What I Learned from CEI Showcase 16

What a week it was in beautiful Snowmass, Colorado with over two hundred educators and administrators from all over Colorado working to re-imagine our state education system.21stcenturylearning0  I had the great opportunity to attend the Colorado Education Initiative Showcase 2016 with several of my colleagues this past week and it was well worth it.  The conversations and learning that took place were second to none.

Starting off my sessions was a presentation by David Gregory from G & D Associates and Scott Fuller, Next Gen Learning Coordinator for Colorado Springs School District 11 was quite eye opening.  Their discussion about what you are communicating to your community about your school was one that left me thinking hard about what our next steps are going to be.  Focusing on creating initial interest, creating a real 21st century website, and putting time and effort into the message we send with our school grounds was both simple and sort of revolutionary.  Doing simple acts of making signage on your building appealing and less “mean” really struck me as I thought about our building.  I left the room with a list of 15 things that could be done immediately and at very little cost to enhance the view of our school.  I will write to this in another blog post.

Sitting at lunch the first day I got to engage in a conversation with some colleagues from CDE and the Legacy Grant about the changing ideas and new avenues needed in the AP world.  I have been reading Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner, the Keynote speaker for the Showcase, and the ideas espoused in this amazing book conflict with quite a bit of what we are doing in AP and the standards based movement in general.  It was great to have such a frank discussion about where we are going and how we need to get there.  This was one of the best aspects of the conference, the meeting of the minds over the most important of education issues.

Desing ThinkingA seminar on design thinking and how that can inform the decision making process rounded out day one and left me wanting more from this amazing time.  That night we had the amazing opportunity to have a screening of the hit film Most Likely to Succeed.  This is something that everyone must watch.  It is a great beginning of the year conversation starter.  It focuses on the 21st century learning processes that we need to more towards in American education.  Following students and the great work they are doing at schools like High Tech High, the filmmakers make a viable case that the system we have now is obsolete and not teaching our students the “skills” they need to be successful in the new economy.  I recommend this film to every educator and suggest school screenings to take place all across the state.

Starting day two with the Keynote and a seminar by Tony Wagner of the Harvard Innovation Lab was truly inspiring.  The author of several books including The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators truly lived up to his billing.  He urged all of us educators to begin to re-imagine what we do in the classroom and admin conference rooms.  To begin to think about the ways that our students need to learn and how to prepare them for a world where content is ubiquitous and creative skills are the new currency.  I was given a new sense of passion about what we do and how we need to be pushing ourselves to think in radically different ways if we are to meet this challenge head on.  Check out the video of Tony below.

Rounding out my final day at the conference was a discussion with leaders from Mesa County School District 51 who are moving their entire system towards a performance based learning experience.  IT was great to talk to leaders on the front line about what they are doing to push their students into that new 21st century world.  Talking to Superintendent Steven D. Schultz about their implementation phases and visioning process left me with a ton of questions and real hope that we are moving in the right direction.  Ending my journey in Snowmass with a discussion about how a large scale implementation of the educational initiatives that we had been talking about for two days was phenomenal.  I have thought about nothing but how we are going to implement these ideas since I have left.

So the conference is at an end but I already cannot wait to get back next year.  Meeting colleagues from all across the state that are implementing real change and discussing their successes and failures left me inspired.  Listening to new ideas and ways to think about our educational decisions left me anting to get back in the building and start re-imagining my school.  It was a great learning opportunity.  I can’t wait to see you all there next year.  Keep re-imagining.


Losing Ourselves

I first heard about this video while reading Most Likely to Succeed by Wagner and Dintersmith.  A high school student’s reflection on the years she has struggled to get into that “competitive” college.  It is at the same time inspiring and frightening.  Reform is no longer enough.  We must reinvent the system.  Share your thoughts.

Take Care of Yourself

Staff Meeting-RelaxationAs we come back to school after this holiday break it is important to remember to take care of yourself and set aside some time to refresh yourself.  The path that we have to chosen to educate students in this great country is one of the toughest not to mention most important, so we need to make sure that we are giving it 100% everyday.  The only way to do that without burning out, something that teachers do far too often is to take time for oneself to regenerate.  Read a book (not about education), go for a run, yoga, head to the nearest tap house with some friends, whatever it is just leave your grading for tomorrow.  Be well this semester.

Check out this article on how to take time for yourself:


Colloboration Through Technology

Colloboration'I am a fan of technology.  Both in and outside of the classroom.  As a teacher I am one of the largest proponents of technology in our school and often get disheartened when we drop the ball on technology use or when I see instances where technology could have made a deeper impact on student learning.  As a public school teacher I often have obstacles to the use of technology put in my way as well.  Firewalls won’t allow my students to watch a video.  My PowerPoint freezes on my last generation computer.  My students do not have a device on which they can access the newest online assessment site.  Access to the computer lab has been taken up for online state testing.  If you are a teacher who struggles to use technology in the classroom I am sure all of these sound familiar.

One struggle I have is the ability to get my students to collaborate using technology.  They are used to using technology on their own and not as a a group or with common purpose.  I use blogs as an instructional tool and my students collaborate online with one another, but it is often superficial collaboration with no deeper learning.

I found this article in EdWeek by Ben Curran on some interesting ways to engage students in online collaboration.   Check it out and let me know what you think.

Four Steps for Jumpstarting Global-Collaboration Projects

What if…? Part 1: Staffing

Interesting thoughts from Grant Wiggins. Differentiating the tasks of teachers through the hiring process could free up teachers to the the teaching that were hired to do in the first place.

Granted, and...

What if we hired and placed teachers completely differently?

I have been thinking about this issue for a long time. The assigning of one person to one classroom, in isolation from all other teachers, has always seemed to me to be a profound error. It hampers ongoing professional development, it breeds egocentrism, and makes it far too hard to get appropriate consistency across teachers concerning instructional quality, assessment, and grading.

So, what if we hired 4 teachers for 3 classrooms? That would have enormous benefit:

  1. A teacher could always be free to help another teacher manage a project, provide feedback to a colleague, work with kids in a more personalized coaching way.
  2. A teacher could always be free to do ‘learning walks’  – to visit many other classes to find good practices that could be brought back to the other team members.
  3. Someone could always be free to attend planning…

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4 fundamental practices for cultivating professional literacy

Came across this interesting piece on cultivating professional literacy.

Dennis Sparks on re·sil·ience

Dennis Sparks

Generous amounts of close purposeful reading, rereading, writing, and talking, as underemphasized as they are in K-12 education, are the essence of authentic literacy. These are simple activities are the foundation for a trained, powerful mind. . . .” —Mike Schmoker

Many years ago in an interview for a NSDC (now Learning Forward) publication Phil Schlechty told me, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to lead.”

For my own purposes I amended his adage to read, “If you don’t make time to read, write, speak, and listen in ways that promote professional learning, you don’t have time to lead.” 

Just as we desire to cultivate literacy among K-12 students, it is essential that education leaders take the time—even just a few minutes a day—to cultivate their own  professional literacy and that of others for the benefit of all their students.

Professional literacy means the development…

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A Collection of Lesson Plans from the TAH History Grant

This is a collection of lesson plans created by teachers that participated in the Teaching American History Grant during the Summer of 2012.  The teachers all spent 10 day in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas learning American history through hands on experiences.  All of the following lessons were created during a week long curriculum training.  All of the lessons are geared around primary sources and the historic sites visited during our trip.  Enjoy.

James Madison’s Role in the Constitution


Gettysburg Impact on the Civil War


Introduction to Great Compromise


Elementary the War of 1812 and Star Spangled Banner


Would You Hire George Washington


Foundations of government Unit Plan


Who Was George Washington


Jefferson at Monticello


Leadership through Washington


So You Want to Be President


Historical Literacy Lesson


Washington and Jefferson Slavery Lesson


Holocaust Lesson


Bill of Rights Web Quest


Who is Thomas Jefferson?


Unit on the Constitutional Convention


Constitutional Delegates Trading Card Lesson Plan


Constitutional Convention Lesson Plan


Original Intent vs. Living Constitution DBQ


What led to the success of the Americans in the American Revolutionary War?


Smallpox during the Revolutionary War


Gettysburg Geography Lesson