Now that's what I'm talking about!
We included 2 very brief videos just to give you a quick glimpse of what we saw. On the left is a video I took from the library at the Zoo School - look at that snow! Temperatures were well below zero during our visit to Minnesota! Moving to a more hospitable climate, we next visited the Anne Frank Inspire Academy in San Antonio!
I begin this post with a quick commentary about the weather - it mattered! Then follow the "Read more" link to read my analysis of these two schools in terms of our criteria for an Exemplary 21st Century School. You will also find a link to a page entitled, "What we did NOT see, thankfully!" My next post will provide more information about each of these truly 21st century, phenomenal schools.
On February 26 and 27, 2014 we enjoyed the opportunity to visit two schools. These schools represent the finest in the design of schools for the 21st century - from their educational paradigms, to the curriculum and instruction, to the design of their buildings and grounds! These schools were intentionally designed for the needs of the 21st century student!
On the morning of February 26, as we made our way from the taxi cab to the door of the school the temperature was about 4 degrees Fahrenheit. It had gotten down to 18 degrees below zero the night before! I am from central Texas, and my guests are from Chennai, India, where they have three types of weather, "Hot, Hotter and Hottest!".
As we walked to the building we passed small groups of students in the snow practicing Winter Weather Survival Techniques. We had happened to visit during one of the school's "J" terms, a 7-day intensive focus which takes place between trimesters. The video above, on the left, illustrates the amount of snow; this has turned out to be the worst winter in Minneapolis recorded history!
We had arrived at the School for Environmental Sciences, located in beautiful Apple Valley, Minnesota; it is popularly known as the Zoo School because it is adjacent to the Minnesota Zoo. The students conduct research at, and collaborate with, the zoo personnel in real world projects!
The second school we toured was the Anne Frank Inspire Academy in San Antonio, Texas. The weather was very hospitable! The school was completely amazing. Construction is 95% complete, and students will begin attending this school in the Fall of 2014.
Read more to learn about what it is that makes these schools exemplary 21st century schools . . .
I posted a resource on the Education Consultants Network, a group on LinkedIn. This post is a response to comments by two educators in England to my post sharing ideas on incorporating holidays as a means of helping students develop global competencies. Their comments, to which I am replying here, are posted on the Read More link.
This is my reply to them:
Dear Glynn and Cliff,
It seems to me that much of what you said was irrelevant to the purpose of the post. And there seems to be some misunderstanding on your part of some basic concepts such as: global competence, global awareness, the 21st century, global, national and some holidays.
While all children in today’s world are citizens of a global community, they do continue to also be members of a nation. These various nations have different cultures; all cultures have holidays. Some holidays are shared in many countries, but are nevertheless celebrated in different ways.
You complain that the images in my Holidays slideshow were “selective” and “not global”, and you used for your point that the Halloween images were from a "highly commercialized, American perspective". At no time did I claim that the slideshow would be exhaustive, illustrating every holiday in every culture. And, the highly commercialized images of Halloween in America are valid representations of a holiday celebration. Your complaint that Halloween in the UK has been ruined by American commercialization is not relevant to the purpose of the post.
If you did actually follow the links you would have found links to Halloween as it relates to All Hallow’s Eve as well as links to traditions for Halloween in many different cultures. My post was not intended as the ultimate resource for holidays in general, or for Halloween, in particular. I was not writing a dissertation, simply sharing some ideas.
Cliff, you criticized that you saw no reference to “Father Christmas”. Actually, Santa Claus is one of many personifications for Father Christmas. “In the English-speaking world, Father Christmas is associated with the development in the United States of Santa Claus, and most people now consider them to be different names for the same figure.” (from wikipedia) I believe that this is common knowledge to most people, but it is also easily learned after a cursory search on Google. As I stated earlier, it was not my intention to provide a comprehensive listing of every possible holiday in the world. The slideshow was simply a sample.
I always appreciate and welcome suggestions from others; I certainly would not presume to believe that I know or think of all possibilities. That is the wonderful thing about social media, such as this group on LinkedIn – it is a place where we can share, and in so doing, raise the quality of our offerings to others. How nice it would have been to receive some suggestions from you on what to include in the slideshow and the related resources to improve their quality!
You surely noted that the slideshow DID contain images of a variety of holidays in a variety of cultures and religions all over the world. Therefore, it IS global. And, yes, the pictures were “selective” as someone had to select the images in order to create the slideshow. How else would a slideshow be created?
You claim that the title of the post is inaccurate, and further proceed to state that it is not about “global competence”, but actually is about “global awareness”. What is the first step toward global competence, if not global awareness? It seems you are simply looking for an argument rather than observing the effort made in the post to give educators an entry point into helping their students develop global awareness, the first step in developing global competence.
The post was not merely an effort to advertise 21st Century Schools, but was an authentic desire to share with as many educators as possible some very exciting and relevant ways to connect these holidays with educational goals, including the development of “21st century skills and competencies”, one of which is Global Competence.
It is my belief that sharing these resources and ideas on the Educational Consultant’s Group will enhance the offerings of all of us who work with educators, especially classroom teachers. The resource is valuable and was freely shared.
The criticism that “21st century” and “global” are not the same, and that there exist many calendars around the world is a ludicrous argument. I would think that you would not wish to reveal yourself to be so nit-picking, cantankerous and narrow-minded. Most of the developed world (as well as the developing world) agree that we are living in the 21st century. Call it what you like, I am referring to the present time.
It is disheartening to see people who claim to be experts and leaders in education spending their time denigrating another educator’s sincere efforts to share something valuable, something about which they are excited and wish to share with others.
Education is not about arguments based upon semantics as you two also demonstrated in your inane criticisms of Sharon Biggs’ post on instructional leadership – “instructor” vs. “educator”. You stated “I still cannot understand why educators in the USA refer to themselves as instructors” and “I keep getting LinkedIn requests to recommend people for instructional design...I did not know the term so looked it up and was horrified to discover its US usage....come on...lets get shut of it.”
Perhaps you two need to hone your global awareness and competencies instead of spending your time and energies making irrelevant and insulting semantic arguments.
awareness – noun - the state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness.
competence – noun - the quality of being competent; adequacy; possession of required skill, knowledge, qualification, or capacity.
This independent school in Atlanta, Georgia is a campus for 150 students in grades 6-12. Class sizes average 6 students! While this is obviously a very different environment than Jeff Bliss' high school in Duncanville, Texas (see post directly below) it is very interesting how the needs expressed by these students echo the needs expressed by Jeff Bliss!
Jeff Bliss, a student at Duncanville High School in Texas, eloquently states the frustrations shared by students all over the world. His words echo the needs expressed by Brandon Hall students. The following video was created when one of Jeff's classmates used his cell phone to record Jeff's lecture to his teacher, Mrs. Phung, in his World History class. It was immediately uploaded to YouTube and has gone viral. News agencies around the world have shared this video with their readers and viewers. Thankfully, the school district did not punish Jeff, but is using this event as an opportunity to learn and make change (so they say!).
Obviously, every item listed by the Brandon Hall students is something Jeff's teacher was not doing! Think about what she would need to do to meet those needs - from the physical environment in the classroom to how she structures learning experiences for her students. Think about the four needs Glasser outlined - he states that until these needs are met no learning will occur - the need to Belong and to Love, the need for Power, the need for Freedom and the need to Have Fun!
Children 8 to 12 and their parents (or legal guardians) are invited to create and enter their best original lunch recipes inspired by MyPlate, the USDA's user-friendly guide to healthy eating. One winner from each of the 50 states and U.S. Territories will be awarded a trip to Washington, D.C., and the opportunity to attend the Kids' "State Dinner," hosted by Mrs. Obama at the White House this summer. These lucky finalists might also have their recipes served at the event!
My New Year’s Resolution for 2013 is to develop a truly high quality network utilizing social media. I am not talking about seeing how many connections I can get on LinkedIn or other networks, but selectively choosing high quality networks/groups, and within those, the people with whom a quality relationship can be established and maintained.
I have been exploring social networking for about two years now, My impression at first was not a good one. I found most of he blogs I encountered, published both by students and by teachers, were of such poor quality that I had no desire or need to read them. I also felt that many of the so-called “networks”, “groups” and “discussions” were not actually discussions or networks at all. People were, and for he most part, continue to post comments or questions, but in many of these groups no one is really talking to each other. In other words, there is little actual, meaningful conversation. I am sure you have had the experience of being in a face-to-face or telephone “conversation” with a person, and you suddenly realize that the other person is not really listening; they are merely waiting for a chance for you to pause so they can jump in with what’s on their mind, whether it connects to the topic of the conversation or not. Sometimes, (frequently) they don’t even wait for a pause, they simply interrupt.
Those are not people with whom you can build networks or relationships based upon meaningful, reflective, and sometimes humorous, discussions. Those are the “groups” with whom I do not want to waste my time. Blogging and contributing to discussions online can be quite time-consuming, and sometimes overwhelming and stressful. So if you desire a quality experience pick and choose your groups carefully.
Blogging and participating meaningfully in other forms of social media are hard work; they require energy, reflection, etiquette and excellent writing skills. Maybe it’s just a “pet peeve” of mine, but I really do not like to see a web post full of grammatical and spelling errors. And, no. I am not a high school English teacher; I was just brought up in a home where correct speech was emphasized. I'm not referring to the occasional typo or overlooked auto correction - that is incorrect. For example, I am in the process of writing a newsletter, but I keep running into a problem with the program I am using. I am trying to write something about the Tuskegee Airmen, but it keeps coming up as Tuskogee or Tuskeegee. So I am not going to "lose it" over a couple of simple errors.
However, if a post is obviously written by an educator, and it is full of errors, it's upsetting to me, and it certainly does not reflect well upon our educational system. No, we aren’t writing novels, but we should make the effort to present ourselves at least as competent communicators.
Writing and using social media correctly is something we must be teaching our students. As Michael Wesch, Ph.D., at Kansas State University said in his address to the Library of Congress, “Just because the kids have the knowledge to use these tools, to get around in them, does not make them media literate.” I have seen more than enough student blogs which make it clear that the students have no idea of their purpose or possibilities. I have seen strings of comments from various students in a class that look something like this:
C: l like your blog.
C: I’m so tired!
B: What is this?
A: This is so cool!
OR, I have seen class blogs in which it appears that every single student copied, word for word, the same page or sentence out of the same textbook, worksheet, or repeats the same fact that was told to them by the teacher (word for word).
These approaches to blogging to not demonstrate higher level thinking, reflection, questioning, wonderment, discovery or LEARNING!
We know that the students are already plugged in and blogging everywhere except at school. So why not at school? During the next few days I will be posting more thoughts about blogging, about what it means to be "plugged in", and why we should allow and enable students to use these tools to become truly 21st century thinkers. The use of these tools provide the ways and means for student to develop skills such as collaboration, creativity, methodologies of inquiry, evaluation, and many other of the "21st century skills".
Online safety and etiquette are crucial literacies for 21st century students/everyone. I will also share with you great suggestions from teachers around the world for teaching your students to blog.
As you can see from the sample comments listed above, students today are a long way from being blog-literate. They are not alone in this predicament. I have seen plenty of teacher-written blogs that are just as bad. You cannot just hand someone a computer and then walk away expecting them to automatically know how to blog in a reflective, meaningful, clear and succinct manner. That goes for everyone.
I am not saying that students cannot learn in a completely self-directed and interdependent mode; that has been proven by many, including the well-known Sugata Mitra, PhD., known most of all for his famous "Hole in the Wall" experiment in India. He did just that - he set up a computer in a hole in the wall, similar to an ATM, and just observed the children of the village teach themselves how to read, write, collaborate, and learn new languages. It was truly amazing!
As you saw on the photo at the top of this post, "Blogging is a Journey" - as is learning - and life. My personal journey has taken me on amazing adventures, including some explorations of the blogosphere, and I am not ashamed to admit that I am NO digital native which contributed to what I call a minor case of "technophobia". More and more, I have experienced delight when I "figure something out", and then I am bit more courageous about trying something else new (to me).
Hopefully, we remember Lev Vygotsky and his "zone of proximity"? (No, I didn't know him personally.) Then, somehow, all of a sudden we get it right, or maybe have an "aha!" experience, and we are filled with renewed energy, hope and self-expectations which will take us to the next step. And on it goes.
I hope that you will join me on this journey, not only discovering but creating a better life for our Planet Earth and it's globalized inhabitants.
I’ve been involved in education in one way or another for almost thirty years. I’ve been a substitute teacher, a grade school teacher and I taught a year of junior high. And for the last sixteen years, I’ve been the Executive Manager of 21st Century Schools.
Our Director, Anne Shaw and I have traveled all over the United States, Malaysia, Turkey, India and Vietnam on education related travels.
The common thread of these travels has been how to create 21st Century Schools. What has to be done? How do we create the atmosphere of change? How do we get teachers to learn what needs to be done? How can we create innovative students who want to become entrepreneurs?
These are all easy questions to ask, but difficult to answer. The answer most schools and school districts take is to hire a one-time professional development consultant to come to their school or district and do a one-time training session in order to train teachers to go back to their schools or districts and train the rest of the teachers.
I wish that method actually worked and all our schools were “21st Century Schools”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. One-time professional development works about as well as taking people off the streets, telling them that they were going to be put into a flight simulator, and when they are done in two days, they can teach airline pilots how to fly people around the world.
How can anyone honestly believe that they can learn in one or two days what it has taken the person presenting the workshop years to learn and perfect? It can’t be done.
That’s why needs assessments and on-going professional development are so critical to the very concept of “21st Century Schools”.
I’ve been many things in my life - teacher, pilot, racecar driver and software consultant just to name a few.
One thing I’ve never been is a politician. I’ve never been able to understand the politician’s lack of understanding about how critical it is to maintain the highest levels and standards in our education systems. I fail to see how cutting education budgets are beneficial to our nation or our national security.
I fail to understand anyone who believes that our education system is meeting the needs of our students. I fail to understand how we as a nation can look at our students and not see our nation’s most valuable resources! The students in high school today are going to be running this country in twenty to twenty-five years. In our own self-interests I would think that we’d want the people running our country to have had the best education that we could give them!
But it’s a sad truth that we aren’t. Most educators in schools today know that they aren’t really giving the best education they could be giving. There may be numerous reasons for it, lack of budgets, lack of time for professional development, or any number of other reasons.
The biggest reason I see, is a lack of understanding of how by changing the way we teach, the way we view schools and students, we could improve how those students learn.
It’s a big paradigm shift! But it has to be done. Other countries around the world are shifting to the 21st Century School model of education, and their results are beyond anything we’ve seen in this country. The United States is sinking lower every year in test result scores, while other nations continue to rise. We’re well on our way to becoming a third world country as a result.
So, what do we do about it?
As educators we have to set aside our doubts and skepticism and embrace change! We have to show our students, and in some cases our own administrators, that there is a better way. It’s not going to be fast, and in most cases it isn’t going to be easy, but it has to be done.
That’s one of the reasons we maintain this blog and do what we do here at 21st Century Schools LLC. We believe there is a better way, and we know what it is and how it should be implemented.
I know, I’m starting to sound like a salesman. That isn’t my intent, even though I’m going to ask you this; if you believe there’s a better way, then take a look at our special offer on how you can, on a limited budget, start your way toward becoming a 21st Century School.
Here’s the link.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my opinions!
21st Century Schools
The things I’m writing about today are probably going to make more than a few of my readers angry, but hopefully they will make others thoughtful.
I don’t mean to step on any toes, but I am going to directly challenge a few philosophies. These issues need to be addressed, and addressed now. So, here I go!
I look back in time and see all the great things we as citizens of the United States have accomplished together when the odds were against us.
From our very beginnings, when our founding fathers took on the challenge of creating a new nation and challenged Great Britain for the right to exist, we’ve fought prejudice and preconceived notions about our rights to be a nation and how to live our lives, but we prevailed and now stand alone as the only super power in the world.
When war was thrust upon us in December 1941, we were wholly unprepared but, as a people, we rallied to the challenge and prevailed.
On September 11th 2001, we were unprepared for the surprise attacks on our country, but as a nation we came together and did what had to be done.
In the early part of the twentieth century the world faced epidemics of polio, chicken pox, measles and tuberculosis. Our doctors and scientists rose to the challenges and for the most part, we have eliminated those diseases as a major threat to humanity.
Now we face new epidemics. These epidemics are ignorance and complacency. In many ways these epidemics are worse than any we’ve faced as a nation. Thomas Jefferson declared “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be”.
If we can’t find a way to fix our education system, and fix it soon, we will face repercussions that will make disease, war and terrorism seem like minor problems.