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Arts-Infused Charter School will be a Game-Changer in Florida’s Glades Region

4 Oct

I am so excited to share about this school opening with you all!
Last summer, my consulting team worked tirelessly (literally several all-nighters pulled) to help write a charter school proposal for an arts-infused elementary/middle school in Florida’s Glades region, a more rural and underserved community in western Palm Beach County.
We took on this project because we believe Covenant Arts Academy’s unique, holistic approach to education will increase engagement, academic performance, graduation rates, higher-ed participation, JOY, and HOPE for students in this area… results that were already being seen through the school founders’ arts-based after-school program, Street Beat (http://streetbeatincorporated.org/about-us/).
 
This morning, we learned that the charter was approved unanimously! I am thrilled for the Glades community and for the students that will benefit from this innovative curricular model.
My biggest takeaway from this experience: If you have a vision for helping students in a unique or innovative way, share it, explore it, build a team around it. Diverse students need diverse solutions… maybe you’ll be the next one to bring hope to students who need it most!
 
“The [Palm Beach County School Board] considered a third charter, Covenant Arts Academy, vital to filling a need for some of the county’s most remote students.
 
“The nearest arts middle school option for students in the Glades region is 39 miles away and is an audition-based magnet school,” the school wrote in its charter application. “These geographical and access challenges significantly limit potential access for interested students in the Glades region.”
 
Board members agreed, approving the school unanimously.
 
The combined elementary and middle school is expected to open in Belle Glade and promises to integrate arts into all of its classes . It aims to enroll 590 students by its fifth year and would instruct students in music, dance and drama.””

Can’t wait for FETC 2018!

21 Jan

It’s that time of year again. The time where teachers, administrators, media specialists, tech specialists, and other edtech gurus gather in Orlando for the Future of Education Technology Conference to connect, share, and learn. I am honored and excited to be one of the speakers featured at the conference again this year!

Here’s where you can find me:

Tuesday, January 23
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
15 Keys to Effective Classroom Management With Mobile Devices – Workshop
Room: Bayhill 19

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Ed Tech GO! 7 Ways to Maximize Learning With Device Mobility – Workshop
Room: Bayhill 19

Wednesday, January 24
10:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Using Tablets to Teach for Deeper Understanding – Workshop
Room: Bayhill 19

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Promote Student Voice Through Elementary Technology Centers – Poster
Room: Booth 965

Thursday, January 25
12:00 PM – 12:40 PM
How Media Messages Impact Girls in Computer Science – Concurrent Session
Room: North 220C

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
How to Turn Your Technology Initiative Into an Educational Movement – Workshop
Room: Bayhill 18

Remembering Steve Jobs: Education and the Empowerment of “Black-Collar Workers”

5 Oct

CC License – Jon Snyder/Wired.com

“There’s an old Wayne Gretzy quote that I love.  ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple.” – Steve Jobs

Today, one year after the loss of Steve Jobs, people still remember, celebrate and live according to his bold entrepreneurial lifestyle.  And I think that the education reform movement can gleam a lot from his example.

In his new book World Class Learners, Yong Zhao proclaims, “Everyone needs to be entrepreneurial in the 21st century.”

Zhao continues, “Entrepreneurs today are the “black-collar workers,” a term coined by Auerswald with inspiration from Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck (Auerswald, 2012b). A teacher who does not believe we need all to be entrepreneurs asked me the same question that Auerswald answers:

From where we sit now, it seems improbable that an entire economy could be built of such workers. Where are the drones in this picture? Where are the undifferentiated masses of the unfulfilled? Try asking yourself this question instead: from the standpoint of a 15th-century peasant, how likely is the reality of the present day? . . . Just as former farmers were compelled to convert themselves into blue-collar workers to realize their potential in the economy of the 20th century, so will former factory workers (and retooling economic drones of all types) convert themselves into black-collar workers to realize their potential in the economy of the 21st century.‘ (Auerswald, 2012a)

The future success of our students is dependent on their ability to be self-directed, to create, to be entrepreneurial.  It is not enough to teach the content of reading, writing and arithmetic, or even the literacies of the 21st century information economy, without also giving intentional thought to how the pedagogy, the processes behind that teaching, is affecting the student-ownership of that very education.

Education, pedagogy, the learning process itself, must belong to the students.  We can no longer treat students merely as the customers of the current educational system, but instead must empower them as vital participants in developing the information economy of the future.

As Alan November states (in this video interview), “[Students] need to be self directed. They need to be life long learners, which means they need to be empowered to manage more and more and more of their own learning.”  Though a systemic shift of control from “the teacher managing learning” to “interdependent, globally connected students” may take the five to ten years November predicts, as educators, there are so many things we can do in the present to usher in this change and to prepare our students for the 21st century “black-collar” culture.

It is my goal to continue passionately pursuing educational practices that directly address strategies for empowerment and the development of student-driven learning.  I look forward to having you join me for the journey!

In remembrance of Steve Jobs for his unapologetic creativity and innovation
February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

Auerswald, P. (2012a, March 11). Bliss is on the way: Black-collar workers and the case for economic optimism. Good. Retrieved April 5, 2012, from http://m.good.is/post/bliss-is-on-the-way-the-case-for-economic-optimism
Auerswald, P. (2012b). The coming prosperity: How entrepreneurs are transforming the global economy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
November, Alan. (2010). “Alan November on Curriculum21.” Video retrieved on October 5, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivq3TZ6Bfic&feature=player_embedded.
Zhao, Yong. (2012). “Introduction.” World Class Learners: . Retrieved on October 5, 2012 from http://zhaolearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Introduction.pdf.

Sept 11 Reflections: Democracy, Citizenship and Education

11 Sep

CC License: Photo by Flickr @North Charleston

What should a good citizen do?

The question of “what a good citizen should do” in a democratic society begins with an assumption of a universal ethical imperative within democracy.  Perhaps this follows from the concept of democracy itself.  At the onset of American independence, the writers of the Declaration stated that it was self-evident that “all men are created equal” and that with that equality of nature comes unalienable Rights, such as Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  A democratic society could secure these rights through a government that derives its just power from the “consent of the governed.” 

Consent of the governed.  Perhaps, too often we overlook this essential democratic freedom, the Freedom of Consent.  The idea that democracy requires consent of the governed supports an imperative for the people of the democracy, the good citizens, to actively give a say, to give a consent or descent – through speech, voting, the practice of beliefs or religions, exercising their other freedoms – on the positions and actions of the government.

More than ever, it is vital that American citizens actively exercise their own rights and freedoms, while also working to promote the rights and freedoms of others.  Through both speech and actions, we must declare our consent or descent and encourage the equal participation of other citizens to do the same.  Howard Budin stated that “the heart of democratic action is collaborative decision making,” making “decisions with their fellow citizens to improve their lives and the life of the community or nation.”  In this way, all democratic citizens are benefited by the increased voice and involvement of others, even of those with whom we disagree.  To asymptotically approximate the ideals of democracy, citizens must have equitable opportunities, freedoms and rights to participate… and must actively exercise these opportunities, freedoms and rights within the collaborative society.

Too often in education, we speak of citizenship simply in terms of being honest, neighborly or kind.  Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahane call this the “personally responsible citizen,” though they warn that this concept of citizenship alone does not necessarily foster equality, justice and democracy.  “Indeed, government leaders in a totalitarian regime would be as delighted as leaders in a democracy if their young citizens… don’t do drugs; show up at school; show up at work; give blood; help others during a flood; recycle; pick up litter; clean up a park; [and] treat old people with respect,” they write in “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy.”

Somehow, the concepts of participation and activism are missing from much of today’s education on citizenship. In fact, when I asked, “What should a good citizen do?” to my twelve year old daughter at the dinner table yesterday, she responded with “don’t kill people,” even though she is active in community service and often engages discussions about social justice at her Montessori middle school.  She did not automatically associate those participatory practices with her responsibilities as a “citizen.”  Perhaps this is because what is often considered “good” behavior or citizenship at schools is not always aligned with the promotion of justice.  Frequently, the “good” child in class is the one who follows the rules, even when those rules are enforced in unjust ways.  It is important, especially in education, not to confuse the promotion of personal responsibility with that of standardization, compliance and obedience.

Instead, the good citizen needs to have the ability to transfer the qualities of personal responsibility to critical reflection, active participation (participatory citizen) and the promotion of social justice (justice-oriented citizen).  The good citizen must go beyond personal responsibility to participate in giving consent or descent, in effecting change and in encouraging equity.  In this way, the rights and freedoms of all citizens can be maintained and expanded in order to improve the quality of life for citizens and the collective life of the community or nation.

As educators, there are many opportunities to exercise our roles as citizens and to promote participation and social action in our students:

  • Register to vote, vote, and encourage others to vote, too!
  • Investigate educational issues being discussed in politics, not just in the Presidential race, but also at the local and state level.
  • Call, email and write letters to your School Board or Congressmen, supporting funding for education.
  • Provide community service learning opportunities to your students – serve meals at a homeless shelter; coordinate a canned food drive; raise funds to support cancer research or the creation of a local park.
  • Engage your classes in student-driven action projects and competitions that focus on solving real world problems, like Heifer International Education Programs or the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.

Today is September 11th.  Yes, we mourn and remember the lives lost and the bravery of so many Americans eleven years ago, but we also celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in this democratic society.  Freedoms that we shouldn’t take for granted.  Freedoms that were earned with blood, sweat and tears.  Freedoms that we should exercise and should harness to advocate for equal rights for all people… here in the United States and around the world.

Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori — from Google and the rest of us!

31 Aug

Google's Montessori Tribute

Google's Montessori TributeAugust 31, 2012. Today would be 142nd birthday of revolutionary Italian physician and educator, Maria Montessori.

To celebrate, Montessori alums at Google displayed a Google doodle of traditional Montessori learning manipulatives on their homepage.  That’s right –  both Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, grew up as Montessori kids.  What’s more, it is this very Montessori heritage that they attribute to their success.

In a 2004 interview with ABC (embedded below), both Page and Brin spoke about the power of self-directed learning in the Montessori learning environment.  “I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders –  and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a bit different,” Page said of Montessori school’s role in his success.  Maria Montessori believed that children had an innate drive to learn and that the educator’s role was to remove obstacles and provide opportunities for the student’s educational growth.  The self-directed Montessori student is then able to concentrate on acquiring knowledge through experimentation with hands-on, personalized activities, according to their own interests and at their own pace.

In fact, Google’s infamous 20% rule – where employees spend 20% of their work week on something company-related that they are personally interested in, something not in their job description – is grounded in this idea of self-directed learning.  And success in the form of Gmail, Google Talk,  Google Maps, Reader and other innovations has been the result.  As is often the case, powerful things happen as the result of empowering people to follow their own dreams instead the dreams of someone else.

So, in Maria Montessori’s honor, I want to take a moment to celebrate her legacy – a legacy of respecting the dignity of every child and empowering children to be masters of their own learning.  Raise a glass, give a cheer… and let’s all spend a few minutes reflecting on our own educational practice, a few minutes dreaming up at least one practical way to give our students more voice in their learning this next week and, in doing so, continuing her amazing legacy.

Happy birthday, Maria Montessori.