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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Worth Reading

Passing along a few highlights from the past couple of weeks....

1. 1,021 Reasons Why This Family Built A Computer to Play Minecraft (New Tech City)- dad builds a computer with his two daughters so they can play Minecraft.

Keefe got to spend time with his daughters (and got his other computer back) and they got all the Minecraft they could ever want. The girls also got a useful lesson in building hardware in case they want to put together another computer for the next big video game that comes along.

2. Investigating Authentic Questions (Vincent)- discusses the need to create "driving questions" in the classroom as well as the need to provide space for students to develop their own investigative questions.

Albert Einstein is quoted, “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.".... Remember, the idea is that your students work harder than you. Admittedly, it is a lot of work to put in place contracts, establish procedures, check in with students, model search techniques, and manage resources. While you may not be busy spoon feeding your students, providing the conditions in which they can learn through investigation is a big job.
3. Center For Innovation Wows Board With Design Thinking and Game-Based Learning (Hellman)- updates from Scarsdale's Center for Innovation.  Teachers experiment with Design Thinking  as well as middle school teachers who use games and simulations to extend student thinking.
Games give players permission to take risks that would not be permitted in a traditional academic setting, and inspire students to create, share, mix, modify, curate, critique, and comment on content to which they might otherwise be indifferent. Game-based learning includes group work, interaction and a high degree of student engagement. 
4. Teachers "Showing Up" As Students (Richardson/Stommel)- developing trust through teachers  learning next to their students.
 work extremely hard to keep my own expectations from being the fuel that makes everything go. My only real expectation as a teacher in a learning environment is that students don’t look to me for approval but take full ownership of their own learning. And I work to develop trust by showing up as a student myself. 
5. The Hundred Face Challenge- examining the different ways students went about solving a problem
6. On Hope (Hunt)- making a case for providing an environment where hope, the chance to think, dream big is what is important and that it is OK for plans to fail.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Technology as an either or proposition

Recently I have been part of several meeting where participants tried to paint the integration of technology in schools/classrooms as an either or proposition.  The use of technology was seen as an agent to end to face-to-face interactions and furthermore, that important personal connections would dissipate as access became widespread.

I never understood this caustic view of technology.  I'm not sure if this view stems from fear of change or results from a lack of  understanding on how technology and physical exchanges can coexist in the same learning environment.  Leveraging technology in classrooms and even outside of schools by students does not signal the end of interpersonal skills.  Instead, for example, physical collaboration in the classroom and sharing ideas via an online learning network both hold a place of importance as one constructs knowledge.  The more important and productive discussion should center on how both the physical and virtual worlds can serve as tools students organically access to help construct meaning.

While listening to the either or proposition I thought about NCTE's Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment (benchmarks provided below).  What it means to be literate has been reshaped by the ways in which technology is applied by a community of global users to communicate, collaborate, create and develop.  If we want students to embody NCTE's definition of literacy (personally, I cannot see why not) than the use of technology needs to be embraced.  The conversation should no longer focus on what is lost or at worst doomsday predictions in regards to technology.  The conversation should encourage educators and students to think about what is possible when access and the ability to connect is readily available to all.

Context for NCTE’s 21st Century Literacies Framework
The NCTE definition of 21st century literacies makes it clear that the continued evolution of curriculum, assessment, and teaching practice itself is necessary:

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to
  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few personal favorites from the past few weeks.

1. Why The Best Teachers Don't Give Tests (Kohn)- discusses why testing is flawed and shares more effective ways to gather valuable information about student progress

The most impressive classrooms and curricula are designed to help the teacher know as much as possible about how students are making sense of things. When kids are engaged in meaningful, active learning -- for example, designing extended, interdisciplinary projects -- teachers who watch and listen as those projects are being planned and carried out have access to, and actively interpret, a continuous stream of information about what each student is able to do and where he or she requires help. It would be superfluous to give students a test after the learning is done. We might even say that the more a teacher is inclined to use a test to gauge student progress, the more that tells us something is wrong -- perhaps with the extent of the teacher's informal and informed observation, perhaps with the quality of the tasks, perhaps with the whole model of learning. If, for example, the teacher favors direct instruction, he or she probably won't have much idea what's going on in the students' minds. That will lead naturally to the conclusion that a test is "necessary" to gauge how they're doing.

2. Testing As A Silo/Solo Act:  We Can Do Much Better (Reilly)- points out the disconnect between how we learn and create knowledge compared to the solitary act of testing

Our myopic attention to testing children individually renders them less college and career ready. Our methods are antiquated. Our attention on the individual is at best, romantic. In 2014, we isolate each child and remove the full power of connectivity even as we make the child sit at a computer/tablet in order to read/view the test and record his/her answers. 

Could we be anymore 19th century like?

3. Does Child-Like Thinking Produce Innovative Design (Peterson)- eighty of the fifth through eighth grade students from Nalanda Public School in Mumbai (part of the Clinton Global Initiative), India and sixty experienced design professionals from Seoul, Hong Kong and Copenhagen were brought together to create innovative concepts. The students were asked to design backpacks for students living in Copenhagen, Denmark and their designs were then compared with that of the designers, who had been asked to design a wide range of consumer products.

Judging from the energy and enthusiasm the Mumbai students displayed during their two-hour long design session - children thrive on design challenges. They love to learn new things and translate them into ideas of their own. Their sketches exuded passion and joy, something that can only help them in the future at becoming the very best that they can be in their chosen fields of endeavor.

4. Educators and Entrepreneurs: Get Thee to a Classroom and Observe Students (Hernandez)-  Alexis Wiggins, a veteran high school teacher, shadowed students for two days and recently wrote about her experiences on her father Grant Wiggins’blog. Her headlines: Being a high school student is “exhausting” and “you feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.” The post was read over 800,000 times since it was first published on October 10th and went viral among educators.

5. Eight New Attributes of Modern Educational Leaders (Richardson)- qualities educational leaders show embody/exhibit in the modern age

6. How Students Lead the Learning Experience at Democratic Schools (Vangelova)- insight into how a democratic school such as the Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland functions

The most significant responsibility at the school is that “you are responsible for what you make of your life,” McCaig says. To graduate, students write and defend a thesis that they have “prepared themselves to become effective adults in the larger community.”

Monday, October 6, 2014

Worth Reading

1. Why the Kids Who Most Need Arts Education Are Not Getting It (Strauss)- what are we losing at as the intensity over standardized testing increases.  How can the arts serve as a important vehicle for students to access complex materials as well as leverage as tool for communicating knowledge.  Excerpts from Michael Sokolove's new book Drama High.  

The anecdotal evidence of how arts education benefits children is every bit as powerful as the stories of how participation in scholastic sports “saves” certain kids. When I was researching a book on an elite high school theater program in the blue-collar town of Levittown, Pa., I met a student who was taking special education courses – remedial math and English, life skills – because high doses of chemotherapy she received to treat childhood leukemia were thought to have damaged her ability to retain and sort large batches of information. But she was able to memorize long scripts – and win statewide awards for her acting — because the narrative through line of plays came clear to her. Theater animated her as nothing else ever had.

2. Paper versus Laptop (Quidwai)- the article points towards a larger outcome of building the capacity with students to independently select the proper tool for the task at hand

The authors correctly point out that the more deeply information is processed, the greater the encoding benefits.  In today's world where we are making a commitment to prepare students for the future where they will have to act as problem solvers, collaborators, critical thinkers, communicators and innovators, it becomes even more essential for them to be competent enough to process and encode information so that they can not only store it in their short term memory also be able to utilize strategies to create connections in their brain that advance information to their long term memory.  

3. A Walk Through the Funky Stretch of the High Line (WNYC)- other than the High Line being one of my favorite places to walk in the city, the piece captures all that has to be considered during the design process.  I would share this with students to discuss the concept of human-centered design.

“It has really been designed with a sense of constant connection with the city,” he said. “It’s a new model for a park. It’s a park about engagement, not separation; removal from the urban environment, but connection to it.”

4. Think Challenge Aims to Solve Big ProblemsStudents were asked to use the design thinking process to come up with ways to tackle issues during a 24 Think Big challenge in Boise, Idaho.

“We think we have creative ideas to share,” Simonds said. “High school students tend to be a little more open minded and idea filled.”

4. Teachers: A Day In The Life- Teachers around the world begin their day being parents, partners, energetically charged, ignoring how the coming day will be... The stories intersect in this narrative are equal and differ, with criticism, with reflection, with optimism. Looking for an ideal each day, renewing that commitment each morning. And the collective dream brings us a world in which education is a right and everyone has equal opportunities to participate in quality education.

5. Kids Take Charge (Sethi)- Kiran Bir Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life's most valuable lesson: "I can." Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young people, even educate their parents.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Worth Reading

Sharing a few intriguing posts from the past couple of weeks.

1. Teacher Reflects On The Perfect Storm For Learning- A high school class, encouraged by a STEM contest, turned an idea to help the community into a prototype

For our project, the convergence of the right components on a focused objective created the potential for a "perfect storm" of learning to take place: curiosity among the students, a potentially daunting data gathering and number crunching component, and the use of math, science, and technology.

2.  John Dewey on the True Purpose of Education and How to Harness the Power of Our Natural Curiosity (Popova)- Dewey distills the purpose and ideals of education

While it is not the business of education to prove every statement made, any more than to teach every possible item of information, it is its business to cultivate deep-seated and effective habits of discriminating tested beliefs from mere assertions, guesses, and opinions; to develop a lively, sincere, and open-minded preference for conclusions that are properly grounded, and to ingrain into the individual’s working habits methods of inquiry and reasoning appropriate to the various problems that present themselves. No matter how much an individual knows as a matter of hearsay and information, if he has not attitudes and habits of this sort, he is not intellectually educated. He lacks the rudiments of mental discipline. And since these habits are not a gift of nature (no matter how strong the aptitude for acquiring them); since, moreover, the casual circumstances of the natural and social environment are not enough to compel their acquisition, the main office of education is to supply conditions that make for their cultivation. The formation of these habits is the Training of Mind.

3. Why Don't We Truly Embrace Failure (Couros)- the need to fail and have conversations around moments of failure

The part of this process  which is imperative is resiliency and grit.  Resiliency, in this case, being the ability to come back after a defeat or unsuccessful attempt, and grit meaning a “resolve or strength of character.”  These are characteristics that are important in the innovative process as we need to continuously develop new and better ways to serve our students.

4. Maker Movement Reinvents Education (Stewart)- how giving students the chance to create and make reshapes the work we do with kids

“I finally decided I could take on much bigger and more ambitious projects if I got one for myself,” he says. So he sold his laptop on eBay, added to those proceeds all of the birthday money and allowance he had saved over the years, and took out a loan from the Bank of Dad to buy the cheapest 3-D printer he could find online. By the end of seventh grade, he had paid his father back entirely—all from the sales of his customized iPhone cases and little cone toys that he’d designed to flip around like benign butterfly knives. Once his debt was paid, he could finally begin the more ambitious project he’d had in mind: “the zero point energy field manipulator,” or gravity gun, from the video game Half-Life 2. He designed and built a full-size model of it—3 feet long and 2 feet high—“which was pretty difficult,” he explains, “because the actual platform of the machine is 10 inches by 10 inches,” so he had to get creative.

5. The Art and Science of Engagement (Blakley)- Johanna Blakley examines the best ways to understand how documentaries affect our lives. Her talk focuses on the need to balance the filmmaker's creative vision with a nuanced understanding of audience as key to measuring the true impact of media.  Another resource to consider or even share with students in examining what it means to compose.
In honor of the Captain's last game at the stadium here are some favorite moments from the past 20 years

“This kid is not going to college. He’s going to Cooperstown.”

Where Have You Gone Derek Jeter (Henninger)- Jeter's public life was exemplary. Was he the exception?

Jeter's Iconic Flip

Jeter's Jump Throw

Dive Into the Stands Against Boston

Mr. November

Why School? How Education Must Change

Sharing a few highlights from Why School?  How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere (Richardson).

Today, if we have an Internet connection, we have fingertip, on-demand access to an amazing library that holds close to the sum of human knowledge and, equally important, to more than two billion people with whom we can potentially learn

Based on existing trends, some now predict the year 2020 will see 65 to 70 million freelancers, consultants, and independent workers representing more than half of all U.S. employees. That’s four times the number today.

This narrative focuses on preparing students to be learners, above all, who can successfully wield the abundance at their fingertips... Instead, it’s about asking questions, working with others to find the answers, doing real work for real audiences, and adding to, not simply taking from, the storehouse of knowledge that the Web is becoming.

It’s not “do your own work,” so much as “do work with others, and make it work that matters.”

In other words, let’s scrap open-book tests, zoom past open-phone tests asking Googleable questions, and advance to open-network tests that measure not just if kids answer a question well, but how literate they are at discerning good information from bad and tapping into the experts and networks that can inform those answers.

Herbert Gerjuoy predicts that “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

One of the challenges I give the schools I work with is this: “How can you make sure that every student who walks on graduation day is well Googled by his or her full name?” At first blush, this question is somewhat disconcerting to them. But after they let it settle, most realize that if we really want our kids to make the most of the connections and opportunities they’ll have online once they leave us (and we should want that, by the way), we have to help them. Just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best simply isn’t good enough — and I hope that any parent would agree.

Tony Wagner recently said, “There’s no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.”

times of great abundance, however, what our children really need are master learners with enough content expertise to help them discover the curriculum. The adults in the room have to be skilled and literate by those 21st-century standards the NCTE is touting. And they have to exhibit the dispositions that will sustain their learning: persistence, empathy, passion, sharing, collaboration, creativity, and curiosity.

That the reason they’re doing their schoolwork isn’t just for a grade or for it to be pinned up in the hallway? It should be because their work is something they create on their own, or with others, that has real value in the real world.