Thursday, July 26, 2012

#standardizethat live

Here is my ignite talk. If you ever get a chance to do one, go for it. It was both one of the most horrifying, best experiences of my career.

The script and slides are posted here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unauthentic, Imaginary World Math

Photo by Cowboytoast

"Real world" and "authentic" are two of many educational buzzwords overused right now. What if instead of making sure that everything has a truly "real" context we give students a creative opportunity to explore the "unreal."

The inspiration for this post comes from a new blog by Randall Munroe, author of xkcd, called What If?. In this blog he answers hypothetical questions by doing the actual math to answer them. So far he has shown things such as how much force does Yoda have? and what would happen if you gathered a mole (unit of measurement) of moles (the small furry creature) in one place? These questions are not real or authentic but the math and science is.

But these questions are fun and interesting! Students love to talk about fantasy and science fiction such as zombies and vampires.

So why not expose your students to a few of these kind of questions and have them try to "prove" their answer. Afterwards show them what Randall Munroe came up with. Then have students come up with their own questions and write out their reasoning and solutions. This activity would tap into their creativity but also demonstrate their mathematical computations and more importantly their mathematical reasoning. It also would be a literacy task in math. Finally and most important in my opinion it may also be an avenue to engage a student's passions in math class that Jeff de Varona has been asking about.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The video of this talk has now been posted and you can watch it here.

Today I gave an Ignite talk at New Tech Annual Conference. It was intense. I will share the video later but I wanted to share my script and slides here:

#standardizethat by Mike Kaechele
This talk is dedicated to all of the politicians and ed reformers who think we can standardize our way into improving the American education system. I would like to share the things that I think that they should focus on standardizing instead.  

You have probably heard the saying that “weighing a pig doesn’t make it fatter” so what then is the real purpose of the “standardization” obsession in this country? It is about comparing. School vs. school, state vs. state. We are now obsessed with comparing children with each other while we race to the top to leave no child behind.

Standardization is also about conformity to someone’s ideal of what an American citizen should be. We need everyone to know the exact same stuff and to be able to demonstrate it in the exact same way: bubble sheets and 5-point essays.

I would measure school differently. My main measurement of effectiveness would be “Do students want to come to your school or class?” Is your school a real community that students want to be at. Community.

Our students wake up at 5:00am or earlier to catch long bus rides to arrive at school before 7am because they want to be here. Why? Relationships.

Parents comment that they don’t have to fight with their child to get out of bed to go to school because they want to go to school for the first time ever. Schools that are places that care about students. Love.     

Students who love life, learning, and people. Students who share happiness with all that they meet. Joy.

The one word students use to describe our school is “family.” Our students come from 20 districts across our county including urban, suburban, and rural. They represent many ethnicities and previous levels of success in school. Family.

Students who work with all kinds of people not just their friends and build upon each others’ strengths. Students who work together to solve big problems impossible to achieve alone. Collaboration.

Mary created a fun memes page on Facebook about our school and later a freshman survival guide video. No, she didn’t have to. No, she wasn’t graded. Creativity.

In problem based learning students think deeply to solve authentic problems. Students also direct their own learning through voice and choice in what they study and how they present it. Choices.

We ended the year with a world simulation where students took over and “ran the world.” They made treaties, fought wars, negotiated and called a world conference on their own. They came to me before and after school to tell me their strategies. Problem-solving.

I watched my students get concerned about injustice in the world such as the Holocaust, genocides, racism, women’s rights in the Arab Spring protests, and the effects of war.
Students who care about democracy, human rights, and justice. Empathy.

You see I care more about my students being caring human beings than their test scores. Caring.

Students learning how to speak in public about what they are learning and what they care about. Communication.

In PBL students can demonstrate their learning through creative ways. One pair of girls made a mock up of glamour magazine critiquing society’s worship of women’s bodies. Fighting stereotypes.

Students are controlled in schools. Don’t touch this. Don’t talk out of turn. Don’t..bla,bla, bla... At our school students can eat and drink in class, and move freely without a pass. Students are the ones who created the norms for how everyone should be treated in class. Respect.

Students are not some kind of widget that can all be taught the exact same way like a part is fashioned on an assembly line. Students need to have their individual needs met. Personalization.

My son wants to be a geologist and loves rocks. This year he had no science until 2nd semester because it is not a tested subject. Students should be given freedom in the curriculum to explore their passions. Passions.

I gave a collaborative, open internet test. You know the way real historians work. Peyton said, “ I wrote a lot. This test was fun. I hope we do this again.” Love of learning.

Anna on Facebook said, “People count down the days until the end of school, but I count down the days of summer! Look what this school has done!!!! It makes me dread summer!!!” Acceptance and belonging.

Hey politician and ed reformer, you want to make sure no child gets left behind?
Community, relationships, love, joy, family, collaboration, creativity, choices, problem solving, empathy, caring, communication, fighting stereotypes, respect, personalization, passions, love of learning, acceptance and belonging.
#standardizethese for every child in every classroom and you will not have to worry about the rest of their education.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Modern Superheroes

 This was brought up in church a few weeks ago how most of the top summer blockbuster movies involve superheroes. The pastor also said that two of the top grossing movies of all time are The Avengers with Iron Man and The Dark Knight with Batman. The point was made on how these two characters are appropriate superheroes for today's society. Think about it for a minute, neither of them have special powers that they were born with or got from a spider bite or something.

What do Iron Man and Batman have in common? Well their alter egos, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne, are both billionaire businessmen and both get their power from technology. Money and technology are what make them great, gadgets if you will.

I couldn't help but think of education today. The heroes who are driving reform in this country are people like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, rich billionaires who love technology. Also the drive to use technology to "individualize" learning, aka have a computer algorithm match a students abilities as it drills and kills them.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am no Luddite but technology needs to be a tool for students to control their learning not just a teacher substitute program. Educators are all tired of the themes of Waiting for Superman but we need to watch out for the "help" from Iron Man and Batman.

Money should not be what drives the focus of education in this country. I for one am tired of the political and for profit companies meddling in education. Educators need to stand up more and show better ways for learning.

What can you do in your sphere of influence to change the education conversation to student-centered learning instead of the current "reforms?"