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Many Inspiring Stories shared in #RoseParade floats

My New Year’s Day tradition is watching the Rose Parade. I have had the good fortune of attending the Rose Parade in person in the past, spending the night on the streets of Pasadena to sleep a little and wake up in my sleeping bag to watch the parade. This year’s Rose Parade theme, “Inspiring Stories,” produced so many memorable and important inspiring stories. In the past I would watch the parade in person and take pictures or watch it on TV. This year, I watched the parade on TV and on my computer while following the #roseparade Twitter stream and checking out picture posts of people on Facebook and Instagram. In case you want to read about all of the floats, check out the online program guide here. Here are a few that struck a chord with me.

First, the Grand Marshall was Louis Zamperini whose story was told in the movie, “Unbroken” which I did watch a week ago. I did not know Mr. Zamperini’s story until watching the film nor the fact that he lived in California. Unfortunately, Mr. Zamperini passed away earlier in 2014. Seeing the float and conversation reminded me of the determination of so many people in the face of unimaginable challenges of war.

Second, the story of 82-year-old Joan Williams, an African American woman who was denied the right to ride in the parade in 1958 highlighted how people of color were discriminated against because of the color of their skin. Forbes Magazine provided an excellent article entitled, “Racism and redemption at the tournament of roses parade.”

Third, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float highlighted the Ebola First Responders and especially highlighted Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, a Sierra Leone doctor who treated Ebola patients and helped fight the Ebola outbreak, and then himself, contracted Ebola and died at the age of 29. (Last year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float included a same sex couple who exchanged vows). This article provides a nice overview about the importance of combating stigma and fear and respecting all people regardless of their sexual orientation.

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Next, the float “Sikh American Journey” highlights the religious and cultural journey of Sikhs in America. Following the 911 Islamic Terrorist Attacks in 2001, there has been needless discrimination and killings of Sikh Americans across America. This float included an image of Valarie Kaur, a former student of mine, when I taught at Alta Sierra Intermediate in Clovis Unified and founder of the Groundswell Movement. Another example of the importance of respecting all people regardless of their religious preference or the clothes they may wear.

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The parade float entitled “Donate Life, Done Vida” highlighted the importance of organ donors who have saved so many lives. Medical breakthroughs over the past 20 years have made all of this possible. Another inspirational story.

Finally, the float entitled “Dream Big” highlighted the contributions of teachers. Many people focused on the fact that Jack Black was on the float sitting next to his middle school teacher, but the greater focus is the impact that teachers make on students every day! Thank a Million Teachers is a program worth checking out. It is important to remember the impact an encouraging word can make on every person, no matter how young or old, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, or their religious preference. Happy New Year!

Top 5 #BlendedLearning Infographics

Listed below are some of the best blended learning infographics from the past year. They all focus on better understanding blended learning. The entire list can be found here. And another blended learning collection can be found here.

Listed below are the direct links to the infographics and then the info graphics below. Direct links:

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BLDisruptiveInnovationBLGroundUpBlTeaching

Top 5 #BlendedLearning Reports from 2014

The past year produced a plethora of reports about blended learning. However the top 5 not-to-be missed reports provide thought provoking writing and thoughts about the implementation of blended learning. Ultimately, teachers are the ones that impact blended learning, and how teachers apply the tools and strategies and pedagogy of blended learning is what empowers student learning and increases student achievement. The entire list can be found here.  But here are my top 5 (in no particular order):

  • Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning. (Nov. 2014) This 500-page report provides the most up-to-date research and policies about blended and online learning. Find all of the research, reports and important papers documented all in one place.  The report researchers Kathryn Kennedy and Rick Ferdig have long been involved in researching online and blended learning, especially at the K-12 level.
  • Reimagining Teaching in a Blended Classroom (Dec. 2014). This report by TNTP focuses on the importance of every child having a quality teacher. This report provides excellent charts and idea about the skills needed by a blended learning teacher. Ultimately, teachers in a digital world need to be researchers and developers, integrators and guides. The TNTP organization is focused on teaching excellence and their researchers provide important thinking about what teaching should look like now and in the future.
  • Blended Teacher Competency Framework (iNACOL, Oct. 2014). This report provides a framework and shows the mindsets, qualities, adaptive skills and technical skills needed to be a blended learning teacher. The graphics and visuals presented provide important ideas of the skills needed by blended learning teachers.
  • Understanding and Supporting Blended Learning Teaching Practices from Education Elements (Oct. 2014). This report explains the transformation that takes place when blended learning is implemented. Highlights several schools where blended learning is being implemented. Shares a useful blended learning rubric for teachers that includes classroom culture, classroom management, planning and delivery, assessment and analysis and classroom technology.
  •  Knocking Down Barriers: How California Superintendents are Implementing Blended Learning (Sept. 2014). This policy brief by the Christensen Institute identified many of the barriers to blended learning and 11 tips for implementing blended learning for administrators. They brought together seven California superintendents to talk about the barriers to blended learning and then offered some solutions. The policy landscape and barriers in California is similar to every other state so the ideas in this brief are useful to administrators and teachers alike.

And, if you have not done so yet, join the ongoing conversation about blended learning by joining the Blended Teacher Network.

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Getting Classroom Observations Right and #BlendedLearning Classrooms and Productive Chaos

Education Next recently published the article, “Getting classroom observations right.” The article, among many indicators of effective teachers discussed how teacher success is partially determined by the evaluation and observation systems in place in four urban school districts. They found that districts that integrate in a number of factors into the teacher evaluation system – including classroom observations, teacher identified criteria and school wide student achievement – lead to greater student achievement overall. While those school districts they studied that only used student test scores as the only measure of teacher effectiveness revealed that student achievement did not increase.

We know that in education – face-to-face, blended or online learning – that the teacher is the key to student learning. In a blended learning classroom, the teacher is the motivator, encourager and guide for students to learn concepts with the help of technology. The same is true in an online learning classroom. The way the teacher interacts with students directly impacts how engaged students are with their learning.

Currently, classroom observations focus on the teacher and how the teacher teaches in the face-to-face classroom. As blended learning is implemented in more classrooms across the U.S., what is observed in a classroom will have to change. A recent article in eSchool News talked about blended learning teachers in Idaho and how a blended learning classroom is “productive chaos.” It is challenging for an observer to know how to observe a classroom that looks like “productive chaos.”

In New York City a few years back, a principal shared with me about one of his experiences in observing a classroom that had implemented blended learning. In New York City Schools, a quality assurance officer accompanies new administrators in the observation of classrooms. Together, they observe classrooms and then compare notes after the observation. In this one case, the quality assurance officer and the new principal observed a blended learning classroom. The principal observed engaged learning, excellent use of technology and ongoing data analyzed by the teacher. The quality assurance officer saw just the opposite. That is the challenge of observing a blended learning classroom: new guidelines need to be developed to guide administrators and others in how to best observe a blended learning classroom.

Recently, the TNTP issued the working paper entitled, “Reimagining teaching in a blended classroom.” The diagram below is one aspect of thinking about how observations of blended learning teachers will need to change. The authors identified a blended learning teacher (as different from the traditional teacher) needing to be a researcher and developer, integrator, and guide.  Something for administrators and classroom observers to think about.

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How does #ConnectedLearning Overlap with #BlendedLearning ? #ce14

You never know what is going to get you thinking about the various terms we banter around in education. I was part of a this (now recorded) Connected Learning Webinar talking about blended learning.

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Prior to starting the webinar, this Tweet appeared from @DaveQuinn :

Looking forward to your seminar on . Can you suggest some readings on the overlap of the two?”

So it got me to thinking about the top 5 reasons ways that Connected Learning and Blended Learning overlap.

First, to be a connected educator and a blended learning educator, you have to expand your thinking and know that information and ideas can come from a variety of sources, including students.

Second, being a connected educator and a blended learning educator means that you understand the importance of personalizing learning for all students and how technology can facilitate this.

Third, connected educators and blended learning educators network with other educators in various ways through social media, meeting up online and in person, and continually share ideas with one another in a variety of ways.

Fourth, connected educators and blended learning educators love learning about the newest technologies that can impact learning – no matter what level you teach.

Fifth, connected educators and blended learning educators are lifelong learners and lots of fun to be interact with and be around!

Update: After the webinar, I would add that connected educators and blended learning educators are engaged in personal learning networks.

Veteran’s Day, Sharing Stories, Tattoos and Librarians

warinkI was interested to read this news article about how tattoos tell stories, especially among U.S. service men and women. Various libraries are promoting the online exhibit entitled “War Ink“. Veteran’s Day is a good day to talk about veterans and their service. I did not realize how tattoos could tell stories, especially in relation to war and peace.

Check it out for yourself, but one of the opening quotes from the exhibit by David Cascante is particularly poignant:

It’s my own memorial for those that do pay that price, willingly, because of their love for America.

Celebrating and remembering.

Struggling with #digitallearning rather than #onlinelearning and #blendedlearning in 2014 Keeping Pace Report

I have to admit that I am a strong believer in the power of online learning for K-12 students. I have read the research, contributed a bit to the research, and experienced the power of online learning first-hand as an online charter high school principal. When the term blended learning came upon the landscape, I was worried it would water down what true and effective online learning was. However, I have come to realize that to have effective blended learning teaching, that there had to be effective online learning tools and programs first. I also know that as a researcher it is important to have clear definitions in order to study teaching and learning, as well as teach others what it means.

I am struggling with the latest Keeping Pace Report, now titled “Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning” rather than “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning” or “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning,” because of the term digital learning. In the executive summary of the report, the authors explain the reasons for the shift to the term digital learning. But I am concerned that this term waters down what effective blended and online learning really is. I was part of a one-to-one laptop program in a school district and middle school over 15 years ago. By the definitions in the current Keeping Pace report, this district and school – as well as many others – were doing digital learning long ago. It seems that this shift in terms is suggesting that whenever a teacher uses a website or posts a lesson online or use a cell phone for polling or assigns a YouTube video for homework that they are doing digital learning. But, it seems like in those early days, most teachers were simply substituting digital tools for print tools and the teaching did not change.

The conclusion in the opening of the report states:

  • “At a very high level we believe the following two points, which may appear contradictory at first glance, describe the current state of digital learning in K–12 education:
  • 1. More students have access to more types of digital learning than ever before. Digital learning options are available to many students in a rapidly expanding range of forms, including online courses from multiple sources, dedicated schools built around aggressive digital instruction models, and many digital learning opportunities in traditional school settings.
  • 2. Wide gaps remain in the availability of digital learning. There are still vast differences among schools in the availability of technology, data communications capabilities, and digital content and tools. In addition, limitations placed on schools and students vary by local and state policies, and in decisions made by districts….
  • We are continuing to expand our research and reporting in new and exciting directions, and we are committed to reporting on access, activity, and—to the extent possible—outcomes.”

No doubt that access, activity and outcomes are important. But how is that any different than what is measured in traditional education? Measuring policy and activity is a challenge … and then even when policies have been passed, how they are implemented to improve learning is another matter.

For now, I’m holding onto what I know has made a difference in student learning from the fields of online and blended learning, including the Christensen Institute definition of blended learning. The field continues to grow and change … and I wonder how long we will remain in the “nascent” stages of blended and online and digital learning or if we will be in a perpetual nascent stage?

Perhaps the term digital learning will cause more schools and teachers to better understand the importance of providing options for students that better engage learning, no matter what the term is called.

Overall, I do believe there needs to be a continued shift in education to a more blended learning environment that leads to more engaged learners, greater student achievement and more career and college-ready students. I think these attributes best describe the shift that should occur – no matter what term is used:

  • Shift in teaching pedagogy that is more student centric and collaborative with colleagues and students
  • Data driven instruction and assessments that leads to more personalized learning
  • Empowered learning that is iterative and innovative that better engages teachers and students
  • Use of gaming to engage learners
  • Learning that can occur anytime, anywhere and from any device
  • Increased access for all students to learning in many formats (print, video, audio, simulations, games, etc.)
  • Daily use of digital curriculum, resources and systems that provide real time data for students, teachers and parents so students understand their progress towards mastering key concepts
  • Curricular and instructional goals should drive the technology

Do read the report to learn about the changing landscape of blended, online and digital learning to become more informed about the changing field of education in America and join in the conversation. The end result is what we all desire: more students graduating from high school who are engaged in learning and are career and/or college ready that lead to productive and happy lives. 

 


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