Proficient at what? Are we moving forward?



Computer programing work with students during enrichment block.

Here at this small school we have been working for the last three years on educating ourselves and trying to make some progress with the education that we provide our students. It has been a slow process but has had some very positive results.

We have been working within the backdrop of the Dept. of Education supporting a more individualized education environment and a focus on the Common Core Standards within a proficiency base system. These were on our minds as we did our work on our learning environments.     What did we see as outstanding examples or models?      There was talk of classes based on interest and ability rather than the day that you were born.     There was an interest in a schedule that could be flexible enough to accommodate many remixing of students across an age span. These ideas or questions all seemed to be headed in a common direction, not just in our minds, but also with the Dept. of Education.

With the Dept. of Education supporting the individualized program models (Inevitable- Mass Customized Learning) made possible with the  implementation of technology, we spoke about a blending of options that we could possible offer here at AVS. We have the technology and an interest in a change, as modeled in the 1st and 2nd grade program, and with leadership from the teachers supported by the principal, we spoke of teachers teaching their strengths or passions and students filling in at a level that would be a match for them. This called for the loosening of the “classes” that we have based on birth order. Both the State and we recognized that in the present education landscape students and teachers might be better suited by an environment that would offer choice around learning paths.

To fit with the idea of learning paths we were able to dovetail into the proficiency based learning environment that is being promoted both nationally and at the state level. The idea that an individual can demonstrate proficiency on a topic and move on to another topic of interest based on assessments administered by teachers was a natural fit with the idea of individual learning paths.

We tried to prioritize ideas and then develop a implementation plan that had both short term and long term goals. We felt very positive about the work that we had done and the path that we had created before us. We were so ready to set off on this next chapter of learning here at AVS.

Our first step was to see what we could do about creating a schedule that would start to have some flexibility in it to allow for the beginnings of student movement around the ecosystem. There were two pillars that we tried to adhere to. One was to have a school wide math time and the second was to have a dedicated time for teachers to work with students who were needing intervention with core subjects and enrichment topics.

Having math classes at the same time would allow individual students to find their “best fit” for learning math. They could move to a class were the level of instruction was a match for their learning. A 6th grade student could go to learn about functions or solving multistep questions with a group of students were working on that topic in advanced math. They could do this because they would have demonstrated a level of proficiency in content that leads up to solving multistep equations. Again, the schedule is fitting with the proficiency based model to allow students create their learning paths.

The intervention/enrichment block would allow teachers and students time to work on learning that is based on individual student needs. This might be a student getting time to work on a few of the reading standards that they need to demonstrate proficiency in or it may be a student working on an independent research project with a teacher. It could also be a time to explore learning with a foreign language or in the visual and preforming arts or science and technology. This would allow students to have their individual learning paths and also allow the school to fill a requirement to provide intervention for students who do not meet benchmark standards.

As we started the year we had in place a schedule that was a step in the direction that we had defined in our visioning work. The first trimester was a success from a number of perspectives. We were able to work with students who needed intervention at most every level. Students were able to be placed in a more advantageous learning environment for their math standards. Students were able to have experience an enrichment in art or spanish or music for at least  one day of the week. There were students excited about the new opportunities that were now a part of their new learning environment. Teachers were feeling that they were having time to successfully work with students and meet them on a more individual scale. It was a very positive environment to be working and learning in and that was our goal.

We had to abandon some of this schedule as there were fiscal issues beyond our control that resulted in reduced teacher time. The schedule had to be changed and the result was a limited intervention time for teachers and students. The common math time remained intact.

As I write this, the second trimester has just finished and things that are still in place are working, those that had to be let go are being missed and will be from the remainder of this year. It has involved the intervention time that was everyday and had to go to a three day a week offering with fewer opportunities for enrichment and intervention.  Students have had to backtrack to an environment and schedule that is less focused on the individual and does not allow students time to explore topics of interest or need. This negative impact has been felt at our school this last trimester but if we can get back on track, I look forward to getting back to that level of learning that we were able to offer last fall.

Are we proficient at it this yet? Not yet!

When will we be? I am hoping sooner rather than later.

Here is to a forward looking group of teachers and administrators to move our learning environment to a successful place!



Re-think School Relationships.

Who are your best Salespersons?

More New Relationships are Forming

Again referring to this article by Jayson Richardson can we be thinking about changing the relationships within the school community. 

“Your worst customer [student] is your best friend”.
What if leaders of schools looked at those students who are performing worst and treated them as allies? These students know what is not working in the system and probably have lots of great ideas about what could be done to improve things.  On the flip side, Jarvis says that “Your best customer [student] is your partner” (p. 22). Ensuring that students are happy and getting the education they want / desire / deserve makes them happy customers. These customers / students are the best salespersons of the school. What we do now is say to students that we, as leaders, know what is best for all students’ futures. This is despite the fact that we have no idea what the future holds or what specific skills they will need for jobs that simply do not exist yet. This has been discussed here,here, and here.
Does this idea of the “worst students are your best friends” link somehow to the Ross Greene reading Lost at School?  Your thoughts? 
Does it connect to the Mass Customized Learning model that the state is exploring?  

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The First Technology

Time for What?

The above link is an interesting read with thoughts about time and its impact on learning. Much of it high school focused but still worth the mention.

What if we weren’t hemmed in, or were less hemmed in by the clock when it comes to learning?

Share any thoughts you have about time and education in the comments below.

“The thing we have become worst at in our schools is helping students get ready for anything except more secondary schooling. We usually do nothing to even prepare students for universities, much less anything else, and here, time is the key factor. How do you choose to “study?” Where do you choose to “study”? and of course, When do you choose to “study”? Those key questions which determine university success in many ways are completely blocked from the primary and secondary experience because we insist on running our students as if they were a (French, not American) train system, with every moment accounted for. How, with your clock training, will your students even know what to do with themselves if they get a job where some of the time-use decisions are theirs?”  Ira Socol

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A List of 10!

Think About It
         There are so many lists of things that students should be taught, what they should be learning, and what they should know and much of those lists have to do with “21 Century Skills”. But are there truly new skills that trump some of our “Old School Skills”?

This list from Ian Jukes sets a broad, meaningful and, in my opinion, concise look at what we could all use as skills for living in this day and age. A great foundation that seems to include both traditional and more contemporary skills.

Looking at this list after a meeting last night about the Next Generation Science Standards that will be appearing next year makes me see some close connections between the “science standards” and this basic top ten list. Encouraging that we might be able to find some common ground with a meaningful, manageable set of core needs for our students and society.

What are your thoughts?

  1. Read
  2. Type
  3. Write
  4. Communicate effectively, and with respect
  5. Question
  6. Be resourceful
  7. Be accountable
  8. Know how to learn
  9. Think critically
  10. Be happy

photo credit: Marco Bellucci via photopin cc

Give People Control

I was trying to find a way for us to have discussions online about issues we need to share.

Please add to the discussion with your ideas and comments below. Here is some food for thought. Choose one or all the questions and share your thoughts and ideas.

New Relationships are Forming

“Give the people control and we will use it. Don’t and you will lose it”. 
Are school leaders losing students (i.e., as physical, emotional, or intellectual dropouts) simply because they are trying to control the system?
What would happen if students and teachers had more control over the learning process?
What if these stakeholders controlled what they learn, when they learn, how they learn, and why they learn it?
Co-collaboration / co-learning / co-construction could be the norm. 

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Mindstorms Prep Missions

Robot Checklist

These must be done in order.

Program these steps on the brick and have an adult initial them after they are done.  After you programs them all on the brick then do the same programs on the computer and have an adult initial them when they are done. 

1. Forward, see something, backward, hit something, stop

2. Backward, see something, turn right for 2 seconds, stop.

3. Turn left for 2 seconds, go straight until it sees an object, repeat

4. Backup until it hits something, go straight until it sees something, repeat.

5. Play a sound, go backward until it hits something, repeat.

6. Forward 5 feet, turn left, stop

7. Back up left until it sees something, back up right until it seems something. 

8. Back up right for 2 seconds, clap, go forward for 5 seconds, push the button on the back, and repeat.

9. Backwards left until it sees your hand, forward for 5 seconds, stop

10. Make up your own 5-step program.

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MLTI Meeting

Needs for MLTI Leader Role

A meeting time for: introduction to staff about the Transformation process around technology.

    How can we move from  Substitution to Augmentation and beyond.

    What is the purpose for using the technology – is there a purpose for using this!

    The kids don’t need to be taught how to do Keynote, iMovie, etc.

    Let them get this done and find the best fit for the project. Give them the freedom to find the match.

You can then look at setting up a chat room in StudyWiz having a collaborative setting for the kids.  The class will look like chaos.  Get used to it!

These are my thoughts as the presentation was in progress.

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