Four dynamic speakers recently took the stage for the Power Talks keynote at ACTE’s Career Tech Vision 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. Real-world, inspired learning as a change agent in education was a common thread throughout the talks.

Here are four takeaway lessons on the power of CTE from the keynote speakers:

Find your “zone of awesomeness.”

Career and technical educator and national faculty member for the Buck Institute for Education Brian Schoch encouraged attendees to find their “zone of awesomeness.” Finding the zone has helped Schoch design project-based learning that inspires students, and ultimately, helped keep him in the classroom when he considered leaving after his first semester of teaching. Student-led work equals student excitement and engagement, he said. That’s a message some educators may have heard before, but Schoch took his advice one step further, challenging educators to choose projects that also inspire and excite them. When four elements — authentic work, content-rich assignments, teacher excitement and student excitement — come together, “something magical happens,” he said. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Insight Education Group.

In parts one and two of this blog series, we discussed not only the challenges that schools face in implementing effective teacher observation and evaluation systems, but the promising evidence that classroom video can improve how educators grow.

In this third and final post, we take a close look at how teachers in one school district are using video – and the remarkable results they’re seeing.

When Newton County Schools System (NCSS), a 20,000-student district in Georgia, decided to install camera and audio systems in the classrooms of its 23 schools, the primary goal was to reduce disciplinary issues and improve student safety. But as Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey explains, it didn’t take long before they began thinking much bigger about how video could impact nearly every aspect of teaching and learning within the district.

At the time, NCSS’ administrators and instructional leaders were also grappling with issues that are unfortunately all too common: new and heightened curricular expectations and declining student achievement scores – without enough professional support for teachers or funding. (read more…)

textbooksDuring a recent parent-teacher conference for my fourth-grader, the teacher said she had been differentiating instruction for my child. I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant by differentiation. I assumed she was doing this for every student in the class and not just my child. I wondered how and what she was differentiating and what types of assessments she was using to help her differentiate.

This led me to think: Did she really mean differentiation? Maybe she meant personalization or individualization? Did the teacher know the difference between these strategies? Were her definitions and conceptions of these strategies the same as mine?

Personalization, differentiation and individualization all sound good. Every teacher wants to personalize, differentiate or individualize learning and instruction for their students. Many say they do at least one or the other. However, currently there’s not much consensus among educators about the definitions of these terms. Some educators use these terms synonymously. (read more…)

classroomWe teachers are very tempted to employ the “back in my day, we did things differently” tactic with our students. Student zoning out in class? Tough, because back in my day you either paid attention or you missed out. Didn’t know what the homework was? Too bad, because back in my day you picked up the phone and called someone to find out.

Embedded within these old-school responses are morsels of wisdom, which ideally can be transmitted to our students with love and patience. But, when the tactic is used in a standoffish manner, as it is above, it only accomplishes antagonism.

For the majority of the time, the phrase “back in my day” includes within it a degree of longing and yearning for when kids, teachers, parents and the system were different than they are now. Coupled with that sense of longing may be a stealthy side serving of despair or resentment toward the current state of affairs. (read more…)

Stock PhotoBlended learning is transforming roles of teachers and students in many classrooms and has become a trendy buzzword in education in recent years. Yet, for all its trendiness and efficacy, the true meaning of what blended learning means has somehow gotten lost in all the buzz. This has become a term that has many meanings to many different stakeholders. I want to use this blog post to start the conversation around some of the most common misconceptions I encounter regarding blended learning, with hopes that we can demystify this very solid instructional approach.

As the director of Curriculum and Instructional Technology for Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut, I have overseen a successful and ongoing blended environment, and I have encountered and addressed many of the ideas that lead to blended learning confusion. Here are five of the most common misconceptions, with a healthy dose of the truth thrown in for good measure. (read more…)