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.