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Tag: Change

1

How Games Prepare Learners to be Leaders

The digital native has been part of the gaming world most of their lives. Can games help prepare them for their future?

From “The Gamer Disposition” by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, I realized that there are multiple characteristics that can also prepare gamers to be leaders in the business and education worlds. The multiplayer online games expect users to be quick, be able to adapt and evolve as games change, and know the rules, tips, and even make the rules as they progress through this new type of social system.

Brown and Thomas share five key attributes as character traits that players bring into their games:

  1. They are bottom-line oriented. Games have embedded assessments where gamers compare with one another where they rank, their title and points, and they share with each other how they can improve their ranking.
  2. They understand the power of diversity. Teamwork is the only way a gamer can work in this social system. They need to talk to each other and determine what strengths each member has on their team so they can improve their score.
  3. They thrive on change. Games are evolving during the game. Gamers have to think on their feet while they make quick decisions and actually have to be in charge of managing change.
  4. They see learning as fun. The fun they experience is learning how to overcome obstacles, seeking out problems and then letting other gamers know the strategies they used to solve the problems.
  5. They marinate on the “edge.” Gamers look for alternative strategies and innovative solutions for a better way to solve problems. They are making it up as it happens so they cannot only understand the game, they can reinvent the game.

Consider in the World of Warcraft, a Guild Master has all the fundamentals of a leader. They create a vision with a set of values that attract others; find and recruit players that fit with their vision; they form apprenticeships for new players; they coordinate and manage how the group is governed; and mediates any disputes.

In ongoing conversations about gamers, the question that keeps rising to the top is “are gamers born or made?” Thomas and Brown reframe that question in the context of the challenges emerging for the 21st century workplace. It really doesn’t matter what skills you have to play a particular game; it is how talented you are in attracting the right people to work with you on your quest.

If we take this a step beyond to education and what classrooms look like today, gamers or those with gamer characteristics are lost and their talents are not tapped. This is the same with teachers who think out of the box, who develop an open environment where there are no right or wrong answers and allow creation of questions that encourage more questions. This is happening in pockets within public and private schools with creative and innovative teachers and administrators who are willing to take some risks that demonstrates that this type of learning environment engages students in the learning process and motivates them to want to learn more.

How do we tap teachers’ and students’ talents?

This post is not about using games in the classroom. It is how to identify the characteristics of gamers and transfer those disciplines to the classroom. A teacher can be more like the Guild Master who runs a democratic environment where there is shared leadership and ownership in what is to be learned. Consider that certain games’ characteristics include non-monetary performance incentives, data transparency, temporary leadership roles that give people the chance to practice their leadership skills – make it easier to be an effective leader. [Hemp, 2008]

One implication for real-world organizations and schools: There may be large and untapped reservoirs of leadership talent that you don’t know you have right in your classroom, school, school community, and the global classroom.

So should we think about these characteristics for future teachers and administrators? Will ongoing assessment strategies look like these games so students rank themselves, compare their results with other students, and work collaboratively to help improve the results?

Maybe the same can be true for collaborative professional development. K-12 and Higher Ed is also in a state of flux. Things are going to change. Why? Because of the economy, job loss, changing demographics, and a huge need for thousands of high quality teachers in the next few years. High quality teachers does not mean teaching to the test. Teacher education institutions can be the playground where the faculty and students do the research and development to design these new learning environments. Let’s rethink what is a school. How about a P/K-20 learning work and play center? Maybe consider the school as the learning center for the community open all hours of the day where all stakeholders are involved in the design and implementation of the curriculum.

Resources

Brown, J., and Thomas, D. The Gamer Disposition. Harvard Business Review. Feb. 14, 2008. Online. Available. March 9, 2008.

Hemp, P. Does your Leadership Strategy include the World of Warcraft? Harvard Business Review. Feb.19, 2008. Online. Available. March 10, 2008.

This post was first posted on Rethinking Learning March, 2008 and even more relevant today.

0

Fail Better

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

For the past decade, we have been teaching with the idea of only one right answer. Failure was and is not an option. But the real way to learn is to try, fail, and try again. We learn from our failures. We also predict the future based on our past. However, we can learn from the past and all the failed predictions.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time, more intelligently.” Henry Ford

1

Unplugged and What Happened?

I went away last weekend with some women friends and there was no Internet or cell reception. I handled it but didn’t think I could. I actually enjoyed not being connected and played games. I played scrabble face-to-face and not on Facebook. I learned a new game called Quiddler. Then sprinkled in Upwords. We played as soon as we got up and all the way until the wee hours of the night. A marathon of games. While I was gone, I received over a thousand email messages, was added to 35 Google+ circles, was mentioned and linked in several blog posts, missed 3265 tweets, and not sure what else.

So this morning I just saw this Inforgraphic by Kelly Hodgkins on “what happens in 60 seconds on The Internet.”

inforgraphic

— Shut down your Internet for sixty seconds and here’s a sampling of what you will miss:

  • 1500+ blog posts
  • 98,000 new tweets
  • 12,000 new ads on Craigslist
  • 20,000 new posts on Tumblr
  • 600 new videos (25+ hours worth) on YouTube

I bet most of this is spam. I received a lot of spam. I think we are so connected that we almost go through the shakes if we realize we are not connected. A few weeks ago, I answered a poll about which technology can you not live without — Internet, cell phone, TV, Laptop. I chose cell phone. Then when I didn’t have cell reception, I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking “who is writing me? what if I miss something? Did I get a text?”

Barbara Riding the Tricycle

 

After a few hours of playing games, going for a walk, eating a nice dinner, I just enjoyed myself. While we were out at dinner, two of us pulled our phones out to see if we had any bars. We did and quickly checked our email. Does this sound like an addiction? I do have to say I was more relaxed than I had been in a long time. We slept in the next day all the way until 9am. Maybe I need to rethink my life and get a balance so I unplug more. I’m a digital pioneer who’s been plugged in for a long time. I wonder how the digital natives will do without texting. How long would they be able to go? I did use my phone to take pictures.

Thank you Marilyn for taking me away to Aptos and letting me just be. I even rode her tricycle.

2

Let Go and Let Learning Happen

Barbara Bray writes about teaching and learning. It is about kids, their lives and letting go so they can learn. Stop teaching tools and testing them about facts.

Read more
4

Your PLN helps your PLC become a CoP

Learning can happen anywhere at anytime from anyone and anything. Your connections and any information you use are learning experiences that can help you grow personally and professionally. I wrote this article for CUE in 2009 and felt it was appropriate to update it for the ISTE 2011 Conference in 2011.  I’ll be there — very busy but learning so much from the people in my PLN.

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

There is nothing new about PLNs. They are the people and information sources that help you meet your learning goals. Building your PLN means that you not only seek to learn from others but you also help others in the network learn. Anyone can make a contribution. Your PLN can be your most powerful learning tool no matter what the subject. My PLN used to be the people I met face-to-face: the people I worked with, classes I took or taught, friends and family, organizations I joined and the information was what I googled on the Internet, in books, textbooks, or periodicals at the library. Remember how long it used to take to find what you were looking for?

Now my PLN connects me to others and to information in ways I never thought possible a few years ago. I still use Google to search for information but now I can find trends, maps, and even literature reviews. Social networks connect me to friends, work contacts, and friends of friends. I can see what they are doing in Twitter, updates on their conversations and links to new information. Facebook not only updates the status of each of my connections, I can join groups set up by friends and learn from wall posts. Here’s a diagram of some of my PLN:

Personal Learning Network

Use a mindmapping program such as Inspiration or Mindmeister to diagram your own PLN.

So how can your PLN help you build your Professional Learning Community (PLC)?

Your PLN can help you meet your personal and/or professional learning goals. A PLC is where you focus on student learning. Your PLC focuses on a specific problem area of the students in your school. Richard DuFour shares three critical questions that drive the work of the PLC:

  • What do we want each student to learn?
  • How will we know when each student has learned it?
  • How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?

We know a teacher can make a difference to the children in their classroom. However, a school may find many of the children in the entire school are falling through the cracks. The teachers in the school as a PLC can collaborate to improve or restructure how they reach at-risk students. They can analyze student data reviewing patterns and trends. Each teacher can use their PLN to research background information about specific issues brought to light from the data analysis, to ask questions of others in similar situations, to connect with other classrooms for global collaborations, and to share the findings from their PLC.

The PLC becomes a Community of Practice (CoP)

The CoP is where you take what you learned in the PLC and transfer it to practice where teachers can work together to do action research and/or lesson study. The teacher can ask “What does it take for me to change my practice to include this new learning?” This is deep, thoughtful work involving modeling new methodologies, observations from another teacher or coach, reflections on the results and process by asking what worked, what didn’t work.

Your PLN connects you to other professionals and to the information that will help you with your work in your PLC and CoP. Not only will the PLN help you, you can use your PLN to share best practices, blog reflections, and post examples of student work.

0

Changing Teaching and Learning

Sections from column in OnCUE Summer 2011

Change means something different to different people. It depends on each person’s prior knowledge, experience, values, and attitude about what it is they are changing. Teachers may only know what they have been taught. They don’t know what they don’t know. Some people resist change because what they learned at their home, school, or university is what they believe is the right and only way to teach and learn. The world is changing and many of our K-20 institutions are not ready or understand how they fit in the picture to change. Some parents and school boards resist change. At board meetings you may here “If it was good for me than it is good for my child.” Teaching and learning is changing even if educators, parents, and students resist it.

In facilitating change for yourself or as the professional developer for your staff, it would be beneficial to know what concerns individuals have about the change you may be initiating. Here is one chart designed to help schools identify what a student-centered environment looks like.

These are the stages of concern that each of us go through when we are learning a new skill. Consider the people at your school. When it comes to project-based learning, I was surprised to find some younger teachers resistant to taking the time to plan and implement projects. It appears they were not exposed to projects in their teacher education programs. Projects take time and energy that many teachers don’t think they have. Every project is different and not all of them work. However, a project that engages students and has them “think” is good. All of this is a process.

Working through the stages helps me. I hope they help you.

0

Project-Based Learning: Replicating Success

This Edutopia article by Grace Rubinstein gives you tips and strategies how to do project-based learning from a rural school district in Georgia that transformed the way its students learn using the inspiration and mentorship provided by San Diego’s High Tech High. Check out the tips and examples from Whitfield Career Academy, in Dalton, Georgia, where they are in their second year of shifting to High Tech High-style project-based learning.

Teachers going through this transformation don’t expect their schools to emerge from it looking exactly like High Tech High. Each school has its own unique teachers, students, culture, history, and setting, and its path to change must uniquely match those. Read more

1

Learn More. Teach Less.

There is a lot of controversy about professional development especially now when budgets are tight. I haven’t blogged for some time because I have been steaming about what is happening in our schools — for our children. This is their future we are messing with. Okay so here I go. I’m going to rant a little. Are you ready?

I’m a coach. I go into the schools and watch what teachers have to do now. In most states, it’s testing time. Some schools are off this week. For the past 5-6 weeks, teachers have been teaching to the test. I don’t know about you, but to stop everything and teach to the test is outrageous. Is this really for our kids or to keep the school open? Or to really leave every poor child behind? Forget projects. Forget engagement. I know. I know. Accountability. Student data. If the data takes in account more than standardized tests. How about authentic assessment? A collection of evidence of learning.

What do our children need for their future? I can tell you it is not about knowing FACTS and how to answer a multiple choice test. That is unless they want to play Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. The jobs they will need expect them to know how to be creative, innovative, and be able to discern what they find is a fact or an opinion. News is bombarding us on the Internet and TV. Most children have cell phones but they are not allowed to use them in most schools. Why? Why are we so afraid of them. Cell phones are great tools and will become more of a factor in our lives. Just watch! There are more cell phones than landlines now. Students use their cell phone even more than the TV or computer. They rarely read newspapers anymore unless it’s on their phone. How do they know if the information they read online is biased, propaganda, or a big fat lie? We used to teach life skills and connect to real-world activities. We need to change the focus on facts and show students how to use information effectively, find it, evaluate it, and then even publish. I bet the majority of your students use some form of social media like Facebook and Twitter. I bet if you had students use their cell phones in school, they would be able to read, write, and publish using them. Ask them to text each other notes and brainstorm ideas with a mindmap.

Today the focus is on basic skills: math and reading. In some countries, children don’t start school until they are seven. We expect our children to start reading in Kindergarten. I remember when Kindergarten was where kids learned how to socialize. A good friend of mine retired when she was spending more time teaching the kids how to bubble in a bubble for the test then having them sing or dance.

This is a tough time because of the economy. We are focusing on building “High Quality Teachers,” but we take away what teachers need to become effective.  The problem for me is the definition of a “High Quality Teacher.” It is different depending on your bias about testing. Is a “High Quality Teacher” an expert in their content field but have no skills on how to do group kids for teamwork. One of the main characteristics needed in many high paying jobs is teamwork and collaboration.

If we really want our students to understand the concepts in the standards, then let them teach each other — co-design with your students projects that make sense. Students want to make a difference. I bet if we asked our kids to come up with questions about climate change, they would come up with hundreds of questions. Let them take one question and brainstorm more. Then design a public service 30 second movie to broadcast on YouTube. Just imagine how many standards they would meet and understand after a project like this.

Think about a project you did in school as a child, if you did. Then think about what you learned from a standardized test. What do you remember? I know we need some background information, but let’s be more creative about it. I remember making a paper maché relief map in third grade. I don’t remember much of anything else that year.

I cannot sit in a lecture anymore myself. I cannot even imagine children today sitting still for five minutes. Teachers are teaching more and students are learning less. They may get it for the test, but do they retain it?

I’d like to challenge a school or district to try a pilot with several groups of students. Follow them over several years. With one group (your control group), everything is like it is now. Then another group, have them make a movie with their Smart phone, do projects, teach each other. Test the groups the same. I wonder who will retain the information more. I’d love to be part of it. Let me know if you want to try this.

1

Defining Quality Education

President Obama seeks to end the ‘status quo’ of education law. He got it right that schools are struggling to meet the requirements of the act and Duncan said “under the current law, it’s one size fits all. We need to fix this law now so we can close the achievement gap.” We are talking about designing a quality education that measures how students are improving. I’d like to propose a new movement that defines what quality education means. One size does not fit everybody so how do you define one type of education?

Not only do we have to call for more flexibility but be real about where students are. Not every child is ready or right for college. If we compare our students to students in China, India, and Brazil, then maybe we need to look at those students and where they really are based on achievement, prior knowledge, and goals. The students in these countries and others are tracked. We are comparing all of our children on their college bound students: the best of the best.

We measure all of our students…that is… the ones that don’t drop out. We base the tests on standards. The problem with the way state standards and Common Core standards are designed is that they are separate skills that don’t connect to the real world. Tests teach to each standard. This type of assessment is confusing for the test-taker and difficult to design.

Instead of focusing on each standard and how to teach to that standard, I suggest designing real-world projects or activities that meet those standards. You can map your curriculum and standards and even design collaborative projects with other teachers.

The Obama Administration has invested $350 million to support states in their efforts to create more sophisticated assessment systems that measure problem solving and other 21st century skills and that will provide teachers will timely information to help them improve instruction.

So in defining quality education, problem solving and 21st century skills, let’s look at authentic assessment i.e. portfolios. The portfolio is a collection of evidence of learning. Some of the evidence includes tests, essays, presentations, pictures, and reflections.

Questions to reflect on:

How do you measure improvement? How do you design this new type of learning environment that measures success of each student? This is not going to be easy but I’m up to the task. Are you?

3

The Educated Unemployable

Thomas Friedman’s article China, Twitter and 20-year-olds vs the Pyramids wrote:

“Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia today are overflowing with the most frustrated cohort in the world — “the educated unemployables.” They have college degrees on paper but really don’t have the skills to make them globally competitive. I was just in Singapore. Its government is obsessed with things as small as how to better teach fractions to third graders.”

This issue is not the middle East’s problem alone. The world is changing and education is not looking at the bigger picture. We are in a global crises everywhere. Young people 15-29 are realizing that their education or lack of it is impacting their ability to get the type of jobs they need to live. They are finding they have a voice: on the Internet. People making sure they are heard: on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Friedman writes:

“The Arab world has 100 million young people today between the ages of 15 and 29, many of them males who do not have the education to get a good job, buy an apartment and get married. That is trouble. Add in rising food prices, and the diffusion of Twitter, Facebook and texting, which finally gives them a voice to talk back to their leaders and directly to each other, and you have a very powerful change engine.”

What if oil prices rise? They will. It’s inevitable. Then food prices. Yes, they will rise too especially if more countries have government turnovers and the people of the country revolt. It is now happening in Algeria. What about developed countries like the United States, the UK, Australia, and Europe. If the unemployment rate does not go down in the US to 8%, the US is going to make some changes maybe not to where we need to go. Also are the numbers correct? What about the 99ers who have been unemployed for over 13 months?

We have educated people who have been looking for work for months. Work has changed. Businesses are running slimmer and cutting costs because of the uncertain economy and less cash flow. So things have to change all over. If people 15-29 are educated, use social media, then maybe we need to teach them how to use social media to create businesses and entrepreneurial skills. For those in under-developed countries, this will be a very big challenge. How to create enough jobs or businesses for 100 million people? Oh my!!

There just are not enough jobs for everyone. When I look at organizations like Kiva that provide small loans for people around the world who want to start their own businesses, I see hope. Everyone of us has a dream somewhere down deep. We were born as unique individuals who have interests and passions. If we continue to teach the same way we have for hundreds of years, we will continue to get the same products. People looking for work that is not there.

It is time to review all this emphasis on testing and standards and question “are we preparing our children for their future?” Our competition is not the school next door. It is China and India. Our children are part of the global marketplace. As long as they believe school as we know it today may prepare them for their future, they are caught in a system that could lead them down a road of failure. Some jobs are definitely needed: doctors, lawyers, engineers. But even if you become a teacher, it does not mean you will be assured there will be a job for you where you want to work.

How about teaching how to do projects, create projects, and market your projects? People who have critical thinking skills and are creative how they find solutions will get projects. Jobs where you received benefits and a pension may not be the same anymore. Just having a job now does not give anyone security anymore. We are in a revolution. Education is the key but what it looks like today is not what we need for the world’s economy. It is not all about jobs anymore. It is about how we are preparing people for their own survival and how it benefits society or the people in your area. If we start children very young asking questions and being curious about the world, they will come up with solutions.

Why not create a project about the climate, the creeks in your area, housing market, or another major issue that impacts your community? Except ask the students to create the project, ask the questions, and own the process. Any project can match standards. Students own the learning when it is relevant and real to them.