Saturday, May 26, 2012

More on the subject of EdTech, not either or

David Ginsberg has more to say about the debate that shouldn't be a debate, in his post, Technology: Teacher Enhancement, NOT Replacement. Technology is not meant to replace effective teaching. It can enhance it!

I offer this as encouragement for those who feel daunted or threatened by technology. At the same time, you've got no choice. It's our duty now, as it's always been, to provide schools where kids can learn to their potential, which technology helps us do. Change can be challenging, so it's understandable if you're tentative about technology. Keep in mind, though, that just as countless veteran teachers successfully implemented new approaches such as cooperative learning, so too can you learn to use technology to its fullest in your classroom.

But also keep in mind that you'll need the same qualities to be effective in a technology-rich classroom that you've needed to be effective in a traditional classroom. In particular, the human qualities--per theory of mind--needed to achieve what Science Leadership Academy Principal Chris Lehman called "the most important thing that we do" in his closing keynote at ISTE: help children become fully realized people of their world.

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It is technology and education, not technology vs. education!

My amazing friend Tracey just sent me this article. Tracey and I worked together in telecommunications for years. Her husband, Michael Bobrowicz, is another teacher like me who left high tech to become a teacher. Like me, he has faced many of the challenges, and enjoyed the personal rewards of, this change. He is teaching an SDC classroom in Pacifica. The discussion about technology in classrooms is reaching a tipping point in our district, and I'd guess in many districts around the world. It doesn't have to be a divisive issue.

Brandon Busteed writes in the Huffington Post Education Blog that A technological revolution is happening in the world of education; it is changing schools for the better. But, it will never change the definition of and need for great teaching. His article, entitled, In Education, Technology Changes Everything and Nothing, he discusses research findings that show what we (teachers) all know, Simply put, great teaching is about emotionally engaging the learner in a way that is individualized. Our opportunity to innovate and improve education is deeply tied to these fundamentals. A great teacher is a great teacher -- whether she is real or avatar.

It is important in discussions and debate to remain respectful and keep the goal of education in mind. We are here to create lifelong learners. We do what we do, however we do it, to make a difference. Technology isn't a fad, it isn't going away. But it is a tool, not a solution.

The Atlantic forum highlighted that the debate about great technology vs. great teachers is unnecessary. Instead, the conversation needs to be about technology and teaching. So now education leaders need to create a seamless interplay between teachers and technology. This will not be easy, but least [we are] left with a clear sense of purpose.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Technology and inclusive education practices

co authored with Sheila Monger

More often than not, students are asked to read, discuss and write about their studies at school.  I ask, “what about those who do not read, do not use a common language or cannot write?” Demonstration of knowledge in the classic school room is narrow and predictable.  Those who did not participate have traditionally been marginalized. 

Until now.

This year, the two of us, Ms. Monger and Ms. McConnell, joined the teaching staff at Bagby.  Ms. Monger teaches a 3-5 combo and Ms. McConnell teaches 4th grade.  Between the two of us we bring a depth and breadth of experience working with students with unique learning needs.  In the first staff meeting of the year, we both signed up to be on this new committee that no one knew much about, called CreaTV.  We soon found out it would be a wonderful way for us to spotlight the collaborative work that our students were doing.  Since the beginning of the year, our students have been learning together about PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) as well as all academic areas.  Ms. Monger also co-teaches with teachers in 5th and 3rd grade so that all students have access to their own grade level content and peers. We have created CreaTV segments highlighting some of our kids' projects, such as Squash Day, Stream Tables, Stone Soup with Ms. Montes’ class, literature study with Ms. Makinson's class and Smoothies with Ms. Lauck's class.   All of these segments, and more, have been broadcast on DirectTV channel 28 to communicate with our community about the exciting programs happening Around Bagby.

In April, we were accepted into to the Cambrian iPad Academy, a 1:1 program where each student is assigned an iPad. We are investigating apps and processes helping to set the stage for developing 21st century students and leaders throughout the district.  We were both a little worried that our kids would bury their heads in their iPads and never interact again. We were surprised and excited to learn that this was far from the truth.  It is inspiring to see students from our classes working together to create projects, to teach each other, to learn and to share.  Students are storytelling, teaching, and creating using this innovative tool.
Technology has been a great way for us to engage our students and provide them with differentiated tools to allow them to create, collaborate, problem solve and inspire!

Bagby, along with Cambrian School District, has reinvented what it means to demonstrate knowledge and share experiences within the community.  By using technology such as SMART boards, Podcasts, CreaTV, and the co-teaching model in the iPad academy, Bagby has proven that all students are learners and contributors to success.  These tools help provide a vehicle for learning, collaboration and demonstration of that learning in unique and creative ways.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hire, layoff, rescind, Rehire, repeat as unneccessary

Sharon Noguchi writes fair and unbiased reports about education in the bay area and beyond. Last week she wrote an article, Bay Area school districts rescinding layoff notices
which described the various schools attempts to meet budget and staffing needs in these challenging times. She describes what we ironically call "the pink slip dance."

The dance of issuing pink slips then rescinding them is a complex and expensive process mandated by California law. School districts can't lay off teachers for
the following school year without having issued a preliminary notice by March 15 and a final notice by May 15 -- even though they likely won't know their revenue until late summer. This year, even facing a dire state budget, fewer districts issued preliminary notices because many of them said they simply couldn't cut much more from their budgets after years of successive cuts.

The story is more complicated in the Fremont Unified School District, possibly the only district in the state with a no-layoff clause in its teachers contract. As a result, every year the district hires scores of teachers on temporary contracts, then notifies them all that their jobs could be ending. So Fremont sent out 250 teacher pink slips, union President Brannin Dorsey said. The district enrollment is growing, so nearly every year most of those teachers are rehired, although many seek out jobs elsewhere in the meantime.

I am a teacher who reluctantly attends the pink slip dance every year. I currently am employed by a district who, like Fremont, hires teachers at temps then asks us back in August, right before school starts. Our board and administration are proud of the fact that our district didn't issue any pink slips this year. Yet, there are a dozen or so of us who have been told that, as of now, we don't have jobs next year. They need to fill those spots, so the odds are most of us will be called back.

Good teachers are committed to our kids and to our practice. School districts should be committed to good teachers They should help struggling teachers get better and if that is not achievable, then assist them in their departure. The cycle of laying off then rescinding is not healthy for teachers, students school districts and society.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

This is the face of teachers you layoff

Tonight I spoke to our school board. This is what I said, from the heart.

Thank you for allowing me to speak, and for the wonderful opportunities you have given me in Cambrian. I wanted to speak to you tonight about something that has been heavy on my mind. With furlough days and already increased class sizes, already hardworking, dedicated teachers are being asked to work harder for less money. I come from industry and I understand the business needs. But I also understand human needs. We need respect. We continue to work on furlough days, And weekends, and evenings, doing what is right for our students. And we continue to be disrespected by a society that requires yet devalues what we do. But still we do the right thing.

My colleagues are worried about making ends meet and still, we do the right thing. I am lucky that I do not have to teach for a paycheck. Yet, I do have to teach ... not for a paycheck, but for my heart. It is part of who I am. I am here to put a face on the cycle I like to call the annual pink slip dance. Let me explain... People start asking "how are you" with that sympathetic smile right around January when we start hearing about the latest budget problems. In March we get our preliminary notice and then in May, ...right around teacher appreciation week, we get our final notice. Then maybe in August, we'll get a callback. For six months we do not know if we'll have a position next year. I know it like the steps of a dance because every year in the six years I have been in education, this is the routine I go through, and I am not alone.

Yet through it all, we remain professional and continue to engage and educate our students. We spend our own money to be sure our student needs are met. We grade papers at home in the evening just to keep up give our students timely feedback. We meet with parents after school and We participate in various committees. We do our best, just as we expect our students to. We continue to do the right thing. And wait. For half a calendar year, we wait.

Yet, not all of my colleagues are as fortunate as me. Some of us cannot afford to wait it out. They need to know that they will be placed next year, so in addition to remaining engaged and professional while at school, after hours they are out looking for a new job. This is the face of who you are asking to put life on hold while you sort out what you already know, you WILL need teachers to fill our spots, to teach our children.

There has got to be a better way. Consider please, how you can do the right thing for our kids, for your teachers and for our community.

Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dan Pink- why simply implementing merit pay for teachers isn't the answer

Thanks to Vicki Davis, I just came across this article written a few months ago by Dan Pink.

He writes succinctly about an issue I have been struggling with since I joined the field of education seven years ago. Is merit pay the answer? Pink says no. And cites 8 reasons why. Here is number 4, simple and clear. Couldn't agree more!

4. There’s a simpler solution. My own solution for the teacher pay issue, which I’ve voiced many times both in writing and in speeches, is to strike a bargain: Raise the base pay of teachers – and make it easier to get rid of underperforming teachers. Not only is this approach more consistent with the evidence, it’s easier to implement and doesn’t require a new bureaucracy to administer. (To her credit, Michelle Rhee launched some efforts to move in this direction.)

So, how do we make that happen?

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Teaching as Leadership: Demystifying the “Natural Born” Teacher - ASCD EDge

In an ASCD blog post, Steven Farr articulates the differences between truly exceptional teachers and less effective ones. Teaching as Leadership: Demystifying the “Natural Born” Teacher. The blog states that Farr's research shows that effective teachers set and maintain high expectations for their students; they plan purposefully and tirelessly. But perhaps most importantly, they habitually reevaluate their approach, which means that their methodology is always fluctuating and in the process “of becoming.". Farr is the author of Teaching for Leadership.

so the net....
Expect quality work and effort
Plan, plan, plan

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Teacher tries to remain positive amid repeated layoffs - ASCD SmartBrief

Teacher tries to remain positive amid repeated layoffs - Related Stories - ASCD SmartBrief

It is very cool to be cited at a national level. Now that I have expressed my frustrations and continued the convertion, the big question is do we work for change?

My article was also published on School Leadership 2.0 , very cool!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Same verse, same song

California's fourth year of teacher layoffs spurs concern – Sad to say my story is not unique. Teachers all over the state are in the midst of RIFing season. Delaying notices until after the school year would be refreshing, but then leaves those of us who "really" lose our job scrambling in the summer. And just throwing more money at education is not the answer. Yes, we need more funding to education but we also need to be smarter in how we spend it.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Social Kids

Raising kids to be socially conscious leaders is the mission of my friend Justin's company, Social Kids.
It is an interesting concept, sort of Khan Academy meets Facebook meets Kumon.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Won't get fooled again...

I keep thinking I'll be strong and not feel sad....I'm happy my voice is heard, but sad it is about this.

Beginning teachers get trapped in a cycle of heartbreak

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Location:Santa Clara,United States