This is High School

CBC has released an excellent series called This is High School. The 6 part series follows a couple of vice-principals and at a high school in Kamloops, British Columbia. Each episode features 2 students who have various challenges.

While there are many documentaries out there about schools and education what makes this one worthwhile is the fair way it portrays high school, the students and teachers. This is not a series attempting to blame or point out any flaws with education. It simply provides an inside look at just how complex and challenging high school can be for both students and teachers. As you watch, you completely empathize with teachers’ decisions and at the same time appreciate that school does not always work for every student. While you might not agree with every approach and you might wish the students would choose differently, it’s clear the intent of the school is to do right by children. My experience in schools would suggest this is by far the dominant approach most teachers take, and is similar for homeschooling, and that’s why getting the right supplies is important, although getting school supplies is expensive, even more homeschooling since more things are … Read the rest

Parent Teacher Interviews: Time for a Make-Over?

By my calculations, I’ve attended about 104 parent teacher interviews which ended Thursday as my youngest of 4 children graduates from high school this year. While I’m sure I missed the odd one, my wife and I attended all of these meetings. I wondered if this is still a valued experience or if things need to change.

I will admit that we may not be the typical parents. First of all, our kids were generally very good students and never struggled in school or caused any problems. Secondly, as teachers, we had a better understanding of the classroom than many parents. Along with that, we trusted teachers and while we didn’t agree with all of their practices, we didn’t feel the need to check up on them or question their practices. A fifteen-minute interview isn’t the time or place to discuss lecture versus project based learning. Finally, we had good relationships with our kids and they let us know when they were excited, bored or frustrated with school. We attended these interviews mostly to avoid being seen as disinterested parents.

As I said, I’m not suggesting this is the typical parent profile. Yet in the same way we work … Read the rest

The Least Talked About Problem in EdTech

Having been involved with educational technology for almost 20 years, I’ve had more than my share of conversations around the issues of ¬†implementation, integration, transformation, use of technology in the classrooms. People are usually quick to point out the barriers which are mostly around leadership and pedagogy and more recently the word is mindset.

But no amount of change in mindset addresses the least talked about problem with edtech. Bandwidth.

Maslow Wifi

 

My journeys have led me to work with some wonderful educators who indeed have a resiliency and passion for innovation. They are the ones who create work arounds when a site is down or blocked, they tether their phones to create wifi for their students. They spent hours editing video and installing apps on their student devices. While they are great champions and sometimes are highlighted, they are a problem in that leaders assume all teachers can and should act in this way.

Imagine teaching English using books with half the pages ripped out. That’s essentially what it’s like for teachers trying to use devices with no bandwidth.

Bandwidth issues aren’t talked about largely because we aren’t quite sure what the issue is. Is it a small pipe? Is … Read the rest

Future Ready is Overrated

Updated: (added this wonderful video thanks to Maria Galanis)


“Future Ready” is a theme I’m hearing more and more in our schools. The idea that schools is about preparing for the future and getting kids ready for adulthood. It’s important stuff and certainly schools need to be in this business. And yet….

Mindfulness has been and continues to be something I try to practice and live daily. The stress that so many of our young people experience as well as adults concerns me. I worry that this stress is partly the fault of schools and the overt and subtle pressures we place on them. I’m concerned with my own parenting as I witness my own children often speaking about “getting through this” or “once this is done I’ll feel much better”. Those are natural but somewhat debilitating thoughts. Living in the moment is very hard. I would argue the vast majority of our day is spent on planning ahead or reflecting on the past and not so much on just focusing and enjoying right now.

I watched this clip on 60 minutes this week and it reminded me of things I’ve been trying to do for the past several years. … Read the rest

The Problem with Exemplars

Years ago while working on new curriculum, I spent a great deal of time with colleagues collecting and identifying exemplary work. Usually attached to rubric, these artifacts were intended to showcase the highest quality of work and present students with something to aim for. We often would reference these with students to the point where these became more than guides but the ultimate goal. It’s one the problems with rubrics. But it’s not just within curriculum where exemplars can be an issue, it happens all the time.

There’s no question that exemplars can be useful and even motivating. But often they are unattainable or perhaps not even desirable.

Let me share a few examples.

In Curriculum:

While I believe showing examples of quality work can be useful, many students immediately shut down when they perceive too great a gap between their current ability and what is deemed exemplary. I’m certainly not against the use of high quality exemplars but caution against too few examples as well as a lack of scaffolding to see where incremental success can be found. In addition, the power comes when the student decides what they want their work to be.

In my pre-service courses … Read the rest