Sunday, December 29, 2013

Random Facts & Some Homework for You

I have recently received two homework challenges from two members of my PLN (Peter Jory and Aaron Akune) . The "homework" is as follows: share 11 random facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions provided and invite 11 others to answer 11 questions that I ask them. 
So in an effort to share a little bit about myself and deepen the relationships in my own PLN here are some random facts and questions:

11 Random Facts About Me:
  1. During high school and university, because of proximity, I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. I enjoyed playing cards with my grandfather and listening to him talk about his time during the war and his story of immigrating to Canada from Italy. His stories (and my parents own immigration story) continue to be sources of pride and inspiration for me and my own children. 
  2. I almost didn’t become a teacher (that’s a whole different story).
  3. The Oregon Coast and Mexico are two of my favourite places to vacation.
  4. I like to golf a minimum of 25 rounds a year. Anything less and I turn into a pumpkin.
  5. I can eat sushi every day. 
  6. I played high school football. I was a fullback and linebacker. My teammates are still some of the best friends I have.  I also coached football up until I became a principal. I even did a short term guest coaching stint for the University of British Columbia football program about 10 years ago. 
  7. Despite what people may see and think, I still get “butterflies” when I have to speak in front of groups (from 5 to 5000)
  8. I exercise so that I can enjoy the delicious food in my life (my wife is an amazing cook as is the rest of my family) 
  9. On my mother’s insistence, we have weekly dinners at my parent’s house with my own family and my brother’s and sister’s families – (that’s 15 people!)
  10. I once spent an entire summer playing Zelda and EA Sports NHL 1997 (on a Nintendo 64) with a roommate. 
  11. I have been to China on 9 different occasions..
Both Peter Jory and Aaron Akune asked me some questions so I decided to answer both sets of questions:

Questions from Peter Jory:

1. Where did you grow up, and what place that still feels like "home" when you go there?
  • I was born and raised in Vancouver! I have never left. Not sure I ever will.  Because of this I don't own winter boots and I when I need to scrape ice off my windshield I use a credit card.
2. When did you decide to do what you do?
  • In grade 9 - my grade 9 social studies teacher was the motivating factor for me becoming a teacher.
3. Describe something that you struggle with and what you've designed as a coping skill or compensation.
  • I am not handy whatsoever.  I have had save an inordinate amount of money to pay people to do work for me.
4. What makes you the proudest when you think of your work?
  • Watching students and teachers find personal success.
5. Who got you started on Twitter?
  • I attended a TEDxUBC event about 4 years ago and saw all these really smart people using Twitter.  I figured I'd better give it a try.
6. Name your all-time favorite fictional character, and describe how that "person" has influenced you.
  • The boy in The Alchemist.  His journey to finding his "treasure" took him to exciting places and introduced him to interesting people - only to realize the treasure he was seeking was at home the entire time.
7. In what way are you quirky?
  • I can get obsessive about a cluttered email inbox.  I have dozens of folders for my emails.
8. Describe a very public moment that didn't work out for you.
  • I am not the most fluent of writers.  Often times I will put out a blog post with some errors or typos.  I usually get a few DM's from folks who will point out my errors.  Fortunately this doesn't deter me from blogging.  
9. What is the best fruit?
  • Nectarine 
10. Describe an event where you had a surprisingly brilliant time.
  • Singing Karaoke  - I'm always an unwilling participant but end up having a blast.
11. What would you like people to say about you after you are gone?
  • He cared about his family and the people he encountered.

Questions from Aaron Akune:

If you could meet one person in the world, who would it be? Why? 
  • Pope Francis - His compassion and "people centered-ness" are an inspiration.
If you had one do-over, what would you do differently? 
  • I don't really like to live in the "regretful past" too much.  I'll pass on this one
I’d like to thank my wife for everything
Your favorite meal is? Sushi.
Where would you like to vacation to next? Hawaii
What book are you currently reading? Humanize
What do you do most often? Phone, text or tweet?  Tweet
What excites you the most about the work you do? The people I meet and work with
One area we need to pay attention to in education that wasn’t as important 10 years ago is digital citizenship and literacy (broadly understood)
A blogger who has seriously impacted my thinking is too many to list - I'll go with PLN.
10 years from now, I will be healthy and happy.
11 Random Questions for you: 
  1. What keeps you up at night?
  2. What would you consider comfort food?
  3. What is one thing you would change about your job?
  4. What is one thing you would change about schools today?
  5. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone?
  6. The biggest inspiration in my life is___________________?
  7. What was the first music concert you attended?
  8. What is the first movie you attended?
  9. Other than work, I have a passion for_____________________?
  10. If you wrote a book, what would the title be?
  11. When I grow up I ______________________
I challenge the following people to do their homework:
  1. Darcy Mullin
  2. Chris Kennedy
  3. Maricel Ignacio
  4. Denise Lamarche
  5. Ian Doktor
  6. Ron Sherman
  7. Sheila Stewart
  8. Ryan Bretag
  9. David Wees
  10. Michelle Baldwin
  11. Dean Shareski

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

11 Edu Myths I Encounter

As I continue in my learning "travels", I am noticing some reoccurring "myths" about students, teaching, learning and schooling.

Here is short list of  "11 Edu Myths" that I continue to personally encounter:

Myth #1: Lectures
I continue to encounter many teachers who are somewhat "meek" to admit that they use lectures in their classes.   I hear teachers sometimes declare - "this may not be a good class to visit - I am only lecturing. You should have come last week when students were presenting..."
To be clear, direct instruction (Hattie) and the use of clear instructions by teachers is a legitimate pedagogical tool when it comes to teaching.  However, not all lectures are created equally and a good lecture must be also matched with a teacher's ability to capture student voice in the learning process.

Myth #2: It's all about technology
Wrong.  It starts with good pedagogy.  The teacher matters.  Increasingly, technology can be used to engage students in their thinking.  Teachers have a role to play in triggering learning and thinking.  Technology increasingly has a powerful place in that process.

Myth #3:  Students are Internet savvy
Perhaps one of more dangerous myths in education is that students are "digital natives".  I would argue that this type of thinking gives too many adults a certain "crutch" to abdicate their ethical duty to teach digital citizenship.  I have written about this here: Scarcity at the Table of Abundance

Myth #4:   Public vs. Independent 
As a someone who has worked in the independent school system (in British Columbia) I have seen too much rhetoric "pitting one side against the other" often with stereotypical, misinformed comments  .  The more I work with folks from both the public schools and independent schools the more optimistic I am that EVERYONE is working to serve all students.  At the end of day, they are all our children.

Myth #5: Teaching to a Preferred Learning Style
As a beginning teacher, I remember the emphasis on teaching to a preferred learning styles of our students.  The modern research has now completely debunked the idea of teaching to students  "preferred" learning styles.  A study of the proliferation  of "neuromyths" in education explains the learning style myth this way:

An example of a neuromyth is that learning could be improved if children were classified and taught according to their preferred learning style. This misconception is based on a valid research finding, namely that visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information is processed in different parts of the brain. However, these separate structures in the brain are highly interconnected and there is profound cross-modal activation and transfer of information between sensory modalities (Gilmore et al., 2007). Thus, it is incorrect to assume that only one sensory modality is involved with information processing. Furthermore, although individuals may have preferences for the modality through which they receive information [either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (VAK)], research has shown that children do not process information more effectively when they are educated according to their preferred learning style (Coffield et al., 2004). 

Myth #6: Boys and Girls
Below is a 3 minutes YouTube clip is from a researcher from the University of Notre Dame talking about the impact gender segregated classes have on academic achievement.  Bottom line?  Boys and girls are different in many physiological and neurological ways (duh!).  While there is no academic harm in gender split classes, the overall effect on achievement is "neutral".  A better approach may be to identify the individual learning needs of each student - beyond gender.
(I have little experience in this area so I welcome comments from those who have more insights)

Myth #7: More is better
More homework?  More school days?  More school hours?  More awards?  It seems that many want to equate "more" with "better".   There is a growing amount of research about the effects of homework,  year round schooling and longer school days.  My travels have told me that more is NOT necessarily the total solution in any of these areas.

Myth #8: Educators are using Social Media 
The more I visit with educators, the more I realize that I am in a bubble when it comes to the use social media to share, learn and grow.   As  a profession we need to continue to be more vulnerable with our own learning and network with others.

Myth #9: Faith & Reason
I increasingly see how many want to divorce all matters of faith from reason.  My personal belief is Catholic, K-12 schools can learn from the Catholic Intellectual Tradition that forms the foundation of many Catholic Universities and Colleges.  A definition of this tradition that resonates with me is as follows:
Perhaps the most fruitful way of thinking about the Catholic Intellectual Tradition is in terms of two aspects: the classic treasures to be cherished, studied, and handed on; and the way of doing things that is the outcome of centuries of experience, prayer, action, and critical reflection.” The treasures ...include certain classic texts, art and architecture, music, as well as developments in science and technology. When these things are appreciated as part of the Christian intellectual heritage, they are studied in a way that tends to integrate the disciplines by relating everything to the meaning of human life in its relationship to the transcendent.  
The other aspect of this tradition is the way we have learned to deal with experience and knowledge in order to acquire true wisdom, live well, and build good societies, laws, and customs. Fundamental to this process is the understanding that faith and reason do not conflict. Rather, the continued pursuit of understanding leads ultimately to wisdom. The Catholic Intellectual Tradition invites us out of isolation and into a community whose cumulative efforts contribute to the construction of a whole—a wholeness that is a Catholic hallmark. (Monika Hellwig) 

Myth #10: School is not "real world"
I hear many folks talk about preparing students for the real world.  I often greet this statement with a few questions:  What is the "real world"?  What is that makes school "not real"? How can we make it "real"?  So often schools and teachers create policies, procedures and cultures on a false sense of what the "real world" actually is.  Any discussion of preparing students for the real world requires a genuine understanding of that the current "real world" actually is.   

Myth#11: Recognizing winners and losers helps motivate students
I am not an expert in human motivation and/or psychology.  As an educator and a parent I have witnessed situations where publicly pitting one student (child) against another in the highly personal and "messy" act of learning has caused alienation, disengagement and embarrassment.

Please feel free to comment and add some of your own "Edu Myths"......