October 2009

Marzano’s excellent new column in Ed. Leadership again hits the mark with an excellent, succinct take on how to ensure students “process information that is essential to understanding specific content.”     Five avenues are indicated by the research as important: Chunking, Scaffolding, Interacting, Pacing, and Monitoring.

The two which interest me the most are chunking and interacting.     In my own observations in over 100 classrooms at more than 20 schools last fall,  it was very clear that longer lectures are less effective, and that breaking things up will create better comprehension and lead to better memorization.    Marzano says about chunking:

Chunking means presenting new information in small, digestible bites. This requires carefully examining the manner in which students will experience new content. If the teacher intends to present content in the form of a lecture, he or she needs to determine the crucial points at which to pause so students can interact with one another about the new information.

Some research says that going even longer than ten minutes without chunking will result in students losing comprehension and retention.

But what to do when you break up lectures, discussions, videos?  Interaction, Marzano and I say. (more…)

Last Thursday, our faculty met in small groups to discuss Chapter 2, The Old World of School, in Wagner’s book.  This is an essential chapter, one in which he brings readers into the classroom.  Wagner reports on his observations  during his so-called “learning walks,”  for which he and a school superintendent (usually) visit, unannounced, 15-20 classrooms for about 5-10 minutes each.    What he reports in discouraging: “the teachers who use academic content as a means of teaching students how to communicate, reason, and solve problems are rare, fewer than one in twenty.”

As can be seen in the slide show below, the St. Gregory faculty discussed the chapter carefully and critically, responding to the effectiveness of the learning walk approach, identifying what Wagner likes and dislikes in classroom teaching, and then responding with their own opinion of Wagner’s judgements.  Enjoy.  {remember, if the font size is too small, you can click to make the presentation full-screen}

[picapp src=”8/b/c/e/Game_Trade_Fair_b03e.jpg?adImageId=5444524&imageId=6068363″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]

Encouraging piece in the Boston Globe today, reporting on Boston scientists praising video games for strengthening the brain.    It opens with the reference to President Obama’s call to students to put away their video games, and then draws upon contemporary research to show that games can aid learning:

Video games, it seems, might actually be good for the brain. The very structure of video games makes them ideal tools for brain training.  “Video games are hard,’’ said Eric Klopfer, the director of MIT’s Education Arcade, which studies and develops educational video games. (more…)

Hello Tony:

We have corresponded before, and someone told me today that you were following this blog.   Thank you.   With the greatest of respect, a gentle inquiry: can you share with us here  any information about your planned collaboration with Bob Compton, which Bob reported in a recent comment here on 21k12.

As I know you know, this blogger views your book, and your vision, of 21st century education to be highly inspirational and spot-on.  On the other hand,  I have expressed the view that Bob Compton’s 21st century education vision is sharply different from your own, Tony, and Compton’s vision is not the ideal for which we should be striving.

Your collaboration could be fascinating,  perhaps presenting contrasting 21st century visions.  But until we learn more, we cannot help but be a bit confused.  Your admirers are curious– can you tell us more?

Jonathan Martin

Wednesday our ninth grade students will take the CWRA, in our school’s first administration of this innovative and contemporary test.  St. Gregory, I have been told, is the first high school in Arizona to join the CWRA testing, and, hence, our ninth graders will be Wednesday the first ever Arizona students to participate!

I have blogged about the CWRA about four or five times previously; I am a great enthusiast for it.   One post here shared the news that Atlantic magazine named the CLA/CWRA as one among “15 ideas to Save the World.” I want to use this post to give more background information about it.    (more…)

ISM691Pat Bassett scores again, with a very valuable piece helping us move forward in becoming, ever more, 21st century schools.    His introductory piece in the current, excellent issue of Independent School offers a quick overview of the key ideas in the 21st century education movement, (and it is great to see the praise he heaps on Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap, the book we are using as a centerpiece of our effort at St. Gregory).    Bassett offers his sythesis of the key 21st century skills, drawing from many sources:

  1. character (self-discipline, empathy, integrity, resilience, and courage);
  2. creativity and entrepreneurial spirit;
  3. real-world problem-solving (filtering, analysis, and synthesis);
  4. public speaking/communications;
  5. teaming; and
  6. leadership.

These resonate well for the way we are defining ourself at St. Gregory.  (more…)

Leadership is a theme of both 21st century education and of St. Gregory.   Seth Godin shares some great thoughts about contemporary leadership in Tribes.  Some of the best nuggets:

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead…. If you are not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

Leadership is a choice.  It’s the choice to not do nothing.

Great Leaders don’t try to please everyone.  Great leaders don’t water down their message in order to make a tribe be bigger.

The art of leadership is understanding what you cannot compromise on. (more…)

[image from Rajesh Setty]

Nice piece on EdWeek’s  “Leader-talk” blog, entitled New relationships with content.  The author begins telling us that students believe, mistakenly, that reading and writing must be about facts to be memorized.

Angela Meiers, always brilliant, labels this “Hear it and Hold it,” and correctly sees it as outmoded learning technique.  She explains this “passive reception” dominated in too many schools, and says:

Knowledge and information then wasn’t something socially constructed. Knowledge was gained by memorization. In your seat. Quietly. Alone. Received passively.  Hear It – Hold It. There wasn’t a lot of hear it and work it out, or hear it andexperiment, or hear it and collaborate, communicate, cultivate.  Hear it and Hold it.  Hope you didn’t miss it. A top-to-bottom, no-student-input, sequence-and-order, hold-your-questions-please method.

But in a new century we must have a new approach to reading and writing, because “outside of the classroom, “content” is positioned in a drastically different way. We are simultaneously filters, producers, and co-creators of content. Successful producers of content must do more than simply churn out meaningless facts and ideas.” (more…)

In a previous post, I reviewed at length, and not positively, the new film 2 Million Minutes, the 21st century solution; I expressed especially that it failed by not being a film about teaching and learning.  I have also reported this on Twitter; Bob Compton himself has seen and responded to my criticism on Twitter, and he tweeted back to me: “I have over 100 hours of classroom footage – what would you like to see?”

I just banged out this following list really quickly after a long day at school.  I saw none of these things in the film.   This is a quick “top twelve list” of what the classroom learning I would like to see happening in a school that is described as the 21st century solution:

1. Teachers facilitating a Socratic dialogue, with multiple follow up and challenging questions for deeper thinking, taking the time to really guide students to take the time to reflect, examine, and create new thinking about  a topic, and not seeming impatient to get back to the regular lesson.

2. Teachers saying to a class that they are so interested in a question or a topic students have brought up that they are setting aside the lesson for the day to pursue this student-generated topic in depth and at length.   (more…)

Thursday evening here in Tucson I viewed a premier screening of the brand new film, 2 Million Minutes: the 21st century Solution. Now,  I am here to report that it is a poor and disappointing film, and inappropriately singles out one charter school program as “the solution,” without making an effective educationally grounded case for that school’s qualities.   This is a quickie, uninformed, film which does not reflect or convey a good understanding of teaching, learning, or contemporary best practice in 21st century education.  It is more a piece of propaganda and political advocacy than it is a film about, truly or deeply, teaching and learning.

I want to be careful here in my review to say that I am not seeking to criticize the subject school, BASIS, though I am, sharply, criticizing the film and film-maker who calls BASIS the best school in the world.  While I have a number of questions about BASIS, I admire its founders the Blocks, I commend them for their valiant efforts and outstanding successes in some quarters, and I am glad that BASIS offers Arizona families an additional, valuable educational option and alternative.  But I think the film that praises it does not serve it well; I think the film that praises it does not capture or convey any important insight about contemporary and/or effective teaching and learning. (more…)

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