AFT video on PISA – What does it say?

While those wishing to put stock in the rankings of the latest PISA results may claim some bias in this video from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the arguments reinforce the idea that our public schools are a reflection of our society. Until we (policy makers specifically) more effectively address issues such as poverty in America, we will only make incremental changes in student performance as assessed on these tests. It is interesting to me how much the United States’ ranking improves once levels of poverty are accounted for. Is this a valid argument?


What’s not in a score?

With the release of Pennsylvania’s  School Performance Profile, we continue to label schools, this time with a single score. While SPP is being touted as based on multiple measures, that’s really a bit of smoke and mirrors. Ninety percent (90%)  of the score is still based on a single testing window (PSSA/Keystone Exams) snapshot in time.

I’m fortunate enough to be in a district where we value more than just the SPP score. This morning, I found this image on Twitter that communicates some of what we value beyond the simple test score.


By Randy Ziegenfuss Posted in Learning

Deeper Learning MOOC – January – March 2014

deepthinkingThis morning while scanning my RSS feeds I discovered the Deeper Learning MOOC coming this January. I like the way deeper learning is defined:

  • Master core academic content
  • Think critically and solve complex problems
  • Work collaboratively
  • Communicate effectively
  • Learn how to learn (e.g., self-directed learning)
  • Academic mindsets

The Deeper Learning MOOC is going to feature the work of several innovative programs and schools including Big Picture Schools and High Tech High. I’m particularly interested in learning how the structures of these models can transfer to public education and how we make deeper learning systemic. Right now, most of us would agree we have pockets of deep learning in our schools. Our big challenge is a systemic upgrade. I’m looking forward to learning and sharing over the next few months.


Yes or No to “after-hours” work/email?

yes-noAs we enjoy an extended holiday break away from the daily routine of work (and the fact its the time of year for resolutions), I wanted to reflect on how I balance my time between work and leisure. There are different perspectives out there! For example, here is an article that was recently shared by a colleague: No more work email from home? Employers step in to prevent burnout from staffers.

Volkswagen turns off some employees’ email 30 minutes after their shifts end. Goldman Sachs is urging junior staff to take weekends off. BMW is planning new rules that will keep workers from being contacted after hours.

Some may think cutting off access to email is a little radical, including this article: Is working on weekends the secret to a successful, happy work-life balance?

That said, as I’ve studied people’s schedules, I’ve come to think that there’s nothing inherently wrong with working on weekends if it’s done within some limits. For many people, working on weekends is actually the key to making work and life work together.

The second article goes on to put forth the idea that if you love your work, it doesn’t seem much like work and it’s no big deal to put in the “extra hours.” But is that the case with every line of work? All the time, regardless of the job? How is education different? For me, my personal preference is to do some work in the evening and on the weekend, past regular work hours. This allows me the flexibility during the workday to tap into a variety of tasks, both routine and innovative. If I didn’t allot extra time, my workday would be consumed solely with mundane tasks, allowing little or no room for the innovative things that make the job enjoyable. I’m not saying that’s all I do – work every waking hour, 7 days a week. Far from it. It is very possible to consistently build in family-time and activities that provide some downtime from the pace of work life while still moving beyond the routine tasks of the day. You first have to have the autonomy in your job to do this, and then you have to have the time management skills to make it happen.

What works best for you? Email/work only during regular work hours? Or do you prefer to blur the lines a little? And what field of work do you find yourself in? I think what career, along with the kind of autonomy you have in that career, does make a difference in what works best.

3 for the week

34 Minutes Guide to Creating Graphs and Charts in Google Spreadsheets

There’s nothing particularly earth shattering about a 4-minute video on using Google spreadsheets to create graphs and charts. The prevalence of this kind of information on the internet should prompt all educators to reflect on the value they add to the classroom in a changed world. Recently, we have had some discussions at the board level around providing a teacher at the middle level to teach just these kinds of computer skills. Is it really the best use of scarce resources to have a teacher devoted to teaching basic computing skills when so much of the information needed for learning can be found, for free, on the internet. And shouldn’t students be learning these skills on a just-in-time basis? For example, if students are studying temperature in science and could best represent the data using graphs and charts, they should then take the four minutes in class to learn how to use graph/chart feature in Google Apps. Learning the skill in an isolated context, away from any practical use, does not promote “sticky” learning. We know that for sure. The students might learn the skill for the computer class, but would likely forget about it in short time due to lack of application to real world work. Now that content is so easily accessible on the internet, how must we rethink the added-value of teachers in the classroom?

Here’s How to Undo a Sent Email in Gmail

If you use Gmail, you can take advantage of one of the most recent additions to Gmail Labs, the place where Google trials experimental new features. The addition is an “undo” option on sent emails. Click on the above link to learn how to set it up on your account. Once set up, the default is a 10 second window to undo the send. The article outlines a few steps you can take to increase that window to 30 seconds. At school we use Google Apps for Education, and I think this will be a nice feature to share with the staff and students.

Kids Talk About Learning at the Inquiry Hub

I think it is important for teachers and students to share what and how they are learning. Sharing provides an opportunity for others to learn from successes and failures, but it also provides learners with opportunities to connect with and learn from a larger audience. This webinar features students and the lead administrator at the Inquiry Hub (a school in Canada) sharing how the school works and the kinds of inquiries they involve themselves in on a daily basis. The school is particularly interesting to me because I believe student inquiry (where students are encouraged to explore their own questions) is one of the keys to a successful school, especially as education moves more and more to a technology-rich learning environment. I enjoyed hearing from the students about the different kinds of inquiries they are working on. You can learn more about the Inquiry Hub model on the web and on Twitter.