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.