tablet on white background. Isolated 3D imageReading Todd Finley’s recent article, Helping Diverse Learners Succeed, I was struck by the power of the argument concerning characteristics of the cultural deficit model and what this means in small rural communities. For years now, here in the heartland, we have struggled to grasp the real impact of a lack of “cultural capital” on student learning, often associating it as a symptom of urban chaos, and therefore less relevant in a rural setting.

Adequately preparing pre-service teachers to work effectively with a diverse student population is a sizable challenge when you work in western Kansas! Students tend to come from small rural towns in this part of the state. Many of them have every intention to leave home for just enough time to earn their degree but then return to their roots and teach in the same school system just as soon as a suitable opening presents itself.

Relaying the need for them to become culturally responsive teachers can be a stretch at best, with many simply not seeing the relevance of such training to their particular circumstance. (read more…)

digital literacyIt is more important than ever that educational leaders work with and fully support their teachers. Every teacher wants to improve their practice and be the best they can be for their students. We have the luxury of deciding how we accomplish that, so why wouldn’t we use the technology at our fingertips to drive instruction? To build confidence in our teachers AND our students?

Over the past few years, I have seen the power of next generation/online student assessment platforms and of putting student data to work to invigorate teachers, increase student interest and engagement and provide myriad opportunities for collaboration among staff.

Making the decision to move student assessment online was an easy decision for me; it was the implementation that gave me pause. Before diving in to the deep end with next generation student assessment, I knew I had to dip my toes in the shallow end, asking myself questions along the way to keep my head above water. (read more…)

social networkThe worthwhile, monumental and ongoing challenge of ensuring that each of our students is learning has led to the widespread adoption of professional learning communities in schools. This is a good thing.

But I wonder if PLC design has too often ignored an essential aspect of teacher growth: real, authentic professional learning.

After all, the commonly accepted practice for most PLCs is for teams to work collaboratively in cycles of inquiry and action research in order to improve student learning. PLC teams collect data on student learning, then make adjustments, create interventions and hatch new instructional plans. When the collaboration is efficient, PLC cycles provide a focused method to dissect student work and hopefully improve results.

Given that U.S. teachers have significantly less time to collaborate with peers than teachers in more high-performing nations, it makes sense to try and be efficient with PLC time, and I do want to impact student learning in a meaningful way. (read more…)

Hopscotch courtAfter nearly a decade working with 400 schools — from high schools to community colleges — to help train and develop the next generation of manufacturers, I have met many inspiring instructors and administrators who are making a difference when it comes to workforce development.

Today we are seeing collaboration like never before between manufacturers, government groups, academic institutions and other partners to prepare students for good-paying careers in digitally driven, clean environments so that they are ready to innovate and break new ground for their companies — and our country.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned from working with educators that may help your academic institution create and sustain winning programs:

  1. Create a strong advisory committee. The most progressive schools have a well-rounded advisory group comprised of industry partners and leaders that advise them on the content and direction of their program. Typically a mix of small/medium and large manufacturers, these committees can help with funding, securing new equipment, recommending technology, getting support of the school system, job placements/co-op opportunities and building awareness of your program.
  2. (read more…)

Stock PhotoWhen California’s state legislature voted to provide one-time revenue in support of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment System during the 2013-14 school year, many school districts immediately used those fiscal resources to provide students with access to one-to-one technology as a part of their daily curriculum.

However, what many of these districts did not realize is that once a decision has been made to provide students with 1:1 technology on a daily basis, and teachers have been trained in order to effectively utilize these tools, you are never going back to a traditional educational model.

What may have started as a one-time purchase to fill a specific assessment need has fundamentally changed the tools that students and teachers believe are essential for learning. And as we grapple with preparing kids for a world of work that does not yet exist, we know that daily access to technology is here to stay. (read more…)