Monday, March 10, 2014

IW: March: Dangerously Irrelevant - Technology, Leadership and the Future of Schools

Dangerously Irrelevant is a popular Technology, Leadership and Schools blog written by Scott McLeod.

He does not have a subtle writing technique.  LPS does not support his views necessarily, but thought that he had some topics that may be interesting to read and respond to.

1. Choose one of his posts from the last 12 months and respond to it.
   a. What was the article title and short summary
   b. What are your thoughts about the topic?

Blog Site:

Examples of recent posts from his blog: 

Picking right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity


  1. I think the best thing that was said when introducing Mr. McLeod was “he does not have a subtle writing technique.” That point is proved even in the titles of his posts. I chose to read the post “The Digital Equity Concerns of ‘Good Enough.’” This post discussed the idea of is 90% adequate or enough- “The kids coming from low SES are the farthest behind. To give them something that is already hobbled is insulting. Here kid, you are behind already, here is something that will make you farther behind, But be glad, because you can do 90%!” Technology we use shouldn’t be adequate, would we ourselves be ok using adequate tech - if not, why would we be ok with it for our kids.
    I agree that there is a huge gap in technology resources for lower socio-economic schools and districts - this is unacceptable if we are trying to get all kids to be 21st century learners and have the same opportunities in their education. The most interesting read for me was not the post itself but the discussion that followed. People get very heated in their responses to Scott and others who have posted. I think what people are failing to recognize is that as educators we all want the same thing - student success and student access. While 90% is never ideal in any case, it is better than nothing when used in an effective way. We are blessed to be 1:1 in our grade level, but I know many are still striving for this kind of access. I use what I have to the best of my abilities, it is a normal staple in our classroom, and it expands our horizons everyday in my classroom. Do I feel like my kids are suffering because all we have is a EEE or Chromebook? Absolutely not! Would I love more technology and access for my students? Absolutely! We can’t all have everything we want right now, but we can use what we have to the best of our abilities while still striving to provide our students with the best, most well rounded education possible. As always it isn’t about who has the best tools in education, it is about who uses the tools they have more effectively. Many of these people speak to a ‘perfect world’ where we all have equal access and that just isn’t our current reality. I love that our district and the colleagues we work with are always striving to better themselves and their students in their current situation/reality. We all want more, we work towards having more, but we don’t let less access or fewer tools stop us - that to me is impressive and a great role model for our students.
    I like reading Scott’s work because it challenges my thinking, even if some of his posts make my blood boil up a bit. There are always going to be extremes on any side of an issue - that is real life. My only wish is that real life looked more like our cohort group in Inspired Writing, a chance for colleagues to collaborate, share, problem solve, and push ourselves in determining what ‘best practice’ looks like in our current state.

  2. Monday, March 17, 2014

    Article Read: No Wonder Nobody Wants to Come

    By: Ira Socol

    Summary: This article discusses the need for more classrooms to operate as a whole group collaboration instead of an independent work environment. If students want to do independent work and just check in with an expert on occasion, then why should they waste their time coming to school. There are plenty of educational video resources (Khan Academy) that could provide that learning and the students could be in a more relaxed environment. The idea of isolation learning is not much different from the teacher that has taught the same material in the same way for the last 30 years. In order for students to be better learners and more engaged, classrooms should support the following structure: driven by student choice, personalized time lines and schedules, technology that supports their learning, and adult rankings to standards. Without this structure, the author suggests that students have no reason to bother coming to school.

    My Reflection:

    The writer addresses many hot topics that educators are discussing more and more. She has many great points but also limited perspective to truly making this environment work consistently in a public school setting. First, I agree with the need for students to have as much choice as possible in the work they do. While it is still guided and monitored, I feel that students will push themselves far more when they are engaged. Also, I agree that working together to solve problems and analyze new information is very important to be molded in our classrooms. That is very true to how our work world operates and is an enviornment that students need to be familiar with. This article also addresses the use of technology. Technology is not going anywhere so it is imperative that students learn how to use it to assist their learning as well as expand their current world. I would rather teach students the appropriate use of technology while under a protective umbrella of school moderation. My concerns about this article stem from the realities of having very diverse learners at many different levels, classroom size and lack of resources, as well as the importance to learn to do tasks well that you may not completely enjoy--i.e. perseverance. So, yes, I do embrace many of the practices this author states, but I feel that there are outside factors that drive your teaching as well as different groups have different developmental needs. My goal is to use collaborative teaching that allows my students to be the forces behind the work selected while also instilling foundational concepts and work habit.

  3. 1. Article: No Wonder Nobody Wants to Come

    Summary: Schools as we know it are antiquated and cause students not to want to come each day. Referencing the 'crusty old mathematics teacher' who thinks he/she is preparing students for the real world by working in isolation, the author argues that students would be better off learning in a coffee shop (and it's not just for the better wifi). The author of the original article, Ira Socol, argues that schools and classrooms need: a) to be a place where kids make most of the decisions, b) a time environment in which students learn and work alongside a schedule that works for them, c) a technological environment which supports collaboration across every barrier, and d) a social environment in which adults do not rank students according to their oppressive social standards.


    Well. I think this person's argument could be stated that he is a proponent of expeditionary learning schools…true expeditionary learning schools in which there are no walls and students learn and design their own learning at their own pace. And while I don't entirely disagree with the letter of Socol's thoughts, I'm not quite clear, however, that the author has actually stepped foot in a public classroom since he was in 8th grade.

    Unfortunately, not all students come with the motivation to learn at her own pace; others lack the basic skills necessary to do so. And, they require a teacher to guide their thinking, inspire motivation, and fill in gaps that are present. These students require a teacher to introduce new concepts, impart words of wisdom, and intro due students to concepts that they think they hate…but end up loving. So while I would love to tear down the walls, abandon curriculum, and merely monitor what my self-motivating, self-directed students are creating and discovering, I think the output would be to fail as a teacher and simply prepare my students for a lifetime of couch surfing and burger flipping, which at the end of the day, is definitely not an option.

  4. 1. Article:
    "The dignity of the learner comes in second to his or her compliance"
    January 24, 2014

    This article shares a Relay Graduate School of Education video showing a teacher teaching the concept of a character trait in a typical Skill & Drill format. It includes a lot of fast-paced lower-level questions with no time for thoughtful discussion or real-life application of the concept. According to the author, Carol Burris, this methodology "better prepares students for the dutiful obedience of the military than for the intellectual challenges they will encounter in college."

    2. My Reflection:

    I strongly object to the Relay Graduate School of Education's approach to teaching - as a teacher, a parent, and a lifelong student myself. I cannot imagine this approach working on any level. I believe that one of the keys to success in the classroom is the relationship that the teacher builds with his/her students. Without this relationship, it truly becomes "the filling of the pail" without any inspiration or motivation. We may be identified as language arts teachers, math teachers, science teachers, etc., but I believe that first and foremost, we are here to teach children. If I want my students to treat each other with dignity and respect, it must start with me. I need to model the behavior I expect from the kids in my classroom. This teacher is more of a drill sergeant - no smiles, no interpersonal engagement, no please or thank you. That methodology would definitely not work for me or my students.

  5. I was drawn to the Blog Post ‘Closed’ v. ‘open’ systems of knowing (march 20) because I first read Postman and Weingartner’s book forty-five years ago when I was taking my first education classes preparatory to becoming a teacher. The book, Teaching As A Subversive Activity, is indeed a classic and I hope it is still being read by teachers and administrators alike.
    In his Blog Post, McLeod shares the ideas that “closed” systems, built on facts, memorization, and fixed outcomes drive our education world, while “open” systems are avoided because they are hard to quantify, categorize, assess, and reward. Yet this type of knowing is what produces the innovations of a Steve Jobs or the synergy of The Beatles. Sadly we in education believe we are focusing more on open systems by touting “21st century skills” or “higher level thinking.” Yet we still want it all done within our closed, two semester boxes, with very specific fixed outcomes.

    It is ironic that this class has introduced us to tools that can very definitely “open up” the education landscape, but not if they are simply used to substitute for “closed system” processes.Students, particularly at upper levels, cannot be expected to create new knowledge if they are forced to march down the ruts of old highways. True educational exploration, and genuine learning will only take place when the systemic shackles are removed and kids are actually encouraged to stray from the cyber-world paths from within the safety of their technology-equipped classrooms.

  6. The Post: Picking right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity

    The Article: College President: SAT Is Part Hoax, Part Fraud

    Summary: I think McLeod's post title speaks for itself.

    It's always about "teaching to the test" and how nobody should. And yet, students, parents, and teachers alike understand the importance of the dreaded ACT/SATs that determine student eligibility for acceptance into college. However, most effectively this article discusses that this notion that "the justification behind the SAT has been that it is an objective instrument of ability to succeed in college, when it is not." Truly, we are looking at the idea that given a situation, your life is constantly tested based on four or five (A through D) choices. May the best guesser win. I have always believed that it is not "teaching to the test" but rather "teaching to how to beat the test" that works most effectively for my kids. Be better than that multiple choice questions. Know that they are fooling you, trying to trick you, giving you two nearly-similar answers though only one is correct. Know that going into it, and then be better than it. Know the answer because you understand that the question is really trying to see if you understand what a main idea is, not because Sentence 1 is the best choice for the topic sentence of the paragraph. I will say, though, that if the SATs don't prepare you for college, then college certainly doesn't prepare you for life afterwards. I can honestly say that I learned (or at least applied) more from my semester experience student teaching than I learned after two years in the School of Education. That isn't to say I didn't learn one thing, I just didn't know how to apply it until I was allowed to do so. The article analogizes this concept in that "no baseball coach would train a team by accumulating an aggregate comparative numerical score of errors and well executed plays by each player, rating them, and then send them the results weeks later. When an error is committed it is immediately noted; the reasons are explained and the coach, at a moment in time close to the event, seeks to train the player how not to do it again." Touché.

    So, why do they take the SATs? Because individual student portfolios would take too long for a college bored to get through? Even if we all agree that standardized test do not appropriately ensure the capabilities of each individual student, the only question left is: what will?

  7. I read the April 4th blog titled " 'World-Class' Teacher Preparation".
    In the blog Scott describes what the graduate of an ideal teacher prep program would know. He created a list of attributes in several categories such as Project and Inquiry-based learning, Authentic, real-world work, 1:1 Computing, and Digital, online, and open access.
    The thoughts he shares are some of the skills we have been learning in our cohort. Retrofitting my skills has been challenging. The thought of having new teachers coming in and being able to jump right into the technology push would be extremely beneficial. A new teacher would be able to begin using the technology lessons already in use or share knowledge of technology learned in prep classes.
    The blog author was not aware of many opportunities for teachers to gain this type of experience in college.
    In addition to having to learn the skills to be technology savvy, I am struggling to find the time to practice implementing the skills I am learning and to get support for building lessons using strong technology skills for learning. Having students/new teachers trained in these teaching strategies would then increase the push in the building for using them instead of just agreeing they're nice, but reverting to old teaching methods.
    With new content standards and practices emphasizing critical thinking skills and technology, the types of skills described my Mr. McLeod in this blog are invaluable for future teachers to embrace.

  8. In Scott McLeod's post entitled The Digital Equity Concerns of 'Good Enough' (Jan 16, 2014), McLeod makes the case that students should be given business quality technology to provide a high quality education. He initially responds to a point made by George Couros, who claims that technology should be as readily available as paper and pencil in the classroom. McLeod agrees, adding that just providing technology isn't enough. He likens giving weak technology to student in the classroom to providing "a donkey to run the Kentucky Derby" or "a 1975 Chevy Vega to run the Daytona 500," but I would venture to say our students are not being asked to run in a proverbial "Kentucky Derby" or "Daytona 500." While I appreciate his sentiment, I think his analogies are stretched a bit, and he assumes a bit too much about the audiences using the technology.
    The flaw in McLeod's argument is that students are actually using technology for the same purposes, or that even those in the business world are using technology at such high levels. They are usually given specific tools and programs to perform their jobs, and that's what they know. The truth is that there are greater limitations on students because of both funding and age appropriateness. I work with junior high students and their capabilities and respectfulness with technology is not the same as that of someone in business. Our IT resources are different, and so are the skills of the teachers facilitating learning through the technology. Under McLeod's logic, students would have the most powerful technology because they have the most freedom of creativity and expression, but this seems to dismiss the notion that, as learning is scaffolded, so are the tools by which we facilitate learning. While having high end tech sounds ideal, the truth is that students can get by fine with most technology if the teacher is creative as well. I teach with old eee PCs with Ubuntu, and the vast majority of activities I want to do are either possible or restricted by content filters, which has nothing to do with the quality of the netbooks. What problems I encounter through poor technology is compensated by my, and my students, creativity - which I'm pretty sure is realistic for the business world too.

  9. I read the May 6 blog entry about rewarding students for their performance on state assessments in an Iowa school.

    It seems that if students showed growth and/or effort they were rewarded with a half day of fun at a local game place somewhat like Fun City. I have mixed feelings about this, which is to be expected I suppose.

    First, I wonder how it will be determined whether or not students put forth adequate effort on the test. Obviously, there are some students who rush through and don't try, but at times even students who do try don't make the growth we as teachers expect or they expect. It also seems like the students who would be punished by something like this are already deprived of things like electives, free time, and feeling good about their work as students. This seems like another thing to make them hate school.

    On the other hand, with more and more pressure being placed on educators and schools to show results on these tests, and no real accountability for students for their results on these tests, I can understand the school trying to find a way to motivate kids to do the best they can.

    I feel like the system is broken and because of that, we begin to see more efforts like this to create buy in for our students.

  10. I read the blog post "Instead of and AUP, how about and EUP (Empowered Use Policy)?

    Scott is being a bit facetious when he says that we need an EUP, but his point is that the negative and punitive nature of most AUPs does instill fear in most of us. They sound so legal! I admit, whenever I see that I have tried to access a site that it blocked with no way to bypass, I feel a little afraid!

    The EUP fits with the passionate and inquiring attitude that we want our students to have. Of course we all must consider the way we can say yes more often, and still help our students become educated consumers of internet information. My students know I expect them to be more awesome and use the internet to help them learn cool things that will help them make the world more awesome. Instead of laying down the law about tech use, I liken the internet to a big, busy city. There are some amazing and interesting things to see! But walking by yourself in a big city isn't really safe, especially when you are young and just learning your way around.

    Lists of rules rarely get the intended results. Maybe we should take a different approach with how we present expectations for technology use in the classroom. It sure fits better with the community we work so hard to build within our walls.

  11. The blog post I selected is:
    Cramming is indisputable proof of the superficiality of most classrooms in America

    a. The blog post is about the way we learn and the way American education has taught us to ‘learn’ - Cram - because of standardized testing. Cramming is not true learning - it is easily forgotten whereas true learning is retained.
    b. I couldn’t agree with Scott more. If we perpetuate the idea of teaching to the test and cramming for the score/grade, what have we really taught our students? We’ve taught them to store information in their short term memory, which may be a useful skill in a career. However, we have sacrificed class time devoted developing students who may learn to evaluate, analyze, create, innovate and think critically in order to develop the one skill of short term memory retention. This practice of cramming benefits only a select group of students, those who have an aptitude for short term memory retention. We as a society tend to place high value on that select group of students - their score is high, therefore they must be smart. How many times do we hear-”He’s so smart, he scored xxx on that test?” He may be smart, but I don’t believe that the test alone is an adequate measure of his abilities. Some students who have less aptitude at short term memory retention may actually have higher IQ’s than the previous group mentioned. Reform is necessary - both on the types of assessments we give as well as our interpretations and ‘value’ placed on certain assessments. Thus begins the debate of standardized testing. I fall on the side of less is better!

  12. 1a. I read “Higher-order thinking is the exception rather than the norm for most classrooms” (October 2nd)
    Data collected from more than 27,000 classroom observations suggests that the work that students are doing in most classrooms consists of remembering and understanding. In less than ⅙ of the classrooms, students were observed engaging in the higher order thinking skills of synthesis, evaluation, and creation. It acknowledges that while students do need to engage in the lower level work first, in order to be able to the higher level thinking, those higher order skills seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

    I want to believe that these numbers are not accurate, but when I am in my own classroom, I don’t really know what others are doing. I know that I appreciated reading the article and it makes me reflect on my own practice. I truly believe that students need to spend more time engaging in deeper thinking. I feel like a lot of the work that I have been doing with the CCSS has been helping me to seek ways to have students demonstrate their learning in ways that encourage higher order thinking. When standards, curriculum and assessments change, it takes time to develop these quality ways of assessing student learning. Another challenge for me is to find ways to give students and parents consistent and timely feedback when their demonstration of learning needs deeper thinking to assess it. It is one of my goals to always do more of this type of work. It is, as always, a work in progress.

  13. Reflection on April 30 Article
    Which vision are you selling?

    This article describes 4 different visions of how teachers and or administrators look at education. There are:
    Student Empowerment: Where students are challenged to be self directed, problem solvers, and collaborators.
    Regurgitation: is the vision where students are passive worksheet completers, mastery of content and end of chapter questions.
    Fear: is the vision where students untrustworthy, technology is a nuisance and the cause of social ills.
    Compliance: is the vision where educators are helpless victims subject to governmental rules and students are voiceless.

    I know where I want to be most of the time and that's student empowerment. I am there throughout most of the day. But there are times when I want to be the regurgitator, compliant, and at times even fear. Kids need to learn multiplication facts. We play games and that helps but so does doing timed (not too fast) tests. The kids like them and we all see ourselves getting better. As a teacher, I need to cover the curriculum. Luckily I have some flexibility in how I cover it. So I don't agree with the powerless part. We just need to get more creative if need be in places. Educators can participate in the process and provide feedback to get the resources needed to be compliant and not be helpless. Fear has it's place too. After talking to one student several times about using the computer as a tool to work, I continually found him on game websites instead of working. I couldn't trust him to work on the computer. So that student hand wrote his speech instead of using technology.

    Although I put my vision, philosophy, and practice more in the student empowerment camp, I do use some of the others when needed with third graders.

  14. Article read "Closed vs. Open Systems of Knowing" from March 20th.

    This article describes closed systems of knowing where clear yes or no answers are available in learning. Open systems of knowing have different degrees of rightness. The author claims that most students attend schools with the closed system of knowing, and that needs to change.

    The two systems mentioned above come from the book, Teaching as a Subversive Activity. I have not read this book, but John Kron, who read the same article mentioned above said that it is a classic. I will definitely add this book to my summer reading list!

    Speaking of reading, I just finished reading Divergent, and according to the blog post divergent thinkers are allowed to flourish in open systems of knowing. I witness divergent thinkers and learners when students are given "choice" in my classroom. When they are allowed to select their groups, their books to read, their project of choice, that's when I notice them spark and often ignite into an explosive learner, collaborator, reader, speaker, or problem solver.

    One more observation, open systems of knowing remind me of ancient Greece and the philosophical teachings of Socrates. He encouraged the youths of Athens to search for truth, wisdom and the right way to live. His open system of knowing got him killed by those believers of the closed system of knowing. They only wanted convergent thinkers with clear yes or no answers in life. Where am I going with this? Well, those closed minded people who voted to end Socrates' life really look stupid in the closed systems of knowing history books that our students still read in World History. Just saying...

  15. 1. What I read was "Just read, you third grade slackers!" from May 19th. This article discussed how Florida has a program called "Just Read, Florida!" with the idea behind it is that third graders need to get reading. If they are not good readers by the end of third grade they are more likely to drop out, and to end up in trouble with the law and in prison. If third graders don't pass the state reading assessment they are retained so they do not go on to fourth grade when they are not a strong reader.

    2. My thoughts on this is that there are many things that go into whether a student is a strong reader. Students develop at different times, and they all learn differently and need different types of reading support. It is highly unfair to say that the only thing students need to do is read more. Yes, students need to be reading every single day, whether they are strong or struggling readers. But we cannot say that the only thing they need to do is read more - teachers need more resources, time, manpower, and home support to get the student to develop as a reader.

    The thought of holding back students because of a score on one test is terrifying. This is one number from one test, taken over 1-2 days. To make that one number so high stakes does not benefit anyone. There are far too many things that go into a student's learning (home life, ability, motivation, feeling of safety, language, support, etc) for one test to determine so much.

  16. Article: No Wonder Nobody Wants to Come
    This article is about the necessity of schools focusing on collaboration and students working together. It states that many schools focus more on students independent work, rather than the important skill of working together to learn and problem solve. The article states that students would be better served, if this method of teaching were successful, by going to their local library or a coffee shop and doing their work and learning online in isolation. Why should students come to school if this kind of work can be done from anywhere.

    I agree with the article that students should be coming to school to interact, collaborate, expand their viewpoints and thinking with the help and guidance of a teacher and the many peers that are around them. I think that learning in isolation will in fact help a student achieve rote memorization and perhaps some reading skills but will lack the most important part of education; being able to learn and interact with others. Life is not sitting behind your computer all day, most people have to work together, solve problems, think of new ideas, and all of this is created by working and collaborating with others. Students in our schools need to experience these life lessons and skills.

  17. I just read his blog post, "That's not a given". I agree with him. Many times we as educators simply do what we have always done because it has simply always been done. Why? Why not think outside the box or question what we have always done. It seems much of what we reflect a teaching format that is outdated and can't meet the demands of what we know to be true today...the acceleration of learning and new information daily in cyberspace...the formation of new jobs...yet we still have a desk for every student...weekly spelling tests (some of us but thankfully not many!)...textbooks that may be outdated... many want to move out of this kind of system and into the current century but we ask "how". Well, his article does that and it can be an inspiration to many, to try new things. This cohort is one way and it does inspire me to try new technological approaches to my teaching, to inspire and push my students reach and grow in new ways, many ways which their parents are amazed at as they didn't have the same opportunities.
    Never ending...always changing as long as we are willing to change it when it needs to be changed.