Friday, April 27, 2012

Worth Reading

Sharing intriguing and thought-provoking pieces I recently stumbled upon.

1. Negative Space (Socol)- commentary on spaces we create and or provide for students in schools.  How does space influence creative, innovation, collaboration and reflection?

For "negative spaces" to exist effectively and positively, the adults in the building must be mobile in space and in time, wandering - not on patrol but in search of interaction and opportunities to support. 

2. Fascinating Places (Lasic)- sharing a story about engagement after being punched in the face

You should have seen the kids go for it! ‘Learning outcomes’ anyone? We had science, social skills, maths, communication skills, problem solving, humour, persistence, engagement … the list of desirables goes on. It was simply awesome and done by kids who’d otherwise be hanging off the rafters or rolling their eyes in boredom, largely baulking at the stuff ‘curriculum’ throws at them.

3. A Third Industrial Revolution (The Economist)- how the information age is changing the face of business

As manufacturing goes digital, a third great change is now gathering pace. It will allow things to be made economically in much smaller numbers, more flexibly and with a much lower input of labour, thanks to new materials, completely new processes such as 3D printing, easy-to-use robots and new collaborative manufacturing services available online. The wheel is almost coming full circle, turning away from mass manufacturing and towards much more individualised production. And that in turn could bring some of the jobs back to rich countries that long ago lost them to the emerging world.

Many students simply do not understand the who, what, when, where, why and how of citizenship. The iCitizenship project both supports students in understanding 21st century citizenship and creates opportunities for young adults to take ownership and practice it on multiple levels.  My students skyped, tweeted, blogged and connected with people, young and old, from all over the world during this project.

They also facilitated  and lead a twitter chat about iCitizenship and skyped into an iCitizenship Town Hall Meeting at St. Joseph’s College and engaged with a physical and virtual crowd of several hundred people. The event was also live streamed over the internet and generated nearly 1000 tweets.

5. Why Bilinguals Are Smarter- promoting the benefits of speaking two languages

Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.  

We cannot enrich the minds of our students by testing them on texts that purposely ignore their hearts. By doing so, we are withholding from our neediest students any reason to read at all. We are teaching them that words do not dazzle but confound. We may succeed in raising test scores by relying on these methods, but we will fail to teach them that reading can be transformative and that it belongs to them. 

7. Thomas Suarez, 6th Grade App Developer

8. Robert Nay, developer of top selling app Bubble Ball


Thursday, April 26, 2012

What It Means To Be A Global Icon

I was reading an article about LeBron James and came across an interesting take on the realities of being a global icon in the digital age.  Shane Battier, a forward on the Miami Heat, had the following to say about his teammate:

He is a global icon, a basketball monolith, the most prevalent and recognizable  athlete of our generation.  And he's one of a kind, because he's the first to rise to prominence in the Information Age, which is why he's such a fascinating sociological observation.  He's accountable every single day for every single thing, from how he plays to what he tweets to what he says in the pre- and the post-game interviews.  He has a camera and a microphone on him wherever he goes, and then when he goes out to dinner, there's a camera phone on him.  There is a price to pay.  He understands that.  But I don't think a lot of guys could handle it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Marketplace in School

I wanted to share the following excerpt from Re-designing Spaces for Learning.  I came across the article via the Connected Principles blog.  I found myself re-reading the  excerpt several times and thinking about what this space looks like or could look like if a Marketplace were constructed where I work.  I also shared a couple of thoughts beneath as well.

We are now about to challenge school design thinking with a current sustainability project in the making – the Marketplace, which seeks to combine social and learning space as one concept, breaking down any concept of ‘separate’ classrooms.  The Marketplace is an active glass canopy positioned over old spaces in order to radically transform the heart of the original school from industrial-era design to agile spaces suited to community life, engaged learning and enhanced through mobile technologies.

In creating a Marketplace the value of traditional structures often found in schools is being challenged.  A Marketplace threatens isolation.  Not only is a sense of community being fostered but the concept that learning has to be segregated into different departments dissipates as collaborators are brought together into a single space.  Also the concept of Marketplace connects with the following from David Weinberger:

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.

A Marketplace is leveraging the collective will and expertise of those who are coming together. 
Finally, I connected with the notion of creating agile spaces.  Again, this flies in the face of an industrial model where learning is situated in a single location.  I would think we want learners to be mobile and active in how they go about solving problems and posing solutions. Existing in agile space implies that individuals will take action and assume ownership.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Highlights From Linchpin: Are You Indispensable

I have been meaning to read Seth Godin's Linchpin: Are You Indispensable for quite some time.  I have across numerous postings about the work and it was on the list of must reads.  I finally devoted time to read it and I wanted to share what I thought were important statements from the text. I was particularly struck by Godin's vision of an artist and the emotional labor connected to creating something that is genuine, meaningful and impacts the lives of others.

Select Highlights

Do not internalize the industrial model. You are not one of the myriad of interchangeable pieces, but a unique human being, and if you’ve got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you’re learning to say it better.

Our society is struggling because during times of change, the very last people you need on your team are well-paid bureaucrats, note takers, literalists, manual readers, TGIF laborers, map followers, and fearful employees. The compliant masses don’t help so much when you don’t know what to do next.

Living life without a map requires a different attitude. It requires you to be a linchpin. Linchpins are the essential building blocks of tomorrow’s high-value organizations. They don’t bring capital or expensive machinery, nor do they blindly follow instructions and merely contribute labor. Linchpins are indispensable, the driving force of our future.

Great schools might work; lousy schools definitely stack the deck against you. Why is society working so hard to kill our natural-born artists? When we try to drill and practice someone into subservient obedience, we’re stamping out the artist that lives within.  

It’s almost impossible to imagine a school with a sign that said: “We teach people to take initiative and become remarkable artists, to question the status quo, and to interact with transparency. And our graduates understand that consumption is not the answer to social problems.” And yet that might be exactly what we need.

Teaching people to produce innovative work, off-the-chart insights, and yes, art is time-consuming and unpredictable. Drill and practice and fear, on the other hand, are powerful tools for teaching facts and figures and obedience. Sure, we need school and we need teachers. The thing is that we need a school organized around teaching people to believe, and teachers who are rewarded for doing their best work, not the most predictable work.

Leading is a skill, not a gift. You’re not born with it, you learn how. And schools can teach leadership as easily as they figured out how to teach compliance. Schools can teach us to be socially smart, to be open to connection, to understand the elements that build a tribe. While schools provide outlets for natural-born leaders, they don’t teach it. And leadership is now worth far more than compliance is.

Most of all, art involves labor. Not the labor of lifting a brush or typing a sentence, but the emotional labor of doing something difficult, taking a risk and extending yourself.

Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone.     

Art, at least art as I define it, is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Worth Reading...

Sharing materials I came across this week.  Feel free to comment on any of the links provided below.

1. The Creativity Crisis (Bronson and Merryman)- discusses the current creativity crisis in America

With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

2.  Leveraging Learning by Organizing Technology Use: A Modest Framework (Reilly)- structuring curriculum to privilege connections, critical consumptions and creativity.  Brings up crucial points to consider and in particular, the importance of creating an environment where students are building a network or participating in a learning community.

Facilitating learners' cross-cultural collaboration is an important aspect of our work as teachers.  Finding and framing questions, solving problems, creating works, and sharing resources, insights, ideas, and dreams represent important 'content'. Technologies allow for this to happen in unprecedented ways.  What we make of this is of course in our hands and our students.

3. The Next Book Must Be... (Warlick)- attempts to bring clarity and a sense of direction to the future of textbooks and digital resources

Be Provocative (fueled by questions) – The textbook should tactically and strategically leave things out.  It provokes questions, the answers of which provide mortar for the personal and participatory construction and reconstruction of the book.  It is always broken and always fixable, and the rules belong to the reader.

4.  The Transformative School (Lehman)- striving for more than being a "good" school

But there's another level that schools can achieve. Schools can transform. They can eclipse content and skills and become about something more. They can be about realizing the best versions of ourselves. 

5. What Tech Wants: A People Agenda (Hardy)- thoughts about how we should look at technology and what tech allows us to accomplish.  If you are not familiar with Monika Hardy please check out Lab Connections and the concept of "Detox" to better understand the changing conversation.

Tech wants us to change the conversation. It wants to free us up for more pausing, and listening, and breathing. In a sense, tech is giving us an incredible mic and mirror, to talk to ourselves about whether what we are doing matters. It’s giving us an incredible kitchen table, (AI-infused conversation so we can hear each others’ hearts) to talk to others about whether or not our gatherings in a space or room, matter.

6. Deb Roy: birth of a word- (Link found in What Tech Wants) MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language -- so he wired up his house with videocameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son's life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch "gaaaa" slowly turn into "water." Astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Caine's Arcade

The following video about Caine Monroy, a 9-year old boy who built a cardboard arcade in his dad’s used auto parts store, has been traveling through school the past two days.  Teachers have been sharing it with one another and in the video has also been shown to some classes.  In simple terms, it's a great story and hard not to be inspired after learning about Caine's Arcade.

The video stirred thoughts on Caine's perception of school and in particular two questions resonated.  

  1. Does Caine find school to be challenging, engaging and empowering?
  2. How do we effectively nurture Caine's interests, passions, talents, DIY attitude and creative being?
It would be troubling if someone like Caine Monroy who, at least through the video, seems to be committed, industrious and innovative to struggle in school or worse, be bored.  I just wonder about the transfer between his summer endeavor and what transpires the other ten months of the year. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Worth Reading

Vacation edition of worth reading post.  If you run out of materials on the beach or have a few quiet minutes at home take a look through some of these articles and videos.

1. Truly Questioning Everything (Truss)- forces the reader to examine and evaluate traditional school structures.

The learning curve has been huge. I’ve had to question a lot of my own assumptions and have even found barriers in my own beliefs about what school ‘should’ or ‘needs to’ look like. It has been humbling, challenging, fascinating and engaging. The interesting thing is that much of what I’ve been learning can happen in most every school, and I find that very exciting.

2. In Search of Agency (@budtheteacher)- how do we help students and teachers realize and embrace their ability to bring about change.

The essential question at the bottom is, I think, the big piece – “How do I approach a system to determine where my agency lies?”  If you’re able to play, you can see the constraints.  To see them, you’ve got to know how and where to look.  Hacking, making and playing seem to be useful ways to answer that question.

If they have provided students with an array of rich resources and have set up opportunities for students to think deeply and question what they have learned at home before coming to class, these teachers are going to see that there are a wide array of new questions that arise that might never have come up during a standard class period. In these cases, teachers are really going to need to know their stuff, and they are going to need to be able to individualize on the fly—quite possibly five, 10, or even 20 times in a class period.

4. Classroom on the Water: The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School- Classroom on the Water: The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, chronicles the achievements of the Harbor School and its journey to its new home on Governors Island.

5. Emily Philloton: Teaching design for change- Designer Emily Pilloton moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. She's teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers' minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state.