Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ISTE 2011: The Global Learning Imperative

The Global Learning Imperative: How do we, as teachers, help empower our students to take their learning experience global?

Alan November moderated this session, featuring Kathy Cassidy from Prairie South Schools in Saskatchewan, Michelle Anderson, Principal in Deer Creek Schools in Oklahoma, and Larisa Shelkin, Founder of the Global Technology and Engineering Consortium in Boston.

November started by a story about asking "What is the most important 21st Century skill?" to the CEO of the biggest bank in the world. The banker said, "empathy," because we need people who can evaluate the dynamics of a big project from the perspective of others. The worst people at this are Americans.
He asked some West Point teachers the same question, "Patreaus had asked his staff to read, 3 Cups of Tea. The mission had changed from win the war to win the peace. Empathy is a critical skill in this endeavor.

Michael Wesch, said empathy as well.

Blocking social media that allows students to interact with students around the world is counter intuitive to making students successful in the global economy!! Many schools network policy is completely opposed to their mission statement!

Kathy Cassidy teaches first grade, and her students have their OWN blog. Initially she started it to give her students an audience. They start blogging the first week of school.
She has a new principal this year, what if they make you shut this down? She would miss the connections with the world, with the experts who comment, share and contribute to the learning of her students. It would tie my hands!
She is connected with a school in Brisbane, Australia and Kinderkids in New Hampshire. The kids think of them as classrooms next door. They actually know more about what's going on in those classrooms than the physical ones next door!
November talked about the essentialness of allowing our students to make these connections!

Larissa has lived all over the world, working as a field engineer, and now helps her students connect with lab partners in other parts of the world. She saw a gap in how we are currently educating our students and the need to develop a global workforce. Every student will work and live in a global society. They need the skills to do this. The students work on wind turbine designs and also work with professional mentors in high tech companies who provide problems for the students to solve. They use modeling software and to work on this project and they now have other companies lined up. They also incorporate "global diversity knowledge" and "intercultural communication!" Her two students shared their experience as well.
The problem they are working on to make a wind turbine as efficient as possible is very open-ended. Their lab partner in England
They have 4 desktop computers for student use with Skype windows up for small group communication, as well as a large screen set up with another computer to see the large group. 5 Skype windows open at the same time for group work. This is similar to what Tim Berndt, our Project Lead the Way teacher at Edina High School has done this year with some of his classes!

Students are the same age (12 and 13), but the students in England are a bit farther along with their STEM work, thus they are the mentors for the student, and thus they are the "go to" people for asking the questions. The students feel more comfortable asking the student expert rather than their own teacher. The students felt going back to a traditional model, would be BORING!
November shared that as soon as students are bored, their achievement level goes down. (Someone actually did an expensive research study on this!)
The real time modeling incorporates principles that involve many disciplines.

Michelle Anderson received an e-mail from a teacher in England who ended up on her school Website, because they were studying "Tornado Alley." This led to a collaborative project using Skype into the 5th grade classroom in her school. Many of her students had first hand experience with the devastation of tornadoes. Ultimately, this lead to the teacher coming to Oklahoma to visit!
November wondered if colleges preparing administrators were incorporating the global perspective? For Anderson, collaboration and making connections is part of her DNA. She starts with one class and when others inquire about it, she brings them in as well. They have a culture where, "all of us is smarter than one of us!" She's found funding through grants to travel to Europe to visit the schools they collaborate with.
November asked about leaving the school and having faith that things will be ok. Anderson noted, "Let's be honest, the secretaries can run the school!" "In some ways, I'm the most insignificant person in the building!"
It's obvious that her modeling and leading by example has created this empowered culture!

Cassidy shared how the student blogs become the online digital portfolio of her student work. She includes video and pictures of her students to give parents a window into the classroom on her own blog. She explains to parents why and what will be happening. The kids post their AudioBoo reading fluency, Video in the Common Craft style, along with pictures of their art work right on the blog, and video showing how they would use manipulatives to solve math problems. Students and parents also comment on other student blogs.
November noted that she probably knows far more about her students since she has started doing this. She said by all means!
Parents who may have been leery at the beginning of the year, comment on how wonderful the experience has been. November asked the audience how many school districts have policies preventing this type of opportunity, and many hands went up!

The students from the Global Engineering and Technology Consortium shared their presentation that includes video of their collaborative efforts.

What's interesting here is that the teacher in England teaches STEM to the students at GTEC, and the teacher here teaches the students in England about global diversity. The videos in the Prezi also show the students collaborating via Skype.
Moving forward in the next 5 years, Leslie is working on creating a Global Learning Consortium. This might be a great opportunity for further collaboration with our district's Project Lead the Way classrooms.

November asked, "how would superintendents get their district involved with this type of collaboration?" Anderson shared that every grade level in her school has collaborative projects going on with a specific country. She hopes to have continued teacher exchanges to further build relationships. She finds that when teachers meet face to face, it is easier to make curricular connections.

November closed by inviting us to challenge students to find schools in England that are studying the American Revolution. He noted that to actually find the schools, you need add this to your search:
site: sch uk
His point is that we have not taught kids how to be competent at getting connected. These mechanics are essential!

Monday, June 27, 2011

ISTE 2011 Keynote John Medina: Brain Rules

The session began with ISTE President, Holly Jobe, sharing her vision, including authenticity, and student centered learning. I was impressed with her philosophy, and her background with the Pennsylvania Classrooms for the Future program. I think ISTE has made a great choice in leadership!

This year's keynote was John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, and author of Brain Rules. I first heard of Dr. Medina a few years ago through Garr Reynold's Presentation Zen Website, then I bought the book.I blogged about his ideas about multi-tasking, here.
Medina talked much faster than I could take notes on (Still not used to typing on the iPad), so I will share the Twitter feed here of the keynote for important quotes that were shared:

How does formal neuroscience apply to Ed tech or education in general?
He says we don't know!
Still, certain mythologies have evolved:
  • We only use 10% of our brain's capacity
  • There are people who are Left brain dominant and others who are Right Brain dominant
  • Women from Venus, Men from mars

Wiring Considerations!
See exact same things and have two completely different reactions.
We know very little about how the brain works, but we have uncovered the...
Evolutionary performance envelope! Our Brains evolved to do 5 things:
  1. Solve problems
  2. Survival
  3. Live Outdoors
  4. Pay attention to meteorological events
  5. Complete tasks while on the move

Thus, we have designed a space for learning directly opposed to what the brain was designed to do!

We need to intellectually start over!
The focus of his talk was Brain Rule #4 Every brain is wired differently
Part 1: A question that made me mad and how I tried to answer it
Q: Teacher training is the single most important factor...Is there adiagnostic rule to weed out good teachers?
Medina on learning
You need a data base and the ability to improvise on it.
He gave a great example of fluid intelligence

Growth of the database is cummulative
Future learning depends on past acquisition
If comprehension not engaged, there is diminished capacity. His example was college kids having to take HS Algebra because of gaps in their learning.

What might a good teacher look like?
Ready knowledge of the gaps in learning- is it measurable

Part 2: Theory of mind, social prejudices
The ability to peer inside someones head and understand rewards and punishments
The abiliy to understand that people have different rewards and punishments what is obvious to you is obvious to you!
If you understand this, you can know when students are bewildered or happy. This may be a great predictor of pre-service teacher success.

Questions from the audience included:
What are the implications to teaching to the test?
Medina said that most kids can spot when the teacher is doing this.
Emotional stability of the home is the biggest predictor of academic success
Executive function increases the most when guided aerobic workouts occurred daily! We should be handing out school uniforms to every kid, and they should be...gym uniforms!
-Has technology changed kids brains? Yes!
Is Google making us stupid? Yes it will change you but the long term effects... WE DON'T KNOW!
Blue light into your eyes cyiptochrome, changes sleep. That is all we know!

Right now, the blue light is hitting my eyes as I type this. I'll leave my final thoughts for another post...

UPDATE: ISTE has posted the full video here on Youtube!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Edubloggercon Session 2: The Flipped Classroom- the Full Picture

Jackie Gerstein suggested this topic because she believes that the teacher is no logger the
"only expert" in the room. She has a great presentation on this here. It's worth the time to view!
She feels that students can find these videos to get the information from experts rather from the teacher, who may or may not be an expert.
Here are some notes from the conversation:

An AP History teacher shared that he assigned lectures on Monday's and had small group discussions in a blended format over the next two days. Teachers without good discussion skills benefit from smaller discussion groups, and as we found in Edina, students can go deeper into topics of interest.
This teacher starts the year lecturing and showing them how to take notes and get information from the lecture.He requires the students to show their notes in order to participate in the small group discussion. This has proved to be a great incentive for most students.

Gerstein and Scott McLeod argued that teachers need to light the fire in students during class time, by engaging them actively. It is hard for that to happen in the traditional classroom setting.

There was some push back in the audience- video is an old model, passive and students are not building their own knowledge. What are you doing with that video to engage and inspire students?
  • Back channeling during the video is one option.
  • Having students produce the videos might be an option, but Gerstein noted that kids sometimes don't get the content as well from other students. Still this might be an assessment strategy.

I asked whether using outside experts or the teacher's own voice providing the lecture. Gerstein believes we need to have the option of having both the teacher's voice and the option of other experts.
McLeod noted that if we are about student learning, then we need to pre-assess, and offer choice!

Gerstein said the key to all of this is to get the information into the hands of students and let them make sense of it!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Edubloggercon Session 1: How do High performing districts make the shift?

At the first conversation of Edubloggercon, I lead a discussion on the topic of high performing districts and what motivation they have for making "the shift" toward a more student-centered, tech infused model.  Scott Mcleod pointed out before the session that in many ways, it's harder for these districts to change, when the current model seems to be working for them.
In many ways, it takes a "leap of faith" for a district like Edina to focus on higher level, student-centered learning, or project-based learning without having an implementation dip. In fact, to many, that dip CAN'T happen.
The constant increase in Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, also put strain on districts.

Someone mentioned that this MAY be an opportune time for change, because of Common Core Standards going into effect. In Minnesota, the new Language Arts standards are an open door...an increased emphasis on non-fiction along with digital reading and writing mean opportunities for LA AND Science and Social Studies.
Unfortunately, someone will ask, "Can you guarantee our scores won't drop?" (There ARE no guarantees!)
New assessments are being written, more skill based rather than content. Maybe that will help!

Jeff Kessler, a student at Science Leadership Academy here in Philadelphia attended the session, and shared that SLA just implemented Standards Based Assessment, 50% project, 50% knowledge based assessment.
Some 21st Century skills/standards could be embedded in multiple courses.
Easy grade Pro is the grade book they are using. Faculty and students are given the opportunity to crowd-source feature requests for a new system they are building.
Standards Based Assessment and PBL may be a way to get at this.
Optional homework for formative math, along with group work.
Students spent 5 days researching NASA data for benchmark.
Doug Johnson asked about our District Tech Plan, and what technology purchases would come of it. He noted that in Mankato, an Interactive White Board in each classroom showed the public that the classroom is different than what it used to be, which has been a good thing.

Another model is a 1 hour lunch for student help in Lusby, MD. This also allows for more collaboration time with other teachers.
We also talked about, "Why do students take AP courses?"
Answeres ranged from:
  • Colleges! 
  • Status
  • Prestige
  • It's an expected credential.
Dual enrollment might be a better option for students, as they actually earn the college credit directly from the college.
Kesler noted that SLA students can take classes at Penn and Drexel!
While our discussion did not yield a big, "Aha!" We did come away with some possible solutions worth exploring.
Then tonight, Joe Bire's shared a link to this article. We are not alone!
I think some of the ideas Christopher Dede shares here are important!

ISTE 2011

After an arduous 16 hour train trip, via Washington, I've made it to Philadelphia for ISTE 2011!
 I am excited for the learning that will be taking place over the next few days, starting today with Edubloggercon. Edubloggercon is an "unconference," where people submit ideas for conversation and sessions are created. It's an informal time to discuss "big" ideas. This year, I submitted a topic relevant to our district,

Over the course of the next few days, I'll be sharing here some of my learning and take-aways, including my presentation on our "1:1 Laptop Learning Journey," which is the title of my poster session on Monday.

Here's a nice photo of all of today's participants, via Peggy George

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

iPads vs. Netbooks the Final Answer?

This school year, I've had the pleasure of working Molly Schroeder leading a group of 29 staff through a Teaching and Technology Cohort through Hamline University. We are currently studying assessment, and one of the course outcomes is to assess what technology staff would select for their classroom. I posed to them this question:
Would a laptop/netbook or ipad be a better tool for student use?
I broke the participants up into groups and had them research the topic, giving them suggestions here and here of places that had chosen either option. To evaluate the project, I asked them to use this rubric, developed by Doug Johnson for Large Scale Technology Adoption. They were asked to come to a consensus, and then present their findings.

I found it interesting at the time, that some participants followed the rubric religiously, while others seemed to follow their gut feelings! Here was one of the presentations that is representative of the overall impressions:

I realized while viewing the presentations that the participants did exactly as I asked them to.
I did NOT model good a good problem based lesson, because I gave them an out! I decided the next day to ask again, but this time create a scenario where they had to make a firmer choice:

Good Morning!
On Tuesday during class, I tweeted out that groups in the cohort were presenting on whether a netbook or iPad would be a better tool for student learning. Several people, including Scott McLeod replied that they were interested in the results:
tweets 4 iPad vs. Netbook
Well, after watching the presentations, and looking through the peer review, I found it hard for me to answer! Many of you indicated that while viewing presentations, you had been influenced by the arguments.
I also realized that I should have phrased the problem in a way that required a clear decision:
You are a member of your building technology committee. Your district will be going to a 1:1 learning environment next year, where each student will have a device. You have narrowed it down to iPads vs. netbooks. Using the Johnson Rubric for Large Scale Implementation, which device will your committee choose?
This would have required a more definitive solution from each group.

To answer this once and for all, I would like you to complete this short form today. I will compile the results and share them with you tomorrow. I will also be getting your group's peer feedback to you later today.


 If you count what people voted for at the end, the result of the class poll was:
iPad  - 13 Netbook - 8
Two people actually cancelled each other out when they picked the opposite of what their numbers told them!

Criteria iPad Netbook















Total Score Average



So based on the vote and the numbers, this group would choose an iPad as the best tool for student learning.

While this exercise was hypothetical, the rubric provides good, quantitative criteria to consider when looking at classroom technology. 
iPad vs. Netbook images from Jared Earle and Bela Hausmann