Friday, November 22, 2013

The newest foreign language

This clip is from the movie The Core. While the movie is of questionable quality, this clip encapsulates the meaning behind a conversation I had with one of my math teachers.

The math teacher came to me asking my experience with computer programming. Now, while it was a while ago, I did have some experience with computer programming. In elementary school, I had some experiences with BASIC and creating simple programs. When I was in junior high school, I took a summer class in LOGO and our computer class added to work with BASIC. After junior high, it was mandated, as a part of my math education, I had to take a little more advanced class in BASIC. My class was the last class to take BASIC before the evolution into True Basic and the loss of line numbers.

Sometime between my freshman year of high school and beginning teaching in high schools, the requirement of a computer programming course seemed to have disappeared. While most people might have not had many chances to apply their computer programming skills, I actually used my understanding of programming to make my wonderful TI-81 a more useful tool and created programs of algorithms so I did not have to remember them. (This was before programs could be shared and beamed to one another with TI calculators.) So when I started teaching freshman biology and asked students to use their calculators in this method, they looked at me like I was crazy and I had to change tactics quickly.

Flash forward to a few months ago and the conversation with this math teacher. She was telling me how, as a math major, she was require to take computer science courses and even pointed out the programming courses still listed on our course taxonomy. The conversation quickly morphed into more current applications of programming (Scratch, app development, JAVA, Flash, etc.) and how might she implement these in her classroom.

I then posed the question, why is programming part of the math department and not part of the world language department. While Spanish and Chinese are languages spoken by large portions of the world population, it is arduous to find anyone on the planet not affected by some type of computer programming.

Of course, after I had this conversation, neural priming went into effect and I saw multiple articles in my Twitter feed about this conversation, which I have linked below:

Is coding the new second language? -- From Smithsonian
Should coding be the new "foreign language" requirement? -- From Edutopia
Programming as a second language -- From Learning & Leading with Technology

So I ask you, will colleges accept 4 years of computer programming to meet the world language requirement? Is being able to create new programs more important that being able to ask "Donde esta el bano"? (Which I can tell you it is much more important to understand the directions than ask the question...) Do computer programming languages meet the 21st century need more than Spanish or French?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

What do I wish that I had known?

The counseling office is one of the departments I have the honor of overseeing. I am willing to admin that, when I was in the classroom as a teach, I did not really understand what the counselors did. I did not utilize my guidance counselor much when I was in high school, so I did not realize the resource that was available to me. Counselors are educators who go through extensive training to do exactly what their name says: counsel. Whether it is about the courses to take for the next school year, where to apply to college, dealing with difficult emotional issues, bullying, troubles at home, teen pregnancy, eating disorders...pretty much anything there has been an after school special about, counselors are on the front line. They are a wonderful resource and connecting point to a multitude of additional resources. That is one thing I wish I had know when I was in high school, or as a teacher.

We have had college nights in the past, but typically it was in January and for seniors in high school. By that point, college applications and financial aid forms should have already been completed and it makes the usefulness of the evening moot for most parents and students. The counselors came to me with an idea...have a college night much earlier in the year...and invite parents of juniors to attend as well. I told them to run with it. They came up with the sessions, the speakers, the plan, and the logistics for the entire evening. In fact, I am writing this post as the parents and students are in one of the sessions. To improve things, we have an evaluation form for the parents and students to complete so we can make sure that future nights will be designed to better fit the needs and desires of the our families.

I thought it was fantastic that the counselors wanted to get families involved earlier in the process and not wait until the student was in 12th grade to begin thinking about college. I want to take it a step further.When is the time that students should being thinking about their post-high school plans? As a parent, I think that it should begin before the child is conceived, but if we start them thinking about specifics when they are freshman, that can be very useful. There is a slogan being kicked around the have a College 101 night. I say make it College and Career 101and let's go with it.

College and Career 101 can be for the 9th grade students and parents. Further events in the year can be named College and Career 102, 103, etc. For our 10th grade students and parents, we advance to College and Career 201; 11th graders will get College and Career 301; 12th graders get College and Career 401. Which brings me to the title of the post...What do I wish that I had known?

This is the question I want to pose to our parents and our students who have gone through this series of events this year. Their wishes for information will help us design the 9-12 College and Career preparation curriculum. I want to include the student voices to help guide our underclassmen through this high school process to help them be the best prepared for whatever their post-secondary plans may hold.

What do you wish you had known?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Coaching by listening

One of the best parts of my position is discussing what teachers are doing with students in their classrooms. I enjoy the conversations had between colleagues about the choices, practices, and results in their classes. It is a great chance to reflect and I encourage the teachers with whom I work to see the observation/evaluation cycle as the most honest professional development in which they will participate.

As I reflect on my own practices, I stumbled across the Partner Discussion Protocol from a conference I attended. When there are partners working together, here is how it generally works:

·        A shares, B is an active listener (then switch)
·        A shares need, goal, or ideas for evidence
·        B’s role is to probe and push with ?’s
o   What’s going on now?
o   Why do you want this to change?
o   What exactly is your goal (desired change)? 
o   How will you know is changed?
 In the administrator/teacher dynamic, there may not necessarily be the reversal of roles, but idea of identifying the wanted change, defining the reason for the change, and being able to assess if the change has actually occurred is definitely valuable.

As the concept of peer evaluators gains popularity, this model can be applied after a pair of observations has been completed. The role of the active listener is key.

As it has been said: "We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak".