#IMMOOC Week 3, B1 from prompt 3 #IMMOOCB1

Share some of your best ideas for building relationships and a culture of trust in your position?

  • Listening.
  • Having an open door.
  • Closing the book and having that ad hoc session in the classroom.
  • Bringing cookies to class.
  • Trying to be fair.
  • Attend a school game.
  • Pick up coffee.
  • Publicly thank and acknowledge others.
  • Celebrate a birthday.
  • Celebrate a cultural event.
  • Attend a performance.
  • Don’t assign busywork.

Anything that goes beyond the boundaries of “the job” and recognized the humanity of the student or colleague goes a long way to building the culture where everyone is vested for their own good and the good of all the  other stakeholders.

#IMMOOC – general reflections Part I

The journey so far has been invigorating and hectic. Still not quite caught up (and feeling the need to be a little linear about it, rather than jumping to ‘current’ work) but hopefully tomorrow’s blizzard will allot the time to get to the right place.

The “content” in Chapters 1-3 of the book has not been especially new to me since I’ve been reading and working on this for quite a while. Last year, one of our professional reading cohorts was an Innovation Reading Group – we read Juliani’s “Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom” in part because I had just delved into Genius Hour with some moderate success and I thought the book was really good. Well, I still think the book is excellent, but “The Innovator’s Mindset” is the book we should have read! (It was only just out at the time we were picking the books, and I had only skimmed it, not read it closely enough to be more vocal about the recommendation!)

I want to scale and print every image, make a quote board for my classroom, and get every one of my colleagues on board. I think I have some good ideas already for those reluctant learners – in the coffee pool, as well as in the classroom.

The reading so far has validated all that I’ve been trying to incorporate in my teaching as well as in my interaction with colleagues. Maybe that’s part of what comes with already being a groupie when you sign on; but it’s a good feeling nonetheless.

One way I am sharing my reading with others, is simply making a bulleted list of my highlighted parts – no annotations, and I’m not up to sketchnotes yet myself – and sharing them with my cohort. Not sure how effective it will be, I can only hope it might stimulate further discussions.

Week 2, Episode 2, prompt 3, Season 2 #IMMOOC

Discuss one of the “characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset” below in a give an example of how you exemplify this in your work (teaching or leading).


I guess I will talk about “reflective.” In the days long before blogs, I always kept a journal about teaching and  learning. I know that when I was responding to a supervisor’s classroom observation once, they were surprised that I could so readily call upon a series of my own notes and reflections, and that I wanted a discussion. I can’t tell whether the idea of continual reflection came from my teacher training or my scientific training. Either way, it’s always been important to me.

I try to carry that to the classroom; it can be asking for feedback for a project, or simply to ask my students to think about a lab experiment as part of their analysis. In a comment to another teacher about the importance of “why”, I almost always will toss that back to kids whenever they give an answer! It develops critical thinking, it empowers deeper learning, and (in science at least) it makes the responder think about what evidence they have for their response.

Same for me – If I were drawing – or redrawing this graphic, I would put “refective” in the center since I think all the other characteristics connect through and to reflection.

While I have aimed to be a reflective teacher always, I have recently been working with some of the strategies from Marzano, et al “Becoming a Reflective Teacher” .  I know that my best work comes through reflection. As a department chair of many young teachers, I want my colleagues to learn the value of it, too. Some things in the book, I admit I look at and go ~ meh ~.  But it’s well chunked up, and I think it’s because after 20+ years in the classroom, they’ve been bundled in my mind. That said, there’s a benefit to un-bundling at times and reverting to a detailed step-by-step reflection.  Going through the book to refine my own practice of reflection has been a worthwhile exercise.

(image from: http://immooc.org/2017/03/04/episode-2-and-blog-prompts/)

Week 2, Episode 2, prompt 2, Season 2 #IMMOOC

gotta work on titles….

Review the “Critical Questions for Educators” in Chapter 2.  Why are these important to understand those we serve in education?  What other questions would you ask?

  • The questions are:
    • Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?
    • What is best for this student?
    • What is this student’s passion?
    • What are some ways we can create a true learning community?
    • How did this work for our students?

While this chapter was validating for me as an educator, I think there is one huge question missing: Ask the students – what can I, and then we, do to help you learn; to improve the project/lesson?

And that is not even phrased well. In getting feedback from the students, there must always be a component of “how can we improve this?” Ask the kids what worked and what didn’t. Ask them why – when you have shown that you are invested in their learning; they will be very honest and give you constructive criticism.

In my school, we crafted an interdisciplinary project for that horrible, awkward time between Thanksgiving and Winter Break. It’s intense and the organization of the groups is a nightmare (I teach at an independent boarding school, with many international students, so we work hard to make sure the kids are in groups that have domestic and international kids, day students and boarders… since the there isn’t 100% parity in the sections  – some kids are in an honors level, some are in a different course, we need to make sure that there is at least one person who is in both courses doing the project, and that each student has at least one partner in each class. Despite this, it’s my favorite unit of the year.) We’ve done the project for several years now and as part of the peer reviews, we ask the kids about what could/should we change.

The important part is – we go back and discuss their feedback with them. If we feel that something shouldn’t be changed, we discuss the reasons; we implement many of their ideas. The learning has strengthened each year, and the kids are (mostly) willing participants.

  • I start my year, when asking my students all that student inventory stuff, to include three things that set the stage for me:
    • I want to more about ___ .
    • I wish the teacher knew ___ about me.
    • In this course, I am most nervous about ___.

I try very hard to make sure I get feedback routinely from my students; I find it is worth the time and makes for a much better experience for everyone.

Week 2, Episode 2, prompt 1, Season 2 #IMMOOC

In Chapter 1, innovation is defined as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. What are some examples that you consider innovative?  How is it new and better than what previously existed?


  • holding (some) meetings virtually – in the case of professional organization chapter meetings; it enables me to participate even when my day might not easily allow a trip to the on-site venue.
  • Data collection in lab classes – provides more authentic experiences, and allows us to get enough data to focus on the critical thinking aspects rather than the mechanics and cook-book activities.
  • Coffee pods (whether refillable/recyclable or one time use [boo]) – coffee is always fresh and can be customized for the user. If the refillable: less waste.
  • digital books: a whole library at my fingertips; in the classroom – the option for lighter backpacks.

One thing I’ve noticed as I try to come up with examples: I see a down-side to each innovation I cite. I know that I have to consider the end-goal, and risk-benefit analysis along with my personal biases as to whether or not I see something as innovation.

(image from: http://immooc.org/2017/03/04/episode-2-and-blog-prompts/)


Still catching up: Reflections on Intro, Season 2 #IMMOOC

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” ~ Albert Einstein.

Ok then. I am done. That sums up why we need innovation in both our teaching and learning.

But that does not a blog post make, really.

Like most introductions, this one lays out the plan. It’s a good one, in that it gets you going and invites you to keep reading. If I pick just one thing as my take-away (maybe because it coincides with my personal objectives for participating in this MOOC), it is that developing an innovator’s mindset is necessary for moving forward and must be embraced by all… as Couros notes: all hands on deck.

I originally bought the book from a recommendation on AJ Juliani’s blog, http://ajjuliani.com/ as I was becoming more intentional about genius hour in my classroom. That happened because of a few quick words with the author of a textbook I use… I’ve used it for a long time now; still haven’t found a book I like better, but I needed to shake it up so that my teaching didn’t get stale. I’d skimmed it, and read parts – was very excited to read in the intro that culture and action were section themes. But I didn’t read it closely until the opportunity for the MOOC came up. The first session did not happen for me, because I chose to focus on implementing Genius Hour in my high school chemistry class.

Having seen the power of that, and the positive outcomes that the kids have unknowingly transferred to their “required” learning, made it imperative to follow through in this second session.

So, reviewing the intro again got the juices flowing…. even if I’m off to a slow start – and still catching up!



Still catching up: Episode 1, prompt 4, Season 2 #IMMOOC

Your choice from the book on the YouTube Live session: (p27:3) What has changed in our world today that not only makes innovation easier to do, but also necessary for our students?

Had to sleep on which one to pick; because I think I’ve addressed them without realizing it in the very first posts.

I think i’d have say the internet – now so pervasive that the Oxford Dictionary has demoted the “i” to lower case. Because of the internet, I can search intentionally for a new teaching idea, read blogs and books and websites of those I consider expert, or I can just stumble across something that sparks an idea on any number of social media sites.  I can find the resources I need almost in an instant.

For the students, as I noted in an earlier blog, we have a “democracy of information” that makes it critical that we move beyond read this, memorize this, get tested on this. Even the best written tests cannot fully address how students must use the information. By innovating our teaching, we can better present the necessary whatever in ways that engage the students and get them excited to learn more… and be able to apply their learning in more authentic scenarios.

Still catching up: Episode 1, prompt 3, Season 2 #IMMOOC

If you started a school from scratch, what would you see as necessary, and what would you take out from what we currently do?

Well now.

I’ve actually had that honor to co-found a Nativity School, a middle school for inner city boys. They had to have strong aspirations to learn, not necessarily the brightest children, but their teachers felt that they were getting lost in their large classrooms, and these boys had the potential to do so much more.

What was essential:

  • For the students:
    • time to read for fun,
    • recess,
    • the opportunity to interact with the adults in a non-threatening environment,
    • community service,
    • sports times,
    • study time,
    • safety.
    • Hands-on learning across all disciplines.
    • We made time to talk to the students and get to know them as individuals.
  • For the teachers:
    • We made sure that we had regular professional development meetings with the teachers. Some topics ours (they were new, Americorps volunteers) and some were theirs.
    • It was important the PD was always linked to a relaxing, social event.
    • We celebrated the teachers on a regular basis, even if it was just donuts and coffee on a Friday.

What did we take out?

  • For the students:
    • We did not administer standardized tests.
    • We did not assign detentions, but the opportunity to learn from mistakes.
    • We assessed our students in unconventional (at the time) ways.
    • We took out fear (as much as we could) – of bullying, of failure, of embarrassment.
  • For the teachers:
    • We encouraged learning, trying new things.
    • We encouraged reflection on the practice.
    • We tried to reduce fear of failure.

It was the hardest and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.



Still catching up: Episode 1, prompt 2, Season 2 #IMMOOC

“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”  How are you embracing change to spur innovation in your own context?

Always learning. Always refreshing my teaching. I have explored Genius Hour in my high school chemistry classes. It was great, and needs some retooling. No worries.  I saw so many positive outcomes with my students. Simplest said: they are more willing learners. I’ve given assignments as “FedEx challenges” and had wonderful results from even my weakest kids. I ask for more student feedback. Sometimes I close the book as we discuss education and learning in the classroom with the students.

I have requested that somehow my administration gives me a way to help those colleagues that are tentatively exploring new ideas. (As we work to change our educational culture, we ar finding that some teachers need an “official’ nudge – even if they are already so inclined. Adults need the freedom to fail as much as the kids do.)

I admit it – I am often in the “ask forgiveness, not permission” category.  Living on the edge.

(image from http://immooc.org/2017/02/27/immooc-live-episode-1-and-blog-prompts/)

Still catching up: Episode 1, prompt 1, Season 2 #IMMOOC

What do you see as the purpose of education?  Why might innovation be crucial in education?

So much to learn, so little time. My mantra.

I want for my students to enjoy the pursuit of knowledge so much that they never want to stop learning. Anything. Anytime. I want them to ask good questions, and to be able to discern high quality answers. It is not about the content. In my mind, it never has been. If electron configurations are important to a student’s passion, then they will learn them. If not; I am happy if they realize that there is something about atomic structure that defines, predicts, requires a particular behavior. I do not see it as “settling” for lesser knowledge if that abandonment of specific detail means that they understand there are details they don’t know, but may need to ask about – and oh, by the way… how does science do x, y, or z – that’s a win.

Jeff Hoffman gave a talk at the end of 4th Deshpande Symposium (http://www.brainshark.com/uml/jeffhoffman) that was inspiring. He gave in one line, in my opinion, the reasons we must be innovative in education: it today’s world we have a “democracy of information” that transcends traditional boundaries. And it’s how we use that information that is at our fingertips that is so important.

We are educating in a different world. We know things instantaneously, and don’t have to wait  for the morning newspaper, or even the nightly news. It is our responsibilities as educators to enable and empower our students to understand and progress the world they live in.

(image from: http://immooc.org/2017/02/27/immooc-live-episode-1-and-blog-prompts/)