Tag Archives: Indianapolis

It’s not the Technology. It’s the Culture of Learning!

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I have the honor of joining a panel discussion and presenting at the CELL educational transformation conference in Indianapolis on November 16 and 17. I will be blogging about the unique and innovative concepts talked about at this conference.  This posting reflects on my first formal experience with PBL two years ago as I encountered educators and students at the New Tech High Schools in Napa Valley and Sacramento, California. I have included links that showcase some outstanding videos on PBL and links to help you reflect. There is no way I can really relate the experience other than reiterating – it’s not the technology! I hope you enjoy my reflections and explore some of the links. Thanks for joining me once again and always feel free to join me at the 21centuryedtech Wiki. –  Mike

This week I will be attending and speaking at the CELL (Center of Excellence in  Leadership and Learning) Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The theme of the conference involves facilitating a collective initative by all educational stakeholders that is necessary as they face the challenge of finding tomorrow’s opportunities for today’s students. This conference will attract nearly one thousand diverse individuals over a two day period (Nov 16-17) in downtown Indianapolis. It is  sponsored  by CELL which is located at the University of Indianapolis. CELL’s efforts are rooted in the vision that all students, regardless of background, should graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education, training, and success in the 21st-Century global economy. With primary funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc., CELL has leveraged resources to unite schools, communities and businesses to make substantial, sustainable, statewide education change to improve academic success for students.

My first encounter with CELL occured when I was investigating the  New Tech Network , an organization which initally started in 1996 as the New Tech High School of Napa Valley, California. It later partnered with the Gates Foundation and set out on a mission to replicate the Napa pilot throughout the nation. There are now 41 schools located in nine states serving over 8500 students across the nation. New Tech states that its goal is to “help schools fundamentally rethink teaching and learning, empowering students to become the creators, leaders, and producers of tomorrow.”  New Tech incoporates three key concepts. First they promote  “a new instructional approach that engages learners”. New Tech incorporates project-based learning (PBL) as the center of the instructional approach. PBL is facilitated by  technology and student inquiry to engage learners with issues and questions that are relevant. Teachers design rigorous projects tied to state standards and customized to local community and student interests. Students collaborate in teams to acquire and apply knowledge and skills to solve problems.  Next, ” New Tech builds “a culture that empowers students and teachers”. It is trust, respect, and responsibility that become the center of the learning culture.  Students are put in charge of their own learning, becoming self-directed learners, while teachers are given the administrative support and resources to assist students in this realization. Last, New Tech maintains that “integrated use of technology”  is essential for 21st Century education. In a New Tech school the smart  use of technology supports an innovative emphasis promoting unique instruction and a powerful classroom culture. Take a moment to view these videos  found on the New Tech site involving  small school projects and learning through projects. It will help you get a better understanding of project based learning at New Tech. These videos  could be used as a great conversation starter with educators contemplating the use of project based learning in any school or district. 

When making that first trip to New Tech almost two years ago, I was prepared to walk into a building where technology was at the center, driving a powerful and cutting edge learning atmosphere. It didn’t take long for me to realize that technology was not the center, the students really were. New Tech created a powerful learning  culture with students owning and directing their education and the shared learning community. Problem solving, intrinsic  motivation, collaboration, and engagement were all central themes. Technology was a somewhat invisible, yet powerful force, facilitating a synergistic environment. It was amazing to hear high school students talk with the same pride and enthusiasm for their school  and learning as one might often hear in a first grade classroom. I left both Napa and Sacramento with a new belief in PBL and technology  integration, along with a real appreciation for positive and powerful student centered learning communities. If you live near a New Tech school, it is worth taking the time to visit.

Since that visit, I have become more aware of the outstanding efforts that CELL is making. Their New Tech facilitation in Indiana is just one of many outstanding services provided by CELL. The CELL web site is  filled with outstanding reflections  and research, such as an interesting  study on impact of PBL  and student achievement. I am excited to share with you in future postings  new ideas I aquire at CELL’s conference as I investigate sessions covering  STEM education, project based learning and problem based learning, 20th Century vs. 21st Century skills, community partnerships, early college, and successful transformational techniques.  I am sure that speakers such as  Uri Treisman from the the University of Texas at Austin, Michael McDowell from the New Tech Network, Tom Carroll, president of the National Commision on Teaching and America’s Future, Ken Kay, president of the Partnership For Twenty-first Century Skills, and Brad Jupp from the US Department of Education will provide much to reflect on.  I also have the honor of  contributing to a panel discussion on project based learning in the middle school and presenting a session on resources for project based learning. If you happen to be at the conference, please stop by and say hello.

In conclusion, there should be more initative toward school cultures that promote student centered learning and project based learning . While New Tech has made some inroads at the high school level, initatives at all levels is still lacking and needs to be pursued. I invite you to join my 21centuryedtech Wiki and learn about resources and programs available to students and teachers to promote 21st Century learning. I am sure that CELL will reinforce the important message I heard at NMSA last week. It really isn’t the technology, it is the culture that puts students in the center of learning.-

-Mike

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Empathy, Awareness, Creativity are the Goal…Technology is the Tool – Reflections on NMSA09

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Please take a moment to enjoy this thought provoking reflection on the role of technology in education. This article contains my thoughts on the National Middle School Conference 2009 and its potential impact on 21st century learning and technology. It covers some of the featured speakers along with thoughts,  links, and videos to allow you to investigate.  I guarantee you there are priceless links in this posting!

I also want to recognize Mr. Alan Summers and his complete conference team from the NMSA for what will be remembered as an outstanding conference. The Indiana contribution from IMLEA was also evident along with the constant enthusiasm at their welcome area!

I also want to thank all of you for visiting this site and helping it grow. The wiki/blog have attracted close to 6000 unique visitors in about three short months of existence. It has now reached all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 47 foreign countries. Your thoughts, reflections, emails, and invites to the network are so appreciated. Please visit the companion 21centuryedtech wiki for even more resources – Mike

A conference is always what you make of it. Since I am an avid technology conference attender, I decided to check out the technology message at the NMSA09 Conference in Indianapolis. I did not even have to attend a session to get my first taste. After strolling through the vendor area I found the 21 st Century Classroom filled with modern technology along with real teachers and students conducting lessons. Imagine not just lecturing about educational transformation, but creating the real experience for all to see. It is awesome to see that NMSA  takes the time to model what it also advocates.

The NMSA09 Conference had close to 500 sessions with featured keynote speakers of national prominence accounting for many of these. The featured speakers and keynotes I  attended  included Will Daggett, Daniel Pink, and Alan November. As I listened to the three it was evident that the common theme appeared to be empathy, awareness, and creativity was needed for real transformation to happen.

Will Daggett opened with a reminder fto teachers that they really are part of the best educational system in the world. After all, the United States is one of the few countries that attempts to educate all children.  United States schools are involved in a constant battle between excellence and equity. This is a difficult line to walk, but one the United States must continue to engage in.  His constant theme revolved around the idea “Relevance makes Rigor Possible”, a phrase he coined. Daggett then emphasized that U.S. students need to be made aware of the social/economic change happening in the global community. He stressed this need for awareness as he emphasized that today’s students are in a battle for future jobs, and they do not even know it, because no one is teaching them.  The new technology he demonstrated was awesome including both the siftable chip, a new technology manipulative, and SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) which allows for even more computing portability due to a virtual keyboard and a virtual monitor that are both beamed using laser technology. In fact, I did some research and found there is already a portable video projector for the iPhone. Be sure to also check out this virtual laser keyboard!   Daggett then listed five concepts in learning which included: knowledge of one discipline, application of one discipline, application across disciplines, application to real world predictable situations, and  application to real world unpredictable situations. He maintained that schools spend a lot of time on the first and second and very little time on the last three. It was the first time  I realized that the very last step really identifies the difference between project based learning and problem based learning. My mind wandered to this year’s Future City problem. Students are to build short term housing that is sustainable and green for displaced people after an emergency sometime in the extended future. Wow, talk about a problem that is so difficult to answer, nothing is correct, and the possibilities are endless. Parts of the question even contradict each other from an engineering standpoint. Sounds like Daggett’s “applications to real world unpredictable situations” is being practiced in some arenas of education. This leads us perfectly into Daniel Pink’s keynote.

Daniel Pink, the author of  A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, described the increasing  role of right-brain thinking in the new  economies and describes the skills  individuals and organizations must possess in this outsourced, automated age. Using brain research, Pink advocates that left brain (orderly, logical, and linear) thinking, while still important, is no longer adequate to survive in the 21st Century global economy. He attributes this theory to the role Asia now plays in the global economy with automation being software driven, and abundance of material in the market place. In essence, routine work is disappearing! Pink advocates that educators prepare kids for their future (right brain), not our past (left brain).He suggests including skills in our curriculum that cannot be outsourcedor automated. He includes such abilities as design, story telling, symphony (ability to see big picture), empathy, play, and meaning. One example used was Google’s idea to allow its employees 20% percent job time for self direction. From this effort, such big projects as G-Mail, and Google News have evolved. Finally, Pink suggested some ideas he feels educators should reflect and implement. Number one, explore the new metrics. IQ only accounts for 20% of success. We need to make sure we are measuring the right things. The next concept involves “getting real about STEM. Pink stressed that STEM must include the Arts because students must be taught to see. Engineering firms want people who have passion, are willing to be  life-long learners, are systems thinkers,  have multicultural values, and can understand interdisciplinary context. The third suggestion is to rethink motivation and look at intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. The fourth idea really caught my attention as Pink suggested moving problem solving out of the terrarium and putting it in the forest. He described the terrarium as an environment  that is much too clean, organized, and not real world. Problems should involve clarification, identification, multi-disciplines, several answers, non-perfection, exploration, challenge, and relevancy. Last, Pink suggests that artistic educational programs must be facilitated, encouraged, and practiced across the curriculum. China has an emphasis that states “Creative Arts are not a frivolous luxury“.  I am anxious to bring the arts concept into my next STEM presentation! Have a little fun fooling your left brain by having your right brain look at this Fedex logo in a different and unique way.

Different and unique  is a great way to describe Alan November. I had the honor to introduce this master of storytelling and thought provoking educational reformer. November emphasized that it is not the technology that will make the change happen, even asking participants to cross it off the program title. He stressed that kids need to be able to learn and use tools at school that are  available in their homes. Education must understand that blocking certain websites is actually contributing to a lack of student awareness of proper and valuable web usage. It is important that the skills we teach today outlast technology change. November emphasized student creativity  as he made the audience aware of Jing and Math Train TV. He also demonstrated a math search engine entitled Wolfram|Alpha. Enter your question or calculation and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and a growing collection of data to compute the answer. While some schools may want to block this because using it could be considered cheating, November suggests allowing students to use it so they instantly know if they are right or wrong in a computation. He then suggested that students create their own multimedia story to explain the process. He also shared an exciting video about sixth sense work using technology. You maybe interested in exploring information on Web Literacy located at November Learning. Located at this site is a great collection of resources to teach students about using the web to retrieve information. Students have a chance to learn there is really no Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and that Christopher Columbus was not born in Sydney in  Australia in 1951, even though it says so on the web! November also covered the Way Back Machine, and Easy Who Is, to further validate web resources. All of these resources are explained on November Learning. Alan November is truly one of our time’s great thinkers in education and I recommend attending his BLC10 conference in Boston this summer. I have had  the honor to both present and attend. It is a truly an amazing conference that will give you plenty of opportunity to reflect and acquire resources. Perhaps November’s most intruiging statement was that employers are seeking the skill of empathy as they hire. It would be interesting to see who has that concept in their standards beyond definition and  vocabulary!

I did have a chance to attend some other sessions that were truly outstanding. Jim Wenzlof presented a valuable session entitled Read It, Write It, Say It. He introduced innovative ways to use Diigo,  and Skype for teaching literacy. He suggested techniques to allow students to make movie trailers for books using Audacity, PhotoStory, and iMovie.  He also introduced the websites  Lit2Go, Itunes University, and the Story Starter. My favorite was a collaborative site called EtherPad. If you haven’t seen it give it a look! I also had a chance to see the state of Indiana’s new educational service presented by Gary Bates from the DOE called The Learning Connection. It is a service for Indiana educators interested in designing lessons, assessments aligned to standards, or wishing to collaborate and connect with other educators in the state of Indiana. Indiana educators, take the time to register now at The Learning Connection. I also had opportunity to talk with the people at both ePals and NSDL. These are two great organizations that understand 21st Century learning.  I plan to become  more familiar with both in the near future. I appreciated the time and energy both Dr.  Kimberly Lightle from NSDL and Victoria McEachern from ePals spent with me.

As I close I want to thank all those people who attended my session on 21st Century learning. It was my intention to deliver a dynamic presentation to you. I appreciate how nearly 90 people made room for everyone in a room designed for 50. I also hope that the many who could not get in will at least take advantage of the handout sheet left at the door. As promised, the Power Point will be available on the wiki under Presentations. Thank you for all of the kind comments and I hope all of you keep in touch.

Overall it was a truly amazing conference. I was only able to see it from my limited perspective but I can  tell you that it was one of the best I have ever attended. The goal is always to find at least one new idea and I surpassed that with an improved vision for transforming education in the 21st century. I am excited about NMSA10 in Baltimore as I  hope to learn  and contribute even more! Again, thank you to the great staff at both NMSA and IMLEA along with the countless volunteers and presenters. I feel it was a great “Welcome To The Future!” Please feel free to visit the 21st Century Ed Tech Wiki. Your comments, suggestions, and emails are always welcome! Keep up the great work at using technology to facilitate empathy, awareness, and  creativity! They just may be the most important unwritten standards.

-Mike

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I’ve Spent My Life In The Middle And There Is Not A Better Place To Be

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I have filled this posting with some great information, including a new site from the people at the census, a contest in the fine arts, and a free online curriculum about the wise use of money. This is the first of a two part blog as I network and learn at the national Middle School Conference in Indianapolis. The content I provide will cover all levels, so read on! – Mike

I have been trying to determine a way to include the National Middle School Conference – Making A World Of Difference  in this week’s 21stcenturyedtech Blog. I have the honor of presenting at this conference and  I am already  contemplating speaking at a conference that is not totally dedicated to educational technology. I know I should feel comfortable because I have had a long lasting relationship with the middle. I am well into my own middle age, I was born in the middle class, as a middle child. I have taught middle grades for over thirty years in Fort Wayne, Indiana which can be considered middle America. I will travel one hundred miles south to Indianapolis, which is in the middle of the state, and join nearly seven thousand other middle level educators as we approach the middle of another school year.

I know the experience will be far from middle. Still, I have many questions as I prepare to network with others in the middle. Will I find out that they don’t tweet? That’s really alright because I have been slow on the twitter. Will I be NINGless? I don’t think so because I have already found a great NMSA Conference Connection Page. I know both sides of my brain will be challenged as I listen to Daniel Pink discuss the half of the brain that will conquer the world. As I dig deeper into the program I discover that Alan November will be part of a spotlight session that highlights the NMSA Technology Day!  In fact, Will Dagget will bring great comfort as he discusses rigour, relevancy, and relationships. Hold on,  Rick Wormeli will be speaking about a journey into the non-linear fourth dimension. Wow, I am really starting to feel comfortable! As I look through the concurrent sessions I am seeing terms such as UDL, differentiation, 21st century skills, and multiple references to the word technology.  A glance at the main conference web page reveals an awesome reference to the National Middle School 21st Century Classroom!  I even noticed my session  entiltled  21st Century Project Based Learning – No Cost and Low Cost Investments with Rich Results for Students. I am really starting to feel comfortable since I note my wife Jane will co-present with me.  But wait,  it is not on Tech Saturday, instead it is on Friday! Presenting on a different day than Tech Day  really is alright with me since it is, after all, on the middle day of the conference. If you happen to be at the conference please stop by Friday at 2:00 PM and meet me in the middle! I am sure that this will be a conference that puts students in the middle of their learning with the facilitation of technology way above the middle.

I will be publishing my next Blog from  the NMSA09 Conference in Indianapolis. It is my intention to share best educational practices highlighted at this year’s conference. I thought I would give a quick preview by sharing some awesome information found on the National Middle School Asociation Main Home  Page. This is information that can be used at any level. To start off, take a look at the new Census In Schools Page. You will find a population counter with links for teachers, elementary kids, and teens! On the teacher page you will find a wealth of activities and lesson plans! I was amazed at the sixty second radio shows highlighting each day of the year! How about a set of 22 maps  highlighting the geographical distributional changes in the US from 1790 until 2000. Perhaps you will enjoy the lessons provided for grades k-12. For elementary kids there is a great Flash Web Site filled with fun activities. The teen site has great state facts, engaging activities, and statistics that relate educational attaintment and income. There is also material for schools and the facts for feature area provides a wealth of data for those wanting to create relevant graphing and charting opportunities.

Do you have any students interested in  the Arts? The National Middle School Association is  calling for the submission of original student artwork in the online publication Expressions from the Middle and on a poster that will be sent to more than 25,000 people worldwide. Students choose their favorite type of media to work with including oils, watercolors, charcoal, colored pencils, sculpture, computer generated graphics, or multimedia. View past years winning entries of this highly engaging contest. You will note as you look through the different years that there is not just art work, but also Podcasts; cool!

Looking for a multi-curricular unit on finances, money, and economical survival with great resources and activities? Talk about timeliness and relevance! Then check out Saving Our Futures: A Financial Responsibility Program for Young People It is an exciting online curriculum teaching young people in middle and high school  financial responsibility. It also advocates for smarter money management in the home, communitiy and government. It was developed by the Academy for Educational Development for the America’s Promise Alliance. This specific curriculum was written to be integrated with the documentary film I.O.U.S.A. Best of all it is free! What I have included is just a small sample of what can be found on the main homepage of the National Middle School Association.

Please join me for my next posting from NMSA09 in Indianapolis. If you happen to be at the conference feel free to attend my session on Friday at 2:00 PM entitled  21st Century Project Based Learning – No Cost and Low Cost Investments with Rich Results for Students. If you can’t make it to Indianapolis please join me at the 21centuryedtech Wiki filled with even more information regarding 21st Century Learning!

-Mike

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