Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Worth Reading

Passing along a few interesting reads from the past couple of weeks....

1. Entrepreneurship is Elementary:  How A Project-Based Curriculum Catalyzed A Community (Rappaport)- a program in which elementary students are pushed to think and act like entrepreneurs.

Realizing that our little tech community could essentially be STEM Sesame Street, I set out to design a curriculum that would introduce the students to 21st-century careers and skills, from engineering to design to public speaking. It was one part career day, one part entrepreneurship workshop. As an education entrepreneur for years, I knew that the skills we used daily at our startups--critical thinking, creativity, collaboration--also happened to be central tenets of the fledgling Common Core State Standards.

2. Send Your Students’ (and anyone else’s) High Hopes Up High (Crosby)- update about the High Hopes project where students launch a balloon in the air with a camera attached to it.  The project was explained by Brain Crosby in his TEDxDenver ED Talk several years ago.

3. You Know What You Need... You Need A Learning Contract (Cormier)- thinking about the contracts we make with students in the classroom.  Here is an idea which views the learning contract as the basis for what is accomplished in that it takes the place of a syllabus, a textbook, an assessment model and a social contract.

I’m fascinated by how so many folks seem to have the same response to it that I did the first time I started reading about it – “this is exactly what i need.” It’s a simple concept – come to an agreement with people about what they want to work on, how much they want to work, who’s responsible for what and what everyone expects from the time you’re going to spend together.

4. Knowledge Building, Knowledge Of in Contrast to Knowledge About (Reilly)- what type of knowledge do we value and foster in our classrooms and beyond

Knowledge about dominates traditional educational practice. It is the stuff of textbooks, curriculum guidelines, subject-matter tests, and typical school “projects” and “research” papers. Knowledge of, by contrast, suffers massive neglect. There is instruction in skills (procedural knowledge), but it is not integrated with understanding in a way that would justify saying “Alexa has a deep knowledge of arithmetic”—or chemistry or the stock market or anything else. Knowledge about is not entirely useless, but its usefulness is limited to situations in which knowledge about something has value independently of skill and understanding. Such situations are largely limited to social small talk, trivia games, quiz shows, and—the one biggy—test taking.

5.  The Evolution of Product Design As Told By Citizens Watches- the video depicts this evolution as it occurs on a watch designer's desk, as well as through various taglines and typography over the years. Kramer used a variety of cameras, like a handcranked 35mm from the 1930s and a 1980s VHS camera, to get the looks of each era right. Each new product innovation is marked as "The End," leading to the question, "What if every ending was the chance to start something better?"

6. The History of Our World In 18 Minutes- David Christian narrates a complete history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the Internet, in a riveting 18 minutes. This is "Big History": an enlightening, wide-angle look at complexity, life and humanity, set against our slim share of the cosmic timeline.

7. How Video Powers Global Innovation- Chris Anderson says the rise of web video is driving a worldwide phenomenon he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation — a self-fueling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print.  But to tap into its power, organizations will need to embrace radical openness.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Opening Day Thoughts

Keeping the tradition alive I am sharing an old post from Will Richardson about the opening days of school.  In the post Will Richardson lists a series of questions he hopes his children will be able to answer about their respective day at school. 

I think this is a great list of not so much questions but a vision for the work we can do with kids.

What did you make today that was meaningful?
What did you learn about the world?
Who are you working with?
What surprised you?
What did your teachers make with you?
What did you teach others?
What unanswered questions are you struggling with?
How did you change the world in some small (or big) way?
What’s something your teachers learned today?
What did you share with the world?
What do you want to know more about?
What did you love about today?
What made you laugh?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Balance of Powder

I just found out the other day that I will be heading out to Crested Butte this season.  As an avid skier Crested Butte was one location on the resort bucket list I had not visited.  Even though it is the summer, thinking about the upcoming ski season is always on my mind.  In doing some investigating about Crested Butte I came across this video not about Crested Butte but instead about Island Lake Lodge and the BC Powder Highway (another bucket list item- driving the powder highway).

I loved the opening line to the video about following your passion:

"If everyone could find something they are passionate about and spend all day doing it, that is the world I would love to see."

Quick Thought

I do not understand why some are so opposed to using Google Apps in school.  I must be missing something.  I am not saying that Google Apps is the magic pill which will solve our educational problems and I also understand like any product their are glitches and "things" you wish were better. However, the ease with which stakeholders can collaborate and publish content outweighs the alternatives.

Again, maybe I am missing something...

Worth Reading....

1. Playground Poem (Stager)- 

it is worth noting that many of the nations “beating” the USA academically (as if learning were a zero-sum game of winners and losers), have more recess than the United States. K-12 schools in my second home of Australia have a 20-30 minute late “morning tea” and an hour for lunch and recess – through graduation.

2. Michael Wesch on Seymour Papert and Constructionism (Fryer)- “Nothing could be more absurd than an experiment in which computers are placed in a classroom in which nothing else has changed… Computers serve best when they allow everything to change.”

3. Jennie Magiera's Keynote from the July 2014 EdTech Teacher Summit (Fryer)- This podcast is a recording of Jennie Magiera’s opening keynote on the second day of EdTechTeacher’s Summit in Chicago on Navy Pier on July 29, 2014. Jennie is a teacher and educational leader in the Chicago Public Schools, and has taught in a 1:1 iPad classroom. Jennie and the other teachers in her team (primarily from Burley Elementary and the National Teacher’s Academy in CPS) are passionate about not only engaging students in the learning process, but also using social media to help students discover and share their own voices with those in their neighborhood, community, city, and nation.

4. This Is What A Student-Designed School Looks Like (Vangelova)- students are allowed to design their own school within a school at Monument High School in Great Barrington, MA

“How do we process sequences with complex hierarchical structure and make sense of them?” he asks. “How do we integrate sensation and action? How do we remember long and difficult sequences of information? These are fundamental neuroscience questions, and music can help us answer some of these questions, because it’s in some ways simpler than language, but it’s still of sufficient complexity that it can address these very deep and important aspects of human brain function.”

6. Welcome to Epic, A School Where Students Are Heroes On a Quest (Schwartz)- another example of rethinking how we structure school

Students in adolescence start telling the story of themselves; who am I, what do I do, and there’s this narrative out there that people tell them about who they are,” Hatcher said. In Oakland, often the expectation is that African American and Latino students won’t succeed. Epic educators are challenging that narrative by giving students the chance to become the superheroes of their community. Hatcher wants his students to feel they can control their lives despite the random violence happening in the neighborhoods where they live.

7. A Portal to Chaos and Adventure (Westervelt)- innovative and creative space for students to play 

Children need an environment with “the opportunity to engage in open, free play where they’re allowed to self-organize,” he adds. “It’s really a central part of being human and developing into competent adulthood.”
Brown says this kind of free-range fun is not just good; it’s essential. Wild play helps shape who we become, he says, and it should be embraced, not feared.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Worth Reading

Sharing a few highlights from the past couple of weeks with a particular emphasis on how some schools are challenging established educational structures.

1. Introduction to Designing Spaces for LearningEwan McIntosh introduces the Designing Spaces for Learning subject as part of the CSU Knowledge Networks course. In this clip, he shares a rationale for the three key areas of the subject - design, space and learning - and gives some advice for sharing thinking informally with the larger design/spaces for learning community.

2. Five Tips for Working With Works of Art (Moma)- this came out of a three day institute I attended about arts integrated curricula

3. Made With Code (Google)- showing how things we love are made with code

4. Zaana Howard on Design Thinking at Lean UX 14- podcast about the use of design thinking to bring people together to create and share

5. Will Computers Ever Replace Teachers (Reich)- pushes the reader to think about educating or preparing students to do things that computers cannot do

We use machine learning in a limited way for grading essays on tests, but for the most part those tests are dominated by assessment methods—multiple choice and quantitative input—in which computers can quickly compare student responses to an answer bank. We’re pretty good at testing the kinds of things that intelligent tutors can teach, but we’re not nearly as good at testing the kinds of things that the labor market increasingly rewards. In “Dancing with Robots,” an excellent paper on contempotary education, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argue that the pressing challenge of the educational system is to “educate many more young people for the jobs computers cannot do.” Schooling that trains students to efficiently conduct routine tasks is training students for jobs that pay minimum wage—or jobs that simply no longer exist.

Fancy a career in design? When I made that choice 30 years ago, the options were limited. You either got an engineering degree and then went to design school, or you went to art school and studied graphic design, architecture, or industrial design, like I did.  Today, things are very different. Thanks to the still-booming Silicon Valley, interaction and user-experience designers have been added to the mix, but those aren’t the only opportunities for design thinkers. Even graduates of non-traditional programs can embark on exciting design careers. To wit, here are five disciplines that didn’t even exist at IDEO a few years ago.
People don't start learning when they enter a school building or stop when they exit. Learning is natural. Everyone learns all the time. PSII recognizes this truth, supporting learners in the pursuit of their personal passions wherever and whenever that learning needs to take place. The school is a gathering place where ideas can be shared and where strong face-to-face relationships become the foundation for truly personalized learning.
8. What Happens When School Design Looks Like Game Design (Shapiro)- insight into the Quest to Learn School which design curriculum from the approach of a video game perspective.
Quest To Learn shows us what happens when the old “factory model” of organization is replaced with a systems-based game-like paradigm. They call it games, systems, or design. That’s code for understanding content in context — and for seeing the interconnectedness between elements.
“We need to do a better job at giving children and young people opportunities to rise, which means developing systems that enable that rise — that enable them to move across networks and to engage in really hard problems with relevant resources. Games are all about creating spaces of possibility, where players feel they can do anything,”
9. How One Designer Bridged the Gap Between Play and Learning (Summers)- speaks to connection between play and learning with Margaret Middleton; an exhibiter at the Boston Children's Museum
“Play is naturally conducive to learning. It’s one of the best ways to learn: learning by doing, learning by playing and experiencing things. That’s what experimentation is all about. Play and science have a lot in common that way. The boring parts about it I guess, is that I have to be thinking about making sure that it’s safe and that everything that we’re making is going to be durable. It gets touched by thousands of hands every day. That’s more the practical side of things.”
10. A School That's All About Play (Barseghian)- Imagine a school where the students’ day revolves around playing games, all day long. Video games, live action role-playing games, board games, building games. At the PlayMaker School in Los Angeles, the school day takes kids from one game activity to the next, as they explore any number of different subjects and ideas, from the physics of flight to ancient Mesopotamian culture

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Finding the Heart of Nonfiction

Sharing a few highlights from Finding the Heart of Nonfiction.

If students are writing a "research report" or any informative writing, they must figure out how to transfer knowledge so readers can grasp, understand, and even experience the information (Heart).

The passions of the writer must come through to support the wonder and awe of the reader (Heart). 

Humanity and warmth are the essence of good nonfiction.  Do the words sound like they were written by an author?  Does the text have a voice?  Do the words invite the reader in?  do they make the reader feel passionate about or interested in a topic that she didn't care about before? (Heart)

Find the best writers in the fields that interest you and read their work aloud.  Get their voice and their taster into your ear- their attitude toward language (Heart).

Similarly, when I write nonfiction I try to communicate ideas, information, and facts by painting images with words- scenes that the reader can see in his mind, scenes that show rather than tell information (Heart).

No matter what the subgenre, a nonfiction writer's goal is to help the reader experience what he is describing.  Rick Bragg, a journalist for the New york Times, gives his advice to young writers:  "I tell people to always be looking.  I know that sounds a little absurd, but you just keep your eyes open, soak in how something smells or tastes or sounds (Heart)."

The doorway into a writer's experience is through the physical world.  Nonfiction writers use sensory and descriptive words that can make the reader see, touch, hear, smell and even taste (Heart).