Monthly Archives: January 2012

News: Apple to Enter e-Textbook Market?

The invitation was cryptic, but significant. Could it change the skyline of the U.S. textbook industry? Watch and see.

Apple has a date with the Big Apple. Wednesday the 19th.

Apple announced an education event in the Big Apple scheduled for next week. Speculation is abound that Apple will unveil a new iBooks for education program. Some say it will have an impact that rivals the splash made by iTunes in the music business about a decade ago (CDs are on their last leg, just in case you haven’t noticed).

Many conjecture that the new program will be designed for use on the iPad, and will provide tablet-toting students with weightless e-textbooks that incorporate interactive features.

Walter Isaacson, the official biographer of the late Steve Jobs, was first to hint at this as he cited Jobs’ plan to circumvent state certification of textbooks by making them free to the public on the iPad. In his book, Issacson indicates that Jobs planned to hire textbook writers to create electronic interactive versions for the iPad. Pearson Education has been speculated to be the first major company to cooperate with Apple on such a project.

According to Jordan Golson, an editor for the popular site MacRumors, “It seems likely that Apple will work with existing textbook makers to build interactive iPad editions of existing textbooks, rather than Apple hiring textbook writers directly and offering the content for free. Apple loves to be disruptive, but the company hasn’t turned into a publishing company like Amazon has. Just because Jobs had the idea, doesn’t mean Apple will follow it to the letter.”

While many are speculating on the announcement, Apple remains quiet about the event after the cryptic message. Only one thing is certain…

The education world will be tuned in.

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Rethinking How Students Learn: Howard Gardner

One mind is not enough. It takes five minds to be successful.

This according to Howard Gardner, author of many books, including Five Minds for the Future. Gardner was selected to write the first chapter of 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. I found his comments very interesting, and look forward to reading his books in the not-to-distant future. Here are some of the stand-out points I gathered from this selection.

How can we create well-rounded citizens of the future? Howard Gardner says we can give them Five Minds.

Gardner says that there are five minds that educators should strive to cultivate in the future:

  1. The Disciplined Mind
  2. The Synthesizing Mind
  3. The Creating Mind
  4. The Respectful Mind
  5. The Ethical Mind

The Disciplined Mind. Gardner states that there are two connotations in play regarding this mind. There is discipline, as in art, craft, scholarly pursuit, or profession. And then there is discipline, referring to a continuation of practice and hard work to remain at the top of one’s game. Interestingly, he stresses four disciplines for precollegiate institutions to focus on: math, science, history, and at least one art form. It’s not about mastering the content of these disciplines, but rather the skills. Can you think like a scientist? Do you analyze like a historian? Can you appreciate fine art? Gardner says that in previous times, mastery and refinement of a single discipline may have sufficed; however, in today’s world, “mastery of more than one discipline is at a premium.” Bottom line: We must help our students learn to think in different ways.

The Synthesizing Mind. In the Age of Info-whelm, our students are bombarded by information 24/7. As Gardner says, “Shrewd triage becomes an imperative.” Those who develop a synthesizing mind will rise to the top. Synthesizing is not a one-time process according to Gardner; “new information must be acquired, probed, evaluated, followed up with, or sidelined…there is constant reflection and tinkering.” Good synthesizers always keep an eye on the big picture while securing and arranging the smaller details in useful ways; “one must know what works for himself and for those who make use of his synthesis.” Bottom line: We must help our students learn to make use of information and media in meaningful ways.

The Creating Mind. In order to truly acquire a creating mind, one must first develop an adequate level of disciplinary mastery and some capacity to synthesize. Gardner states, “You can’t think outside the box unless you have a box.” Creators must take risks, tackle the unknown, fail, and then fearlessly try again. Creators are motivated by, and keep their eyes on, the prize. Educators must pose challenges, obstacles, and boulders to their students. According to Gardner, if the Disciplined Mind involves depth and the Synthesizing Mind entails breadth, the Creating Mind features stretch. Bottom line: We must help our students learn constructively and in innovative ways, to solve never before seen problems.

The Respectful Mind. Gardner says, this mind “starts with an assumption that diversity is positive and the world would be a better place if individuals sought to respect one another.” Bottom line: We must help our students appreciate the ideas, methods, culture, and values of others in the world.

The Ethical Mind. According to Gardner, a person who has an ethical mind can think of himself or herself abstractly and ask questions about their own quality of life. What kind of worker do I want to be? What kind of citizen am I? What would the world be like if everyone too the stance I do? What happens as a result of my decisions or actions? Bottom line: We need to teach our kids to think abstractly, make predictions about outcomes, and weigh their options against what they know is right or wrong.

In conclusion, Gardner names the Synthesizing Mind as the most important for the 21st century. He goes on to states that integration of all five minds is more likely to occur, and more quickly, when role models – parents, teachers, coaches – regularly display aspects of discipline, synthesis, creation, respect, and ethics.

The (Ultimate) Bottom Line: Show your students how you use all five of your minds.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Ken Kay

With a plethora of options, it wasn’t easy to select just one title for my book study. In a way I cheated…I chose a book with 23 contributing authors and clearly divided chapters. Some of them I was familiar with: Howard Gardner, Cheryl Lemke, Alan November, Bob Pearlman, Douglas Reeves, and Will Richardson. Many I wasn’t. One thing is for sure, I’m going to get exposure to lots of different viewpoints and ideas relating to 21st century skills with this book.

I’m going to discuss some of the highlights as I read the book, one author (or chapter) per post. I’m starting with Ken Kay, president of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills – the nation’s leading advocacy organization for the cause of educational evolution.

Doing well in school no longer guarantees a lifelong job or career as it did for previous generations of Americans. Today, people can expect to have many jobs in multiple fields during their careers…The new social contract is different: only people who have the knowledge and skills to negotiate constant change and reinvent themselves for new situations will succeed…Proficiency in 21st century skills is the new civil right for our times.

I believe Kay is simply stating that we, as a school, can no longer focus our efforts on imparting massive amounts of knowledge on our students. We have to add two more goals to our agenda: they must be able to adapt to change and they must be able to cast themselves in new roles with the same skill set. School is now about knowledge AND adaptability.

Any employee who needs to be managed is no longer employable.

Kay indicates that a manager at Apple made this strong statement to him. Obviously, Apple is a company founded on innovation; one that has probably always expected its employees to take initiative while granting them autonomy to do their job in creative ways. But in the 21st century, it won’t just be science and tech companies that expect this of their employees. It will become the norm.

Global awareness is a new essential in the global economy…Financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy are new imperatives…Creativity and innovation, flexibility and adaptability, leadership and cross-cultural skills…These are the kinds of skills that set people apart.

Wow! That hits the nail right on the head. If I were to try painting a vision in your of the 21st Century Charger, tossing his or her cap in the air about to embark on life after “The Hall,” I couldn’t have selected the descriptive terms any better. If our students matriculate to college with the skills Kay mentions above, watch out world!

Rigor traditionally is equated with mastery of content alone, and that’s simply not good enough anymore…However, in the 21st century, the true test of rigor is for students to be able to look at material they’ve never seen before and know what to do with it. Infusing 21st century skills into core subjects actually rachets up the rigor.

Chameleon-like adaptability is a skill that will ensure our students survival in the 21st century

In a nutshell, in the quest to ensure rigorous curriculum, we must now include the 21st century skills mentioned in the previous statement. Kay drives home the point again…knowledge isn’t enough…it takes the right skill set and adaptability to prepare our students for success in the 21st century. I am so excited to be teaching at a school that gets that, during a time when this important shift is taking place. We are ahead of the game, my friends. And the future is bright. Put on your shades and let’s get to work.

Up next: Howard Gardner.

a fly tech tool in the classroom: Shutterfly.com

My favorite tool I have used by far has been Shutterfly. Shutterfly is used in many ways! Primarily for Kindergarten, it is used by parents more than the students. Aside from e-mail, Shutterfly is my line of communication with parents. Updated weekly, our Shutterfly class website contains calendars, photos, videos, curriculum, important info/forms, and general info about our classroom and Lower School as a whole. This password protected site has been invaluable in keeping parents completely connected with what is happening in the classroom.

The kids love taking pictures in class, so it is the best way for me to share them with their families. Through Shutterfly, you can order prints or photo books of the pictures you love! (fees apply via Shutterfly.com) I often receive emails raving about the website and how wonderful it is to get photo and video updates of our classroom!

One of my favorite features, drum roll please….SIGN-UP SHEETS! That’s right, sign-up sheets online. It’s amazing. You don’t have to worry about posting forms outside your door or for parents to find time to sign up for various opportunities in a timely manner. Parents log-in with their own email and have complete access to sign up for volunteer opportunities, conferences, etc whenever they want! I love it and so do the parents!

You can design your own class website however it suits you best. You can put as little or as much information on it. For those that don’t need a website for communicating with parents, it is a great website for kids to design their own websites. Are you a history teacher? Let’s say you have a student studying WWII. He or she could design a [free] website displaying what is learned! Within the website, he or she could have different tabs or pages titled: important battles, key figures, timelines, causes and outcomes, military strategies, etc. Within each section he/she can layout information in a variety of ways. Not to mention, other students could log-in and give feedback on what has been posted. He/she could also upload photos to help share the information.

As far as I can see, there are endless possibilities with Shutterfly! It is a free website, however, should you choose to upgrade, there is a fee good for one year. This gives you more memory storage for video uploads, etc.

What a great way to exemplify the fluencies of 21st century learning…creatively displaying information in such a way that engages others, sparks feedback potential, and a safe and educational way to post info on the internet. Oh the possibilities!

Shutterfly, you get an A+ from our Kindergarten class!