Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Do you Want to Code a Program?

Principal John Beeck puts it like this:  "First of all, we want to teach the kids basic programming skills.  Then, we'll use that basic understanding of programming to enhance student's understanding of the existing curriculum--of reading, math, social studies and science."  Loess Hills Elementary School is a neighborhood school with a specialty emphasis---everyone codes!  When I was first introduced to the idea of an elementary computer programming specialty school, I wasn't so sure.  I wondered if coding was a broad enough platform to build and sustain a specialty focus.  Would kids (and teachers) lose interest in the coding software available to elementary aged kids?  Could the coding skills really be leveraged across multiple content areas to deepen student's engagement with the core content?

After two years of implementation, teachers and kids at Loess Hills would answer with a resounding "YES!"-- and then, they might break into a Frozen tune:  "Do you want to code a program?"  What does coding bring to a classroom?
Don't take my word for it:  see for yourself!


Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Seven "C"s of Student Agency

For the past academic year, the teachers in Sioux City Community School District have been studying "Growth Mindset, a New Psychology of Success", by Carol Dweck.  As we finish the year, I have found myself wondering, "What is the point of a book study, unless it impacts our classroom practice?" 

We do not think ourselves into new ways of teaching.
Yet, we can teach ourselves into new ways of thinking.

Just like our students:  it's not just about what we know.  It's about what we are able to do.  

For me, the Growth Mindset "Aha!" occurred when I made this connection:
Student Engagement  +  Growth Mindset  =  Student Agency

Recent work in brain-based learning has demonstrated that student agency (voice and choice) is critical to the neuro-chemical processes that support learning.  
There may be 4 "C"s of 21st Century learning (Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Collaboration).  However, there are 7 "C"s of Teaching which develop student agency. 

Read the study yourself, HERE.



Reference:  The Influence of Teaching Beyond Standardized Test Scores:  Engagement, Mindsets and Agency, http://www.agi.harvard.edu/projects/TeachingandAgency.pdf


How many of the 7 "C"s of Student Agency do I bring to my classroom?  Watch the teachers (and students!) in the video below, and see if you can identify any of the 7 "C"s of Student Agency as you listen in on their conversations, and watch them in their classrooms.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I Don't Have to Wonder if It's the Right Work

There are times when I wake in the night and find myself wondering about what's best for kids in our schools.  Too much technology or not enough?  Too much assessment or just the wrong kinds?  Too much discussion about standards or not yet enough?

However, when it comes to Deeper Learning, I don't have to wonder if it's the right work.  I know that I know that I know it.  Kids at the center, teachers as facilitators, messiness and creativity and persistence and personalization.  That's everything RIGHT about today's educational innovation.  Take a few minutes to watch the Sioux City kids in this video.  Look at their eyes, notice their interactions with each other and study the learning environments

Oh, and don't worry.  These Middle School exploratory courses have plenty of technology; it's essential to the work that kids are doing.  We do assess; we use rubrics to measure growth in communication, creativity, critical thinking and accountability--all based on the Iowa Core standards for Middle School students.  So, maybe I should spend less time wondering about the right work for schools, and more time celebrating the student-centered innovation happening both in our district and in hundreds of others across the nation.  Deeper Learning.  I know that I know that I know.