Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Google Expeditions Pioneer Program

Last summer when Google Expeditions Pioneer first announced itself,  I at once signed up to pilot the program. Then to my disappointment, they announced they were only in select cities. This repeated itself 3 more times, with a request from Google to sign up only to be told by Google that they were not in my city. I even emailed Google asking why keep asking folks to sign up if it wasn't available. Google Expeditions leverages Google Cardboard to create virtual reality tours in 3D for students. Right now, the images are only still images with no sound. Video and audio are in the works. Currently there is, at least in theory, a zoom function, but Google has for now disabled that feature as it causes Expeditions to crash. Three weeks ago, Google emailed me on a Thursday saying they were in my area and could they come on Tuesday. I scrambled like crazy to get that day together. After a frantic weekend trying to get the day in order, Google asked if they could come later in the month. I was both chagrined and relieved. In the three weeks I worked with Google setting this up, I worked with three different project managers. Majorly annoying. In fact, Google emailed two days before their visit asking if they could postpone for a second time. I got close to pulling the plug on the whole day. I was surprised by how Google seemed to be flying by the seat of their pants. Cutting to the chase... later in the month ended up being this past Thursday. I organized for 26 different classes to experience Google Expeditions. The results? Google Expeditions are going to be awesome. They aren't yet. They have some glitches both big and small. I have some reservations beyond tech glitches and organizational snafus. Right now, the Expeditions are still teacher centered. I led the expedition for my students. Brand new tool. Old paradigm. I'd love for Google to think more about letting students explore and teach themselves. Better yet, Google should offer both options for their tours. Still, despite my complaints, the promise is truly extraordinary. I think these pictures of the students at my school capture how amazing the technology truly is. You may click the link above or scroll through the pictures below to see the wow factor on the faces of teachers and students.

Google Expeditions Pioneer Program Visit

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

iMovie Tuturorial- Tech Tuesdays

I've started Tech (Mex) Tuesdays here at school. I bring snacks and prepare lessons on tech use for teachers who want some free professional development. I've hardly had overflow crowds. The few who do come, however, get plenty of individualized attention. The past two weeks I have given tutorials on iMovie and its use.

When making tech presentations to my faculty, I try to add something else- a freebie lesson. So, this week, I made an emaze.com presenation showing some of the uses of iMovie.

Here's my announcement to our faculty... by popular demand I offered iMovie twice.

Tuesday, January 26
Maximizing Gmail and Calendar-
-getting gmail organized (for those who grudgingly shifted from Outlook, we can make your gmail look like Outlook)
-how to get the most out of google calendar
- Google Tasks  
Will use library's chromebooks.

Tuesday, Feb 2
Blogging- Wordpress, Googlesites and Blogger.  Use a blog to archive student work, to have them publish for an audience beyond the teacher, use your blog to have discussion continue beyond the classroom.
Will use library chromebooks or iPads.

Feb 9
- how to use it and its use in the classroom.
- Will make your own.
- Using iMovie to produce rich slideshows for asynchronous viewing.
iPad only.  

Feb 16
Google Classroom - for Upper School Only
-Use Google’s powerful classroom management tool.
- Easy to  iPad or chromebook

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Photo Lab App

    I'm famous! Displaying Image.jpgDisplaying Image.jpgI just downloaded PhotoLab App on my iPad. It has all sorts of features, many are free. I wouldn't necessarily have my students get it. But it is an easy way to spice up a presenation/ slideshow that I'm making for the kids. It's free in iTunes if you are in IOS and in Google Play for your Chrome browser. Check it out.
Displaying Image.jpg

Most Likely to Succeed

Last night at +Holy Child Academy Drexel Hill,  I saw the third of what to my mind is a trio of education movies, all of which highlight High Tech High School in San Diego. This film, Most Likely to Succeed, is largely persuasive in pointing out the futility of the traditional "factory"  model of education. It rightly points out that our model started a 125 years ago when the Committee of Ten pushed for a standardized learning system. I'd argue against the movie's point that the committee wanted to create compliant factory workers, indeed the factory model of education was in part supplanted by the Committee's suggestions of sorting learning into disciplines and separating students by age.  However, I agree with the film's larger point that the Committee's model now no longer works.
    This brings me to my other problem with the movie's premise. It still posits school's goal is to
create "successful" people. It still equates learning with "work" and success. It is a larger, socio-economic and political truth that wages no longer keep up with productivity. It explains the anger that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are channeling.  The skills traditional education teaches students no longer helps them "compete" in the modern economy. I agree. The film instead suggests that "soft' skills such as creative thinking will let kids succeed in the new economy. I don't buy it. Yes, it will work for a few. Yet, how many creative jobs will there really be? If we define success as wealth accumulated as an adult, the vast majority of our students will not be successful whether they come from a traditional school or a school like High Tech High. How many visionary, creative CEO type jobs exist? Not nearly enough.  What we are going to do with a now idle workforce is something society is going to have to figure out. It is a problem that needs a solution bigger than anything schools can provide.
    The film is most successful when it challenges basic tenets of traditional education. To people who argue  that kids need to know content, it devastates that position by pointing to studies that prove that students-across academic disciplines-forget 90% of content within 3 weeks of taking the test. Truly, what is the point of testing for mastery of facts? Why do we give final exams in June based on the mass recall of facts when these facts will be forgotten by July?
    The film is also effective in showing the power of metacognition and that students learn through self-reflection. I like that the very model of High Tech High makes this type of thinking central to what students to there. It also effectively argues that this education is more "sticky" than the fact-based model. Students at High Tech High do better on standardized tests than do the kids who go to schools which explicitly prepare their students for standardized tests. Perhaps progressive educators can have their cake and eat it too.
    I appreciated the film's honesty in saying that whether schools like High Tech High actually work better than traditional schools, at least according to traditional measures, is unknown.  We don't have long term longitudinal studies.
    Go see the movie.
Click here to view trailer

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ten Minute Teacher

Having teachers teach teachers is something schools should do more often. Often, schools don't properly utilize the talent which exists inside their walls. For example, schools usually bring in outside experts to lead in-service. Yes, it is right and good to bring in experts. But what about the experts within our buildings?

I fear that many teachers still see tech as an imposition, another thing brought from "outside". Other teachers feel that while it may be important, it is an add-on. A goal for me in my role as tech-integration specialist is to normalize technology.

In my ed-tech role, I've seen some terrific things in classrooms this year. Yet, most teachers don't know the great things some of their colleagues are doing both with and without technology. We need a way to celebrate these successes and highlight technology's successful use. We need a way to see what others are doing.

Borrowing an idea from +Keino Terrell, I've implemented a "10 Minute Teacher" program in the high school in which I work to address the concerns I list above. What do we do? We start every faculty meeting with a 10(-15) minute presentation by a teacher to other teachers. The presentation can be about integrating technology, but it also can be about a great lesson which does not include technolgy. We can talk about teaching writing, writing report card comments, or conducting a parent-teacher conferences. It also can be a forum for teachers to share information and resources that they may have discovered at a recent conference. Making each presentation not about technology, I believe, actually normalizes technology.

My plan is to film the presentations, archive the work digitally and tag the tools highlighted in each presentation. My hope is that in several months time, we will have the beginnings of a rich resource created by and for teachers. More importantly, we will be celebrating each other.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

On Progressive Education

     I've written before about how much I enjoy Jordan Shapiro's twitterfeed (@jordosh) and blogposts. His most recent blogpost in Fortune, entitled, We've Had 100 Years Of Progressive Education And The World's Getting Worse, raises some terrific points. I disagree however with a part of his premise, for I really do not believe progressive education has been tried in any significant way in the USA. He writes, "...We don’t need to consider, for example, the possibility that a century of well-intentioned progressive trends in education may have cultivated a generation of entitled I-me-mine individualist “winners” who can all too easily stomach the idea that their success is deserved even while their neighbors are suffering." I just don't buy it. 
"Education, therefore, is a process of living
 and not a preparation for future living." John Dewey

     How does progressive thought in education from Dewey down through Alfie Kohn lead to such thinking?  More importantly, when have we really ever tried progressive education on a massive scale in the USA. Okay, okay, some old-time teachers might point to New Math. But that's from the 70s. From Sputnik to a Nation at Risk to the business led education reforms of the past 20 years, we have not promoted progressive education in the USA. So, I'd appreciate it if Shapiro made the connection.
    This statement, though, is right on target:"But when we promote 21st century skills over 20th century skills, we’re just arguing for a different kind of factory. It shows a lack of imagination."

   Read the whole article. I'd love for some conversation about it.

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