Monday, November 18, 2013

Dis-connect To Connect

            One of my latest “bug bears” is the proliferation of people being plugged in. It seems to be at the detriment of their being connected to all that is going on around them. Many of you who know me also know that I love to run. I am becoming part of a dwindling minority of runners who are not plugged in or have their devices along for every step. I enjoy greeting people as I run past them and now see very few folks that even hear my greeting, let alone acknowledge it.

            I also see more people looking at their devices while trying to walk and this usually leads to disastrous consequences. A recent example at the airport in San Francisco highlighted this. One person with ear buds firmly rooted, device in left hand, steaming coffee in right hand bumps into another person toting luggage and yells “idiot” at him after impact. Those are the times when I wish there was video replay so that it could reveal, as I’m sure it would have in this case, that the idiot in question was not the bumper, but the “bumpee”. He had no idea that he was veering but could tell you what song he was listening to and who he was talking to at the time. 

Martin Luther King once commented, “We have guided missiles and misguided men.” In today’s world I might paraphrase that to “We have connected devices and disconnected people”. I believe that folks communicate more but talk less. If collaboration and cooperation are two of the essential skills educators believe students will need to make successful transitions, we'll need to provide authentic opportunities for that to occur. It amazes me how much time two students can spend online with each other and yet still feel awkward when needing to work and talk together in class. 

I embrace all that today’s technologies have to offer and love how much of the world of education and educators has been opened up to me. I also know how much I enjoy being dis-connected and away from that same world. So next time you’re out for a walk and a runner zips past, pull out the ear buds and say “Hi”. It will do a world of good for both of us.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Reflections Of A Road Trip

On the road again -
Just can't wait to get on the road again.

            I don’t think I can fully endorse the sentiments that Willie Nelson expressed in his hit single, and a recent three week road trip that covered 20,000 km of air travel and a few more by car, has me really pondering what he was thinking! The reality is, however, there are aspects of this lifestyle I really love. They are very simply defined by the people I come in contact with. I feel truly blessed to be in the company, regularly and frequently, of quality, compassionate educators who are committed to making a difference for kids. As I reflect on this recent sojourn, that’s what keeps coming back to me.

            The trip began with a day in Los Banos, CA where I had the privilege of joining school-based administrators and district leaders on walkthroughs in a number of their schools. We were peeking in on classes to see how some of their newly designed RCD units were rolling out. There were many positive moments and mentioning one is arbitrary on my part but it was great to see how Corey led his algebra class through a lesson on Pythagorean theory and rates by engaging his students in a real world experience of being on the beach and wanting to get the shortest distance to the taco truck. Excellent kid talk that has them process math concepts while storing away the knowledge gained for a future time when they would be on the beach with a friend and know how they could get their tacos first (and maybe free depending on a friendly wager with an unsuspecting friend who wasn’t in their algebra class!).

            I followed that up with a day in Fontana where I have the good fortune of working with teachers who are using the RCD process to create new units of instruction in ELA. What’s inspiring about the work there is the collaborative nature of the group. They don’t shy away from challenges and engage in great collegial dialogue focused on making the highest quality learning experiences for their students. They do this while also placing a high premium on having fun and I benefit from their wisdom whenever we meet.

            From there, it was off to Woodridge, IL where I continued the ongoing RCD work with teachers as we revisited and refined the work already created. They’ve recognized that creating quality is not a finite process. Assistant Superintendent Greg Wolcott leads by example and is at all of the training sessions and has become as expert in the work as anyone I’ve encountered. That’s modeling the expectations and emphasizing the definition of team.

I did manage to squeeze in three days of rest so my wife and I could visit Chicago and I could run the marathon. The time went by quickly (although my race pace is slowing for some reason!).

I went back out to Woodridge for a two-day workshop on my 7 Keys book with a number of educators I was familiar with from the RCD work plus many others from neighboring districts. The group numbered over 100 and it was awesome to see how they processed the work and contextualized what I, and my co-authors (Charlie Coleman and Chris Weber), had put in print. I look forward to seeing the work these folks create when they get back to their school sites and do further planning with their colleagues.

From Chicago it was off to Toronto where I had the honor of being part of the inaugural Hulley Center event. A small but enthusiastic crowd embraced the sessions offered by this team:


My tweet of the conference was a comment shared by Ken Williams:

Does that kid believe you believe in him? @unfoldthesoul #bbsti

There will be many great conversations occurring in schools as a result of this event. I can’t help but feel inspired every time I’m in the company of Wayne Hulley. He has set the gold standard for educators in Canada and reminds me of what’s possible when you build your work on the foundation of strong relationships.

            Being a Grandpa is one of the coolest things. Liam’s first birthday was too important an event to miss so I caught the flight from Toronto to Vancouver so I could enjoy the festivities. After the celebration, it was back east through Toronto to the Assessment Now conference in Atlanta.

            I enjoyed the opportunity to present four breakout sessions and to keynote alongside Marzano, Heflebower, Kanold, Fisher, and Guskey. The participants came from all across the United States and also had a strong Francophone contingent from the Ottawa region as well as a group of educators from Singapore. Some of the comments that generated further discussion, both at the conference and on Twitter, included:

Tom Hierck made the point that we have to meet people who resist change where they are.  Put the research on assessment in front of them and have conversations shift from default practices to practices that use the research about what's best for students.
We need to change. WHY? Because we R leaving 25% of stds behind in school..stds who don't graduate. #asmtNOW @thierck

                        TeachLearn68 ‏@TeachLearn68
As educators we have a greater impact than we know. Our impact lasts in student's hearts longer than the stuff we teach. @thierck   #AsmtNOW

                        @thierckTime is precious- spend it doing things that matter such as feedback & formative assessment #AsmtNow

                        need to push the conversation on assessment to focus on student learning. #asmtNOW Use our knowledge of teaching & learning.

You know your kids better than anyone else. Context matters.                                           Take what you learn & make it work for & in your community. ‪#AsmtNOW‬‬‬