November 2009

Very energizing meeting today of our St. Gregory Marketing task force; it was terrific to have really positive vibes and great thinking, and I learned a lot.   Board member Katherine Forte brought to us some very nice materials, dynamite “collateral” from a campaign she did in the nineties for Whittier College, a campaign entitled “What Really Matters.”

Katherine brought to our meeting a revised version she drafted, a first draft yes, but a lovely and charming piece, offering a “What Really Matters” at St. Gregory.  We will be revising and reformatting it in time, for a future more formal publication, but I thought I’d share this version here:

What Really Matters at Our School:

Relationships: Because connections to people create meaning in life.

Engagement: Because active, not passive, learning stimulates hunger for more. (more…)

At our school, we have made in the past few years a significant investment to install high quality digital smart-boards in every St. Gregory classroom, middle and upper school.  (We are deeply appreciative of donors who made this possible!)   These are great tools, but we cannot help but be curious about the research on their effectiveness– and in this month’s Educational Leadership, the stellar Robert Marzano again informs us.   The verdict: “in general, using interactive whiteboards was associated with a 16 percentile point gain in student achievement.”

Three teaching features, he reports, enhances smartboards’ effectiveness.   One is the use of graphics and visuals: “pictures and video clips from the Internet, sites such as Google Earth, and graphs and charts.”   This is consistent with one of Marzano’s biggest emphases in his research (see Classroom Instruction that really works) that ““probably the most underutilized instructional category of all those reviewed in this book– creating nonlinguistic representations– helps students understand content in a whole new way.”  (more…)

I don’t pretend to be an expert on federal educational policy, but I am appreciating, and wish to share, some pieces of  Secretary Duncan’s speech to the US Chamber of Commerce, on the topic “Economic Security and 21st c. Education.”   I have grave reservations about some implications of Race to the Top, most of all that it will bring a renewed and exacerbated focus on narrowing what we measure regarding educational progress, and I continue to cite Yong Zhao as my primary guide on this topic: “”national common standards will not close the achievement gap. Instead, it distracts us from truly educating our children for the future.”  (See Zhao’s article, “Arne Duncan’s Mistaken View of Education and NCLB.” )

But there is still a lot in his speech which I admire and appreciate.  So, to practice some positive reinforcement, let me share some key quotes:

The quality of our work force and the intellectual breadth and depth of our future leaders is directly related to the quality of education we provide today.  The President has called on us to encourage and engage students to become “inventors and builders of things, not just consumers.”.

It is in the classrooms where the most important teaching and learning occurs – and the critical relationship between teacher and student is developed. (more…)

Fun to see this piece from Silicon Alley Insider, providing a stimulating visual slideshow of 15 Google interview questions.   If we are teaching to 21st century skills, if we are teaching students to be leaders and innovators in their thinking and their problem-solving, then these are a lovely assessment of how well our students are doing.   Pat Bassett wrote recently about “demonstrations of learning” we should require of our graduates; seeing our students answer these questions, or these type of questions, would be a charming addition to such a list of demonstrations of learning.

The article also provides a link to a longer list of 140 Google interview questions, from which I drew the following; enjoy:

Every man in a village of 100 married couples has cheated on his wife. Every wife in the village instantly knows when a man other than her husband has cheated, but does not know when her own husband has. The village has a law that does not allow for adultery. Any wife who can prove that her husband is unfaithful must kill him that very day. The women of the village would never disobey this law. One day, the queen of the village visits and announces that at least one husband has been unfaithful. What happens?

Last week I first wrote of my enthusiasm for this new book, an outgrowth of the fine Partnership for 21st c. skills; I also wrote about the book’s emphasis on teaching creativity and innovation as among the most important of 21st c. skills.  In this post I want to write about the book’s endorsement of project-based learning as “successful at building deeper understanding and higher levels of motivation and engagement, and at developing the 21st c. skill most needed for our times.”  What is the evidence for this, and how much do they assist with best methods?

Much of the evidence cited comes from one source, Darling-Hammond and her Powerful Learning– What we Know about Teaching for Understanding. Most compelling is this finding: “Active and collaborative learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable.”  (more…)

Trial and error learning is frequently called for on this blog; students today, more than ever, like to tinker, like to experiment, like to try things out, and figure out as they go, and, I’d suggest, they are learning more and retaining more knowledge when they conduct their learning in this fashion.

This month’s Scientific American Mind chimes in to say that “learning becomes better if conditions are arranged so that students make errors.”

People remember things better, longer, if they are given very challenging tests on the material, tests at which they are bound to fail. (more…)

An excellent article recently published in a Washington State newspaper makes the case that robotics learning is very much about learning to innovate, and learning to problem-solve.   Entitled “Education by Design: Robotics draws students to math, science, teamwork,” the case is made that robotics is

“a way to engage students in science and math in a hands-on way that could lead to careers in engineering and technology. In organizing and presenting their findings, the students also learn teamwork, innovation and communication skills, educators say. (more…)

This morning we spent our St. Gregory faculty spent an hour discussing Tony Wagner’s important chapter on motivation (in his book Global Achievement Gap).   I set up the discussion by providing a set of quotes from the chapter and questions for consideration, and then asked every participant to write in response.   Small groups then discussed these topics, and reported on them to provide a valuable group conversation. Below, after the Wagner quotes, are the notes from those reports: click on the “more” and scroll to see the “meat” of the meeting and this post.

First the quotes from Wagner, some of which are actually Wagner quoting others about kids today:

[Students today] don’t have less of a work ethic. They have a different work ethic. (more…)

Forgive the vanity, but this blog is an endeavor to share my views and perspectives on 21st century teaching and learning, and about leadership on these matters at St. Gregory,  and this article by the school newspaper’s Editor Adam Senior (a 12th grade St. Gregory students) offers an additional, and alternative, view to my leadership.

Meet Mr. Martin

As our new Head of School Mr. Martin makes himself comfortable here at St. Gregory, I thought that it would be appropriate to give him the opportunity to share with me a little bit about himself and his goals here as our new headmaster. Because other than Mr. Martin’s affection for U2, there is still probably a lot that you may not know, and as I discovered, Mr. Martin has a lot he wishes to accomplish at our school. (more…)

Great meeting today of the very fine Tucson Area 21st c. skills initiative group, an excellent informal consortium of educators in the greater Tucson area working to advance 21st c. skills at their schools.   Four or five school districts seem to participate; St. Gregory is, to my observation, the only independent school participating.

The conveners are the fine folks from P-21, the Partnership for 21st c. Skills (hq’d in Tucson), and this afternoon I sat next to P-21’s fine President, Ken Kay; it is really great how this national organization is offering support to local educators in very collegial collaboration.    At today’s meeting, the 12th of this network, half a dozen educators from three different systems offered good, even excellent presentations (3 described after jump).   I am very happy to report here that St. Gregory will host the next meeting of this group. (more…)

As previously noted, one part of the ISAS presentation on 21st century teaching and learning was a presentation from ISAS Executive Director Rhonda Durham, on the work of NAIS in defining 21st century essential capacities.   Here is that fine, and beautiful, presentation, which begins on its first page with a lovely wordle.  Skim through it; trust me you will enjoy it: I wish I had this good an  aesthetic design sensibility.

Mark Milliron speaking this morning, on ten emerging insights: on education, innovation, technology, and tomorrow.

The Big Ten: Democratic Change, the Swirl, the Blender, Upward mobility, get serious about play, from social to learning nets, the classroom lives, action with analytics, personal connections, and Sanity in Change!

Milliron opens with a nod to a recent book by George Friedman: The Next 100 years. Conventional Analysis suffers from a profound failure of imagination, and Common Sense will be Wrong!

Swirl: Milliron argues that swirling and blending are best metaphors for schooling today, a world of life-long learning and mixing their instructional strategies and media widely.  (more…)

In an effort to model, in a small way, the kind of learning we were advocating, our session this afternoon was structured into multiple parts.  Rhonda Durham, ISAS ED, presented first, with a very eye-appealing introduction via powerpoint (in the best possible way) the NAIS Commission report on 21st century essential capacities.

Mark Desjardins, the Head of Holland Hall offered next an excellent overview of what students need to learn for their future; he quoted a key officer of innovation at Cisco, who told Mark that the most important habit of mind is “intellectual empathy.”  Mark also spoke with great information about changes happening in colleges and universities, which he explained are very different from how they were even five years ago, and we have to respond accordingly.

After my presentation, (previous post), participants (all Heads of Southwest schools) wrote “blink” responses to seven questions (after the jump, below), and then met in groups to choose three of the seven for further discussion. (more…)

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