Sunday, February 27, 2011

Innovations Conference - What is a Great Teacher?

Todd and I are currently in San Diego attending and presenting at the Innovations in the Community College conference.
I look around and get a pretty wonky impression that there are more administrators than teachers here, but it should be fruitful, and I'm pleased to report that some warm fuzzys are germinating, inspired by the keynote speaker, Allan Golston, President of the  U.S. Programs for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

He spoke of the pain in realizing some early efforts came up short, mainly that systemic and structural changes in K-12 education did not have the effects hoped for. What they learned was that real change happens at the classroom level, WITH THE TEACHER. Top teachers can improve even the lowest performing students. Wooo! This was personally affirming, because after going through 5 different schools (so far) with my 3 kids, this was dominant lesson for us as well. School philosophy be damned, it was the teacher that mattered. I can imagine that this was painful for Mr. Golston because a good teacher is something of an outlier, and far more tricky to find and develop that making changes in policy or method. A good teacher transcends all those things.

Mr. Golston told the story of his being a young accounting teacher, confronted by ill-prepared students. Instead of flunking them, as one mentor coldly suggested, he opened a special Saturday session to bring those students up to where they needed to be. It wasn't a special gift of oratory, cleverness or technology, but simple willingness to go beyond for those students. I got totally choked up. The quality that all great teachers have? They care deeply about their students.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Things that Don't Change

If you don't update your blog for 3 months, people will wonder whether you will ever be back. Currency is valuable on the internet, and I'm not talking cash. It's more of a credit line. If you keep your web log fresh, like the flowers on the table, you might keep people coming back for a bite. Let it wilt to crusted brown and there will be no one coming to your door.
Do you find this ironic? Postings on the web can last, well, until the electricity runs out. So wouldn't this permanence let you say the things you need to only once? No need to repeat yourself, it would live on in transcendence of time, there for the searching now and forever.
It doesn't necessarily work that way - the internet gets stale faster than french bread. I doubt anyone will read any post contained in my archives, and they will be as good as last month's newspapers, balled up and burned. It's a good thing this internet isn't static, but churning churning out more fresh bit-burger-bytes. Still, what lasts? What do you return to?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Springing into Edu255

Wow, this will be Edu255's sixth semester. 75 amazing teachers! Looking at the change over that time and the growth ahead is amazing, and we are in the very center of it. Very exciting stuff, and frightening, and fun, and difficult at times. Technology surrounds us. We can resist it, or go ahead and make the move, toward it, without leaving behind our values and what we believe. It is ours to shape with everyone else, so let's learn how.

When approaching the online world, open to the possibility that what you might imagine to be possible, is possible. Can you talk to people through it? Yes. Can you make this blog whatever color you want? Yes. Can we organize videos together for a lesson plan? Affirmative, with the proper curiosity and perseverence. That kind of customizability by you - and students, together in interactive spaces, is really neat, with huge potential. These new contexts can create new self-motivations for learning.

We've had incredible discussions. The discussion board is the heart of the course, and this semester's going experimental again using the discus discussion tool, which personalizes it Facebook-style. The visual image gives life to it.

I look forward to making more great connections this semester. See you on Saturday!