responsible for up to 150 kids and teaching multiple subjects in 45 minutes periods. I don’t know how they do it.

By 2013, the state’s student-teacher ratio had reached 24-to-1,
compared with the national average of 16-to-1.
Report on Teacher Shortage in Mercury News, CA 1/23/15

On top of that the focus of education has been wrong for the past 12 years and longer. Teachers are the ones held accountable for the test scores, so why would kids care about the tests? The focus on testing has taken away the love of learning and frustrated teachers, administrators, kids and parents. We have a generation of people who went through this system who think this is the only way to learn. The focus hasn’t been on learning–it’s been on meeting test scores and instruction not on who we should be focusing on: each learner and supporting how they learn. Teachers are more like middle managers jumping through bureaucratic hoops and accountable for test scores and grades.

Now this is going to change, but not many people are aware of it changing or want it to change. They only know what they know or have been exposed to. Teachers are burning out and leaving the profession. It costs more to keep training and retraining teachers. There has been so much professional development on how to teach to the test, manage classrooms, and other mundane tasks that people who went into the profession feel dummied down. There is a sense of “compliancy” built into the system that blocks creativity and fun. We all need to have some fun when we learn. Let’s get it back!

The report was talking about districts offering a $10,000 bonus for new hires, but that won’t take care of the other issues or bring in the right people to the profession. The teaching profession is less and less attractive to Millenials (18-34 year olds). Many realized they didn’t care for school, just learned to “do” school to get out of school, or they just don’t want to be part of it. Many of them were in the system when testing went crazy. They also want to be more in control of what they do, be respected and valued by members of their community. Millenials tend to be skeptical about systems and also are concerned how they can pay their bills. Housing costs in California and other parts of the country are skyrocketing. A one time bonus won’t pay the bills. A majority of the Millenials have extreme student debt, a degree that doesn’t get them the right job and other reasons why they just don’t trust the system. There are many who dropped out and taught themselves skills in the technical field — all on their own taking classes online or watching YouTube. Why? Because in the Bay Area that’s where the jobs are along with bio-technology, robotics, etc.

So what can we do about this problem?

Look at the teaching profession like Finland did in 1983. They had the same issue and realized they needed to turn everything upside down. Teachers needed to be valued, supported and highly respected compared to other professions. So Finland changed the teaching profession. Kids start school at seven. They got rid of standardized tests except one at the end of high school. They built a system of support for teachers and pay them well. Read “What ever it takes” Smithsonian.

Now with the new ESEA re-authorization from the Department of Education, we will be focusing more on learning. There is a surplus of funds in California and more money will be going to school districts. Let’s do it right this time.

I’m going to put a plea out to superintendents and school boards: Stop spending money on “stuff” and rethink how you are going to rebuild your most prized resource: teachers! Here’s some ideas:

  • Rethink teacher education and build or partner with K-12 laboratory schools so the focus is on learners right from the beginning.
  • Increase salaries for teachers so the profession is competitive with other professional services.
  • Provide mentoring and ongoing coaching support for teachers.
  • Build in collaborative time every day and encourage co-teaching models.
  • Develop communication plans that showcase learning not increased scores.
  • Build partnerships with businesses, non-profits and higher ed to support a competency-based system.
  • Look to retired educators to work or volunteer as advisors or mentors.
  • Offer ongoing job-embedded professional learning opportunities for all teachers.

 

The reason why I focus on personalizing learning is because we are all learners. When we stop learning, what do we have? It is about building the capacity to want to be lifelong learners and never lose that curious part that makes us who we are. Every moment can be a learning opportunity. But when school is tied to rewards and punishment, grades, and extrinsic forces, why would anyone want to be part of that type of system?

Who’s with me? Let’s all work together to change the system, focus on our learners, bring back creativity, joy, and fun and value our teachers.

1

Being or Doing

 

Are you a human being or a human doing?

tasksI have a to-do list that would drive anyone nuts. When someone asks me how I am, I tell them all the things I’m doing. I check off tasks on my list and more tasks show up. I have a large whiteboard where I’m trying to keep track of each business and personal task. Not to scare you, but this picture on the right is only one part of my whiteboard and what is due in two days.  I also have post-it notes all over, an online calendar with tasks, and note-taking tools.

I think I’m organized but several re-occurring tasks are to file, organize my office, and clean up files in my computer.

 

Do I do it?

I start. Then I look at all of my other tasks on my whiteboard and go back to another task that I feel is more important and urgent. You know what I mean. I try organizing everything by putting each task in the following categories:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important Not Urgent
  3. Urgent Not Important
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important

 

Why do I feel everything is important and urgent? Prioritize — Prioritize — Prioritize

UGH! Maybe I need to put different things on my list. Even my personal tasks focus on doing and working. I have on my board to clean the oven (check that one off because I did that because it’s a self-cleaning oven — Yeah!), vacuum (which I actually like doing since I can see results right away) or wash bed (okay did that too). I know I sound like a cleaning freak, but it’s on my list.

So how do I put “fun” things on my to-do list? I need to redefine who I am. How did I become this human “doing” things instead of just living and enjoying each moment? Maybe I enjoy this. mmmmm….. or do I?

I do it to myself. It’s all about choices. Do I need to add more to my list? Not really. It’s something about my worth. The more I do I feel I am accomplished. Tired, but accomplished. I do have to do these things or come up with another way to either get these things done or change due dates.

What I’m worth is really not about all I do. It should be about who I am not what I do. I’m not ready to give up my whiteboard and lists, but I’m putting ME on the top of the list. It’s time to take time off for me.

So this year my resolution is to be a human being not a human doing. I can do it. Wait a minute, I have to reply to an email right now and mail something and pay my estimated taxes and .. and .. and..

Oh no! Anyone else like this?

 

0

Inducing Learned Helplessness

What is Learned Helplessness?

When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change. 

Now I know this video above is taking the idea of “learned helplessness” a little too far, but it gets the point across.  Consider a child who performs poorly on math tests and assignments will quickly begin to feel that nothing he or she does will have any effect on math performance. When later faced with any type of math-related task, he or she may experience a sense of helplessness. Some call this a fixed mindset.  [Source]

Here’s a little history of the “Learned Helplessness” Theory

There are also situations where you may induce “learned helplessness” in school or personal relationships. This is an activity that a teacher did with learners after discussions on relationships.

Now let’s take this idea of “learned helplessness” and what this means about learners being compliant. Think about your high school kids who just want a grade. Have you heard them ask “what are the points?” “what do I have to do to get an A?”

It’s about that intrinsic motivation to want to learn. We’ve embedded this behavior as part of the system starting even in pre-school now. The responsibility for learning is all on the teacher who is now help accountable for what kids learn. Teachers, too, can have this “learned helplessness” feeling about what they do in the class. I’ve heard teachers say “but I have to teach to the test” or “I have to cover the curriculum.”

We need our kids to be able think on their own, drive their learning and be the ones responsible for what and how they learn. It is about the idea of encouraging learners of all ages to believe they can do things — that they don’t need others to do something for them if they are capable. It is about changing mindset but that’s for another post.

We can change our thinking, model growth mindset and  what it means to believe in ourselves. What do you think?

0

Electronic Payments Impact on Education

The world is changing. The way you pay for anything will be different. Algorithms and data will determine how to market to you what a company believes you will want and need. Barbara takes that a step further and challenges what that will mean for teaching and learning.

Read more
3

9 Ways to Encourage Passion-based Learning

 

All of us were born passionate learners. We came into the world curious about everything around us. We had a strong desire to want to talk, crawl, and walk. Watch a toddler take their first step, and you see passion-based learning. Listen to a musician practice a difficult piece until they are ready to perform. Watch a skateboarder try a new trick over and over — that takes persistence and passion to not give up.

You don’t always see that same type of passion in “school.” In many cases, school has been associated with pacing guides, required curriculum, grade-level standards, bell schedules, grades, and teaching to the test. In these situations, the teacher or the administration are the ones in control. The teacher tends to become the one held accountable for the learning. Yet to really LEARN something, the learner needs to own and drive their learning.

Are schools designed to help people learn?

In trying to wrap my hands around learning about learning, I look to Chris Watkins, an independent consultant and leading authority on meta-learning in the UK and former reader at The Institute of Education, London Centre for Leadership in Learning. Chris’ research has helped me find my passion to personalize learning by focusing on the learner first. He just launched a new site where he uploaded over 150 of his articles, handouts, presentations and publications on learning. Watkins’ Key Issues http://chriswatkins.net/key-issues/ shows that learning is rarely a focus on classroom life. He identified three sources he called “space invaders” that take up the space as teaching, performance and work instead of what they should be focusing on: LEARNING.

Teaching

“Teaching and Learning Policies”, “Teaching and Learning Strategies”, and so on would be better if called Teaching and Teaching Policies! The real attention given to learning is minimal, and just because a teacher is teaching, does not mean students are learning. Watkins emphasizes that we need a better articulation between teaching and learning.

Performance

Performance tests, performance tables, and performance management are inventions that influenced the culture of schools in a way that often creates pressure to perform. But this does not get the best performance: learners with a learning orientation do better than those with a performance orientation and the biggest single variable underlying current patterns of school performance is whether students are self-regulating learners.

Work

Be cautious of the word “work.” You probably heard statements like this: “Get on with your work”, “Have you finished your work?”, “Stop copying my work”, and so on. Chris suggests substituting the word “work” with the word “learning” so the tensions are clear. The discourse of “work” shifts the locus of agency: as Harrison, an 8 year old said to Chris: “When you work, you work for someone else and when you learn, you learn for yourself”.

I can relate to Chris Watkins’ “space invaders” during my school years. The focus on teaching and doing work that wasn’t relevant to me changed my thinking about who I was as a learner. I learned to play the game of school and “do” school so I could get “through” school.

Why do we have to change school to focus on passion-based learning?

School changes what kids believe what they are supposed to learn. If you ask kids around 3rd or 4th grade what they are learning in school, you might hear answers around how to behave, be a good listener, or how to do well on a test. We learned how to be compliant and follow the rules. Is this really what we want as the focus of school?

Now it’s time to bring back creativity, joy, and focus on the power of passion for learning. There are two things you can do to right away to get a child passionate about learning:

  1. Model something you are passionate about and share your excitement.
  2. Determine each learner’s strengths, talents, and interests so they can find their passions.

 

I was shared with Julie Rogers Bascom, Service-Learning Coordinator for Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, that I was writing an article on Passion-based learning. She shared how the following year-long Passion Projects engaged learners in authentic real-world activities. [Edina Service Learning http://www.edinaschools.org/domain/78]

All 680 tenth grade learners in Edina High School’s Pre AP Language Arts Class engaged in a year-long Passion Project, digging deep into their interests as a way to meet learning standards.  Each learner chose a topic of importance, researched and investigated the theme they chose and wrote a ten-page research paper. As part of this course, each learner took action for an identified problem in their area of interest. One learner who is interested in computer science held an e-waste collection, filling two semi-trucks with electronic waste, diverting the waste from the landfill. One learner, concerned about clean water for a village where her grandparents live, designed a water filter that would help filter out excess fluoride from wells in rural India.  Another learner, having been a foster child, lobbied for awareness and advocated for resources for foster families.  Following the service-learning cycle:

IPARD – Investigation > Planning > Action > Reflection > Demonstration, learners used their knowledge and experiences from their research to solve community problems by engaging in authentic service-learning. 

 

Since I have been on the journey with Kathleen McClaskey for over four years to personalize learning, we are finding many models and strategies that say they are “Personalized Learning” like competency education, one-to-one and others that may support learner-centered environments. But when you look at the bigger picture, it all comes down to one thing: passion to learn and changing the focus to learning not on teaching. This has been my mission for over 20 years. Now I’m finding more and more examples of passion-based learning. Julie’s example of service learning is more than an assignment. The learners found a problem they were passionate about and used critical thinking skills to solve it their way.

 

9 Ways for You to Encourage Passion-Based Learning in your School

  1. First few days of school.
    Get to know your learners right away before you start teaching. Every teacher and learner deserves a new opportunity to achieve. Consider waiting at least two weeks before jumping into academics. If you already started teaching academics before getting to know everyone, pull back. Check out Rich Czyz’s ideas for the First few days of school
  2. Get to know your learners and their interests.
    Invite your learners to share what they are interested in and their talents and aspirations. Have you ever thought of spending time one-on-one with each learner maybe schedule a lunch date? Ask them to start a journal or portfolio so they can share stories of their interests. Check out Michael Wesch’s Journey to the Joy of Learning so you too can see each learner differently.
  3. Share interests.
    Ask learners to do a pair/share where two share with each other what they are interested in. Invite them to ask each other:

    • What are three things you are really interested in?
    • Why did you choose each of those?
    • Which one excites you the most? Why?Then have them choose one with the help of the partner to share their first choice with all learners in the class. Encourage the class to ask questions and provide feedback with these two prompts
    • I like…
    • I wonder…
  1. Explore interests.
    Encourage them to explore their interest and how it might have a connection to the real world. Since you are probably still a part of the current traditional system, invite your learners to connect to required standards. Have them create a mind map of their interest and ways they can connect to what they know, what they have to learn, what they would like to learn, how they could demonstrate that they learned, and what questions they might have.
    KWL for interests
  1. Identify a real-world problem.
    Sometimes learners cannot connect their interest with a real-world problem. You could start with a problem where they might be able to make a real difference if they could solve that problem together. Walk around your school and go outside to observe what is around you. You and your learners may find a problem or issue you never thought about before. This is called “generative curriculum” which means coming up with questions and direction for learning as you learn.
  1. Plan learning.
    Let them plan together or individually using the following 3 questions from George Couros that drive Passion-Based Learning from his blog, The Principal of Change
    • What will I learn?
    • What will I solve?
    • What will I create?
  1. Make learning meaningful.
    Dr. Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D [https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/ ] shared experiences where she noticed that there was a problem with how she was being asked to learn. She was cramming and memorizing information, being tested for mastery prior to having enough practice time and learning facts with no context or relevance to what she needed to learn. In her post, she hit the nail on the head when you wrote, “The unintended consequences of these artificial and unnatural ways of learning include believing that learning should be difficult, painful, disciplined, and not fun. She also discussed the importance of context as relevant meaningful tasks.Learning in context

“Learning can and should be natural, fun, and engaging.” @jackiegerstein. I agree with Jackie that learning has to be meaningful and have a purpose.

[Source www.personalizelearning.com/2015/04/learning-can-and-should-be-natural-and.html]

  1. Build a new culture of learning.
    Give good reasons for learning. Watch this video from Dr. Tae about the culture of learning  with secondary science teachers and university professors. What is the secret to learning? Real learning is mostly self-motivated paired with the right mentor.Read Terry Heick’s article Promoting a Culture of Learning  that walks you through using a gradual release of responsibility model:

    • Show Them
    • Help Them
    • Let Them
  2. Create a Makerspace.
    Diana Rendina, Media Specialist/School Librarian at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL transformed her library to serve as an informal STEM learning space for her learners. Check out Renovated Learning to follow her Makerspace journey.Diana Rendina Makerspace Journey

 

When I think of all the educators I know who stretch their thinking and go the extra mile like Diana, Julie, Rich, Jackie, and George and others, I know that no one can transform education alone. We all need to share and learn together. I found my purpose. It is to learn all I can about learner-centered environments, connect to others who believe all learners can learn their way, and share their stories of transformation of “school” to cultures of learning. I wrote this quote over ten years ago…

“Go with your strengths and interests, find your passion and, then discover your purpose.”

Quote on Purpose by Bray

 

I am thinking of changing that last part to “and your purpose will discover you.”
Has your purpose found you?

 

[Post was created for an article in the Fall OnCUE 2015 issue]

Next post will be a review of Pernille Ripp’s book: Passionate Leaerners

1

Put the "Person" Back in "Personalization"

This is a cross-post of a blog I just wrote for Personalize Learning:

There is a lot of talk going around about “personalization” and “personalized learning” harming kids. We need to clarify this NOW. It’s time to put the “person” in “personalization” and stop the conversations going in directions that take us off course.

We went back to the post and webinar from Elliot Washor (@elliot_washor) on April 2014 about this concept of  putting the “Person” in “Personalization.”

“There is a great deal of discussion and a strong ramp up of what is called “personalized learning” in schools both with and without technology.” Where is the person in personalization? What are the expectations that students have for deep productive learning?”

We decided we need to bring back this idea that Elliot shared and expand on this discussion. We need to focus on our learners and learning and take semantics out of the conversations. 

learn-64058_1280

Free for commercial use / No attribution required

Right now it’s so easy to be pulled in different directions and think you have to take one side or another about the terminology. Consider yourself as a learner and what you need. Yes – technology makes it easier to access information, engage with the content and express what you know. Mobile devices make everything available at your fingertips just when you need it.It’s not about technology. It’s not about the test or improving test scores. It’s really not about school. It’s all about the learner, how they learn best and that what they learn is meaningful and for a purpose.  It is all about the relationships that learners make and need to support their learning. It is also about the teacher – a valuable person in the relationship. Teachers and learners can work together to develop learning goals and design activities that are authentic and relevant for the learner so they are engaged in learning. Learning has to have a context that learners can grasp and understand. And, of course, an important person in the relationship is the parent who wants the best for their child but they may not know how to support their learning.

digitaltattooHere’s the catch: today’s kids brains are wired digitally, so they will figure out how to use the tools by experimenting or teaching each other. What they need is to acquire the skills to choose the appropriate tools for the task. They also need to understand who they are, how they learn best, and how to be global digital citizens. They probably don’t realize that their digital footprint is actually a “digital tattoo” that can never be removed. They need to become self-aware of who they are, how they learn best, and be aware of what they do online can affect them and impact others.

When we put the focus on each learner and how they can own and drive their learning, then we see engaged, self-directed learners with agency. They become the ones responsible for the learning. Isn’t that what we want?

Our traditional education system was designed to create compliant workers who follow orders. That’s why it looks like a factory model. This isn’t working anymore for today’s kids, but that’s all we know and how most of us were taught. Teachers also think they have to teach like a champion because they are the ones responsible for the learning. Don’t you think that this is backwards? Teachers are an integral piece of the puzzle, but the focus has been on curriculum, teaching to the test, and teaching subjects instead of kids. When we focus on learning and not on curriculum, teachers roles change. We still can teach to standards but let’s involve learners in the process and give them a voice so they own the learning.

The system is changing now because it has to change. Our future depends on it. Consider this quote from John Dewey:

“If we teach as we taught yesterday,we rob our children of tomorrow.”

It is our children’s future, not our past. So what that means is that what we know about school will have to change and change is scary. That’s why we understand the discourse about the terms. There are companies that frame “personalized learning” as adaptive learning systems using algorithms to choose the right path for learning. So we’re going to end this blog emphasizing learners need to be the ones who choose their path with their teacher guiding the process. It is about encouraging learners to have a voice and choice in their learning. It’s happening now all over the world.

We’ll be sharing more and more stories of learners being empowered and teachers who are excited about how engagement and motivation has changed the landscape of learning. This is just the beginning of a new world of learning and it’s time to put the “Person” back in “Personalization.”

3

Connecting the Maker Movement to Authentic Learning

 

I love the idea of making, inventing and tinkering. Just watch kids who are immersed in the activities and you can see the engagement. But is the learning authentic and relevant?

One Work Place Maker EventI presented three sessions at the Free Maker Movement event at One Work Place on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 with some amazing educators who presented hands-on activities. The event will took place at our Oakland Center for Active Learning .

I decided I needed to spend some time researching where the Maker Movement was happening and find examples of authentic learning. This gave me the opportunity to talk to several of my friends and share how they have transformed learning spaces to Makerspaces. Everyone I talked to made a point that it is about creativity not consumption. Yet when I went to different Maker events, I saw activities that an adult set up, purchased a kit or provided directions for activities. They were all fun, but I was having trouble seeing the connections to real learning or any ownership from kids.


 

I read Jackie Gerstein‘s post: MAKE STEAM: Giving Maker Education Some Context where she wrote “recent discussions with other educators and administrators made me realize that the idea of maker education is often vague and seems unrealistic in terms of regular classroom instruction.”  She shared her thoughts of Maker Education in the context of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) where teachers integrate maker projects into their classrooms. Read her blog and check out the Thinglink by clicking on the dots for more information.


@jackiegerstein


 

I reached out to Shannon McClintock Miller, @shannonmiller, who is a Teacher Librarian at Van Meter Elementary in Iowa. Shannon stretches the imagination of children and manages the Library Voice as a place to be heard through creating, technology, connecting, reading, collaborating and noise.  I love her quote:

“We as librarians and educators and as people
who care about young people need to CHANGE!”

Shannon emphasizes the power of story where learners can play with content, media, narratives, remix, mashup and then tell their story. She encourages her learners to connect to the story in different ways: Skype with authors, create their own stories, and publish eBooks. One learner loved the “I Spy” books and wanted to Skype with the author “Jean Marzollo so Shannon set it up. What came out of the Skype was for learners to create their own “I Spy” book for Van Meter School.

Screenshot 2015-09-26 11.10.07

Shannon redesigned the library to move to creative, innovative spaces: Makerspaces around the concept of stories. Learners took their iPads and used an Augmented Reality program, Layar, to add multimedia to texts, posters, and books. She found different apps and organized them in a Digital Makerspace using Symbaloo. After pulling together different Makerspace activities, Shannon wanted a way to provide opportunities for making in the classroom.  So she created Makerspaces Mobile bags that teachers could pick up and use in their classrooms.

Digital Makerspace


 

Screenshot 2015-09-26 11.37.09Laura Fleming, @NMHS_lmsis a Teacher Librarian at Milford High School in New Jersey who is a strong advocate of using New Media and Vanguard Techniques for Interactive and Transmedia (multi-platform) Storytelling. Her website is Worlds of Learning.  She wrote the book World of Making where you can find invaluable guidance for creating a vibrant Makerspace on any budget. The book includes practical strategies and anecdotal examples that help you:

  • Create an action plan for your own personalized Makerspace
  • Align activities to standards
  • Showcase learner creations

 

Laura’s goal is to create learning experiences that empower and equip students with necessary skills to effectively produce and consume content across multiple media platforms. She went from K-8 to the high school to a library that was very traditional that was under-utilized.

Milford HS - NJ Library

In less than two months she transformed the library by just adding activities aligned to classroom instruction. She even used DonorsChoose to purchase a 3D printer and provides multiple suggestions to build your own makerspace.

 


 

Diana Rendina, @DianaLRendina,  is a Media Specialist/Librarian at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida. Diana is passionate about school libraries being places for students to discover, learn, grow, create, connect and collaborate. She shares her journey on her blog, Renovated Learning: Building a Culture of Creativity and Discovery in Education.  She has worked to transform her school’s library from a quiet, dusty, cluttered room into a vibrant and active learning space where students want to be.  In 2014, she created a Makerspace in her library to serve as an informal STEM learning space for her students. 

Diana Rendina Makerspace Journey

Diana shared how their Makerspace has changed, grown and evolved since it was first conceived and started in January 2014.  Follow along with the story of their journey here.  Hopefully it will inspire you to start your own Maker journey.


 

This is just the beginning and a short overview of how libraries are transforming to Makerspaces. But one thing I did find from talking to Jackie, Shannon, Laura and Diana is that the librarian’s role is changing and Makerspaces can connect to learning. The Library is changing and bringing stories to life. Makerspaces can be digital and mobile. If Teachers and Librarian/Media Specialists collaborate on curriculum design, projects can be integrated in to STEAM and other curriculum activities. So this is just the beginning of my investigations how these Makerspaces can expand authentic learning activities.

0

Dancing for Balance

I want to keep this short. I’ve been writing, speaking, tweeting, sharing, learning, and traveling a lot. Some days I’m not moving out of my chair for hours. I know I tell everyone about getting in the “flow,” but this is ridiculous. I sometimes work right through lunch, breaks (what are those?) and then the phone rings or get an email asking a question. I end up working more.

dancingplaqueAll of a sudden I just had to stop and take a deep breath. I turned the music up high and decided to dance. I mean really dance until I only think about my dancing and nothing else. You see, I have been so focused on trying to transform teaching and learning, I forgot about me. I need to take care of me so I can be here to continue to drive my purpose.

When you are driven by something you are passionate about, you forget to stop and think of why you are doing what you are doing. There has to be some balance in your life.

I have this plaque on my wall: “Dance as if no one were watching” and remember how happy I am when I dance. So stopping right now — to dance.

0

Making Professional Learning Personal

 

These days, too many teachers are leaving the profession because they may not be getting the support they need to do the job they are required to do. Now is the time to reverse the trend of teacher burnout. This can happen with improving their own professional learning by making it personal.

 

Every class, every teacher, and every learner is unique so each situation could bring up questions, opportunities, and even confusion. Teachers could find that they will be learning something new more often than not.  Teachers are the most valuable element in the classroom.

Teachers can be partners in learning with learners. To do this effectively, teachers need to determine their purpose for professional learning that defines learning goals specific to learning outcomes. Then they can identify instructional practices needed to implement so learners meet those learning outcomes. “One size fits all” professional development will not meet each teacher’s purpose and plan. Every teacher will need a plan with specific learning goals to personalize their professional learning.

Learning Forward [www.learningforward.org] created a workbook for States, Districts, and Schools: Professional Learning Plans as the navigation system for the comprehensive professional learning system as the engine that powers educator learning. A program of professional learning is “a set of purposeful, planned actions and the support system necessary to achieve the identified goals.” Professional learning plans focus on the specific content, learning designs, implementation support, and evaluation of professional learning. The comprehensive professional learning system establishes the overall infrastructure and operations that support effective professional learning. The workbook provides teachers, schools, and districts the tools, resources, examples and models that will assist them in developing whole system professional learning plans and personal professional learning plans.

 

Some key questions to drive the development of your plan:

  • What results do we seek for our learners?
  • What teacher practices contribute to those results?
  • What must change in order to achieve those results?

 

The goal of professional learning should be stated in terms of learner outcomes. Changes in educator knowledge, skills, dispositions, and practice are the means to changes in learning. Learner and teacher goals written in the SMART format increases the strength and clarity of the goals. Working SMARTER, not harder: SMART goals keep key objectives in focus as follows:

SMART Goals

S  = Specific
M = Measurable
A  = Attainable
R  = Results-based
T  = Time-bound

Consider this question: What learner outcomes do you want to see that can be transformative?

Teachers need collaborative time to review and analyze learner data. There are schools that are scheduling time once, twice and, in some cases, daily, where teachers meet to plan together. Teachers usually work alone and have been isolated behind closed classroom doors for too long. When teachers have the time to work together, they can review how their students are learning, what they are learning, and any challenges. They can use SMART goals to develop learning objectives. For example, if teachers determine that 42% of their high school learners do not understand linear equations, they can develop a learning goal that targets these learners.

 

Example SMART Goal

42% of the high school learners will have resources and opportunities for small group, one-to-one instruction and ongoing peer support to increase their knowledge and skills around linear equations.

Teachers only know what they know or were taught. Many follow a pacing guide and use existing curriculum even though we now know that doesn’t work for all learners. A teacher who is trying to “cover” the curriculum based on the pacing guide will never meet the needs of those learners who are falling behind.

When teachers start putting together SMART goals around learning outcomes based on data, they can go several steps further to determine how each of the 42% learners learn best along with any challenges they might have. There are always several learners in your class that stand out with unique characteristics. Teachers may find out that more than one learner may have trouble understanding math symbols where others have issues focusing on how the problems are stated. When you know specific issues that are challenges for your learners, you can pull together strategies to target those challenges. This is where the Personal Professional Learning Plan comes in for each teacher.

 

Sample Personal Professional Learning Plan

(adapted from source: http://www.esclakeeriewest.org/files/Sample-Goals.pdf)

  1. State the Action you will take
  2. Describe an Area of Focus for the Learning
  3. Include the Rationale
  4. Add the Activities

 

State Action Describe Focus Include Rationale Add Activities
Improve Teaching Skills Assist at-risk students Stay current with new practices
Develop Proficiency in technology tools Support instruction Identify specific tools and resources

 

The activities are personal to each teacher. This is where teachers can take control of their own learning. If a teacher wants to improve their teaching skills to assist at-risk learners, they can use alternative learning opportunities to support them with their research. Traditional PD usually doesn’t allow time for personalized support and attention. Some questions teachers have asked about PD:

  • How do you stay current with new practices if you sit in a lecture that does not support your learning goal?
  • How do you find specific resources around Algebra if PD that day is on classroom management?

 

Teachers can get support by building their Personal Learning Network (PLN) in their school, district, community, and in social media. There are multiple learning opportunities outside of traditional professional development. This is where “personal” expands professional learning with opportunities that include:

  • Common Planning TimeTeachers helping teachers
  • Unconferences
  • Edcamps
  • Using Social Media
    • Twitter chats
    • Facebook pages
    • Google+ Communities
    • Linkedin Groups

 

Common Planning Time

Common planning time is different than “teacher preparation time” or “prep periods,” which are periods of time during the school day when teachers, typically working on their own, can plan and prepare for their classes, meet with students, or grade assignments. Common planning time is an evolution of the traditional preparation period to time that encourages more frequent and purposeful collaboration among educators. Its primary purpose is to bring teachers together to learn from one another and collaborate on projects that will lead to improvements in lesson quality, instructional effectiveness, and student achievement.

 

Unconferences and Edcamps

An unconference is a conference organized, structured and led by the people attending it. Instead of passive listening, all attendees and organizers are encouraged to become participants, with discussion leaders providing moderation and structure for attendees.

Unconferences are founded upon The Law of Two Feet, which states that:

If during the course of the gathering, any person finds themselves in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.

An Edcamp is a user-generated conference – commonly referred to as an “unconference“. Edcamps are designed to provide participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators. In both cases, instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, people are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions. All of the space and time are reserved for the things people want to talk about.

 

Twitter Chat

A Twitter or Tweet Chat is a planned “chat” on Twitter that organizes a group of people with similar interests in a particular subject matter. The host of the chat is the person that arranges and promotes it to their followers by picking a regularly scheduled time for the chat to happen. Teachers that are looking for specific resources can find them fast. Sign up with your own handle and find hashtags to follow like #edchat, #edtechchat, #tlap, and #plearnchat.

#plearnchat is our Twitter chat we host every other Monday at 7pm ET, 4pm PT. Join us!

 

_____

These are just a few strategies that teachers can use to take control of their own learning. Learning is personal and teachers are learners too. Check out what Vicki Davis wrote about 12 Choices to Help You Step Back from Burnout if you find yourself feeling a little blue.

Learning Forward. Professional Learning Plans. http://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/commoncore/professional-learning-plans.pdf

This post was first published in OnCUE  Spring 2015 Vol 37 No 1 p. 23 and 26

3

We are not there yet

After attending conferences and reading numerous articles that focus on personalized learning, I just have to say it. We’re not there yet. Some of us are, but the focus keeps moving back to traditional teaching methods. There is also much focus on companies that boast about their technology that personalizes learning. I’m having an uneasy feeling that the rhetoric is really confusing people, and sounds too good to be true. Are these methods and programs doing what they’re supposed to be doing? Are we talking a good talk when we say all the right things but then continue with the status quo? Or are some taking a good idea and framing it one way but actually implementing personalized learning  for the wrong reasons?

Why am I saying this? Because to do it right, we have to transform the whole system. There are educators that jump in head first, take risks, turn the learning over to their kids who become expert learners responsible for their learning. Teachers share their successes. We share their stories. It’s great and the kids win. The teachers win. The school community wins. Then we hear from these same teachers stories of these kids moving to the next grade (the system may not be competency-based nor have all teachers adopting personalized learning) where they may go back to a traditional system with grades, tests, etc.

It’s just not fair to do this to our kids. We give them opportunities to celebrate their successes, let them take risks, maybe fail and learn from mistakes, unlearn and learn again. Then when they move to another teacher or grade level, we take their voice and choice all away. I hear kids say “I just do what I have to do in school so I can get out.” or this: “I just want to pass the tests.” Oh my!!!

Grant Lichtman’s article Take aim at innovation with students at the center is what made me think about all of this. He mentioned that technology is not innovation and stated, “As a group, schools are still mired in the mindset that technology is the innovation, not that it is a tool embedded in innovation.” Lichtman also says  – it’s about flipping the learning to what he calls it Flip 2.0 – turning the learning over to the kids. This is different than flipping the classroom. This got me thinking that it is not just the confusion about how to personalize learning. it is about coming up with a shared understanding of what personalized learning is.

Then there are districts that start in high school but they don’t take the time to plan or involve the kids. It’s about time to ask our kids several questions:

  • What is working and what is not working for you in school?
  • What advice would you give your teachers about how to teach you?
  • What do you need so you can learn?
  • How would you design school?

 

Personalizing learning means the learner owns and drives their learning. It means the teacher plays the role of facilitator and advisor. They become a partner in learning with their kids. Think about the current system. Personalizing learning turns everything upside down. Teachers don’t know how to do this. They need help. All of us need to work together on this. Actually most of us experienced learning in traditional teacher-directed classrooms. In fact, during the last 10 to 12 years, the focus has been mostly on creating prescriptive curriculum that teaches to the test. We didn’t involve the kids. We didn’t ask them what they wanted. It’s time to change that.

———

Update about this site:

Make Learning Personal BookI’ve been focusing on making learning personal for years and am co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC with Kathleen McClaskey since 2012. I keep this site, barbarabray.net, so I can share from my own view what is happening with learning, to learners and teachers, and how the system needs to change. Everything I do with personalizing learning now is with Kathleen. Two heads are better than one and I have learned so much from her. We co-authored Make Learning Personal, published October, 2014 by Corwin Press and, yes, I highly recommend it if you want to make learning personal. Just had to say that :o)

So why am I writing this here? It’s because I want to keep this site so I can do a little of my own ranting. I need my readers to go to our website, Personalize Learning to get the latest information and resources about personalized learning. All of the latest charts, resources, and even my services around personalized learning are on the Personalize Learning website.

Pages:12345...1718