Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Denton's New Secondary Grading System

Denton ISD announced a new secondary grading system to begin it's first phase fall 2014. The number one concern I have is for the teachers. Will they have what they need to be successful under this new system? Implementation will hinge on how well teachers are supported as they make changes.

The infographic below introduces the academic leadership team's concerns as it worked through the issues over a two-year process that produced a new system unlike anything happening in the region.

This infographic is one of many resources Instructional Fluency is working to provide for students, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders. 

Denton official site.
http://www.dentonisd.org/Page/60385

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

ePortfolios

The last two years has been a struggle for me because I've been wrestling with the balance of supporting students' needs while feeling like there is something seriously missing from the way they are evaluated.

In retrospect, the things that drove me in school were, as Daniel Pink puts it, (1) autonomy, (2) mastery, and (3) purpose. Not grades. Grades were an obstacle to overcome so I could achieve my goals, which has always been something tangible or intellectual. Something you can look at, listen to, experience, feel from. Something that changes the world because it was produced and shared.

Check out this video on ePortfolios and tell me what you think?

This is a link to my ePortfolio. www.kevinzahner.com


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shifting Thinking for Modern Learners

After four years of teaching every tested social studies subject, four years writing curriculum for all three subjects at the district level, and two years as an academic leader (department chair) on district and campus academic leadership teams, I can honestly say that I am informed about "kids these days" and what works versus what doesn't. The following is a series of tweets in response to some of the questions I've heard floating around as well as the uninformed commentary I've read on the Internet. Notice that the biggest cheerleaders of these tweets are my students.

This is an interpretation of the law [SB 2033 (1)].



It is our responsibility as educators to prepare students for life beyond secondary education. We need to consider the fact that students can be prepared for situations beyond the classroom without mimicking the exact conditions. Many of these kids are not ready to be adults (imagine that). Healthy learning environments enable students to learn with expectations that take into consideration social, emotional, and cognitive development. Unfortunately, only about a third of all teenagers are ready to act like adults consistently. All of them, however, are ready for situations that enable them to decided what kind of adult they want to be.  




Students can still experience a work habits failure without penalties to their grade. In fact, the lesson they can learn through behavioral penalties is more likely to contribute to a life of learning than an economy that uses grades as currency.



Setting up the opportunity for students to experience success is more critical than instilling guilt and a sense of hopelessness. This isn't self esteem we are talking about. It's optimism grounded in experience.


How many teachers who take points off for late work, add points when it's early? Not that this practice is condoned, but it makes you wonder about how fair subtracting is in the first place. As an academic leader, should I report to the administrators every time a teacher misses a meeting, fails to bring acceptable work to the table, or just doesn't do the job? This is why I started doing department meetings with Moodle in a computer lab. Why treat the teachers differently than the students? I support teachers with deficiencies, not penalize them.





Thursday, April 17, 2014

STAAR Review: U.S. History

Check out the U.S. History STAAR review Moodle site. Includes vocabulary, short descriptions, videos, quizzes.

E-mail me (kzahner@dentonisd.org) if you want to talk about how you can get this site for your students in minutes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I'll Show You Mine

A post on my classroom wall says, "Culture is ... embodied in the social and material world ... shifting and changing ... what gives us the sense of who we are and where we belong ... one of the principal means by which identities are formed ... shared meaning people use to make sense of the world."

If, as a learning culture, we are to change the embodiment of instruction, there is no better place to start than the desired outcomes. Everyone can agree on that part. The issue rears its ugliness when the culture change brings in to question old methods that employ point-penalty consequences to teach responsibility.

Almost at the end of year two of a long journey of changes in grading practices, instructional design, and PLC practice, the thing that is most apparent to me is the importance that the message of the following poster conveys.

Show me It's important to talk about stuff, but it's powerful when people can see it. 
Help me Ask yourself, "Am I helping someone, or am I doing it for them?"
Let me People need time to catch on things and produce results. Let them have it. 

Let the sharing begin.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rethinking Effort through Google Docs

This guided reading was presented to the students with Moodle. The assignment title was a link to the Google doc. Students completed the practice work at school (or anywhere else), while the document was accessible to me for providing feedback. Secondly, sharing options with parents (or other stakeholders) was possible, as well as various other classroom management techniques. Next time, I will add effort scores for their commentary. The standards this assignment addresses would be tied to include the district vision for integrating technology, the national technology standards, and, of course, the TEKS (§126). 

It is my strong prediction that these kinds of assignments and delivery options will be critical to preparing students for post-secondary life.