My 2014 TIES Top 10
by Kim Briske
WHY a Top 10???
10) OUR World is Digital
It is our responsibility to teach our kids how to find good technology and digital content. Furthermore, we need to teach them to create good and do good with technology. Everyday we create our digital footprint. Information that we share, as well as that which is shared by others is publicly available--family pictures, events we attend, news articles, the honor roll list, tweets, pictures, status updates, etc. When someone (future employer, friends, colleagues, parents, etc.) Googles us or our kids, what do they see? Our reality is that our lives are very digital. We tend to separate online and offline experiences, but we should treat all of our actions and experiences as our one footprint, image, and legacy. As it turns out, much of the information and images of each of us that are shared online (by us or others) is what we are doing offline. It becomes part of our digital footprint when it's shared. Beyond that, the response to what is shared becomes part of our digital footprint.
This is our world. When we live it to it's fullest, we establish our own positive presence in it online, offline, and together.
9) Positive Emotions Make Learning Better!
When people engage in games (which more of them do more often than we might realize), they experience positive emotions, which give them resilience to keep trying when they fail and to embrace challenges. Recent research on mindset tells us that a growth mindset is one of the most important attributes of successful people. Growth mindset means that we approach challenges with an open mind. We value effort and tackling challenges. We see setbacks or failures as new opportunities for learning and growth. And the good news is that we can develop growth mindset in our students by encouraging their exploration, risk-taking, and valuing hard work and growth over simplicity and right answers.
Grit and resiliency are already present in gaming. Gamers fail 80% of the time and still have optimism in their ability to eventually succeed. What if our students do this in learning all the time? Check out the positive emotions that contribute to the resiliency of gamers below, as presented by Jane McGonigal at TIES 2014. These are just what we want in our classrooms, so we need to provide the environment to bring them out.
8) Student Aspirations Include Learning
So, how does this look in school where there are so many demands on our time? There's no easy answer, but here are some possible starting points:
- Genius hour (a.k.a. 20% time)--Big companies do this. Google does this. This is how Post-It notes came about at 3M. Employees have time in their work day to pursue projects of their own choosing and interest. In turn, they create and discover. Many schools are taking note and allowing their students this type of unstructured time to delve into learning and problem solving of great relevance. We empower students to direct their own learning without assuming that they need our guidance in order for the learning to be beneficial to them.
- Reframe homework--Homework often provides very little added value to the learning taking place in school and can even detract from the learning environment. This is not always the case, but it's important to consider the impact on learning before requiring homework. If it's not greatly improving learning, perhaps we could allow students to use their time outside of school for different types of learning and other endeavors that add value to their lives. Here's an interesting flowchart for considering homework.
- Grading--This one gets touchy, but we need to be thinking about what we grade and how we grade. What if a student tries something for a project that doesn't work, but they understand why and are able to reflect on their experience and demonstrate learning? Do we grade on the product they create, or do we grade on their articulation of learning? What if a student turns in an assignment late and they've done an amazing job? Do we give credit for the work and the learning, or do we dock points for the lack of punctuality?
- Testing--Access to information presents a new landscape for assessment. Again, we need to ask ourselves what is important. Simple recall has it's place, but being able to find the relevant information and do something with it is more important than memorization in most cases. In thinking about high stakes tests--the final exams, standardized tests, and college entrance tests--we need to recognize the limitations as well. As Yong Zhao said in his TIES keynote, if a test measures 5 feet, it doesn't read a 6-foot response. It will only read up to 5 feet. That's what tests do; they don't measure exceptionality.
- Student choice--Every task has multiple means of completing it. It's even possible that the best way from Point A to Point B is not a straight line! The more students are able to choose what they learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate learning, the more their learning will align with their interests. They'll go above and beyond in their learning when it incorporates their own aspirations. Whenever possible, we need to allow for student choice.
7) Student Sharing = Ownership and Power
6) Interact with Students during Instruction
Looking to get started? Give Pear Deck or Nearpod a try for interactive slides embedded into a presentation. Or, try Poll Everywhere, Poll Daddy, or even a quick Google Form to add in elements of pre-tests, surveys, or feedback points to your presentations. If you're looking for more interaction, try a back channel conversation with Twitter or Today's Meet.
Avoid the Ferris Bueller classroom below!!
5) We Need New Evaluation Criteria
More and more companies are hiring less based on degrees and test scores, and more based on people's ability to learn, talent, and grit. While Google execs including Laszlo Bock, chairman and head of hiring, encourage people to go to college, they don't even mention it in their hiring process. Instead of focusing on majors and GPAs, they look for skills, projects, and experiences. In short, what we DO tends to matter a lot more than what we KNOW.
If we're looking at what matters for being successful (and even happy!) in the world, we need to provide opportunities for our students to have learning experiences in which they have the opportunity to fail, evaluate, create, work with others, and direct their own work. In our current evaluation system, these types of learning experiences do not have adequate value and prominence.
In order to make changes in our evaluation criteria, we have to be courageous and be alright with some uncertainty. In a time of exploration and growth, we can't always see the benefits in easily measured statistics, but that's ok! By no means do I suggest abandoning statistical analysis and logic (that would be reckless). At the same time, we also need to focus on creativity, inspiration, and trusting our gut when we know the value in learning that is harder to measure quantitatively. Then, stay the course! We can't abandon innovation based on evaluation that happens in the midst of implementation when the evaluation criteria we have used in the past don't fit the changing reality of the present.
Thanks to @tracyclark08 for the graphic demonstrating the soft skills that employers are looking for...those never measured on most of our assessments in school.
4) Don't let FEAR stop you
3) Visual Information is Powerful
2) Communication can't be Overated
Communication builds shared knowledge and gets everyone on the same page. The difficulty with it is that we are inundated with information. John Kotter notes that organizations typically under communicate their visions for change by at least a factor of 10. In schools, we are constantly changing and growing to meet the needs of our students and navigate a changing landscape. How do we keep everyone on the same page? Kotter's insight is based on estimations of the amount of communication an organization's employees receive in a period of 3 months. Here's what he says:
- Total communication to an individual: 2.3 million words and numbers
- Typical communication about a change initiative in 3 months: 13,400 words and numbers.
- 13,400/2,300,000 = .0058, which means that about 0.58% of the communication to individuals is about a given change or initiative.
What this tells me is that under communication is likely, and over communication would be difficult to attain. If this is typical of communication to those who work within an organization, what about those who interact with the organization or are served by the organization. In schools, we need to communication regularly with multiple stakeholders who are all invested and concerned with our success. This includes teachers, administrators, students, parents, school board members, and our community.
In addition to frequency, our communication needs to be effective, which means that it allows for feedback, provides clarity, uses visuals, and is repetitive. This is perhaps my #1 resolution moving forward.
1) We are all Learners
What happens when a community is built on the value of ongoing learning and continuous growth? I will argue that all members of the community benefit. When we constantly challenge ourselves and push ourselves to develop, learn, and grow, we are able to improve our practice.
In schools, we focus on learning almost to the point that we don't think about it. It becomes automatic. However, we also tend to define the roles of students and teachers. I will maintain that we all need to be students all the time. Every interaction is a learning opportunity. This is not a point to be romanticized by the perception of learning as an easy progression or accumulation of knowledge and experiences--not at all. One of my favorite quotes regarding learning comes from Thomas Sergiovanni in the preface of his book entitled The Principalship (p. xv). He states, "Learning is often scary and is always hard work...You read, you think, you talk. You get something wrong, you don't understand something, you try it again...Yes, learning can be fun and inspiring, but along the way, it usually makes us miserable." I like this view of learning because it can be frustrating to try something new or try to grasp a concept that is really new. Our brains need to make pathways for connecting information and making sense of it that just aren't there yet. That's real learning. In the process, we have to admit what we don't know, and our assumptions are challenged.
That's hard work, but it is also inspiring and valuable. Within our school systems, as we learn together, we build our collective capacity. Collective learning on the part of our teachers and staff leads to better learning opportunities for our students, which is why this point occupies position #1 in my list!