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Posts Tagged ‘Will Richardson’

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I have never met Karl Fisch, but we do seem to know some of the same people. I see him connect online with folks like Alec and George Couros and Dean Shareski. Karl, is the Director of Technology at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, and seven years ago he helped give me my “Aha” moment.

Around August, I find myself searching and sometimes stressing for my opening day presentation to staff — looking for the right words, the right video to set a tone for the year and give the right message.  And this habit really all started several years ago when I was entering what would be my final year as a Principal of Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam.  Alan November had been to Coquitlam the year previous and inspired many of us, and Thomas Friedman’s 2005 book The World is Flat was still fresh in my mind.  I wanted to share a message about the changing world and how it was changing teaching and learning and the world for our kids.  I was stumbling around the web through some blogs I was following at the time, and came across a post from Will Richardson on Public Attitudes Towards the Public Schools that pushed me to a post from Karl Fisch (who, I had never heard of) called Did You Know? which was the sharing of his opening day presentation for his school.

Here is his presentation:

Although I had never met Karl I took him at his word in his post,

I haven’t taken the time yet to figure out the different levels of creative commons licensing, but let’s just assign the most permissive one. As far as I’m concerned, as many people as possible should be thinking about and discussing these ideas. You all have permission to use, modify, reuse, etc. anything you’d like. (Although if you find good stuff to add to or replace what’s in there, I’d love it if you’d send it my way so that I can add it to mine.) Since I basically stole (ummm, “remixed”) all of the ideas from other folks I really don’t see what claim I have to all this. As far as giving me “credit,” you’re welcome to – I assume that will help pay for my daughter’s college tuition somehow, right? :-)

After watching the video that August afternoon, I went home and began to personalize the slides for my school.  Less than a week later I was showing my version of the video to our staff, then to our parents and then to all the students in our school:

I did show different versions of the presentation many times over that year, and I was not alone.  “Remixes” have been created of the Did You Know? video; presentations on YouTube had viewership in the millions.  It was an education video gone viral, and It became the go-to change video at conferences until Sir Ken came along.  Up until then, I thought it was only videos of cats that spread so quickly.

That experience was my “Aha” moment.  I learned about the power of a network and also learned that it is not only the smart people you know, but the smart people they know that can help you.  I also learned about the new power we all have to influence conversation.  Previous to this experience in networking, there would have been no way I would have ever seen a PowerPoint created for an opening day presentation in a high school in Colorado.  Now, just days after it was presented, I was remixing it and sharing it with my staff, and hundreds of others were sharing it around the world.  I was also reminded of the generosity of our profession — we are all sharing and learning together with a common purpose around student learning.

As I start my seventh September in West Vancouver, I am again crafting my message for our opening day — and, it is one of passion.  The passion we want our kids to have for learning; the passion we want to have as teachers and learners ourselves.   And, like my experience in August 2006, I will take the best of what others are thinking, saying and doing in education, remix it with my own ideas to make it make sense for the community we work in.

Thanks Karl.  We’ve never met, but you have changed how I think and work.

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In nearly all of the conversations around educational transformation, we all agree we need do a better job connecting to parents and involving them in the process.  And without a doubt, “we” probably are doing a much better job now than even a few years ago, partially because of the boom in digital sharing with teachers, administrators, parents and others, as well as becoming increasingly transparent with their experiences and learning.

While I like to think most posts I write have some interest for parents, I have focused several posts specifically toward parents.  One post I wrote in September 2010 covered Ten Things Every Parent Can Do, including:

Being a kid shouldn’t be about beating the competition. And being a parent shouldn’t be about producing a winner by enrolling them in a busy regiment of “enhancement” activities. Let your children play, stumble and find their own way, at least some of the time.

Another post, An Insider’s Guide to Parenting, focussed on advice from our then Board,Vice-Chair (and now Chair) Cindy Dekker, including her thoughts on school work:

- let your kids fail, and let them do it at a young age so they learn what they need to do to improve

- sometimes, when they forget their lunch, they need to solve the problem on their own

- help facilitate studying, but don’t do their homework for them

- don’t close any doors — encourage your kids to take a range of courses

- don’t be so worried about the “right” school, all schools are great

This past fall, I wrote a more personal post, Some of My Parenting Wishes for this Year, where I wrote about a number of topics, including what really matters when it comes to their teachers:

Just take good care of them, help them adjust socially. And, be memorable like all of my elementary teachers were. I can point to at least one way each of my elementary teachers made a difference in my life — from my love of Bruce Springsteen to my interest in storytelling.  All of our kids mention when their teachers ask about their lives outside of school, whether it is about family, sports or other interests. These little things are really the big things for our kids about school.

This summary is also a preface to a new resource I would like to highlight from Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon — Raising Modern Learners.   I have recently subscribed to this blog and newsletter, and I encourage parents to do same.   As a parent of four, the oldest three already in the public education system, I have often stressed my selfish interests to see schooling change.  This new effort from Richardson and Dixon moves the conversation forward with fellow parents.

What I particularly like about this blog is that it is not about cheerleading — it tackles real issues.  The first story I read was about parents deciding to opt out of standardized tests.  While state testing was described as part of the American model of teacher evaluation, something that is not seen in BC,  it was a good read about a challenging issue.  For a variety of reasons, some political, some for simplicity, we take on serious topics in education in a very black and white fashion; at least, from what I have seen so far, Richardson and Dixon are approaching issues with more questions than definitive answers.

There are wonderful resources available in support of parents as their children grow through a changing, learning landscape.  I know so many parent leaders I have connected with online who are passionate about learning and sharing their learning about education, hopefully resources like Richardson and Dixon will assist in that conversation and in doing a better job of connecting with parents, education transformation and sustained and ongoing engagement.

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top3

My “Top 3″ blog list is becoming a bit of a tradition with previous Top 3 lists for 2011 (here) and 2010 (here). This “top” list is an opportunity to review ideas that have become a big part or our learning over the past 12 months, which may have been missed in the “drinking from the firehose” approach (what has become social media and the Internet). I continue to shuffle the categories, trying to take a different approach to these year-end lists.  They are a great way to raise topics, discussion, debate, and perhaps shed some light onto areas deserving more attention (or topics missed) as the year went on.  I look forward to others adding their thoughts on my “Top 3″ of 2012.

Top 3 “Culture of Yes” Blog Posts which have Generated the most Traffic this Year:

1.  The Multi-Sport High School Athlete

2. If School Was More Like Swimming 

3.  How My Teaching Has Changed

Top 3 Used (and often overused) Terms in Education for the Year:

1.  Game Changer

2.  Perfect Storm

3.  Flipping It

Top 3 Growing Trends I See Continuing in the Next Year:

1.  Self-Regulation (but more broadly social-emotional learning)

2.  Outdoor learning (outdoor classrooms and full outdoor programs)

3.  Low / No Cost Conference Events (e.g. Edcamps)

Top 3 Books I have Read this Year that have Influenced My Thinking:

1.  Why School? by Will Richardson

2.  11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era by Nilofer Merchant

3.  How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough

Top 3 Professional Development Events I have Attended:

1.  Visit to Finland (Here and here are my two posts on the visit)

2.  Two Library-related events:  the BCTLA PSA Conference in October and the Changing Times; Inspiring Libraries Summit in December

3.  West Vancouver Opening Day with cultural-anthropologist  Jennifer James

Top 3 BC Edu-bloggers that I didn’t know about 12 Months ago, and now Follow:

1.  Anthony Ciolfitto – Principal, Riverside Secondary School, Port Coquitlam

2.  Stephen Petrucci – Director of Instruction, Fort St. John

3. 180 Days of Learning – Delta School District (cool project!)

Top 3 Non-education New Twitter Follows:

1.  Rick Reilly – ESPN

2.  Nate Silver – New York Times (FiveThirtyEight blog)

3.  Andy Borowitz – New Yorker Magazine

Top 3 School-related Videos from British Columbia (that I bet you haven’t seen):

1.   What a Teacher Makes – West Vancouver

2.  VSB Transition from Elementary to Secondary School (VSB has lots of great videos)

3.   Gino Bondi – Innovation and School Libraries  (BC Libraries also has a number of other great videos)

 Top 3 School-related TED Videos Posted this Year:

1.   Will Richardson (TedxMelbourne)

2.  Thomas Suarez: A 12 year-old app developer

3.  Stop Stealing Dreams:  Seth Godin

Thanks to everyone who continues to engage with me on my blog and push my learning.  Our digital community is continuing to grow and I am thrilled to be connected to so many thoughtful teachers, parents, students and community members.  Blogging is not easy, but it is exceptionally rewarding.  I look forward to continuing to grow and learn together in 2013.

Chris Kennedy

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Will Richardson’s blog was one of the very first educational blogs I followed.  For close to a decade I have been reading, learning and engaging with Will.  As a school principal at Riverside Secondary, I would regularly send out links to staff from his previous blog (here), and I continue to follow his current blog here.  I have also referenced his book on Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms as a staff study group book.  Along with Alan November, Chris Lehman, Dean Shareski and a few others, he has profoundly influenced my thinking around the possibility of learning and schooling in the future. With this background, I was naturally interested in reading Will’s latest book, Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere.

Rather than as a collection of new ideas, I think most BC educators (and generally across Canada) would see this as a synthesis of many of the conversations educators are now having about the transformation of the education system.  Richardson pushes hard on assessment — a topic currently very much in vogue in BC — with many taking a critical look at class, school and provincial assessments, and more toward less “grading” at the elementary level, and less time and energy sorting and ranking students for post secondary at the high school level.   I would argue while there are elements which would pertain to the Canadian education system, whether it be on assessment, teaching, or a range of other areas he challenges, these concerns are not as profound as what he sees happening in the United States.

For me, I think his book helps to further emphasize that Canada and the United States are moving further apart, and not closer together, in education. While Canada has moved to a post-standardized world, and concepts around personalization, this does not seem so true south of the border.  Without a doubt,  they are some similarities, but these are far less similar now than a decade ago, and are on a path to becoming even less so in the future.  There are conversations, though, looking at transformation happening with educators (and largely through social media) that need to move to the mainstream.

In his section on “New School” Richardson lays out six key themes for educators and the system:

  • Share everything (or at least something)
  • Discover, don’t deliver, the curriculum
  • Talk to strangers
  • Be a master learner
  • Do real work for real audiences
  • Transfer the power

He builds the case around ‘urgency’.  It is one I have previously described as The Urgency of Our Own Kids.  We truly can’t wait 10 or 20 years to engage in the conversation of what learning and schooling can/should look like — this would be too late; too late for our own kids and the decisions they will have to make to set the education course in the next window of time.  Agree or disagree with the book’s premise, it is an important conversation to engage in as educators, parents, students and the community.  Richardson concludes, “Just imagine the learners they could become if we made these skills [using technology to solve real problems and think independently] the focus of our work; if, instead of passing the test, we made those ever-more important skills of networking, inquiry, creation, sharing, unlearning, and relearning the answer to the ‘why school’ question.  Imagine what our kids could become if we helped them take full advantage of all they have available to them for learning.”

For more of a backgrounder on Will (and his book), his recent TEDxMelbourne presentation nicely summarizes some of the key ideas of the book:


If you are interested in reading the book, please consider spending the $2.99 to buy it (here).  Also, a group of us will be discussing the ideas he has raised and are going to try a Twitter book club, this Tuesday, September 25th, 8:00 p.m. PST.  You can follow along using the hashtag #whyschool.

THANK YOU – to all who participated in the conversation.  Please continue to use #whyschool to keep the conversation going.  We will try this again next month with another book to push our thinking.  What a great turnout of people passionate about education.  Thanks to Chris Wejr – here is a link to more than 400 of the comments on the #whyschool chat.

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As a follow-up to The Digital Coalition which considered the power of our network to lead the evolution in K-12 education, I want to focus on one of the most common presentation themes – our own children.

I first encountered the approach in a discussion by Will Richardson about five years ago and, since then almost every presenter I see, hear, or read  about educational reform, evokes the example of his or her own school-aged children at some point during the presentation. I saw it last fall when Brett Conkin explained what attracted him to take on the TEDxUBC project, to our District Principal of Technology and Innovation, Gary Kern, who speaks about his three school-aged children. And, in many of my own discussions about system change, I often reference my own kids.

There’s a very good reason why we do so. It boils down to this – we are deeply concerned that, left to the natural progression of such things, it will take 10 to 20 years to bring about the changes we believe are needed. At that rate, our own children will not benefit from the change. This is the urgency that is driving many of us.

Yet, this urgency for change is not currently reflected in the larger community. After all, we have an outstanding system and we have a familiar system. Parents see a system that closely resembles the one they attended as a student and that is reassuring. I know I am reassured by the similarities in my kids’ schooling to mine, but I also realize that their world is vastly different from the one I graduated into 20 years ago.

We – many of us who blog and tweet on the topic on a regular basis – are between the ages of 35 and 50 (yes, I know this is a sweeping and slightly exaggerated generalization). We are established in our careers, many of us have moved into positions of teacher/administrative leadership and we have young families with children in the system now. We applaud the systematic evolution of the educational system, the growing student engagement and the increased relevance in learning.

But if it doesn’t happen quickly enough, our own kids will miss out on the benefits.

It is this that drives a lot of our urgency. I am a bit selfish — I want the system I believe in, and envision for my own kids. I also want it for your kids; and all kids — but it is not okay with me if it takes another decade until we embrace digital devices in schools, it is not okay if we continue to perpetuate schooling as a 9-3 activity, and it is not okay for me as a parent to not have greater engagement.

I know we are in the midst of something big. And to be clear, there are amazing things happening in our schools. That said, it is GO time, for our kids, and for all kids.

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