Enjoy the short video above- it is very much worth the six minutes.

It is the time of year when many are looking ahead to opening of the school year faculty and departmental meetings, so it is a good time to start sharing valuable short videos which can be used for inspiration and illumination at these meetings.   This six minute video is a great candidate (and I intend to share a list soon); it is a very current (ISTE 2012) talk in which author and provocateur Will Richardson lays out his challenge to us: Bold Ideas for Change in Education.   (Another alternative would be Will’s TEDx talk.)

Consider the opportunities: ask educators in groups to identify their bold ideas first, and compare; ask them to watch and discuss which bold ideas make sense and how might they apply them, which don’t and why not, and what original ideas do they have.

From Lisa Nielsen’s blog I’ve copied at bottom of this post the list of 19 bold ideas for easy reference.

A few comments:

1.  Of course, I am delighted to see Will’s very first “bold idea;”  I think it is so important to put a focal point on assessment as a huge lever to influence, via backwards design, everything else that happens, and at St. Gregory we worked hard to develop and advance methods for ‘open network assessments.’   (more…)

With this post I come to the end of  three terrific years as Head of School for St. Gregory College Preparatory School in Tucson, Arizona.  It has been an honor to serve, and I know I will treasure always these years as an extraordinarily high point in my educational leadership career.

In our three years together, we’ve seen enrollment stabilize and grow (after ten years of nearly continuous decline), and expanded external financial support to the annual financial aid/scholarship funding by several hundreds of thousand dollars– allowing us to considerably diversify enrollment and provide new opportunities to students who otherwise wouldn’t have this chance.  Each of the three years has ended financially with a good, positive balance sheet.

From the St. Gregory 2012 yearbook.

I am most pleased about the ambitious twin initiatives,  “Roots and Wings:” Advisory and Laptops, which we launched in 2010.   First, we dramatically overhauled what was previously a small homeroom program into our new, teacher-student advisory program, strengthening student “rooted-ness” with a home base over the course of each week and strengthened relationship with a teacher and other students.   Advisory has also become a new home for service learning, teacher mentoring of students, parent-student-adviser conferencing,  and much more.  We’ve also, especially in the middle school, developed several new bullying prevention programs, which brought a national award from Teaching Tolerance, and significantly revamped our bullying and harassment policy for the entire school.

Wings” is our nickname for our 1:1 laptop program, which has had two years of fine success, with students doing great project-based learning, developing fine research skills, practicing terrific on-line collaboration, and exploiting social media and other tools to connect, share, and learn together.  This project also demanded a significant expansion of the campus WiFi infrastructure and fiber-optic bandwidth.   Students need to learn how to use digital tools responsibly, and we developed and implement a fine, three day, digital citizenship “boot camp.”

We launched a trio of new student outcome measurements, CWRA, HSSSE, and MAP, and I believe we are the only one of the 1400 NAIS member schools to be using and learning from all three of these fine new tools.   We use them because we are more serious than ever about academic outcomes, and want to use the best tools we can to track, monitor, and intervene to improve our educational program.  Believing that we must assess what matters to us, new report card extension, providing goal-setting and formative feedback for our students on a set of 21st century  and mission-central skills we call the EGG: the Essential Goals for Gregorians.  We’ve also worked in both the middle school and upper school to increase and enlarge academic requirements: now 8th graders must take 8, rather than 7, classes, and our graduation requirements for high school students include four years of math and history (up from three), and have gone from 24 to 26 credits in total.

Our faculty culture of collaboration and planning has been greatly improved by the addition of two hours weekly (previously it was one monthly) for time dedicated to this, and the valuable work of our new Critical Friends groups.    I should add that an important priority of my leadership, and a critical recommendation to us from our accrediting association, was that we progress in diversifying racial/ethnically our faculty and administration, and we’ve done that significantly,  taking the percentage of professionals of color in three years from under 3% to about 15%.   In these three years we’ve also doubled the number of Ph.D’s on our faculty, from 3 to 6, with the appointment of three new Ph.D’s to our upper school.    Knowing that a high performing and always-growing faculty is of the highest priority, we worked as joint admin-faculty team to completely revamp our teacher evaluation system, taking it from every four years to annual, and building into it a stronger goal-setting and growth orientation.   I also implemented in 2011 St. Gregory’s first ever annual written evaluation for senior administrators.

A major theme for educational program development has been developing innovative mindsets and habits for our students, and we’ve developed several new elective courses, new project-based learning units, new experiential education elements, and a new special diploma program, to advance this important theme.   Dennis Connor in particularly has built his physics lab into a robotics and engineering lab, and it is a very exciting place, complete with a 3D printer.   (Some of our initiatives on this front are featured in a forthcoming book (July, 2012) by Suzie Boss, Bringing Innovation to School).

We’ve installed more than 600 solar panels on the roofs of 5 of our buildings,  providing more than 30% of our energy usage, and re-engineered air conditioning for our gymnasium, dramatically reducing our carbon footprint.  We’ve built out a new community garden on campus, and a new goat and chicken pen in the middle school.    Through a variety of initiatives, including the new Youth Leadership Summit for 7th graders from 20+ schools, the continuation of the Rotary Car show, hosting a new 5K/10K charity run,  new speaker and film events, and other activities, we’ve made good progress in better sharing our campus resources with the wider Tucson community.   Summer at St. Gregory has also been transformed; we brought back to campus the elementary day-camp Summer Fine Arts, which had left us in 2008, and we launched a brand new, now thriving,  academic enrichment summer day-camp for middle school students called Minds Alive: Leadership and Innovation camp.

Looking forward, I’m anticipating a very different and very exciting several years learning, writing, sharing, speaking, and consulting on the topic and cause I am most passionate about: advancing 21st century learning and schools of the future.   I’ll be blogging regularly, and I have several other writing projects in the works.  I’ll be keynoting and speaking at educational conferences and for faculties, boards and parents at schools around the country and beyond; I’ve already confirmed about eight  such “gigs” for the coming year and new invitations and opportunities are arriving each week.

To expand the breadth of the work I do supporting schools, districts and associations, I’m developing and promoting my new educational consulting practice, JonathanEMartin Ed. Services.  At the same time, I’m forming affiliations, formal and informal, with a wide variety of national educational organizations and consulting firms, including Educational Collaborators,  for whom I’ll do some consulting on strategic planning, technology integration, and professional development.

As a family, we are staying here in Tucson, most of all because both my sons are happily enrolled in schools which suit them well, including my older son, who will be entering the 9th grade right here at St. Gregory, which my wife and I believe is a perfect match for him.   My wife, Carman Ryken, has accepted a terrific appointment as a math teacher at an exciting, dynamic, progressive charter school here in Tucson, Paolo Freire Freedom School, a middle school of about 75 students.   The school is a great match for her educational philosophy and ideals and also for my own views:  the school uses a very interesting and exciting problem-based learning math curriculum called “Connected Math,” out of Michigan State University. I’ll surely blog about the qualities of this math curriculum in the months to come.   With my wife employed full-time, I’ll be, happily, picking up a larger share of the household management and parenting.   As a family, we’ll also continue hosting in our home international students enrolled at St. Gregory, something we enjoy greatly.

We’ve relocated to a home closer to both boys’ schools and within walking distance of shops and cafes, so we’ve downsized to just one car and are happy to be conducting a relatively more urban lifestyle, walking and cycling around Fort Lowell neighborhood.  I have a home office, but I expect I’ll spend as much time working at the two nearby Starbucks (Swan/Camp Lowell in the Basha’s, and Swan/Grant) as I do in my office, so Tucsonans can look for me there and say “hello.”

Over the course of what potentially will be 25-30 more years of professional work are many possible career paths and projects, I anticipate: among them are returning, almost certainly at some point, to independent school leadership positions; joining a national educational reform organization on a full-time basis;  and taking on state/regional or national association management roles for independent schools or other school groups.

To my St. Gregory colleagues, parents, students, and supporters, thank you very, very much for inviting me to join this community and serve this school’s excellent and extraordinary mission.  To my readers, please know that the blog carries on and the best is yet to come.    Onwards.

This book has been withdrawn from publication due to issues of integrity, and is no longer available.  I was sorry to hear about the book’s problems, and certainly condemn the errors.   Nevertheless, I think the particular points shared below are still relevant, and I leave them here on the blog. 

I’ve already twice posted appreciations for Jonah Lehrer’s new book, Imagine, but I want to add a short third post here appreciating his thoughts about the book’s lessons for educators.   In the last chapter, he profiles the excellence of NOCCA: the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

What’s interesting is what does not happen [at the school.]  The students don’t sit in chair and listen to a long lecture.  Many rooms don’t even have chairs.  They don’t retrieve textbooks or being a series of exercises designed to raise their test scores on standardized tests…  Instead, students spend their time creating: they walk over to their instruments and sketchbooks and costumes and get to work.

Lehrer quotes the school’s CEO, Kyle Wedberg, with an emphasis which resonates loudly with the thinking on this blog: we need to advance learning by returning to learning by doing, by creating learning environments where the greater emphasis on students doing the work of the subject under study, and using the best tools available to do so.  Wedberg:

We’re 120 years behind the times in all the right ways.  At some point, vocational education became a dirty word. It became unfashionable to teach kids by having them do stuff, by having them make stuff.  Instead, school became all about giving kids facts and tests.  Now, I’ve got nothing against facts and tests, but memorization is not the only kind of thinking we should be encouraging.    When we obsess over tests, when we teach the way we’re teaching now, we send the wrong message to students.   We’re basically telling them creativity is a bad idea. (more…)

(This is the third post in a series; be sure to read the first for context).

This Class project was a year in the making: It began last spring, and I posted then about the class plans and my conversations with the working group as they “pitched it” to me and sought my approval and sponsorship. It is worth checking out this previous post to show the sequence, beginning with designing and planning and now culminating in completion:

Below are the student overview of the project’s purpose and procedure, and after the jump (more)  is the Solar Oven Project.

Purpose:  The purpose of this project was to provide the school’s students with an environmentally friendly way to charge their laptops.

Procedure 1. Screw wooden beams onto the preexisting structure. 2. Cut L-shaped metal to the correct length to fit the desired mounting angle of the panels and cut L-shaped metal to fit the length of the panel. 3. Attach the metal to the panel. 4. Attach the panel supports to the metal running the length of the panel. 5. Put the panel on the roof. 6. Attach the panel by screwing it to the structure. 7. Run conduit from the panels to the wall. 8. Drill a hole through the wall. 9. Run the wires from the panels through the hole. 10. Attach the panel wires to the charge controller. 11. Attach the charge controller to a car battery. 12. Attach the car battery to a power inverter. 13. Run a power cord from the inverter to a wall outlet outside. (more…)

See previous post for more information about the Design Build Tech Innovation Class. Reports written by students in the class.

Alex,  Nik and Michael: An LED matrix. 

8X8LEDMatrixThis project started with a 7 by 5 L.E.D Matrix found in the physics room. I then had the urge to get it working, so I started to test connections on the Matrix too see how the wiring was done.

I figured out that the Matrix worked in a row column fashion which made it impossible to make any other letter than I or l. Then I told myself that if I switched rows and individual dots every millisecond, I could then make any letter, picture, shape, etc. I then started looking for the most practical programming chip, an Arduino.

After the large amount of wiring I started programming. My first program consisted of turning on and of lights very quickly, which is simply but requires about 150 line of code. After completing one letter, “N”, everybody realized that this thing was freaking awsome! So everybody started to get involved (mostly Alex). (more…)

I’ve been writing recently about FabLabs (here and here), and the importance of providing times, ways, and places for students to design and build their own “solutions” to problems, especially problems they discover, and to refine those “solutions” in multiple iterations.

(Be sure to see the two other posts sharing class work also: here and here).

At St. Gregory, where we aspire to “create innovators,” one of our most important and most exciting initiatives over the past two years has been the steady advance of our “Design Build”  Tech Innovations class,  taught by the amazing and awesome Mr. Dennis Conner.   It is an entirely PBL formatted class, with no set curriculum other than having students investigate “problems” and choose one to design and build solutions for.

The class continues to be a great success, and the difficult question looming for us at St. Gregory is whether to decide to move it from an optional elective (it is taught pass-fail, students can take it as many times as they wish, and it has received great enthusiasm from its participants) to a required freshman or sophomore class, formatted as an “introduction to and foundations of innovation” class.     The jury is still out on this one.

Suzie Boss, an edutopia blogger and author of Reinventing Project Based Learning with Technology, and  who visited St. Gregory last spring for two days, wrote this recently, in a piece entitled “How Design Build Curriculum Can Transform a Community.”

Where does a project like this fit into current discussions of 21st-century skills?

Our students are learning skills like welding and carpentry, 2D and 3D modeling. But those are the vehicles to do something else. We blog as much as we’re on the table saw. We’re giving them tools for entrepreneurship, for innovation, for local citizenship and engagement. We’re giving them a way to think through problems in their own lives. Design is all about possibility. For a student, that’s the best gift you can give them.

With the fall semester now completed, I want to share, in this post and in two following posts, examples of student work completed in the past few months by their own reports.  You can find the whole set on the class website here.

Spencer B’s project: a HEXAPOD

This is a hexapod. A hexapod is a robot with 6 ‘legs’, in this case with 3dof per leg. And before I bore you, I want to tell you that this is quite possibly the greatest project I have ever worked on. It has cost me, so far, just below 1k. Bit expensive, no? But the experience and result has been worth it. Intrigued?

This has been a labor of love. It’s been frustrating. It still won’t walk, this is because I had no idea about its power consumption. 8 amps? Despite that ridiculous number for a rather small robot, the control program (which consists of a virtual cube you can rotate with arrow keys and change with a few keystrokes) is nearly there! I’ll post it later on.

The robot was constructed primarily out of anodized aluminum parts and 18 servos. It includes a high amp regulator, as well as a microcontroller and a radio module. It looks like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. Here’s a link to where I got the parts:   WWW.LYNXMOTION.COM

—-

Clayton M’s project: Rockets!

Michael and others: the Trebuchet 2:

Filmed at our soccer field just behind our Science Laboratories, and also at a Trebuchet competition held in October on the campus of the University of Arizona, in which our students competed.

A recurrent theme on this blog is advocating learning by doing in the 21st century, and I argue that we should be seizing the opportunities new technologies present to facilitate our students in shifting their focus from consumption to creation, from receiving information to producing knowledge and applying it to become themselves active innovators.

We have been working throughout our curriculum to promote this idea– see the way that our AP Gov’t class has written their own textbooks or created their own political campaigns complete with TV ads and websites as examples.   Our Design Built Tech Innovation class, often celebrated here on the blog, is a highlight of our efforts in this direction.

In the TED talk above, MIT Professor Neil Gershenfeld explains that we need in our schools a  “Fab Lab — a low-cost lab that lets people build things they need using digital and analog tools. It’s a simple idea with powerful results.”

We’ve won the digital revolution; let’s look after the digital revolution to what comes next.

I’ve never understood the boundary between computer science and physical science… Computer science is one of the worst things ever to happen either to computers or science.

I started a new class, How To Make Almost Anything.   Students were not there [in this class] to do research, they were there because they wanted to make stuff.

Just year after year — and I finally realized the students were showing the killer app of personal fabrication is products for a market of one person. You don’t need this for what you can get in Wal-Mart; you need this for what makes you unique.

[paraphrase] When we opened FabLabs, we found a pattern: Empowerment begins, and then Education follows, serious, hands on education, Problem-Solving follows, and in turn Businesses grow around this problem-solving, and eventually there is Invention: real invention happening in these labs.

So, we’re just at the edge of this digital revolution in fabrication, where the output of computation programs the physical world. So, together, these two projects answer questions I hadn’t asked carefully. The class at MIT shows the killer app for personal fabrication in the developed world is technology for a market of one: personal expression in technology that touches a passion unlike anything I’ve seen in technology for a very long time.   And the killer app for the rest of the planet is the instrumentation and the fabrication divide: people locally developing solutions to local problems.

With this as inspiration, we at St. Gregory are pushing ahead to develop further our own version “Fab Lab” in Dennis Conner’s Physics classroom.   Already it is an astounding place, filled with terrific tools and resources for construction, measurement, and analysis.   Students are building solar energy stations, trebuchet catapults, and much, much more in this FabLab.  But we are not done: there is more to do.

Next on our list is the installation of a 3D printer, ordered recently from MakerBot and which will be ready to go for students next month. (more…)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,327 other followers