Thursday, December 19, 2013

Questions About Technology

I was party to an email exchange yesterday about the use of technology in classrooms.  One could say that there was a split between those who desired for greater access and general skepticism about increasing access in the classroom. At one point during the exchange it was questioned as to whether students benefit from accessing technology and that there is a lack of convincing research on how technology enhances the educational setting.

As someone who believes in supporting connected classrooms, I was a little taken back by those who still have concerns about providing students across the K-12 spectrum access to connected devices.  Beyond the initial disbelief I started to reflect on the concern raised about reliable research.  For one, I think there are plenty of case studies detailing how students in technology rich classrooms perform better on standardized measurements.  Say what you want about the Common Core but at least there is a significant recognition of the need to graduate students who are technologically literate.

I always viewed technology as a hard to define instructional intangible.  I never believed examining test scores was the best way to evaluate the use of technology.  A true measurement of technology is captured in anecdotal data.  It's about archiving insights shared by students and teachers and reflecting on what classroom stakeholders have to say about learning in a connected environment.  Additionally, it's about the products students exhibit.  In a video about High Tech High School, CEO of schools Larry Rosenstock shares that the quality of work produced by students is a way to measure teacher effectiveness.  I agree with this statement and think it can also apply to the integration of technology.  Are students proudly presenting products of sustaining value?  If so, how did they go about constructing a final product?

For me, posing some the questions above, talking with teachers and students, and deconstructing finished pieces appears to be the research we want to collect.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Worth Reading

Sharing a few highlights from the past few weeks.  Enjoy....

1. How To Be Creative (Hunt)- takes the position that creativity is a skill which can be developed.  From this stance shares ways to foster greater creativity in all of us

This is the key to creativity. It’s not a linear process and it’s not predictable. You need to give it space and lots of encouragement. If you are held to pumping it out like a factory, you are probably not going to nail it. And it doesn’t come to you at the most opportune times.

2. Can't We Do Better (Friedman)- thoughts about the latest PISA results and what it means for education; contains a few interesting thoughts about the academic implications.  Could serve as an interesting discussion starter.

So now let’s look at the latest PISA. It found that the most successful students are those who feel real “ownership” of their education. In all the best performing school systems, said Schleicher, “students feel they personally can make a difference in their own outcomes and that education will make a difference for their future.” 

3. Redefining The Writing Process (Carey)- discusses the strategic infusion of tech into the writing process both to facilitate the development of ideas and to also cultivate writing as a collaborative process

Writing does not need to be a solitary experience. It can be collaborative (just like presenting)

4. The WISE Learning Games Playlist (Institute of Play)- visual with links to a list of game-based learning tools

The premise of the WISE PLAY program is that the potential of games goes far beyond pure entertainment. Given the fact that games engage players in situations that require them to solve hard problems, collaborate with others to complete sometimes-complicated tasks, think creatively, and fail often in pursuit of a compelling goal, games can be good for learning, too.

5. dChat- weekly Q & A session from the Stanford d. school.  The chat featured David Kelley of IDEO

6. Do Tests Predict Success- Studies show that test scores are not the best predictor of success in college, career and life. Watch Angela Duckworth explain what kids really need to succeed. 

7. Building Networks, Connections, Processes (Sayer)- Building networks, connections and processes to enable innovation and conversation to build the profession and create challenging learning situations.

8. Makey Makey- DIY invention kit for everyone

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Joy of Air

I came across the following video in the post Redefining the Writing Process.  The video among other resources was used to move readers to consider how the writing process, to some extent, has or can be changed.  The following statement came right after the video:

Not only does it explore the traditional elements of poetry (structure, meter, etc), but incorporates multiple dimensions to further explore the topic. 

I thought the statement accurately depicts the power and complexity of the video.  The video could serve as model for students as they along with teachers explore the various ways an idea can be communicated.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Black Friday

We visited our local Apple Store to buy a new iMac.  Our old iMac served us well but it eventually became time for an upgrade.  Were not much for holiday shopping so we figured the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving would be a good time go.

We ended up getting an iMac.  While we were waiting to receive our iMac from the back of the store I asked the Apple rep about Black Friday.  The Apple rep shared that last year this particular store did just south of one million dollars in sales on Black Friday.  There are 200 Apple reps on the floor all day and for the most part, customers are walking out of the store with whatever they purchased.

I was stunned by the amount of business generated on Black Friday.  I started to ponder a couple lines of inquiry.

  1. How much Apple has come to dominate the hardware market.  This suburban store is always crowded but what transpires on Black Friday is hard to fathom.
  2. The extent that we live in a connected world.  One million in sales reflects the demand for connected devices such as iPhones, iPads and Macs
Curious to see what others think.  What does one million in sales on Black Friday alone mean to you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Improving Learning With Mobile Technology

From Tony Vincent's Learning In Hand Blog:

Studio B Productions asked 35 top education experts the same simple question:  “What are the most effective uses of technology in online and mobile education?” Each of the 35 responses were put into a slideshow. The introduction to this project spells out the common theme that emerged from the short essays: advances in mobile and online tools, social networks, and content are putting students at the center of learning.

Sharing a few screenshots of some of the responses.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Worth Reading

Sharing a few goodies I came across over the past couple of weeks.

1. Making Education More Like Real Life Through Design Thinking (Gray)-the application of design thinking principles at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (MVPS) in Atlanta GA.  Mary Cantwell, the school's Design Thinking Coordinator, forwards the DEEP process for tackling problems.

Cantwell's DEEP method of DT has four modes. The modes are Discover, Empathize, Experiment, and Produce. Active learning is a part of the Discover phase where students immerse themselves in observing and asking questions. In Cantwell's Empathize mode of DT, students begin trying to understand the user by gaining insight into their situation and needs. They collect their feelings, gain insight and a point of view about the areas being explored. The actual task of study is identified at end of the Empathize mode. They consider the user or beneficiary of their solution, and what would work best for them. 

2. This Impeccably Designed House (Fast Company)- Auburn University program where students design rural houses.  Example of how to link students to their community and also position students to make a difference in communities through designing sustaining products.

3. Oregon Students Create Digital Game-Based Lessons for Peers (Davis)- program at the Raleigh Hills K-8 school in the 40,000-student Beaverton, Ore., district in which students are creating online, game-based lessons for their peers.

"This started out as an idea from an adult," he said. "But it didn't turn into anything great without that collaboration from the students...This opened a lot of eyes to the capacities that our students have."
Students can play a larger role in their own education and that of their peers, and educators and parents should recognize that, said Jonathan Rosales, an 8th grade student at Raleigh Hills who also spoke at the SETDA event. "We don't get much opportunity to show what we can do," he said. "You're teaching your kid and your kid is teaching you."

4.  Six Thoughts About Curriculum (Reilly)-  pushed views about what is curriculum and about the process of developing curriculum.
Curriculum is iterative, not like addition, but like collage.

5. The Biggest Lie Students Tell Me (and How to Turn It Around) (Vilson)- how to respond to when students say I can't do this.  Forcing a different mindset for students and also for teachers.
This statement is perhaps the worst possible offender, and we have layers to this that we ought to unravel. If students say it often enough, they can prevent themselves from giving an honest effort toward learning the material. The student gets to fall back while the teacher explains and re-explains the material, which might have gone from a more implicit, constructivist explanation to a straight-up "This is what you do!"

6. Business and Philosophy (Alain de Botton)- shares commentary about the intersections between business and philosophy.  Reminder to all of us about the possible intersections between disparate content areas and the need to have students not compartmentalize school.

At first sight, philosophy and business seem worlds apart. Business is concerned with hard practical decisions, made under competitive pressure, with imperfect knowledge and always with an eye to the bottom line.
Philosophy on the other hand seems to be preoccupied by fascinating, but non-urgent questions about the meaning of life and the nature of values, ruminating on the human condition with no particular end in sight.
However, I think there are some critical areas of intersection and that business can become stronger (which means not only more ethical, but also more fruitful and meaningful) by absorbing some of the lessons of philosophy. There doesn't have to be a divide between profit and value.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Lean Startup

Sharing a few favorites from The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries.  Even though I am not starting my own business any time soon or even ever, I do see clear connections between entrepreneurship and reshaping the way schools are structured.  Often Startup and Schools are rarely mentioned in the same breath unless it is in reference to a charter school.  However, the entrepreneurial spirit needs to be applied to more traditional public academic institutions.  Building unique pathways within a public school is an area worth investigating.  The mindset and process disseminated in The Lean Startup serves as a guide to reflect on established structures and begin the process of thinking of new paradigms, programs, and academic pathways.

A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

Lean thinking is radically altering the way supply chains and production systems are run. Among its tenets are drawing on the knowledge and creativity of individual workers, the shrinking of batch sizes, just-in-time production and inventory control, and an acceleration of cycle times

The goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build—the thing customers want and will pay for—as quickly as possible. In other words, the Lean Startup is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products that emphasizes fast iteration and customer insight, a huge vision, and great ambition, all at the same time.

Instead of making complex plans that are based on a lot of assumptions, you can make constant adjustments with a steering wheel called the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. Through this process of steering, we can learn when and if it’s time to make a sharp turn called a pivot or whether we should persevere along our current path

Leadership requires creating conditions that enable employees to do the kinds of experimentation that entrepreneurship requires

the fundamental goal of entrepreneurship is to engage in organization building under conditions of extreme uncertainty, its most vital function is learning. We must learn the truth about which elements of our strategy are working to realize our vision and which are just crazy. We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want. We must discover whether we are on a path that will lead to growing a sustainable business

The question is not “Can this product be built?” In the modern economy, almost any product that can be imagined can be built. The more pertinent questions are “Should this product be built?” and “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?

At Toyota, this goes by the Japanese term genchi gembutsu, which is one of the most important phrases in the lean manufacturing vocabulary. In English, it is usually translated as a directive to “go and see for yourself” so that business decisions can be based on deep firsthand knowledge

Numbers tell a compelling story, but I always remind entrepreneurs that metrics are people, too. No matter how many intermediaries lie between a company and its customers, at the end of the day, customers are breathing, thinking, buying individuals.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Having A Conversation About Digital Citizenship

I listened to the following media segment on the way in to work this week.  All week long NPR has been exploring kids and technology with a focus on raising digital natives.  This piece, For The Tablet Generation, A Lesson In Digital Citizenship, examined the use of iPads in schools and the omnipresent concerns about providing secure search parameters for students.  The issue of students circumventing profiles as part of the LA School District iPad initiative has raised very public concerns over the use of iPads or even tech in school and has caused the LA School District to slow down the planned roll-out.  

I think the best part of the NPR piece is a conversation between a student and his grandmother.  The grandson and grandmother talk about Facebook.  The grandmother is skeptical about the use of Facebook mostly as a result of what she has heard.  In contrast, the grandson shares why Facebook is a valuable resource for learning.  What resonated with me is that a conversation transpired.  Individuals were allowed to have conversation about social networking.  As opposed to banning technology or as most commonly seen restricting the use of social networking platforms, an open exchange developed.  

If there are concerns about what students could / can access I'm not sure what is gained from restricting access.  This simple but important exchange between family members represents the types of conversations we hope students have with teachers.  Where better to mentor students on ethical uses than in our classrooms.  This can only occur in an open system where authentic and spontaneous issues regarding digital citizenship rise to the surface. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few highlights from the past couple of weeks.

1. Improving School Lunch By Design (Martin)- design thinking approach to improving school lunches

“Sure, we could close all the campuses and get the same results,” says Sandy Speicher, an associate partner at IDEO, “but designing with the kids’ desires in mind makes them feel valued. Kids learn about what they’re eating through their choices. The district learns about consumption patterns and reduces waste. Everyone gets smarter.”

2. Setting Norms (Richardson)- comments on the newly opened Workshop School in Philadelphia

Today, each of  five advisory groups were sharing out the results of a norms building exercise that was pretty cool. Each group of about 15 students had spent a good chunk of time over the first few weeks trying to select four words that they would use to represent their group to the school. Surprisingly, there was some pretty wide variety…one group had even briefly considered the word “chivalrous,” though most others had landed on words like “intelligent” and “hard-working” and “creative.” Students in the advisories were selected to present the word to the rest of the classes as they moved around the building, and they all asked questions of one another: Why did a particular class select that word? How were they defining the words? What words didn’t they choose and why? It was fun to watch.

3. The Onescreen IS My Eduslam (Reich)- different way to look at the flexibility inherent in the iPad

 the #onescreen idea, the notion that iPads are best understood as portable multi-media creation devices rather than repositories of content apps, and the few apps that you need should fit on one screen.  

4. Being The Teacher (Reilly)- thoughts on what it means to be a teacher 

I am reminded while watching a really super intermediate grade teacher work that teaching well requires a commitment beyond what one thinks one can do and know.  Really fine teaching is edgy, unknowable in some primary ways as it happens in the present.  In such classrooms, emergence is perhaps the only constant leaving teachers to continuously work hard reading/misreading/rereading while on their feet.

5. Learning By Making (Dougherty)- learning by doing, engaging students in creating physical products

 I see the power of engaging kids in science and technology through the practices of making and hands-on experiences, through tinkering and taking things apart. Schools seem to have forgotten that students learn best when they are engaged; in fact, the biggest problem in schools is boredom. Students sit passively, expected to absorb all the content that is thrown at them without much context. The context that’s missing is the real world.

6. Casey Neistat- any of the films on the page are worth viewing but the one below is a personal favorite

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Moving On

Today was for the most part my last day before starting a new job in another school district.  I am excited for this new opportunity and the next set of challenges I am going to face.  This is not the first time I have changed school districts.  However, in the past I was a classroom teacher and now I am experiencing the transition as an administrator.

The feelings are the same regardless of whether I experienced the transition as a classroom teacher or administrator.  Just like it was bittersweet because I was not going to be able to continue working with a group of kids I established relationships with, the same goes for teachers I have had the pleasure to work next to every day for the past four years.  Heading into this last week I was not sure as to how I would feel about walking out of my office for the last time.  I have been part of some terrific initiatives and programs and will miss not seeing firsthand these ideas continue to grow. As the days dwindled, memories about the past four years were about people and not about any program.

These past few days have been a subtle reminder of how much education is about the relationships you establish with students, parents and peers.  So much of public discourse about education is focused on how to "fix" the system.  I certainly agree that the system needs be altered and potentially radically altered to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving global society.  I have posted numerous times on this blog thoughts about what I would like to or think should be changed.  Still at its core, education or school is about building trust, developing empathy, showing compassion and being committed to something or someone. Without these core elements in place, no paradigm has the chance to prosper.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Invent to Learn

Sharing a few select highlights from Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering In The Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager.  

While school traditionally separates art and science, theory, and practice, such divisions are artificial. The real world just doesn’t work that way! 

Making is a way of bringing engineering to young learners. Such concrete experiences provide a meaningful context for understanding abstract science and math concepts. For older students, making combines disciplines in ways that enhance the learning process for diverse student populations and opens the doors to unforeseen career

What is needed at both the university and secondary level are teachers who indeed know their subject but who approach it from a constantly interdisciplinary point of view – i.e., knowing how to give general significance to the structures they use and to reintegrate them into overall systems embracing the other disciplines with the spirit of epistemology to be able to make their students constantly aware of the relations between their special province and the sciences as a whole. Such men are rare today.

digital fabrication had the potential to be the ultimate construction kit, a disruptive place in schools where students could safely make, build, and share their creations. I designed those spaces to be inviting and gender-neutral, in order to attract both the high-end engineering types, but also students who just wanted to try a project with technology, or enhance something that they were already doing with digital fabrication.

Now you can make the actual thing you are trying to test. Best of all, gone are the days of helplessness, dependency, and consumption. Making lets you take control of your life, be more active, and be responsible for your own

From constructivist theories of psychology we take a view of learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences as constructing a meaningful product. 

Tinkering is what happens when you try something you don’t quite know how to do, guided by whim, imagination, and curiosity. When you tinker, there are no instructions – but there are also no failures, no right or wrong ways of doing things. It’s about figuring out how things work and reworking them. Contraptions, machines, wildly mismatched objects working in harmony – this is the stuff of tinkering. Tinkering is, at its most basic, a process that marries play and inquiry.

We teach children science and math so they can make the world a better place, not so they can pass tests. Edith Ackermann says: In the practice of design, the purpose is not to represent what is out there (or model how things are) but to imagine what is not (or envision how things could be) and to bring into existence what is imagined. Creators are fabricators of possibilities embodied: They both make and make-up things!  

“I’m done” are two words you should never hear in the maker classroom! When a student (or team of students) thinks they are finished, they should seek opportunities to improve

Friday, October 4, 2013

City Modern Trip

On Thursday several teachers traveled to New York City with 15 11th and 12th graders to participate in City Modern, a week-long festival celebrating design in New York.  This is the second year in a row we took students in to NYC for the event.  In both cases students were part of a small theme based academy.  As part of the academy students work on a capstone project and take courses in which they explore the concept of design and delve into the creative process.  

What's great about the trip (the itinerary is provided below) is that students are exposed to a broad spectrum of design.  As the day evolved students were naturally compelled to reflect on distinct design elements.  Additionally, students are afforded the chance to interact with professional designers.  In particular during the last stop of the day students spent time in a working studio reviewing products and projects as well as listening to professionals present an unfiltered view of the design process.  

The unique ways students are exposed to design makes the day worthwhile.  Whether it is observing artifacts in a gallery or the A & D building or listening to designers passionately talk about their craft, students are engaged in truly authentic learning experiences.

Furthermore, we asked students to take as many photos throughout the day.  Looking at an object through the lens of a camera often presents a different perspective.

We wanted students to examine a product or larger installation from varying vantage points.  The hope is that we can compile all of the stills into a rough slideshow.  Collaboratively, we could move through the slideshow commenting on and discussing what the cohort experienced during our trip to NYC.

City Modern Trip Itinerary
  • Stop #1- Paula Cooper Gallery to view the Sol LeWitt exhibit
  • Stop #2- walk on the High Line exploring the transformation of the old west side rail lines
  • Stop #3- apprentice talk moderated by Dwell magazine:
    • Built in Maine, Thos. Moser furniture is 100% American-designed, engineered and built. Each piece celebrates the natural beauty of wood with unembellished, graceful lines that echo numerous historic antecedents including traditional and modern forms. This year, Thos. Moser invited two aspiring furniture designers to Maine where they experienced first-hand, the techniques and philosophy that has defined the Moser aesthetic for 40 years. The panel discussion on Oct 3 featuring Thos. Moser designer Adam Rogers, the emerging designers, and a Dwell editor will examine the importance of melding craftsmanship into the age of high-tech design. The “apprentices” will share their experiences, and using their own pieces, describe their appreciation for the Thos. Moser approach.
  • Stop #4- self-guided exploration through the A&D building
  • Stop #5- travel to Brooklyn to spend time at Snarkitecture 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Worth Reading....

Passing along some personal favorites from the past few weeks.

1. The Missing Link In School Reform (Leanna)- the article makes a case for investing social capital and challenges to long held belief that improving human (teacher) capital is the way to increase student performance.

Social capital, by comparison, is not a characteristic of the individual teacher but instead resides in the relationships among teachers. In response to the question “Why are some teachers better than others?” a human capital perspective would answer that some teachers are just better trained, more gifted, or more motivated. A social capital perspective would answer the same question by looking not just at what a teacher knows, but also where she gets that knowledge. If she has a problem with a particular student, where does the teacher go for information and advice? Who does she use to sound out her own ideas or assumptions about teaching? Who does she confide in about the gaps in her understanding of her subject knowledge?

2. Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning ()- another reminder about the need to focus on the development of non-cognitive skills.

Mindfulness has the potential to be a very useful component in prevention and treatment efforts because of its effectiveness in reducing emotional distress and promoting emotional balance, improving attention, and contributing to motivated learning.

3. In Pursuit of Passion... not Carrots or Sticks (Moran)-fostering passion-based opportunities in the classroom.  The post also touches on the concept of student motivation and in particular, the connection between motivation and following one's passion.

It’s the sweet spot that comes with how humanity has learned best for millennia, through play, storytelling, movement, creation, performance, authentic problem-solving, and purposeful projects. We are incorporating what we’ve learned from these and other “test-bed” settings and innovation zones across all of our district’s schools with the idea that transforming, not reforming, contemporary learning environments creates pathways for our learners that are vastly different from those of 20th century factory schools. In doing so, we move from a Gutenberg teaching model of write, print, read, listen, and recall to a post-Gutenberg learning model of search, connect, communicate, and make. 

4. When Complexity Is Free (Friedman)- more stories about the "new" industrial revolution and how concepts such as crowdsourcing and 3d printing radically alter the way business is conducted.

In the old days, explained Iorio, when G.E. wanted to build a jet engine part, a designer would have to design the product, then G.E. would have to build the machine tools to make a prototype of that part, which could take up to a year, and then it would manufacture the part and test it, with each test iteration taking a few months. The whole process, said Iorio, often took “two years from when you first had the idea for some of our complex components.”
Today, said Iorio, engineers using three-dimensional, computer-aided design software now design the part on a computer screen. Then they transmit it to a 3-D printer, which is filled with a fine metal powder and a laser device that literally builds or “prints,” the piece out of the metal powder before your eyes, to the exact specifications. Then, you immediately test it — four, five, six times in a day — and when it is just right you have your new part. To be sure, some complex parts require more time, but this is the future. That’s what she means by complexity is free.
5. Creativity Rules from Master Builder, Master Designer Thomas Heatherwick (McIntosh)- interview with London bus and Olympic flame designer, Thomas Heatherwick. 
 "Making is a way to do practical analysis. Anyone can relate to models. But it's not a tool for others, it's to show yourself, to make sure you're not fooling yourself." (Kids who 'prototype' one or two versions of their work aren't prototyping at all. Kids whose early prototypes are graded, assessed too early by their peers or teachers, don't have a chance to show themselves whether their ideas stand up. They need more than a few goes at getting things right, and several of those attempts have to be made for the purposes of self-assessment above all.)

6. A Trip Into the Field: Collecting Stories of Design, Learning and Place (Kahl)- importance of field trips and getting students out of the classroom or rather their normal environment.
We make excuses to go on field trips because what we take from "the field" is immeasurably valuable to us as people and designers alike. It's so important that it grounds each of our projects. We go in the field during the discovery phase to live with our schools during an "insight week" and on "inspiration trips" to places and spaces we admire. Occasionally, we will reserve time to debrief or get "heads down" work done at the museum, cafe, or new co-working space. We find that these immersive journeys illuminate more insights than desk research alone... they are energizing and inspiring for every one.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Annual Post

The start of school us upon us again.  Teachers are back tomorrow and students enter the building Thursday.  The start of school each year brings with it a renewed sense of hope and promise.   At the beginning of school I return to the following post (third year in a row) by Will Richardson "What Did You Create Today?"  No matter what your goals are for the upcoming school year, let's hope our students reflect on and work towards addressing the following:

What did you make today that was meaningful?
What did you learn about the world?
Who are you working with?
What surprised you?
What did your teachers make with you?
What did you teach others?
What unanswered questions are you struggling with?
How did you change the world in some small (or big) way?
What’s something your teachers learned today?
What did you share with the world?
What do you want to know more about?
What did you love about today?
What made you laugh?

Worth Reading...

Passing along posts worth checking out on the eve of another school year.

1. Graphic Novel Depicts John Lewis' 'March' Toward Justice (Dirks)- graphic novel about the life of John Lewis 

The comic book tells the story of Rosa Parks' symbolic refusal ― but it also gives a detailed account of how to protest non-violently. It was a lesson Lewis took to heart when he staged sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville in the late '50s.

2. Schools That Practice Learning Literacy (Warlick)- ideas about addressing literacy and learning literacy

According to a 2010 Bowker report, 2009 saw 1,829 new books published in the U.S. about agriculture.  5,131 new books were published about computers, approximately 9,000 each about business and education. 14,281 brand new books were published about history – new knowledge about history.  As we gain more access to information and to each other, the new knowledge that we generate as a society not only astounds us, but it is forcing us to redefine what it means to be educated.  We have rapidly moved from a world of information scarcity to information abundance, and an education is no longer measured by what you can remember, but what you can learn and what you can do with what you’ve learned.
Teachers, who teach solely from their university experience do a disservice to their learners.  Teachers should model themselves as habitual and resourceful learners, and skilled artisans of what they’ve learned.  We must walk into our classrooms out of today, not from the day that they graduated.

3. Who Will Be Considered Literate in the 21st Century (Moore)- changing idea of what it means to be literate in an English classroom
Today, those who can code are the new scribes and the World Wide Web allows rapid sharing of skills and ideas. Parents and teachers do not necessarily personally need coding skills but should create the opportunities, wherever possible, to assist students pursue their passions, especially when our society will increasingly need their skills to solve our most pressing challenges.

4. You can find the most eye-opening things online. So why don't you? (Burkeman)- breaking out of an echo chamber on the web

But the offline archetype of the imaginary cosmopolitan is the person who feels proud to live in a diverse city or neighbourhood – while being forced to concede that his or her actual social circle is suspiciously full of people of the same ethnicity, social class or age range. (Does this describe you? Me too.) On the web, Zuckerman argues in his recent book Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans In The Age Of Connection, this phenomenon is amplified. We feel connected to distant corners of the globe – which makes it easier to ignore the fact that what we actuallyspend our time doing is chatting to the same kinds of people about the same kinds of stuff.

5. Work + Play = Freespace (Bowles)- notes from an experimental center in San Francisco

When a group of young people in San Francisco took over a 14,000-square-foot warehouse at Seventh and Market streets for June and July, they did what a lot of young entrepreneurs do with their spaces - made up a cool name (Freespace), got a bunch of 3-D printers and covered the walls in whiteboard paint.
But then they did something different: They turned the space into a pop-up community center, not only for laptop-toting entrepreneurs, but also for the homeless, high school students and artists - with events ranging from hackathons to parties to crafts programs for homeless teens.

Creative Workshop

Sharing some select excerpts from David Sherwin's Creative Workshop.

Well-seasoned designers understand understand that resilience in the face of repeated failure is the only path to success.  Improving as a designer requires us to consciously choose to explore novel territory as part of our daily work.

As  architect Matthew Frederick notes, "Being process-oriented , not product-driven, is the most important and difficult skill for a designer to develop.  Being aware of your working process as a designer and reshaping it to fit the problem presented to you is a lifelong process.

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty.  I only think about how to solve the problem.  But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design

Things in the world move too fast for words. Sometimes they just need to be observed.  Sitting still, being present and noting people's behavior while withholding judgement:  These under-appreciated skills can have a powerful influence on our work.  They bring forth observations that give design a foundation in what we know, not just what we want or hope to uncover through the process of making.

If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Precious Time

I meant to post this last week but life got in the way.  Last week I was part of a summer institute for 20 teachers.  We worked together to build challenge-based learning experiences for students.  The cohort, made up of educators from both middle and high school, was formed to spend the year engaged in a form of instructional prototyping.  Experiences structuring classrooms around "real-life" challenges or dictated by determining a human need would be shared within the cohort and across department or grade level PLCs.  The cohort spent the first two days of the week long summer institute working with a representative from Apple to deconstruct the nuances of challenge-based learning.  The remaining three days were spent developing viable challenges.

Throughout the week teachers organically formed connections with other group members to build cross-curricular challenges.  However, teachers splintered off from their initial pairings to connect with others and in one case a challenge has been formed spanning the middle and high schools.  From the perspective of a facilitator the most noticeable aspect of the week was the intensive level of  collaboration between teachers.  Teachers used every once of time to share ideas and develop potential experiences for students. 

Last week posed an interesting conflict to what is viewed during the year.  There is lack of time to having sustained conversations.  Professional development, staff or department meetings and even PLCs are small moments within a day, week or month.  The virtual world and the development of personal learning networks has changed to concept of professional development.  Still personal and intimate exchanges are needed and within a school building or district bind teachers together in ways that could become lost amidst the daily school routine.  The same could be said of students as well.  How often do we provide sustained uninterrupted time for students to brainstorm, reflect, discuss, debate and experiment.  The bell to bell movement of students through a building and departmental approach to learning detracts from a collective sense of scholarship. 

Looking ahead a challenge for this upcoming year is to experiment with providing educators and students extended time to work.  How do we create "think tanks" within our schools and even explode the concept of Google 20% time to change the way we view collaboration?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Late Addition to Worth Reading...

Just came across this. Thanks to @maryannreilly for this post

"I so appreciate the thinking that informs Imagination Playground: Provide kids with open space and portable blocks and observe how they make their own play space and what gets enacted and invented within that made space. If I had a school, I'd invest in this type of product along with lots and lots of blocks, sand, water, paints, musical instruments (especially different types of drums and sticks), and other stuff children can find and use to make things.- Mary Ann Reilly"

Worth Reading...

Sharing some good reads I have come across recently

1. As Demographics Shift, Kids' Books Stay Stubbornly White (Blair)

When it comes to diversity, children's books are sorely lacking; instead of presenting a representative range of faces, they're overwhelmingly white. How bad is the disconnect?

What Shakespeare understood, Professor Sandel insisted, was the transformative power of money. When it enters into social relations it changes things. When economists asked the citizens of a Swiss village if they would accept being designated a nuclear-waste storage site, 51 percent said yes. When the question was posed again, this time with the promise of a cash reward for living with the waste, the yea votes plummeted, to 25 percent. The money, they said, made them feel that they were being bribed to perform a civic duty.  

I'm convinced by the arguments of Mimi Ito and her various colleagues associated with MacArthur's Connected Learning movement that in the future, learning will take place from cradle to grave--in schools, online, in museums, libraries, makerspaces, and all kinds of other "third spaces" for learning that we have yet to imagine. Young people need access not just to schools but to ecologies of learning that envelop students in learning opportunities.

What they've been flocking to see is mostly invisible: 12,000 sensors buried under the asphalt, affixed to street lamps and atop city buses. The sensors measure everything from air pollution to where there are free parking spaces. They can even tell garbage collectors which dumpsters are full, and automatically dim street lights when no one is around.

5. Diana Rhoten on Sparking Student Interests with Informal Learning 

6. How Building a Car Can Drive Deeper Learning (Is School Enough?)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Free to Learn

Sharing a few highlights from Peter Gray's Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

Lack of free play may not kill the physical body, as would lack of food, air, or water, but it kills the spirit and stunts mental growth

Nothing that we do, no amount of toys we buy or “quality time” or special training we give our children, can compensate for the freedom we take away. The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways

Not only has the school day grown longer and less playful, but school has intruded ever more into home and family life. Assigned homework has increased, eating into time that would otherwise be available for play

Looked at in another way, five to eight times as many young people today have scores above the cutoff for likely diagnosis of a clinically significant anxiety disorder or major depression than fifty or more years ago. These increases are at least as great, if not greater, for elementary and high school students as for college students

In free play, children learn to make their own decisions, solve their own problems, create and abide by rules, and get along with others as equals rather than as obedient or rebellious subordinates

The intense drive that children have to play with other children, therefore, is a powerful force for them to learn how to attend to others’ wishes and negotiate differences

But regardless of the lectures that students might hear in school about the value of helping others, school works against such behavior. By design, it teaches selfishness. The forced competitiveness, the constant grading and ranking of students, contain the implicit lesson that each student’s job is to look out for himself or herself and to do better than others

Under normal conditions, children develop their abilities to cooperate and help one another in free, self-directed, social play, where they learn to resolve their differences and take into account one another’s needs in order to keep the game going

Self-education also requires space—space to roam, to get away, to explore. That space should, ideally, encompass the range of terrains relevant to the culture in which one is developing