Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Think you're getting recognition for your learning? Think again. #edchat #profdev

Image Credit: Edutopia, Thinkstock
My father is a former police officer who took up photography when he retired. A few months ago, I asked him when he was going to try a new hobby. "Aren't you an expert already?" I joked, pointing to his overbooked calendar of professional photography appointments.
"I have enough videos I still need to watch that I could fill up eight hours a day for the next four years," he said incredulously. "I don’t have time to learn a new hobby yet."
The videos were from lynda.com, a professional learning website he started frequenting when he first picked up a camera a few years ago. This wasn't the first time my father constructed his own curriculum -- many of my memories of him from the '90s involve him scribbling furiously in a notebook while watching VHS tapes of the PBS show This Old House.
I've watched him create both a successful photography business and construct a two-story cabin from blueprints. In many circles, my father is respected for the vast array of skills and content knowledge he has gained through years of research and deliberate practice. What he's missing, however, is the piece of paper that recognizes that knowledge -- his highest level of educational attainment is a high school diploma.

Valuing Non-Traditional Pathways

The way we find, access, and share information has exploded in the last 20 years, and the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge is no longer reserved for the elite few. Now, anyone with an Internet connection (like my father!) can gain entry to the greatest public library system ever constructed.
Within our own profession, teachers are engaging in continued learning through personal learning networks, websites like Edutopia and MOOCs. Anyone has the ability to self-construct curriculum and gain the skills once exclusive to those able to pay for a traditional education.
Despite the vast shift in how we pursue knowledge, little has changed with how we credential those who acquire knowledge. We still primarily credential learners based on seat time and credit hours, and often only recognize learning pursued through traditional pathways.
I’ve seen many teachers expand their knowledge of teaching strategies via Twitter chats or at Edcamps. Yet, when it came time to report continuing education credits, teachers still only reported professional development "hours" that involved seat time and structured in-service days. If we want to support personalized learning for our students, we should...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Perspectives of Education Reform: Life as a Student, Teacher, and Administrator.

In the last decade, I've seen the education world through four different lenses: as a student, a teacher, an administrator, and (now) from a policy world.

When I was a student, I thought the world could be changed if we had more engaging teachers.

When I was a teacher, I thought the world could be changed if we had more support from administrative leadership.

When I was an administrator, I thought the world could be changed if we had more resources or policy support.

The rest of the blog post explores my journey through each of those roles, and the little bit of perspective that I've gained.


I used to hate school. With the exception of a few classes, most of my memories involved me sitting in a wooden desk in a strict row, staring out the window or sketching figures on a piece of paper, waiting for the bell to ring. It wasn’t that I hated learning; in fact, it was the exact opposite! I loved learning new skills and having new experiences, and I often felt like I was being stifled in a one-size-fits-all environment.

I often felt like my real education started when I arrived home. I would spend all of my free time at the library and traipsing around the house, asking my parents to teach me what they had learned. I watched my dad teach himself home remodeling, photography, and a variety of other hobbies through his own self-prescribed curriculum of online videos- and I became enraptured by the opportunities that the Internet was able to provide.

When I was in the sixth grade, I was asked to write a career paper- and fueled by this hatred for a traditional education, I told my teacher I wanted to be a public speaker for school choice. Luckily, she didn’t take my brazen statement offensively, and she gave me the opportunity to research some of the complex issues surrounding the public school system. I modified my dream job to being a public speaker for school reform... and ten years later, I decided to take the first step of working towards that dream job by being the first person in my family to graduate from college- and with a teaching certificate.

I thought that I could take that teaching certificate into a classroom and build an environment where students felt inspired to love learning again. I also thought that I could use technology to do that.