Engaging Students – Michael Wesch, Kansas State University

Gary Eberhart responded to the last blog post and made the following comment:

I think the idea to discuss what’s going on in our district relative to what other districts are doing is a great idea. I would eagerly participate in doing so.

I like that idea and would like to expand the discussion to include college campuses where the trends seem to be a bit ahead of K-12.

Michael Wesch, a Professor of Anthropology at Kansas State University, along with the collaboration of 200 students created this video:

Should we change the way we teach our children in order to not only engage them, but provide them relevant skills for careers in the 21st century?
Skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
The use of digital media/internet can transform teaching from the dissemination of information to coaching, facilitating, and mentoring students. Information is everywhere. Students must learn to qualify the information they find. They need to know how to recognize bias and credible sources. Do they need to memorize massive amounts of information and historical dates? Or instead do they need to understand why what happened on those dates is relevant.
Yesterday a teacher, inspired by Michael Wesch, wrote on his blog Ten Simple Strategies for Re-engaging Students. Can you guess what his 10 strategies were?

More from Michael Wesch:

Of utmost concern to me, was the nature of questions I was hearing from students, which tended to be administrative and procedural rather than penetrative, critical, and insightful. My least favorite question was also the most common: “What do we need to know for this test?” Something had to be done, so I set to work creating the World Simulation.

The World Simulation itself only takes 75-100 minutes and moves through 650 metaphorical years, 1450-2100. It all takes place in large room where all of the “cultures” interact with one another with props for currencies, natural resources, and other elements that recreate the world system. They simulate world history in an attempt to understand the underlying social and cultural processes that interconnect us all. The ultimate goal is to allow students to actually experience how the world system works and explore some of the most important questions now facing humanity such as those of global inequality, globalization, culture loss, environmental degradation, and in the worst case scenario, genocide.

How can we engage high school students and make their experience in the classroom as content rich as their interactions outside the classroom?
How do we keep the curriculum relevant and rigorous?
With the entire world a click away how can we expand the school experience and make it a global experience?


Is MDUSD Emphasizing the Importance of Human Capital in Education?


Lamar Alexander, US Senator and former Secretary of Education, May 2009

Human capital in education is a buzz phrase found throughout articles and web pages as one begins to search for school leadership improvement programs. This topic interested me after I had an opportunity to chat with a gentleman from New Leaders for New Schools, a non-profit organization reaching out nationwide to ensure high academic achievement for every student by attracting, training, and mentoring outstanding leaders and supporting the performance of the urban public schools they lead.

“With research indicating that nearly 60% of student achievement can be attributed to principal and teacher quality, our schools not only need principal training and hiring to be highly selective, but also need school systems, states, and the federal government to redefine the principalship to focus on teachers and students,” said Ben Fenton Co-Founder and Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer at New Leaders for New Schools.

This is especially vital for turnaround schools, where studies find no examples of success without effective principal leadership.

New Leaders found that certain leadership actions within the following five categories are critical to achieving transformative results:

1) ensuring rigorous, goal- and data-driven learning and teaching;
2) building and managing a high-quality staff aligned to the school’s vision of success for every student;
3) developing an achievement- and belief-based school-wide culture;
4) instituting operations and systems to support learning; and
5) modeling the personal leadership that sets the tone for all student and adult relationships in the school.

K-8 schools led by a New Leaders principal for two or more years are nearly twice as likely as others in their district to make breakthrough achievement gains.

As my conversation continued I couldn’t help but think about MDUSD.
Are we putting that much emphasis on our recruitment of new principals?
Is the placement of Dent Center employees as new school principals the best move for student achievement?
How will the new coaching program work?
How much oversight will exist and how high will the bar be raised?
How does our new student achievement program compare to the training and mentoring offered at New Leaders?
Is MDUSD eligible to use New Leaders as a resource for new principal candidates?
Have or will any of our current, or potential, school leaders apply to the program?

New Leaders for New Schools website
Article – New Report Shows Crucial Impact of Principals on Student Achievement
The Report – Principal Effectiveness