Jewish Journal Remembers Joel Rothblatt

I have been going back to school with a heavy heart since the loss of my UCLA classmate and colleague, Joel Rothblatt. Joel’s smile and optimism are sorely missed as our district has launched a multi-million dollar student information system that doesn’t work. Instead of kvetching, Joel would be shaking hands with each student, building strong relationships, and getting the school year off to a great start. You are sorely missed, buddy. Sorry for the bad photo, I hope to upload a better scan later in the week.

Rothblatt Jewish Journal


Dr Petri Featured in EdCal

Petri_Teacher EOIt’s always nice to see three years of your life condensed into 1,200 words. It was painful to shrink a 30,000 word tome into a short news article, but I hope the short format brings Teacher EO to a wider audience. In the final summation, no dissertation is truly a solo act. The following people were great supports and helped me finish when I faltered.

Ricardo Sosapavon, a professor from my Master’s program, was instrumental in encouraging me to apply to CSUN’s doctoral program and supported me in my first principalship. For that I will remain forever in his debt. Dr. Rick Moore suggested I look at the literature on entrepreneurship to see if any lessons could be cross-applied to education. He also heartily recommended the highly entrepreneurial, Dr. Rick Castallo to serve as my dissertation chair. Dr. Castallo’s adroit leadership prevented me from getting sidetracked by the various tangents. His encyclopedic knowledge of educational research was indispensible throughout this process. Dr. Peggy Johnson has been an outstanding professor and mentor for the last three years. Michelle Bennett used her 39 years of LAUSD experience to beat any bias from my writing.

I also owe a debt of thanks to the EO community. The following researchers encouraged me in pursuing the line of inquiry that made this dissertation possible: Dawn Bolton, George Dingilian, Tom Lumpkin, Peter Marzec, Marshall Pattie, and Bill Wales. Chris Clegg, Dr. Terrance Jakubowski, Dr. Jinyl (Jason) Li, and Dr. Jonah Schlackman all spent inordinate amounts of their time trying to teach a math-phobic history teacher just enough about quantitative methods to complete this work.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the members of my CSUN doctoral cohort: Jack Bagwell, Suzanne Blake, Jason Beck, Annette Besnilian, Tania Cabeza, Dwayne Cantrell, Pam Castleman, Carla Cretaro, Lynda Daniel, Jay Greenlinger, Eman Hill, Shannon Johnson, Paul Payne, Adrienne Peralta, Cecil Swetland, Jay Tartaro, Rachel Taylor, Ayk Terjimanian, Lorie Thompson, Madeline Latham Wilson, and Rich Underhill. I am proud to have undertaken this journey with you. We laughed together, struggled together, and bonded together. I hope we continue to support each other throughout long and satisfying careers.

Here is a link to the entire dissertation, for those that have trouble sleeping:



Live from EdmodoCon

What does Edmodo do? Simply put, it brings teachers and students together. Using social media to connect with students, or using tech to improve relationships between teachers and students were major themes in this year’s EdmodoCon14. To follow the backchannel go to #EdmodoCon on Twitter.

For me the highlights of EdmodoCon were:

Middle School ELA teacher Nathan Garvin took the crowd through methods to use Edmodo to improve student writing practices. He suggested awarding student badges for thesis statements, intro paragraphs, and other steps in the writing process. A big fan of mashups, Nathan made me realize that teachers are professional mashup artists, we stealing from the best and truly believe there is no pride in authorship, or as our students say “sharing is caring.”

Floridian Robert Miller has created Edmodo profiles of historical figures and had them join student history groups on Edmodo. He also took the conventioneers through a series of very creative formative assessments.

Sheryl Place spoke about using technology to connect with students. She opened her heart about the miracles of improved relationships between teacher and student and how online conversations have transformed her teaching. One great tip was using Edmodo to automate birthday messages for students. What a great way to personalize and let students know you care. Another recurring theme was that rules without relationships equal rebellion. While, Edmodo builds relationships and trust. Many other educators chimed in noting they love the relationships they have developed with students via Edmodo. Now the quiet ones in class are not so quiet online.

Valerie Knauer talked about her experiences asking students to write about personal topics.  Several of her examples brought tears to my eyes. Valerie reminded me that great teachers are haunted by the students that they tried to reach, but didn’t. I still remember a 10th grader whose mom was in prison for life, a top-notch debate student who had to quit the team because her father would be too drunk to pick her up after 6:00 pm, and a student who had transferred into my school after a humiliating YouTube bullying act of cruelty. It is important to remember the ones whose lives you do touch and change. One of my 7th grade student’s father was killed in a fight during the school year, which put that young man into a tailspin of depression. Thanks to social media, I kept in touch with that young man over the years and I am happy to report that he just finished his BA at a Cal State U. Valerie’s presentation demonstrated how teachers save lives one kid at a time.

EdModo Viewing

The dog wouldn’t join our viewing party and really only Daddy had a great time. This session reaffirmed that my 3 desert island apps would be Edmodo, Quizlet, Kahoot. I used TweetChat throughout the conference and was dismayed when I went back to write this post, many of my Tweets were never sent.  I wonder if other Twitterers have had that same experience? Thanks EdmodoCon14. Now, I need to go check out Storylines, Curriculet, and HaikuDeck.


Online Learning Lessons

Is quality elusive in online education? Anya Kamenetz, NPR’s lead education blogger, wrote an interesting story lamenting the frequently futile search for “quality” in online education. She reported that last year more than 7 million students, slightly over one-third of all U.S. college students, took at least one course online for credit. As a traditional brick and mortar teacher who has eyed online teaching with great interest, I can’t help but be disappointed in the results of virtual instruction. See my previous posts here and here.


My feeling is that a great deal of large publishing houses decided that digitizing their textbooks and offering “online” education would be an additional revenue stream. The big players jumped into the market and an arms race ensued. Major players spent dollars fast and furious developing virtual programs. Virtual/online curriculum proliferated in college programs (see graphic below), and spread to K12 school districts, as online charter schools took off. Fast-forward a decade and the outcomes of online learning start coming out in the research. The picture is not pretty. Major corporate interests have invested millions only to find out that online education doesn’t work. Minority students aren’t well served. At-risk students aren’t well served. Credit-deficient students aren’t well served. The only significant group thriving with online education is the GATE/gifted population and it turns out they don’t need much to thrive anyhow. Now these publishing houses have found out that their content and programs are not compelling, so they are rebranding distance/online/virtual education into “blended learning.”

Online EnrollmentMost online courses contain brief video lectures, readings, self-correcting multiple-choice quizzes, and discussion board forums. Basically, educational publishers have copied the traditional classroom read-lecture-write-discuss format in the online realm. Audrey Watters questions whether we should frame teaching and learning in the language we use to talk about the Web and media. Can high quality education be reduced to mere content delivery? Will effective teaching ever be as easy as putting resources online? Kamenetz suggests we need to define and measure “quality” in online education. Admittedly this will be difficult, as four hundred years of education research has not yet yielded any consensus on a definition for quality in face-to-face education.

Adaptive learning shows promise in online education, especially in the area of reaching remedial students. A central feature of adaptive learning is that it varies the presentation of content according to the user’s responses. If you get questions wrong, the machine adjusts and gives you easier questions and if you get questions right, the machine starts giving you harder questions. This is hard for a teacher to do in front of a live audience of 35-40 students, but a computer can do it easily. I suspect that the survivors in online education will be the institutions that have a deep stable of dynamic teachers capable of forging positive relationships with their students and facile enough with computers to personalize engaging lessons with adaptive technology.

Younger and at-risk students may benefit from gamification strategies, however, middle class, college-ready students may not need these bells and whistles. Deep down, they already know that education is a lot like life – you get out what you put in. And as it turns out, delayed gratification is a lesson that is extremely difficult to teach online.


Click to access gradechange.pdf

Why Use Peer Review?

Peer Review

There is considerable debate over the use of peer-review in MOOCs. I would argue that since MOOCs attract intrinsically motivated learners, the feedback given can be especially valuable.  As a case in point, I offer a snippet from a final assignment I completed from a Match Education class on teacher coaching.  The questions are in italics, my response is in plain text. The four peer reviewers comments are below. I received an average of the four scores, so my “grade” on this particular assignment was a 24 out of 25 points.

We would hypothesize that this coaching session suggests that Ms. McRookie is in the middle circle (i.e. “Skill B”) of skill acquisition represented in The Snowman Effect. Explain how the teacher’s behaviors suggest that she is in the middle “Skill B” acquisition loop.

Ms. McR has completed the mastery of her first effective teacher move and can now identify and correct student misbehavior. This completes the Skill A acquisition and mastery loop. Next, Mr. EC expresses concern that a larger instructional problem (Skill B) has manifested itself in the student practice domain of the Kraken. Mr. EC knows that once Ms. McR sees how she has mastered the first skill of time on task, she will master a second skill even faster. After paying a small amount of the fixed mindset tax, Ms. McR commits to beginning Skill B.

Mr. EC outlines the action steps needed on the next big takeaway and describes how Ms. McR should implement those action steps. Ms. McR immediately begins brainstorming with Mr. EC on how to improve her cold calling and turn her group discussion questions into stop and chats. This suggests that Ms. McR is engaged in Skill B acquisition and will work hard until she masters it before beginning the Skill C acquisition loop. Each subsequent skill acquisition and mastery loop should take less time because Ms. McR has seen the evidence of her growth mindset from her previous successes.

Mr. EC refines how Ms. McR cold calls. Instead of “Johnny, what was the first step?” He advises she use “What is the first step, Johnny?” Then Ms. McR goes from “I want everyone to write an explanation” to the more specific “Take 60 seconds to write in the box on the worksheet explain the steps in integrating polynomials.” Because of the success Ms. McR had in acquiring Skill A with Mr. EC, she is more optimistic and proactive in changing her teacher behavior. This suggests she will be able to master the moves of an effective teacher and change her name from Ms. McRookie to Ms. Effective Coach in a short amount of time.

peer 1 → The Author got all the technical details of the best practice of a coach teacher, his understanding is optimum and can link the variables perfectly

peer 2 → Absolutely brilliant! I don’t think this could have been done any better.

peer 3 → I was very impressed with your response to the last question about the Snowman Effect. I think it was the best response that I have read out of the five assessments that I have done so far. Overall, your answers were well written and it was easy to comprehend them. Thank you for all your hard work, and good luck!

peer 4 → Excellent!

My final point is that teacher coaching is considered by many as the gold standard for improving teaching. If peer review is an essential component of the coaching model, should it be expanded from MOOCs and into the classroom?  One of the goals of 21st Century pedagogy is to transform education into authentic work-based tasks. Many corporations use 360 degree evaluations. Should those be expanded into education and used as tools in teacher evaluations?