Sunday, November 27, 2011

Re-enlisting as a Digital Teacher

I told my boss last week that I want to continue teaching.  This is hardly an earth-shattering announcement as I have been teaching every school year since I started in 1975.  And now I am down to one class, since I have other duties.  So it is not necessary that I continue, but I think I'd like to do so.

Having a great group of students makes it an easier decision.  So does the fact that it gives me a nice oasis of familiarity in the middle of the somewhat random events that come my way when I wear my administrators hat.

But there is something else going on as well.  before I shifted roles in the building, I was really trying to stretch myself by bringing leveraging the technology we have at school and experimenting with Challenge Based learning.  This year I have lots of this stuff going on in my class but nothing that I consider brand new.  Now, that I've gotten a bit used to my new routine, I'd like to plan forward a few new techie tricks.

In other words, if this blog is going to truly feature "commentary on educational technology from down in the trenches",  I better make sure I keep both feet down there (at least once a school day).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Six Interesting Reads

Saginaw high school students find 2 Lake Huron shipwrecks

The M.F. Merrick, a schooner that was hit in dense fog and sank with all five hands aboard in 1889, is one of the shipwrecks uncovered by the students. Above is its wheel. Photos from Project Shiphunt
"The best kind of learning is hands-on," he said of the Lake Huron adventure. "This wasn't just about finding a shipwreck. This was a lesson in life. ... They came in with doubts about what they could do. ... They did the work. They ran the equipment. They were the crew. What they achieved, well, it was beyond dreams."

When Schools Are Forced to Rely on Sheep

 In one area, cash-strapped schools are now using sheep, instead of lawnmowers, for lawn care. . . . .You know, nothing says “21st century global superpower” like schools turning to sheep because they can’t afford lawnmowers.

Should the U.S. Government Trust the Cloud?

The biggest advantage cloud computing offers governments is the areas efficiency and affordability. In his 25-point proposal to reform federal IT, outgoing U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra identified cost savings as one of the main justifications for adopting the "cloud first" approach to federal IT he advocates.

Math and Science: Out of the Classroom, Into the World

It’s great to be a student these days. The opportunities to learn math, science, technology and engineering have come such a long way from the days of sitting through interminable hours of watching teachers solve equations and explain complicated theories on the chalkboard. . . . . 

With access to a computer or mobile device, apps and websites, students can have a completely different learning experience – one that resonates within the digital world they live.


Flickr CC Photo by Urban Gazelle
How to Fix Our Math Education
There is widespread alarm in the United States about the state of our math education. The anxiety can be traced to the poor performance of American students on various international tests . . . . All this worry, however, is based on the assumption that there is a single established body of mathematical skills that everyone needs to know to be prepared for 21st-century careers. This assumption is wrong.

The Dog-eared Paperback-- Newly Endangered in an E-Book Age
A comprehensive survey released last month by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group revealed that while the publishing industry had expanded over all, publishers’ mass-market paperback sales had fallen 14 percent since 2008.
“Five years ago, it was a robust market,” said David Gernert, a literary agent whose clients include John Grisham, a perennial best seller in mass market. “Now it’s on the wane, and e-books have bitten a big chunk out of it.”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quotes about "Mr. Meatloaf" and other Important Matters

Mr. Meatloaf photo by Steffen Löwe Gera  
"Schools need to shift from differentiation to customization/personalization.  They need to allow students to define relevance and meaning, to sift through multiple media choices, to organize information according to the meaning they create rather than the teacher-driven transmission of conceptual systems.  Schools could also learn to create fewer options and provide more freedom, relying on the power of freedom and simplicity to generate creativity and authenticity." -- John T. Spencer

"Entertainers get honorifics in the Times, so you’ll read stories about the Rolling Stones you’ll see references to Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards. (The Times reviewer of this Meat Loaf concert apparently couldn’t bring himself to writing the laugh-out-loud 'Mr. Loaf,' and just used 'Meat Loaf' throughout.)" -- Dan Gillmor

"Few technology uses are cooler than FaceTime video chatting with your child when you're separated by many miles." -- Wesley Fryer

"While the iPad has been outselling the Mac for a few quarters now, remarkably, the iPad is now already bigger business than the Mac overall (the Mac obviously has a much higher average selling price, which had kept it ahead). Apple sold more than twice as many iPads as Macs last quarter.iPod sales continue to fall fast (down 20 percent year over year) and that’s with the strong-selling iPod touch, which makes up more than half of all iPod sales." -- MG Siegler
"I always hated working in groups as a student. But now, I work with groups all the time. In some ways, I couldn't function professionally without my network. That network -- that group ever changing and evolving in thought and substance -- is the circulatory system at the heart of what I think about when I think about education." -- Shelly Blake-Plock

"If you’re a public school educator in the U.S. right now, how can you not be angry? How can you not be doing something, even if it is just a profanity laced Tweet? The profession is being trampled. Politicians and businessmen with no background in education are driving reform. And our students are stuck in a system that still thinks it’s the 19th Century. By any standard, including the tests, our kids are not being well served, especially those who live in poverty." -- Will Richardson

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Shifting Landscape

Lenovo ThinkPad
I've been guiding work on a major technology plan since midsummer.  Major decisions are impending on curriculum, cloud hosting, ebooks, and teacher training.  But the centerpiece of the study has been the road map for our 1:1 computing program.  And the biggest immediate decision concerns the device we will use next year on our journey.

It's incredible how fast the computing world around us has been moving.  Since we started this study . . . .

* Our current provider, HP, has plotted to leave and then later after firing its CEO,  support its hardware division.
* We examined three HP Touch Pads that were discontinued shortly after they arrived.
* We just received a cool Lenovo ThinkPad tablet that was only released a few weeks ago.
* We saw an iPad2 demonstration knowing full well that if adopted we would likely be using iPad3 by next school year.

And of course the laptop market is evolving as well.  We have too many choices and too little certainty.  All this convulsiveness is exciting but stressful.  Essentially we can barely see the future as it may appear a year from now, let alone what  it will look like when our incoming freshwomen will graduate

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Toolkit for Challenge Based Learning

It was fun discovering, recently, that four of my Challenge Based Learning movies have been grouped together in iTunes under "Toolkit for Challenge Based Learning".  I made these in 2010 after working on this project with fellow Apple Distinguished Educators at Full Sail University in Florida.  The marvelous Katie Morrow spear-headed this project.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Day Has Come for M-Hub

From "Meet M-Hub"
Wow, it's really happening.  We invited 50 women to fill out our survey to "M-Hub" this week.  Here's the invitation:  

I welcome you to be among the very first "mentors" to visit the M-Hub web site and fill out the "Mentor Survey".  This information will not be searched by our students until January, 2012.  In the mean time we will use these first entries to test out our system.  Then, if all goes according to plan we will invite all MHS alumnae to fill out the survey soon and then orient our faculty to the site in 2012.

We are thrilled to reach this point with you.  It's been a hard long, slog since March 2010. Thank you for participating and welcome to M-Hub!  

For all our team,
Larry Baker

The surveys started coming in at once from as far away as Beijing, China.  The purpose of all this?  As our home page says, 

M-Hub enables members of the Mercy community to share their knowledge with current students. For example, students can search for Mercy community members based on various areas of expertise -- such as professional titles, hobbies, college alma mater, community service or location -- and then connect with them to gain information.

As far as I know, this is a unique secondary school venture.  I'm sure we're in for a bumpy ride going forward, but it's exciting to have reached this point in our journey.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Today is Open House

Screen Capture from MHS Open House Site
Today, Mercy will be hosting its Open House.  I'll be posted in the Media Center where instead of a featuring a particular 1:1 computing device, we will have students on hand who will demonstrate or comment upon activities such as

* a science app on the iPod Touch
* Art Rage animations
* a video explaining how a class uses its Ning
* a video created for Spanish class contest
* a e-portfolio demonstration
* the M-Hub web site.

We are not stressing a device for the practical reason that we are in the process of switching.  But more importantly, why stress the tool itself?  Anyone can buy it tool.  It's what one does with it that makes a difference.  As I noted at a staff blog earlier this year:

Why are we stressing our tools or resources? The teachers are by far the best resource.  And sure, a new science lab or huge auditorium needs to be leveraged.  But after that, don't parents want to see how $45,000-$50,000 will affect their kids. (Don't you think the student guides themselves are a major factor?). That's why I keep harping on exhibiting student achievement.   If your department is producing terrific standardized tests, make a chart!  If in math you have produced a doctoral student at M.I.T., play her testimonial.

Now certainly there is a difference between marketing to incoming families and performance based education.  But as we seek authentic audiences for our challenge based learning projects, there is a natural convergence.  One year I sat at two long tables of books with a couple of tenth graders who explained what they were doing in their bookless course.  Sure, folks poked at the books, but they seemed more engaged by the girls.

I think we are on the right track.  Why put our a bunch of books or gadgets?  As we usually do, I'm anticipating that the students and staff will be the ones who "close the deal" at Open House.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Design, Context, Flipped, and other Links

From "The Power of Design . . . ."
The Power of Design and Visualization Data
There’s a growing recognition that design is not simply about making products attractive. A well-designed product, (or space, image, service) can be easier to use, fit better into the flow of people’s lives, suit the needs of a broader range of end-users, increase productivity, and even influence emotions (which in turn can influence cognition). Sectors as hard-nosed and utilitarian as healthcare and manufacturing are now taking the “soft” subject of design very seriously.
Blog Post:

Bring Your Own Context
If I am processing audio, I want to be on a Mac. If I am tweeting on the bus, I want to be on a smartphone. If I am reading the news, I want to kick back with a tablet. If I am learning a new language, my iPod will do just fine.

Can Apple Products Pave the Way to Personalized Learning?
But as ZDNet’s Christopher Dawson recently noted, “the jury’s still out” on the success of these deployments. Despite the move towards a more paper-free classroom and despite all the new apps and e-books available, it’s hard to know if the adoption of the Apple devices — the tablets as well as iPod Touches — is necessarily changing things. Without adjusting classroom instruction to take full advantage of a one-to-one classroom, many of these schools are just doing the “same old thing” but using more expensive tools to do so. And the operative word here may be “expensive” too.

Learners, Not Knowers
This is why we should all be feeling an acute urgency right now to take back the definition of what “learning” really is in a world filled with content and teachers and personalization. It’s not an easy task, especially when test scores and grades take such precedence in the conversation. Don’t get me wrong; there is some opportunity in the use of technology to prepare kids at a content level for the bigger learning conversations to come, the conversations that we need real teachers for, the ones which develop the dispositions of learning that are uniquely human.

Radical Flip at Macomb County School Getting Results

And when kids do homework in class, they're getting help from their teacher rather than parents who might struggle with the material. Teachers say flipping at times quadruples the amount of time they spend working directly with students -- ensuring students have a firm grasp of the lesson.
The initial success has gained Clintondale and Green some notice in national education circles. Green's a hot ticket at teacher conferences and has been speaking to packed rooms.

The Rise (and Fall?) of Text Messaging in Schools
It’s an indication that text-messaging is becoming recognized as a powerful tool that schools should find a way to use. It’s one that can keep students engaged in class (though that idea remains fairly controversial, as cell phones are still viewed by many as a distraction). And it’s one that can help bridge the communication gulf between home and school.

But just as text-messaging may be on the cusp of widespread adoption in schools, there are rumblings in other sectors that text-messaging is dead. Or more accurately, perhaps, that text-messaging should simply die.

Blog Archive