If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear

The concept of preparation has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From sermons in church about preparing for the end days (or just preparing for rainy days) to the Scout motto to test prep classes in high school to my teacher preparation courses in college, I have been inundated with the call to be prepared.

I was recently listening to some older episodes of Dave Schmittou’s Lasting Learning podcast and he shared some thoughts that had come to him while he was at church. He promised his listeners that he wasn’t about to preach to or at them, but rather wanted to share where his mind went during that sermon. Likewise, I recently read a passage of scripture that had this phrase and it caught my attention: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”

Continue reading If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear

Visualising the Virtual Classroom

A lot has changed in K-12 education in the past few months as we have collectively adapted to the challenges and, yes, opportunities, presented by educating a generation of students during a global pandemic. While many remain hopeful that this pandemic will end soon, none of us yet know when that will be, and so schools and districts around the world have made a the quantum leap forward in utilising instructional technology in ways that only a few were doing just a year ago.

Many educators, upon hearing my job title of Curriculum Coordinator for 21st Century Teaching and Learning, often assume that my role includes instructional technology. However, I am not the instructional technology coordinator for my district, although I do support teachers in using the technological tools available to them. Rather than being the person who vets and introduces and trains staff on using tools, I am the person who trains teachers on how to use tools within the context of innovative and progressive pedagogical practices.

Continue reading Visualising the Virtual Classroom

Student Choice Is More Than a Buzzword

Education jargon swirls about us every minute of every day as we are at work, much like the annoying flies and gnats that seemingly swarm around me every time I go camping or hiking.

I imagine this constant quiet noise of jargon is one reason why we often refer to them as “buzzwords.” However, there is some jargon that we use in education that cannot and should not be simply buzzwords.

One of those terms is “student voice,” which is often paired with “choice.” Just looking around my desk, I count no fewer than ten different documents, posters, cards, and books that have this term on them somewhere. But what do we really mean when we say that “student voice and choice” are an integral part of our modern education system?

Continue reading Student Choice Is More Than a Buzzword

What Is School?

I have been watching with great interest a discussion about schools and schooling for the past several months. As I have watched and read and listened, I have found myself wondering about a really big question that, I fear, we don’t actually want an answer to.

What is school? This question sometimes focuses on the concept of schooling over school itself. Both questions lead to a much broader question:

What is the purpose of education and, more specifically, what is the purpose of public education? Continue reading What Is School?

When Your Best Is Not Good Enough

Many readers know that I have been a lifelong member of the Boy Scouts of America. From my first year as a brand-new Cub Scout when I was eight years old through my journey to rising to the rank of an Eagle Scout to my years as an adult volunteer, Scouting is in my blood and in my DNA. The Cub Scout motto is “Do Your Best” and it is something that I still strive to live in my daily life, both personally and professionally. Lately, though, I have been thinking about this question: What do you do when your best is not good enough?

Continue reading When Your Best Is Not Good Enough

Lessons Learned As An Instructional Tech Specialist

I once had to demonstrate for a teacher how to open an attachment sent to them in Gmail. This was the verbatim conversation:

Teacher: How do I open my attachments?
Me: You click on it and it opens.
Teacher: I don’t get it; can you show me.
Me: … Sure. *opens Gmail* Here is an attachment. All you do is click *clicks* and it opens *attachment opens*
Teacher: You did that too fast.
Me: You… click… *clicks* and it… opens? *attachment opens*
Teacher: Oh, okay, I think I got it. Let me try.
Me: Okay…
Teacher: Yay! It worked! Thanks!
/scene Continue reading Lessons Learned As An Instructional Tech Specialist

Book Review: Best Practice

I wrote a blog post a few months ago about my frustration with the term “best practice” in education and how I feel like the more appropriate term we should be using is “better practices.” While I was writing it, I noticed a book on my shelf that I had inherited from a retired school leader and realised that I should actually read the book if I want to be honest in my critique of this ubiquitous term in education.

The book, of course, was Best Practice: Today’s Standards for Teaching & Learning in America’s Schools (3rd edition)  by Steven Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, and Arthur Hyde. I emphasise that this is the third edition because the authors have since released a fourth edition that, I presume (based on the brief description), updates the text to reflect the era of Common Core State Standards, technology integration, and other aspects of teaching and learning in the 21st Century. However, my copy is the third edition, published in 2005 and focusing heaving on the hodgepodge of learning standards different professional organisations had released in contrast to the largely-absent standards at the state level.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Continue reading Book Review: Best Practice

In Defense of Kindness

Over the past few weeks, I have been noticing an interesting trend within my Twitter professional learning network (PLN). Now, before I get into this trend, I think it is worth observing that my PLN has been very carefully created to surround me with diverse voices, experiences, and backgrounds. This is because the one thing I absolutely do not want to do is stick myself inside an echo chamber. As a result, there are people I am connected with who are going to disagree with me and with whom I am going to disagree. (Not all of us and not all of the time, of course.)

So, on to the trend. I am not sure when it started, nor do I know where it started. I do not know how long it has been out there nor do I even know why it is seeming to gather speed. I only know that I have been noticing it more and more and it has left me with an uneasy feeling. This morning I think I finally figured out why it has left me feeling uneasy, and that is why I am writing right now.

The trend doesn’t have a formal name, nor is it an actual movement (that I know of), but I have come to think of it as “anti-kindness.” Continue reading In Defense of Kindness

Forging Meaningful Bonds Online

I was fortunate to grow up in a household where my parents were both willing and able to be early adopters of new technology. We may not have been the first to use something, but we were often the first in our neighbourhood and among those in our social circles. For example, America Online released its commercial online network service in 1991 and by 1993 it was in our home. As soon as I turned 13, I was given my own profile with AOL and have been an avid online community participant ever since.

Perhaps this is I was so irritated when I read this quote from a recent New York Times op-ed piece by Daniel Dolgicer: “Office rituals — small talk in the kitchenette, drinks after work — exist for good reason. They elevate the spirit; dare I say, they make people feel included, and loved. Meaningful bonds just cannot be made over Zoom.” Continue reading Forging Meaningful Bonds Online