Thursday, November 21, 2013

Give the expectation than let them surprise you!

I have used for going on 3 years now.   It has been a great tool to communicate with my students.   It has lots of great options and their customer service is great.   With all that said I have embarked on a different path this year, I have students choosing how to use it.

Classes this year are set up as multinational businesses and they were challenged with communicating with all their employees.   Some resided in different class periods so the guidelines were however they choose to communicate it had to be in a way that could be recorded and could be used anytime, anywhere to join the discussion.   One group chose

As I have observed this group they have exemplified what 21st century skills look and feel like.   The platform,, allows any device to be connected to the conversation.   Students have used iPhones, PC, iPad and Droids to connect.   They have discussed issues and concerns from 2 am  on a school night through midnight on a weekend.   They have shown great collaboration and teamwork.

I still feel is a great tool for teachers and schools but am just realizing it's so much more when you give it to the students.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

They are going to drop out...

Keeping kids engaged and moving forward is always a challenge in school but today I was reminded of why education is at a crossroads.  As a discussion took place about a few students, everyone was left scratching their heads. We have brought parents in, check, didnt help.  We have gotten Family services involved, check to no avail.  We have added study halls, check, still failing and not attending regularly.  We have partnered students with student tutors and adult tutors, same result.  Then the statement of what can we do next and the answer we all struggled for is somewhere out there but we dont have it.  It's a fair chance this student is on the path towards dropping out.

All our solutions have fit in the box nicely.  The point I struggle with is maybe school needs to be built around the students better.  Most schools have students that bare the responsibility of growing up, getting to school, keeping up with school and surviving, so how do we reach them.  I am well aware that some students' "safe" place is at the school but what about the students who are safe outside of school?

Would online work for this student? Maybe, but not likely.  Would typical blended learning work, probably not because parents have given up. So now what?

I am continualling wondering if the old time family doctor model isnt the step we need here.  Would this type of blended envirnoment work?  Could the teachers go to the ranch or the where ever the student is working or located?  Could we partner with the employeers and use that environment and support to help the student build a cause for continuing?

I read about teachers and administrators finding students and bringing them to school but just maybe we are looking at this backword.  Lets load up the book mobile, take the technology, the experiments and go to them.  The work would now be real life and the homework would never be questioned about "what do I need this for"

I believe there are plenty of buisness models that could add there expertise to this new strategy, Avon, Schwan's, Tupperware etc.  SO the question now becomes could we?  And how can we?

Please ponder and share your thoughts, suggestions and possibilities.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The waiter.

Took my 3,5 and 8 year old to dinner last night and we had a waiter that was okay at best.  It flashed me back to one of the all time great movie moments from Reservoir Dogs when they are discussing tips.  As always with my family, I asked them what they thought of the service?  Now before anyone quips, have you ever waited tables or some random excuse, I want it to be known that with my gang eating out is always a way to save a mess at home so there is always some sort of tip.  Back to the question and answers.  The answers ranged from "not very good", to "Dad you went and got the ketchup".  So it is safe to say the service was sub par.  

So then the conversation turned to why do we tip.  This leads me to teachers and school.  I have talked about this idea before but think if each student tipped daily based on service.  Not shared tips but they gave it to who they thought was the best.  What makes a waiter or waitress more deserving?  
Where they happy?  Do they like their job?
Where they helpful?  Whats good today?
Did they know the menu?  Whats this or whats in this or how spicy is this?
Did they look for opportunities to help? Your water is almost empty, let me refill that.
Did they forget about me? Would be nice to get some extra ranch...

I am fully aware that teachers will make some great arguments against my analogy but I believe it is a seed worth planting.  We in education are in a service industry.  Most educators are happy but do we show it?  If your not happy move on.  Are we helpful and accommodating or do we find excuses to not be?  Do we know our content as well as how it applies the real world.  Most teachers know their stuff but the best ones are the ones that relate it to each student.  The disruptive or sleeping student is begging for help but do we find a way to help or send them away.  Think about someone sleeping in a restaurant.  Why don't we see that more?  Do we forget about students?  How can we make sure that just because you get "it" or raise little fuss we don't forget about students?  

I wonder how many bad days we just write off as teachers.  If our livelihood depended on our tips would we have a lot less?  Random dinner conservations can lead anywhere...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Real 21st Century Classroom

***UPDATE*** Oct 2017
Having not blogged for awhile, it is time to start again.  In looking back, it is amazing how these points are four years old and are still not being done and/or just being discussed.  I wonder home many children do we lose in that time.

Original Post:

One of the more popular educational catch phrases today is "The 21st Century Classroom."  Over the past few years and more recently in the past few months I have been exploring this idea in more detail.  The intriguing part of this is that we are more willing to listen to salesmen than to look at research and use common sense.  I have narrowed this down to some key ideas to consider for the 21st Century classroom.

Technology:  As I have recently discussed in previous post (Amazon Schools, What would a kid do?, The Technology Revolution) technology has been a status symbol for districts and schools.  "We have smart boards, we are a 1:1 school",  are all popular battle cries for highlighting schools.  In reality schools may need less technology and instead would be better off putting in place ways to adapt quicker and use technology.  The single biggest issues schools should focus on is bandwidth and connecting devices.  As technology continues to change quicker and quicker, we must be able to adapt quicker.  Schools have been conditioned to look at technology on 5 year commitments before upgrading, that is not acceptable.  By focusing on infrastructure it enables teachers and students to quickly continue moving forward.  It also helps connecting to outside experts much more readily.  Be weary of the next great tech idea.  Flipping the classroom can open up new ideas but it can just as quickly have students spending more time sitting.  Professor Reis presents some powerful ideas on some serious limitations of video that all educators should watch.   Technology is an integral part of school but we must get past the status symbol of having the device and focusing on what do we want to do and how many different devices can make that happen. 

Activity:  Schools have often removed soda or candy machines over the last decade as an attempt to help positively influence student choices.  The research that we are turning a blind eye to is the one explaining how much damage sitting does to a person. I don't think anyone would argue that sitting around is not good for us and now there is research explaining just how bad it is.(Sitting, the new smoking) Students spend the vast majority of their time in school sitting this is potentially playing a much larger role in obesity than schools can defend.  We must look at school and delivery design differently.  Rooms need to be easily changed.  What does this look like?  First, the room must have multiple sharing spaces, keep the idea that there is no front to the room. Second, the room must be easily cleared and rearranged.  This encourages different activities in class.  Using exercise balls, foam garden knee pads, folding tables at different heights all make this change possible in a very cost effective manor.  Limit the number of chairs.  Teachers will need some time to work with each other and revamp delivery but this is also a low cost improvement.
School campuses must be re-imagined with the idea of using the entire area.  Imagine park trails that just had a sign at the beginning with all the info as compared to the trail that has signs and stories along the way highlighting the features of the trail.  Which one would you rather hike on?  How easy is it to re-imagine current school campuses.  It is as simple as creating multiple sharing spaces.  White spaces on outside walls, random space that can be drawn on and potentially creating a WiFi infrastructure that reaches the entire campus.  Walking classes would help alleviate  lots of school discipline issues as well as creating an open environment where students and teachers can easily see and hear what others our doing.  In the back of my mind is the MIT building 20 that has lead to many great new inventions of our time as well as the Google 20% model.  Freedom leads to greatness.

Collaboration: If we see what is going on, we can build and build.  Of all the skills we need to teach students, collaboration might be one of the greatest and with that how many teachers can say they lead by example?  We need to have an environment where we continually see what everyone is doing and ask the question how can that apply to what I am doing.  

Failure: The environment, collaboration and easily adaptable environments allows us to create a safe place where students learn the power of failure.  Pondering the many great points from, Where good ideas come from, as well as looking at game research that highlights that players fail more than 80% of the time they are playing has pushed me to consider the idea of can we create an environment where we measure failure as a way to grade success? 

With limited cost, schools can be redesigned, but the question is do we have the courage to do it.  If we could get half the time students spend in school transformed from sitting time to mobile learning time that could be a great start.  And what if the school isn't redesigned can you redesign your classes...I hope so.  I am! I hope we get the move on!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

If kids could leave.

Recently, while attending the Common Core National Conference in Florida, there was a tweet sent out about if teachers get up and leave a bad session and just go to another one, thats ok.  Teachers have that freedom but if students fall asleep in class or are disruptive in class they are bad students.  There is some irony there.

So the question now is what if schools attitude was that of if we didn't engage the learner they could leave.   Potentially, designing the environment so students could leave the classroom, electronically or check other classes and explore other activities.

But even more so think about a mall design,  think about the people that go to the mall on a daily or weekly basis?  Think about a school being set up like a mall?  Teachers are engaging their consumers right from the start.  The storefront is important. 

Some students today might only spend five minutes, they might window shop if you will but some students might come in and spend two or three hours shopping today because what you're selling today is relevant and engaging to them as a teacher.  As I cruise the mall, as a teacher, I'm also seeing, looking and knowing what other teachers are selling so it's easier to collaborate.  Today went really well for  chemistry so I'm going to stop grab and build off that to attract those consumers this afternoon or this tomorrow. 

One of the stronger issues that comes to my mind when we talk about engagement in schools is the power for students to make choice to make authentic choice not just choose between Math class they are taking or when they get their lunch break but make choices on a daily basis so there engaged in understanding where and why and what their education truly is for. 

Getting up and leaving a session can be so empowering.  Can we reinvent our environment?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Videotaping teachers in the classroom

As we think about Bill Gates recent commentary on video taping teachers in the classroom it's entertaining to think about the teachers that are up in arms over that process when we compare that to coaching at high school, middle school, professional or college ...whatever level, nobody would argue that using video tape helps us identify weaknesses, whether it's an overall game management strategy or actually breaking down running styles or breaking down hitting a baseball or throwing a football, shooting a basketball to how a team is moving to how a defense is set up.  All of those things we could use it for in football and look at so players understand the game better.  As we think about the time it takes and that coaches are willing to spend hours and hours breaking down film to make their teams better.  The ironic part about this is  if we look at the classrooms and think as teachers we all spend a lot of time, administrators spend a lot of time but we don't want to spend the time to break down video on our classroom when getting our kids to succeed and achieve should be more important than a football team winning or the basketball team winning games.  This becomes a very interesting argument when you step back and say if video has helped all these things  why aren't we using it in classrooms?
This is an important discussion, and as a coach, I often feel embarrassed for amount of time spent preparing for practice and games as compared to lessons.  So is video evaluations the only answer...maybe not but should it be used more in classroom than it is, I think so.
My goal is two video breakdowns a week next year and see if I can challenge my colleagues to join me.  Let's lead this instead of being told. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Amazon Schools?

As I recently read the news that Amazon is getting "more" into  the grocery market I started contemplating what if schools were ran with an Amazon mentality? 

Teaching economics has allowed me to constantly marvel at the Amazon business model.  As I tell my students, mom and pop stores used to be very personable.  They knew you by name, new your size, what styles you liked and when you ventured into the stores it was often like visiting with a friend.  Than the malls entered into the fray and than Wal Mart and suddenly mom and pop could not compete with the prices of the national chains.  None of those "BIG" stores could replicate the personable feel of back in the day. Wal Mart tried with the door greeter, but just not the same impact.   Roll out online purchasing and things started to change.  Amazon went from selling books to selling everything but most importantly changed the way you did it.  We may not like all the data that stores and government etc keeps on us but Amazon has taken it and turned the clock back to the 1950's.  They know your name, your size, hobbies, anniversary, they are the equivalent of an online BFF.  They notify you when there is a special, encourage you to come back and most importantly, they always welcome you back.  Now they are venturing into personalizing the grocery industry.

Let's look at applying this model to schools.  We have the technology to make the learning experience very personable.  School can incorporate strengths, likes, heritage and whatever else we choose into the experience.  Will it take more time to create this educational experience?  Maybe, maybe not.  There is lots of software available to help schools organize and personalize so why don't we do it?  If students wanted to come to school, (whatever that environment might physically be) no one would argue that their engagement and learning would improve.  Amazon helped us to re-look at an old idea, retail, now can we do the same with education?

What is holding this personal experience back?  Lots of possibilities, from funding, to teachers unions, to poor administration, to book publishers, the list can go on and on.  I have a hard time believing the funding issue is holding us back.  Any educator that has been to an educational conference and has seen all the vendors has to question how all those companies make it if education is struggling financially?   Teachers unions continue to be an easy target but teachers deserve some protection but as stated by @stumpteacher in Unpopular Thoughts, "teachers are not critical enough of each other"  We need to get out and work together. Technology integration could make the experience so much more personalized but we continue to allow teachers to make excuses about using or understanding it.  This quote sums it up well, "Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will replace those who don't..."

I know we don't like to compares business models to schools but I bet Amazon would build a great school.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What would a kid do?

After visiting recently with my Superintendent, I stumbled upon the question that I believe is very relevant to anyone in education. Now let me start by saying I appreciate that everyone in education has studied pedagogy and has expertise in some area.  I am not taking anything away from our experiences but I am posing the question if maybe we need to pay more attention to student experiences.

 Lets start with technology.  If every piece of tech equipment was field tested by students what would schools look like.  Let them be the focus group.  How would iPads be used?  How about interactive boards?  If students proposed ideas as to what they could use all the wonderful tools we have, could those great teachers than guide the content to better use the tech?

What about schedules? Would there be more play time? More social interaction.  Amazingly enough a fair amount of students, and in particular our at-risk population, get limited to zero positive social interactions outside of school.  So these students need more social time, what would they want in that schedule.  Real life projects, learning skills what if they could build the schedule?  Could all classes be personalized?  Could they take chunks of a subject that lead them down the path of their choosing, like a choose your own ending book.

How would kids get there parents involved?  It seems as students progress through school, parent involvement on a daily basis goes down exponentially.  If students and parents wanted to learn about similar topics, are they welcome?  Could the class be taught at a better time to accommodate them both?  Do some parents have specific expertise that can add to the school adventure.  What if school was and adventure and every year was a new chapter in Indiana Jones?  Parents and students need to be engaged and maybe they can help build the new climate.

As I ponder this point I came across this YouTube video that highlights student expectations.  What if everyday ended with and honest question, How could we improve?  As the year ends lets think about asking all are students to tell us what  their dream school might look like.  I am excited to hear my students answers as well as yours...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Twitter attacking Wyoming #WYOedchat

After participating in numerous "Twitter Chats" and seeing each state taking the bull by the horns, we knew it was time.

Bring on the #WYOedchat.

Tim Foley @Tim__Foley and myself @jpk38 will be co-hosting this session every Sunday Night at 8pm.  Summer is just around the corner so we are going to wade in with some unique topics and from some random locations, ISTE 2013, National Conference on College and Career Readiness and Common Core State Standards, NAESP,   Oregon, Boise and WASSP.  We will be holding impromptu "tweetups" throughout the summer.

We will be inviting guest moderators from around the state as well as globe to join in.  So spread the word and please tweet any suggested topics.

Our 1st topic on Sunday May 5 will be discussing 1:1 in schools.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The technology revolution..

AS I sit down and try to to digest all the great presentations and discussions from the TIE Conference, I am pondering where does the revolution go from here.

Having taught my whole career with computers and some sort of technology I can't help but think back to the first year was 1999.  Students quickly showed me their new web tool, Napster.  Being located in a small, very rural school, this opened up music from everywhere.  The computer had no filters, so students quickly leveraged the schools technology to create many a mix CD.  Than we all got wise to the ethics of the situation and moved on.  The revolution had started, students understood the technology better than teachers and for the masses teachers would never catch up again.

Fourteen years later and where is the revolution at today. Richard Byrne, of blogging fame gave the closing keynote at the conference today in South Dakota.  In it, he referenced not liking the "revolution" term. As the five hour drive home meandered on, I wondered about this educational technology revolution that has been on going for at least fourteen years.  The social studies teacher in me started thinking that the technology component might be better compared to a gorilla warfare situation. Now I know that the "Educational Gorilla War" doesn't make for as nice, clean headlines but sometimes the truth is messy.

So lets think about the gorilla methodology.   Attack at random times to try to cause chaos and inflict as much damage as we can.  Computers, projectors, Laptops, Internet, Elmo, Smart/Interactive boards, Ipods, Cell Phones, Ipads, Chromebooks, Kindle, Ipad mini....and the ammunition list could be much more detailed but I think we start to see.  The next wave always put schools behind and teachers left trying to get caught up. 

Can education win the "gorilla war"? I think as long as we buy into the next great revolutionary product we may never.  If we really start to to de-gadgetize education and get technology truly blended into the fiber of the learning environment than, no matter whats next(google glass, google contacts...) schools will be in front of the curve and the random deployments will be much more beneficial for our students future.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Change, has no place in Public Education.

After teachers return from conferences I always try to pick their brain and find out what was good and what they might change.  So when our latest group returned recently I was entertained by the answers.  "Had some good sessions and some bad ones. But the last one was a downer"

Why was that I inquired.

The summary went something like this; "These two teachers were talking about how all classes need to individualized to students interest and needs.  They were college professors who had no idea what they were discussing and in the end it sounds good but has no place in public schools."

As I pondered these words, I was struggling with if it didnt belong in a public high school than where did it?

As education continues to be in the news and teachers, millionaires, TV host and everyone in between try to fix education, what is holding it back?

I walked away trying to grasp just how much teachers are holding back meaningful change in education.  Even when we know something can help students we are resistant to it.  There have been so many articles about education that I have no intent in reinventing the wheel here, but I struggle with the numerous ways teachers justify doing the same things yearly.

Lead by example and than everyone else won't be so "gung ho" to fix the system.

Monday, April 15, 2013

1 Second Everyday

Today in class I was showing a segment of a TED video, Planning for careers that don't yet exist. and I started  pondering the possibilities of using this newly released app in school. 

Lots of teachers survey their students at the end of a class, some check at the end of the week and some do some sort of daily check for understanding.  So lets look at the survey option, do we get the real feedback we want from our students? 

So the premise of this app    1 Second Every Day     (.99 cents and the android app is coming) is that you get one second everyday to highlight what is important.  It than will piece them together for a compilation video of your events.  Over the course of a class. semester or full school year, students could create their video 1 second and one day at a time.   Will they remember and be more connected to what they are learning?  I asked my students if they could remember on important thing we did the first week of the semester.  A few of them had answers relating to visuals in the room but most struggled.  Are we past the,  "well if you took good notes you could just go back and look"?  Or more importantly has it evolved.  Can students show there clips at the end of  the semester and will it help you evaluate what your class is about?  I think seeing what was important to my kids daily compared to what I thought was important is a great building and learning tool for me.  Do students now have something to remind them of what was important?   Could you share your compilation with them?  One semester class = 90 seconds of video. 

I am very excited to have students start using this app and will share updates as they happen.
Any comments, brain storming  or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ipadio improvement.

As I have already discussed Ipadio and its Mobile phone use in schools.  I was overjoyed today to see that IPadio's Iphone/Pod/Pad app is now useable.  Please see earlier post to see how to use.

This tools has awesome potential for schools.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What if...

Havent posted in awhile but I am diving back in today.  After recentley reading the article on Forbes about business training programs, it got me thinking about schools. The article talked about trainging cost, and how using volunteer programs was a better use of dollars for training.

In the world of schools we volunteer all the time but it seems like a large portion of that is tied back into doing something for the schools. (Games, Dances, Dinners, Bingo...etc)  What if schools took an a different approach and encouraged volunteering specifically not tied to schools.  Would it help teachers and admininstrators intermingle with more community memebers and help create a more open feeling for people to come into the schools?  Would it help teachers and schools guard against burn out?

Just wondering if schools could use this model and really engage their staff and community?  Maybe this works with the Google 20% idea or maybe its just a Pay it Forward mentality.

If there is schools out there running with this please let me know.  Just wondering....What if?