Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Author in Residence

Last night I attended a special program at my daughters' school.  For the past 6 weeks, 3rd graders at the Marshall School  have been working with their teachers and also with the children's author Peter Catalanotto to publish their own  stories.  During a publishing party held last night, students presented their stories to parents, family members and fellow classmates.

Before the girls (twin daughters) and other students read their stories, Mr. Catalanotto shared with parents his experience working with the third grade and also talked about his journey as an artist.  Mr. Catalanotto graduated from Pratt Institute and worked as a painter and cartoonist.  At one time he was hired to illustrate for a children's book.  An editor from the publishing company was struck by Mr. Catalanotto's images for the story and expressed that the illustrations and not the text, moved the tale forward.  The editor encouraged Mr. Catalanotto to write his own children's book.  From this initial exchange, Mr. Catalanotto has gone on to write dozens of children's books.

Mr. Catalanotto shared this story because in elementary school he was diagnosed with dysgraphia.  However, in the third grade, Mr. Catalanotto had a special teacher.  His third grade teacher (I forget her name) realized his struggles with writing and instead encouraged Mr. Catalanotto to express understandings through his artwork.  His passion for drawing and talent was evident.  As other students worked to construct a narrative, Mr. Catalanotto created a visual representation.  Eventually, his third grade teacher  asked him to include text beneath his drawings.  Subtly, a bridge was formed between his love of drawing and struggles to express thoughts through writing. 

I believe Mr. Catalanotto shared the story to further highlight the work accomplished these young publishers.  For 6 weeks creativity was valued as well as the unique interests of each third grader.  Students were empowered by the opportunity to create a story that was personal.  Just as important, the Author in Residence program connected students to expertise.  This is not offered to criticize teachers.  My daughters love their teachers and are excited to attend school everyday.  Instead, third graders were allowed to interact with a professional who has deep and intimate knowledge of what it means to be an artist.  As a result of this interaction and by privileging time for students to craft what turned out to be unique and personal tales, true inspiration occurred.

My opinion stems from the author's and principal's presentation, talking to my kids through the process and ultimately listening to them read their stories.  The pride exhibited by the twins and their classmates in sharing their stories was impossible to miss.  However, I was also struck by a conversation that happened hours before the publishing party.

On the way home from work I picked up one of my daughters and two other third graders who live on our block from and after school program.  I was picking everyone up early so families could have  eat dinner before attending the publishing party.  In the car the three of them talked about their experience in the Author in Residence program. Outside of asking whether they were excited about reading their stories, they talked about their efforts until we turned onto our street.  At a point during the ride home, one boy shared how he used to hate writing, but now loves it.   As both a parent and educator I'm not sure if there is anything you would rather hear.

Last night was a great event.  I was proud of my daughters' work and grateful they had this experience.  It also served as a reminder of what education can be about if we value creativity and personal passions and support structures that allow for exploration and promote personal connections.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Worth Reading

Just wanted to share links to articles and resources I came across this week.

1. Entrepreneurial Learners (Richardson)- Will Richardson shares his thoughts about a recent keynote address delivered by John Seely Brown.  A link to the keynote is included in the Richardson post.

What I especially like in this description is the idea that it conveys a real sense of the flexibility our kids are going to have to have to succeed. They will need to adapt to many different opportunities, be self-directed and creative, and transparent in the ways they share their work

2. You Don't Think All Kids Can Learn (Sanders)- speaking out against those who feel you can only teach "motivated" students.  Posting raises a point that it is the responsibility of teachers to inspire all. 

As educators, it is our job to light the fires underneath our students and show them that the world is a place that can be changed. We must encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and embrace mistakes our students make. 

3.  Viral Video, Vicious Warlord (Kristof)- thoughtful take on the "Kony 2012 Video by time columnist Nicholas Kristof. 

The video doesn’t contain errors, but it does simplify things greatly to hold attention. Complexity is, er, complicated: It has been a leading excuse for inaction during atrocities — during the Armenian genocide, during the Holocaust, during Rwanda, during the Bosnian slaughter. Each episode truly was complicated, but, in retrospect, we let nuance paralyze us. 

4.  Crisis Commons- leveraging volunteerism and technology to take an innovative approach to crisis management.  

Crisis Commons is a global community of volunteers from technology, crisis response organizations, government agencies, and citizens that are working together to build and use technology tools to help respond to disasters and improve resiliency and response before a crisis.

5.  Q&A: Frank Rose on digital storytelling and media immersion- Frank Rose explains how the digital generation is changing the way we tell stories.  Article worth sharing and discussing with students.  How do we foster the ability to tell stories?

Digital turns that on its ear, because suddenly the need to stamp out products mechanically gives way to the ability to customize them in response to customer feedback. This is as true of stories as it is of T-shirts. Movies are still a powerful storytelling mechanism, but now they can be augmented by shared storytelling experiences that can play out both online and in the real world.

6.  The World Question Center- access the link to explore individual responses to the question of How Does the Internet Change the Way You Think?

This year's Question is "How is the Internet changing the way YOU think?" Not "How is the Internet changing the way WE think?" We spent a lot of time going back on forth on "YOU" vs. "WE" and came to the conclusion to go with "YOU", the reason being that Edge is a conversation. "WE" responses tend to come across like expert papers, public pronouncements, or talks delivered from stage.

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest P

 I just finished reading David Weinberger's Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.  Weinberger shares how the Internet is changing our concept of knowledge. Instead of solely relying on static books and experts, knowledge has become networked. Too Big to Know embraces the notion that learning is a social enterprise and that traditional barriers to scholarship are being challenged by the Net.

Weinberger's work is an important read for educators.  How we mentor students to build complex learning networks is critical and has a place in K-12 classrooms.  I shared below some excerpts from the text that, in my opinion, best captures the importance of situating knowledge within a globally networked ecosystem.


It comes from the networking of knowledge. Knowledge now lives not just in libraries and museums and academic journals. It lives not just in the skulls of individuals. Our skulls and our institutions are simply not big enough to contain knowledge. Knowledge is now a property of the network, and the network embraces businesses, governments, media, museums, curated collections, and minds in communication

As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it

We’ve become the dominant species on our planet because the elaborate filtering systems we’ve created have worked so well. But we’ve paid a hidden price: We have raised the bar so high that we have sometimes excluded ideas that were nevertheless worth considering

It’s the connecting of knowledge—the networking—that is changing our oldest, most basic strategy of knowing. Rather than knowing-by-reducing to what fits in a library or a scientific journal, we are now knowing-by-including every draft of every idea in vast, loosely connected webs. And that means knowledge is not the same as it was. Not for science, not for business, not for education, not for government, not for any of us

Old knowledge institutions like newspapers, encyclopedias, and textbooks got much of their authority from the fact that they filtered information for the rest of us. If our social networks are our new filters, then authority is shifting from experts in faraway offices to the network of people we know, like, and respect.

This is a second irony of the great unnailing: The massive increase in the amount of information available makes it easier than ever for us to go wrong.

We are witnessing a version of Newton’s Second Law: On the Net, every fact has an equal and opposite reaction. Those reactive facts may be dead wrong. Indeed, when facts truly contradict, at least one of them has to be wrong. But this continuous, multi-sided, linked contradiction of every fact changes the nature and role of facts for our culture.

The Internet undoes those constraints. Its massiveness alone gives rise to new possibilities for expertise—that is, for groups of unrelated people to collectively figure something out, or to be a knowledge resource about a topic far too big for any individual expert.

other words, the Net enables expertise to emerge not only because so many people are connected to it (property #1) but also because those people are different from one another in how they think and what they know

That is an inevitable outcome of scarcity: There are only so many pages in a printed journal, and only so many seats at the faculty high table. But the engagement of and with amateurs via the Net has become so widespread that we already take it for granted. It feels natural, as it should; it is natural for amateurs to be interested in science, and it is natural for scientists to want to engage with those who share their passion

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Google Apps Presentation- A Glimpse at the Future: The Educational Revolution at Morristown High School

Tomorrow I am co-presenting with Mark Gutkowski (@mylatinteacher) at the NY/NJ Google Apps for Education Summit.  I am sharing our presentation slides along with the session's description.

Session Description
A macro view at the innovative, interest-based programs that are redefining the traditional high school experience for students at Morristown High, where our Classics Academy and self-paced environments are leveraging technology in deep and meaningful ways for stakeholders.  As a Google-based school, our team will discuss the curricular and instructional approaches that have fostered creative and collaborative scholarship.

Times Are Changing

After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.
Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.

In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project.- Bosman 3/13/12

Further evidence of changes caused by the digital world. The graphic serves as a further reminder about the need to re-evaluate traditional school structures (scheduling, seat time = credits earned, A-F grading system).  The power of community can be fully realized and with that a new world of possibilities exists for schools.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Worth Reading...

Wanted to share articles, resource and videos that I came across this week.

1. What School Can Leanr From Google, IDEO and Pixar (McIntosh)- article to stimulate thinking about the way school is structured and whether the current physical environment is conducive to creative and innovative endeavors.

A community about to build or rehab a school often creates checklists of best practices, looks for furniture that matches its mascot, and orders shiny new lockers to line its corridors. These are all fine steps, but the process of planning and designing a new school requires both looking outward (to the future, to the community, to innovative corporate powerhouses) as well as inward (to the playfulness and creativity that are at the core of learning)

The EdLab is a place for educators to explore and establish new media practices for their classrooms. We provide workshops that put teacher in the creative role, solving missions, working in teams, and exploring digital and analog (non-digital) tools. We emphasize learning from failure, using the right tool for the job, building 21st century skills, and empowering teachers and students to make a difference in the world.

 3. Failing to Notice What We Fail to Notice (Connected Principals)- lesson for both teachers and students

I think that it is vital to ensure we take the time to actively put the ego aside, let the defences down, and do some self-reflection. Maybe time for my own reflective “inquiry?” 

4. Making the Case For Student Control of Devices (Gliksman)-  I wanted to share primarily because of the excerpt provided below.

Our desire for con­trol­ling the use of tech­nol­ogy is emblem­atic of a deeper prob­lem. Top-down insti­tu­tional con­trol isn’t a work­able model in an era where the mar­ket­place requires grad­u­ates to have skills for learn­ing any­thing, any­where and at any time. Fol­low­ing instruc­tion is impor­tant but there’s also an urgent need to develop per­sonal inno­va­tion — the sort of flex­i­ble, cre­ative thought and action that’s required to deal with a world of tumul­tuous change. Inno­va­tion requires that we open the metaphor­i­cal class­room win­dows and doors. Instead we still feel more com­fort­able keep­ing them closed. Is it about con­trol or are we more con­cerned with effi­ciency? Are we mak­ing deci­sions based on their needs or ours?

5. Design Thinking: not just for Design and Technology Class (McIntosh)-Design Thinking father Tim Brown blogged a while ago this great pleading from some of Britain's best designers and design educators for Government and schools to heighten the importance of design, technology, design thinking and prototyping skills through the vehicle of engineering subjects such as design and technology.

6. Is the skatepark a Professional Learning Community (Dr. Tae)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fostering Leadership In Our Schools

Next installment of my not so weekly podcast series.  The podcast, Leadership In Our Schools is a reaction to a chapter in Seth Godin's manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams.  I shared an excerpt from the chapter below.  As always your thoughts are welcomed.

This faux leadership is what we see again and again in traditional schools. Instead of exposing students to the pain and learning that come from actually leading a few people (and living with the consequences), we create content-free simulations of leadership, ultimately reminding kids that their role should be to follow along, while merely pretending to lead.
Leadership isn’t something that people hand to you. You don’t do followership for years and then someone anoints you and says, “here.” In fact, it’s a gradual process, one where you take responsibility years before you are given authority.
And that’s something we can teach.



Podcast Powered By Podbean


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stop Stealing Dreams

Sharing some select highlights from Seth Godin's manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams

If school’s function is to create the workers we need to fuel our economy, we need to change school, because the workers we need have changed as well. The mission used to be to create homogenized, obedient, satisfied workers and pliant, eager consumers.   No longer.

There are more doctors, scientists, enlightened businesses, and engaged teachers in a society that values education. Sure, education is expensive, but living in a world of ignorance is even more expensive.

Our culture has a dreaming problem. It was largely created by the current regime in schooling, and it’s getting worse.  Dreamers in school are dangerous. Dreamers can be impatient, unwilling to become well-rounded, and most of all, hard to fit into existing systems. One more question to ask at the school board meeting: “What are you doing to fuel my kid’s dreams?”

No, we do not need you to create compliance. No, we do not need you to cause memorization. And no, we do not need you to teach students to embrace the status quo.

Amplified by the Web and the connection revolution, human beings are no longer rewarded most for work as compliant cogs. Instead, our chaotic world is open to the work of passionate individuals, intent on carving their own paths.  That’s the new job of school. Not to hand a map to those willing to follow it, but to inculcate leadership and restlessness into a new generation.

Our new civic and scientific and professional life, though, is all about doubt. About questioning the status quo, questioning marketing or political claims, and most of all, questioning what’s next.  The obligation of the new school is to teach reasonable doubt. Not the unreasonable doubt of the wild-eyed heckler, but the evidence-based doubt of the questioning scientist and the reason-based doubt of the skilled debater.

On the other hand, creative jobs lead to more creative jobs. Self-starting, self- reliant, initiative-taking individuals often start new projects that need new workers. In my opinion, the now politicized role of “job creator” has nothing at all to do with tax cuts and everything to do with people who trained to have the guts to raise their hands and say, “I’m starting.”

David Weinberger writes, (#65)
As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it. It’s not that the network is becoming a conscious super-brain. Rather, knowledge is becoming inextricable from—literally unthinkable without—the network that enables it.

If failure is not an option, then neither is success.  The only source of innovation is the artist willing to be usefully wrong. A great use of the connection economy is to put together circles of people who challenge each other to be wronger and wronger still—until we find right.

A citizen who seeks the truth has far more opportunity to find it than ever before. But that takes skill and discernment and desire. Memorizing a catechism isn’t the point, because there’s too much to memorize and it changes anyway. No, the goal has to be creating a desire (even better, a need) to know what’s true, and giving people the tools to help them discern that truth from the fiction that so many would market to us.