Monday, March 29, 2010

Earthcast Presentation on Classroom 2.0

This past Saturday I co-presented live to the Classroom 2.0 community on the concept of the Earthcast 2010 webcastathon, which will be taking place live beginning at 0 GMT on April 22nd, 2010 (Earth Day). It was great to have the chance to share this project along with my fellow Earthbridges/Earthcast colleagues Sheila Adams, Darrell Garrison, Jose Rodriguez and Mary Ziller.

A special shout out is in order to Kim Caise, Lorna Costantini, Peggy George and Steve Hargadon for giving us the chance to share with the 40 + live listeners who tuned in on Saturday.

If you didn't get the chance to tune in live, no worries. The entire presentation is embedded below and you may also pop on over to the Classroom 2.0 archives for all of the links, show notes, etc.

Interested in participating in the Earthcast 2010 24 Hour Webcastathon this year?? Leave a comment here or send the Earthbridges community an email at earthbridges at gmail dot com. We're looking for people from ever region of the world to participate and we're hopeful we'll be able to once again have live broadcasts in several different languages.

If you are uncertain of what the Earthcast is all about, check out this Voicethread with audio clips from Earthcast 2008 and Earthcast 2009.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Opening the Language Learning Floodgates

How many languages is our school able to support and offer? 
This is a question that language learning departments in schools are constantly forced to ask of themselves, especially as the popularity of certain languages takes hold. This is happening right now as Mandarin language learning is becoming more widespread and it happened back in the 80s and 90s with the popularity of Russian and Japanese. As our schools offer these new languages, enrollment in other languages like French often times suffers. I recall several years ago having a conversation with a french teacher friend of mine who was feeling the pressure of lower enrollment due to a new language offering in our school-she felt a real threat to her job security. What if instead of the traditional 3-5 language offerings in a school, we instead offered a menu of 15, 20, or 25 languages? What if in addition to offering Spanish, Latin, and Mandarin, we also offered Korean, Vietnamese, German, Portuguese, Finnish, Arabic, Italian, Hebrew, and yes, French?

What if that French teacher who was suffering from low enrollment re-invented himself as a language learning facilitator and onsite coordinator of a broad and deep menu of online language learning opportunities for our youth? Does this sound feasible? Not sure if it is feasible, but it sure does sound exciting!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chat Roulette in Education?

I want to start this post by saying that in NO WAY am I supportive of using Chat Roulette in its current form in K12 education (for a great overview of Chat Roulette, check out this video). However,  I think a school-friendly version has a great deal of learning potential, primarily in language learning. I've long wanted to help our language teachers develop one-to-one skype buddies with native speaking students in other regions of the world, but the logistical barriers to such an approach always seem to block our progress.

What about an online space where students could securely sign-in to meet and have informal conversations in the language that they are learning at any time? There could be rooms for nearly all languages, even the languages not often offered in our schools. I'm kind of imagining a space like the educational version of voicethread, where students and schools are vetted into the community and held accountable, but with real time web camera and audio integration. We'd never need to worry about the complications associated with scheduling one-on-one skype buddies and our students would always have access to a native speaker of the language that they are learning.

What do you think? What are some other ways that such a vetted, secure platform might have merit and value in our schools?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stanford d.School Tour

The Design School ("d.School") over at Stanford offers free tours for the public of their new building every other Friday. Being only 1.5 miles from my school, I jumped at the opportunity to attend last Friday's tour with eight parents from our school along and our global and community action coordinator, Heidi Chang. This proved to be an excellent opportunity to learn more about how the d.School uses space and the design process to cultivate curiosity, innovation, and creativity. The highly flexible spaces at the d.School have been designed to reflect nearly every mode of work, including group lectures, small team collaborations, and independent reflection-all in the same space, mind you. Fixtures with wheels, stackable foam blocks for seating, moveable t-shaped barrier walls that double as whiteboards, hangable large panel whiteboards that serve as space dividers, glass walled "huddle rooms," raw fixtures of all sorts, were all highly visible throughout the tour. As our tour guide and d.School fellow George pointed out, their space design "...makes it difficult to sit and talk for a long time...we want the space to promote rapid prototyping and quick and dirty trials." Equally as impressive as what I observed is what I didn't observe. You won't find traditional conference meeting rooms, private offices, or spaces with a formal, finished feel to them. These spaces are all about teaching the process of empathetic design-a process that rewards "spectacular failure" along with success.

Below you'll find several videos that I shot throughout the hour long tour. Hopefully this gives you a greater glimpse into my visit.

Video 1: This is typical of the rooms in the d.School. These are referred to as "Huddle Rooms" or "War Rooms." This particular room has a glass garage door that opens up into the main entry way to the d.School. I love the benches in these rooms-they allow people to sit and work in many different ways.

Video 2: I REALLY like the design of this circular table. At the center it has several outlets that are easily accessible for folks to charge their personal electronic devices.

Video 3: This room is an excellent example of flexibility in the design of learning spaces. This space facilitates all modes of work. The next four videos were all shot in this space:

Video 4: These rolling t-walls are incredible and allow for several rooms within a room to be quickly created. The insides of the t-walls serve as whiteboards.

Video 5

Video 6: Here you'll see how quickly a small group collaboration space can be created. The goal is to "create a space where anything can happen."

Video 7: More in the way of moveable fixtures and a glimpse into one of their second floor work spaces.

Video 8: A great example of rough and raw furnishings. One of their goals with the space is to create the "aesthetic of imperfection and an unfinished space." This leads to more student ownership and use of the space compared to highly finished, "museum" like spaces.

Video 9: These final two videos show a really clever design fixture. Whiteboard panels of various sizes that may be clipped onto rails and moved about. This serves the dual purpose of a space divider and a writeable surface.

Video 10

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cool Stuff Students Make for You

I'm filing this one under the tag, "Cool stuff students make for you." I chaperoned a dance last weekend and this is the thank you note that a student created for me.

Ahh, the benefits of working with creative youth in schools...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Swatting Mosquitoes with Sledge Hammers

People that I work with are often times surprised to learn that I am a HUGE techno-skeptic. I wasn't always this way, but experience has certainly proven over and over again that it is best to use the lowest form of technology when solving a problem. Just the other week I met with our science department head to devise a plan for having teachers sign up for different after school learning opportunities for a faculty meeting. I presented two solutions, one involving a Google form and one involving paper sign up sheets posted on the doors in our faculty meeting. I really encouraged her to consider selecting the option that involved the simplest form of technology-she ended up selecting the paper-based technology and this turned out to be an effective way for her to run registrations for the after school sessions.

I think this story has implications for many things we do in our schools and organizations. Just think of how many times we've applied overly sophisticated, complex and expensive solutions to solve fairly basic problems. In many cases we apply these complicated systems to solve human problems, which is recipe for disaster.

We end up using sledge hammers to swat mosquitoes when we don't make a good match between problems and solutions.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Those of you who read this blog and know of some of the work I've done online are quite aware that I'm a self proclaimed "eco-geek." I ride my bike/walk to work as much as possible, we compost here at our house, and I do many other things to try to minimize my environmental footprint. But I wonder if motivating people in schools to go paperless for environmental and cost savings reasons is the right way to foster change. The more I think about this, it isn't. Going paperless (or near paperless) simply makes for good learning. Imagine asking students to publish their writing to a class blog for other class members to see and comment upon. How might this positively change the learning landscape compared to what we traditionally do when we ask students to print out their writing and turn it into the teacher for one set of eyes to interact with?

Not convinced that a paperless (or near paperless) classroom can work? Check out how educator Jason Neiffer of Helena Montana has created a paperless classroom that is empowering students and positively impacting learning in his school.

Now, hop on over to this form created by educator Steve Katz from Costa Rica and make the pledge to go paperless on Earth Day 2010!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Blog Update

Just a note for anyone who subscribes to this blog in RSS or email
With blogger's new theme tool and with the capability to add sub-pages to blogs, I took the opportunity to add a new theme to my blog along with some pages that contain static information. I added the following pages, which show up in the menu bar at the top of the blog: Blog, About, Digital Citizenship, Important Books, Favorite Apps, Digital Storytelling Resources, and a Student Hall of Fame page. I'm starting to curate and add content to these pages and I hope to have them fully constructed by the beginning of April or so.

Thanks for being a reader of this blog!


Monday, March 01, 2010

Student Choir from NAIS

This is a recording of the student choir performance from the morning general session this past Friday at the NAIS Annual Conference in San Francisco. This combined choir was made up of students from Castilleja School, Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo School, and Woodside Priory. I think you'll agree with me that their performance was quite outstanding!