Monday, April 30, 2007

Building 21st Century Achievers by Kevin Honeycutt

Although I did not get to attend the "Know the Child, Optimize Learning"
conference in Kansas last week, I was able to enjoy an incredible session that Wesley Fryer podcasted. This session, Building 21st Century Achievers, presented by Kevin Honeycutt, is engaging and extremely important for educators to hear.

He talks about how we initially try to stay one day ahead of the kids in terms of technology, but eventually we begin to recognize that the technology is their skill area.... if we focus on the content and teaching and make the technology available to our students, they will learn the technology much faster/better than we can teach them. We aren't teaching technology, we're teaching kids... kids who happen to learn best through technology. It's time we stop making them unplug themselves when they come into school. Let's tap into what they are using outside of school to teach them!

To hear the podcast, click here. It may take a minute to load.


Friday, April 27, 2007

America COMPETES bill passes the Senate!

Every since the STEM conference I attended last month (I blogged about it here and here), I have been closely following the America COMPETES act. While catching up on my BlogLines account this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it passed in the Senate!!

Here are a few highlights from the story
  • "The bill would authorize a doubling of the National Science Foundation’s budget within five years and add an array of new programs intended to support risk-taking research."
Highlights from another article about it:
  • Drawing wide support from Democrats and Republicans, the Senate approved legislation dramatically increasing federal funding for research. The bill also seeks to jump start a revival of student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from elementary to graduate schools.
  • The 206-page bill passed on an 88-8 vote after more than three days of debate.
  • To attract more students and teachers to STEM studies, the bill would create programs, grants and scholarships, including expanding statewide specialty schools in math and science. Several other programs in the bill focus on improving the skills of STEM teachers.
  • The passage of the America Competes Act follows approval Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. House of two bills also aimed at improving America's competitiveness. The legislation envisions 25,000 new STEM teachers to prepare the U.S. workforce for a 21st Century economy. A second bill provides grants for young scientists to pursue high-risk research.
  • IA President George Scalise said the bills are an "important step toward advancing two important goals -- supporting basic scientific research at U.S. universities and preparing more American students to pursue careers in science and engineering."
  • Lezlee Westine, president and CEO of TechNet, added, "To maintain our status as the most competitive and innovation nation in the world, we must make strategic financial and intellectual investments that will guarantee our national and economic security for generations to come."
Highlights from another version of the story:
  • The House of Representatives is also debating legislation that would increase funding for teacher education, creation of magnet schools, and partnerships with federal agencies to enhance competitiveness.
A little more on that topic from this article:
  • Senate passage came a day after the House approved legislation intended to boost the number of highly qualified math and science teachers in U.S. schools. The bill, which passed 389-22, would authorize more than $600 million through 2012 for scholarships and stipends for college students studying math and science in preparation for teaching careers. They could receive annual scholarships of $10,000 if they commit to teaching elementary or secondary pupils upon graduation.
Oh boy, even more bills/acts to follow on these same topics:
  • Specifically, H.R. 362, the Science and Math Scholarship Act, and H.R. 363, the Sowing the Seeds through Science and Engineering Research Act, are designed to help eliminate the shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. (link to article)
  • H.R. 362, also known as the "10,000 Teachers" bill, would establish programs at universities to recruit strong students majoring in science, math, and engineering into careers in teaching, and provide those students with specialized education courses. Students would receive scholarships amounting to $10,000 per year.
  • The bill also would provide in-service training to math and science teachers to improve content knowledge and teaching skills through specially tailored master's degree programs and summer institutes.
  • Finally, the bill would strengthen existing programs at universities designed to expand the pool of undergraduate students who will become the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.
One more tid-bit of info I hadn't seen in any of the other articles was reported here:
  • The measure is being called the America Competes Act and now
    goes to the House. It would create science magnet schools, each of
    which would be adopted by one of the Energy Department's national
This is all so very exciting to me. I'm so glad to see such an interest in STEM areas and to see the government coming together to support it. This is where I wish I knew how to be more involved. The School House Rocks song of How a Bill Becomes a Law is playing in my head now, but the formal process neglects to mention how the average-joe can get involved with all this political stuff! Any ideas on how to be more involved politically on topics like this???

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Local students publish book on web!

It's such a cool feeling to read Will Richardson's blog and realize he's talking about a class in my (new) school district!

In short, a 7th grade class at Silver Spring International Middle School in Montgomery County, Maryland wrote short essays, compiled them into a book, and have published it on! You can buy a paper copy of their book, Stories from the Past, or ... download it for free! Not to mention the fact that it will soon be available on Amazon, Borders and Barnes and Noble.

From a student perspective.... How cool is that! Their work is published and available for the world to read. Kudos, to Mr. Mayo's class and to Mr. Mayo!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Pretty Good" Poem

Yesterday I attended a morning conference and an afternoon meeting. Both of which have my brain working overtime to process... this is the easiest post I can get up quickly. Basically, I just want to share a poem that was presented to us at my morning conference (Maryland Council of Staff Developers). It ties in very well to the hot topics pertaining to things like Friedman's The World is Flat.

Something to seriously think about and to share with others.....

I am copying this straight from the book the speaker wrote (Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching, by Stephen Barkley, page 20)

" Rafe Esquith (2003) , winner of the American Teacher Award, inspires and challenges us to rethink the way we educate our children in his award winning book There Are No Shortcuts. He cites a poem given to hum by Charles Osgood of CBS News. It goes like this:

There once was a pretty good student,
Who sat in a pretty good class
And was taught by a pretty good teacher,
Who always let pretty good pass.
He wasn't terrific at reading;
He wasn't a whiz-bang at math;
But for him education was leading
Straight down a pretty good path.
He didn't find school too exciting,
But he wanted to do pretty well,
And he did have some trouble with writing,
And nobody had taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems,
Pretty good was regarded as fine;
Five and five needn't always add up to be ten,
A pretty good answer was nine.
The pretty good student was happy
With the standards that were in effect,
And nobody thought it was sappy
If his answers were not quite correct.
The pretty good class that he sat in
Was part of a pretty good school,

And the student was not an exception;
On the contrary, he was the rule.
The pretty good school that he went to
Was right there in a pretty good town.
And nobody there ever noticed
He could not tell a verb from a noun.
The pretty good student, in fact,
was part of a pretty good mob,
And the first time he knew what he lacked was
When he looked for a pretty good job.
It was then, when he sought a position,
He discovered that a life can be tough,
And he soon had a sneaky suspicion
Pretty good might not be good enough.
The pretty good town in our story
Was part of a pretty good state
Which had pretty good aspirations
And prayed for a pretty good fate.
There was once a pretty good nation,
Pretty proud of the greatness it had,
But which learned much too late,
If you want to be great,
Pretty good is, in fact, pretty bad.

Definitely something to think about! Pretty good just won't cut it.

Microsoft's K-20 Innovation Tour

Wow! On Monday I had the opportunity to attend the Microsoft K-20 Innovation Tour at George Washington University in Washington, DC. I just love going to these things!!

Basically, we were able to view the World Premier of School of the Future Documentary and then hear from and interact with a panel group about the project. The movie was interesting--- it served it's basic function of providing background information about the project. This is another one of those instances where I wonder where I've been and how I missed out on knowing that this was going on--so for those of you who are not familiar with the School of the Future let me catch you up to speed.

For over 2 years, the City of Philadelphia and Microsoft have been collaborating to create a model high school (FYI Microsoft did not pay for this school, the city funded it---Microsoft paid 100K to have it's name on the auditorium I think). This school opened in the Fall of 2006 with it's freshman class. For the next 3 years a new group of freshmen will enter until the school reaches it's maximum capacity of 750 students. You read that right--- it's a very small school. Not only is it a small school, it's a very unique and special school. When they started, the ditched the model of what all the other schools look like (because our schools are outdated!). They dreamed, planned and designed a building, curriculum, and environment based on the needs of today's students. Here are a few of the highlights, in completely random order:

  • Entirely digital--- there are no textbooks; all assignments are submitted digitally
  • Mentors-- every student has a mentor from a local college
  • "hosted solution" -- Drexel University hosts and supports their network
  • Hiring Practices of teachers--- teachers were interviewed and then some were advanced to the next level... in that level they were given a puzzle (ie Sudoko) and required to work on it collaboratively; they were also asked to create a lesson plan as a group--- the key things the hiring team were looking for in candidates were their willingness to say "I don't know" and also the fact that they were able to be highly self-critical (notice--tech skills were not on that list, no was being the best of the best)
  • Culture of PD-- Professional Development are not one time experiences at this school--- it's constantly happening; teachers collaborate with each other and leadership provides the time and necessary resources to do that
  • Curriculum---teachers develop it as it goes using an inquire based model. Standards are kept in mind, but do not drive content. Inquiry Based. Real World. Relevant. Engaging.
  • Scheduling --very flexible, there no is set schedule (ie 6 55 minute classes a day), if students need 2 hours to do something the time is there, need a trip to the zoo---go!
  • Parent Community-- the community is encouraged to use the building, it's open till 10pm with 80% of the first floor available to them including a fitness center, a performing arts center and an interactive learning area. Also, parents are given refurbished computers and can get wireless internet for $4/month. The school has a portal for parents to tap into that allows them to see students grades/assignments and to connect to teachers.
Overall, I am very impressed with what they've done. When you think of all the red-tape involved in trying to do something like this, it's amazing to see that they were able to make it happen. I have a few concerns about how likely it is that this model can be replicated (a mentor for every child, a school that cost $64 million to build for only 750 students, etc..)....but it's a start to say 'We need to re-examine our systems and create schools that cater to today's students AND communities.'

Microsoft's Partners in Education page focused on Building the School of the Future, with links to more info.

News Coverage of The School of the Future (video)

CBS Article

Professional Leadership Education Competency Wheel -- designed by educators, for educators to be incorporated into professional development and hiring practices to build school system personnel

Friday, April 13, 2007


Between Spring Break, a quick flu-like bug, discovering my dog's paranoia of all things related to thunderstorms, and my recent movie making project I feel like I haven't blogged or read my BlogLines account in almost 2 weeks! I feel so lost. :-( But I'm back now! There have been so many blog topics rolling around my head that I've wanted to blog about. Don't worry, those are on the way.

I've started a new book and it's giving me lots to think about. The book, Wikinomics, was mentioned at one of the conferences I attended a few weeks ago. Seems like a natural progression-- Tipping Point, The World is Flat, Freakonomics, and now Wikinomics. I have an entire post brewing in my brain about a few of the topics I've read so far about how the new focus on mass peer collaboration will impact education.... very interesting stuff!

Then there's been the MCPS Student Media Festival. I volunteered to help in any way that I could... and was asked if I could make movies of all of the 2D entries. This has been a lot of fun (although a little tedious--- every individual entry (500 or so) was on it's original disk and had to be pulled to my computer, then renamed, then sorted to determine who won, compiled into a Photostory for each category, student creator name and title of entry added, then all the photo stories were tossed into movie maker which resulted in two movies--one for middle school, one for high school.) In the process... I got to see amazing student work. I am so impressed by the talent.

Well, it's quittin' time... and Friday! I'm off to battle Rockville traffic and then relax! Rest assured, good blog entries are coming next week. :-)