Great Day For A Flight!

Click on the image below to watch the video (about 1 minute in length). My wife and I took our dog for a walk in the Tahoe Meadows above Lake Tahoe (about 8,500 feet elevation) – (see the Flickr Set of the photos and more videos HERE) We decided to stop in the parking lot to check out the view on the Slide Mountain side of the Mount Rose Ski Area on our way back to our house in Reno, Nevada, when we came across a group of pilots launching and landing. Some were taking off from the peak above and landing in the parking lot, others were launching from the parking lot and landing in the valley below by Washoe Lake. Note the yappy dog nipping at the pilot’s heels as he is taking off. Enjoy!

Learning is messy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Really? – LAUSD considers making arts education a ‘core subject’

Is this a sign that some level of common sense has returned to education? From the article in Southern California Public Radio:

“The L.A. Unified school board will vote on a measure Tuesday that would make arts education a “core subject,” prohibit further cuts to the arts, and ultimately restore some money to arts programs. “

Only hope this becomes the norm nationally!

Learning is messy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Traveling The Oregon Trail Yet Again, And Loving It!


I was helping my wife in her 4th grade class today installing the PVC pipe on her tables so each one becomes a covered wagon (Its been a few years now since I’ve been able to do this project myself, so she’s the expert now). This is such a great class project and my original post about it where I go into more detail is one of the most viewed on this blog. Let us know if you try it yourself.

Learning is messy!


Posted in Education, Messy Learning | 3 Comments

Hmmm, Maybe It’s Not “Innovative”

Posted in Education, Reform | 1 Comment

“Making Connections With Blogging” Is Published!

Our new book “Making Connections With Blogging” is out.

Actually the book has been out for more than a month. The “Making Connections” part of the title is really what is stressed. From the ISTE web site:

“Some students find writing to be a chore. Others write to get an assignment done but don’t put in any extra effort. There’s nothing like blogging to change those attitudes! Students will experience a whole new level of engagement when they are writing for an audience, writing about topics they are interested in, and responding to their classmates’ posts. Bring blogging into your classroom, and your students will not only be excited about their work, they will also develop their writing, reading comprehension, critical thinking, digital citizenship, and communication skills.

Parisi and Crosby show you how you can use blogging with any student as a part of any curriculum— not as an add-on, but as an integrated part of your lessons. Learn step by step how to blog, get ideas for your curriculum area, and understand how to manage blogging in the classroom. Get your students blogging, and change how learning happens.”

“Making Connections with Blogging” is also available for the Kindle. Would love to hear any feedback from readers.

Learning is messy!

Posted in Blogging, Brian Crosby, Education, Literacy, Messy Learning, Project Based, Student Access, Teacher Access, Technology, Web 2.0, Wikis | 12 Comments

Independence Day

It’s been a tough year or so under “new” administration, and short of actually revolting, a change needed to happen and so it has. I’ve taken a new position in my school district being the Gifted and Talented specialist at 2 of our 7/8 middle schools. Both are STEM Academies and are early in their implementation of a more project/problem based, technology integrated approach. One is also piloting a 1:1 laptop program with HP Netbooks that will roll out this fall when all teachers will get laptops, followed the next fall with students acquiring them.

Someone thought my experience might be a good match for the position – and my wanting/needing a change led to a quick decision on my part. Somewhat ironically I was interviewed for the position over the phone while I was standing outside “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland while on a trip with my family.

I’ll let you conclude why I chose the title and timing of this post, but needless to say I’m very pleased with the change and look forward to being part of a new direction for our school district.

Learning is messy!

Posted in 1:1, Brian Crosby, Education, Inclusion, Messy Learning, Project Based, Reform, Student Access, Teacher Access, Technology | 5 Comments

Well Said

(UPDATE: 4/24/2012 – see the update below-)

Mary Broderick, President of the National School Boards Association, wrote a heartfelt letter to President Obama about the sorry state of education in the US after years of “reform.”

I especially appreciated points she made like:

“We want for each American child the same things that you and Michelle want for Sasha and Malia—inspiration, aspiration, creativity. I know you don’t want an overemphasis on testing. I have heard you say it.  Experience in schools and communities, supported by research, tells us that relentlessly focusing on standardized tests erodes our national competitiveness and deadens curiosity and drive. Clearly, we need some testing to gauge student learning, and we have no problem with appropriate accountability. But we have swung to a far extreme that is significantly hurting children. “Students are numbing over testing for testing’s sake…. We can’t test this country into excellence.” (Sonny Savoie, LA)”

As well as:

“The focus on strict quantitative accountability has never worked for any organization, and it has not worked with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Teachers are trying to meet the mandates of those programs and consequently “our children suffer and are not getting educated to their individual potential.” (Carolyne Brooks, IL) Teachers’ focus on tests is undermining their potential and initiative, making it more difficult to share a love of learning with their students.”

It is a strong letter that is well worth your time.

4/24/2012 UPDATE: Tim Holt left this comment on the School Board News blog where my link above takes you. Tim makes a great point!:

“Madam President,
While I applaud your letter, especially the idea that your organization has finally taken a stand after only two decades of standardized testing throughout the US (we have been living with it in Texas since the mid 1980?s), may I suggest a follow up letter:

How about a letter to each school board that is a member of your organization asking that they stop the practice of hiring superintendents with the sole purpose to “bring up test scores?” This would do more than anything that President Obama could do; if your members would stop the insanity at the district levels.

Imagine what would happen if your organization members all of a sudden stopped hiring district leaders based on what a superintendent can do for test scores.
Stop approving purchase orders for materials whose sole purpose is to remediate for test.
Stop paying for consultants to help teachers teach to a test.

I would love to see that letter as well.

Tim Holt”

Learning is messy!

Posted in Change, Education, Reform | 8 Comments

What Happened To My Pedagogy?

Several classroom teachers in my PLN have decided to share out our experiences this year with “educational reform”. Here’s one that published so far. And I’d encourage others to share as well (let’s hear the “Good” too!)

I’ve continued to come to terms with my lack of blogging and other writing/sharing this school year. In the past so much of my blogging was motivated by what was happening in my classroom and the classrooms of others that we were collaborating with. As we continued to develop this new pedagogy around connecting and becoming active learners, excitement continually built and collectively we felt part of a community that was onto something very special.

We had moved even further from the “sage on the stage” kind of teaching and learning, to becoming what could be described more as “co-learners” or maybe “learners-in-chief” … still in charge to keep things running smoothly, and to be there when guidance was needed or it became apparent, through observation or other assessment, that a lesson was needed on a concept or skill for a small group or the whole class. Learning involved every subject and students were more self motivated to do quality work because the work was more creative and was usually published online for all to see … so it better be good. (And note that direct instruction was not and never will be abandoned, just more opportunities for students to build knowledge, use and share what they know and learn in creative ways).

A few things have happened recently in my classroom that brought this into focus for me. One is that we have been involved in a project we mostly had to “sneak in” around required programs and policies. I saw the magic again as my students collaborated using Skype and Google Docs to write non-fiction pieces with a class across the country. Their excitement, focus and requests to work extra outside of school on their research reminded me what we had been onto previously. We didn’t have this new pedagogy down to perfection, but we were well on our way, and with some support we would be even closer to being there now (not that you would ever get to perfection mind you).

Another situation that has happened has been that my students have become excited about several topics that have come up because of reading about a subject or a current event and they have wanted to learn more about them. In the fairly recent past, because we had learned to research in more focused, safe ways, those self guided learning opportunities would have been embraced. But because we have done almost none of that kind of work this year, AND because thankfully my school district leaves the web pretty wide open, I have not felt safe letting them do searches for information, photos and video when there has been even a smidge of time to do so.

Why? For years now, part of using these powerful learning tools has involved lessons and projects in their safe and ethical use. There is no time or real support to do that now. Therefore it would be like setting  your class loose in woodshop without teaching them safe use of the power tools. I’m not doing that- I’d be setting my students, parents, myself, my school and my school district up for a load of problems.

The upshot is I have few examples or experiences to share from my classroom this year. The almost total lack of autonomy because of a daily schedule designed by my administration that only includes reading, writing and math … and most taught with prescribed programs or specific direct instruction pieces that MUST be included literally leave no time. I have managed to begin squeezing things in here or there, but “squeezing in” means things are not done comprehensively and there is no time to learn from mistakes, redesign, or even just re-editing well to improve. I have to work hard to keep an enthusiastic face on things and my students aren’t developing as deep an appreciation for and enthusiasm for learning.

The worst news is that I’m hearing a similar story from other teachers I used to collaborate with and from others in my PLN that work with teachers. I have refrained from sharing this woeful tale during the year beyond a few Tweets, because I hoped to find ways to overcome the restraints and did not want to discourage others by my experience. I’m reporting out now because we need to get these stories out there. I would say even more, but don’t feel safe in doing so in a public space.

Things are not all lost however, I’m optimistic. We blog some and I will be writing about a recent project we are finishing up soon. I have learned some effective direct instruction pieces I will use in the future. Most of all I’ve learned that this new pedagogy that many of us have undertaken really works, and not being able to access it much has been a real detriment. I keep hearing that the pendulum is past due swinging back towards teacher autonomy and less testing and test prep pedagogy. I keep hearing  (but I’m not totally convinced yet) that the move to common core standards implementation will drive us back that way as well. Perhaps, we’ll see.

At the end of the year I’m hoping to have made some changes that will help get things back on track, and I’ll report back if those things happen.

Learning is messy!
Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Should kids’ grades call the shots on who teaches and who goes home?

I was interviewed awhile back for this article on “TAKEPART” about teacher evaluations. My school district is struggling with this issue right now since our legislature jumped on the bandwagon to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores.

In the article I’m quoted saying:
No one says that poverty means that these kids can’t learn,” he added, “but that is the meme that is promoted. Instead, we need to recognize the problem, and like America has always been admired for, take it head on and solve the problem.”

Check the article out and leave your feedback.

Learning is messy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Digital Learning Day

Here is my contribution to Digital Learning Day. From the web site:

“Digital Learning Day is a nationwide celebration of innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology that engages students and provides them with a rich, personalized educational experience.”

In this video from TEDxDenver 2 years ago (which has been posted here before) I give examples of what this new pedagogy can look like and how it changes pedagogy.

Learning is messy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments