Monday, February 8, 2010

Having a hammer doesn't make me a carpenter

I recently read a blog post about the release of another piece of technology, the iPad, and how it won't change education at all.
I totally agree that technology does not an education make. Our kids are not smarter just because we purchased laptops or Elmos or more projectors. Our teachers are making our kids better. Teachers are able to change the way they teach because of the access to information that our kids now have. A computer will "NEVER make a large-scale impact on education unless you consider it the catalyst for..." better teaching. Our school district is changing education. It's unfortunate that it is so difficult to do. The legislative rules make it hard to change, but that isn't stopping us. It can be done. I am sure other districts out there are doing it too. The iPad, or any one piece of equipment, will not change education. We must do that ourselves. Networking the knowledge on the internet is part of the answer.

The author and I share some of the same viewpoints.
Ahh, the power of social networking to make a person think!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How do we know if it results in learning?

Van Meter is a 1:1(one computer for every one child) district in grades 7-12. One of the questions I get asked frequently is, "How do you know if all those computers are impacting student achievement?" My response to this question has undergone a transformation. I use to care about showing the difference the computer themselves make to a student's learning.

But then I got to thinking... Van Meter's Vision is about teaching kids to Think, Lead, and Serve. It's about helping kids find their passion. Our vision says nothing about making sure kids are using their laptops. After all, the laptop initiative is currently affecting only half of the kids in our district. What are we saying to kids, teachers, and parents in grades K-6 if our assessment system focused on the impact of the 1:1 initiative?

Instead, Van Meter Schools is focusing on the impact of teaching and learning in all grades K-12. Technology is a way of life for our students. We encourage teachers to integrate a variety of tools in their instruction to help engage learners and make connections. Thanks to many conversations with John Nash at Iowa State University, I was able to talk through an assessment system that shows the value of learning as assessed by performance and product-based assessments rather than just paper-pencil test scores.

Here's a quick list data that we plan on using to gauge the success of teaching and learning at Van Meter:

  • Behavior data
  • Attendance rates
  • Graduation rates
  • Achievement scores (writing, reading, math and science)
  • Technology literacy* (NETS rubric)
  • Student perception*
  • Parent perception*
  • 1 and 5 year post VM – Graduate survey*
  • Administrator Walk-throughs (aligned to Iowa Core Curriculum - Characteristics of Effective Instruction)
  • Instructional Practice Inventory – Jerry Valentine work
  • Administrator reflections
  • Teacher reflections
  • Student examples
  • Student and Teacher digital portfolios*
*action item, not yet fully implemented

What results in learning?

What results in learning? What makes a difference for kids? What type of professional development supports teachers to change their practices? What can we do to help our community of learners be more self-directed? How do we know what results in learning?

This blog is dedicated to exploring and sharing ideas, practices, and leadership that result in learning. All of us are learners, and thinking of educational reform in this light allows us all to play a role in teaching and learning. Learning doesn't mean that we make no mistakes. Learning is taking every opportunity to improve what has happened in the past. It is my hope that as I share what is happening in Van Meter Schools, I learn from others. And we then make teaching and learning the best it possibly can be for our students, our teachers, and our community.