Monday, March 31, 2008

Today's focus is multitasking

I'm sitting in bargaining with our classified staff represented by PSE obviously multitasking by checking my RSS feeds and now blogging. There are a lot of issues to resolve and each one seems to be taking an excessive amount of time so I find myself drifting in and out depending upon the topic. My observations of others in the room suggest that they are doing the same thing. It is a good thing that we have Buzz and Bruce maintaining focus on the task at hand.

What used to take a couple of days seems this year to be out of reach in the same amount of time. Why, what is changing? I believe that there are at least two significant drivers for this change. First, the economics of our current situation does not lend itself to the kind of flexibility that is necessary for meeting their money requests. Though this is not out of the norm for PSE bargaining, the scope is different because of the burden to support the state's rather large COL raise for formula units. Though the state does not see this as a mandate for all staff, we have historically given this increase to non-formula staff as well. At the same time we are seeing less growth in revenue for a variety of reasons and we have used as much of our fund balance as we believe is prudent to balance this year's budget. The need identified by our PSE staff does not go away because of our financial situation and where they have in the past acknowledged this and settled for less than requested, that may be changing in today's environment. I may be off base because we haven't even started discussing the money items, but I don't think so.

Second, we have seen a change in the association leadership. Where we have in the past seen a particular classification with much of the "power" today that is being distributed across more classifications. I believe this leads to more topics being included in the process and more items that result in discussions with only one or two members of each team actively engaged out of the 22 in attendance. This does not lend itself well to what we are labelling "interest based" bargaining. Because there are fewer of us engaged it turns into debate between the few people with less focus and problem solving taking place. When more are engaged, options emerge more rapidly and a probe is requested that guides the conversation into decision making. We have experienced this with some of the items. Though we know better, we are not practicing skillful conversations and that includes me. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out as our last scheduled day is tomorrow for only a half day. Maybe if we stay here late tonight something might change or, maybe not.

Back to the RSS feeds, here is another video you can add to your library. It is another one about the future of our young people. It is a revised version of When I Grow Up that I found on the Cool Cat Teacher Blog. If I already sent this in a past post please forgive me or send me a nasty reply telling me to get it together and stop wasting your time.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I was intrigued by reading a post from Wesley Fryer where he refers to a post written by Scott Weidig about staff development and teacher technology use. I know that I was once a "procedural" learner as described below, but I think I have begun to feel more comfortable with the trial and error (navigational) method as I mess around with Web 2.0 and begin to see the possibilities to support our work. So, I think it is possible to make the transition referred to below.

The difference in learning styles between many young people and many older people is summarized well in what I have heard others term a “navigational” versus a “procedural” approach to technology use. Young folks tend to take a more navigational approach, in which they experiment via trial and error to discover how something works. Many older folks, including lots of teachers, tend to be more fearful about technology use and take a more procedural approach. With procedural learners, they want to have everything spelled out in advance on a detailed handout they can follow. One of the greatest challenges in professional development for teachers, I think, is helping people who are naturally more “procedural” in their learning approach with technology to become more navigational. I don’t have any silver bullets on how to do this, but I agree with you and David Jakes that personally using the technology is key ... I think too many leaders want teachers to skip developmental steps in their own technology use, and taking that approach is as developmentally inappropriate as giving a kindergartner an encyclopedia to read instead of a picture book.

In the Weidig post he makes other points including placing blame on teachers as one source responsible for getting in the way of educational reform. I don't believe we can do this in our system because we have not yet done what is needed to support teacher use of technology. Even with our lap top roll out, we have not created an image of the potential that the document camera, projector, and lap top bring to the classroom. We need to intentionally assist them through learn, observe, practice, and feedback opportunities to see and feel this potential. If we do this, perhaps they will be better positioned to experience success in a trial and error learning environment. Until then, I think we should avoid judgment and blame.

He goes on to identify some questions that all of us, especially those with responsibility for staff development, need to consider.

Where do we go from here?
How do we create (or re-find) that childhood love of investigation for all educators?
How do we break down the fear barrier?
How do we become comfortable moving away from [canned] curriculum?
How do we meet the needs of 21st Century learners?
What is it really going to take to make technology integral to learning?

How we answer these questions will impact our success at embedding technology into the learning experience for students and adults.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Enhancing Our Video Library

Here is another short video using K-12 students to create some dissonance around how we are preparing them for their future. It is patterned after Wesch's Vision of Students Today showing a college classroom with students holding up cards for the viewers to contemplate. I found it on Warlick's blog and I think it makes a nice addition to our library of videos presenting a rationale for 21st Century learning and learners.

In what ways can you see yourself using this video to support your Classroom 10 journey with staff?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

So much to know makes focus difficult

I thought I'd share this from David Warlick's blog because it reminds me of some of what Jukes shared in August and also because it reinforces for me how little I know about the brain and learning. I then went to the website for Pat Wolfe the speaker he identified that continued to raise questions and create dissonance because of the valuable information contained in the books, articles, and videos described.

I was particularly interested in the two questions raised in the blog post because I have been known to ask them and I hear them in meetings and classrooms. I need to do some more research to find out why they are so useless, though it is becoming more clear simply by thinking about them.

The two most useless questions:
Do you understand?

Are their any questions?

There is so much to know and to be able to do. Asking quality questions, teaching to our standards, focusing on Classroom 10 learning, and the list goes on. What is more and more clear to me is the need for FOCUS! We are working hard on many projects with varying degrees of success. We need to find focus. Teachers need quality support, a part of which is not being asked to learn too many things at one time and we can only provide quality support on a few things at a time. How to find this balance in the near term will not be an easy task for us because of who we are, where we come from, and where we want to be. But, it must come and come quickly if we are to continue our journey at supporting teachers in learning new practices that influence learning. The stress and anxiety continue to increase and approach levels that I believe will not result in teaching and learning changes that sustain over time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I just finished going through my RSS feeds discovering a lot of interesting information and sharing some with various Teaching and Learning staff. In this process I reinforced for me the realization that I have far too many feeds. It took me almost one and half hours to go through them and that was with much skimming. So, I decided to start deleting. I deleted over 30 and still have a very long list, too long to count or maybe I just don't want to know the number. I've also switched to Outlook as my feed which I believe is slower in reviewing the feeds, but much better for keeping track because I use multiple computers.

My RSS feeds are similar I fear to our work where we are focused on many initiatives. Are we suffering from the mile wide and inch deep situation that we describe as one of the reasons for changing the curriculum? My behavior would say yes as does some of the recent feedback from principals (maybe just not recent feedback). Sometimes it makes me wonder whether those we support see us as knowledgeable and supportive or unknowing and overly demanding.

We had Teacher Leadership today and for me that is always an energizing time. Working with Connie is always amazing experience as I watch and learn from her. I think we shared some new concepts today about influencing behavior that holds promise for buildings to ask critical questions about change initiatives and think about demand and support in new ways. I am looking forward to some feedback as teams reflect on this new learning.

I also had the opportunity to dip in and out of the Technology Fusion meeting. In a short period of time I have come to truly enjoy facilitating and working with these people. We spent a lot of time on the front end creating process tools that are really paying off as we take what have been two silos and fuse them into a quality team focused on important work. I observed today one of the best examples I have seen of giving direct feedback around very emotional content that had the impact of supporting the conversation as opposed to killing it. It was a defining moment as they continue this journey. They really lived their Code of Cooperation. Put this together with the hour and a half debrief with Dawn and Connie and it was a GREAT day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Allow me some rambling . . .

Just shut down my e-mail without reading any of my blogs so I don't have anything of substance to share or reflective questions to pose. My brain has been taxed over the last few months with new learning and increased responsibilities for teaching leadership classes, facilitating important, but difficult processes, and planning for presentations. I have once again found that preparing for teaching and facilitating is difficult and time consuming work. I can see how teachers get to the point of saying just give me the book and tell me what to do.

The changes to my work have been gradual, but I find myself surprised by how they have impacted my use of time. Less time is being spent on reading and reflection that I miss and need to consider because I believe these are important for success in my position and for supporting the system's journey to Classroom 10. Much of my time i spent with T&L staff, Connie, tech. staff, and in the multiple leadership classes with teachers and with PSE.

I worry that I am not as connected with principals and that I am not supporting their individual and collective needs. My behavior must suggest a lack of interest based upon my lack of visibility in the buildings. Or, maybe they feel relieved that I am not around to ask questions.

Well, enough of the rambling thoughts - I'm tired and you're far too busy to continue with any of this stuff. just thought I'd share. Next time I'll get back to something more important.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Just what we need - MORE CHANGES

If you haven't seen this article in the Seattle Times you might want to take a look. It suggests that the next proposed changes to the WASL are not based on philosophy, but are instead a cost savings measure. I don't think so. Senator McAuliffe has long been a WASL dissenter and has spoken passionately from personal experience with her family.

It is becoming ever more clear that control of how we measure what young people need to know and be able to do is not at OSPI, but with the legislature and the State Board. With the recent proposed changes to the math standards it isn't just how we assess, but also the what. In about a year we have postponed the math WASL as a graduation requirement, have new proposed standards that we must again go through the costly and time consuming process of aligning with, and have two pieces of legislation moving through this term.

One of these pieces would put in place end of course assessments in algebra and geometry. The legislation doesn't remove the math WASL requirement at grade 10, but it is clear that this is the path that has been blazed. The second is contained in the Times article that would replace some of the short answer questions at grades 4 and 7 with multiple choice items to save money. There is additional information, but again it brings change to the current process.

These changes will be embraced by many in our profession and in our state that have long disagreed with the WASL requirements. I have not been one of those, but the changes are making me rethink my position. At some point in time we must come to agreement on what students need to know and be able to do in the content areas being assessed. Changing standards and changing assessments that force realignment keep us from what should be our primary focus, the interactions between young people and adults in every classroom. The art of teaching and the focus on other than content knowledge are being lost amid the changes and debate.

I don't know what will be next in this ever changing landscape of the WASL, but I do believe they are coming and that they will place additional speed bumps on our journey to Classroom 10. What do you think? Do the proposed changes better meet the needs of students or are we on a path to make it easier for students to meet standard? If math has caused this much debate and disagreement, what is the future of the science WASL and requirement?

On a humorous note check out this posting on Pouge's Posts. Just when you think you don't know much about the computer you use you run across some of these.