Upcoming North Carolina Science Conference

Someone took this picture of me in The Cave, a virtual reality space at Duke University. It was part of ScienceOnline2008.

With tightening (and disappearing) budgets, especially for professional development, making it to conferences that are not core education events has become difficult. Yet, it is these field-oriented PD opportunities that teachers, intent on transforming their classrooms, need to be attending — Real World.

One such is ScienceOnline2012. I attended some of the earliest of these conferences which seemed to be spinoffs from the earlier BloggerCons of a half decade ago. The desire was to explore how the work of scientists and science journalists could benefit from the World Wide Web 2.0. They were fascinating conferences, because they were at their essence, about literacy, (accessing, working, and communicating information) within a context that is real, important, and huge!  From their web site:

Every January since 2007, the Research Triangle area of North Carolina has hosted scientists, students, educators, physicians, journalists, librarians, bloggers, programmers and others interested in the way the World Wide Web is changing the way science is communicated, taught and done.

The focus of the conference has broadened substantially beyond blogs, wikis, and podcasting.  This year will include presentations from leaders in the fields of infographics, data visualization, and how gaming is being used to conduct science research.

Links

There’s not much that’s better, for this confirmed and long-time nerd, than being in a room filled with scientists. Teachers and students should feel this thrill as well.

This years ScienceOnline will be held at the McKimmon Center on the campus of North Carolina State University, January 19-21, 2012. Links to the agenda, program, and registration are in the box to the right.

Organizers have always wanted to bring precollege educators to the conference, and especially teacher-student pairs.  Event sponsors are providing for scholarships for just such attendees, and you can apply for one of these opportunities here.  In the box at the bottom of the form, include your name, the name of the student, grade, and subject(s) taught.

I sure hope I can talk Brenda into sponsoring me 🙂

Instituting Learning Habits

I had the pleasure of facilitating an unconference session at Friday’s CUEBC conference in Port Coquilan, British Columbia. I had just finished my keynote, so it was a great way to follow-up. Admittedly, I did not start things off very well (my prompting question was too complex), but the session turned out to be productive — in my opinion. There were quite a few beginners, but mostly some well connected educators, for whom this was probably not their first unconference experience.

There was a great deal of knowledge, experience, and vision apparent in the room and a variety of topics explored. However, what still discourages me is how often I continue to hear educators say that we need to “teach our students this skill” or “teach them that skill.”

This is not incorrect.  We have to teach skills. We always have and we always will. But it seems to me that a large and explicit part of 21st century learning and the transformed classroom is the notion that skills must become habits. We need to teach our students important skills, but we need to also craft and cultivate learning environments and experiences where learners are constantly provoked to use those skills as part of their learning practice.  We need to instill a learning lifestyle.

We teach reading at an early age. Then our learners use those skills throughout the rest of their schooling. We need to more fully describe the expanding qualities of literacy that reflects today’s networked, digital and info-abundant environment, and then make sure that learners are utilizing all of these skills as part of their learning practices.

I’ll say it again, We need to think about ”learning literacy”, not just literacy.

 

What I should have asked at the beginning of the session:
During the day, I had a number of educators come up to me explaining that they were still in university, or a first year teachers, or experienced but considering technology in their classrooms for the first time. They wanted to know, Where to go to begin to learn how to transform their classrooms for 21st century learning? ((What do we call 21st century learning when we’re more than a tenth of the way into the century?)) That’s the question I should have prompted the unconference session with.

Retooling Principal Ed Programs

Almost a month ago edtech administration guru Scott McLeod posted a request (How would you revise principal preparation?) for ideas about rethinking university graduate programs for school administrators. The comments continue to come in.

At the point that I was directed to his post, there were already a number of thoughtful and comprehensive ideas, so I decided to add a few less conventional or down right outlandish ones. I later dumped my comment into 2¢ Worth as a draft, thinking it might, at some point, be of interest to you.

skitched-20111017-101204.png

I arrived home yesterday, from the School Librarians’ Association of WNY conference, to my copy of What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Meda — by Scott McLeod & Chris Lehmann (editors).  What a treasure trove, with articles by Kristin Hokanson, Christian Long, Stephanie Sandifer, Vicki Davis, Steve Dembo, Wesley Fryer, Will Richardson, Karl Fisch, Mathew Needleman, Michael Barbour, Richard Ferdig, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Chris Lehmann, Pamela Livingston, Tom Hoffman, John Rice, Dean Shareski, Mary Beth Hertz, Carl Anderson, Richard Byrne, Scott Floyd, Miguel Guhlin, Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson, Diana Laufenberg, Mark Wagner, Alec Couros, Kevin Jarret, Kimberly Cofino, David Jakes, Liz Kolb, Sharon Tonner, Ewan McIntosh, Jeff Utecht, and Afterward by Christopher Sessums.

With that out, I thought I’d go ahead and post the suggestions that I added to McLeod’s conversation.

  • Make them read and talk about some selected science fiction books. School leaders need to think and make decisions with the next 10, 20 and 50 years in mind. Some of the writings of Cory Doctorow and William Gibson come to mind. “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurtzweil might be a good one. I’m sure there are others.
  • I would suggest that community-building and culture-crafting are two essential skills for school principals. You might figure out a way to include some sort of field trip, possibly virtual, to schools that are exemplary in terms of community and culture and engage future principals in conversations about those schools, including in those conversations the schools’ practicing principals and vice-principals, teachers, and students. Future principal might be sent out with microphones and cameras (or iPads) to those schools to create multimedia tours that would be used by future classes.
  • Require them to research and then design a new school library, retrofit an old building for digital learning, design a brand new school.
  • They should be able to describe their ideal school, the characteristics of its staff and then create a list of questions to ask prospective employees during interviews that would identify new staff.
  • Future principals involved in internships would be required to maintain a blog where they describe their experiences, learnings, and insights — understanding that their blogs may become part of the departments growing curriculum. Various blog entries would be selected and featured for current and future students’ considerations and conversations.
  • Much of this would be supported by a learning network of practicing educators that is cultivated by the department’s faculty. Educators who are in the program would also, as part of the program, cultivate their own learning networks that could be described and evaluated, and that would support them in their university work and be carried with them into their careers as administrators.

The EducationRevolution – What’s the Difference

What are the contributing factors for success? It’s a huge question for any institution that seeks to improve itself. For us, in education, much is said about the critical importance of the teacher – but also for technology, class size, economic advantages, school size, etc. Studies show one thing and then new studies show something else.

The other day I was listening to a New York Times podcast, and the speaker was interviewing Patricia Cohen, the Arts Beat blogger for the newspaper. Cohen was asked about a post she had just written, Angst Before High School, discussing a working paper by Roland G. Fryer of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard and Will Dobbie, a predoctoral research fellow.

The paper (Exam High Schools and Academic Achievement: Evidence from New York City) examines the academic impact of selective (exams-based) high schools.  They looked at New York’s Brooklyn Technical High School, the Bronx High School of Science, and Stuyvesant High School and specifically the students whose entrance score were close to the cutoff point.  They wanted to compare students whose score were close together, some barely making it into “an environment of high achievers, more advanced coursework and higher expectations,” and some just barely missing out and attending a regular public high school.  These were talented students with similar ability and achievement but, assumedly, attending dramatically different high schools.

Their findings?

..the impact of attending an exam school on college enrollment or graduation is, if anything, negative. There is also little impact of attending an exam school on SAT reading and writing scores, and, at best, a modest positive impact on SAT math scores. ((Dobbie, Will, & Fryer, R. G. (2011). Exam high schools and academic achievement: evidence from new york city. Informally published manuscript, Education Innovation Laboratory, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/MvGql))

There results were consistent across genders, baseline state test scores and type of middle school.

Now there is much that these conclusions do not explain and there are many ways to explain the findings.  But Cohen said something during the interview that struck me and my world view as true.  She said that (and I paraphrase)

The motivated, talented, interested student is going to do well, no matter what school.

The Student who cares.

Sir Ken Robinson, Ewan MacIntosh, and others will be talking later on today at TEDxLondon, The Education Revolution and I plan to watch and Tweet it.  It is my own humble opinion, though, that any revolutionary school must be a place that inspires students to creatively cultivate skills; to resourcefully seek out, gather, and grow knowledge; and to care about it.

You see, I worry for those students of similar talent who, for any of a number of reasons, do not care, may not graduate, will not continue their education, will continue their lives as failures and the cost to them — and to us — of their wasted talents.

 

 

 

Maybe I’ve been Thinking Wrongly

From the Edudemic article

This is one of those ideas (confessions) that simply can’t be compressed to 140 characters.  I tried.

I ran across this Edudemic article yesterday, “An Incredible Way to Teach Music Using iPads in the Classroom,” and upon simply glancing through the pictures, a realization flashed in front of me.

I have been reluctant to share the ecstatic delight that many have expressed about iPads and the classroom.  It’s partly a sense of skepticism that I am convinced comes with age.  I would also admit that part of it might be my own investment in information and communication technologies that have become less emblematic of the digital networked world.  When did you buy your last tower computer.

Perhaps my problem is that

I’ve been comparing iPads to laptops — when I should be comparing them to pencils and papers.

Neil Johnston, in the accompanying video says that, “The great thing about the iPad is that it is so creative — Its user interface doesn’t impede progress!”  It’s an interesting statement that I’ll have to noodle a bit.  I simply need to remind myself that regardless of the surprising and celebrated increase in access to contemporary information tools in our classrooms, a vast majority of children are still trying to learn by reading stamped content and by scratching their knowledge out on paper.

The stated goal of Neil’s company, Store Van Music, is to, “..put a stop to the 80% dropout rate of students in the musical arts.”

Applause!

Transformative Questions

Theme photo from the presentation…

I’m in Eden Prairie Minnesota today opening up a conference whose principal question is, “How do we create a culture of learners that thrive in the 21st century?” I will be doing an adapted version of a presentation that is most often called, “Cracking the ‘Native’ Information Experience,” where I identify and illustrate a number of qualities of our children’s outside-the-classroom information experiences. Those qualities are,

  • That the experience is responsive,
  • It provokes conversation,
  • It inspires personal investment, and
  • It’s guided by safely-made mistakes.

This presentation culminates with a set of transformative questions that might guide teachers (librarians and administrators) in creating learning experiences and environments that are more relevant to our learners ‘native’ information experiences and skills.

I may have posted these before, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it is perfectly ok to repeat yourself in your own blog.

Classroom Teachers:

  1. How might I alter this assignment or project so that it “Responds” to the learner? How can the experience “Talk Back?”
  2. How might I plant barriers within the assignment that force learners to “Question” their way through — to value the “questions” not just for “answers?”
  3. How can I ban silence in my classroom, provoking “Conversation” with my assignments and projects, expecting learners to exchange ideas and knowledge?
  4. How can I make their learning worth “Investing” in? How might the outcomes of their learning be of value to themselves and to others?
  5. How am I daring my students to make the “Mistakes” that feed the learning dialog?

Teacher Librarians:

  1. How can I make my library “Respond?” How can I make it “Talk Back?”
  2. How might it become a place that evokes “Questions” — not just answers?
  3. How can I ban silence, provoke “Conversation,” and expect patrons to explicitly exchange knowledge?
  4. How can I make this library a place that inspires “personal Invest”?
  5. How am I daring my students to make the “Mistakes” that feed the learning dialog — expanding and enriching the information experience?

Administrators:

  1. How does the learning here “Respond” to the learner? How does the learning “Talk Back” to the learner and to the community?
  2. Have my classrooms banned silence? Do the learning experiences “Provoke Conversation” by expecting learners to exchange knowledge?
  3. Are my classrooms places that student “Questions” as much as their answers?
  4. How do the learning environments in my school inspire learners to invest their time and skills for something larger?
  5. How are learners being dared to make the “Mistakes” that feed the learning dialog and how am I a part of that dialog?

Are they addicted to their technology?

This from a recent Mashable post,

It’s clear that today’s students rely heavily on electronic devices even when they’re not incorporated in the class room. In one survey of college students, 38% said they couldn’t even go 10 minutes without switching on some sort of electronic device. ((Kessler, Sarah. “How Students Use Technology.”Mashable. Mashable, Inc., 10 Aug 2011. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. <http://mashable.com/2011/08/10/students-technology-infographic/>.))

As a writer, I know how we try to seek out words and wording for impact readers, so it is possible that Sarah Kessler did not mean to imply some sort of Un-natural relationship between students and their devices. Yet that’s what it sounds like and I suspect it’s what some people want to hear, that “my child is addicted to his cell phone!”

Is this three individuals or a meeting that’s larger than it appears? (Flickr photo (cc) by Susan NYC

I don’t know, but it makes more sense to me that they can’t go “10 minutes without switching on some sort of electronic device,” not because they want to listen to a hum or see the glow. It’s because that device is where their friends are. Perhaps asking how long they can go without their tech is more like asking, “How long could you last in solitary confinement?” Possibly, my generation could last longer, but there’s probably less reason for alarm in that. (TINTSTWSNBV) ((This is not to say that we should not be vigilant))

As an aside, the blog entry I’ve quoted includes an infographic.  If you want to read it, I would suggest that you do so with a critical eye and especially with the intent of the publishers in mind.  My concerns were best described by Dan Meryer in Stop Linking to “Top 100 Blogs” Lists.