Monday, February 29, 2016

The Innovator's Mindset Week 5: Chapters 6 and 7

We're reading two information-packed chapters this week. How are you empowering your students? Does your school community have a shared vision for learning? If so, how are you working that into your classroom? Or feel free to share some other thoughts about these chapters.

A couple of reminders -- if you haven't responded to all weeks' blog posts yet, make sure that you do. Also, don't forget to register for the book club by completing the form here. Be sure that you have completed your Google profile so that your name shows up with your blog comments. There's at least one person who is showing up as Unknown, which means I don't know to whom those comments belong.

For next week, let's read and discuss chapters 8 and 9.

82 comments:

  1. I was grabbed by the sentence, "A story about a world-changer might engage us, but becoming world-changers will change us" (p. 97). Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how we blog, journal, post, etc. So often we share out our thoughts, but what if we were limited to only sharing out about our actions. It's not what I think; it's what I do. We would model to teachers and teachers model to students that learning is action; it is evolving, collaborative building -- and it's not so much about what we know, but what we do.

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    1. I think your post is very powerful. We teach kids that the most powerful attribute to have is not your words but your actions.

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  2. "….recognize the times when you need to relinquish power." George Couros
    I am challenged to put my students in the driver's seat of their education. As I write that, I think about what a driver's ed course would be like if the student never had an opportunity to be behind the wheel. While I don't teach driver's ed, we can all relate to the scenario and realize how important driving really is to that learning process. As a parent, letting all of my biological children drive themselves or any loved one down the road involves a lot of trust. Surely, as many times as I have let that happen, I can let my students take charge of their own learning. Empowerment and trust are interwoven into educational opportunities that my students deserve.

    I look for ways that my students can learn what they want. As a Spanish teacher I give students a foundation for language learning (pronunciation, structure, etc.), then they choose to learn the specific vocabulary they find important. For example, in a food unit, they choose their vocabulary lists. As uncontrolled as this would have seemed to me years ago, I am finding that this generally results in the students learning about the same amount of vocabulary. They share the vocabulary that they have acquired with other students, thereby multiplying the exposure to new words; and in general, the students retain what is important to them in the end anyway.

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    1. Great points. When we allow students to "take control" over their learning, they can become more successful and acquire the skills necessary to be learners!

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    2. I love your comparison to drivers ed. If we can trust a 15 year old behind the wheel of a car (where something really bad could happen) why can't we trust them with the power and choice to drive their own learning?

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  3. Although all systems have shared visions, Couros points out that there is a different between "system thinkers" and "system doers". Our district is in a transition phase of how we teach and assess our students. We are all getting trained on a better way to engage students to be "learners" rather than just being "schooled", as Couros makes the distinction. With this new transition we see the need to rewrite our vision so it can bring us to be "system doers". I am curious to see how this new vision will be developed, as in the past it was developed by a committee of a few teachers. Couros points out the value of students beng part of the development of that vision.

    I was really intrigued by Couros's suggestion to empower students by having opportunities like genius hour or innovation week. Our school currently has Study Hall for all students that could use a little revamping. I would love to see the time being used for those empowering opportunities. I would like to read any of your success stories on bringing ideas such as those into your schools.

    In my classroom, I like the distinction Couros makes between being "schooled" versus being "learners". As students are becoming more aware of the purpose and intent of authors through the literacy standards, it has been inspiring in that they are now developing the skill of questioning what might be missing. As stated in an ealier post, I empower them by allowing those questions to be formed and time to discover the missing pieces of information to share with others.

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  4. I love the idea of having an Identity Day. I think all of us could benefit from this exercise whether it be in a classroom where students are sharing with their peers or a faculty setting. We all seem to get so wrapped up in the daily routine that we miss a lot of opportunities to connect with others. As a media specialist, I have had the honor to talk to several kids about personal interest simply by helping them find a book, research a selected topic, or just paying attention to what books each student checks out. I have seen a different side of many kids just by talking to them about what they do outside of school.

    Something similar happened in my daughter’s classroom this year and although it was accidental, it was the best experience for her and her classmates. My daughter’s Honors 10 English class was asked to write an essay about a meaningful personal experience. My daughter decided to write about her cochlear implant. Although she was only 18 months old when she had the surgery she told the story as if she remembered the entire process. Afterward, the teacher asked her to share her paper with the class and in doing so she opened a whole new channel of communication with her peers. Many students didn’t know she was born deaf or what the hearing device she wore was actually for. She found that many kids were curious but afraid to ask her questions. After she openly answered all of their questions, she told me she didn’t feel as “different” anymore. It took sixteen years for many of her classmates to understand her hearing issues and for her to feel like she could talk about it openly. I don’t think it was because no one wanted to discuss it, I just think there hadn’t ever been an opportunity to talk about it. As a mother, I am forever grateful to my daughter’s tenth grade English teacher!

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    1. What an inspiring story! A retired teacher used to always do a speech unit over something the student was passionate about, and she got the most incredible stuff (not just presentations) out of students that were at the low end of the achievement spectrum.

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    2. The Identity Day is a great idea. I plan to include this in my beginning of the year activities. Great way to start the school year.

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    3. What a beautiful opportunity for all of those kids! I love that it opened channels of communication, allowing for better understanding and opportunities for new friendships.

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    4. I use "Identity Day" with my 6th grade FACS class. I do not call it this but I think I will for now on. They are always a little apprehensive at first about talking in front of the class but once they begin they just open up and really enjoy talking about what they do and what is important to them. They love that the other students are listening and at the end the students can ask questions and they really enjoy calling on their classmates to hear and respond to the questions. It is a great way to start the quarter.

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    5. Thanks for sharing your daughter's story. I think the idea of an identity day is intriguing. It is almost a new age show and tell. It is important for students to develop a trustful relationship with teachers and peers.

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  5. "'Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula.' Empowering students 'means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future'" (Couros 96). For most of my teaching career, I admit that a lot of the effort I put in focused on how to engage kids with my content and curriculum. When I did move towards problem/project based learning, I found that my students struggled. I once prompted my seniors to work on a project that they felt would leave the school a better place before they left, and it was a huge struggle for them. They wanted to be told what to do. They wanted me to pick a passion for them. We worked through it, and many students were pleased with their results, but ultimately, the lesson I learned is that the students struggled because they weren't used to having that much control.

    The second item in this section that really resonated with me was the idea that our kids don't live in a different world from the one we live in. It is a challenge that we, too, need to continue to develop and grow, and we shouldn't be altering what we do in the classroom to fit what we assume is a separate student world. Authentic learning and application does not happen in this way.

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    1. I have experienced the same types of struggles with giving students more control over their learning. Students are used to being told what to do and have a hard time escaping that frame of mind. Pushing students to take more control of their learning is something I need to work on in my classroom.

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    2. You are so right in students struggling with freedoms to make choices and decisions on their own. Even my brightest students want the concrete answers or projects, not open ended ones. This shows there needs to be a shared vision, as Couros points out, in order for the empowerment or true learning to take place.

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    3. Diana, I understand that struggle. Kids really aren't comfortable having that much control over and responsibility for their educations. It has to change while they are young. My niece and nephew attend a new school (http://www.walnutcreeksd.org/Page/5428) K-8 focusing on the 4 C's and PBLs. I love that these young kids are learning the importance of collaboration and authentic learning at such a young age.

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    4. I understand your struggle. I have been pushing my class to be more independent and to choose what they want to learn about for their research project. Some of the students really struggled coming up with ideas! I would like to implement Genius Hour this year, so that they can become more comfortable being independent learners!

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  6. I found the comparison of engaged versus empowered to be very interesting. I feel like in my classroom that I do a good job with engagement, but not with empowering students. I agree with Couros when he talks about the importance of empowering students. Giving students the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interest, and future should be our goal as educators. This is something that I struggle with when working within the confines of standards and curriculum and feel like I need to do a better job of innovating inside the box when it comes to empowering students.

    In chapter 7 the quote that stuck with me was, "A vision statement should be clear and direct enough to be meaningful." At our school right now I do not think it is clear what we stand for or what we want for or students. We need to reexamine what we are doing and what we would like for our school and our students. We have become a institution chasing test scores, which doesn't inspire students, parents, staff, or the community. Our vision right now isn't meaningful and we need to do better.

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    1. I often give my students choices on how they can demonstrate their learning. However, it IS hard to get through my standards and curriculum and still empower my students. Our stakeholders want proof that students are learning. Currently this is done with test scores including ISTEP. They are less interested to see if students have the skills of cognitive ability and leadership. I can see this in my own classroom. When students run into problems, they do not know how to fix them. They often turn to the teacher to solve simple problems instead of thinking for themselves.
      I find these chapters to be very inspiring but unrealistic, as a whole, for schools to accomplish. Society wants to believe that every student should go to college and can fit into this mold. If we truly embraced this idea of empowering our students, our ideals need to change. Our world needs car mechanics, artists, fast food workers, etc. We do not need a world where everyone is highly educated with a degree. A degree does not necessarily give you a life of passion to do what you love.

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  7. I share Couros' frustration about preparing students for the real world, as if the world they live in is make-believe. It is real to them and is the same world that we live in. We need to be empowering them to be successful and make changes in this same world. There are many in the corporation/school I work in that share this vision of having an innovator's mindset and have a desire for empowering students and staff.
    I also love the juxtaposition of school vs. learning. We have been doing school to our kids the same way for far too long. And yet, we expect differen outcomes. Isn't that the definition of insanity? Doing things the same way and expecting different results?

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  8. I really enjoyed thinking about the 8 things to look for in today's classroom. I believe choice is such an important characteristic to represent in your classroom. I am always trying to think of different ways to allow my kids choice. In kindergarten, that could simply be allowing them to choose what center they go to next. I also have been trying to create time for my own reflection on the different experiences happening in my room. I have also started a mini reflection with my students. This reflection is more about an activity we have done in class. With my students being so young we do many different activities in a day, so I thought I would just pick one activity for us to reflect on as a whole group. My kids seemed to really enjoy sharing their own opinions. I want to continue to move forward in this process hopefully developing more of the 8 things to look for in today’s classroom.

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    1. I liked reading your post about kindergarten as I can relate! I agree with allowing choice through centers. In reading groups, I wil sometimes have a choice in the book we read-- it allows the students a safe environment to work together, practice decision making skills, and come to a conclusion. (Many times it ends up on one book with the understanding that next week the other book will read to make everyone happy!) With the many depends and expectations of academics, I hadn't thought to take the time of reflecting with the students. After reading this chapter and post, I am anxious to experience for myself. Their thoughts and rationalizations can be much more insightful than some may think! Thanks for the idea!

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  9. The thing that stuck with me was the idea that our kids don't live in a different world from the one we live in. Although lots of times in the classroom it does seem that way so much has changed in what seems like a short time period. All of us in the classroom do live in the same world. I think we should stop changing things to fit the students that we assume are in a different world they are not. Technology makes their learning different but not always better and I think they should have to be held accountable for their learning. I think learning to day is different but yet should it be totally different??

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  10. I am a control freak, so Chapter 6 really spoke to me. I want to make some changes and this was so powerful for me. I like order and a set procedure. I see where students don't feel this as well as adults. I am hoping to work with our study hall time with students to create a "get to know you" time. I believe if we know our students, we can then help them find the relevance in education. I loved the idea of allowing students to teach each other. I have used some cooperative learning activities in the past and found success. I am really enjoying this book. Thanks for choosing it!

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  11. Chapter 6 and 7 were great to read. I continue to reflect on the difference between engaging and empowering students in my day to day life. For years we have focused on the concept of student engagement in the classroom. We have discussed how to measure it, how to encourage it and how to problem solve classroom learning where engagement is lacking. The term engagement is part of every teacher observation form, parent/teacher discussion and school wide intervention system. To move away from engagement and focus on empowerment is an interesting idea. Couros' quote "people do not feel truly empowered unless they are engaged with their learning" is accurate. I wonder if we are trying to measure engagement as a way to determine whether the students are truly empowered by their learning.

    I think this quote is relevant to not only the students, but every member of the school. I know administrators, teachers and support staff that have been accused of "checking out." Are these staff members empowered or do they feel like they are engaged in the school system? Couros' quote "I think we spend too much time documenting what students know and not enough time empowering them to invest in their own learning and helping them understand their strengths and areas of growth." I keep reflecting if Couros' comment is questioning just students or the role of the teacher as a learner too.

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  12. I was struck by the differences between "schooling" and "learning" spelled out in Chapter 6. The way that we have chosen to educate every kid in the same building, in the same classrooms, etc. make it pretty difficult to "shake things up" enough to get to the point where students really have much say in what they learn. The graphic "A Tale of Two Classrooms" shows Krissy Venosdale's ideas of how we've always done things vs. how things could (probably should) be done. She writes about Classroom A having good grades as the goal, rules are enforced, one size fits all. Classroom B, however, has learning as the goal, one size fits each and rules as unnecessary. The reality is (in my opinion at least) that not having rules leads to anarchy. When we have 25-35 students in each class, and when each of those students don't have the same desire to learn, and when each of those students have a different idea of what behavior is appropriate; we have to have some rules and it is very difficult to allow the "Student directed learning" that seems to be the biggest value held up in this chapter.

    That being said, I am trying to allow my students some autonomy in leading some of their own learning. We are currently working on projects that they will present to their class. I randomly assigned the topics (we're in our biology class unit on Interdependence), but am trying to give them minimal guidance in what their project looks like, how they present the information that they discover and I am absolutely trying to make them think through what they will present. We'll see how it goes. I do know that many of them struggle mightily with this level of autonomy. They want me to tell them exactly what to do and how to do it. That may be the biggest failure of our current system; the fact that we really struggle to think for ourselves.

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    1. Dennie,

      I agree with you about needing some rules. Also, I have also witnessed students struggle with autonomy because they want to be told what to do and how to do it. It's frightening because we are going to need these students to be able to think for themselves when they are leading this world. Good for you giving them a project where they have more autonomy.

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    2. I love this idea! I would love to hear how their projects end up and if you would do it again!

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  13. A Tale of Two Classrooms ....POWERFUL. As teachers we need to continually keep learning. As I continue to learn, I want to learn in Classroom B. "One size fits each" has always been a struggle for me. Although I try to differentiate for my students, I ofter wonder if I am meeting the needs of all the learners in the room.

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    1. I really think that differentiation is hard when we have standards and so much testing. We focus on the kids we need to get up to par and forget about our high fliers. However, when we are told that that everyone must pass or else... the high fliers get
      forgotten.

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  14. The one point that really stuck out to me the most was, "school is about consuming and learning is about creating." When we think of the structure that we have in place we look at what our students are doing. How many of them are consuming information we state is necessary compared to creating ideas or products that show their learning. Many times Couros talks about empowerment vs. engagement and that is a huge part of how we can make this shift. Students might seem engaged, simply because they know how to play school, but are they empowered to create and show their own learning. That's what we need to take to our classrooms and schools, the idea that students are learning to create, not to just consume and memorize. Check out the Institute of Play to see how students can begin to design games to show their learning. Think how empowering that might be.

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    1. I also just read a great post on consuming and creating by John Spencer on getting students to be better consumers. This is exactly what I've been thinking about, our students consume but are they critical consumers so what they make becomes even better. http://www.spencerideas.org/2016/03/i-want-students-to-be-better-consumers.html

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  15. One thing that stuck out to me was in Chapter 6 when George says "We all actually live in the same world. We all need to develop the skills and mindsets that will help us thrive not only in the classroom but also in our lives beyond the school walls". That really hit me as something important. I always hear that we need to prepare the youth of today for jobs that don't even exist yet. Not only do we need to help prepare them for that, but we need to be growing to live in that world as well!
    Reading about the engage vs. empower topic also really hit a chord with me. I try to do what I think are fun things but, reading that chapter I'm seeing that it's still just me trying to engage the students in the curriculum, and I need to not only do that but push passed that to the empowerment.

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  16. These two chapters blew my mind. In fact, when I finished, I sent an email to my two superiors begging them to read this book. I loved the idea that innovation shouldn't be an event, but the norm. How amazing would it be to teach in a place like that! Another idea that really struck me was problem finders/problem solvers. Getting the students to find the problem will get them that much more passionate about fixing the problem! My question is how to we make that happen on a daily basis and not as an "event?" How do we do this and still make sure we have met the standards, etc?

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    1. I too am blown away by this book. I want everyone in my school to read it. It is powerful.

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    2. I do have to admit that this book really has a way of making you think. It is very different from most of the books that I have read. I actually want to remember this stuff!

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  17. Quoted by Bill Ferriter, “Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula. Empowering students means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future.” I love this quote and believe my school is working hard to create the Empowerment classroom. We all share the vision, just still working towards it. I have the greatest privilege to be located right across the hall from a teacher that I feel is making great strides towards this empowerment. She is definitely engaging. A prime example and the most simplest is her excitement towards the curriculum. She is loud in a good way and talks to the kids with such excitement. And, all that takes is being excited with what you are teaching. She has fun projects for the students, such as making license plates with periodic elements.

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    1. Like you, the Bill Ferriter, quote "Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula. Empowering students means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future, " sparked my interest and reflection. Being an Intense Intervention Teacher for students with severe cognitive and physical disabilities, it seemed that getting my students "engaged" was the goal. Now, I am stoked with the thought of getting past just "engaging" the students, but "empowering" them. I'm questioning, is empowering another name for generalization or is generalization a part of empowering? Another quote from the book is "Our job as educator and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them." That is our role as parents, grandparents, and role models.

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  18. I enjoyed Chapter 6: Engage Versus Empower, so often I think teachers try to find new ways to engage students, without empowering them, but if we empower the students then they will want to be engaged. I liked the visual chart showing the difference between School vs Learning. It clearly shows how the two should be combined and thought of as one whole concept. We all live in the same world so by combining school and learning, we can effectively prepare students for the "real" world. I only know of one teacher at our high school that really goes above and beyond when it comes to empowering his students. He grades students on the risks they are willing to take in his speech and English classes. Even if the risk is a failure, the students are graded on how far out of their comfort zone they were willing to go. I know that has definitely encouraged a couple of students to try new things and to challenge the norms.

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  19. I enjoyed the differentiation between students and learners because the idea of continual learning once one leaves school is essential to pass onto younger generations. I always urge my students to take learning into their own hands. We do a lot of projects and group work in here so that students are the leaders in their own learning, and as a teacher, I am simply their guide. Additionally, we try to connect history's past with current events so that students can realize what they are studying still has an impact on today. We also discuss our thoughts on current events and possible ways they can change or make an impact on them. We also do a lot of analyzing and critical thinking in class with primary source pictures and documents. This is probably the most important thing we do in history since students can take this skill with them to other classes and to life in general. Both of these ideas go with the culture of my school since we are trying to create global citizens who have all the skills to function in all of life's settings.

    The most important idea I took away from these two chapters was that innovation should be an everyday occurrence and not just a special circumstance. I think schools should move away from the standard industrial idea of creating tolerant and competent workers and use innovation themselves to create a more useful, creative, and innovative environment for learners.

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  21. One thing that struck me from the chapter is the quote “Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash. The idea of empowering our students and “unleashing” them into the world or subject matter is probably the goal for most good educators. As a science teacher many of my students come to me timid and afraid of all things science. The words are too confusing or the concepts too foreign. I want my students to build the skills and knowledge in my classroom that allow them to delve deeper into the concepts and ideas that are interesting to them.
    “Dare to Dream” is posted on my schools crest, and if there is anything in my schools vision statement and goals that connected me to these chapters it is this idea. As teachers we are oftentimes more concerned with meeting standards than allowing students to drive their learning and follow their passions. The school day doesn’t incorporate enough of this learning and I think my goal, and maybe many other teachers as well, should be to figure out ways to incorporate that into our schools.

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  22. "'Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula.' Empowering students 'means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future'" (Couros 96). This was a quote that hit me because I have a friend who teaches in Oregon, and she runs a Senior project class. Before the senior can graduate they have to think of a project that they would never do, and then find a mentor, and create this project. This is something they must decide on their own, and do on their own with guidance from their mentor and the teacher. It may be anything from writing a song, learning to play an instrument, building a piece of furniture, planning a race, making an outdoor volleyball court, anything the student wants to do. During this process, they have to take a personality inventory, write an autobiography, sign a contract with their mentor, develop a portfolio, write a three to four page formal paper written in third person, on a topic associated with their senior project, write their 10 Commandments, a listing of the rules and regulations that they choose to live by, they do mock interviews, they present on one night for the public to come and see the work they have done for their project(they are completed) and then do a presentation in front of a board of people who usually has knowledge in the area being presented. These students have the power and control over their whole project. I have had the chance to be a mentor and a judge on the panel. It is wonderful to see the students pride and accomplishments. They always tell the teacher how much they have learned about themselves. Most students can't wait to take this course and are usually trying to decide what to do before their senior year.
    Are there some student who have a hard time with this, yes, but the teacher guides them to search inside themselves and see what they can do. She is their to guide them, but not tell them what to do. She has given them the "freedom to unleash."

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    1. This class sounds amazing! I would really love to see that happen at our school.

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  23. I think I need to empower my students more than what I am currently doing. I think empowering students is more than just allowing them to be creative. It should be allowing them to have a say in their learning. Engaging and empowering students goes hand in hand. If students are empowered they are going to be engaged as well.

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  24. Our school has it's own mission statement, "Committed to excellence, expecting success" developed before the corporation redid their mission statement. This statement was created by a group of teachers within the school. The corporation mission statement is "Our mission is to inspire and empower our students to reach their full potential as lifelong learners and
    productive members of a global community." This statement was created by a group comprised of administrators, school employees, students, parents, and community members.
    Without standards, I really have free reign in what I teach my students. I let them have a lot of creative control. By this definition of empowerment, "empowering students 'means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future'" I'm not sure that I do. How do you balance this with things they need to learn, but don't know they need to learn. At face value, most kids tell me that they think censorship is good and necessary. By having them look at the issue through several different examples, most of them change their minds. If it were up to the students, they would never dig in-depth into this topic. It doesn't really interest them, they have no passion for it, they do not really think about what it means to their future. I think there are situations that call for empowerment, but there are also situations that just require the kids to learn something that does not initially interest them. It's all about balance.

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  25. I agree that we have to prepare our students and empower them with the skills that companies are looking for. We need to teach the soft skills such as leadership, adaptability and continual learning. Our students need to feel confident in these skills so they feel empowered to be able to contribute to our world. I will share "How to get a Job at Google" with my students!

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  26. There are a couple things that stuck out to me in Chapter 6 that made me think of one particular saying. First on page 96 "Empowering students means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests and future". The second quote is on page 102 "School teaches compliance. Learning is about challenging perceived norms."
    Both of these quotes remind me of the the saying I have seen on Twitter many times and one that one of our teachers said at a PLC meeting. "We do school to students, not with them." I feel like learning needs to be a two way street and needs to be shared by both the student and the educator. Students need to see all of us learning right a long side of them. When an educator quits learning and quits looking for ways to make their classrooms better for the students, it is time to call it a career. If we want our students to learn we need to learn right along side of them, and they need to see that happening.
    In chapter 7 page 110 George says "If we want innovative students we need to be innovative leaders and educators. If we want to create a culture of innovation, we must first focus on furthering our own learning and growth." Again, it needs to be a shared experience between the students and the educators. We need to learn side by side with the students. We need to stop doing school to the students and start doing school with the students.

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  27. These two chapters were an interesting read to me this week. I hear about engaging students all of the time, but I do not hear the word empower! I often wonder to myself if I am teaching students or are they learning? On weeks that I feel extra tired, I think to myself, how much did I teach and how much did they learn? I like the idea that Couros gave about having the students create a lesson and teach to the class. I often wonder about what they would come up with and if the students would learn better from their peers. I am very interested in implementing this idea into my classroom this year. By empowering the students to partake in their learning and to teach others, will not only help their retention, but will help the other students as well.
    Since I am teaching a split class this year, there are times that I am unavailable to help the other group of students, while I am working with one group. The students have taken it upon themselves to help each other. If someone struggles with a math concept, they will ask others for help and those students will help them with the steps and calculations. To me, that has been very empowering with my students this year!

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    1. Hi April,
      I agree that we often hear about engaging students, but not empowering. While I believe it may be our goal, our strong focus on engagement can sometimes take ownership and skills away from the learner. First, I want to say, as good educators, I think it is awesome that we reflect on our weeks. There are days I walk out on Friday and ask myself the same questions. There are also Fridays when I walk out and think, "I took some risks this week and it was worth it". This reflection is what will help us innovate in our classrooms if we do not accept the standard, but strive to empower our students.

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  28. "Our thinking must focus on what learning truly can be, not what it has been." (Couros pg 100). This quote stood out to me. I feel too often we get in a rut and do things the same way we have done them for years. We need to think outside the box and probably step out of our own comfort zone to see what can be done to empower our students. It is hard to "let go", but the results are beyond our imagination.

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  29. This book has encouraged me to look at our school’s mission statement which contains the words engage and empower. I’m thankful that our school’s vision goes beyond engagement to empowerment.

    The school vs. learning ideas and image are so powerful. It is valuable to compare the two and how important it is for our students and the future of the world to “...developing learners who are flexible and agile in a world that is constantly changing[.]” And how do we empower our students? I agree with Couros that “[t]o truly be empowered, people need both ownership and autonomy.”

    A couple other ideas worth noting that I took away from these chapters is about learning from reflection, not just an experience. And about “crap detection” which is so important in a world where so much information is available.

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  30. One thing that struck me in Chapter 6 was when Couros described the health unit in which he wrote the standards in student-friendly terms and then turned the curriculum over to his students. I highlighted the entire paragraph--I would love to do this and do it well. I’m not even quite sure what the planning time would look like to design the time and space to empower my students to do this, but surely it couldn’t be more time than I put in planning ‘engaging’ lessons.

    Couros follows up the description of turning over the curriculum with this quote by Harriet Rubin, “Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.” I would love to unleash the creativity in my students. Freedom within the framework--this is the way it must be. It would be so exciting to see what they come up with to teach each other!

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  31. Reading chapters 6 and 7 made me feel frustrated. I wanted to yell, “Look everyone, we can’t have it both ways!” What I mean is that how can the the state continue to measure students by standardized tests and yet to prepare students for life we need to do something completely different. We have a culture of compliance in schools, and yet we’re told here that’s not exactly what we need for creativity and innovation. Ok, so which is it? Students are to be given choices about their learning, right, so what about the students who don’t want to learn anything except, say, muscle cars? And where do I learn how to, say, give the students their choice of what they learn and yet still be able to pass the corporation exam? Baby steps, I guess.
    And I’d love to learn how to empower my students to do something real and global.

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    1. I understand your frustration, and after reading other post wondered if I was the only one feeling this way! I have a curriculum map that I have to follow, whether or not I agree with it, or it meets the need of my students. I attempted to incorporate some new methods this past week, and failed miserably. I usually would give them a 10 minute video, and then ask questions over the video to guide their learning to make sure they understood the most important information. This week, I let students work in teams and had them share a google doc with their teammate and me. During the video they were to simply take notes, jot down any questions they had over content, and anything they wanted to learn more about on the shared document. After the video, teams were to work together to answer each other’s questions and dive deeper into the topic presenting me with information they found useful and relevant to the prompt. As I looked at the each documents history, some team members did not participate at all, from some groups I simply got a summary of the 10 minute video clip, and one or 2 groups actually completed the assignment. I am finding student are struggling with the freedom, and may like the safety of being told and questioned in order to their checklist or formula to get the grade they want. Some find it scary to not have the exact study guide to prepare them for a test. From chapter 6, "It is imperative that we teach learners how to be self-directed and guide their own learning, rather than rely on others to simply engage them." I believe it will take a mindset change on all fronts: teachers, students, parents, administrators, and at the state level. Changing from our current system of student engagement to empowering learners is going to take time. I have had parents complain that a teacher has not taught a topic to their son or daughter, but I know that the teacher has taught every part of the topic. The student has been left to simply put the pieces together for the higher order thinking. Parents believe we are to teach a subject matter to students so the student can master a test. The corporation wants to see that my students are engaged and on topic so students can master the corporation’s assessment. The state expects me to teach the standards set for my class and have my students master the information. Based on the subject or grade the level of students might be responsible for a portion of my school’s grade. This is very intimidating. So I agree, we must take it one step at a time, and we are going to have to fight the mindset that a teacher is to teach a subject to a teacher is to empower his/her students to evaluate informant and to guide students to learn.

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  32. “By empowering them, I’d unleashed my students’ potential and allowed them to explore and make meaningful connections to the content to deepen their learning” (Kindle, Ch. 6) Who doesn’t want to be able to say that they do this on a daily basis? By balancing engagement, rigor and student passion, teachers can create the type of learning experience that helps students find success. Many teachers fear this mentality however, because it is scary. Teachers feel as if they have to have “control” of the content, curriculum, and the student response to the lesson. This mentality is restricting and can be discouraging for both teachers and students. In my own classroom, I am currently planning and getting ready to start a blogging unit that will take students into the end of the year. While there will be guidelines in place to ensure that we are meeting our writing standards, I want students to have voice, choice, authenticity, ownership and reflection in their writing. I hope to see students impassioned about their their writing and excited about their success. “If we truly want our students to apply their learning and create new knowledge and ideas, we need to ensure students have opportunities to practice this kind of learning throughout the day and across disciplines” (Kindle, Ch. 6).
    I am fortunate to work in a corporation that does have a shared vision for learning. Students are, and will continue to be, the focus of the vision. “If we want to create a culture of innovation, we must first focus on furthering our own learning and growth” (Kindle, Ch. 7). Reading this book and participating in this book club, as well as taking risks in the classroom are the best way to creating this culture. A shift in culture can start with one person and I can help be that person for my school, I would be proud to do that! “The people who help set the vision and mission are the most likely to embrace it” (Kindle, CH. 7).

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  33. I liked the reference to the Uber drive and the opportunities created because of technology. I find myself reaching for my phone or computer to look up things that I want more information about. I am finding now that it is important to learn how to sort through this massive amount of information.

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  34. My school system has gradually gone to E-Learning for our schools. They started at the High School and have worked down to the elementary schools. The elementary schools are not a 1:1 ratio. I would love to have a portable promethean board in my gym but I know that is a long way off. Students need to learn to take responsibility for their learning and they have to learn to use technology responsibility of how and what they use the technology.

    I have went to Fort Wayne this weekend for the Best Practices workshop at University of St. Francis. There was not one class that I attended that did not have some component of the sessions that did not teach technology. I loved that part of the program. I teach PE and they had components for me.

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  35. I think our school is on the right track for empowering students but I think we are still kind of at the empowering teachers phase. It's hard to kind of rethink or even undo thinking about how a teacher is supposed to teach. We are working on a shared vision for learning and just recently spent significant time on talking about how to create authentic learning opportunities for our students and how to involve our community in that process. I think it takes some letting go of old practices and embracing some new practices that aren't as concrete. This past Fall when my class participated in the Global Read Aloud, the book and learning took twists and turns that I couldn't predict. It was about a family that were living in the middle east as foreign aid workers and that generated lots of discussion about refugees. Then the refugee situation became front and center in the news. It was a little unnerving to discuss and read about something that was a current event and changing quickly. I couldn't plan to far out ahead because I didn't know where it would take us! I guess it's all about your mindset.

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  36. The part that stuck out to me the most was the School vs. Learning ideas. Every part of that blurb is so true. Our kids learn best (and we do to) when it isn't forced on them. When something is genuinely interesting it gives more desire to learn more about it.

    I know there are some things that are in our standards that are just not "fun". But the way it can be taught can change anyone's perception. I taught 8th grade US History for a few years, I trudged thru it, it wasn't something I was excited to teach. Do I think my kids learned anything? Not at all, and I'm ashamed of that. Now we have a different teacher teaching US History, who happens to be super passionate about it, and the things she does in her room are amazing! After each project I look at them and think, "Duh! It was that easy and I didn't even think to do that!" If we don't engage the kids, they won't be engaged, and it is so much more than just the list of standards in the front of our book.

    I'm thankful to be teaching a subject that I love (6th grade science), and as I'm constantly learning new things I share them with my students and I can tell they are getting more than just what the book says. George ends that blurb saying "Learning is about deep exploration." If a kid has a question you don't have the answer to, explore for it together!

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  38. One way I am working to empower my students is by encouraging them to "voice" their thoughts and ideas. There have been times in class where I have made mistakes in my math work and it seems like most kids are afraid to speak up. This makes me so sad because I know if they are afraid to call me out on my mistakes, there is no way they would ask a question if they were confused. A few years ago, I worked with a team of teachers who utilized "participation tickets." The general idea is students volunteer questions, answers, thoughts, or get called on and they get a ticket to write their name on. We would have drawings every Friday for some fun, fabulous prize. Sometimes they could save their tickets for a silent auction. I do a scaled down version of this with my Alg. classes. I reward them double for finding my mistakes. Also, they still get a ticket even if their answer is incorrect. No pressure. I want them to be comfortable.

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    1. I really like your idea of "participation tickets". This is a great way to encourage thoughts and ideas without emphasizing a right or wrong answer.

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  39. One way I am working to empower my students is by encouraging them to "voice" their thoughts and ideas. There have been times in class where I have made mistakes in my math work and it seems like most kids are afraid to speak up. This makes me so sad because I know if they are afraid to call me out on my mistakes, there is no way they would ask a question if they were confused. A few years ago, I worked with a team of teachers who utilized "participation tickets." The general idea is students volunteer questions, answers, thoughts, or get called on and they get a ticket to write their name on. We would have drawings every Friday for some fun, fabulous prize. Sometimes they could save their tickets for a silent auction. I do a scaled down version of this with my Alg. classes. I reward them double for finding my mistakes. Also, they still get a ticket even if their answer is incorrect. No pressure. I want them to be comfortable.

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    1. I love that you reward your students for finding your mistakes!

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  40. This year I have a much different job than the past 13 years. When I was a high school math teacher I constantly struggled with finding the "Why?" and the "What for?" to share with my students. However, that struggle led me to Twitter and reading books such as "The Innovator's Mindset" for professional development. I feel the past few years of my classroom I was better at finding worthwhile projects and activities for my students to work on. I did flip my PreCalculus class the last 3 years. At first it is a struggle for many students as they did not have the experience of having so much control of their own learning. After a couple of weeks, most students "got it". There were still some strugglers, but these were my students that I was able to speak with the most and try to impact them and give them guidance for their future. This was a sense of empowerment I was able to relay onto my students as a classroom teacher.
    My role as a technology integration specialist has really invigorated my ability to empower students. I am very lucky that I have received fantastic support (financial as well as pedagogical) from the top down in my district. I feel I have been able to empower many more students with what I am doing now. I am able to help them learn new 21st Century tools that are helping shape many American's lives as I type this. Currently, I am lucky enough to work with technologies such as drones, 360 degree video, 3D printing, and Google Cardboards. These are technologies that a lot of students are curious about. They want to learn more, but have not had these opportunities before. I have started a new "Innovation Club" where they can come and learn and PLAY with these technologies. All the while, we keep an educational stance on working with them. For instance, if they want to build a Lego robot, it must serve a purpose. What will the purpose be of your robot? How will it impact others? These are some questions I ask the students as they work.
    This sort of student empowerment has run over into teacher empowerment. Many teachers are "afraid" of new technologies. Not because they don't want to learn about it, but because they are not sure how to implement it into their classrooms. This is where I come in and work with the teachers. I empower them to feel better about their uses of technology in their classroom. Once they see the engagement in their students, it makes them feel much more empowered. I still like the quote from the book that many others have already addressed..."'Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula.' Empowering students 'means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future'" (Couros 96). How can this not be any more important to us as educators than right now?

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  41. One part of this week's reading that really stood out to me was the Culture of Empowerment section from chapter 6. I love the idea of turning the responsibility and control of learning over to the students. This definitely seems like an activity that would allow the students to become fully involved in their learning. I think too often teachers feel like they are the ones that need to provide all the the lessons and learning experiences. The hardest part would be to stand back and just let the kids work! I know this type of learning isn't practical all the time, but I definitely feel that incorporating it occasionally is a step in the right direction.

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  42. I appreciated reading the comparison between engaging and empowering- how do I empower my students? Last year, I was introduced to a process called "gradual release"- the process is based on a "me-us-you" approach to learning. I have been recently trying this approach in my classroom. Students struggle with the "you" part- I think this is because students do not have the confidence to "go it alone". We always review the independent portion of the lesson, and there are no penalties for the answers in this portion. I am hopeful that by modeling through post-discussion, these students may be able to successfully take control of the "you".

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  43. At my school, we are in the process of possibly creating a new shared vision. We currently have inclusive classrooms and also Direct Service classes for our Special Education students. There has been recent discussion on changing how our classrooms might look next year by adopting a total inclusive approach. I am interested in obtaining more information on the inclusive classroom, so I have started looking at schools that already have inclusion in place, as I would like to possibly schedule an opportunity to visit and observe the process.

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  44. On p. 98 I enjoyed the statement from #Innovators Mindset: " Our job as educators is not to control others but to bring out the best in them." On this same page I learned a great deal from the Health lesson where the students taught each other the objectives. Brilliant! (I plan on borrowing this idea myself, as Health can be a challenging course...)

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    1. I like this quote as well, Lane. It's our job as educators to promote empowerment rather than compliance. Too often, we want to control the learning of others, when in actuality, we need to be flexible in our thinking and let the learning guide the direction taken. That is when true empowerment is able to occur.

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  45. Our district shares the vision of Engage. Inspire. Empower. What we, as a district, do to emulate that mission statement is shown through daily interactions and learning opportunities with students and staff. We have a moving forward document that explains the qualities of a learner profile within our district ranging from soft skills to content empowerment. The main idea being that we are setting our students up for success not only in the classroom setting, but beyond and for opportunities that don't even exist as of yet.

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  46. I think it's important that as educators, we both engage and empower students. While I realize the most powerful form of education is one that empowers students to learn independently, I also think it's important to engage them with content they may not find interesting... yet. There are numerous topics in multiple content areas that I did not find interesting until a passionate teacher engaged me with a creative lesson. While I agree with giving students choice and freedom in choosing topics and projects, I also think there is a time and place for engaging them with content chosen by the teacher or district. This helps broaden their view and possibly ignite new passions.
    Probably my favorite sentence from these two chapters is from the "What If?" section. "What if we hired people who did not look at teaching as a "career" but as a "passion"?" Could you imagine!? I'm guessing that many teachers start off that way. We obviously don't do this for the money. But the system can get us down at times and it can be a struggle to keep the passion alive. I think one of the best things we can do to empower and inspire our students is to pursue our own passions and share them when appropriate.

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  47. Empowering students can be as simple as choice. Playing off their interests/expertise and allowing them to flourish in their own realm. Utilizing their forte's can bring up the areas in which they lack. For instance, the choice in reading and finding resource related to what they love. Allowing students to focus on writing topics that interest them most. In math, allowing students to have choice in what areas they want to work and improve.
    My favorite quote from the book: "Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them. Engagement is not enough. we need to create the same opportunities for our students as those we would want for ourselves."

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    1. I completely agree with you! I often consider myself to be a bit of a control freak, so giving power to my students is something that I find to be very difficult. I have to make a conscious effort to get better at this. I agree that sometimes empowering them can be small like giving them options for an assignment or task. I think this also goes along with building relationships with your students. When we get to know them well, we learn about how they can best contribute their expertise to the classroom. A few years ago (as I was being evaluated by an administrator) I was having a technology problem. One of my students came to the front of the room to try to fix the problem and it made his day. He felt empowered because he was able to help me with the problem. Empowerment does not have to mean chaos and lack of control.

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    2. I can be a control freak sometimes. I only see my students once a week for 40 minutes and occasionally twice a week for 80 minutes. Empowering my students is something I need to work on. My students are really motivated by instruments and discussing the music they love. I try to add as many instruments as possible, but their music (school appropriate of course) is what I need to add more of.

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  48. I was also very moved by the quote "A story about a world-changer might engage us, but becoming world-changers will change us" (p. 97). I am still figuring out how I can be a world changer, but I also want to be supportive and encouraging of my students to pursue this amazing quest. Being their advocate and praising them needs to be an every day occurrence so there is never a doubt in their mind that they can and will change the world. I want to set them up for success and that often means challenging them which can lead to some grumpy students! It is always worth all the grumblings to see how proud they are of their successes!

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  49. "Our job as educators is not to control others but to bring out the best in them" . Like many of the commenters here, this has struck a chord with me. As a second year teacher, giving up control can be a scary idea to me. But this book has helped me to understand that it is important to give up that control to my students so they can be empowered in their own learning. This also goes back to the idea of risk taking. It might seem like a risk giving up control.

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  50. Something that really stuck out to me was that as educators we need to "recognize the times when you need to relinquish power." It can be so difficult both as a teacher and as a member of a "teaching" team to relinquish that power. But sometimes our students need to be in control. In order to bring out the best in students, we need to teach them how to have power and how to be free and confident to make decisions. So many students struggle with freedom in education because they are not use to it. Whether because of the strict testing heavy environment or something else, a lot of teachers have a desire to control what is going on in the classroom because they are bound by curriculum maps, district and school expectations. It's hard to understand that giving students that freedom can help them have more success in the classroom with other tasks, as well as create lifelong learners.

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