Wednesday, March 27, 2013

First set of 2013 Science Symposium surveys!

Our school Science Symposium is coming up soon, and several of my students are collecting data via surveys to support different psychology-esque analyses.  The first one is ready for print!  This student has two surveys, and a very specific experimental design...  Please follow carefully to ensure data that is accurate to his design!

(1) Take the following survey!  You can also give it to your students, classmates, friends, colleagues, or whomever might like to take it!

(2) At least 24 hours later, take THIS survey!  Do not look at this survey until 24 hours after taking the first survey, please.  If you are giving this survey to your students, friends, they should also be sure to wait 24 hours to fill out this second one.

These surveys will likely close on Tuesday, April 2.  Thank you!  I'll be posting additional surveys by my other psychology-minded students soon.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

First #21stadmin chat! Joys and Challenges of Being an Ed Admin in the 21st C

Monday evening, March 18, was the first #21stadmin chat!  Several were remarking towards the end of the always-wonderful #21stedchat that there should really be an opportunity for admins to discuss how to best support teachers and administrate the school setting to support awesome 21st century learning... and thus #21stadmin was born!

The following are my summary and reflections:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How Big Corporate Marketing Analytics Can Disrupt Education - Crazy, Right?

Last Wednesday afternoon at SXSWedu, I was on an "All Things K-12" panel with awesome folks from government (DOE), big corps (Google), and smaller startups (like Clever) to talk about where technology in education is going.  I was the resident classroom teacher!  During the course of the panel itself, I made my own big leap in understanding:

Lots of teachers hear "big data" and think of what's available now: test scores and other relatively meaningless data. Biz and Devs hear "big data" and think of what could be available in the future through revolutionary data mining technology.  This disconnect is part of why many at SXSWedu wanted the whole "big data" term banned from the edtech lexicon.

Hearing this other perspective led to my first big "YES!" in the big data conversation while sitting on the panel... If we achieve this potential future the biz and dev folks envision, we'll be able to utilize technology to analyze the petabytes of meaningful student work products - essays, videos, games, blog posts, photo essays, and all sorts of other work - to build longitudinal views of each student's growth as well as snapshots of understanding across a whole school and across the whole country. (Watch the panel and tell me if you can actually see the lightbulb turn on over my head.)

With this understanding, I could envision a (distant: 10-15 years?) future where we have algorithms that can scan student work products looking, for example, for evidence of a student's ability to connect evidence to a scientific conclusion, but at a much deeper scale than simply looking for "if..., then..." sentence structures.  (Such short-cuts in looking for understanding were part of the downfall of the Washington State "WASL" tests, that attempted to more deeply analyze student understanding than multiple choice tests, but the assessment rubrics had such low interrater reliability as to be relatively meaningless.)  My previous knowledge of difficultly with human-performed text analytics and my lack of knowledge of the state of computer-performed text analytics led to my final assertion that we will definitely still have multiple choice standardized tests in 5 years.

Then came Friday night...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

SXSWedu - The Day After

The day after SXSWedu - Friday - I set aside to visit awesome innovative schools in Austin to learn from those teachers.  After visiting Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy and Westtown School in Philadelphia the day before EduCon, I decided that any professional travel I take MUST include visiting schools.  Teacher collaboration is vitally important to keeping each of our own pedagogy living and growing!

The first school I visited was the Ann Richards School - a public choice school in the Austin school district.  ARS is a girls-only grades 6-12 school with a gigantic focus on STEM and project-based learning.  In 9th grade, each girl chooses whether to focus on engineering, biomedical sciences, or media technology.  I spent most of the morning hanging out with 7th grade science teacher Katherine Giacopasi (@MsGiacopasi)

ARS is up to some VERY exciting project-based learning!  With Katherine, I got to chat with several teachers and hear several of the girls informally describe their classes and projects, just as they encountered us in the hall.  (I love listening to kids describe their learning!)  Projects ranged from the simple poster of the design process and timelines of future engineering (From Michio Kaku's Physics of the Future!) below to the very exciting 10th grade deep-PBL engineering project, for which I got to be a guest judge!  They utilize Project Lead The Way materials heavily in the middle school curriculum.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SXSWedu - The Fourth Day

Seriously, y'all... I'm TIRED.  Rolled up at 7:30am and made it to the conference center just in time to grab some delicious egg/onion/sausage goulash from breakfast and run in to...

My first session. Ewan McIntosh's (@ewanmcintosh) and Tom Barrett's (@tombarrett) session "The Problem Finders: Design Thinking Across School" should have just been the closing keynote.  Their presentation on truly student-centered design thinking was just the inspiration to send me home from SXSWedu.  The session was a combination of

  1. encouraging teachers to think deeply about how we support our students, and design those experiences from the ground up to best reach our kids, and
  2. supporting all attendees in understanding how to support design thinking for the kids themselves.
It would be challenging for me to even summarize the wonderful resources and ideas they shared during their session, but luckily they have an extremely well-curated website at NoTosh (@notosh).

My two absolute favorite ideas from the session both were key elements in supporting higher-order thinking: 

The first was a classroom organizational recommendation: give the kids free, open space to record their thinking.  As Ewan said ""Walls go from empty to beautifully messy... You see the guts of learning!" 
Whether called a "project nest" or a "done wall," Ewan and Tom showed beautiful examples of students articulating their metacognition and visible-izing their thinking.  NoTosh has a beautiful page supporting teachers in how to build a project nest.

Stephanie Sandifer (@ssandifer) snagged this great cap of one of their slides, showing a wall for students to post their "Google-able" questions and their "Non-google-able" questions, supporting the transition from one to the other.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

SXSWedu - The Third Day

It is almost midnight after the third day of SXSWedu, and I can't let myself go to sleep until I brain-dump. I'm so very very tired.

Tuesday evening, of course, didn't end after my blog post at 6pm.  After I finally left the Blogger's Lounge, I headed over to the "meet-ups" in the Hilton and awkwardly wandered the rooms.  After an amazing day connecting with wonderful educators and edtech entrepreneurs asking all the right questions, I felt odd among all the suits and "hey, come check out my product!"  Luckily I didn't stay long, since I was meeting up with those same wonderful educators for dinner!  After convening at the Hilton lobby waterfall, we headed en masse to a fancy-pants Mexican restaurant on Congress.  And, oh, what wonderful educators!  If you don't already follow Diana Laufenberg (@dlaufenberg), please do!

Dinner conversation ranged from yoga and our theories of lululemon's marketing genius to the importance of "partnering up" in professional collaboration to the scaffolding systems of our different schools to the terrifying contract offered by the Philadelphia school board to their teachers.  Diana sketched out a summary on a bar napkin:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

SXSWedu - The Second Day

Monday evening didn't end after dinner... I bussed back to my friend's house, and then stayed up until 1am working on my presentation for Tuesday.  (This preparation included an hour-long stroll to HEB to buy posterboard, markers, and foam letter cut-outs, so it wasn't all eyes-to-screen.)  After finally crashing, I woke right back up at 7am to hop back on the bus and back to the convention center.  My posterboards acted as my sails on the windy morning, dragging me on down Congress.  After snagging two breakfast burritos from the ePals breakfast, I checked straight into the Green Room, still needing significant time to finish preparing for my 11:30am presentation.

I had decided to fully lesson-plan my presentation.  The whole idea behind DesignFest! was to take the HackerJam and Codeathon models, where software developers get together for short periods of time to collaborate along themed projects, and provide a similar structured time for teachers to collaborate on class projects.  I created a 20-minute-ish "lecture" with an accompanying Prezi (my first!)  The lecture would be followed by a 20-minute-ish "gallery walk" where participants would visit 6 posters to share their thoughts and respond to each other's thoughts, followed by a whole-group share-out of themes and big ideas.  Those posters took most of the morning to prepare!

SXSWedu - The First Day

Sunday evening, I arrived in Austin for SXSWedu with - admittedly - some significant anxiety that the edtech community would continue to disenfranchise teachers and self-aggrandize their own roles in "disrupting education."  Monday morning, I bussed in from my friend's house and arrived early to check-in and work on my Tuesday workshop before the opening session.  Later in the morning, a participant tweeted:

  • There are a lot of people at  who look like teachers. O_O

Not a good start...  I responded, and we had a brief exchange that did not assuage my anxiety.

  • Me: That's a good thing, right?
  • Her: Sure! Except that they look like they're going to send me to the principal's office every time I cuss out loud.
  • Me: It's comments like that that discourage teachers from joining conversations like . We love our stus and don't punt to admin.
Maybe I just didn't get the joke.  But SXSWedu was definitely starting out on a VERY sour note for me.  Until I ran into my two twitter pals Melissa Techman (@mtechman) and Mary Cantwell (@scitechyEDU).  Once I started hanging out with other teachers, and encountering non-educators who have respect for our passions and efforts, SXSWedu got much better!