To our Infusers:
In the spring of 2012, we felt strongly directed to pursue change in education–at first we laughed out loud and thought what can we do? And then we got to work. Because it mattered. Because there was both great need and great potential. Because we had unique experiences-expertise-energy and saw the possibility to provide tools to encourage teachers trying to make student thinking visible.
For specifics on the “change” we hope to see, check out our mini-manifesto.
From the outset of our journey we have been blessed with incredible users. Seriously–can we just tell you how awesome you are!! We are encouraged everyday by your enthusiasm, support, patience, and authentic praise!
Thank you for the way in which you “get it”. You see how student response can move beyond just entry-level questioning and lower-order-thinking based assessments. You understand the pedagogy we had in mind and the shift towards a student-centered learning conversation with students taking on responsibility for their own learning! Thank you for how you encourage us to continue down the path of innovation and for your open mind towards trying things out with us along the way.
Thank you for engaging directly with us. We learn so much from you as we connect through emails, tweets, posts, skype, support tickets, spending time in your classrooms, and any other forms of communication that bring us together. One of our hopes is to break down some of the barriers between edtech companies and the educators they actually serve. So please know when you reach out–we all grow.
As lovely as it is to hear this positive feedback and start to see pieces of our vision coming to fruition–we have a long way to go. This means we know there are some major tech gremlins that have come up for some of you and inconsistencies related to our backend and the technologies our first iteration relies upon. We sincerely apologize for the frustration; for you and your students.
So, we have made a decision. It’s time to iterate. We could throw time, money, and digital duct tape at the current version of the program and continually put out fires that pop up–or we could take the time and focus needed to build Infuse 2.0. It’s time for out with the old and in with the new. We are rebuilding in a way that will allow us to grow and make the international impact we hope to see, giving you a valuable tool to radically change your classroom culture.
Co-Founder | Infuse Learning
Read Part I here…
Confidence in your capacity to NURTURE that thinking.
The second half of Ritchhart’s words relate to our capacity to support and grow that thinking. Nurturing implies a safe place to think, grow and learn. Nurturing also implies an active role, a reaching out of some sort in supporting this process.
Developing a culture of thinking* starts before students walk through your door. It starts now as you visualize what 2013-2014 could be. It starts now in the words you choose as you are reunited with your colleagues and discuss the year ahead. It starts now as you take what you need to know about your students (please note food allergies and IEPS) and hold the rest with open hands or not at all.
One of our Infusers starts each year off by discussing how her first grade class is like a family, reminding them that, just like a family, they won’t always get along perfectly, but they will work through things and respect each other. She takes the pink and blue cards and side conversations and thinks, what are the positives I can take from this? How can I best serve and help this student? What can I have in place that will support his/her growth? She looks at each student, no matter the prognosis, and has confidence each child will be both challenged by and successful in the learning opportunities she creates. This confidence can flow out in her expectations and practices since she also holds confidence in her capacity to nurture each child’s thinking and facilitate their learning.
Here is a little list of some ways we can lay the beginning groundwork for a culture of thinking:
Preparing Our Minds: A Culture of Thinking
1. Hold the pink and blue cards & side conversations with open hands and an open mind.
2. Have a plan for negative nellies. Find the good. You’ll be surprised by the contagiousness of your positive tone.
3. Turn their/your fears into focus points for your preparations and respond with confidence.
4. Give your students a clean slate and actually communicate this to them. A fresh year means a new opportunity. What do they want to accomplish? What do they want to see change?
5. Visualize student success personally. Don’t say it just to say it. Imagine your students’ successes just as the pitcher visualizes the ball going right over the plate.
6. Share your visualization with your students. You may be the first to tell a student someone believes in them.
7. Discuss student fears early on. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?* (This would be super cool as a Draw Response prompt).
8. Visualize your own success and best practices. What hopes do you see for this year? What might you try if you weren’t afraid?
9. Share the value you place in thinking and perseverance over just “right answers” or guesses. Model what this looks like with your own metacognition.
10. Revisit these ideas as often as needed. Inertia is hard to beat. Intentionality and guarded thought will be required.
And to close a couple of May wes…
So may we not let the little colored notecards (or the like) determine the type of year we are going to have. May we lay the ground work for a culture of thinking and perseverance that prepares for far more than standardized tests. May we combat the negative and lead with confidence. And finally, may we share our eduvision & eduwins with not only our students and our campuses, but also our globally connected community and spheres of influence so change may occur that reaches far beyond our physical walls.
* Term used by Ritchhart in:
Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011.
Have you seen those “pink and blue cards” the ones that are supposed to warn, I mean.. tell you about the students you have coming next year? They may have some notes on reading level or grades or behavioral concerns and which students by all means should NOT be grouped together. Words of wisdom often accompany the proclamations, usually in the form of a face to face conversation where things are discussed that you can’t write down. There are even unwritten codes regarding the need for this type of conversation–i.e. smiley face sticker means come talk to me and I’ll give you the real scoop on this character.
Perhaps you have no clue what we are talking about, but surely you have heard these words before (not at your school–maybe it was in a movie): “I just have a really low group coming this year,” or “(insert student name) is in my first period class…heavy sigh,” or even, ”The ninth grade class this year is trouble.” Really? The whole class? Wow–bring in the parole officer and counselor already then!
What if students talked this way about teachers?
(Well–they do: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com & http://www.ratemyteachers.com) But really, how would we react if our students felt they had to simply survive through a year of having us? What if we had to overcome a negative or less than stellar reputation that preceded us? Most (hopefully) wouldn’t actually say anything to our students regarding perceptions of their abilities–but what is going on in our minds?
Ron Ritchhart’s closing line in the preface of his book, Making Thinking Visible*, seems quite applicable today as we think about all the preparations underway for the new academic year. As classrooms are decorated, school supplies purchased, floors waxed, checklists completed, and lesson plans polished… one question still remains: How are we preparing our minds for the next group of students entrusted to us? What are we visualizing for our students? What are we visualizing in our own practice and professional growth for that matter?
You see, Ritchhart’s imperative has two parts:
Confidence in EVERY learner’s ability to think
That is–a full and complete trust that every learner can use their noggins–no matter what the blue card and smiley sticker conversation says.
Read part II here…
*Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011.
Maybe it is all the crazy awesome conferences, trade shows, meetups, tweetups, learning festivals, and empowering speakers (if you haven’t seen Adam Bellow’s ISTE* keynote please don’t read any further and watch this first) or maybe it is the experience of seeing a vision start to become a reality or hearing from users who “get it” or walking with ones who don’t until they do, but we have been thinking a lot here lately about the potential power of technology, especially as it applies to actually creating change in education.
In Bellow’s talk, he invites us to change the world. Without a checklist of requirements, talents, degrees, or experience necessary, he emboldens everyone to get on the bus and do things that matter. He charges us not to just make things, but make things that matter. As he carefully crafts his message for us, we embark on a journey to dream and see the value in dreams and stomp out the fear that holds us back from creating, risking, failing, iterating, and innovating.
The depth of message resonation cannot be fully expressed. We are officially Adam Bellow groupies. Surely there is a hashtag.
But really, the past couple months (and Jon Acuff) reminded us that purpose is not a final destination.* In every interaction, planning meeting, conference call, feature decision, blog post, tweet, and idea we want our purpose to radiate. We want to provide something meaningful for our users. We want to be a part of something that matters. We want to: promote educational change through empowering teachers and bringing students to the center of the learning conversation through simple, easy to use technology.
With this in mind we cannot confine our vision & product to bygone eras of idealized pedagogy. We will push against the edge of possibility*. We will ask new questions and not be satisfied until we have created new answers that challenge the status quo and put kids first. It won’t be perfect (though we strive for it) and it definitely won’t be a straight path, but somewhere on the other side (or maybe more accurately right smack in the middle) of the dip*, there is power, growth, and change.
So here are a couple things we have decided. Consider it our mini-manifesto:
Technology is too powerful and clean (or at least in terms of its potential) to not be harnessed in a classroom in ways that allow teachers and students to have superhuman-like powers of understanding where students are and where they need to go.
Technology is too powerful to not allow teachers to provide unique and differentiated learning opportunities and effective questions to meet the variety of students in today’s classrooms.
Technology is too powerful to not provide accessibility features that fill in the gaps where a different learning style or special need or other exceptionality would typically or potentially impede learning.
Technology is too powerful to not break down the language barriers in our classrooms, guiding students through the language acquisition process in a way that 1 teacher with 25+ students of a variety of levels and languages simply cannot.
Technology is too powerful to be confined to the walls of one classroom and not connect and reach a global audience and link learners across oceans and cultural differences and languages.
Technology is too powerful to still have barriers to entry, making educators feel they need to learn the tool instead of intuitively use and discover the tool, watching it naturally unfold in their classrooms.
Technology is too powerful to continue in a failed system of bubble sheets and a single “right” answer; our kids deserve better systems of teaching and learning.
Technology is too powerful to not raise the level of metacognition for our students; their thinking should be “visible.”
Technology is too powerful to not be leveraged for the benefit of our students.
*International Society for Technology in Education
*Acuff, Jonathan M. Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work That Matters. Brentwood, TN: Lampo, 2013.
*Godin, Seth. The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).New York: Portfolio, 2007.
A. B. C. D. Choosing between these four letters has brought much trepidation to a great number of students over many years. Results of such choices have seemed so powerful and defining so…final. In fact they have determined paths for numerous students and schools alike. From AYP to AP, SAT & ACT, MCAT & LSAT, high stakes testing has indeed some HIGH Stakes to it. Yet, now we stand at a crossroads, knowing that we can’t put all our focus on one score from one day to represent an entire year of growth or an entire person’s intelligence. We know that we need unique ways to assess, that we need to provide balanced, on-going feedback and take some pressure off where high stakes has dug in its weighty heels.
We know that we need unique ways to assess,that we need to provide balanced, on-going feedback and take some pressure off where high stakes has dug in its weighty heels.
The talk in education is continuing to shift and we hear a strengthening voice saying things like: it’s no longer just about what you know but what you do with what you know. Tony Wagner, at the recent Educational iPad Summit, asserted that assessment is “badly broken” and went on to describe highly effective teachers who provided opportunities for students to reflect on learning often (formative assessment anyone?) instead of penalizing failure which only instills profound risk aversion.1 Seth Godin would agree as he outlines our preparation in schools as a path to become factory cogs and good little consumers, afraid to be wrong or stand out or go against the grain–all the exact opposite of what it takes to be an indispensable innovator or Linchpin as he refers to it.2 Sir Ken Robinson and other leading educational thinkers and speakers inspire us to advocate for creativity and change in education, listening and looking and seeking out ways to help students find their niche, their passion, their Element as Robinson refers to it.3
So, it wasn’t by chance we set out to create a tool that would not only allow teachers to provide meaningful opportunities for students to reflect on their learning often, but also to provide innovative yet simple ways to demonstrate their thinking and learning.
1. Wanger, Tony. (2012, November). Creating Innovators. Keynote at the Educational iPad Summit, Harvard University, Boston, MA.
2. Godin, Seth. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2011.
3. Robinson, Ken. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. New York: Penguin Group USA, 2009.
So here’s the deal– at InfuseLearning we are ready to be a part of the paradigm shift in education. We believe in the power that technology can make in education to:
But, here is the problem–well, part of it. All too often we have seen technology be/become:
Ultimately leading to…
a lot less transformation than anticipated
even, at times, impeding the very process of transformation in teaching and learning we were striving for.
With this in mind, here is our mission:
We will promote educational change through empowering teachers and bringing students to the center of the learning conversation through simple, easy to use technology.
Join us as we make the shift from:
Isolation to –> collaboration
Disjointedness (yes this is a word) to –> infusion
See our mission in action:
InfuseLearning is in need of beta testers to continue to make our FREE mobile learner response system empowering and innovative, while simultaneously remaining extremely simple and easy to use.
Request access to the Beta program HERE!
1. Robinson, Ken. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. New York: Viking, 2009.
2. In the sense of over standardization without thought to individual needs