Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Putting Gladwell's Compensatory Model into Practice or NECC 09 Keynote Part 2!

I've just returned from an energizing visit to Washington DC where I attended NECC, the National Educational Computing Conference. Not surprisingly, my best learning took place in between sessions, at Edubloggercon, in the Bloggers Cafe, and in the evenings. 

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, was the Keynote speaker for the conference on Sunday night. I recorded his talk: click here to listen in new window. For the most part, if you have read the book, you have heard the talk (and vice versa). He has a great message, but I want to know how to put it into practice in the classroom. I put out a call on Twitter to find people interested in talking more about Gladwell's ideas. I was thrilled to have the company of Donna DesRoches, Jen Orr, Laura Deisley and Richard Scullin for this discussion. 

Gladwell spoke about a "compensatory" model of education, where we encourage students to learn how to compensate for their weaknesses, rather than capitalize on their strengths. In our discussion we talked about what this would look like in the classroom. This is what we came up with.

A compensatory classroom would focus, not on where the student is, but instead on how far a child has traveled in his or her learning.  Assessments would be self-referenced, rather than norm referenced. It doesn't matter how students compare to each other, but rather how they compare to where they were before. 

Teachers would encourage students to look at how they are learning, not just at what they are learning. It would be important to assess learning styles and encourage students to work outside of their preferred style.  Students would reflect and share the strategies that worked best for them, taking a metacognitive approach to their own learning. Teachers would differentiate instruction, asking students to try less comfortable learning places and suggesting strategies to help them succeed in those places. 

Students would have more control over what they learn – they would be constantly asking themselves to think about what they are learning and to be looking for their own weaknesses and looking to strengthen them. Mixing kids up would make sense – kids can help each other to compensate

Finally, and most controversially, failure would be valued as much as, or more than success.  If you aren't failing, if you aren't taking risks, then you aren't learning.  Assessments would look for weaknesses, rather than strengths, to encourage students to build on their deficiencies. The things we praise and the ways we praise them would need to change.This is a major cultural shift and would require us to learn to find joy in failure. 

What do you think? What would a "Compensatory Classroom" look like to you? Please share your ideas.

Image Source: Sarah Sutter's photostream on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/sutterview/3670101897/

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Edubloggercon 2009 Notes and Reflections

Once again Edubloggercon (I missed the EBC in San Antonio, but attended the 2007 meeting in Atlanta) and the great Steve Hargadon lived up to my expectations. The day was filled with interesting conversations, and for me, not a single "presentation." I learned and shared and questioned and pondered. It was a wonderful day. I have a hard time believing that the actual NECC conference (for which I am paying big bucks) will live up.

I started the day by offering a session on Professional Development. I was worried that no one would come because the great Vicki Davis ran her Web 2.0 Smackdown during the same slot. But it was a very nice group of about 25 people. We split into smaller groups of about 5, to envision our ideal Professional Development experience. When we came back together we shared our conversations. Here are some of my notes:
  • Time for reflection should be built into PD
  • Take the PD that teachers are already doing and use technology to support it.
  • PD should be purposeful
  • We need to include administration in PD
  • Administrators have to trust teachers to be professional and allow them to take control of their PD.
  • The pressure for accountability is misapplied to the disadvantage of teachers.
  • It is important to look at how we frame the PD - selling it to teachers/administrators standards based instruction
  • Back channel - Being off task doesn't only happen with technology. The backchannel can be a powerful support to PD.
  • Model back channel with teachers so teachers will be able to use it properly with students.
  • What is your focus for back channel?
  • What is your focus for PD?
  • Who do you target for PD? Power users beginners trickle down? Build scaffolds.
  • Engage admins to use one tool at a time as models and lead the changes
  • Coach in each department in the high school
  • Sign up to demo lessons to teachers - 20 minutes Taste of technology
  • Unprofessional development (unconference)
  • PD On demand
  • Speed geeking (speed dating) 3 min pitch of what you are doing
  • Individual technology education plan (support plan) Take NETS standards revisit goals reflect on strengths and weaknesses.
  • Tools potluck come with an idea and we will match you up with a tool.
Next I went to the Social Networking in Education session lead by Steve Hargadon It was another interesting discussion. More of my notes:
  • Instead of asking what happens if we use social networking in education, ask what will happen if we don't do it?
  • Instead of worrying about how bad it can make us look, think about how good this could make us look!
  • Isolation breeds superstition
  • Socialization breeds learning
  • Authenticity is important, if the network is closed and the kids see each other face to face anyway, it loses its authenticity.
  • If you talk about the world in the third person, it is a scary place not so if you talk in the first person.
  • Etwinning - an English initiative pairing schools 60,000 schools in Europe Part of European school net
  • Find author to be part of book - social networking collapses hierarchy
  • What are the real dangers? Bullies and predators are not really as much of a risk as the media makes them out to be.
Jeff Utecht lead the next session with the question "Is blogging dead?"
  • What has Twitter done to the conversation? It speeds up the conversation - the life cycle of a post is much shorter.
  • When do you post? When you release info - time day makes a difference because of live timestream. Jeff has found that 3pm Eastern Time is ideal for getting feedback. (Should I wait to release this post?)
  • The Retweet is the new way to refer to other posts
  • Twitter audience is different
  • How do you revive old content on your blog? Feature Posts - Related Post - Tag Cloud. Most recent posts commented on come to the top. Zemanta Lists of related posts come up
  • Jeff's kids are blogging and will post from a joint twitter account to tweet new posts
  • Blogging requires some risk taking, to put something out that might not be perfect - different level
  • We talk all the time about teaching kids responsible use of the Internet, who is teaching kids about empowered use?
  • Blogging gives you incubation time.
  • What is not dying is communicating!
Finally, I ended the day with a session on digital portfolios. The woman who had offered the session didn't make it to the conference, so we went ahead with the discussion anyway. I love that about an unconference. We were all there waiting for a leader and just decided to go ahead without her. It was great.
  • Possible tools: Mahara, Edublogs Campus
  • A good portfolio demonstrates growth.
  • It is important for a digital portfolio to be more than just a binder on a screen.
  • There are different types of portfolios
  • Portfolios collect evidence of learning
  • We need to decide what we keep private and what public
  • The digital portfolio could become the new standardized test.
  • The portfolio should be an ongoing formative assessment, not just something you do at the end of the year.
  • Ideally you would put it together with a social network and course management software
  • The entire faculty needs to buy in to make it a productive and meaningful experience.
  • It is important to consider who the audience will be.
  • Proud points - Who you are and what you are proud of?
  • Without reflections it is nothing more than a scrap book
  • Students moving from one school to another (middle to high school) often leave with nothing to show for their learning, portfolios give them something to hold on to
  • Reflect and collect
So there you have it. I still have lots to reflect on and synthesize, but I hope my notes can provide you a bit of a window into my experiences yesterday. Thanks to everyone who I met and who contributed their thoughts. I'm sorry that I'm not able to attribute each of these points to their originators.

What do you see in these notes? I would love to hear your analysis of the day!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Are you going to be at NECC09?

I am getting ready to head down to Washington DC today for the NECC09 Conference. I am looking forward to seeing my PLN IRL and learning from everyone. I am also feeling kind of out of the loop. I haven't blogged in almost a month and I've hardly been on Twitter. I think NECC is just what I need to kick me back into gear.

Will you be at NECC? If so, I would love to meet you (if I haven't aready). Please leave a comment and hopefully we can find a way to connect.

Here are my plans so far:

Friday, June 26:
Fly down to DC
Dinner - no plans yet

Saturday, June 27:
Dinner - Wikispaces after party

Sunday, June 28:
Constructivist Celebration (I actually may not be able to make it to this)
Opening Keynote Malcolm Gladwell
Dinner - no plans yet

Monday, June 29:
NECC sessions (don't know yet which ones)
Independent School Birds of a Feather
Dinner - NECC TweetUp

Tuesday, June 30:
Fly home (It is my daughter's birthday)

So there you have it. Sorry I've been so out of touch. Please leave a comment and let me know if you will be at NECC and hopefully our paths will cross.