Thursday, February 2, 2012

NAIS President Pat Bassett - ISASTC

Here are my initial thoughts from @patbasset's talk. Please forgive any poor grammar etc. since I haven't had time to edit.

Pat Bassett has been a Teacher, Coach, Dorm Parent as well as a Head of School. I appreciate his unique perspective from these various experiences. Slides from his presentation are available on the NAIS site.

Pat started off explaining his teacher training, emphasizing the importance of professional development in my mind. He explains all he was told was "As the period begins to end, give the impression you have something more to say." I am so glad that we have worked hard in our schools to have mentoring.

The first part of his discussion stems mostly from Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone.

He begins by talking about the importance of being a school of the future. When we talk about the change that must happen to be a school of the future there is often some uncomfortable conversations. We have to make sure that when we speak that we have a conversation instead of delivering a message. This is always something I have to step back and remember when I'm pushing change. I once heard that change is akin to a loss for many people. Even if they agree with the change they need a period to almost mourn what once was comfortable. Pat reminds me that I need to make sure the way we present change is as important as the change and that we must always employ empathy.

Pat then switched into one of my favorite subjects, student-centered learning. What if schools created a culture of do instead of a culture of know? How do we change a culture of consumption to one of meaning? I love the idea of having students creating instead of only consuming. We need to continue to make our classrooms more interactive and meaningful.

He then asks us to answer the following questions...
What should we teach? (curriculum)
I love the idea we need to focus on the 6 C's - Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Character. Especially his focus on building character in our independent schools.

How should we teach? (pedagogy)
As a former coach, I really identify with the idea that we should play to our students strengths while making sure they are competent in the other areas. As a technologist, I love how he places importance in the use of technology as just-in-time instead of just-in-case. Practical application is so important to our students.

How should we assess? (outcomes)
How should we embed the vision? (leadership)

I really enjoy how the President of NAIS is pushing our schools to be more innovative and reflective on our pedagogy.


As we sit in preparation for the ISAS Teachers Conference, I am excited to hear some new ideas from some fabulous speakers. You can follow the twitter hash tag at #isastc to stay in touch with the conversations.

The conference kicks off with NAIS President Pat Bassett. Having heard him speak before I am anticipating some exceptional ideas.

Following Pat is Heidi Hayes Jacobs, who will be speaking about curriculum in the 21st century which is 12% over.

Then I have the pleasure of introducing Disrupting Class co-author Michael Horn. His talk should be extremely relevant to independent schools as he emphasizes student-centered learning.

I will post my reflections of as many talks as possible.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Joy of Connections

Here is our latest video production project thanks to the power of the network. After you watch the video, read the process of how it came about and why I love having Dean Shareski in my network.

So one of the things I love about Twitter and Google Reader is the wealth of ideas that it brings. I can't recall whether I saw Dean Shareski's post via Twitter or his blog on Thursday night but I know it led to a great Friday morning.

Dean poses the question "What does Joy have to with Learning" and shares a video by some students at Wartburg College. He then poses the following questions about doing a similar video in your school.

So please complete my mulitple choice question in the comments and add any insights you have because I need your help in understanding what to do with joy in schools.

With regards to creating a video like the one above do you:

  1. Do it because it's not only fun but likely does address some cirriculuar outcomes but you might have to look them up later. Fingers crossed.
  2. Do it and to heck with the outcomes, doing joyful things with students is important.
  3. Do it but perhaps as an extra-curricular activity because you're not sure where it fits with a robust curriculum but still think it's important.
  4. Not do it at all.
If I had to answer my motivation behind doing the video it would fall under #2 although it did address curricular objectives in our case. To be honest, I really just got caught up in how much fun the kids were having in the video. We have a couple video production classes so we could easily incorporate this into the class and add value. So that night I emailed our video teacher and said we needed to have some fun on Friday and learn a new skill.

We spent the half hour before the students came into first period trying to pick a song that was appropriate and the kids would know the words to (much more difficult than it would seem). We also tested how we would record each student, which turned out to be very easy in our iMac lab even though we hadn't used the cameras in this way yet. We came up with a couple song options and then waited to see if the kids would think it was as much fun as we did.

As they started to file in, we told them to sit down and get iMovie going. They were curious because typically they are in charge of working on whatever project they are working on so we don't spend much time telling them where to go as they walk in. Next we showed them the Wartburg video and the excitement rose. We then presented our song ideas and they didn't hate them but one student suggested another song which everyone liked better so we went with it. Then with no other instructions than to have a good time with it we had them start capturing and played the song.

Pure joy and hilarity ensued for three and a half minutes. Then after we finished the song and the laughter died down, we exported and moved the movies to one computer for the editing. Over the next several days we synced all the feeds, imported the mp3, edited the different cameras together while trying to get as many people in as possible, exported the video and uploaded to our YouTube channel. During this process students came in during study hall, before and after school to work on the cut, comment on its progress and often just laugh.

So while we did learn some new editing and camera skills, more than anything we just had fun as a class. Sometimes that's as important as anything else to keep progressing.

Thanks for a great couple days Dean.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reflections on our Flipped Econ Class

So we are about six weeks into our flipped economics class and I thought I would post some honest reflections. For the most part the class has gone very well. We have students listening to the podcasts, taking notes in the Google Doc, posting to their blogs and interacting in the discussions in the comments. So here are some thoughts thus far on the process.

Good - The students seem to be listening and "enjoying" the podcasts. Several have downloaded them to their phones and I have even caught some listening to them at school (kind of a serial experience to be honest). Others have even admitted to listening to them on their drive to school in the morning. These also really came in handy during our snow days to keep the class moving.

Realizations - As expected you can tell a few have not listened to the podcast when you engage them in class discussion but this is no different than when I asked them to read prior to coming to class before. we really have bounced around as much as I would have thought but that just may be because we were covering the basics which are needed for other topics.
I think keeping them to under 20 minutes is the best length for a night's homework as the couple we have over that have not been received as well. I am also considering going back and added some video for examples for next semester as there are things that need visuals that we don't cover as well presently in podcast form. Although those that listen in the car or on non-screen based devices will not get the full experience I think it would help many.

In class discussions

Good - we have had some really good in class discussions that have gone much deeper than previous in class discussions teaching a more
traditional way. We have hit upon some advanced topics that we never got to in the past. Some students that I would not really have expected have become extremely valuable contributors to the class discussion.

Bad/Realization - This isn't really bad per say but it is so much more difficult to teach this way. You have to make sure you have some good stuff before you walk into class to spark the discussion. I have found I really like audio (been using npr quite a bit) to kick off the discussions. Then you really have to step back and throw questions at them and try to guide the discussion in the way you want it to go without stepping in and just telling them what you want them to know. Some days we do this better than others. The days it works its brilliant, the other days its only slightly worse than a the old method so I take that as a win.


Good - The task of having a scribe takes notes everyday has worked out well. Each person has done a pretty good job of taking the job seriously and getting some content. When we use the Researchers they do a good job of finding information to help explain things we didn't understand or were wrong about.

Realization - We need to find a better way to get them to go back afterward and add to the notes. I honestly don't know how many of them actually use them that much but how is that truly different from before. Still we need to encourage a better collection of the information. We need to ask more proving questions sometimes and use the Researchers in class more.

Blogs and Comments
Good - some of the blog posts and comments have been really inspired. I love the fact that these students are related so many economic topics to things they are passionate about. Get such a wide variety of posts and it allows us to get to know the students on a different level. Overall this along with the great class discussion days have been my favorite parts. It is also good to see some of the students who don't speak in class as much demonstrate their learning here.

Realization - It's more obvious when some of the students don't do their work. I guess it makes me feel like more of a failure when a student doesn't post to their blog than when they simply didn't turn in their homework. Also need to keep pushing them to put more economic analysis into the posts since some mostly summarize the article. Finally making them proofread their posts is also a struggle (note: of course I just realized I posted without proofreading this so I need to work on that as well).

Overall this has been a great experience thus far and it will only get better the more we are able to refine it. The things I think we need to work on the most going forward is getting more outside voices into the classroom through the blog and skype. We had our first guest speakers last weekend it went well but it is hard to get them to be questioners instead of lecturers as it is for us as well.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions and stop by the blogs at

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Daily - What it means to our students' writing

News Corporation has just launched The Daily, a digital only newspaper. Please read the article from the New York Times.

While as the article points out this particular version of a digital-only newspaper may not succeed, it is apparent that it is the beginning of a significant shift in publishing. So as an educator this brings a couple of questions to the forefront for me.

By the time our students graduate college how much of their writing will be for the screen instead of the page?

Are we teaching our students the skills necessary to compete in this environment?

How young should we be teaching digital writing?

While I'm not sure The Daily will be successful in this iteration, I am sure something similar will be in the near future. Will our students be prepared?