Legimus intellegam ea est, tamquam appellantur nec ei. Dicant perfecto deserunt quo id, ea etiam impetus pri. Mel ne vidit laboramus definiebas, quo esse aeterno
Brian Cleary – edu|FOCUS
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Author: Brian Cleary

The Problem with Shifting Paradigms

You get fooled into thinking you know where you’re going. Since my recent posts, I have received several emails. That doesn’t usually happen on to me through this site. Several of these were promoting a canned variation on personalized learning. An opportunity to use software tracking and student assessments to customize lessons. Offering more summative assessments that prescribe a specific lesson script is not what I envisioned when I began trying to fashion a path. Using a sophisticated logarithm to understand our student is a popular path on the road to individualized instruction, but frankly, it is more of what we have rather than better than what we have. It does not seem to shift our paradigm as much as it merely shakes it up. What I did see as a fundamental piece of this shift was getting devices in the hands of our students. That didn’t happen. As part of a large district, we have the agility and responsiveness of an aircraft carrier. Therefore, when a manufacturer stops production of the device you planned to hand out to 10,000 students, adapting to that change requires a process. So, with my small group of trailblazing teachers and students lined up, with nothing to hand them, we were forced to pause, plan, ponder how we wanted all this to play out. As a generalization, those “trailblazing early adopters”, are not especially patient planners. However, the power of letting, (or even forcing) that same cohort to frame their pedagogy and define their goals had more value than any of us might have thought. Our vision of what we can and want to do with our new tools has not only changed but clarified. It is not the apps that will be creating change but the access to information and options. With our planned and plotted future in sight, I was again greeted by a response to my earlier posting about digital personalized learning. This one from a friend, Dr. Kevin Clark, who is a UCLA faculty member and peer-respected expert in the use and development of neurotechnology for biomedical and educational applications. I was schooled. My vision of how technology will change our teaching and learning is limited and ill-informed. The very near future will “…include cutting-edge quantum and hybrid computing hardware for sensor, command, and control platforms; it includes cutting-edge real-time interactive cognitive computing software analyses and (deductive and inductive) decision tools, and it includes data in a myriad of forms… These technologies now outperform the world's best intellects on a range of tasks, including scientific and medical breakthroughs. These technologies don't simply inform scientists where to find the most effective result among a range of alternatives; they find the most effective result and can act on that result. …These technologies will similarly help to teach and to learn; to make education more insightful, precise, efficient, and, yes, personalized.” I cannot pretend to understand how these seismic shifts play out in a classroom but I have little doubt that our educational paradigm will be...

— Success is a combination of: Chutzpah, Sisu, and Grit.

Finally into the Final Frontier

We in education were slow to face the realities of a digital world; it could have been the cost of going to scale with digital devices in classrooms and schools and districts that bogged us down. Perhaps it was a focus on tools rather than students that lessened our collective desire to link up to hyperspace. Whatever the reason we, in education, were slow and now are once again running to catch up with the increasingly shrinking world.  The question now mumbled across staff meeting is not what does it look like to have a class filled with both kids and computers; but how do we make this shift meaningful? Personalized, problem or project based learning, and flipped instruction are all over the media, Those same pop stars of educational jargon are added to those same mumbling staff meetings; Along with the classically ambiguous terms like "paradigm shift", "best practice", and "standards based". I don’t mind the jargon, every profession has it, but the attempts to clarify new paths with new terms or ideas can and must fall short of offering complete understanding. When I am asked how to use all this technology to offer our student more than what they already have, rather than simply a shinier version of it. The response needs to come with real world (real classroom) examples and absent new unfamiliar terminology.   How does technology personalize my teaching? It doesn’t...

Newton’s Laws of classroom dynamics:

Back in September I got to watch a lot of great learning. I also listened to teachers worry about both the physical mess in their room and the mental mess in their heads. Then went home where I am reading a book on Isaac Newton: The result is that I have discovered Newton’s Three laws of Classroom Dynamics:   The first law of classroom dynamics: Learning is not Passive...

The Other Half of the Cup

This was originally written and posted Oct. of 2013 I don't re-post work often, I once again find myself in a place where I need to be reminded that there is more than just platitudes behind the meaningful work we do. The month of May with all the press, and anxiety of testing can get us frustrated as teachers. It is difficult to see the beautiful forests of education when you are being thwacked with tree branches. It a tough job.  As the post-it on my wall reminds me "the job is bigger than you, always was, always will be." 51 million kids are going to be going to public schools this year That almost 90% of the kids in the U.S. go through the public school system. 47% of those kids are in the free or reduces lunch program which is the politically correct term for families that have personal knowledge of the poverty line. The curriculum someone else created for us to teach in first grade has been pushed to down and is now supposed to be taught in half-day kindergarten classrooms. No one in government can seem to agree on what they think we should teach and none of them seems to be smart enough to ask the teachers that might actually be able to come up with an answer. The conservatives think we’re idiots that are brain washing their kids, The liberals think we’re to be pitied and brainwashed like idiots. So then I step back, and I do what I have told my students to do.  Turn off the noise, and look for some the facts The fact is we have some serious issues in public education, and lots of people are pointing those out. What seems to fly under the radar of people is other side of that fact list.  The fact  that we have had serious success as well. So I am making an active choice to look at my educational glass as half full… and in need of repair The dropout rate has dropped consistently over the last 40 years. The literacy rate in the US is 99% for those 15 years old and above. More students than ever before (21.6 million or 68%) will be going on to some kind of secondary education this September. 9 of the last 12 presidents have been gone through the public school system. Since 1901, 555 Nobel Prizes have been awarded.  338 of those prizes have been garnered by the U.S; more than a third of those were students from our public school system. In 2013, 5 Americans won a Noble Prize, more individuals than any other country.   Four of the five came through the public school system. Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Maya Angelou, Andy Warhol, Steven Spielberg, Colin powell, Alvin Ailey, and Blake Shelton, Ben Carson,  Warren buffett, Tom Brokaw, Mitch McConnell, Christ Christie, Toni Morrison, Mit Romney, Annie Liebovitz all graduated from the public school system. Six of our Supreme Court justices are products of a public school education. I am not saying the public education system is the US is perfect, I am telling you...

STEM Education grows from the Root

When the world talks about STEM education for the most part they talk around elementary teachers rather than to us.  Not as an insult or slur upon our value, simply as a mater or course. Most “real” science does not start until middle school or even high school; and for schools in poverty perhaps not even then. However, with the need to develop more students ready to step into STEM careers, and the corresponding efforts to grow educational foundations in those area elementary science will play a pivotal role. A 2012 report on student motivation toward STEM careers, out of The University of Nevada (How to Motivate US Students to Pursue STEM Careers by Md. Mokter Hossain, Michael G. Robinson) seems to disagree. Their paper suggested “Students need to be inspired in STEM subjects beginning in the middle school grades with course work extracurricular activities focusing on honing problem solving skills in the high school grades.” While I have no issue with the research of the Nevada team I believe their conclusion is short-sighted on two fundamental points. Students are not inspired by course work and extracurricular programs. They do those things because they have already been inspired.  Perhaps more importantly, waiting to provide inspiration until middle and high school is a large part of the problem. Where the extracurricular programs studied by the Nevada team found success were in projects where students could create and own their projects and therefore their success. These programs, like Science Olympiad and First Robotics are building and inspiring students to continue to pursue lofty and rigorous goals. However these activities are limited to those teens that already see appeal in such groups. In effect, they enhanced the growth rate of the STEM but not the root. A child’s opinion and attitude toward both math and science is formed long before they enter middle school.  Even the most conservative estimates suggest that student perceptions of their own abilities are established by seven or eight years old. While there is a clear distance between perceived ability and inspiration, there is also a tangible link connecting the two. Students, who do not feel they can be successful in math or science are less likely to be inspired to do math and science. Planning to ignite a flame in the belly of young science students in middle school is akin to trying to gather firewood on a rainy day.  The task is restricted to those that have been sheltered from the storm unless someone was smart enough to plan well ahead.  If parents and teachers do not create a receptive and fertile field for STEM inspiration in elementary school the quality and quantity of science programs in middle school and beyond will only serve the a same small percentage of the population. When we are successful we feel empowered to continue; the rush of dopamine through our brains masks the memory of painful struggles and past loss to convince us that we our masters of our own destiny. Students that are successful in math and science work harder than...

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