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“Why?” or “What?” February 27, 2014

Posted by Sandra Dop in Uncategorized.
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Simon Sinek’s TED Talk  Start with Why makes me wonder just what I believe about why I do what I do.

Then I realize that I believe in students who can accomplish more than we have ever dreamed.  I believe there is a far better way than we currently have to support them as they do just that. I believe that students are far “smarter” than I am.  I believe they have deep passion we need to tap into.

I believe we can create space for students to ask hard questions and set about finding the answers or solutions, where educators marvel at the depth to which their students take them, where communities/businesses draw students into real world encounters that enrich both the student and the community/business.

Invest 18 minutes in the TED Talk then tell us what you believe.

PS:  I write more frequently at http://www.IACompEd.com  the official website of the Iowa competency-based education work.


Learning and Teaching February 22, 2011

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Recently I have been pondering the term “Teaching and Learning” and have decided to propose that we stop using it.  Perhaps we should even change the name of our bureau here at the Department.  I propose “Learning and Teaching” as the new title.  Teaching and Learning indicates that someone teaches and someone learns.  But real teaching cannot take place before learning something ourselves; it is a cycle of learning and teaching and learning and teaching and even learning/teaching and teaching/learning–and the adults, as well as the “students,” are in the entire cycle.  The longer I spend in the learning part of the cycle, the better “teacher” I can be, but the part of the cycle I like best is the learning/teaching and the teaching/learning part.

No, We Are NOT Ready! September 23, 2010

Posted by Sandra Dop in Education, Uncategorized.

My three oldest grandchildren started kindergarten this fall–in three different states.  The oldest has been online since she was about 21 months old–she told me how to text when she was 4; the youngest uses an iPod, and iPad, and a laptop.  Someone please give this generation a name besides Generation Z, which sounds too final–the children BORN in this century who have no recollection of computers that would crash on 12-31-1999 or even of 9-11, but whatever we tag them, they are “plugged in.”  Being connected, collaborative, and creative thinkers is in their DNA.  For the most part we are not ready–and I would like to submit that we need to admit that we will never be “ready” again.  We must continue to reinvent ourselves–continue to be future thinking–continue to push the envelope toward Next Generation Schools.  The push has to be top down; bottom up; and from all sides–AND from the inside out!  If every students is to succeed, then EVERY educator has to be asking the tough questions.  So what are the tough questions you are asking this week?

Go ahead–break something! August 5, 2010

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Educational leaders from across Iowa were treated to an inspiring conference by the School Administrators of Iowa staff. We were told the State Board of Education is focusing on compentency based instructionand accountablity and virtual learning (Max Phillips, State Board memeber). And we were encouraged to disrupt the status quo (Michael Horn, author), to take risks because every time something breaks there is postential for new (Sarah Brown Wessling, National/Iowa Teacher of the Year), that our personal learning networks can be more powerful than a graduate course (Daron Durflinger, high school principal), and to visit classrooms to find out who owns the learning (Alan November, educator). Each of these is a gold nugget–a piece of the whole. But for me it was the final thoughts of the day that I am continuing to chew on: since the world is flat and information is expanding at exponential rates, the most important thing we can teach our students is to teach themselves, and the only way to do that is to become master learners (David Warlick, educator, author).  How will you increase student achievement by furthering your own learning? What one thing will you do differently this year to learn something and to promote 21st century classrooms for our kids? I WILL start twitter!

Up size it! June 10, 2010

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Since visiting 3 schools in Tampere, Finland, last month, I have been chewing on a thought one of the counselors left me with:  how can you know your students if you have that many?  I had told him we have mega schools of two and three thousand.  In Tampere the schools are about 350 students and focus on specific things.  One school was language focused and taught Latin, Swedish, German, English, and Italian.  Another one was an art school where the talent was oozing from the walls.  The other one was a vocational school where students study careers that may lead to a technical school but not likely to university.  Their campus included a working restaurant and farm, large grounds for hordiculture study, and a floral design room.  The students were very different in each school as were the faculty. The passion and bent of the faculty matched the studetns. 

So are we misisng the boat with our mega schools?  Do fewer students “fall through the cracks” when they are in smaller schools where content and faculty have the same bend and passion as the students? 

What do you think?

Global Education May 23, 2010

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Walking in the city center of Tallinn last night we heard so many different languages. The couple across from us at dinner was French; my friend distinguished Russian from Estonian or Finnish in a shop where we bought post cards; I heard German and a couple languages with which neither of us were familiar, and a Japanese tour arrived in our hotel later when I was sitting in the lobby. The richness of culture is all around us, and I wonder about the unilingual, inexperienced American youth and how we can truly help them become globally aware, connected, and responsible if we remain so disconnected from the rest of the world. What is happening in American schools? How can we share the information?

Arrival Disappointment May 17, 2010

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Ah, the joys of international travel. We have arrived in Finland but without luggage. I had hoped to blog about a school by the end of today but we were up most of the night between the airport and a 2 1/2 hour bus ride to Tampere.

Reconneting and Flying Out! May 13, 2010

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Am I smarter than a fifth grader?  I am not so sure anymore!  And I spent 7 years in fifth grade–only one as an 10-11 year old.  I almost said only one as a student, but I have been a student all my life and I realize those years I spent in 5th grade taught me more than the kids learned.  Today the Van Meter students presented to the State School Board and I realized I had started this blog in January when they presented to the legislature and then never returned.  When I consider what they have done since then, I am shamed.  I can also say I have seen growth in the students who came today–more confident, more prepared,–granted they ahve done the presentation a few times now, but not having seen them for several months means I can see what those who see them every day may not–growth!

And here I am ready to fly to Finland tomorrow.  I hope to visit 2 to 4 schools while I am there.  I will then have something to write about. 

So why is it that adults think we have to have “something to write about” in order to blog, but students just blog? 

I hope you enjoy our trip to Finland and beyond.  I may even take you north of the Arctic Circle.


Iowa Students Speak to Legislators January 28, 2010

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I witnessed history today.  Several Van Meter students presented to members of the Iowa legislature.  They were poised, confident, capable, and young–some of them very young.  I sat there thinking that one day we may be able to point back to January 28, 2010, and say it was the turning point—the day a couple seventh graders and a fifth grader swayed the Iowa legislature and forever changed education as we know it.  I know, the high schoolers were impressive too, but those representatives and senators nearly fell off their chairs when their superintendent John Carver said “fifth grader.”   She demonstrated her blog on things she and her friends are reading.   

When the legislators asked, “So what can we do to get out of your way and let you go?”  I nearly cried.

 I will forever be proud to have witnessed it!

And now I want to know more.  What is happening in other Iowa schools and across the nation that would wow a standing-room-only group of highly educated, very successful adults?