Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Time to Think

How many times when implementing a policy, practice, or other strategy have you heard this, "We just don't have enough time." Well, here's something worth considering from an article on Knowledge Sharing:

"The concept of 'slack' refers to the availability of resources that go beyond the requirement for regular activities," notes Haas. "Slack time is the amount of time and attention the team members can commit to the project beyond the minimum required." Studies have found that "time famine" -- or a feeling of having too much to do and not enough time in which to do it -- can reduce team productivity.
Teams with insufficient slack time may download large quantities of documents from a database without checking their quality, skim the papers on their desk superficially -- missing important information -- or fail to solicit sufficiently diverse views by only consulting close colleagues who will return their phone calls promptly. These shortcuts can reduce the benefits of the knowledge inputs they obtain. In contrast, Haas points out, "slack time increases processing capability because team members have more time and attention available to allocate to knowledge-related as well as other task activities."

The key? Leaders (including teachers) often need to act as filters, determining which concepts are the most crtical for understanding and then providing the time for focused processing of those concepts. All too often we fall into the shotgun approach--throw all the research at them and hope some of it hits the target--or the coverage approach--we have to touch on every single detail about this topic, and the critical understandings are lost in the data stream.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New and Improved Partnership for 21st Century Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has revised their framework and added new documents to their website. I'm interested in your comments on these new documents:
  • Route 21, an extensive database on 21st century skills-related standards, assessments, curriculum, professional development and learning environments.
  • U.S. Students Need 21st Century Skills to Compete in a Global Economy, the results of a survey in which Americans express strong support for teaching more than basic skills.
  • Framework for 21st Century Learning, a revised, 3-dimensional graphic.

CASTLE for Technology Leadership

CASTLE claims to be the nation's only center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators. Their website offers programs and resources focused on preparing technology-savvy school administrators. Although TIE has provided the leadership for several technology leadership initiatives administrators continue to request additional training and support, especially those in Classroom Connections pilot schools. The CASTLE website is not specific to one to one initiatives but administrators may find value in the Principal Blogging Project, the DDDM(data driven decisonmaking) Resources, PTLA(principal technology leadership assessment, or CASTLE conversations. What do you think?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Systems Change Conference Keynote: Neil Howe

Neil Howe, author on Generations and Millennials, provided a great keynote to kick off the Systems Change Conference in Chamberlain today. He spent some time talking the shifting changes of recent generations, but ended with some specifics for educators on dealing with millennials and GenX parents:
  • Millennials believe people their age can make positive impact on community. Leverage individual goodwill among parents and families--get "helicopter moms" on your side. Channel their energy, not straight-arm them (compared to Boomers, GenXer parents are more personally attached, protective, and directive of their children--more demanding as school consumers, seeking data and return-on-investment).
  • Develop more structured communities that help prevent students from falling through the cracks
  • This group of students want to team. They use the internet to "collectivize." Mobilize students as groups and teach team skills. Create strong service links to community. Focus on school engagement and connectedness; encourage students to lead and organize.
  • Replace realism with optimism--have students make personal progress plans. Integrate college-ready curriculum with school to work applied learning. Use contextual and project-based environments.
  • Emphasize a core or essential learning curriculum that every student is expected to master. Make
    sure that every task is achievable with directed effort--retool learning plans for continuous monitoring, assessment, and redirection.
  • Structure all learning around mastery goals by designing the curriculum to emphasize alignment everywhere. Closely articulate secondary work with post secondary.
  • Keep every student challenged and directed; emphasize achievement over effort or aptitude. Also, encourage teachers themselves to set an example of professional achievement and lifelong learning.
  • Integrate cutting edge networked technology--build ICT skills into the curriculum.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking schools to the next level of improvement

Noted researcher and scholar Richard Elmore of Harvard University suggests that we may need to help schools work smarter, not harder, in their school improvement efforts. Specifically, he suggests that when schools plateau in student achievement, redoubling effort and adding new strategies may not be as effective as allowing time for "consolidation" or refinement of existing teacher knowledge and skills. For the complete article:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Indian Ed for All

November 2007
A few people have asked me in the short time I've been here about Montana's
Indian Education for All. I thought steering our staff to Montana's OPI site would give insight to their burning questions about Indian Ed for All.

In 1999, Montana legislators passed HB 528 "Indian Ed for All" Recognition of American Indian cultural heritage and to be committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural heritage and education.

Every educational agency and all educational personnel will work cooperatively with Montana tribes or those tribes that are in close proximity, when providing instruction or when implementing an educational goal or adopting a rule related to the education of each Montana citizen, to include information specific to the cultural heritage and contemporary contributions of American Indians, with particular emphasis on Montana Indian tribal groups and governments.

It is also the intent of this part, predicated on the belief that all school personnel should have an understanding and awareness of Indian tribes to help them relate effectively with Indian students and parents, that educational personnel provide means by which school personnel will gain an understanding of and appreciation for the American Indian people.

Documentation related to Indian Education for All can be found at the OPI website at:

Materials were put together for the Fort Peck Reservation and Rocky Boys Reservations that teachers were able to incorporate into their classrooms. It was a "canned lesson plan" that was centered around the calendar. The plan was that each month would feature a different theme that was selected by a local committee. To learn more about the curriculum created see

This is enough for now, I encourage you to visit Montana's Office of Public Instruction's website listed above. It's another resource you can add to your site.

Treasure Hunt:
What is the definition of American Indian?
Who was one of the featured calendar girls in the Full Circle curriculum?
What is sovereignty?
How many sovereign nations exist in Montana today?

Please reflect on your observations!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Formative assessment update

Formative assessment provides feedback to improve the quality of students’ work according to many researchers. A few necessary key attributes include : it should be corrective in nature, not merely stating that the student’s answer is either right or wrong; it should be prompt – as close to the time of the assignment as possible; it should be specific to the learning criteria established by the teacher, i.e. targets springing from standards and benchmarks; it should be of high quality; it should occur frequently. The Concept of Formative Assessment is clearly and succinctly described in an article by Carol Boston in the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation which can be found at There is a brief bibliography included in the article Dr. Boston references a toolkit that may be helpful to administrators addressing assessment issues in their schools. The toolkit is available from the Northwest Regional Education Lab at a very small cost.