Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Year in Review

Looking back on 2011 reminds me it was an interesting year to say the least.
I did travel more than before with multiple trips to Charlotte, eastern North Carolina, Charleston, SC, Atlanta and West Palm Beach for accreditation and family reasons.
However, this was the year I moved from the stable environment of a school setting to forging out on my own as a consultant /trainer. Leaving behind friends, cohorts and a regular paycheck was difficult but it made me realize who and what matters in my life. All of a sudden I had free time. I have enjoyed spending more time blogging, tweeting and networking with my PLN but it has taken me time to adjust to a non regimented schedule.
Life is good though, I'm a glass half full kind of person. There are more positives with this move than negatives. Having been a principal, I don't miss the parents who actually believed the teacher really hated their child or having to defend teachers against the "enlightened" parent who happened to watch Oprah's show on education. Or the parents who wanted a minute to "run something by me" but were still talking hours later. I don't miss the teachers who were hopelessly stuck in the past or believed their little area of  K-12  is all that's important with no empathy for the total program. I do miss the friends and teachers who stood with me as we ventured into the 21st century and the students who always brought a smile to my face.
All in all, 2012 promises to be another interesting year. There are many questions about the future I would like to have answered but I don't live in a "only one right answer" world. I have a feeling there will be a 21st century solution where there may be more than one right answer from which to choose and that's fine too. It's exciting, I'm doing what I enjoy, teaching about a passion of mine, learning in the 21st century. 2012 should be another interesting year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The old school needs to close!

"I'm from the old school" is a phrase I hear from time to time as a response to the wave of change arriving at our educational doorstep. Here's my view of the old school. It  prepared students for jobs where someone told them exactly what to do. It prepared them for jobs that are now disappearing due to outsourcing overseas or more efficient software. For example, if you make a reservation at a hotel or on a flight,  do you really need to talk to a person or can you do it online?
Despite this reality, schools continue to churn out students who are stuck looking for 20th century jobs. Every year, millions are trained to do 1955 labor. Teachers giving students the way to solve problems instead of allowing students to search and create.
Currently, we have a mass production model of education. Sir Ken Robinson compares it to the fast food industry. Everything is standardized creating a single processed type of education - think old school. He argues we need a more fine dining, Zagat's rating, type of system where individual strengths can be maximized. Yes you can have it your way. Allow collaboration, conversation and creativity. Students participate and teachers become facilitators.
Until we personalize education and require each student to learn, until we create ways to ensure this learning occurs, we will continue wallowing in the past depriving our students of their potential.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ted Talks to inspire conversation

Here are some of my favorite Ted Talks to inspire conversation.
Feel free to add your favorite to the list through comments.
I've been a fan of Sir Ken Robinson for years. I finally heard him in person at the GISA conference 2010. His humor and passion for the education revolution are truly inspiring. He has done several Ted Talks but this is one of his best.
Ken Robinson- Do schools kill creativity?

Adults can learn from children. This 11 year old reminds us of this in a very mature way
Adora Svitak- What adults can learn from children

This talk is especially poignant for me because of my aversion to school lunches and their lack of nutrition.
Jamie Oliver- Teach every child about food

I've been a fan of Daniel Pink since I read and reread his book " A Whole New Mind."  He shares some surprising facts about how motivation occurs.
Daniel Pink and the surprising science of motivation

A great talk about what and who truly matters in your life from the caring and compassionate Angela Maiers.
Angela Maiers- You Matter

A great talk about implementing a 2-1 program with laptops and IPod touches
David Fincher from Greater Atlanta Christian 

Chris Lehmann introduces a revolutionary idea in education- encourage learning by allowing students to do things they are good at instead of restricting them.
Chris Lehmann- Education is broken

Monday, November 7, 2011

Outside of the bubble

Recently I've had the opportunity to visit several independent schools and talk to them about education, professional development and the future we are facing as educators.We all face many of the same issues but what separates the good from the great schools is the ability to think outside the box, to venture outside the comfort zone especially in the area of professional learning. Dare to venture outside the bubble!
I'm a firm believer that schools sometimes exist in their own secluded bubble, believing everything is going well because access to outside sources to contradict this feeling, are limited. Existing in this bubble may be fine but it's not reality and it's not conducive to producing great education. Good? Maybe but certainly not great.
Unless they step outside the bubble to experience different educational communities or allow others to bring in new and innovative techniques, they will stagnate educationally. If you remain status quo in education you're actually going backwards.
Professional development must be an integral component in the educational process and this process is now more accessible than ever.  For instance, is there really any reason not to incorporate social media, think Twitter, and You Tube, think Ted Talks, for your professional development needs? Access 24/7 with a wide variety of resources and what's more it's free. Creating your own customized professional learning has never been easier.
Once again, remaining inside the bubble may work for you now but it must be supplemented by professional learning and conversation from outside the bubble to achieve greatness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Diigo Resources

More Diigo Resources. Enjoy.

7 resources to teach and learn vocabulary

Utilizing You Tube in the classroom

Geography skills and vocabulary

A place for teachers to help teachers

Text your students and parents without using your phone number and it's free!

Solicit feedback from parents (or students) at Poll Everywhere

Friday, October 14, 2011

Teacher salaries and reality?

My son posted this on Facebook and I thought it would be a good blog post!

Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - babysit! We can get that for minimum wage. That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning..time, or any time they spend before or after. school. 
That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan- that equals 6 1/2 hours). Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to babysit their children.
Now how many students do they teach in a day..maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations. LET'S SEE..That's $585 X 180= $105,300 per year.
What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year
Wait a minute --there's something wrong here! There sure is! The average teacher's salary (nationwide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77 per day/30 students = $9.25 per 6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student - a very inexpensive babysitter and they even EDUCATE your kids! WHAT A DEAL!!!!

Make a teacher smile; re-post this to show appreciation for all educators.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Diigo resources

The weather is great, hope you enjoy these links.

Great way to do a virtual visit to museums

Trying to figure out the constellations?

Translates into many, many languages

Simple timers for class

77 educational games foe elementary teachers

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1000 Tweets with more to come

Hard to believe, 1000 tweets. This post is a reflection on Twitter becoming an integral part of my professional development life.  In fact, I am amazed that more educators aren't utilizing it for their benefit.
When I first started Twitter, I was a lurker and I really didn't understand the buzz. However, as I followed the more like minded educators, it became crystal clear. Twitter provides me a connection with teachers and administrators from all over the world.
Whether it be Patrick Larkin @bhsprincipal, Eric Sheninger @nmhsprincipal, Scott McLeod @mcleod, Steven Anderson @web20classroom,  Lyn Hilt @L_Hilt, Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher or any of the others members of my PLN, they inspire me constantly by their tweets and insights to the 21st century.
From them, I learn new techniques for classroom activities(lesson plans), technology(cell phones, Ipads, Ipods and netbooks) and current trends in education(1:1 laptop initiatives, four day school weeks etc.). Simply put, I am more knowledgeable and effective because I can connect with others who share similar passions.
I know Twitter from time to time is misunderstood by many as a "why do I need that" type of gadget, but I find it more beneficial each and every day.  The conversation is productive and thought provoking allowing collaborative learning to occur.
It's the 21st century, we are in this together. Why limit your students to just what you know, bring them the wealth of resources available to you through Twitter. Here's hoping my next thousand tweets are just as inspiring.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Different Summer Part II

This is Part II of a post I published earlier.
Once again it's different not being affiliated with a school at this time of year. Instead of student schedules and greeting teachers and parents, my mind is more towards carpool line for my son and searching for jobs.
There has been little movement on the job front in quite a while so necessity must bring  forth creativity, I'm going in a different direction.
I am "working" as an educational consultant and trainer. I have done this with my PLU classes on a part time basis in the past but now it will be full time. Two characteristics are necessary to being a consultant; experience in a wide range of areas and an ability to want to share what you know with others. Check and double check on both those.
This would include professional learning classes dealing with curriculum, technology integration, discipline and accreditation issues. I would tailor my presentations to the needs of the schools. Need me to lead a class after school, I'm there, a Saturday class ditto. Speak to parents as an outside resource, can do.
I know there is a need for what I can deliver but in this economic and educational (20th century) climate, the question will be can I find those willing to step forward and allow me to share with their teachers?

Needless to say. I enter this world with some trepidation but I am a glass half full type of person. I've reinvented myself several times during my career, from coach to administrator to head of school to curriculum leader to professional development trainer to middle school principal to elementary principal to technology. Hopefully this is just another change for the best.
I continue to be encouraged by friends wishing me well as I embark on this new adventure. That continual presence of genuine support is what sustains me through the occasional dark day. I don't say this to them nearly enough but to take a phrase from Angela Maiers  "you matter in my life" and I'm forever grateful.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Diigo Links of Interest

Another set of my Diigo links I thought you might enjoy!!
The best video resource for all subjects

Glogster keeps getting better!!

Chemistry resources

Interactive US Constitution Games and Lessons

Online Flat Stanley Project

Great video on the meaning of 7 Billion

Enjoy these resources!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Professional Learning in the 21st Century

I saw this picture listening to a presentation by Lyn Hilt one Saturday at the Reform Symposium. I must confess I've taken professional development classes throughout my 34 years that resemble this quote .I've also been teaching PLU classes for the lat 5or 6 years on a number of topics so I see both sides of the coin.
When I first started teaching the classes,  it was pretty much me being the sage on the stage, redelivering material I had learned earlier. Ten to twenty contact hours, mostly lecture but always some intriguing discussions. It was enjoyable, we learned and the PLU certificate certainly helped, but how much of the learning actually transferred to the classroom?  My observation was- not enough.
Over the last two years, I have tailored my classes more towards technology and 21st century tools. My classes have become more hands on and experiential. From the feedback I've received, they are more enjoyable and learning actually occurs. We have discussions, I still lecture but it's more to initiate thinking about what we do in the classroom and why. Educators should always be able to question the rationale of what is done in the classroom. The answer of we've always done it this way isn't acceptable.
I've also noticed a more consistent transfer of learning to the classroom. Blogs, wikis and other 21st century tools are actually utilized by a larger number of my colleagues than before. There are still those that just want the certificate and what they learn disappears or is relegated to the back burner, but I'm proud to call the others active and contributing members of my PLN of 21st century learners.
The point remains if you learn better by hands on and experiential activities your students will too. We cannot expect student engagement if this poster exemplifies our student's thoughts toward our instruction.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Diigo Links of interest

These are some of the links I've saved on Diigo recently. I will post more links from time to time on this blog.
Hope these are helpful to you.

5 Ways students can visually explore the news.

15 Essential back to school apps.

FableVision Learning Poster Gallery- Free mini posters

Google Maps for Educators- A How To Guide

A comprehensive list of Interactive sites for Kindergarten - 5th grade


Friday, August 5, 2011

Who moved my cheese: A glimpse of educators hesitancy with technology and my transition in life.

Not having written a post for Leadership Day since 2008 I felt compelled to participate this year.
My post is titled: Who moved my cheese: A glimpse of educator's hesitancy with technology and my transition in life.
The motivational book "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson deals with, at least by my interpretation, complacency, becoming too comfortable in life and our careers. Basically going to the same place for our "cheese," even though we know it may be out of date. We even realize it may not be the best but we continue to go back out of habit. When it's gone we wonder what has occurred. In most cases, we continue going back expecting the cheese to be there and when it doesn't magically appear, we moan and groan and wonder what will become of the future. The search for the new cheese must begin soon if we are to remain successful.
This parable can be applied to an educator's hesitancy with technology and the move to a 21st century pedagogy.We teach a certain way, class after class, year after year, even as times change we still return to the same place for the 20th century cheese. The reality is change has already occurred,  the cheese has moved but some choose not to accept this reality. When colleagues explore and find new cheese, we may venture out with them but at the first sign of adversity we press the "easy button" and return to where we are comfortable, the 20th century. The cheese is still gone. We know we need to search for the new 21st century cheese yet we persist in banning, blocking and criticizing what we choose not to understand. We yearn for the past when teachers were the primary source of information and when students were taught there was only one right answer. We want a simpler time where memorizing dates, book reports and dioramas ruled the day.

The solution to this complacency lies in leadership. Administrators must be able to lead the way by supporting and modeling the use of  21st century pedagogy. Lifelong learning must be a key component in our teaching communities. It is imperative we remain a part of the learning cycle. We must be cognizant of the difficulty our students endure learning a new skill.  The second decade of the 21st century is underway and the time has arrived for leaders to embrace the changes. We must lead teachers to the new cheese or at the very least support those teachers who have found the new cheese.

This book has been valuable to me in my educational career. The first time was 13 years ago when I transitioned from Head of School back into the classroom. The second time is now, as I transition from being a Principal, not renewed because of the school's financial situation, to an educational consultant dealing with implementing technology in the classroom. Personally, both transitions in my career evolved as finding my cheese after it had been moved. I am still in the process of searching but I do realize this is also a learning experience. While I miss the location of my last cheese, I realize it's gone. However, I am confident what lies ahead will be what I have been called to do.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Different Summer Part 1

I started this post a week or so ago and I had so much to say I ended up separating it into a Part 1(now) and Part II ( next week). The blog will serve as my way of keeping you updated as I continue my job search.

As the weeks of summer continue to fly by rapidly, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the school year  may begin with me sitting on the sidelines for the first time in 33 years. Opportunities have come and gone throughout the spring and summer but lately it has been very quiet on the job front.
Obviously there are a totally different set of emotions for me compared to past summers. I do have more time for myself and family, there's more time to think which can be beneficial but there is no sense of busyness for the beginning of school and that's where I'm struggling.  I miss the sense of urgency, the anticipation of what lies ahead and the wondering if everything will go as planned. That's what I've done at this time of the year for over half my life. There is a sense of urgency now but it's different. It deals with the basic need of providing for my family, a situation of utmost importance but one which I have less control .
I have also come to the realization that my true mission in life has yet to be revealed to me. I am optimistic and have faith that eventually it will be revealed but the "eventually" part is frustrating to say the least.
I have definitely learned throughout this experience. I've learned the true strength of a relationship is proven during times of adversity, like the last 4 months. The relationships I tried to foster through the last dozen years have turned out to be strong and for the most part, ones I'll treasure forever. There have been a few that have surprised me both on the positive and negative side.  I'll chalk the negatives up to a number of issues, the economy, the school climate and more importantly my lack of cultivating them as I should have. Regardless, I am richer for the experience.
I really appreciate all the prayers and kind thoughts throughout this ordeal. It truly humbles me to know so many of you care about my well being.
More to follow in the coming weeks!
Remember I tweet @gkosater
and my email is:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Can Seminar 2

Another great day working with dedicated professionals who are striving to be effective 21st century educators. Great discussion and participation from all that attended. I really enjoyed seeing some of you that I hadn't seen in a while. Here is the description of the 21st century students we teach:

Active learners who are instant pudding, 24/7,  drive through, microwaveable, downloaded from the web, media driven, continuously connected students who don't just want coffee they want a Cinnamon Dolce Frappacino with Sugar-Free Syrup, low fat milk and a double shot of espresso.
Remember DropBox and Evernote a great apps to store documents in the clouds.
Discipline is all about consistency, relationship respect and relevance to the students.
Thanks for the great seminar. I look forward to working with you in the future.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Can Seminar

I'm looking forward to presenting at the National I CAN seminar on Monday, July 11-12th. My presentations will be short versions of my PLU classes " Engaging Students in the 21st Century" and " Classroom Management Training for Teachers," and Great Teachers make a difference. I'll also be tweeting from the back channel #engage21century.
The conference is at Tattnall Square from 8:30 -3:00
Update- we had a great first day and I'm looking forward to Day 2

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nooks, Kindles and IPod Touches

I knew it was coming. I knew that after the Holiday giving season there would be an explosion, or at least an increase, in the amount of electronic gadgets we see at school each day. The Nooks, Kindles and IPod touches are now so affordable that most can afford them.
It's not unusual to see a 6th grader finish a test and instead of pulling out a book to read while others finish, they open up their reader and digitally fill the time. Technology Rocks.

Mr. Gerry Kosater

There are two paths you can choose but there's always time to change the one you choose