Month: June 2015

The Power of Yet – Carol Dweck

This is an amazing TED Talk from Carol Dweck and speaks to the power of teaching a kid to keep trying. Angela Duckworth calls it “grit” and calls for making kids “grittier” but one thing we have to remember is that a lot of the time “at risk” students have never see someone be successful. They were raised in the Homer Simpson school of philosophy “Kids, you tried hard and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”

We laugh when that is on our television but the problem is that students need to see and experience success before they ever believe they can achieve it. At the very least they need to be cheered as they work through the process, not for their successes but for their efforts. Think about the first time a child tries to walk, they are never very successful. But we coach them through it, we praise their efforts and push them to keep trying. Eventually they are running all over the house and we wonder why we even wanted them to be mobile in the first place. I believe that all children are born with a growth mindset, we often just pound it out of them.

What if this was your approach when teaching students:

Could you be unsuccessful? So, like Carol Dweck says, lets start pushing kids towards the Yet and have them focus on that. This will require a complete turnaround from how most of us approach education. We have been conditioned to believe that students who don’t know something by the test date are out of luck and should have tried harder. This is the process that pounds out growth mindset. Our goal as educators should be finding ways to harness the YET and harnessing growth mindset. Because no body in the world can succeed alone – Ernesto Sirolli, and you can’t learn anything unless you make mistake – Benjamin Zander.


Vision and Possibilities

I have been taking a MOOC focusing on inspirational leadership and the above video was the focus of one of the modules. After watching the video I had to sit for a while and just reflect because I didn’t know what else to do. Looking at some of Mr. Zander’s thoughts one thing I keep focusing on is the downward spiral. How often do we tell students that they are all starting with an A in class and it is their job to keep it. But what we have really told them is; hey you can’t get any better than right now, all you can do is work to not get worse. In a society that is so fixated on grades its no wonder students at the top are inclined to cheat and students at the bottom are inclined to just give up.

What if you started your school year with the philosophy of “you can give anyone and A!” How would that change your vision of students, the school year, and what was possible? Standing in the arena of possibilities, this is a powerful thing. Creating a shared vision that everyone in your school is a part of gives everyone a stake in the success and makes everyone feel like they are not just a part of the organization but an important part of the organization. That can also be a powerful motivation, believing that you are important. If we start our evaluations, of both students and teachers, off letting them know they are already and A, they just have to explain to us what they are going to do to get their how would that change the approach everyone takes towards school? Would that put education more towards the Positive Emotional Attractor and change everyone’s approach?

As you gear up for the school year what will your vision, not goals, be? Can you get yourself to move into the Michelangelo school of teaching?

Why you should be using an LMS

As technology becomes more prevalent in society today, especially in schools, the more we embrace its potential the more we move forward in helping students become engaged in their learning. Give students two assignments and tell them they only have to complete one; the first assignment is to write, with pencil and paper, a two page essay about their ideal summer vacation. Where would they go, what would they do, if money were not a barrier for this vacation? The second assignment is to write a blog post about the same thing and ask two other students questions about their expectations for their vacation; what do the expect to see, experience, do, etc.. on this vacation, and respond to everyone who asks them a question.

Now, which of the two assignments is going to accomplish the overall objective of getting students to think deeply and describe in great detail about this ideal vacation? Which assignment is going to engage their minds and get them writing more, the online or the pencil and paper assignment? One thing to remember is that the first assignment came with a length requirement and the second did not. If you were to give these two assignments I would bet you money, and a lot of it, that the average blog post would contain more writing and deep thinking than a pencil and paper assignment.

We should know that recent research tells us that students write more and better when they know their peers are going to read their writing. We also know that most students prefer to type their assignments instead of using a pencil to write them. A final thing we know is that students are very comfortable, almost too comfortable, putting things on the internet. So why not harness all of these things by having students blog their writings?

So why use an Learning Management System? Most LMS’s have a blog feature, or at least a discussion feature where you can have students write and comment. These features will get your students writing more, and with higher quality, than just writing in a journal they know no one other than their teacher will ever read. Students are also more comfortable discussing with other students through an online format, all of your class discussions with have more participation and greater thought if you are using a discussion format on your LMS. Often times your class discussions with get 1/3 of the students in class to raise their hands and offer something to the conversations, if you were to put that discussion into your LMS I guarantee your participation would be almost 100% every time. Imagine a class where you had 100% discussion participation almost 100% of the time, how much more would your students learn and experience? While we look at this don’t focus on the negative, yes students will sometimes post something inappropriate but don’t they often say inappropriate things in class? If it is logged in your LMS you have it to hold students accountable and use as a learning experience on proper conduct when using the internet.

Other great features an LMS provides are:

The ability to organize class material into lessons and units for students and parents. When we hand out papers they often get lost, if the material can be accessed online you won’t have students coming back to you asking for papers and saying they didn’t get it done because they lost it.

Many of your easy assignments, that are quick checks for understanding, can be graded directly by the LMS. This save hours of grading over the course of your school years. This also saves paper as well as cuts down on the use of pens and pencils that students often forget to bring to class. This in turn saves you the headache of providing these materials or having students go back to their lockers to get them.

You can also store your files and resources on your LMS. How many times have you found a great video online only to not be able to find it when you get back to school the next day? If you load it into the resources on your LMS this problem essentially goes away. You can also save most of your Microsoft office documents as files, helping your keep organized. Also, many LMS’s now offer google drive integration! Now you can have students use this powerful resource directly with your LMS!

While there are many other great reasons to use an LMS I believe I have highlighted the main ones. If you have any other reasons teachers should be using an LMS please comment!

Links to LMS’s, these are free ones that I have used and feel are helpful. Of course there are others out there as well as ones that cost money and offer many more amazing features. Poke around, I hope this is helpful.

Why Carrots and Sticks wont fix education

Being that science has become such a big focus in education today, one would assume that we would use its findings to help guide us into the educational future. But we seem to refuse to use the same logic we tell our students is so important.

While this is geared towards business the same things apply to education. Lets look at some of the points made in this TED talk;

The first point made in this talk turns education reform on its head; “rewards narrow our focus”. So if we are tying teacher raises to student test scores, where is our focus going? By focusing on test results we destroy creativity in our teachers, which in turn kills creativity in our students. We all should know that education is a complex organization and there are no clear set of rules when it comes to student learning. Because of this we must understand that there are also no simple solutions to reinventing an educational system that educates tens of millions of students. But for some reason our legislatures keep trying dangle carrots to move us forward on test scores and slap us with sticks when we don’t, never mind the fact that we work with a different student mindset almost every single day.

When Mr. Pink goes on to let us know that according to science incentives increase our performance on mechanical skills, but teaching and learning are not mechanical skills. Memorizing is a mechanical skill but as Einstein once said “education is not learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” This is the candle problem, we all know what matches, candles, and tacks do but using them to do something beyond their basic capabilities requires thinking or cognitive skills. As stated in the talk these cognitive skills are diminished by carrots and sticks, but still we insist on using them. Not just state legislatures but educators as well.

In the talk Mr. Pink tells us that the London School of Economics found that “financial incentives can have a negative impact on overall performance.” But our state and national leaders want to use raises and financial incentives as the basis for increasing teacher/student performance. Mr. Pink makes the statement that what we need to do, what science tells us to do, is pay people fairly and adequately and give them Autonomy. Ask any college student if they would want to work in a field that compensated them adequately and give them Autonomy and I guarantee you would get overwhelming yes responses. Instead we have this high stakes, financially incentivized, environment and the response has been :

Drops of 53% in our most populace state, down over 10% nationally and down steeply in states that are leading the charge in “educational reform. ”

A final point to focus on here is the statement that about half of google’s new innovations are created during their 20% time. If that is the case, along with the other examples he gives, on top of the studies done by MIT and the London School of Economics I am astounded by the fact that education is one area paying the least attention to educational studies. It seem to me its time to get back to using science inĀ solving the problems of the world.