Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Questioning the Paradox: Teacher Leaders

February 26, 2012

I am generally regarded as outspoken and realize I should choose my words carefully, taking a step back to examine my own emotional triggers. Meeting regularly to discuss aspects of leadership has been very beneficial for me. Our weekly grad school classroom conversations have revealed to me an increasing skepticism about the future of education, the role of teacher leaders and the potential for disruptive innovations from the business community. When people speak about the current educational system as a throwback to the industrial revolution, it makes me wonder about the underlying assumptions. It seems to assume that corporate leadership dictates to educational leadership, that education is devised as a mechanism to support capitalism, and that human capital is groomed for production alone. This strikes me as a gloomy portrayal of Ann Rand’s Soviet school years; simply replace totalitarian regime with capitalism.

Use your brain

Questioning the wisdom of the ages..

I question the value of simplifying, reducing the complexities of society to reflect the top down architecture we in the US strive to avoid, by embracing the notion of Democracy. In contrast, however, our government and governmental systems such as education appear to have the earmarks of Socialism designed to provide the appearance of equity and uniformity valued by a people who desire fairness and equal opportunity. A paradox exists. Katzenmeyer & Moller (2009) too, seems to acknowledge the second class status of teachers, saying that although teachers, like miners rarely see the light of day, they would relish the opportunity to contribute their expertise to those who are in more elevated positions and are able to take credit for all underground success by virtue of a tireless and loyal staff. Even the title of her book, Awakening the Sleeping Giant evokes a sense that teachers, like Rumpelstiltskin, have been passive and ineffective in determining the future.

As for adopting a business model for education, I see opportunistic service providers attempting to generate a regular income by securing government funding as an avenue to prosperity. Just like textbook companies and other purveyors of materials, schools find themselves beholding to long term agreements that do not make sense over time. Schools cannot afford to be locked into contracts that are not mutually beneficial. Teachers need to be involved in the decision-making process. Think employee ownership models, instead of pay for performance.

I have developed more empathy for administrators and the expectations set for them by a top-down system. Knowing how committed my fellow teachers are to providing student-centered education, it is particularly incumbent upon me to act as a change agent, helping to remove barriers that may prevent teachers from reaching this important objective.


Katzenmeyer, M., & Moller, G. (2009). Awakening the sleeping giant. Helping teachers develop as leaders. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Leithwood, K., Day, D., Sammons, P., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2006). Successful school leadership. What it is and how it influences pupil learning. (Research Report 800). University of Nottingham.


Target Practice

October 2, 2011

“I’ve been doing lots of thinking lately, apparently storing food for thought. After reading many studies and literature reviews I wanted to explore some new perspectives and this post reflects some of my current thinking. The process of trying on new perspectives interests me. It would be helpful to me, if you have any reactions to post, respond or provide a link to related research or discussions. Enjoy!” – Kathy

For years educational institutions have been feasting on a buffet of technological innovations. Father knows best, and our national leadership and other stalwart sponsors direct the technology spending and perpetuate the feeding frenzy, all designed to improve student learning. Like a reality-show-hoarder, schools have amassed a disconnected collection of tools. A brain numbing cacophony of screeching voices from educational stakeholders hides the silent retort of teachers bristling from offense and seeking asylum inside the confines of a classroom designed to produce good citizens and workers from the last century. And where are the students in all of this? It’s time for an intervention for the dysfunctional family we regard as our broken educational system.

There have been numerous proposals purporting solutions to the problems in education. The locus of research will address the victims: teachers and students. Neither of them is responsible for purchasing or implementing technology. They simply adapt their rooms according to a plan set forth by leadership and ask the essential question: How can the use of technology improve instruction, meaningful learning and retention of knowledge? This three-pronged question reveals that something is fundamentally wrong with the current educational system’s approach to technology integration. While research supports holistic, learner-centered pedagogical approaches coupled with curriculum formulated using the understanding by design methodology, the system does not practice either of these models when adopting new technologies for school integration.

Clamoring to adopt 21st century learning standards for student achievement and driven by the need to appease the public, school systems have measured their success using student-computer ratios and standardized test results. Low ratios imply greater access to computers among students and teachers; however the quality and consistency of the available devices may be a more critical consideration.Test scores don’t seem to bear out the hallmark of success. Where can we find the truth? The tree of knowledge has become an octopus suffocating its prey with the purple haze of confusion.

In all of this, teachers must still teach and students learn. It is a wonder that despite the moon-like of technological terrain, teachers are able to navigate an obstacle course designed to entrap them. Research demonstrates that teacher beliefs about education are fundamentally tied to their pedagogy. According to Judi Harris of William and Mary (2005) there is a need to “…demonstrate pedagogically appropriate uses of technology.” Harris argues that a technocentric view of technology integration is a bias. When it is applied in the form of instruments, reporting data on the state of technology integration, the results are viewed with a lens preferring constructivist teaching methods. Harris challenges this paradigm. “As discerning educators and researchers, we should question why teacher’s roles must change to integrate technology effectively into K-12 curricula. Surely the technologies themselves do not require this shift, as current teacher-centered classroom uses demonstrate.” (pg. 119)

“I conclude with Harris’ quote because as a classroom teacher myself, it challenges me. Teachers just want to do their best for students and yet the external forces seem to prevail, creating a dysfunctional dynamic in the name of progress.” -Kathy

Education or National Healthcare

March 13, 2010

When people are sick they go to the doctor and when they need education they go to a teacher. The difference lies in the treatment plans and the way we pay for these services. Healthcare is considered by some to be a right, just as education is. Well for those who think a national healthcare system would guarantee that right, think again. If education, a long standing right can go down the tubes then so can healthcare.

The economic storm has caused the levy to burst open and monies funding education have spilled uncontrollably down into a deep chasm forming what amounts to an abscess festering like an untended wound. It is too raw to heal without help. If only you’d been able to buy educational insurance maybe your child could be guaranteed the education they deserve. Unfortunately no such options exist.

With all the fuss about the healthcare crisis and all the debate about insuring the uninsured and making healthcare available to everyone it seems to me, the whole preventation has been overlooked. Education is all about prevention and therefore I would like to state that without adequate education our society will be too sick for ANY kind of healthcare system to redeem.

Now what? We grasp for purchase in the spinning vortex of political rhetoric. It is sucking the life out of education, public safety and the general infrastructure of society. I think the only thing national healthcare can offer the public now, is unlimited refills on pain medication to make our economic future more palatable. Put your money where your mouth is, US Government, and stop telling us that we need to accept your bitter pill of healthcare reform. No amount of healthcare will stem the education crisis, and without education what hope do we have for an employable workforce or a viable future? EDUCATION IS OUR BEST PREVENTATIVE STRATEGY. EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN IS OUR BEST INSURANCE POLICY.

For a well researched comparison education and healthcare models refer to this post

New Discovery – The Joy of Learning

October 17, 2009

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium

We are geared to teaching what we can measure, and we can’t measure the joy of discovery. These words are paraphrased from an interview of K.C. Cole on her book entitled, Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up. Frank Oppenheimer helped develop the atomic bomb. He was a pacifist and felt betrayed when it was later dropped on civilians. He felt he had a responsibility to show how to make sense of the world through discovery and went on to develop the Exploratoriumin San Fransisco. He hoped to rekindle peoples’ childhood search for enlightenment, a quest for discovery and a confidence in problem-solving things (typically brushed off) too difficult to understand.

How can teachers provide students with the opportunities to make their own discoveries and follow their innate curiosity? Do we provide too much guidance in guided learning? Is it too contrived? Can we replicate an Exploratorium feel in the classroom making discovery an individual and not a group think kind of activity? Science is sight-seeing! That was Frank’s message as a teacher.

Teachers walk into a museum expecting a guided tour. It is an efficient way to cover a large area in a reasonable amount of time while absorbing research based information. Is that what we want for our students? It this the learning process? I wonder. When I consider adults seeking professional development there are several different approaches people take in pursuit of learning. Without reaching for any statistical documentation I think it’s safe to say that most teachers expect to have the learning delivered to them in the ‘guided-tour-style’ of learning as seen in museums. This is a relatively passive activity. They expect a modicum of exploration (a chance to practice and converse, socializing) and then they expect to produce a lesson based on the content.

What do children expect from a classroom? I think perhaps they expect exactly the same thing. They expect an organized, guided introduction to knowledge, a time to socialize and play with concepts and then to apply the knowledge to their seatwork in hopes of attaining good grades. Hmmm, I’m very interested in ways to give students more of a responsibility for their own learning. If I expect them to rely on me for what they know, or even on their parents then they will not have the skills to make new discoveries. What are the ways teachers turn on and turn over the learning to the students? How do teachers create the sense that anything is possible? How do we celebrate a students joy in even the smallest discoveries?

Can learning develop naturally in a contrived classroom setting? How can a classroom become an Exploratorium? Is there a way to blend more opportunities for authentic discoveries to develop among students? My favorite teacher was Miss Papora, my 7th grade science teacher. When I think about why I enjoyed her class so much, it was the excitement of making discoveries. I had the sense that every time I entered her classroom I would be given the task of making a discovery, with a lab partner and I couldn’t wait. We were on a journey of discovery.

This is exactly the feeling I get when I go onto the internet in search of new ideas, materials, and tools for teaching and learning. People ask me why am I so motivated to learn all these things on my own. Why when I don’t get any PLUs (credits) do I spend time discovering new ways of doing things? The answer is simple. I don’t want to be hindered by anyone else in my personal discovery process. I don’t want to wait for a certain date and time or for someone to tell me what to do. I do want to be given clues, encouragement and take the time to share what I’ve learned with others who are following their own paths on my own time. I love the process of discovery and it frustrates me that I still haven’t found a way to truly incorporate this process into my students’ learning. Discovery is messy, a bit chaotic and unpredictable. It can be time consuming. My mission is to add the element of discovery into each new day for my students. I am on an endless quest for new ideas. Fortunately, the world is full of them!

Maximize Your PLN

October 4, 2009

Increase the range of your Personal learning Network by finding diverse groups on the net. Chris Shambles has redesigned his site which is full of resources and ways to make new connections. He is also using Screenr to screen capture, how to sessions which will help you find what you’re looking for more efficiently. Watch and learn.
Chris Shambles talks about global learning links

Impact of Economic Crisis on Future of Education, Your Move

January 31, 2009

Higher student:teacher ratios and no part-time staff support were this week’s headlines. Our Superintendent made it clear: 86% of the county budget is in personnel so this will be the area hardest hit by budget cuts, or will it? At present we have a 21:1 student teacher ratio in 3rd grade. This number promises to increase 30% to 1:27 by next fall. When teachers are already struggling to cover the curriculum efficiently enabling students to pass required state tests, how much harder will this be to accomplish when one teacher is serving 27 students? Who is hardest hit? I think it will be the students. Hearken back to 50’s when some teachers were responsible for 40+ students. How did those teachers make it work? Did they have to individualize, differentiate, accommodate students at the same time appeasing parents? Hardly. They didn’t have nearly the accountability teachers face today.

How many of you have viewed the classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail? If you have then the image of the Black Knight should easily come into focus.

Crisis Crippling Education

Crisis Crippling Education

There may even be a smiling forming on your lips at this very moment. What does he have to do with me/us and the current state of affairs in education? It’s simple. Every time we, as teachers are asked to perform the task of teaching under increasingly difficult circumstances, we are confronted by impossible odds for success. The increasing layers of orders for compliance, demands for data, burgeoning class size and the lack of viable means to accomplish these goals, leaves us as helpless as the black knight. He/we are valiantly shaking our heads and defending our students rights to learn but we haven’t a leg to stand on.

So what does all this mean for the future of education? Something’s gotta give and when it does change will have to follow.

Crisis v Ingenuity

Crisis v Ingenuity

The change will be painful but necessary. All the lip service about 21st century teaching and learning will never amount to anything unless we as educators and community members are forced to make major changes in instructional delivery. A paradigm shift will have to occur in order to save money and delivery quality education. I see the necessity for blended learning programs taking off. Alternatives to the traditional 5 day school week will collapse under the pressure to save fuel, electricity and to address individual student needs. Clusters of learning coops will spring up in homes to receive instruction in a facilitated study-group setting with access to a classroom entered synchronously online complete with two-way video streams. Students may only attend the physical plant location 2-3 times a week.

The reality is, we have been heading in this directions for years by creating a demand for outside forms of educational support. Look at any strip mall and you will find small businesses poised to deliver educational support and enrichment. You will also find families paying up to $60 an hour for elementary school tutors to ensure students pass the gateway tests and are promoted to the next grade. Homeschooling too has been on the rise. What is wrong with this picture? Clearly schools are not able to meet the needs of all students and parents find themselves spending above and beyond the school tax allotment to address their child’s educational needs. Something has to change, and it won’t be easy.

With less disposable income and more at stake in the classroom than ever before, parents are going to reach a breaking point. When they look around and see more money going into Special Education programs and less and less going into the regular ed sector there is bound to be some kind of backlash and an outcry for equity. Change is painful but in if we can hang on through the storm we should actually come out better and stronger on the other end. Ingenuity will triumph over crisis.

Must Read: Twitter Experiment Results

January 30, 2009

Twitter Cures Hiccups
Jenny Gilbert, thank you for making me laugh first thing in the morning! jenny posted the above link in my Diigo educators group and if you have ever wondered how many different ways there are to cure hiccups, you will be nothing short of amazed by the responses David Pogue, NYT technology Reporter received in hi Twitter experiment.

and this is how I get rid of them.

and this is how I get rid of them.

Twitter is for people who need to have their finger on the pulse of the world, at all times. It’s the crack cocaine of instant feedback. I briefly engaged in twittering but found myself overly absorbed in the online dynamics and pulled away to catch my breath. Since then I find myself reconsidering the value of Twitter and wondering, how I could join the collective consciousness of Twitter without getting sucked into the Matrix? Just this week I heard Greta Van Susteren ask viewers to Twitter! Only a few months back in September of 2008, she was steering clear of Twitter due to her already overly connected life. Much as Oprah made Skype a household word/application. It’s possible Greta and other news hounds will find Twitter invaluable in providing leads and making connections with the help of limitless numbers of voices available instantly online.

Like a New Litter of Kittens!

July 29, 2008
ox out of the box

Our long awaited XO’s finally arrived with very little fanfare on a summer day during kindergarten screening several weeks before the start of the new school year. Ten small square cardboard boxes rested on top of the circulation desk in our Media Center. Diane, our amazing Media Specialist told me I could be the first to open a package. I relished the thought like a child who can’t wait to see what Santa has deposited beneath the tree. As it happened, she and I were in school the same day and with the help of one of our Creek View families who came for the screening, together we broke open the contents and revealed the adorable smiling, squeaky clean little laptops eager to play.

ox out of the box

They had a slightly bumpy surface for easy gripping and rounded corners making them very safe and easy to handle. First step, pop in the battery pack. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t come with the crank generator as they do in the third world, although I know that whole system tanked resulted in the need for more energy exceeding predicted costs and bringing the program to a standstill in Nigeria.

The batteries were 80% charged and ready to go. We all ogled the rubbery lime green key board with its tiny keys. Back up, it did take several minutes to discover how to open the unit, very clever design! The children seemed intent on cracking these nuts and while Diane and I started a chat we encouraged Jimmie to join in. She is entering 1st grade this year. She found us and I noticed the look of satisfaction when she sent a quick ‘HI’ and got our responses. It was time for DJ and Jimmie to head back to the screening room so Diane and I found ourselves surrounded by these cute little devices, admiring them like a new litter of kittens. She took two home as did I. We left three for our Tech Specialist (he has three girls) and set aside three for the family who contributed half the money we raised to make out Give One Get One purchase last December. We have plans for the 10 and they include forming project based learning groups from grades 1-5 and hosting a reception for the contributors, PTA and community leaders mid September.

I keep up with the OLPC wiki and news blog and despite the seemingly endless number of setbacks and

User Group meets in WDC

User Group meets in WDC

failures I feel proud to support their efforts to connect our world. I’m an idealist at heart and I have faith in the God given abilities in each and every one of us. Tapping into the vast human landscape of the third world holds the key to a brighter future for all of us. I really believe that. There is a child, children, and people connecting who hold they keys we need to make the world a better place. Technology provides the launch pad for these big ideas. Americans have long held the belief that anything is possible. It’s a feeling no one should go without. The OLPC is a beacon of hope and an agent of change. The concept has inspired many rival designs and identified a need to pursue affordable technology for all.

Sprout, the Growth of Ideas, Ideals and Children

April 18, 2008

There is a very interesting new tool on the scene, Sprout! It has some wonderful built in Flash. I discovered it by way of Chip-In. Sprout has a Chip-In feature. In efort to raise awareness and support for the SpringsAlive Community in Uganda I decided to use Sprout to build an Advocacy Widget.  You can see the embed on the Springs Alive blog.  For some reason I haven’t been able to get the code to work here but is posts smoothly to blogger.  See for your self.

Wonderful Project HP & Brian C Smith Support Teacher Innovation

April 9, 2008

pond partner project

This is a wonderful example of what children can be motivated to produce with guidance from motivated teachers! This is by far the best example I have see thus far of teacher,

student and technology integration/collaboration at the elementary level. I am very encouraged by Brian’s work on this project and plan to get more details from him, show parts of the recorded video to my staff and hopefully inspire this kind of innovation at my own school.

ELA integration into science curric

Brian’s project also has a wiki:

This incredible collaboration shows teachers how they can develop a strong interest in science investigation among students, compassion for the environment, the use tech tools such as probes to collect data, ELA skills of documentation, the excitement of project based learning and collaboration across grade levels.

inquiry based learning

This is possible. This is what we should be striving for. Please, can we move beyond dioramas and posters. Think big! Use Multi-media and empower students to educate the world!