Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shop As Soulcraft

 A long plane ride allowed for the completion of a few books from the ever growing wish list.  What follows are a few highlights from Matthew Crawford's Shop As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

The man who works recognizes his own product in the World that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he sees in it his own human reality, in it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself

The moral significance of work that grapples with material things may lie in the simple fact that such things lie outside the self

Skilled manual labor entails a systematic encounter with the material world, precisely the kind of encounter that gives rise to natural science.

Even on the relatively primitive vintage bikes that were our specialty, some diagnostic situations contain so many variables, and symptoms can be so under-determining of causes, that explicit analytical reasoning comes up short. What is required then is the kind of judgment that arises only from experience; hunches rather than rules. I quickly realized there was more thinking going on in the bike shop than in my previous job at the think tank.

Given the intrinsic richness of manual work—cognitively, socially, and in its broader psychic appeal—the question becomes why it has suffered such a devaluation as a component of education.

When you do the math problems at the back of a chapter in an algebra textbook, you are problem solving. If the chapter is entitled “Systems of two equations with two unknowns,” you know exactly which methods to use. In such a constrained situation, the pertinent context in which to view the problem has already been determined, so there is no effort of interpretation required.

Knowing what kind of problem you have on hand means knowing what features of the situation can be ignored. Even the boundaries of what counts as “the situation” can be ambiguous; making discriminations of pertinence cannot be achieved by the application of rules, and requires the kind of judgment that comes with experience

Somehow, self-realization and freedom always entail buying something new, never conserving something old

How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Business and Educaton

Sharing a few personal highlights from Cathy Davidson's Now You See It:  How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century.

When we encounter a mismatch between our values and some new experience, we have a choice to either hold on to our values against all the evidence, to insist they are right or natural no matter what; or we can rethink them and even reject them, a process that can be smooth or traumatic, partial or complete. In any case, this process is a key component of the science of attention

To live is to be in a constant state of adjustment. We can change by accident—because we have to, because life throws us a curveball. But we can also train ourselves to be aware of our own neural processing—repetition, selection, mirroring—and arrange our lives so we have the tools and the partners we need to help us to see what we might miss on our own

The Internet is here to stay. Are we teaching them in a way that will prepare them for a world of learning and for human relationships in which they interweave their interests into the vast, decentralized, yet entirely interconnected content online?

Crowdsourced thinking is very different from credentialing, or relying on top-down expertise. If anything, crowdsourcing is suspicious of expertise, because the more expert we are, the more likely we are to be limited in what we even conceive to be the problem, let alone the answer

No matter how expert we are, no matter how brilliant, we can improve, we can learn, by sharing insights and working together collectively

The real issue isn’t that our schools are too challenging. It’s the opposite. Among the top quartile of high school students, the most frequent complaint and cause of disaffection from schooling is boredom and lack of rigor. That also happens to be true among the lowest group, for whom low expectations lead to low motivation

To be prepared for jobs that have a real future in the digital economy, one needs an emphasis on creative thinking, at all levels. By this I mean the kind of thinking that cannot be computerized and automated. This creative thinking requires attention to surprise, anomaly, difference, and disruption, and an ability to switch focus, depending on what individual, unpredictable problems might arise. Perhaps surprisingly, these noncomputational jobs, impervious to automation, occur at all levels across the blue-collar and white-collar spectrum

Intrinsic to inquiry-based learning, there’s a “gamer disposition,” which is to say a real commitment to learning that goes far beyond school to the cultivation of “risk-taking, critical reflection, collaboration, meaning creation, non-linear navigation, problem solving and problem definition, and innovation.”

Collaboration by difference is an antidote to attention blindness. It signifies that the complex and interconnected problems of our time cannot be solved by anyone alone and that those who think they can act in an entirely focused, solitary fashion are undoubtedly missing the main point that is right there in front of them, thumping its chest and staring them in the face

We need to measure practical, real-world skills, such as how to focus attention through project and time management. There is no punch clock in do-it-yourself culture, so where do kids learn how to manage themselves?        

Monday, December 10, 2012

Worth Reading

Sharing items from my Diigo account that I bookmarked over the past couple of weeks.

1. Everyone Chip In, Please: Crowdfunding Sandy (Goldmark)- Hurricane Sandy has shown crowdfunding websites are a simple tool for quick-response giving. Anyone can go on these sites and ask for money to rebuild or to help their neighbors rebuild. Friends, family and strangers chip in.

"You can literally sign up, share your campaign on Facebook, Twitter, email, and begin accepting credit or debit card donations online in under a minute,"

2. The Informal Instruction Core and Teaching The Village (Reich)- retake on Elmore's Instructional Core theory to focus more on learning that transpires in informal spaces.

Out in the world of informal learning—where most of us live during most of the day for most of our lives—things are slightly different. Let me propose an "Informal Learning Core." Like Elmore's core, it has three pillars: the learner, the mentor, and the materials. One difference between informal and formal education is that there is a much greater emphasis on "learning" rather than instruction in informal spaces, hence the name switch. Also, hierarchies of learning can be much weaker in informal systems, and the roles of mentors and learners are much more fluid than the roles of teacher and student. But in many cases, we're still dealing with someone who wants to learn, something they are learning with, and someone who wants to help them.

3. The Top Phrase Top Innovators Use ( Berger)-  jump starting the process to innovation, facilitating discovery through asking certain questions.

It's not complicated: The "how might we" approach to innovation ensures that would-be innovators are asking the right questions and using the best wording. Proponents of this increasingly popular practice say it's surprisingly effective — and that it can be seen as a testament to the power of language in helping to spark creative thinking and freewheeling collaboration.

4.  Scaffolding For Deeper Understanding (Skillen)- moving students from novice to experts by privileging process and reflection

  • Experts realize that the ‘social context’ is important to learning
    • That learning takes place in a social context is a significant issue. This is why collaboration or ‘cooperative learning’ has become so popular – but it has to be more than social collaboration. Cognitive collaboration needs to be encouraged. As students communicate their ideas, they learn to clarify, refine, and consolidate their thinking. Schoenfeld has said that, ‘Groups are not just a convenient way to accumulate the individual knowledge of their members. They give rise synergistically to insights and solutions that would not come about without them.’
5. Art project erases new-school jitters for these Morristown freshmen- coverage of LeWitt project.  Great points about what was gained from the experience.

6. Why I Hate School, But Love Education:

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Power of Community

Yesterday I was part of a panel discussion about the future of education.  The session was developed and facilitated by a quest teacher at the middle school and several classes of 7th and 8th graders.  Joining me on the panel was a representative from the Board of Education and two college professors.  The board member had a grandchild in the audience and one of the professors was the parent of an 8th grader.  The students developed an extensive list of challenging and complex questions for the panel to address.  We only had about 80 minutes and just touched a few of the prepared questions.  

It was a fun and engaging experience.  The students were great.  It was evident reading through the questions that they spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the future of school and in particular the impact the Digital Age has had on learning.  Additionally, my co-panelists were enthusiastic about the opportunity and collectively presented a series of genuine responses.  

After the session ended I had a brief conversation with the rep from the Board of Education.  She shared how much fun it was as well.  I shared that we should do more events like this.  She agreed as well.  We started to talk about ways in which we could leverage the power of our community to facilitate exchanges between students and professionals.  We just do not do it enough and it is unfortunate.  So much can be gained from tapping into resources that reside within a school community.  This panel was small example of what can be gained.  We had two parents who are college professors and one had written several books about public policy and education.  Through informal word of mouth the quest teacher was able to connect students interested in education to a professor and author.  

I was glad to be part of the event.  I hope that we can continue to explore these avenues and create vehicles for students to connect with a diverse range of talented adults. More so, this event is what community is about.  People came together who shared similar interests and passions or believed in sharing insights with others.  It involved stakeholders from a wide range of community groups- teachers, students, board members, parents.  The panel discussion reminded me of this definition for community:

Community is a group of people who work with one another building a sense of trust, care, and support
That is what yesterday felt like.  Caring people coming together to support each other and help one another grow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Do I Want For The Holidays

I tweeted this picture out earlier today under the title of "In The Digital Age a daughters directions for a holiday gift". My wife also posted the image on Facebook.  Those who know our family shared some kind remarks about the request.

For those who do not know me or my family let me provide some context.  I have three daughters ages 5 and 9. The oldest are twins.  One of the twins is what you might call a budding Fashionista.  At times her fashion ideas do not match her age.  However, one cannot fault her enthusiasm.

So with this in mind, she took it upon herself to create a personal holiday gift guide.  She took the initiative to grab an iPad and conduct a search, via Google, for shoes.  Not sure when she landed on the desired site, but eventually found a pair of shoes worthy of her eye and fashion sense.  Next, she took the time to write down the directions and share it with her Mema (the request was initially shared with her grandmother and not her parents). 

I have not seen the retail price for the requested item and I'm not sure if this will warrant a separate conversation.  Still, I was impressed with her approach.  She leveraged tools at her disposal which was an iPad and the Internet.  She conducted a search and found a suitable response.  After that, I assume she was being kind to us digital immigrants and wrote out step-by-step directions.

Again, not sure about the request, but I admire her approach, initiative and insight to leverage the powers of the internet to find what she was looking for.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Changing Our Value System in Schools

I have been discussing with other educators in my district the idea of developing a new report card.  Influenced by several books I have read recently such as How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, I have started to reflect on how we underplay the importance of crucial non-cognitive skills. Specifically, I think that report cards fail to provide meaningful data on how a learner is growing.  At the high school level, report cards are driven by a letter grade which may or may not be accompanied by a short statement (think: poor quiz grade, participates in class, missing assignments).  Does this type of formal reporting tell us how students are growing as readers, writers and thinkers?  In what ways is a student growing into becoming a global citizen and fostering a greater sense of empathy?  Overall, how are the skills privileged in today's world represented in artifacts we share with students and parents?

With this in mind, I wonder whether the following idea has merit.  Several years ago the following document was created.  The idea was to create a document detailing our hopes for graduates. At the end of four years, students walking off the graduation stage would embody qualities expressed in what became The Graduate Profile.  If this is where our hopes reside why not construct a report system that directly comments on growth towards becoming a productive citizen?  If we want our students to develop marketable skills and knowledge why not develop a system that measures and comments on movement towards these ideals?

It seems that students and parents would get as much maybe even more out of commentary related to whether a student, "invokes empathy, ethics, and flexibility in personal relationships," or strives towards becoming a "critical thinker and problem solver, fluent in many literacies, who actively seeks out the truth and analyze facts and data to solve problems and make decisions."  Developing a system bringing  fidelity to these skills and dispositions has an enduring qualities that extend far beyond school.

Not sure where this is going to go, but certainly worth investigating.  Hopefully, it will lead to a re-envisioning of how we communicate growth.


Worth Reading

Sharing some worthy reads...

1. Richard Elmore: Future of School Reform- in 8:30 minutes a one man wrecking ball against the educational system and he is not wrong

2. 5 Inspiring Social Design Pioneers (Brown)- further evidence of seeing the connection between problem-solving and design thinking.  Continues to make me think he we should rephrase and reshape conversations with kids around problem-solving regardless of content or discipline.

Jeanne van Heeswijk describes herself as an artist rather than a designer, yet she uses the tools of design to build coalitions within communities to create lively and diversified public spaces. The video shows her remarkable ability to connect to a community, giving them ways to participate in designing solutions for themselves.

3.  GOOD Education: The Rise of Democratic Schools and ‘Solutionaries’: Why Adults Need to Get Out of the Way (Goyal)- highlights a point that often we forget to include students in any conversation about what is best for schools.  In doing so, we fail to see problems/solutions through the eyes of our true clients.  Under a design thinking model we fail to develop empathy in neglecting those who we are trying to assist.

 Young people bring a fresh angle to the conversation. It may not always be correct, but at the very least that perspective isn’t drowned in years and years of expertise. You wonder why this may be the best time in human civilization to be a young entrepreneur. Anyone can invent or create something without the risk of failing miserably considering the networks, mentors, and resources we’re bathing in.

4. Why Not Just Do It (Moran)- let's not forget the importance of play, experimentation and prototyping.  Think about the idea of experimentation and prototyping and the fact that embedded into each action is failure.  Why is failure frowned upon in schools and not viewed as part of the learning process?

Wise teachers know how to observe the cycles within a learning culture. They learn over time when to intervene and when to let learning unfold. They don’t see mistakes as a failing grade but as an opportunity for teachers and learners alike to practice experimentation, reflective processing, and abstract reasoning. They don’t spend time criticizing and judging children but rather assessing how they as teachers can provide the scaffolding needed to evolve and advance learning, as well as a love for engaging in it. They understand that different pathways offer different children entry points into learning and they define their job as not interfering with, but rather supporting the process.

5. Fight Songs: How Songwriting Is Saving War Vets' Lives (Peisner)- interesting story about return home from war- both the traumatic stress veterans endure and the ways relief is sought.

All over the country, soldiers who are suffering from the physical and emotional ravages of war are learning to deal with their pain by writing songs and playing music. Even more surprising: It's working.

6. Kelvin Doe, Self-Taught Engineering Whiz From Sierra Leone, Wows MIT Experts 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Is Collaboration Good For?

I attended a conference yesterday about PARCC and the Common Core as well as a panel discussion about 1:1 programs.  For PARCC and the Common Core there was a moderated panel discussion and series of individual presentations.  Two items struck me from the conversation around the Common Core.

The first was a lack of any discussion about how potential and even current state testing completely disregards the fact that learning is a collaborative process.  I would hope we view scholarship as a collective enterprise and not a solo endeavor.  Again, the contrast was striking.  I attended a conference with a 100 other educators, who while listening to presentations were simultaneously posting questions to a back channel discussion and submitting commentary on Twitter.  The whole experience was collaborative cooperative and embraced the importance learning networks.  However, when it comes to state testing, students are isolated from one another and networks they have cultivated.  What's worse is that these exams will be online. Unfortunately participants will not be able to access a global community of experts just for this assignment.  This thread was furthered when the moderator of the Common Core discussion shared the "corn" question (search document for elevator).  I'm not sure how many of our students, particularly those in the state of New Jersey, are familiar with farming, growing corn and grain elevators.  It would seem rationale that if presented with this problem a student or anyone for that matter could reach out to either an expert or the web to develop context and for assistance in addressing the task.

The next item was reaction to a presentation about the Common Core.  The presenter was talking about writing and the need for students to conduct ethical research inquiries, synthesize information and present a compelling argument.  I do not disagree with any of these actions.  However, who or what job requires these steps to be accomplished in such a short time frame.  Is it a necessary skill to write a cohesive essay in 25-30 minutes.  Is this how the world functions.  Think about our most talented authors.  They spend hours, days, weeks, months, maybe even a lifetime shaping a response.  We ask our students, who are maturing writers, to perform this task under the stress of high stakes circumstances.

I understand and accept the realities of the Common Core and PARCC.  Still, I hope we continue to question what students are being asked to do and strive to determine if there is potentially a more productive and fulfilling alternative. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Classics Academy Strategic Plan

I am sharing a link to what is now a draft of a strategic plan.  Several educators, including myself, were assigned the task of expanding the Classics Academy.  The Classics Academy is a cross-curricular experience integrating English, History, Mathematics and Science.  Through the Classics Academy students explore the Greek and Roman civilizations through three core course and a series of suggested offerings.  The Academy experience affords students the opportunity to study classical literature, history, mathematics, art, religion and philosophy. Students participating in the Academy learn to produce and consume new knowledge while synthesizing complex understandings of the human experience.  All Academy students conclude this year-long experience by composing a final exhibition related to their studies.

Currently the course if offered to seniors.  For a variety of reasons it has been a struggle to grow the program.  Through the plan we are making an effort to create a more inclusive program that extends beyond senior year.  Many of us believe in the Academy and the promise of a new paradigm it represents

Feel free to open the draft.  Those of us responsible for the draft have limited experience crafting a strategic plan.  Everyone is welcomed to comment and contribute to the plan. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Damaging Statement

I just started reading Creating the Opportunity to Learn (Boykin and Noguera).  I came across the following statement on page 33.

Too often, attitudes and beliefs that contribute to the normalization of failure are unchallenged, and when failure is normalized, educators often grow comfortable seeing minority students underperform and fail in large numbers...  Likewise, parents and the broader community can become so conditioned by pervasive and persistent failure among certain groups of students that, over time, low test scores, discipline problems, and high dropout rates generate little outrage or concern.

I re-read this section several times and wrote in the margin "damaging statement".  I cannot imagine a worse depiction of a school, district or community than when failure is normalized and becomes part of the accepted outcome.  Rightfully Boykin and Noguera state,

Reforms may be implemented- new textbooks and new curricula may be adopted, schools may be reorganized and restructured, principals may be replaced- but unless there is a strategy for countering the normalization of failure, it is unlikely that disparities in achievement will be reduced or that schools will ever change.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

Sharing a few favorite highlights from Chris Anderson's Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.  It is simply a must read for educators as we consider future initiatives.  More importantly, points raised by Anderson in Makers presents a road map for the types of programs, skills and dispositions that we need to support.  Come budget time, promoting the "Industrial Arts" has been a challenge when competing against more traditional measures/programs.  However, it's hard to argue against the need for schools to assist in creating a generation of Makers and homegrown entrepreneurs. 

The beauty of the Web is that it democratized the tools both of invention and of production.

But the point is that the path from “inventor” to “entrepreneur” is so foreshortened it hardly exists at all anymore.

In the Web Age, the DIY punk movement’s co-opting of the means of production turned into regular people using desktop publishing, then websites, then blogs, and now social media.

But one of the most profound shifts of the Web Age is that there is a new default of sharing online. If you do something, video it. If you video something, post it. If you post something, promote it to your friends. Projects shared online become inspiration for others and opportunities for collaboration. Individual Makers, globally connected this way, become a movement. Millions of DIYers, once working alone, suddenly start working together.

The idea of a “factory” is, in a word, changing. Just as the Web democratized innovation in bits, a new class of “rapid prototyping” technologies, from 3-D printers to laser cutters, is democratizing innovation in atoms. You think the last two decades were amazing? Just wait.

The great opportunity in the new Maker Movement is the ability to be both small and global. Both artisanal and innovative. Both high-tech and low-cost. Starting small but getting big. And, most of all, creating the sort of products that the world wants but doesn’t know it yet, because those products don’t fit neatly into the mass economics of the old model

And once an industry goes digital, it changes in profound ways, as we’ve seen in everything from retail to publishing. The biggest transformation is not in the way things are done, but in who’s doing it. Once things can be done on regular computers, they can be done by anyone. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing happen now in manufacturing
Thus, the Third Industrial Revolution is best seen as the combination of digital manufacturing and personal manufacturing: the industrialization of the Maker Movement.

“It’s about the ability for individuals to make—and, more importantly, modify—anything. Everyone here has an idea—we’re trying to make it easier for them to realize it. What becomes important is the designs, not the fabrication.”

As desktop fabrication tools go mainstream, it’s time to return “making things” to the high school curriculum, not as the shop class of old, but in the form of teaching design... But think how much better it would be if they could choose a third option: design class. Imagine a course where kids would learn to use free 3-D CAD tools such as Sketchup or Autodesk 123D. Some would design buildings and fantastic structures, much as they sketch in their notebooks already. Others would create elaborate videogame levels with landscapes and vehicles. And yet others would invent machines     

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Sharing a few highlights from Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  I have been meaning to read Mindset for some time.  However, I am glad that I read it on the heels of Paul Tough's How Children Succeed.  Several powerful connections between the two works and furthers the conversation about cultivating and promoting the development of essential non-cognitive skills.

What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?

A few modern philosophers … assert that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism.… With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.

At the same time, scientists are learning that people have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought

This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives

But for children with the growth mindset, success is about stretching themselves. It’s about becoming smarter.

One seventh-grade girl summed it up. “I think intelligence is something you have to work for … it isn’t just given to you.… Most kids, if they’re not sure of an answer, will not raise their hand to answer the question. But what I usually do is raise my hand, because if I’m wrong, then my mistake will be corrected. Or I will raise my hand and say, ‘How would this be solved?’ or ‘I don’t get this. Can you help me?’ Just by doing that I’m increasing my intelligence.”

I am simply saying that a growth mindset helps people to see prejudice for what it is—someone else’s view of them—and to confront it with their confidence and abilities intact

Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake-up call.         

Runner's View of Sandy

Went for a run a week ago a day after the storm.  Sharing a runner's view of Sandy's devastation in the town of Maplewood.

November 1, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Children Succeed

Sharing some select highlights from Paul Tough's work, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.  Very much worth reading as well as beginning to discuss the importance of focusing on noncognitive skills.  

What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence. Economists refer to these as noncognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us sometimes think of them as character

scientists have reached a consensus in the past decade that the key channel through which early adversity causes damage to developing bodies and brains is stress

It wasn’t poverty itself that was compromising the executive-function abilities of the poor kids. It was the stress that went along with it.

The second, called the cognitive control system, allows you to regulate all those urges. The reason the teenage years have always been such a perilous time, Steinberg says, is that the incentive processing system reaches its full power in early adolescence while the cognitive control system doesn’t finish maturing until you’re in your twenties. So for a few wild years, we are all madly processing incentives without a corresponding control system to keep our behavior in check

Parents and other caregivers who are able to form close, nurturing relationships with their children can foster resilience in them that protects them from many of the worst effects of a harsh early environment. This message can sound a bit warm and fuzzy, but it is rooted in cold, hard science. The effect of good parenting is not just emotional or psychological, the neuroscientists say; it is biochemical.

But the principle behind it—improving children’s outcomes by promoting stronger relationships between children and their parents—is increasingly in use across the country in a wide variety of interventions

Seligman and Peterson defined character in a different way: a set of abilities or strengths that are very much changeable—entirely malleable, in fact. They are skills you can learn; they are skills you can practice; and they are skills you can teach

It seemed that what Stefl was attempting to do was convince her students that not just their intelligence and their character but their very destinies were malleable; that their past performance was not an indication of their future results       

Friday, October 26, 2012

High School and High Tech High

I am sharing a session several of us facilitated for new teachers in our district yesterday.  The sequence is part of a larger full-day session we ran for the entire high school staff several years back.  The contrast between the two videos instigates a stimulating conversation about education and how much has changed since 1968.  The juxtaposition between the two documentaries compels educators to reflect on their own practice and consider how their practices / ideologies align with either model. 

In particular, the way in which Larry Rosenstock talks about education is worth noting.  It almost serves as a lesson in language and how a single word changes the way one could potentially view a classroom or school.  Referring to a classroom as an incubator, subtly shifts the conversation about classroom experiences.  Examples such as this are scattered throughout the documentary about High Tech High.

I provided a short set of slides that guided yesterday's work with new teachers.  Take a look and see if this is something worth sharing with your staff.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Authentic Excitement

Last week the 1:1 iPad program I am part of was officially launched.  Over the course of two days we handed out iPads to 400 7th graders.  We spent two days distributing  and setting up devices and also providing an extended help desk to students.

To say that students were excited about the prospect of receiving an iPad would be a gross understatement.  7th graders did their best not to release an joyous scream upon entering the classroom.  It was refreshing to witness such a collective sense of genuine enthusiasm.  I know full well that a single device is not a magical cure all.  One of the reasons why iPads were handed out last week was to extend the amount of time administrators and teachers could reflect on the changing dynamic.  Time was needed to exchange ideas about what it means to instruct in a 1:1 environment where equity in access and connectivity exists between teachers and students.

The level of excitement was an observation that resonated more than anything from the roll-out. I really did not have the chance to ask students why they were so excited.  However, I believe there was a connection between two distinct worlds.  The roll-out of iPads served as a bridge between the personal and academic arenas.  I was in charge of leading several classes through the set-up process.  I say in charge, but in many instances students were assisting one another and volunteering information about use of the device or specific apps.  Students were eager to share their experience and knowledge with peers and adults.  

Even though we are in the infancy of the 1:1 iPad program, the initial stage started to fuse two worlds together and fostered a genuine level of interest that we can hopefully continue to build on.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Worth Reading...

Sharing some articles, posts and videos.

1. Learning Today Looks Nothing Like Learning in the Past (Lirenman)- ideas about blogging activities and fostering connections with those outside of your building.

My class is involved with Quad Blogging with primary classes in the UK and New Zealand.  We've been visiting their blogs and leaving them comments. We've been learning from them.  This coming week the three classes we've been following are coming to visit us. I can't wait.

 2.  Gift Giving Project (Stanford)- potential task to instigate reflection on the design thinking process or identified key learning outcomes.

The Gift-Giving Project is 90-minute (including debrief) fast-paced project though a full design cycle. Students pair up to interview each other, come to a point-of-view of how they might design for their partner, ideate, and prototype a new solution to "redesign the gift-giving experience" for their partner.


3. Recasting Teachers and Students As Designers (Kahl)- discusses the importance of infusing design into our work with students.  Great point about how design empowers learners to assume ownernship over their learning.


 The biggest thing that design gives students is this amazing sense of possibility…that everything and anything is possible. 

  4. Finding UX, Designing UI (Socol)- asking kindergartners on how to  redesign schools.  In particular the post focuses on our use of space in schools and inlcudes links and videos to other institutions.

 We got many, many ideas - from Kinderg√§rtners wanting cow tables and a castle with a dragon (what good is a castle without a dragon anyway?), to multiple requests for rooftop reading decks and reading treehouses, a cafeteria softserve machine, a soft student lounge, rolling science labs, movable cubes to read/work in, carpets, bean bag chairs, more outside doors, a big slide to get between the upper and lower playgrounds (ending in a trampoline or not), more art, gym every day (they currently have it four times a week), a zip line to get from one end of the school to the other, far more color - and kid-relevant color - in the school, a "giant robot bluebird which would walk the hallways saying hi to students," and choice - choice - choice... 

 5. The Global One-Room Schoolhouse (Brown)- An animated highlight of John Seely Brown's Keynote Presentation, "Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Learner in the 21st Century," at the 2012 Digital Media and Learning Conference.

The Global One-Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from his "Entrepreneurial Learner" Keynote at DML2012) from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.


6.TEDxBrussels - Kushal Chakrabarti - Literacy is not enough 



Friday, October 5, 2012

Sol LeWitt Interview #3

Final installment of teacher interviews for the Sol LeWitt project.



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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Classics Academy City Modern Field Trip

I first want to share the itinerary from yesterday's Classics Academy field trip to New York City.  Myself along with Mr. Gutkowski (@mylatinteacher) and 6 students participated in the week-long City Modern design showcase taking place across Manhattan and the outer boroughs.

  • 10:00-10:30-  Sol Moscot Opticians (6th and 14th Street)
      • walked through the store and talked to manager about the company and  their visual advertising campaign
  •  11:30-12:30-  Architects & Designers Building ( 58th and 3rd)
  • 12:30-1:00-  Lunch
 It was an ambitious schedule, but thanks to a willing bus driver (thanks Rich) and eager students, a full-day immersed in design was accomplished.  Despite the rain and painful attempt to exit via the Holland Tunnel (two hours to move from Broome and Mercer to Jersey City) we were all moved by spending time with talented and passionate creators.  One student shared how she was blown away by the trip to NYC and that her head was "spinning" from trying to observe and process everything she was exposed to.

I have been a strong proponent of field trips.  I think we need to get kids out of the building and authentically experience the curriculum.  Working in the tri-state area, I think it would be naive for us to close off students and teachers to our surrounding riches.  With the help and assistance of other teachers and administrators, we have grown the number of approved field trips.  In particular, we have increased the amount of  excursions into New York City.  Classes visit museums, take walking tours of distinct neighborhoods (Harlem, Lower East Side, West Village, Battery City), participate in actually Literature Trip (Catcher In The Rye Walking Tour) and participate in special offerings such as City Modern.

Having participated in several trips and in speaking to other teachers it has become clear that field trips serve as inspirational resources.  Yesterday's trip is a prime example of this development.   Students spent an entire day observing products and interacting with artists.  They were able to speak with David Moser, Alex Mustonen and Francois Chambard and spend time walking through their studios.  In a real and tangible way, students were able to reflect, comment on and generate a discussion about the design process.  From what I saw yesterday served as a source of inspiration.  It further emboldened these students to pursue what they are passionate about and gave them confidence to succeed through obstacles inherent in any creative process. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Space As A Change Agent

Sharing highlights from the e-book Space As A Change Agent.

The emphasis today is on active construction of knowledge by the learner. The importance of prior experience, the fitting of knowledge into existing schema or the establishment of new schema, and the active processing of information are all components of this model that emphasize high learner involvement. Environments that provide experience, stimulate the senses, encour-age the exchange of information, and offer opportunities for rehearsal, feedback, application, and transfer are most likely to support learning. 

Spaces that are harmonious with learning theory and the needs of current students reflect several elements: Flexibility. A group of learners should be able to move from listening to one speaker (traditional lecture or demonstration) to working in groups (team or project-based activities) to working independently (reading, writing, or access-ing print or electronic resources). While specialized places for each kind of activity (the lecture hall, laboratory, and library carrel) can accommodate each kind of work, the flow of activities is often immediate. It makes better sense to construct spaces capable of quick reconfiguration to support different kinds of activity

Decenteredness. Emphasizing the principles of socioconstructivism, spaces must convey co-learning and co-construction of knowledge. Implications for architecture include thinking of the whole campus as a learning space rather than emphasizing classrooms

The key, therefore, is to provide a physical space that supports multidisciplinary, team-taught, highly interactive learning unbound by traditional time constraints within a social setting that engages students and faculty and enables rich learning experiences

real community, however, exists only when its members interact in a meaningful way that deepens their understanding of each other and leads to learning. Many equate learning with the acquisition of facts and skills by students; in a community, the learn-ers—including faculty—are enriched by collective meaning-making, mentorship, encouragement, and an understanding of the perspectives and unique qualities of an increasingly diverse membership.

that in a world where wireless connectivity is increasingly ubiquitous, and with wireless devices that enable navigating a proverbial sea of digital resources, practically anywhere but the classroom is an informal learning space. The majority of space on any wirelessly networked college or university campus is informal learning space. On campuses not fully wirelessly enabled, the preponderance of informal learning spaces still exists, but the potential for them to be recognized and “activated” depends on the disposition of the digital learners and the tasks they wish to accomplish. 

The learning commons is human-centered. The term learning signals a significant change: the focus is not just finding information but applying that information in productive ways to deepen and strengthen learning as well as to construct knowledge
If people aren't comfortable and don't have a sense of well-being, they become distracted. We must first consider what will make people feel comfortable, freeing their brains and bodies for learning.

Social, community space. Learning is a social activity. Community and social space connects individuals with other people and other activities. Students and faculty participate in a mutual endeavor—learning—and forge connections that reinforce learning and create a sense of belonging.

People learn from other people. If the environment limits random encounters, discourages conversation, or provides no comfortable place to sit, learning opportunities are lost.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sol LeWitt Interview Part II

We are at the mid-point of the Sol LeWitt project.  The prototyping and drafting stages are complete.  Designs are up on the panels and a few of Ms. Firavanti's sections started painting.  At this midway point the creators of the project sat down to share their observations.  Included in this post is a raw audio file of the interview. It is interesting to listen to those involved about how the process has unfolded with tangible variations between the different classes.  Additionally, some of the commentary shared by Mr. Madden (@ahab6633) and Ms. Firavanti (@intherye) shed light on the need to reconsider how we view collaboration as well as positioning students to observe the actions of others.



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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jefferson iPad Session

Session with 3rd grade teachers at Jefferson...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Teacher Meeting

We held our first K-12 new teacher meeting for the year.  Along with three other educators, our team has assumed responsibility for developing a new teacher program for the year.  We decided to start the program {(we meet once a month after school for one hour) with the Domino Activity.

New teachers were greeted and handed a Ziploc bag containing 10 dominoes.  At first a range of  skeptical looks crept across the faces of some of the new teachers.  This was understandable.  It certainly is not common practice for teachers to arrive at a meeting and be handed a bag filled with dominoes.

However, this slowly started to change after explaining the challenge.  In twenty minutes teachers had to use all of the dominoes (each bag contained 10, 40 teachers present for the session, while another hundred were scattered across the cafeteria floor) and create a pattern where one could be tipped over and the rest would fall.  At the end of providing directions new teachers were informed that this exercise was done with 9th graders and they had finished within the twenty minute time limit.  With that last statement still hanging in the air new teachers vigorously attacked the challenge.

Our new teacher cohort finished just under the time limit with only a minor hesitation during the final attempt. The activity led to a stimulating discussion about objectives associated with the challenge and how this activity could be applied across all grade levels and content areas.  Specifically, it followed a principle we agreed on that new teachers would be active in creating during these sessions.  In building a session around a design challenge, important concepts such as collaboration, communication and problem-solving are thrust to the forefront.  Additionally, new teachers are positioned to observe one another.  Sense not only has to be made about how one approached the challenge, but each participant also has to reflect on the actions and decisions of their teammates.  Empathy is inherent to any challenge and is true for the Domino Activity.  Depending on one's comfort with the domino challenge, teachers develop a sense of empathy that could bridge to those students who struggle to address academic tasks.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sol LeWitt Observations Day #1 and #2

I wanted to share a quick observation from the Sol LeWitt inspired project 9th graders started last week.

The drawing group had to move from the prototyping phase to agreeing on a design for the panel.  Each individual in the drawing group was given between 10-15 minutes to read through the directions (see below) and sketch out a potential pattern on a drafting sheet.  At the end of he prototyping phase the drawing group had to come together, examine each prototype and agree on one design for the panel.

It was interesting to see how each drawing group went about the process of reaching a final decision.  In some cases, individuals stepped forward and facilitated a conversation that led to a collaborative decision.  These individuals comfortably assumed a leadership role, but were cognizant of including all members in the conversation.  Other groups struggled to organize a communal discussion and the final decision was more the result of a few assuming the responsibility for the group to reach an agreement.

I was struck by the stark contrast between periods.  Again, some drawing groups excelled during the decision-making process while other clearly struggled.  It highlighted a need to mentor students through collaborative problem solving / decision making.  Throughout the K-12 experience students work as teams, but I wonder how much we compel learners to reflect on the collaborative process.  The differences between periods was not subtle and brings to the forefront the need for educators to think about building a cooperative capacity within each learner.  We cannot assume students know how to work together but instead, this is a skill that has to be nurtured.

Moving forward in the project it will be interesting to see if students can efficiently and effectively work together.  The project is structured in a way were decisions have to be made by students within a condensed time frame.  It's worth observing and noting whether students make a conscious effort to become more effective communicators and collaborators.   

Day #2 Drawing Directions

Friday, September 14, 2012

Process and Product: Sol LeWitt Inspired Project

Over the summer I worked with a few teachers to develop an introductory experience for 9th grade students. In general the governing framework for 9th grade has been redesigned to provide teachers common planning time and to create a core set of outcomes.  Before school ended teachers and administrators came together to develop a set of key learning outcomes (Critical Reading, Problem Solving, Research, Communication and Collaboration).  Curriculum, assessments and lessons would be anchored by these outcomes.  Additionally, an overarching goal is to ensure that students grow in each of these areas over the next ten months. 

Several of us thought it would be valuable to start the year by privileging these outcomes through a somewhat unique experience.  As opposed to just presenting and having a discussion about the outcomes, it was believed that students need to live these expectations.  It's believed by doing, the key learning outcomes become relevant  and meaningful within the lives of our students.  So we created the Sol LeWitt Inspired Project for the Freshman Experience (this link provides a strong overview, the finished draft contains rotations schedules and growth measurements).   Over the next three weeks (we hope), students will be striving towards producing a wall mural that is inspired by the work of Sol LeWitt

We are not sure how it will turn out or how long it will take.  However, to an extent it does not matter.  Another collective belief was valuing the process more than the finished product.  Often kids are focused on the end point or the relief of meeting a deadline and as a consequence fail to reflect during and after the completion of a task.  The LeWitt project is structured to where reflection is a core element and for most of the time, students are observing and commenting on their work and the work of their peers.

Included below is an unedited interview with two of the teachers involved in the experience.  This interview was conducted on the eve of the project.  At this point students had only been introduced to LeWitt and his work and a broad overview of the next few weeks was disseminated. 

Feel free to take a look at the experience and follow student's progress via #mshlewitt.



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