Monday, October 8, 2012

Thinking about math. . .

Hey, I'm supposed to be writing about literacy, yes?  I'm taking a wee detour into math literacy on this post.  I've been a fan of Dan Meyer and his blog for a while, since before this TED Talk was recorded. (Best line: I teach high school math. I sell a product to a market that doesn’t want it, but is forced by law to buy it.)

We're at a time when we (the collective, education community "we") need to make some decisions about where math education is going. There are so many fascinating conversations going on around math right now:

Online and/or electronic math resources are finally beginning to appear in real numbers.  The National Virtual Manipulative Lab has  individual activities and entire eModules mapped to standards.   Kinetic has several more traditional ebook offerings.

Teachers in Finland and Utah, frustrated with what's available are writing their own math text books collaboratively, with their standards and students in mind.  Don't want to start from scratch?  Check out CK12--and customize it!

Henri Picciotto and a crew of like minded math teachers share ideas about how to Escape the Textbook.

There's a lot going on in math! Almost makes me want to go back to school (again!).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Enough with the "tool" already!

In the early years of the educational technology explosion the mantra was “it’s only a tool.” I must admit that I myself have used that expression, usually to reassure hesitant teachers that their jobs were not in jeopardy. However, to classify the myriad devices available today as mere “tools” is as absurd as calling the printing press as a mere machine. Sometimes a tool begets a transformation. Recently, I sat with the teachers in a world languages department who were beginning their text selection process. We’d learned of schools that leveraged digital tools to offer students a choice of over 23 languages to study in a semi-independent environment. The department chair looked at me and said “It’s becoming clear that we learn to work with blending this, or we lose our jobs.”


It's not like the printing press is the most recent example either.  Did calligraphy survive?  Sure, as a specialty art form.  Here's a more recent example:

Disruptive technology WikiWorld

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dan Savage at NAIS Annual Conference

New Live Blog added to my NAIS Annual Conference schedule.  Dan Savage

I'm really excited about this one! 1:30 Friday (pacific time) Dan Savage is now a household name thanks to his It Gets Better video project on YouTube. The September 2010 project won instant acclaim asking people to upload short, positive videos about their experience with the LGBT community. Millions have viewed the popular videos, including President Barack Obama and entertainer Janet Jackson. Advertising Age called It Gets Better one of the top social media campaigns of 2010. Savage’s book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living, released in March 2011.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Independent Matters at NAIS 2012

Backup post for Independent Matters

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Equipoise in Education?

Recently, @mrmcgrann tweeted out that he had a question for Bill Gates. You can read his whole post here (and you should, I'll be here). Here's his question: To fuel innovation, we often need to take risks. Risks come with many rewards, but they also come with failure. How do you balance teacher accountability while supporting and promoting innovative teaching? This is an excellent question. Because if we take risks, we have to accept failure--it's an integral part of the process of growing to better practice. The only thing is---those are real kids and it is their learning with which we will be a risk. In Auburn Maine, some educators took an expensive and visible risk and did a randomized study with Kindergarteners and iPads. They found that using the devices with specific apps had a small but significant positive impact on literacy in just a few months.
The improvement they found leads to the question--when a benefit is observed, do those involved have an obligation to end the trial to give the benefit to all the children involved? In medical trials, the principle of equipoise means that the premise of a trial is that the researchers do not know whether a treatment or medication bestows a benefit. When the initial results of a trial are significantly positive, it means that the researchers are ethically required to stop the trial to treat all the participants. One example is early trials of AZT with AIDS patients. Does this mean that the district is now obligated to immediately provide iPads to all the kindergarteners? It's probably not that easy. So what about the opposite? What happens when a risk leads to a "nope, this isn't helping" result? When kids in the study group learn less than those with the traditional treatment? Maybe when corporate profits dip for a year, it's not a tragedy. But when a group of kindergarteners learns less about letters and sounds for a year, well, it just might be. So the stakes are high. And its not the teachers who really pay the price of failure, it's the kids. And maybe that's why it's so hard to figure out how to support truly innovative teaching.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Innovation, Live-blogs, and a Tweet or Two. . .

I'm so excited to have the opportunity to attend the NAIS Annual conference in Seattle this year. I'll be serving as a conference blogger for the first time, with a focus on live blogging the general conference sessions. I began live-blogging the conference in 2009, but this is the first time it'll be "official!"

From the conference website:
Join more than 3,500 independent school leaders and colleagues at the 2012 NAIS Annual Conference in Seattle. Together we'll tap into the innovative spirit of the Pacific Northwest to dream up bold new ideas to lead our school communities into the future. Long a hotbed of creativity, Seattle will inspire you to invent new programs and ideas and revitalize current ones to bring back to your schools. Together we'll imagine new ways to cultivate leadership within our schools -- for administrators, faculty, and our students, who are the global leaders of tomorrow. Bill Gates, our opening general session speaker and independent school alum, will inspire and challenge you as he models for us how cutting-edge innovation and philanthropy go hand in hand.

I'll be reporting live from the conference as each of the general conference speakers inspires the audience. I'll take notes on the speeches, include my own thoughts, observations of the audience and provide a curated Twitter feed as well. Clearly, I'll be drinking lots of Seattle coffee to keep me alert and multi-tasking!

The speakers I'll be live-blogging are listed below in the order in which they will speak. Click on the speakers name to go to the specific post for the live blog for that speaker. I have information about the speakers available now, along with the chance to have yourself emailed a reminder closer to the blog time.

Bill Gates

Independent Matters with a trio of guests speakers who will expound on the conference theme: Stephen Carter, Cheryl Crazy Bull, and Sarah Kay

John Hunter

Amy Chua


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Innovation--who is doing it? What if?

This Thursday's #isedchat Everyone's talking innovation. Who's doing it? and @dwillard's Schools don't innovate? Do they?comment got me thinking.

In the "no duh" category, I had a thought this morning doing what I call jogging while listening to 21st Century Learning podcasts. Derek Willard and Josie Holford (Schools are conservative entities) are right--schools don't innovate. However, people do, both individually and collaboratively. While it's tempting to point out the wildly disruptive innovations such as, well, iAnything, most innovations/inventions aren't in that category.

Instead, some schools are intentionally creating environments that foster teachers and students who innovate. They are places where questions beginning with "what if" are met with "tell me more" or "try it" instead of "no" And that, I think, makes all the difference.

Today I listened to two leaders (Brad Rathgeber, Director of the Online School for Girls and Michael Nachbar, Director of the Global Online Academy) in the world of independent online education share the stories of their schools. How did I listen? Via downloaded podcasts while doing the aforementioned "jog." Innovative? Well, the voice interview has been around for quite a while now. The medium that allowed me to listen, not quite as long.

In a similar vein, what I learned was that not everything about these schools was wildly innovative. But something about them was--in this case it was the delivery again. Do schools need to be completely redone? Nope. Is the saying "there's nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9) still true? Yep. Do these two statements mean that there's no such thing as innovation? No. It's just that it's hard to define. Innovation isn't a set thing--a new idea, uncharted territory. Instead, it is an esprit of "let's try" that can exist in even the most tradition-bound environments. If we let it.