Thursday, March 12, 2015

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few interesting posts from the past few weeks.

1. How Four Women In An RV Plan to Change Young Girls' Lives (Fast Company)- group of Stanford students who intend to travel across the country this summer to interest girls in design, STEM and the maker movement.

After spending a day helping Stanford’s SparkTruck team coach design and maker workshops for elementary school students in San Francisco last October, students Katie Kirsch and Jenna Leonardo felt inspired. They spent the drive back to campus imagining new ways they could bring design thinking—the creative process of understanding needs, identifying a problem and creating new ways to solve it—to young women’s lives. They asked each other an old motivational prompt: "What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?"

2. New Research on Games and Classroom Practices (Reich)- case studies on the effectiveness of games as an assessment tool

But to have a positive impact on student learning, formative assessment demands information that is both useful and used. Our study documented some of the ways teachers are indeed utilizing games for formative assessment purposes, and the potential value of these uses for these important classroom practices. These case studies explored common features in games that teachers could use for formative assessment. In addition to identifying ways these features are useful to teachers, we also identified many areas for improvement.

3. Slice and Carve: The New Wave of Computer Creativity (NY Time)- how a new wave of machines is bringing precision to the way people make things

4. Noam Chomsky On the Dangers of Standardized Testing
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5. Studio 360- Humza Daes Puts Shame in Your Instagram Game



6. Well-Prepared In Their Own Eyes (Jaschik)- perspective from employers and students on job readiness skills

7. Reinventing High School (Fallows)- see how the CART school in Freson, CA structures learning


I sat with the group while the students talked through progress on their 10-week-long project, the production of a seven-minute video. This year’s theme for the video teams is science fiction. The essential question of their assignment: “How do imagination and technology contribute to our understanding of science, nature, and the human mind? How does the exploration of science and nature encourage us to dream of a better future”?  The soup-to-nuts tasks include writing an original story and script, casting actors, directing, filming, effects, editing, promotion, and presentation. The final package includes a reality-documentary of the entire video production, with its many high points and low points.  A few nights ago, Jim and I watched about half of last year's 22 productions on DVD. The most remarkable part to us were the student-produced documentaries which accompanied each film. The students spoke about how doing this intense work taught them about frustrations, perseverance, teamwork, satisfactions, and a lot of other things we would all like high schoolers to experience.


Make It Stick

Sharing a few highlights from Make It Stick by Peter Brown.

Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow

Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt

In other words, the elements that shape your intellectual abilities lie to a surprising extent within your own control. Understanding that this is so enables you to see failure as a badge of effort and a source of useful information—the need to dig deeper or to try a different strategy

Learning is stronger when it matters, when the abstract is made concrete and personal

Mastery requires both the possession of ready knowledge and the conceptual understanding of how to use it

Just as knowledge amounts to little without the exercise of ingenuity and imagination, creativity absent a sturdy foundation of knowledge builds a shaky house

show that giving feedback strengthens retention more than testing alone does, and, interestingly, some evidence shows that delaying the feedback briefly produces better long-term learning than immediate feedback

In interleaving, you don’t move from a complete practice set of one topic to go to another. You switch before each practice is complete. A friend of ours describes his own experience with this: “I go to a hockey class and we’re learning skating skills, puck handling, shooting, and I notice that I get frustrated because we do a little bit of skating and just when I think I’m getting it, we go to stick handling, and I go home frustrated, saying, ‘Why doesn’t this guy keep letting us do these things until we get it?’ ” This is actually the rare coach who understands that it’s more effective to distribute practice across these different skills than polish each one in turn. The athlete gets frustrated because the learning’s not proceeding quickly, but the next week he will be better at all aspects, the skating, the stick handling, and so on, than if he’d dedicated each session to polishing one skill

Here again we see the two familiar lessons. First, that some difficulties that require more effort and slow down apparent gains—like spacing, interleaving, and mixing up practice—will feel less productive at the time but will more than compensate for that by making the learning stronger, precise, and enduring. Second, that our judgments of what learning strategies work best for us are often mistaken, colored by illusions of mastery

Unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem encourage deep processing of the answer when it is later supplied, creating fertile ground for its encoding, in a way that simply reading the answer cannot

Moreover, people who are taught that learning is a struggle that often involves making errors will go on to exhibit a greater propensity to tackle tough challenges and will tend to see mistakes not as failures but as lessons and turning points along the path to mastery

The qualities of persistence and resiliency, where failure is seen as useful information, underlie successful innovation in every sphere and lie at the core of nearly all successful learning

The central idea here is that expert performance is a product of the quantity and the quality of practice, not of genetic predisposition, and that becoming expert is not beyond the reach of normally gifted people who have the motivation, time, and discipline to pursue it

Embrace the fact that significant learning is often, or even usually, somewhat difficult. You will experience setbacks. These are signs of effort, not of failure. Setbacks come with striving, and striving builds expertise. Effortful learning changes your brain, making new connections, building mental models, increasing your capability. The implication of this is powerful: Your intellectual abilities lie to a large degree within your own control. Knowing that this is so makes the difficulties worth tackling

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives

I am reading Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives.   Usually I share personal highlights upon finishing a book.  However, I really like the following and wanted to immediately share.  The two excerpts remind me about the power informal, organic, subtle, unintended interactions between classroom stakeholders have in pushing thinking.

Instead, we think about how and why people do things.  By not judging, the teacher also positions herself besides rather than above, the student, avoiding an asymmetrical power relationship.

In a dynamic-learning frame, receiving help to find and solve a problem is not a negative event.  In this framework, self-esteem might not be something you have more or less of either.  Perhaps self-esteem is, as Carol Dweck puts it, "a way of experiencing yourself when you are using your resources well."



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Test

Sharing a few highlights from The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing– But You Don't Have to Be by Anya Kamenetz.  With PARCC testing less than a month away it was worthwhile reading about the history of standardized testing as well as some of the fallacies associated with standardized testing.  Additionally, it was intriguing to see the approach other organizations are taking to collect data about students.  Two points resonated for me.  One, was that PARCC is just another data point, not the only or most important data point.  Unfortunately, the connection between PARCC results and teacher/school/district effectiveness complicates matters. However, the idea that results on a standardized exam given in March and May supersedes other data collected throughout the year is a failed concept.  Secondly, we can do better and we can do more to collect meaningful data about student growth.  The hysteria over PARCC is not worth it considering the exams narrow scope.  Instead, energies should be directed towards supporting diverse, authentic assessments which render information on a range of academic and non-academic skills.


Scores on state tests do not correlate with students’ ability to think. In December 2013 MIT neuroscientists working with education researchers at Harvard and Brown Universities released a study of nearly 1,400 eighth graders in the Boston public school system. The researchers administered tests of the students’ fluid intelligence, or their ability to apply the reasoning in novel situations, comprising skills like working memory capacity, speed of information processing, and the ability to solve abstract problems. By contrast, standardized tests mostly test crystallized intelligence, or the application of memorized routines to familiar problems. The researchers found that even the schools that did a good job raising students’ math scores on standardized tests showed almost no influence over the same students’ fluid intelligence

The anxiety doesn’t end when students go home. The pressure of high-stakes tests is driving parents to act against their own values. “Parenthood, like war, is a state in which it’s impossible to be moral,” wrote Lisa Miller in New York Magazine in 2013 in an article in which she describes sending a fourth grader to school with head lice so she could take the state-mandated English exam to get into competitive middle schools

In a 2011 paper, “Getting Teacher Evaluation Right,” the Stanford researcher Linda Darling-Hammond and three other education researchers concluded that value-added measurements should only be used alongside other means of evaluation and in a low-stakes way. Their research showed that ratings for individual teachers were highly unstable, varying from year to year and from one test to another.

Promoting a single standard of proficiency for every child may be efficient for policymakers, but it flies in the face of current educational theory, which celebrates the individual learning path of each child.

A diversity of achievement and talents would naturally persist even if our society did the utmost to promote the advancement of each person. But nonetheless, the idea that tests represent only a snapshot, a moment in time, puts a huge responsibility in the hands of everyone tasked with bringing up children.

They conceptualize proficiency as a fixed quantity in a world where what’s important is your capacity to learn and grow. They are a twentieth-century technology in a twenty-first-century world. Which brings us back to argument #10: it’s only going to get worse as we attempt to upgrade our academic standards while administering the same kinds of outdated tests. Unless we rethink the way we do things.

Emotional and social intelligence, both internal and external, can be viewed as a subdomain of the twenty-first-century curriculum. But it’s equally valid to look at these qualities, sometimes called noncognitive skills, as necessary prerequisites for success in any field. In the past decade, research from psychology and economics has strongly reinforced this view

But subjecting our kids to year after year of standardized tests perversely reinforces this view. “We did some informal research on this,” said Dweck. “Many kids believe these tests measure how smart they are and how smart they’ll be when they grow up, that the tests can really predict their futures.” Think of eleven-year-old Lucas at the Leaf School tells me the tests are “life or death.”

“We really recommend looking at models of growth: not just where students are today, but where they’ve come from and where they need to go.” The Scantron score sheets of the past focused on static “achievement” or, even worse, “aptitude”; today’s technology, in theory, could enable schools to focus on growth. The snapshot is replaced with a video

It would be more helpful for educational purposes and more hopeful for individuals to understand a student’s capacity for growth and her particular learning strengths and weaknesses rather than merely take that snapshot of whether she is above proficient or below proficient in a specific subject at a given point in time. One way to get at this is so-called dynamic testing.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few highlights from the past few weeks.


1. Video Games and Making Math More Like Things Students Like (Meyer)- presentation by Dan Meyer on what we can do to elevate student interest in math class

Video Games & Making Math More Like Things Students Like from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

2. Creating Culture: An Imperfect Recipe- thoughts about fostering a specific type of culture in your organization.  For schools an important point to consider is how do we foster a culture which is progressive an innovative.  In part, how do schools function pas start-ups and support an entrepreneurial spirit.

Culture is an output of a bunch of inputs that have to come together the right way. Specifically it is the collision of people and their context, how they interact with each other in that context, and then how that context evolves based on those interactions as they multiply. 

3. What the Best Education System Are Doing Right- looks at education systems from around the world and highlights unique structures which are contributing towards student success.  Interesting commentary at the price some pay for success.
TEACHERS IN FINLAND TEACH 600 HOURS A YEAR, SPENDING THE REST OF TIME IN PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. IN THE U.S., TEACHERS ARE IN THE CLASSROOM 1,100 HOURS A YEAR, WITH LITTLE TIME FOR FEEDBACK.

4. School Libraries Shelve Tradition to Create New Learning Spaces- shares examples of how some schools re-envisioned their media centers, turning them into more dynamic creative spaces.

The senior school library is based on the medieval idea of a cabinet of curiosities and is designed to be a place where older children can encounter information and knowledge in intriguing ways and make unexpected connections. It hosts temporary exhibitions, making full use of its location in Cambridge to source suitable artifacts for displays, which so far have included the Great War, Sherlock and a history of medicine. It also uses iBeacon technology to trigger information relevant to particular parts of the library directly onto students’ iPads as they move around.

5. Equipped for the Future- takes a critical look at the CCSS emphasis on close reading.  Compares the CCSS stance on college career readiness to commentary expressed by the National Work Readiness Council.

The problem with the Common Core’s mission to improve college and career readiness is not that these expectations are too high, but these standards are too narrow and specialized, so they do not prepare our students for the diverse real world reading and thinking challenges of life, school, and employment.

6. The Agile Classroom (Kiang)- an agile classroom is an environment in which your students are motivated to do their best work and feel invested in the class as a whole.  Teacher leans on background working in a start-up to support an agile, nimble, collaborative classroom environment.

Better yet, create a culture where kids don't have to ask permission. Successful startups don't wait for permission from other companies, and they don't wait for someone else to beat them to the market. Be the first and the best. In my classroom, when we prepared for our own pitch event, kids who had experience making movies held impromptu training sessions to introduce classmates to the app. Other kids formed their own panels to help provide feedback to groups as they rehearsed. These ideas came from the kids themselves, because I had created an environment where they felt encouraged to innovate and empowered to act.

7. The Table Master (NPR Morning Edition)- cool interview with Zakir Hussain, globally recognized percussionist.  Interesting snippets about his life and how his passion for drumming has been nurtured.  Bonus track to a collaboration between Hussain, Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck.

But Hussain's mind was opened to new things — including the music his dad would bring home from his world tours. He says he was the only kid on his block who would walk around with a boombox on his shoulder, blasting rock songs like The Doors' "Light My Fire." Hussain even considered swapping his tablas for a drum set at one point. He wanted to be a rock star — until an actual rock star set him straight.

8. Afterglow- it has finally gotten cold in this part of the country and we have had a few snowfalls recently.  As one of those easterners who like winter I want to share this movie by Sweetgrass Productions.  Very cool idea worth watching even if you do not love the cold or skiing.

AFTERGLOW - Full Film by Sweetgrass Productions from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.






Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Worth Reading...

A few posts to read while on the plane, at the beach or sitting in front of the fire this holiday season.


1. How a Teen Knew She Was Ready to Teach Computer Coding Skills (Sung)-  Ming Horn was debating her sense of readiness earlier this year when she set out on an ambitious plan to teach code to teens at the Future Light Orphanage in Cambodia. Horn, then a junior at Berkeley High School in California, had never taught a classroom of students, nor did she have any fluency in Khmer. What she did have, however, was her experience as a learner.


“I don’t know how computer science classes are taught, but I know how I learn — project-based, experimental, asking people in the community,” she told an audience this week at the Big Ideas Fest hosted by ISKME. “My time was spent writing pitches, emailing people, developing the curriculum and learning on the fly.” Pulling off this project “was not about your coding skills, but really about your organization.”


2. How Deprogramming Kids From How To Do School could Improve Learning (Schwartz)- shares the story of how one teacher changed his class.  The article reminds of others teachers who have come to a similar realization that by a certain point students have mastered the art of playing the game of school and that there is a need to create an environment where learning, empowerment, creativity, and even failure are rewarded and not compliance.


“It wasn’t perfect and it didn’t turn my kids into all physics majors, but for the kids who were on the border, it made a difference,” Holman said. Discussing their learning with them, switching grading policies and assigning more inquiry-based, hands on lessons all helped Holman’s students feel he trusted and respected them. And they rose to the challenge. “I think the kids were just waiting to be let loose and to be treated like adults,” Holman said.


3. We Need Schools to be Different (McLeod)- the impact the digital revolution / information age has on the way schools are structured and what is expected of students- points to the fact that schools cannot exist in a bubble isolated / immune from larger societal shifts


Essentially, we now have the ability to learn about whatever we want, from whomever we want, whenever and wherever we want, and we also can contribute to this learning environment for the benefit of others. The possibilities for learning and teaching in this information space are both amazing and nearly limitless, but right now this learning often is disconnected from our formal education institutions.


4. The Gift of Education (Kristof)- a poignant reminder of what education means from a global perspective


A few days ago, we saw the news of the horrific Pakistani Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar. The Taliban attacks schools because it understands that education corrodes extremism; I wish we would absorb that lesson as well. In his first presidential campaign, President Obama spoke of starting a global education fund, but he seems to have forgotten the idea. I wish he would revive it!


5. 10-year-old tells school board: I love to read..I love to do math.  But I do not love PARCC.  Why?  Because it stinks (Strauss)- standardized testing from the perspective of a elementary school student


6. Learning From What Doesn't Work: The Power of Embracing a Prototyping Mindset (Carroll)- what is gained by having students, tinker, experiment, fail, rebuild...


7. The Random Events That Sparked 8 of the World's Biggest Startups (Fast Company)- Light-bulb moments don’t happen on command, and brainstorming sessions rarely produce extraordinary results. More often it’s a random remark, event, or memory that sends an entrepreneur down the rabbit hole of innovation. From Airbnbto Yelp, here are the surprising origin stories to eight of today’s hottest companies.













Thursday, December 11, 2014

Worth Reading

Passing along a few interesting posts from the past couple of weeks

1. A Miami School Goes From Blank Canvas to Mural-Covered (Allen)- large art installation project to change the appearance of a school to better reflect changes in the neighborhood

In a school courtyard, an artist who goes by the name Leza One paused in his work on a wall that has a floodlight in the center. On the wall, he painted a young woman who appears to be illuminated by the floodlight. "I play with the light actually. My mural is about darkness and light. So, the light here is a metaphor that represents hope," he said.

2. Twenty-Five District Worth Visiting (Vander Ark)- review of district and schools across the country that are supporting innovative educational programs

Leading a public school district is difficult and complicated work but done well, there is no other job where you can change how a community thinks about itself, its children, and its future. Following are 25 districts that are changing the trajectory by working on blended, personalized and competency-based learning. Most are making career preparation--including communications, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration--a priority. They are big and small, urban and rural, east and west--representative of the American education challenge.

3. How Dissecting A Pencil Can Ignite Curiosity and Wonderment (Schwartz)- developing creativity, inventive thinking, and problem-solving skills through establishing thinking routines in the classroom

One big emphasis in the project so far has been on looking deeply at even the simplest of objects. In a thinking routine called “parts, purpose, complexity” students are asked to carefully observe the individual parts that make up an object. When each part has been thoroughly explored they start discussing and wondering about the purpose of each part. Then they think about how even a simple object can be complicated when broken down into its component parts.

4. Self-Directed Learning: Lessons From the Maker Movement (Flores)- the impact and potential of the maker movement in education

For students who learn through the making of things, the reward shifts from the successful demonstration of learned facts (i.e., tests, essays, lab reports) to the joy and earned wisdom experienced through exploration and discovery. Growing evidence indicates that this process provides students with a deeper understanding of the way things work, as well as a stronger sense of purpose and autonomy. It builds confidence, fosters creativity, and sparks a deep interest in learning.

5. How Game Theory Helped Improve New York City's High School Application Process (Tullis)- 
Students list their favorite schools, in order of preference (they can now list up to 12). The algorithm allows students to “propose” to their favorite school, which accepts or rejects the proposal. In the case of rejection, the algorithm looks to make a match with a student’s second-choice school, and so on. Like the brides and grooms of Professors Gale and Shapley, students and schools connect only tentatively until the very end of the process.

6. Kid Inventors Come Up With Creative Environmental Solutions (Pilon)- solutions that came out of the Global Children's Designathon; an event took place on Nov. 15 in five cities around the world, and encouraged children to spend the day designing solutions to improve food, waste, or mobility issues in their hometowns.

The De-Waster 5000 is a helicopter that scoops plastic out of landfills and the ocean then uses a flamethrower to melt the trash into beds for homeless people. It’s not a real product. But it is a creative prototype that was thought up by a 10-year-old as part of the Global Childrens’ Designathon.

7. Teachers Take Student Data to the Micro Level In One NYC School (Collette)- examines how one school approaches data analysis