My Conversation with Arne Duncan Part 3

@mr_brett_clark 1 Comments

Here is the final blog about my interview with Arne Duncan. If you haven't already, check out Part 1 & Part 2.

Here are the final two questions I asked Mr. Duncan with some responses from me and follow-up questions I would ask if this was a face to face interview.

1. What was your greatest learning experience and how was it measured?

Mr. Duncan: I learned the importance of early education and educating the whole child firsthand in my mother's after-school tutoring program. In 1961, she opened a free, after-school tutoring program in a church basement in a poor neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. And from the time we were born, my brother, my sister, and I all went to my mother's after-school program every day. That experience was absolutely formative for us—and we have all tried to follow in her footsteps in various ways.

With the exception of my brother, my sister, and I, all the students in my mother's tutoring program were African-American. Despite the challenges they faced growing up in a violent, gang-plagued neighborhood, my fellow students in the tutoring program just wanted a chance to succeed. To see the extraordinary potential that every child has, no matter where they come from—that is what I learned from my mother's work—and that is what continues to drive me today.

Education Dreamer Follow-Up: I love this story and I hope that one day my three sons are inspired by my actions in the way your mother inspired you. I think back to the educators who inspire us and what we have learned from them. It's awesome that you had such a great example in your life.  You can't measure what your mother taught you and your siblings.

Follow-Up Question: Why do we try so hard to measure learning? Do you ever feel like our attempts to measure learning takes the joy out of learning? Is it a necessary evil? If so, why?

2. What's the future of standardized test? Do you ever see a time where we will have a national standardized test?

Mr. Duncan: Through the Race to the Top, our Department is supporting 44 states working to create the next generation of assessments to better measure whether students are truly on track for success in college and careers. These assessments will be an absolute game-changer in public education.

For the first time, millions of schoolchildren, parents, and teachers will have more immediate and reliable access to learn whether or not students are on-track for colleges and careers—and if they are ready to enter college without the need for remedial instruction.

Teachers will have a state assessment that tests not just knowledge but critical thinking skills and complex student learning, going beyond the existing fill-in-the-bubble tests of basic skills.
And for the first time, students will have more even footing from the education they receive, because children in Mississippi and children in Massachusetts will be held to the same standard and measured by the same yardstick.

Education Dreamer Follow-Up: I like the idea that Mr. Duncan sees the need to go beyond our current "fill-in-the-bubble test of basic skills" and look at "critical thinking skills and complex student learning". I'm going to remain skeptical of the "next generation of assessments" until I see them. I just think that measuring these things is beyond difficult. However, I am hopeful that they are better than our current assessments.

As a young teacher, before I had multiple children of my own, I would have loved the idea of students in Mississippi and Massachusetts being held to the same standard and measured the by same yardstick. Now that two of my kids are in school and my youngest is approaching pre-school, I see the need to move away from this. I'm think I'm ok with people being held to the same standards but why at the same age? My kids are 9, 7, and 4. They couldn't be more different and it would unfair of me to expect my 7 year old to be at the exact same spot his older brother was when he was 7. They are just too different from each other. I'm 32 years old and nobody expects all 32 year olds to know the same things at the same time. However, for some reason, we expect all 5-18 year olds to know the same thing at relatively the same time.

Follow-Up Question: When can we move away from trying to change assessments and standards and move towards how schools are structured? Do you think we'll ever have a national movement to allow students to move through school based on their ability and passions instead of their age?

Mr. Duncan, 

Thank you for interacting with me through emails and for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you are reading this and I invite you to continue the dialoge with me. I would love to do a live Google+ hangout with you. I just think it would be fun and a great learning experience. Again, I thank you for responding to my original tweet back in October, and for giving me this unique opportunity. I wish you the best of luck the next four years in office. 

Dream on,


Now it's your turn again. What thoughts do you have from Mr. Duncan's responses to my questions? What follow-up questions would you ask him if you had the chance?


My Conversation with Arne Duncan Part 2

@mr_brett_clark 1 Comments

I recently had the opportunity to interview Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. You can read how that all came about here.

Here are his responses to three of my questions with some questions/comments I would follow-up with.

1. How would you define a “successful teacher”?

Mr. Duncan: One of the best parts of my job is that I get to travel the country and meet successful and inspiring teachers from all over the country. I’ve seen successful teachers with a whole range of different kinds of teaching styles, but I’d say a few things are constant. Great teachers are committed to students and their learning. They know the subjects they teach and how to teach them. They’re responsible for managing and monitoring student learning. And teachers think systematically about their practice, learn from experience, and work together with their colleagues to help each other and improve. In fact, these are the qualities of the principles established 25 years ago by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
 (I added the link to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.)

I would even go one further to say that in addition to being experts in their content and craft, truly successful teachers seek to leave an impact beyond just the students in their classrooms. They are leaders who share an unwavering belief that all children can learn and achieve at high levels. Great teaching is also about love – a love of learning, a love for helping children grow. I’d say that’s arguable the most important component in my definition of a successful teacher.

Education Dreamer Follow-Up : I like Mr. Duncan's response to this question overall. I think he's right in saying that "great teaching is also about love." One thing I would push back on is that I never saw myself as a manager and monitor of student learning. I always strived to be a leader and inspiration of student learning. I know it's a small change in language but I personally think it's an important shift.

Follow-up question: 1) There was no mention of standardized test scores in Mr. Duncan's definition of a "successful teacher", so how come so many states are tying teacher pay to students' standardized test scores?

2. When it comes to Race to the Top, what parts are you happiest with and what would you like to change?

Mr. Duncan: Race to the Top has gone above and beyond our expectations. Among the 46 states that originally applied, all have created blueprints for comprehensive education reform. Forty-five states and DC have adopted higher academic standards, 28 enacted laws to improve teacher quality, 16 changed laws to increase capacity to intervene in low-performing schools, 15 have strengthened charter laws, and 3 have committed to evaluating teacher preparation programs to improve classroom instruction. This has been a truly nationwide movement to raise the bar on public education for all students.

Our Department is proud of the work our 12 grantees have accomplished thus far. Race to the Top represents historic, large-scale, statewide reform. Each Race to the Top state has a four-year grant, and when all is said and done states across the country will look to these states for best practices and lessons learned.

Education Dreamer Follow-Up: I would like to hear more about how other states have improved teacher quality. His response made me think of John Spencer's post "You can't pay me to be a better teacher."

Follow up question: What research is being done to make sure that adopting higher academic standards, new laws to improve teacher quality, increasing capacity to intervene in low-performing schools, strengthening charter laws, and evaluating teacher preparation programs are actually making a positive difference?

3. What role should collaboration play in an innovative workspace? How do current education policies encourage or hinder collaboration?

Mr. Duncan: Collaboration is the foundation for effective policy. In spite of all the media attention given to conflict among education leaders, in every corner of the country there are collaborative education partnerships involving parents, educators, administrators, elected officials, business leaders, and policy makers.

A strong education system requires shared responsibility. That’s why this administration has make collaboration a cornerstone of our education agenda.

New programs like Race to the Top, i3, and Promise Neighborhoods have required partners or education stakeholders to sign-on to grantees’ applications. Each year, our senior staff has convened nationwide conferences and even international summits focused on strengthening schools and instruction through exemplary labor management partnerships. Our Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood partnerships has convened community forums across the country to shine a spotlight on existing partnerships and encourage new partnerships to improve struggling schools. And most recently, our amazing team of Teaching Ambassador Fellows—active classroom teachers who spend a year at the U.S. Department of Education—have held more than 350 roundtables with more than 4,500 teachers nationwide to create the RESPECT Project. The goal of the RESPECT Project, which is currently a $5 billion federal budget request, is to work with educators in rebuilding the teaching profession. RESPECT aims to elevate the teacher voice in shaping federal, state, and local education policy. We must make teaching not only America's most important profession. We must make it America's most respected profession. (I added the links in myself)

Education Dreamer Follow-Up: I couldn't agree more. Collaboration is the key to a successful education system. If you looked at the video from part 1 of this series, you would hear Mr. Duncan talk about all the different levels of collaboration we need to improve upon in order to better the lives of our students. I think what worries me and other educators is the level of competition in today's education climate.

Follow-up Question: Can collaboration and competition co-exist?

So now it's your turn. What thoughts do you have from Mr. Duncan's responses to my questions? What follow-up questions would you ask him if you had the chance? Mr. Duncan, if you're reading this, do you have a response to my thoughts and questions?


My Conversation with Arne Duncan Part 1

@mr_brett_clark 2 Comments

The first of October Arne Duncan sent out the following tweet.

I decided I would take my chance and respond with a few questions. Here is what happened.

I emailed Cameron and asked him if I could do an interview with Mr. Duncan through Skype or Google+.  He told me that if I sent him some questions that he would pass them on and Mr. Duncan would answer one by video and provide written responses.

After talking to a couple of folks I emailed Cameron five questions.

1. How would you define a “successful teacher”?

2. When it comes to Race to the Top, what parts are you happiest with and what would you like to change?

3. What role should collaboration play in an innovative workspace? How do current education policies encourage or hinder collaboration?

4. What's the future of standardized test? Do you ever see a time where we will
have a national standardized test?

5. What was your greatest learning experience and how was it measured?

The great thing about all of this is that it happened because I was willing to put myself out there on twitter. If we are going to make a difference in education we have to be willing to stick ourselves out there and take advantage of any opportunity that we are given. Are my five questions going to change the landscape of education? Probably not, but the conversation has to start somewhere.

It was a great honor to be able to ask these questions. Here is a blog post he released before the election where Mr. Duncan responds to some questions he received from social media, email, and regular mail. Below is the video from the post and he responds to my question about collaboration around the 3:40 mark. 

So what do you think about his response to my question? What follow up question would you ask Mr. Duncan? Sound off below and stay tuned for part 2! 


Why The Internet Was Invented

@mr_brett_clark 1 Comments

As we approach the end of the first semester it can be easy to see the level of frustration rising. It doesn't matter if you're a student, teacher, administrator, or parent. This is just that time of year where people begin to give into the stresses and difficulties of life. You can see it in what people are tweeting about, hear in the hallways and lounges, and see it on people's faces. It can be so easy to just fire off a frustrating tweet, say something out of anger in the hallway, or give somebody a nasty look.

However, I would like to encourage everyone, myself included, to remember why the internet was invented.

Dragon Baby

Math Class: Kid Snippets 

What I'm saying is pretty simple. I know life is hard and being an educator is frustrating. There are times when we have to let off some steam. Lets just be sure to take advantage of this great gift called the internet and spread some smiles and laughs.

Here is your challenge: Find something funny and/or uplifting and share it with a colleague who is needing a laugh. But before you share it with your friend, share it with us in the comment section! 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Thursday #Smackdown: Ask 3

@mr_brett_clark 2 Comments

Notice: Due to the holidays there will be no #smackdown next week. Happy holidays everyone!

This week's #Smackdown is Ask 3. Ask 3 is an iPad App from TechSmith.  TechSmith is the company that has brought you Jing, Snagit, Camtasia, and Screen Chomp. This new app from them is derived from the teacher phrase, "Ask three and then me". Teachers create a classroom for students to join. Teachers can create videos on the iPad for students to view and comment on. Students can join a class, create videos as well, and comment on videos. You can hear my review and more about Ask3 on episode #21 of the Flipped Learning Podcast.

What I like about Ask3:

I think there is a lot of potential in this app. As far as iPad apps go, this one can give teachers and students has "all-in-one" potential. I think it would be great in a 1:1 setting with iPads or as a great option if you know a student has an iPad. One of the best parts about integrating technology into a classroom is using it to leverage learning. While not everyone will benefit from this app, there are certainly situations and students that will find it useful.

I like the ability for both teachers and students to make videos. I like the ability to leave and respond to comments. It's both quick and easy to make and comment on videos.

Demo: Here is a demo from TechSmith

What I would like to see:

I know that Ask3 is just in it's fist addition and I'm sure there are several suggestions I would have for my friends at TechSmith.  As of right now you can only import one picture per screencast. I would like to be able to have several pages to flip through as I made my videos like a few other iPad apps. I think it would be cool if students and teachers could watch videos "together" like the Together Learn App. Also it will be great when it's available on other operating systems.

What's cool is I know TechSmith will listen and will make Ask3 an even better app. Just like the people who made Teachem listened to us! Check this out:
So what do you think about Ask3? How would you use it in your classroom? What would you like to see in the next update?

Related Post:
Education Dreamer #smackdown page


How to Connect the Dots

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This post was originally written for SmartBlogs on Education. I did make one update under web resources. I foolishly left off TeacherCast when I originally wrote the blog. 
One of the biggest things I have learned in the past two years is that I don’t need to know the answer; I need only to know how to get the answer or point somebody to the answer. It’s a skill that I have developed since becoming a connected educator. Becoming a connected educator has helped me grow more than I could have imagined, and it’s allowed me to help educators in my district and far beyond.
When I am faced with question, whether my own or somebody else’s, I go through several resources that help me connect the dots.
This is no certain order.
1. Myself: This resource is the easiest to go through because there’s not a lot there, although it is growing and will continue to grow because I am a lifelong learner.
2. Personal learning network: Let me break my PLN down into two groups.
  • Local: I am blessed to work in a connected district. I serve on a team of innovation, curriculum and technology specialists. It’s a great team with a nice mix of former K-12 teachers from every subject background. I created a list of our team on Twitter and highly recommend following the members. Within my district, we also have theLearning Leadership Cadre, the Community of Digital Educators(#EVSCCODE) and The Network (#EVSCNetwork). Between the team, those three groups and teachers with whom I work in my building, I have a pretty good place to start. The great thing is I have shared them with you!
  • Global: Though I have an amazing local PLN, I also have a fantastic global PLN. My global PLN gives me a fresh perspective on education and pushes my thinking. By being an active connected educator, I have had an opportunity to learn from educators worldwide. I am continually amazed at how fast my PLN responds to requests I put on Twitter. If you don’t have a PLN or you want to help somebody build his or hers, check out the Tools for Building Your PLN LiveBinder that Tim Wilhelmus and I made and Wilhelmus’ Twitter for Educators.
3. Web resources: I have my go-to people in my PLN and certain hashtags I follow and use frequently. Then there are the main websites that I look to for help.
  • Cybrary Man: I have never found a topic for which Cybrary Man doesn’t have a page. It is truly remarkable the amount of information and help you can get from his website.
  • Free Tech for Teachers: Richard Byrne’s ability to share resources at such a high frequency is astounding. The search bar for his website will help you find the right tool in a hurry.
  • eduTecher and eduClipper: These sites, from the great Adam Bellow, are fantastic! The organization of eduTecher and the personalization of eduClipper are great tools to have in your tool belt.
  • TeacherCast: Jeff Bradbury who runs TeacherCast has an amazing list of resources for professional development. His blogs, podcasts, and mobile app have saved me on more than one occasion. 
This is only a small portion of what I use to connect the dots. The truth is I will use anything and everything I can to connect dots.
What do you use to connect the dots that I haven’t listed?


Thursday #Smackdown: Livebinders

@MrBrettClark 1 Comments

This week's #smackdown is Livebinders.  Livebinders is a digital 3-ring binder. You can add websites, videos, documents, and more. Then once you have made one it is easy to share it out through email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or even embed it into your website. You can hear me talk about Livebinders on the Flipped Learning Podcast here.

What I like:

There are a lot of things I like about it. It's a great way to organize information. If you are a classroom teacher and want to put together a binder for a unit. If you providing professional development and want to have a resource for your teachers. It's even great for students to use for a project.

They have put together a variety of buttons that allow you to put information into a livebinder easily. They also have an iPad app, a Chrome app, and are featured on the Teachercast app. I also recommend you follow Tina and Barbara (@Livebinders) on Twitter. They share out great Livebinders and will share out yours.


They also have a great set of tutorials that you can find here.

How I've seen it used:

In my role as a technology coach I have mainly used it to share resources with other teachers. You can check out my Tools for Flipping the Classroom and Tools for Building your PLN that I made with the great Tim Wilhelmus. I recommend you also check out Tim's other Livebinders.

What I would like to see:

Livebinders is a great tool but I think it would be cool if I could upload my livebinder into a Google presentation, or something similar, for presentation purposes. I know the links are live when you are showing off your livebinder to a group but maybe it would just take a screenshot of each tab/subtab and use those for the slides.

Do you use livebinders? If so, please share your livebinders in the comment section. 

Similar Post:
Education Dreamer #smackdowns 


An Education Dreamer Project #12DOD

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Hey everyone! The team at Education Dreamer (aka me) is launching it's first ever project. We're calling it "The 12 Days of Dreaming".  We are looking for 12 guest bloggers to share your biggest dreams about what education can be.

Education Dreamer will post a new post on Monday through Thursday the first three weeks of December beginning December 3rd.

Each post needs to be an original piece around 400-600 words with a brief bio at the end. They can be about any dream for education you have. Some suggested topics are school climate, learning spaces, assessments, homework, relationships, professional development, connected educators, textbooks, and innovative learning models, just to name a few. Once your blog has been posted you are welcome to share it on your own site 24 hours later.

If you are interested in writing a guest post for this project, please fill out the form below!

Here is the timeline for the project!

November 6: Launch Project!
November 16: Deadline to fill out form to join project. 
November 20: Notify participants if their proposal was accepted.
December 3: 12 Days of Dreaming begins!

I hope you all are excited about this project as I am. If you have any questions please contact me.

Let's dream together!

Henry David Thoreau


Thursday #smackdown: Teachem

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This week's #smackdown is Teachem. Teachem allows you to embed a YouTube video on their site, then you can add questions and flashcards to the side that will highlight at certain times in the video. Once a video has been set up by the teacher, then he or she can share out the link with his or her students. If students have created an account, then they can leave questions, comments, and answers in the space next to the video. You can hear me talk about Teachem on Flipped Learning Podcast #19: Why Flipping is Student Centered.

What I like:

Any teacher who shares videos with his or her students always wants to find ways to makes to make the video more interactive. Teachem allows teachers to at least at some "pop up video" features to the videos. I tried it on my Macbook, a Netbook, an iPad, and even my iPhone (with the iphone you have to pause the video to see the flashcard).


Here is a demo I made of Teachem.

How I've seen it used:

The amazing Andy Schwen created a Teachem lesson and said I could share it with you. You can find his geometry proof here.

What I would like to see:
I would like to see some more options for flashcards on the side.  How about adding a "student question section". Students can ask questions and if another student has the same question they can "like" it. This would give the teacher an idea what questions students had after watching the video. 

What are your thoughts on Teachem? How would you use it? What are other ways we can make videos we use in our classroom more interactive? The comment section awaits!

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