Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We're moving

I've decided to shift gears a bit.... I will not be posting to Assessment for Instruction anymore, but have a new blog. I have moved all my posts to the new blog, so you can read any old ones as well.

The new blog is

So, stop on by.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Be Googleable...

I've spent a significant amount of time this summer searching through applications, interviewing both certified and non-certified staff. What's the first thing I do when I get the list of applicants?????

I Google them. 

If you talk to many employers, they say the same thing. 

So my advice to anyone who's looking for a job.. Be Googleable!

Now the question is... how do I become Googleable?

Well, number one. Create an online presence. There are many ways to do that. 

1. You could join twitter using your name as your id... 
2. Blog
3. comment on blogs
4. create a diigo account (again, using your name as your id)

Each of these will create a presence for you. There are other ways, like have the newspaper do an article on you etc...

So, are there other ways to be Googled????

Monday, August 2, 2010

A week of learning

I had the opportunity to attend a 5 day Kagan Cooperative Learning conference. I'll start by being very honest. I was really suspect. We've all been to those conferences that have been pretty drab. I wasn't exactly excited about spending 6 days away from my family either.

Wow was I wrong. This was a great learning time. My district had already had a Kagan trainer out to train some of the staff, so I was sent to learn the ins and outs of Kagan learning. I know that Kagan costs some money to get trained in, but wow what a great way to teach. I can see how I will use some of the structures in my professional development with staff.

I could write pages on what Kagan cooperative learning is, but I'll do some summarizing of key points. If you get a chance to check it out, please do. I highly recommend it!

As they say, Kagan is all about engagement. The trainer we had kept us very engaged in our learning. As he said, the typical classroom of 25 students during a questioning time has only 4% engagement. The student who answers the question... With Kagan structures, 25% of students are engaged, with up to 50%-100% depending on the structure.

Many people (including me before the training) see cooperative learning as dividing the students in the classroom into 3 or 4's. Then the teacher gives the students a task (worksheet or project) to complete. Well, what happens... the high achieving student complete the task and some students just sit and watch.
How is Kagan different??  That's the million dollar question...

The difference is the structures.. The different ways you assign a task to those teams (groups of 4). Instead of giving the groups a question to discuss, with Kagan structures each student is given a part of the task... Each member has a a responsibility to the group. One example is the Round Robin. This structure makes each student share something to the team. You can give each team member a time limit as well for their response.

Another difference is Kagan's focus on relationships. Much of our training time was spent getting to know the people in our groups of 4 (teams as Kagan calls them). This focus on relationships is what I see being useful in my work in professional development. There are many new faces in the building, so early I want to spend time having everyone getting to know each other. Building trusting relationships is going to be KEY!

I know this was a short snip-it of what I learned, I hope you can hear my passion for my learning. I've already planned how I'm going to use some of the structures in PD and want to see staff using the structures in their classroom. Half of the battle of learning is getting students engaged. I see Kagan as a great way to increase student engagement in the classroom.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thoughts on cleaning

I've recently done some purging. I'm moving into my new office. This has given me the opportunity to sort through my "stuff" to decide what's important and what I need. There are things that look good, but do I need them to fulfill my duties at school? No...

I just did the same thing with the tweeps I'm following on twitter. I went through my list and made decisions.

"Does this person tweet useful information?"

"Do I learn from this person?"

These were the two main questions I looked at. I also looked at the last time they tweeted. There were some who haven't been active in months. Unfollow....

Now, why did I do this? It looks good if there are big numbers by my twitter id... but I've decided to follow those I find value in.

I also want to clean up my feed. I want the good stuff. I found myself moving very quickly through tweets... I probably missed some really good stuff..

I also noticed that I got a bunch of new followers in the last week. I engaged in some conversations regarding #iste10 . I imagine that some people started following lots of people who were there, or involved in those conversations. I welcome those followers, but hope they follow me because I provide them with something.

Just some thoughts on cleaning.. Is it a good time for you to clean?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A change

Well, if you follow my twitter feed, you have learned that I will be changing roles and school districts next school year. I have accepted a position as Middle School Principal at South Tama County Schools in Toledo, Iowa. I am really excited about this new adventure! I'm also nervous. I've not been a principal before.... I've been in control of my classroom... not a whole building of 6-8th graders, teachers, counselors, aides, a secretary, nurse etc....

 Now that may sound like I'm afraid, I'm not afraid.. The administrative team, school board, teachers, and parents who were part of the hiring process saw leadership skills in me they value and want in their school leader. Talk about a humbling thought. These people trust me to move their school forward. To take it to the next level. That's my goal, to take the school to the next level! I've spent the time since I've been hired preparing a plan. I know my summer will be spend learning the ropes of the building, meeting staff, students, and parents, and building relationships! So, if you don't hear much from the blog this summer, know I've not lost my educational passion, it's moved to a new task!

I won't give up my passion for assessment. I'm still teaching a class on formative assessment and standards grading with my brother Matt Townsley this summer. I also hope to introduce the idea to my teachers. Many of them have already visited the blog, so I hope the conversation can be started and we can use formative assessment to guide our instruction and help students have a deeper understanding of their learning. I'll keep posting ideas and experiences about assessment and learning here in the future. I may even throw in a good admin story as well!!! 

Thanks for the visits, and stay tuned in the future!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thoughts on Summative Assessments... Comments please!!!

Well, as the school year winds down, I have been reflecting on the practice of Standards Based Grading. My current practice is use formative assessments throughout our class time, then give a "summative" assessment at the end of each unit. I then allow students who want to re-learn a standard do some practice/re-teaching and then redo any of the learning targets they want to. I've liked this method, it's more work for me, but I can see the students continue to learn.

My question is... how does this prepare them for the challenges of mid-terms and final exams in college? Is it my job to model the methods of assessment that many colleges utilize??

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Off the beaten path.... #edchat

This post has been a long time coming.... I've participated in various #edchat's on twitter. If you haven't yet, I'd really encourage you to. If you want to to spend an hour watching your computer screen explode with passion for education, then join on in!

Anyway, the real reason for my post is a reflection on #edchat in general. I love conversations about education. My extended family is filled with educators.. My brother Matt, sister Becky, and her husband Russ are all in education, along with myself and my wife. Our family get togethers are filled with talk of education. There are times where we put a moratorium on ed. talk during certain holidays.

Anyway, back to #edchat convo...Sometimes I'm torn during #edchat. Torn in a sense of lack of control, lack of a belief for a real change. Many of the conversations are what I call "out there" The conversation moves to a realm of almost unreachable desires of what education looks like. Many will say that we need people with vision in our world. I totally agree, but what's really going to change and when will it happen? I believe that education needs to change in the United States. Many will say that local control is still important... Really? The students we have are going to compete in a global market, not just for a job at the local mill.. We have to prepare our students to compete with students from India, China, France, wherever....The SYSTEM needs tweaking, but how much? The conversations I've had in #edchat are great and my thinking is always challenged (Which is why I participate!) Who's going to take charge and rock the ship?

My struggle is when is this change going to happen? All this talk about how education needs reformed, how standardized testing is hurting education keeps happening, but nothing has changed. #edchat has given me hope! Hope that there are over 1000 people in Tuesday's 12pm chat who want to create a change... I just hope it happens soon!