Tag: pedagogy (page 2 of 3)

New Podcast: Innovation Ready Questions

In this episode, I’m talking about the types of questions our students ask in the classroom, and how we can encourage them to ask better, deeper, more probing questions. These types of questions are often open-ended in nature and encourage our kids to experiment, create things, break things open, and ask still more questions. Examples might be:

  • What if we had a serious earthquake here?
  • Why do people bully one another?
  • Can we make the traffic pattern around our school safer and more efficient?
  • Could we make our classroom warmer without using more electricity?
  • How does my phone send text messages?
  • Could I make my own device to send messages?

As always, I look forward to your responses (even the ones that disagree!).

New Podcast: Todd Nesloney Talking Flipped Learning

In this short episode, I had the privilege of interviewing my friend, Todd Nesloney, better known as @TechNinjaTodd of Twitter fame. Todd is a 5th grade math teacher here in Texas who was named one of “20 to Watch” by the National School Board Association this year. Todd and I chatted briefly about what it means to flip a classroom, the challenges, and the benefits.

What’s Taking Us So Long?

The pace of educational change is frustrating.

The pace of educational change is frustrating.

Dean Shareski, an educator friend whose ideas I highly respect, recently shared a post  on his blog entitled “Why Teachers Aren’t Making ‘The Shifts'”. His post was in response to an earlier post by Will Richardson, one of my earliest ed-tech influences, entitled “My Summer of Confusion“. The two posts both address the issue of a lack of change in most classrooms, despite increasing resources and evidence supporting such changes. Why do so many teachers attend conferences, read articles, or hear in the teachers lounge about amazing, innovative practices, yet fail to implement any significant changes in their own practices? Here are a causes of this inertia that I took from each blog post.


  • Many teachers and administrators lack a clear vision of what teaching and learning, particularly with technology, should be.
  • Educators lack the technology experiences needed to take those tools and skills and put them to work.
  • Educators don’t do enough to stay abreast of the “latest research, technologies, and news that impact learning.”
  • Resistance to change as a by-product of defending the old system against corporate reform efforts–a bunker mentality.


  • Lack of autonomy.
  • Demands on educators’ time are just too great.
  • Inadequate or misguided teacher training–teachers are told by “experts” who have done the legwork what to teach and how. They need time to work through what that means in their own classes.
  • Some (a small percentage) teachers are just more prone to change like this than others, for a variety of reasons.

So much to discuss there, but I’ll just touch on a couple and add a little to the discussion. The vision, experiences, and research are intertwined. As Dean touched on so well, they are also time-consuming. I am fortunate to have a job that encourages me to do all of these things. I do a great deal of the vision building on my own time, reading blogs, tech sites, magazines, and engaging in professional conversations outside of school hours. But I don’t sleep enough, either, so it’s probably taking years off of my life. Seriously, Not everyone can or wants to devote significant portions of their own time to grow professionally. Families, recreation, and other demands do matter greatly. I believe, therefore, it is critical to build in much more time for professional learning, planning, collaboration, and vision building during the school day. The US falls behind most other high-performing countries in the amount of time devoted to growing its teaching pros. In the highly respected educational system in Finland, teachers devote less than 600 hours per year to actual teaching, versus 1,600 for US teachers. Much more time is devoted to research, professional collaboration, mentoring, etc. Singapore provides 100 hours  of PD each year, plus 20 hours/week for co-planning, observing other teachers teaching, etc. Here in the US, we talk about longer school days and years and rarely discuss the role of time for learning and collaboration as a route to improvement.

Inquiry learning works for adults, too!

Inquiry learning works for adults, too!

Dean’s reflections on the typical nature and quality of his professional development sessions are important. Think about what we know about the ways kids (people) learn best: inquiry, problem solving, and discovery. This is precisely the opposite of most technology PD, at least most that I’ve delivered over the last 11 years. I, the expert, have done my extensive legwork, developed my vision, and attempted to impart it to the willing masses. Interestingly, however, some of my favorite professional development sessions have been the few where I’ve asked questions, guided teachers to the resources and tools they needed to answer the questions in their own way, then sat back and watched professionals get after it. I have, admittedly, not conducted research into how the “stickiness” of these sessions compared to more traditional ones. I did read the very positive post-session surveys, however, and I suspect that the sessions probably produced greater levels of change than my standard fare.

I would add but one thing to Dean’s and Will’s fantastic assessments: administrator influence. Administrators have an enormously powerful influence over how teachers do what they do. First of all, administrators in schools where teachers are making exciting changes encourage teachers to take well-educated risks. If you’ve researched it, can reasonably demonstrate that it should have positive effects, then do it. It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t been done in their schools before–change and risk are welcome (and even exciting). Administrators who feel the need to have their hands in every move made by their employees or to enforce a one-size-fits all, misguided philosophy of teaching and learning, will likely never see innovation in their classrooms. Additionally, and I’ve said it before, administrators who are using technologies in powerful ways in their own lives and work will encourage others to do so. Administrators I have seen who fit this description show up with the new Galaxy or iPhone the day after release, are rarely seen without a smartphone or iPad in hand, tend to mix it up with how they share information (YouTube channels/videos, streaming, Prezi instead of a PowerPoint, shared Google Docs, etc.), and they actually attend technology-focused professional development sessions.

This is a vital discussion. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what we know is possible and what we know is happening, and it shows glacially-slow signs of changing. I don’t purport to have the answers down, just a few insights from a long time in the business of trying to foster change. What are your thoughts? What IS taking us so long? What do we need to do differently, or possibly throw out entirely?

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52748818@N07/4995276801;

New Podcast: Dayna Laur on Project Based Learning

I had the great opportunity this week to attend project based learning training delivered by Dayna Laur (@daylynn), a Senior National Faculty member with the Buck Institute for Education, one of the premier organizations for promoting and teaching PBL. I only recently had the pleasure of meeting Dayna at TCEA, and she was highly touted as an expert on the subject of PBL. In the podcast, Dayna talks about challenges and benefits of PBL, the change in the role of the teacher  that is necessary, realistic expectations for newbies, and more.


Huge thank you to Dayna for foregoing her break time to share to me and for some outstanding professional learning time!


TCEA Areas 10 & 11 Conference: Exploring the Flipped Classroom

Information, implementation guides, and early research on flipped classrooms:

Flipped Classroom Pearltree


Technology tools for flipping the classroom:

Exploring the Flipped Classroom

Unless one has managed to somehow avoid all professional conferences, publications, and conversations for the past year or so, we all have heard the buzz around the hot, new trend in classroom practice: flipped instruction. The concept first caught my eye in 2007, when I saw a news stories about Colorado educators Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, the “godfathers” of flipped classrooms. I was truly intrigued at the time and curious about what the long-term potential was for their innovative approach. Fast forward to the present, and the concept is the hottest movement afoot in the field. Several initial studies seem to validate proponents’ support of flipped learning. The current issue of Tech & Learning includes a Classroomwindow survey in which an astounding 99% of teachers who used flipped learning this year say they will use it again next year, and 88% report increased job satisfaction. 67% report higher student test scores, and 80% have seen improved student motivation. Obviously, there is enough substance here to warrant further exploration.

To this end, we offered our first courses in flipped classrooms this summer as part of our technology training offerings. These were designed as exploratory courses for our teachers, many of whom had no knowledge of the flipped classroom concept prior to attending. We employed something of a flipped professional development model at the outset–having them work in groups to look at articles, videos, and examples online, then create presentations explaining what they had learned. Their understanding of the concept was truly exciting, and there was a real, palpable buzz about the possibilities for our schools. The graphic below shows a summary of their products. Click to enlarge.

Note that they perceptively understood that flipped classrooms are about more than videos or switching classwork and homework. They are about putting greater responsibility for learning in the hands of students and equipping them with the tools to succeed. The teacher becomes the coach/mentor/guide, and students research, collaborate, create, and share what they have learned.

We spent the remainder of the class learning about technology tools to facilitate flipped classrooms, including online videos, podcasts, screencasts, etc. They were truly some of the most exciting professional development sessions I have been privileged to help facilitate.

Thanks to those brave risk-takers who participated this summer. I look forward to seeing how this benefits the kids in your classrooms this year!

Random Musings on The Nature of Learning and the Retry Button

Off topic a little bit, but it’s therapeutic for me, and I’m friends with the editor…

Three seemingly unrelated things got my educator wheels spinning yesterday and today. The first was a video shared by a Twitter friend that features Adam Savage (Mythbusters), titled “Permission to Make“. In the video (below), Adam discusses how he has had this lifelong love of building things, testing them out, recreating, and on and on. He references the shortcomings in today’s education system, where kids have scarce (if any) time to make, time to construct and experiment.

The second thing that occurred was that I read a blog post about mobile devices and informal learning today while preparing for an upcoming professional development course. The post referenced a theory by some fellows at Princeton University called the 70/20/10 Model. This model states that roughly 70% of our learning occurs through our daily activities, 20% through social interaction, and a whopping 10% through formal educational experiences. It seems that we are predisposed to learn in natural settings and circumstances more effectively than we are with our backsides on cold plastic aligned carefully into rows so as to give us the best view of the whiteboard.

The third thing actually happened last night, when I downloaded an iPad app that the magical iPad Genius had recommended for me (He or she knows me so well, it’s a bit unnerving.). The app is a game called SimplePhysics. The principle is easy enough–construct a structure that is strong enough to survive some test. Of course, your resources (money) are limited, so keep it cheap. I discovered quickly that my physics knowledge is either very rusty, or the game is just plain out to get me. Not wanting to admit the latter, I pressed the Retry button. I continued to do so until I had successfully conquered a few levels, just enough to restore a little bit of my pride (I won’t reveal exactly how many clicks it took, for fear that tiny bit of pride will be lost again.).

So, what is the common thread of these 3 things? I think it is that schooling needs more building, more experiences, and more Retry buttons. The real world values the ability to make, to break (at times), to solve problems, to think. How much more effective might we be if we radically reset this whole thing and made learning the natural process it is when kids go home? Give them a problem, provide what they want/need to solve it, and stand back. Watch a kid learn to play a new video game. One of the most important features of a game is the ability to backtrack a bit and give it another go…and another… and another. A week later, they’re on level 112 with a #6 world ranking (despite the initiative and determination that “these kids today” just don’t have). Think about the first time they kicked a soccer ball. What if the coach had simply said, “Terrible–you get a C-. Now, on to shooting a basketball.” Kids will stick with games until they get the hang of them, no matter how many missteps they make. Who among us didn’t hit a mailbox or two when we were learning to drive a car? (Anyone…?) We learn best by doing and tinkering and attempting and retrying, not by meditating and memorizing. This is what builds real-world value into learning. Real life learning is filled with Retry buttons. Schools don’t have time for them, though–they have the curriculum to cover.

I saw this in action this week, incidentally. I saw a group of our students who, after a mere 6 days of work, had created a mountain of very high-quality products focused on an awareness campaign for a polluted waterway in the area. It was their first experience with anything resembling project based learning. Teachers and students raved about it. The audience at the school board meeting gave the beaming kids a standing ovation. And, despite the fact that they never shared a single bubble sheet or fill-in-the-blank worksheet, I am completely confident that their knowledge of science, math, technology, social studies, and language arts were all deepened. Most importantly, as they worked to solve the problem, they researched, they experimented, they communicated, they built, they got their feet (quite literally) wet, they made mistakes, they hit the Retry button, and they accomplished something real and valuable. Isn’t that the kind of thing most of us envisioned when we took this gig?

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