Well I finally became a father a month ago today. There is some crazy feeling that washes over me many times a day when I look at my baby girl Josie. Some crazy kind of love I never knew existed. The first month has been a blast, and I’m not just talking about the loud noises coming from her bum after she eats. Holding her is a wonderful therapy and I look forward to improving myself as a person so I can be the best dad I can be.
I agree with the general ideas behind both the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top Initiative and Washington State Board of Education’s Core 24 graduation framework. I’ll begin with my thoughts on Race to the Top.
Race to the Top
In July of 2009, President Obama announced the Race to the Top initiative to improve the educational services provided to the children of the United States through a competitive series of grants. It is my understanding that even the so called “losers” in the competition for money will benefit through participating in this program where data and reform will be the driving force for the grants, since they will be collecting data and focusing on their standards as well.
Core 24 is a new framework for graduation requirements for Washington State students where they will need 24 credits to graduate, and will be given the chance to choose a track that will help them reach their goals for after high school. I like how students now have a choice other than going to college, where they can choose courses that help them get into a trade after school. This seems a more realistic framework for students to set goals since having every student entering college is not realistic.
When considering what teachers can do to prepare students for a world where technology skills are immensely important, the teachers’ competency in technology is often overlooked. As a site technician for my school, I work with teachers who have a broad range of skills. Some teachers are confident enough to be exposed to a new program and “run with it” on their own to make it work for them. There are also several teachers who react to all things technology as if it is some kind of foreign language that they will never understand. My people skills are consistently put to the test to coax and convince peers that there are valuable resources out there that will prove their value with some investment of time. Alas, time is the highest currency for the teachers of today and they are not willing to part with their time without an assurance of some kind of compensation. Generally, convincing these teachers that the potential value of these resources is compensation enough for their hard earned “currency” is possible.
I found this article on how teachers need to infuse technology into their practice and their students’ learning, and it provided a terrific resource for teachers to enable themselves to use available technology, with suggestions for best practices utilizing these new programs and websites. The website is 21 Things for the 21st Century Educator. It provides 21 lessons/activities that will prepare teachers to infuse technology into their instruction. I can see using this website to help teach teachers how to use technologies, not only at our building, but also district wide. Upon first “surf”, it seems highly appropriate, relevant, and manageable for anyone that can read and use a mouse. The links are provided again below.
Beachwood Elementary provides educational service to around 500 students this year. The number consistently fluctuates with the military population, and is a substantial increase from the 2007-2008 student enrollment of 423 (OSPI). Finding room and coordinating time for everyone has been a challenge for classrooms, specialists, assemblies, and lunch. The percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch at Beachwood increased from 34.4% to 41.1% (OSPI). The district wide percentage increased from 57.9% to 62.7% (OSPI). The student population is 40% white, 18% Black, 15% Hispanic, 5% Asian/Pacific Islander, 3% Pacific Islander, 2% Asian, and 1% American Indian .
Approach to create higher quality presentations. Restraint applies to preparation, choosing what’s important and not important. Simplicity means less is more visually. Naturalness in the delivery, like a conversation.
Avoid the Slideument: A slide and a document in one, too much text to be visual. This happens when we don’t apply restraint.
You can have a handout with more of your details, then you won’t feel compelled to cram your slides with information.
Zen is at the heart of Japanese culture, not verbalized but present in everyday life.
Concept of simplicity: Not about dumbing things down, rather leaving out what’s not important.
3 Major Steps: Preparation, Design, and Delivery
Identify the core concept.
Adopt the beginner’s mind or the child’s mind. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are very few.”
How do we clear our mind or adopt a beginner’s mind. Go analog.
From the book Made to Stick: simplicity, unexpectedness, concrete, credible, emotional, story,
Steps in Planning:
Step 1: Brainstorming
Step 2: Grouping and Identifying Core
Step 3: Storyboarding (off of computer)
Step 4: Storyboarding (in Slide Sorter)
Major focus is simplicity.amplification through simplification
General Design Principles
1: Signal to Noise Ratio (too much color) Audience shouldn’t read and listen at the same time, not too many words
2: Picture Superiority Effect (Pictures photos, charts, etc are remembered better than text/noise)
3: Empty Space (Asymmetrical balance can be balanced)
4-7: The Big Four – Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity
Connection: Are you completely connected to your presentation, totally in the moment.
When I first think of my personal philosophy of education, the first idea that comes to my mind is power. I’m not talking about being on a power trip over students. What I’m thinking about is guiding students to access and harness their own power. How do they empower themselves? How can they empower themselves? My impression of the majority of my students is that they don’t know how easy they have it related to many other children their age in the rest of the world. I also think they don’t understand how hard they have it when considering the effects of deployment on the military families that make up our school’s communities. To be continued…