Monday, March 7, 2016

The Innovator's Mindset Week 6: Chapters 8 and 9

How are you focusing on strengths in your school or classroom or how can you envision doing this more? In chapter 9, George focuses on technology and toward the end of the chapter puts forth four questions to help guide the work of the IT department, but really could and should be asked in the classroom, too. How are you using these or other questions to focus the use of technology in your classroom?

Next week we will read and discuss chapters 10 and 11.

64 comments:

  1. The four questions in Chapter 9 come at an interesting time for my social studies department as we search for digital resources to "adopt" rather than a textbook to help aid in student learning of critical standards. I especially refer to the first question, "Is it best for kids?" So many times I hear teachers reflect on what the publishers offer for them rather than focusing on what "risks v. rewards" it would offer kids. I will present these questions to the department as we review the digital resources.

    This week's focus on the use of technology in the classroom connects with Couros's blog, "The Principal of Change", entitled "Adding or Subtracting Learning". He asks us to trust our students and have them find the video that helps them better understand a concept. I see so much value in this suggestion reaching the majority of the students and something I will try.

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    1. I also see the benefits in students finding their own resources, giving them the responsibility to teach themselves and others. This relates to the idea that Couros borrowed from Joseph Joubert, “To teach is to learn twice.” I have students share their findings with each other creating multiple resources in a location such as Symbaloo.

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    2. Letting students find the video that helps them better understand the concept is brilliant. How many times have I done that with a recipe? I can find a million recipes for tortilla soup, but the one I understand the best is the one I use. I use the same technique as a knitter. I needed to do a certain stitch and watched 4 videos before I finally figured it out. Why not do this for our students?

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    3. Thanks for sharing Couros's blog idea! I have been showing students videos, but not necessarily thinking about letting them find videos on what is best for them. What an AHA moment!

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    4. Erin, I love your post--maybe it is the food that spoke to me! All kidding aside, I love the concept of allowing students the responsibility or freedom to find a video or additional resource to help them better understand. Similar to many posts last week, we all live in the same world and same time as our students- if we use additional resources to better understand cooking, knitting, etc. why shouldn't our students be given the same opportunity!

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  2. We currently do not do much with focusing on strengths in our school. I found Ch#8 to be very thought provoking with several practical strategies mentioned that we could use in our school. I really liked the idea presented on focusing on a few areas as priorities for a school year, and then creating teams to lead the professional learning around those focuses. I think this would be a great way to tackle professional development within a school.

    I felt like the four questions raised in Ch#9 were good to consider when making decisions about technology at all levels of a school. Number 2 has been a big focus in my grade level this year. We are in our first year of being 1 to 1 with Chromebooks and have found many apps, websites, and other tools that seem to be great. However, we have had to stop ourselves several times to ask the question, How does this improve learning? In certain circumstances what has been best for learning it to not use technology on an assignment. In other instances the answer to that question has been different for each student, with students using different tools to improve their learning. In the end the conversations we have had as teachers have helped us to improve the learning going on in the classrooms.

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  3. I know that many of our teachers are focusing on students' strengths. There are some powerful statistics in Ch. 8 about what happens when one focuses on strengths instead of weaknesses. "... three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general" (126). That is some serious impact!
    The four questions in chapter 9 could be used for more than just technology. These questions could/should frame all the decisions we make regarding instruction and learning.

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    1. Perhaps we could incorporate the 4 questions into our PLC framework. Let them guide our work.

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    2. I felt that these questions could be used for more than just technology too. One thing I was thinking about is a checklist. When we plan a lesson, these questions should be asked to see if the lesson improves the learning of our students.

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  4. Thank you for reemphasizing that these questions play a part in all decisions regarding instruction and learning. Likewise, I appreciated that Couros emphasized the learning opportunities as a result of technology as opposed to focusing on the technology itself.

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  5. I really identify with the idea of making learning a “custom fit” We have a science teacher who is the definition of innovative. She creates new experiences for her students every day and each year spreads her thoughts and ideas throughout the school to include more of the students.

    A couple of years ago she began a Science Buddies program in which she paired each of her high school students with a 2nd grader. They have monthly visits which include a lesson and a hands-on activity. It was so successful, the program quickly spread. This same teacher took the project even further by developing a service learning program at our school. Students can write mini grants to help fund their project and decide what goals they want to achieve. We’ve had students design and sell necklaces and donate the money to a human trafficking charity. We’ve had students collect gently used shoes, volunteer at nursing homes, landscape at the city park, etc. The point of the program is to let the students pick how they will help the community or the greater cause by doing something they enjoy and are good at. The students love the program and it even earned our school state recognition through GenerationOn. The students have learned valuable skills, improved their communication skills, and become better leaders by doing what they choose. The program continues to grow and beginning this year the students can even earn a Varsity Service Letter for their continued contributions.

    The best part is watching students get excited about what they are doing and seeing how proud they are when their project succeeds. If every classroom and curriculum could be this customized, the majority of the students could work smarter not harder.

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  6. I'll admit that some personal reflection at this point in the year has lead me to be a bit focused on what to "fix" as I start to plan for next year. Reading these chapters could not have come at a more perfect time. "The deficit model compels administrators and educators to overcompensate in the areas that need to be "fixed." When that occurs, all the great things that are already happening are quickly forgotten" (Couros 125). I am excited to integrate the idea of strengths-based leadership along with some other concepts into our PLCs for next year. I'm looking forward to working on this with teachers in my district.

    I am blessed to serve in a district in which I hear these questions being asked often. The communication lines between technology and curriculum are open, and leaders in both areas work together rather than separately. My favorite point from this section is, "Regardless, educators should be able to articulate the rewards, instead of just asking, "Why isn't YouTube open?" If we are solid in our "Why," then the "How" seems to come much easier.

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    1. I think the strengths based leadership is a great model and a great way to think about learning for both students and teachers. This approach would be a powerful way for both teachers and students to share what they know and are good at.

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  7. Sadly, our school is solely focused on the deficit model. To the extent that they will pull a student from an elective class to do English or Math remediation. So then the student is 1. doing extra work, and 2. missing out on the instruction going on in the class they were pulled from.
    I think when I design lessons, I am usually focused on "How does this improve learning" (or knowledge), and "Is this serving the few or the majority." I remember sitting in class and being bored because we had to go over and over something because a select few did not understand. I try to not do that to my students.
    I am a fairly risk averse person, so I do not usually take many risks with regards to my classes. That's not to say that I never do anything new, I just want the chance of reward to seriously outweigh the risk involved.

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  8. The four questions at the end of Chapter nine got me thinking about a new piece of technology my school uses. We have implemented Study Island by Edmentum. I like Study Island and feel it is beneficial for our students. It follows alongside NWEA and is individualized for each student. The math lesson is at each of my students grade level. I feel this is beneficial for my students to practice and work on. However, my concern with it is in questions number three of chapter nine. The third questions states, “If we were to do _____, what is the balance of risk vs. reward?” Study Island doesn’t have that balance. The students don’t feel the reward of learning and practicing the material. The reward is doing better on NWEA and that is so far out. The reward is not tangible for the students. It is too far away for them to see the reward. This got me thinking of how I can change it to make it more tangible?

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    1. We also use Study Island for grades 3-6. I have found that the game options give some students that reward and challenge. We have ours set at an 80% average in order for students to get the game option. This works best for our younger students (grades 3-4).

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  9. I want to start off with something I loved in Chapter 8 first. When George talked about the teachers coming up with the areas of professional development and then instead of bringing others in to talk to them about it they each joined a team that they thought they could bring something to. You can hear a lot of grumbles for professional development time and how it's spent and I think putting that accountability back on us as teachers is awesome. I personally always try to see the best in a situation and try to look at the positives and what I get out of the time we spend on professional development but not everyone is the same way. I think by putting the accountability on us hopefully you'd see everyone picking something they are/could become passionate in and they'd see that the other areas that are being focused on are someone else's passionate areas and respect that and listen a little more closely or try harder to see the benefit.

    I enjoyed the four questions at the end of the chapter. I originally put myself in the category of "lock it and block" supporters and "let's ban all the bad things"! But, through the introduction of 1:1 in our school, personal experiences, readings I've done, and things like this book club my mind is definitely shifting. I was told the other day that I shouldn't ever allow free time on the computer at the end of class because the students are going to inappropriate things, it's a waste of time, etc... but I don't think I agree with that. Perhaps a better opportunity would be mini-lessons on using certain websites properly, or student presentations on why they should be allowed on a certain website, and work up to that time where they can explore but I don't think free time on the devices should be banned. They can look up how to build something or a recipe to make on Pinterest because while I may not have told them that's what they should do, it definitely could easily be related back to school subjects and does serve a purpose. And, even if it is mindless things they want to do with a little free time is that so wrong? I know I find myself pulling up a blog with 5 minutes of free time or wishing I could check my phone. I have some standards in FACS that deal with digital citizenship and while I don't go terribly in depth I think it's time to restructure that unit. Sadly, not all students take my class and it's only offered in 8th grade when they're getting ready to exit our building but I think making sure they can use the tools they're given properly, maturely, etc... would put them at a far greater advantage then blocking it all from them even though they'll still be using it outside of school time.

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    1. I also agree with you, professional development would be great if it was focused around what the teachers thought they needed to be learning.

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    2. Is there anyone else besides me concerned that learning might be quite limited if I only learned what I 'wanted' to learn? I can say in the past five years especially when my school system adopted 1:1 approach, my growth has come from stretching myself in ways I never thought imaginable. I am as pleased as the next person when professional development fits into my interests, but I also see some gains from exploring what can be a nightmare in the beginning. I have to say many of my students might choose never to learn what becomes a part of their future career path if the the focus of their learning depended on their choices.

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    3. I feel the same way Tammy. I think if given the option, not many things would be "learned" if it were up to the student to choose them. The students who take my Library Media class do "choose" it, but for the majority of them, it is not because they are interested, it is because they have a spot to fill on their schedule. Now after going through the class, most like it enough to "choose" to take another semester of it.

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    4. Tammy- interesting thought process on going beyond our comfort level and working towards something new. I can definitely see both sides to this argument!

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    5. I agree! Our school does a great job of asking the teachers what we want to have in our professional development. I like being given the ability to have a voice in my own learning, but then grumble when we are assigned to something that I don't think I want to learn about. Sometimes I get more out of the sessions that I didn't want to go to in the first place. I also think this is true of students. On more than one occasion, students have come into my class grumbling about what they are learning for the day, only to leave saying that the lesson was actually fun or interesting. I believe that they should be given some freedom of choice, but in the end we are the ones that have to make sure we meet standards so we have to make decisions for them sometimes as well.

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  10. I believe focusing on my student's strengths instead of their weaknesses is essential for their confidence level. I enjoyed the opening paragraph of chapter 8 and how explains it is very common for your students to start to strongly dislike the subject that you are trying your hardest to get them to improve in. I feel like that is a perfect example for when you should be focusing on that student's strengths instead of their weakness. One of my favorite technology questions George proposes is "What is best for kids?" I too agree this question should be the question that guides all of our work. If I am not doing what I do in my room on the daily to fit my student's needs then I am not doing my very best. If my main focus is doing what I believe is best for kids then I feel like I am off to a good start to help them improve their learning.

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    1. Lauren,
      I really resonated with your statements from chapters 8 and 9. Building off a student's strengths, allows for you to build trust and relationships with students that you are then able to build upon for continued growth and development. Without students having the mindset or confidence that they are capable of growth, they will never fully be able to reach their fullest potential. Also love the "what's best for kids?". Sometimes teachers don't take the time to consider the needs of the learners, and instead, only focus on what's best for their (the teacher) convenience and needs. When we fully embrace the needs of our learners, we are able to provide them with the best learning opportunities possible.

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    2. I agree with the concept of "Building off a student's strengths, allows you to build trust and relationships with students, that you are then able to build upon for continued growth and development." The key word here for me is "trust". Be it a gifted student or a special needs student, very little learning will take place without trust. A few years ago, during the early morning hours, when I couldn't sleep, I watched a TED program on PBS regarding education. One key speaker spoke on, you got to "love them" and if you don't, don't let them know it. A very wise woman said, "Love them." and if you don't, don't ever let the student know it.

      In the "learning leaders" section, I reread the sentence, "The expectation at the end of the program was that every person moved forward, not that everyone reached the same point". I guess that's what good teachers really do in school, but with all the focus on testing, it seems that the focus is on reaching the same point. I also reflected on "learners are the driver; technology is the accelerator".

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  11. The four questions in chapter nine made me look back on my decision this year to not use a textbook in my US History classes. I think my students learned more without books using digital resources I think made them into historians not feed back information history students. It made me the leader of the history adventure. I don't think I would ever go back to physical books. It allowed me to tie history together and like I said my students had more fun and learned better.

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  12. Working on a strengths based model is an interesting concept. I work with students who have IEPs. We spend the majority of our time and paperwork identifying deficits and discussing ways to improve those deficits. Ignoring the known deficits is not an option. Every teacher I know tries to build in a way to connect with their students to build up confidence and skills. Couros' quote "Carolyn reminds me and others that when we show a genuine interest in those whom we serve and go out of our way to help them become successful in areas about which they are passionate, they are more likely to go above and beyond what is expected." We see this every day. Connections with the students mean more than the best lesson plan or the "$1000 pencil." I think the four questions posed at the end could be used with or without technology. When we create individualized plans, these are the concepts and questions we should ask at every meeting.

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  13. As an instructional coach, I have many opportunities to support teachers in both student and professional growth. By honing in on individual's strengths across content areas, we are able to better cultivate a collaborative culture within grade level teams and school wide initiatives. Currently, we have teachers involved in cross grade level inquiry teams where teachers are able to capitalize not only on strengths, but use those those strengths as a foundation for further growth as well. "As teachers and leaders, we are stronger and more effective when we work together and push one another to grow" (p.127). We know teaching is a challenging profession, but together we can do so much more than alone. One of my FAVORITE quotes from the whole book came from this chapter. "Learning is messy, and we have to comfortable with risk, failure, growth, and revision" (p. 131). Such a true statement about the importance of using the strengths within ourselves and others in order to grow our schools and the learners within in (both teacher and student) to the best of their abilities.
    In regards to chapter 9 and the usage of technology, I feel as if it always comes back to starting with your why. "If educators can't answer "Why?", then they will never get to the "How?" and "What?"(p. 145). We are always asking ourselves whether or not the technology is simply enhancing instruction or is it truly redefining student learning. We can have the flashes and lights, but without a purpose and redefining quality, technology is simply serving as a method of substitution.

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  14. How does this improve learning? Sometimes we pull out the "dog and pony show" but it doesn't really improve learning. That is a question we can ask whether it is a lesson for students or professional development for ourselves. We need to push and challenge students. Sometimes that is through the use of technology. Sometimes it is not.

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  15. I try to focus on students strengths when lesson planning by creating a variety of lessons, and when we do projects, a variety of options. With this, students are able to find and continue to improve on their own strengths, while still being exposed to new ideas, methods, and ways of thinking that sometimes they're not the best at, but together, we work to improve upon them. This year, the greatest strengths I've found with students in their observations of primary source pictures, so we've been doing more visual discovery and learning content that way, since they are able to understand it more thoroughly.

    For the questions at the end of this reading, I always ask myself "Is this best of the kids?" If it is not, then I scrap it. There are topics and lessons I found so interesting and want to incorporate into my class, but in the scheme of things, they might not be the most relevant. So I revamp the methods or content to make it relevant for students. Additionally, I think they are always new movements in education every few years that people try to push into the classroom. However, are they what is best for the kids? Or is what is best for the kids actually looking towards them, asking what they want to learn, how they want to learn, and building curriculum around their answers?

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  16. I currently work with a small group of students on library skills and I do my best to focus on their strengths when planning activities. For example if their writing skills are not strong, then we discuss the activity instead of writing out answers. I think it is in the best interest of the students to try and focus on their strengths because this will help engage them in learning. I know I had the same issue last year in 4th grade, a lot of my students had learning issues so we did a lot of out of the box learning. It work better to try to build them up instead of turning them off to learning.

    As far as the four questions at the end of chapter 9, I don't really see those as IT questions. I think those are questions for teachers and administrators to consider. What is best for the greater good vs. what is best for individual learning. Given the opportunity, there are always students who will abuse computer/technology privileges and even though the IT people will be the ones to hopefully correct it. Our students are very trustworthy at my high school, but that doesn't mean all will stay on task or not try to open something they shouldn't. In the library, there are times when I feel more like I am policing computer usage.

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  17. Going one-to-one this year, I feel our teachers are doing a great job of sharing their successes as they find ways to incorporate technology. This is helping other teachers move forward as well.

    I created a spreadsheet that allows all of us to share different apps, websites, etc. I created a different sheet within the document for each subject area, so it makes it easier for people to find technology useful for their subject. The columns are: name, link, description, and who added it to the list/who uses it. This is helpful because if anyone has a question about the application, a teacher knows who to ask.

    Something I would like to work on is mentorship. I was asked by my principal to help with new teachers, but it is still unclear of what my role is since new teachers in our building also have a subject area department chair.

    I connected with this quotation from the book because I appreciate the idea of developing strengths: “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” -- Marilyn vos Savant" I agree that we still need to work on our weaknesses, but in conjunction with developing our strengths...finding a balance. “Focusing on individuals’ strengths that contribute to the vision of the school helps to move us from pockets of innovation to a culture where innovation flourishes.”

    Another takeaway I appreciate is about focusing on caring for teachers just like we care for students goes a long way. And that “Technology should personalize, not standardize.”

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  18. The statement: "We understood that, if we wanted to see technology being used in powerful ways, we needed to help teachers see and experience the learning in new ways" (p. 144). We've really prioritized a new way of approaching PD this year. Our focus has been PLNs and differentiated competency-based PD created in Google Classroom. Since we are emphasizing GAFE tools with students, it makes sense to house our PD in Google Classroom. Teachers get to experience Classroom as a student, so they better understand it in using it with their students. Each course is based on ISTE standards, organized around the 5 C's and explores 12 skills or skill sets. It's also differentiated, because teachers can read articles and watch training videos if needed, or teachers can skip straight to the competency in areas where they already have strong skills.
    In terms of the four questions, I was particularly drawn to "How does this improve learning?" We've phrased this, "How does this empower and prepare students?" The challenge is making this a habit and making it a consideration at every level. This Couros book has really captured a lot of the ideas circulating right now and pulled them together in one text.

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  19. At my school we have opened up Youtube and I find that the students do not abuse it. I use it frequently and have not had a problem with the students using it. We are trying to incorporate Chromebooks and right now a few of us have a classroom set. It has opened the doors for me to be able the ask the question; "What is best for the kids". When I try to decide if using technology will help improve what I want to teach over how it was done without technology. I usually find that technology helps put the learner in control of the learning and I am learning right along with them. It allows me to give them choices to concentrate on their strengths rather than "one size fits all". I think all 4 questions should be asked frequently in every school. I also wish that administrators would concentrate on teacher strength more. We need that confidence builder too!

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    1. I thought it was interesting how the chapters addressed the need to find the strengths of the staff and use that for the motivation. It is so true that it is difficult to be innovative when a topic is not interesting and inspiring to the individual.

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    2. I agree with finding strengths, our school went one to one a few years ago. I think we are still digging out of the hole with some staff. We expected the staff to be experts, when they did not have the knowledge. We have been changing our thoughts and giving PD to those who need it in this ever changing process.

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    3. I also use YouTube videos, often as a follow-up to a passage or lesson. This is a great way to bring the world into a classroom. For example, one week our class read and discussed tsunamis, but until students saw an actual video of one, they could not envision such an event. One student told me that it was one thing to read about a tsunami, and quite another to see it.

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  20. I was so excited to see the question, "what is best for kids?" My husband, who is also an educator, asks this question constantly and has helped me get to asking that question, too. This question makes many very uncomfortable for many reasons. Sometimes what is best for kids is not easy. Also, what was once best for kids is not what is best for today's kids. That can throw a lot of people off. However, I never asked myself "how does this improve learning." What a fantastic question always ask. Is this tool making learning better than it has in the past. The biggest question I ask when using tech in the classroom is how does this redefine what I have done. How am I using tech to do something in a meaningful way that I have not been able to do before without technology. This is part of the SAMR model. This is truly one of the most difficult things I do as a teacher. It is so easy to take something you have always done and had a tech piece. I strive to add something totally innovative that could not have been done before technology.

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    1. I agree with your sentiment that "what was once best for kids is not what is best for today's kids." As human beings, it is easy for us to get comfortable with what we know and have done in the past. It is imperative that adults in the school system reflect on how we can reach each student we meet. Unfortunately, many educators do not do this. They are stuck in the past and are unwilling to take the initiative to learn more. This is a huge detriment to our youth.

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  21. Every teacher and administrator should be asking the question, "What is best for the kids?". Since I am a gym teacher having technology is not high on list schools priority list. I would love a portable promethean board to be shared in the building and that I can use it for my class. I would love to show my students that technology can enhance their ability to improve their health.

    I agree with Erin that it is not always easy to do what is best for our students. Sometimes for people in my generation, where technology was a typewriter and you programed a computer using punch cards. But a teacher who continues to learn and improve their classroom is a teacher I would love my grandchildren to have.

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  22. Couros continues to pound home the idea that what we do needs to always be about students and what's best for them. When we begin to look at why students aren't successful and we try to remediate, we are essentially negating the value of what students are successful at. I've continued to battle the idea that we need to remediate students compared to enriching them. When we try to look at their weaknesses we are not accelerating growth, we are inhibiting growth. We can't do this at all, yet we continue to do it each day. Why?

    Couros states, "It's only when we are willing to constantly expand and evaluate our own thinking that we will be able to create the environments our students so deeply deserve." What a powerful statement and one of the biggest things I will take away from this book. If we aren't evaluating our own thinking we will never change the system for the benefit of our students. Technology must be looked at from a different perspective instead of the current perspective from a weakness view. If we look at how we could possibly use tech to make learning better then we can begin our journey of making successful learning environments for students. Lessons that we teach need to accelerate students and work off of their strengths. Give them choice and watch them grow. So many times when we remediate we do what the status quo is, change that around to a strength based acceleration and I'm sure things will change for the better.

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  23. In chapter 8 the quote that stood out to me the most was on page 131 "once people see leaders take risks, they are more likely to try their own ideas ans stretch themselves--and their students. I try to model the use of technology as much as I can for the staff and the students. I feel if I am going to ask them to use it, then I must use it as well.
    In the 4 questions in chapter 9 #1 is the most important to me. As a principal it is my belief the decisions I make should be guided by this question. I tell the teachers to try something new. Take a risk. If it does not work, but was attempted because it is good for kids, then it is fine. There might just need to be a slight adjustment to make it work the next time.

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  24. A strength in our school is the willingness of administrators to purchase and try new technology. Once we recognize the possibilities we show how it is related to our learning and encourage others to try these ideas. Sometimes it does get overwhelming with so many opportunities and new ideas.
    It would be great to lift the barriers and blocks that reduce the opportunities available to our students. With this comes a need for increased awareness of safe internet practices and limitations of the network infrastructure. Students have difficulty sorting through the massive amounts of information available and what is valid and reliable. They also do not understand why streaming video to listen to music would cause issues from an IT perspective.

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  25. This school year, our school has begun focusing more on student strengths in the idea of the growth mindset. I would like to develop this more in the classroom with my students on a higher level. I think it is important to know our own strengths as educators and show students that we are still learning and growing. It seems to me that some of educators get comfortable in their positions and do not learn and grow in their current positions. Our principal asks each year about open positions and anyone that would be interested in moving to the position, but no one wants to change where they are now. Next year, I would like to work more on growth mindset and to help kids showcase their strengths and how they can share those with others.

    The four questions that Couros poses about technology are questions everyone should be asking. We always need to ask what is best for kids. If we are not asking ourselves that question and focusing on what is best/easiest for us, then the kids will suffer in their learning experience. Asking ourselves how these technologies are improving learning is also essential. When our school district went 1:1 with iPads a few years ago, a couple people were identified from each building as part of a technology cadre. We attended professional development sessions and then used that same information to share with our staff at PD sessions. I have not used some of those apps since then. Were the apps necessary and relevant, not really, so why were they purchased?

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  26. This week, I felt that the chapters spoke directly to me, my classroom, my goals, and vision for the future. Last year I took the viacharacter.org strengths-based assessment and learned that the strengths I had always felt I had were justified in my results. Using my top five strengths (leadership, fairness, social intelligence, humor, and kindness), I have worked to develop my classroom activities with my students strengths in mind. “By continually offering opportunities that stretch students in their strengths, they improve their learning skills, as well as their belief in themselves” (Kindle, Ch. 8). I know I have pushed my students to new limits this year in their reading and writing, but getting feedback from them reinforcing their pride in their accomplishments, has made the risk well worth the investment. I believe continuing to evaluate our curriculum and provide learner-focused tasks in the classroom (such as PBL projects with a balance in rigor and empowerment) will allow students to focus on their strengths, but address their deficits in the learning process. “Learning is messy, and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth and revision” (Kindle, Ch. 8).

    “Technology invites us to move from engaged to empowered” (Kindle, Ch. 9). The first question is the focus and basis for all of my planning. I do not plan lessons that are easy, convenient, or best for me; I plan lessons intended to stretch and push my students to meet their goals and full potential. This rings true with the use of technology. It is not a “magic fix” that is going to benefit students unless there is intention and purpose in its use. I have seen so many students grow when school does not seem foreign to them with the use of technology. I have watched the shy student, afraid to talk in class, use apps to share ideas not only with the teachers, but other students. What is the static: we remember 90% of what we teach others? If this is the case, let us empower students through the use of technology, when appropriate and meaningful, to be teacher learners in the classroom. Let us build a culture of trust in our schools to empower these beliefs. “Innovative environments should be built on trust, not the lack of it” (Kindle, Ch. 9).

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  27. I work with high school seniors less than a year from graduation. My students need to retake classes that they have previously failed in order to meet graduation requirements. Sometimes I feel as if my whole school runs on a deficit model not by choice but by necessity. I realized while reading Chapter 8 that I need to focus more on my students strengths and interests within the framework of the classes that they may not like. I already make a conscious effort to try and interest them in the subject matter to try and reignite that spark of interest that may have been lost in previous attempts. Using technology to add an individualized approach to both instruction and assessment may allow me the flexibility to actually focus on my students strengths.
    Chapter 9 got my attention when it started about YouTube. My students are on YouTube all the time. I am constantly redirecting them from music videos back to school work. Blocking YouTube would be beneficial in so many ways for my classroom. The funny thing is, my favorite class in college used YouTube all the time. My teacher used short clips as hooks to draw us in, and other times would use videos to give us a visual of the concepts his lectures were about. I do this on occasion but as I was reading this chapter I was thinking of ways to allow my students to use YouTube in ways that would help them in class, not hurt them. It really is about balancing risk and reward.

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  28. I teach a math class for students that struggle with math. I don’t believe the answer is to not have them take math, but to teach them in different ways to help them better understand the concepts that they may struggle with otherwise. While I may not have a flipped classroom for this class with regard to technology, I do use the concepts of a flipped classroom for these students. They are at the board doing problems, and working through struggles, which allows me to see in real time where they need extra help and where they are understanding how to work through solutions. I am fortunate that I have a small class, because it allows me to tailor my instruction to each student’s individual learning style. I have student who does like writing on the board, so I am able to do other activities with her that allow me to meet her needs. I believe that the key to all of this is the smaller class size. Being able to meet the individual needs and spending the time investing in them, allows the students to succeed in my class where they may normally struggle in the normal classroom setting.
    Technology cannot be a “one size fits all” concept. There are many pieces of technology that I would like to integrate into my classroom, but I don’t have access to them. To pull from chapter 8, a survey was sent out asking teacher what they would really love to teach and/or what would you really love to do? I would love to be asked this question in terms of technology and what I think would be beneficial in my classroom. This would help address the first two questions Couros asks. The fourth question of serving the few versus the majority is a struggle for me. It seems like in our corporation it’s an all or nothing concept. Technology is given to some that have no desire for it, while others who want to use newer technology are not given the chance.

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  29. First of all, I feel like the research by Rath quoted in Chapter 8 about correlating engagement with managers ignoring, focusing on weaknesses, or focusing on strengths is probably the most powerful thing I've read in the book so far. It is always challenging to confer with students every day during language arts, but those research results motivated me to meet with as many students as possible this week and to set a goal for more conferences each week in the future.

    I'm happy to say that in my school corporation we continually measure what we are doing against the answers to "What is best for kids?" We strive to do what is best for kids, but sometimes what is best for kids--creativity, learner-centered education--comes into conflict with things like ISTEP prep. (So glad for our good news about future assessments this week!) Question number three, weighing out risk vs reward, comes into play for us all the time with our 1:1 iPad initiative. We have found that we stand with Couros regarding YouTube: it benefits our students, AND we have to work on how to use it appropriately. I find when my students want to do anything creative, their number one choice is YouTube. There is an efficiency to watching a three minute video to learn how to put a meaningful project together. We are definitely the richer for our use of technology.

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  30. In chapter 8, the quote that stood out to me was on page 131, “ once people see leaders take risks, they are more likely to try their own ideas and stretch themselves…. And their students. I really liked this quote because I try to do this with my students. I am a special needs teacher and teach math. I am trying to “flip” my classroom and it has been a slow process, but the students are catching on. I have made videos for my lessons and have the students watch them at home and try to do their home work based on the video. We then have a chance to come back in and have discussion and ask questions. They students are learning that technology is not so bad, and that they are capable of doing more than they thought.
    I also liked the four questions in chapter 9. It appears that a lot of us are in agreement on this. These questions should be used for all the decisions regarding instruction and learning.

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  31. At 54 I've been determined to not get negative as the years roll on. Thankfully, with a change in my teaching role, I've actually been WAY more positive recently, because I very much enjoy teaching Gym/Health, and have always tried to be a positive teacher and coach. Students respond much better when the correction is limited and the praise is considerable. As for technology, it wasn't that long ago, for my age-group of teachers, that email was new! While not feeling that I am a "natural" with technology, I have attempted to embrace it: (recently received an iphone, chromebook, our school uses Schoology,one to one, etc.)We are also blessed with an excellent tech specialist at our MS (as is our HS), and her PD days, workshops, and other help has been very helpful and valuable. We have done eLearning days this year that were very successful, and that helped me gain confidence. I'd also like to add this: while reading I've been struck with George's extreme positiveness in all areas, and his ability to praise others for their fine work. The idea of focusing on one's strengths is a philosophy I have taught and coached by for a long time now, and when I see the benefits of that approach, it encourages me to continue to "fight the good fight."

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  32. I feel that I create a positive environment in my classroom in terms of students feeling comfortable to ask and answer questions. However, I think the relevancy of algebra to their life is lacking. One way, in math to incorporate student interest is through word problems that are authentic and not the generic "one side of the square measures 3+7sqrt18." Another important aspect of student interest is attending extra-curriculars that they are involved in. This shows them you care.
    As far as the technology questions go, I think it is very important to consider whether the technology is really serving the kids in the way we intend it. For example, I made some videos through educreation for a day when I was having a sub since I still wanted to introduce new content. Some kids watched them, some did not. Some who watched them reported that "video lessons" are not good for them because they can't ask real-time questions. So rethinking my sub plans, I might try a mini-lesson with a game or activity where students have some instant feedback either from a computer or their peers.

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  33. Students today have so many amazing talents and gifts that we hardly get to see in the classroom. Creating an environment where they can focus on their strengths is wonderful idea and while I feel that all classrooms should definitely use this to some extent, I feel it is equally important to build up the weaknesses so they are no longer weaknesses.
    Just because kids do not enjoy writing papers or they say they "aren't any good at it" should not disqualify the importance of writing a paper. I think that instead of changing the entire assignment or focus of the paper we need to change our focus on the individual talents/gifts of the students. If we know and understand that a student is a poor writer, not by choice or lack of effort, then that child should receive a different level of assessment. On the same note, if a child receives a poor grade because of lack of effort and they have consistently received poor grades because of lack of effort then something needs to be changed in order to help motivate that child. That could mean that we praise the work that was done and then help them individually with the corrections or issues.

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  34. Many people said these chapters couldn't have come at a better time, and I agree! I love when I read something and it applies to my life at that moment!

    One of the things that stuck out to me in chapter 8 was where he spoke of ownership, and how they did their own professional learning within their school. I love it! He suggested having them be on teams where they were comfortable, not forced. What a genius idea!

    As for chapter 9, I loved the question "What is best for kids?" That is my principal's motto (or close to it!) When we plan on changing anything, whether the schedule, a class, or even a project we need to look at if it benefits the kids or us. I've been blessed to have an administrator that forced me out of my comfort zone, and now I feel more confident to use different things in class that are better for the kids, even if I don't completely feel comfortable (yet).

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  35. How am I focusing on strengths in my classroom? In my first period class, my students love to talk, or discuss their reactions to a passage. This approach does not work well with my 5th period class- these students want to respond in writing. As long as students are thinking, the means by which they show me is fine. Allowing students to select their "response of choice" has allowed students to take ownership of their learning. I also think that focusing on strengths does not always refer to the ways in which students learn or how they respond; sometimes, focusing on a strength in a single student might be recognizing a student's natural ability to lead others, and helping that student realize the importance of that ability. Posing questions that require students to think about how they may want to use such an ability gets a student thinking about differences that he or she can make.

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  36. I think the four questions at the end of chapter 9 are very helpful in planning lessons and activities. With many schools moving to 1:1 technology, it is helpful to have guidance in deciding what to incorporate in the classroom. My problem with technology is that there are an endless number of possibilities when it come to incorporating technology, and I get overwhelmed by all the ideas and choices. I like having the four questions from chapter 9 to run through when trying to determine if something is a good fit for my students.
    Another idea from this reading selection that will help me focus on students' strengths is to take more of a learner role when trying out new technology. I always ask the kids for help when I can't figure out something. Almost all the time I learn something new. I also learn more about my students and their strengths.

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  37. I like the idea of focusing on people’s strengths instead of failures. I think it’s important to ask myself “what went right?” Developing strengths is something we can get excited and show enthusiasm about. I am never inspired by looking at my failures, and neither are my students. A little praise goes a long way. If I am inspired to try new things, look for new solutions and new ideas when given a little praise, what might my students do? I especially liked the quote, “Learning is messy, and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth, and revision.”
    I came away from these chapters asking myself how I can have students explore their strengths and passions. “Do we really think someone will be innovative in an area they hate?” Amen.

    Ps. I like the term “learning leaders.” That’s what teachers have to be. We’re not just teaching the subject matter. We are teaching them how to learn.

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  38. I thought the question at the end were great questions for teachers. I think its always a delicate balance in technology and children. I have learned from having my own eight year old "school" me in technology. He can click through and be on games and apps before I even know he has my phone! What I have learned from him and from my students is that the technology (ipad/phone/computer) along isn't that engaging but rather what they are doing with it is where the engaging, learning, growing takes place. As we plan lessons we have to think what's the best way to get students where we want them to be, and technology doesn't always have to be the answer.

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  39. I thought the question at the end were great questions for teachers. I think its always a delicate balance in technology and children. I have learned from having my own eight year old "school" me in technology. He can click through and be on games and apps before I even know he has my phone! What I have learned from him and from my students is that the technology (ipad/phone/computer) along isn't that engaging but rather what they are doing with it is where the engaging, learning, growing takes place. As we plan lessons we have to think what's the best way to get students where we want them to be, and technology doesn't always have to be the answer.

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  40. I am intrigued by the idea of teaching to strengths instead of weaknesses. I need to continue to look for ways to encourage students in areas that excite them. I also believe wholeheartedly in allowing people to have some autonomy when looking at ways to do things. Through my whole career when delegating responsibility, I have tried to delegate the authority do decide how best to accomplish the task. In my current position as a classroom teacher, I'm not sure how that applies best to my students. I will have to continue to ruminate on that...
    The chapter on technology is interesting, because as a "one to one" school, we have some great tools at our fingertips. I have to find ways to use this technology to a much fuller extent. It is great to say, "find the answer, you have all that technology," but if that's the only way I use it, I might as well have a set of dictionaries for the students to use. Being my first year back in the classroom, I think I'm making pretty good strides. I have been consistently in the hunt for new and different ways to use our devices.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dennis,
      One way that you could get to know your students strengths is to have them take a strengths test: http://www.viacharacter.org/
      Then, it is easier to develop units/lessons when you know the strengths of your students. I have done this for students in a PBL setting to know the value of placing students within certain groups, but feel that it is appropriate, relevant and meaningful in any type of classroom. Not only will you get to know your students better, but what drives them as well.

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  41. I thought that the questions at the end were good questions. My school has a few ipads and a few computers, but sadly, most of the computers do not work. They are so old, that they are constantly having to be fixed. My school wants as much technology as possible during the school day, but also have switched out some broken promethean boards for a touch screen tv. Kids are complaining their eyes hurt and you can only see it clearly from straight on. The sides are all blurry since they did not buy the classroom version of it. Technology is wonderful to have but with the right decisions being made for the students and not necessarily of saving a few bucks. (when it comes to our "new" promethean boards)

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  42. The question that were asked at the end of the chapter should be questions that need to be asked at all levels of school and even afterwards in a reflective mindset. "What is best for the kids" is the most important to me. Every few years there are educational buzz words that schools focus their professional development on, but when I hear these words I often ask myself How does this help the kids" If it doesn't then what is the point? How does this improve learning? That "buzz word" will be around for a year or two until the next word tries to revolutionize the art of teaching, but it is not any good if it does not attempt to answer those four questions posed at the end of the chapter.

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  43. Beyond technology, I think presenting every option as wondering if it is best for kids is what a student centered teacher should be doing. As a teacher, I feel like frequently there are factors outside of our control who expect us to do tasks that perhaps are not best for kids.
    While my school is not the most technology centered, I have found that moving from a super tech heavy school to a not so tech heavy school has forced me to be a bit more creative with my teaching strategies. I find that often times, modern educators can easily rely on technology to do many things for us, both in good ways and bad. I think the most important thing is the balance. Students have to be able to use technology effectively and as a tool, but it needs to be in a balanced way.

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  44. I read chapter nine literally hours before announcing a school-wide ban on certain apps for our student iPads. Trust - not punishing the whole for mistakes of a few; that hit home. Instead of going ahead, I went back to the administration and we agreed to just continue with stronger digital citizenship education for all and more restrictions for the few when needed. We are in our second year of 1:1 for 6-12 and only in our first semester of school-wide digital citizenship lessons. We put the cart before the horse, but I'm confident that if we continue to encourage open discussions and conversations about creating a positive digital footprint, we will succeed in creating authentic learning when it comes to navigating the online world and building a culture of trust between staff and students when it comes to technology.

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