Teacher Time

February 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

It is my dream to help a school come up with a way to give their teachers a 20% bonus—a la Google’s 20% time (read a New York Times article about the concept or a firsthand account of how one Google employee used his 20% time).

What if teachers only taught four days a week and one day were reserved for teacher time: self-guided professional development, blogging, professional and/or personal growth, exercise, pet projects, internships, etc…?

How much would that cost a school? And how much would the students benefit?

But why stop there?

What if students had class a period or block free every day to do the same? What would this school look like?

This is the solution I have found to the biggest problem(s) that schools face: Teacher Time. Want my help implementing it in your school? Contact me.


What a difference a sweatshirt makes

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment


Last week, TSF gave all of the students in the CSA program sweatshirts at a sort of celebration of the end of the first semester of CSA. For the entire week since then, at least half of the students have been wearing their sweatshirts almost every day. They are proud of their accomplishments, their efforts, and the program in which they are enrolled.

That makes me proud.

I have also been wearing—almost every day—the sweatshirt they gave me.

CSA—the College Success Academy—is a program created and run by The SteppingStone Foundation (TSF). In my role at OunceIT I am teaching an ELA class once a week through CSA at the Edison School—a Boston Public School—where I am helping students first learn to blog so that later they can blog to learn.

Sometimes the little things matter as much as the big ones. Don’t forget that. My CSA sweatshirt will remind me.

[cross-posted on CSASeekers.blogspot.com]

Our first problem: Homework.

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

My students’ assignment was simple: Write a short blog post reflecting on any of the following:

  • a problem you have
  • a problem faced by your school, community, or the world
  • the concept or process of “problem solving”
  • this class

After several days, not a single student returned to class having completed the assignment. Not a word had been written.

We had a very SMART problem. If you don’t know the acronym, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Jim Lerman pointed out to me the other day how applicable the SMART acronym is to problem seeking, and I think he is correct.

I had to think fast, because you can’t have a blog without blog posts, and while I didn’t want to turn blog writing into a punishment, I did want to kickstart my students into writing.

So I opened up a single Google Doc, shared it with all of them, and had each of them write their name on the blank page. I spaced their names out along the length of the document, and asked them to write. The same topic, but this time I asked them to just write. Stream of consciousness. Free writing.

Two minutes in, and 80% of the class wouldn’t have paused to acknowledge a fire in the room. Here are some things I would like to share in no particular order (note: I asked them to not check grammar or spelling, though I have edited their writing in some – not all – places)

1.choose a topic
2.list expectation
3.list facts
5.list problems
6.solve problems
7.check check check

We can share our [experiences] on the blog. . . .we could list the problems and figure out the solution. In this case, each step of our problem-seeking project could be clearly presented on-line, which will be efficient to show [others] what have we done all over the time.

to solve a problem, we need to have a problem!!!

How do we solve problems? How do I know that I have a problem?

Fire. This is what we need. We need passion and motivation and inspiration.
Perhaps we should figure out one thing we as a group are good at. But that feels risky. Like building a hammer without establishing the existence of nails.

So, what’s gotten me thinking in other classes?
status exercises
dropping in
free writing, oddly enough

What inspires people?
a good soundtrack
people they know
any underdog story
eloquence-“Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power”

But maybe it’s not when effects us personally but what evolves us emotionally.

problems are problems because they need to be fixed
it’s possible that problems only exist because they have a solution
perhaps if a problem has no solution then maybe it is not a problem
to use math as an example 3+2 is a problem because it has a solution: 5
5 is not a problem because it has no solution
It is likely that having a solution is not the only common thread between all problems
there are other things all problems have in common
they can all be phrased as a question
for example: what is 2+3.
the answer is 5 again, but unlike the prior example, this problem was phrased in the form of a question

(so much for the flipped classroom!)

My mind is racing after #edACCESS11

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

After several years of yearning, I finally made time this year to attend the annual edACCESS conference, hosted this year by the Peddie School in Hightstown, NJ. edACCESS is a national association of information technology staff at small schools and colleges, and the annual conference uses the peer conference model, developed and facilitated by edACCESS co-founder Adrian Segar and described in his book Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love, for the majority of its conference sessions.

Tom Daccord presents for edACCESS11

My colleagues and peers have been reporting back to me for years on how beneficial edACCESS is. With a style very similar to an “unconference,” the attendees are the presenters, planners, and participants. The collaborative environment speaks volumes to the personalities of the attendees: It is as important to us that we share our own ideas and experiences as it is that we learn from others.

This year, discussion sessions included many (participant-chosen) topics that spanned the educational and technological sides of EdTech. Some years a keynote speaker is invited. This year Tom Daccord of the blog EdTech Teacher spoke about a topic near and dear to my heart: steering a school’s technology decisions based on its mission and pedagogical goals.

Upon splitting up into peer sessions, we discussed topics including:
-Disaster recovery setups and power requirements
-PC and Apple coexisting
-Teacher Accountability For Use Of Technology
-Favorite iPad apps & how to find more
-Reporting structure: Do you report to the Head Master? CFO? Pros & Cons?
…and many more topics.

The audio from all of these topics is recorded, notes are scribed, and at the discretion of the members of each session, both formats are usually posted to the edACCESS wiki.

I can’t put too fine a point on how valuable it is to get peers and colleagues together, supporting each other, and collaboratively learning and working out our problems. It’s incredibly active learning, and even after the conference my mind continues to race with new strategies I can’t wait to test out, and new ideas that rush through my mind, unable (and unwilling!) to turn down the spigot.

It was a pleasure to participate: learning from my peers, and facilitating when appropriate. For me, edACCESS11 has not truly ended. I have extended my Personal Learning Network, I have made new friends, and I plan to continue these rich conversation year-long. Plus, I have edACCESS 2012 to look forward to!

Thank you to everyone involved at edACCESS – it was a pleasure and a valuable experience!


p.s. Thank you, Steve, for encouraging me to go this year!

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