#zerotohero What Might Have Value?

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Our challenge, Day 12,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to carry forward the conversation from one of the three blogs for which we commented on yesterday.

Pause…

In The Learning Pond by Grant Lichtman, Grant asks:

“Innovation is the process of enhancing the value of an organization.  In schools, if we believe that what customers will value in the future is the same as in the past, we run a real risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant as educators. How do we gauge what might have value?”

The rest of the article explains some truths about schools — inward thinking, bound to historical models, and in need of listening to families and students. He grounds the solutions in the work of  Stephen Wunker, who works in new market creation [See Forbes ], suggests ways to assess future value. Be sure to read the post for Grant Lichtman’s application to education.

As I read these statements:

Innovation is the process of enhancing the value of an organization.

How do we gauge what might have value?

I considered the past twenty-seven years of my teaching and the many teachers I have known. Those days are gone. What days? Days of respecting the professional decisions of teachers to help students learn, helping them in many ways through as much feedback and practice projects as needed for them to grow in spurts as each is ready to learn. Students engaged in art and music, often integrated in reading, writing, and social studies projects. School could enhance the talents of each student this way, and the projects helped each student learn or practice the needed skills. We didn’t focus on the skills; we focused on the students and added to the projects in different ways for different kids. Teachers spent hours finding – innovating – just the right lesson or activity that would help a kid build his or her skills as they completed the work. There was a wholeness about the process, a compassionate  community of learners with the teacher as guide. A social studies unit becomes a skit, a poster, a speech that synthesizes the essence of the topic. A science topic led to jars and boxes in back of the room or on the window sill to apply and try the learning from the book. Both of these include reading and writing, and many included math. If a kid didn’t learn through the one way, he might learn from his neighbors, or the next project. There were goals, joy, feedback, and continued support in a learning community that respected the wholeness of us as people. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development [ ASCD ] promotes a Whole Child Initiative – be sure to read about it, and I hope you support it.

Today, schools teach in skills by mandates in often scripted curriculum with specific posted objectives to force students to practice the skills in hopes they will pass standardized tests that supposedly test those skills. But kids are funny and learn in different times and ways, and they want to learn more than just those skills. They want authentic learning— learning like John Dewey espoused a century ago, learning that reflects the world in which they live.

So I think Grant Lichtman is correct — schools today are bound to history – a factory model. And schools today are inward looking — and top down — purchasing more and more skills-based programs without realistic connections to students’ lives, especially in schools deemed “poor performing.” Those schools receive more skills instruction and less art, music, and real reading for their own purposes. In addition, the students are speaking out about their need to create and connect as they do in their real lives. However, schools have no funding for the infrastructure or technology to update to this type of access and learning, nor do teachers have the time to learn or try a curriculum with technology tied more closely to students’ learning ideas. Technology alone doesn’t change the direction of education — it will take the teachers again, focusing on what students need — in a more authentic, whole way.

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So, “How do we gauge what might have value?”

What do you think? Do you think we might need to step back and allow teachers to plan for the students in the classrooms, instead of planning for the objectives for a test? Do you think we might bring back projects with art and music with reading and writing and help students develop their thinking, their talents, and their own ways of demonstrating learning? Even without technology, these creative and authentic projects focus students’ critical thinking and motivation in learning. And that would be the value to which we would gauge innovation and success.

Dan Pink explains that people are motivated by autonomy, purpose, and mastery. In the past before the emphasis on standardized tests, teachers had the purpose of guiding students’ learning and the autonomy to make it happen using their mastery of curriculum and instruction. And teachers hooked students on the purpose with projects, providing a level of autonomy through choices so students could master the skills needed with support in various activities.

Somehow, we’ve lost that by expecting the impossible: that all children will learn the same things at the same time — in order to pass a test and receive a score that says they have “met” or “not met” the standards. Hmmm. Autonomy? Purpose? Mastery?

Think about your best experience in school. Do you remember when you inferred the main character knew her enemy was nearby? Or do you remember creating something, debating something, doing something?

Let’s step back and see this big picture of learning and what might have value. But you’ll need to step into each classroom to know it’s truth.

#zerotohero Commenting

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Our challenge, Day 11,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to comment on three blogs — dig in and see something of interest and let the blogger know. Start a conversation and add value to the ideas.

Pause…

Draw and Shoot by Karen McRae

I chose art — photography. It’s winter here as well, and these photos of frost art will amazing you. They are copyrighted, so know that. They brought me back to my childhood as the wind whistled through the wooden windows not quite fitting the frame, and not insulated as today’s windows. So Jack Frost would paint his world and we would tell the stories within his world. That’s what I was reminded of from these beautiful and stunning images.  Thanks, Karen.

The Learning Pond by Grant Lichtman

Education is in transition; it is transforming, and we aren’t sure how. It will not be smooth or as expected, because technology and its connectivity is changing the our resource availability, and no matter what the leaders and politicians want to demand, the reality will become what the learners and their families need. Grant shows us we are still learning what will create value in education.

The teacher will no longer be the expert; the teacher will now be a guide, the facilitator for personalized learning. I’ve vlogged about a possibility here for another group (Fellowship of the Open Spokes ), but Grant is at the forefront of moving schools forward. He’s written a book and is helping specific schools move into learning that is relevant to their needs. My fear is that the schools most in need of the freedom to innovate, will be drowned in regulations. Follow Grant for more news on his ideas and progress.

In the Trenches by Kelly Hines

An old twitter friend, Kelly was always a great resource for me as I was learning to integrate technology into my classroom. I’d lost touch or tweets, and found her here in WordPress as the source for another blogging challenge. Kelly has always shared her learning as an educational leader, so I wasn’t surprised to find the challenge originating with her group on her blog!  Glad to be reconnected, and to find ideas for posts in the challenge.

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Like the fractals in Karen’s frost, ever repeating their beauty with each new growth, I have discovered Grant and Kelly, two leaders still guiding educators forward, still expanding knowledge with each new post, adding value to education for those who connect with them. And by searching and reaching out myself, I found them here. That is the nature of life, the cycle of learning and growing through connections. And from these three I can share with my colleagues and followers, and spread the knowledge. Who knows where it will grow next?

How did your blog comment added value to your world?

#zerotohero Abouts, Follows, and Widgets

Our challenge, Days 8, 9, 10  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge are:

Day Eight: Make Your About Page Irresistible
Day Nine: Head Deeper Into the Blogosphere

Day Ten: Widgets

So.

Pause…

Spruce up the About page. 

That’s not easy — I added my self-portrait poem with links to my own images. Probably not that exciting, but does provide more of a picture or the “who” behind the “what.”

Follow More Blogs

I wonder why there is no “Education” topic? I guess education is only important to bash and bat around in the media. But one of my finds is a fabulous new blog to follow, Rainshadow Farm Institute, by a community college teacher who “unschools” her own kids. She is an anthropologist interested in sustainable food systems. I think this is important work, and I believe people should take such an interest in the children’s education that they just might choose to “unschool” them. I do believe, however, that it would be far better to participate in public schools than to leave them.

Widgets

Widgets I love. It’s easy to get carried away. I had originally very few, but with this challenge I added:

  • Follow This Blog — I called it “Catch New Posts” but perhaps I should change it to fit the theme — Pause longer by subscribing.
  • Goodreads — always nice to share good books
  • Instagram — I call it Instagramma, because, once again, I joined to keep up with that oldest granddaughter!
  • Flickr: I love photography and creating images in visual poetry. I am in year to of a 365 photo project.

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I had slacked off on this blog, but now I’m loving it again. Personalizing the space, thinking about it’s purpose, has helped clarify what I want to do here. Should I challenge myself to 52 reflections this year? Or — For sure, how about you, are you up to a 26 biweekly post?

Do my readers / followers accept that challenge?

#zerotohero The Header

Our challenge today, Day 7,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to play around with the header.

So.

Pause…

I really had already played around to keep a simple theme, but I do love to create. So I found my original pause2play logo created in 2010. I cropped it to just the p2p part in Preview and inserted that into Keynote [ Mac Apps ]. I was able to create a squiggly line with a shadow that leads to the two pause icons and another play icon. I adjusted the colors, lines, and opacity and added the shadow.

I decided it needed a little more, so I added my signature line, Reflect Curiosity and Wonder. I ponder and reflect about things I’m curious about, and I try to reflect that curiosity and wonder back to my grandkids and students. I copied that text and flipped it vertically, and made it translucent. I exported it as a tiff and imported it into Sketchbook Express, where I cropped it [Keynote exports the size of a slide] and saved it as a jpeg.

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I don’t know if I’ll keep it. But I love Keynote for the way I can create things like this when I need them as well as it’s slide presentation capabilities.  The header looks OK on mobile devices, and that’s important to one’s consideration.

Tuesday Evening and Music #zerotohero day

Our challenge today, Day 6,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to embed something new into our post. I chose to learn how to embed SoundCloud into a WordPress site. Note: Day 5 was theme — I spend a lot of time choosing this one, so I’d already accomplished that.

Pause…

Stop to smell the roses — that ‘s the expression. And today I pause on Tuesday, busiest day for Scott at the newspaper. In fact, he even wrote a melody about it:

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In a civilized society people have time for art and music. I wonder how civilized we are, today, in schools, where art and music are pushed aside for test prep and posted objectives so we all look just the same, as Pete Seeger would sing [this one is sung by trendless]:

And what if we don’t learn the important songs? Martin Luther King Day is coming soon — how many students will sing “We Shall Overcome.”

And what is the history of “We Shall Overcome?”

And are we doomed to repeat history because we don’t have time learn the beat of the history, the songs that carry forward our feelings and our beliefs, and bring us together through music?

Pete Seeger has some words about that…

Amazing!

So take your time, smell the roses, listen to your favorite music, and share music together. And call your local school boards and let them know you want music in schools. Do it on Tuesday.

Day 4 #zerotohero Use the Reader

Our challenge today for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to find new blogs to read and follow using the WordPress.com Reader. [ info here and tutorial here ]

I connected my Twitter account and found the blogs for many of my Professional Learning Network.

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I discovered I could click the LIKE button, and then in  the reader find those posts I like:

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You can see the comments you’ve made:

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Amazing.

Try it. You’ll love it.  NOTE: You can even use the reader to read blogs on other platforms, such as Blogger.  So, really — try it.

Day 3 #zerotohero First Posts Jump In the Middle

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Pause…

What’s on my mind? What was I thinking about writing when I started this blog, or started this blogging challenge?

That’s our assignment today for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge.

I’ve written my reasons here and here, but wondered what my first post presented. Jump in the middle...  fits with this task, as it refers to:

“Beginnings are always messy.” ~ John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright

and explains a strategy we use in our writing classroom: just jump in the middle — starts writing, and go back to fill in the before and afters. So I’ll jump in the middle of that first post and continue:

I talked about the beginnings of our school year with this:

“…from Teaching Unmasked by John Spencer:

‘Still, in the middle of May, I always feel that I should have done more. I should have given better feedback on work. I see some students and think, “I hardly know you.”’

I so identify with that. It’s a sinking feeling because I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student. I should have slowed down, taken one more day for sharing, one more day for writing/conferences, one more choice project each quarter. Each of those would meet objectives and meet the human requirement of personalized learning.”

What happened? We did take pictures of parent involvement, but they didn’t make it into a portfolio, although they easily could.
Why not? Because no matter how I try to slow down, I’m always faced with “I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student.”  It happens every year, and now — teachers are also tasked with documenting everything to prove what they do.  And all of these mandates are based on “research.” Today I read Ira Socal‘s post about research. It’s a long read, and an important one. He quotes Peter Høeg:

“When you assess something, you are forced to assume that a linear scale of values can be applied to it. Otherwise no assessment is possible. Every person who says of something that it is good or bad or a bit better than yesterday is declaring that a points system exists; that you can, in a reasonably clear and obvious fashion, set some sort of a number against an achievement.

“But never at any time has a code of practice been laid down for the awarding of points. No offense intended to anyone. Never at any time in the history of the world has anyone-for anything ever so slightly more complicated than the straightforward play of a ball or a 400-meter race-been able to come up with a code of practice that could be learned and followed by several different people, in such a way that they would all arrive at the same mark. Never at any time have they been able to agree on a method for determining when one drawing, one meal, one sentence, one insult, the picking of one lock, one blow, one patriotic song, one Danish essay, one playground, one frog, or one interview is good or bad or better or worse than another.” – Peter Høeg Borderliners

We are all points on an imposed scale.

And improving those points, that scale, on those tests demands that we work towards those goals, rather than towards the learning needs reaching out from the eyes of the students in front of me. We’ve lost our true purpose of education — to draw out the strengths, to lead the person learning — from where each is to where each dreams to be.  Sad, isn’t it?

Over break, I wrote a poem and sketched a book entitled, “Know That You Can” [ link when available] for The Sketchbook Project.  A verse encourages:

Whatever they try

They hear that, “We can”

Together, learning they could

And knowing they can.

The expectations and mandates of teachers, principals, and schools today do not encourage a positive, nurturing, engaging, yet challenging environment. The only focus is on those numbers because the consequences for not achieving those scores are devastating: school takeovers, school closures, teacher firings, negative community images, more intensive skill-based focus without art, music, drama, etc. The reality of how we learn is ignored.

There’s tons of research on how we learn, how we are all so different and do not learn at the same time in the same way. Here’s just a bit from Larry Ferlazzo’s blog at EdWeek.org :

“…Research by Rosalie Fink…Different students have different interests. Teachers can be most effective not by forcing students to learn from one standard curriculum, but by helping them to discover what they are passionate about, what they are especially interested in. Then learning becomes a natural activity for every student.”

It just makes sense, but the focus — in politics and by those who don’t work in schools but make the mandates — is not about students and sense, but is about sensationalism and scores.

So, even though I need to work with my student’s passions and curiosity, as soon as I get back to school I’ll be expected to teach the standards that supposedly teach to the test (and that’s another story). Our school is filled with dedicated teachers and paraprofessionals and a principal who want the best for students to lead them to the opportunities we don’t even know they’ll have. But we’re tied to mandates that teach to today, no matter what the student’s vision is.

However, we have one addition to our curriculum: Genius Hour, which is a time for students to follow their own strengths through coding, art, computer science, their interests. [ More Genius Hour ] It’s a small amount of time, but it’s a start.  [ Personalized, Connected Learning: Here and Here ]

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Progress [ Genius Hour ] has occurred. And I’ve written this post, which shows 1) that change occurs slowly and 2) I’ve got other passions [ writing and drawing ]. Clearly, I know how and as a child I knew how to “play school.” But if you read Ira Socal’s post, you’ll see why learning, and school, is not the same for everyone; so each school needs to be different — one size does not fit all [ nor does one curriculum nor one test ].

What do you think? Have you accepted the negative view of schools, or will you dig into your school district and support schools that focus on helping kids find their strengths rather than focus on tests? The change comes from you — the people.

What’s next? I’m going to jump into the middle of a blog that holds things I consider worth looking into, but I never get to [ So Consider ]. That’s the source for ideas, and an idea for you to try, if you get stuck for ideas. Join Twitter, follow hashtags of interest to you, and send those especially noteworthy to a blog for you to peruse later for further writing.

So, although my original intent was to “jump.. in the middle of an idea, pausing to reflect, and planning how it will or how it could play out in the classroom community,” this new beginning has been a bit messy, but I do want to branch out. This post presents a glimpse into the broader implications of our school system’s current status and brings it back to working around the dilemma through Genius Hour.

What about you? How do you learn? When do you learn? Is it like school is and has been, or do you learn differently? How would school today need to change to accommodate your learning needs? Does your standardized test score from your school years reflect your success today?

Jump anywhere in the middle of this blog, and extend the ideas.  That’s what blogging is all about… extending the conversation. It’s OK if it’s messy; we’re all still learning — because real learning takes time.

Day 2 #zerotohero About – What’s your name?

Day 2 #zerotohero : A WordPress Blogging Challenge

What’s your blogs name? Pause 2 Play

What does it mean? About this blog  and its history

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Pause to Reflect…

Today’s challenge is to choose a title [ Pause 2 Play ] and add a tagline [ Pause and reflect to play and learn… ] that will reflect our blog’s purpose. In addition, an “About” page or widget helps readers know what your blog is about, which helps drive readers to stick around.

This blog began in 2010 with Posterous, which became extinct, so WordPress became the new home in 2013.

And it was time for a change. Today I shortened and clarified my  About this blog  and revised the history page to include the new focus. I made sure the main ideas were at the top and colored for quick review.  I found some extinct links and made corrections; I added new pictures; I revised how readers navigated to these pages. I had already chosen a cleaner design that works as well on mobile devices as it does online, for my purpose at least.

Play to Learn…

Whenever I visit a blog, I like to know who the person is [ About Me ] behind the words, to know their perspective and focus. I think it’s important to know the name and how to contact them. I realized I needed a quick and short page for what the blog is about, although you can usually tell by the first few posts and by the categories. A tag cloud also helps. I really would like to be better at deciding categories. I’m sure we’ll get into that in this challenge.

So, in the image below, you will se the title of the blog, two pages showing [ Home and About ]. At right at the top is the tagline and below that is the link to the About Pause 2 Play, which briefly explains the blog’s purpose.

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What do you think of the changes? What about your blog? Will your readers know who you are and what your focus is?

Day 1 Zero to Hero #zerotohero

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Pause to reflect…

Zero to Hero is a WordPress.com blogger’s challenge for newbies or veterans to jumpstart the new year with a good habit of writing and working with your blog.

Day 1 Questions:

Why are you blogging, rather than keeping a personal journal?

If I wrote in a journal, I couldn’t read it tomorrow — I’d want to get the words written down fast and fast writing is illegible. I wonder if others feel the same way today. Typing on the computer brings clarity to my thoughts. Why do a personal blog instead? I have family and friends afar, colleagues here and there — so what better way to connect ideas than with an online venue?

What topics do you think you’ll write about?

I’m an educator and wonderer. Here I can write about the things that make me pause and think, to play around with the ideas and get feedback from others. My original purpose was education, but there’s so much more to the world.

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

The  family and friends afar, colleagues here and there.

If you blog successfully throughout 2014, what would you hope to have accomplished?

One thing I’ve written about for my students is how blogs are conversations to add value to others’ ideas. I hope to do better at that, learning from and sharing with others on many topics.

Play to Learn…

And that’s why I re-committed here with a non-education challenge, to engage in conversations on other topics because, quite frankly, I’m tired of the attacks on teachers. Perhaps, I just need a different focus after twenty-eight years in the classroom.  Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to stop, and I’m an engaged, connected, geeky teacher who wants the best for her students for their opportunities for their futures. And I work with an amazing group of educators who should be recognized for their hard work. I also connect with some of the best teachers and educators in the country. But to stretch a little into my own passions beyond education would also benefit my students. As you can see, it’s hard to stop thinking education and teacher because, that is what life is: “Life is for learning.”

Will you join in the learning? Come on!  It’s 30 days! You can do it!

What Is Really Important In Life

Pause to reflect…

What is important in life? Sure, we need to know ‘stuff,’ but it’s people and how we treat each other that matter more. It’s how we communicate and help each other. We can be trained in the tasks we want to learn, but it’s hard work to learn patience, caring, sharing, clear communication, working together.

 

Play to learn…
So the next time you, as teacher, get stuck in the hard spot where the skills must be taught, but the kids are in need, remember this awesome post by Susan and the Zach’s message.

Counsellor Talk : Creative Collaborative Connections

Shouldn’t we teach all students as if they were Zach? In #openspokes we have been discussing what is important to teach our young people. I believe Zach’s message of hope is one all teachers as well as students can learn from. At the heart of teaching should be teaching from the heart and Zach tells us what is really important in life. As a school counsellor these are the lessons that really matter to me. Lessons like those from  Zach that truly teach.

Zach is an amazing teacher. Here are some of his lessons:

  • you don’t have to find out you are dying to start living
  • most people live in the middle, but you don’t have to
  • be empathetic and compassionate
  • always look for the good in people
  • things are OK when you believe in something greater
  • what makes you happy is seeing someone else smile because you put it…

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