What’s not in a score?

With the release of Pennsylvania’s  School Performance Profile, we continue to label schools, this time with a single score. While SPP is being touted as based on multiple measures, that’s really a bit of smoke and mirrors. Ninety percent (90%)  of the score is still based on a single testing window (PSSA/Keystone Exams) snapshot in time.

I’m fortunate enough to be in a district where we value more than just the SPP score. This morning, I found this image on Twitter that communicates some of what we value beyond the simple test score.


By Randy Ziegenfuss Posted in Learning

Deeper Learning MOOC – January – March 2014

deepthinkingThis morning while scanning my RSS feeds I discovered the Deeper Learning MOOC coming this January. I like the way deeper learning is defined:

  • Master core academic content
  • Think critically and solve complex problems
  • Work collaboratively
  • Communicate effectively
  • Learn how to learn (e.g., self-directed learning)
  • Academic mindsets

The Deeper Learning MOOC is going to feature the work of several innovative programs and schools including Big Picture Schools and High Tech High. I’m particularly interested in learning how the structures of these models can transfer to public education and how we make deeper learning systemic. Right now, most of us would agree we have pockets of deep learning in our schools. Our big challenge is a systemic upgrade. I’m looking forward to learning and sharing over the next few months.


Yes or No to “after-hours” work/email?

yes-noAs we enjoy an extended holiday break away from the daily routine of work (and the fact its the time of year for resolutions), I wanted to reflect on how I balance my time between work and leisure. There are different perspectives out there! For example, here is an article that was recently shared by a colleague: No more work email from home? Employers step in to prevent burnout from staffers.

Volkswagen turns off some employees’ email 30 minutes after their shifts end. Goldman Sachs is urging junior staff to take weekends off. BMW is planning new rules that will keep workers from being contacted after hours.

Some may think cutting off access to email is a little radical, including this article: Is working on weekends the secret to a successful, happy work-life balance?

That said, as I’ve studied people’s schedules, I’ve come to think that there’s nothing inherently wrong with working on weekends if it’s done within some limits. For many people, working on weekends is actually the key to making work and life work together.

The second article goes on to put forth the idea that if you love your work, it doesn’t seem much like work and it’s no big deal to put in the “extra hours.” But is that the case with every line of work? All the time, regardless of the job? How is education different? For me, my personal preference is to do some work in the evening and on the weekend, past regular work hours. This allows me the flexibility during the workday to tap into a variety of tasks, both routine and innovative. If I didn’t allot extra time, my workday would be consumed solely with mundane tasks, allowing little or no room for the innovative things that make the job enjoyable. I’m not saying that’s all I do – work every waking hour, 7 days a week. Far from it. It is very possible to consistently build in family-time and activities that provide some downtime from the pace of work life while still moving beyond the routine tasks of the day. You first have to have the autonomy in your job to do this, and then you have to have the time management skills to make it happen.

What works best for you? Email/work only during regular work hours? Or do you prefer to blur the lines a little? And what field of work do you find yourself in? I think what career, along with the kind of autonomy you have in that career, does make a difference in what works best.

3 for the week

34 Minutes Guide to Creating Graphs and Charts in Google Spreadsheets

There’s nothing particularly earth shattering about a 4-minute video on using Google spreadsheets to create graphs and charts. The prevalence of this kind of information on the internet should prompt all educators to reflect on the value they add to the classroom in a changed world. Recently, we have had some discussions at the board level around providing a teacher at the middle level to teach just these kinds of computer skills. Is it really the best use of scarce resources to have a teacher devoted to teaching basic computing skills when so much of the information needed for learning can be found, for free, on the internet. And shouldn’t students be learning these skills on a just-in-time basis? For example, if students are studying temperature in science and could best represent the data using graphs and charts, they should then take the four minutes in class to learn how to use graph/chart feature in Google Apps. Learning the skill in an isolated context, away from any practical use, does not promote “sticky” learning. We know that for sure. The students might learn the skill for the computer class, but would likely forget about it in short time due to lack of application to real world work. Now that content is so easily accessible on the internet, how must we rethink the added-value of teachers in the classroom?

Here’s How to Undo a Sent Email in Gmail

If you use Gmail, you can take advantage of one of the most recent additions to Gmail Labs, the place where Google trials experimental new features. The addition is an “undo” option on sent emails. Click on the above link to learn how to set it up on your account. Once set up, the default is a 10 second window to undo the send. The article outlines a few steps you can take to increase that window to 30 seconds. At school we use Google Apps for Education, and I think this will be a nice feature to share with the staff and students.

Kids Talk About Learning at the Inquiry Hub

I think it is important for teachers and students to share what and how they are learning. Sharing provides an opportunity for others to learn from successes and failures, but it also provides learners with opportunities to connect with and learn from a larger audience. This webinar features students and the lead administrator at the Inquiry Hub (a school in Canada) sharing how the school works and the kinds of inquiries they involve themselves in on a daily basis. The school is particularly interesting to me because I believe student inquiry (where students are encouraged to explore their own questions) is one of the keys to a successful school, especially as education moves more and more to a technology-rich learning environment. I enjoyed hearing from the students about the different kinds of inquiries they are working on. You can learn more about the Inquiry Hub model on the web and on Twitter.

As a leader, are you mapping, making AND meshing?

jobdissatisfactionI recall reading, several months ago, a few different articles online about a sizable number of “unhappy” workers in the workplace. (Nearly half of global employees unhappy in jobs and Most Americans hate work so much they’re sabotaging their employers are just two examples. You could search and find more.) Upon reading the gloomy statistics, I couldn’t help but wonder how the field of education would fare in such a poll.

Since then, my mind has drifted back to this topic as I am reading quite an engaging book entitled Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Everyday by Todd Henry. Yes, the title would appear to indicate a somewhat undesirable topic, but in actuality the content of the book has compelled me to inquire into my own practice and motives for doing the work I do.

Early in the book, Henry suggests three kinds of work – “any instance where you make an effort to create value where it didn’t previously exist” – and that we must engage all three in order to reach our full potential as workers. The three kinds of work Henry describes are mapping, making and meshing. The first two are rather simple to understand and are the most commonly engaged by workers. Mapping, in a word, is planning. Making, in a word, is doing. Those seem easily connected to the work we do, day in and day out as school leaders and educators. The third kind of work, meshing, often gets the least amount of attention.

So what is meshing?

Meshing involves all of the “work between the work” that actually makes you effective. It’s composed of activities that stretch and grow you, such as acquiring and developing new skills, reinforcing or enhancing your knowledge, cultivating your curiosity, or generating a better understanding of the context for your work. It’s also composed of critical disciplines such as paying attention to the adjacent spaces in your industry and engaging in activities that may not have an immediate payoff, but position you to be more effective in the coming days. (pg. 22)

The word that comes to mind after reading this passage from the book is learning. Satisfied workers who work to their potential are not only planning and doing tasks (often mindlessly or through routine), but inquiring, reflecting and learning along the way. Those who engage mapping, making AND meshing are what Henry considers to be developers.

The Developer is constantly weaving together available resources and opportunities to create value. He doesn’t work frantically, but instead works with urgency and diligence, making plans and then executing them, learning from his actions, and then redirecting as needed. He recognizes that uncertainty is not an enemy, but a natural part of engaging in important and valuable work. He also knows that opportunities are valuable only if he is prepared to take advantage of them, and as such he is constantly developing the skills that will be needed when he gets where he wants to go rather than where he is currently. If you want to die empty of regret, with a body of work you can be proud of, you must focus on becoming a Developer.

We have many committed educators in our profession – leaders and teachers who not only plan and do but also who are committed and dedicated to pushing this most noble of professions to inquire and learn about what could be. Those workers who are most effective include meshing activities as part of their daily work. As we begin the new year – 2014 – and redefine our personal goals, shouldn’t we take stock of our work in these three areas – mapping, making and meshing? Can we challenge ourselves to honestly articulate evidence of our work? Are we focusing too much of our time on mapping and making? Do we need to develop our skills at meshing? How would our work look different if we functioned at higher levels in all three areas? Finally, if we did so (not just in education, but in any profession), would we see increased job satisfaction and begin to turn around the doom and gloom statistics of worker job satisfaction?