Summer reading list

Today’s our last day of school for students! This day holds a different meaning for me now that I am an administrator. I will miss the chatter of little voices in the hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, and playground, and requests to come inside and shoot hoops in my office! I know students and teachers will enjoy and hopefully refresh over the next few weeks, hoping to return to school energized and ready to jump headfirst into learning for the 2010-2011 school year!

One of the most meaningful ways to spend the “downtimes” of summer is to read! I love being able to catch up on both professional and personal reading selections during these months. Read on the back porch, in the car, in the airport, on the beach… anywhere and everywhere! Here is a short list of some of my “must-reads” for this summer:

Professional reads:

Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, Heidi Hayes Jacobs

I’ve had this book for a month or two after ASCD delivered it to my door… will definitely utilize this in my technology integrator role this summer!

41b3aiHoexL._SS500_

What Great Teachers Do Differently and What Great Principals Do Differently, Todd Whitaker

What more could you want to know? As someone who always seeks to bring change to an organization for the betterment of students, I am eager to learn more about how I can do things differently, and encourage my staff to do the same, to foster school improvement efforts.

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Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce Patton

Have this on CD, should make the commute to work more intriguing. Believe it or not, in my role as principal I do encounter confrontations and need to negotiate solutions to problems at times!

getting-to-yes

Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner

I began this over the winter and was captivated by how relevant this read is today. Must finish!npostman

Personal Reads

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney
This book cracks me up. I’ve read about four chapters and laughed out loud at the voice of Kinney’s middle school character shine through. The accompanying illustrations are amusing as well and help tell the story!

diarywimpykid


Eclipse, by Stephanie Meyer (book 3 of the Twilight Saga)

Have to reread before the June 30 movie release!

eclipse

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Came recommended to me.

art-of-racing-in-the-rain

Be More Chill, by Ned Vizzini

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I love Vizzini. It’s Kind of a Funny Story was one of my absolute favorite reads last summer, so I’m checking out this selection.

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan

My media specialist purchased a copy of this for me to enjoy this summer! Excited to read what our students enjoy!

lightning_thief_us

I know there are so many more fabulous stories and resources out there… what is on your reading list? Post your suggestions here! Happy Summer!

Technology and student engagement

“Student engagement is the product of motivation and active learning. It is a product rather than a sum because it will not occur if either element is missing.”

Elizabeth F. Barkley (Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty

What are the best tools you’ve found to improve student engagement with the content/lesson and promote interaction and collaboration in your classroom?

After reading a post by Gary Hopkins on Mouse Mischief, I’d be willing to give this a try in our classrooms. We’re mounting more Smartboards in our classrooms next year, and this week I went into a fifth grade classroom to show the teacher what Smart Notebook can do. While I was able to bring students up to the board to manipulate parts of the rock cycle and label the layers of the Earth, I really didn’t feel as though what I was presenting was any more dynamic than having students interact with graphic manipulatives in groups at their seats. I think I will need to do a better job helping my teachers learn the best ways to encourage student interaction and engagement with the boards.

I am open and excited to hearing about other tools/tips/tricks you have for classroom teachers to make the most out of their interactive boards and any other tools you’ve used/seen used with great success.

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Source: Pics4Learning

Haircuts, fresh starts, and dead weight.

Last weekend I got a haircut, and I had several inches trimmed from my length. I loved my longer hair, but as the inches grew they became less vibrant, and I realized those extra inches didn’t serve much of a purpose. Summer’s-a-coming, and this shorter new “do” made me think about what we, as educators, need to let go of this summer in order to start fresh in the new school year.

Old lesson plans? Resistance to change? Grudges against colleagues/parents/administrators?

Teachers -what standby lessons do we continue to pull out of the filing cabinet year after year, despite the fact that we know they’re becoming more ineffective as the years pass? How could we tweak our delivery and lessons to include the integration of more technology, collaborative opportunities for students, and project creation? Instead of using common planning time for cursory collaboration/complaining/housekeeping tasks, how can we use the gift of time to engage in more meaningful collaborative planning sessions with colleagues?

Administrators- the summer months are when we actually have the chance to breathe and reflect upon the year. Did we spend enough time in our classrooms this year? What structures and routines can we put into place to make sure we devote more quality time to supervision in the coming year? What tasks did we complete this year that were dead weight- just sinking us into a deeper hole we feel we can never get out of, sucking the energy right out of us?! How can we streamline our work day to make more time for what’s most important? What supports can we put into place to help our teachers and students shine and meet building initiatives? How will we empower teacher leaders to support us in these endeavors?

Summer is a wonderful time for reflection, and as it approaches, I hope you will consider how you can plan for a “fresh start” in 2010-2011!

Creative minds are rarely tidy.

Have you ever used the term “creative” to describe a student who perhaps did not conform to the “typical student” mold, for lack of a better word to describe him? In doing so, did you mean it as a compliment? You should have, because now more than ever, we need to embrace creativity in our schools and ensure our students are creators.

In my last post I shared Bloom’s revised taxonomy, which places “Create” at the top of the pyramid. Take a look at the comparison of original Bloom’s vs. Revised to see how it has evolved:

blooms__revised_pyramids2

From nouns to verbs; from passive to active; from knowing to DOING. This may seem insignificant for the casual observer, but to educators, we understand that doing is learning.

The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them. – Aristotle

When we deem a child “creative,” we recognize that he is capable of the highest level of thinking! In my elementary school years, we knew who our creative peers were – they were the peers who excelled in art, drama, and storytelling/writing. I believe this was true of many of the classes of students and parents in the 80s-90s. A child gifted in the arts was considered to be creative. But why limit the element of creativity to the arts alone? Can it not, and should it not, be infused into all disciplines?

The answer is yes, of course!

Doug Johnson addressed this topic on his Blue Skunk Blog in the post Not If, But How, A Person is Creative. This truly struck a cord with me, due to recent events at my school. As an administrator I feel it is one of my duties to help educate parents about changing pedagogy and best practices. As educators, we no longer find acceptable rows of students sitting and listening passively to a sage on the stage teacher. I believe there are some parents who still feel that this is the preferred means of instructional delivery. This is natural, of course, because it is how they learned in school. The potential distractibility factor of a busy, active classroom seems to outweigh the benefits of collaborative, creative work in their minds. I’m concerned that parents (and some teachers, quite frankly) don’t grasp the vital importance of the quality of creativity. I’ll be addressing this topic in my next monthly bulletin. As Johnson says, we should be striving to discover how each and every one of our students is creative!

If our students can’t create – what will they do? Readers of Dan Pink know his feelings on the matter. He defined 6 fundamental aptitudes we should encourage and help develop  in our students so they can survive in our ever-changing, global world: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, Meaning. We certainly have opportunities to do so in our classrooms. What could our students do? Construct! Program! Blog! Experiment! Publish! Animate! Invent! Produce! Dramatize! Direct! Critique! CREATE!

Take a look at Bloom’s in relation to Pink’s ideas. The lower level thinking skills can be automated by computers, thus rendering human involvement in these tasks nearly non-existent. Why would we want to prepare our children for jobs that will become obsolete? We can’t predict exactly which professions will be obsolete in 5, 10, 15 years from now, but I think many of us can envision what the world will be like. We know how fast technology is changing our everyday lives. We know children need to learn to work collaboratively and communicate with peers and adults. We know the involvement of outsourcing and abundance of products on our Earth. We need creative workers who can make original, ingenious products to help make our lives more interesting, easier, and more rewarding.

We need creative problem solvers, cooperative team members, visionaries, and kids that can take the contents of a trashcan and create a solar  collector. We need to embrace all forms of creativity in our students. Our teachers must PLAN to incorporate the highest levels of Bloom’s in their lessons and classroom experiences. Not a few, but ALL must be provided with the opportunity to create.

“Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible.”

– George Washington Carver


Bloomin' oranges and butterflies and such.

This past week our elementary personnel received professional development in the areas of Extending and Refining Strategies from Learning Focused Schools. When I think of extending and refining lessons, I think of the incorporation of more higher-order thinking skills and questioning techniques. Abstracting, comparing/contrasting, classifying/categorizing, analyzing perspectives, inductive and deductive reasoning, and error analysis are all integral skills to be planned into lessons. We need to hone our students’ use of these skills, move away from simple recall and regurgitation of facts.

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy has placed “Create” at the top, which seems completely magical to me, since I am a sort-of “artist” in my free time, and I’ve also seen the incredibly power of allowing children the opportunity to create something to demonstrate what they’ve learned. When they can create, they have learned. The other important thing to remember is that these skills, these “HOTs,” have to be PLANNED for. Yes, there are some dynamic teachers who can “run with” an idea a student has, and on-the-fly, allow students to delve into these critical skills. For the rest of you, please, please, PLAN on how to incorporate these extensions into your lessons and units. We need to model and support our students through their experimentation and creation for learning. Need help? Check out the amazing resource below that graphically represents the desired skills with example products and activities for use in the classroom.

Here are some additional Bloom’s taxonomy resources, including my faves, the Bloomin’ Orange and the Bloomin’ Butterfly. 🙂

Now go create something wonderful today!

BloomingOrangev1-resized-600

bloomsposterv2-resized-600

from www.learningtoday.com

bloom_revised_taxonomy_fB1-graphicFrom http://www.heybradfords.com/moonlight/files/CV/ProfSampleFiles/CDWS/bloom_revised_taxonomy_fB1-graphic.jpg

Variety of Bloom’s resources:

http://www.kurwongbss.eq.edu.au/thinking/Bloom/blooms.htm

http://www.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

http://www.uwsp.edu/education/lwilson/curric/newtaxonomy.htm

Reflecting.

This is for the administrators out there. The administrators who have, at one point or another, felt the way I feel now.

Exhausted.

Emotionally drained.

Like a truck has run over you.

Convinced that no matter what we do in the best interest of students, SOMEONE will be unhappy.

Yet, mind racing. Processing and planning. Reflecting.

Today’s post is short and the message is simple: Take time to reflect. Take time to appreciate who you are, what you have, and the good things you’ve done. Because chances are, if you’re an administrator or teacher who works FOR THE CHILDREN each and every day, you’ve made more impacts upon the lives of others than you can even comprehend.

Every word you say, every decision you make, every alliance you establish… do these things in the best interests of your students, and for no other reason. Be honest. Be real. Be brave.

I’m a quotes person. Here are some that have inspired me recently. Thanks for allowing me to reflect!

**********

Any one can hold the helm when the sea is calm. –Publilius Syrus

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. –Aristotle

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. -Albert Einstein

The secret of many a man’s success in the world resides in his insight into the moods of men and his tact in dealing with them. -J. G. Holland

What do we value?

One of the perks of continued professional development in the form of college coursework is being required to read books I might not have otherwise taken the initiative/time to read. I received Zhao’s Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization in the mail many months ago through my ASCD membership. I read the cover and thought, yes, this will be a great read, and it was then neatly stacked on the bookshelf next to the other ASCD titles. I was thrilled when it was listed as required reading for my Change in Education course. This book examines the characteristics of the educational systems of the United States and China and the impact on students and our countries as our world becomes increasingly “smaller.”

I also am engaged in Principal’s Induction Program coursework through our state. The required reading for our last session was The Teaching Gap, by Stigler and Hiebert. We spent an exorbitant amount of time the past two days comparing US instructional methods and international test scores in mathematics with those of other countries, particularly Japan and Germany. We involved ourselves in observations of lessons taught, lesson planning techniques, and listened to the same message over and over again: THEY are doing it RIGHT. WE are doing it WRONG.

This troubles me.

Are there aspects of the American education system that could be improved? Of course! Could we involve our teachers in more lesson study, collaborative professional development, and hone their instructional practices? Yes, we should. Could administrators structure schools and classrooms so that time is used more wisely and efficiently for student learning? Yes. Despite our country’s recent need to equate school success with performance on high-stakes testing accountability measures, can’t we develop lessons and instructional units that engage students in higher-order thinking, the use of technology, creation, and innovative thinking? Yes indeedy. Do we need to address the inequalities that exist in our nation’s schools? Absolutely. Those were the big “take-aways” for me from The Teaching Gap.

Another take away is that teaching is a cultural activity. American teachers taught how they themselves were taught. Our “system” is so ingrained in culture, making it extraordinarily difficult to change. (Not impossible, though, and like I said earlier, there is room for improvement.) The Japanese and Chinese cultures influence their educational systems in similar ways. Can we expect our schools to be structured the same way as the schools in those countries, when our cultures vary so greatly? Is it fair to compare apples and oranges on international testing measures and conclude that American schools are in a crisis?

What Zhao’s early message is that American schools are not as “broken” as they appear to be. If they were, how could our country continue to thrive? While our country is now moving towards standardized curriculum for the nation in the hopes of improving test scores (so we “look good” on international measures), schools in China are taking a look at American schools and making changes to be more like us. Zhao makes some great points about how standardization in schools has not necessarily served China well.

So what is great about American education? Why would China want to emulate us? It’s simple. We value individuals. We want all students to develop into lifelong learners. Are all students going to be mathematicians? No. We recognize that, and encourage students to find their passion and develop their strengths. Our system helps students appreciate the gifts they have, instead of focus endlessly on what they don’t have. Our genetically diverse nation allows it to better survive and adapt to environmental changes. The creativity we instill in our children helps breed talent, tolerance, and innovative thinkers that are able to adapt to change.

One of the most meaningful quotes from Zhao is something I think all educators who work with curriculum, with school boards, with policy makers, and with students and teachers need to consider:

“We thus face a choice of what we want: a diversity of talents, of individuals who are passionate, curious, self-confident, and risk taking; or a nation of excellent test takers, outstanding performers on math and reading tests.” (p. 59)

A difficult choice? Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Love to read!

The Big Read, an initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts, has estimated that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. How do you do?
1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (on a side note, I detest Charles Dickens)
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott (I’ve read this 3 times do they each count?)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince- Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare- question- why is this on here if the complete works of shakespeare was earlier in the list? Why don’t they just list them all separately?
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Hooray for technology, of course, but don’t forget about the magic of books… I try to express my love of reading to all of my students and keep a collection of my favorites in my office for students to borrow and read. In our building, each teacher and staff member has a sign outside his/her classroom/office/work area that says “Teacher X is currently reading ___ by ____” so students can see that the adults in our building love to read and read to learn!

The Big Read, an initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts, has estimated that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. How about you?

1. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen 
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling 
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovar
y – Gustave Flaubert
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ve been on vacation, and it was sunny and dreamy and warm and there was turquoise water and white sands and now… it is back to work/reality, not to mention, home to about three thousand feet of snow. Harsh.

This semester I’m enrolled in a graduate course called Change in Education. Considering the amount of change I’ve seen in our profession since I officially joined it in 1999, I can’t imagine how my professor can keep a consistent syllabus from one year to the next.

Perhaps the course name should be Welcome to Education- What’s Here Today will Likely be Gone Tomorrow and Replaced with Something Else. And the new things may be shiny and/or new and/or involve you learning how to manage some newfangled device.

One of our most interesting assignments is to read a few Fastback issues, summarize the content, and comment on the significance to education today. Fastbacks were published between 1972 and 2005 by the Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation. The topic variety is incredible: parent-teacher alliance, resilient superintendents… anything and everything related to education. (The issues about “new” technologies written in the 1980s are a hoot!)

So as we spend plenty of our waking moments wondering how in the world we will cope with all of the changes in education, perhaps we should stop to ponder what doesn’t change in education.

What will always remain the same? What fundamental purpose(s) do we serve? Are there certain things that we will always do, no matter what changing technologies, changing families, changing educational structures exist? And if so, shouldn’t every decision we make be grounded in those fundamental purposes? How can we, as educational leaders, help our organizations focus on these fundamental big pictures?

Those are the thoughts I’m pondering today, a day when my surrounding temperature changed from glorious, sunny 85 to snowy, shiver-inducing 18 in a matter of hours. Don’t blink!

Top tools?

I feel like in the past year I’ve been surveyed to death, but each time I sit down to complete one, I trust that whomever is compiling the results of said survey will use the data for good. Not evil. In an attempt to “make sense” of the plethora of online resources/networks/communities/tools that are available to educators, I will be surveying district elementary staff to determine their:

a) current comfort level with the technologies/tools within our district

b) desired uses of these tools to impact student learning

c) professional development needs with these tools

d) experience in using online tools for learning

e) participation in PLNs – both online and face-to-face organizations

We are working to compile a resource site where the best 5-10 resources are easily made available to teachers for use with students, complete with tutorials and professional development opportunities/support to help the technologies be successfully integrated into the classroom.

I’d love to hear from my PLN about their “go-to” resources and tools. If you could only use 5 online resources with elementary students, what would they be? If you could master the use of any 5 technologies, which ones would you choose? Why?

I consider myself lucky to be surrounded and supported by experts in education and educational technology through my PLN. Not a day goes by when I don’t learn something new, and I wish the same for my teachers and students. Hopefully this resource will be a step in the right direction.