Top Five Radical Reads of 2016

One of my favorite things about the end of December and the beginning of January are the summaries that bloggers share with their networks detailing the posts that drew the most attention in digital spaces.  By pulling the best pieces to the forefront, they make it easy for me to quickly find important thoughts that I missed in my feed reader during the course of the year.

Since 2011, I’ve done the same here on the Radical, spotlighting the five posts that had the highest number of page views during the previous calendar year.  For 2016, those posts were:

Writing Student Friendly Learning Goals — This bit, which was written way back in 2008, details the reasons that converting the jargon-heavy standards detailed in our curriculum into student friendly learning targets makes sense.  It also goes on to explain a simple process for converting objectives into student friendly learning targets and introduces Unit Overview Sheets — a tool that I use to communicate essential outcomes to the students in my classroom.

I’m jazzed that it is one of the most read pieces of the year simply because it shares a process that I believe should be the starting point for moving from a culture of grading to a culture of feedback in schools — an essential shift that every school needs to start making and the topic covered in my newest book, which came out in November of this year.

 

Technology is a Tool.  Not a Learning Outcome — This post has been in darn near every Top Five Radical Reads lists for as long as I can remember.  Sharing a simple hand-drawn image that expresses my core belief that technology CAN’T be the starting point for our conversations about changing schools, this post and its companion image on Flickr have been viewed over 50,000 times in the last few years.  Something about this bit resonates with all y’all — and that’s cool.  I know that it keeps challenging my own thinking about teaching and learning with technology.

 

What are YOU Doing to Teach Students to Spot Fake News Stories? – Let’s start with a simple truth:  No matter what side of the political aisle you stand on, you HAVE to be troubled by the fact that fake news designed to peddle lies and influence voters is having an impact on elections in America.  That’s not the fault of crappy news outlets.  That’s the fault of lazy voters who do almost nothing to check the credibility of the sources that they are consuming.  In this bit, I detail the scope of the fake news problem, offer a series of tips for verifying news sources that I think every student should be taught, and then point readers to a complete lesson that you can purchase from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

 

A Parent’s Reflection on School Letter Grades — While it has gotten me in trouble more than my fair share of times, I often write bits here on the Radical that point out the very real impact that destructive #edpolicy choices have on teachers and students.  I’ve been told more than once that doing so is a bad idea because “I’m turning off important people.”  This was one of the pieces that made those “important people” uncomfortable this year.

In it, I openly wonder about the impact that a C rating under our state’s “Excellent Public Schools” letter grading system will have on the culture of the school that my second grade daughter attends.  My goal in writing it was simple:  To point out that the things that I want out of a school as a parent go WAY BEYOND the things our state has chosen to measure and monitor.  Someone needs to say that out loud, right?

 

The Most Important Interview Question I Bet You’ve Never Asked — Let’s start with a simple truth:  I am a huge believer in the power of professional learning communities to change the practice of individual classroom teachers.  That’s because my OWN practice has been changed in deep and meaningful ways by the opportunity to reflect with peers.  But here’s the thing:  Ask most teachers and they are likely to tell you that PLCs are pointless — just another initiative that they hope will be passed over and thrown on the scrap heap of change.

One of the reasons for that pessimism is the failure on the part of school principals to fill their schools with people who truly are OPEN to the notion that there is real value in learning from others.  That’s an argument I make in this piece — which offers up the only question that I think is worth asking in an interview for a new teacher:  Describe a time when your thinking was deeply influenced by a colleague.

Some of my favorite posts of the year didn’t make it into the top five.  Give ’em a look, though.  You’ll get a sense for who I am as both a person and professional:

Are Grades Destroying My Six Year Old Kid?

Wonder = Joy (and Joy Should be Shared!)

Pockets of Innovation = Lack of Focus

The Best Feedback is Gathered, not Given

“The Curse of Our Online Lives”

After _______, What’s OUR Role in Promoting Peace?

 

In the end, 2016 has been nothing short of a wild ride — filled with new opportunities, new instructional experiments and new lessons learned, both personally and professionally.

Through it all, Radical Nation has been there — reading and reflecting and challenging and questioning.  For that, I continue to be incredibly grateful.  Here’s to hoping that you’ll stick with me into 2016.  I’d miss you if you were gone.

#gratzi

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