Friday, January 25, 2013

Changing Education from FM to Pandora

Growing up, we listened to our favorite songs on FM radio .  We had our favorite DJs that built excitement about new songs, and he kept our attention with games and contests to be caller number 10.  We also had to endure listening to songs that we really didn't care for, and when we repeatedly heard songs we didn't like, we would give up and change the channel or turn the radio off all together.

Fast forward 25 years to today.  We still have FM radio, and the DJ that pushes music that he believes his audience wants to hear.  Listeners tolerate commercials every 3rd song, and everyone listens to the same thing at the same time if they choose to tune in. Does this meet the needs  and preferences of every listener?

In the last 10 years, we have seen the advent of satellite radio that is now Sirius XM.  It has taken the FM concept, but gone a step further to offer listeners different genres of music, talk radio and news radio to its audience.  The product is a definite improvement from the FM model, but it is little more than a programmatic change. 

Now comes Pandora.  Looking at Pandora, the listener is the DJ.  He can pick the artists that he wants to listen to, and Pandora programs all music based on the artist and other acts and music similar to the artist.  The listener can personalize his station by giving his account feedback on each song.  He can like the song so it will return more frequently and dislike a song to ensure that it never returns to his ears.  Boy, how I wished I could have done that 25 years ago.

So if we can personalize the songs we listen to, how can we apply this concept to our educational setting?

Personalized Learning Stations.

Find ways to personalize learning.  There is so much literature out there that supports differentiating learning that  meets the unique needs of the learner.  We must move from the DJ dependent radio station of education to providing a multitude of ways that students can extend their learning independent of the teacher.  This change is a philosophical in nature that moves the focus from teacher to student.

Learning Requires Feedback

Pandora is awesome because the listener is in control of what he likes and doesn't like.  Learners must be in an environment where they are not subjected to learning situations that disengage.  Teachers should provide opportunities for students to give feedback about the learning opportunities that are provided.  If teachers know what activities the students like, there is a strong chance that the activity will come back to their learning station again.

Pause Feature

Students need a pause button in the learning process.  Interruptions occur when kids learn, but how often do we allow students to push pause?  Students learn at different speeds, and having a pause button allows the learner to spend a little more time solidifying their own understanding before moving on to a new task or concept.

Fast Forward 

Students need to move on for different reasons.  Either they have a deep understanding and can move on, or the song being played for them does not engage them in learning.  In a controlled fashion, teachers can create opportunities for students to fast forward to a new or different activity that will better help the student learn.

New Station

Students are very creative and need to create their own learning stations.  Teachers can provide students avenues for them to explore.  This is a great way for students to solidify their knowledge by applying it to new and uncharted waters.  When students are provide the autonomy to make a new station for learning, engagement increases and meaningful learning occurs.

My old FM station didn't have any of these features and not many of my classrooms did either.  Don't get me wrong. I had some of the most outstanding educators ever, and they shaped me into the person I am today.  The focus then was on teaching and today's focus has changed to learning.  That means the teacher has to evolve from the disseminator of information to becoming more versatile in their approach, delivery and creation of personalized activities.  They must meet many different learning styles.  Teachers and administrators must change their focus from the instructor to the instructed because students benefit most in classrooms where the focus is on them.  In the Pandora classroom choice abounds and engagement soars.

Students are getting exposed more and more everyday to a Pandora style of learning.  In what ways is your school or classroom like Pandora?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

13 - The Most Valuable Number in 2013

In last week's bit, Make your Leadership Resolution Succeed, I challenged leaders to create a new leadership resolution.  I made this challenge by asking leaders to drive deeper into why it was critical to make a resolution to change.  Here is a little quote that I used as a compelling reason to make a change.

If you want to be a better leader, then you must identify why change is imperative.  The most noble reason I can think of is because each school year, we affect 1/13 of a child's life.  Not their education, but their life.  What we do with each child's 1/13 is life or death for that child, and what we do or don't do this year for a child will affect the subsequent 1/13's of their life in the following years.  To make our resolution even more compelling, it is safe to say that what we do will affect their quality of life, their ability to have a stable or successful career, and ultimately the quality of their health. 

The Most Valuable Number

13 is the most valuable number in the 21st century because it is the number of years that all educators have to set the foundation for every child to begin their college and career future.  If they only get 12 years of an education, they are guaranteed a life of poverty, crime, poor health and early death.  12 is not good enough.  12 will get you nowhere.  13 is the only acceptable number in the 21st century to ensure that every child is guaranteed the most valuable currency of our new century.  Learning.

No Room for Excuses

Children will come to us 2 or more years behind.  Children will fail to learn due to language or disability.  We can no longer allow these excuses to be the reason that kids did not achieve because these excuses will not keep our kids out of the unemployment line or the prison system.  If we want to end the cycle of poverty and reduce the crime rate, we must guarantee that 100% of our students learn for 13 straight years and walk out of our public schools into a prosperous and secure future.

I hope you will join me in 2013 in owning the responsibility for every child's 13th.