Byron's Babbles

Teaching Like Angry Birds

I am not a big game player on my phone, but I love Angry Birds. I have blogged about this game twice before in The Angry Birds Effect and Angry Birds University. Just in case you aren’t familiar with Angry Birds, it’s simple: the pigs have stolen the birds’ eggs. This has made the birds angry. Therefore, they allow you to slingshot and catapult them into the pigs’ fortresses. The birds love every minute of it.

The thing that still amazes me about Angry Birds is that a person can download the game and be playing in 10 seconds. You are given small pieces at a time in a way that makes it possible to master a level in 30 seconds. In education we call this chunking. I always wonder why we can’t create learning management systems (LMS) in education the same way. Instead the first thing that has to happen with a new LMS is to take a training on how to use. With Angry Birds this is done real-time as you go.

In Angry Birds the learning is paced and is scaffolded just like in a great classroom. Once you develop foundational skills you are given new birds with different abilities. At the same time different scenarios are introduced. This is a very engaging and developmental path to mastery.

The game also has a very well structured star ⭐️ system. And remember you are able to play over and over making improvements to reach mastery. We need to operate more like this in education. Players are also able to earn badges. I love the way schools are adding badging to their e-portfolios.

Another very cool addition is that of tools that can be used. These tools include an earthquake, a scope, extra power sling shot, bombs, and more. These really teach creativity and problem solving because you only get so many. Therefore, the player must decide the right time and how best to use these limited resources.

As you can see, Angry Birds supports many learning principles and best practices. Rovio just continues to make improvements. I last blogged about Angry Birds in 2014 and this game continues to improve and be a relevant example of how to lead learning.

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We’re All Unique

Thanks a lot Mr. KibblewhiteThanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite by Roger Daltrey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author of this book, Roger Daltrey, was the founder and lead singer of The Who, one of the great British bands of the ’60s and ’70s and arguably one of the most influential bands of rock and roll development. This book grabbed a hold of me right from the start and kept me engaged right to the end. I felt as though I was there for the Nazi bombing of Britain as Daltrey was born in 1944. Peacetime followed but the food rationing and lack of opportunities followed for his young childhood. Daltrey tells all and there are certainly lessons to be learned. One statement he made early in the book really struck me. After being expelled by the headmaster of his school, Mr. Kibblewhite, whom the book is titled after, Daltrey says, “If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did” (p.21). As a leader in education this really hit me like a ton of bricks. Unfortunately, it is true that some do lose site that schools are students, not the teachers or school systems themselves. I was motivated to blog about this in School Is For The Student: https://byronernest.blog/2018/11/18/s…

At the end of the book as Roger Daltrey reflects now, later in life, that his school principal was wrong to tell him he’d never do anything with his life he said: “We’re all unique. We all have our own unique lives. But seeing my life like that, I just felt overwhelmingly lucky. In the middle of this strange out-of-body experience, I said to myself, ‘Would you ever imagine the things you’ve done?’” (p. 238). Why do educators do that?

Daltrey leaves us with great lessons we all can use, no matter our profession. He said, “You can’t be mediocre. A band can be either terrible or brilliant. There is no middle ground. So you have to make tough decisions.” This lesson pretty much applies to anything.

Daltrey may be 74, but he’s still causing a sensation along with Pete Townshend as original members of the group who still tour. He’s also causing a stir with this great book that was released this past October, 2018. You should check it out.

~ Dr. Ernest

View all my reviews

School Is For The Student

I am reading an incredible book right now by Roger Daltrey, the frontman of The Who. As you know, I love rock music and am so intrigued by those who have artistic talent and took the risk to make it big. And, make it big The Who did…The Who is arguably one of the most influential formative influences during the development of rock and roll 🎸. I’m only half way through the book and now I want to meet Roger Daltrey. Oh…the places he has been and the things he has done!

“If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did.” ~ Roger Daltrey, frontman for The Who in his book Thanks A Lot Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story/Roger Daltrey.

This post is about a statement in the book and the reason for the title. Mr. Kibblewhite was Roger Daltrey’s Principal who kicked him out of school. So…he’s thanking him? That really made me think. But then Daltrey wrote this statement: “If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did” (Daltrey, 2018, p. 21). I haven’t been able to get this statement out of my mind ever sense.

Did you catch what he said? That someone should have explained that school was for HIM, not the teachers or the system. Part of the reason no one ever sat him down and told him this, is because we forget it, or never believed it to start with. School exists for the students. Period. Not for the teachers or the system.

Schools are such complex and contested institutions in my country 🇺🇸 and globally. While every member of our society is promised a good education, there are ongoing inequalities that are fueled by race, class, and gender. Somehow, I believe education failed Roger Daltrey. Now I get that he did things that caused the expulsion – he divulged those in the book. But, again, I go back to the statement I can’t get out of my mind, “If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did.” Daltrey needed to know the “why” and no one ever took the time to tell him.

Now you can argue that had he not been kicked out of school that any number of the 100 different paths that Daltrey would have taken wouldn’t have led to The Who. You are probably right, but how many other students are lost that don’t have the grit of a Roger Daltrey? For some, then, schools are seen as a means for learning and mobility; for others they are “sorting machines” that maintain social inequality. I believe we need to make sure that schools are student centered and not school system centered.

I have said it many times that many of the things we have done around holding schools accountable have forced us [schools] to make decisions in order to make the school look good without any regard to what the students need. We have it backward. If our students are successful and achieving the outcomes necessary for postsecondary success, then certainly, the school has done its job. It’s really about considering questions of relevant academic content, methods of teaching, ways of learning, and overall educational aims.

Another statement Daltrey made in the book was, “There was the maths teacher who hated me because I hated maths. I just couldn’t get it to go into my brain. I don’t know why they don’t work out which kids are good at maths and let them get on with it and which ones aren’t and give them a break. We still haven’t worked that one out today. It’s mad.” (Daltrey, 2018, p. 15). What he is really saying is why didn’t anyone ever make math real for him? Why was school work not made to be like real work. Daltrey went on to say, “Obviously it helps in life if you can add up a few numbers but I could do that. How else do you think I managed to work out how much we were being ripped off when The Who started making proper money in the 1970s?” (p. 15). Think about if math would have been taught in the context of managing a band. We must make education relevant for our students. Otherwise, we will lose them.

Our schools are effective only when we refocus on meeting the individual needs of students rather than the needs of the education system or the broader society. We must have our students ready to be a part of and function in a global economy and society. Remember, school is for the student.

Reference

Daltrey, R., 2018. Thanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite: my story / Roger Daltrey. New York, NY. Henry Holt and Company.

Teacher Leadership

IMG_3896This week I had the chance to do a couple of sessions on Teacher Leadership at the Impact CSUSA 2020 Conference that Noble Education Initiative put on. In the session we discussed creating a shared leadership model and engagement pipeline. I even did a plate spinning show to represent how hard it is to spin all the plates we need to as leaders. If we empower teacher leaders, we can spread out the load and keep all the plates spinning. We must create a supportive community where everyone helps to spin the plates. By the way, I can only keep three going at once, but brought others up and we were able to have all six plates that I have going at once. Another one of my metaphors!

IMG_3891First, let’s start by answering the question, “What is teacher leadership?”Here’s the definition I have always liked: “Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers, individually or collectively; influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school community to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement.” (York-Barr & Duke, 2004, p. 287) During the workshop, participants came up with a list of teacher leadership roles. Here is there list:IMG_3884I also laid out a seven step process for growing teacher leaders:

  1. Realize teacher leadership is essential
  2. Recognize teacher leadership as a teachable skill
  3. Recruit teachers to become teacher leaders
  4. Build leadership capabilities among teachers
  5. Nurture leadership qualities in teachers
  6. Empower teacher leaders
  7. Provide ongoing professional growth opportunities for teacher leaders

Of course it wouldn’t be a session by me without there being model making, innovation, creativity, and creations. First, I asked the question, “Why is building a great teacher leadership pipeline more like chess than checkers?” We had a great discussion in both sessions about this. We discussed how in checkers there are very limited moves and you can’t the checkers cannot be promoted until they reach the other side of the board – we believe everyone should lead from where they are. We discussed how chess is about strategy and a longer term overall play. I’m sure you get the idea.

I broke the participants into groups of four or five, gave them a chess board, pipe cleaners of all sizes, colors, and even with glitter, glue sticks, masking tape, little eyes, fuzzy balls of all sizes, and straws. I then told them that there objective was to replace the traditional chess pieces with ones that represented the ideal chess game for building an amazing pipeline of teacher leaders. I’ve got to tell you, it was amazing to watch them. Even more amazing were the descriptions of the chess pieces and and the discussion. Following are pictures of some of the games created:IMG_3892

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Finally, we created a list of attributes for effectively developing teacher leaders. Here’s our list:

  • Results-driven
  • Standards-based
  • Job-embedded
  • Differentiated
  • Linked to learning needs (student and teacher)
  • Collaborative in nature
  • Sustained over time
  • Discipline-focused/Content rich
  • Reflective
  • Evaluated

How are you doing at developing your teacher leaders?

Using A Different Runway To Help Students Take Off To New Heights

This morning as I was trying to fly home from Charlotte, North Carolina, the pilot came on and said there would be a slight delay. Because of the storm that was Hurricane Michael, we were going to have to use a runway that they usually do not use. He told us we would be using the runway going to the northeast, whereas typically the north/south runways are used. They would need 15 minutes to recalculate takeoff speeds, routes when in the air, et cetera. I was cool with it as long as we got in the air, headed north, and away from the storm.

As you know, I love metaphors, analogies, and similes; so here we go: I compared this to how, as teachers, we must constantly be making adjustments. We are constantly having to recalculate for our students and use new runways. We regroup students based on data, we spiral in new material based on mastery, we develop ways to maintain the proficiencies already mastered. Adjusting and recalculating instruction also means providing more opportunities for students to learn successfully based on information you gather such as their interests, work habits, motivation and learning styles and academic performance. Doing this on a consistent basis helps refine instruction so they can succeed.

Great teachers are those who know their students abilities, know the students proficiency of standards, and then use that information to determine how and what they will teach. They use educational standards and differentiation to guide instruction, while constantly focusing on 1) what the students know, and 2) what objectives (or steps) they need to take) to fulfill their goals. They focus on what the students can do today. How about you; Are you recalculating for a different runway for the success of your students?

Cultivating Your Team For Maximum Growth & Blooms

Consideration of the flower bed and the flower farmer is fertile ground that allows a leader to reflect upon her or his own performance. It gives insight into the needs of the flower bed (the people) and the outlook and perspectives needed by the person involved in floriculture (the leader). As leaders we need to develop ourselves as a leader and as a servant so that, together with our people, we can flourish and achieve our full potential in the purpose of our organization.

I was reminded of this flower bed analogy this week when working with our South Carolina 3D Leadership cohort. I already blogged about our project of carving pumpkins to tell the story of “Truths We Are Frustrated With.” Click here to read my original post about this project from our Indiana cohort entitled, “The Messiness Of The Truths We Are Frustrated With.”

Ms. Russell’s Pumpkin 🎃 Carving

Ms. Linda Russell, Kindergarten teacher at Mevers School Of Excellence in Goose Creek, South Carolina, carved her pumpkin in the shape of an irregular flower with her as the stem. Her point was that everyone, just like the petals of a flower, develop at different rates, different sizes, in different ways, and has different needs. As Ms. Russell works as Kindergarten lead, this is a truth she has to remember. She has to work hard to not be frustrated by this, but embrace it. As I always say, we work really hard at differentiating for our students, but then don’t do a good job of differentiating for the different professional growth needs of our team members.We need to design professional growth opportunities that embrace the fact that we all develop like flowers. Too often, we fail to be good gardeners (leaders) in providing the choice, agency, and nurturing our team members deserve. How about about you? Are you doing everything you can to enhance the growth of your blooming team members?

Relevant & Engaging Learning

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Doing An Engaging Lesson With Ms. Russell’s Kindergarten Class

This past week I had the opportunity to work closely with Mevers School of Excellence by focusing on student engagement and teaching using a relevant context. Most of you know this is a real purpose and passion area for me. I believe these are the two most critical components to student learning. It is just common sense that the more students are engaged, the more they will see the relevance of their experiences, feel connected to their school experiences and develop more positive attitudes and attributes, both inside and outside of the school walls. Student engagement must be part of a comprehensive strategy to have students fully develop their academic, social-emotional, civic and career knowledge and skills.

Learning in a relevant context is also a critical part to student engagement. True engagement happens when students discover that learning is a personal endeavor. Learning can only become personal when it is in a context that connects the learning to the students real life. In other words, as I always say, school work must be like real work. Mevers School of Excellence is a K-7 school and we discussed that school work can even be made relevant for kindergartners. I had the opportunity to work with Ms. Russell’s kindergarten class. Using pumpkins right now, at this time of year, for learning numbers, number sense, and counting is a real thing to these students. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; it just needs to be personal and real to the student.

When students make the connection from true engagement, they begin to understand that lessons and tasks are worthwhile because they help them meet personal goals they have begun to set for themselves, not just the teacher’s goals for them. Engagement and relevancy enable students to own their own learning. One of the activities that I had the Mevers School of Excellence teachers do during a professional development I conducted was to develop their own definition for student engagement and relevancy. To culminate their work, they developed a graphic recording of their definitions. Here’s the deal: If we want students engaged we must have students working in teams to experience and explore relevant, real-world problems, questions issues, and challenges; then have them create presentations and products to share what they have learned. Student motivation comes from lessons facilitated utilizing and encouraging student creativity, innovation, and problem solving. I have attached pictures here of their awesome work:

Schools need to have a systemic focus for all teachers to be facilitating learning in an engaging and relevant way. Student engagement needs to be intricately tied to how the school functions, supported in the context of a positive, safe, caring and equitable school climate.

North Carolina Leader Traits

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North Carolina 3D Leadership Cohort #1

Last night at our North Carolina cohort of 3D Leadership developed their top five list of good leadership traits and bad leadership traits. To do this we used one of my go to facilitation props (no pun intended), the toy prop gliders. Here is what participants did:

The groups then got back together and listed their top five list. Then the whole cohort voted on the top five good leadership traits and top five bad leadership traits. Here are the results:

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It is always interesting to me that as I do this in many different states and with individuals of different experiences, how different the lists can be. Successful organizations need leaders, someone (or as I believe everyone) who can inspire employees and lead them and the organization toward success. Leaders encourage others to work to their full potential, inspire creativity and aid motivation. During turbulent times, the need for good leaders intensifies. As I always say, “Leading is easy when things are going great, but really hard when it is chaos and earthquakes.” Someone who presents a clear vision for recovery, leads by example and instills confidence in those around them. A good leader has many traits, if you can recognize these within yourself and capitalize on them, then you can become a successful leader in your work environment and on your team.

By consciously making an effort to exhibit the traits highlighted by my North Carolina friends, people will be more likely to follow us. If we exhibit these traits on a regular basis, we will be able to grow our influence to its full potential as a leader. What’s on your top five list of good and bad leadership traits?

Employers Need To Know What To Expect

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 4.43.46 PMIn meetings this past week a theme developed: Employers need to know what to expect. This was referring to the fact that employers need to know what to expect that students coming to work for them will know. As I have continued my work, as an Indiana State Board of Education member and Chair of the Indiana Graduation Pathways, I am spending a great deal of time with employers, learning the employee skill needs. It is abundantly clear there is a skills gap, but I do not believe it is insurmountable. I believe the answer is to identify those transferable skills and competencies that every student needs. Additionally, the transferable skills and competencies needed for specific trades need to be identified.

Even though the study dealt with college students, The Chronicle For Higher Education reported on a study that dealt with the question of “The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates.” What the study found was that employers really value experiences outside of academics: Internships, jobs, volunteering, and extracurriculars. I have to believe this would also apply to high school graduates. From the many employers I have visited with, I would have to say that these things do apply to high school students. Maybe even more!

Below is the graph of the results from what employers want:

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One of the pieces of our Indiana Graduation Pathways we were very explicit about was the need for Work Based Learning and Project Based Learning. Just so we are on the same page, Work Based Learning is an educational strategy that provides students with real-life and real-world work experiences where they can apply academic and technical skills and develop their employability skills in a relevant context. Work-based learning encompasses a wide array of learning experiences, from exposing high school students to careers through activities like job shadowing, to providing incumbent workers with specialized training. Work-based learning extends into the workplace through on-the-job training, mentoring, and other supports in a continuum of lifelong learning and skill development. I really want to highlight the point of lifelong learning. We really need to get out of the fixed mindset that the pathway everyone should take is to graduate high school and go straight to a four year college/university. This is not for everyone and Work Based Learning can help provide an avenue for our students.

Work Based Learning is at its most powerful when experiences advance along a sequential, purposeful continuum. Experiences along the continuum are increasingly personalized and aligned with specific industries and occupations, providing participants with opportunities to contextualize what they learn and build their skills and knowledge. This also can provide the employer with a pipeline of employees that have been trained in their own environment and on their own equipment. In this setting employers know exactly what they are getting.

Even beyond the Work Based Learning, however, employers need to know what to expect from the students that will become their future employees. We need to partner with employers to develop transferable skills and competencies that all students need to know. We really need to take a step back and fully develop what every high school needs to know when he/she graduates. Make no mistake, I am not saying students do not need math, English, and the other cores we always discuss, but that there is more. Employers need to know what to expect from the future employees, that are our students. We need to listen and make sure what employers expect is what employers get. Furthermore we must also make sure our students know what to expect they will be expected to know when entering the workplace.

 

Pathways to Success after High School

A high school diploma no longer is the finish line—it’s now the starting line. Job growth and trends over the past 10 years have shown about 95 percent of jobs require some education after high school.

Recognizing that Indiana must offer more than a one-size-fits-all standardized test, the Indiana General Assembly took action to provide meaningful pathways for Hoosiers’ success. In the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers directed the Indiana State Board of Education to modify Indiana’s graduation requirements, ensuring students are better prepared to enter a new economy. The goal was simple: offer pathways that provide relevancy for students and better prepare them for life after high school.

Later that year, the State Board approved what is now known as Indiana’s Graduation Pathways. During this process, the State Board collaborated with national and state experts while engaging students, parents and educators on how to effectively deliver lasting value to all students through their education journey.

To complete a pathway, a student must take several actions, including fulfilling Indiana’s course requirements and completing an employability experience by applying classwork to real-world situations. This could include completion of an independent research project, participating in meaningful civic engagement or having a part-time job, apprenticeship or internship. Students must also choose a benchmark that best suits their career goals, such as taking the SAT or ACT to attend college, completing the ASVAB to join the military or earning a state-and-industry recognized credential or certification to join the workforce. Selecting and completing a pathway ensures students are better prepared to transition from high school to college, the workforce or the military.

While Graduation Pathways won’t be a requirement until the class of 2023 – this year’s eighth graders – some Indiana schools are implementing Graduation Pathways right now. In these school districts, parents and educators can have conversations with their students about an individualized graduation plan that provides students a relevant education, prepares them for the global economy fuels a desire for lifelong learning. Parents should have conversations with their local school officials to determine the implementation timeline at their child’s school.

Using Graduation Pathways allows Hoosier students to transition from high school into life’s next steps. Together, we’ll raise the bar for our state’s future workforce, so that today’s students will graduate with the relevant skills needed to compete in a global economy.