MSEd Alumnus Michael Kosko Named Finalist for the Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education

MSEd Alumnus Michael Kosko Named Finalist for the Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education

By MSEd students

Q: Where are you teaching now?

A: I teach at Al Raby School for Community and Environment in Chicago Public Schools. This is my fourth year at Al Raby and tenth in CPS.

Q: How does it feel to have been selected as a top-ten finalist for the Escalante-Gradillas prize?

A: I feel incredibly honored to have been nominated and even more to have made it to the top ten. I am proud to represent Chicago Public Schools and urban educators as a whole.

Q:  I strongly believe that teachers burn out when they stop innovating and experimenting with their practice. Each year I try one new thing in my classes. This year my One Goal students created their own websites and maintain a weekly blog. One Goal is a high school course that works with students to apply to college and prepares them to persist through college. The mission of the program is "College Graduation. Period” – hence the name One Goal.

My Environmental Science students are starting 20 percent time (genius hour) projects this month. Twenty percent time comes from Google's policy where employees get twenty of their time to work on a passion project. Every Wednesday my environmental science students have the entire period to work on their own project. Before diving in, students wrote proposals and workshopped them with their classmates. Right now I have a student writing poetry based on interviews he conducted with students in the school about their attitudes towards science. Another student is building models of different mammal brains to look and the complexity of their nervous systems, and a third student is caring for caterpillars as they prepare to enter the pupa stage of their development. The only guidelines for the project are that students have to be passionate about their project, it has to be related to science, and they have the present their work to their classmates and the larger school community. 

My FUSE students participate in weekly STEM Quickfire challenges which I picked up from my participation in the Michigan State University - Wipro UrbanSTEM program. 

Q:  Do you use a lot of technology in your classroom? What hardware or software is a 'game changer' in education? 

A: My my classroom is 1:1 with Chromebooks from a DonorsChoose grant, and I just received a Learning Studio grant from Digital Promise for an HP Sprout, a 3D printer, and convertible laptop/tablets. My students also use their phones for class activities like looking at augmented reality models or creating stop motion videos. Google Classroom has had a huge impact on my instruction. I piloted it for the district two years ago and am thrilled to see how many teachers across the district now use it. With Classroom I'm able to give my students timely, targeted feedback on their work. In fact, this was the basis for my master’s project where I looked at how digital feedback affected student performance on writing tasks. Also, working in a community where many students do not have computer and/or internet access at home, Gsuite smart phone integration has allowed my students to continue to work on their projects from home and receive feedback from me. It has expanded my contact with students from 50 minutes a day to 8-10 hours a day.

Q:  If there was one thing you could change in our schools today, what would that be, and why?

A: As a profession we need to move away from past models of instruction and emphasize personalized learning and redefine what constitutes a learning space. We are starting to see this with the Maker movement in schools, and I'd love to see it continue to grow and impact instruction across the curricula. 

Q: What do you think is the next big shift in education? OR, where do you see our education system in the next five years? 

A: With national teaching shortages and movement away from short-term, teacher prep programs, I think that we will see an educational renaissance where the profession will grow in status and undergraduate education programs will flourish. I hope that this will lead a discussion on equitable school funding policies as well, but that might take a lot more than five years to come to fruition. 

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