Thursday, December 13, 2012

How Deeper Learning Contributes to Digital Learning

Today on the "Getting Smart Blog," I saw a great infographic that gives great examples of how our eLearning2 Initiative in Edina can transform student learning.


Many of our staff are already implementing learning like this in their classrooms, and our professional development plan will definitely include these ideas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TIES 2012: Tuesday Keynote: Tony Wagner on Creating Innovators

Tony Wagner, author of the book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World was the keynote speaker on Tuesday, December 11 at the 2012 TIES Conference
He began by sharing the story of a classroom in New Orleans, where kids were excitedly using technology...to do test prep.
In another question, he talked about a teacher using lots of technology, but never explaining, "why math?

Knowledge today is commoditized. Very quickly you will be able to get a college education without leaving your house. What's school for then?

Routine jobs are being outsourced. 
The world no longer cares how much our kids know. It cares about what are students can DO with what they know!
Students need to be able to transform knowledge.
So what is the teachers roll?

When he read, The World is Flat, it scared the heck out of him. He talked to executives, community leaders, college teachers and recent graduates. They stated that the following competencies are more important than content acquisition.


  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving-We haven't done enough here, because we rarely assess it. The ability to ask really good questions, and Identify problems is more important. 
  2. Collaboration Across Networks-Collaboration around the world so that things work in more than one culture. Deep appreciation of differences. Lead by "Peers through Influence." Aside: Education is one of the biggest silos. How are educators going to be able to teach if they are not collaborating themselves?
  3. Agile and Adaptable 
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurial Spirit-Employees with 10 stretch goals, who only reaches 5-7 is a hero.
  5. Writing-Students don't know how to construct and argument and write with voice.
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information-In high school, we had to memorize the Periodic Table and planets. These have changed...
  7. Curiosity and Imagination-He talked about "A Whole New Mind" as an example of how right brain skills are very important today.


Right now, most of our instruction is multiple choice test prep that doesn't prepare us for these key skills.

He believes we need "Accountability 2.0" and rethink high school education. Then came the global economic collapse...
For the first time, we saw students with a B.A. degree and $25,000 in debt, unable to get a job.

He thought that students who went to school became more skillful. He was wrong!

Those skills are not being taught! The only thing sure with a B.A. is debt!

Our economy is based on consumer spending, fueled by people going into debt. 

Innovation is the key-We need students to be creative problem solvers!

Start with healing the planet!
The United States has always been known as a place of innovation. 
He listed Bill Gates, Bonnie Raitt, Mark Zuckerberg and others who were all Harvard drop-outs!

He mentioned Sir Ken Robinson's work on school killing creativity.

Wagner interviewed several innovators in their 20's who could all remember a mentor who made a difference in their lives. Those teachers were all outliers!

The patterns of teaching in the innovative schools like High Tech High, the MIT Media Lab and the Stanford D-School were similar.


  1. The culture of schooling ranks kids, and creates individual competition. The schools above value collaboration.
  2. The culture of schooling compartmentalizes. Innovation is interdisciplinary.
  3. The culture of school is passive. Sit and Get. In the innovative classrooms, the emphasis is on creation.
  4. The culture of schooling is risk adverse. We penalize failure and reward compliance. The culture of learning as an innovator is to learn from mistakes. (IDO is an example of an innovative company. Need trial and error.) The grade of F for students who try something and fail is now the new A at the Stanford D-school. 
  5. The culture of schooling relies extensively on extrinsic rewards for learning. In every case, the young innovators he talked to were intrinsically motivated. Their parents and teachers had emphasised play, passion and purpose.

Sometimes kids have to be bored to learn how to get unbored! Limited screen time was a common theme.
The importance of whimsy! 

Passion was valued more than achievement  Time was built in for students to design and build their own questions. Students focused on their interests and grew. Students learned that they were not on the earth just for themselves!

Wagner has 2 ways to make this happen for every kid! Accountability 2.0.


  1. We have to develop an accountability system that samples rather than tests every kid. Every student should have a digital portfolio with core competencies. Students and teachers collect the best evidence of mastery of those competencies. Teachers work to develop standards. The work is transparent though technology. Pathbright.com, 3RingBinder.com,. We also need teacher portfolios, with video of student interaction and student feedback.
  2. The Google Rule of 20% or the 3M Rule of 15% where people can follow their passions should be followed. He believes this rule should apply to every classroom. Students should document in their portfolio, set goals, evaluate, and set new goals. The teachers works as a "coach for excellence." Every teacher needs to be an effective coach today. Teachers need to model this innovation in their classroom.
He ended talking about a trip to Singapore, where he was talking about needing to be innovative by writing a book. He added a QR code linking to videos that tie to the book. 



He closed with a quote from Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.."

He gets to see the good things happening in classrooms around the country where people are bringing passion to their classrooms every day.






Monday, December 10, 2012

TIES 2012 Monday Keynote: Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek, author of the book, "Start with Why" was the keynote presenter Monday at the TIES Conference. His TED Talk on content from his book has been extremely popular.


Sinek, considers himself an early adopter, but he likes human beings more than technology! How do we use technology to make things work better for the human being?

We need a human problem before technology is used most effectively.
He gave the example of screens with string to pull down. 

A brilliant example of tech is to go to Bed Bath and Beyond. Some toasters have a function where if you lift the button, the toast comes up. 

First, what is the human problem we are trying to solve? We have to remember why we are teaching this in the first place. We teach students, not curriculum!!

So what can technology do for education? Sinek believes it can be used for:



Humans are fundamentally social. What is so remarkable about us that made us not only survive, but thrive?
Human beings want to feel that they belong. Especially with those with similar beliefs and shared values. 
How do we get people to do things
Rewards and incentives, threats of punishment, etc. The human body also has chemicals that incentivise us to happiness. Good feelings come from certain chemicals: Endorphins, Dopamine, Oxytocin and Ceretonin. 

Endorphin's are what give us the "runners high." They hide physical pain. They mask physical pain to incentivize us to keep going, whether in a workout or on a hunt. No practical reason to get this anymore.

Dopamine-When you find something you were looking for or accomplish something, you feel good because of this. It gets us to do things, even though we don't have an immediate need right now. "Write down your goals so you can check them off and feel good." "We are biologically designed to collect stuff-It's why we like shopping!" Refreshing a cell phone for e-mail. We love the ding, or the buzz. It's an addiction! Selfish chemicals to keep us alive. 

Ceretonin-The leadership chemical. The alpha chemical. We can feel that people are nervous about us. Getting awards in public is a way to get it. Graduates get it, AND so do their parents! The reason it is there is because we are looking after each other. Thank the team, or the coach, parents or God, because we need the respect from other people. Status symbols.

Oxytocin-Warmth, really good feelings. Women get huge bursts of it when giving birth. Human contact. Handshakes. We need to trust someone in order to get it. Acts of generocity also gives bursts for both the giver and the person giving. When you have it, you actually want to give more. Online, you don't get that reciprocity. Giving money doesn't create this, either. 

The greatest thing we can do is give TIME and ENERGY to others.-This generates a great deal of oxytocin for both.

Witnessing acts of generocity makes you more likely to give yourself. Money, or a promisory note don't do this.
His concern about technology is that we are trying to solve problems with technology that circumvent bonds of trust. We need to be intentional. It's about the teacher using the technology, not the technology itself. The bond between teacher and student, the trust, and being ok with failing, then 
Big mistakes in school are a way to learn!

He had us close our eyes and think back to high school, and the teacher who knew us, and believed in our potential. The people who believe in us are the ones we carry around with us for the rest of our lives! How many students would say your name? It's not because of the technology we used, it's because we connected with them and believed in them.

Technology does not form the bonds of relationships.
We are here at the conference to share ideas and build relationships. 

Alphas-The leaders, the strong, smart. We give them love and respect, which boosts their Ceretonin and their self-confidence. There is an anthropological reason we have alphas: the practical problem of food! We evolved into heirarchical animals. The weaker ones stepped back for the stronger to eat first. The alphas got first choice of meat and mates. 
Today, we have no problem with the fact that bosses have a bigger office at work, or that celebrities get all the pretty ones.
The rub: The alphas get this special treatment and ceretonin, but if there is an outside threat that attacks the group, the alphas have the confidence to stand up to it.
Leadership has a responsibility to protect those who serve you.
If you are not willing to put your career on the line to protect the studetns and teachers in your care, you are just an authority, not a real leader.
This leadership and sacrifice comes from the parenting model. Every teacher should be sacrificing so that their students can be greater than they could ever be. Every principal should be sacrificing so that teachers can be greater.

We have a strange over reliance on technology. He gave the example of the Air France Airliner that crashed after take-off from Brasil. An instrument on the aircraft calculating airspeed gave a false reading about the speed. The computers released the autopilot, but the pilots had never been trained into what to do. Airbus philosophy was that the computer was brighter than human beings. Because the pilots trusted that, over 200 people perished. Every now and then there are crashes. We are ok that people are fallible, but not technology. It can never replace human beings.

He finished with a story where he lost his sense of purpose. He went to Afghanistan with the U.S. Air Force to see how his theories were working in action. The goal was to be in country for 30 hours to view an air drop. 10 minutes after landing, his plane came under rocket attack. After the all clear, and a bit of rest, he went on a mission for the air drop. While leaving, he was supposed to leave on a Medical evacuation flight. He was bumped, and was going to be stuck there for 4 days. Cortisol, which is the chemical for anxiety kicked in, alert and hyper-aware. Survival mode. He felt himself becoming self-consumed, and tried to change his attitude, with no luck. It was like being in a dead-end job, and fear was all consuming. He gave up and resigned himself, and decided to make himself useful by serving others. After making that decision, he felt an amazing sense of calm. Just then, he ended up catching a flight with a fallen soldier, as the only passenger carrying the soldier home. The flight home was silent. After having gone through that, he felt honored to be on that flight.

The thrill of serving others is what it's all about. We get this not from tech, but from the safety and trust of human relationships.

TIES 2012: Kathryn Smith: Innovative Spaces Support 21st Century Learning

Kathryn Smith, former Bemidji State professor, presented on Innovative Spaces Support 21st Century Learning.
Her presentation slides can be found here.

Today, learning can happen anywhere, anytime, and on any device. 
She started by using PollEverywhere to ask about the status of mobile technologies and school learning environments.

She thinks that the TPACK model is a good one to use when implementing professional development around 21st Century learning. We are using this model in our BYOD professional development.


Smith notes that the National Educational Technology Plan, is a great road map for change. Research has shown that the appropriate use of technology and the appropriate design of learning spaces is having a significant positive impact on learning.

The learning spaces today are not that far removed from 19th Century classrooms. She showed this video from the University of Michigan on research on design of learning environment.

Here are more videos from SteelCase, that show new learning space design.

In the video, you see "node chairs," similar to traditional chairs, but mobile, and flexible. Here are some examples of the spaces they designed.
Her presentation has additional links to Steelcase and some of the designs they came up with for learning.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Side of Flipped Learning We Don't Always See

Often, when people talk about Flipped Learning, the focus is on the videos students sit and watch. Rarely, do we get to see how classroom pedagogy shifts. The other day, I came across this scene at one of our middle schools.


The teacher was working with a small group of students showing them how they would be using iPads to create their own videos for classmates on problems that were directly tied to power standards in math. His other students were in the classroom, organized in groups solving problems. By moving his instructional lecture to video, he was freed up to work with this small group. Too often, the focus of flipped is on the videos, and not enough is spent showing the classroom interaction that can occur because the lecture is online.