Above are my slides for the webinar I presented yesterday for Simple K12.   The full 30 minutes webinar, on video, can be found at their site here, though if you are not a member there I’m afraid there is a $17 fee.

(The slides include a few prepared originally by Suzie Boss for our presentation together at NAIS.)

 

Although the hour went by much too swiftly, Suzie Boss, Brett Jacobsen, and I had a great time sharing our thoughts on the topic of Bringing Innovation to School today at NAIS AC 13

The slides are above.  If you are interested, you can click over to read Mike Gwaltney’s notes from the session.

In my remarks, I made reference to my presentation a year ago at NAIS on Innovative Schools, Innovative Students, which you can find here. 

My remarks also drew heavily upon a post I wrote last fall on about the power of peer networking and Steven Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect, which can be found here. 

boss book cover

Highly recommended for our attendees and everyone else interested in this topic is Suzie’s book,  Bringing Innovation to School.

As a part of our session, we invited attendees to answer themselves on sticky notes questions about how they are, or how they would, bring innovation to school– and as promised, I’m happy to share them here:

How might we innovate around…

Learning assessment?

  • Group/self evaluation of public speaking, collaboration, using rubrics and feedback
  • Have students design the assessments and rubrics
  • Build more assessments for learning
  • Include multiple assessors (members of community, parents, etc.)
  • Use of rubrics with the 4 C’s
  • Listen more
  • Project-based assessment
  • Always think about what type of human you’re attempting to graduate first. Then match assessment (and learning) to those desired transformative outcomes

Learning space?

  • Flexible
  • Make every classroom a makerspace
  • Cover walls with Idea Paint
  • Ask: If we had a blank space to create a new middle school, what would it look like?
  • Collaborate with other subject areas and other classrooms in different schools
  • Flexible space with flexible, comfortable furniture
  • Spaces for: 1 student, 3 students to work together, 5-8 as a group, 15-25 as a class, 30+ for group experiments
  • Think “outside” the box. Different types of learning require different spaces
  • Involve students in designing their school spaces; visit as many other schools as possible (from both your and other school “genres”) (more…)

Just last week I was asked by a colleague for a readily accessible, engaging and stimulating short introduction and overview of 21st century learning he could provide his faculty, and, somewhat embarrassingly, I found myself a bit stumped.

I know of plenty of great books, but what the best single short and free resource?

One option, and it is a pretty good option, is the pamphlet from NAIS, A Strategic Imperative: A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future, (which I was pleased to be a small contributor to).   But it is written a bit more for school-leaders than for teachers, is a bit long, and is a little dry.     It is still a great resource though; I’ve embedded it at the bottom of this post [after “more…”].

So it was with great satisfaction that I scanned the above first publication of Brain Food for Education, which comes from the innovation firm Unboundary and was produced by my good friend and highly esteemed educational blogger and thinker, Bo Adams.

This is a great tool for the purpose I described, and as such, includes of course great links for those who want to dig deeper and learn more.

4 things I like especially: 

1.  The visual look and graphic design is tremendous: bright, appealing, professional.

2.  The Discussion prompts shared on page 19 are very helpful: they could be a great resource for schools working to generate more and better conversation among all their constituencies as they facilitate change.    (for an additional resource, see the discussion prompts included in the guide to becoming a school of the future,page 36).

3.   The schools selected as exemplars are inspiring– from the nation of Finland (and I was glad to learn of the RSA video about PISA here) to High Tech High and Nueva Schools in California.    As Bo writes, “just seeing even one example can help us raise our aspirations and trajectories.”   Indeed– and I’d underscore, try to go and see them first-hand.

(more…)

I enjoyed a great day presenting at ISACS last week in Louisville.

Below you’ll find most of my materials from those presentations; thank you all who attended and thank you ISACS for inviting me.

Innovative Schools, Innovative Students:  A near identical version of those slides is available here.


Innovation is Iteration: the Marshmallow Challenge

After this highly interactive and energetic workshop, participants shared with me a set of great ideas they had for bringing the marshmallow challenge back to their schools.  One person spoke of being at a K-8 school with “family groups” composed of one student for each grade k-8, and using them there; another said she was at a PS-12 school where the pressure to be perfect and right all the time felt very strong and she wanted to do a school-wide marshmallow experience; another explained they were moving toward an iPad 1-1 implementation very slowly, concerned they needed to get everything in order just right before launching and that she wanted to do this to encourage people to jump in and start experimenting.

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

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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.

The recent Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson is, I found, un-put-downable and compelling: a sweeping, stimulating, poignant narrative of one of the most fascinating persons of our era.

Jobs is not an exact contemporary, being about 12 years older than I am, but he is near enough to make the book that much more connected to my own experience.  I found the book vastly more fascinating when its narrative timeline intersected with my own personal experiences with Jobs’s products: experimenting with an Apple II in the early ‘80s, excitedly acquiring my own Macintosh in 1984, thrilling to my iPhone in 2008.

Isaacson doesn’t hold back on the negatives: this is not a hagiography.   As fascinating as the book is, it does not lead you to like Jobs as a person, and it leads you only to a very qualified degree of admiration for him as a leader, even as you are (or I was) astounded by his accomplishment.

Of course I was taken aback, even appalled, by his ferocious cruelty toward nearly everyone around him.    Isaascson similarly is repelled, and makes clear in his conclusion that it was unnecessary and at times detrimental to his success.    But—is it possible there is something to learn from here? Is it possible that we could all benefit from being a little bit less determined to spare people’s feelings? Isaacson:

The nasty edge of his personality was not necessary.  It hindered him more than it helped him.  But it did, at times, serve a purpose.  Polite and velvety leaders, who take care to avoid bruising others, are generally not as effective at forcing change.  Dozens of the colleagues whom Jobs most abused ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible.

I think of some of the cooking competition TV shows I like so much, such as Next Food Network Star and Top Chef,  and one of the things I appreciate most about these shows is the skillfulness by which they give strong, direct, frank, honest, cutting, criticism, and, even more, the way most contestants take that criticism and use it to make themselves stronger.  (more…)