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Educators blog about their EduStat experience

IDAHO LEADS BLOGGERS — Three Idaho Leads Project educators are blogging from the EduStat conference this week.  They are sharing their experiences on our website. Click here to meet the bloggersClark Muscat, Anna Wilson and Michelle Dunstan.

Daily Wrap Up – June 26

Today was a day for communication, including lots of questions about the Students Come First laws. Breakout sessions, keynote speakers and activities helped answer questions and bring to light some changes being made around the nation in education, and how Idaho can be a part of that. The theme was transformation; keeping what’s best for kids at the forefront at our decisions.

The Impact of 1:1 Computing on the Culture of Teaching and Learning

Speakers principal Ted Hall, senior Jackson Hall and technology integrator Alice Barr from Maine’s Yarmouth High School discussed their perspective on the successful 1:1 initiative in Maine. Hear them on video.

It was the student perspective that drew me into the session, though each speaker was insightful.  The group discussed what elements have made their 10-year program successful, what they have noticed about student learning after the deployment of school laptops and answered questions that filled the room.

While some of the questions started to edge to the logistics of device management and the politics involved with it, the presenters communicated that common sense and the focus on students prevailed, as well as a love of this kind of teaching and learning.

During implementation, Ted Hall said staff and students worked together for training.  The school created a culture of student trust to keep them accountable instead of setting up barriers and intricate systems of rules.  Alice Barr, the technology integrator attributed success to creativity, defined purpose, professional development and use of student assistance.

The high school emphasized student involvement.  Older students are responsible for passing along the technology and training the younger students to convey a sense of responsibility. Jackson said when students feel trusted, they learn life rules about technology instead of trying to shield students from sites and programs and having them go nuts when they get to college because “life is an open network.”

Cleveland’s plan for transforming schools

Ways to improve the education environment for the benefit of all students was the main focus as this first breakout session.  The speakers offered their story of big changes in a large system to pique our interest.  They emphasized, changing any pieces in education–content & delivery, the role of the students, the role of the teacher–will affect the other factors.  With any change in the system, you must consider the impact on all three elements.

For transformation to occur with any sense of urgency, their district recommended creating a united, student-focused vision and communicating it clearly and often. All are involved with this vision; teachers, businesses, community members, parents, legislature, etc.

At my school I’m going to identify areas where we can grow teacher leaders who lead the reform process.  The most powerful idea I took away is not letting limited finances keep you from enhancing education.  To overcome this obstacle, we can look at resources differently & shift from traditional funding, think innovatively and engage all stakeholders in discussion.

Idaho Education Network

The Idaho Education Network, featuring IEN teachers Dave Gural and Michelle Chavez was able to provide an overview of IEN capabilities.  The teachers discussed how students not being challenged in their schools were able to take classes over long distances and feel as though they were sitting in a classroom with other advanced students.

New Plymouth and Pay for Performance

The New Plymouth School District spoke at this breakout session about Pay for Performance.  Teachers and administrators were able to dust off their math skills and learn how to calculate their pay for performance funds from hypothetical situations.  A panel of teachers from various schools in the New Plymouth District were able to answer questions about the process and from a first-hand account convey how it has encouraged collaboration within their teaching teams.

The need for continued communication was evident with half of the room unaware of their district’s plan for moving forward with the Pay for Performance initiative.  New Plymouth shared that top-down decisions rarely work when it comes to pay for performance. They emphasized the absolute necessity of teachers being part of the discussions from the onset.


Aaron Sams is a fun, fast-talking teacher who discussed the flipped classroom at EduStat.  He started by explaining his transition from being a “traditional” teacher to a more student-centered approach–The flipped classroom.  Today’s schools are a rich learning environment, where a flipped classroom is a tool to leverage when appropriate.

The Flipped Classroom

A flipped classroom is a “rethink” of what you’re doing in the classroom to make sure students are able to be engaged with their teachers.  Content is delivered outside of class time, and students work in class.

The method came from a question Aaron asked at the start of his speech: What is the most valuable use of my class time?

Aaron discussed several different methods for applying the flipped model, all very different.  It demonstrates how this method can be manipulated for all different classes and teaching styles.  Examples of flipped science, flipped history and flipped PE were inspiring.

He pointed out how there is no one way to flip a classroom because the way Aaron, as a chemistry teacher, structures his class will be very different than an English class or a third grade classroom.

In Aaron’s chemistry classes, students learn and progress at their own pace, mastering a unit before moving on.  He’s able to asses the classroom, target and remediate specific students who don’t do well instead of holding back the whole class.

He used this as an example to demonstrate the benefits for students; personalized instruction, differentiation between learners, engaging students at high levels and offering students multiple ways to demonstrate their learning.

Flipped myths and misconceptions

Aaron addressed many myths and misconceptions about a flipped classroom.  He said it’s not just about videos; you don’t have to give kids oodles of homework; there doesn’t have to be a lecture for content delivery; kids can overcome a lack of technology at home; you don’t have to front-load with video, and it certainly is not an “easier” way to teach if it’s done correctly.  It IS about students learning and meeting each child’s individual learning needs.

Good teachers in a flipped classroom will be up, moving, working hard, masters of their craft, and taking every opportunity to engage with students.

For more information

For more information about the Flipped Classroom, visit some of these sites Aaron recommended.


DAY 1 MORNING — Teenager shares what kids want in the classroom

After a brief introduction, our day at EduStat got started with 14-year-old phenomenal speaker Adora Svitak.  She has an amazing history of individualized learning, which she attributes to her ability to speak publicly, periodically teach classes, write and publish books, and explore how technology can be used in the classroom. Click here to watch Adora Svitak answer questions about classroom technology and how education is in the midst of exciting times.

Ensure we have an authentic audience

Adora discussed how important it is for students to be engaged in real-life learning.  She said students can use social media and online technology to create authentic work for an audience rather than just the teacher.  This audience adds the students incentive to fully understand the concepts they’re studying.

Seek student perspectives

The idea of giving students a voice in their curriculum is something I want to take back to my school.  Students should have an ability to share with their teachers how they want to learn.  Adora said to ask students questions and have them show how to get innovative with technology.  She said students are more than willing to help their teachers learn.

The world is our classroom

The most powerful thing I heard in Adora’s speech came after she showed us three pictures and asked the audience “which one looks like a school.”  There was a cathedral, a library and a hallway with multiple doors.  Everyone pointed to the third picture, which she announced was a state prison.

Schools should be more like Cathedrals rather than prisons.  It should be a place to inspire students to what they can achieve and develop creativity instead of stifling it.  Why does a classroom have to be four walls with a blackboard?  For 21st century learners, the world is their classroom.  The tools to do this are ready to go.

Adora did an amazing job of telling us not to be afraid of technology.  We need to use the tools available to us.  Let’s not limit students because adults don’t understand everything about technology.  We can learn, and students are one vehicle to help us learn.

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