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June 26, 2011

Not Going To ISTE?

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Feeling left out (like me) that you're not going to ISTE 2011?
Tell us how you will fill the void.

Tweet out your grief  at #isteless You are not alone ...

image flickr/mohammadali

June 21, 2011

Students Reflect on Their Learning

Student-reflection

Since I first posted my Taxonomy of Reflection in Jan 2010, I've seen it put to use many ways (including a financial reporting specialist).  Yesterday Silvia Tolisano posted "Reflect…Reflecting…Reflection.." a thoughtful application of the model to elementary students. Beginning with "brainstorming vocabulary words ... that encourage reflection," she details the steps they followed with their students and includes some inspired reflective thinking by 2nd - 5th graders.

Of course once you start thinking reflectively, you realize that your school must become a more reflective community. For more on that subject see my Prezi "The Reflective School." Here's Silvia's take: 

We needed to take a step back to become a reflective teacher- community before we could expect our students to become a reflective-learning community and our school a reflective school culture. We are starting to work towards that by making it an official theme that is running through all our Professional Development.

She concludes her post with "21st Century Learning Reflection" a great Vimeo that looks back on the evolving technology use in her school. I highly recommend her post, and be sure to contribute your ideas for supporting your reflective learning community. 

Image credit: flickr/sarah-ji

June 16, 2011

PBL Resource Site - How to Plan, Manage and Evaluate

Pbl-resource-site
This week I led a four-hour training session - "Project Based Learning in the STEM Classroom." Here's a link to the Google site I used to support my workshop. You'll find links to a variety of resources to help teachers get started using a PBL approach in their classrooms - handouts, videos, project ideas - plus tips on how to plan, manage, and evaluate PBL. I included some Google forms as collaboration tools. They didn't get much action, but they had potential for collaboration. (I reset them to no longer accept new data.)

For more on the workshop approach see my post "Solve This Problem, You'll Learn the Skills Along the Way"

June 13, 2011

Visualize the Twitter Feed at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest

Picture 5

This is our 10th year at the Jazz Fest. Amazing lineup  - with the "club pass" you can see it all. Here's a visualizer of the Twitter feed following the hashtags #xrijf and #rocjazz.
For full screen version, click in lower left square. For a direct link to visualizer click here.

(Sorry - it won't show up on your iPhone)

June 12, 2011

Solve This Problem, You'll Learn the Skills Along the Way

Wisconsin STEM Summit I'm in the Wisconsin Dells today to deliver a four-hour training session for CESA 6. It's entitled "21st Century Skills in Action: Project Based Learning in the STEM Classroom."  We'll be using a Turning Point ARS and lots of activities so that participants experience the why, what, and how of PBL in the STEM curriculum.

Students explore their world with an expectation of choice and control that redefines traditional notions of learning and literacy. Educators are discovering that they can motivate students with a PBL approach that engages their students with the opportunity to behave like STEM professionals while solving real-world problems.

I was pleased to read an interesting piece in the NY Times on yesterday's flight. "Computer Studies Made Cool, on Film and Now on Campus" (6/11/11). While the focus is on the growing popularity of computer science, it make a strong case for the project based approach to learning. 

The new curriculums emphasize the breadth of careers that use computer science, as diverse as finance and linguistics, and the practical results of engineering, like iPhone apps, Pixar films and robots, a world away from the more theory-oriented curriculums of the past.

The old-fashioned way of computer science is, ‘We’re going to teach you a bunch of stuff that is fundamental and will be long-lasting but we won’t tell you how it’s applied,’ ” said Michael Zyda, director of the University of Southern California’s GamePipe Laboratory, a new games program in the computer science major. With the rejuvenated classes, freshman enrollment in computer science at the university grew to 120 last year, from 25 in 2006. ...

To hook students, Yale computer science professors are offering freshman seminars with no prerequisites, like one on computer graphics, in which students learn the technical underpinnings of a Pixar movie.
“Historically this department has been very theory-oriented, but in the last few years, we’re broadening the curriculum,” said Julie Dorsey, a professor.

She also started a new major, computing and the arts, which combines computer science with art, theater or music to teach students how to scan and restore paintings or design theater sets.

Professors stress that concentrating on the practical applications of computer science does not mean teaching vocational skills like programming languages, which change rapidly. Instead, it means guiding students to tackle real-world problems and learn skills and theorems along the way.

“Once people are kind of subversively exposed to it, it’s not someone telling you, ‘You should program because you can be an engineer and do this in the future,’ ” said Ms. Fong, the Yale student. “It’s, ‘Solve this problem, build this thing and make this robot go from Point A to Point B,’ and you gain the skill set associated with it.” With other students, she has already founded a Web start-up, the Closer Grocer, which delivers groceries to dorms.

June 07, 2011

Don't Teach Them Facts - Let Student Discover Patterns

4794114114_dd895561bf Develop a classification system - analyze patterns, create a schema, evaluate where specific elements belong. Sounds like a very sophisticated exercise. Not really, young toddlers do it all the time - sorting out their toys and household stuff into groups of their own design. They may not be able to explain their thinking, but hand them another item and watch them purposely place it into one of their groups. They have designed a system.

Humans experience the world in patterns, continually trying to answer the question - what is this? Remembering where we've encountered things before and assessing new items for their similarities and differences. Someone once asked Picasso if it was difficult to draw a face. His reply, "it's difficult not to draw one." We see "faces" everywhere. 

It's unfortunate that student don't get to use their innate perceptual skills more often in the classroom. Instead of discovering patterns on their own, student are "taught" to memorize patterns developed by someone else. Rather than do the messy work of having to figure out what's going on and how to group what they see - students are saddled with graphic organizers which take all the thinking out of the exercise. Filling out a Venn diagram isn't analysis - it's information filing. Instead of being given a variety of math problems to solve that require different problem-solving strategies, students are taught a specific  process then given ten versions of the same problem to solve for homework. No pattern recognition required here - all they have to do is simply keep applying the same procedures to new data sets. Isn't that what spreadsheets are for?

A recent article in the NY Times "Brain Calisthenics Help Break Down Abstract Ideas, Researchers Say" (June 7, 2011) suggest that teachers could benefit from harnessing student pattern recognition powers to deepen their understanding of more abstract principles. 

For years school curriculums have emphasized top-down instruction, especially for topics like math and science. Learn the rules first — the theorems, the order of operations, Newton’s laws — then make a run at the problem list at the end of the chapter. Yet recent research has found that true experts have something at least as valuable as a mastery of the rules: gut instinct, an instantaneous grasp of the type of problem they’re up against. Like the ballplayer who can “read” pitches early, or the chess master who “sees” the best move, they’ve developed a great eye.

Now, a small group of cognitive scientists is arguing that schools and students could take far more advantage of this same bottom-up ability, called perceptual learning. The brain is a pattern-recognition machine, after all, and when focused properly, it can quickly deepen a person’s grasp of a principle, new studies suggest. Better yet, perceptual knowledge builds automatically: There’s no reason someone with a good eye for fashion or wordplay cannot develop an intuition for classifying rocks or mammals or algebraic equations, given a little interest or motivation.

Educators - it's time to stop all the modeling. Get rid of all the canned graphic organizers. Have the courage to be less helpful. Be patient and let students recognize their own patterns. It's messy work, but its where the learning will take place. 

Image  Flickr/ doug88888

May 26, 2011

SmartPhone - Dumb School

Lockedphone This week I attended a panel discussion sponsored by Mobile Portland entitled "The Myth of Mobile Context." I was treated to an all-star panel that tacked tough questions exploring challenges, opportunities, design considerations and the user experience in the mobile context. 

 Through the talk,  I kept thinking about a quote from my previous post - The Future of Schools - Three Design Scenarios

"With rare exceptions, schools currently treat the digital revolution as if it never happened. Computers, more often than not, still sit in dedicated rooms, accessible only with adult supervision.

... When students step out the door of the institution called school today, they step into a learning environment ... in which one is free to follow a line of inquiry wherever it takes one, without the direction and control of someone called a teacher... If you were a healthy, self-actualizing young person, in which of these environments would you choose to spend most of your time?

... The more accessible learning becomes through unmediated relationships and broad-based social networks, the less clear it is why schools, and the people who work in them, should have such a large claim on the lives of children and young adults..."

While I've seen some cutting edge schools / teachers that have effectively embraced mobile technology and social networking, too many educators see smartphones as a distraction from learning. Many schools block Facebook, Twitter and the rest of social web as if it was pornography. 

So where's this put our students? For many it means that they must leave their smartphone at the classroom door and surrender themselves to an information culture controlled by the adults. What's the mobile context in schools? Not much, it's banned as subversive to learning.  

Every day in school, students must "forget" about the information control and functionally their phone gives them to browse, research, monitor, network, shop and entertain. While they might view a photo just posted to Facebook from a friend's mobile as the catalyst to a conversation, their teacher considers it a distraction from learning. 

Mostly technology in school offers an "illusion of modernity" - automating routine tasks like word processing, or watching a teacher having fun at the smartboard. If students do get online in school - it often involves viewing "filtered" web content with limited functionality.  Of course students need lessons in "digital hygiene." But curating all their web content and interactions doesn't teach them responsible use, it just sequesters them behind a firewall. "Suspicion invites treachery" ~ Voltaire

When students do get on a school workstation (laptop or desktop) they quickly realize that it doesn't "know" them as well as their phone does. Their personal device carries a wealth of information that's important to them - contacts, photos, data, memories. To the school desktop, students are just a user on the network with a limited range of permissions. The biggest problem with the school computer is that it doesn't do "place" at all. That's a stark contrast to students' mobiles, which geo-browse via the growing number of locational apps and geo-tagged information stream. 

Mobile context in schools? Not much.

Maybe it was a bit harsh to entitle the post "Smart Phones - Dumb Schools." But try doing without your smartphone tomorrow and see if that doesn't feel like a pretty dumb idea.

For thoughful insights on the mobile web watch this great Slideshare by Yiibu.    

May 16, 2011

The Future of Schools - Three Design Scenarios

Control Richard Elmore and Elizabeth City of Harvard Graduate School of Education wrote a powerful piece in Education Week "Using Technology to Move Beyond Schools" (May, 16, 2011).

Since it's behind a subscription paywall, I thought I'd quote it broadly to help spread its powerful message. For my thoughts on the subject please see my post "What Happens in Schools When Life Has become an Open-book Test?"

“What proportion of the activity called ‘learning’ will be located in the institution called ‘school’?” The availability of relatively cheap technologies offering direct access to knowledge of all types creates opportunities for students to experience a dramatic increase in the choice of what they learn, with whom they choose to learn, and how they choose to learn. How will the institution called “school” survive in this environment, in what form will it survive, and what would schools look like if they chose not just to “survive” but to find a productive place in this new environment?

With rare exceptions, schools currently treat the digital revolution as if it never happened. Computers, more often than not, still sit in dedicated rooms, accessible only with adult supervision.

... When students step out the door of the institution called school today, they step into a learning environment ... in which one is free to follow a line of inquiry wherever it takes one, without the direction and control of someone called a teacher... If you were a healthy, self-actualizing young person, in which of these environments would you choose to spend most of your time?

... The more accessible learning becomes through unmediated relationships and broad-based social networks, the less clear it is why schools, and the people who work in them, should have such a large claim on the lives of children and young adults...

Consider three possible school scenarios for the next generation or so.

The first might be called “fighting for survival,” or “turtle gets a laptop.” Schools continue to be organized and run in much the same way as they are today. ...Teachers and schools continue to control access to content and learning. In this instance, schools will increasingly become custodial institutions, isolated from the lives of their students and the learning environment beyond their walls.

The second scenario might be called “controlled engagement,” or “frog gets a GPS device.” In this case, schools make some nonincremental leaps in the way they are organized and run. Schools set the learning destinations and map out the best pathways to those destinations. ... Teachers are less gatekeepers of knowledge, and more knowledge brokers. ... Schools become less places where students go to learn from adults, and more places where adults and students get together to enter a broader learning environment.

The third scenario might be called “open access to learning,” or “caterpillar learns to fly.” Here schools cease to play the determining role in what constitutes knowledge and learning.  ...Schools are on their own, competing with other types of service providers and learning modalities for the interest and loyalty of students and their parents. A family might combine services from two or three different organizations into a learning plan ...Schools, as we presently know them, would gradually cease to exist and be replaced by social networks organized around the learning goals of students and their families.

I imagine that many educators will dismiss this commentary as being too far-fetched. Perhaps schools need be reminded of the growing irrelevance of information gatekeepers (record companies, book publishers, newspapers) in the lives of their students.   

Image credit flickr

May 13, 2011

Google Chromebook: 1-to-1 Computing for $180 per Student?

Google-chrome-logo-1000 This week Google launched the Chromebook - a cloud-based "laptop" priced at $20 per month. That's $180 per student for a nine-month school year. Not a bad price for 1 to 1.

It's built on the already popular Google Chrome and Google apps platform. (I'm using both with increasing regularity).  It will be a tempting offer for schools - instant on, always connected - plus no software installs, anti-virus, or upgrades to worry about. Run it at school on the district WiFi, then take it home and use 3G - Verizon is providing 100mb of data per month for free. 

The Chromebook will raise big questions about collection of personal student data, internet security and acceptable use policies. But Google claims to have features in place which offers granular controls on web access (1st graders can't get to sites that might be acceptable to high schoolers.) 

I wonder if schools will take the bait? If I were the school IT guy - I'd be nervous. If it turns out Chromebook works as advertised, I might be out of work.

On second thought - I should get one for my mother. That's an IT job I'd like to lose!

May 07, 2011

Save Our Schools March -You Can Make a Difference

Save-our-schools The Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action is holding a one-day fundraiser.  Please consider making a tax-deductible gift today, as part of their day-long May 7th “Money Cascade” to support the March. They’ve set an initial goal of $2500.  

I just made a quick $10 donation - will you match me?

Click here to go to their donation page via Paypal

 

Here's more information from Save Our Schools March

"The march is being held in response to recent destructive 'reform' efforts which have undermined our public educational system, demoralized teachers, and reduced the education of too many of our children to nothing more than test preparation. Something must be done – and it must be done now!

Please join people from all across America as they gather to participate in the Save Our Schools March on Saturday, July 30 in Washington, D.C.

The Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action is calling on Americans everywhere to demand: 

  • Equitable funding for all public school communities. 
  • An end to high stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation.
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.
  • Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies."

April 30, 2011

Curating the Social Web at TEDxPortland - PM Edition

XRDI'm attending the April 30 TEDxPortland. I'll be curating the best of social media feed without the RTs, hype and chatter. I'm following the hashtag #XRD on Twitter, FaceBook, and Flickr. So don't forget to tag!  Newest tweets will be at the top of the page - older below. Check back for updates. Go to AM Edition

April 29, 2011

Curating the Social Web at TEDxPortland - AM Edition

TEDxPortland I'm attending the April 30 TEDxPortland. I'll be curating the best of social media feed without the RTs, hype and chatter. I'm following the hashtag #XRD on Twitter, FaceBook, and Flickr. So don't forget to tag!  Newest tweets will be at the top of the page - older below. Check back for updates.   To see posts from the PM edition click here.