Sunday, January 25, 2009

What I've learned at EduCon 2.1 :I'm definitely a "Green Hat!"

Here are some key takeaways I've had here at Educon in no particular order:
  • There are no public "AP intensive schools" that have moved to Project Based/Student Centered Learning because as Gary Stager said, "AP is the antithesis of a Project based Student centered curriculum. There are some private schools who have recognized that they were turning out students who were good at the Knowledge level but not beyond, and have made the switch, like the Cincinnati Country Day School.

  • There are many programs out their that are working, but replication and scalability are not easy-human capital.

  • The key to creating successful projects is to develop authentic Essential Questions that are standards based.

  • Chris Lehmann is a tremendous educator, and tremendous host!

  • The teaching staff at SLA are fantastic! And their pretty young too!!!

  • There is a huge disconnect between what we believe education should be about and what it is about. Change will not be easy, but worth fighting for!
  • The SLA Core Values: Inquiry, Research, Collaboration, Presentation, Reflection
  • The SLA Themes for each grade level: Identity, Systems, Change, Creation

  • The Glenbrook Digital Learning Space,and method for implementation is very promising!

  • Have back up plans when things don't work...Doesn't mean it's not worth doing.
  • A 1:1 Laptop program does not mean giving up books or notebooks.

  • The SLA students are tremendous co-learners! Letting students join your PLN isn't a bad thing! I started following a few of the students at SLA I met. Hope to learn from them!

  • I made some good connections with a knowledge base we can tap into.

  • Benchmark, Project Based Lessons-maybe start with 1 a semester?

  • We will need power strips, no matter what laptops we purchase!!!
  • Learned how to use Eduard DeBono's "6 Thinking Hats"

  • Student comment that when he sees Chris Lehman's Tweets, it lets him know how hard he is working to make SLA a great school-This was Will Richardson's take-away too! Change is possible!!!

  • If a question can be answered by looking it up on Google, is it worth asking?

  • In the age of standardized testing, the question isn't "Is our children learning?", it should be "Are our children learning how to think?"

Now back to Minnesota, rolling up the sleeves and back to work!! Good luck to the Green Hats!!

Educon 2.1: Last Session-David Warlick

For my last session at Educon, I attended David Warlick's session on Forging Links between Casual Information Practices and Formal Learning Procedures.
The nature of information is what's changing. Children in our classrooms are coming from an information experience different from what we had.
Next we went to this site for a hands on learning experience.
How do we tap in to the energy students have outside school, in our classrooms?
The 3 Principles of Learning in the middle of the diagram come from Linda Darling-Hammond.
Logical connections can be made between the students outside-the-classroom information experience, and the principles of learning.
We then looked at examples of how students experience fits each of the areas, outside the classroom based on our rolls.

Students today are...
Carrying the communication with them
Multiple Perspectives/sources-? Or are they having a transparent conversation?
Multi-tasking at the same time.(Medina's "Brain Rules" would argue with multi-tasking)
Constant flow of information from a variety of sources.

When students are engaged and invested they will search for the source wherever they might find it!
(There is a backchannel of collective knowledge happening with people who aren't in the room)
The question was asked by a principal.

If a question asked can be answered using Google, is it a question worth asking?

Now backchannel has been moved here...At what point does a backchannel devalue quiet listening? Is a backchannel just passing notes?

Lehmann-It gets back to teaching and learning, Matt Kay-"Take a momment and marinate!" "Close your lids!" Sometimes we need a little Zen in our lives!

Maybe if there is an official backchannel, that can be used occasionally, then it's ok. Possibly using "Cover it Live", it's archived and allows for that outlet.

Values Safely Made Mistakes...

Personal Experience-Avatars, Identities in Web 2.0 tools

Warlick-What would be an Inside the Classroom assignment look like....I think that SLA teachers have been modeling this all weekend!

Zach Chase used the "High Grade Complement" to model effective constructive criticism.

We learn what we teach! Students need to do this as well!

Warlick talked about a teacher who gives students the "Final Exam" starting the first week of school and periodically thereafter.

And then the weight of the weekend set in..... Tough being the last session!

The model he's developed tied to the Project Based Learning site, give a good backbone for designing effective lessons for today's students.

All the handouts are at David

EduCon 2.1: Impromptu Session with Students at SLA

Notes on my impromptu talk with Matt Kay and some of the students at SLA

Matt Kay -2 plans for everything you do! For when the technology doesn't work. Likes still having books, and students writing on paper.
If I'm competing for attention, LIDS DOWN!!
Zach the student-On paper, just do it. On computer, distraction of Word stuff.
Kay-Half of freshman year spent learning that Chat is a distraction...It's a battle. D's and F's take care of it for most people.
Advisory helps with learning how to schedule time.
Students asked for "Simple Finder" to be on from Monday-Friday and back on over the weekends!
Student-at home sometimes I can't work if the Internet is on!!

Kay-The Promethean boards have the temptation of sucking you in to a teacher

PowerPoint is NOT integrating technology!! (See here!)

Participant: A presentation style with 20 slides each on a 20 second timer.

NO bullets. Changes kids from Screen readers to storytellers..

We all shared what we learned this weekend...Connections, collaboration, talking about how we learn best, how other schools are working on these problems, etc...

Educon 2.1: Forging Student-Teacher Relationships

During the conference on Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Kustler and Tyrone Kidd, 9th grade students at the Science and Leadership Academy. They were very engaging, told me that they would be presenting on this topic, and I wanted to be sure to check it out.
Jeff started by sharing his experience in school, having skipped a grade, a mensa member, attended schools around the northeast. Picked SLA for the technology, lives in New Jersey.
They started helping out Marci Hull, Computer Coordinator/Art teacher at SLA, and assisted in imaging all student computers for this school year.

Tyrone shared his experience "networking his way to SLA", through Twitter, he was connected to Chris Lehmann through his teacher Brandon Lutz, and started "stalking" SLA and "crashed" Educon last year. With the help of his advisor, teacher, and parents and others. He came to the conference and became his own advocate, to make something out of himself. Came to Open House and started questioning Marci and developed a relationship. The first day, the students thought he was a substitute (Greg Oden look-a-like!)
Students attended summer institute.

Students at SLA start with an advisor in 9th grade and continue with them throughout their time there. Advisories are two days a week for a full period. Students aren't in the same classes necessarily, but students/advisor can advocate for each other. Marci knows her better than anyone, "which is kind of odd!" A lot of problems can get worked out, and the advisor can advocate for talking with other people. (Advisors have 20 students, principal and councellor also have advisory)
Structure of Advisory
Student looks forward to it, especially during benchmarks-time to talk to people and collaborate
Look forward to getting input
Sometimes time to unwind
Space to come together with students where no content is attached. (No standard)
Teacher-chance to listen
Scheduled time to do that.
Silent study time-effective for 9th graders (Including no chatting!)
Metaphor in Science-Pick an event that you disliked in 2008 you wanted to get rid of. Write on a piece of paper, and burned the paper!
Team building

5 Words that share what life is like here:

Teachers don't have an ego, where "I'm the teacher, you're the student and you have to learn what I say!"
Marci-"This is the perfect place to fail, I'm setting you up for it!" In tech, I introduce topics and ask for their feedback. I don't have all the answers. What do you find in a filterless network?! Student leaders can share waht they want to introduce, she then guides
Larissa-What can we talk about that is real and value student thoughts-"How might you communicate that?"
Tyrone-Deadlines for benchmarks are very close

?-"What are teachers learning?
Larissa-Essential Questions-Teachers don't have a pre-determined answer. Classes will go in different directions. Not all cookie cutter the same. Teacher is the co-learner on the educational journey with each class.
Marci-All members of my personal learning network are used to assist in the process of learning. Forging those connections. By forging a relationship with a student, she stays connected to what it means to be a teen-ager. Marci came from a failing school, she had a certain teacher persona there-where students there could hear her, but at SLA she pays more attention to student voices.
Jeff-Every single day in Math, there's no such thing as the teacher teaching us...It's about investigation and discussing together.
Tyrone-Mohamed moved here from France and sits on developing formulas for the class to figure out. It's not just the teacher teaching.

?How do you foster the courage for kids to be able to share their thoughts?
Jeff-Teachers are down to earth and have an open environment.
Students always have a reflection at the end of each benchmark. To give kids the ownership of the project leads to...

Marci-Reflecting and presenting is part of the core values. Everyone is expected to present, so every adult in the building is focussed on it.
Differentiate for each one of your kids and what's important to them is important to you!

(Jeff is modelling the SLA way-"Does anyone have any sparks seeing that word?")
Tyrone-At this conference, the key to interactions is working together. All the teachers are in sessions, so we've been empowered to keep things working.
Sarah-I remember not speeking to any teachers here for a long time. One of the most important things was in 9th grade was a moment when I thought everyone was tricking me, being so nice. In advisory, she's not my teacher, she's not my friend, she's in the middle.
?Have the ways you interact at SLA changed the way you interact with others in the world?
Tyrone-My teachers and parents are on the same level.
Jeff-I agree, teachers are like parents in that they truly want us to succeed. These are the kinds of people who you can talk about what was on T.V. last night.
What's the difference between teachers here and in the outside-
Jeff-The teachers have the freedom to move the curriculum in the direction that they think is best.

Tyrone's former teacher, Brandon Lutz : As much success I've had it's because of Tyrone!
Discussion moved to Twitter's impact on students and teachers learning together.
Is Twitter ok, but Facebook no? Boundaries??
Lutz later said-I wouldn't have students as friends on Facebook, but on Twitter, it's ok. He just keeps his own "non-professional" personal things on Facebook.

Ethics of Care

Boundaries-(I guessed it)!
If a teacher doesn't tell you the proper way to behave how do you know?
Tyrone and Jeff: Observation, Ms. Hull got upset when a student was tardy, so I knew that expectation. Most teachers in the course overview section of Moodle have the expectations listed. Sometimes you just need to put 2 and 2 together.

How do you know when you've crossed the line?
Tyrone: Facial Expressions! Non-verbal communication
Sarah-When you are young, you're taught to respect your elders. Then you grow up and forget about it! Online, with social networking, you still need to be respectful, at the end of the day, you're still the student, and their the teacher. I'm friends with every one of my teachers on FaceBook, if pictures come up on your page that can be linked back to school, it reflects on the school and it's not ok.
Jeff-It helps me to realize that these teachers are here for us. They have a life. They're people as well. When you look at Chris Lehmann's tweets, you see how hard he is working for us!!
Audience: Kids today are learning technology outside of school, we learned it in school.
Sarah: By being connected to our teachers, it has forced us to be more professional with our on-line interaction.
I use proper grammar in my on-line life, because then when I'm at school I don't have to turn it on.

Here at SLA, all three students said that they were treated with respect by the teachers as people.

?In 140 characters or less, when do you feel frustrated?
Tyrone-When I can't meet the deadlines
Sarah-When I can't do something and I'm pushed to do it anyway
Jeff-When I can't go even further beyond the spectrum of what's expected!

Sarah-The teachers don't run EduCon, we run Educon

Marci-Have authentic relationships with the studetns in your care!!
Jeff-If you have any questions, follow us, ask us questions!

Educon 2.1: Panel Discussion on Educational Change and Reform

The Sunday panel moderated by Andy Carvin, National Public Radio, focussed on Education Change. The panel included:

  • David Bromley -- Regional Director, Big Picture Schools
  • Chris Lehmann -- Principal, Science Leadership Academy
  • Marc Mannella -- Principal, KIPP Philadelphia
  • Bette Manchester -- Former State Educational Technology Director, Maine
  • Gary Stager-- Executive Director of the Constructivist Consortium
  • Mike Wang -- Executive Director of Teach For America Greater Philadelphia

January 29-31, 2009 Educon 2.2 announced Save the Date!!

Here is a clip from the session.

Carvin asked each on the panel give an "Opening Statement". What does School Reform Look Like now that we have a new President in the White House.

Lehmann-"I am hopeful", That data driven decision making recognizes that the best data we have on our students is the work that they do in the classroom every day.

Mannella-Explained that KIPP schools fundamental belief that "All of us WILL Learn." Created to attempt to solve the problem of students. No Child Left Behind-got a couple things right, but a couple things wrong. Can't allow excuses to be made for students

Manchester-Running the Maine Learning and Technology Initiative (7 years). Every middle school in Maine, students and teachers using laptops. "My hope is that we will do what we know works." Transforming schools is not a mystery. The moral courage needs to be there to do what is right.

There has to be a level of coherence between Federal, State and Local schools.

  1. Schools need a morally clear vision and purpose
  2. Make clear that every staff member knows that purpose
  3. Committment to change everything! Focus on Deep Levels of Learning
  4. Intellegent Accountability-Focus on Assessment FOR Learning
  5. Lateral capacity-building those networks
  6. Leadership to focus on the change

Wang-Working to develop a broader level of leadership in Education and Business with Teach For America (Talked about D.C. Superintendent being a former TFA person)

Themes that are working: ("Non-Negotiable")

  1. Human Capital-Bring the right people in
  2. Use of Data-We can measure what students are learning when and how.
  3. Unyeilding Expectations with accountability

The President has shown the ability to dive into difficult issues and build consensus. "Arne Duncan is a great first step!"

Bromley-Big Picture Company, small student-centered schools

Cautiously optimistic, the real change will have to come from us

"Public Education is the one institution that still doesn't get it! " Need to move toward "imperical science" in how we look at kids. More schools are starting to move that way, but culture of schools, leadership need to change to fit what works for that kid.

(This panel is pretty balanced!-Except by race and gender, but philosophically balanced.)


  • "I dream of an America where the person put in charge of education is qualified."
  • Couldn't answer the question, "What's your favorite book about learning?"
  • "The Duncan appointment was something Republicans Like to Call Social Promotion."
  • Real teachers don't need data, they need to know their children!
  • In my vision of schooling, reform is based on
  • We must not rank or sort children
  • Partnership
  • Every child should have a rich education during the school day
  • Classroom an oasis for the joy of learning
  • Every child entitled to a passion
  • Learning is natural
  • Always wrong to be mean to children
  • External assessment is ALWAYS disruptive and interferes with learning

Carvin: What's realistic here?

Lehmann-replicability and scalability is difficult. The things that are replicable are processes. We can't scale curriculum, Tom Sobel-We can regulate the worst abuses out of the system but we can't regulate goodness Strives to put together policies that give good people the freedom and structure to be the best they can be.

Carvin: Is this possible to do with teachers who have been part of our current beaurocracy?

Bromley-A friend on the State Board of Education asked if what he is doing is replicable? There are so many teachers out there who want to do something different. YES-There are so many teachers who want to work differently with kids, but it's not going to happen over night.

Manchester-There are a lot of teachers like me who started in the 60's who never lost the passion, but it takes a force of many to decide to change. The messaging and the policies are critical-About the right stuff, not catching people doing bad things. Feed-back look in place where people can see the impact.

Mannella-Are we going to let perfect be the enemy of good? "I got to go to a good law school because I did well on my LSAT."

Stager-"I'm for more democracy not less." All of these schools can be a part of the solution, and parents can choose the "worksheet school" if they want!

Carvin-If NCLB doesn't work, what's the alternative?

Stager-NCLB was a political act. I'm glad it's not fully funded! We need to begin on the assumption that parents will make good choices for their children.

Wang-I'm listening to this and I agree with 92% of what some are saying, but the rest I go "woo!" The disagregation of data is a great reform in closing the acheivement gap. "We are a "niche" school and we sometimes yell at them. If that's going to work for that child, then we'll do it. I better spend 2x's as long

(Great backchannel on Twitter right now between the panelists and audience while people are talking)

Lehmann-The tests sometimes are measuring test taking. I have a child who probably will have an IEP and I never want teachers to look at him and say, can we get him to be proficient on the test. I want them to care for him. NCLB is choking our schools by changing the way that teachers look at students. The STAR program in Nebraska was great! Stop the insanity and work on what we know is best for kids.

Wang-It's not the policy that is bad, it's the implementation policy. As long as higher ed looks at test scores, we need to teach to the test.

Bromley-I think we need assessment, but doing test prep for a standardized test is wrong. We need to look at kids empirically. It's not Washington, it's not the policies, its one student at a time. We all need to be around the table and advocating to policy makers.

Carvin: Look around the room, and see who is here? How many people of color are here. Philly schools are 80% minority, are we doing anything wrong by not bringing more diversity into the conversation here?

Friedrick Bertley from the Franklin Institute , he was a former AIDS researcher stepped up to say that 3/4 of the world w/ AIDS were people of color, but when he attended conferences, they looked like the group here.

Wang-Too many students of color are not going on to higher ed, and that's not ok.

Manchester-I probably come from the "second whitest state in the Union!" It's about money and accessibility. Our poorest schools don't have a shot to do what schools in other parts of the state can do. The Maine Laptop initiative was the first in her state that leveled the playing field for students accross the state. The first thing is going to idividual schools and tracking where professional development $ go.

Lehmann-Goal of SLA is generating a generation of scientist and teachers who look like the population of the city around them.

Bromley-How much are we modeling for students, all the time? How often here did we sit and visit with people that don't look like us? Look at the panel....(I had dinner last night with Matt Kay and his parents.)

Comment from the Audience-Part of who you sit with has to do with the diversity of your community. The cafeteria at her school which is diverse, still gravitate toward

Stager-We can name the people of color at NECC each year. We can all help the situation by bringing people of color here.

Carvin-What does 21st Century Citizenship mean to you?

Wang-Expectations that extend far beyond the education community are needed. Teach for America is trying to develop leaders that understand what's happening in schools in their communities. "It is possible for all kids to learn."

Manchester-Technology helps with making the connecctions to learn and collaborate with each other.

Lehmann-I want my students to be Thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind-If the tools help this to happen, great, but it can be in any century.

Carvin-It seems that real inovation happens in smaller schools. (SLA-500 next year, KIPP 340) Is there hope for larger schools?

Mannella-If schools can forge relationships and overcome the

Manchester-The relationship piece is the key to success no matter the size.

Lehmann-"Small schools can't be big schools in drag", Even in small schools, if there aren't opportunities to forge relationships so everyone can celebrate their shared humanity first, then it doesn't matter.

Carvin-How can you get schools to change when their stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Mannella-KIPP-Founded on "Power to Lead", give them autonomy

Manchester-All the work in Maine involved work with principals on assessment. U of Maine wasn't teaching assessment in their pre-service instruction or Admin licensure! Once training on assessment happened, then principals were able to be more articulate and could give feedback to policy makers on what was and wasn't working.

Mannella-With great power comes great responsibility

Lehmann-Responsibility is internal, Accountability is external. There is a disconnect in how people are judged.

Wang-The limiting factor is human capital.

Carvin-Educon currently the 2nd most popular topic on Twitter! If everyone had a chance to have a beer with Obama, what would you tell him?

Wang-We know know beyond a shaddow of a doubt that all kids can learn

Bromley-I'd just want to listen. Ask him to reflect on what made him successful. Connect him to relationships

Lehmann-Hire Debbie Meyer

Manchester-Don't invest in one $ on technology if you aren't willing to

Stager-Pay attention to the educational experiences his daughters are having at the Friends school, and replicate that around the country.

It was interesting to have people of diverse opinions on the panel, but I did discuss the lack of diversity (racial, gender) with Bertley. He is hoping to encourage Lehman to include more of that on next year's panels. It should be noted that the panel on Friday had much more racial and ethnic diversity.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Educon 2.1 Session 3: Developing Digital Learning Spaces from Vision to Reality

I saw David Jakes last night and he encouraged me to check out some of what he and Ryan Bretag have been working on in Chicagoland with Digital Learning spaces, so I thought I'd take a look. Presentation will be here. Great image on the whole system. I hope to post it soon.
Jakes started by working the room thanking folks for being here!
Backchannel chat for the session is here.

Quote from last night:
"It's naive to think that there are problems out there that any one person can

2100 and 2600 students. 2 building district.

Push thinking and enlarge boundries of our thoughts.

KEY QUESTION: What does it mean to be well educated in the 21st Century?

Brainstorm from my group:

Critical thinking, Know how to ask the right questions collaboration, transfer of learning, not based on the tools, ("Socially constructed pedagogy"), self-motivated-owning their own learning,

Others: "critical and discerning navigators of the information sphere", know what you know and what you don't , generating good questions (Inquiry), knowing where to find the answers to any one question-plus being able to evaluate those answers, The ability to respond to a situation in the right way-To be independent you need to know when to seek advice from others., Flexible, Open-Minded

Does 21st Century need to be there? Why did they leave literacy out of there? Keeps that genie in the bottle.

2 year process discussing that question.


Take the answer to that question and design a multi-dimentional learning space to help make it happen.

Give feedback based on the "6 Hats of Thinking"

Goal: Design a System (Learning) Independent of TIME, SPACE, or PLACE

Course Learning Space: Community, Collaborative, Communication

Moodle, SLoodle, mobile tech to engage in it,

What happens to content when student leaves?

Customized (WizIQ), Content stays with the kid. Student owns it.

Student Learning Space: ePortfolio, Blog, multi-media design (Using Google Apps for this) Didn't want a blog for each class, One blog that becomes an ePortfolio!

? How do kids manage that? TAGS!! Kid could blog and tag for 2 disciplines!!! Teachers collect work through RSS in their reader.

?How do you protect the information? Walled/Open Garden

Freshman might be just published to the course, Sophomore within the district, Juniors can make the decision

Google Docs RSS fed into Moodle Course Space. They've branded their Google Accounts. Kids take it with them when they graduate.-The LIFELONG LEARNING BLUEPRINT

Bretag-We were so focused on making the course learning space the best it can be, students pushed them to the Student Learning Space. Don't overthink it! Students said, "Why can't it be our content?" (Student Leadership council, informal talks)

The Knowledge Commons-A whole school community effort Multi-Directional that wraps around the Course learning space and Student Learning Space. (Integrated WizIQ into Moodle, 1/2 hour class on on-line reading strategies can be broadcast into any classroom) Archive Everything! All Professional Development recorded and archived.

Next we broke into Edward DeBono's Six Thinking Hats Activity

Our target-Is the multi-dementional Learning Space a critical component of teaching and learning in the 21st Century?

7 to 10 minutes-ideas about the learning space balanced against our particular role.

Jakes said their probably going to embed WikiSpaces into Moodle ($1,000/year)

We were Green hat creative people-Use the tool for something they are individually passionate about.

1 week Interdisciplinary unit, teachers and students pick the tools, essential questions that give them the freedom to explore w/in the creative structure.

Now we took off our hat and were mixed up and had to share insights based on our hat.

15 minutes sharing based on our roll.

Project Based Learning is a lot of work and is a risk, and some teachers aren't willing to go there.

BUT-If the Essential Question is Standards based, it can happen!!

High School's in Pennsylvania, there is "job embeded Professional Development" where teachers get technology and then are coached in using the tech.

Our group:

  • Professional Development isn't about the tool, it's about the pedagogy
  • Focus on the people who want to learn and ignore the naysayers(Black Hats)!
  • Sustainability-Can the culture change on it's own through life long learning?
  • Are the resources going to be available to get beyond the roadblocks of infrastructure?
  • Should teachers live it, breath it, use it, before students do? (Can that happen in a safe professional development setting?) Some say yes, but if teachers haven't been reading or comenting on blogs, they can't do it effectively! We need to create a "walled-garden" for our teachers and administrators too!
  • Pay attention to learning styles and multiple intellegences.
  • Presented big picture-This is too much!! Focus on small components during implementation!
  • Permissions-How do you manage w/ some oversight, but then give students freedom to open it up over time.

As long as teachers have access to what students are producing as learners, and they have access to

The foundation of this is the Physical Learning Space!!!

How would you present this in a district?

Who would be responsible for setting up these connections? RSS, accounts, etc (NOT the Teacher!!)

Keep the methods open. Some kids might want to video blog instead of write.

The key takeaways for me are:

  • Starting with the ?
  • the overall structure
  • Learning spaces (Course, Physical, Student)
  • Knowledge Commons
  • "Walled/Open Garden
  • Life-Long Learning Blueprint
  • 6 Thinking Hat Strategy

Educon 2.1: Project Based Learning in the Mathematics Classroom

Brad Latimer, Kenneth Rochester and Caitlin Latimer talked about benchmark projects that they have used in their mathematics curriculum.
Note: This site has all of the sessions and streaming channels can be seen here.
Here are the project discriptions

Each kid picked a city and had to get data on temperature and sunset times. Then they needed to apply transformations to sin and cosin functions to match their

  • Graphs w/ functions and data
  • Process guide

Concept map tied to the rubric. Some students made brochure, some could create a presentation, etc...

Alison, a student who's project was featured took data and put it in Excel, then into Geo-Sketchpad, and used "Pages" in iWork to create the brochure. She wanted a print out that people could take with them and not need a computer.

What went well: Students grabbed a hold of it and were engaged. (In student journal entries), Open ended in how they would present the material, 5 core values were met very well. Essential questions went with the project, Formal peer editing and informal collaboration.

Room for Improvement: More formal collaboration (Student led workshops on the key ideas to make sure the mathmatical concepts were solid), Process and analysis on why sunset times are different and the impact on the graphs.

Rochester-Algebra II

Passionate about Football, Track and Field, and Math -PLEASE don't take away the fun out of math!!

Students go first...What would you do with this problem? The next day, pick the method you like best. Everytime a student says they can't teach it to someone else, they really don't get it.

Exponential Function (College Prepatory Mathematics-mapped the curriculum from here.) Spiraling...

Pros-Wasn't fun, students didn't enjoy it as much!


Showed that a student attempted a problem from a latter
What worked well- informal assessment let him know what they knew, the benchmark turned out, but wasn't sure what it would have been w/out his help.
Con-Creativity wasn't there, no joy in the benchmark...
Save notes on class blog.
Wiki is the text for each class.

In the future benchmark-

Thompson-Linear Modeling and Cell Phone Use in Algebra 1
Students tracked cell phone use for a month along w/ 2 other students, then looked at 3 different plans to explain pros and cons of using different plans.
Used Geometer Sketchpad, students and teacher shared what they learned.
What worked well-Great understanding of what kids knew, Students who did well will share w/rest of class why. Some questions and answers were brilliant
What needs to change-Differentiate for kids who get it (compare other things like Netflix or other topics, and kids divide up to explore those projects)

Balancing formal assessments in a project based school:

  • Most of the time, quizes and tests assess knowledge level, Projects move to the application level
  • Vary everything, small quizes, large, partner quizes. By varying the formal assessment they get a better picture of where kids are at.
  • Use formal assessment to serve student learning

Comparing formal assessment with project based assessments

Formal assess skills, classwork every day, but randomly some count, "rough drafts are 80%"

What happens when projects are not well designed?

Shared a geometry project from 1st quarter, where students were supposed to look for geometry out in the real world. Ultimately it didn't really relate to what they had been learning. Collaborated w/ all teachers in the building and got ideas on improving. Some students got it, but not enough scaffolding for those who didn't.

How do you make the shift to Project based learning?

It's about solving problems, one way is by making it authentic and directly related to the application of their learning to real life problems.

(They're building the plane in the air here!)

How do you change to free up time for the projects?-

UBD! Wiggins-Don't treat your curriculum as getting through the book.

Students need immediate feedback

Students in here are great! "We are required to put it up. Let us do it first and then go back and show us. Warm ups on the board let us know what to do every day while teacher is checking work and taking attendance. "

Now we broke up into groups and created Google Docs to post to the wiki.

Our idea: Use Scratch for students to simulate a real world phenomenon like a roller coaster, or gravity, accelleration/decelleration utilizing the formulas they have learned in Algebra.

Another: Stairways and ramps at a school, that were put in for ADA, and they then looked at the slope of ramps and stairs and looked to see which ones met code, and compared it to others in the neighborhood.

Another: Global Climate change data, research temperatures in different time frames to test, collaborate together for the final timeline

So how do you get people to buy in to this? (It's December, we need to be teaching sin and cosin!)

  1. Align to state standards
  2. How long would it take to teach these standards traditionally?
  3. Traditional only covers knowledge, it doesn't really take that much longer, and you get to a higher level of thinking!

Student: "Why are we holding on to this traditional "Standardized Test" system when it isn't working?"

Projects won't be perfect first time around, but if you begin with the standard, you'll be moving in the right direction!!

Educon 2.1: Lunch with Jeff Han at SLA

Cool impromptu lunch session with Jeff Han regarding multi-touch screens and it's possible uses in education.
Multi-touch increases accessability and allows the power-user to do much more.
The bottle-neck now is how we interact. Multi-touch allows us to match bandwith with user.
Information rich/graphical content
Medical Imaging
Energy markets
CNN!! On elections, now ABC and Fox-Small part of the business, but large media coverage!
The anchor in control of the information, not prepared by a producer ahead of time. The key to the success CNN had was John King's knowledge of the information he was looking for and his ability to use the tool! More engaging for the audience. Maybe the closest thing to how this might be useful to education.
Parallels in the lessons learned in the media with education.
The tech he's working on is having an impact on students.

Study Math if you want to do this!!!!
There's a lot of number crunching going on here!
He's interested in collaboration and collaboration in how this can be used in education.
The current computing world is one-handed. By allowing for 2 hands, you can capture more from the user.
Scalable-8 foot wall demonstrated.
He's interested in what we think this could be used for.
Technology missused in the classroom is a negative!!!
This isn't going to replace the tools we have now.

Need to make the technology invisible-Not the teacher up at the board....
Han-maybe it's ambient, always on and students go up when they need to.
Instead of 1:1, a tool like this could be 1 to many! A synthesis tool

What if multiple people could interact with a data-base and manipulate/collaborate.

Han-The hardware isn't the big issue, it's the software and pedagogy that he's interested in.
Showed video on Wired Taxonomy Browser. WOW!!! (called it a simple example...right!)
Special Ed teacher-It removes a level of abstraction. Very cool. 2 to 3 kids "playing with ideas"
English teacher-deconstructing text, showing references.
Ownership comes from touching!!!-Need to look at the research and psychology of this. (Eye tracking software to compare with mouse use)

Lehmann-comparing to the launch of turtle, logo, scratch...Is there a model where we could put this in the hands of kids and let them develop the application, content for this?

Me-How long before desks in classrooms have screens like this built in and are all wirelessly connected to a master, projection system.

Han showed a radiology tool that can slice and manipulate images. Currently, too much data, and few radiologists who can handle it.

Han said that the manufacturing and cost issues for being able to do this are "trivial!" The key is the pedagogy and need to drive it.
What would you do with one in your classroom?

Educon 2.1 Session: Transition To Teaching in a Progressive School

Taking the advice of David Jakes, and given that all of the sessions are being streamed and archived here, I skipped Gary Stager's session on "The Best Education Ideas in the World" and attended this session by SLA Teachers Larissa Pahomov (English), Caitlin Thompson (Math) and Rosalind Echols (Physics).

They were 3 of 9 new teachers this year. They were all fairly young, and had experience teaching with "Teach for America" and two taught in foreign countries.

This was my experience as a "student" in the classroom.
Feature of SLA-
Wednesday Meetings
Joint Responsibility for Planning School
Curriculum Planning w/Understanding By Design
Collaboration (Internal, External)

Caitlin (Math) shared her experience with collaboration within her department.
All teach the same block, so they have 12 blocks a week free for planning.
No department head...All co-teach a class. (Same class-more like a job share)
Geometry with Brad Latimer-similar teaching style. Helps w/creation of projects.
80% of freshman take math at the same time every day.
1) Computers open in class vary by teacher/subject. Not as often in math, all the time in English and history. She uses it for Geometer's sketchpad. Need to be monitored! (Teachable moment when students are off task.) They have remote desktop.
She stands behind students to monitor.
2)Textbooks-more of a resource than as a daily tool. Not using on-line books as much. More classroom sets. Participant said she uses on-line text for social studies more with the interactive maps. Caitlin talked about the disadvantages w/online text.

Technical/Pedagogical training-Teachers were selected most were within first couple years of teaching. More malleable. Hadn't used tech or project based learning. A week of afternoon training w/whole week of professional development with the rest of the staff.
Every week they meet on Wednesday afternoons. Marci Hull also works one-on-one with staff on tools they are interested in. Extra time on Wednesdays from 1-3:30 as students are out at internships at Franklin Institute or businesses.

How much time are staff creating the curriculum each week? She's using the PBL curriculum for Algebra and Geometry created by another staff member. Write benchmarks and UBD from scratch. (12 prep periods per week)

Rosalind (Physics)-3rd year teacher. Teach for America experience. In the past, take the benchmarks, use Blooms, here's the standards...
Totally different here! Lot's of observation/feedback. Teaches all Juniors.
What's the goal, what can I do in class to help acheive the goal! Focus now on applications in the outside world.
When riding the bus home, observe different things. Come back with questions. "Why did I land in the same place when I jumped on the bus?"
Assessed w/ Rubrics
How were you trained in dealing with the cultural diversity? Many teachers grew up in Philly or the area, and it hasn't been an issue, though it was an interview question.
Students work through the issues. Some African American students never went to school with white students prior to coming here, and vice-versa. Staff have done some roll play on this with students. Students apply to go here.

Advisory: Monday and Thursday 40 minute advisory after school. 9th graders-Transition to SLA-A student-"I'm working harder than I ever did in Middle school and only getting B's and C's."
Narative report cards twice a year (First and Third quarter) for strengths/ areas for growth. SchoolTool-Open source Student Information. (Participant from Texas uses Edline/GradeQuick-Update weekly!!!) (Great Britain: Resorcefullness, Resilliance, Respect, and Reflection: The "Learning Power Score" in addition to a subject grade!)

Larissa (English)
With the writing process, she really focusses on Inquiry and Collaboration (part of SLA core values). Narrow writing promts lead students to write similar things. 11th grade has a bi-weekly 2 page writing assignment (analytical paper) where they write about anything they want. "Turn the lens" of inquiry on anything they want. Focus on the Thesis statement. Unique, Isightful, Debatable

Use Moodle for course management.
Monday/Tuesday: Thesis argument forum. Discuss first in class. Students post ideas in class. Students then respond to 3 in 15 minutes. "Craig is writing the same thing I am, but his is better"--Led to student going to collaborate with other student.
Turn in on Friday.

Pick 3 to look at in class. What worked, what didn't. Try to make it diverse. Not always the "A" paper. "The color of Crayola crayons can teach you about multi-culturalism!"
MLA citation
When you ask kids to write whatever they want, they have the presure to come up with something unique. Gun control-Zoom out and try to come up with something that is your own!

Laptops-People imagine they are out and used everyday. They're the tool, but not the focus. Closed during discussion. Some 5 minutes only. Friday, kids were sharing so that they were online reading, others could follow along.
Drupal blog for each class, kids can choose to post publicly. Some kids/teachers find it to be a pain.
"For the rest of class, just read other people's writing."

Kenneth (Math)-"Scribe for class" Uses Promethean to post to his blog for classnotes. Wikispace is the finished class notebook. Students write an entry to explain each topic. The finished product. "Can't survive w/out Moodle" Message, assignments, grades.
Everything in math can be described without using math!

One major project each quarter that is a benchmark (District Requirement-SLA uses their Rubric for this). Coordinate to make sure the projects are diverse (Presentation, essay, lab reports...)

See video for Physics rubric. Students created a Web site.
The computer allows for differentiation with what can be presented. Individualized Learning Plans help. Different students have different goals. All notes can get loaded every day on Moodle. "We have a lot of kids w/chronic illness who miss school, so having the notes out there helps a lot."

Every class has a blog that is viewable to the public via Drupal. Sometimes have to encourage kids to post. We still have struggling learners with public speaking, etc...
Extended Acceptable Use Policy.

See wiki for more information.

Educon 2.1: Saturday Opening Keynote: Dr. Maria Pitre-Chief Academic Officer, School District of Philadelphia

Huge crowd here at SLA for the opening session. Lots of energy in the room.
Nice to see that Jeff Han, Joel Arquillos and Kendall Crolius stuck around from last night's panel to attend today. Haven't seen the others.

Dr. Pitre
"Bringing opportunities that are exciting and challenging to students."
Philadelphi Public Schools core beliefs:(Her challenge-Is there alignment here at SLA?)
  1. Children come first-All decisions based on what's best for students. Students played a key roll in the planning for this conference.
  2. Parents are our partners-"parent round table"
  3. Victory is in the classroom facilitated by a strong instructional leader-teacher leaders as well. Leaders need a strong vision that they execute with
  4. Leadership and Accountability-Performance targets for each building...Coming to school, core curriculum, standardized tests
  5. It takes the engagement of the entire community-partnership w/Franklin Institute at SLA as an example

In order for these values to be executed, there needs to be a plan. Strategic objectives-Best Practice research-Which schools are working well, what are they doing differently, and how can we replicate it?

Using Data

Differentiated Instruction

How to have rigor in teaching and learning

Alan November here last week. Using one computer in the classroom and make it engaging for students... Hmmm...

SLA-Learn, Create, Lead

Student leaders meeting in the conference room having a meeting on school improvement. She encouraged us to "poke around" and talk with kids. Do you feel you are receiving the exciting, challenging opportunities that you need?-Every kid I talked to Friday would say "YES!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Notes on EduCon 2.1 Opening Panel Discussion: What is the Purpose of School?

The "Official" opening to Educon 2.1 featured a panel discussion on "the purpose of school" at the Franklin Institute.

Panel Members included:

  • Joel Arquillos-Executive Director of 826LA (Writing workshops) -his boss has now started “Once upon a School”, a program paring classroom teachers with adult community members.
  • Dr. Molefi Asante-Professor, African American Studies, Temple University (1st African American Studies program in U.S.)
  • Kendall Crolius-Founding Partner, The Sulevia Group, also affiliated w/Heifer International
  • Jeff Han-Founder, Perceptive Pixel and inventor of the Multi-Touch Screen (iPhone users were genuflecting in his presence!)
  • Prakash Nair-Co-Founder, Fielding Nair International-Archetects and Change Agents for Education
  • Dr. Steven Squyres-Principal Investigator, Mars Exploration Rover Mission
  • Diane Castelbuono Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education PA Department of Education
  • Moderator-Frederic Bertley-Vice President of the Center for Innovation in Science Learning, The Franklin Institute

I’ll try to get down exact quotes or main ideas as it goes along. Packed house at the Franklin Center.

Jasmine, the student leader of SLA started off welcoming us to EduCon.
Bertley introduced all of the participants noting that it is a very diverse panel of experts.

We interrupt this program for a commercial for the Franklin Institute!

They are partnered w/SLA. In 1984, after "A Nation At Risk" came out, they spearheaded Professional Development for the School District of Philadelphia. The Director wanted to start a Science HS, they hired Chris Lehmann, and the rest is history!

Part I: They started by giving their answer to the question of the purpose of school:

Ran the conference division at Forbes Magazine. Much of her thinking informed by the conversations with Business Leaders. It’s not to turn out a finished product. It’s to prepare young people for a life of learning.
-One of the biggest challenges is innovation, to generate new ideas to advance business. Come at problems in a new way.
Collaboration-It’s always been important, but more so now. Any endeavor is going to require teamwork. If they can’t they won’t be successful. Appreciation of cultural diversity: in a global economy, we must not only tolerate but appreciate the strengths of other team members.
Courage-Not just to accept change but to embrace change, and be confident moving forward. Courage to challenge the status-quo.

There is a huge disconnect between what we say in the D.O and the actions. Just look at the “cheap” chairs our kids have to sit on.
Look at classrooms today, can they really collaborate, do Project Based Learning, distance learning?
40% of the money spent on building schools is wasted.

1. Social Anchor-Meeting place/Hub, continuing
2. The Place to Be-Outliers talks about Gates having a computer, Internet 2, Gamers, developers, Better Tech than anywhere else
3. Generate Ideas, not Regurgitate them-
4. Idea Harvester-Test ideas and make them authentic
5. Network Hub-Make school part of the real economy
6. Builder of Social Capital-Creating a social infrastructure
“Community feeds the School and the School Feeds the Community”

Complex problem. The purpose given for school has always changed.
Initially: Train young white men to be leaders-Boston Latin School
Now, an enormous reach.
What SHOULD be the purpose?
Inquiry-That’s it. It’s not the transmission of values. An openness to question.
Because we have a multi-cultural heterogeneous society, we should have an appreciation that all cultures have a contribution to knowledge in society.
Right now, we have a Euro-centric view of knowledge.

Just when we think we are set, we should inquire even more!


Taught for 8 years, tried to inspire his students, but started to wear on him, with constraints on budget, policy
Purpose: To build community and respect all the diverse aspects of the students.
To learn to respect and listen to each other. His classroom would be a microcosm of the world.

826 was a space where students could come get writing help after school. Pirate shop at the start, to get people’s attention and get them in the door. Get’s volunteer tutors to pair up with students needing assistance. Got people connected and interacting. In LA it’s a Time Travel store! “Past Port” for time travelers. Write collaborative stories for 2 hours and take a book home with you. Schools can be these bigger communities.

I’m not an educator, liked school growing up. Classic math/science kid who had issues with attention. Lot’s of equipment in the classroom for experimentation.
Communication: To get together to learn how to communicate with each other and collaboration on learning and present learning. See SLA values in earlier post!
Calibration: Staff should help convey which problems are important (Authentic). Is this learning really going to be meaningful? What can I contribute to (How not to get a Ph.D.)

Wants to talk about the reason for Science education
Open Students Eyes to What is Possible.-The school he went to had good teachers, who were hamstrung by the facilities. Growing up, Space Exploration was something on T.V. not something he thought he would do. Not until college where he was around people who actually did space exploration. This has to happen sooner. (Middle School and High School) Expose students to what is possible. “I can do this too!”
Allow People to Understand How Things REALLY work-Hard not to look at Science as a static body of knowledge in his frosh Astronomy course. Now, the first 5 to 10 minutes of class is “What happened on Mars today?” Authentic, (Bertley-“He’s talking about Mars like it’s his backyard garden!”) Understanding what we don’t know, is as important as what we do know!

Every day, business leaders tell her that they have to retrain workers and that schools aren’t meeting their needs.
Legislators say schools are failing
Students say schools aren’t meeting their needs

The system is failing our kids and our teachers.
15 miles away in Lower Marion, $17,000 per student, Philly $9,000 per student
In a classroom of 25, $182,000 difference. What could we do with that money?
We’re not keeping true to what public education is supposed to be about-The great equalizer.
We need to get back to what public school should be!

(Later, SLA students grill her!)

Part II
Question and Answer session:
Mario from Quebec-Is school the best place for this purpose?

Nair-right now, it’s not. What he talked about is being done around the world, even in Tasmania, where unemployment is very high. Schools are needed and can be, but right now they’re not.

What made you successful? School?
-Some special feature, each educator brings their own passion to the process. Important to let your personality and passion shine through! For me it was that one teacher, who sparked me to fall in love with what I was going to do the rest of my life!

Who generates the inquiry, the school or the student?
-There was the teacher who led me in to the whole issue of African culture. He raised questions, he didn’t give answers!!! “He was a good provocateur!” School cannot do everything. There is a part that family and community members have to play as well, discipline, desire to succeed.
Crolius-It was one teacher. It’s a calling. Igniting a passion!!! The balance between exposing students to “the canon”, do we miss the opportunity to ignite a passion?
Aqullous-The connection with a teacher who helps inspire confidence, who speaks to you at your level, and make positive interactions are what makes kids successful. Yesterday, working on a 5 paragraph essay, he asked for the toughest kid. The student didn’t feel challenged in the class, and yesterday there was a spark.
Asante-A teacher hasn’t talked until a student has learned.
Castlebuono-Anecdote about rural school district negotiation. How many had life changed by a doctor, lawyer, …teacher. All stood up. Reminds people.
Han-I also had great peers for interacting. Competition, mentoring, discussion. How is that culture created? Need a reason for that interaction…

Audience member-It’s teams of students and teams of teachers that make things excellent. How do you create those teams in schools, where you are dealing with so much bureaucracy?
-No one person knows all of the Mars rover. Small groups collaborate on small parts.
Find people united w/ a common passion.
Nair-I worked for NYC schools, so I know something about bureaucracy! If what you are doing isn’t enhancing student outcomes, then it shouldn’t be done. Everyone should know the mission and be moving in the right direction.
Asante- Most often, the principal is the generator of the passion! In most schools, he/she could generate this. If it’s a “bad” principal, know one can break the malaise!

What is the tipping point to get our schools more relevant?
Aquillos- The academy model, limits extra-curriculars, but Galileo-Academy for Information Technology, Authentic, Problem based learning, Teacher inspired, but ignite students. Sitting down and planning out interdisciplinary projects. We know that there are skills that are not tested that are valuable.

Jasmine (Student)-For CastleBuono: How does the system teach students that they are in a no-win situation?
Castlebuono-It’s about organizing, sharing, collaborating. Some work with busing kids to other districts to see what they have. This shows that their world isn’t the way it has to be or should be.

Bud Hunt-Relating to purpose of mind: How can educators trapped in the system be the hope they want their kids to see?
Talent is a combination of passion and hard work. People just need to say, “I’m just going to do it!” Each of the kids have the ability. They are just lacking confidence. Every student has something about them that makes them unique that can make them successful.
Crolius-Courage to challenge the status quo is the key to success in anything! If the American education system were a business, they’d be out of business! If a big corporation wants to innovate, they need to set up a separate entity, whose mission is to squash the mother ship! Changing within the system is going to be difficult!!
We as a society need to want this!

Squyers- I can’t tell you how many “Oh, my God, we’re hosed!” moments during the construction of the rover. Everyone believed in what they were doing, and that if everything worked it was going to be awesome! We knew exactly what it was we were trying to do. The entire mission of the rover project fit on ½ a sheet of paper. You always have to allocate resources. Is it necessary to achieve the mission? Keep it. If not, drop it!
Asante-Revise the way the system operates to eliminate/lessen the bureaucracy. Too much paperwork right now!! David Saxon-“What I like about you, is when you say you’re going to write a book, you do it.”

Student-What are some elements that can make school purposeful and how can they be integrated into our curriculum?
Castlebuono-need clarity of purpose. For some kids, it’s the need for a safe place. The teacher can’t get them to read, until that basic need is met!

Is there a point to studying Shakespeare in the 21st century?
Crolius: YES-Everything you need to learn in life and leadership is in Shakespeare!

Note: There were a few “Amen” comments in the audience, though a few S.T.E.M. people afterwards complained that Shakespeare wasn’t relevant!

It was an eclectic mix of people on the panel, and led to interesting discussion afterwards at the reception, and at local watering holes after that! A great kick-off to the conference!

Educon 2.1: Science and Leadership Academy Site Visit

Friday afternoon I spent a few hours observing classes at the Science and Leadership Academy in Philadelphia prior to EduCon 2.1. Here are some of my observations:
  • Students in 9th grade here have an elective in Technology. Students pictured here are using Google Reader to access blogs to read. The teacher invited them to subscribe to blogs they thought would be interesting, suggesting Principal Chris Lehmann's as an example.
  • I talked with students about battery life on their MacBooks. They have a lot of power strips for plugging in. A lot of times, they will do so during lunch. They have power hook ups in the ceiling of some areas.
  • I stopped Chris Lehman in the hall to talk about the themes they have for each grade level. He talked about how they allow teachers to "serendipitously relate interdisciplinary learning" instead of saying "today we're going to do a project". For Themes, the Freshman focus on Identity, Sophomores on Systems, Juniors on Change and Seniors on Creation.
  • All students have Individualized Learning Plans
  • Nice chairs!
  • The core values of the school are: Inquiry, Research, Collaboration, Presentation, and Reflection. Almost every classroom had the Themes and core values posted.
  • Students pay insurance each year. It started at $50 3 years ago, now it's up to $80. It covers basic damage, and if stolen off of them.
  • In Diana Laufenberg's history class, students shared their experience at public meetings they were asked to attend. Laufenberg used Wordle to get adjectives that students thought their meeting would be like, now their comparing that to their experience. (Slow, Interesting, and Boring were the words that they thought it would be like. Rowdy, Angry, Uncomfortable ended up being what they experienced!)
  • Most classrooms had Promethean boards with short throw projectors.
  • In Mr. Chase's English class, students started with a free write in their composition books. The writing prompt was: "If they asked me, I could have told them..." or a Free Write. At the end of the day, if you want you can put in in a bin, and Mr. Chase will provide feedback. Brian, a student at SLA told me that he liked to write song lyrics each day. In the room, there was no teacher desk. Mr. Chase sat down and was writing with the students in his own notebook. A few students had their laptops open, but were on task. He then handed out a checklist with "Design, Knowledge, Application, Presentation, Process, the SLA rubric." He used the Promethean software to randomly select a student to model a "High Grade Complement." He talked with students about presentations that the students had completed, and we were asked to score them. The had to create a 5 minute presentation dealing with a problem in Philadelphia that interested them. They then will take the top half and develop action plans to actually deal with the problem, and post them in a public forum. Students had the option of using Google Presentation, Keynote, PowerPoint or Slideshare to present.
  • The first video we saw was from 2 students who chose LGBT issues with students in the Philadelphia public schools. They found that while the district had policies in place, there was no indication of whether those policies are being followed. They then suggested how to solve the problem. Chase then had a large group critical analysis, where he asked for constructive criticism, starting with one of the students who created the presentation. Students did a nice job pointing out areas where the presentation could have been improved.
  • More notes on Mr. Chase's class can be found here, from Bud Hunt.
  • The second video dealt with the problem of wasteful heating energy in Philadelphia. This presentation did a better job of utilizing images over text in their presentation. All of the presentations were archived on the teacher's site for viewing. Students were engaged in the presentation, most laptops were closed for most of the class. My partner Brian said, "I learned more about the issue in 3 minutes than I knew before." He did his project on obesity in Philadelphia.
  • Engagement in the room is very high. I don't think that's just because we(EduCon Participants) are here!
  • The last project was on Philadelphia Dropout Rates. "The Philadelphia drop-out rates are too high, and it sucks!" These guys had some good humor. Another quote: "Your @#@# Education is Important!" "Parents: Love your @#$ @#$# Kids!" Good conversation about the audience they were speaking to.
  • In Gamal Sherif's 9th grade science class, students were studying biology, and after some brief presentation and instruction, students were off to the lab area. Students accessed information on Moodle as they worked on worm dissection. One student had a "Science Notes Word template" that he could add information on. Some students took their laptops back to the lab, most left them at their desk. He still had a hand out for the lab. At the end, Sherif asked laptops to be closed (Some didn't), and shared his thoughts on the lesson, and what learning occurred. Chris Macintosh from Great Britain asked me if I thought the lesson was typical of other classrooms. He thought kids were more engaged, though I did see a few kids were pretending to squirt each other with water bottles.

Overall, the engagement in learning, and excitement about learning has been inspiring. It's been great to listen and participate with some side conversations with other attendees and students as well. People are here from Australia and Great Britain. Lehmann has a great post regarding what this conference is about. I'm glad I'm here to learn with everyone!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Creating Modern Math/Science Knowledge: Panel

During the discussion, the following comments were made:

  • Big Picture Schools and SLA are examples of schools using Project Based Learning and Inquiry effectively.
  • Foundation and Support are the key
  • Right now the battle is between Project Based vs. Standards Based-My comment: Shouldn't projects be based on the standards?
  • Stager: "NCLB was created by man, it can be undone by man!"
  • Participant: "NCLB is not a bad thing, the execution is bad." "Most who bash it haven't read it" "9% of child's time from 0-18 is spent in a classroom"
  • Charischak: "NCTM doesn't have computers at their conference anymore."
  • David Thornburg mentioned this software developed by NASA for math.
  • Thornburg: "I did read all of NCLB and found some good chuckles." ,"Within a year, more than half of AP test takers must be above average", Unfunded mandates: Technology, "What got funded was the cheap stuff: Measure, measure, measure." "Tools of assessment are driving what gets taught."
  • Last piece of positive advice: As kids/teachers got tired and needed a "mental health break" -"Gopher Cam" kids set up a camera to watch a gopher, "Before I looked at it as a hole, now I want to go see what's there..." Kids develop the confidence, curiosity and skill set to find out.

More notes on the whole day can be found on this Google Doc created by Dan Sutherland, director of S.T.E.M. curriculum for Sparta Township Public Schools in Sparta, NJ, a new member of my PLN!

Constructing Modern Math/Science Knowledge: The New Dynamic Classroom

Frosh student just introduced described himself as a "visual learner." How many of our students would be able to identify their learning style? This same student is presenting a session on Sunday.

Lots of power strips around here!

In this session, Ihor Charischak discussed his work at the Center for Inovation in Education and Science dealing with Collaborative learning.
He is now the proprietor fo the Dynamic Math Classroom Press.
Part 1: Set the Stage
"Well class, what did we learn today?"-Craig Fergusson
Seymour Papert:Mindstorms (The book I used for my General Methods course!)
"Spreadsheets, dynamic geometry software, and computer microworlds are useful tools for posing worthwhile problems." Charischak said that applets today are like microworlds.
Part 2: Doing some type of activity which has been motivated by the first part
Part 3: Kick back and Reflect
The Knowledge Domain s
1. Ability to Use Tech Resources

  • Software: Geometer's Sketchpad, Spreadsheets, Web Based Microworlds, Graphing equations, Green Globs, Other

  • Hardware: Interactive White Boards, Screen Sharing,

2. Create Technology-Oriented Learning Environments

3. Personalize the Curriculum

4. Mathematical Background and Attitude towards Learning Mathematics
5. Pedagogical STrategies and Discourse BREAK THE TELLING HABIT-ASK MORE QUESTIONS!! Large and small groups, conversation and debate

6. Assessment Strategies

i.e. What are students doing as they leave your classroom?

From 2000-2007 Charischak was disappointed due to roadblocks. Gladwell spoke about "The Tipping Point"at NCTM. Charischak asked him, "What's the tipping point for Math Education?" Gladwell wasn't sure. Now in "Outliers" he may have the answer.

Starts with a virus, a passion for learning math, through unique compelling projects that embrace authentic dynamic tools. Engage kids w/ Web 2.0 tools. Not a panacea but a starting point.

Dynamic Classroom 1.0-Teacher in the front of the room lecturing

Dynamic Classroom 2.0-Student Centered learning

Examples of Activities

  1. The Jinx Puzzle- Pick a # from 1-10, Add 11, Multiply by 6, Subtract 3, Divide by 3, Add 5, Divide by 2, Subtract the original number. -Can we find a number that breaks this? See the link. Try 1x10^18th!

  2. The Average Traveller problem-Using Google Maps and Google Doc Forms to create a database of people and calculate the average.

  3. Runner's POW-He also suggested the NCTM Illuminations site for applets like this. When using this, the teacher becomes the observer in the classroom.

  4. Stock Market Game-Student in the room: "It was fun. We'd look at the newspaper each day, then go to the lab and do trading. We did it as a class." Ihor said his experience wasn't as positive as it was too random. The didn't stop and reflect, until they started doing well, the kids suddenly got very interested! He did this w/ 6th graders and modified it based on the Milton Bradley Board Game "Stocks and Bonds"

  5. How Round is the Earth? The Noon Day Project to show how it was done in 200 B.C.

  6. The Green Globs Contest Starting in May of this year-He gave us a CD. Write an equation that hits as many globs as possible. Note: as he demonstrated, kids in the class were excitedly asking about trigonometric functions

The program contains 4 different programs, but he says that Green Globs is the highlight. Charischak thinks of this as a transformative piece of software. He gave the example of an 8th grade student named Guilliarmo, who used trig functions to hit 13 globs. The student later went on to teach the class, but didn't get excepted into the gifted program due to his grades.....

He encourages us to take the "Fishman Challenge" to journey from the ordinary to extraordinary. Miracles do happen!

Constructing Modern Math/Science: Inquiry Driven Projects and the Development of STEM skills

Dr. David Thornburg, with whom I had a good breakfast conversation with,
started with information from Mark Tucker ( about how in the US, creative work such as research, development, design, marketing, sales, and "Global Supply Chain Management" hasn't been outsourced as much as routine tasks done by people or machines which is done in less developed countries. Brazil, Russia, India and China has gotten much closer to us in GDP, despite the fact we have been growing.
The way for us to stay ahead is to focus on Integrating STEM skills. Currently Math and Science are currently taught in traditional schools where technology and engineering are taught in specialized schools. They should be taught together!
Thornburg lamented the fact that currently, 20th century mathematics is not being taught in our schools. The traveling salesman problem and the 4 color map problem, chaos theory are examples.

Our task today:
  • US economic recovery
  • Energy independence
  • Global Climate Change
  • Develop a singe program that addresses all three of these challenges at the same time.
  • After the research and design phase, create a storyboard of a presentation on your solution.
60 watt incandecent bulb has same lumens as 12 watt florescent and 3 watt LED.
Tanzania-50 gallon drum w/ zinc on the bottom, w/ 1 day of COW dung covered w/graphite will create a battery that can light a house for 3 years!

Thornburg said the trick in inquiry is not to provide too much information, but to STOP TALKING!! This will be an uncomfortable experience for many students...(Reminds me of our CoP!)
The goals of this workshop are to model a lesson but also to get feedback on our comfort level during the experience.
My group consisted of Dan Sutherland from New Jersey and Bud Hunt, better known as "Budtheteacher", from Colorado. Bud set up a chat on "Chatterous" to bring in others to the conversation. Then we added a ustream channel, but not effective.

  1. Harness Educational community for alternatives, Enhance Consumer Education, Refit buildings, Public outreach-Currently people don't think about carbon footprint, and are apathetic, government has not been pro-conservation Tools: Word, PowerPoint,
  2. Our idea -Tools: Google, Chatterous (Thornburg: today: Collaboration, 10 years ago: Cheating), Ustream, Google Doc.
  3. Using Hydro power (Thornburg: The power of 1:1 computing-The tools were used but he didn't teach us to use them. They faded into the background)
  4. Wind Turbines-Tools:
  5. Hydro power, wave turbines, incentives to reduce energy: insulation, batteries, sliding scale for energy use, generate themselves Tools: collaboration, research a little, but mostly talked
  6. Energy Monitoring (SLA student presented this) monitors on appliances/homes to track energy use, tax rebates for lowering energy consumption, (monitors would be manditory like smoke detectors are today)
Questions for us:
How many think that portions of the conversation touched on Science, Technology, Engineering or Math? Most said yes..
Thornburg: If you have a climate where well formed questions are generated, STEM topics will naturally bubble up.
He gave the example of designing gloves for NASA so that tools don't get lost in space, by giving students the task of constructing something out of Legos while wearing oven mits.
Instead of giving the classic "2 trains" problem, give this one: "What is the optimum alignment for earth and mars so that the trip distance is minimized?"
One member of the group observed that initially it's hard to come up with these questions, but after 45 minutes working on a problem, it was much easier to generate them.
Thornburg pointed out that you need some prior knowledge prior to being able to generate them.
He stated that "You should never ask a question for which you know the answer." Once you start doing that you lose some credibility. He said, teach them Zeno's paradox, but then ask students what would happen if you changed the variable. The kids who go by the book might freak out, but the others might really blow your mind!

Here's a great example of an inquiry driven question like this in a subject other that Math or Science: