Today’s students are more connected, more aware and more in touch than any earlier generation. They’re connected to technologies that personalize and empower independent learning. Developing skills to navigate the wealth of knowledge and resources available to them today; they often become their own best teacher. They learn to love learning again. We see this every day at the Delphian School; other proficiency-based programs report similar results. Students want schools that put them in the driver’s seat of their own educational journey.

I discuss this in detail in the Fall 2014 issue of AdvancedEd entitled, “A New Paradigm – Putting All Students in the Driver’s Seat”

Read the full AdvancedEd article here.



In my recent blog about the importance of listening I wrote, “Students are really brilliant, you know.”  In my recent blog about creativity I wrote about Erik Wahl’s book, “Ask a roomful of five-year-olds how many are artists and every hand will shoot up.  Ask a roomful of thirty-five-year-olds the same question and you get one reluctant hand.”  Well, I just read another blog by Angela Maiers that is really good. That led me to Choose2Matter, a site that is really, really good.

She took my blog concept in a whole new direction, which I love. I am including it in large part here but I encourage you to read all of the examples that follow this:

“At Choose2Matter, our opening line in speaking to young adults is, ‘You Are a Genius, and the World Needs Your Contribution.’  Next, we tell them they can change the world.

Why do we say this?

“Because studies show that, at the age of five, 100% of students believe they can, and will, change the world. When I visit with first-graders, they always confirm this by enthusiastically charging the stage en masse when I invite them to share their genius and tell me their ambitions for changing the world.

“By the age of 9, only half of students believe they are geniuses who can change the world.

By the age of 16, just 2% of students believe they are geniuses who can change the world.

When I visit high schools, I see something very different than I do in elementary schools. The genius is still there, but it’s buried under years of schooling. How? I’ve actually had educators and parents comment on my posts that we shouldn’t tell students they can change the world, because it sets unrealistic expectations. My response: unrealistic for whom?

“Fortunately, I’ve seen again and again how little it takes to bring this genius back to the surface and set students on their path to changing the world.”

She then shares examples of how the remaining 2% of students share their genius with the world.  There is a theme here.  Children are brilliant, creative and they can change the world.  Think about it, and think about how education should enable a student’s ability to change the world!

Posted by marks on Friday August 9, 2013 at 08:28AM

Part of my day involves ed tech (educational technology).  While I’m not an expert in this ever-evolving world, I try to stay informed so that my school (and I) can do the best we can for our students.  I have been using an LMS (Learning Management System) for my seminars and activities, and traveled to finalsite University in June just to learn more about their new LMS.

But hold on, maybe you don’t know much about ed tech.  Today I found out that I don’t know as much as I thought.  I found a list of  24 Ed-Tech Terms That All Educators Should Know.

It was really good, and it was really helpful.  For example:

“2. Adaptive Learning. Software that adapts its content and pacing to the current knowledge level of the user, so it’s almost like having a personal tailor for your education.”  

I’ve seen this in action.  Adaptive testing rapidly takes a student up from level to level and quickly settles on the level the student has mastered, without having the student do lots of boring, easy problems, or frustrating and impossible ones.  “Adaptive” rejects the “one size, fits all” category.

More importantly, this is a short, simple definition.  If you read all 24 ed tech terms, you will know a lot about the field, and will immediately see where your (or your child’s) school is doing well, and where the gaps are.

The list above is a text list in a blog I found.  It is also available in infographic format.

You can’t really think about education today if you aren’t familiar with at least this list of words and concepts.  Hope this helps!

Posted by marks on Wednesday August 7, 2013 at 03:17PM

A wise young teacher once told me, “What my students have to say is more important than what I have to say.”  I gained a lot from that mini-lesson. I thought I’d pass on some thoughts about it, and the concept I saw below the surface (of what appears to be a crazy generality that goes against all we know about education).  Sometimes I reword it – “What students think is more important than what I think.”

We want students to learn to think for themselves.  That’s what we want for our students in the United States, and for all the students in the world.  One of the ways this happens is students say things, hear what they’ve said and then think about it.  They often see that the idea as expressed doesn’t make sense and it needs to be reworded or rethought.  That process of “fixing your thoughts” or “correcting an opinion or conclusion” wouldn’t have happened if the student hadn’t been allowed to speak up and freely express it in the first place.

How often has a teacher started a class with, “Today we are doing to discuss….”, but the teacher does all the talking?  Worse, current factory-model, lecture-method classrooms can’t allow real student participation or questions.  If each student in class asked one question or gave one thought….well, you do the math.  The lecture couldn’t even get started – we’re out of time..

So here’s my big thought of the day.  Let’s all listen more to our students and give them more opportunities to speak up.  

And, let’s just listen, instead of waiting for the nearest break to instruct or correct our students. Students are really brilliant, you know, and if you let them work things out for themselves, they learn many things in the process.  More importantly, when you let them talk things out, they can sort out their own illogics and slowly develop better communication and logic skills.  Just as we develop other skills, we learn to think for ourselves by doing a lot of thinking and expressing ourselves, orally and in writing.

We must ensure lots of student thinking, talking and writing happens in our schools!  Why? Because it is important that students think for themselves, and that’s one of the ways to get there.  

Are you listening….(smile)…..

Posted by marks on Friday August 2, 2013 at 11:36AM

Now that I have your attention, here’s the full July 5, 2013 story from NPR (“Education Reform Movement Learns Lesson From Old Standards’)

“‘For far too long, our school systems actually lied to children and to families and to communities,” says Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a recent speech in Washington. And what made those lies possible, according to Duncan, was the one thing most of these state standards had in common: They were low.”

The NPR story talks about the Common Core, “the new set of national education standards in math and English language arts… This move toward a single set of standards has been embraced by a bipartisan crowd of politicians and educators largely because of what the Common Core standards are replacing: a mess.”

That’s where the lying comes in, because each state had different standards. NPR notes that a  “fourth grader in Arkansas could have appeared proficient in reading by his state’s standards — but, by the standards of another state, say Massachusetts, not even close.”

The article notes that many students met state reading standards but did poorly on federal tests.  In Tennessee 90 percent of fourth graders met state reading proficiency standards but only 28 tested proficient in reading on federal tests.

I’m not saying that Common Core standards aren’t controversial, but something is wrong and needs to be fixed.  Tennessee Governor Bredesen said in the article that “his state’s standards had been low for years.”  One study showed that more than half of the states had very low benchmarks.

Think it can’t get any worse than having low state standards out of sync with higher federal standards?  The article says, “It gets worse. Between 2005 and 2007, some 15 states actually lowered their proficiency standards in reading or math, according to a report from the Education Department. Why? Under the No Child Left Behind law, passed by Congress in 2001, states were held accountable for failing schools. But the law had a fundamental flaw.

“’It mandated that students at all schools be proficient,’ says Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research. But it ‘allowed states to set their proficiency standards.’”

Folks are concerned that “the first round of student scores in 2015 will be honest, and bad — so bad they shock parents and strike fear into politicians.”  Former Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen has this advice:

“’The scores are gonna look like they’re falling, and they’re not,’ Bredesen says. ‘They’re just being tested more honestly, and we’ve got to stay the course.’”

Many folks responded to this news on the NPR site and I love the first two responses.  Skip Mendler makes the point I try to make over and over again:

“The real problem is with the concept of ‘performing at grade level’ – the assumption that educational progress is strictly a function of chronological age, and that all kids develop all kinds of knowledge at the same rate. Lumping kids together in age-based cohorts, and then expecting them all to march through the curriculum in lockstep is absurd on its face.”

Mary Leonhardt  has her own blog Teaching a Love of Reading.   She writes “this whole Common Core issue is making me crazy, as it is driving the very curriculum that makes kids hate reading.”  

In response to the NPR story, she says that after 37 years of teaching high school English, she’s learned that only avid readers can reach the Common Core standards.

“The kinds of literacy skills the common core requires are skills only developed through wide, voracious reading.

“Which gives us the perfect catch-22: The very activities that develop high-level literacy skills are the very activities that are discouraged by the test demanding them. Schools are awash now in curriculum that requires students to pick apart, in excruciating detail, pieces of literature that are boring to them in the first place. Really, it’s hard to think of a better way to discourage avid reading among children.”

“… Children acquire oral language through having a multitude of people speaking to them and listening to them throughout the day. Little kids fall in love with oral language, often talking themselves to sleep at night, and continuing, without a letup, first thing in the morning.”

She closes with, “That’s what needs to happen with reading.”  I agree!

Some of us can’t stop thinking about education!

Posted by Mr. Mark Siegel on Wednesday July 31, 2013 at 09:31AM