Wednesday, April 6, 2016

#D100bloggerPD: Hacking Education- Hack 10 & Conclusion

Back in March, here on my blog, the #D100bloggerPD crew kicked off our newest blog book study- which focused on the fabulous Hacking Education by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez. If you have reached this post without seeing any of the previous posts- or if you are unsure of what a blog book study is- you’ll definitely want to check out my introduction post- which you can access here. If you are a follower of the #D100bloggerPD crew, then you know that
my teacher-twin Colleen and I brought this idea of "blogger professional development" to our district at the beginning of this school year. Ever since then, we have had so much fun sharing, learning, and growing with fellow teachers/administrators as well as new members of our PLN. 
Since the beginning, #D100bloggerPD has tackled blog book studies on (1) Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (2) A "What Inspires You?" Series and (3) Move Your Bus by Ron Clark, and this Hacking Education study has been the most recent. I know I talk a lot about how Colleen and I got this movement going in our district- but we wouldn’t be able to keep it going without some of our most faithful #D100bloggerPD regulars- all of which took part in this study and you’ll want to check out each of their blogs as well! We are so fortunate to all be connected and share this love of being a lifelong learner and I just hope they all know how much I appreciate them! 
Here's a link to all those wonderful people's blog posts as part of this study- and each one of them definitely merits your attention:

Ginny from Hiawatha: Hack 3- Teacher Quiet Zones
Cool Cat Teacher: Hack 4- Track Records
Reading and Owl of the Above: Hack 10- The 360 Spreadsheet &Conclusion 

The last hack in the book, Hack 10: The 360 Spreadsheet: Collect a Different Kind of Student Data, focuses on something I really love- which is data. I am such a geek when it comes to the collection and analyzing of data and it probably gives me more joy than it should- but this hack really puts things into perspective for me. I collect a lot of data- and I’m not exaggerating- but is it always the right data for instructing my students? Sure, I have the required data points- weekly progress monitoring, three times yearly benchmarking, daily anecdotal notes, formative assessment data, and so on and so on forever- but after reading this hack, it is clear there should be more attention to detail and effort put into one more aspect of data- which is really devoting time getting to know my students. It’s not that I don’t get to know them-of course I do- we have the tried and true interest inventories, small book talks, and general conversation- but this hack really made me stop and wonder that, if I spend so much time collecting, organizing, and analyzing the data I mentioned above- why am I not devoting the same time to gather other information to really complete my picture of that child? 

In this chapter, Barnes and Gonzalez touch upon the “I wish my teacher knew” movement that began in 2015 where Kyle Schwartz, a third grade teacher, created a lesson but the results were more than she could’ve ever imagined. Soon, this lesson went viral and teachers everywhere took part. It was quite simply amazing. Teachers began to open doors that they never knew were even there with their students and the student answers to “I wish my teacher knew…” changed the lives of students and teachers forever. Not just in Kyle’s classroom, not just in Denver, CO where she is from, but all over the world. You can read  (and watch!) more about this lesson here. One lesson. One teacher. One huge change in the way we look at our job (read: our lives) as educators. This reminds me of a quote I like to look at in the beginning of each school year to give myself a little perspective.

So quite simply put, the hack is, as Barnes and Gonzalez say, to “collect data on the whole child” (Hacking Education, Page 121).  In order to look at this whole child, the authors give plenty of examples of where to look for data- things like student passions, family, and activities. My favorite that they mention is academics. At first, you think, well yeah, I’m totally covering the academic side- look at how much data I have! But then you read it and it says, “Here’s where you can put things a standardized test won’t tell you about a student’s academic needs and preferences” (Hacking Education, Page 123). Well shoot. Are you thinking what I’m thinking right now? Because I’m thinking…well…that’s everything.
 What can I learn about a kid that isn’t on a standardized test…just about everything! Once you frame your thoughts around this concept- I swear this hack makes so much more sense and the need for it becomes so much more immediate. 

The book goes into steps you can take right now to get this hack moving- things like “gather the data, build your spreadhseet, and use the data” (Hacking Education, page 125). I mean, how easy does that sound. Being the paperless person that I am, I instantly envisioned a beautiful google doc with all these columns and rows and color coding.

(See, I told you I get geeked out over data!) It’s not like this new chart of data has to be completed tonight- or even tomorrow- but just knowing it is there- with spots to fill with important information about students- just that thought alone inspires me to fill it out. Can I also just point out that I love how one of the steps they mention is to use the data. How true is this?! As educators, we collect so much data. So, so much. But how much of that data are we using (really using) to guide our daily instruction. Time for some honest reflection here. (Which, side note- if you aren't regularly being honest with yourself and reflecting on your teaching...start now!)
I’d be willing to say that if you are collecting a piece of data that you aren’t using on a day to day basis with your students, THROW IT OUT! Stop wasting your time! Everything we do needs to have a direct impact on our students learning. If not, question it. If it isn’t valuable, ditch it. If it might be valuable, revise it. If it is valuable but you aren’t using it, revise it but also give it a good hard look for why you think it is valuable in the first place. Teaching requires so much reflection- it really is a nonstop flow of questioning and thinking and changing. And it is, after all, for a great cause.

So that brings us to the conclusion of this (I’m just going to say it) life-changing book. The conclusion opens with this beautiful Julian Casablancas (an American Musician) quote. It just puts everything into perspective for me. We don't have to go this path alone. We have each other. Everyone has an at-the-ready PLN if they want it (hello, Twitter!) and everyone deserves someone reach to for help when they need it. This book is just the starting point on that. If you read this book and something in it doesn’t change your life- read it again. If you are looking for a little refresher on why you love education and some quick fixes to make your day-to-day life more manageable and better for your students- you have to read this book. It’s a no brainer.  I'll leave you with this last tidbit from Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez.

Please, if you have any questions, comments, etc., please do not hesitate to leave a comment! All of us in the #D100bloggerPD crew love to hear from our readers!

Also- if you enjoyed following along with us on this study- be sure to pick up your copy of Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School (Hack Learning Series) (Volume 1) ! I got mine through Amazon- gotta love free two day shipping!!


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