Connect Learning, Connected World – ISTE 2014

Currently in Atlanta Georgia to participate in ISTE2014. As a part of that, I am presenting a two-hour poster session on mobile applications in a project-based learning classroom. I was particularly interested in sharing applications that were open-ended, constructive and creative. I grouped my applications into four main categories:
– data analysis and simulation
– web, blog and writing
– graphics and infographics
– media

To do the poster session, I created four panels to go on the board – I’ve attached these below as images,
ISTE 2014 panel 4

ISTE 2014 panel 3

ISTE 2014 panel 2

ISTE 2014 panel 1

and then I put together a slideshow presentation that showed some of the same examples and I have included the embedded YouTube video below.

The pdf version is here – the links should work for that:

Mobile Apps and PBL

It was a lot of fun putting it together, as it gave me chance to look through student work over the last two years and find interesting ways in which we have used iPad applications to support the kind of student driven project-based work that we are committed to in our MPX program.

On the Sins of Omission

On Sins of Omission

Anyone that knows me, knows that I have a few too many fingers into too many pies, but I suppose it’s part of my personality to take on a few too many tasks that I probably should. One of the pieces of evidence of that is the amount of emails, blogs, social media streams and magazines that come across my desk daily from a variety of sources in education, technology, science and design to name a few. As a result, sometimes these go directly to my trash or it into piles articles and magazines that I hope I can get back to but often don’t.



Why this confession? On Tuesday, I had a couple of hours free to plan, prep and grade and in my mailbox was the latest issue of Wired magazine. Honestly, I don’t even know how I ended up with a subscription, but most months I look at the cover and think to myself “not gonna have time to look at it this month” and put it in a pile to be thrown out two months later. This time, however, I opened up the cover because the title was “The Future of Design: Invisible. Beautiful. Everywhere.” Okay – I was intrigued. Given how much time we spend with our students talking about creating work of meaning and beauty, and our interest in future design I had to at least take a peek inside. What was obvious almost immediately was how beautifully synchronized the work in this magazine is with the kinds of ways we work with our students in our MPX program. Here’s just a few of the articles in the magazine that aligns so beautifully with the work we talk about, or could use as jumping off points to investigate something meaningful in ourselves and our community:
** the fall and rise of gene therapy – in which amongst other things they talk about using topographic maps and visualization technology to understand better viruses
** Argos satellite – a brief article with visuals about a satellite that maps daily movements of marine animals to better understand their behaviors
** how Internet censorship can actually increase the spread of viruses and malware
** going the extra mile – an article about the design of cars from the shell eco-marathon
** one gamers war on sexism – one woman’s work on gender and sexism in video games
** making the web a louder place – the impact of audio files in increasing democratizing voice on the Internet
** nuclear waste management
** Project collaboration using social media
** the chemistry of pool chlorination
** the technology of communication systems in the sky above us
** invisible design – the ways which technologies are becoming embedded ubiquitous and invisible

and that doesn’t even cover all of the short articles on a variety of topics. Do these topics present jumping off points for short or long-term inquiry? Absolutely. Whose job is it to provide opportunities for my students to find areas of interesting, provocative and meaningful research – mine.
Two challenges, then, for me as the lead thinker in my classroom – how to create time and structure so these incredible conversations about present and future can be embedded as a part of our daily work, our passions and thinking, and ways that we position ourselves to take an active role in shaping the future.

So I’ve gone public with my need to not let these powerful opportunities just slide by my desk in the rush of the day-to-day, in the words of Ian Jukes “the tyranny of the urgent”

Hopefully we’ll see examples of that in our work this year…

Reflections on Communities of practice, and collegial conversations online

So here it is, Saturday, March 12, 2011. We just spent the last hour online using Elluminate web conferencing software to host a collegial conversation (also known as a tuning protocol) with Jen Peterson, Humanities Teacher, High Tech High International on her questions/dilemma:
How can I best structure a project that is open-ended enough to leave room for creativity and individual choice while still setting myself up for successfully managing it? 

we had 15 people in our conference including folks from three islands in Hawaii, California, Toronto and a teacher from Finland. Our goal was to help broaden Jen’s thinking about her problem, and in the process learn from our community ideas that we individually might not have come up with.

We have been doing this now for about a year–all the archives are located here:

but this was worth blogging about, because what unfolded showed the power of a small group of focused educators–none of them experts, per se, all of them committed to thinking deeply about a single issue in front of them. And so I wanted to paste out what transpired in the chat window as questions to her project idea. There are wonderful gems in the conversation that I think anyone doing student driven, project or problem based learning could glean.

Jen explained that she has a project in which she wants her students to do creative writing in the voice of an author/style that will elevate their thinking about their writing. She found herself challenged in making sure that her students chose authors/voice that push their thinking and their ability to address adopting a style that challenged them.

Here are excerpts from the chat window as we looked at clarifying questions to understand her problem better (clarifying questions are designed to help the participants understand the conditions of the dilemma better–they’re not designed to make the presenter think):
Moderator (Karen Harris): c: your question is for this literature project in particular

zrandall: C: How long do students have to write for this short story project?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): you have been doing this particular project how long?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): what percentage of kids need guidance in picking the ‘just right author’?

zrandall: C: What structures are in place for promoting creativity in the project? Are there guidelines you’ve set up to allow for maximum creativity?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): has this issue come up for you before?

Matt Piercy: C–So the challenge is stimulating creativity rather than hampering it, while still having clear “boundaries”?

Matt Piercy: C–How many students actually take the “low” road and do not challenge themselves?

Jane 1: C : Have the students written numerous short stories in their own style previously?
C: Are they familiar with identifying keep aspects of writing styles?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): do you show them examples of what the product should be like? – made by you, or past students?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): does the length of the project change the importance of this issue?

Jane 1: C: Do the students have an opportunity to “rewrite” a familiar story (as a group) in a different(agreed upon) author’s style?

brendon allen to Karen Harris: C: Where do graphic novels fall in all of this? Approved or not?

Moderator (Laura McBain 1) to Karen Harris: are they all reading the same book

Mauri Laakso / Maurice Walley: Do you have any fictional elements witch engaging the children in the context?

brendon allen: Where do graphic novels fall in all of this? Approved or not?

brendon allen: Are Plays acceptable

Nathan J: Is there much peer assessment in the project?

Here are excerpts from the chat window as we looked at probing questions to help the presenter think about her problem deeper ( probing questions are designed to help the presenter broaden their thinking about their particular issue, and potentially new ways to view it and solve it):

Moderator (Karen Harris): p: similar to protocols limiting boundaries to open dialogue or creative freedom have you thought of how this can happen with your book choice?

Matt Piercy: P–Have you considered allowing choice but giving parameters? i.e. Must be a British author? Must be an author from the 20th century? Must be __________ genre?
Or, providing a list of 30 authors they could select from? Maybe having students read excerpts or a whole book of a new author and then emulating that style in their own writing?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): how do the students respond to your guidance in getting “in bounds’?

Moderator (Jesse Wade Robinson): P: In what ways do you want to challenge the students?

zrandall: P: Is the goal to have students writing to their passions, or is it more about pushing out of their comfort zones?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): is the concern being driven more by making sure they fit into a range you want or the issue of supporting things outside your expertise?

Moderator (Jesse Wade Robinson): p: What are the management issues you run into when trying to provide more freedom and challenge?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): when you did this 2 years ago did the same issue come up? how did you handle it then?

zrandall: P: How do you define success for your students in this writing project?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): does showing them examples change the way they respond to the project – does it have the impact you desire?

Moderator (mark hines (honolulu)): what is your hunch that might bring the bar up for their thinking?

Mauri Laakso / Maurice Walley: Do you have any fictional elements witch engaging the children in the context?

Moderator (Laura McBain 1) to Karen Harris: P; what has worked before for your projects?

Moderator (Laura McBain 1) to Karen Harris: P: Have you asked the students your question?

brendon allen: What do you define as “Success” in “Managing” the project for yourself?

brendon allen: Is writing a short story new for your students?

Ms. H: Have the kids read book reviews from critics who might provide a different voice concerning something like Twilight? Perhaps they might read them and realize that they sell widely but are not of quality?

brendon allen: Do you see the writing process a good litmus test for the quality of the source, or do you prefer being the filter for choice?

Here are excerpts from the chat window as we broke into smaller groups–the next step of this protocol as the participants talk amongst themselves about the issue, and the presenter quietly listens and takes notes. These are some of the reflections that came out of the conversations from the two groups:

zrandall: I agree. I think she’s being really thoughtful about her students, pushing them to be creative and yet trying to go beyond what they are used to seeing out there

Jane 1: I like the push, too, it’s very challenging to write in a style unlike one’s own but can really push the writing to a new level with practice.

Jane 1: Writing is such a solitary activity at times, I was wondering what effect group work might bring to the project.

zrandall: Pushing creativity is difficult, and I wondered what the success was for her in this project. It seems students who push themselves might have an effect on the kids who are struggling

zrandall: I like the aspect of the group conversation that might push students more than teacher feedback

sean connors 3: All the time the students ask us for examples or exemplars… especially the ones who are confused as to what the expectations are of them…

zrandall: I noticed this in the digital storytelling project I did…very loose objective was to write a defining moment and it wasn’t until student feedback and critique that they realized they could tell other stories

Jane 1: To take it a little further, for those who are really struggling, I wondered if they preselected an author together, wrote their own stories and had dialogue about whether they were hitting the mark in terms of the “new” style. Using the critique process to push each other.

zrandall: I would like to know what Jen thinks the heart of the project is and how many times she’s allowing students to change their story ideas and push their thinking. I like that idea of partnerships…but I see how it would be important to still write thier own piece

Jane 1: Matt – that’s kind of the thought I was trying to get at in my last post. Writing in the chat is tricky – not sure if it’s clear.

Nathan J: As someone mentioned earlier, limits do often promote creativity, so I like the idea of defining the styles for them and working gradually towards more freedom

as the groups talked a notetaker summarized some of their thinking on the whiteboard which was then brought out for group conversation–here are the notes from the two group whiteboards:

creating ownership and empowered. Great project. The just right fit for students. Since only some students take the low road, not a universal problem.
Get the students to do more regulate/converse about why they are choosing what they read. Utilize leverage within the class. Dynamic of how to choose.

Group conversation – they facilitate further pushing of the community
the notion of all students choosing different voice–management nightmare–quite a challenge
opportunities for students to give feedback to each other? Work together in the actual writing? Scaffolding–try technique together then break apart
what is the heart of the project? How often can students change their voice/choice during the project?

This is a fun way to pay homage to writers they admire
starting with autonomy/choice
consistent support from teacher and for creativity
not dumbing down the project

is choice truly being given?
Have students “make their case”
dialogue on choice and widening the choice field is worthwhile
bring in outside people? Real world?
Bring in team choices to “defend” their work
students advocating for their creative passions
bring in a librarian’s perspective

after this, the presenter had 5 min. to come back to the group about how the conversation had broadened/challenged/opened up her perspective.

In the conversations above, there is a wealth of knowledge. One of the challenges in education we have, is not that the solution has to come from the outside, but creating both the time and the structure for internal capacity to be built and leveraged to expand teachers thinking. On my campus (Mid-Pacific Institute) and I would argue on any campus there is already most if not all of the collective wisdom it should take to help teachers grow, design, and deliver engaging, rigorous learning experiences for our kids. The challenge for schools, and primarily their administration is figuring out how to design a cultural landscape in their learning institution that recognizes AND takes advantage of this wealth of knowledge.

***one caveat to mention–the information above is what transpired in the chat window and whiteboard space only. This is maybe only one third of the full conversation that occurred, as the primary vehicle to promote the conversation is audio through the microphones. If you go to the link I posted above, you can hear and watch the entire hour-long conversation unfold, but even just looking at this lens of textual chat, you capture of vibrant, energetic community conversation that I think is the best hope any school has in transforming their learning culture into a 21st century community of practice.****

My two cents anyhow

online learning and teens

I gave a talk at the fall HAIS conference on the topic of Online learning and teens. I have attached the pdf version of the keynote I gave. I used a lot of video for the use of telling the story through case studies. Most of the graphics on the slides link to video stories that set the context for how teens learn with online media.

One aside – I tried the iphone app Keynote remote – it was marvelous – love it!

Another Brick in the Wall

Another Brick in the Wall

This week’s readings and class time focused on two main ideas: how the instructional design process should be considered within the context of informal learning environments, and consideration of learning theory in looking at exhibit design.

The readings are here:

Braverman, B. E. (1988). Toward an Instructional Design for Art Exhibitions. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 22(3), 85-96.

Schlenk, G. W., & Shrock, S. A. (1991). The Use of Instructional Development Procedures To Create Exhibits: A Survey of Major American Museums.

The very general synopsis of the Schlenck article is a research question on what kind of instructional design approaches are used by museums in preparing exhibits. Although that isn’t really the thrust of my discussion on this blog post, it should be mentioned that although this research was from almost 20 years ago, it makes the case that most museums make a perfunctory effort to consider instructional design practices and exhibit creation, but it is neither prevalent in or thorough in most cases. Perhaps, it is best to say a lot of it is done like action research — that is “if it feels good it is good”.

As always, I am not just interested in the formal context of the focus of informal learning environments by itself. I’m still driven to explore where the overlap between informal learning environments, and the more formal learning environments which have been most of my professional career. With that in mind, and our conversation around both instructional design theory and upcoming visits to Bishop Museum and the Waikiki Aquarium, have me thinking about the impact of field trips as means of merging the informal environments into our formal schooling.

Probably most powerful in my mind, was when I was teaching astronomy back in the 1990s, I took students on a three day trip to the big Island of Hawaii to visit the active volcano, snorkeling in a Marine sanctuary, and visits to the summit Mauna Kea, which was ostensibly what drove the trip, as I was interested in exposing my students to the greatest astronomical Observatory which was a short flight away. Invariably, at the end of the trip, when I asked the students to summarize what they have learned, many commented on it being the most exciting and motivating experience in their educational career. This always surprised me, as although I knew that the trip had wonderful visceral experiences built into it (swimming in a coral reef, exploring lava tubes, seeing 200 inch telescope’s up close) I hadn’t expected it to be that powerful an experience. It always was in the back of my mind that it was a telling commentary about the stark barren experience that most traditional education exposes inquisitive minds to.
But here is the real problem — whenever a teacher wants to take students out of the traditional school day for experiences that we would deem “authentic” it involves a myriad of paperwork and coordination and apologizing to your professional peers for taking their students away from their seat time in their classes. As a result, over the years, although I have encouraged fellow teachers to explore the opportunities offered by taking students into authentic, informal environments, many do not choose to for the reasons stated above. Easier to conform then to challenge the status quo.

In a recent conversation with an administrator, the question came up about the value of a trip during the school day with the question being “can’t the students to do this on their own after school?”. Although I understood the rationale for the question, I felt the need to explain why experiences in the field a few times a semester can have powerful affective influences on students, and increase their motivation, behavior, and willingness to follow through the more traditional school day.

This came to my mind, because in talking about writing good learning objectives, our class this past week struggled with how to construct good learning objectives in the affective domain. When I took students to the Bishop Museum planetarium, I knew instinctively that the opportunity to see the way the stars look at the planetarium, to get out of their normal routine and interact in a different way, and to approach the subject matter from a different perspective well outweighed the inconvenience of taking them away for three or four hours from their normal routine (my opinion). Of course, by that point in my professional career, I had a adopted the mantra that the job of a good instructor is to be an arsonist lighting fires, not a fireman putting them out.

Which brings up another story from this week. I was at the hospital for a routine procedure, and the laboratory technician that was setting up some tests told me that when he was in ninth grade he was removed from his normal classroom, which he was doing academically fine, because he couldn’t help laughing in class because the word “dingy” had come up as vocablary. His family for years had called him “dingy” because he was the smallest of the family. His language arts teacher asked for him to be removed and put into the lower-level class, because he couldn’t help giggling during class time. As a result, he was put into a class with other failing students, where he said they read third-grade level books like “go dog go”. That singular event determined the rest of this person’s life, as he never had another chance to recover and join the academically challenged students at his school. As we talked during the day, he expressed his love of history, art, and literature. He was well read, historically motivated, and a wonderful interpersonal communicator. Yet, he readily offered that he was not smart, based on his experiences that have led from this demotion when he was 14 years old. Why talk about this? He talked at length about his love of Civil War history in particular, in his fulfilling of a lifetime dream to visit Gettysburg this past summer. His vivid recalling of walking the grounds, thinking of the battles on the hills that he knew so well, and Lincoln’s later visit showed an incredible intellect and passion about understanding the historical and social context of this important event. Yet, when I mentioned to him that I thought he would make a marvelous teacher, he insisted he would never be smart enough to do so, because he had never learned to write, since he was put in a lower-level class. I could imagine for Joshua a different outcome in his life, had he been in a school where visiting real sites that engaged and expanded his learning beyond the classroom walls might have led him down a different path.

After talking to Joshua, I couldn’t help but think of Pink Floyd’s great album “The Wall” which includes the lyrics:

We don’t need no education

We don’t need no thought control

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

Teachers leave them kids alone

Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.

In the article by Braverman, he asks the question “…why are learning theories not readily adopted by museum professionals when designing exhibits devoted to art?” (p 86). Braverman also makes the case that there is little research about how art museums and their desire to showcase aesthetic have any ability to evaluate the impact of their exhibits on visitors. In much the same way, traditional classrooms suffer from that same problem of not thinking of the whole child, and how experiences that reach to the aesthetic can engage and transform a learner.
Braverman talks about how the unique experience of the art museum requires this special consideration towards the aesthetic, but taken for a broader perspective, the need to think about affective responses and motivations within all learning is a consideration that all formal and informal learning needs to address better.
Braverman also gives a definition of appreciation (from Kjell S. Johannessen,) “… a skill that is central to the dynamic interaction, or praxis, between art museums in their public.” (Page 88). It reminds me of an old Sidney Harris cartoon. I’ve always found his commentaries on society, science, and their mismatch particularly funny and have shared many with my classes over the years. This graphic says it all to me:

sydney harris but is it beautiful?

sydney harris but is it beautiful?

So, as we continue to explore informal environments, I hope to keep thinking about where the interplay between informal and formal can continue.
To that end, this week our high school principal, who used to teach in the Museum school at New York City (mentioned in my previous blog post) will be talking to the class this week a bit about the use of informal learning spaces in formal education. Stay tuned…
Here’s a question to end our visit for today — if students were not required to come to our schools by law, would they? I don’t mean to confuse this with wondering if students are interested in learning, or whether valuable things are happening within the confines of the bricks and mortar of our traditional schools, but would they choose to come to this environment if they could? Museums and other informal environments every day ask themselves that question, because no one comes to them unwillingly. Perhaps it’s because in an informal learning environment, you’re not treated as another brick in the wall.

Future of Education and Disrupting Class

A post I recently added to our ETEC Ning on the topic of Christensen/Horn’s “Disrupting Class” and our upcoming book club on it:

As some of you know, I have been working the past year and a half with a grant through the Hawaii community foundation titled “schools of the future”. As a part of that, we have been sharing books that we felt were provocative and discussing the need for education to transform. The foundational book for us was Tony Wagner’s “the global achievement gap). Shortly after reading that, we found disrupting class and found a great source for explaining how and why incremental change for schools was not going to be enough. Since then, I’ve had a chance to both hear and talk a bit with Michael Horn about the book, seen him in a public forum on the debate about bricks and mortar at this year’s NECC and seeing the ideas percolate through at least some of the conversations in forums like the future of education.
Scott McLeod (Dangerously Irrelevant) gave a great updated view of this at NECC here

so where do I sit on this? I have come to believe that Christensen is really correct about the forces that are going to shape the relevance of education. For those of you that are not familiar with what has happened with Florida virtual school’s, with the national movement from, and others, they are providing a new model for education that is beginning to be felt by schools. Locally, Hawaii technology Academy (HTA) is showing this disruptive potential already. I really believe schools aren’t ready and struggle with students who wish to be in a different environment than traditional school.
One of the goals we set for the schools of the future grant (kudos Elizabeth Park, Mike Travis, Lisa Waters for leading their schools to successful grant proposals) was for schools that were looking at substantive change, not just dressing up traditional school. The big debate at NECC this year was whether the bricks and mortar of schools were still viable, or needed a complete reworking.
Day 2 had a public forum debate — was provocative, passionate and showed some insight into the promise and peril schools face (Michael Horn was on the panel as was Gary Stager and Cheryl Lemke). Tape video archive here.
So I do believe traditional K-12 education is in peril — both because of its inability to adapt to a new world, and because there are forces in learning that it has not been able to address. I believe to survive school must become a learning environment that utilizes what we know about learning and technology. Homeschoolers have known this for a long time — if you start by understanding the child, build rich powerful learning around their interests, use the community, mentors and experts to support their learning goals, then you end up with a powerful experience. For most of our students today, school is still just “one thing after another” 5, 6 or seven classes a day of disconnected information with little opportunity for students to explore their own interests, or event input. Recent study of classroom interaction in schools showed that in a typical day student has rare few minutes of opportunity to express their own thinking — how can that still be happening with what we know about how the brain works, and how knowledge is constructed?
so what will education be like, or more to the point what should it be like? Using the best that technology can offer to individualize and diversified learning, in using the bricks and mortar as a learning center where learners of all ages come together to work in a community under the guidance of learning experts has promise and has already been implemented in charter reform efforts with great success.
Caveat — if you didn’t see the recent article about the Microsoft school of the future failure, it is worth looking at as an example of putting the wrong things in place in the wrong order. ESchool news had an article on this recently here.

NECC Summary Saturday June 27

NECC Summary

This document is the summary report for this year’s conference. Thinking about what’s most readable, I decided to do a little differently. I’ll summarize all five days in a paragraph or two here, and then if you wish you can look for the detailed notes, which are more “bullet style” but have specific tools and links as well as as many comments as I could cram in while I was typing with my laptop and tweeting. Caveat emptor!
After note — for the sake of readability, I broken down each post by day — that way the documents won’t be too far apart from the information that refers to them.

Saturday June 27

The morning was a session with Robert Craven from Orange County Florida with the title “Construction Paper for the 21st Century: Google and Free Tools”. great session with really good planning and resources listed. We spent a good part of the time using tools in Google — particular Google docs. For example we made a survey, and then were able to take it and collect data — including on mobile devices like my iPhone.
We spend time using the collaborative features, and talked about the way these can be used in the classroom.
We spent the second half of the session talking about other free and open tools he has a wonderful list of these on his website but a few of the ones in particular that he drew attention to were thinkature, Voicethread (probably the cool thing here that I learned was how easy it was to post a voice comment using a cell phone — this was very cool!), and more.
One of the things you’ll find on his site, are screen cast videos of many of the tasks needed to accomplish the activities. This resource is a great one and I appreciate the work Robert took the This time to build a useful library for interested teachers.

The afternoon session was with Vicki Davis with the title “cell phones for classrooms, calendars, and life management”.
The best part of the session was our first hour or so was spent talking more about philosophy and policy — everything from legal precedent for students that do inappropriate things, to a conversation with the group attending about their current school philosophy and where we need to go. She showed us a video that the George Lucas foundation made about her and her students here:

nice idea — she had us role-play a few true court cases (student pulls down teachers pants, films and posts on you tube) it gave us a chance to get to know each other, weigh in on our thinking, and be active about this material. Nice modeling of her work.

great resource to help with policy — book by lisa guerin “smart policies for workplace technologies” definitely worth giving to help consider some of these devices and how we can correctly articulate expectations to staff students and parents.

She then spent time developing a theoretical model for the types of activities that cell phones can support, and the point at which they become viable either because enough students have them, the cost is no longer prohibitive, and they take the place of another device more powerfully.

one of the cool things that we did at the end was take a list of cell phone technologies and use their mobile devices in small groups, then show them to the rest of the participants. For instance, myself and my partner Adam took pictures on our mobile devices (iPhone, Blackberry) and e-mailed it to our Ning site. this works as well with video! The power of this can’t be missed stated — students in the fields, could be taking pictures and posting directly from their phones to a community learning site to build a database of images, documentation.

in the “you heard it here first” category, she mentioned that one of the new trends we’ll should be looking at is QR codes. These have the ability to embed information that mobile devices can scan and playback. She feels (correctly so I believe) that we are going to see these become embedded in many objects soon.

She keeps an excellent set of resources here:

Her website for the presentation is:

I did grab the text version of the back channel and posted with this blog as well.

all the notes are located
or here

Payton Dobbs June 5, 2009

At the Honolulu Board of realtors meeting on June 5, we had the chance to hear Payton Dobbs, who leads Googles effort in e-commerce. he shared seven key ideas emerging for anyone involved in thinking about technology overlays with their development. There is nothing here that is terribly groundbreaking, but what is significant is someone as high up in Google really identifying the importance of these things — they are all relevant to our mission education and are worth taking to heart:

mobile Internet will explode — gave lots of relevant examples of how cell phones and smart phones are becoming the primary way by which people use and learn with the Internet. Good example — Apple iPhone 60% of the phone use is for not making phone calls. Lots of other examples of 3G growth, preponderance of mobile phones in populated areas like India, China, Japan, etc. Japanese teens spend two hours a day on their mobile phones — not talking. Examples of people authoring books entirely in the cell phone.

Maps are a key interface — again, give examples of how tools like Google Earth have changed the way people view the world. This is not a huge surprise to me (Mark) since my interest in tools like GIS have been around for a decade. What is interesting to me, is that we’ve skipped over GIFs as a tool and gone straight to rich intuitive tools like maps on the iPhone, Google Earth on the Internet to understand the world. A good example of this is the number of students we see in the Weinberg Tech Plaza that spend part of the day using Google Earth to look for surf spots, find their friends, and take tours of places they have not been. The new features in iPhoto for geo-tagging are another example of this becoming more prevalent.
The divide between the web and desktops will this appear. This is essentially the argument for cloud computing and there is no doubt that we are seeing the emergence of tools like smart phones and networks. He made the case that within a few years most people will ask that their data to be in the cloud, so they have access to contacts, documents, information matter where they are. Is the fact that our teachers cannot access their files from home another example of how we are disconnected from this movement?
Everything will connect — previously inanimate objects will now be connected. He gave us his example the significance of RFID as a technology. The fact that devices will become smart enough to know what they are how they are connected to other objects around them is an example of the way technology drives innovation. If our refrigerator knows that milk is spoiling, if our car knows conditions are unsafe, if objects in the supermarket know our likes and dislikes, it will greatly change the way you interact with the objects around us — and how they will interact with us!
The web will be more personal and social — his observation was that people were less and less distinguishing between online and face-to-face interaction. We are already seeing this with the school age generation who see talking to and using tools like text, avatars, as real conversation and relationship. Another example of this is using online interfaces for medical advice — something which used to be the purview of the doctor’s office has become a much more online experience and moving more that way. He advocated for all businesses (and schools?) To have a social area of this site to build a community that will bring conversation, creation, and commitment to those focused around that organization.
Internet will be the primary platform for media — we see lots of examples of this recently with releases of Hulu, YouTube, and Flickr, Picasa, etc. For me, personally, this begs the question of platform independence — when we are reaching the point that media including tools like Voicethread now, and potential video editing sites are just n the horizon, is the fact that right now the Macintosh is the weapon of choice for media development for most schools, a long-term reality for a short-term phenomena?
Going green is here to stay — he gave lots of examples of Google’s own efforts to be green — solar generation test projects that are fully online, electric car hybrids being developed, and just the nature of the need for us to all live within their means that the earth gives us. I think the example of Hawaii preparatory Academy’s new energy lab as a model in this venue — I am excited for what it will mean when it will become a model for schools to consider how to best utilize the resources around them.

he finished with the quote below — recognizing that for many in businesses and schools that these changes will not be easy or comfortable. They are however, the reality we are looking into and we disregard any of these to our own peril.
. Catherine the great –
“there is a great wind blowing and will either cause imagination or a headache “


The Met Part 2

this is the second part of my visit to the Metropolitan school in Providence Rhode Island.
The earlier notes are published in the blog under part one…

lunch with some of the teachers
a tour by Alicia
some sitdown time with some of the students
in participation in a student exhibition as part of their judging panel
— I’ll try to get this post tomorrow

Nancy brought me to one of the building lunchroom’s — I should explain that there are four main buildings on campus and Senate each of the four corners of the property beaches labeled liberty, justice, unity when I can’t remember the fourth of a speech building holds something on the order of eight advisories — two for each grade level.
So I have lunch in one of these buildings with some teachers. we talked about the challenge of the environment — some of the teachers were advisers, a few were LTIs which I think students with learning something integrators — in a sense they’re specialists that help shepherd the process and actress resources for students and advisers. one of the teachers I spoke to, Dennis, was very willing to share the challenge is that his experience has — he had been a traditional teacher in Florida — green biology was his degree work, and he had been teaching Marine science, biology, and environmental science in Florida.
He came up to Rhode Island he was looking for a new environment to teach — and so had to transition to this new paradigm. We talked a bit about the challenge and he was very positive about the adjustment and in going from teaching a single subject, to being a generalist in his advisory role. (This was his second year at the school). The agreed with many of the things that Nancy had told me about the need for organization, the chaos of day-to-day learning (it’s messy), and the truly wonderful pleasure of seeing every student in your advisory being engaged in real work.
If I remember more, I’ll add here about my lunch conversations… I didn’t take notes here because I was eating and talking at the same time
after lunch, I joined the tour with a group of about 15 students from Keene State College in New Hampshire — liberal arts majors they look so young, they look like the students!
The tour was led by a senior — Alicia and we looked at the different buildings and campus including the media Center and the wellness Center. she was another example of a great, highly engaged students. Her brother goes to a more traditional school and I asked her about how that difference plays out and she admitted theft there are days of very different.
One of the interesting parts of the tour, was the media Center which is pretty much managed by a single individual — Brian Mills — he is a daunting task of managing performance space, and their media Center which includes a studio, editing equipment, audio equipment, etc. He clearly has a lot of work — even though he doesn’t have an advisory he works long days and nights to maintain all the resources needed (will see an example of that at the two o’clock exhibition that we attended)

after the tour we were able to sit down with two students — hope and allysa so that we could ask them about their experiences at school. Hope was a senior who had spent the last three years at the New England aquarium working as a exhibit guide, a behind the scenes exhibit curator, and in the medical area working with animals. Her goal was veterinary science. I think she also may have been interested in marine biology as a secondary topic.
Alyssa was new to the school (three months) — she had spent the last couple of years volunteering at a therapeutic writing center — this was before she came to the school. The reason her parents applied her, was the opportunity for her to more fully be involved in the writing Center is a part of her curriculum — and it was clear she was highly motivated by her commitment and her love of working at the center. She admitted that they had become so dependent on her during her internship at if she wanted to switch to a different internship he would probably affect their program adversely. If one of the questions we asked him the students was anything that they would like to see that the program doesn’t have, and a couple of students venture that they’d like a little more rigor in their mathematics and science. I remember in talking to Dennis about Clay Christensen and it struck me that the possibility of using well-designed online learning modules might well fill in some of this gap that falls outside of their internship and advisory experiences in school
what was striking about all the students that we spoke to was their sense of commitment, ownership,

I next attended an exhibition of work from an 11th grade student (Angie). there were about 20 people in the room that she presented her work to and she had about 1 1/2 hours to do this. The group included students, other teachers, her parents, and some members from the community including her mentor. Essentially, at the end of each stage of learning, the students present an exhibition — this was her third quarter exhibition of learning. And this was the highlight of her work
so the highlights of exhibitions — how did the student meet the goals in their learning plan?
How could a student go deeper?
We were give in a form to comment on the quality of the presentation on evidence of learning
there were five A’s that we were asked to comment on:
active learning
academic rigor
adult relationships

for her learning plan, she started by talking about her 75 page autobiography that is due for all students when they graduate. At this point, she has 30 pages completed to date (keep in mind this is due for her in a year and a half.)
She she did a facing history Project and she talked about how she had worked at speaking at a conference regional CES (? This is what my notes say the conference was called) with her mentor, who is a college professor.
In working with her mentor, she worked with teacher development programs, and looked at how she created a product for looking at under served children in the community
for quantitative reasoning she did comparisons of To student teacher is then look numerically at why one was a better candidate than another
for reading she gave examples of some of the books she had read the power of ideas, one person at a time learning goals,

There was a lot of conversation about how they prepare students for college. In particular, they made a point of talking about how they worked on creating a great profile that was more in lines that colleges want to see. Essentially they wanted to get this right.

Back to Angie -in her mentorship she worked with the principal read the evaluations, talk to students, use the observation tools for teacher professional growth. She looked at their reflections, their notes, is very powerful — she was able to see how people write in improving what they do.
Her goal is to do more administrative professional development for teachers after college.
Then, she showed us her project-the video archive of exhibition work from the MET
the purpose was to help newer teachers see what a good quality project looks like. Also, it’s possible to use in class with incoming students and with professional development to help both students and teachers develop a more refined sense of what an exhibition should look like. (Mark’s note to himself — got to read Alfie Cohen’s work on homework)
for her video project need to see the artifacts in the documents to understand what’s happening.
to accomplish this project, she taught herself Final Cut Pro in the use of all the equipment (cameras, microphones, audio interface, etc.) — impressive! She also had to spend many hours entity, as she did to camera shots to show both with the student is doing and a larger view of how the audience plays a role in the exhibition.
All in all a wonderful example of powerful and directed exhibition of quality work that wrapped around self designed and implemented projects that are real and effective.

I have also posted some pdf of school documents here:

Visit to Francis Parker Essential School

Summary of my visit to Francis Parker Essential school in Devins, Mass
April 7, 2009

My point of contact was Rebecca Kane
when we first met, she explained some of the general philosophy of the school:
juniors and seniors spend 60 hours getting back to school (school service project work)
they also are required to do senior seminar at Spanish is their fifth class
they spend time in the community
their schedule has three divisions: 7-8, 9-10, 11-12. These are called division one, two, three
there is an academic Dean who works on the schedule for the kids — the academic Dean works extensively with Division III students this is where they have their senior project
students need a portfolio for graduation and need to fill this.
For their transcripts for college, they still don’t put grade point averages or grades — it is all narrative
their experience has been that colleges now have “traditional” and “nontraditional” piles
for the Division III class the students spend an hour six times a day
for the Division I and II classes, students spend two hours in interdisciplinary classes three times per day
it talked about gateways into division two research projects
learning habits and learning how to learn and creating independent work is if the goal here
not a focus on facts, but knowing how to apply knowledge is a universal conversation on campus
I observed a Division III class on Shakespeare with Josie
why do they allow this? It allows students to fill up their portfolios with more individualized/teacher choice courses, and also to get exposure to a more college like disciplinary experience.
The students were talking in the class about abject jealousy (MacBeth)
Josie’s class felt more like a seminar — 13 students in a roundtable format with heavily dogeared and annotated text of Shakespeare talking about themes within the text and the readings.
Marks note-what are teacher and student roles here? students are the ones who are requested to create, express, interpret the work
student makes a comment about a blog when students mentioned that weapon is a broadsword and not a dagger — it is clear the students have spent much outside of time working on building their knowledge for this conversation
students asking questions appears about rationale choices they’ve made in their descriptions
interesting point: for the hour that I observed percent of student talking 85% percent the teacher talking 15% in the process of 20 minutes each student has at least a few minutes to share and demonstrate their understanding in their ideas about the current reading – all students are engaged and involved – leaning forward
interesting: sign on the board — post your ideas on the blog!
yet still, paper here (text, original media, readers, etc.)

next I visited a division to math/science class
this class was a little more traditional, and the teacher mentioned that they do something called in class content assessment (ICCA). in other words they do in class testing — although they do not post grades for the work students do externally. In this particular class that I observed, the science part were talking about simple machines, and the math were measuring heights using tools that they would later develop in the semester to look at scale
today’s lesson was really the “hook”-the teachers were
the activity was to find how tall objects were given some simple guidelines about measurement (cannot directly measure, must come up with a strategy, must be able to explain your method to class reasonably)
a few things I saw — students were allowed to bring in food and gum into the class and seemed respectful of this — clean up after themselves, etc.
it did seem that in the math and science integrated class the activities were much more teacher led, not student driven. There was on the other hand, a built-in expectation that students were going to try things potentially fail and compare what methods worked and what didn’t. The teacher did not give specific instructions on how to do the activities at hand.
The two advisers go between the groups discussing the methods to see what they did.
Students were given a challenge I asked a student as we are walking down the hall what do you think of this process of learning? His answer: “hard as hell!”
Talked to Nathan (teacher) about the school planning conditions for this I talked to both teachers about planning time and how they hand off curricula etc. They stressed how important the long planning time was to develop coherence in their curricula
class conversations on the differing ways they measured interesting process to draw how the students what they know and what they need to know to solve the problem better
Later, I was allowed to talk to a student — Paul I had met him earlier in the Shakespeare class
I found him confident, he was an artist who would’ve looked ordinary in our campus in the theater department.
The senior project he chose was on tribal mystics
some of the things that he observed he feels ready to learn anywhere and anyhow — not worried about what he might’ve missed in a universal curriculum, as he feels prepared to move forward
wishes they’d spent more money on arts, as that is not one of the main focuses of the school
he said from his experience 50% of the work they do on campus’s revision and reflection that this is part of their process and everything they do
he felt the feedback is part of their process that is significant — he has friends in college and in other schools and are frustrated by work that they submit and then they never get an opportunity to receive feedback on the status — a frustrating thought
College for the students at his school he feels that they don’t have problems because being an independent learner is something that they’ve been asked to do since they came to the school
I had lunch with one of the teachers-Laura she was a Division I well-being teacher and Nathan who I observed in the division to math class we talked a bit about the advisories, and how they are so powerful. It is often like our homeroom structure at mid-Pacific, where the students are with the teacher for the four years at the school meet with them every day at the beginning for 10 minutes and at the end for 10 minutes and once a week for an hour to do an extended activity. It was noticeable, that their culture for their homeroom students was much more involved than ours — they related stories of taking their students out to field trips, planning home visits where the cost or did arts and crafts, much more of a family feeling that I found most of our homes. Not sure if this is cultural and they just managed to convert what can be a mundane process into something much more social, but it was powerful to see that this really works for them
the essential structure of their school is in the documents that I have PDF, but in a nutshell:
grade 7 and eight — students attend a two-hour math science integrated lesson (22 students to team teachers), students then attended a two-hour social studies and language arts integrated lesson (the same structure), there is lunch, and then they have a two-hour Spanish and health and well-being integrated class
notice here, there is no differentiated groupings — all students take the exact same classes it is homogeneous — and purposely so
Grades nine and 10 — same as above
grades 11 and 12 – students now have six one-hour blocks in the same schedule, or they can take a more “elective” experience — Shakespeare, AP biology, etc.
moving from division to division is based on presentation of work — an exhibition
these are called gateways and they literally are what allow students to move from one to the other
one of the lines about their assessment — “students can gateway from one division to the next through successful completion of a Gateway portfolio. Students Gateway one domain at a time. It is entirely possible for students to be in different divisions for different domains.”
So what’s my general impressions of the school?
Still an amazing environment that is student centered, as easily identifiable rigor, relevance, and relationship. This is a school that most teachers would feel more comfortable in, as they still saw a traditional relationship and schedule, content, and day. What is very different are some notable things:
a teacher’s typical day is a two-hour block of team teaching 24 kids, another two hour block team teaching 24 kids, and a two-hour block for planning and curriculum development. This is a tremendous difference from our current way of working with teachers, students, and scheduled
the catch is what you need to give up in order to accomplish this — all students take the same contents for the first four years, there is only one language, there are no “specials” — art, theater, religion, technology…these things are all embedded in the 3 domains vast are defined in division one and two.
Highly recommend you take a look at the school documents in PDF format – they are posted on the following link