Lunch & Tweet with the Commissioner

MESPA Chat Pic

Join us for a “Lunch & Tweet” with Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education, Dr. Brenda Cassellius, on April 20th at 12:30pm CST.

Feel free to invite a colleague or fellow educator to participate.  The questions we’ll be discussing are listed below.  This is a great opportunity to dialogue with other educators who are committed to the success of Minnesota students.

Q1. What is working for Minnesota students? Share something great happening in your school. #MESPAmn

Q2. How are you helping all students and families connect and “belong” in your school? #MESPAmn

Q3. What is one thing you are learning, or hope to learn, to improve your leadership? #MESPAmn

Q4. What are some strategies your school is using to promote equity and close the achievement gap? #MESPAmn

Q5. Where do you see the greatest need in PreK education? #MESPAmn

Q6. Let’s talk pedagogy and innovation.  How are you preparing students for their future? #MESPAmn

This Time it’s Personal

Dad Childhood

Yesterday a package arrived in the mail. It was from my aunt who sent me some old photographs of my dad…along with a heartfelt note. My dad passed away almost eight years ago without warning, so receiving the pictures was like an instant connection to him.

In the note my aunt mentioned that, “The memory of her brother (my dad) would forever live on in her heart,” and she thought I would appreciate having the pictures of him.  She was right. I don’t have many pictures of my dad, so seeing him again yesterday was both beautiful and jarring.  The package included pictures of my dad as a young boy, his wedding, my wedding, and more. I must have looked through the stack of pictures a dozen times yesterday. 

I was chatting with my wife about the pictures as we were driving to get a sandwich for dinner.  I asked her if we had any printed pictures of our family (and ourselves) to give our children one day. She responded in partial jest, “This is the digital world…we have passwords to digital pictures and video for our kids.”  This got me thinking more about the digital world and the purpose of technology in schools. 

As educators, we need to be really careful about the purpose we implore.  We need to talk about pedagogy more often. (Not in short sound-bytes and 140 character bursts, but deeper dialogue.) I’m not naïve enough to think that my stated purpose for using technology should be your stated purpose. But we better be clear on our why each time we pass out paper and pencils, or digital devices.  “Why” matters.

The transformative potential of technology does not rest solely in its ability to convert images and experiences to digital media. The power of technology is in how it can bring us together if we are intentional about it.  Technology can support and amplify that which makes us uniquely human.

Through technology, our hurts and aspirations can become another person’s cause. The struggles that others share can activate our own empathy. Our ability to create, connect, reflect, wonder, imagine, innovate, express love, learn, share, and grow can be enhanced through technology.

If technology hinders any of these things we need to pause and reflect on the intended purpose. We’re hearing a lot about 1:1 initiatives as districts are striving to put a device in every student’s hand.  I get why this can be a good thing, but I believe the ratio is wrong.  The goal of any iPad or tablet initiative should be “1 to World” (or 1 to 7.4 billion people) because connecting kids to one another really does matter.

In addition to developing deeper connections and an understanding of others, technology can help us better connect to ourselves. I suppose this blog is a small example of reflection. Regardless, we need to better articulate the purpose and pedagogy for the technology we’re deploying. This brings me back to my dad.

There is nothing like holding a picture and touching the image of your dad.  Every fold, fade, and discoloration of the paper can transport a person to a different time.  There is a connection, for me, when I physically hold a photograph, book, or loved one.  It is distinctly human. We need to be giving our kids this same perspective and opportunity when they are holding their devices.

Technology mustn’t replace connecting with others; the power of technology is its ability to extend and enhance how we connect to other human beings. How is your school leveraging technology as a tool that enhances relationships and learning? What is your why?

Dad My Wedding

Are We There Yet?

Sub

Submarines are majestic vessels made to go deep. It’s what they do. Education can empower kids do the same if we reframe how we’re currently navigating things, but we’re not there yet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pedagogy and the nature of learning lately. My thoughts have vacillated between two schools of thought. First, we need to ensure students master the vast number of state standards they are responsible for learning. In some ways, these standards are like mile markers, or buoys. The standards help us understand where students need to go.

I’m also in favor of reducing the number of standards so that we can facilitate deeper learning and discovery, and that brings me to my second point. We need to empower our students to innovate throughout their classroom careers. Students should have a voice in their learning, and we need to trust them to actually create some of the mile markers along the way.

This is a matter that is deeply personal to me. I want my own three children to have the tools and space to invent a future that none of us is fully capable of grasping.  When they are navigating their educations alongside their grade-level classmates, I ultimately want them to be able to envision new markers in their journey. I desperately hope there is a space for that. 

I believe kids can learn at a high level while being empowered to pursue their passions and curiosity. We cannot sacrifice curiosity for achievement; kids deserve both. (There really is no dichotomy.) I wonder if one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is not taking away their curiosity.

Are we there yet? How will we know when we get there? What are the critical drivers that will propel us in the right direction? How do you think we can create the conditions where high levels of learning, innovation, and curiosity reside? 

Press Conference: Hiring Announcement Video

Hiring season is upon us and we’ve got BIG news. Check out the quick (2 minute) press conference video to see who our “1st Round Draft Picks” will be for the 2016 – 2017 school year.  You never know…it might just be YOU!

Click HERE to view the press conference video.

Draft Pic

Can MakerSpaces Invent the Future? (Video)

YouTube SpheroExoIt is incredible what kids can do when we believe in them, coach them, and get out of their way! Our students recently participated in a robotics competition that was invented from the ground up by staff and students.  We designed and printed 3D “exoskeletons” that fit over our Sphero robotic droids…and SpheroExo was born.  The rest is history.

Check out the 5 minute video below and prepare to be amazed at what kids can do.

http://tinyurl.com/SpheroExo

We are so proud of our students and all they are creating, engineering, and achieving.  Watch for our students next week as they present SpheroExo to teachers at EdCamp Eau Claire!  Students will be sharing their design process and how they’re inventing the future at #EdCampEC.

I’m not sure that MakerSpaces can actually invent the future, but I’m very confident that cutting-edge tools and a culture conducive to innovation helps.  A relevant and connected pedagogy empowers all kids to create, connect, and dream bigger.

 

Buzzword or Lifeblood?

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Image Credit: Jason Jenkins

I’ve heard some say that “student voice” is becoming a buzzword in education.  I’m hopeful this is not true.  We can’t let it be true.

Student voice should be the lifeblood of our schools.  Our kids’ needs, aspirations, and voices should be predominant in education; from the boardroom to the classroom.  (The same should be true of professional development!)

EdCampEC will be cranking up the volume and amplifying student voice on April 9th.  Greenwood Elementary (MN) students will be teaching teachers through a hands-on and student-led MakerSpace challenge.

Recently, some of our 3rd graders participated in a BattleDome experience using 3D printed exo-skeletons. The exo-skeletons fit around Sphero robotic droids that teams navigated during the competition.  Engineering and collaboration were interwoven throughout the experience, as students added different offensive and defensive capabilities to their exo-skeletons.  Kids were “making” with a purpose and the entire experience was nothing short of spectacular.

You can read more about the experience HERE…OR you can make the trek to Eau Claire, Wisconsin on April 9th to hear directly from the students involved!  They can tell you about their design process, and how different tools from our school’s Mobile MakerSpace fleet were used to unleash creativity and learning.

Student voice is alive and well!  We couldn’t be prouder of our kids, and we look forward to seeing their leadership and communication skills shine at EdCampEC.

If you have questions before April 9th (or can’t make the trip) don’t hesitate to reach out to the teachers who organized the Sphero-Exo event.

How Do Educators Learn?

Lifelong Learning

What are the ingredients of a successful educational conference or workshop?  What makes professional learning relevant and impactful?

Recently, I had the chance to sit down and discuss how educators learn with Michael Medvinsky and Ben Gilpin on the #UnearthED Radio Show.  The catalyst for our conversation was the renowned Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) conference.

Although we only spoke for 10 minutes or so, we dove into the very nature of professional learning.  I’ve spent the better part of the past five years researching digital age professional learning.  As part of my doctoral dissertation I interviewed innovative leaders across the country.  More recently, I contributed a few words to a book on PersonalizedPD.  Through it all, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s not about “how” we learn…it’s more about “why” we learn.

Memos and mandates do not drive learning.  We learn because we are open to the idea of becoming.  We learn because we are curious.  We learn because we understand that new processes and pedagogy might benefit our students even if the content does not change.  We learn because we are networked and connected.

“Lifelong learning is a mindset not a mantra; it is the lens and disposition we bring to every situation we encounter.”

When we open our minds to the possibilities that await we’ve created the very conditions needed for learning.  Click HERE to listen to the UnearthED Show, and hear Michael and Ben share their beliefs about how educators learn. (You can also subscribe to #UnearthED Show on iTunes).

I’d love to hear how you learn best, and why you think some educators might be less inclined to learn the same way.

unearthED itunes logo

 

And the Winner Is…

The results of the World Book Talk Championship are in! We started with 16 educators who each created a 30 second book talk.  After thousands and thousands of votes only one book talk remains. 

Who will be victorious? Will it be the Lead Learners or Literacy Legends?  Watch the short (3 minute) episode of the #30SecondTake podcast below to see who won the Super Bowl of book talks.  In the podcast, guest-host Jennifer LaGarde (a.k.a. Library Girl) helps announce the winner of the highly coveted “Vince Lombooki” trophy and reveals the best book talk in the world.

 

#30SecondTake Brackets 2016

 

Click on the bracket above to view the final results video!  (To see how the Super Bowl of book talks began you can click HERE or HERE.)  If you’re looking for resources to support students in creating their own 30 second book talks you can connect directly with Jen LaGarde.  She’s compiled rubrics, bracket templates, and more.  When kids read, create, and communicate their learning is amplified!!  

Jen and I would like to thank Oliver Schinkten for sharing his time and talents throughout the entire project.  After all, it would not have been the book talk Super Bowl without some fun literacy-themed commercials.  Thank you, Oliver! 

Join Kid President’s Cabinet (video)

IMG_3452

Click the picture to view a short video featuring kids from three different states.

What if kids were empowered to change the world? Let’s make it happen!  Your classroom can join Kid President’s “Unofficial” Cabinet.  Classrooms across the country will be discussing citizenship together on Thursday, March 10th at 9:30am CST using the #StuConnect hashtag on Twitter.

This short (3 minute) video was created by kids from Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.  Their collaborative project sets the stage for the conversation that will occur on the #StuConnect hashtag.  Our focus will be on learning about positive character, digital citizenship, and making a difference for others.  All classrooms are welcome to participate (K-12 and beyond)!

If your classroom would like to preview the questions that we will be sharing on March 10th please see below.  The chat will start at 9:30am CST and last 20-30 minutes.  We will spend about five minutes discussing each question.  Feel free to reach out to the #StuConnect moderators if you need help facilitating this Twitter-based conversation with your students. 

#StuConnect Twitter Chat Topic: Citizenship* 

Q1: If you were on Kid President’s cabinet, what citizenship project would you recommend? How could you involve others? #StuConnect

Q2: What are some ways that students, teachers, and leaders display positive character and citizenship? #StuConnect

Q3: How do you demonstrate digital citizenship? #StuConnect

Q4: How does your classroom show citizenship outside the walls of your school? #StuConnect

*On the day of our Twitter chat, you can reply to each question by starting your classroom Tweets with the letter “A” and number of the corresponding question.  This will help others understand that you are answering a particular question.  Be sure to add the #StuConnect hashtag to all of your responses.  Example: “A4 We show citizenship by….. #stuconnect”

#STUCONNECT

The Dark Part of Black History Month

Deafening

If you really want to know if you are a culturally sensitive leader just ask your students about Black History Month. 

Students often associate February with Valentine’s Day, I Love to Read Month, or even the 100th day of school.  These are really comfortable things to talk about.  What I’m less inclined to talk about is how the color of a person’s skin may impact the opportunities that person experiences.  I’m even less excited to reflect upon my own white privilege.   

These are some of the hardest conversations I’ve never had. 

And I’m done not having them.  Fortunately I work with an amazing team of teachers who are helping me with my journey.  They push me.  They help us get better for all kids…not just the kids who may look like us.

This school year I’ve been reading a different book each month to individual classrooms.  This month…Black History Month…I’m reading, “All Different Now” by Angela Johnson.  I’ve had the chance to fumble through some pretty powerful conversations with students.  Admittedly, my contributions have been limited to asking a few difficult questions and then listening to students.  I’m seeking to understand.  At the same time I’m digging deeper. 

What I’m learning is that I have a long way to go.  Our kids are counting on me, and us, to teach them how to be culturally sensitive.  How can I do that if I’m not part of the conversation?

The silence is blaring.

I need to confront my own comfort with the status quo.  I need to question why I might be feeling so comfortable while others around me are hurting, angry, and oppressed.  I need to acknowledge that my own truth is not always the same truth and journey that others have experienced.

Recently, I had the chance to connect with Brandi Bates about this topic on a radio program called, UnearthED.  You can click HERE to listen to our 10 minute conversation. 

Brandi helped me begin to shine the light on the dark part of Black History Month; my own white privilege. 

 

White Privilege

unearthED itunes logo

Subscribe to “UnearthED” in iTunes for more conversations that matter to the kids we serve.

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