Saturday, July 31, 2010

CMK - More Deborah Meier and Alfie Kohn

Rereading my notes from Constructing Modern Knowledge (something I should do more often) I am struck by the connections I see between various conversations and presentations. Those connections did not jump out at me during the conference. I'm glad to have the time to review and notice.

In an earlier post I wrote about Gary Stager's remark that if we want kids to be good at learning they should spend time with good learners.

Now I notice that Deborah Meier said, "I want kids to keep company with strong and powerful adults so that they grow up to be strong and powerful adults."

Teachers (and educators of all sorts) are role models for students. They spend a significant amount of time with us. It certainly makes good sense for teachers to be good at learning and strong and powerful. As is often true, what makes good sense to me doesn't seem to be the popular opinion.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Legos, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Education

Thanks to all the Lego fun at CMK a couple of weeks ago we've become a family obsessed. We've collected a ridiculous number of Lego pieces of all shapes and sizes from ebay, craig's list, and the Lego store. We've already built a robot with our Pico cricket set (from craig's list).

Today we decided to head into Washington, D.C. to the National Building Museum for their Lego Architecture exhibit. We'd never been to this museum and it was a wonderful experience.

The Lego exhibit was small but astounding. It was a collection of buildings made from Legos, including the World Trade Center, Fallingwater, and the Empire State Building. Adjacent to these creations was a space full of Legos and room to build. Folks of all ages were hard at work creating and a city had been growing on the tables all day.

There were quotes and fun facts all around the space. (Our six year old had more fun reading these than she did with any other aspect of this exhibit.)

This Frank Lloyd Wright quote struck me. I've long admired his work and this quote did not surprise me at all.

Today, however, it struck me in relation to education. We are constantly trying to design curriculum, schools, lessons, etc. before we've met the people who will be using them. How foolish of us.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Club Practice Run

Last month I wrote about wanting to start a book club for first and second graders. I then proceeded to completely drop the ball for weeks. So, we are on to meet next week for a practice run, just my daughter and a few of her friends. We're reading Gooney Bird Greene, thanks to suggestions on that previous post.

Now I'm back with a new request. I want to structure this book club meeting with some talk about the book but also with some activities. Any brilliant ideas for activities we can do with Gooney Bird Greene? Thanks!

CMK - Deborah Meier and Alfie Kohn

As I review my notes from our time with Deborah Meier and Alfie Kohn I expect I will have a few more posts coming.

After my last post about our time with James Loewen, this quote from Meier (or Debbie as she was called at CMK) hit home: "If democracy is what we are training children for we can't tell them ahead of time that there are right and wrong answers."

It's amazing to me how even first graders have already got this figured out. From a very early age children have determined that the adults in their lives want the right answer to things. (I know Dan had a post about how his facial expressions sent the message to students and his attempt to create a poker face, but I can't find it now.)

One of my big goals all year, every year is to ask students to explain their answers - right or wrong. It's something I try to remember with my daughters as well. However, quite often I realize I have reinforced a 'correct' answer or cringed at a 'wrong' one.

I recognize that we (my students and myself) learn more from a wrong answer than we do from a right one. I know that focusing on right answers reduces the risk taking my students will attempt.

In spite of that knowledge I default to looking for right answers. I appreciate Meier's idea of why this focus is detrimental to our students. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder for me this year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

CMK - Jim Loewen

The first day of Constructing Modern Knowledge was spent with Jim Loewen. He is the author of Lies My History Teacher Told Me and several other books. He was a delightful gentleman to spend time with (we had dinner with him Sunday and lunch on Monday) and interesting to hear.

Early on in his talk to us he said something that struck me and stuck with me: our job as citizens is to bring into being the America of the future.

Think on that for a moment. It's a powerful concept. It's a big responsibility for all of us. Especially for teachers. We have that job both as citizens and as those teaching the next generation of citizens.

How differently would we lead our daily lives if this were a guiding thought? Would it change how we teach and interact with children? It seems to me that bringing into being the America of the future requires a bigger vision and more long-term thinking and planning than we see happening in education today.

Loewen's point about this included the idea that history is intensely relevant to this purpose. I think he is right. Sadly, history is getting pushed to the edges of our schools as reading, writing, math, and science dominate, solely because they will be tested.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Book Club (for work!)

A bunch of teachers from my school are reading A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough. We are meeting three times throughout the summer to talk about it. Of course, not everyone can make it to every meeting, so we set up a wiki to share our thoughts. The added bonus to the wiki is that anyone can join us. So, if you have read or want to read A Place for Wonder please share your thinking! I added all our notes from our first meeting and I will do so again after we meet tonight.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Big Ideas from CMK10

After four full days in Manchester, NH I am still overwhelmed. I have so many notes from James Loewen, Deborah Meier, and Alfie Kohn's sessions that they will need posts of their own for me to process them properly.
Gary Stager began our time together and one of the first things I wrote down has stuck with me, even after four days of amazing, thought-provoking work. He said, "If we want kids to be good at learning it's not a bad idea to have them hang out with great learners."

As teachers we are often (in fact almost always) so focused on our teaching and what we do in front of the class, whether that is the class as a whole, a small group, or an individual student, that we have lost sight of ourselves as learners. How can we truly help students to learn if we don't learn as well.

In addition to the amazing thinkers and learners with whom we spent time, we also had time to work on projects. Brian Silverman took a bit of time to talk to us about computers and their history (he has been involved in aspects of computer programming and educational computing for decades). At one point he was asked, "How do you respond to people who say technology is just a tool?" Brian seemed genuinely perplexed by this question. He responded by saying that technology is a tool, so is writing. He continued, "I'm not sure I understand the use of the word 'just' in that sentence."

That's by far the best response I've ever heard.

Others have written more thoughtful, clear reflections on this experience than I have managed so far. See Chris Lehmann and Brian C. Smith's posts. Also, if you have a ton of free time you can check out the pictures and videos on flickr from the event. There are some great ones!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Constructing Modern Knowledge 2101

Genius. Passion. Kindness. Humility.

Those are the four words that have flown through my brain again and again for three days now. I will write more about this conference. It's the only way I will manage to even begin to process everything I have heard, discussed, and talked about.

I am grateful for the time I had with all of these people.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

ISTE Sessions

I discovered at last year's ISTE (or NECC) that the sessions were not the best part for me. I did attend some but was ofter disappointed. So this year I left myself plenty of time for conversations and other fun.

The best session I attended, by far, was Let's Do It: Planning for Technology in the Primary Classroom by Kathy Cassidy, Maria Knee, and Amanda Marinnan. These three educators have been guides for me since I moved to first grade. (They have also been wonderfully kind and generous.) They talked about what they do in their classrooms and why. You can get the basic idea from their wiki.

There were some good poster sessions for K-2 or K-5 but there were not a lot of options. I don't know if there are not too many proposals for sessions at these levels or if ISTE is not accepting them. However, the demand is there. Every session I attended was packed.

Two sessions were fine but very focused on tools/websites. I would guess that 95% of the audience was thrilled with this. Teachers, especially in elementary schools, are desperate for ways to get their students involved with technology. I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for more depth. There were plenty of tools/websites shared that I will use. However, I would like more information on why to use certain things and what it will do for my students.

I hope to get some of my thoughts from the best parts of the conference, the conversations, together soon.

(For those interested, this wiki has an extensive list of websites for use with primary kids.)