Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Continual Improvement

At times we come across writings, thoughts, or presentations from the business world that are applicable to public education. The writing below consists of excerpts from Jeff Bezos' (CEO of Amazon) annual letter to the shareholders of Amazon.  Bezos' thoughts are applicable to any public or private organization in pursuit of continual improvement. When you read customer, think student and think of academic achievement as profits.


Says Bezos:

As companies get larger and more complex, there's a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it's dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2.

A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you're not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you're doing the process right. Gulp. It's not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, "Well, we followed the process." A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. The process is not the thing. It's always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us? In a Day 2 company, you might find it's the second.

Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you'll find on surveys. They live with the design.

I'm not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won't find any of it in a survey."

New trends in your sector are constantly emerging, you have to go after them full steam. If not, you could be left behind.

The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won't or can't embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you're probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind.

These big trends are not that hard to spot (they get talked and written about a lot), but they can be strangely hard for large organizations to embrace. We're in the middle of an obvious one right now: machine learning and artificial intelligence.

High-Velocity Decision Making

Stop being a bumbling big organization Bezos says, and start making high quality decisions faster. Failing to do so could leave hungrier upstarts to take your market share.

Day 2 companies make high- quality decisions, but they make high-quality decisions slowly . To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1, you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations. The senior team at Amazon is determined to keep our decision-making velocity high. Speed matters in business - plus a high-velocity decision making environment is more fun too.

First, never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. For those, so what if you're wrong? I wrote about this in more detail in last year's letter.

Second, most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you're probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you're good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.

Third, use the phrase "disagree and commit." This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there's no consensus, it's helpful to say, "Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?" By the time you're at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you'll probably get a quick yes.

Fourth, recognize true misalignment issues early and escalate them immediately . Sometimes teams have different objectives and fundamentally different views. They are not aligned. No amount of discussion, no number of meetings will resolve that deep misalignment. Without escalation, the default dispute resolution mechanism for this scenario is exhaustion. Whoever has more stamina carries the decision.

Taken from the The Street,: April 12, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Looking Forward

Our school district begins each year focused on a set of yearly key-performance objectives (KPO) that are broken into monthly milestones.  Progress toward achieving our objectives is reported to the Beaver Dam Unified School District Board of Education every 90 days.  These accountability reports are on our school district’s website (  This year we are focused on 11 KPOs across four core-strategy areas: student growth and achievement, staff effectiveness and development, community engagement, and facilities and operations.  Let’s take a closer look at two key-performance objectives that will have a substantial impact on the learning experiences of our students.

In the area of student growth and achievement, a team of key stakeholders has been working throughout this year to review, update, and advance the courses offered at Beaver Dam Middle School.  Our BDMS scheduling and course review team is moving forward adding elective courses at seventh and eighth grades, offering multi-year German and Spanish courses, and Algebra for high-school credit.  New at eighth grade, all students will take Computer Apps and Innovations, where students will learn to write apps, code, and innovate through multiple technology platforms. New elective courses across seventh and eighth grades will focus in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  The course additions will include Automation & Robotics, Science of Technology, Green Architecture and an online agri-science course.  At the sixth-grade level, all students will take Design and Modeling and Flight and Space STEM courses.  In addition to core subject areas, we will continue to offer current elective courses in art, physical education, family & consumer education and music.   Our middle school student experience will be substantially different moving forward.  

This past November, our community passed a $48.9 million referendum focusing on renovating our high school and remodeling the entrance and office areas at all BDUSD schools.  The high-school design is in its final stages.  Our agri-science room is slated to open first.  The current plan is to have the new agri-science room that consists of four learning spaces (aquaponics, small animal lab, large animal lab, and classroom space) open September 1, 2017.   The field house and student commons/cafeteria areas are scheduled for completion by January 1, 2018.  The entrance, office area, kitchen, and centrally-located classrooms will open March 2018, and the fabrication laboratory, technology-education space, music suite, and all other classrooms are scheduled for completion by September 1, 2018.  Our new high school will have the most advanced learning spaces in Wisconsin. .  Draft floor-plan designs and artistic renderings of the building are available for viewing at the school district’s website:  We are excited and look forward to accomplishing this key performance objective connected to the facilities and operations core-strategy.

It is an exciting time to live, work, and learn in Beaver Dam as we guide our students and empower their futures while leading the way in student growth and achievement.  Our schools are experiencing increased open-enrollment applications at all grade levels.  If you are considering a move to the Beaver Dam Unified School District, make sure to complete open-enrollment paperwork soon!  Available open-enrollment spots are filling fast.  Our open-enrollment information is found at

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Math Myths: Debunking Misconceptions


“Many people believe math is innate,” says Nicole Joseph, assistant professor of mathematics education. “They believe math is reserved for an elite group of students, and either you can do it or you can’t. People will say they are not a ‘math person,’ when they would never talk that way about not being able to read.”
Joseph spent 12 years in Seattle as a math teacher and an instructional coach to teachers. She says the myth that not everyone can learn math reflects society’s tendency to value learners who appear naturally adept at memorizing formulas and calculating quickly and accurately to the exclusion of others.
“Every student is capable of doing mathematics,” Joseph says. “But not every student learns the same way, and teachers have to put aside any preconceived notions and figure out how each student learns best.”
Fourth-grade teacher Julia Crownover has always been enthusiastic about math.
“Math is truly for everyone. Teachers just need to find creative ways to reach students,” she says. She uses traditional tools like worksheets and flash cards, but she also reaches out to students in ways that speak to them.
“Some students need a visual or tactile representation, some may thrive with the competition and challenge of a game, and some may benefit with putting math into real-life situations,” she says.

Julia Crownover of Nashville is currently teaching at the International School of Ulm, in Neu-Ulm Germany. She formerly taught fourth grade at Eakin Elementary.
A Nashville native and avid Vanderbilt basketball fan, Crownover often uses sports to teach math concepts.
“I know a lot about the Vanderbilt players and the team,” she says. “When studying the concept of ‘mean,’ I will use a player’s shot record to teach students how to calculate a player’s average percentage points in a game.
“Often I see students who are overwhelmed by math or think it is too hard. But when a teacher really engages them and sparks their interest, every student can excel in math.”
Rogers Hall’s research confirms the effectiveness of using real-life scenarios.
“Since children learn almost continuously, there are many opportunities for getting interested in, learning and making things that involve mathematics,” says Hall, professor and chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning. “For example, if a student maintains her own bicycle, that might be an opportunity to talk about rational number concepts such as ratio and proportion.
“Other students may engage in crafts like knitting or weaving, which draw heavily on mathematics. Increasingly, teachers’ knowledge of how to teach math includes an understanding of how to use out-of-school experiences to support classroom teaching and learning.”


For generations, teachers and parents have taught math in the same way they learned it, through memorization—facilitated by an abundance of flash cards and worksheets. Certainly, memorization is one component of math learning. But it’s not the whole story, says Bethany Rittle-Johnson, professor of psychology and human development.
“When students learn math primarily through memorization, they miss out on developing critical thinking skills that are vital to being successful in math later on,” she says. “Students need to have the ability to memorize a formula, but they also need the understanding of the concept behind it.”
For example, Rittle-Johnson explains that many students fail to understand the function of a very common symbol, the equals sign.
“Many textbooks don’t clearly define what the equals sign actually means,” she says. “Because of that, students adopt shortcuts such as adding all of the numbers together as soon as they see the symbol, rather than understanding what it really means, which is to have the same value at either side of the equation. It’s important to understand that before you move on to more complex math concepts.”
Rittle-Johnson is developing and testing an innovative toolkit for algebra teachers in a Massachusetts school district. Comparison and Explanation of Multiple Strategies gives students more than one strategy for solving a problem. Having more solving options helps students decide which one works best for them and to better understand how and why the strategies work.
“When students are stuck with only one way of solving, they are only memorizing and not developing critical thinking skills,” Rittle-Johnson said. “We are finding that students are having improved outcomes in fraction learning as a result of this new approach.”


Math isn’t always thought of as fun. But Lisa Fazio disagrees. She is studying how children can learn math through play, or more specifically a mobile app she designed and tested. Fazio says the first signs of frustration over math often appear when fractions are introduced in the lower grades.
“Kids develop this really strong understanding of whole numbers, and then we teach them fractions, and it blows up everything they have learned about how numbers behave, ” says Fazio, professor of psychology and human development.
She has spent the last several years developing and testing a computer game for fourth- and fifth-graders called “Catch the Monster With Fractions.” In the game, players are given prompts to find a particular fraction on a number line. When they click in the correct location, a cartoon monster pops up, along with text that says, “You got me!” If they guess wrong, the monster pops up and says, “You missed!”
Fazio’s findings show that the students who played the game significantly improved their understanding of fractions compared to those who didn’t.
“They said they didn’t want to stop playing it because it didn’t feel like homework,” she says. “It was just fun.”
Melissa Gresalfi, associate professor of mathematics education, and Ilana Horn professor of teaching and learning, are also strong proponents of learning math through play. Last fall they earned a National Science Foundation grant to study a math-themed playground at the Minnesota State Fair called “Math On-A-Stick.”
Children were invited to engage in a variety of math-based activities and games, including folding paper hexaflexagons, creating symmetry and patterns with stones, tiles and blocks; and connecting tessellating tiles shaped like lizards and turtles. Participants wore Go-Pro video helmets so the researchers could see how they interacted with the games and for how long. Ultimately, the researchers will turn the data into play-based curricula math teachers can use in the classroom.
“Every day doesn’t have to be a playground,” Horn says, “but throughout the school year, kids do need spaces to have positive experiences while learning mathematical problem-solving. Kids have libraries to fall in love with literature,” she says. “Where do they have to fall in love with math?”


“A big myth in mathematics is that it is an individual experience, not a social one,” says Luis Leyva, assistant professor of mathematics education. “In reality, building a social experience surrounding math can help propel students to learn and succeed in ways they wouldn’t on their own.”
Leyva has studied math experiences of underrepresented undergraduate students pursuing STEM majors and careers. He has found that math comprehension and a sense of belongingness in STEM improved greatly when they worked on assignments in groups rather than alone. Their learning was enhanced by the strong bonds they developed with the other students and teachers.
“Adding a social aspect to math is valuable because it validates the gendered and cultural identities each student brings to the class and allows teachers and classmates to engage with math while honoring and learning from each other’s differences,” Leyva says. “I would argue that to support students in math, particularly in marginalized communities, we need to not just think about the academic component, but the social component required to be successful.”
Nicole Joseph’s research supports the idea that students can benefit from learning math in a more social setting. Her research finds that black middle school girls prefer to collaborate on problems and work in groups and have better outcomes as a result. “If their process, or ‘way of knowing’ is not valued in the classroom, they feel that somehow the problem lies with them, not the teaching,” she says.
Joseph says that her math trajectory was built on collaboration. “I worked hard and I wanted to keep making those good grades in college, so I reached out to fellow students,” she said. “I went up to other students I didn’t know—mostly white students—and asked to study together. It was fun, and we all did better as a result.”


Preschoolers are taught counting and recognizing numbers but often are thought to be too young to be exposed to more complex mathematical concepts.
Rittle-Johnson has conducted much research on the effects of introducing mathematical concepts to 3- and 4-year-olds. She has found that they are capable of engaging in pattern abstraction—identifying a pattern of colors or shapes and replicating that pattern with different colors or shapes. When they engage in patterning activities, their brains begin to build a foundation for later mathematical proficiency, she says.
“Pattern abstraction teaches the child to look for regularity, repetition and rules, which are critical components of mathematical reasoning,” Rittle-Johnson explains. “As they progress to more complicated patterning activities, their mathematical foundation continues to grow.”
She explains that early exposure to math concepts is not only positive, it’s necessary for a child’s later mathematical understanding.
“Numbers are important to learn in preschool, but that’s not where their math learning should end,” Rittle-Johnson said.
Encouraging problem-solving using math scenarios, such as how to distribute blocks evenly among classmates, is another way for preschoolers to begin understanding math concepts they’ll use later on.
“Young children are tremendously interested in learning about the world around them, and that world includes things that can be counted—but also shapes, patterns, and things that are measured,” says Dale Farran, Antonio M. and Anita S. Gotto Professor of Teaching and Learning. “It turns out that the broader a child’s math knowledge is, the more school success he or she has in the future. Early math skills are related to higher achievement not just in math but in literacy as well through at least the fifth grade.”
Farran is part of a consortium of researchers awarded a $5 million grant by the Heising-Simons Foundation to identify more effective teaching practices and promote math learning during the preschool years. One of her areas of study is an examination of the correlation between early mathematical learning and preschool executive function—the ability to pay attention, control impulses and manage behavior.
When preschoolers engage in early math learning, executive function skills tend to coexist, although researchers don’t yet know why.
“We are designing and testing a variety of mathematical activities to help understand this phenomenon,” Farran said. “It will be exciting to see how math competencies and executive function intersect and can be enhanced through high-quality early childhood education.”


Math has a reputation for being a male endeavor. According to a Stanford University study, boys have outperformed girls in math on the SAT for the past 40 years. On the other hand, the study goes on to say that girls are more likely to graduate at the top of their high-school class, go on to college and earn post-graduate degrees. Are these kinds of comparisons useful?
Not necessarily, according to Luis Leyva. The trouble with comparing outcomes based on sex is that it doesn’t paint a representative portrait of the gendered variation of mathematics achievement and participation within compared groups of individuals, he says. Much of how individuals behave, what they believe about themselves, and how they respond to math and the world around them is colored by the social construct of gender, not anatomy, he says.
In a forthcoming article in the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Leyva discusses how the “myth of male superiority” in mathematics assessments has motivated researchers to take a closer look at differential mathematics outcomes and experiences in relation to gender and its intersections with other social identities.

Ebony McGee works with students to develop their cultural and mathematical identities. (Vanderbilt)
“Achievement is shaped by external influences, including social contexts and individual experiences,” Leyva says. “Much of the work on gender in mathematics education doesn’t address issues of intersectionality—how other dimensions of social identity like race or ethnicity, class and sexuality intersect with gender to shape varying forms of experience. If it did, that would allow for more nuanced understandings of mathematics achievement and participation.”
As math students progress to high school, college and careers in STEM, fewer and fewer females and students of color are present. Ebony McGee, a former engineer, has experienced this firsthand. “I was often one of the only black individuals in my workplace and one of only a few women,” she says. “Often we were treated like we were less capable than our peers. I hope that one day that myth will fade out, as people begin to see diversity as an asset, not a liability.”
McGee, assistant professor of education, diversity and STEM education, serves as a mentor to students in underrepresented groups who are pursuing careers in STEM. She believes the common narrative about math careers is too limited.
“Math is often positioned as a means to make America the next superpower, but that message doesn’t resonate with students—women and other groups—who are good at math but also want to provide stability for their communities and their families,” McGee says. “There is so much more that math can do. Math knowledge can play a strong role in social justice, in terms of providing ways to understand structural inequities in our society. We need to change the way that math is marketed so that math careers will appeal to a broader range of students.”
Taken from Vanderbilt Peabody Reflector, Winter 2017 Edition, Vanderbilt Peabody College, February, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

As a Public Educator, I Began to Panic

I was inspired by Dr. Joe Sanfelippo, Superintendent of the Fall Creek School District, to make 100 positive phone calls to parents, celebrating the 100th day of the school year. I put together a Google Form, gathered information from staff, locked myself in my office, and started on my journey.  The process took about five hours, calling parents from all grade levels, backgrounds, and abilities.  The script of a typical (and they weren’t all typical) phone conversation went like this:

“Hello, is this Jan, Connor’s Mother?”
“Yes it is.”
“Hi, this is Steve Vessey, Superintendent of Beaver Dam Schools.”
“I’m calling to tell you how awesome we think Connor is.”
“Oh...I was really nervous, wasn’t sure why you would call me.”
“I’m reaching out today to tell you what a great job Connor is doing in first grade at South Elementary.  Connor is working hard in math, taking on whatever challenge Mrs. Smith gives him.  In fact, Connor completed this month’s Rocket Math Challenge yesterday and is just doing great work.  Mrs. Smith also told me how well Connor gets along with his peers and how he often helps other students if they are struggling with a math problem.  What a wonderful young man, you must be very proud of him.”
“Yes we are.  I’m still surprised you’re calling me.”
“When you see Connor tonight, tell him we think he’s pretty awesome.  Give him a hug and tell him we’re pretty proud of him.”
“I will definitely do that.”
“My only reason for contacting you today is to share in Connor’s success.  Kids like Connor make our schools better and will ultimately make our world a better place for everyone.”
“Wow.  Thanks.”
“Have a great rest of the day, thank you.”

The 100 phone calls took an average of three minutes each.  Half of the phone calls resulted in me leaving a message similar to the script above, and about half were short conversations.  The task was uplifting, inspiring,  and was the most rewarding five hours of work I had experienced in quite some time.  Several conversations caused me to spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on my own practices and beliefs.

Four different parents with whom I spoke told me that I was the first person to ever call them to simply tell them how awesome their son or daughter was.  As a public educator, I began to panic.  I would like to think these parents are an aberration.  But I don’t think they are.  As a public educator, this stopped me in my tracks.  I found myself looking in the mirror and  asking myself, Superintendent of Beaver Dam Schools, why I have not been calling families to tell them how awesome their kids are.  It’s unacceptable.  What impact could I have on students, their academic careers, their confidence, their self-esteem, if I spent more time telling our students how proud I am of the job they are doing?  What would the impact be on academic achievement in the school district?  What would the impact be on the public perception of the school district or even public education at large?  I found myself reflecting on some of the toughest classes I had when I was a teacher.  How would my experience have been different? What about the experiences of the students in the class? Would their achievement have changed if I spent three minutes a day making a positive phone call? 180 phone calls a year?  I know the answer.  

I find myself wondering about the perception of public education.  As an educator, I am quick to defend the institution.  I’ve spent hours lobbying legislators to help change some of the negative rhetoric about our public schools.  I’ve written guest columns in newspapers, kept a blog, updated my Twitter account, and treaded water in the Facebook world: all in an effort “To tell our story.”  But I haven’t taken the time to simply tell parents how wonderful their kids are. It’s unacceptable.  At the end of the 100 calls, I found myself looking in the mirror, reminding myself to be the change I want to see in the world.  I reminded myself to stop complaining about the variables I can’t control; to take personal responsibility for telling parents how hard their students work; to spend more time telling the stories of the 95% of kids who do everything right; and to stop blaming others for the challenges I have.

So I ask, what would the impact be if everyone in the Beaver Dam School District made five, three minute phone calls each week to tell parents how fabulous their kids are?  What would the impact be in our state if all public educators were to do the same? Just as Dr. Sanfelippo challenged me, I challenge you to make 100 phone calls before April 1, telling parents how amazing their kids are.   You won’t regret it.  You will be inspired by the experience.  You have the time.  You will inspire children.  You will help parents sleep better at night.  You will smile more.  We will all be the change we want to see in the world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Working on Wellness

A little over a year ago, members of the Beaver Dam Unified School District expressed a desire to find ways to enhance the overall wellness of the staff.  A district Key Performance Objective (KPO) grew from this idea, and for the past year, a committee of certified staff, administrators, support staff, and board members have been researching and implementing strategies to improve employee wellness.  

The committee began its work by researching healthy living and reading the book Blue Zones:  Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, by Dan Buettner. In the book, he describes the keys to longevity as the following: lifestyle, diet, outlook, and stress-coping practices.  Leaning on this information, the Wellness Committee developed and implemented a staff-wellness program focusing on strategies in the following three key areas:  workspaces/environment, public relations/communication, and community resources.

Staff were introduced to the Wellness Program by committee members at the beginning of the school year.  A Wellness webpage is currently available on the district website to communicate initiatives and share information.  Staff is encouraged to take walking breaks, use stand-up desks, rearrange workspaces, collaborate with colleagues, and increase healthy options in vending and break-rooms. Walking routes at each district building are mapped.  The committee continues to reach out to community resources in order to offer health screenings and informational sessions on topics such as financial wellness and mindfulness.  Reflecting on the  importance of implementing wellness strategies Sarah McClanathan, Lincoln teacher,  notes, “being healthy isn't a fad or trend; it's a lifestyle.”

As interest has grown, individual buildings have also created their own wellness committees.  These groups implement strategies such as fitness classes, walking groups, healthy lunch days, and scheduled-social activities. A district-wide walking challenge was recently launched encouraging teams to “walk” to Florida. Fitness classes are open to all staff and are held at the high school each week.  Concurrently, the middle school implemented a “positivity wall” and redecorated the staff workroom.  Washington School staff fill a fruit infused water cooler daily for staff,  and Prairie View school staff get together to exercise after school.  

When asked about the impact of the wellness programs, Katie Schwartz, BDMS teacher, stated: “Our building wellness challenges have offered staff opportunities to participate in positive and engaging dialogue and activities that are not normally part of our daily routines. It's a refreshing change as we are focusing on being well in multiple ways, while supporting and challenging each other to be better each and every day. Wellness has the ability to transcend to our personal and professional lives. This makes the whole community stronger!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Transforming Learning Space

Through our discussions with staff, students and parents about transforming our learning space at Beaver Dam High School, I received the article below.  The author presents 20 questions educators should ask when designing learning space.  I propose the 20 questions are appropriate for anyone that organizes a classroom, media center, breakout space or other student learning area.  Steven Weber, Superintendent in Fayetteville, Arkansas is the author.  The article was originally published on ASCD's professional networking community for educators website at in December, 2016.

Transforming Learning Space:  20 Questions Educators Should Ask

All students deserve a learning space, not a classroom. As teachers and administrators continue to transform learning spaces, they could learn a lot about classroom design by visiting a playground, children’s museum, or public library. When you observe students on a playground, you will see collaboration, communication, critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, citizenship, innovation, and community. We need more academic playgrounds. If teachers and administrators took time to reflect on the importance of design, purpose, and space, they may find that the old structure is a barrier to student achievement.
20 Questions To Ask About Learning Space:  
1.  Does the current space support the learning goals?
2.  How does the space encourage collaboration and communication skills?
3.  Where can students brainstorm and develop their own ideas?
4.  How does the lighting impact teaching and learning?
5.  Does the learning space influence student voice and student choice?
6.  Is the space age appropriate?
7.  Do students have multiple seating options?
8.  Are the walls used for “Learning Walls” or simply posters from college and pro sports teams?
9.  How will students interact with technology in the learning space?
10. Can students work in isolation or are they required to work in a group at every seating arrangement?
11. Does the learning space provide students with opportunities to contribute?
12. Does the learning space encourage compliance over student contribution?
13. Does the space take into account the varied abilities or all students?
14. Is the space designed so students can brainstorm and write on the floor, walls, and/or desks?
15. Does the space encourage student innovation?
16. Does the space tap into students’ natural curiosity and imagination?
17. Is there a sound system to enhance student learning and opportunities to connect with multimedia?
18. Does the space encourage formative/ongoing assessment?
19. Is the space designed for project based learning?
20. Have you asked the students what the learning space would look like if they were the architect(s)?
Once you design a space that meets the students' needs and preferences, you may be surprised at the change in student performance. When you are blogging or reading the news at home, do you put your feet up in a chair? Do you drink a cup of coffee and sit on the back porch? We do our best thinking when we are relaxed. Students can collaborate, communicate, create, and think critically in inspiring learning spaces.
Too often, teachers and administrators see a trendy classroom on Pinterest. The goal should be to design learning spaces that meet the needs of today’s learners, not to purchase bright colored bean bags, neon colored paint, rocking chairs, and lava lamps. Learning space is often overlooked in education. When teacher teams begin to ask these questions, they will reflect on the learning goals and ways to support student understanding, rather than transforming a traditional classroom into a trendy classroom.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Edcamp Beaver Dam

edCamp BD logo 2 PNG.png
Where can you spend a Saturday morning sharing ideas about a variety of education-related topics with educators across twelve different school districts and 14 different grade levels? At Edcamp! Last Saturday, Beaver Dam Unified School District hosted the second annual Edcamp Beaver Dam. In short, Edcamp is an unconference designed specifically for educators. It is a free sponsor-based professional development and learning opportunity where attendees create the agenda. Then they become note-takers and facilitators of the individual sessions. Edcamp prides itself in participant choice, therefore people are free to leave sessions at will to attend another without hurting anyone’s ego!

This year, more than 50 educators attended the Edcamp held at the Beaver Dam Middle School. At the start of Edcamp, attendees met to post suggestions for topics of interest for the day. Edcamp Beaver Dam used the Padlet Application to record suggestions. Next, the topics were sorted into categories for session assignments. This year’s schedule offered 28 different opportunities during four 50-minute sessions. The topics ranged from mental health, to G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Education), to student engagement and motivation, to mindfulness, reading strategies, and the growth mindset. After four engaging sessions, all attendees regrouped for the closing comments. Finally, the day concluded with a sponsor-based raffle. Attendees won prizes to be used in their classrooms. It was an amazing morning of collaboration and learning.