Friday, October 31, 2008

This Thing Called Jing

Ever frustrated by having to explain the same thing over and over again? Ever get lost in a litany of written instructions?

Jing could be the answer. Jing is a free tool that allows you, at a touch of a button, to create tutorials complete with visuals and audio.

Sound complicated..... it's not.

Click here for an introduction to Jing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NCLB - Final Regulations Released

Yesterday, Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, released the final regulations to NCLB.

Highlights include:

  • Uniform formula to calculate graduation rate
  • Expand opportunities for participation in supplementary education services or SES.
  • States must re-evaluate "n" size. It must be no larger than necessary to ensure confidentiality of individuals and statistical accuracy. This could effect AYP for the 2009-10 assessment results.
  • The NCLB report card for LEAs must contain NAEP assessment results. The percentage of students at each achievement level on NAEP must be reported in the aggregate along side PSSA scores.                                                          

Click here to go directly to all 441 pages of final regulations. Go straight to page 6 for the official summary of the major changes.

Click here to view Education Week's highlights of the final regulations including information on the new requirement for all states to use the same formula for calculating graduation rates.

Click here to go to NCLB II ---- an Education Week blog dedicated to following NCLB

Monday, October 20, 2008

Curse of Knowledge

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath is a fantastic book for anyone that wants to know how to get others to embrace their ideas...people like students, teachers, administrators, parents... board members....

The authors contend that the Curse of Knowledge is a major barrier to getting our ideas to stick. In fact they refer to the Curse of Knowledge as a villain, undermining all efforts to share ideas.

Why?

Great Question.... glad you asked!

"Novices perceive concrete details as concrete details. Experts perceive concrete details as symbols of patterns and insights that they have learned through years of experience. And, because they are capable of seeing at a higher level of insight, they naturally want to talk on a higher level. They want to talk about the chess strategies, not about the bishops moving diagonally." (Heath & Heath, 2007, p. 114)

The Curse of Knowledge creeps up on us. It doesn't mean we dumb down the information. Rather we need to identify our core message and share it in concrete ways. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

Want to know more? Read the book. You won't be disappointed.

 

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. New York: Random House.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Differentiated Instruction: Making Sure We Get it Right!

I spent the day (with about 200 other educators) learning about differentiated instruction with Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson. I was struck by the wonderful way Dr. Tomlinson weaves information with stories, case studies, and clarification. She facilitated the workshop as if she were a student of DI, instead of a national/international leader in the topic.

A defining moment for me during the workshop was a discussion about the mindset of differentiation. Dr. Tomlinson shared that without a believe that it is possible for students to do better than they ever had before, without hope or anticipation of what could happen in the classroom for kids.... there is no foundation for differentiating instruction. In other words, optimism is the energy that propels differentiation. Without optimism there is no purpose or fuel for differentiation to grow.

Reflection:
Does our school demonstrate a "do whatever it takes attitude?"

Do student strengths dominate the conversation?

Do we make efforts to genuinely affirm student efforts?

Do we expect the best?

Does the conversation revolve around reasons students can't do high level work or ways we could support and scaffold students to high level work?

The conviction that students can and should do high level work is the heart of differentiation. We may not be able to simply tell educators to believe in students who failed in the past and somehow that will make it all better. However, we can acknowledge the bias and behave our way into belief.

To quote Dr. Tomlinson, "Differentiation is not a thing you do, it's the way you think."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Instructional Coaching: Maximizing Results

The literature on professional development is absolutely clear. Workshops alone yield 5-10% rate of implementation. However, training reinforced by instructional coaches yields about 85% rate of implementation. How do we get the greatest impact from coaching, especially if teachers in the greatest need avoid working with the coach?

To address this schools are following the lead of the Boston Collaborative Coaching Model. The Boston Model is developed around the need for all teachers to work with the instructional coach, not just volunteers. All teachers are required to work with the coach. Small co-hort groups are formed every six weeks and the coach works intensely with the small group.

Boyertown School District borrowed the basic structure from Boston, but focused their coaching staff even more strategically on specific grade-levels for 10 week sessions. Boyertown has two elementary literacy coaches to serve seven elementary schools.

Their three-plan addresses their efforts to make the most of their resources:

Year 1 - Coach works with teachers in grades 2 and 4

Year 2 - Coach works with teachers in grades 3 and 5

Year 3 - Coach works with teachers in grades 1 and 6 (possibly K)

* Work with all new teachers

Sue and her staff are very optimistic about their new approach. Their goal is to maximize the instructional coaching staff, create a positive culture of continuous learning, and increase results.

Instructional Coaching - Resources

My good friend, Sue Kinney, Assistant Superintendent for Professional Development at Boyertown School District, shared a few wonderful instructional coaching resources with our Reading Advisory Council today. Prior to Boyertown, Sue was the Director of the PA Coaching Initiative. In other words, she knows her stuff.

Sue shared some of her favorite coaching resources and I would like to pass them along:

Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction by Jim Knight

Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others by James Flahery

Community: A Structure of Belonging by Peter Block

Content Focused Coaching: Transforming Math Lessons by Lucy West & Fritz Straub

Taking the Lead : New Roles for School Based Coaches by Joellen Killion & Cindy Harrison

Quality Teaching in an Era of Coaching by Stephen Barkley (Great intro to coaching)

Differentiated Literacy Coaching: Scaffolding for Student and Teachers Success by Mary Katherine Moran

Resources on the Web:

PA High School Coaching Initiative 

Kansas Coaching Project - Instructional Coaching

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blogging: What's all the hype?

Blogging is an addiction....

I never really expected to have this reaction to blogging. It kinda crept up on me. Blogging allows me access to the thinking of some amazing people. I get tons of ideas.... all for FREE. I can take advantage of these great ideas when I want, where I want. If you want to catch the blogging bug... check out a few of these favorites.....

ASCD's Blog - Inservice

Council for Exceptional Children - RtI

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch

Karl Fisch - The Fischbowl

Doug Johnson - The Blue Skunk Blog

If none of these are to taste, check out this list of educational blog favorites. It is from 2006, but the blogs I spot checked were still active.

Calling all bloggers. Add your favorite blogs and corresponding links in the comments section!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

K-12 Online Conference

What happens when innovative educators come together to share innovative ways to use Web 2.0 tools to improve learning?  A FREE Online Conference open to educators from around the world.

The 2008 conference theme is Amplifying Possibilities. The conference will kickoff with a pre-conference keynote the week of October 13, 2008, which will be followed by forty presentations posted online for participants to download and view from October 20-24 and October 27-31, 2008 . Live Events will also be offered in the form of three "Fireside Chats" and a "When Night Falls" event to be announced.  More information about podcast channels and conference web feeds is available!

Click here to view the K-12 Online Conference Schedule

Click here to view resources for the First-time conference goers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A New Twist on Student Research Assignments

Blogs and wikis to document the research process? Joyce Valenza and her colleagues at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, PA have not only done it, they are debating which tool is the best.

Click on the links below to check out examples and additional discussion. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to see the wiki examples.

Blog Research Template

Wiki Research Discussion and Examples

Clearly the teachers love the technology tools to help students organize and build their projects in one place. What an exciting way to make research organized, relevant, and motivating for students!