Monthly Archives: March 2012

Energy Challenge: Photo & Video Montage

   
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Despite the title of the article,  A Tech Happy Professor Reboots, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the featured “tech happy professor” is not disavowing his digital methods, just rolling back his message to include the essential first step.

Those on a quest for pure methodology must remember that regardless of which subject you teach or which methods you use to teach it, to quote a dear colleague: “you’ve got to be relatable.”

Thoughtful Reflection on Khan Academy & Science Ed.

Wiki: Skeptic Turned Supporter!

While reading through my student’s Wiki time logs and checking their contributions thus far (spring break was a partial deadline), I came across a comment I had not expected!

This was actually kind of fun and very helpful! Can’t wait to see next quarter’s Wiki!

This same student was very skeptical just three months ago! At that time, she felt like it was the “blind leading the blind” and seemed unsure how to contribute to the Wiki.

Likely because of the spring break deadline, the site has improved greatly even since I posted a couple weeks ago (check out a history page to see how it evolves). There is still much that can be done to improve it – but eventually I think it has the potential to approach the breadth and quality of a professional site.

RIP, Textbook O. Mine…

I can see it now. The tombstone will read:

Here lies an ol’ pal, Textbook O. Mine.
Since the 1800’s he worked mighty fine,
but the iPad is here so now we do fear
that he’s reached the end of his line.

College students agreed (see the recent Pearson Foundation study). Almost two-thirds of them believe that tablet devices, like the iPad, will replace the printed textbook in…get this…five years. That’s 2017. This survey produced several more astounding statistics:

  • 1 out of 4 college students in 2012 owns an iPad or similar tablet device; up from 7% a year ago.
  • 17% of high school seniors own an iPad in 2012; quadruple the 2011 figure of 4% ownership.
  • 63% of college – and 69% of high school – students believe that tablet devices will replace textbooks by 2017.
  • 36% of college – and 25% of high school – students plan to buy a tablet device in the next 6 months.
  • 63% of college students are considering the Apple iPad, compared to 26% Kindle Fire and 17% Samsung Galaxy Tab.
  • 70% of college students have used a digital textbook.
  • 58% prefer a digital textbook to a print version; a switch from last year where the same percentage preferred print.
  • According to the survey, the above statistic holds true for high school seniors as well.
  • 90% believe that tablets are a valuable tool in the educational experience.

What do you think about the battle that appears to be imminent between digital and print textbooks? Cast a vote and/or leave an expanded comment below. We want to know what you think.

Social Networking On Campus…On Purpose!

I have heard a fair share of complaints of children (and teens, well, ages across the board) spending too much time on their phones or on gaming systems and not enough time socializing and engaging in the world around them. Now that we are in this post-modern digital age, it is almost expected that children and teens be connected to their phones, gaming systems, or other digital media. Isn’t that engaging in the world around them as well?

I randomly came across an article encouraging schools to embrace this new age of technology, more specifically through Facebook and Twitter. It seems that we could have the best of both worlds in education…engagement on school campuses through digital social interaction and personal human interaction. The article is on the blog: “Not So Distant Future“, which is focused on libraries, technologies, and schools (this blog has won many awards I might add!) It offers snapshots of studies focusing on using the popular (and FREE!) Facebook and Twitter to engage students in campus events. I agree in this librarian’s take on the fact that educators/administrators worry about the use of social networking will hinder academic progress or social interactions, but should also focus on the opportunity, student reaction, student attendance, and student learning, etc. Junco, one of the researchers, has several articles published on the effects of Twitter and Facebook on many aspects of education.

I think that the studies they reveal could show encouragement and motivation for our school as we have a campus blessed with involved students and many technological opportunities and advocates! Facebook and Twitter are two of the most talked about social networks at school, work, and now on TV it seems…I think we should take a look at the success rate and think about its transition into education. It will happen whether it’s purposely used for school or if a student is updating their Facebook status under the table so the teacher won’t see. Let’s jump on board and see what we can do!

Creative Fluency: Energy Challenge (Rube Goldberg Machine)

"Toothpaste Dispenser"

Application:

I am a little behind where I thought I’d be so we have not actually started the energy challenge yet – I will post a recap (& pictures!) once it happens (right after spring break). Anyway, the basic idea of the energy challenge is to build a completely autonomous Rube Goldberg Machine that is capable of popping 3 balloons in a specific order. Students also earn credit for involving multiple energy transformations (i.e. a falling mass releases energy stored in a spring). To accomplish the task students are given a wide variety of household materials including masses, springs, popsicle sticks, cardboard, string, magnets, wheels/axils, pulleys, mouse traps, pvc pipe, thumbtacks, pins, plastic track, textbooks, supersized rubber bands, clothes pins to name a few.

Last year, when the first energy challenge occurred, I was floored by the diversity of ideas. I’m not exaggerating when I say no two designs were even remotely alike. Some groups of students designed machines so complex they would have impressed Goldberg himself. Others designed elegantly simple machines. Either way, you could see how excited students were to match their creativity against such an open ended challenge.

Another thing I think was neat about this activity was that it could have fit under solution fluency or collaborative fluency just as easily.

The Big Picture

Obviously this activity is best suited for physics. However, I think this project demonstrates some of the components that Ken Robinson wrote of in Learning to be Creative. First, creative projects require that many possible routes exist to a solution. Second, most creative activates require resources. Third, to inspire creativity, students need to buy in to the activity. Finally, since creativity is applied imagination – there must be a clear way to evaluate student’s creativity.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Bob Pearlman on PBL

Bus driver…move…THAT…(school) bus!!!

And reveal the new learning environment of the 21st Century. Is it time for an Extreme Makeover: School Edition? I think so. And so does Bob Pearlman, nationally renowned educational reform consultant.

An example of “connected learning” (see my previous post), this topic is relevant on several levels for me right now. You see, Pearlman is going to speak at Heritage Hall in April regarding project-based learning (I absolutely can’t wait!). I am currently in the midst of dreaming and blueprinting a redesign of our Upper School computer lab. To top it all off, our E21 Team is thrilled about our upcoming road trip to see one of the premier examples of 21st century learning environment (21CLE) in our region – New Tech High at Coppell, Texas.

We all know that students learn best when they are engaged and allowed to do most of the learning on their own. Research has proven such about this generation of students. So what is the best way to accomplish this phenomenon? The successful formula seems to be:  PBL based pedagogy + 21CL environment + performance assessment = meaningful, connected learning.

Pearlman cites a Buck Institute of Education definition of PBL:

PBL is a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.

Sounds intense, doesn’t it? It is. According to Pearlman, PBL activities at New Tech schools usually last 1-3 weeks long. Examples include presenting a plan to Congress solving the oil crisis and inventing a sport that astronauts can play on the moon so they can get exercise. Students usually receive a rubric up front, so they know what amount of work will be required to achieve basic, proficient, or advanced scores.

Here’s an idea I absolutely love…when students finish a PBL unit of study, they present to an external audience. That could mean community experts, parents, Board members, other teachers, peers outside of their own class, or more. And students self-evaluate throughout the project and write a summative reflection on what they learned and how the project can be improved. And, in the spirit of 21CL, why not share with a global audience…online?!? This could be done with a partner classroom, or simply through a blog or Wiki open to the world.

So what about changes to the physical environment? 21CLE’s are large open spaces with mobile furniture. Every student has access to a computer. Tables or desks can be easily moved together for collaboration or “break-out” sessions structured around student “need to knows.” Many 21CLE’s use glass walls or windows to make learning transparent to all students and visiting adults.

The best 21st century schools provide every student with a computer, which increasingly means a laptop in a wireless environment. [Bob Pearlman]

But it’s not just about the technology. It’s the pedagogy behind technology that makes for successful learning in a 21CLE. Students use the laptop to conduct Internet research, Skype with experts, work collaboratively outside of school to construct products of learning (i.e. videos, podcasts, websites), and utilize technology to present their findings. In other words, according to Pearlman, “Students utilize all these [digital] tools to be investigators and producers of knowledge.”

At New Tech High in Coppell the school has adopted new language to refer to students and teachers. They have become “learners” and “facilitators,” respectively. Pearlman goes on to describe the physical landscape of NTH@C, both in the classroom and in hallways & common areas. Because our E21 team will be visiting NTH@C in early April, I will save discussion on these revelations for a future blog post. For now, check out these links to five schools ID’d by Pearlman as “the best of the new learning environments:”

Columbus Signature Academy (Columbus, Indiana)
New Tech High @ Coppell (Coppell, Texas)
The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (Providence, Rhode Island)
High Tech High (San Diego, California)
New Line Learning Academy (Kent, England)

The bottom line: These findings, yet again, suggest that our E21 mission is true. We are on the eve of implementing at a 1:1 laptop program – not based on simply dropping in technology, but based on years of our own research about 1:1 and 21CL. Our program is founded on technology rooted in tried and true pedagogy. By moving forward, we further enable our students to go beyond passive consumption of information and actively CREATE their own knowledge and experience true lifelong learning.

And that is what it’s all about, friends.

Les Miserables Project

I wanted to provide an optional extra credit project for my 7th grade English students. I asked them to attend a performance of Les Miserables Student Edition presented by our very talented Performing Arts department. I knew that information was going to be the key to the success of the project. Ask good questions- I wanted to know how much my students knew about the play and the time period. It turned out that the resources that came with the script were invaluable to giving enough information to provide background, but not too much to turn the students away. Access and acquire material- the actor’s guide gave an overview, and I provided a summary that did not give away too much of the plot. We also got to see the set and costumes prior to the performance to get into the time period and place. Analyze-the students had eight questions to review prior to the production, and they were asked to select at least five of the items to discuss in their review of the play. Apply- the critical analysis asked the student to apply their observations and assemble their thoughts in written format. Assess- this worked for both the student and the reader. The critical analysis asked the viewer/writer to explain why the reader should make an effort to see the show.
Seventeen of my students accepted the challenge, and I was very pleased with the results. Across the board, the students recognized the power of the story and the music. The show ran almost three hours, but the students were not put off by the length or amount of singing. I believe that the key to the success of this project was the gathering and use of information to create a memorable experience before, during, and after the performance.

Teaching on a “Need to Know” Basis?

Below is an interesting video about how “Connected Learning” is causing a shift in education. It was put together by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, which can be followed on Twitter @DMLCentral. Underneath are some highlights and my reflections. See if you agree…

Material and pace are clearly dictating our nation’s current systematic approach to education. It’s more important to cover as much content in as little amount of time as possible. This inch-deep, mile-wide approach is hurting our kids; we’ve got to allow them to explore learning on a deeper level. I feel so blessed to work at a school that recognizes – and always has – that learning isn’t just about content acquisition.

According to the DML experts in this video, we can do this by starting all learning initiatives in class with an emotional, intellectual, or identity question that inspires a true “need to know” in our students. This kind of approach will not only lead to increased retention of relevant knowledge, but also promotes a passion for learning, in general, among our kids.

Who contributes…and who is ultimately responsible for helping young people survive and thrive and grow up to be curious, engaged citizens?
[Katie Salen, DePaul University Professor]

Education is no longer solely the job of the school. It is a community endeavor; we must all embrace learning together. Schools do not wield knowledge and control learning. By doing so, we instill a notion in our students that learning is a one-time thing that spans 14 years and then you graduate. Learning is, in fact, forever. Let us inspire our students to become self-motivated, lifelong learners.

How can we use these resources to bring people together who want to learn together – and not the model of how can we deliver content more effectively from a single source to many listeners?
[Mimo Ito, Cultural Anthropologist]

The central principle, according to DML, of 21st century learning is CONNECTEDNESS. This ties directly into the modern ideal of open knowledge. “It’s about expertise that’s widely distributed in our society culture…the fact that anybody can help somebody get better at something,” says Ito. Connected learning is a work in progress…and will always be such.

At HH, we are clearly already on the right path…let us stay the course…and help our students reap the rewards of connected learning.

Make them need to know.