Data, what does one do with all that Data?

To say that the world of education has data, is to put it mildly. I would not say that education is data driven, but I would say that it, combined with 20140516_144322reflections, Data is highly important. Data can be used to determine best practice, it tells people what is working and what is not working.

Nancy Love writes:

“Without a systemic process for using the data effectively and collaboratively, many school, particularly those” serving low economic “student will languish in chronic low performance in mathematics, science and other content areas – no matter what the pressures for accountability”. (Using Data to Improve Learning for All)

I am sure we can all agree that data has many positives, these positives can guide practice, facilitate change and all one has to do is openly and honestly read the data. During my short time as administrator of a school, I noticed that there was a significant issue in the area of literacy for my school. The question is how do I improve literacy, not what is wrong, or who is not doing what they are supposed, or even why can’t the students learn.

After significant conversation and communication with other administrators and colleagues that I knew that had a back ground in literacy. I decided to create some change in how Literacy was rolled out, delivered and practiced with the students at Seba Beach school.

As we looked at constantly using the data and ensuring that everyone had access to the data to drive educational decisions, a need for a tracking and intervention model became apparent. We needed a system or method that would not only allow for the data to be used, we needed a system that would represent all of the data. A special thanks needs to be given to George Couros. George, in his work came across an idea that he thought I should look into as it would fit my need. George presented me with “Putting Data to Faces“. After having read the book, I made a connection that combining “Response to Intervention” and the data wall from “Putting Data to Faces” would be the most successful and beneficial to my students.

The results were more positive than were expected. The data collected after only five months of the program being implemented showed growth in students in the majority of areas. Going through and comparing other data that was collected throughout the year , it was decided that the program should be implemented in the next school year and that it should be integrated as part of the daily routine of the students and that it would be implemented for all grade levels. After some detailed and tough conversations with teachers and educational staff it was determined that a similar concept but related to Numeracy would also be very beneficial to our students.

images (2)Staff and I worked through combining the two systems and came up with a great system

co1180that uses student data tchanging quarterly with the interventions that are needed whether they are universal or targeted. I am glad to say to ensure the best programming for each individual student it was amazing. I look forward to consistently using the system and watching it evolve and change for each individual student. .

If you would like some information in terms of the process and the implementation, please feel free to contact me or if you have ideas that could be used to modify and improve the concept.

A rushed Year-end and Heart Breaking Goodbye

As most teachers in my school and my division, prepare to finish their last few days of the school year, myself and two other colleagues ended our school year with our students early. Myself, George Couros @gcouros and Norm Usiskin @nusiskin, hastily scrambled through the day as we prepared to embark on, what I am sure will be an amazing learning and connecting adventure, as we head to #ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia.

As I boarded my flight I looked forward to meeting many of my PLN for the first time, face to face, to sharing the years ideas and experiences and most of all to learning together in preparation for the next school year. However, as the flight crew dimmed the lights of our red-eye flight my mind wandered away from the excitment and back to my students. In that quite time while my other travellers slept, my mind relaxed and i came to a huge realization, that there is one thing that I will truly miss and did not have the time to fully express. I will miss my students, my KIDS (as many of us refer to). With my year ending quickly, and with all of the year end requirements, I regret not being there for the last three days, for the hugs goodbye, for the packing up of every project that we worked on and to see all the excited smiles, for summer on that last day. This is all compounded with the fact that next year I will not be returning to my school, and will not be there to greet them on the first day of school, to hear the stories and to get my long awaited summer hugs.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am extremely excited about moving into administration and becoming a Principal next year. I am actaully elated about all the possibilities, looking forward to all the new relationships and connections I will be making. It is just that, I have worked with some of the student for two years, and I . . . . . I just wish that I could take them with me.

I think that the hardest aspect of this years transition, is that I may never see some of my KIDS again due to the nature of my current position, and that I will not be there at the beginning of next year for those that return. To see their smiling faces, to hear about their summer adventures and yes once again to get my morning hugs.

I wish them all the best in the future and hope that their lives are filled with excitement, happiness and learning. In addition I hope that in some small way I made a difference and influenced their live, as they have influenced and changed mine.

Thank you kids, till we meet again.

Do your words SAY what they should?

We use words everyday to communicate with people around us and those that we interact with digitally. Although I try to convey my message thoughtfully and clearly, I often hear from my students “I don’t understand”. Even though this can be frustrating and trying at times I understand the importance of it. The words that we choose to use effect our message.

This is best portrayed in the following video which was shared by @TheHomeworkDog on Twitter.

An cousin of mine shared a great comment with me after I shared the video with her:

Words/language define our society and culture. Words describe cultural codes about how things are and what is said indicate our views about the society we live in. By changing our words; the language used, only we can change the dominant ideology and make positive changes.

, and in my opinion her comment was dead-on in relation to the importance and power of words in creating positive change in the lives of people.

How do the words you use effect the people you share them with?

An Apple a Day

There is an exciting and wonderful world out there, and as a teacher (special education)  trying to significantly intragrate technology in the classroom there is one fruit that in my humble opinion would make that easier both on my students and myself.

 

Image from techvibes.com

Although I am a trained and tested Windows and IBM user, I have been slowly wandering into the world of apple. Aside from some personal reservations about the ease and accessibility that is possible if someone gets a hold of your technology, I understand and see the appeal.  More importantly, if there was only one convincing argument that I had to make to other teachers about why to use an Ipod touch or an Ipad in their classroom instead of a desktop or laptop. It would be an easy one, and one that only has two related words that many early years and division one teachers despise at the end of a computer or technology class “USERNAME & PASSWORD

I am fortunate to have a very innovative and technologically minded Administrator, that would support my idea and soon to be plan to use Apple devices in my classroom. With this  ace in the whole I look forward to using:

BrainQuest Blast Off: Grade 3

MadLibs

MagicMath

Miss Spell

Story Kit

Spell It Lite

Stanza

Basic Math

Match Lite

Math Quizzer

Tanzen Lite

as well as other great applications (APPs) that would assist and differentiate in the learning of my students.

So why the change, simple my students already have their own desktop computers with access to such programs as Edmodo, Twiducate, Raz-Kids, Kidblog and more, but to have this at their desks for working on their assignments, but to have access to information while they are watching a lesson that I am work on with them at the smart board, would be great. In addition, I can slowly move to a paperless classroom. My last final personal and possibly selfish reasons for using such technology has two parts, it is great to see to students learn when they don’t see it as learning but having fun and finally, using an Ipod touch or Ipad allows for me to differentiate instruction for my students with more ease.

I know that there will be some learning struggles for me about how to fully use and intergrate the technology into my class for instruction purposes, but I also see the most important advantage and benefit – – –

INTERACTIVE LEARNING

Image from historyforkids.org

 

Insight – Special Education is not BS

Student shown here.  Arthur Morris leads an advanced Instructional Photo Tour class on Morro Strand State Beach 13 Jan. 2009

Art Morris Photo Student in silhouette.

I recently read a post by Josh Stumpenhorst @stumpteacher that did get my feathers ruffled but after processing the comments I was more disheartened then agitated. However before going into a rebuttal and rant I will say that there

are some  some valid points and question that I do agree with some, but regretfully what was done was is something that we as educators dislike. As Educators we are often either anger or deflated when the public or government  lumps or brands and entire group together in this case all of Special Education.
The first point of the post was: Special Education labels and “indentifies” kids

I will agree that placing labels on children when referring to them both negatively defines them and also sets them up for failure, but as  attested to, as another teacher it does give you some insight into the behaviors or issues a child may face or display when you know their diagnosis.  I will also agree that the purpose of having diagnostic information is not to hinder a child, but to develop strategies and ideas to engage the student. ADHD was mentioned, yes it is so over used that it is as common as a pencil in a classroom. However you did forgot to mention some of the other diagnosis’s in Special Education that carry significant meaning and require significant modifications and assistance: Asperger‘s, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Tourettes, Autism, Downs Syndrome, ARND, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, MMR, Frontal Lobe and other Neurological concerns, just to name a few. Finally a point of reference, in regards to the regulations and rules surrounding diagnosis in my province. A diagnosis over two years is invalid and the student and files need to be re-evaluated and assessed.

The second point was: Special Education is a way to provide supports and services for students with identified disabilities.

It was mentioned that supports and assistance should be given to all children, with this point I am not going to disagree. There are however situations and occurrences that do require specific interventions that may not be viable in a regular classroom setting. For example I have one grade four student that academically and neurologically is functioning at a kindergarten level. In a classroom of 25 students as a teacher you would be spending 90% of your time working with that student as he is still learning to recognize his alphabet and sounds, and that is after 5 months of work. I also have a student that due to issues of abuse (physical and sexual) is terrified of males and loud noises. For both of these students, my low ratio, modified and educationally assisted classroom has been both rewarding and a  safe experience, which can be difficult to maintain in a larger classroom. Many of the modifications of my classroom and the strategies that are used and are successful, are listed in the PAPERWORK. The paperwork, that is briefly mentioned has more than the application of binding rules. Yes, there are elements that are essential for funding and accountability, but furthermore the paper work is a living entity which changes and adjusts as the students grows, succeeds and finds success. The paperwork is also a collaborative document that is discussed with all of the stakeholders, including if possible the student. Before moving to the next point, I will add that it would probably be very beneficial to any student to have an educational plan that grows and evolves with the student.

The final point is: Special Education is often used as a crutch for students, parents, and teacher alike

It is true that it is easy to give students easier sheets to keep them occupied, but many Special Education teachers have the same expectations of their kids as regular teachers do. That the students not only meet expectations but exceed them. That the students improve so that they may join “regular classrooms”. I can only speak from experience, but I do modify assignments and break down assignments into easier steps. This is to ensure that the students are successful in one section or topic before moving on to another. I expect my students to have proper punctuation and writing skills. My students are required to do novel studies , blog, make presentations using Animoto, Dipity, power point and participate in many other activities that mainstream students do.I do agree that it may take the kids a little longer to complete units and curricular topics, but this way every child has grasped the topic and the faster ones can then help the ones that are struggling, allowing them to feel like they can contribute and be learning leaders.

Special education refers to the education of students identified with mild, moderate, or severe disabilities or as gifted and talented. It is founded on the belief that all children can learn and reach their full potential — given opportunity, effective teaching and appropriate resources.Instruction, rather than setting, is the key to success. Decisions related to the placement of students and children are best made on an individual basis, in a way that maximizes their participation in the experience of schooling.

I am not saying that everything in Special Education should be considered doctrine or that we do everything correctly. Like any classroom mistakes are made and learning from those mistakes happen. Here at my school, we are designated Special Education for many reasons but most importantly because we are the end of the line. Students arriving at our school come from some of the most appalling backgrounds and have some of the most severe learning, social and emotional disabilities. These students have been in regular classrooms, with supports with accommodations, but due to compounded circumstances are sent to me.

I understand that there are many educators that are frustrated, with many aspects and many elements both outside of education and within that affect students, but I ask please don’t be-little, demean or dis-empower what Special Educators do. There are some great things that have come out of Special Education such as One-to-One Learning and Differentiated Learning. As educators we are here to help students and to help each other help students. We can all learn from each other Special or Regular Education. Just a thought…

Differentiated Learning – The key is?

Monday, I had the wonderful ability to participate in a Professional Development with many of my colleagues from our sister schools. As a colleagues, experts and learners we came together to discuss what differentiated learning is and how this practice impacts and improves learning for the students that we work with.

Through our presentations and our conversations we discussed four major areas:

Planning for Differentiation

Academic Differentiation

Social Skills Development

Resources

In all of the groups and discussions that I was part of, there was one resounding element. An element that many effective teachers and administrators know and do with out having to think about. So, what is this magic ingredient that will help teachers in the classroom and will help students in their learning.

KNOW YOUR STUDENTS

Knowing your students, is  a key element when building relationships, but in doing so you can find out a students readiness, learning style, reading level, personal interests, talent’s and more importantly their academic support requirements and multiple intelligences. Obviously formal and informal assessments will be able to provide some insight, and I am sure that like myself many people have shelves upon shelves of information that could help, but the easiest thing and most beneficial, both to you as an educator and to your students is to KNOW YOUR STUDENTS.

Little Leaders – Cooperative Learning

I have been teaching Severe Special needs for a decade. I know that this is not long in comparison to many other educators but today, while sitting in class after having gone through SpellingCity.com and Kidspell.com with my students I gave them some individual practice. As the students set off to work one of my students asked if he could work with another peer. Since we have been doing a significant amount of work in relation to Cooperative Learning, I said “sure why not”, then anther pair of peers asked the same question, thinking noting of it I gave the same response.

As I was busily working with another student, I noticed that the class was unusually quiet, which in my setting is generally not a good thing. I quickly turned to check out my working pairs. This is what I saw.

I am sure that many who are looking at this are wondering – { OK, so what is so interesting or exciting about this? }

As I said my class is made up entirely of students with behavioral issues, as well as psychological and educational. For many of them the ability to get along with peers in any setting without becoming verbally or physically aggressive, to sit with each other with out arguing or teasing or to sit beside each other without becoming competitive and negative is a struggle. However as you can see I have one peer helping another. While on the other side of the picture I have one peer patiently waiting for another to complete something. I am not saying that my students have met their behavioral goals, but they are progressing very nicely.

Reflecting on what was happening and how the kids are growing, I came to some realizations. First, this is probably the earliest I have ever had the students work together on an activity, but more importantly the students wanted to work together. Second,  through our class activities relating to “The Leader in Me” and “Cooperative Learning” the students have transitioned to learning from and asking for help from me to working with and learning from each other. As well, that this transition in interdependence directly creates change in their behaviors and relationships with each other. Lastly, and what is most important to me, my students are learning to trust each other, to rely on each other to work together – my students are growing and not because of me, because of our entire class.

I guess breaking it down, I am really proud of my kids in terms of their growth in Leadership and Cooperation.

Thanks Georgefor the ideas.