Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reflections on Education

I remember when I was a kid I loved the beginning of the year because the new "Year in Review" and "Science Year" encyclopedias would be coming to our house.I loved the pictures about the space program and the Year in Review always offered cool stories and a chance to reflect- like those movies during the Oscars that tell us all the great people we lost in the past year. Here it is the end of 2011 and I feel like I am at the beginning of something really big - and I know it is not a new encyclopedia.

Luckily, I no longer have to wait to see the year in review all that information is ALWAYS readily available to me... and to my students. They never have to wait for too long to remember the name of the kid in the hot air balloon hoax because they research on the fly every day. The implications for education are vast, aren't they? I ponder this and other questions like it all the time. How can I make this work in school? Is there an inspiration here that can excite my students.

In fact, if you are like me you find it hard to keep up with all the latest and greatest technology in education. In fact, I use twitter, Google+, Pulse, Currents, Facebook, I attend conferences and view webinars, and just good old browsing the web. I find it both invigorating and confusing.

When conversations start about "21st education" I find I have much to say - almost too much - but that is the nature of the times we live in, isn't it? Our students are connected 24/7 to their friends to the news to the world. Flat Stanley travels around the planet still and they are not that impressed. We bring students from the other side of the planet into our classrooms and it is just what we do. Students at my school regularly listen to the birds of Israel outside their teacher's classroom window a feat made possible through video conferencing. So what can we do to excited them further? I'm not sure we have to do much, instead I think we need to start thinking more creatively - put the seeds of thought out there and innovative education will develop.

Our teachers planned a flash mob during lower school lunch last week. Several 8th grade students pointed their cameras because they wanted to capture the event and post it on YouTube! Our Judaic Studies teachers planned a QR Quest for our Middle School students which created quite a clamor about ancient history. Our fourth grade students given a variety of choices decided to create movies about the major systems in the human body because making movies is fun! In a recent cross-curricular event students spoke with Elizabeth Winthrop during a Skype conference, created glogs about child labor, and discussed the implications for today. Math students compete in games while in school and at home at MangaHigh. Learning is not a classroom event any longer, school is not limited to the confines of time or space any longer. I am excited to be influencing students all day long - even at home - and getting tweeted about it, too! What about you?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Professional Development in Pajamas!

Teachers and administrators alike are often frustrated by their lack of time for professional development. Sure, we have PD days, but that is never enough. There is a solution out there that I find charming, easy to use and full of good content - that is Simple K12.  Check out their Webinar page - there are some fabulous free webinars. I attended one of the "Day of Learning" webinars last week which included Gaga for Google and Flipping your Classroom with Khan Academy. I found these webinars full of information and very inspirational. 

They list the following top 7 reasons to use Simple K12 Professional Development:
  1. PDNPJ™ – Professional Development in Pajamas!
  2. Practical Knowledge From Experts and Peers
  3. Shared Resource
  4. New Material Added All The Time
  5. Easy Collaboration
  6. Printable Progress Reports
  7. Options for Multi-User licenses
But I think the number 1 reason to use Simple K12 is the easily navigated site that includes as much valuable FREE content as possible while offering a nominal charge for access to their full site.

After taking my "Day of Learning" I shared it with the other Administrators at our school. Now we are planning a pilot launch of SimpleK12 for our faculty. Really, you should check this out.

Special shout out to Kimberly Warrner, the Community Manager at . [Thanks for the introduction to a great day of training!]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Innovative Education and Mind Meister

As I continue delving into innovative education and blending my classrooms, I receive input from many of the people in my network. This morning I received a copy of the NY Times article, "A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Compute" An article about the Waldorf School in Silicon Valley that is devoid of technology in their classrooms. The author says, "When asked for evidence of the schools' effectiveness, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America points to research by an affiliated group showing that 94 percent of students graduating from Waldorf high schools in the United States between 1994 and 2004 attended college, with many heading to prestigious institutions like Oberlin, Berkeley and Vassar. Of course, that figure may not be surprising, given that these are students from families that value education highly enough to seek out a selective private school, and usually have the means to pay for it. And it is difficult to separate the effects of the low-tech instructional methods from other factors..."

This article is like to spark many a lively debate about devices and educational reform. I find myself asking - why is it all or nothing? Life is not like that, why should education present a lopsided world? Children need to learn how to use all the devices/tools that are available to them. Is there a benefit to an Encyclopedia that is printed annually v. one that is updated hourly? As an educator I embrace a multiple intelligent approach to a blended and diverse classroom. I think we should offer as creative an environment as possible.

While at Edscape last week, Diana Laufenberg (@dlaufenberg) shared that while students at Science Leadership Academy use many creative and innovative educational methods, they do not have the same experience in college. Reform is needed across the board... but, I digress... let's keep the debate lively, let's keep inspiring our students, parents, administrators, and legislators.

While we work on our ideas for educational reform we can share them on MindMeister. This mind mapping software is available from the Android Market and is an awesome way of sharing ideas with your colleagues. As I am using the product I am finding it very easy to share with other people on my team. We are working together to come up with our new three year plan and this makes it easy to share and shape ideas. Give it a look/see and let me know what you think!

Kathy Schrock put together a Bloom's Taxonomy of Android Apps... (Thanks, Kathy) Check this out because as Android sales continue to grow... and with the release of the Amazon Fire (at $199)... I think you may see more Droids in your schools.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Edscape 2011 - A Restrospective

When I arrived in New Milford, New Jersey for Edscape 2011 I was struggling to find a parking spot. I find this a disconcerting way to start any day, but in this case I was happy. So many people interested in Edscape that parking was difficult in this sleepy New Jersey town??? Awesome! 

After registering I was disappointed to learn that Chris Lehmann was not presenting, but, in retrospect, that worked out just fine as he sent Diana Laufenberg in his stead. Diana was inspiring in her presentation on TED and I was happy to hear her in person. She smoothly linked the 4 C's of 21st Century Education to the work they are doing at the Science Leadership Academy. I was inspired by the videos her students created on topics as varied as Voting in the USA and Pharma America. Seeing student work is always great and knowing that it was generated in an environment that promotes critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity made me wonder why you would do it any other way. 

I wasn't sure what I would get from my Edscape experience, I just knew I wanted to be there - I wanted to be around the movers and the shakers in education - people I follow in blogs and on twitter...

 When I signed up to hear Mike Ritzius speak about "Integrated Studies: Rethinking Curriculum and Schedules" - his experiences rethinking education. He spoke about how he worked with other teachers unconstrained and created an "open modern one room schoolhouse". Teachers collaborated and students created with autonomy and mastery in a setting that was both horizontally and vertically integrated. He walked us through the first three years of the program, where they realized "by eliminating the constraint of a rigid schedule, we created an environment where students have the autonomy to advocate for their own learning; the students are now participants in the learning rather than recipients of information." Hearing about the pitfalls and the successes that he described, witnessing his engagement and excitement was contagious and breathed new life into my own ideas.

I was so turned on about what he described and I was sure this would fit in with my current project that I found it hard to wait to visit other events of the day with my own innovation engaged. However, the day did not disappoint or redirect my energy. 21st Century Mobile Learning as co-presented by Verizon Wireless, Edmodo and Ms. Makeba Mccray of East Orange High School was a veritable cornucopia of information. In part, I heard about the commitment of Verizon Wireless to helping schools meet their wireless needs.(Please take a minute to check out Thinkfinity where you can find many lesson plans and great ideas)

Ms. Michelle Best of Edmodo presented about how their free program engages students, parents and teachers. At our school I have often heard it referred to as "Facebook for School". If you haven't already, check out this video about Edmodo co-founders Nic Borg and Jeff O'Hara. Finally, I learned how Ms. Mccray was able to re-think how her school was spending money and the story of how she ended up putting electronic learning devices in the hands of all the seniors at her school. 

That was the theme for me at Edscape - Re-Think- Re-Imagine - Re-Design Education! I am a fan of Dan Pink's book Drive and am curious about the connection between motivation and innovative education. I am currently drawing the line to connect all these dots and got plenty of help at Edscape this weekend.

Special thanks to Eric Sheninger for arranging the day!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Infographic Taxonomy

Disrupt me! Make me uncomfortable! I was fascinated the other day when I cam across The Top 10 InfoGraphics for Learning by Sarah Cargill. I was both inspired and excited. I am always inspired by graphical ways of sharing information - but I was excited to think of a new Infographic to create in the classroom. What a great way to get students from every type of intelligence working together to make a unified presentation. Heck, they can even use the Glog format to make it happen.

When writing this lesson plan I decided to try the new "Differentiator". This handy tool makes it easy to apply Bloom's Taxonomy to any lesson plan... and that's how I see it today.

Blended Learning

Knewton Blended Learning

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Engaging Students with Digital Posters

I am always looking for new things to share with teachers to help them inspire their students. At a recent professional day at our school I ran a Web 2.0 class and showed off Glogster EDU. With this awesome tool students can show off what they know about any array of topics. 

For Social Studies they can create a living, digital poster about the Civil War. They can include Discovery Education videos, notes from the Library of Congress, links to other important sites. Kids enjoy adding the little doodles that make the posters seems personalized.

For social/emotional work you can have students create an all about me poster. They can attach pictures of their family, videos of their pets and links to their favorite things!

There is an endless list of things you can do. I have attached the Glog I created to demonstrate to teachers some important Web 2.,0 links I wanted to share with them.