“Business” or “Busyness” of Life

Standard

I’m starting to read Amy Blankson’s book, “The Future of Happiness.” (From what I’ve learned from the press associated with the book and author, I’m quite certain I’ll be posting blog(s) related to this book in the near future.) In the Foreword to the book, her author / brother, Shawn Achor, writes: “Amy has her fingers on the pulse of what YOU can do in the midst of the busyness of life to harness technology to serve our true needs: social connection, meaning, and well-being.” This was the first time that I had seen the ‘busyness of life’ – and, for me, led immediately to the conparison found  in the title of this post.

That quote of Shawn Achor also triggered my seeming recollection of related writing of a favorite author of mine, the late Stephen Covey. Sure enough, looking through the Covey pages of Brainy Quotes (a great source by the way if you haven’t checked it out), my recollection was validated via the quote found in the featured photo above, referring again to life.

The two quotes I truly believe are so very compatible to each of our lives – including a critically important portion, education / learning. I totally reject and rebel against Considering education a business; it’s not!!! But because ‘busyness’ is so close to ‘business’ in the dictionary, the title of this post is acceptable to me – with business being associated with the “change, choice, and principles of Covey!

True for any activity as noted but limiting this blog post to learning, there are far too many politicians, policy people, citizens, and – yes, sadly – educators that either somehow believe strongly in (or just can’t see ‘the forest for the trees’ in getting overwhelmed with) the ‘busyness’ of education instead of the facilitation of Effective Learning. Front and center as Exhibit #1 has to be Standardized Testing!!! And I would add memorizing facts, exams, most homework, grading, … The ‘busyness’ of education that can only be defended with the comment “That’s how we’ve always done it” is robbing our students of the preparation for a satisfying / rewarding career and personal life.

So here’s my proposal: Let’s all agree to work together to make a list of the efforts currently being facilitated in education and the efforts that are being proposed for facilitating learning in education as well as efforts that we ourselves might propose for facilitating learning in education. Next, let’s include our students, parents, and interested community members in a determination of the school culture. Then, let’s assess out full list of efforts with regard to both school culture and the “change, choice, and principles” (most importantly principles) of Covey to develop a general local school approach to Effective Learning. I’m absolutely convinced, minimizing the busyness will provide more than sufficient time to implement this general approach.

But then it’s not straight to the classroom… First, we educators need to engage with our PLCs and PLNs to become more prepared to bring this general approach to each classroom. Next, each teacher needs to Consider the tweaks necessary for each student; one general approach will never be optimal for every student in the classroom. Finally, the facilitation of learning begins – with ongoing assessment and refinement of approach since planning / preparation can never be perfect!

That’s my thoughts with eliminating the busyness of education in order to facilitate Effective Learning. I’d love to learn your thoughts!!!

A Highly Anticipated Twitter Chat

Standard

I participate regularly in Twitter chats, including #OklaEd, #VAChat, and #TWOTCW among others. The last one, #TWOTCW,  is moderated by Steve Wyborney in conjunction with his latest book “The Writing on the Classroom Wall.” The featured image above, in fact, is Question 1 from the #TWOTCW chat of April 18, 2017 (tonight as I work on this post).

As with many of Steve’s questions, this one featured really grabbed me: ‘Create a list of eight words that describe students.’ Asking for a list has occurred in his previous chats and generates two types of responses – a list of eight individual words or a phrase involving eight words. My reply usually is of the latter type but I cannot tell you why… Providing the questions early is a good one in my thinking, enabling chat participants to Consider their replies. Indeed, my post would have been something like “Exactly what their early environment enabled their becoming” – as noted, a phrase… But the subsequent questions by Steve reveal he’s seeking eight individual words such as the one I’ll likely post in a short while: “unique, culturally dependent, engaged or not, skilled learner / not.” Yes, I know – mostly shorter phrases.

But these are critical characteristics for students and their learning, I believe; and ones that I at least don’t know might have single-word replacements. And, yes, I even had to change ‘or’ to ‘/’ to get eight and not nine words… I’ll not discuss this list further here; but a recent blog post might provide more insight into my reasoning. Also, I had already made a note to develop another blog post on this topic. Stay tuned if you’re interested.

The real point I hope that I’ve illustrated with this particular post is that participating in Twitter chats does enable / encourage the level of Consideration of a topic that leads to Effective Learning. My experience with chats suggests that there are almost always one or more such questions that spark further Consideration / Effective Learning. Yes, having the questions ahead of time maybe contributes to richer participation; but having one’s tweets enables Consideration after the chat. Storify files are even better!

I hope you find this latest post of mine of value. Thanks for your reading it; feedback is always valued.

 

(21st CENTURY) STUDENT EFFECTIVE LEARNING

Standard

  
Effective learning in the 21st century is a topic of great interest, Consideration, and writing. One of the graphics that I saved is the one above. You know how it goes all too often… ‘Let me save this now, quickly; I’ll document the source later.’ Well guess what, I have been unable to find that source (obvious – Partnership … – or non-obvious). If you can help me out, I’d sure appreciate it!

As noted, there is an incredible list of such characteristics. This particular list really aligns with my notion of an Effective Learner; and, yes, in the 21st Century! Here’s something I don’t get: Why is the phrase, ‘in the 21st Century’ added so often these days? I don’t think there was a different list that became necessary as we entered the new century. I don’t think the characteristics listed weren’t valued in the 20th Century. Clearly they were much appreciated in the 20th Century – even earlier. Yes, I know, in my formal education in the 1950’s and 1960’s was teacher-controlled. And I do believe I was found to be ‘career-ready and prepared for life’ – in spite of very little emphasis on deep understanding, interdisciplinary thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, … But if one studied career success in the 20th Century (probably has been done) , there would a strong correlation of that success with these characteristics! If not developed in school, where? I’d suggest three sources: (1) Some educators did facilitate development of such skills; (2) some students did control their learning; and (3) many organizations facilitated such skills development for new hires.

Interesting, hopefully… maybe, but irrelevent. In 2016, the efforts of educators must be on facilitating the EFFECTIVE LEARNING of all students!!! To that end, I’ll be facilitating a Twitter #OklaEd chat on Sunday, February 14th, beginning at 8:00 CT / 9:00 ET based upon this graphic. Likely questions will include the following:

  • Introduce yourself and tell us a little about your Valentine day.
  • Clearly there is not enough time to get broad and deep learning on all important worldwide topics. How can any educator best address ‘broad, deep understanding of the world’ then?
  • Is / are there any issue(s) or concern(s) with facilitating and assessing interdisciplinary connections?
  • Does teacher control preclude student creativity and critical thinking? Limit them?
  • Can students develop teaming skills simply by addressing team assignments?
  • What are effective options for student communication of efforts made?
  • What’s the connection, if any, between student control and ‘creating, evaluating, utilizing information’?
  • Which is more important as an education outcome – career-ready or prepared for life? Why?
  • What does Effective Learning mean to you? Do you facilitate it in your classroom?
  • Please share your favorite reference aligned with tonight’s chat.

Please join me and many others at 8:00 CT / 9:00 ET on Sunday, February 14th, on Twitter using the hashtag, #OklaEd, for our discussion of (21st Century) Effective Learning.

Questions for Educator Consideration

Standard

If you’re like me, you read blog posts that focus on a variety of topics. It’s quite frequent (for me and probably for you as well) that a post sort of directed in one direction toward one area has meaning on another topic for me. One such blog is the one written by Seth Godin. My post today is related to one of Seth’s recent posts titled “Ten Questions for Work That Matters.” I would strongly urge you to Consider thus post and subscribe to the blog. The daily email with the latest post is a welcome sight in my inbox.

In this instance, Seth’s intention was for all employees to consider these questions with regard to their job. Indeed he ends the post with the following hints: “Any question that’s difficult to answer deserves more thought [I’d use ‘Considerations’]. Any answers that are meandering, nuanced or complex are probably a symptom of something important.”

My suggestion to all educators reading this post: Consider the ten questions with respect to your chosen profession – facilitating the development of Effective Learning skills so important to their formal education and, I believe, even more important to their lifelong learning so critical to a meaningful career and personal life. Not quite an unintended interpretation of the blog’s original message – but certainly a specific focus. Let’s look at a sample of the ten questions:

Who are you connecting? Are you facilitating the students’ learning such that they are connecting with other students in the class? Are you establishing trusting relationships with your students? Do you have a Personal Learning Network or PLN with whom you interact regularly to get ideas, answers, and feedback – and provide the same to them? Do you have meaningful connections with your administrators and with your parents? Do you encourage your students to reach out to experts and the general public as they refine their project efforts. To me, each of these efforts are critical to each student’s Effective Learning.

Would you miss your work if you stopped making it? To me, this probably depends upon your approach to your work. If you see yourself as one who ‘teaches your students’ – that is leads them to the knowledge you (hopefully aligned with appropriate standards) want them to be able to use on your and those standardized tests, you might see your efforts as stressful and with lots of student management issues; indeed you might be actively considering leaving teaching because things are so bad. Or you might see yourself as a ‘facilitator of learning’ – concentrating on student control (again, aligned with the appropriate standards) while providing assistance when requested as well as meaningful feedback so important to improvement, you likely find your efforts as rewarding with opportunities to learn along with your students; probably, you are excited by the opportunities to introduce new and more risky options into your facilitation and know you made the best career choice!

I encourage you to Consider all the questions! In fact, discuss them with your PLN!!! And if you are (sadly) considering leaving teaching, reach out to your colleagues that see teaching as the best decision they could have made. Please know if others are accomplishing exciting outcomes in your school, you can CHOOSE to do the same; and they will help you! If your ‘leadership’ mandates stressful teach-to-the-test, maybe you can still do facilitating (forgiveness is easier to get than permission; and test results will likely still be good)… Work with your PLN to soften the mandates!

Lets all agree to fight for meaningful Effective Learning!

Work for Home, Not Homework

Standard

My thinking on assigned homework:

There is very little value in assigning homework. The only way a student will learn anything unless their understanding of the HW topic jells because of the practice – highly unlikely!!! If they can’t do the homework, assigning more of the same is wasted in terms of learning. If they know how to do the material assigned, they will finish it quickly with very little learned. And if those not knowing find a student to copy from (or an answer book or some other source), no learning there.

So what happens if the homework is graded? Whether feedback is given or not, most will see only the grade. Those copying are rewarded for cheating themselves of learning. Those knowing how to do the work will get a good grade and probably not see the feedback, not review for improved understanding. Those totally lost will only get more desperate, cheat themselves more, and give up – slamming the course and/or teacher. ELIMINATE GRADES!!!

What is needed is NOT HW but WORK FOR HOME (WfH) – not the same thing! Students need to learn to assess their needs for effectively learning a topic: From teacher-facilitated work, teacher feedback, personal and study-group learning efforts (WfH?), personal gathering and considering of extra material (WfH?), assess what’s understood and what help is needed. Then the teacher can recommend extra efforts the student can do to improve – again, WfH!!!

Note the following: This approach to effective learning requires a number of efforts: (1) students helped to understand and accomplish effective learning; (2) teachers facilitating the skills of effective learning and self-assessment of accomplishments: (3) teachers providing useful and honest feedback; (4) teachers facilitating student skills for documentation of efforts made, analyzing those efforts, determining level of accomplishment, and knowing what additional teacher assistance is needed; and (5) working patiently with parents in order that they support this approach that is so different from their experiences.

No grading for this WfH – for the same reasons still applicable. I suggest the use of a student e-portfolio. Each student documents all efforts made to effectively learn the topic AND how the student self-assessed to determine that the learning has occurred. That e-portfolio (for all topics of course) is then utilized by the student to justify her/his proposed course grade – with grade determined by the teacher of course!!!

Parallels Between Success in Sports & Effective Learning

Standard

It has been my thesis that successful sports teams (having excellent coaches) have much in common with effective learners (having excellent teachers). Here is an example that I believe illustrates this quite well.

From the Manchester Journal Inquirer of Thursday, November 12, 2015; article by Carl Adamec titled “WINNING FORMULA” on Page B4:

“So many times teams that put the focus on ‘Refuse to lose’ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to win,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to lose. Who goes into a game saying it’s OK to lose? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to win.

“Some have a greater will to win. To do that, you can’t be afraid to lose. Sometimes teams are their own worst enemies. Coaches are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about losing. We know that losing is part of the game. Any time they keep score, you might lose. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to be successful?’ It works for us.”

[Aside: For those of you who don’t follow NCAA Women’s Basketball, Geno Auriemma is the head coach of the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball program. They have won ten national championships since 1995 and will be seeking their unprecedented fourth national championship in the season beginning for them on Monday, November 16, 2015.]

Let’s take the excerpt from the Jounal Inquirer and change / add just a few words (italicized and underlined):


“So many times schools that put the focus on ‘Refuse to make mistakes‘ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to learn,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to make mistakes. Who goes into a situation saying it’s OK to make mistakes? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to learn and get the best outcome.

“Some have a greater will to learn and get the best outcome. To do that, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes teams of learners are their own worst enemies. Teachers are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about making mistakes. We know that making mistakes is part of the learning / doing process. Any time they assess learning, you might make mistakes. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to learn from our mistakes and be successful?’ It works for us.”

Two thoughts: First, Coach Auriemma could talk about his team and his coaching style using the alternate version I concocted and his players might wonder about the lack of basketball terminology; but they would understand the message I think. Second, I believe this alternate version should be the goal of all schools and teachers for their students: take risks, learn from your mistakes, don’t focus on not making mistakes, and you’ll have greater success.