Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Design Thinking and Visible Thinking and iPads


Who wouldn't want to implement a process that helps to build resilience and empathy in students? Design Thinking does just that but it needs to be so much more than a process to be effective, it needs to be cultural.

I am so fortunate to be in an environment that has successfully developed a culture of thinking through the work of Project Zero at Harvard, more specifically though Ron Ritchhart's and David Perkins's Making Thinking Visible. When students are able to articulate their thinking, guided by established thinking routines, across curricular boundaries, they both deepen their understanding of the content itself, as well as develop strong metacognitive and critical skills. When I walk down the hallways of our buildings, it is easy to see the evidence of student thinking everywhere about everything. Our walls have become learning spaces for all. 

About three years ago, I started reading and learning about Design Thinking and it felt like a perfect fit with Visible Thinking. Interestingly, Project Zero has adda component on Design Thinking to its collection of research projects. Several years ago I journeyed out to California, hotbed of design thinking and maker spaces, and was lucky enough to attend  Nueva School's Design Thinking Institute as well as the Design, Do, Discover event at Castilleja School. My brain felt like it was on fire - I could really see the possibilities of layering design thinking on top of visible thinking, especially in the areas of work in the Fab Lab. One process feeds the other and elevates the results to new levels.

What if you took this combo live with iPads?  It was with great interest that I read Richard's post on Design Thinking with iPads. I've been a fan of @iPadWells ( +iPadWells NZ  ) work on iPads for quite some time and this post provides a great summary of design thinking and how one could create lessons and a workflow for the process using an iPad.  I love his design challenge prompts such as design an app that would have helped George Washington win the the American Revolution in half the time. 

Using various brainstorming apps that make thinking visible such as Padlet, help spur the thought process. Design thinking is best when it is a communal process. I think of the work going on in the new Burlington Maker Space where ideas come to life and where makers get feedback from their neighbors who may be an electrical engineer or a mechanical engineer or a plumber- the idea being that design is a constant iterative process and that the smartest person in the room is the room so creating a space where different members of a community can come in and work on ideas breeds innovation and creativity. Why not do the same in the classroom? 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy Birthday iPad!

Do you remember January 27, 2010? I do. The famous keynote when Jobs announced the iPad. I felt like it was the device that schools had been waiting for. It was not a cheap netbook. Or a heavy, clunky tablet computer. It was an honest-to-God "magical" and "revolutionary" device. 

It is incredible to me when I think how much this device has afforded us in teaching and learning. The iPad breaks down barriers that blocked technophobe teachers from truly integrating tech into their classrooms. There is something so friendly about the iPad. The touch capabilities build an intimate relationship between the user and the device. Somehow, a lot of the fear is taken away. I have seen teachers pick up this device and with little instruction, begin using it right away as opposed to the introduction of a laptop. 

Children take to it right away. They seem to have a natural understanding of navigation and gestures. iPads have become so commonplace today that I think we forget what it was like pre-iPad. The ease, portability, speed, freedom and almost unlimited potential of this device are outstanding. Jobs was right, the iPad is magical and revolutionary. It has and will continue to shape teaching, learning, publishing, creating, and communication in ways we cannot even fathom yet.

Now, teachers send photos or videos home every day to parents. Students of all ages create stories, individually or collaboratively, with ease and share them with each other, parents or around the world. Whether it's Book Creator, iMovie, Puppet Pals or any of the dozens of apps available, our students and teachers are creating and stretching beyond the boundaries of their classrooms. 

As our school begins to weigh the best way to address the digital book market, it is incredibly exciting to see how books are developing in ways we never considered to address all types of learners. Accessibility is only part of the wonderful developments that are available now. Teachers have the ability to create their own textbooks, thanks to iBooks Authoring tool. The rich media embedded in books brings learning to life in ways that I thought were only possible in futuristic movies. The future is here now and it is a very exciting one. Thanks, Steve. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Innovation day is Coming!

February 15th our campus will experience something new. While we have had PD days where Teachers teach Teachers, this year our focus will be completely on sharing best technological best practices. We are calling it Innovation Day after finishing our school wide read, Tony Wagner's book,  Creating Innovators. We are kicking off the day with the super wonderful Silvia Tolisano, aka @langwitches, as our keynote speaker and then breaking into our smaller presentation sessions. Many faculty have already signed up to present with topics ranging from Pinterest to iMovie to Voice Thread to iPhone photography. There are quite a few sessions on digital storytelling and blogging and even a session on musical technology. I love seeing the list grow each day. I love it even more when it is about something I haven't even heard about. 

I am incredibly proud of our faculty who are willing to take a risk and as Silvia likes to say, "amplify" their learning. They rock. Really. Boy, I better get busy and figure out what I'm going to present!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Smelling the Book


     I still have my old library card from when I was in 4th grade. I remember the excitement of going to the library and being surrounded by so many stories, so much knowledge. I love to read. I can easily get lost in a book, it doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction, nonfiction or even the yellow pages (which fascinate me endlessly but that’s another whole blog). I love the smell of old books, the feel of the thicker paper, such a pleasure to turn. I love buying used books and discovering small notes in the margin. Will my children continue to know this pleasure? Will their children even have public libraries?

     All this thinking about books has generated lots of thoughts about digital literacy and digital fluency. How has technology, especially ereaders, iPads, and audiobooks changed the art of reading? The art of making meaning? Will we have libraries in ten years? Will borrowing a book mean something else entirely?

     My thoughts and consequent searching brought me to an article about how schools in Calgary are adopting electronic textbooks. It's an interesting article and several quotes from Jean Ludlam, the Manager for Children, Teens and Families at the Calgary Public Library hit home for me. She was referring earlier in the article to the digital divide but then said there is another divide too:

     "The other divide is with children and the difficulty they have deciphering and discriminating between information." 

     In this age of cut and paste and searchable texts, it is all too easy to not truly read the material, to not make the meaning. I do love the ease of downloading and reading books on my iPad. I love how easy it is to highlight, to make notes, to share those notes, and to find a particular quote quickly and easily but when it become that easy, do our students lose the ability to truly locate information, to sift through it all for the value? 

    I remember this great scene in Desk Set when Katherine Hepburn and her librarian crew outsmarted the brand new computer research system installed by Spencer Tracy because they used their brains to problem solve and not technology. Yet toward the end of the movie, when a particularly perplexing question is posed to Hepburn and her crew, it's the technology that finds the answer. The moral of course is to find the balance, but if someday we no longer have those reference books, if they go the way of encyclopedias, will our students be capable of locating the right information? Or will it be all too easy to take the information at face value because it is in electronic form?
     Better language needs to be developed around what it means to simply Google things and what it means use a credible resource that is available online, she said. And kids browse Google differently than when they once perused a textbook, she believes.
     “It isn’t that tactile experience,” Ludlam said. “I wonder how that works in our brains if you can’t see it and hold it and touch it.”
     Will we forget what reading a book means? Will we forget the way books feel and smell?

     Will it matter? 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ISTE Envy and Sir Ken Robinson

ISTE Crowd Waiting Impatiently to Get Into Keynote

I admit it. I am pea green with envy. ISTE envy is tough to bear but as I read through the multiple Twitter posts, blogs, Edmodo group work, Google+ postings and various backchannel conversations, I really do feel like I'm getting the best compilation of the sessions possible. What I cannot do is listen in and partake in all the face-to-face conversations brewing. The excitement is palpable. I cheered for the @edubros when Robinson gave them a shout out. The #iste12 feed was feverish (and trending). Imagine if just a small portion of this excitement is what our students felt all day at school?

I was amused by the complaints that poured into the Twitter feed when it became obvious that Sir Ken Robinson's presentation was only a small portion of the keynote as a multitude of speakers came out to push their message--sometimes thought provoking and sometimes a straight out commercial--and I thought to myself that this is probably what many of our students feel like during the day. The want the good stuff, they want to be challenged, to be excited about possibilities, to feel a connection, to feel an a-ha, in short, they want to learn

How can we capture that excitement, create that buzz, push the stream of learning? I think Sir Ken hit it on the head when he spoke about the huge error we created with NCLB and that education has become a morass of mass standardization. What we really need he said is to personalize learning.

"The problem is the whole process of education is being based on an impersonal approach and a suffocating culture of standardization." 

How do we personalize learning? We get to know our students. Robinson described great teaching as an art form, an intuitive approach based on the happy marriage of a teacher knowing the material, and knowing the students, and understanding the necessary chemistry that must occur for learning to take place. I agree. Great teachers are great artists. They hear a rhythm in their heads, they know when to step in and when to stand back, how to paint a picture with words, diagrams, and other tools so that students can see, they know how to encourage risk and foster resiliency, they know how to instill pride, and they know how to bring out the best in their students because they are learners too. 

ISTE attendees were ready to break down the doors to get into the keynote because they could not wait to learn from Sir Ken Robinson. They knew that this keynote would provide inspiration and the anticipation was high. Just the tweets in the hour before the keynote ran to over 26 pages! Can you imagine having that level of anticipation among your students?

We need to have our students that eager to get into our classrooms . . . to want to share what they learned with their friends and family, to count the minutes until the next class not out of dread, but out of sheer anticipation for the fun and challenge that awaits them.

Let's not suffocate them. Let's get engaged ourselves so that we may engage our students. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Game Change Leadership

I watched the HBO "docudrama", Game Change, last night. The production portrays Sarah Palin as a charismatic leader who is seemingly clueless about foreign policy, national policy and geography. While the campaign staff is impressed with her amazing ability to connect with people, she doesn't seem to have the necessary credentials to lead the country. The campaign manager and his staff try to bring her up to speed by supplying her with canned responses to areas where she may lack the necessary knowledge and experience to answer a question. Whether it is true or not, we all know of leaders who are charismatic yet seem to demonstrate scant understanding of their field and you wonder, how did these people rise to the top?

It started me thinking about educational leadership. How many Principals or Head of Schools truly can not only talk the talk, but walk the walk? I have been fortunate to always work with leaders whose depth and breadth of experience and knowledge make their schools shine (my current school is a great example of this strong leadership). While one could contend that charisma is a necessary component of leadership, I would argue that knowledge, expertise, emotional intelligence, understanding of school mission and vision are of even greater value. The ability to understand how to bring a community together and lift everyone's performance is the magical stuff that I look for in a leader. Judging by low performance we have across the nation in education, perhaps we have set the bar too low. How many of our educational leaders have actually taught? How many of them continue to push themselves to grow professionally? How many of them can greet their students by name at the door? We seem to rate our educational leaders based on their school's achievement level in standardized test scores and college acceptances [or dropout rate depending on your educational environment]. Perhaps it is the way we assess and reward our educational leaders that put so many schools at risk through poor leadership?

Why don't we measure an educational leader's ability to:
  • create a culture of professional learning and collaboration among faculty and staff?
  • increase student, parent, alumni and faculty satisfaction in all facets of school life?
  • demonstrate a consistent personal professional growth?
  • ensure opportunities for all types of learners?
  • demonstrate an understanding of programs and alternative assessments that truly promote critical thinking?
  •  convey a deep understanding of curriculum, learning styles and best practices?
  • demonstrate a deep knowledge of his or her community?

If we agree that focusing on the wrong way to assess student success is how we are failing our children, then we need leaders who are knowledgeable, passionate, experienced and who are capable of steering their schools in the right direction for the betterment of all students. We need leaders who know their students, teachers and parents; who know what is going on in every area of school life because they are out there making those connections; and who are not afraid to drive change where needed. We need leaders who have more to offer than charisma.