Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Looking At Content Through A Different Lens

Last Saturday, I had a chance to participate in "#SATCHAT," a weekly education chat on Twitter that takes place at 7:30 am EST. This week's conversation, titled, "The Missing Voices in EdTech," on diversity in Educational Technology, was moderated by Rafranz Davis, a Math and Technology educator from Texas and author of the book by the same name

During the course of the questions and answers came an exchange regarding a simulation game called "Mission-US- Mission 2: Flight to Freedom." Produced by New York Public Television with support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, this simulation is intended to give students the experience of being a slave in the 1800's.
When Davis posted the link, I followed to see what she was talking about. At first glance, given who the creators were, and the blessing of the National Endowment for the Humanities, I was confused as to why it would be considered an "atrocity."

Our district has had a strong focus the last few years on equity, race and the achievement gap, and I serve on the Equity team at our district office. One thing that I have learned through this process is that the lens that I view the world through as a middle-aged, white male is that of the dominant culture, and I value the opportunities to hear other perspectives. 

A little while later, Davis posted on her blog about the game. Along with sharing excerpts from the story students go through, and asking questions of the producers, she makes the following key points:
Let me be clear in saying that learning about this time in history is necessary but doing so in a role playing game is not appropriate.
If your idea of “celebrating” the contributions of Black people during the month of February is a lesson in slavery…you are the one that needs a lesson in history and the countless contributions that we not only have made but are still making.
Our enslavement is not and should not be your lesson on resilience and grit.
I was somewhat embarrassed after reading her post that all of these concerns weren't self-evident to me at first glance. I tweeted out a link to her post and included the #sschat hashtag, in the hope that social studies teachers might take a look and give her comments some thought. 

Davis thanked me for the tweet, but it was really I who needed to thank her!

Davis has given me something to think about regarding the lens that I view my work through. It is an important reminder that diversity in education, is an important component, not just so that students see adults that look like them, but so that adults can learn from people who don't! 
Thanks, Rafranz for helping me see that!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Using Canva for Student Creation

Over the last year, I have seen some posts by Bill Ferriter, on using Canva as a tool for creating nice presentations and posters using Creative Commons Licensed photos from Flickr. The Canva site is free (there is also an iPad app), and is a great way to let students demonstrate what they know in creative ways, one of the goals of Digital Age Learning. By using the Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr, you are getting pretty high quality, and most are licensed for use with attribution. Of course, if the student can use their own picture, that is the prefered option!

Here are a couple I came up with:

Recently there has been great turmoil in Yemen, and one of the leadership groups there is called Houthi. Reminded me a bit of Darius Rucker!

I created this next one during a meeting, sitting next to Doug Johnson. He had just commented on the importance of Visual Literacy, and how sometimes visuals are created that mean very little. I've tweaked it over the last few weeks, finally settling on this image that I took a month ago.

Canva has templates for posters as well as presentations, and is a quick and easy way for students to express themselves. I know that Bill has used it with his 6th graders, and has found it to be pretty intuitive and easy to use with them.

Students should know that there is free content on the site, but that some premium features do cost money. Another reason to try to use your own images if you can!

Give it a try, and let me know what you come up with!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lessons on Using Data for Assessment From A Football Game

via NY Post
The last couple of days, I've been a little bit down, emotionally. I'm a Packer fan, and an "owner," and I was coming to grips with the fact that the team had thrown away a great chance to advance to the Super Bowl in one of the most epic collapses in NFL history

As I perused some of the articles written about the game, I was startled to see the statistics from the two quarterbacks in the game, the Packers Aaron Rodgers, and Seattle's Russell Wilson.

QB Ratings for NFC Championship
via ESPN

One of the ways that quarterbacks in the NFL are evaluated is by Quarterback Rating. This rating is based on a complicated formula involving Completion Percentage, Yards Per Attempt, Touchdowns and Interceptions. While some believe that the formula is flawed, it has been used for many years to evaluate a quarterback's performance.

Based on this generally accepted formula, neither quarterback had a very effective game. In fact, Wilson had a 0 for a rating through most of the game. Still if you used this formula, it would appear that Rodgers played close to 4 times better than Wilson based on the statistics. Despite this, Wilson's last three passes resulted in a 2 pt. conversion, a key 3rd down reception, and a touchdown that won the game for his team. 

This got me to thinking about how students and teachers get evaluated. Some teachers complain about the student who coasts all semester, only to turn it on in the last few weeks to pass the class. They want the grade to reflect that "lack of effort."
Others want to evaluate teachers based on standardized test scores of their students, despite research that questions the correlation

Based only on the statistics, it appears Rodgers had the better game. But I think he'd take Wilson's numbers if it meant he'd be playing in the Super Bowl in a few days. 

There are some flaws to this analogy, but I hope it encourages people to think about the data they use to assess students and teachers, and how sometimes, numbers don't tell the whole story. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

#EPSThink Digital Citizenship Month in Edina

This week is the first full week of "Digital Citizenship Month" in Edina Public Schools, an effort to raise awareness about the importance of being a good citizen online. We recognize that this topic can't just be a "one and done," lesson. Just like we talk about proper behavior in our face-to-face classrooms every day, we also need to talk about proper behavior in the virtual world, every day!
To that end, we've put together this Website for staff.
Each week, we are covering a different topic:
  • Digital Safety
  • Giving Credit/Taking Credit
  • Information Literacy
  • Digital Footprint
At the elementary level, students are utilizing the Digital Passport curriculum from Common Sense Media. At the middle school level, students are working on earning badges by completing activities. Parents had the opportunity to attend a talk on "Digital Consciousness: Public and Permanent" from Richard Guerry, founder of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication.
At the high school, Media Specialist Sara Swenson has partnered with some of the student leadership groups to encourage students to tweet out public service reminders to their classmates with the #EPSThink hashtag. Here are a few examples of what students and staff have come up with!

It is our hope to raise the awareness of our students and to get them "THINKing" about how they interact online. We know that sometimes we all make mistakes, and hopefully those mistakes aren't ones are permanent. Thanks to Shannon Long, who came up with the THINK poster.

Update: I wish that I had been able to use ALL of the posts on the #EPSThink tag, but alas, I could not. A couple of students had put some less than appropriate information on a few of their tweets. We know that kids will make mistakes. Today we met with the students and tried to make it a "teachable moment." Hopefully they learned the lesson.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hour of Code: Year II

Last year, the AP Computer Science students at Edina High School facilitated Hour of Code for all of the students at EHS. As I documented here, it was a huge success, in fact, enrollment in the Computer course went up 50%!

This year, Nancy Johnson, the instructor and the students wanted to take Hour of Code to the Middle Schools. Johnson contacted the Math teachers at both South View and Valley View, who agreed to give up a day of curriculum, and have the high school students facilitate Hour of Code. I hung out at South View, coordinating students and handing out food. The kids were amazing! The high school students received high marks from the teachers, leading students and in some cases learning from them! The high schoolers remarked at how engaged the students were overall in the different activities. Said one,
We aren't that engaged programming for 50 minutes, these kids coded for 80!
All in all, a great learning opportunity for all! Here is a bit of what I captured at South View.

Sidenote: One added benefit of being 1:1, was that we didn't have to schedule labs or set up carts of computers for this year's event. Kids just used their own device and learned to code right in the classroom!

Reflection: There has been some criticism lately from folks regarding the motives behind Hour of Code. I understand those concerns, and also get it that the basic games and activities on the site should not be confused as full blown curricula. While observing one class yesterday, after a student completed the tasks on the Karel the Dog site, I heard a teacher challenge a student to complete a task that wasn't in the guided steps. The student was fully engaged in solving the problem and working towards a solution. Will that student go on to take Computer Science courses moving forward, or have a career in the field, I don't know. But I do know that the students I saw yelling, "YES!" and pumping their fist when they solved a problem, got an engaging glimpse into the instructions and language behind the tools they use everyday, and that many would probably continue to explore these beyond the one "Hour of Code." I also got to see a great group of High School students, men AND women, serve as role models to the middle school students, and leave feeling as though they had made a difference. That to me was a huge #EduWin!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TIES 2014 Notes 10x's Vision in Education with Google and Minnesota Districts

Jim Leonard, Program Manager for Google, shared What is 10x Thinking?
What does 10x mean for Education?
Are we settiing goals that make the radical change that is important?
When superintendents are asked, "Why is this important?" they say:

  • Student engagement
  • Preparing students for jobs
There WILL be new devices...Who knows what TIES will look like in 5 years?
What are the skils of the future?
The Economist group surveyed teachers, business leaders and they asked:

To what extent are the skills taught in education around the world changing?
  • Problem Solving
  • Team-Working
  • Communications
  • Critical Thinking 
The conversation is evolving...
It's not about "If we give everyone a device," it's a means to an end.
From Tool Substitution to Learning Innovation

Ok, Google... and Photo Math are changing what students need to know.
It's not about why or what, but HOW!

Roofshot rather than Moonshot!
"We choose to go to the roof ot because it is glamorous, but because it is right there! 
Go out there and have huge dreams, then show up to work the next day and make it happen!

Leyden High School: Turning 140 character rants into School Pride! #leydenpride Jason Markey: We are not doing any good shutting down Twitter, they need to know how to use it well!

Learning Environment
Milpitas Unified Schools: Teachers needed to differentiate, but didn't have the right tools to make that happen. They took a step back and looked at their models and used Blended Learning

Funding and Sustainability
Lee Summit Schools, "A chance to innovate w/ limited funds."
Transitioning all diesel buses to clean energy




Vault coming in the ecosystem in January, Hangouts now part of the core package.

Chromebooks are the #1 device in Education.

Play for Education is available within Chromebook management.
Chrome Apps
Android Apps
K-12 Books
YouTube Videos

If you're not doing some things that are crazy, then you're doing the wrong things.

Google Play for Education 
Pretty easy for deploying Android Apps on tablets!

Now the content source through Google Play will work on any device, including Chromebooks.

Google Classroom
Designed to do one thing: handle workflow with Drive
If your needs for an LMS is pushing out assignments, then use it, if you need more, use a different LMS, or use them in combination.
Someone in the audience suggested for the ability to NOT have a due date.
Also, multiple teachers in a classroom is one of the top 3 requests. Hopefully coming soon!

TIES 14 Notes: Jane McGonigal Keynote-Games to Tackle Real-World Problems

Noted Game designer and author, Jane McGonigal was the Tuesday Keynote speaker at TIES 2014
The daughter of educators, she started by inviting us to take the next 45 minutes to take games seriously, as a way to shape the future of learning.

The GOOD News, there are now 1 Billion Gamers world wide (1 hr./day). Some might argue that 1 Billion hours of gaming per day may not be a good idea... 300 million minutes/day is spent playing Angry Birds. That's 400,000 years! 1 in 4 Call of Duty players call in sick the day a new version is released!

81% of global workers are not engaged in the workplace. (Gallup, 2013) Not connected to a community bigger than yourself, and not optimistic.
The longer you stay in school, the LESS ENGAGED you become!

52% of Americans do not feel they have the power to make a difference, yet 7+ Billion hours of time is spent playing games, McGonigal argues because they are looking for something.

99% of boys and 94% of girls spend an hour gaming. We've closed the gender gap! 92% of 2 year olds are playing games. What is the appeal?

McGonigal has spent over a decade exploring how games can help us increase engagement to solve real life problems.

The top 10 emotions when playing games include:

  • Joy
  • Relief
  • Curiousity
  • Love
  • Surprise
  • Pride
  • Excitement
  • Awe and Wonder
  • Contentment
  • Creativity

3/4 of gaming hours today are based on team/cooperative games. This could be quality time spent together.

These emotions on average impact people even 24 hours after they are initially felt. Positive emotions make us resilient!

McGonigal showed a portrait series of people playing games that showed how they were engaged and resilient while playing them. She notes that the images show that game playing requires hard work, and is not necessarily the "lazy" misnomer that people attribute to gaming.
In games, you can fail 4 out of 5 times, and still have the optimism that you can succeed. Wouldn't it be great if these were the faces of students learning?!

The opposite of play isn't's depression!
-Brian Sutton Smith
 There is new research that shows that this statement is true at the neurocognitive level! The same areas of the brain that are active when playing games are the same that are inactive when people are depressed!

She showed a game where the player goes through the human body to fight lukemia, called Re-Misison2 from Hope Lab. The goal was for people undergoing treatment to play the game as a way to encourage them to monitor their health and take the medication. 

They found that these people had +16% more antibiotics, +41% higher blood chemo levels, and much greater self-efficacy after playing the game 6 months after playing the game. These kids were highly motivated, but the positive emotions they earned through playing the game enhanced that motivation.
Researchers at Stanford identified that it's not the technology/graphics/story and sound, it was the control of the game that had the most neurological benefit. This is important to remember for education. Students need to be the ones playing and in charge! (This ties closely to my philosophy of digital age learning-It's not what the teacher is doing with the technology, it's what the student is doing that will have the biggest impact!) The Stanford study showed higher motivation AND learning through the interactive play.

Almost all games create this neurochemistry. Video games are higher due to the faster feedback. ALL GAMES are LEARNING GAMES!
If we stop learning a game, we stop playing them! How many adults play tic-tac-toe?

McGonigal hopes for Super-Empowered Individuals who are developing the neurochemistry to be more engaged with their goals, and more motivated to learn! 

I don’t think education is about centralized instruction anymore; rather, it is the process establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity.-Joi Ito (NY Times)
McGonigal shared Foldit, solving puzzles for science, which isn't as complicated as Words with Friends or Angry Birds, but not as hard as World of Warcraft.

50,000 Gamers beat Supercomputers in solving the folding of protien structures. All of the gamers were listed as authors of the Nature Journal paper. Nice resume builder!
When Scientists Fail, It's Time to Call the Gamers!
McGonigal encourages students to get involved, and use their real names, so that if and when they win the Nobel Prize, they will get credit! Their are many games for science like Foldit, that she encourages teachers to check out!

McGonigal noted that it is still important to be in physical spaces, especially ones that are "awe-inspiring," as you are more creative and productive! She developed a game for the New York Public Library, Find the Future

82% of young Americans want to write a book someday! The game is designed to help inspire students to use the New York Public Library to do this. There are 8 stories of books below street level in the library! 
10,000 people applied for the first 500 spots to get in the game! The game was playable at the library for a full year. Mostly high school and college students participated. Friday night, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. people were locked in and couldn't leave till they wrote a book! They looked for objects/artifacts that changed history that they then used phones to scan QR codes that showed secrets about the objects, like the paragraph abolishing slavery in the Declaration of Independence, that Jefferson's colleagues had him strike.
Students then had writing challenges for each artifact, that required collaboration among the players. By the end, 500 authors created 1184 stories!

McGonigal sees this type of game-based learning is the future, where students can actually make a difference. These changes may start in Higher Education, but could trickle down to K-12.