Disrupting A Culture of One Right Answer
Dec21

Disrupting A Culture of One Right Answer

Disrupting A Culture of One Right Answer In my 17 years of teaching, I have come to understand one truism. Multiple choice questions WILL NOT, HAVE NOT and DO NOT give us rich information about student learning and growth. Period. Full Stop.   This epiphany has haunted me for years because of the countless multiple choice tests I gave, and the subsequent judgements I formed about a student’s abilities based on how they answered. I wish I could say…that was the way I was taught… so in my defense, I didn’t know any better...but that would be complete bullshit…and you might want to stop reading this blog,  if you want me to play nice with schools still teaching students to regurgitate answers. I knew better… Truth is I knew better!  I was once a student. I knew that multiple choice questions didn’t show my real understanding – and that I could easily manipulate, even sell my learning short, to meet the needs of a test. I knew that if a willing teacher might have asked me a question in a different way – my explanation of the event, or problem, would have been so much more illuminating and profound. So I knew! This is why the guilt started to get the best of me.   I knew instinctively using multiple choice questions to gather real insight about what my students knew, understood  and could do – was not teaching and learning at its best.  Sadly,I found countless reasons to ignore this fact. Maybe I used multiple choice questions to chase after an easy grade  – but when I did – I settled. By my second year of teaching, I had developed a real passion for teaching and learning  and it broke my heart to continue the facade. So, I stopped… or I tried to stop, but  one big impasse stood in my way. The status quo of school got in the way Like a boulder blocking a mountain road, what stood in my way, was the status quo of school itself.  The administration (district level admin) who wanted my grade level PLC (Personal Learning Community) to discuss every month how our students did comparatively on identical unit tests we administered in our classrooms. That meant,  based on examining students answers on a multiple choice test, we could somehow grow as teachers and improve our instruction (it hurts me to even repeat this line of thinking). This was based on an underlying fallacy that all students learn in the same way – and that their chosen answers somehow gave us insight into our teaching abilities.  In addition, there was always this pressure to have a lot of grades I could post in my gradebook, because as we went to online grades –...

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My Journey to Disruption
Jul28

My Journey to Disruption

Part One: Pause for a minute. Visualize your childhood classroom; What was it like? Did you sit in rows? Robotically complete worksheets? Answer questions at the end of the chapter? Back then, knowledge was static and isolated, it belonged to those who retained it and who were tasked with passing it on. That is the way it was…now think for a moment is it different today? Our students have never known a world without computers or the internet. They are the ‘Google generation.’ They have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips, experts at the click of a mouse and a myriad of classrooms a mere video call away. From the moment I decided to become a teacher, I instinctively knew I could NOT teach in a traditional way, with students in rows being compliant learners, but I didn’t know where or how to begin making changes. There was no Twitter – or real time professional development to help me rethink instruction in my classroom. Then, once locked in a classroom for six periods a day,  it was harder to learn directly from other teachers who were also questioning the status quo. I knew I wanted to do things differently.  So, my journey began by looking for educational heroes – those who helped me began to innovate instruction and stop believing in the power of a textbook or the data points of a multiple choice test. When I first began my teaching career, disruption had an entirely different meaning. It was associated with poor behavior in the classroom and was usually accomplished by a class-clown who was showing off his or her comedic skills during class – or talking too much to a friend instead of listening to the teacher . In fourth grade, my own teacher nicknamed me “Motor Mouth” because I was apparently one of those types of disrupters…wonder what she would think of me now. Now I speak and hopefully disrupt for a living. Now I am a different kind of disrupter…one who asks why? One who sees the real pitfalls of standardized testing and someone who wants to do something about it! Not for myself, but for the students whose passion we never realize by teaching them answers. I want  to shake-up education so much that what floats back down is something that looks completely different. Something fun, full of questions, full of failure and an environment that values application over practice. I want kids playing the real game, not showing up for twelve years of practice. As I began thinking about how I would change instruction in my classroom, I always seemed to go back to my favorite movie. During high...

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Connected Learners Require Connected Teachers
Jul27

Connected Learners Require Connected Teachers

“Our task is to learn how to build smart rooms—that is, how to build networks that make us smarter, especially since, when done badly, networks can make us distressingly stupider.” ― David Weinberger, Too Big to Know   True Confession:  Sometimes I fancy myself more of a motivational speaker than an educational speaker. This is because I want so badly to inspire change, not for me but for the millions of students who no longer find school worthwhile. To inspire people, sometimes you have to make them a tad bit uncomfortable.  To accomplish this in a gentle fashion, I borrow a line from a trusted friend. The line is a hard to hear for some people and others leap out of their seats ready to get on board!  The line is this: “In 2015, if you’re not on Twitter you are becoming illiterate.” George Couros. says this solely to make you think!   By repeating it, so do I –  hopefully. It is intended to solicit a certain response…I prefer the jump-out-of -your-seat kind, but it’s really about what you might be missing because you’re not building your own smart room. Maybe it is about the opportunities that are lost in our classrooms, when a lack of connectedness,  makes it hard to fully understand the mind of the connected learner – that learner who sits in front of us each day. With that being said, if you are a jump out of your seat – ready to get on board kind of person, here are four easy tips to becoming a connected learner and to constructing your very own smart room. Get a Twitter Account Use it to develop your own PLN or Personal Learning Network. Try not to use Twitter to follow Kim Kardashian and LeBron James… instead follow amazing educators who are doing great things to help change education. Learn from them, in a way no professional development or college class can quite convey. Start small and pick 20 amazing educators you trust and just watch and learn from them. See who they interact with – look at what they share and let the connected learning begin. When you are ready you can start to interact with them. Until you are ready, be a lurker. We all started there and I give you permission to stalk as many educator as you like. Attend EdChats. Almost every state has an #edchat going on at different points during the week. For more information on EdChats watch this quick tutorial and follow @ChatSalad because they will remind you when chats are starting. A great first chat might be #caedchat – which is every Sunday night starting at 8pm PST. Just follow the hashtag one Sunday night and see what edchats...

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