Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Experience with Storyboards

As the year ends, I am re-posting my five most popular 2011 musings.  This one was ranked #1 in page views, so I am quite pleased to reshare it.  It was inspired by my favorite assignment from last school  year.

I've gone head with my plan to assign pairs of my 10th grade American Government students the task of creating a one minute political commercial for a real person of note in our state who is not presently a political figure. Here's the assignment:

As you can see, I have not emphasized the production values of the video.  In fact, the video concept will "count" for as much as the the actual solution.  Here's the catch--  I have never taught the skill before.  Fortunately,  I found the following video:

One of the resources included with the video is a template for actually completing a storyboard.  At first glance I judged the template to be more detailed than needed for this assignment.  But as it turned out those details helped smany students develop very tight plans. Here's a link to the storyboard template:

I was pleased with most of the plans.  There were some obvious gaffes, such as no plan to mention that the person featured was seeking political office!  So I was able to head these off at the pass.  More significantly, I could offer feedback about visual story telling and plans for shots which might present too much difficulty (or violate trademarks).

Hopefully I will be able to publish some sample ads, soon! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Web Tools, iPads, email,and the Classroom

Screen Capture from TC Web Mail Usage Declines . . . .
As the year ends, I am re-posting my five most popular 2011 musings.  This one was ranked #2 in page views. (Frankly, I have no idea why, other than the title).

Matching Learning goals and Web Tools
In Leonardo’s Laptop, Ben Shneiderman provides teachers with a powerful framework, Collect-Relate-Create-Donate (CRCD), for designing student-centered learning opportunities using computers.

QR Codes + Wikipedia
QR codes – barcodes for the internet – have been around for decades and the technology is increasingly being used in everything from street advertising to museum object labels. QRpedia takes the concept one step further to allow a single QR code to send you seamlessly to the mobile-friendly version of any Wikipedia article in your own language.

How Can Web 2.0 Curation Tools Be Used in the Classroom?

 Just as Web 2.0 has expanded the traditional role of publisher to almost anyone, the role of curator now too is changing. Anyone can “curate” online material, pulling together their own collections.

What's best: an iPad or a laptop for college use?The technology options for college students continue to grow with netbooks and tablet PCs as potential alternatives to the traditional laptop computer.
Web Mail Usage Declines 59% among Teens
In introducing his messaging platform last November Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said one of the primary motivations behind Messages product strategy was that teenagers have given up on email, “High school kids don’t use email, they use SMS a lot. People want lighter weight things like SMS and IM to message each other.”
Remembering an Inspiring Teacher
Mr. Criche was part of a powerhouse English department at Lake Forest High School, a school that, I believe, knew then and knows now how to treat its teachers. Nationwide, almost half of our teachers quit before their fifth year, driven away by poor conditions and low pay, but in Lake Forest, the teachers were and are able to make careers and lives out of the profession.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Project Booth

As the year ends, I am re-posting my five most popular 2011 musings.  This one was ranked #3 in page views and recalls meeting two of the finest educators I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

In January, i spent six weeks in Texas,  first consulting with the Belton ISD and then working with the CBL Implementation team.  It was an exciting experience with extraordinary networking opportunities.  I workshopped with CBL teams from Ohio and Illinois.  I hung out with with folks who are impacting education on the international scene and halls of Washington D.C.  But my most precious hour of conversation was with Mary Kay Zeeb and Mark Labouchere from the Arizona School of the Arts. 

The three of us were assigned to give a fifteen minute presentation on the potential role of video reflection in CBL.  We took care of this in about five minutes-- since we discovered that we were completely "on the same page."  But then, we simply chatted about education and how our commitment to CBL had impacted us and our students.  They were so far ahead of me in terms of immersion and experiment with the CBL process.

They have given me permission to share one such endeavor.  Their students were embarking on challenges and had just gained access to two classroom Macbooks.  The teachers wished to record student reflections using Photobooth, but the logistics posed a challenge.  The teacher solution?  Give the students a challenge to create reflection booths.  How fun!  Their idiosyncratic endeavors are pictured here. And then play the movie to see the booths in action.  Already, since meeting with Mark and Mary Kay, I am even more inclined to turn critical challenges over to the student or teacher teams I am mentoring, rather than simply try to resolve the challenge myself.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Challenge Based Learning Trifecta

"Woo-Hoo" Flickr CC by JAKULL
As the year ends, I am re-posting my five most popular 2011 musings.  This one was ranked #4 in page views.
I have been more or less slogging away at the CBL wars for the past few weeks.  In some instances, particularly the professional development sessions (PCGs), it has been difficult to gauge how well things have been coming together.  So it was really nice today to find signs of success on three fronts:

* For the second consecutive day, staff planning for next year reported on some really interesting CBL projects.  In most cases they have moved from broad issues to logistics.  For the first time it is obvious that some really cool projects will be rocking the joint next year.

* Today, two "Fight Apathy" teams made presentations to their classmates on solutions for making teenagers care about politics.  The presentations were so sharp that the other teams  left the room chattering about how they needed an extra meeting or two to raise the bar on their own presos. (Yes!).

* A first AP Gov & Politics team presented to classmates both on their solutions and their panel experience.  This was very cool--  students had completely integrated the feedback from the "experts" on their panel into revised solutions.  Presenting to the class gave them a formal way of processing and owning the feedback.

This week has suddenly brightened up!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Apathy Vanquished!

As the year ends, I am re-posting my five most popular 2011 musings.  This one is a personal favorite and was ranked #5 in page views.
Thanks to a Challenge Based Learning project that truly rocked, for at least one night, "teenage apathy" was brought to its knees.

Lynn Waldsmith, Mike Gruber and I challenged our students to defeat teenage apathy in our English and American Government classes.  These ninth and tenth graders worked several weeks to develop their solutions,
implement them, and explicate them to classmates.  But tonight, all seventeen teams staged a Fight Apathy Fair.  It was the kids who suggested exhibiting the solutions in the evening in a science fair like venue.  In addition to inviting the entires school, each girls was required to email five other persons, personally.

Some 200 friends, teachers, uncles, cousins, neighbors, moms and dads milled through the lobby.  There was a buzz in the joint.  And the students were excited!  The attendance from our students was close to 100% and they were actually thanking us for the chance to present from 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm.  The parents were delighted and were shocked to learn that this was a first time event.  We teachers were shocked too.  As Mike remarked the positives far surpassed anything we might have imagined.

If I have had doubts about the power of CBL, they were vanquished too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Some Great New CBL Resources

The new CBL community site replete with two Mercy challenges
I've been on a bit of a Challenge Based Learning sabbatical.  Distracted by learning a new job and ramping up projects like M-Hub and Mercy 2.0, I haven't participated in any CBLs this school year.  Fortunately, CBL has been moving along quite well despite my neglect:

Mark Nichols has been working determinedly to bring The Challenge Based Learning Community site to fruition.  It's a beauty.  The site is utterly packed with top resources and it offers challenges that anyone can join.  It includes forums for discussing CBL and a place where anyone can post a challenge and find teammates.  It is gratifying to know that Mercy has contributed two of the challenges that seed the site.  Along with my AP classes' "Strengthen Democracy" challenge (albeit a lite version) our pilot teams' "Design a Better Cafeteria Experience" may be found.

*The New Media Consortium's new research report is also available.  Mercy, along with the other 19 schools in the pilot, were examined, and the analysis is now published online.

* The  report may be accessed at the community site.  But is also is available on the branded Apple site, where the  a set of webinar resources may also be found.  We now have some truly awesome go-to CBL sites.

Incidentally, I will soon be making up for lost personal time with CBL.  In a month , I'll be launching my big 2012 project.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Move to iPad and Google Apps

Flickr CC Photo bydavidAigner
This week we announced a major change to our educational technology plan at MHS.  As part of what we are calling "Mercy 2.0", we are moving to the iPad as our 1:1 device and we will be adopting Google Apps. Among the reasons:

The iPad’s functions fall more in line with current staff and student usage than our current device.  What is more, the 400,000 apps available on the iPad (for a relative pittance) offer great opportunities for instructional customization and exploration.  

The cost of a Mercy education should be measurably reduced for new students.  Furthermore, our Wi-Fi system can accommodate the iPad, immediately, meaning that we will not incur major infrastructure costs in the transition.

The iPad is light, has a battery life that makes it through our school day, and boots up/shuts down almost instantly.  We expect that the students will need little time “learning” how to use the device.

The iPad is a terrific e-reader.  The lack of digital materials available on our laptops has been (along with cost) a chronic disappointment with our program.  With e-texts becoming more available, the iPad is suited to to lightening book bags.

Needless to say, these major changes will help supply the Drive-thru with content in 2012!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Students Give Glimpse of the Future of the Book

Slide from AP Gov update to "Media" chapter.
As I explained in Re-enlisting as a Digital Teacher,  until recently I have not been certain I would continue teaching my AP American Government and Politics class.  This ambiguity caused me to stay with an edition of my e-text a year longer than I otherwise might have done.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I turned the datedness of the textbook into a group challenge project for the students.  The chapters selected were "Public Opinion", "The Media", and "Elections". Each of the three groups did a nice job.  In fact the results were so satisfactory I think I would consider it for any conventional textbook

That's the catch-- "conventional textbook".  Because my students demonstrated what a contemporary textbook should be.  It should not be a static chunk of information.  Instead it should be a continually updated resource that one enjoys through a subscription or license.  The kids provided charts, videos, and placed them on slides that were superior to the ancillaries provided by the publisher.  Shouldn't these ancillaries be updatee as well?  I know the textbook model will evolve to become a more dynamic resource.  But sometimes I wonder if I will see this happen in my lifetime.  At least I got to see how it might be with the help of my kids.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quick Take-out from the Drive-thru

"It is true that technology can be dirty. It is true that technology itself isn't going to fix our problems. Technology really isn't a "tool" anymore. Technology is a context. Context produces culture. This happened before back at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The context of industry produced all sorts of pollutions and evils; it also produced the medical revolution and eventually gave lift to the social mobility of the lower and middle classes to attend colleges and universities. In the end, it was the decisions people made that -- both for much better and much worse -- shaped the century that was."  -- Shelly Blake-Plock

"Take-out" by permission of americanvirus
If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up way too much space. -- Anonymous

When I look at my kids, I’m hoping to see entrepreneurs, ready to create and add value and be able to create a living on their guile and grit and passion. Not sure I see that yet. Hoping their mom and I will rub off on them.  But, their schools helpin’ them with that? Uh…notsomuch. They’re preparing them to work for someone else. After all, that’s what they do in class.
Will Richardson

I tend to think that the future of computing devices will be BYOD — Bring Your Own Device. It’ll be that way for businesses. It’ll be that way for schools . . . . But if that’s the case, then schools are going to have to look for digital content that is available across platform. That could mean looking for DRM-free resources, or at least for resources that aren’t restricted to one particular platform or file format. That could mean turning to Web apps over native apps." Audrey Watters
"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." John Cotton Dana

“The question that gets asked about technology, the one that is almost always precisely the wrong question is, “How does this advance help our business?  The correct question is, “how does this advance undermine our business model and require us/enable us to build a new one?”  Seth Godin

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On iPads, Fenway Park, Google Maps and other Links

Flickr CC by copelaes
Major Medical Library Closing . . . . Moving to Digital
The William H. Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, will close its doors to patrons on January 1, 2012. But the library as an information resource is not closing; it is just moving completely online.

A Head Teacher Writes . . . 
My idea is for the school to invest more money so that each child can walk around while using their pencils, and that they can eventake them home with them! Yes, I know it's an extremely radical idea, and that's the very reason I am receiving so much opposition. Some of my teaching staff are arguing that we could better spend the money on more chalk for the blackboards. Others are warning that children will either damage the pencils or worse, lose them if they take them out of the school. Pencils are meant to be used for education, they say, not for fun.

Google Maps the Indoors
Google Maps 6.0, available to Android users, will provide access to indoor layouts for a few dozen locations, so shoppers and travelers can find their way around without having to ask for directions.

10 Apps for Working Easily with PDFs on iPad
I got sent a form the other day that the sender needed filled out and sent back immediately. Fortunately for them they were using an app that allowed me to tap on the form, type in the required information and send it back. Many apps give you the ability to write anywhere on the PDF.

Fenway Park or the Astrodome?
I'm not interested in relevant. I'm not looking for the trendiest tools. I'm not out to find the latest research from a collage artist like Marzano. I'm not peppering my lessons with the latest pop culture references to prove just how insanely hip I am (not that hip if I use hip, unless I'm a hipster using hip ironically).

Tell Me Again How iPad Demand is Waning . . . .
Whitmore came away from his Black Friday checks convinced iPad sales are tracking roughly in line with his estimate: 14 million for the December quarter.
Seems those iPad concerns were a bit overblown.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On the Brink X 3

Flickr CC by Kate Tomlinson
Today presents the ultimate in narcissistic Drive-thru posts.  But I have technology preoccupations on all fronts.

At work our Technology Plan (which I refer to as MHS 2.0) is coming to a head.  It includes a review of our 1:1 device, department, cloud hosting, curriculum, bookstore.  It's very comprehensive and we are working like mad to pull all of our information together.

M-Hub has come to fruition.  A major email blast is going to all of our alumnae and the students are preparing to crunch the data over Christmas break.  In addition they will be officially launching the site at our January 18, 2012 staff meeting.

On a personal front, I am migrating contacts, bookmarks, calendars and more to iCloud.  I've been procrastinating a bit on this one because one of my major applications was not suited for Lion, but I've resolved that issue.

Almost ready to pull the trigger on all three and more than a little nervous about all three!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Baker's Half-Dozen

Flickr CC Photo by Lesleyk
"If you're not astonishing the kids, they won't be astonishing you back!"

"The slow adoption of digital textbooks by students doesn’t necessarily mean that textbooks will be the last bastion of print. But it does highlight the ways in which students’ needs aren’t being met yet by digital content providers. That means there’s still a huge opportunity here to reshape what the textbooks of the future look like. Openly licensed content, for example, could address students’ concerns about sharing. Better social tools could help meet their needs for social reading and learning. Open educational resources could provide free content, while an iTunes model of sorts — one that sold the “song” (or rather the chapter) rather than the “album” (the whole book) could save students money." -- Audrey Watters

 "I sense in the dismissal of digital technology not just nostalgia but a firm idea that these people — African Americans, gays, women, Anthony Weiner, theater people, the 'perverts' on Twitter — should not be making culture."--Virginia Heffernan-

In case you haven’t noticed, lots of people want to “blow up education” right now. And the monied interests are going to have much to say about which direction education takes from here. I know I’m sounding like a broken MP3 here, but the question once again is whether or not the focus moving forward will be on learning or test taking. --  Will Richardson

If a student is passionate about a topic, doesn’t it make sense to have that student study, really study, professionals who who are also passionate? -- Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.” 
-- C.S. Lewis (via Colleen Rozman)

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.

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