Monday, May 24, 2010

Educational Whirlwind Tour in Milwaukee

I haven't had a chance to catch up with my blog, which I am trying to stay more on top of now. Last week was really busy and exciting.

I flew out on a very early flight last Wednesday to spend the day with Shane Krukowski of Project Foundry. Project Foundry has been a vital tool in both of the student driven, project based schools that I taught at (MNCS and EOC). Shane hosted a co-worker of mine and I for a day of Project Foundry enlightenment. We went through topics like: project proposals, approval options of projects/seminars, time logs/journals, result forms, project assessments, tasks, individualized learning plans, learning targets & standards, periodic assessments and reports & transcripts. We also caught up about some of the new releases that are due out before school starts again in the fall. I am definitely planning on attending the Project Foundry Unconference at the end of July, were there will be lots of like minded constructivists sharing best practices of this amazing 21st Century software.

On Wednesday night, I had the pleasure to attend a meeting with the group TransCenter for Youth, who were proposing to open a new school. The most powerful portion of the testimony came from students, who discussed how they had lost hope in their previous schools. All of the students are in schools that are around 100 students and they discussed how the size of the school lends itself to a more close knit, positive environment. The students were inspiring and reminded me why I get so excited to create better learning environments that better serve the needs of students (personal and academic). As tired as I was from a 5:40 a.m. flight that morning, my mind was racing about how inspirational the student stories were.

Thursday, another co-worker of mine flew in to attend the Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium's 2nd Annual Unconference. The event was held at the Kern Center, on the campus of Milwaukee School of Engineering. This event had both students displaying & presenting their work, along with adult sessions, were we presented on The Hope Survey.

On Friday, EdVisions Cooperative had our 3rd Annual Project Fair.  We had two high schools and two elementary schools in attendance. I have to hand it to the younger students, they really surprised with me the depth of their work. Two of my favorite projects from the younger students were: 1) The effects of microwaves on water, which was a series of experiments with water. The plants that were given water that had been heated up in the microwave died. 2) My favorite student, Jacob did a project on peanuts. Who knew there was so much information to learn about this staple food? His presentation concluded with making peanut butter balls, but I missed out on the taste.

It was a crazy couple of days. I slept on the plane for the first time (minus my trip to Tokyo which was sleeping pill induced) ever. It was a short nap, since it is only about a 40 minute flight. 

Hope you enjoyed the update. As always, feel free to touch base.

Best,

Aaron

My dinner Wednesday night (Pear Salad)... magnificent!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Hope Survey

After some strategic planning a few weeks back, my new position has me selling/doing outreach on The Hope Survey 75% of my time. This is work that I am really excited about, since it brings relevance and data driven decision practices to the school environment on more than just "how to get students to do better on tests."

My organization, Edvisions Schools, is submitting our second I3 grant on this work. The Hope Survey began more than five years ago when we were approached by Mark Van Ryzin, who was working on his PhD at the University of Minnesota in Education Psychology. Mark Van Ryzin is someone I have immense respect for, since I feel like he is actually working on things that matter to kids: motivation, relevance, mentor figures and so on. After five years of data, we are now able to definitively say that raising student hope correlates to raising student achievement.

The following is from a recent write up by Mark Van Ryzin: "The Hope Surveys measure autonomy, belongingness and competence, along with their resulting engagement in learning and their dispositional orientations towards achievement (i.e. their "hope"). Matched with student achievement scores, the resulting data can provide a detailed picture of the school climate and its effects on student performance. The Hope Surveys do this in a manner that protects student confidentiality yet still can measure student performance over time. The surveys require very little time, which means that they will not significantly impact instruction."

The Hope Surveys have been proven to help schools:
  • Understand the school culture and how it supports adolescent needs
  • Link school culture to dispositional hope, which is correlated to post high school success
  • Discover ways to engage students to raise achievement
  • Improve teacher effectiveness by providing appropriate interventions that raise engagement and hope
Here are some recent documents for your viewing pleasure (pdf's):
So the variables work like this:
  1. Autonomy, Belonginess, Goal Orientation & Academic Press (student perceptions of these) lead to --->
  2. Engagement - which refers to the student's behavior and attitudes in school (means students are both "behaviorally engaged" and "emotionally engaged" in school)... leads to --->
  3. Hope - (psychological health) which reflects individual's perception regarding their ability to clearly conceptualize their goals & to develop the specific strategies to reach theses goals (i.e., pathway thinking), and initiate and sustain the activities in support of those strategies(i.e., agency thinking)... which leads to --->
  4. Academic Achievement - I argue that schools should be held "accountable" for raising student hope ;-)
I invite any feedback on this information. I am looking for schools, networks of schools and states who would like use our survey. Does your school have have hope?

Aaron
aaron@edvisionsschools.org
507 248-3738 ext. 7

Monday, May 10, 2010

Early Registration Discount for Summer Institute Ends May 12

For those who plan on attending the 10th Annual Summer Institute, you need to register by May 12th to get the early registration deadline (the early registration deadline has already passed for Hawaii).
 
We are really excited to have Deborah Meier, a giant in the small schools world, who will be joining us as our keynote speaker at our MN Institute in Henderson.

For registration info, check out the following spots:

Great Lakes Constructivist Consortium's Unconference

I am happy to be heading to Milwaukee in a couple of weeks to attend the GLCC's Exhibition and Unconference on May 20 in Milwaukee. You can check out registration and a schedule by clicking here.

If you live in Minnesota, such as I do, you can take a flight into Milwaukee same day (fly in/fly out) for about $115, which sure beats driving.

I will be there with my co-worker Mary Menne presenting on the Hope Survey and The EdVisions Model.

Let me know if you will be in attendance. It would be great to talk shop. ;-)

Friday, May 07, 2010

Innovation-based System Reform: Getting Beyond Traditional School

If you know me, I am big fan of the group Education Evolving. Recently, they published their latest paper (click here to view) regarding a familiar plea that public education move to a "two bet strategy." This two bet strategy would allow for more innovative approaches to education 21st Century students than the current "teacher as expert" model that we assume is our best bet to raise productive citizens in society. If you are interested in education policy, I think you will find it as a good read and one that trumpets what America's education system really needs, a large scale system change from the current one bet strategy. 

If you don't believe me, believe my son Cain. Last year in a typical large, suburban, impersonal junior high, he grew complete frustrated with school. This started to effect his self esteem and definitely impacted his motivation to learn. This year (after he agreed to the experiment), he has spent the year at Minnesota New Country School, commuting down from the Twin Cities with me. He has rediscovered the joy of learning and is definitely improving his academic achievement. If he would have continued to stay in the "one size fits all" environment, as his dad I was afraid to see what would happen as he continued to disengage with school. He and I talk more than ever about learning and his future, because I am a real partner is his learning.

I am going to try and contribute more on here. I have to to admit that the facebook and twitter world we live in has me giving out short thoughts. As always, feel free to share your thoughts.

Aaron