When your flair isn’t making the cut

Please tell me you remember Office Space (1999)?

How many of you meet the minimum, but the minimum does not meet the expectation?

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Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: We need to talk about your flair.

Joanna: Really? I… I have fifteen pieces on. I, also…

Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Well, okay. Fifteen is the minimum, okay?

Joanna: Okay.

Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Now, you know it’s up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Or… well, like Brian, for example, has thirty seven pieces of flair, okay. And a terrific smile.

Joanna: Okay. So you… you want me to wear more?

Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Look. Joanna.

Joanna: Yeah.

Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Chotchkie’s for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That’s what the flair’s about. It’s about fun.

Joanna: Yeah. Okay. So more then, yeah?

Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Look, we want you to express yourself, okay? Now if you feel that the bare minimum is enough, then okay. But some people choose to wear more and we encourage that, okay? You do want to express yourself, don’t you?

Joanna: Yeah, yeah.

Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Okay. Great. Great. That’s all I ask.

And how many of you are doing more because you’re expected to and not receiving more compensation?

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Bill Lumbergh: Hello Peter, whats happening? Ummm, I’m gonna need you to go ahead come in tomorrow. So if you could be here around 9 that would be great, mmmk… oh oh! and I almost forgot ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday too, kay. We ahh lost some people this week and ah, we sorta need to play catch up.

If you exceed the expectations and go beyond what is required, do you stay silent about it or are you vocal about it? In my experience, it’s the less vocal that accomplish more than those who speak loudest. Yet why is it that the loudest receive the recognition? Is the noise meant to cover the lack of doing?

So how much flair is enough flair, and how do you show your flair so that you don’t feel like…Image

PD – Not just for teachers anymore

Thanks to my CUE Technology Coordinators SIG (via Google+ Community), I was exposed to reading a recent blog by Jackie Gerstein regarding how educators are taking PD into their own hands. To supplement the missing links, teachers pay out of pocket for PD, do not receive recognition  or compensation for taking such initiatives, and often remain voiceless in their actions (this last part I added).

* On a side note, have you noticed that those who are most vocal often do and accomplish less than those who are reserved about their actions?

Shortly thereafter, I completed the anonymous Survey Monkey poll for CUE. I’m disclosing my answers for the final prompts because they deserve to be asked/discussed regardless of CUE membership.

In a nut shell:

  1. What are current challenges for schools, teachers, students, and parents?
  2. Knowing that CUE supports legislative advocacy, what are my current concerns?

To answer the first question:

  • Schools face challenges in keeping up with all what is out there not just regarding educational technology, but educational policy reform and best practices -> Schools as a whole should have access to necessary PD and support = don’t just leave it up to the schools themselves to figure things out.
  • Teachers face the challenges of receiving adequate and personalized PD -> This is where Jackie’s blog comes into play. Yes, teachers are taking PD into their own hands because schools continue to provide one-size-fits-all PD. PD nonetheless, but not PD that matters. That said, schools need to ensure that the mission and vision are carried out, and so if providing PD to meet those needs facilitates that challenge, then continue. But if that PD does not meet the individual needs of the teachers, then the PD is falling short. How can PD merge the needs, and wants, of the teachers and the school?
  • Students and Parents – We have forgotten about providing development for these two audiences. While we’re so busy making sure that schools and teachers receive PD, we have let students and parents fall to the wayside. Yes, I realize that this is an extremely generalized statement and I appreciate that there are schools and teachers who provide students and parent PD, but to my personal experience and knowledge, there is a shortage. So what do I mean about student and parent PD?
    • Students need direction how to use tech beyond social circumstances. Using technology and media for education is different. While conceptually it makes sense for adults, but making the logical connections from one to the other can be difficult and not as obvious to the teenage brain. I say teenage here because that is my focal group and the audience who I teach.
    • Parents need to gain awareness how technology and media is used in their student’s (students’) classrooms, especially in high school because traditionally, students have 6-8 different teachers who all do something different, and expect something different. Parents should receive PD regarding the tech their students use.

To answer the second question, I find that there is one overarching concern with at least one sub-component:

  • Merging educational technology with CCSS not just efficiently, but effectively
    • Now include above for students with accommodations – IEPs, 504 Plans, and more. These students are mainstreamed, but there still may be a need to differentiate the type of technology and CCSS (i.e. Connectors) for students. Let’s start looking at how we can seamlessly develop curriculum and instruction to meet this challenge.

PD – it goes beyond schools and teachers.

Legislative Advocacy – let’s merge tech, CCSS, and students with accommodations for a seamless curriculum and way of instruction.

Process vs. Product

I recently posed the question of when does scaffolding become too much – too much of it, for students and for teachers.

“Instructional scaffolding is a learning process designed to promote a deeper level of learning. Scaffolding is the support given during the learning process which is tailored to the needs of the student with the intention of helping the student achieve his/her learning goals (Sawyer, 2006).”

When I think of IS, I think of learning the scales before learning to play a whole song on a musical instrument. You have to learn the basics and the fundamentals that can be applied later on. As a child, I hated the rudimentary approach to the holistic learning. Why not learn the notes to the song and then just go ahead and learn to play the song? Did learning the scales help me play Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” any better? I wanted the excitement of learning to play the cool pieces, not what I saw as the dull essentials that took the fun out of the big picture. Do the small goals really help to the big goals?

Now as a teacher, I try to empathize with my students when it comes to learning in the classroom. Here, though, replace scales with sentence structure and the whole song with some form of writing – essay, short story, narrative, expository, persuasion. Essays require formal writing skills (e.g. MLA, APA). Short stories require certain elements (i.e. plot). Narration, expository, and persuasive writing each have their own characteristics that make them what they are. And without learning the basics, you can’t write the intended piece. You can’t manipulate the basics until you have learned them. Think of Maria explaining to the children that the individual notes are “only the tools we use to build a song. Once you have these notes in your heads, you can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up.” This is perhaps an answer to the former question – the small goals of learning the notes helps you sing or play the bigger piece at hand. By learning and understanding the characteristics of Magical Realism allows you to write a Magical Realism tale – you can’t write one until you know the basics.

Now that I think I have resolved my question of do we or don’t we need the small goals, to which the answer is yes, we do, I’m still left to wonder when does how much become too much? Understand by Design – the backward design. We know what the goal is, but how much scaffolding (i.e. “performance assessments” in the UbD framework) is too much?

While the intention of the strategy is positive, too much of IS may create an overwhelming environment. Let me list some rhetorical questions that I’ve been grappling with.

  1. Does every piece of IS require grading and thus increase the amount of grades in the grade book?
  2. Does more IS = more grading for teachers
  3. Does more IS = emphasizes the minute picture rather the big goal for students

Let’s be honest – there is a great deal of emphasis on grades. High school. College. Transcripts. Jobs.  Can we and should we change the grading approach? That’s a color of a different horse and too much to take on for the intention of this reflection, but it does deserve recognition for future discussion. I digress. Should scaffolding be graded? Should the process be graded? Grades, yes, can reflect students’ process – think of quiz grades indicating a students’ ability to perform before the final exam. How do you measure mastery of the process? Should the grades be left to the final product with only feedback up until then?

I think that I’m in line with many in the field of education in believing that through Inquiry-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning, and Project-Based Learning, students learn the life skills required for outside of the brick and mortar school systems – team work, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity. But even with that, those with the powers at hand like to see success, and see/define success through posted grades.

Scaffolding paves the way for feedback, for mastery, for an understanding of the fundamentals. But on what do we, or should we, place the emphasis and at the very least, what goes into the grade book – the process or the product?

Is #flippedlearning a Controversy?

Recently, I attended and presented at the annual American Education Research Association Image conference, this time located in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. But using social media, specifically Twitter, I felt anything but love.

This conference attracts a different type of audience compared to say ImageImage, and Image. Papers, that’s right, papers that are submitted as proposals and blindly peer-reviewed are based on research, not anecdotes. There is fierce competition as to whose study is better, fear of research fraud, and divisions of multiple facets of perspectives ranging from curriculum design, teacher education, educational policy, organization and leadership, LGBTQ issues, and minority studies to just name a few.  Imagine 20 some thousand researchers in some realm of education vying for recognition as the best; and then not to mention the multitude of SIGs (Special Interest Groups) that allow members to be part of sub-specialty areas of interest.

Membership within Divisions and SIGs might very well be deepening a closed minded approach to education. Are we losing, or have we already lost, the bigger picture at hand? At the very heart of our work, we must strive for what is in the best interest of the students. Don’t we? Shouldn’t we?

So you might ask yourself, why do I attend and present at this type of conference? Because I genuinely enjoy conducting research and educational theory, and then aligning findings and basic fundamentals to practice. Consider that as my way of blending my learning.

Of the three papers I submitted, two were accepted – 66% acceptance rate is pretty darn good. One such paper is based on the instructional concept of flipped learning, but supported by theory. So it’s not just anecdotal, it’s theoretical.

As many of us are so familiar with presenting at large conferences, we know that we ironically cannot depend on technology. Needless to say, the room in which I was scheduled to present my panel-based paper did not have reliable Wi-Fi, if it did in fact kick in. So afterward, I took some key points from my paper and tweeted them out, with a #flippedlearning and #aera14 attached. The basis for my research was examining the theoretically-based cognitive implications and learning outcomes when using this given instructional design in a specific content area with a specific sample of a larger population – math and undergraduate nursing students. I didn’t explore the pragmatics of the implementation of the instruction because first, that wasn’t my intention and second, I’m the one who supplied the materials to conduct as controlled of a study as possible. No malice intended.

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Perhaps I had forgotten that I was within the lion’s den or perhaps I’d become so accustomed to collaborative and team support from attendance and presentation at ed tech conferences that my own vulnerability and naiveté placed me in a peace, love, happiness state, or perhaps I really do live in a sheltered yet progressive educational part of the country. Regardless, I did not think that my few tweets would garner such negative responses. Some responses included:

  • “I read it as a dreadfully diminutive model of teaching.” BUT…

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  • “#flippedlearning is a cop out…corporate privatization technique – socialize the risk, privatize the profit” BUT…

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  • “And that’s part of the failure of #flippedlearning…reducing pedagogy to the transfer of content.” BUT…Image

Dispersed throughout such comments were two aggravating phrases:

  1. “IMO” – in my opinion
  2. “…how I define…”

Those two phrases are empty. When it comes to research, personal opinions don’t really matter (they do, but they don’t), and how someone personally defines something (unless you are a well-versed, highly published scholar in the respective area) means dirt. Subjectivism has no place. It’s all about objective presentation based on what the literature says. Personal stories like “In my classroom…” or “I do it this way…” are not generalizable facts. Comments should be supported with relevant research. And that wasn’t happening.

These negative responses came from only 3-4 people out of thousands, and lasted for a couple of days, but who knows who . Maybe it lasted longer; I don’t know because I had finally asked the tweeters to remove me from their mentions. It’s not because I wasn’t interested in reading their concerns. I wasn’t interested in reading their constant negative viewpoints without any proposed solutions to their concerns, and above all, I wasn’t interested in conversing with people who had no interest in learning about the theoretical foundations that do in fact support the cognitive implications and the learning outcomes of #flippedlearning that I initially hypothesized.

Trained as an instructional designer and educational theorist, I approach situations as methodically and rationally as I can. I thrive on learning as much information as possible before making a decision. And maybe that’s why I was taken so aback when (what I deem as) irrational comments started coming in about #flippedlearning. When someone does not know the entire presentation, don’t jump to conclusions and automatically negatively criticize 140-character snipit of a bigger whole. Ask some bigger, non-derogatory questions rather than assuming and attacking.

After the initial shock, I took some time to reflect on this trendy instructional design that is intended to help rather than hinder, to aid and facilitate rather than suppress and overwhelm. And what I began to question, “is #flippedlearning a controversy?”

  1. What about the schools that do not have technology to flip?
  2. What about the students who do not have Internet at home?
  3. What about the students who do not have technological devices outside of school, if in fact the school has such devices?

Cognitive load and learning outcomes aside, how accessible is #flippedlearning outside of Silicon Valley?

FACCT: Vision Framework for Faculty PD

When reflecting on what faculty professional development is, I thought of the following:

  • PD is not one-size-fits-all because we are not a one-size faculty. While there are general areas that we can enhance, teachers need to be autonomously aware of their areas to improve upon.
  • Guide teachers in planning and execution stages of teaching and instruction including class management and assessment. Developing individual plans for professional growth and adjusting those needs as seen fit is part of the natural learning process.
  • Support the conscious effort of the reflective process on an ongoing or final product. Reflection paves the way to growth, and teachers need to have the explicit opportunity and safe environment.
  • Not change teachers, but foster their abilities into self-betterment and continual improvement as educators.
  • It is critical to remember the fundamental essentials of teaching and the current approaches to best teaching practices.
  • Teaching is not all about the teacher talking 100%, nor is teaching hovering over students 100% of the time. Not if classroom management, instructional strategies, and student engagement are aligned.
  • In order to grow professionally, we should also grow personally.

I was recently asked to develop an outline representing my vision for a school, a vision meant to promote faculty professional development. Time frame? 1 week. So to the white board I went and started writing through my stream of consciousness. Ideas. Thoughts. Arrows. Combinations. Categories. For the time being, I concluded that a vision for a strengthening faculty PD lies within the FACCT framework: Funding, Alignment, Communication, Connection, Transparency.

Vision for Faculty Professional Development

Funding: Schools should be able to fund teachers in their areas of interest. A set budget a year before is limiting. Get someone to write the grants.

  • Grants
  • Bring in outside resources
  • Conference/Workshop/Convention Attendance

Alignment: Instruction should be aligned with the school’s graduation outcomes and the school’s mission. What’s the point in having them if they are not consciously brought to the forefront?

  • Instruction
  • Graduation Outcomes
  • Mission

Communication – Bring out the voices. Developing faculty professions is not and should not be a top-down approach. PD is not one-size-fits-all. Can teachers enhance their development to bring out the interest of the school? Yes. But teachers need to embrace their personal interests as well, so ask them what they want, too.

  • Faculty
    • What do department chairs envision?
    • What do individual faculty want to learn?
    • ADDIE; UbD; Bloom
    • Pedagogy
    • Visions of school
  • Counseling
    • Learning Resource Specialist
  • Learning Commons Resources
    • Research
    • Technology
  • Technology Coordinator
    • Technology can be scary. It can be intimidating. What we need is to be fearless. – LeVar Burton, CUE14
  • Cross-curricular
  • Parents
    • School policies – grading

Connection – teachers need to learn from each other; share ideas with each other; be humble when stuck.

  • Inter- and intra department
  • What is everyone doing?
  • Make PD daily and random
  • Tweet – action pics, whiteboard brainstorms

Transparency: Don’t be afraid to show off all of your teachers; motivate and inspire; like students, teachers, too, will want to perform if someone other than the administration is seeing their abilities.

  • Show parents/audience how the school supports PD
  • Post PD processes on website
    • Faculty
    • School
  • Current resources
    • Forms
    • Evaluation templates
  • Exemplary portfolios
    • Share on teacher profile page
    • Marketing
    • Showcase the faculty
    • Be proud of what happens on campus and in classrooms
  • Blog
    • Once a month = 8-9 times a school year
    • 4 CCSS
    • 4 Graduation Outcomes
    • Incorporate Mission
  • Teachers self-track and self-evaluate progress – ongoing; not strictly scheduled

Go Nuts

Years ago, when I was completely addicted to Boston Legal, and someday I plan on sitting and watching all the re-runs, there was one specific episode that hit close to home – teaching. Spoiler Alert – even though the teacher wins her case in the end, she opts to go into business with a relative rather than choosing to return to the classroom. Why?

Shirley’s closing statement, however, still lingers in my mind. Image

Why teach?

I recently read this via Facebook as a post of a post from a blog of a post from a piece in the Washington Post.

It saddens me to think that this is where we have embarked to in our progress to achieve great education. Yet, upon reflecting on this school year specifically, I completely empathize with this anonymous teacher. And I’m let to ask, why teach? Why do it? And I’m not looking for a righteous, self-fulfilling answer that it’s gratifying to know that I could reach at least one student or the humbling, thankless experience of giving. Clearly, no teacher enters the field of education for the financial stability (especially when my colleagues work side jobs to make ends meet), so why do it?