Thursday, March 27, 2014

Digital Age Learning: Student Creations Lead to Authentic Opportunities

Students in Kim Caster's French Culture course at Edina High School have been studying French Romantic Comedies, including the movie, Amelie. These senior students have been learning about the use of style, location and comparing French cinema with American films. As an assessment, Caster asked the students to create a product that demonstrated:
a)      An understanding of romantic comedies and how they are different from American Romantic Comedies.  
b)      An understanding of JP Jeunet’s unique and different filmmaking style.  
c)       An understanding of the use of interesting, romantic, and popular sites in Paris and various secondary and tertiary side characters become a part of the major part of Jeunet’s films.
d)      An understanding of the use stereotypical roles of men and women in film in order to maintain the formula or break the formula of a romantic comedy.
e) A combination of 2 or more of the above explained in a way you can use your French and add precision of grammar, complexity and vocabulary into the presentation and discussion.  

One group created a trailer for Amelie as a horor film.

Another group created an infographic using Piktochart to compare and contrast French and American Film.

And then there was this...

Emma Westbrook, Claire Jensen, and Naomi Reiner have been visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with their families since they were little. Westbrook, an aspiring artist and film maker, spends time at the museum drawing, and thought that the MIA would be a great location to stage a film.
They reviewed the guidelines about filming in the museum and realized that it would work as a location. Westbrook wrote the script and directed the movie, Jensen was both an actor as well as editor, and Reiner recruited fellow senior Peter Illig to act in the film, served as continuity expert, and shlepped the equipment and clothing around as they filmed.
They chose the artwork based on their knowledge of the collection, and the fact that the gallery had a bench in front of the artwork, and was less crowded than other locations.
After they submitted the link to the finished film, Caster tweeted out the link. After watching the film and being extremely impressed with the digital storytelling on display, and the elements of film-making they used, I sent out a tweet to my high school friend, Douglas Hegley, who just happens to be the Director of Technology at the MIA. His response:

Yesterday, Kim and the students visited with Hegley and the staff at MIA.

Edina Students meeting with Minneapolis Institute of Arts staff
Learning about upcoming MIA projects and providing feedback on future museum project
Along with congratulating the students on their work, Hegley noted that,
"this is exactly the type of thing we want people doing here, using our space to create!"
The Institute is working to become more "audience centric," and a "home away from home" for its visitors. Museum staff shared their backgrounds with the students, and how they are gearing up for 2015, which will be the building's 100th Anniversary. The students were invited to share ideas on what they might include in the 100 30-90 second films the staff are working to produce. Museum staff want people to feel connected to the art, and for the films to be character driven, similar to the film the students created! When asked what would encourage them to see a film about the collection, the students said, "people interacting with the art, and information about the history of the items."
Caster was excited about future possibilities of bringing students to the space, providing them with some basic guidelines and then inviting them to explore and create. 
This project is a small example of how an open ended inquiry based learning opportunity can lead to authentic opportunities, and the importance of creation in the learning process. I hope it inspires other staff and students to think outside the classroom walls to make connections with their learning.

Friday, March 21, 2014

2014 eLearning2 Survey Results

Over the past few months, we surveyed our parents, staff and students to get their perceptions of our eLearning2 Initiative. I've put together 3 infographics that share the results of the feedback we received. See the results below, and a reflection on my experience using PiktoChart to create them! To learn more about eLearning2 and our proposal for next year, click here.





I used Piktochart to create the graphics above, utilizing the free version. There are several other choices to choose from. Here is a nice comparison.
I had access to 7 themes, and was able to customize one with colors to fit. I found it to be fairly easy to use, either with the old or new editing tools. There were several choices for pre-made graphics, and it allowed you to insert your own data to create a chart or graph or import your own. I think Piktochart could be a great tool for students in virtually any subject to communicate ideas and information. I encourage you to give it a try!

What's In a Name?

Today, I'm changing the title of this blog from "Edina Tech Integration," to "Edina Digital Age Learning." This shift reflects a philosophical evolution that the work that I do, isn't as much about integrating technology as it is about learning in a digital age. (In fact, my colleague Molly Schroeder and I are looking to change our titles to "Digital Age Learning Specialist," to reflect this shift.) For the last few weeks, I've been developing and tweaking the framework below. The framework defines some philosophies around digital age learning combining work from Ruben Puentedura's work on SAMR, Susan Oxnevad's SAMR Ladder, and Carl Hooker's SAMR pool. Carl's thoughts more closely resemble my own regarding digital age learning, in that I don't believe that every lesson lends itself to redefinition. It's not a ladder to climb, as much as it is a pool to swim in!
Click on the icons below to see what it might look like for students in the 3 areas of Content, Collaboration, and Creation.

My hope as we move forward is that as we move forward with the many initiatives transforming our district, that we move to a place where staff are comfortable getting wet, and more of our staff create authentic learning opportunities that move us more frequently to the deep end, without anyone drowning! I'll keep a life jacket handy just in case!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Maybe We Do Need Some "Stinkin Badges!"

Yesterday I had a chance to participate in a Google+ Hangout on Air on the topic of How Do We Shift Teacher & Leader Practice with Outcome-Based Badges? Ben Wilkoff did a great job convening a panel of thoughtful educators and leading a lively discussion!

For some time now, I have been looking at ways we can honor the professional learning that teachers get through non-traditional means, such as Twitter-chats, Webinars, and other informal learning. I see badges as providing incentive and opportunities for staff as we move forward.
Some of the key points mentioned in this session that resonated with me were:

  1. Teachers value choice
  2. "Badging is a celebration of diversified learning!"
  3. Badges can have different levels (Low, medium and high example from Khan Academy.)
  4. Reflection and sharing take this learning from a "low level" badge to high
  5. Round Rock Model moved to a business mindset where teachers/administrators in need of professional learning are customers
  6. Badges are project based rather than subject based
  7. Impact of sharing and collaboration is the goal
  8. Credly and P2PU seem to be the most popular sites for managing badges.
As I reflected, it seemed to me that not only could these outcome-based badges be utilized for professional learning, but also for students in our system. We are currently designing educational competencies that we want all of our students to have when they leave the system.

Edina Public School Learners are:
Globally Competent
Engaged, Responsible, and Action-Oriented Citizens
Effective Communicators and Collaborators

Critical Thinkers and Innovative Creators

Motivated Life-long Learners

Committed to Healthful Living

Some questions I am pondering include:
What if students earned badges at different levels for each of these competencies? 
What if a student acheived the highest level of one of these competencies in elementary school? 
How might this incorporate into a student portfolio? 
I have already started some conversations with staff exploring what this might look like in our district.
Feel free to check out the Webinar and/or explore the notes from the session in the link above, and share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Teaching Like It's 1900

Today, students in Creek Valley Elementary School first grade teacher, Britt Theis's class took a trip to The Old Cahill School in Edina. While there, the students were able to visit a school house that has been preserved to model what a school house in 1900 might have been like. Britt tweeted out this photo:

The picture got me thinking about a few questions:

  • Asside from the wooden desks and the blackboard, how different is this classroom from the ones in most of our schools today? 
  • If your classroom is similar to this one, is it because:

    1. It was the best configuration for students to learn then, and it is still true now
    2. That's the furniture I was provided with
    3. That is the configuration I grew up in and am most comfortable with
    4. Other
  • Is this the best configuration for today's learers?
  • What pedagogical style is this best suited for?
I think by my tone here and the questions I'm asking, you can tell that I think it's time for a change. If we are going to move to a more student-centered, digital age environment for learning, we have to organize our learning spaces differently. I welcome your thoughts.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's Not About the Chromebook...

In December, Science Leadership Academy(SLA) in Philadelphia announced that they were changing the devices students would use for their learning from a Macbook to a Dell Chromebook.
Social Media was abuzz witht the announcement

Today, with great fanfare, they announced the "Center for Excellence in Learning," a partnership between Dell, SLA and the Franklin Institute to serve as a "resource for best practice for other educators," and "scale their model of inquiry-driven, problem based learning across the country."

Initially, the focus for many was on the switch of platforms, from the Macbook to the Chromebook. After all, they have been an award winning, Apple Distinguished School for the past 5 years. Some saw the move to the less expensive, cloud-based Chromebook a "step down," and that they would lose out on powerful applications for creating multimedia presentations, and that principal Chris Lehmann, "sold out" as a cost saving measure, because ultimately use of the more expensive Macbook was not going to be sustainable. 

Our district, and others have been using Chromebooks (Samsung primarily, and now a few HP's and Acer) with great success. It is the preferred tool of choice for teachers, and students have commented that, "It just works!" 
Our only issues have been with durability of some models, but having spent a little time kicking the tires on the Dell model recently, I think it will hold up just fine!
Wordle of the Announcement Text

What makes SLA unique, and a beacon for what education CAN be (and is) are:

To me, the fact that they are a 1:1 school has less to do with their success, than with their educational philosophy and approach. It's not enough to give kids a device, learning in the classroom has to change.

While I get that Dell and Google are marketing the fact that they are now a Chromebook school, to me the most interesting aspect of this announcement is how the Center for Excellence in Learning will impact education in the coming years. Having seen first hand the amazing learning environment that SLA provides, whether it is scalable in today's high stakes testing world, will be interesting to see. I'll be interested to follow #DoMoreEdu to see whether it is a slick marketing campaign, or if it really transforms what learning looks like. Given what I know about Chris and the staff at SLA, I will be rooting them on!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting Things Done: A 21st Century Competency?

David Allen sharing how to get things done in Edina.
David Allen, author of the book, "Getting Things Done," came to Edina on January 20 to help kick off a "Work-Flow Institute" in Edina Public Schools. For the last 4 years, our district has been looking at workflow and is ready to move forward. Is "Getting Things Done (GTD) a 21st Century Skill? Allen says that it is, and that it is something that we are all students of. It is a constant learning process. I'll be honest here, that I bought his book 3 years ago, but haven't taken the time to read it. Given my work flow, I know I need too, thus I decided to attend the session!

GTD is a life-long process. Something you engage in, with multiple methods of mastery. It's "best practices for appropriate engagement with your world, no matter what!"

  • Makes explicit what we all do implicitly to be effective
  • Magnifies that ability exponentially if you understand the principle
How many have made a list and felt more focused and in control?
How many decidded what specifically to do next on something?
How many commiitted to something?
How many keep a calendar to keep track of things?

The Flow:
  1. Capture potentially meaningful things
  2. decide what to do
  3. park the results
  4. review
  5. overview of committments
  6. make trusted choices
When should and can you learn this process? Allen isn't sure, but he knows kids who have known it their whole life, and they are "smokin the world!"

The Horizons of Committments include:
  • Purpose and principles-what really matters
  • Vision-best manifestation of success
  • Goals-objectives to achieve
  • Accountabilities-key areas to maintain
  • Projects-things to finish
  • Actions-things to do now

Ideally, we would all see a list like this, but in the real world, it looks more like a scrambled wordle with
When this shows up in a crisis, we have to jump in to high performance mode. 

The productive state is when we are in control, relaxed, focused, inspired and engaged.

High performing athletes are relaxed in order to do well.

The key is to not always been in the productive state, but to know how to get back into it! Often people don't realize they are falling out of it, and don't know they need to get back.

Anything on your mind can block getting things done.
Is your attention under your command, or is it being held hostage?
Allen says that our "head is for having ideas, not for holding them."
You can switch rapidly between tasks, as long as you have a good placeholder system and focus on the individual task at hand, like a martial artist fighting 4 people at once.

There is a close relationship between focus and control, though they are 2 different dynamics. 

A victim has no control or perspective. Micro-managers have a lot of control but no perspective.  The crazy maker has lots of perspective but little control. It's the "master and commander" who has both! The "knowledge-worker ninja!"

Why do we not approach our inbasket as a place for new opportunities and creativity? (Situation Awareness training is something the military has started training junior officers)

The secrets of the knowledge-worker ninja:

  • Collect what has your attention
  • Proccess: outcome, next action
  • Organize the inventory
  • Review from a higher perspective
  • Engage, intuitively

  • Identify what has your attention
  • What doesn't belong in your office? (Reference, In basket, )
  • Mind sweep to get things out of your head
He asked us to write down as many things that are on our mind for a few minutes. Get as much info as we can in 3 minutes. For me:

dinner party tonight, planning a trip for spring break, oil change in the car, prepping a blog post for Open Online Experience, checking my kids grade portal, planning a Super Bowl party, organizing for work tomorrow, checking up on my folks, checking Twitter (A shock!), paying bills...

Allen-"The brain is for having these ideas, but not holding on to them!"

Thinking doesn't happen by itself. 
Collection has to go into
  • trusted buckets rather than in your head 
  • collecting devices/tools 
    • Low Tech, Mid-Tech, High-Tech
    • Notepads, lower the barrier to entry for when the thought strikes. Allen uses a "note-paper wallet." Sophistication not senility is when thoughts strike and need to be captured.
    • File folders is really low tech
    • Evernote/Doc SOMEWHERE!
  • Collect it ALL! (For me blogging at a session like this is my collection bucket...") 
  • In minimal places
  • Which get emptied regularly (Oh, you mean 1500 read e-mails isn't a good idea?)
Decide what to do with the stuff collected.
Allen showed a messy desk and said, "It's really the mind of someone with a clean desk!" 
Often to do lists are incomplete. Listing things that still require decision making is not beneficial. You need to focus on whether something is actionable. It's important to "incubate" things that need later action, or need to be parked as a reference.

If it is actionable, you need to know what is true for the item to be done.

Is it a project?
Where does the item need to take place?

Anything that can be done in one sitting is actionable, multi-step needs to be parked in a project location.

Things like laundry, groceries, etc. don't need to live in your head because external triggers will remind you.

To Do Lists become much more detailed and specific, and include the projects as well as the next actions. The projects get looked at maybe once a week. The next actions get looked at during the week and attacked based on priority. All next actions are little things, but when they get checked off, it's a good feeling.

Best practice:

  • Decide when it shows up where to put it vs. when it blows up
  • Frontal Cortex is the only tool you can use for this.

Need to park things that don't get done in a location that makes sense. THIS leads to...


  • Put things where those kinds of things go (vs. mixed meanings) 
  • List manager+files

What needs to be reviewed and when.
How often should the horizon of committments be reviewed?
How often should you look at your calendar? 

  • Regular over-viewing from higher perspective vs. latest and lowdest reactivity
  • Working blueprint of committments

Engage intuitively

  • Refreshed inventories vs. oout of date and incomplete
  • These habits installed.

Instant workflow sanity:

  • Next actions
  • Agendas
  • Waiting for...
  • Projects

The next step is putting it into practice

  • Next action decision-making (The 2 minute Rule)
  • 30-90 minutes per day for daily processing
  • Daily Processing Time-Zeroing IN 
    • Delete
    • File
    • Handle the less than 2-minute ones
    • Greater than 2 minute items go to your Action Box
  • Build in Review time
  • Integrating life and work

A peer-reviewed paper on cognitive research showed that this stuff really works.

Some people suggest splitting the work and personal list, others combine. 
The GTD Workflow Map shows what this looks like:

Given that I am a pack-rat by nature, I struggle with implementing some of these ideas. But at the same time, my inefficiencies make me realize I need to do something. Over the next few weeks, I hope to implement some of the GTD ideas to see what impact it has.

GTD is not about getting things done, but about "creating the conditions to flourish!"