February 2010

Go to Annual Conference WebsiteFor a variety of reasons, I didn’t blog quite as much as I did last year, or even as much as I expected to this year.   This was in large part because I struggled for three days to get quality wifi access, a topic on which I am quite frustrated.   But putting that aside, the (very!) good news is that there were  many other bloggers at the conference this year, and they contributed many excellent posts.   (let me express here a huge appreciation to Chris Bigenho for organizing everything at  http://naisac10.wordpress.com/)

I am highlighting here my top ten list of great blog posts about the event (in no particular order).

1. Jamie Baker (shared leadership) on Irshad Manji.  I knew nothing of this speaker before this conference, but I would agree she is a very important force in the world today, insisting on freedom of expression, and the independence of conscience in the world today.

2. The NAIS website post on Arianna Huffington‘s speech.”Huffington urged us to let our children know that “changing the world needs to be on their ‘to do’ lists.” (more…)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A favorite session for me at NAIS 2010 was Tina Seelig’s session, Innovation as an Extreme Sport. (The video is above is not her actual session, but it does introduce you to her).   It was terrific to see her reframe the practice of innovation away from the limitations of the science lab, or robotics workshop, and take it into the world as a collaborative, fast moving, and competitive activity.

This post is not going to try to recapitulate the narrative of her presentation, (there is a great version of that here, and I highly recommend it to those who missed the session) but rather comment upon it with some highlights.

1.  Myself, I was conflicted about Seelig’s tone and attitude at first.  I loved her energetic slides, but it seemed she was making light of this important human quality– that she was reducing it when she called it an extreme sport (think skateboarding).  But as I sit with it, I am broadening my world-view: there is still much to me that needs to be treated seriously about innovation, but there is an absolutely fine place for fun and levity.   (more…)

You have to forgive me: I tend to gush when I get excited.  And I have to apologize: I could not write all that I wanted to write, because of struggles powering my laptop– this facility is deeply lacking in outlets.

This was a really, really excellent presentation; I believe it may be perhaps the Best ever in my experience at NAIS.   The message of this event could not have been more directed to the most important thing in our work, that school must become (again) a place of living, breathing, and experiencing the active work of learning, of learning by doing, and that our students will be best prepared for their challenging futures in schools where they are tackling problems and delivering products.

I certainly appreciated and admired very much the fine words of Google’s Megan Smith and Stanford’s Shelley Goldman; they offered great enthusiasm, great wisdom,  and great encouragement.

But for me, it is the emergence here for NAIS of the very excellent New Technology High School  and Network, and its sometimes associated organization, Edutopia, as a a true, and enormously important, force to be reckoned with. (more…)

The following is a report from the NAIS President’s Breakfast and Annual Meeting.

Marcia Sprewitt opens with a pledge to focus upon sustainability, and to make no apologies for doing so, for our schools, and for NAIS itself.   And on that basis, she speaks of the controversy with ISM regarding financial aid processing and the competition between the two outfits, and defends the NAIS position against the ISM protests that ISM should be able to advertise via NAIS channels its SSS competing product.

Membership report:  NAIS now has 1399 members, a slight increase from 1385 a year ago; “NAIS is retaining 99% of its membership, which speaks to our value proposition.”   More membership growth is anticipated. (more…)

This was a great session, and my kudos and appreciation to the presenters:  CWRA (College and Work Readiness Assessment) is a powerful tool for educational reform, and an important vehicle for bringin problem-based learning into our classrooms.  It isn’t just a measurement device, I increasingly realize, but a tool that stirs the entire pot of a school culture toward more authentic assessment throughout a school. Below is my narrative of the session:

Today’s presentation, entitled Collaboration for 21st century Success, features a panel of representatives from schools actually using the CWRA.

  1. Rob Evans and the Families First Session
  2. CWRA information session
  3. Visiting with Friends
  4. Participating in the NAIS AC online community
  5. Tony Wagner
  6. Pat Bassett
  7. Klingenstein reception
  8. Thought Leaders Summit: Building Schools for a Digital Age
  9. Tina Seelig: Innovation as an Extreme Support

1. Rob Evans and Families First Session: My conference will begin Wednesday at 1 with attending the Families First session, along with my wife Carman.   (more…)

Yes– our students must practice to learn, they must do to learn, and they should also play to learn, as this terrific Op-Ed in the Times by a college psychology lecturer argues.

For the most part, this blog, entitled 21 (for 21st century) k-12, for k-12 education, focuses upon high school, and to a slightly lesser extent, middle school.  But I am a recent (recovering?) former K-8 (actually PreSchool-8) Head, and I certainly care deeply for 21st century elementary education too.

Engels piece, entitled Playing to Learn, opens with the anxiety that I too share: that too much of the “reform” coming from the Obama-Duncan adminstration focuses on learning broadly, not deeply, and not in the ways students best learn.

Our current educational approach — and the testing that is driving it — is completely at odds with what scientists understand about how children develop during the elementary school years and has led to a curriculum that is strangling children and teachers alike. (more…)

I realize I have been talking more than doing about the St. Gregory commitment to educating for innovation.   I have explained carefully to our students the four key synonyms for innovative upon which we will focus: creative, inventive, ingenious, and original.   And I have been working with a very experienced, but new to St. Gregory art teacher, Ginny Encila, to begin developing new programs highlighting innovation in the coming school year.

But here to my delight is a defined and vigorous initiative undertaken by our outstanding St. Gregory Science department: a new course in technology innovation to commence next year.

Course Title: Technology Innovation: Design-Build

Course Instructor: Dennis Conner and/or Scott Morris

A one-semester 1/2 credit course that may be taken more than once

Enrollment: open to grades 9-12

Technology Innovation: Design Build would center around students, either singularly or in small groups (if appropriate), exploring new technologies in a design and/or build context.  The class would meet during a regularly scheduled block, and most of the class time would be spent in design and construction of individual projects. Potential technologies to be investigated include: Solar (PV) panels: set-up, power evaluation, and DC/AC power conversion;   (more…)

I have written often, but until now always separately,  on the importance of both empathy and of creativity as skills essential for our students (both do appear prominently in our Essential Goals for St. Gregory students).    Today there is a fun piece linking the two, over at miller-mcune.com, an article entitled Empathy Conducive to Creativity.     This online article cites research published in the Academy of Management Journal, in a piece called “The Necessity of Others is the Mother of Invention: Intrinsic and Prosocial Motivations, Perspective-Taking, and Creativity.”

The link between inspiration and ingenuity is strengthened by focusing on the needs of others:…“intrinsic motivation is most likely to be associated with higher levels of creativity when employees are also prosocially motivated to take the perspective of others.” At least in a workplace situation, taking others’ needs into account, and seeing things from their point of view, seems to be a catalyst to creativity. (more…)

When I speak and write about 21st century education, there are three main themes.  First,   we must define and elevate to prominence the critical higher order thinking (and doing) skills and habits of our mind our students must develop for success in our new era.  Second, we must revise and revamp the quality of our students’ learning environment to ensure they are learning these skills in the best way possible.  And third, we must consider carefully the process by which we reform our schools.

Below is a 25 slide presentation I gave this morning, my third in the last few months to Tucson Rotary clubs, on the topic of transforming, and tranformative, 21st century education.  Each time I give this presentation, I revise it according to the feedback of the previous, and this current version represents a new focus.   I feared too often in prior sessions that audiences were losing the focus I put on outcomes, on results, and on reforming education to ensure higher standards of achievements in the things which matter most.   This presentation puts that focus as the priority of how we reform our schools: by a backward design method of measuring what matters most and taking our results seriously.

1:1 laptop programs are a great enthusiasm of mine; in my 21 school visits I undertook last year, in most cases those schools with 1-1 programs seemed far further down the road of promoting quality 21st century learning environments.  This is not a casuality — it is not because they had a 1-1 program in itself that made them so, but because they had a classroom culture of student inquiry, of research, collaboration, and on-line publishing, all of which were well supported by the laptops in students’ hands.

A valuable article in e-School News summarizes recent research in 1-1 programs, and among the most important conclusions is that the mere implementation of 1-1 laptops alone will not accomplish great learning gains; they need to be integrated into effective, contemporary, forward-looking, best-practices learning environments, one where teachers are serious about engaged, active, collaborative, and creative student learning.  “Laptop computers [would not be] technological tools; rather, [they would be] cognitive tools that are holistically integrated into the teaching and learning processes of their school.” (more…)

St. Gregory junior Sloane Burns published yesterday the following (front page, top of the fold) article about our new expanded reporting of learning element, the Essential Goals for St. Gregory Students, which debuted in December.   My comments are below, at bottom.

The EGG From A Different Angle

Sloane Burns ’11

The EGG is well known around campus.  When an outsider hears one talking about it, their reaction is usually confused. It stands for Essential Goals for St. Gregory Students.  It is a new idea of headmaster Mr. Martin’s to evaluate students on 21st century skills. The EGG is an addition to the report cards that we have online and the EGG makes sure that the administration is “both measuring, and promoting the learning of, the habits of mind, the skills, and the values the administration and teachers believe are most important for the students’ future success in college and careers.” The EGG evaluates students on seven major categories. These seven categories include various sub-categories* that go further into depth of what the teachers are evaluating. (more…)

I do realize the title above may appear to be an alphabet soup of confusion, but the translation is this: there is a new, terrific, endorsement of the quality of the CWRA test (something I advocate for here frequently) from the OECD, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the very important transnational body of 31 leading industrial nations.

The OECD already does a good job with its international assessment of the knowledge application skills, the PISA, a test which asks of 15 year-olds  the valuable questions “Can they analyse, reason and communicate effectively? Do they have the capacity to continue learning throughout life?”  (more…)

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