Welcome to Leading Blended Learning

"The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means to an education." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The movement... thoughts on the National Charter Schools Conference.

Just finished with the general session on Day 2 of NCSC 2011 and feel definitely inspired by the key notes.  Marian Wright Edelman and Doug Hense spoke eloquently, passionately, and intelligently about the role we play as educators in making the lives of children better.  I was struck by the references to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and how the promises of Dr. King and the Freedom Riders are still there as promises and not so much as realities for so many American children. Although we have made great strides in opening schools to all children, in providing more equitable access to educational resources to all children, and to opening doors of opportunity, we have not done a satisfactory job of pushing the beliefs into children's minds that they must do better.

Its challenging to think of educators and schools where the belief is that only some kids will achieve.  Its frustrating to believe that the view of so many who are so influential in the lives of students is that there are winners and losers in the game of life.  I see so many that believe that motivation is the key to success and that kids are not motivated and that is where their failure is rooted.  But, they don't ask the questions or worse yet, only rhetorically ask, why are the kids not motivated.  Edelman told the story of a 12 year old black male student she spoke with in the DC schools in the days just after Dr. King's assassination who she was imploring to not but his future at risk and go out and loot and riot and get arrested.  He looked in her eyes and said, "But, I ain't got no future, I have nothing to lose."  He saw no reason to get an education, no reason to push through what could be the challenges of reading, math or history because the promise of segregation and walls he had no control over were all he saw.  Today, those walls of law and tradition have been torn down, but the image of students still creating those walls in their minds persists.

Our role as leaders of schools, whether it is a grass roots charter in downtown Atlanta or a traditional school in the suburbs or a "failing" school in any city is to provide BOTH the motivation and the path by which kids can be successful.  Schools must be a refuge for strength, sanity, routine, and success in the lives of so many kids that experience the opposite outside of schools.  Schools and educators must be the influences that push kids to be more than they want to be. 

There are many paths to success for schools.  Best practices of good instruction breed success which breeds pride which breeds high expectations for students.  Poor practices breed failure which breed excuses which lead to low expectations.  The behaviors of successful schools and students create the mindsets of success.  That is what you see in good private schools, good charter schools, good traditional schools.  That is what is scalable and possible.

Monday, June 20, 2011

20 minutes to boot up and Icloud...

We have this old computer, by old I mean nearly 10 years,  that sits upstairs in the office that we rarely use now that we have wifi and laptops.  This old e-machine takes 20 minutes to load because I haven't run anti-virus on it in 2 years as it only gets booted up when we find a song we thought we had purchased through Itunes is saved on it or if there is a document we neglected to transfer when backing it up to thumb drives. 

Last night, I had to boot it up because my wife got a new Iphone 4 for her birthday and her original Iphone information is synced to the old geezer machine.  So I trudge up there, bringing the modem and wifi router with me that is normally downstairs to provide better coverage in the parts of the house we use. Of course, the desktops have no wireless so I have to hard wire it into the modem to be able to get to Itunes to be able to make sure that the sync is done correctly on the old phone so we don't lose anything.

As I am waiting for the machine to boot up, I start reading on my lap top about iCloud and I get really excited that all this syncing to the old geezer may be a thing of the past.  As I am reading about it, I am syncing the old Iphone 3 that is now my son's Ipod Touch with my new laptop and I have my Iphone next to me and my work BlackBerry next to that.  So there I am with 4 smartphones, a lap top and two desk top computers and I realize that maybe I need a break.

Not that iCloud is the best thing ever, but it did all the sudden allow us to sync my wife's new Iphone 4 without having to plug it into a computer. We got her music, her contacts, her videos, and her apps without any hassle.  The pictures haven't worked yet, but it was a blessing.  I got to boot down old Bessie and maybe never have to boot her up again.  It will be said to say goodbye to the machine that built so many memories with digital pics of my sons first 2 years and our first 4 years of marriage, but I won't miss the 20 minutes it takes to get to them.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

PLCs and Technology

Our district is jumping into the world of PLCs and working to try and get each school to create in itself a PLC and then expand those beyond the walls of building.  As we work to join the movement that started over a decade ago, it makes me wonder how we will be able to push ourselves into that world more quickly using technology and Web 2.0 tools.  We are struggling to find our own digital footprint as a district and to determine what we are going to be on the web and how we are going to leverage the power of the web to help our students demonstrate mastery learning.  We are currently, probably like many districts, inching our towards it.  It is my hope that we can begin to really push.  Our school has been trying to create blended learning classrooms for our students with very limited infrastructure, training, support, or financial backing and have seen tremendous gains in the achievement of our students through our efforts. 

Not only is the blended learning helping to personalize the work for kids, it has begun the process of helping to make our instruction public.  One of the key tenets of the PLC work by Eaker and Dufour,etc. is to talk about instruction and learning as a public enterprise that involves several professionals working in conjunction to meet all the needs of the students in our community.  It is about being public with the work we ask of students, the teaching moves we make, the questions we plan to ask, and the ways that we make decisions in class to maximize learning for our students.   The blended learning model we put in place has made teacher-developers out of our staff as they are creating all the content for their classes.  In order to tackle the overwhelming task of creating content, they have been forced to collaborate in new ways and been forced to review each other's work.  We are looking at the work we are asking kids to engage in, but we are not yet at the point where we truly working collaboratively to meet all the needs of each of our kids.

It is exciting and engaging work that requires a lot of change, a lot of paradigm shifting, and a lot of loss of the old ways of doing things for our staff and faculty.  But it is the right work and the right shift and it will ultimately be the way that we meet the needs of our students and push them to be able to demonstrate mastery in all their work.

Come along.