## Monday, December 31, 2012

### 2012 Greatest Hits: Means of Assessment in Challenge Based Learning

As the year ends, I will republish the Drive-thru's five most viewed posts of 2012.  This was #1.

As I indicated in Learning from Failuredespite the fact that their solutions came up short I was assured that my students actually achieved significant objectives during their Challenge Based Learning projects.  I used a number of means to measure the achievement of these objectives.

Though these varied devices, I was able to arrive at individual "grades" despite the fact that they had worked entirely within groups. It is worth noting even though there were very few "A's", I received  no complaints about grades.  The final grade was my "gestalt" evaluation based on several modes of assessment:

* Early in the process, I surprised students by sending them off with their cell phones\to record impromptu audio reflections. They were asked to describe the research they had done for guiding questions, the contributions they had or had not made to the group thus far, what others would say about their contributions, and who in the group had distinguished herself through her contributions. I strongly recommend such a mid-process exercise because it implicitly calls students to task without a scolding or pep talk.

* I put a high premium on group presentations as assessments. Groups are urged not to strain to convince us of how much they accomplished. Instead, they are instructed to describe their journeys toward their solutions, remarking on the high points and pitfalls along the way. They are told to address specific topics, such as "What would you have done differently? What would you have done with more resources or time?

*During the presentations, their peers completed a rubric, scoring them on the criteria that had been established for the presentations. I, too, completed a rubric and jotted down comments. When I was absent one day, my sub completed these forms and later I did too while watching them on video.

* The group filled out a rubric together on different aspects of their CBL. This measured their solutions, presentation, methods of testing their solutions, etc.

* They concluded with an 8-10 minute video with the following instructions:

Please put your 8-10 minute culminating video reflection in our shared dropbox file by class time on May 1 (no extensions). If you have trouble with dropbox you can use a thumb drive in a sealed envelope with your name clearly indicated.

Your individual reflection focuses on your unique contribution and reflection. You may go beyond the time limit but ten minutes of prepared thoughts should do the trick. Here were the original goals of the project. To what degree were these achieved with you? If they weren’t achieved, please clearly note whether they were the fault of the group dynamic, you personally, or the project itself.

Goals
*Students will acquire greater political efficacy.
*Students will solve a difficult challenge.
*Students will learn to develop instruments of assessment.
*Students will show initiative.
*Students will become policy entrepreneurs.
*Students will acquire greater ability to collaborate.

You should also freely reflect on your own unique experiences and contributions.

There are many aspects of this particular project that I would change the next time around, but I was very satisfied with the assessments.

## Sunday, December 30, 2012

### 2012 Greatest Hits: Using Challenge Based Learning in an AP Class - Critical Thinking

 CC Image from core.org.cn

As the year ends, I will republish the Drive-thru's five most viewed posts of 2012.  This is  #2.

When I give presentations on Challenge Based Learning, I often drawn examples form my AP American Government and Politics class.  Occasionally listeners are skeptical about being able to "fit" this kind of sprawling project into such a structured curriculum.

It's a fair question, and I frankly find framing a challenge more difficult for a College Board course.  This year, I made a conscious effort to bake some very challenging critical thinking into the CBL.  On the surface this challenge was the most simple and board: "Make a Difference".  But the challenge was qualified in two critical ways:  A) The students were challenged to make a demonstrable difference.  B) Students were called upon to use knowledge they had gained in this particular class.

The latter condition was poorly conceived by me and poorly executed by the students.  While the students were working through the CBL process, they were not given any kind of check point for assuring the the solutions they were moving toward were based on the course concepts.  When they were asked to account for these in their presentations to class after the their solutions had been implemented, it was clear that often the course concepts were applied retroactively-- In other words they did not form an explicit part of the solution development.

On the other hand the demonstrable difference condition notched up the challenge several levels and forced the students to think of their solutions as experiments rather than good works.  It might strike the reader as strange that I would explicitly instruct groups not to turn their CBLs into "service projects."  But given that I teach an political science class, data analysis is a fundamental part of this course, and I wanted them to grapple with it in the field.  For me, the methodology of assessing their solutions was nearly as important as the "good" they intended by them.

Frankly most of the measurements they used were greatly lacking.  However, through this failure, they clearly learned about proper assessment and since the challenge was so difficult, I considered their failures an instructional victory.  I'll discuss this in my next post.

## Saturday, December 29, 2012

### 2012 Greatest Hits: Learning from Failure in Challenge Based Learning

As the year ends, I will republish the Drive-thru's five most viewed posts of 2012.  This is #3.

Under other circumstances it might have been a very grim experience for a teacher to listen to one set of students after another step up before the class and boldly expound upon their failures. I can't say I was gleeful, but theses acknowledgements assured me of two things: 1) The students had accepted that their challenge projects were experiments, where perhaps as much could be learned from failure as success. 2) in some cases that they had fell short of success because they or I had set the bar high (I always urge groups to seek a solution worth failing for).

The context for these admissions of failure were "unpacking" presentations for the entire class (I will describe these further in the next post). The groups were asked among other things to weigh two considerations: 1) Had their solution made a "demonstrable difference" in the community they targeted. 2) What hard evidence had they gathered to come to their conclusion in #1.

All of the teams acknowledged that they had not to their satisfaction made a demonstrable difference. In one case the group had determined to meet with a state or U.S. representative and had been led to believe this would happen in three instances (including time with a U.S. Senator), but had the rug pulled out from under them at the last second. There were surely lessons to be learned here, but none to positive about our system of representative government.

In other cases the teams had to admit that their means of assessment were lacking. Perhaps they had failed to do pre-testing, or had not successfully ruled out other variables for cause and effect interpretation. Ironically, the team with the very best assessment methods had to live with the fact that the results did not offer a shred of demonstrable support that their clever solution had made a difference.

Sure I would love to have touted four terrific solutions to incredibly challenging issues. But I also have no qualms about show-casing failure-- as long as it is connected with learning.

## Friday, December 28, 2012

### 2012 Greatest Hits: The Case of the perfect iPad Case

As the year ends, I will republish the Drive-thru's five most viewed posts of 2012.  This is #4.

Who would have thought that with all we were tackling with Mercy 2.0, that one of the most challenging tasks would be finding a great iPad case to include with the "Mercy iPad Package".

The first consideration of course was whether to include a case at all as part of the package. We were persuaded to do so by two compelling arguments:  1) Giving each girl an Mercy branded iPad. I have already discovered at carrying the iPad in a Mercy case is a great conversation piece for our school and a source of personal pride.  A classy case signifies a classy program.   2) More importantly,  we wanted to hand over the iPads to our kids in a protected condition.  No one wanted to see a screen break from a parking lot drop the first day of ownership.

As we investigated cases, we were immediately challenged by a lack of availability.  Since we were among the very first adopters of the 3rd generation iPad (which are shaped slightly differently than the iPad 2), we could not get our hands on 3rd generation cases. Nevertheless, our Marlin Shop manager did a terrific job of rounding up samples of iPad2 cases.  After looking over dozens, we exhibited the selections which our IT team considered sufficiently protective. Students and staff then visited the exhibition and voted on their favorites.

At this point, we realized we had blundered.  Due to some confusion, we had mistakenly exhibited some very expensive products among those which better fit our budget.  Unfortunately, the #1 choice was about $30 too expensive. This story has a happy ending, however. Though we continued to research possible cases diligently, we also did some hard-nosed negotiating with the producers of the more expensive cases. In the end, we agreed to terms for a large order of our #1 choice of cases at nearly 50% off the retail price. The Mercy case for students is the Powis iCase. It features a gorgeous, classic logo that everyone who has seen it loves. It has an "academic" book-like encasement. As the Powis site will tell you, it also is camera ready. It features, a stylus holder, hand strap, as well as nine different prop-up positions. I believe we have found an iPad case worthy of Mercy 2.0! ## Thursday, December 27, 2012 ### 2012 Greatest Hits: Mercy's iPad App Finalists! As the year ends, I will republish the Drive-thru's five most viewed posts of 2012. This is #5. Last week I met with our blue ribbon app selection committee. These individuals were issued iPad 2s in advance of our order of "new" iPads for the entire staff. Our pioneers explored a wide-range of apps which might be pre-loaded on our staff and student iPads. Since the seventy new staff iPads will soon arrive, we need to pin down our basic starter set. Teachers from art, science, religious studies, health, and social studies have contributed to the selection. Our IT Director and our Associate Principal/Academic Affairs also contributed Here are the finalists. Your feedback is still (and will continue to be) very welcome: Animation Creator-- With simple, yet powerful drawing tools, layers, shake to undo, color palettes, color sliders, and easy to use frame management. http://bit.ly/GO8wrC ArtRage-- A stylish, intuitive painting and drawing package that makes it easy to produce natural looking artwork on your iPad. http://bit.ly/GIcqGr Avid Studio (or iMovie?)-- an easy-to-use app that enables you to edit video, audio, and photos at the speed of your creativity. http://bit.ly/GGvFz7 Calculator+-- designed with simplicity, usability http://bit.ly/GPimr8 CloudOn-- lets you view, edit, and create Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents on your tablet, which can then be saved directly to your Dropbox. http://bit.ly/zzlBu7 Dragon Dictation-- voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. http://bit.ly/GHLDTv Dropbox-- Simple to use and extremely useful, this file synchronization app will keep all of your files in step. http://bit.ly/GGPtxu EMD PTE-- a new education app which provides teachers and students extensive information about the periodic table of the elements. http://bit.ly/GGQENt Evernote-- helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. Makes these notes completely searchable. http://intel.ly/GGbhL8 Flipboard-- Aggregates news, images, video, social networking updates, and shared links in a magazine-style layouts. http://bit.ly/GJvL7g Gmail-- brings Gmail "push notifications" to iPad meaning that you can be notified the moment a new message hits the Gmail servers. http://huff.to/GN1ruO Google-- presents you with big, colorful links to several Google services, including Calendar, Docs, Google+, Picasa, YouTube and Google Books. http://ti.me/GGbuP9 iAnnotate-- "go-to app" for taking notes on lecture slides, annotating important business documents, revising screenplays, grading papers. http://bit.ly/GIm1gs iPhoto-- really powerful image manipulation tools here and yet Apple has made them simple to use thanks to instinctive touchscreen controls. http://tgr.ph/GGFSeW  ITunes U app icon iTunesU-- gives access to complete courses from leading universities and other schools — plus the world’s largest digital catalog of free education content. http://bit.ly/GGibQz Keynote-- Keynote allows you to create, edit, and share multimedia presentations with graphics, animations, and charts. http://bit.ly/GI8O0F Kindle-- gives users the ability to read Kindle books, newspapers, magazines, textbooks and PDFs on a beautiful, easy-to-use interface. http://bit.ly/GGOH8T LanSchool-- allows teachers to manage computer activities in the classroom from Apple's new device. http://bit.ly/GH1e7f Noteshelf-- Noteshelf is the handwriting note taker that features super natural digital ink. Export your notes to Evernote or Dropbox. OneNote-- Create searchable notes with text, pictures and bullets. Then keep your notes in sync using free Microsoft SkyDrive. http://bit.ly/GFKnCO Pages-- Create, edit, and view documents wherever you are. Pages works with iCloud and looks brilliant on Retina display. http://bit.ly/GHvnag PowerTeacher -- Is designed to integrate with Pearson's student information system, PowerSchool. http://bit.ly/GMQdX6 Prezi Viewer-- View and present your prezis anywhere with simple, intuitive multitouch gestures. http://prezi.com/ipad/ Pulse News Reader-- An RSS client that displays your feeds in a simple grid configuration that scrolls horizontally and vertically. http://zd.net/GRu4Tt ShowMe-- ShowMe allows you to record voice-over whiteboard tutorials and share them online. Extremely easy to use http://bit.ly/GMsIsp Wolfram Alpha-- Alpha is a long-term project to make every bit of systematic knowledge available and, more importantly, computable. http://macw.us/GHTi4V Word Web Dictionary-- fast searching, spelling suggestions, definitions, usage examples, synonyms, related words. http://bit.ly/GOdreM ## Sunday, December 23, 2012 ### Half a Dozen Eclectic Tech Links Why the iPad mini? One word: Textbooks For many, the iPad mini means that Apple will be a choice in a market where formerly parents might have felt priced out of buying. A smaller screen size and fewer options may allow students and their parents -- whether middle school, high school, or college -- to buy into the Apple ecosystem, where they formerly could not. Minneapolis Autism Teachers “blown away" by New Classroom Technology In Minneapolis, teachers and administrators are calling a program named Vizzle an example of how technology can revolutionize special education classrooms. The process the district went through to train teachers on the software is an example of how much commitment it takes to make technology work. 14 Tweets or small “t” truths About Educational Reform Teachers often demonstrate through their own practices that they teach the way they were taught – lectures, tests, maybe some group discussion thrown in. I am on a mission to encourage educators to teach not the way they were taught but the way they wished they were taught . . . better yet, maybe practicing the Platinum rule. The platinum rule extends the golden rule beyond treat others the way you want to be treated. It states that we should treat others the way that they want to be treated. ‘Binders’ are what’s wrong with politics today In this, the first social-media presidential election, the debates have come to resemble reality shows during which virtual audiences cast ballots (and aspersions), hiccoughing their impulse-reactions to every word and movement into the intellectual vacuum we charitably call the body politic. From Theory to Design: Exploring the Power & Potential of ‘Connected Learning,’ Eight Things about Education that Will Change in the Digital Age ## Thursday, December 20, 2012 ### Baker's Half Dozen-- Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind? , etc. Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind?  Creative Commons photo by marc0047 So we face a quandary: How do we use the technologies of computation, statistics and networking to shed light — without killing the magic? This is more than a practical question. It goes to the heart of what we are after as humans. How Should We Respond to Teens' Racist Tweets? Many of those tweeters were teenagers whose public Twitter accounts feature their real names and advertise their participation in the sports programs at their respective high schools. Calls were placed to the principals and superintendents of those schools to find out how calling the president—or any person of color, for that matter—a “nigger” and a “monkey” jibes with their student conduct code of ethics. Educators as Social Networked Learners Learning Goals 1. Use a Personal Learning Network, and explain its value in educational settings. 3. Identify learning theories and researched-based practices that support current approaches to effective use of social network technologies for learning. 4. Analyze strengths and weaknesses of various social networks and information management technologies for a variety of learning goals. 5. Contribute to professional-based social learning networks using a variety of media and communication mechanisms. 6. Identify factors with successful social networks, and create a social learning network-driven course for learners addressing these factors. Why Students Should Blog Girls’ blogs have also launched direct action campaigns that have caused positive social change. Stephanie, 22, wrote a piece in December critiquing a popular toy company’s new line that was marketed for girls. She believed that the company's pink and purple beauty salon reinforced negative gender stereotypes. She was angry. She wrote about it. Her blog post circulated throughout the blogosphere and eventually garnered a Twitter response from the toy company. SPARK decided to take the issue further and launched a petition that was supported by a dozen more blog posts by girls, expressing their charged opinions about the toys. Mass mainstream and social media attention led to a meeting with executives at the toy company. As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living Much as the Web set off the dot-com boom 15 years ago, apps have inspired a new class of entrepreneurs. These innovators have turned cellphones and tablets into tools for discovering, organizing and controlling the world, spawning a multibillion-dollar industry virtually overnight . . . .Yet with the American economy yielding few good opportunities in recent years, there is debate about how real, and lasting, the rise in app employment might be. How to Live without Irony Life in the Internet age has undoubtedly helped a certain ironic sensibility to flourish. An ethos can be disseminated quickly and widely through this medium. Our incapacity to deal with the things at hand is evident in our use of, and increasing reliance on, digital technology. Prioritizing what is remote over what is immediate, the virtual over the actual, we are absorbed in the public and private sphere by the little devices that take us elsewhere. ## Sunday, December 16, 2012 ### To Mini or Not to Mini  iPad mini photo by Lindblom Once we chose iPads for our students, the choices were fairly simple: *The new iPad or the iPad2? *The Basic 16GB of memory or more? *Black or white. We chose the New 32 GB iPad and allowed the students were allowed to choose black or white. As it turned out, no one complained about getting the newest iPad with its great camera and retina screen. The memory size has also worked, No one has hit her limit but many students and teachers have exceeded the standard 16GB of memory. Since things have worked out so well, it would be nice to go with the status quo for one year. However, in the world of mobile computing, a lot changes in a year. For example, Apple introduced the iPad mini. The most obvious reasons to offer this as an option would be price and added mobility. The 32GB model is presently listed for$170 less than the larger one that we use.  And, as widely touted, it is small enough to fit in one hand yet the mini seemingly has the same functionality and runs the same apps as its larger sibling.

When the subject came up at a recent tech meeting, I expressed a concern about burdening ourselves down with selection and inventory.  We have a small team, and one of our greatest successes of Mercy 2.0 was selling our students' devices directly to parents without a hitch.  I am concerned that complications could effect our "customer satisfaction." Furthermore, when I brought up the subject at our recent Open House, parents did not appear to be especially interested.

On the other hand, many of our kids are quite used to reading on a smaller screen-- their phones.  And it would be nice to offer a less expensive option.

Of course the biggest issue would be as to whether the student's learning experience might be effected.  Would the smaller screen hinder the student's ability to take notes, read, run apps, etc.  We obviously need to do some beta-testing in order to find out.  Currently, our iWizards are giving our loaner Mini a test run.

In the mean time we would love to have your comments as feedback.

## Thursday, December 6, 2012

### iWizard's Favorite Apps

When  Lucy Gray met with our ninth grade iWizards, she conducted an ice breaker by asking each one her favorite iPAd app.  Here are the ones they named:

CNN (news)

Gilt  - shopping
Pulse - news
iBooks (2)  - books
Letterpress - game
imbd (2) -movie reviews
Netflix (2) - movie & tv content
8tracks - entertainment
iPhoto -photo editing
ABC Player  - viewing tv content
Roombreak - game
Wanelo - shopping
Pages - Word processing
Autorap - entertainment
iMovie - movie editing
Winnie the Pooh - entertainment
Euchre - game
iAnnotate PDF - workflow for class assignments
Photowonder - photo editing
Easy Bake Oven - entertainment
Goodnotes - assignment and note-taking  workflow
Videostar - video effects

## Monday, December 3, 2012

 Lucy gets the girls organized
Last week, 26 MHS ninth graders spent a full school day with our Mercy 2.0 professional development consultant, Lucy Gray.   Lucy has facilitated staff PD with the staff through the year.  On Friday, she spent a day challenging and organizing this enthusiastic group of freshwomen who had applied or been invited to join this group.  Lucy put them through the paces with a number of activities:

Ice Breaker
Lucy has a great idea for helping our ninth graders become acquainted-- She asked each one to name her iPad "superpower" and favorite app. There was an unanticipated benefit to this conversation.  The girls served as a window into the classroom usage of the iPad and to what degree it had been integrated into their teachers' instructional methods. Their nominated apps were interesting, and I will share them in an upcoming post.

Doing the Research
In anticipation of the day, Lucy, Tom James, and I developed an agenda that we shared with the girls in the form of a Google Doc.  Included in the agenda were links to sites which featured student technology groups which were active elsewhere.  Consequently, after the ice-breaker, the girls did some online research and brainstormed about the mission and activities of our particular group.

 Kern Kelley streamed live to us.
Video Conferencing
Before and during lunch our ninth graders visited Utah, Maine, and Chicago by teleconferencing with Steve HargadonKern KelleyJason Markey.  These three esteemed educators shared their ideas about the formation of student tech groups such as ours.  Kern's description of the Tech Sherpas was particularly helpful.

 Taylor shares her group's ideas.
Plotting a Game Plan
The girls came up with the following consensus on the types of activities they would explore and develop:

• Tech Support
• Live streaming events
• After school drop in sessions
• Screencasted tutorials
• Blog posts with tech tips and advice
• Help with tech orientation for new students
• Weekly tech tips in a blog, on twitter and other social media
• Skits, commercials, and movie trailers around tech use  and being a good  digital citizen
• Promote informal use of tech  outside of school
• Communication
• internal
• external
• Geek spirit
• Communicate with faculty and ststaff  about issues of coincern
• social media
• apps
• procedures

 Ms. Smith shares a comment while Wizards work on the Ning
Building the Ning
The group spent considerable time discussing the platform for future online collaboration. Drawing on Lucy's rich experience in social media we decided on a Ning.

For the last hour of our day together, the group went to Mercy's new iMac lab to work on building the Ning. The Ning is ideal for the group, because it is private, serves as a marvelous place to store media and conduct discussions. The girls also joined task forces on the Ning

Throughout the day I took advantage of my relatively passive role to take pictures and record video about the wizards and other Mercy 2.0 matters.

Without a doubt, November 30, 2012, was one of my favorite all-time days at Mercy.