On #DSISDChat, assessment, Twitter in education, IT acquisition, building creative culture, The Open Schoolhouse, Hacking Homework, social media flow, feedback loops, Leader in Me, CHAMPS, education tech culture, inadvertent cruelty, school UX, threshold flow, welcoming contributors, private Facebook groups, inclusive participation, and corporate diversity and inclusion.
#DSISDChat on Assessment
My contributions and selected favorites:
Twitter in Education
Twitter is a way to build a learning network that transcends traditional understandings of knowledge and ideas, of connecting learners and ideas. The democratization of information and knowledge requires our engagement or it will happen without us.
There is now an imperative to contribute, not simply for the sake of it, but because there is an obligation to model digital literacy. And what does this really mean? It means that learners openly and actively engage in the learning process and that leaders lead the way. We live in a post-consumer era: how do we empower our students to thrive here, to contribute and create? If we are not open-minded, literate learners and contributors ourselves, how can we expect our students to be?
The digital landscape is now open. It’s time for our schools to be the same.
18F and USDS are bringing open source and contemporary, mainstream technology thinking to gov. Public ed. should consult their playbooks. They have good advice on building technology culture. I’ve worked in the trenches of open source with some of the folks at USDS. I updated the “IT acquisition reform” section of my “Communication Is Oxygen” guide to collaborative culture with more on their efforts.
Building Creative Culture
At Automattic, we’ve been iterating on creative culture for over a decade. Our culture is built by and for creatives. We have low turnover and rate well among freelance creatives.
I’d like to share a peek at that culture…
The Open Schoolhouse
The Open Schoolhouse tells the story of collaboratively iterating a school district toward open, 1:1 technology.
I think of Moodle and WordPress as fraternal twins. Passionate and ingenious founders with ardent beliefs in free and open source software created both software platforms. Global communities of programmers, designers, and end users drive the development of both platforms. They use similar web technologies (LAMP), and subscribe to principles of simplicity and ease of use. They are credited with creating, and disrupting, entire industries. And they made dramatic impacts on our students, teachers, and staff.
Locked-down technology is a symptom of an education model designed for student compliance and defined by the incessant measurement of learning. A factory-like school system values what a student has purportedly learned on a linear path, as demonstrated by a standardized test score. Technology device restraints and restrictions lock students on the assessment assembly line, at the cost of a child’s curiosity and intellectual freedom. Computers were once the spark for a child’s imagination. Now, they are a testing apparatus for assessment monarchs.
The destructive confluence of decimated school budgets, neurotically locked-down technology, and lockstep assessment mandates is taking a toll on progressive educators-and disempowering students.
If homework is assigned, it must be purposeful, transparent, and tied to learning experiences. Students shouldn’t have to guess the reason for the homework, or worse, mindlessly complete assignments for the mere reason because they were told to do so.
Homework is one of the most misused tools in education. So many contradictory ideas are bundled inside the homework paradigm, with clashes between assigned learning outside of the school day, and play and learning in more natural ways. When we give students homework that doesn’t directly relate to their lives, we are devaluing student time and disrespecting the sanctity of learning.
Every learner works at a different pace. After being in school for seven hours, shouldn’t a child have the opportunity to reflect in a manner that is meaningful to him or her, allowing new learning to sink in before adding more practice? Shouldn’t we spend less time assigning and grading homework for the sole purpose of marking a grade in the grade
Traditional homework is an insidious practice that often ruins the learning process for children and puts a damper on playtime and learning as a positive experience. We believe learning outside of school should be as inspirational to kids as Einstein’s words are to us.
Hacking Homework isn’t written to solicit teachers, parents, and students to make picket signs with “NO MORE HOMEWORK” messages. We strive to shift the perspective on learning at home to be more exciting and relevant than what we experienced as students. Our belief is that learning shouldn’t be a dreaded activity; learning can and does occur all of the time. The approach of teaching a new concept in class then assigning hours worth of drill-and-kill problems has proven to be unproductive, and we hope that this old-school method will change. We still want learning at home to continue but in a different way.
Bottom line: We want you to consider sound alternatives to traditional homework that foster a love of learning in all students and encourage them to learn outside of class, whether you tell them to or not.
Social Media Flow
A note for those running DSISD social media: providing direct links to resources is good habit. Direct links are more accessible and convenient and don’t rot with time.
I am always willing to show my publishing and social media flow. Educators and tech workers should hang out together, with laptops. Or, ask a nearby digital native. Maybe, bring your kid to work so they can modernize backoffice flow day. 😉
Culture share: At Automattic, new hires spend their first three weeks in customer support as temporary members of our Happiness team. We onboard every single person through customer support. Every year, every team in the company spends a week in a “Happiness Rotation”, once again becoming a member of the Happiness team, working frontline customer support, and talking to those using what we make.
After your rotation, you post your impressions and make suggestions. Every time a development team goes through a rotation, they come out freshly reawakened and in the mood to fix flow. Such feedback loops are necessary to the health of agile, continuous iteration.
Leader in Me, CHAMPS, Education Tech Culture, and Inadvertent Cruelty
First impression perspective after LiM day: Leader in Me, CHAMPS, and Education Tech Culture – hypubnemata
Iterate assessment with students. Make them activate participants in designing assessment personalized to them. Our first attempts will reinforce the deficit model we’re emerging from, but with universal design for learning and design for real life, we can avoid inadvertent cruelty and the mistakes of edtech. Data can be very cruel. Collect and present it with awareness, intention, and care.
- Be patient. Autistic children are just as sensitive to frustration and disappointment in those around them as non-autistic children, and just like other children, if that frustration and disappointment is coming from caregivers, it’s soul-crushing.
- Presume competence. Begin any new learning adventure from a point of aspiration rather than deficit. Children know when you don’t believe in them and it affects their progress. Instead, assume they’re capable; they’ll usually surprise you. If you’re concerned, start small and build toward a goal.
- Meet them at their level. Try to adapt to the issues they’re struggling with, as well as their strengths and special interests. When possible, avoid a one-size-fits all approach to curriculum and activities.
- Treat challenges as opportunities. Each issue – whether it’s related to impulse control, a learning challenge, or a problem behavior – represents an opportunity for growth and accomplishment. Moreover, when you overcome one issue, you’re building infrastructure to overcome others.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. For many parents, school can be a black box. Send home quick notes about the day’s events. Ask to hear what’s happening at home. Establish communication with people outside the classroom, including at-home therapists, grandparents, babysitters, etc. Encourage parents to come in to observe the classroom. In short, create a continuous feedback loop so all members of the caregiver team are sharing ideas and insights, and reinforcing tactics and strategies.
- Seek inclusion. This one’s a two-way street: not only do autistic children benefit from exposure to their non-autistic peers, those peers will get an invaluable life lesson in acceptance and neurodiversity. The point is to expose our kids to the world, and to expose the world to our kids.
- Embrace the obsession. Look for ways to turn an otherwise obsessive interest into a bridge mechanism, a way to connect with your students. Rather than constantly trying to redirect, find ways to incorporate and generalize interests into classroom activities and lessons.
- Create a calm oasis. Anxiety, sensory overload and focus issues affect many kids (and adults!), but are particularly pronounced in autistic children. By looking for ways to reduce noise, visual clutter and other distracting stimuli, your kids will be less anxious and better able to focus.
- Let them stim! Some parents want help extinguishing their child’s self-stimulatory behaviors, whether it’s hand-flapping, toe-walking, or any number of other “stimmy” things autistic kids do. Most of this concern comes from a fear of social stigma. Self-stimulatory behaviors, however, are soothing, relaxing, and even joy-inducing. They help kids cope during times of stress or uncertainty. You can help your kids by encouraging parents to understand what these behaviors are and how they help.
- Encourage play and creativity. Autistic children benefit from imaginative play and creative exercises just like their non-autistic peers, misconceptions aside. I shudder when I think about the schools who focus only on deficits and trying to “fix” our kids without letting them have the fun they so richly deserve. Imaginative play is a social skill, and the kids love it.
Threshold Flow, Welcoming Contributors
And the question of when to follow one’s judgment and when to follow protocol is central to doing the job well—or to doing anything else that is hard.
When you know someone by face and name but won’t release their kid to them because they lost their ID, question the process you serve. Design for real life, not fear. Real life is diverse. Security theater and carding are a “go away” to marginalized communities. They’re a go away to neurodivergent parents like me. They’re a go away to creatives.
Now, instead of being outside, kids will be sequestered in a room and parents will be carded. This is security theater. I avoid places that make me show ID. Fear ratcheting drives away contribution and collaboration. Security theater harms accessibility & inclusion. FUD makes for bad threshold flow.
Stop investing in fear and start resisting it. Instead of pursuing an education on privacy, passwords, and online identity, our PTA invites the FBI to scare people with predators. Instead of welcoming parents to school, we card them and treat them like they’re at the DMV. Even when we show up regularly and everyone knows our name, we parents are carded. This is not an environment for contribution and collaboration. This is not community. Threshold flow matters. Our schools are locked down, and contribution and community are locked out.
Private Groups, Inclusive Participation
A lot of Dripping Springs community chat happens in private Facebook groups. Private groups are non-inclusive and put threshold guardians in the way of contribution. Threshold flow is vitally important. Designers and open source communities spend a lot of time worrying about onboarding, inclusive participation, and new user experience. So too should education communities. Iterate toward transparency.
Corporate Diversity & Inclusion
Our systems default to the deficit and medical models. They default to the language and mindset of grit, resilience, bootstraps, and tough love. We must flip this script and make inclusion, restorative practices, and structural ideology the new normal. Education is heavy on remediation and the deficit model. Kids are medicalized, marginalized, and segregated. Inclusive companies should counter these narratives in their D&I messaging. Promote the social model. Support restorative practices. Acknowledge structural inequalities. Recognize our duty to make education pipelines inclusive.
Universal design, universal design for learning, design thinking, design for real life, and neurodiversity are expressions of the social model. The social model is good design, good culture, and a good human rights framework. Let’s promote it by name.