Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Case for Reform

The Case for Reform
By Richard Beatty

In previous posts, I have made the case for adopting a new Vision and Mission.  Now I am going to attempt to create a case for reform to achieve the Vision and Mission.  I have identified the following four components of emerging and widespread educational movements as essential to moving forward toward student success.

  • 21st Century Learning
  • Formative Assessment
  • Digital Badges
  • PLCs

21st Century Learning
What the students needs to learn.
Formative Assessment
How the students need to learn.
Digital Badges
How we should recognize student accomplishments.
How we make it all work.

21st Century Learning

The first thing that needs to be done is adopt 21st Century Learning as the area of focus.  This incorporates Common Core with modern knowledge and skills students need to succeed.  We start here because this is our ultimate goal.  Equipping our students with 21st Century Skills will enable them to succeed in life, society, college, and career in the modern world, and the world yet to come.

Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment is another word for meta-cognition, or thinking about thinking. In this case, we are thinking about thinking, thinking about learning, and learning about learning.  Formative Assessment done well is used by both teacher and students.  Student formative assessment is affects learning greater than teacher formative assessment.  Though both are more powerful than other types of teaching practices.  Formative assessment is the active process of analyzing what you think you know about the topic or skill you are currently working on.  It is about monitoring and adjusting in real time, where real effects of adjustments can be realized.  It is categorically different than Summative Assessment in that Summative happens at the end of learning and does not influence learning.  Formative happens during learning and has a great impact on learning.  Formative Assessment is the best “teaching technique” that can be implemented to maximize student learning.

Digital Badges

Digital Badges are a way of grading, or certifying learning.  Badges are more informative than traditional grading, and more powerful and motivating for the learner.  Badges provide a greater opportunity for learners to display their accomplishments and for observers to get a truer understanding of what learning has actually occurred.  Badges help make learning visible.  Badge systems are more transparent than grade averages or other forms of certification.  The metadata and links to learning artifacts “show” what learning occurred.  Badges can link to videos showing the student at work, to audio of a student demonstrating capabilities, rubrics from teachers, reflections from students describing what they have learned to earned the badge, evaluations from peers, and on and on.  Badges are modular, meaning they can be rearranged to demonstrate various learning outcomes.  For example, badges earned in Math where students work in groups to solve problems and share their findings with the class can also be used in Language where informative presentations are a requirement.  It is essential that schools develop badge systems that can be used as Summative Assessments that can be easily translated into grades, report cards, and other traditional certifications.


Teachers are the essential component in any educational system.  Teachers make or break the learning process and learning outcomes that every educational system exists to accomplish.  There are many ways to ensure quality teachers.  One is through the hiring process, the other is by retaining high quality teachers in the system.  But, this isn’t enough in most systems.  This isn’t enough to guarantee an effective educational system. A quality Professional Learning Community is required.  In a quality Professional Learning Community, teachers are valued for for their expertise.  Teachers are engaged in an environment where “learning” is the prime focus.  And to step it up a notch higher, we need a 21st Century Professional Learning Community where Formative Assessment and Badges are also at play for the teachers.  Teachers need to be engaged in learning that is that same or similar to what they to provide for their students.  Teachers shouldn’t have to translate what they “learned” in the Professional Development to what they are going to “teach” in class.  The transfer should be natural.  The teachers’ Professional Learning Community should be set up as a quality learning community, just as classrooms should be set up as quality learning communities.   A quality learning community is a quality learning community, it should matter if it is happening in the classroom or in Professional Development.


The process of changing a school system is hard work.  The are many moving parts to consider.  The proposals I have identified here is not intended to be a mandate.  They are recommendations based on what I have learned so far in my research.  To actually make these or other changes successful, a collaborative approach needs to be taken.  I wrote this out as my proposal.  Counter proposals, criticisms, or refinements are not only welcomed, but encouraged.  This is what 21st Century Learning is.  It is utilizing the best resources to make the best decisions possible to maximize the learning process in an effort to affect learner outcomes.  I look forward to your feedback.   

v. 2016-04-30 Sources

Friday, April 29, 2016

Starting the Process

Starting the Process
By Richard Beatty

As I begin the process of changing our district into a 21st Century District, I met with three other teachers today.  I showed them a bit about the 21st Century Learning and the Vision and Mission Statements I came up with so far.

Educational Vision
To prepare students for an unpredictable future.

Educational Mission
To create leaders, equipped with 21st Century Skills,
who are capable of creating a future where humans flourish.
There was a question about the concept of “preparing students for an unpredictable future”.  Does this sentence make sense?  How is that even possible?  The discussion ended with the acknowledgment that the future is unpredictable.  

My thoughts are that an “unpredictable future” is a statement of fact.  Global Warming, exponential technology growth, shifts in jobs from manufacturing and labor intensive to service and innovative work.  Our student’s future is unstable, especially when considered in light of generations over the past centuries.  The needs of our students have been identified in the 21st Century Learning concept.  Even though, it may not be the most fully developed concept, it is established and gives us a place to start.  “Four-Dimensional Learning” is the latest idea (the upgrade to the 21st Century Learning), but it is just starting out.  Preparing students to address Global Warming is a key component in “Four-Dimensional Learning”.  It addresses the reality that students will have to create solutions (that don’t yet exist) to reverse the devastating effects of a changing environment.  This reality connects my proposed Educational Vision and Mission together.

We need to prepare students for an unpredictable future.  We can do that by creating leaders who have 21st Century Skills and a keen understanding of the predicaments humans face right now, and will face in the future.  These changes are going to affect their personal and economic lives.  The skills outlined are fluid and flexible enough to enable students to adapt and innovate.  

We should not be preparing our students to merely survive, either now or  in the future.  We need to prepare them to take control of their lives and their future and change it in such a way that they, and future generations, will be able to flourish.  We need to prepare them to alter the devastation that scientists are predicting is headed their way.   

The Business world, too, is in a state of change.  Employers are looking for a people already equipped with 21st Century Skills.  Already, it is the 21st Century students who have the competitive advantage.  Business are hungry for people who can communicate, innovate, lead, and are active in current technologies.  Jobs that have never existed before are being created daily.  By time our students graduate from our school systems, there will be demands for people who can do things that did not exist when they started school.  The whole concept of being employed is also changing.  No longer are people expected to work for a single company, doing the same thing over the course of their career.  Today, many people are expected to do many different things and work for many different companies in a variety of different settings.  What it means to earn a living is in a state of flux.  Online consultants, stay-at-home jobs, webinars, multi-continent departments are just some of the new ways people are making a living.

Fear of the unknown can be debilitating, but embracing the unpredictable nature of the future can also be exhilarating and can stimulate the imagination in positive ways.  Using this energy, we can imagine a world that we want to live in and begin the process of creating it.

As the Climate Changes and as Technology grows exponentially, students are going to need skills that allow them to adapt quickly.  Our educational Vision and Mission Statements should reflect this reality, so that we are better able to prepare them to embrace the unpredictable future that are facing.

The next steps for our district will be to look up other school district’s 21st Century Vision and Mission statements, compile them and then start to create our own.  The Statements I wrote were of my own creation and not a collaborative effort.  These statements are proposals for the team as we endeavour to create unified statements. Even though we can’t predict exactly what dangers our students are going to face, nor what jobs are going to be available to them, we can isolate certain skills that will be essential to their success.  These are the 21st Century skills that are essential to our Educational Vision and Mission.

For more information:


Sunday, April 24, 2016

21st Century Learning Communities

21st Century Learning Communities
By Richard Beatty
(a Reflection)

image: The Networked Teacher


In the 21st Century, the concept of the “Learning Community” has expanded.  It has changed in fact.  In systems terminology, it has become a “complex system”, systems working in parallel feedback functions.  No longer are we limited by our physical surroundings.  The internet provides us with opportunities to connect with people in other schools, other districts, and people and groups from all over the world.  Each connection a system, working together centered around the individual who is participating in various communities, creating a complex system that might be called a 21st Century Learning Community.  


image: Learning Together
As I am applying my 21st Century learning skills, my first thought is my classroom.  I need to develop an effective learning community within my own classroom.  How I go about doing this will affect the quality of the community I create.  My initial reaction is to build my background knowledge by reading books and online resources to build and sustain classroom learning communities.  A concurrent step would be to engage in learning communities myself, outside of my classroom as I will describe below.  At the same time, I will be building my classroom community and creating a learning environment for my students that mimic the professional learning community I am building for myself.


The most obvious step would be to join any learning community in my school, and if none exists, create some.  Engaging in PLC’s, book clubs, site council, PTA, etc.  Currently, at my site, we do grade level collaborations.  We are starting PLC’s.  A group of teachers went to a training.  We had one meeting officially labeled a “PLC”.  More teachers will get some training in the coming months. It seems the goal of the District is to get everyone some training and to get the PLC process started.  


The challenge of a local learning community is how to create a district wide learning community.  At my district, we do district wide grade level collaborations at times, but we do not have anything that might resemble a district wide learning community.  Teachers, district wide, have not yet come to rely on one another for student learning outcomes.  The current scheduling and meeting objectives are top down decisions, and there has been little to no interactions outside of the district scheduled meetings.  My district needs to empower teachers to create a district wide learning community.  We need structures in place that encourage teachers to become innovators and to share and communicate their ideas to other teachers.  I understand the district’s fear that we need district norms and procedures, and here is where we need to rethink what those norms and procedures are.  Adopting 21st Century skills as a part of the District’s Visions and Mission would be a start.  Then, establishing an environment where these skills can flourish would be essential.  The District would need to make it a part of policy to initiate, support, and sustain these efforts.


The power of the internet is to connect people from all over the world.  The internet becomes the portal that connects all the various systems together.  Students in my classroom can connect with each other, with other student in the school and with students anywhere in the world.  Teachers can connect with one another at the site level, the district level, and at the county level.  One of my goals is to connect with other teachers from other nearby districts online.  I want to start with districts in my county.  I know a number of teachers from other districts that I can contact with and get started.  Beyond that, there is a world of other communities to join.  I have already started joining learning communities that are only available to me online.  Here are a few.

By signing up with the online communities and engaging in them, educators can hone their own learning and develop skills that they would not be able to get solely in their immediate surroundings.


The internet, just by existing, solves many problems inherent in participating in learning communities.  The biggest problem is how to be in more than one place at a time.  By creating an online presence, an educator is virtually everywhere they create a digital footprint 24 hours a day.  Whether it’s creating a website for students, joining an online community, or joining a local community online, educators can contribute to various types of communities.  The 21st Century Learning Community is a Buckyball.  It expands and contracts by will of the individual member.  The concept of the learning community becomes fluid.  It become personalized to meet the needs of the individual learner.  Engaging in these various communities contributes to our achieving one of our majors goals of becoming life long learners.



Friday, April 22, 2016

My Vision and Mission Deconstructed

My Vision and Mission Deconstructed
by Richard Beatty

Richard Beatty
Rethink Education

Personal Vision
To make the world a
better place around me.
I acquired my Personal Mission before I had a  Personal Vision.  The Mission should proceed from the vision, but it didn't work out that way for me.  This Vision Statement came after I heard these words in a podcast where principals were interviewing one another and one of them said something like “I just try to make the world and better place around me”. These words stuck in my head, especially since they were right in line with what I considered my foundational default positions which I have now labeled my “Personal Mission”. I liked the way the words sounded and used them when I was thinking about and writing my Personal Vision Statement.  
Personal Mission
To cause the least amount of harm as possible while contributing to human flourishing as much as possible.
To believe as many true things as possible while disbelieving as many false things as possible.
My Personal Mission is really just my relabeling what has become my foundational default positions.  These words describe what I have always strove for, and what continues to drive me. Even though I just adopted them a few years ago, they seem to have been with me since I was a child.  The harm part was adopted from Sam Harris’s Moral Landscape.  The true things part is from Matt Dillahunty who chants it like a mantra.  It is my sincere believe that these are some of the wisest words ever assembled.
Educational Vision
To prepare students
for an unpredictable future.
The ultimate goal of any educational system is to prepare students for a future that no one can predict.  This seems like an impossible task, but there are means of achieving this ambitious Vision. The inspiration and plan of action came from reading three Foundational Texts (Link coming soon!).
Educational Mission
To create leaders, equipped with
21st Century Skills,
who are capable of creating a future where humans flourish.
Leading is a critical component of learning.  

To prepare students for an unpredictable future, we must create leaders, equipped with 21st Century Skills, who can create a future of their own making.  One way of dealing with uncertainty is to intentionally change things to make them more certain.  

The 21st Century Skills are the skills identified as necessary for a quality life and career in the 21st Century, the century we are living in now.  This is important since many of the skills emphasized in education today were important in the 19th and 20th centuries, but may not be as important today.  Many 21st century experiences did not exist 10 to 20 years ago. Preparing for these new experiences requires a shift in emphasis in necessary skills.    

The leaders referred to here are students and educators (teachers, coaches, administrators, and curriculum developers).  

Students must become leaders, as opposed to passive followers, passive listeners who regurgitate information.  They must become leaders to lead partners, groups, and activities as they develop their learning skills.  Students must become leaders of their own learning.  

Educators must foster their own skills as leaders since they are leaders in the own classrooms, of professional groups, committees, and communities.  They must also become leaders of their own learning and development.

The future of the human animal.  Humans have created a world that may shortly become inhospitable to human life.  A major shift in human activity is necessary for continued human survival.  But, survival should not be the end goal.  Humans have the capacity to create a world where humans can flourish.  We know enough right now to understand basic, and extended, and what we don’t know we have the capacity to learn.  We have the skills to create conditions where our needs are met, and where we don’t we can create.   This is the drive to learning. This is essence of education, to make the world a better place.     


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Day in the LIfe of an Ordinary Teacher

A Day in the LIfe of an Ordinary Teacher
A Reflection by Richard Beatty

Today was very busy.  I got up at my usual time, 3am.  I read, “Four Dimensional Education” by Charles Fadel, and and then worked on my Reflection for my Evaluation.  Then, it was time to go to work.  I got to work around 7:30.  I checked my box and then went to my room to prepare for the day.  This week and last week, we are doing State Testing.  Yesterday the students did part of the Math Test on the computers, today we are doing a whole class activity to prepare them for the second part of the computer portion of the test.  The rest of the classroom time was active as well.

A highlight of the day was when I saw Emilio.  He came running up to me with his arms stretched wide.  “Mr. Beeeeatty!”  I kneeled down matching my arms to his and he gave me his monster hug. I told him to have a good day as he headed off to his kindergarten class.  Emilio’s mother was my student in high school, so I’ve known Emilio since he was a baby.  And now that he is attending school where I work, I enjoy seeing him on a regular basis.

Another highlight is Jocelyn. Jocelyn is my student right now.  She is working on an Informational piece of writing about John Steinbeck.  She wrote a wonderful paragraph outlining Steinbeck’s life.  We sat down and talked about 4th grade writing.  One of the requirements is that 4th grade writing must be multiple paragraphs.  So, we talked about Introductory paragraphs and how an introduction could orient her readers to why she was writing about John Steinbeck and why the reader should continue reading.  I scanned in her first draft and then the edited page.  She will now have to try to write her Introduction.  (I scan in their work, so that they can have it in the Google Drive.  Getting before and after shots of their edited work shows evidence of progress in the writing process and as she completes additional drafts, those will be scanned in as well.  Then, when her writing is finalized I will scan that in then make a video of her explaining her work.)

After school was out, I met with a fellow teacher who also happens to be our union building representative.  I was sharing my Evaluation with her and and she noticed something interesting about it.  In one area, my observation was marked “Satisfactory”, and in the final Evaluation, it was marked “Needs Improvement”.  She told me that the Evaluation can’t be marked like that. It can got from “Needs Improvement” to “Satisfactory”, but not the other way around.  So, we made plans to go see the principal together.

Then, I had to run to the bank to deposit some checks for our Union’s Political Action Committee, since I am the PAC Treasurer.  I had about three hour to kill after that because I had to be at one of our school sites to do some picketing.  So, I drove to Jamba to relax for a bit.

Right now, our Union is in intense negotiations over our contract.  Teachers are picketing several days a week at each site, and during school events like games and open house.  Parents seem to very much on the teacher’s side.  They were very positive and engaging.  They stopped to talk with us and they honked their horns as they drove by and they took yard signs to show their support.  It is a good feeling to know that teachers and parents are in agreement with a common cause.  One of the biggest concerns for teachers and parents is that we are losing teachers and we need a means of attracting quality teachers to the district.  Right now, our compensation is one of the lowest in the county, and we fear that the quality of education is going to suffer because of it.  During this teacher shortage, it does not bode well when you are losing teachers and do not have the means to replace them.  About 10% of our teaching workforce will be leaving this year.  This on top of the fact that more than 10% of our current teachers are new, nontenured teachers.  The feeling of the teachers and the community is that this has to stop right now.  From our information, the district has the money to settle the contract, but instead has plans to use it in other ways.

After the picketing, I got home later than my bedtime, around 8:30.  My bedtime is around 7pm.  I gave hugs and kisses to my wife and son, I sat down to read my Four Dimensions book as I wound down.  As the drowsies overcame my ability to focus on the words, I finally went to bed.