Educational Reform

Do Kids Even Color With REAL Crayons Anymore?

I know that my job is to coach teachers to weave digital content into their lessons and to think forward to blended learning and online learning, but where are the crayons??  I walked into a 1st grade classroom the other day and saw something like this:

grigc30002_gall3Part of me what excited by the seemless use of technology and the way the teacher had integrated the app into the content of the lesson.  The girl was extending the story from the small group and would add her picture to another project.  All in all, a great use of the technology.

However, there was another part of me that wanted to know where the crayons were.  No, the REAL crayons and paper.  The ones that kids used to eat and had the distinctive smell.  Those crayons.  Now, there were crayons in the room.  I could tell by the artwork on the walls that the kids had used them.  But how often?

The question here is, “Does it matter?”  Hmmm.

From a pedagogy standpoint, I suppose it doesn’t.  Standards about setting, sequencing and comprehension don’t state that one form of showing understanding is better than another, but I wonder.

Next question, “Why do kids color?”  Well, I suppose to have fun, but I found some interesting articles related to this.

What’s Wrong with Coloring Books?

Why Do We Color?

To summarize these articles, coloring books are not bad – unless they’re overused to keep kids quiet and entertained.  Kids learn fine motor skills, creativity (although staying in the lines is questionable), color mixing, spatial understanding and more.  Can the same be learned by coloring on a tablet as with paper and crayon?

Back to the artwork on the walls.  There is something nostalgic about hanging a kids artwork on the wall, refrigerator or door.  It just means something – at least to me.  I grew up with these things.  Today, kids are just as likely to take a picture with mom or dad’s phone and keep it in an electronic album and then show all their art work at once.  Maybe even on a Facebook page belonging to their parents.  Is this any better or worse than hanging the same picture on the refrigerator?

Times are changing and as much as I want to change, I want to hold onto the past too.  Below is a picture of kids coloring the old fashioned way.  Which looks better to you?  The top picture or the bottom?  I can’t decide!Little children at the library doing crafts




May the MOOC Be With You

I know, I know.  Really bad play on words, but I grew up in the Star Wars/Star Trek era and still love Sci-Fi.  I don’t try to deny it and my wife just puts up with it!

So MOOC’s have been around for awhile now.  I’m just getting into the game at this point and I suspect many of you are doing the same or at least considering it.  I’ve just started my first MOOC titled, Coaching Digital Learning.  From the course description,

The Coaching Digital Learning MOOC-Ed is brought to you by the Digital Learning Collaborative a program of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University’s College of Education. The content was developed by a team of passionate digital learning innovators, coaches, and geeks: Brittany Miller, Lisa Hervey, and Jaclyn B. Stevens, with many others from school districts and other organizations throughout the country contributing to planning and facilitating the course. See CDL Team for more information.

Finding and signing up for a MOOC is easy.  The hard part will be following through on the class.  I’ve completed unit 1.  The MOOC is free, but I can still get CEU’s for completing the course.  In my opinion, the free part is what keeps many people from completing a MOOC.  According to a report in Inside Higher Ed, completion rates for MOOCs range from a low of 3.5% to as high as 40%.  In all, more people fail to complete them than those that finish.  Will I finish mine?  Time will tell.  I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, you might want to try a MOOC yourself.  Here are some resources to get you started in your search.

Happy Searching!

Love it or List it?

One of the shows that I watch on occasion is Love It or List It.  In the show, a couple works with two professionals – one to renovate the current house and one to find them a new house.  In the end, the couple gets to decide whether to stay (Love It) or go to the new house (List It).

Education is becoming much the same.  Love It or List It?  Renovate or leave?

The amount of change that has happened in education in the past 5-10 years is dramatic.  In my opinion, unprecedented.  Over the years, there have been many reports documenting the problems with education.  It all started with A Nation at Risk and continued with international reports of math and reading scores of American children.  Check out these reports:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress

A Nation at Risk

Center on Educational Excellence

No Child Left Behind

Teachers have been slammed by government, business and parents in various reports.  Just do a Google search for “Educational Progress Reports” and you’ll see what I mean.  So how is a teacher supposed to manage all the changes and still maintain sanity?  It’s not easy and sometimes not possible to do everything.  Administrators want one thing, parents another and the State Board of Education another.

Education is in flux.  Do we hold onto the past or move onto the future?  Love it or List it?  What we’re actually trying to create is a hybrid.  Kind of like the transition from gasoline engines to all electric cars.  The current thought is to create hybrid.  Think Prius.  What does that look like in education though?  Blended learning.  A blend of the past and infusion of technology and 21st century skills.  For now, this is the present and future.  This is really a disruption of the current educational environment.  To have a much clearer understanding of disruption in education, read the following book, Disrupting Class by Christensen, Horn, and Johnson.

So, what will you do?  Love it or List it?

Blended Learning and Educational Reform

One of the new buzz words in education is Blended Learning.  I’ve been trying to pin down exactly what that team means.  Of course there are the books and seminars that describe a formal plan for establishing a Blended Learning program.  A recipe to follow that will undoubtedly lead to higher test scores, happier students and contented teachers.  However, I don’t believe there is any one silver bullet to educational reform.  We don’t all drive the same car, why should we all insist that one educational theory is better fitted for everyone than another.

When starting to investigate Blended Learning, the following books may be beneficial to starting the conversation and getting a grasp on the totality of the movement:


Anytime, Anywhere – Wolfe, Steinberg, Hoffman

Blended Learning in Grades 4-12 – Tucker

Brain Gain – Prentsky

Disrupting Class – Christensen, Johnsson, Horn

Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools – Horn, Staker

Creating Innovators – Wagner