Weston Kieschnick introduces us to Bold School (both an adjective and a noun) – the blend of old school wisdom and new school technologies. I recommend this book to classroom educators, campus administrators, curriculum directors, instructional technology specialists, and anyone balancing the world of content and pedagogy in 2018.
The majority of the chapters in this book are written in a cyclical format: story, pop culture reference, resolution, repeat. First, the story of a real educator who has encountered growing pains in the attempt to innovate his/her classroom is shared, there is some parallel to pop culture, and finally a resolution is described as educator is coached into being more Bold School. This cycle eerily reminds me of the structure of inquiry used widely in math, the 3-Act Mathematical task, or possibly that of a Hero’s Journey in literature.
The stories Weston shares hit home. They could be stories of your classroom or mine, or possibly of one down the hall. These are well-meaning educators implementing instructional strategies with the best of intentions, yet not making the greatest of impact. Read all of them, even the ones outside of your content area. You will learn from these educators and Weston’s perspective as well.
The connection to some memorable movies and television shows of our time, such as Dead Poet’s Society and Seinfeld, drives the point home in each of the chapters. Weston models a teaching practice within a book about teaching practice. He promotes thinking as he makes seemingly unnatural connections so clear, such as Finding Forrester and peer tutoring or 50 First Dates and spaced practice. Thank you, Weston, for changing the way I watch television from this day forward.
Now for the resolution. What follows is the Bold School Framework for Strategic Blended Learning:
Always begin with the desired outcomes, specifically the priority standards. Once the outcomes are clearly articulated, then the goal-aligned strategy is selected, followed by the digital tool(s). There is emphasis to slow down, to pump the brakes here. Now is not the time to over-use technology for technology’s sake. Next, make a plan, including questions to ask in an intentional way. Always wrap up with a self-assessment of the plans and progress against the Rigor/Relevance Framework.
One of the many powerful portions of this book is within Chapter 4: Questioning/Socratic Seminar. I encourage you to consider these three relevant points:
- What gets scripted gets asked.
- Make sure questions address multiple levels of cognition.
- Put scripted into technologies beforehand.
“The goal of questions is not to get kids to answer; it’s to get them to think.”
What intentional questioning are we using in our classrooms to get them to think?
In what ways are we planning our questioning ahead so that we are sure our students encounter higher levels of cognitive demand?
This past week I shared the following quote with my educators and it is worth noting again and again in this age of technology-infused innovation:
The Statement of Principle regarding Article I: The New Digital Learning Environment of the Visioning Document reads:
Digitization and miniaturization of information processing power are expanding exponentially and are changing the world, our lives, and our communities at an overwhelming speed. To be viable, schools must adapt to this new environment. We must embrace and seize technology’s potential to capture the hearts and minds of this, the first digital generation, so that the work designed for them is more engaging and respects their superior talents with digital devices and connections.
Strategies for what teachers can do as they design and facilitate Bold School experiences for students every day can be found in Kieschnick’s book. Let us not forget that strategic technology integration is technology integration that relies on high effect size instructional strategies, that is blending old school wisdom and new school technologies.
I encourage you to read this book, then go, be Bold School.