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Dear International Administrators,

Please help me. I have teachers in almost every content area at all most every grade level asking for help in finding schools that understand the shift in learning that is happening.

I have English teachers, Technology people, Social Studies teachers, Elementary teachers, etc asking for help.

They all ask for the same thing:

Jeff,

Do you know of a school that is changing? That understands the shift that is happening in education? Do you know of any schools that will allow someone like me to explore this new digital landscape?

Administrators…they are out there…are you looking for them? Are you looking for people that can help you understand this new digital landscape. That can help move your school forward? If you are one of those administrators please leave a comment below with your name and school and how teachers should contact you. I know there are many International Educators out there who are waiting to hear from you.

Thank you,

Jeff

One of the 100 best companies to work for 2008.In about 20 minutes I’ll be in a taxi on my way to the airport to visit the United Nations International School in Hanoi. In preparing for the conference I’ve been up dating a couple of my slides and like to use Google as an example of what skills companies are looking for in today’s work force.

After all, Google was named a Fortune 100 best companies to work for in 2008. So why not see what one of the best companies is looking for in their employees. So I found the job openings for Google in Singapore. As this is pretty close to all of use here in the South Asia region.

Here’s the list of job openings:

google jobs in Singapore by you.

So looking at the list I tried to figure out which of these jobs you could have predicted would have been here say 5 years ago.

Not knowing what a “DoubleClick Rich Media Campaign Manger” would do I clicked on the link.

Here are the requirements for that job:

 

Questions:

Which of these skills do students need a college degree for

If you wanted to do this job could you learn the skills without going to a traditional school?

What do we need to be preparing students for if one of the top 100 companies to work for has these skills/knowledge as their requirements?

Just some questions to ponder while I’m on the plane. 🙂

(As you can tell from Kim’s recent post. Systematic change at all levels is on our mind at ISB)

How much time to we spend helping our community understand the changing landscape of learning?

If we want to change the system, then we need to be prepared to change the whole system. We need to help our school communities understand that this isn’t the learning they had, and it’s not the school they had either.

The hardest part about changing a school system, is that we are all experts…and I mean all of us. We all went through the system, we all remember what good teaching looked like, we remember the bad teachers as well. We remember those teachers that engaged us, and those you just did the work to get by.

We remember that you took spelling tests on Fridays, went to Library, learned how to use a card catalog, and learning how to take notes out of an encyclopedia.

To change a system that everyone knows, we need to change the thinking of everyone in the community.

Last year Kim helped to start Elementary Parent Technology Coffee events. The first Wednesday of every month parents are invited in to chat about technology and learning….more specifically about learning, but technology is a part of that. This is part of relearning a community.

Our team went to a leadership meeting and for an hour talked with the leadership team about learning, and the changing environment we fine ourselves in. This is part of relearning a community.

Tonight we spend 30 minutes with the school board, talking about the skills our students will need in the future. Helping them to understand why we need to revisit our schools vision statement and rethink what it means to be a learner today. This is part of relearning a community.

Next week Kim, Tara and I will lead the elementary staff around the changing landscape of learning and rethinking what it means to be a learner today. This is part of relearning a community.

Systematic change means changing the whole system. It’s the small steps, the conversations with all the stakeholders. Are we there yet? No way, not even close. Have we started the conversations? Absolutely, and we’ve started them in multiple places, with multiple groups. That is how change starts. Slow and steady and swells.

Never before in the history of education have we been given the task to not only educate the children they send us everyday, but to re-educate a whole community on what it means to learn in today’s world. What it means to collaborate, to read, to write, to communicate, to research. If you can get your community to relearn you can change the system.

(What follows is the thinking of many people that I have the pleasure to work with every day. It is my hope that I can put into words, for myself, how we are trying to bring systematic change to our school in hopes that you might be able to use a piece of it to bring change within your organization as well)

Systematic change does not come easy. There are many factors, people, and a history to overcome. Yet educational organizations find themselves struggling with the changes needed to stay relevant in a connected, digital world.

There are many ways to approach systematic change, yet systematic change begins and ends with a vision. A vision of what your organization hopes to aspire to some day. A vision is never really meant to be accomplished, but is instead a guiding light for an organization. A statement that allows the organization and it’s employees to focus on the task at hand.

In the past we felt the need to have different visions. A school vision, a technology vision, a vision for learning. We have different visions to drive us forward in different areas.

When we get right down to it, there really only is one vision. One guiding light that hopefully everyone within the organization can hang their hat on. So how do we make sure our visions are relevant in today’s fast pace, digital world?


I’ve spend the last couple of days looking over different school visions. It’s not that school visions are bad, but instead what we need to do is expand our thinking on what they mean in today’s world. There are many school visions that were created at just the wrong time. Right when the world was changing, schools were revisiting their school vision. Many school visions I found were created/crafted in the late 1990s or Early 2000s. What we know has changed in the past eight years. We’re not talking little change, we’re talking significant change in what we know about learning, the brain, knowledge, etc. What we need to do is many cases is re-exam our visions and understand them in a new context.

Examples from vision statements (takin from schools I have worked at or will be working with):

The gift of cross-cultural understanding

In 2003 having an understanding of other cultures meant, in many cases, studying it in a book, maybe watching a video. Google Earth (2004), YouTube (2005), Skype (2003) weren’t created. Our understanding of what it means to be cross-cultural and the tools available to help students and teachers reach that vision in new meaningful ways has changed. It’s still important…but the context of what it means to be cross-cultural has changed.

Effective communicators who do so through clear and concise written and
spoken language, relevant visuals, accurate numeracy, active listening,
critical reading, appreciation of humor and artistic expression.

This isn’t a bad vision statment. But has the school as an organization looked at what this means in a digitally connected world. What does it mean to communicate effectivley in a world of SMS, IM, Skype, E-mail, Blogs, Wikis, Social-Networks? What does concise writing look like in an e-mail vs. a report? How do you read critically in a book vs the web? Artistic expression: YouTube? Flickr?

Our mission is to encourage students to be independent, lifelong
learners who strive for excellence and become responsible stewards of
our global society and natural environment, achieved within a
supportive community that values diversity.

What does this mean in a digitally connected world?

Students should have a mastery of the core concepts and factual
information needed to function effectively in our current and future
society.

What are teh core concepts for today? What factual information is needed?

As you past that vision statement today that I’m sure is hanging in your own office or hallway. Stop and have a read and then think do this apply to today’s learning landscape? In some cases it might be time to revisit the vision. In other cases it might be as simple as having conversations to expand the context of what the vision means in today’s world.

On Thursday during the Shifting Our Schools Podcast we’ll be looking at the Essential Question: Where do you start the shift?

In Part 2 of this mini series we’ll look at ways to start the conversation.

From cbsnews.com Math Tests For Five-Year-Olds?

The experiment could involve tests as long as 90 minutes and change reading assessments for kindergartners through second-graders in the nation’s biggest school system, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has embraced testing. The approach dismays some parents and educators who see it as mechanizing education.

Show me one piece of research that says a 90 minute test is good for a 5 year old? Heck….show me a 5 year old who can sit for 90 minutes!

The Department of Education unveiled the $400,000 program in an e-mail Monday inviting elementary school principals to participate. About 65 principals have expressed interest, and as many as 12,000 pupils may ultimately be involved, said James Liebman, the department’s accountability chief.

Let’s see why would principals be showing interest in testing Kindergardeners? HHHMMMM……I wonder…..$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

…going beyond No Child Left Behind requirements. For each of the city’s more than 1,400 schools, third-grade through 12th-grade test scores factor significantly in letter grades – which can earn principals bonuses or jeopardize their jobs.

And you wonder why you can’t find people to teach in inner city schools.

The school grades and stress on test scores anger some parents and teachers, who say classes are being drained of creativity and reduced to drills on how to ace standardized exams.

Dear Policy makers….please read A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink. Thank You!

The rise of testing in No Child Left Behind’s wake has caused contention nationally. Some studies show students’ math and reading skills have improved, but that schools have cut back on history, music and other subjects.


Seriously….why is this a shock to anyone? We still have an 8 hour school day and we can only teach so much. If we’re going to teach more math and reading than something has to give.

And to think that at one point in my life my wife and I packed up everything we owned into a storage unit and drove to Albany, New York to find jobs. Lived out of our car and a tent for three weeks with no luck before driving back to Washington and getting jobs in Aberdeen and Westpoint.

What’s the reason for this? Really we need to know where kids are in their reading and math? I mean, teachers can’t and haven’t been doing that for…..like……ever?

Here’s the thing….do we really want America to be like China? Why is America so scared? Yes they have low cost labor…is that what we want? Do we want America to be that country? Do we want America to be the country where you can make a pair of Levi jeans for $4? If so then make sure our students know how to stand in a line, read, and rework numbers.

According to the latest patent stats of 2006 which is the last full year we have stats on:

Applicants from the USA: 390,815 applications

Applicants from China: 128,850 applications

That’s 3 times the patent applications. America needs to understand that it’s place in this new economic flat world is not trying to compete with China but instead being the brains, the thinkers, the creators of the products that China produces. America will never be able to compete with that labor force, but they will be able to compete with their minds, their ideas, their creativity.

That is if there is any creativity left.

This is so interesting….as I can remember at least three different times that I sat down with heads of Chinese schools, people looking to start private Chinese schools, or Chinese school looking to improve their education. I remember sitting and talking about the American system and how we focus on getting students to think different, we encourage them to think, to analyze, to question their findings. We teach them to learn on their own.

There is one man who I remember particularity clearly who wanted to hire me to come help him set up a private school in a province south of Shanghai. He was a wealthy man and he wanted to build a school focused on technology and thinking. His grand daughter lived in this city where he wanted to build the school, because he felt it was the only way she was going to compete.

“She must understand how to think.”
he told me.

So here America is trying to compete with Japan, S. Korea, and the China’s of the world and they are the ones looking at our systems to create thinkers, creators, and inventors.

America can not compete by testing their kids smarter. America will never be able to complete by testing down their kids to the basics.

Screw the basics! We need thinkers!

The issue is (and yes…now I’m on my soap box) that Americans are bombarded by reports of China doing this, and China doing that. China grew by 200% in this and 400% in that. The news is America’s worst enemy. Of course China is on fire. They’ve gone from riding bikes to driving Lamborghinis in about 15 years time! There growth rates should be off the charts and America should be celebrating that they had a part to play in helping the Chinese to open up, to modernize…and now they’re scared of it?

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you are scared.

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you don’t understand your role as a nation?

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you do not educate your younger generations to be globally minded, open to new ideas, and give them the abilty to learn, unlearn, and relearn in a fast pace world.

Trying to compete head on with a nations 4 times your size is a garenteed loosing battle. It’s a typical David and Goliath…America must think smarter, not bigger.

(Stepping off my soap box now and going to bed)

U Tech Tips

After my post about moving to a new school and having a Mac for the first time in 10+ years, I received more suggestions of software that I needed then I ever thought I would. I’m still going through the list and of course installing and uninstalling software as I try things out and find what I really need.

I was asked if I would create a wiki to keep track of all the cool software that people were mentioning….so….I did.

The wiki is set up and asks for software recommendations for educators and education in Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Now all it needs is software. It is open to the public so you can go ahead and start adding software recommendations without signing up for an account.

If everyone took the time to add just one piece of software it wouldn’t take us long to have an amazingly useful site.

So head on over and add just one…..that’s it! Through one….comes many!

Thanks!

http://wiki.utechtips.com

Well two days before we fly out to Thailand and start another chapter in our lives living overseas. My wife and I were talking the other day and can’t believe that we are starting our 7th year at overseas educators.

As we talked we were thinking about how “weird” the States feels to us now. We only know Seattle in the month of July and over the past 6 years we have spent a total of about 3 months in the States. Each year we come back it feels more and more like a foreign country to us. Both of our home towns have changed so much and time keeps ticking. We got lost in Spokane once and twice here in Poulsbo.

So as we were driving the other day we came up with a list of “You know you’re an expat when…”

I encourage others who have lived or are living overseas to add to the list.

You know you are an expat when…..

you look forward to Wal-Mart just to browse the aisles and look at all the choices of shampoo!

it takes you 25 minutes to pick out a juice to drink because you just love reading the labels.

you bust up at a TV commercial that’s been on for a year but is new to you.

your credit card statement for the month of July is more than you make in 3 months.

you care more about politician’s stand on global issues than on taxes and health care.

you can name all three airlines above without hesitation.

friends get annoyed driving around with you because all you say is “When did that happen?”

you go to the same hang out you went to before you moved overseas only to find out it’s no longer the ‘cool hang out’.

you shop last year’s styles because they’re new to you and lets face it, your friends don’t care.

your shipment includes plastic wine glasses to be used by the pool.

you buy a year’s supply of deodorant, toothpaste, make-up, shampoo, etc and still get the suitcase under 50lbs.

you are a sucker for ads on TV.

you can pack a suitcase to 49.9lbs without a scale.

you are standing in line talking to yourself only to realize the people around you can understand you.

you find yourself listening in to others conversations just because you can.

you get tired of people asking you “so what’s it like…is it scary?”

you freeze when people ask you “paper or plastic”.

a sales rep asks for your phone number and you start with the country code.

in June you pre-plan all your meals for July just so you don’t miss your favorite reasurants.

you can’t relate to gas prices in the States cause the rest of the world has been paying them for years.

people tell you you talk with an accent.

you have friends in more than 10 countries.

when people ask you what you’ll miss the most about a country and you reply “foot massages”.

facebook.com is truly a ‘friend network’.

you choose your bank based on their online banking options.

you buy a year’s worth of new clothes in two weeks.

Ok…there’s our list…..what would you add?

A recent conversation with my wife about NECC, my frustrations with schools and education in general led to this.

Me: I don’t know….I just don’t think it’s going to change.

Wife: Of course it’s not going to change. People don’t change unless they have to or are forced to

Me: I know…and we (the educational community) can’t do either

Wife: It’s gonna take another Sputnik.

Me: Ouch!

Wife: Yeah…but think of it, when was the last time real change was made in education? I mean deep lasting change that affected the way schools were ran and what we taught and how we taught it.

Me. True!

Wife: It’s gonna take another event like that. It’s going to take some other country to do something and make America react before we see changes.

Me: So what do we do in the mean time?

Wife: Wait.

Ouch!

Have I mentioned how smart my wife is…and a school counselor which is another reason she knows about Sputnik

A great article out of the New York Times entitled: Can You Become a Creature of New Habits? Has had me thinking today about creating creative cultures in our schools.

David Warlick wrote a post recently that looked at the top 25 economic cities in the U.S. and how a “creative class” played a role in the rankings.

What I found interesting was the Bob Cook, who evaluated the cities factored in the portion of the population (that) were in the creative class. This includes scientists, engineers, artists, and teachers. The belief is, and this is consistent with Richard Florida’s writings, the creative class benefits the economic prosperity of a community as well as culture.

So perhaps one of the challenges of communities today is, “How do we attract creative people?” “How do we convince our creative children to stay?”

Or another question: How do we create creative people?

The authors and researchers quoted in the article has some interesting things to say.

“The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder,” says Dawna Markova, author of “The Open Mind” and an executive change consultant for Professional Thinking Partners.

Do we encourage our students to wonder? I see it all the time in Kindergarten classrooms, see it a lot in 2nd grade, not so much in 5th grade and by 8th grade? I don’t think I’ve ever hear a middle school or high school teacher say “I wonder…….”

Instead we ask students to make decisions. We as them to decide between this answer and that answer. We ask them to decide between fact and opinion.

“But we are taught instead to ‘decide,’ just as our president calls himself ‘the Decider.’” She adds, however, that “to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities.”

So by asking students to make decisions rather than wonder about possibilities we’re fitting students into the box of what we believe to be right or wrong.

The article goes on to talk about brain research and how habits play a role in our creative nature.

…brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.

Now that’s cool. I’m sitting here with my legs up on my desk and I cross my left leg over my right. Why? Habit…it just feels right. For the rest of this post I’ll cross them the other way.

So we need to help students consciously develop new habits to stay creative. Think of the habits you could help students consciously develop in your classroom.

What if once a week students in your class had to write with the opposite hand. Just once a week for 40 weeks….new pathways?

What if as a teacher you consciously took a different route home from work. Making yourself pay attention to the road, to signs, etc.

In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

I wonder if that is part of the reason why educational technology people (for the most part) are a creative bunch. Most of us (myself included) started out as a classroom teachers and we tried new things with technology. We tried this tool, that website, we got creative to a point where today….heck, I try stuff just for the fun of it.

I have test sites set up where I try to break programs. I hack PHP script without thinking about it, yet four years ago I would have thought PHP to be a drug.

The current emphasis on standardized testing highlights analysis and procedure, meaning that few of us inherently use our innovative and collaborative modes of thought. “This breaks the major rule in the American belief system — that anyone can do anything,” explains M. J. Ryan

You mean to tell me we can’t test the creativity into students? That the current state of testing mandated by the government is counterproductive to creating innovative and collaborative people. The same skills that companies are looking for in new employees? (I’ll stop there)

Where are students allowed to be creative today. Art class is the first that comes to mind. Maybe it’s because my office is down the hall from the art room where music is blaring and kids take risks with every stroke of the brush. They wonder, they innovate, them try something new, learn, and try something new again. What about the performing arts? Students continually reinventing themselves for parts in a play, acting this way or that way that breaks the habits of what they know and who they are.

What about technology? Kids hack up their Myspace pages to create their own themes, they learn, create and produce their own videos for YouTube. They imagine then create their own avatars for online games. They take risks every time they play a computer game, they make decisions, learn the outcome, reevaluate and try again. They continually try new approaches, new methods until they find one that works for them. How many times have you been working on the computer or playing a game and thought to yourself:

I wonder what would happen if……..

How do we instill this wonder into our education system? Why do we not allow students to explore information, to reach their own conclusions by creating their own answers? Why is it so hard for us to become the schools we know we need to become?

I know…more questions then answers. But what did you expect….my legs are crossed the wrong way!