' I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder how we could have tolerated anything so primitive.' John W Gardner
Educators have taken a beating lately. It is such an exciting time to be in education yet our jobs are more difficult than ever. The media tends to focus on the negative aspects of education, but one organization is trying to change that. Last year the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International created an award to recognize the many things that are going right in education.
The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline honor that identifies and acknowledges the extraordinary work being done across the entire education field every day– from teachers, principals and superintendents, to school nurses, support staff, advocates, researchers, school custodians, early childhood specialists, education journalists and parents. The Bammy Awards were created to help reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field.The Academy exists solely to recognize what is right in education by identifying, honoring and celebrating the collective contributions of professionals, paraprofessionals and support staff across the entire education community.
Recently, Discovery Education assembled a group of 17 educators from the United States and Canada who are known in the edublogging community for being dreamers who know no boundaries, doers who are not afraid of failure, innovators who constantly push the envelope and outspoken advocates who tirelessly fight for what is best for students. This event was called the Beyond the Techbook Forum.
I was fortunate to receive an invitation to this event both last year and this year. For two days I got to brainstorm and share ideas with an amazing group of educators as well as some brilliant people from Discovery Education. Our mission was straightforward. We were to come up with ideas about what the future of textbooks should look like and work in teams to design the perfect textbook.
While I cannot speak for everyone there, I can say with certainty that the general consensus is that the ideal textbook will not look like a textbook at all. Discovery refers to their version of a textbook as a techbook. Even though it is nothing like a traditional textbook, they needed to call it something that educators were already familiar with.
Discovery Education has developed techbooks for elementary students as well as high school Biology, Chemistry, Earth & Space Science and Physics. Middle school techbooks have been created US History, World History, and World Geography and Culture. Their next exciting project is the development of a math techbook. Districts from around the country have embraced the idea of using these product. Click here to review some of their stories.
Discovery hosted this forum to get feedback on what elements could be added to make their product even better. As a group we came up with a handful of “drivers” that we felt were essential components to include. We were divided into six groups and our mission was to develop a prototype of the perfect techbook that included as many of the drivers as possible.
We were told to dream big so we came up with some incredibly complex ideas. If Discovery Education incorporates our ideas this is what future techbooks could look like:
A book that does not look like a book at all, but would look more like a website. It would have tabs that would allow for easy navigation.
Vocabulary terms would be hyperlinked to a glossary. The book would be searchable as well.
A reader would be built in so that the text would be accessible to all students.
A variety of multimedia would be embedded. In a perfect world the students could customize their choices to fit their learning style.
A Help button that would instantly connect students with their teacher, peers, or content area experts to quickly answer questions and provide more indepth explanation of concepts.
Ability to leave “sticky notes” with comments or questions. These could provide a space for an asynchronous discussion within the book.
Teachers could customize the book to provide the level of content support that is right for them. For example, new teachers might opt to include multiple layers of support that include ideas for how to frame discussions and step-by-step explanations to problems found in the book. Seasoned veterans might decide to see the bare bones version of the book because they already have their own vast library of resources.
A database of activities that have been created by teachers that use the techbook. These activities could be sorted by numerous categories including the standards they meet, number of time viewed, and rank given to them by the teachers who have used them.
Teachers could be part of a network where they could connect with other teachers who are using the techbook. They could coordinate their plans and connect their classrooms.
Traditional textbooks are static and they are outdated by the time the reach our students. They served a purpose when information was scarce. Today information is all around us. Students need to learn valuable 21st century skills such as how to curate content and how to work and communicate in digital spaces. The more we embrace the shift to digital content the more we will help our students be successful in the world that exists today.
Thank you Steve Dembo, Director of Social Media Strategy and Online Community and Lance Rougeux, Vice President of Learning Communities and Instructional Implementation at Discovery Education for organizing this event and listening to educators. I hope that our insight and ideas were helpful.
If you are interested in joining the ongoing conversation about this topic you can follow the hashtag #beyondtextbooks on Twitter. You can also read the blogs of the educators who attended the event.
Adam Bellow: @adambellow and @edutecher Founder of eduTecher / eduClipper, Educational Technologist, Public Speaker, GCT, Dad to Two Amazing Boys, and All Around Good Guy. He is also the closing keynote speaker for ISTE2013.
There are a number of polarizing issues in education and textbooks is definitely one of them. It seems like the entire process is even more controversial in the area of social studies. Luckily in Nebraska, textbook adoption is a local issue. My state just adopted new social studies standards and now districts are in the process of looking at new books and resources that will help teachers teach the new standards.
During the last year I have been involved in discussions with educators whose philosophies range from, “We don’t need textbooks at all” to, “The only way you will take textbooks out of my classroom is to pry them from my cold, dead hands!” Last year I felt like I won the lottery when I was invited to the first Beyond the Textbook forum hosted by Discovery Education. I took part in discussions with some brilliant educators regarding the value of textbooks and what a 21st century textbook should look like. They are among the most innovative and forward thinking educators around. I have also had conversations with social studies teachers who do not seem to be aware that there are other options available to educators that go well beyond what major textbook publishers currently offer. In just a couple of days I will be traveling back to Maryland to be part of the second forum. (I’m still not sure what I did to get to be part of this forum twice.)
If you asked 20 different teachers what the perfect textbook would look like you will get 20 different answers. Before I head off the the second Beyond the Textbook forum later this week I want to share my vision of the perfect textbook. I would also like to get feedback from what features you would include in your textbook. I would love to share your ideas with the forum when we meet at Discovery headquarters in a few days.
I know I have a pretty big wish list, but we have the technology that allows us to do these things. Now it is your turn. What does your perfect textbook look like?
If you are interested in following the conversation you can do so by following the hashtag #BeyondTextbooks. The forum will take place on March 27 and 28th at Discovery headquarters in Silver Springs, Maryland. Last year the hashtag exploded as educators from around the world weighed in on this very important topic.
Other posts by people attending the forum:
Each year around this time I attempt to participate in the Photo365 project. By the end of January life usually gets in the way and I give up. This year is going to be different because I have come up with a twist that is going to help me stick with this project for the entire year. I have collected a lot of things over the years and the time has come to get rid of some of it. There are lots of things that I want to part with, but I never seem to get around to it. This year I’m going to get rid of one thing each day. Some of these items will go directly to the dumpster while I will donate other things to my local Goodwill. Before I get rid of each item I will take a picture of it for the Photo365 project.
I hope others will run with this idea. I don’t want to be the only one posting pictures of my old stuff all over the internet. If you participate please use the hashtag #photo365trash.
A number of people have requested permission to share this post on their blog. PLEASE DO! Everyone who works with children needs to know there are things they can do to minimize the loss of life in crisis situations. Please share this post any way you can. Repost it. Tweet it. Facebook it. Email it. Print it for those who don’t use digital media. Use it to start discussions with this who make the decisons regarding school safety in your school. Please include a link back to this post so Kris can answer any questions that people may have.
My name is Kristofor Still (@kris_still). As you have probably guessed by now, I am married to Beth Still, who is the author of this blog. Before I dive too deep into this guest blog that Beth has asked me to write, I feel you need to know who I am and the level of experience I possess in my fields of expertise.
I have been in Law Enforcement now for almost 19 years; the last 13 years have been with the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department in Nebraska. I have been a SWAT team member for the last 11 ½ years and a SWAT sniper for the last six years. I am also one of the department’s two firearms instructors. In May of 2012, I was given a great opportunity as I was one a select few from across the state who were able to gain a certification as an Active Shooter Response Instructor. I now teach a two day class to area Law Enforcement Officers along with my Sergeant, Troy Brown and Scottsbluff Police Officer and fellow SWAT team member, Ian McPherson.
As most of you probably know by now, today was one of the most horrific days in the history of the United States. A killer walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killed 20 children and 6 adults. Of those killed, a majority of them were Kindergarteners.
When something like this happens and innocent children are killed, it tears at the hearts of a nation. Destroying what we as parents hold dearest to our hearts shock us to the core. It makes us realize how fragile life really is and how one crazed, sick person can take it away in the blink of an eye.
As I mentioned above, I am one of three instructors in our county that teach active shooter response to our area Law Enforcement Officers. Because of this, my wife knows that I am passionate about making sure that our officers are prepared both mentally and physically to go in and meet this evil head on and terminate it as quickly as possible in order to stop the killing.
Like most parents across our nation today, we talked at great length when Beth arrived home from school about what we can do as Law Enforcement Officers and Educators to stop this from happening. Beth came to me because she knows that I have also in the past gone to two of our area schools and provided them in-put on ways the school and teachers can protect themselves and the children. The sad thing about all of this is that my advice fell on deaf ears. I know that neither school followed through with any of the recommendations provided to them. I believe the reason that nothing was done was two fold. First of all, too many administrators fall into a comfort zone and genuinely believe that this kind of evil will never happen here. The second reason is because of the all mighty dollar. In both schools that I went to, I talked about purchasing certain items that could be used to aid teachers in protecting and or keeping intruders out of their rooms in the case that they were unable to escape. I felt that in both cases, I lost them once it came down to spending money.
I am often asked by people and teachers what they need to do in the case of active shooter in the building or school in which they are located. I start off by telling them to follow the acronym A.D.D. This stands for AVOID, DENY, DEFEND. I tell teachers, administrators, law enforcement officers, and citizens the same thing.
AVOID: Escape the scene as quickly as possible. If you are able to run, do so until you are sure you are in a safe place.
DENY (entry): If you unable to get out, barricade yourself in a room. Pile all of the furniture and heavy items in front of the door as possible and then quietly hide in the room in an area that would provide cover and concealment from an active shooter who wants to try to shoot into the room. Remember that an active shooters main goal is to kill as many people as possible to provide the greatest shock factor to his or her audience. They do not like to get hung up on a closed and locked door. This will slow them down too much for them to effectively accomplish their mission or goal. Most likely, they will move on.
DEFEND: If you are unable to escape or secure yourself in a safe room, you need to fight for your life. Find any items that you can use as a weapon. These are items of convenience such as a fire extinguisher, coat rack, trash can, chair, etc. If you are able to, find others in your same position that are of the sound mind and body to assist you in fighting for your life as well as the other innocent people who could fall victim to the senseless killing that is happening.
Another major problem that I am seeing in our schools is that our teachers are given a policy or a flip chart to follow in times of an emergency. This may work if you are talking about a fire drill or tornado drill, but teachers need leeway in their decision making when they are dealing with an active shooter. Most teachers are by nature known to be rule followers. This creates problems as they tend to fall back on a flip chart or policy and ignore that sixth sense about what they should do. The way I describe this to our new law enforcement recruits is by telling them that if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Learn to follow your sixth sense and do what you feel is right.
Early on in this post, I spoke about certain in-expensive items that I recommended these schools purchase for each teacher or each room. Below is a list of these items that I recommended to them and am now recommending to you.
1) Tactical door wedges. These can be found on-line and typically cost between $15 and $20 a piece. These secure the door to the floor from inside the room, so the door can be permanently locked. If done properly, the only way you can open the door is to tear it down with an axe or chainsaw.
2) A claw hammer with a long handle. These can be used as both a weapon to fight with or a tool to break and rake windows to aid in escape if your room has exterior windows.
3) Medical kit to include a tunicate and a clotting agent. Remember that the first responders that are entering the building are not there to provide medical attention to those that are injured. They by-pass the injured and going straight to the threat so they can stop the killing as quickly as possible.
4) Rope or fire escape ladders. To aid in escape through an outer window if you are on the second or third floor of a school or structure.
5) Emergency blankets. These can be used to help comfort the wounded or to throw over the broken glass in a window pane prior to escape.
6) Cell phones or emergency radios for each classroom. Communication is key to any law enforcement officers or tactical teams arriving on scene. If you are able to provide pertinent information to police dispatch, you can aid in response time by providing the locations of the shooter(s) inside the structure.
7) A box, tote, or five gallon bucket to hold all of these items as they are stored in a safe place inside the classroom.
As you can see above, these are not high priced items. Push your administrator to purchase these for each classroom and tell him or her why you feel it is important. If they refuse to help your school, find ways to make this happen on your own. Some of the items above may be lying around your house or garage and could easily be transported to your school. The rest that needs to be purchased could easily be justified as inexpensive life insurance policy.
As an educator you are responsible for protecting your students if at all possible. Too many times in these cases of school shootings, there were red flags that many noticed, but failed to report until after the unthinkable happened. If you see or hear something that you consider to be red flag with a student, report it. Start by telling an administrator or counselor. If this fails and you believe they pose a true threat, talk to one of your trusted law enforcement officers.
In closing, I want you to ask yourself this; could you live with yourself if you failed to prepare, act, or report a possible future threat that resulted in the death of a student, wife, husband, son, daughter, grandparent or co-worker. You owe it to yourself and your students to be their first line of defense by educating yourself and making good sound decisions!
Below are images of a tactical wedge and a tactical strap. Both can be purchased from Botachtactical.