Sunday, October 31, 2010

New blogs are born & thoughts on our student blogging workship

Last week I co-facilitated a Wednesday morning professional development session on the topic of, "Student blogging." Click here to access the resource document that we created for our attendees. This was a part of a periodic series of workshops known as "Learning Exhanges" - this is something new that we're trying as a way to promote sharing of all forms in our school community. Our session was very well attended and we set out to answer the following great, big question: 

How can we use blogging and other online writing opportunities to provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning, publish for a large audience, break the myth of perfectionism, and as a tool for formative assessment?
As so often happens in these types of tech-related learning sessions, the questions from our attendees seemed to focus around things like platforms and the 'how to' types. Not that these aren't important-they are-but as far as I'm concerned they're secondary in comparison to the ones posed in the big question. My co-facilitator and language learning teacher extraordinaire, Flaurie Imberman, summed it up well when she talked about the many challenges that we've experienced in using blogging our Latin American and Caribbean History course. She mentioned that our experience has been difficult because most of the work that we do with students in our classes is highly private. Very rarely do we ask them to open up and share their thoughts, processes, and final products with an audience that goes beyond the teacher. Blogging, if approached properly, certainly has the potential to serve as an antidote to the privatization of class work, teaching and learning.

In the context of this session on blogging, I'd like to link to five blogs that have been born over the past 6 weeks at my school.

Middle School online newspaper - this is the first online newspaper at my school, and it comes from our middle school students and teachers. Please leave a comment or two if you have a moment

Philosophy Class Lectures - Teacher Bill Smoot is posting all of his lectures for his semester long course on Philosophy. They are all available in iTunes as well.

Mobile Learning Group Blog - I mentioned this in a recent post. This is a group blog being authored by 16 colleagues at my school who were all given an iPad with the expectation that we'd engage in regular professional development around this topic.

Stories from Advisory - I started this as a tool to keep the parents of my sophomore student advisory (sophomores in USA schools are typically 15-16 years old). Parents can be so valuable in extending the conversations that are often times initiated in school activities like advisory - conversations at the dinner table can be dramatically altered and improved when parents have a little insight into the school day happenings.

Latin American Caribbean History Group Blog - this group blog was a compromise that we made with the students in this class who felt very insecure about blogging - generally speaking, the students didn't feel like they should be writing in a public space about a topic they weren't 'experts' on. So we compromised and they came up with the idea to co-author in a group blog. Posts should start appearing this week. Please comment!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Remixing the "Internet and Privacy" Graphic

I posted about this great graphic from the Flowing Data website that has been making the rounds on Twitter at the end of last week. As I said, it really jibes with my thinking about how I conduct myself online.

Due to the incredible amount of attention that tends to prop up every three months or so about Facebook's privacy policies, I immediately thought of the following remix:

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that ANYTHING attached to the Internet belongs in the orange circle, including organizational email systems AND school networks. 

So I revised the above Venn diagram to look like the following:

The bottom line for me??  If I want my information to be totally and completely private, I shouldn't digitize it on any device or platform that is connected to the Internet. 

How about you?? How might you remix or revise any of these Venn diagrams or the original from Flow Data?

Mobile Learning Study Group

Like many other schools, folks in my community are quite interested in learning more about the possibilities of highly portable mobile devices like the iPad, cellphones, iPods, etc as tools to personalize, customize, deepen and amplify learning. As a result, we recently launched a study group that is dedicated to learning more about mobile devices like the iPad. Teacher participation in this group is totally voluntary and I’m pleased to say that we have 16 participants!

In exchange for participation in the group, all members were given a small budget to go out and purchase an iPad model of their choosing, some accessories, and software (we're fortunate to have a GREAT relationship with the Apple Store on University Avenue in Palo Alto). Most participants chose the 16 GB model, but a few upgraded to the 3G capable models (some teachers went over budget and had to go into their own personal budgets to pay the difference). The expectations for the participants are posted over at the ‘About’ section of our blog. We chose this hardware/software distribution model because the iPad is a VERY personal device that is nearly impossible to manage using traditional IT practices. If this goes well, I might recommend that our school scale this distribution model to teacher laptops-eg, instead of the school’s IT department giving each teacher a standard hardware/software configuration every four years, we’d give folks a stipend of a certain amount so they could go out and choose the hardware/software mixture that works best for their needs.

One of the requirements for participation in this group is to submit blog posts to our group blog throughout the year. Stop by our blog and subscribe via email or RSS to keep up with our group’s progress and thinking throughout the year.

*image courtesy of FoxyCroxy on Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Privacy and the Internet"

I LOVE the simplicity of this graphic. It is representative of my behavior in any physical and digital public space.  Privacy settings at websites create a false sense of security-I behave as though anything I post can be rebroadcast and reposted anywhere on the open web.

Thanks to Diana Laufenberg for posting this on Twitter. Click here to view the image source.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why Gladwell is Wrong

I've been sitting on Malcolm Gladwell's article from the New Yorker earlier this month for the past few weeks. In a nutshell, Gladwell makes the case that new media can never replicate the kind of social activism that we saw in the late 50s through early 60s. When I initially read it, a huge part of me agreed with him, but after giving this a good deal of thought over the past few weeks, I've come to the conclusion that Gladwell is dead wrong. Here are three reasons why:
1. Gladwell spends a good deal of time in the article comparing the activism of the 60's to various activist movements in social media. This is a really, really poor comparison. In the 60's, there was a draft. This meant that people from all social and economic backgrounds had the potential to be drafted against their will to fight and die in Vietnam. People protested and gave their lives because of this. Now we have a volunteer force that is made up of a very small percentage of our population. This means that most of us are very disconnected from the various wars being waged by the USA right now. If we had a draft and the sons and daughters of the political elite had the potential to be sent off to war, I guarantee that there would be violent protests all across America. 
2. Yesterday's "Spirit Day," in which millions of people across the USA wore purple to show solidarity with those who are oppressed due to their sexuality, was a HUGE success. From what I gather, people of all ages all throughout the country participated. This wasn't possible 25 years ago. I'm not even so sure it was possible 5 years ago. I don't care what Gladwell says, the fact that people of all ages could RSVP to the Spirit Day via facebook is a game changer-the simple act of letting others in the LGBTQ community know that they have allies will not only save lives, but help create pathways for ALL people to realize their full potential.
3. Gladwell must not know about the "It Gets Better" campaign on YouTube. He might not think that having one of the most innovative corporations share employee stories of how it gets better matters, but I do. He might not think that the courageous story of a Forth Worth,, Texas city council member shared on YouTube makes a difference, but many others think it matters. And I guarantee it matters to LGBTQ youth in California, Alabama, Texas, Wyoming, Utah, and all throughout our country.  
I could go on and on and even share stories of how innovative teachers and students from around the world are using new media to build cultural competencies and compassion in unprecedented ways, but for the sake of brevity, I'll end it here.  And at the end of the day, I agree with Jeff Jarvis' take on Gladwell-he is just another member of the "Young Curmudgeon's Guild," a group that is more interested in protecting the interests of old media than anything else.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Making my office and room a 'Safe and Hate free zone' for LGBTQ youth

Like so many others, I'm saddened by the recent tragedies centering around LGBTQ in our country. As an adult who works with youth I want to do my best to create an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for all human beings. To that end and in support of "Ally Week," I am taking the action of creating a "Safe and Hate Free Zone" in and around my office. I posted the following sign in my office to let other people in our school know that they are welcome to come talk about issues, challenges, feelings, or anything else that is on their mind (related to LGBTQ issues or not, actually).

I also posted this sign in the space that I meet with my sophomore (students ages 15-16) advisory each Thursday afternoon. See the image below:

I'm proud to say that many of my colleagues will be doing the same by posting these signs in our classrooms and workspaces. In a show of support and solidarity, we want to let everyone know that bullying and hate will not be tolerated.

What are you doing to support LGBTQ and ALL youth in your school and community?

For more resources and to print out this flyer to post in your room, office, etc, visit Click here to access the page with the direct link to the flyer that I posted in my office. You may also order an entire kit for your school for minimal cost.

Why I Like Design Thinking

One of the slides I shared from my classroom 2.0 presentation last Saturday...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Laptop Learning Progress Update #1

As many of you know, my school recently forged ahead with a laptop learning paradigm. All students in grades 6-12 are now required to show up to school each day with their own personal laptop computer. We take an OS and software agnostic approach-students and families self select their OS and software mix so long as it meets the minimum specifications outlined in this comprehensive document. Students and families purchase the computer on their own and the school provides a limited amount of technical assistance (we help them connect to the wifi network, manage printers, develop personalized data backup strategies, access network storage, etc).

Our tech support plan for student owned computers is crudely simple...we provide 15 minutes of support for student laptops and a loaner netbook for the times when students need to take their computers in for repair.

I'll be writing a few reflections throughout the year on our progress with laptop is my first and I'll do it in the form of a list.

1. We had HUGE fears about damage to student computers, theft, loss, accidents, etc. While a few minor things have happened, I'm glad to report that the students take really, really good care of their computers. No surprise here, really. Would you want to lose something that was valuable and contained your important documents, music, video, etc?
2. Having ALL students come onsite for learning sessions for two hours in the three days before the start of the school year was really smart. We used this as an opportunity to show the students how to connect to the network, access server shares, manage printers, etc. I can't imagine if we tried to do this in classrooms in the first few days of school. 
3. Having Moodle and Google Apps for Education in place as core academic learning platforms was crucial in allowing us to deploy this OS/software neutral laptop learning model. Our teachers have been using both systems for nearly two full years prior to this year - this has been super helpful.
4. Laptop learning has exposed weaknesses in the area of professional development. While we've offered summer learning institutes for the past three years running, we really don't offer anything systemic or sustained during the school  year. As a result, we've started a series of visits to area schools who have been doing this for a while along with some periodic "learning exchanges" where faculty have the opportunity to share some of the things they've been doing in their classrooms. It is my hope that we can increase the opportunities for teachers at ALL levels to engage in regular sharing, reflecting, etc in informal, formal, and vertical/non-departmental/non-grade level groupings. 
5. Student involvement in the process is still something I'm struggling with. We have a student powered "Genius Bar" that is supposed to be a place for students to help with troubleshooting, tech support, etc, but we don't have a great deal of traction with this. Our students are incredibly busy and often times don't have the time to do this. I'm still not giving up on this concept as this is such a wonderful opportunity for youth involvement and leadership.
6. On the technical side of things, the Cisco NAC device that we are using is overly complicated and buggy. Users have a client application on their computer that they use to authenticate to the WiFi network...sometimes it loads, sometimes it doesn't-when it doesn't load, they can't connect to WiFi. Also, I can't say that we've managed the printing challenge very effectively either. 
7. Having ed.Voicethread integrated into our Moodle network has been pretty slick. A few of our  language learning teachers love it and I think this is going to grow and increase in use. 
8. We don't require teachers to use computers in their classrooms...this approach is genius. As with any classroom tool, teachers make the choice about what will be used on any given day. I believe this has created a calming influence on our folks and prevents TICS (Technology Integration Coercion Syndrome). 
9. During morning recess in our Middle School we require students to put their laptops in their lockers so that they can get outside and play. It has been GREAT to see kids playing four square and other outdoor games during this time. I'm glad to know that the presence of laptops has inspired our school community to think more carefully about creating more opportunities for kids to play. 
10. We have unfiltered access to the Internet here at Castilleja and I'm quite proud of this.  I'm also quite proud of the choices that students make when they use their computers during study halls, lunch, and other discretionary time periods. I often times walk around and ask students what they are up to...nine times out of ten they are working on school business which is evidence that they are doing a nice job of managing their time. Yes, some do use facebook before, during, and after school, but by and large they are using their computers quite responsibly as we would expect. 
That is all for now...sort of a mind dump. I hope to have more stories from the classroom in in future "Laptop Learning Progress Updates" here at the blog.

My Classroom 2.0 Live Session Archive on Design Thinking

Last Saturday morning I had the good fortune and privilege to share my story of design thinking with 60+ others who showed up in the elluminate to listen in live and participate in another Classroom 2.0 Live session. I felt a bit awkward sharing about something that I have so little experience with--but I'm also a firm believer in the notion that the best way to learn something is to teach it. This medium isn't the best way to share design thinking methodology, but it certainly was better than nothing.

Near the 3/4 mark of the session I had the participants use a set of brainstorming rules that I just shared to engage in a little group brainstorm about how we can inspire more play in our schools...I was blown away at the contributions that participants made in the very short amount of time they were given (click here to see the ideas of session participants...a few minutes later I asked them to create a prototype-click here to see photos of a few of their prototypes). Design thinking is a fairly amorphous concept and I hope this exercise and the session at large gave all who participated a feel for the possibilities associated with this methodology. 

Finally, a special thanks goes to Lorna Costantini, Peggy George, and Kim Caise for their incredible work in sustaining the Classroom 2.0 Live Saturday sessions. I consider myself fortunate to have access to these fantastic and free learning opportunities each Saturday.  Be sure to check out their archives and to tune in live on Saturday at noon eastern/9 am pacific in North America (16:00 GMT/UTC) . 

The Blip.TV archive is embedded below. Click here to view the archived elluminate session complete with Chat. The show notes and links are posted here

Friday, October 15, 2010

Design Thinking Lesson with Sophomores

In early September I had the chance to facilitate a session on creative problem solving using 'Design Thinking' for a group of sophomore students. What follows is a little lesson description along with photos and a reflection on the process.

"Deep Dive" video of the IDEO creative process in action

A range of brainstorming and design medium such as post it notes, large butcher paper/large post it paper, markers of all colors and sizes, blue painters tape, 8 1/2" x 11" scrap paper, pencils, pens, wood blocks, legos, sidewalk chalk, and any other materials that would be suitable for building prototypes and models. 

Quotes from Tim Brown's book, Change by Design, posted on 8 1/2" x 11" paper. These are used as a warm up activity when students come trickling into the room. Click here to view slides of the quotes.

Age Range: 
Elementary school all the way up to adults (I did this activity with 15/16 year old sophomore high school students)

This entire activity took 3 hours.

Lesson Flow:

Warm up: 10 Minutes
As students enter the room, ask them to walk about and look at the 10-14 different quotes from Tim Brown's Change by Design. Encourage them to pick one or two that really resonate. Gather back in the circle and then give students the opportunity to share their favorite quote. Ask that they also share why.

Brainstorming: 20 minutes
Watch the two videos on brainstorming and David Kelly's fireside chat video. After the videos are over, ask the students to generate a list of brainstorming rules. Ask two students to be the scribes and record the rules on a large piece of butcher paper. The essential rules are as follows: Defer judgement, encourage wild ideas, build off the ideas of others, 'Headlines,' record everything, and quantity over quality. Post the brainstorming rules ideas on the wall for everyone to see. 

Actual Brainstorming: 5 minutes
After watching the videos, break the students into teams of two and have them brainstorm as many things as possible around campus that they'd like to re-design. This could include things like the classroom layout, new uniforms for their team, better bike accommodations, better lockers, etc. Encourage them to go for wild ideas, quantity over quality and to practice the established rules for brainstorming. Give students no more than 5 minutes to brainstorm, but encourage them to get 100 ideas (they won't be able to come up with 100, but this really pushes them to look for the non-obvious when brainstorming).

Prototyping Overview: 5 minutes
Show the students the video, "Have Paper, Will Prototype." The point is to show them that the point of prototyping is to bring your thinking alive through some type of object. A prototype can be just about anything-the boy in this video uses a piece of paper to share a design for a video game. Another key aspect of prototyping is that is should be low resolution-eg, we don't want to spend too much time on the prototype-create a down and dirty prototype to expose our thinking to feedback as soon as possible! Read some of the quotes from Tim Brown's book on prototyping directly to the students...this will help them formulate a picture of what prototyping is all about. Show students the different prototyping media that they may use: butcher paper, post its, wood blocks, legoes, blue painters tape, sidewalk chalk, etc are all useful mediums. 

After the prototyping video and discussion, tell student pairs that they have to quickly pick one idea from their brainstorm list to turn into a rough prototype. 

Student Project Prototyping: 3 minutes
Give students 3 minutes to create a rough prototype of their idea. 

Prototype sharing: 5-10 minutes
Give each group of students 30 seconds to share their prototype. After each group shares, allow 1 minute for feedback (groups should record the feedback they receive from their peers, but should not respond to it directly). This phase needs to happen QUICKLY. 

Prototyping Version 2.0: 3 minutes
Give students 3 minutes to incorporate feedback into a new iteration of their prototype. If you want to go through another round of feedback and iteration, go for it. 

Next steps discussion: 5 minutes
After version 2.0 of their prototypes are completed, ask them what they might do next to receive feedback. Who are some other folks they might want to share their ideas with? Might they want to do some additional observation and research? 

Break: 5 minutes

The Power of Play Video: 15-20 minutes
When the students reassemble, show them Stuart Brown's TED Talk on the importance of play. Talk with the students about the importance of a sense of play in the creative process prior to the video starting. Show the first 10-12 minutes of the video. After the video is over, ask volunteers to share their thoughts and take aways on the video. What moved them? What will they remember? 

The Deep Dive Video and Discussion: 20-30 minutes
Show the students the "Deep Dive," which is a great glimpse into the creative process used  by the design firm, IDEO. If you can get your hands on the entire 20 minute video, use it. Otherwise the 8 minute clip from YouTube will be fine. 

Design Challenges:
After the Deep Dive video and discussion, launch the students into teams of 4-5 to work on various different design challenges. I had the students work on the following challenges around our campus: inspiring more play, re-designing our student clubs program, and re-engineering our school's dining room. Students were given design briefs on each one of these challenges. The briefs contained videos, documents, maps, and other materials that would be useful in helping them understand their challenge. Students were given the balance of their time to brainstorm solutions and to build a prototype to share with others for feedback.

A few photos/short videos of my students engaged in brainstorming, prototyping, and sharing of their ideas:

Students engaging in the prototyping of their ideas:

Students getting introduced to their design challenge by interacting with and discussion the brief materials:

Students sharing their prototype for redesigning the club experience at our school:

Prototype of various ideas for inspiring more play:

Students design a prototype for an 'alternate to stairs' so it is easier to get their heavy roller backpacks between the different floors at our school (backpacks are even heavier this year now that each student is carrying a laptop!)

Student designers in action. Just a long shot of several of the groups working on prototypes for their ideas:

One group of students was HIGHLY interested in re-designing our daily schedule. This is a photograph of this group sharing their thinking via a prototype they created: