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). 

Creativity Inc.

Sharing a few highlights from Ed Catmull's Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration .

What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.

Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.

Several phrases would later be coined to describe these revolutionary approaches—phrases like “just-in-time manufacturing” or “total quality control”—but the essence was this: The responsibility for finding and fixing problems should be assigned to every employee, from the most senior manager to the lowliest person on the production line. If anyone at any level spotted a problem in the manufacturing process, Deming believed, they should be encouraged (and expected) to stop the assembly line. Japanese companies that implemented Deming’s ideas made it easy for workers to do so: They installed a cord that anyone could pull in order to bring production to a halt. Before long, Japanese companies were enjoying unheard-of levels of quality, productivity, and market share.

We realized that our purpose was not merely to build a studio that made hit films but to foster a creative culture that would continually ask questions.

Figuring out how to build a sustainable creative culture—one that didn’t just pay lip service to the importance of things like honesty, excellence, communication, originality, and self-assessment but really committed to them, no matter how uncomfortable that became—wasn’t a singular assignment.

Because too many of us think of ideas as being singular, as if they float in the ether, fully formed and independent of the people who wrestle with them. Ideas, though, are not singular. They are forged through tens of thousands of decisions, often made by dozens of people.

Find, develop, and support good people, and they in turn will find, develop, and own good ideas

We dare to attempt these stories, but we don’t get them right on the first pass. And this is as it should be. Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process—reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its throughline or a hollow character finds its soul.

Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality). And yet, even as I say that embracing failure is an important part of learning, I also acknowledge that acknowledging this truth is not enough. That’s because failure is painful, and our feelings about this pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth. To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth

Experiments are fact-finding missions that, over time, inch scientists toward greater understanding. That means any outcome is a good outcome, because it yields new information. If your experiment proved your initial theory wrong, better to know it sooner rather than later. Armed with new facts, you can then reframe whatever question you’re asking

While experimentation is scary to many, I would argue that we should be far more terrified of the opposite approach. Being too risk-averse causes many companies to stop innovating and to reject new ideas, which is the first step on the path to irrelevance.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fostering Creativity

I came across three videos which call into question whether we are fostering  spaces in our schools where creativity can flourish. In the first two videos both students raise concerns about public education and whether the traditional structure, which still governs how students progress through a K-12 system, stifles creativity and never truly embraces individual interests.  The third video talks to the idea of following a personal passion.  The joy with which Clark Little talks about his passion for shooting waves is infectious.  I often wonder about what the outcomes would be if the focus were more on helping students pursue a passion.