Monthly Archives: May 2012

We have a gap to close between “what is” and “what should be” for all students and their learning outcomes

Technology is an asset when it comes to schools meeting the challenge of insuring that more students learn at higher levels.

Whether you are a formal or informal leader in schools I believe it is important for you to know what you value when it comes to technology and learning.  Then it is important to be able to effectively communicate your thoughts and dreams related to students learning more and at high levels as a result of leveraging the assets available through the effective use of technology.  And because our students change and the world of technology changes – it is imperative to not reach plateaus where we think we have figured out all the ways to enhance learning through and with technology.

Kouzes and Posner in their book:  Credibility – How Leaders Gain and Lose It and Why People Demand It,  page 52, 2003 state: “To be credible as a leader, you must first clarify your own values . . . . . Values guide how you feel, what you say, what you think, how you make choices, and how you act. Once clear about your own values, translate them into a set of guiding principles.”

As an educator and a leader my belief is that when we focus on the goal of each and every student learning at high levels (for that individual) that there is a need for more and more opportunities for students to engage with and use technology to experience exciting learning.

I value learners and their potential.  I see schools as being responsible for being resourceful in meeting learners where they are and helping all of them to progress on their learning journey.  As I think about the future, I see schools being rich with technology and rich I adult teachers, guides and supporters helping all students learn.

Kouzes and Posner go on to say (on the same page): “To be a leader, you must . . .  develop a deeper understanding of the collective values and desires of your trusted constituents. Leadership is a relationship, and strong relationships are built on mutual understanding. Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue.”

As school leaders I think we must accept that the values of the parents whose children we serve and I am sure they believe that their child is of worth schools connecting with and that their child should benefit from schooling.  Part of that benefit from schooling has to be focused on the child learning the curriculum at high levels.   Sadly, many individual students are not finding success in schools.  We have serious drop out statistics and our achievement records clearly show that not all students are learning at high levels.  We have work to do. We have a gap to close between “what is” and “what should be” for all students and their learning outcomes.

Thus, I end as I began: Technology is an asset when it comes to schools meeting the challenge of insuring that more students learn at higher levels.

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Have you thought about the power of positive dreams?

How do we deal without differences given our propensity for conflict?

Could it be that the secret to peace is us?

Might we we willing to ‘hide the poison arrows’?

Might the third side of a conflict be the one that could be the most likely side to bring the other two sides into productive interaction?

When we are engaged in conflict and find ourselves talking with a person with a point of view directly different from ours – might we want to take their criticism as a sign of willingness to speak candidly with you and a willingness to engage in the difficult discussions that are to unfold?

How might we sow understanding, appreciation and potentially love with those that we have disagreement?

Have you ever received hospitality form someone who did not know you?  Maybe even from someone you thought my find fault with you?

How might learning about others help to working better together?

Think about this question: If you had been in the ruins of London, England in 1945, just after WW2 and you had said: ‘This is going to be the most peaceful, prosperous part of the planet.’  Do you think the people listening in 1945 would have thought you were crazy?

Have you thought about the power of positive dreams?

Have you considered how important your frame is as you meet the world?

Do you appreciate what is while dreaming about what could be and begin the journey (work) of making the dream a reality?

Do you approach conflict as potentially be something that can be resolved – not that resolution would be easy, but possible?

Please watch this 19 minute TED Talk by Harvard Professor, William Ury and author of The Third Side. All of the questions above were formed form my reactions to Ury’s material in this TED Talk.

Do we need positivity?

Dr. Gervase Bush and Dr. Ron Fry in their presentation at the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference in Belgium the last week in in April entitled Going Beyond Positivity give those of us learning about Appreciative Inquiry good food for thought.

Dr. Saskia Tjepkema works as a change and development consultant and coach in Europe She blogged about the presentation by Bush and Fry.  She has a special interest in stories, Appreciative Inquiry and strengths based development. She lives in The Netherlands.

Part of her blog is quoted here:
“With visible pleasure, Gervase puts it out there, “I am not so convinced that positivity is necessary for generative thinking. What you do want, is to appreciate. There is always something to appreciate, because it energizes people somehow. But it doesn’t have to be positive.”

Which question do we ask
To put it to the test, Ron and Gervase ask the audience: “If you want to use AI to create a great conference: which question would you ask?

  1. Tell me about your most positive high point experience of the conference (when you felt happiest, proudest, alive….)  OR
  2. Tell me about the most provocative experience you had at the conference – when you felt most challenged (perhaps your thinking was upended, your values were confronted, your ideas were challenged….).

It generates earnest responses from several people, who stand up and take the mic:

  • “My idea of feeling alive is very much the B question…. That is not about surface positivy, it is about what is deep and connecting.”
  • “The deepest of human experiences very often happen in the most painful situations. It is vital that we make use of them as well, explore them, not shy away from them“
  • “To me it is and- and. I work with people who are very ill, sometimes in the final stages of their lives. The positive questions work very well there as well.””

Read more on Tjepkema’s blog to be further stimulated by this concept.

I see the real value of focusing on ‘appretiating’ what is rather than trying to say what is – “is positive’.

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Appreciative Inquiry: “Every organization needs a positive revolution.”~ Diana Whitney

“Every generation needs a new revolution.” ~ Thomas Jefferson.   Diana Whitney, an expert in the topic of Appreciative Inquiry says:  “Every organization needs a positive revolution.”

Makes sense to me!  And it makes sense to a lot of people.

Whitney and her colleagues have done research into the behaviour of leaders of successful AI initiatives. They found four common denominators:

  • Leaders engage with other members of their organisation or community to create a better way. With being a key word here…
  • People are surprised by their own learning and changing in the process. “They typically say: I thought it would change the people. I never thought that I would learn so much myself!”
  • They care for people, profit and planet.
  • Leaders practice and believe in the power of positive attitudes, emotions, intentions and images.

Whitney captures it in a nutshell: “To me, appreciative leadership is the relational capacity to unleash the creative potential of a group and turn it into a positive power, by which you make a difference in the world.”

Here is a link to a webcast of a presentation (complete with ppt) she gave last week at the at the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference in Ghent Belgium.  It is very informative! And very positive!!!!!

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They are talking Reality!!!!

Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein are no strangers to D.C. politics. The two of them have been in Washington for more than 40 years — and they’re renowned for their carefully nonpartisan positions.

But now, they say, Congress is more dysfunctional than it has been since the Civil War, and they aren’t hesitating to point a finger at who they think is to blame.

You know, maybe we are better than we were in the period leading up to the Civil War, but that left us with a virtual fracture in our society. We don’t want to see that happen,” Ornstein says.

There book is – It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How The American Constitutional System Collided With The New Politics Of Extremism by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein

And listen to their seven and half minute interview from NPR’s Morning Edition.

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Bully – the movie. I recommend it!

Bullying is potentially brutal.  So, when the topic of Bullying is presented in a documentary movie the movie cannot be made without tackling the ugly facts and patterns of this serious issue. So, the movie Bully is not a ‘sugar coated’ covering of the topic.  It is a serious movie about a serious topic!

We saw Bully just days after it was released.  As a parent, ex-teacher, ex-principal and ex-superintendent I strongly recommend that all parents and teens see this movie and to talk about it together. 

As an educator I have first-hand knowledge and experience with bullying in and around schools.  It is real.  It clearly occurs.  In the movie they report that 13 million kids will be bullied in the U.S. the year.

 I have written about bullying on my blog Ideas, Thoughts and Collected Works that Might Inform and Influence Others.  Bully is a real problem and we can to something about it. 

We can become educated.  You might start by reading my other blog entries hyperlinked above. Read the reviews below.  Watch the trailer linked at the end of the piece. And, of course seeing the movie Bully is an important way to educate yourself and your family.

Below you will find parts of two reviews of the movie with links to the full sources.  And a link to a trailer for the movie.

What parents need to know according to Common Sense Media

Parents need to know that Bully is a no-holds-barred documentary that intimately portrays bullying victims’ daily lives. While it’s often heartbreaking and deals with tough issues like suicide, the movie addresses an incredibly important, timely topic — bullying — in a frank, relatable way that’s age appropriate for teens and relevant for middle schoolers if an adult is present to guide discussion.

What families can talk about

·         Families can talk about an individual’s responsibility to stand up, not stand by. Is that easy to do? How do you think people can really make a difference against bullies?

·         Parents, talk to your kids about teen suicide. This is an incredibly tough topic, but one that needs to be addressed. What makes some people think that it’s their only option? What impact does their decision have on their friends and family? Where can kids in despair turn for assistance?

·         Bullying is often seen as physical abuse, but Bully shows that words are just as powerful. Talk about the different ways that people can bully others; what has the most lasting impact?

·         Bully doesn’t spend too much time discussing the online/digital side of the issue. Teens: How does cyberbullying impact you and your peers?

·         School administrators come off very poorly in Bully, and there’s lots of blaming the victim. Do you think administrators leave victims feeling completely discounted? Who else can bullying victims turn to for help?

The above information and more can be found at the Common Sense Media website.  

And you can read below what GreatSchools,

a national nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and guide parents to become effective champions of their children’s education at home and in their communities, has to say about Bully.

In fact, the obliviousness of adults and their failure to take bullying seriously is one of the most disturbing aspects of Bully. We witness graphic scenes from the violent frontlines of childhood, but when kids attempt to report back from the warzone of their daily lives, the adults fail, again and again, to get it. This bad behavior on the part of adults serves as an excellent talking point with your child — to build a bridge with them and make them understand you will never respond the same way. And it’s one of the strongest reasons to overlook the movie’s adults-only rating. In the film, a brief respite of domestic normality for a bullied boy turns noxious when his otherwise well-meaning father chides him for being bullied, inquiring if he actually likes it. In another excruciating scene, a teacher pressures a bullied boy to shake hands with his clearly unrepentant tormenter. When the bullied child refuses, the teacher suggests it’s his fault for not being friendly.

Finally, and most egregiously, we get to watch principals and school board officials spin their “kids will be kids” PR campaigns exonerating themselves of responsibility. In a scene that makes my stomach turn to even recall a principal assures parents whose son has been repeatedly assaulted and whose head has been crushed underneath a bus seat: “I’ve been on that bus and those kids are as good as gold.”

We’ve all seen documentaries that push the limits to make their point, with snow jobs, exaggeration, and willful lack of balance. But this is no Michael Moore flick. At the end of the screening, we asked about the
adults whose actions we found so appalling. Had they seen the film? How many lawsuits were pending from angry educators? But the filmmakers went to great lengths to be careful. After the film had been edited into a cohesive story, they returned and watched the film with those adults who got it terribly wrong. The fact that these educators made no objection to the film’s release redeems them to some extent. These education professionals may have been clueless, but they meant no harm.

The three paragraphs above are from the review by GreatSchools.

Click here for a link to the movie trailer.

It Is A Good Time to Think About Summer and Young People

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In The Untapped Power of Summer to Advance Student Achievement THE LEARNING EXECUTIVE SUMMARY By Beth M. Miller, Ph.D. (note: this hyperlink is to a pdf – so by clicking it it will download the document which you can then open) many excellent ideas and much useful information is shared. Some of the infomation is quoted below.

The Question is asked: “How can we keep the faucet on during the summer months? One approach would be to extend the school year, which may make sense especially in light of the fact that children go to school fewer days in the U.S. than in other industrialized countries. However, this approach poses significant financial hurdles if the school calendar is to be extended more than a few days or even weeks, i.e., enough to make a significant difference. In addition, while schools have proven competent at teaching the basic math and English skills tested by standardized tests, other types of programs may be better at developing skills in teamwork, critical thinking, creativity, and a host of other areas important to building individual brain architecture and a national workforce.” – p 9

“Schools are only one of many options to keeping the faucet turned on: other tested strategies include summer reading interventions, summer school, summer camp, and hybrid youth development-academic enrichment programs, all of which have some potential for reversing summer learning loss and increasing educational equity.” – p 9

“While research into the educational effects of summer programs is still in its early stages, the evidence to date suggests that high quality academic enrichment programs can decrease and perhaps eliminate summer learning loss for low-income children. Given this powerful evidence, why is the learning faucet still turned too low (or even off) during the summer? This is a question that must now be addressed by researchers, policymakers, community leaders, and the public at large.” – p14

“Perhaps the biggest learning gap we face is not an education or even an opportunity gap for our children. It is a knowledge gap for the adults concerned about these issues—the gap between what scientists and educators already know and what society does (or does not do) with that knowledge. If, as a society, we leave the “learning faucet” turned off for the summer, the test- score gap between economically advantaged children and their less financially well-off peers will continue to grow. Schooling matters, and while schools can improve, the research says that they are already doing their job to a large extent—that is, helping all children learn. However schools cannot help when their doors are closed and when family resources become learning resources. As a result, children with less access to opportunity lose out.” – p14

“Summer deserves attention because, when the season begins, learning ends for many children. More important, the summer months represent a unique slice of time, when children can learn and develop in myriad ways that will help them in school and far beyond. Summer learning is not just about retaining information; it is about problem-solving, analyzing and synthesizing information, generating new ideas, working in teams, learning to be with all kinds of people—all skills that help build learning in a broad way, and can, at a time when schools are narrowing the curriculum, lend breadth to student learning.” – p14

Tap on the hyperlink above to read the entire excutive summary.

When it comes to advancing the learning of our students the summer is a largely untapped time of possibility for llearning.  Yes, it will leikely require schools to be more focused on summer learning.  Yes, for summers to strong times of learning – it will also take communities embracing the possibilities of summer learning. And yes, families will want to deliberately focus on using the time summer offers in ways that can help young people to stretch, develop and grow!