August 2010


The video above is great: energetic, polished and professional, informative and inspiring.    It is among the best of its genre, and it make the case: learning needs to adapt to changing times.   In the video, the school district shows a few short glimpses of 21st century education in its schools.

Over at the fine blog The Innovative Educator, Lisa Nielsen has posted it, and challenged a select few educational admin bloggers (not me, but that is ok) to match the video by making one of our own, showcasing 21st century learning at our schools.

If the school couldn’t produce a video message to convey what it is they have to offer for students, what does that say about the school. I think this is a challenge all parents should ask their schools to meet.

On behalf of St. Gregory School, we accept the challenge.  I have already begun meeting with my fine sophomore student videographer, Derek Jobst, and we are preparing an outline and aim to have it completed within a month.

I am beginning to envision some real-life St. Gregory scenes for the video:

Sixth and ninth graders editing each others’ writing on a shared google doc, and then “turn it in” to the teacher by clicking on the share button and sending the invite to their teacher.

Ninth graders presenting their history reports to their classmates using their choice of prezi, bubbles, or glogster EDU. (more…)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

We have a Creativity Crisis in America, Newsweek reports: our children’s creativity is declining, and is doing so exactly when it is most important for it to improve.  The Newsweek report comes from the excellent Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, who are double-handedly transforming the way we understand children and learning via their fine skills at popularizing scientific research on these topics.

At St. Gregory we speak of Creating Leaders and Innovators; the Partnership for 21st century Skills puts creativity as one of their four critical C’s for our era, along with critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.    Fast Company recently reported that the single most important trait of successful CEO’s is creativity.

Dan Pink cracked open this idea for me so powerfully six years ago, with what I think is his still compelling Whole New Mind.   As automation, and outsourcing overcome the workplace, the value we all can add is in our creativity and our ingenious, inventive, problem-solving.  We ourselves, and our students too, must adapt to survive, must move with our times, must think anew how to make a difference, knowing that simply fulfilling an already defined role is not going to be enough to be valued and employed.

Newsweek’s Bronson:

The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care.

But, there is a crisis in this critical area:

Creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. (more…)

Dear NAIS:

It is the time of year again when you solicit nominations for the NAIS Board, and it is very generous of you to do so.  There are many fine educators and school supporters on the NAIS board now, but I believe there is something missing from the mix.  As a fairly close observer of our terrific independent school association over the past several years, I have been increasingly awed by the growing role of our ed tech directors as a enormously valuable NAIS brain trust.

Our ed tech directors are not just expert in, and informing us about, educational technology; increasingly as you listen to them and see what they are doing, you recognize that these folks are leading the way in thinking about and guiding us fellow independent school educators

  • in how learning is changing,
  • in shaping schools and the classrooms of the future,
  • in effective professional development for our faculties,
  • in communication and collaboration among independent school educators,
  • and in the nature and process of change in schools.

These folks are excellent educators and great promoters of our independent schools; as members of the board, they can and will greatly and positively influence the agenda that is set and the advances that we make for our association.

I have a list of about a dozen suggestions below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.   I am not lobbying for any particular candidate– these folks are all great– but I do want to implore our association to add an educational (or academic) technology director to the board.

Howard LevinHoward Levin is Director of Academic Technology at Urban School (CA), and a main contributor to that school’s excellent Center for Innovative Teaching.   He is a guru, I think,  about the intersection of technology and teaching, and is very thoughtful and articulate (and widely published) on how our students can and should use laptops for organizing, publishing, communicating and collaborating online.

bigenhocChris Bigenho, at Greenhill School, has been an architect of the NAIS schools of the future program at the Annual Conference, and provided a terrific service at last year’s annual conference as the mastermind of the shared blog and twitter feed for NAIS attendees.   He consults widely and blogs brilliantly; he is a sharp thinker about cognitive development and draws upon that knowledge to inform and shape our understanding  about technology and learning in a very impressive way. (more…)

Less than a week ago, an excellent blogging and tweeting school administrator, George Couros, created a new shared blog: Connected Principals: Shared views on education from a group of passionate school administrators. I am delighted, even exhilarated, to be participating, and to have this opportunity to join forces with other blogging ed. admins in a project like this; in less than a week it already has had over 3000 hits!   It has also created quite a buzz on twitter, with a hashtag of #cpchat.

Blogging, and technology use in general, is sometimes depicted as atomizing and anti-social; there is a myth that by being on computer we are isolating ourselves and narrowing ourselves.  This could hardly be farther from the truth, and Connected Principals is a great example: there is not a chance that without blogging and twitter I would find myself in collaboration with these fine folks from across the US and Canada.

What is especially exciting about this endeavor is that not only are we all ed. admins who blog, but it is a greater connection than that: we are also a set which shares a particular set of guiding principles.   These are not a tightly narrow set of principles, but nonetheless, they are, I think, an inspiring set of ten, a set that calls upon us to be principled principals: idealistic, passionate, and devoted to the right kind of educational reform.

Site creator George Couros drafted the initial list, and then solicited and drew upon feedback from the group of us participating.   You can find the list on the site here, but I am going to paste it in below because it is so great, (with full credit to George Couros): I think it is informative to my visitors here at 21k12blog  about my own principles.  I am delighted George included my two suggested additions; the last sentence in number five, and the first part of number ten (though George added the lovely last sentence to it).

The following guiding principles are the basis for the views represented by the contributors of Connected Principals:

1. All of our decisions focus first on what meets the needs of the children we serve.  All other elements of our decision making process are secondary to this objective. The students we serve are our greatest resource in schools. (more…)

As I look ahead to the coming year, I realize I have too many goals and plans,—but I cannot restrain myself, there are so many important, exciting, and meaningful things to do in going forward as a school community. The following list is primarily a list of educational program and school community goals; I am still developing an important parallel list of important institutional, organizational, and financial goals.

Our two major educational advances for the year are WINGS, our 1:1 laptop/netbooks program, and our new Advisory Program.

  • Wings: 1:1 Laptops is big, and a big project; by way of laptops/netbooks being in the hands of each and every student each and every day, I am sure we will become a more productive, more dynamic, and more engaging learning environment.

  • As for the advisory program, in many ways this is just a very natural, incremental, comfortable next step from the homerooms and other forms of very good rapport and relationships St. Gregory has always forged with students. (more…)

My opening remarks to the St. Gregory student body, the morning of the first day of school.

Welcome to 2010-11!

A popular saying urges us to remember that there are only two things we really need to flourish in life: roots and wings.

I like the saying;   it provides a lovely metaphor simplifying the many strands of what what flourishing requires into two simple metaphors:   Roots and wings, a sense of connectedness to our community,and a sense of freedom and empowerment to go out confidently into the world and accomplish our goals.

I worry about false dichotomies—I resist people trying to trap me into making choices I don’t want to have to make.    There is a book I love that calls upon parents and schools to ensure children and students spend more time in nature and argues that kids are so much healthier when they spend more time outside and in direct contact with the earth, the sky, the water.   Get dirty and be happier and healthier. It surprises some people when I say I love and endorse this notion, because sometimes they think I only want kids to spend more time on computers.   I don’t.  I do think computers are great for learning and growing,  but I also believe fervently that it is so important for us all, kids and adults, to spend more time outside.

We must resist the narrowing effects of Either/Or Thinking, and embrace the Both/And.

And so it is with Wings AND Roots.  I think people sometimes think that because I want to see more computers in learning, they are believing I want less face to face time, less interaction among peers and between students and teachers.  But I want both, and I don’t want to be cornered into a false dichotomy.

Fittingly, and charmingly, Wings and Roots correspond precisely to the two big changes we are making this year, laptops and advisory—because we all need stronger wings and deeper roots. (more…)

Will students be using their laptops primarily for taking notes in lecture?

Above is a common question I hear these days as we unfold our new 1:1 laptop program.   No, not primarily, I explain, and then launch into a slightly too-elaborated explanation of empowering our students with the digital tools they need to best implement Aristotle’s advice (yes, 4th century BCE Aristotle) of learning by doing– learning to create, to communicate, to collaborate in the most modern ways by doing all these things digitally and on-line.

I think we have a problem in education, that of the misunderstanding of the potential uses and value of digitally integrated learning, and I think the solution lies at least in part in rallying around the concept, and incredible power, of the Web 2.0.

Naming things is significant; a name might be simple, might be short, might be seen as jargon, but with a name something becomes referable, deployable, scalable that much easier.   Web 2.0 is this term, and offers this power.

Over the past few years I have had heard the term;  it was zinging around out there on the periphery of much of my very much developing thinking.  But lately it has meaningfully converged– this is the term, so simple and short a term, to capture a concept that has become so very significant to me.

And yet, I fear that still only few educators know the term and understand its implications for teaching and learning.   Eric Sheninger, who is an excellent New Jersey principal and blogger/tweeter, recently tweeted that he interviewed four different Science teaching candidates, and not a one knew what web 2.0 meant.  I think this needs to change. (more…)

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