Guest Post: Unschooling

Jerry Obney is a high school Science teacher and a former colleague of mine. He does tremendous work in the classroom and connects with his students in ways that so align with my vision for teaching and learning. If you like his piece, please check Jerry out at his blog, or on the Twitter @jerryobney.


I fear the industrialized model of school has drained the creativity and innovation from our children.  When our children are young they have creativity, innate curiosity and the desire to learn.  It is not my belief that these qualities disappear throughout life but they become muted, softened and concealed by years of schooling.  The common practice of a reading passage, distribution of worksheets and a find and copy technique gets passed on from day to day in the doldrums of the classroom.  I see science teachers distributing a step by step procedure to a lab, while history teachers stand in front of a whiteboard passing off information of events that students have difficulty relating to.  I have spent a good portion of my career unschooling myself and I spend a good portion of my school year unschooling my students, getting past the idea of concrete timelines, letter grades and step by step directions.  It takes growing pains and frustration on the part of the students and the teacher.  “What do I do?”  “Where are the instructions?”  “Where do I find the answer?”  “Can I Google it?”  As a teacher of students I seek to tap into the childhood curiosity that exists in every student.  As William Butler Yeats once said, “education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

How do we light a fire?

Make the lesson relevant, create a community atmosphere that is safe and respectful, allow for self-discovery to take place, reinforce the discoveries with feedback, and allow the students to provide you with feedback. This type of lesson requires the instructor to do some unschooling of their own.  This idea inevitably leads to questions like, “how do I assess progress?”  “How do I assign a grade?”  “What if a student refuses to participate?”  When I hear these questions in my mind I try to stop myself and evaluate the core of my own questioning.  Am I falling into the industrialized trap?  Do I fear what my colleagues or administration may think if I do things differently?  If I believe in preparing students for real problems and real problem solving skills then why am I wavering when faced with these questions?  I felt discomfort at first, just as the students did, but these moments of discomfort lead to the most authentic types of growth.

What does the research say?

While the research does not specifically identify inquiry and problem-based learning as the most effective, it does suggest that it is a strategy that helps to close the achievement gap.   Nothing can produce better results than a positive relationship with students that takes care of Maslow’s Hierarchy, fosters a feeling of community and taps into the student’s natural curiosity.  According to John Hattie’s research there are two pieces that are imperative to make this style most effective.  Providing timely feedback and building positive relationships with each student will provide more positive learning outcomes.  The feedback piece for this style is very flexible and can be approached in a number of ways.  While students are working in their groups I spend every moment sitting with, discussing and listening to students as they exchange ideas and brainstorm ways to solve the problem.  The second piece, building positive relationships will build as you have these interactions in class, but must be backed with an authentic love for each of the students that are in your classroom.  Without love as the backdrop, the classroom cannot function to its fullest potential.

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#FETC 2015 Session Video Available

In January 2015 I had the pleasure of speaking and attending FETC 2015 in Orlando, Florida. The nice people at FETC were even so thoughtful to record my session, 60 Instructional Strategies in 60 Minutes. This is one of my favorite sessions to present; it is fast-paced and changes every time I give it.

You can check it out here: bit.ly/meechinfetc2015

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Enjoy!

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under services.

Why You Mad Bro?

I speak often with educators about the incorporation of technology into their classrooms and curriculum. During these convos I often share tools as well. What always leaves me perplexed is when I share out a great technology and the response I get is; “Why are we teaching them the easy way out?”

My response: Why you mad bro?

As I get ready to tackle FETC 2015 this week – I am excited about the conversations and connections with tech-savvy and not-so-tech-savvy educators. I am also reminded about those that are not as accepting of the tools that are used by the digital natives that populate our schoolhouses around the nation.

So, I challenge you to open your mind. We cannot be mad that our students have access to technologies that are effective (and way cooler) at bringing information to their fingertips. Encourage our students to use these tools to engage in the work they do for you in your classroom.

I am reminded of a Seth Godin quote; “Open book – look it up. All the time.” Our students have access to information in ways that we did not. Now it is time to shift the way we teach to challenge students in ways that we were not.

If you are out at FETC 2015 – and I hope that you will be – stop by and say hello. I have two sessions and I will be sharing many great tools that you can put into practice the very next day.

Jan 23, 2015

Sixty In Sixty: 60 Instructional Technologies in 60 Minutes
10:00A | S310GH

Technology for Schoolwide Impact
01:00P | S310EF

Why you mad bro?

Hope to see you in Orlando.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

What We’re Doing With Remind101

I have the privilege of working with some amazing educators in my schoolhouse, and I wanted to share what we’re doing with Remind101.

Remind101 is a technology that allows educators to provide one way communication to students, parents, etc… via text message simply and efficiently.

My teachers began using Remind101 last school year in sporadic fashion. So, this year we focused on bringing Remind 101 school wide and ensuring that our teachers were taking advantage of this powerful communication tool. But, that wasn’t enough for us…

We felt that there were other areas that we could use Remind101 to communicate in several ways with our students and parents. We would like to outline a few ways that we are making Remind101 work for us @poincianahigh.

Remind101 Stakeholders via School Website

We have posted our Remind101 subscription code on our school’s website that allows stakeholders to subscribe to our feed. We publish important school information, announcements, and shout-outs on our Remind101. The feedback we have received has been great. Stakeholders really enjoy receiving the information via text message and we love the ability to be able to schedule reminders ahead of time.

State Assessment Review

EOC ReviewAs a school, we were looking to engage our students outside of the classroom to encourage them prep for state assessments. We also wanted them to use technology… enter Remind101. My Science Coach developed signs that outlined how students could Remind101 Biology End of Course Assessment practice right to their mobile device.

We posted signage throughout the school that outlined the quick how-to. After that my Science Coach would Remind101 practice questions to our students enrolled in the group. Students would have to come and explain the answer to us during lunch. Students ate it up – they were coming down and having higher level discussions about Biology during their lunch. The response was impactful for our students – we like that.

Attendance Intervention

Remind101 Wake UpLike most at-risk schools, we have attendance issues. We decided after reading about and idea on the Remind101 blog to use this technology as an intervention to address our attendance issues.

What we did was use data to identify our most at-risk attendance issues. We met with these students and enrolled them in our Remind101 wake-up program. We send out three reminders each morning, beginning at 5:45A, waking our attendance issues and hopefully encouraging them to get to school.

Our reminders are witty comments or inspirational quotes meant to motivate our students to get to school that day. We follow up our first Remind101 with two additional wake-ups each morning. We like the data that we are seeing in return. In our first semester using Remind101 for this purpose, we got an increase in attendance for 83% of students in our pilot cohort – we like that.

These are just some of the ways that we are using Remind101 @poincianahigh. I hope that this helps you to use this powerful technology in your school, with your students.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

FETC 2014

Well, it’s that time of year again. The Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) is right around the corner with it’s 2014 version.

I will be presenting again this year and could not be more eager to connect with fellow like-minded tech-saavy educators from around the country and the world. You will find me at the front of three sessions for FETC 2014; all of which you can find listed below. New friends, old friends… I look forward to connecting with you there.

My FETC 2014 Sessions

01.30.14 | Digital Assessment: Using Mobile Devices for Assessment
8:00 AM (Ticketed BYOD Workshop)

01.30.14 | 60 Instructional Technologies in 60 Minutes
10:00 AM (Get there early… this one was at capacity in 2013.)

01.30.14 | Blogging with a Purpose: A Different Approach to Assessment
1:00 PM (Common Core focus)

You can find full descriptions for each and every session offered at FETC 2014 at http://www.fetc.org.

Until then you can find me on the Twitter @mikemeechin.

See you in Orlando.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mikemeechin (at) gmail.com
@mikemeechin

Blogging and the Common Core

Ah, the Common Core… that’s right – I said it.  They are here – whether we like it or not. Blogging is a great way to engage our students, but also address some key Common Core Standards at the same time. In fact, I feel like some of the anchor standards were written with student blogging in mind. Check them out…

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard 6

If we break this standard down – we can clearly see how blogging is a perfect fit for addressing this standard with your students. Blogging requires students to produce and publish writing. The days of students writing for one person, the teacher, are over. Common Core requires that students now publish their work – what better way than for students to blog? In addition to that, blogging encourages students to collaborate with one another as well. Moderated commenting can allow students to collaborate with one another safely. You could also have students write group blogs, where they collaborate on articles in pairs or small groups. If you are a teacher thinking about, or already implementing blogging in the classroom I would encourage you to check out the link below of all of the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing. http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/W If you are arguing for blogging with your students and it’s effectiveness… I would encourage you to use the Common Core Standards to begin a conversation with the powers that be. Mike Meechin mike.meechin (at) gmail.com @innovateed

Socrative and a Film Engage Assessment

Movies in the classroom… you know you’ve shown one before.

I was guilty of it too when I was in the classroom. As an administrator I do not necessarily want my teachers showing films to students – unless they relate to the standards of course. So when a film relates to the content and we want to use it to provide a visual for concepts already taught; how do we ensure that students stay engaged throughout? How do we ensure that students stay awake when the lights are off and engaged in the viewing process?

The answer is a tool that I used in the classroom; I called them film engage assessments. I used @Socrative as the driving force and delivery method. If you are not familiar with Socrative, check it out here.

Here is how it works.

As students watched a film in my class, we would use Socrative and I would run a teacher-paced quiz on my student’s devices. For this example we will use the film Glory as the example. The Socrative Share Code is: SOC-594065, if you want to run it in your Socrative teacher dashboard.

The engage assessment consists of ten open-ended short answer questions. Because this is a teacher-paced assessment, I would launch the questions as the students got to the scene they related to. Students would use their devices (Socrative runs on ANY web enabled device) to answer the question.

Socrative allows you to email or download a report of all student answers at the completion of the assessment. I would use the report to guide discussion at the conclusion of viewing.

Keep in mind that this strategy would work with and length of film – from short video clips to feature length films. It is an easy way to keep our students engaged while they view pieces of film in our classrooms.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin (at) gmail.com
@innovateed

Using Evernote for Classroom Walkthroughs

I wanted to share a brief video that I created to show you how my team uses Evernote for classroom walkthroughs.

Evernote is an amazing company that is devoted to a quality product (which at its basic level is free) for education. One of the strongest benefits for me is that Evernote is available on all of my devices and it auto synchs. This allows me to have my data whenever, and wherever I need it.

You can download Evernote at www.evernote.com, or for your iOS or Android device.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Shift Happens

Shift. It happens.

What can I say? It’s been a while since I have found time to sit down in front of my keyboard and put my thoughts onto the screen for you to read. It is good to be back.

Since I last wrote I have had a major shift in my professional career – being promoted to Assistant Principal with a large, urban high school in the Atlanta, Georgia area. It has been a major shift for me… and it happens. Just as I shift, this blog will shift as it has before. I am excited to bring new content and my reflections to this blog as I journey down this new path.

I am excited to write more and also to continue to contribute over at the Coop Catalyst – where you can find the work of many great ed reformers.

I thank you for your readership and interest in the Transparent Curriculum.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

A Different Take on Transparency

In education we read, speak, receive PD about transparency and its place in our profession altogether too often. Now, having said that – I am all for transparency (check the blog title) in the public education system. In fact I would argue that it is imperative in our schools.

Today, however I want to write about a different take on transparency; a take that deals with how we put in place the leaders of our education systems across the nation. I would also propose a plan (that is being carried out in some districts) that requires transparency in the hiring process.

Superintendent positions often require community review of a candidate. My argument is that we need to replicate this process for school principals and assistant principals. Too often in the public education system it is about “who you know”… and in this business, where our commodity is children – we can not allow decisions to be made on who one knows.

The hiring process of school leadership must be transparent and open to members of the community that a school serves. I know that there are those out there that will argue for the sake of time. I would argue that we must find the time – and the time to take a stand and demand transparency in the hiring process at all levels is now.

School based leadership is essential to student, school and community success.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed