Saturday, July 19, 2008

Last Day of Conference BLC08

Terry and I went for a run in the heat of the afternoon to clear our heads yesterday afternoon. We then boarded the bus to travel into town to board our boat to cruise on the Charles River and towards the sea. (See the photos above and in next post)The beer was good but expensive, the food was decidedly average, the music was good but the views of the city skyline as the sun set and full moon rose was great. We also cruised under the flight path to Logan airport with planes landing, almost on top of us every 15-20 seconds. We returned just after 11.00pm and after diarying and blogging we crashed just after midnight.

We went to an extra session this morning on RSS which is a tool that allows you to track posts on blogs you subsribe to and also to newspapers and or newspaper columns. This was a very useful session.

The next session was by Lainie McGann (again) on Social Networking which is a useful concept for teachers and students, and she provided us with a few tools to get involved. The tool that seems most useful to me and for Opotiki College is where you can share bookmarks.

I am beginning to see that being Web 2.0 proficient requires you to use a range of tools in a co-ordinated way. I plan to try to co-ordinate blog, RSS, social networking and using tools like chacha and gcast along with wikis, which I need a bit more help on (though I am sure will have a great 2 minute video on it) to enhance learning and sharing (in fact, creating new knowledge).

Pablo Noguera was today's key note speaker. He is an inspirational and provocative speaker who is angry about the education system and results in USA, especially for blacks. One of the things he highlighted is that less money is spent on poor community schools and more on rich community schools.

He certainly put out there the challenges for USA which include: changing demographics due to immigration and the poor treatment of immigrants, persistent gaps in achievement, growing inequality, families in distress, and public impatience with the pace of change.

He identified factors for high performimg schools as: culture of high expectations, focus on the whole child, strategic partnerships, high standards, countering race and gender stereotypes. In these schools cultural difference is not a deficit, it is an asset.

An important point he made about homework was that homework is an equity issue. Homework only works if there is someone to help and assist students at home.

Effective schools have systems to monitor academic performance and to guide reform, assessment which is formative, shared and distributed leadership and a culture of high expecctations for all and systems of internal accountability. They also understand the external pressures on students, they help students think concretely about their future, they have commitment to excellence and equity and they explicitly teach code switching – speech, dress and demeanour that is appropriate for certain situations. He also argued strongly against streaming of students.

His desription of excellent teaching is that the best teachers don't expect the students to learn the way they teach, they teach the way the students learn. These teachers have moral authority, not because of their position, but because of the strength and quality of their relationship skills.

Schools need to do more of: extended learning time, popular to be smart, mentoring, intervening early, site based PD on pedagogy and values and relationship building.

He was outstanding and given me a lot to think about.

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