How do we get there?

Hey, I remember this

Oh where have I gone?  

Honestly, nowhere and everywhere all at once.  I have worked with folks in my district and folks in New Zealand.  I have worked in my kitchen and I have worked in my office.  I am continually amazed at the amount of work I can get done sitting in my own recliner.  So much is happening.  Parker, my son, is five months old and just at the right station in life to look absolutely adorable doing just about anything.  My new job had taken my to building and classroom all over the DuBois area providing me with fantastic opportunities to see some awesome educators in action. The end of graduate school is within reach and…oh yeah…my wife is as beautiful and supportive as ever.   Thanks hun.

I am not sure how often I will be able to expound on all of the good things that are happening here at DuBois, but I will tell you that I keep up pretty well over at my tips blog.  If you are interested I try to provide quick info at least once a day.  I hate to be white noise and if I have nothing to say I am not going to keep up appearances with lengthy posts about my daily life. 

I will, however, come back and pick up a professional development thread after a few of my plans get off the ground.  I am using a ning with the staff, two departments are using wikispaces and I inch forward everyday with the ideas like “Community Nights” and “Saturday Sessions.” 

But that is all for another time.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for stoppin’ by.  

Amusing Ourselves to Death?

Great commentary on NPR today.

I’m taking Bob Greene’s advice.  I’m closing the lid and will see you all on Tuesday morning. 


Have a great weekend! 

Don’t Blink

Sorry about the ghost post, something went terrible wrong when I tried to publish yesterday.  Anyway…

Is it possible that the blur of school is on us already?  I don’t mean school itself, I mean the endless cycle of Monday, garbage day, Friday, NFL game, Monday…I am guilty.  I have a fascination with crossing off dates.  But sometimes that’s not good enough.  I cross off months, weeks, days, and I even find myself crossing off class periods.  You can become so consumed with time that time dictates your teaching. 

How will I fill this time?  Where will I find the time?  Let’s not do that because there is not enough time.  You and your students could be missing out on great experiences when teaching becomes consumed with time.  My unqualified advice, let go.  It will get done or it won’t.   The odds of deep understanding are actually better if you fully explore an idea than if you scratch the surface of 100.  If you model the thinking and learning process well, then you can put ownership of the rest of the content into their hands.        

That said, I want to be better this year.  I myself want to let go of education being a function of time.  I want to be a more thoughtful, more reflective learner and I hope by being conscious of that, I will help others around me do the same. 

Have a great year,

I’ll tell you the Russian story next time I get a moment to type.  It has to do with 21st century tech and one student placed here in good ol’ DuBois PA, that only speaks Russian.  Let the wackiness ensue.

Data Analysis

Ah, the reality of accelerated graduate school classes.  The cohort, which seems to change rapidly, moves from class to class in 8 week intervals.  I have to say I was pleased with that until Action Research.  I admit I wasn’t big on this class at the beginning, but after learning the process and participating in several excellent conversations about PD, I was disappointed when it came time to conclude. 

According to everything the class taught us, data analysis and the subsequent action plan take up the majority of the time in the project.  We, the students, had three weeks to collect data and one week to analyze and conclude.  I am not complaining, I get it.  I get that this was an introduction to the process and now we can implement this practice with our districts, but I really go into it.  I am disappointed that I could not possibly put all of that data into a coherent form in just a few days.  I can’t believe it, but I am disappointed that I didn’t have time to write a bigger, better paper.  Looking at my schedule, odds are I will not get back to it for quite sometime. 

 That said, here is a small piece and please save your comments about my awful APA citation for an argument with a college professor :   :)  (FYI: InfoSource is an internet based content delivery system that we are using to update MS Office skills)

            Question two will unfortunately remain unanswered until further research is conducted.  It is my opinion that offering online, on demand personal development is a more effective delivery method; however, the data collected from InfoSource (Pearce, 2007) proves the contrary.  A yearly assessment report showed over 300 failures, 54 incomplete tests, and only 45 passing scores in 2006-2007.  A quick look at the time spent showed that the average participant is spending less than 30 minutes on each quiz and often logging off after less than 10 minutes because of a failure of the pretest.

This is the only online assessment tool that we have, but it is my belief that it is not an accurate reflection of the medium.  In my personal experience InfoSource is tedious and difficult, offering material as drill and skill rather than exploration and reflection.  I point to the short amounts of time spent and the staggering amount of failures as proof of this.  As a side note, I am also taking issue with InfoSource’s overall data reporting.   To my knowledge, the system provides only one report listing access times and success or failures.  There is no way to filter, import, or export data making assessment beyond pass/fail difficult.  Chalmers and Keown (2006) suggested that the success of any program is equal to the amount of support provided.  Infosource is a stand alone quiz machine and, in my opinion, is proving to be an expensive experiment with very little reward.  

Although not addressing professional development on a mass scale, another popular method of teacher development is the conference.  With the assistance of the district office, I was able to access and manually record conference request data for the years of 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 (D.A.S.D., Appendix A).  For the last two school years there were 1086 individual requests filed.  Not having other data from other schools makes conclusions difficult, but cross checking the requests with the given rationale yielded some interesting trends.   Less than half of the requests appeared to be related to pedagogy.  Only 79 of the requests involved educational technology, while 364 requests were related to the administration and guidance departments.  The question that needs explored now is why teachers do not seek out more opportunities within their content area?     



What Does Bad PD Look Like?

That’s a terrible question.  We all know what bad professional development is, but it continues to happen all over the world.  I spent Monday and Tuesday leaning a new e-grade book and I couldn’t help thinking of the ingredients that make-up a poor experience. 

1.  Rushed (Having to use or re-teach material/software within a week)

2.  Errors!  (A training model that is poorly constructed and functions sporadicly at best)

3.  The Unknown (District application is still a week away, what is it going to look like?)

4.  The Presenter (Most software people don’t speak in normal everyday terms, nor do they have the the fortitude to stick with “non-techies”)

5.  Local Knowledge (Teachers are partial to certain functionality in grading, the presenter should be somewhat prepared for how the audience works)

The list could go on and on.  Why are teachers being trained before the tech department?  Why would you show your audience the entire system in three hours?  It is extremely aggravating all around.  The bottom line is when things like this happen you leave people with the option of not adapting.  “It didn’t work,”  I didn’t get it,” “I’ll never have time to learn all that.” 

I realize sometimes time is an issue, but as the old saying still goes, “poor planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on mine”.  We will get it done.  We have a great staff and we always mange to shine no matter what is handed to us.  I just hope that in the future more voices are brought into the mix of professional development and system change.  All of this could have been avoided with a short conversation.

I didn’t learn much about our new grade book, but I did learn a valuable lesson.       

Day 4: Wrap Up, Changing Your Practice

Great conversations today about changing instructional practices.  Similar to the conversation about technology integration, we often think of best practices or effective strategies as activities with a certain outcome.  “Today I am going to do…think, pair, share” or “to cover this novel I’ll put the kids in lit circles.”  Think, pair, share, the activity has now become the focus where if tool or tools are used effectively they are seamless part of the instruction.

An important realization for me relates to daily objectives.  I can put part of the blame on pre-service, but my objectives have largely been content or outcome based.  I focus too much on the product at the expense of the process.  I see now that teaching to a content goal is actually a more difficult method to cover material.  With content there are different interpretations, pov’s, tools, basically a thousand ways to cover content, whereas a focus on thinking skills, such as drawing inferences, lets the learner create there own understanding of the content.

Heady stuff for most of us.

I see so many connections in what we have accomplished over the last four days and what I have explored this summer.  It echoes that change is needed in instructional delivery and not in the student’s attitude toward education.  It is a move to get teachers to teach the thinking and processing skills that will benefit students throughout their lives.  Finally, and if you buy into connectivism most importantly, the group made excellent connections to one another, to the information, and to the world of education.  The next logical step is to connect to and share this with the students. 

I am excited to see the potential of this cohort realized.  I believe it will be a positive change for all parties involved. 

Day 3: Interactive Small Group

Question:  Are your students’ thinkers or responders?

Interactive Small Group vs. Co-op Group

Interactive small group gives a teacher the ability to pull a small group from the larger class and focus on their specific need.  The teacher may be stretching an advanced group or monitoring and catching-up students in need of help.  Using the previous comprehension strategies of making connections, asking questions, visualization, drawing inferences, determining important ideas and synthesizing information, interactive small group has three key elements:  Introduce Text, Reading Text, and Discussion of Text.         



Based on need

Multiple issues can be addresses

Can be advancing or remedial

Teacher involvement or lead

Discussion/Reflection afterward


Students driven

Usually single issue

Teachers give all groups equal attention

The word differnetiation is bantered about often, but you get a real sense of how these strategies help a teacher plan for that more effectively.  We all know that you cannot possibly be prepared for everything, but maybe by having tools like this in the bag, one could be comfortable with the unknown.

Looking back at the posts involved in this discussion I realize how difficult it must be to get a good grasp on 3 or 4 days worth of information.  I would be happy to continue the discussion and share what I’ve learned.  Feel free to leave a comment or your email.  If I don’t know the answer, I am sure I can connect you with someone who does.

Day 2: Comprehension Strategies

I am in no way endorsing this group, but for reference here is the link to Pacific Learning, the company behind this effective practices workshop.

I was pulled from the workshop several times today.  I was out a few times for a laptop and a projector having a fight and a few times for some administrative issues.  Sadly those interruptions lead to a lack of focus on today’s information and practice.  Never the less, I will push on like I know what I am talking about.  Just be aware that my understanding may not be as comprehensive as the others.

Today started with a review of instructional strategies by grouping and using interactive large group strategies to tell more about ourselves. 

Moving on, the main focus today was on comprehension strategies including:

Making Connections

Asking Questions


Drawing Inferences

Determining Importance

Synthesizing Information

and Monitoring Comprehension

It is the opinion of the presenters that if you choose to focus on instructional and comprehension strategies that it would work best with a full district commitment.  That said, if you choose to change your own practice, I think a teacher could do worse than teaching reading comprehension skills to students.   The book recommended here is Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis.  

After the instructors modeled large group interactive instruction, focusing on comprehension strategies, (Great method using enlarged text to focus attention where you want it) it was up to us to develop a lesson.  Pairing with a content partner we were to select a passage of text that may pose problems.  My partner and I chose a passage from Poe’s Cask of Amontillado.  Recognizing the descriptive language, we felt comfortable using Visualization as our strategy.   

For tomorrow our plan is increase compression by gaining a visual of what is happening.  We are going to question the student’s mental images and use pictures to identify complicated words or passages.  

I’ll let you know how it goes. 


Effective Practices and Coaching Day 1

This is a bit disjointed, but it is difficult to put 6 hours into a few paragraphs. Good introduction to the workshop and good focus throughout.  Funny, it felt as if they were jumping around, but it all came together after lunch. 

The presenters used several, if not a dozen, strategies as we discussed what effective strategies we recognize or use.  Using posters and post-its, we organized and sorted the groups ideas of effective strategies in 5 categories. 

1.  Student Performance 

2.  Instructional Delivery 

3.  Environment 

4.  Grouping 

5.  Instructional Content

We were in large, small groups, and pairs to discuss.  We used compare/contrast putting our ideas against an “expert opinion.”  Then we ended using a matrix to identify the strategies and questioning techniques in a video lesson.

All in all, a good day of reflection and a good reminder of the vocabulary behind our practices.  It was clear at the conclusion of the day that objective focus and a variety of effective practices can most certainly increase engagement and retention.  (Especially in a group of teachers :)

It was a great deal in a short amount of time. I will try by the end of the week to post a list and maybe a break down of the strategies that we continue to use.  

8 Random Facts

Tagged by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, oddly enough not to long after we first chatted.  I feel used :(

Anyway, here are the rules:

  • Post these rules before you give your facts
  • List 8 random facts about yourself
  • At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
  • Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

My Facts:

1.  I have never had a vehicle made after 1989.

2.  I have 2 degrees and working on a third

3.  I was once in a Pro-Wrestling match

4.  Never been outside of the US

5.  I directed Richard Gere in The Mothman Prophecies (okay I repeated what came through my walkie)

6.  I’ve been to Pike’s Peak

7.  I love the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous

8.  I worked in a Jersey City Liquor store in order to stay and work in NYC longer.

Okay, enough about me.  I tried to be random. Tagging Jen, Derek, ChrisKurt, Iteachr ,Kristin and that’s all I got right now.  Doesn’t pay to be late.  I hope there is no curse attached.