Just this… #IMMOOC

I could tie this to the ‘what if questions’, I could tie this to our Episode 4 from last night.

Maybe it hit a chord because we come back from our spring break tomorrow (I teach in an independent school, so we have one really long bread in March rather than winter and spring breaks).

Whatever – just this:

It’s not my creation; a colleague recently posted this on her FB page.

#IMMOOC Week 3, B2 from prompt 3 (part 2) #IMMOOCB1

What would you add to the list of what ifs?

  • What if there were no bells?
  • What if schools didn’t compartmentalize learning?

I split this for a couple of reasons… partly as a personal rant since I am very frustrated trying to find the time to get all this done. (and in my head it’s tied into the ‘what if’ that I want to add!)  I know it has been said that if it’s important you find the time… and I guess I am finding it; but at what cost? I do the reading, I read other’s blogs, I watch/participate in the videos and chats but I feel like it’s just keeping up, and not doing the quality job that I want!

I am a fan of High Tech High. I love the precepts in Wagner and Dintersmith’s Most Likely to Succeed. I’ve looked at the models implemented by other schools. How to make that work within the confines of a traditional prep school culture? There’s not going to be a sea shift change, so how to work the system in place so that we can do amazing things? It’s a process and a challenge that I’ve given myself – and while I’m not happy with only baby steps, I have to acknowledge that we are moving forward even if not at the pace I personally want to see!

Look at what Finland has proposed: no, not eliminating subjects, but blurring the lines. This is totally inline with how we ask questions – it’s why research groups in universities (and other places) have regular meetings including those who are not involved on a project; questioning with fresh eyes is soooooo important.

We often try to do this via interdisciplinary projects – important, but how much to we engender stress and frustration because of scheduling. Students are invested; willing; and engaged – but how to we better empower them, especially when it’s often so clear that they want that?

No answers; some ideas; and lots of rambling questions.


#IMMOOC Week 3, B2 from prompt 3 #IMMOOCB1

Which “what if” question challenges your thinking in the Innovator’s Mindset?

I don’t know if “challenge” my thinking is the way I look at this since I firmly believe these are how it should be; and I try to promote. But, I think the first one: What if we believed that everything that we has to make great schools was already within our organization, and we just needed to develop and share it?” is often the most difficult to promote. Because it’s about changing the fundamental culture within ourselves so that we can truly move forward with all the other what ifs.

My work with tinkering tenets (the first tenet is to start with what you have) is what pushed me over the edge with this in my own mind, and let me see that I didn’t “need” more, better, bigger;” sure, it’s be nice to have x, y, or z but we can do some pretty awesome stuff with what’s in our grasp right now.

My next challenge is helping other faculty buy into that concept – so that they can understand it’s about moving all of us learners forward via a mindset and not with physical things.


Learning a new tool – and feeling the pain! Week 2, To-do list (6) #IMMOOC

Create an image of a quote from either the book, or from a participant blog post (please use proper attribution).  If you are interested in trying this, check out canva.com.  

I have experienced canva. Felt a little frustrated because I didn’t find it completely intuitive (but didn’t we hear that it’s okay to leave ’em frustrated?) I did what I would expect my students to go: found enough of an online tutorial to get me started, even though I was dissatisfied that I could find video only and not text (which I prefer). That was the motivation to figure it out rather than listen all. the. way. through. yet. another. video to figure it out!  Most of it became clear, and I suspect I will go back and try another.


#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.

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.