Archive for category Leadership

Still in transit…

Getting to south Africa has proven to be a bit of a challenge. Not because of paperwork or documentation because that all went very smoothly. So glad we followed the South African Embassy process. That proved to be the best part of our overall paperwork.

But, the time it takes on the flights and the connections in between makes it a bit of a daunting task to travel about a third of the way across the globe to the south. The kids have handled it well, seasoned travelers as they are. We are in Johannesburg and about to board our final flight on the leg to Kasane where we will spend the next week in this general region.
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All checked in…

26 kids – 4 adults – passports and documents from a dozen countries.

All clear!  On the plane! Everything checked to destination. Life is good on the first leg of our adventure!

  

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Africa began…

The Ambassadors gathered at school for our departure at 3p today and the mood was good.  All was well prepared and every ounce of luggage utilized for the trip to meet the benefactors of their efforts.  Clothing and other gifts were packed in every nook and cranny.

So, as we now prepare for the long journey ahead (and the math tests I’m proctoring for some on the airplane), the mood is good and I feel a bus ride song is imminent.

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Africa Begins

I’m heading off tomorrow for an adventure with 27 of our high school students.  After a quick board meeting, I’m on a plane to Africa to help out with our school building projects in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  My thanks to all who contributed to this project both through the many activities throughout the year and via the Director’s Challenge fundraiser, which has raised US$13,000 thus far to push the kids to their goals.  You can still contribute to the project until the remaining spots are filled.  Contribute to the Director’s Challenge via PayPal or by direct payment to the AAS Cashier.

I’m heading off tomorrow for an adventure with 27 of our high school students.  After a quick board meeting I’m on a plane to Africa to help out with our school building projects in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  My thanks to all who contributed to this project both through the many activities throughout the year and the recent culmination through the Director’s challenge raising US$13,000 to push the kids to their goals.  You can still contribute to the project until the remaining spots are filled and completing the challenge while I’m away.

While I’m gone, I’m going to try and push out blog entries on my experiences with the kids.  So, please stay in touch via the Zimplicity blog and feel free to subscribe for my email feed to get notified of new content.

Finally, my thanks to all involved in Parent Conferences today.  I had a chance to spend some extra time in the North Gym this morning and there was a tremendously positive buzz in the room as both Middle School and High School reaffirmed our parent partnership for the work ahead in the final months of school.  Please offer your feedback to MS and HS administration for their hard work in preparing and implementing the new format.  They plan to review and continue to refresh their process next year based on your important input.

I should note that during my absence, you can seek out Ian Forster, Deputy Director, or Melissa Schaub, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for any concerns.  They will be capably steering the ship while I’m away.

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Getting to “YET”

Published originally in December, Carol Dweck has extended her work to include this reinforcement of her concepts into the notion of “Getting to Yet”.  From Sweden TEDx in September, she proposes the concept of a grade for a class being a “Not Yet” rather than a failing grade.

The concept of growth mindset has not be propelled more than through Carol’s work.  It’s a critical concept that should drive the work of schools more centrally.  In the framework of “personalized learning,” the idea of loving a challenge is central to understanding how abilities are developed.

It is still hard to understand this under an increasingly accountability frame of mind.  We can’t let go of necessary accomplishment, but the balance is through what we have “yet” to accomplish rather than building resumes that only capture the past.  There seems potential linkage here between extrinsic reward that has yielded the generation of workers focused on tangible rather than intuitive rewards.

Praise the process equal to the product…

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HuffPost Interview Caused Some Introspection

On a lark, I recently participated in a Huffington Post online interview on the state of American education as compared to a global perspective.  I got some good ideas into the conversation and rambled a bit (what do you expect for midnight conversations?).

But, more important to note that I felt bad about some of my comments after re-watching this.  I’m afraid I lost a bit of my optimism in this piece.  I was a bit critical in places and may have overestimated the number of international teachers that “escape” their domestic systems.  It’s possible I’m fairly accurate, as confirmed by my esteemed colleague in Japan.  But, nonetheless, troubling is the way I suggested it as a reflection on these domestic systems that are trying to understand education and come up with a plan for refreshing and retooling them.  As noted by each of us, there are pockets of excellence.  The challenge is still about finding a methodology that is transferable and sustainable while at the same time not becoming more factory assembly line than it already is.  What do you think?

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Are We Learning From Evaluations? – Leadership 360 – Education Week

In a recent article from Jill Berkowicz and Ann Meyers,

Are We Learning From Evaluations? – Leadership 360 – Education Week.

they make a case for fallacies that stand behind new evaluation systems that use scoring mechanisms for reporting “what isn’t being done well enough.”

I applaud them for their insight into this nutty problem of evaluation that has haunted us for decades.  I grew up in administration in Washington State where new evaluation systems continue to be debated while an instrument first crafted in the 1970’s is in continued use.  Changing educational practice is never easy!

But, Jill and Ann make the case that we should treat teacher evaluation on the same standard as student feedback, which is cornerstone to our current understanding of achievement and motivation.  Hattie (2008) has generally confirmed this precept.  As I read their treatise, I must admit that I experienced some tension over devaluing a professional appraisal process to the equivalent of providing effective feedback to a 6th grade writer.  Don’t misunderstand, I agree that giving a 6th grader a single grade on a written paper is unlikely to motivate them and does little in helping them learn how to become better writers.  I believe that the authors are making this argument quite effectively.

But, the evaluation system of teacher serves two purposes.  At it’s core, it does serve the purpose of informing improved practice.  The author’s quote here is quite profound:

In 1975 a Handbook for Faculty Development was published for the Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges.  In it they list 13 characteristics that certainly apply.  Feedback needs to be descriptive rather than evaluative. Sound familiar?  In the new teacher and principal evaluation systems, the requirement to provide ‘evidence’ is exactly that.  No interpretation, no value judgment, simply what was seen. Included in the 13 is also that feedback be specific, can be responded to, is well timed, is the right amount (too much can’t be addressed at once), includes information sharing rather than telling, is solicited (or welcomed as helpful) and plays a role in the development of trust, honesty, and a genuine concern.

I do find that our use of a framework of standards (Danielson, 2011) allows us to gather evidence and then align it to a set of descriptors that turns the evidence into feedback.  This feedback includes a score — and rightfully so!  Rubrics were written with the expressed purpose of quantifying the feedback and setting targets for performance in the form of exemplars associated with higher rubric scores.

This is where the authors fall short.  They forget that, without goals, exemplars, and appropriate targets, they are missing the true goal of effective feedback, to accomplish greater achievement – whether for students or as a professional.  To that end, we have to consider how the evidence we collect is utilized to provide for accountability.  Evaluators have to be able, through the noted relationships that must be in place, to have both facilitative and instructional conversations that drive improved practice and the development of expertise.  Somebody in that conversation has to make a value judgement for that process to be something more than just spinning wheels on the slippery slope of mediocrity.

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Great Start to a New Year!!

2013-2014 Opening Ceremony from AAS Moscow on Vimeo.

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ECIS Conference Presentation 2013

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Technology Integration in Schools

At a session at International School of Prague as part of the Spring CEESA Conference.  Discussion about the integration of technology and pushing the boundaries of our thinking on the topic.  The SAMR model helps us to see the context of integration and the transformational aspects that we are all seeking:

SAMR-Puentedura1

 

 

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TEDxAAS – My first one…

The students in charge of this did a fabulous job!!

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Chris Waddell Visits AAS

AAS Guest: Chris Waddell from AAS Moscow on Vimeo.

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ECIS Panel Discussion – April, 2012

Initial thoughts:

 

The initial question posited to the conference panel that I’ve been asked to address:

Information Technology in school – Does it improve  learning?

Gathered some resources to begin to address this question and related topics:

https://www.evernote.com/pub/chinazurfluh/technologyitems

The key issue associated with answering the question revolves first around how you define improving learning.  The learning targets that are currently accepted often revolve around norm referenced test scores because of our reliance on these measures to show growth or performance against a larger data set.  There is some validity to this because of the large data set available after decades of using these measures and the large body of experience with these measures.

However, these kinds of measures are ill prepared to measure 21st century skills.  They effectively measure math, reading, writing, and core knowledge competency, but they do little to measure attitudes, intellectual processing skills, and skills revolving around independence, collaboration, and innovation.  We have scores of examples of students who are truly gifted as leaders and complex thinkers that routinely scored below average on the accepted measures.

So, if you are asking me whether information technology improves learning, I would have to answer “No”.

There is no clear empirical evidence that information technology as an independent variable has a correlation to improved student learning as a dependent variable in the traditional, measured definition of the term.

I would suggest that addressing this question from a quantitative point of view is faulty at the outset.  This is the same logic that has led to American ignorance of the impact of poverty on education and learning.  We’ve spent more than a decade comparing our results to international measures only to ignore how poverty has impacted our bottom line.  A recent AASA blog entry highlights the fallacy of the standards movement to address educational reform while ignoring this poverty gap between the countries (e.g. Finland with 4% in poverty vs. U.S. at 21%).  Quantitative measures are insufficient in addressing complex issues.

Logic confirms that If we want to address what technology enables, we need different goals for education.  In the truest tradition of backward design, it begins with this question:

What world are we preparing kids to live in?

Addressing that question and looking at essential skills for a 21st century world is where we truly should be focused.  In regards to this question, the next logical qualified questions is:

Does the use of information technology in schools prepare kids for a technology rich world we can scarcely describe in the current moment?

Then the answer would be a resounding and passionate — YES!!  Now let’s design and build measures for addressing skills that emerge from this backward design and use measures that are meant to really test whether students are developing 21st century skills.  Let’s get beyond the issue of technology as an entity and look at how we create technology rich environments that eminently prepare students for the world of their future.

 

Hattie research:

and one recently reported danger from CNET:

 

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Christmas Letter 2011

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Wow…

Hard to find words to describe this…  Wonderful!!!

What a great capture of what goes on at AAS every day.

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Becoming a Lighthouse…

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The Future…

I know this is just a gadget on one hand, but for those with a science fiction come reality sort of mind, what are the implications of this?  Are we preparing kids for a world with stuff like this?  I mean really – Do the classrooms of today bear any resemblance to the technology they will live with after graduation?  Really???!?!?!?

This changes everything…

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Common Sense Thinking

These guys get it…

Look especially at 25:40 for the key question on individualizing… Powerful – listen for the shoe story.

 

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Candidates popping up in Russia – similar to U.S.

An article in the New York Times this week named the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets as a potential candidate for Russian president, but his actual run is far from formal announcement until his party tests their merit in upcoming parliamentary elections in December.  It’s interesting that this Billionaire Bachelor is a potential candidate in Russia while he would be unlikely for consideration in the current conservative atmosphere.  His tendency to frequent the clubs with Russian models is well known and he does little to hide this reputation.  Seems interesting that his party of record is name “Right Cause” and is clearly opposed to Putin’s party, United Russia.  He seeks a multi-party system where none currently exists and this may be a tough challenge.

So the question emerges — Can leadership that seems out of touch with the moderation of character and values survive in this kind of environment? In this environment of a young and developing democracy, is any leadership better than no leadership?

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Michael McFaul possibly named new U. S. Ambassador to Russia

It was recently announced with little fanfare that Michael McFaul will take the post as new Ambassador to Russia from the United States, pending Senate confirmation.  Nice to know that a highly qualified and thoughtful individual will be entering the Russian environment on my heels and I look forward to greeting his family at the Anglo-American School.

I’ve been reading a bit of his most recent book (Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can) and looking to potentially incorporate some of his leadership thoughts in my own dissertation work.  He has presented a well thought out case for instituting change in a complex global context.

Recent pundits have suggested that foreign policy centered on elections is shortsighted by ignoring the other institutions necessary to give sustainability to those election results.  Namely, a sufficiently mature legal system and a methodology for assuring basic rights and establishments that resist be undermined by leaders who are ultimately elected.  Ground rules or rules of engagement are critical to the success of democracy and is ultimately based on the premise of shared leadership.

In that sense, Dr. McFaul stands poised to answer some of the tough questions about how we increase both individual freedoms and responsible governing beyond U. S. borders.  In that sense I value what he brings to the table that is distinctly different from the more typical career diplomat that is often appointed.

President Obama has made a good choice here and, again, has demonstrated a deep understanding of the complex relationships that must be addressed in foreign policy.  The criticisms that come with more simplistic attitudes serve only to undermine U.S. credibility and push back peaceful coexistence with each unrelenting barrage.  Time to leave our president alone and let his intelligence and leadership drive the agenda like no other president in recent memory has been able to do.

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