Bold vs. Rogue

courtesy of m4rtin's on Flickr

I received an email today that I wish I hadn’t.

It made me think.  Obsessively.  Nonstop.

Bob Dillon (@ideaguy42), one of the organizers of the upcoming #edcampstl, an unconference on all things educational in February, posed a very interesting question:

This week, we are thinking about being BOLD and being ROGUE. What would a bold school look like? What would happen if your school went ROGUE?

THAT reminded me of a post by Will Richardson (@willrichardson) on his blog where he asked:

What qualities do “Bold Schools” share?

He posited that there are nine different characteristics: learning centered, questioning, authentic, digital, connected, literate, transparent, innovative, and provocative.

But then I got to thinking, “What would happen if we took BOLD a step further into ROGUE?”  The term ‘bold’ implies something that remains in the realm of possibilities, that there are probably even schools with these (maybe not all, but at least one) characteristics already in place.  ‘Rogue’, however, to me implies a truly out-of-the-box mindset – a situation where 99.9% of teachers, parents, and administrators would yell, “Foul!” before the idea even obtained fledgling status.

For example, a boldly collaborative school would engage the parents, the learner, the community-at-large, and a network of national or even global partners in an open environment where authentic learning takes place using real-time data.  A roguishly collaborative school would have ad-hoc learning groups, meeting anywhere anytime they wanted/could, since the learning group would be comprised of people from all over the world – not necessarily the same age, since learning would be by interest and ability.

Using the characteristics outlined in Will Richardson’s blogpost, here’s a quick rubric-style table of how I think BOLD schools would differ from ROGUE schools:

CHARACTERISTIC BOLD ROGUE
AUTHENTIC Lessons use real-time data in real-life situations.  Writing is in response to current events or current needs. Physically going outside the school to collect data, students would be involved in publishing their own science journals, literary critiques
DIGITAL Everyone has a computer; most work is done digitally.  Still internet filters and limits on some social media Everyone has a computer supplied by school and whatever else they bring in.  Free access to everything, 100% paperless
CONNECTED learners are connected with the outer world with emphasis on US connections. Learners connected with global emphasis.  No set time frames to learning because of globalization
TRANSPARENT Every student has regular correspondence with their own Learning Network. School very open to community. Every student product is available for anyone to see.  Assessment is by a committee of peers and adults.
INNOVATIVE Risk-taking is encouraged As long as no one gets killed in the process, go for it.
PROVOCATIVE leaders advocate for change in local, state, and national venues. students, teachers, and leaders advocate for global change and equality. Projects are results-oriented.
LEARNING CENTERED students and teachers promote emphasis on becoming a learner over becoming learned. Everything is questioned, and a main thread of instruction is how to constructively question and search for new meaning.
COLLABORATIVE Cross-curricular assignments/projects between students, teachers, schools No set subject-area classrooms.  Meeting spaces for ad-hoc groups depending on learning decisions/goals.
REFLECTIVE Students and teachers in regular personal reflection. Students and teachers in regular, published personal reflection with the addition of comments by others.
INCLUSIVE Everyone in the community is included in the learning process. Community members and parents are continually coming in and out of the school as instructors and assessors.

What do YOU think a ROGUE school would look like?

~Matt

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…And One for Good Measure

from:  http://kolczykizfabryki.pl/wyroby/galeria_04/album/blog-icon-for-websiteOK, OK, so I confess.

This is my second blog.  My other blog chronicled my artistic endeavors, and it was hosted by the other popular blog hosting site.  It’s still there, and actually I sold more pieces from my blog than from my Etsy site.

Whatever.

So here I thought I was all big and bad, gonna have this blog up and fancy in no time – flickr pictures, Feedjit widgets, and yes, a blogroll.

When I visit other blogs, I skim their post, rereading in detail if it’s interesting.  Then I look for their blogroll to see what they’re reading.  To me, it’s the 21st century equivalent of looking through the titles in someone’s bookcase while they’ve stepped out of the room – you can tell a lot about a person by what they read.  Disappointment sets in if there is no blogroll; it’s like they’re hiding something.  But, then, I haven’t had one on my blog until today, once I figured out how to configure one (three hours later!).  So maybe others don’t have one on their site because they, too, are techno-idiots technology immigrants.

I hope you will take a moment to look through my blogroll.  There are some excellent educators on there, all the way from educators obsessed with technology to teachers in the trenches chronicling their adventures in early childhood and differentiation.  There’s an education professor, a couple of principals (here and here too), an author/speaker, and Illinois’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, just to name a few.

Hopefully, by perusing my virtual bookshelf, you’ll gain some insight as to what kind of educator I am.

I initially posted fifteen of my favorites.  But just because I’m the generous sort, there’s one more for good measure – as of right now.

~Matt

Storybird: Writing Children’s Stories Just Got Easier

Just how easy is it to write a children’s story with Storybird.com?  Ridiculously easy – and ridiculously addictive.  I learned about this on twitter from @Lyn_H and have been cursing her ever since!  Check out this 3-minute screencast introducing http://www.storybird.com:

http://www.screenr.com/embed/OV3s
The first night I found this program, I wrote two books (click on the image to read them on Storybird.com).

             

Children’s literature can be used in the classroom to teach a wealth of topics:

PLOT:  As a Language Arts teacher, I often had the kids write a children’s story as we discussed plot.  Well-written kids’ books have all the aspects of a well-developed plot in a novel or a short story:  the character is introduced, the conflict between the main character and whoever (or whatever) is then explained, often all on the same page.  Conflict keeps building until the end, when there is resolution, and the message/moral of the story becomes clear.

VERBS:  To make an interesting children’s story, the verbs have to be unique but not too difficult to read.  It’s a great way to have young writers find just the right verb to replace ‘be’, ‘got’, ‘have’, etc.

FUN STUFF:  Many kids’ books have wonderful examples of onomatopoaeia, personification, alliteration, and rhyme.  In order for these techniques to be seemlessly woven throughout a book takes a skillful writer.  I always had my students made a diagram of their plot, figure out their characters and conflict, and then once they had finished the ‘meat & potatoes part, then they could ‘accessorize’ with all of the ‘fun stuff’.

Storybird offers an additional challenge to the writer.  While the traditional process is to write and then illustrate, with Storybird, there is a finite set of illustrations that the writing must then fit.  I think it would be fantastic to have an entire class use one artist’s work, and show the kids just how many DIFFERENT stories can be created.  Discussions on creativity, and how inspiration and creativity are different for each person, and how a person’s creativity depends so much on past experiences, etc.  I’ll bet kids could even make pretty accurate guesses if all their classmates’  names were kept off the books, and the students were then asked to match authors to their stories. I think they would discover that every author leaves a bit of them behind in their story.

(Of course this would then lead to lessons in author’s voice…)

How Do I Accomplish the Impossible?

Well, I can’t.  Not really.  However, scheduling school-wide activities and taking them from an idea to a reality can seem impossible.  But with a little ‘preventative communication’, accomplishing the impossible just may be possible.

Today’s story takes place at the beginning of December, 2011, when Ms. W. (my principal and ‘Upper Management’) was at a conference for a couple of days, leaving me in charge (I know, I have the picture of the Mom in The Cat and the Hat leaving for the day in my head, too) .

As those of you in middle management know, few decisions can actually be made by you.  Everything has to be run by the Upper Management before you can give an answer to the Staff. But when you are put in charge for a couple of days, and you have talked and talked and talked with all your school’s stakeholders until you’re tongue-tied, look out!

On that day, my revolving door never seemed to find the ‘closed’ position, so I never really spent any time in my office.  In and among the two sets of parents who came in to conference before school started, the ad hoc Girls’ Group called in response to reports of fuss on a morning bus and mediated in order to avoid Further Drama by teaching some needed skills in conflict resolution, the parents called both in response to situations and other parents called as ‘insurance’ on potential incidences, the students conferenced in the hallways, classrooms, and front office, I decided to schedule a Holiday Assembly and a Spring Talent Showcase.  The Holiday Assembly would feature all sports teams, band, chorus, drama club, cheerleaders, dance team, all of it.  Oh, and it would happen in 6 school days.

Crazy, right?

“Impossible!” you say.

Not my usual M.O., certainly, but quite easy, really, considering all the prep work I had already accomplished.  While I hadn’t done any prep work on these two school-wide activities per se, the relationships I had worked very hard to cultivate within my building gave me the groundwork necessary to pull it all off.  And all these relationships had been built by talking – by talking, listening, talking some more, and then listening a whole lot more.

Normally, I would have had a lengthy planning conversation with Upper Management, hashing out details and negotiating over content.  Calendars would have been consulted, and just about every ‘what-if’ examined.  But, meeting averted!  I visited with the Athletic Director in between classes and received his support and an offer to plan the Assembly.  Next stop was the band director and the chorus teacher.  I received the band director’s support during arpeggios, and during the next passing period, the chorus teacher pledged her chorus’s performance.  Check, check, and check.  The teachers’ lounge was next, where I was able to talk to the entire 7th grade team at once.  The sixth grade teachers could be made aware by talking to one key member whose kids were writing busily by themselves.  Team eighth grade is another monster altogether.  They have to be approached carefully.  So I texted one, emailed another, and spoke to a third, all within the next ten minutes.  Everyone on board.  Big check.

Scheduling the Talent Showcase was in response to repeated student requests from a determined lot.  But I had already spoken to many of the key players in a ‘potential’ talent night, so it wasn’t a surprise.  The surprise was on the faces of the students when I called the two leaders into the office during their lunch period.  What started off as expressions of fright at having been called in by the Asst. Principal turned into excitement when I officially OK’d their request for a Talent Showcase.  Like I had knighted them or something.  Of course, I already had the details outlined in my mind, but we brainstormed and chatted, and they came up an outline remarkably similar to mine, and a rather lengthy list of tasks they needed to accomplish by our next meeting (funny how our two lists matched!).  Complete ownership and buy-in by the students.  Next stop was the computer to email the staff a quick FYI email letting them know what was happening.  Great responses continued to fill my inbox for the next couple of days.

All in all, it was a great day of buy-in from many people.  Our Holiday Assembly went off without a hitch, was appreciated by staff, parents, and students, and will likely be a tradition.  The Spring Showcase still needs to happen, but I know the students well enough, and had laid sufficient groundwork with the staff before I’d even OK’d it, that I can already tell you it will be a success.

Nothing like a little preventative communication.

Matt

P.S. The look on Upper Management’s face when I told her the news is worthy of a later post.