Sunday, September 27, 2015

Learning Spaces, Rigor, and the Look of Education in a More Open Future

Learning spaces: The subconscious teacher
Imagine yourself within a soft, white room. The room feels safe, perhaps even feminine, not unlike a blank canvas or white egg. Bright, sloping whiteboard walls surround you so every inch of wall space can be drawn upon. Creativity is celebrated here. This is a fresh environment where ideas are free to emerge. Curved, stretchy chairs meet flexible tables, with writable surfaces. Both stand atop Astroturf; a sign of nature and an open field of exploration. The windows are Tetris-shaped and multicolored.

Photo of commons in Hillel Day School by Gary T. Bank
What Will Education Look Like in a More Open Future?
Open learning systems need to promote the freedom to innovate, and therefore the freedom to fail. How many school systems would be allowed such freedom? Fear of failure paralyzes schools and system leaders and is our biggest innovation killer.

5 Tools Students Can Use to Keep Track of Assignments This Year
Fetchnotes is a neat service for creating and keeping notes online. Fetchnotes uses an interface for creating and sharing notes that will feel familiar to Twitter users. When you write a note, just use a hashtag to label your note. Then whenever you want to search for a note just enter a hashtag. For example, if I was a student taking notes in a history course I might use the hashtag "#revolution" for all notes related to revolutions.

The top 10 edtech lessons I’ve learnt after 15 years in schools
3. There’s no such thing as a digital native
Despite the popular myth, no-one is born with a magical ability to understand computers. The inverse is also true, no middle-aged teacher has a mental block on anything developed after 1985.

How Technology Can Increase Rigor In The Classroom
According to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, increasing rigor also requires multiple steps to accomplish the assignment rather than one single step. Instead than simply writing an essay about a famous scientist, students can create a fake Facebook page. Through their research, they must generate information to complete the profile, add friends, “like” pages, and complete status updates. This process is far more complex that a simple writing assignment, and requires multiple steps for completion.

No time for PD? 5 ways to embed it into your day
Instead of sending people out, keep them in. Consider applying your substitute budget to hire subs to take over for staff during a professional development day. Rather than sending educators offsite for training, release them from the classroom for job-embedded training and collaboration.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Maker Movement, Favorite Apps, How Tech Increases Rigor and More!

Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America’s Future
The Maker Movement has the potential to bring techies and non-techies alike into the world of being creators — some hobby-related, but for many, they could end up making great products and selling them online. In fact, Kaplan pointed out that Etsy has become an eBay-like vehicle for makers to sell their products to users around the world. Of course, eBay and Craigslist are also sources for them to sell their created wares.

Teacher Recommended: 50 Favorite Classroom Apps
Educators have become proficient with their favorite classroom apps and are getting more creative with using them to achieve teaching goals. “You are giving them an opportunity to improve their own expectations because they aren’t just dealing with the technology,” Luhtala said. “They are thinking about how to best integrate the innovation with content.”

Titanas via Compfight cc

Tech Tip: Using Mobile Devices to Empower Introverted Students
There are a few platforms, like TodaysMeet and Backchannel Chat that allowyour classes to backchannel, or have an online discussion while watching a video or presentation in the classroom. Participation is as easy as typing and hitting “send” so it feels less threatening and unnatural to an introvert. The transcript of the chat can also be saved as collaborative class notes.

Netflix Refines Its DVD Business, Even as Streaming Unit Booms
Netflix now counts more than 65 million streaming members in more than 50 countries and plans to expand across the world in the next 18 months . . . . Netflix has 5.3 million DVD subscribers, a significant falloff from its peak of about 20 million in 2010.

How Technology Can Increase Rigor In The Classroom
Consider if the teacher did not use analysis vlogs. Instead, he or she simply asked students to write a paragraph or paper comparing and contrasting the texts. Certainly comparing and contrasting is higher level than summarizing, but the technology transforms the activity. With the vlogs, students are required to put themselves in the position of a book reviewer for a TV network. This means they have to analyze the text materials, synthesize the information, and then present it in a manner pertinent to a TV audience, which typically has a short attention span. Therefore, the students must identify the most important points and back them up with evidence, rather than telling everything they know.  These expectations are far more rigorous.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Palettes of Choice and Control in School and Workplace Environments

On Thursday I attended Reocon at NBS Commercial Interiors. Featured at the exhibition was a "Think Better" presentation by Katie Pace of Steelcase. She discussed research pertaining to the cognitive challenges presented to workers and students by the bombardment of "distraction" created by technology. She explained that innovative design of workplaces and schools could increase health, happiness and productivity.

Katie concluded that ideally we should present employees or students with choice and control over their working environments. The variety of choices should provide for . . . . 

"A palette of place"

"A palette of posture"

"A palette of presence"

"A palette of privacy "

At Neocon I saw furnishings that created lounge environments suitable for collaboration and individual pods for those seeking to close themselves off from distraction. Foot rests and foot stools were common as were adjustable tables that could be adjusted for sitting or standing. Just as one might have a choice to communicate by face-to-face or by teleconference; one can choose to sit, stand, or recline. Workers or students should be able to work with background noise or in silent, cell-phone free spaces.

My biggest take-away from this presentation was that too many school buildings provide a "one size fits all" approach to learning environments.  In a traditional high school students march hour after hour from one nearly identical set of desks to the next. Those are usually aligned in straight rows, facing the "sage on the stage". Even if they are studio or rehearsal room, their places and furnishing are more or less selected for them. 

At Mercy we have been on the quest for more collaborative spaces and open, flexible working environments. This mimics a trend in business. However, there was evidence at Reocon that he pendulum may now be actually swinging back toward allowing workers greater access to private, distraction-free space.

My visit to Neocon was very thought-provoking.  Below I have shared three of the photos I took for my records.

These Eko furnishings looked perfect for collaboration or a waiting area.

Activity stimulates the brain. Here is a treadmill desk for those who can't make it to the gym.

This was my favorite-- Steelcase calls it a "Brady" (combination of brain & body).
It creates a comfortable private realm in an open area.  The seat was unbelievably comfortable.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Baker's Half-Dozen Quotes from Wagner, Couros, Whitby, etc.

"A good library not only has answers to our questions, past and present and future . . . it has a place, a physical domain in which we can be absorbed in those answers." --The Language of School Design

"Change in education is slow -- it's a very conservative system. Our tech-driven culture, however, is less forgiving and will not wait. If educators aren't striving to be relevant, they're falling behind more and more." --Tom Whitby

"If you assign a project and get back 30 of the exact same thing, that's not a project, that's a recipe."  --Dr. Justin Tarte

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
“People do not fail in life because they aim too high and miss" --George Couros

“Now, adults need to be able to ask great questions, critically analyze information, form independent opinions, collaborate, and communicate effectively. These are the skills essential for both career and citizenship.” 
--Tony Wagner

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Boomerang, Flipped Staff Meetings and More!

Photo from Wikicommons
Boomerang for Gmail review
Boomerang essentially makes your emails go out and, wait for it… arrive when you want them to. Scheduling sending and postponing of incoming emails seem to be the basic staples of the app that most of its users love.

The Importance of Low-Stakes Student Feedback
Many classes in the U.S. assign a grade by tallying up cumulative points on all tests, quizzes, assignments, and projects throughout the semester. But quizzes given early in the course tend to benefit those students who come into the class with prior knowledge of the subject. If a student has a mother who’s a chemist, for example, or a father who’s a history buff might perform better on early assessments because she’s familiar with the material.

5 Challenges We Overcame Moving To A Flipped Staff Meeting
So if staff meetings tend to be ineffective, boring, and repetitive, why do we continue to run them the way they have always been run?

School Librarians Want More Tech—and Bandwidth 
iPads, maker spaces, 3-D printers, and coding skills top the tech wish lists for 1,259 school librarians across the country, according to School Library Journal’s (SLJ) 2015 Technology Survey. Educators are hungry to bring their students even more—whether that’s robotics classes or Arduino kits.

A PD approach that educators love (and learn from!)
The leader usually begins by asking, “So what are you teaching next week?” Participants share their lesson plans and spend the session creating products with the new technology that they can use in their classrooms next week.  

Ramsey Musallam: 3 rules to spark learning

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Furnish It and They Will Come!

I asked these students if I could snap their picture when I was leaving for the day.

The new lobby furniture that I described recently New MHS Lobby Design Promotes Collaboration is a great hit! Primarily selected to accommodate students who stay for activities after school, it is designed to promote collaboration.

Each time I have wandered through after school, almost all 53 seats are taken. We were pleased to learn last week that will could order phase 2 of our lobby seating design. A prospective donor was touring the building, was smitten by the new furniture and learned about the need for more. Imagine how delighted we were when she offered to cut a check immediately to complete the plan.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Six Quotes about Innovation

Photo with permission by fmfm166
"Our research shows that innovation starts at the top. It’s leaders who set the tone, not only by creating a climate that encourages it but also by making it possible for people to put forward new ideas without fear of failure." -- The Hay Group

"If innovation is truly a desired outcome, how is it specifically supported and encouraged in the system other than empty platitudes?" -- Tom Whitby

“When all think alike, no one is thinking.” -- Walter Lippman

"Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we've been thinking about a problem." -- Steve Jobs

“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas." -- Dr. Linus Pauling

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Transforming Libraries, Teaching Critical Thinking, and Much More

Transforming Monticello High’s Library Into the Creative Hub of the School
We gave purpose to many of our spaces. We transformed our markerspace library from a blank canvas to a veritable craft room with art supplies and tools. This makes it a perfect space for all those messy things that teachers want to do in their classrooms but can’t because they’re, well, messy. An area of the library that we dubbed “the hacker space” for its innovative technology usage got a green screen, a gaming system, and glass boards to make it perfect for filming and for group projects.

Future Ready: Roadmaps to Tech Integration
Districts must commit to supporting these initiatives consistently. There should also be a tiered approach to professional learning offerings. Much like we differentiate our instruction, we should do the same for different levels of professional learning. Ultimately, the professional learning opportunities should resemble a conversation and allow time for staff to connect, share, and learn from each other.

Is Learning Increasingly Self-Directed in the Digital Era?
Research shows that teachers' and peers' encouragement and support significantly influence student adoption of technology for self-directed learning. Thus, the success of self-directed digital learning depends significantly, at least in early stages, on the teachers' expectancies and instructional practices to teachers' encouragement and guidance in the use of technology-enhanced materials for learning.
There’s a Better Way to Teach Critical Thinking: 9 Rules of Thumb
“The reason teacher preparation programs fail to place critical thinking at the heart of the curriculum is two-fold,” says educational psychologist and critical thinking specialist Linda Elder. “First, faculty who control and teach the curriculum simply don’t know what critical thinking is. Second, they think they do.”

Photos For Class 
Teachers have told us they need a place to access safe images that are available to be used in the classroom and for educational purposes. Plus they want accurate image citations. We’ve heard you and created “Photos For Class” to meet your needs for images! - See more at:

To Apple or to Google that is the question
The discussion of which tool to use is worthless if all we are doing is automating old education methods. Don’t take tools and put them on top of current systems. Instead, ask how you can design meaningful digital learning experiences for students.

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