Global Achievemnent GapMy most frequently “re-tweeted” Blog post has to have been a post I did a few months ago entitled How We at St. Gregory are using Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap.  In the last three months, it has had 174 visits.  In that post, I wrote that one of the things we were doing as a faculty to engage and respond to the book was to write in each department an narrative (or several) of exemplary St. Gregory class sessions which demonstrate effectively the kind of teaching and learning (we think) Wagner is calling for.

On p. 65 of his book, after a long series of brief vignettes where Tony describes high school classrooms which are not working to promote the learning of the skills kids need, he then offers a three paragraph passage of an Algebra II class that is effective: it is one where “the teachers use academic content as a means of teaching students how to communicate, reason, and solve problems.” We are using this phrase as our touchstone, though we are adding to it as follows: using academic content as a means to teach students how to communicate and collaborate, reason and analyze critically, and solve problems using creativity and innovation.

I have collected now about a dozen, and I will periodically be publishing them here; we are also preparing for publication later this month a little booklet of these exemplary “Wagnerian” classroom narratives.  This one is written by Dr. Michelle Berry, and (as all of them have been, for consistency of format and style) edited by Stefanie Teller.   Please let me know what you think by posting a response;  many more to come!

AP Government – Unit on Constitutional Law

The teacher begins the unit on Constitutional Law by announcing that, over the course of the month-long unit, each student will have an important role to play every day in order to make sense of complex Constitutional questions and critique the wisdom of the United States Supreme Court.  (more…)

Jim Tracy, who heads Cushing Academy, seems to this observer to have become a very important thought leader, change agent, and provocateur for our industry of independent K-12 schooling.   Tracy is probably best known this year for the press he got over his decision to ban books from his school’s library, replacing them with e-readers, a decision that jarred many bibliophiles.  I believe, however,  it is important that he be recognized for his many other innovations and thought-contributions, both to within NAIS and more broadly to the 21st century educational movement.

One was an article he wrote last summer, a fine piece in Independent School, arguing for a form of strategic planning that was narrowly focussed on finding  (from Collins) your inner hedgehog, that thing which you can be most passionate about,  be best in the world at, and can offer you a great advantage.  He described a process for doing so at Cushing that we borrowed from last fall, to determine our new message and mantra at St. Gregory: Creating Leaders and Innovators for the 21st century.

Tracy presented at NAIS on the topic: 21st century education: Preparing the Transition Generation for Leadership (more…)

1. Change is in the Air

Big kudos to NAIS for its continuing work to challenge us, its members schools, to embrace change, and along with that challenge, to give us advice, encouragement, and tactics for doing so.   As PatBassett is fond of saying, “if you are not a school of the future, you may not be a school in the future,” and I think he is right: Disruptive Change is coming, and coming on strongly, and we need to adapt to thrive.  But with the distribution of Switch (which I have read and I like,  and will review here soon), the publication of the new Change guide from Jim Tracy and NAIS, and the multiple sessions proclaiming a new era in learning, this was powerful and valuable: TIME to CHANGE schooling.

2. New Tech Network and Edutopia featured  in general session

The morning general sessions disappointed; the afternoon general sessions rocked (though it was disappointing that the afternoon sessions seemed to have much fewer in attendance).  Best was the Thursday afternoon session on Schools of the Future; I was enthralled by this conversation, and very delighted to see two of the most importance forces in educational reform today, New Tech Network and Edutopia, get this strong attention.  (more…)

The room was packed for Tony Wagner’s session at NAIS last Friday, and I saw afterwards on Twitter that many were asking about the presentation’s availability: here it is.

A few comments:

1. Regular readers know I view Tony’s work as very valuable to the movement so many of us are enthusiastic about:  to transform education to a place where we are serious about assessing the skills and habits of mind that really matter, serious about preparation for the 21st century workforce, and serious about deeply engaging our 21st century students in authentic, meaningful performance tasks.  I highly recommend Tony’s book to all interested in this project.

2. I really appreciate slides 7, 8, and 9, which make the point that it is not just reformist K-12 educators that care about this, it is the best universities and colleges that do also.

For instance, look at what is being said at Harvard: (more…)

Go to Annual Conference WebsiteFor a variety of reasons, I didn’t blog quite as much as I did last year, or even as much as I expected to this year.   This was in large part because I struggled for three days to get quality wifi access, a topic on which I am quite frustrated.   But putting that aside, the (very!) good news is that there were  many other bloggers at the conference this year, and they contributed many excellent posts.   (let me express here a huge appreciation to Chris Bigenho for organizing everything at  http://naisac10.wordpress.com/)

I am highlighting here my top ten list of great blog posts about the event (in no particular order).

1. Jamie Baker (shared leadership) on Irshad Manji.  I knew nothing of this speaker before this conference, but I would agree she is a very important force in the world today, insisting on freedom of expression, and the independence of conscience in the world today.

2. The NAIS website post on Arianna Huffington‘s speech.”Huffington urged us to let our children know that “changing the world needs to be on their ‘to do’ lists.” (more…)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A favorite session for me at NAIS 2010 was Tina Seelig’s session, Innovation as an Extreme Sport. (The video is above is not her actual session, but it does introduce you to her).   It was terrific to see her reframe the practice of innovation away from the limitations of the science lab, or robotics workshop, and take it into the world as a collaborative, fast moving, and competitive activity.

This post is not going to try to recapitulate the narrative of her presentation, (there is a great version of that here, and I highly recommend it to those who missed the session) but rather comment upon it with some highlights.

1.  Myself, I was conflicted about Seelig’s tone and attitude at first.  I loved her energetic slides, but it seemed she was making light of this important human quality– that she was reducing it when she called it an extreme sport (think skateboarding).  But as I sit with it, I am broadening my world-view: there is still much to me that needs to be treated seriously about innovation, but there is an absolutely fine place for fun and levity.   (more…)

You have to forgive me: I tend to gush when I get excited.  And I have to apologize: I could not write all that I wanted to write, because of struggles powering my laptop– this facility is deeply lacking in outlets.

This was a really, really excellent presentation; I believe it may be perhaps the Best ever in my experience at NAIS.   The message of this event could not have been more directed to the most important thing in our work, that school must become (again) a place of living, breathing, and experiencing the active work of learning, of learning by doing, and that our students will be best prepared for their challenging futures in schools where they are tackling problems and delivering products.

I certainly appreciated and admired very much the fine words of Google’s Megan Smith and Stanford’s Shelley Goldman; they offered great enthusiasm, great wisdom,  and great encouragement.

But for me, it is the emergence here for NAIS of the very excellent New Technology High School  and Network, and its sometimes associated organization, Edutopia, as a a true, and enormously important, force to be reckoned with. (more…)

The following is a report from the NAIS President’s Breakfast and Annual Meeting.

Marcia Sprewitt opens with a pledge to focus upon sustainability, and to make no apologies for doing so, for our schools, and for NAIS itself.   And on that basis, she speaks of the controversy with ISM regarding financial aid processing and the competition between the two outfits, and defends the NAIS position against the ISM protests that ISM should be able to advertise via NAIS channels its SSS competing product.

Membership report:  NAIS now has 1399 members, a slight increase from 1385 a year ago; “NAIS is retaining 99% of its membership, which speaks to our value proposition.”   More membership growth is anticipated. (more…)

This was a great session, and my kudos and appreciation to the presenters:  CWRA (College and Work Readiness Assessment) is a powerful tool for educational reform, and an important vehicle for bringin problem-based learning into our classrooms.  It isn’t just a measurement device, I increasingly realize, but a tool that stirs the entire pot of a school culture toward more authentic assessment throughout a school. Below is my narrative of the session:

Today’s presentation, entitled Collaboration for 21st century Success, features a panel of representatives from schools actually using the CWRA.

  1. Rob Evans and the Families First Session
  2. CWRA information session
  3. Visiting with Friends
  4. Participating in the NAIS AC online community
  5. Tony Wagner
  6. Pat Bassett
  7. Klingenstein reception
  8. Thought Leaders Summit: Building Schools for a Digital Age
  9. Tina Seelig: Innovation as an Extreme Support

1. Rob Evans and Families First Session: My conference will begin Wednesday at 1 with attending the Families First session, along with my wife Carman.   (more…)

Yes– our students must practice to learn, they must do to learn, and they should also play to learn, as this terrific Op-Ed in the Times by a college psychology lecturer argues.

For the most part, this blog, entitled 21 (for 21st century) k-12, for k-12 education, focuses upon high school, and to a slightly lesser extent, middle school.  But I am a recent (recovering?) former K-8 (actually PreSchool-8) Head, and I certainly care deeply for 21st century elementary education too.

Engels piece, entitled Playing to Learn, opens with the anxiety that I too share: that too much of the “reform” coming from the Obama-Duncan adminstration focuses on learning broadly, not deeply, and not in the ways students best learn.

Our current educational approach — and the testing that is driving it — is completely at odds with what scientists understand about how children develop during the elementary school years and has led to a curriculum that is strangling children and teachers alike. (more…)

I realize I have been talking more than doing about the St. Gregory commitment to educating for innovation.   I have explained carefully to our students the four key synonyms for innovative upon which we will focus: creative, inventive, ingenious, and original.   And I have been working with a very experienced, but new to St. Gregory art teacher, Ginny Encila, to begin developing new programs highlighting innovation in the coming school year.

But here to my delight is a defined and vigorous initiative undertaken by our outstanding St. Gregory Science department: a new course in technology innovation to commence next year.

Course Title: Technology Innovation: Design-Build

Course Instructor: Dennis Conner and/or Scott Morris

A one-semester 1/2 credit course that may be taken more than once

Enrollment: open to grades 9-12

Technology Innovation: Design Build would center around students, either singularly or in small groups (if appropriate), exploring new technologies in a design and/or build context.  The class would meet during a regularly scheduled block, and most of the class time would be spent in design and construction of individual projects. Potential technologies to be investigated include: Solar (PV) panels: set-up, power evaluation, and DC/AC power conversion;   (more…)

I have written often, but until now always separately,  on the importance of both empathy and of creativity as skills essential for our students (both do appear prominently in our Essential Goals for St. Gregory students).    Today there is a fun piece linking the two, over at miller-mcune.com, an article entitled Empathy Conducive to Creativity.     This online article cites research published in the Academy of Management Journal, in a piece called “The Necessity of Others is the Mother of Invention: Intrinsic and Prosocial Motivations, Perspective-Taking, and Creativity.”

The link between inspiration and ingenuity is strengthened by focusing on the needs of others:…“intrinsic motivation is most likely to be associated with higher levels of creativity when employees are also prosocially motivated to take the perspective of others.” At least in a workplace situation, taking others’ needs into account, and seeing things from their point of view, seems to be a catalyst to creativity. (more…)

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