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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Green Screens at the Upper School

This is a very exciting and busy week at the Upper School with students wrapping up final projects and preparing for exams.  I just spent this last A block in two classrooms, one Spanish and one French, working with students making movies using green screens.  Students in Spanish with Gaby Gonzenbach and Caroline Meliones are using the World Languages department iPads to make movie trailers using the Green Screen by Do Ink app, while students in Brigitte Tournier's French class used the classroom flipcam to film scenes in front of a green screen.  The footage was then imported into iMovie and combined with a photograph of a beautiful hotel lobby to create a stunning scene.  What fun projects!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Robotics Team wraps up their competition

Congrats to the Upper School Robotics Team for their outstanding finish at BB&N’s first VEX robotics competition! The team competed on Saturday, November 22 at North Andover High School, coming in fourth place out of 22 teams in the qualifying rounds. The day ended with a paired alliance playoff round, and our team ultimately earned runner-up status! For a first year team, this is truly an outstanding finish! Congrats to Mike B for all of his hard work, and to students Kofi, Sam, Jack, Vishnu, and Josh!
-Katrina Fuller

Sunday, November 23, 2014

BB&N Robotics Team Update

A big congratulations to the BB&N Robotics team, who competed yesterday at North Andover High School against 21 other teams. Our Knights made it all the way to the finals and were runners up! This is the first year of the team and they did such a wonderful job!!! 
-Katrina Fuller

Need to Explain Everything? Part II

Last week’s news update shared examples of the videos that Kelsey and Christine created using Explain Everything (if you haven’t checked out their videos yet, then you should do that!). Since the last news update, I’ve heard from several other teachers about the technology that they are using in their classrooms, specifically in regards to creating instructional videos. This seems to be a hot topic right now and something that many people are interested in experimenting with. Mariah has been using instructional videos with a flipped classroom model for three years, pairing videos from other sources with her own videos. Students in her classes are used to watching instructional videos; she assigns the video and follow-up questions for homework at least once per month. Mariah has experience using the (free!) screencast-o-matic software and she’s also exploring using Camtasia (BB&N purchases a license for this software). Currently, Mariah is working on creating a library of videos (on Google sites) that the math department can utilize and share with each other, seen here in its early stages.

Rosario also uses Explain Everything, as well as Camtasia, Screecast-o-matic, and Powtoon to create instructional videos for her classes, something she has been doing since last year and loves. The videos that Rosario creates often explain a grammar point, give instruction on homework, provide an explanation of a group project, or explain how to use a particular tool. She posts all of her instructional videos to the class Haiku page and has found it to be very helpful for giving instructions. Feel free to check out Rosario’s Haiku pages, found here and here, but also available through your own Haiku page. She has posted tutorials that she created using Camtasia, Powtoon, Screecast-o-matic, and Explain Everything, so you are easily able to compare these technologies. Seriously, check out some of this- you get the gist of it, even if you don’t understand Spanish. Here are some YouTube videos: here and here and here

If you are also using any of these technologies and would like to share your experiences, let me know! If you are looking to bounce some ideas around and talk to an expert, feel free to see Mariah, Rosario, Kelsey, Christine, or Megan! Megan also wants to remind everyone that she’s here to help you with the technology you use or would like to try in your classroom. One of her favorite parts of her job is being able to connect the dots and help teachers connect with one another about how they are using technology. She always wants to hear about these wonderful ways of using technology to enhance the student experience, then help teachers connect with one another to further their own learning. To see what’s going on across all campuses in regards to technology, continue to check out this tech blog.

Speaking about cool uses of technology in the classroom, have you heard about Poll Everywhere? Al uses this technology on a regular basis in his classroom as a tool for quick formative assessments. Al started using this software a few years ago and has found it to be incredibly helpful in quickly assessing the learning within the classroom, allowing him to decide whether or not he needs to re-teach a topic or can move on to the next topic. If you are looking for a quick way to get an immediate and anonymous answer from every student in the class, ask Al about his experiences with Poll Everywhere!

-Katrina Fuller

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Upper School Student Robotics Club

Three cheers for the new team on campus this year- the Robotics Team! Mike Bernstein kindly offered to coach the team this year and has been spending many hours working with our students getting ready for the upcoming competition. Students are excited to try out their new robot at their first VEX Robotics competition at North Andover HS on Saturday, November 22. For more information about the VEX Robotics Program or to check out a brief description of this year's Skyrise game, go to the Web site here: or watch the brief video describing the game's objectives at:

Seriously, you should watch this video... the game involves alliances, autonomous periods, driver-controlled periods, building skyrises, blocking opponents, taking out enemy robots, strategizing, and lots of things that only the robotics students will understand!

-Katrina Fuller

Need to Explain Everything? Part I

Need to Explain Everything? The math department is exploring ways to create a flipped classroom and is quickly becoming experts in making their own tutorial videos. Kelsey created her first videos (using Explain Everything) last year and used them as part of her final exam review days, though she’s now beginning to use them more frequently with her classes. Here is one of her final exam review videos... warning, this is a long one!

After seeing how successful these videos can be, Christine created her first video last week for her Algebra II class. If you also use Explain Everything, please let me know, as I'd love to see how other people are using this technology with their classes. If you have questions, see Kelsey or Christine for a quick tutorial!

-Katrina Fuller

Thursday, November 6, 2014

iPads in the Forensics Classroom

At BB&N, juniors and seniors are able to take Forensics, a lab-based course that stresses the importance of applying scientific principles to law. Students learn the methodology needed to evaluate a crime scene, the proper lab mechanics needed to evaluate evidence, and how to compare samples that are both known and unknown. Procedures in collecting and interpreting criminal evidence are examined and modeled. The students gain a basic understanding of forensic science and how it is used in criminal cases. Forensic experiments include drug analysis, blood typing, hair and fiber analysis, gunshot residue tests, and fingerprint identification.

The Forensics teacher Lisa Conway was awarded a launch grant which allows her to explore the use of iPads in the science classroom.  She is developing curriculum and lesson plans that will allow students to fully integrate iPads into her Forensics and Principles of Chemistry classes.  This week students in Ms. Conway's Forensics class are completing their first crime scene assessment, using the iPads to create accompanying diagrams.   They are using the Magic CSI app to sketch the crime scene.

Friday, October 10, 2014

5th Grade Technology- 'Out of Eden Learn' Footstep #2

Below are the activities students participated in for Footstep #2: Create a Neighborhood Map

Part 1- Engage with Paul's Journey
     First students explored where Paul has walked so far since January 2013 by looking at the map room on the National Geographic Out of Eden Walk website.
     Next they explored 3 different Milestones of their choice from the Out of Eden Walk website.

Part 2- Create a Neighborhood Map
     Students were invited to think about their own relationship to a place and were given a chance to share more about themselves with other participants by sketching a map of their neighborhood as they see it their their eyes.
     They then wrote a true story to go with their map. Their story could have involved:
  • The whole map or one special place that was featured on their map. 
  • A memory of something that happened to them when they were younger in one of the places on their map. 
  • A typical day in their life that featured places marked on their map. 
  • A story about their neighborhood that they had heard from someone else – it could be a story that happened before they were born. 
  • How their neighborhood had changed over time.

Part 3- Interact with Your Walking Partners
     They browsed through other people's maps and stories.
     They chose one person who was not from their class, looked at his/her map carefully and thought about: What catches your eye and makes you want to learn more? What is interesting or thought provoking about the map and its story? Then they wrote a response that involved "snipping"  that is, copying a phrase, sentence or section of what the person wrote that caught their attention and pasting it into the comment box. Then they asked a question about what they chose to snip, or said what they found interesting or important about it, making their comment as detailed as possible.
     Lastly, they returned to their own map and previous posts, responding to anyone who left a message for them last week, trying to carry on the conversation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New MS POP Initiative~ Positive Online Presence

Collaboration with Sandra Cortesi, Director of the Youth & Media Center from Harvard's Berkman Center, and our soon-to-be MS Leadership Council
Sandra and her Team represent a fabulous local resource!  The new MS POP Initiative is an exciting follow up from her visit with the Middle School Tech Team last year and this collaboration opportunity provides a remarkable "focus" for this year's Leadership Council.  

Why we are so excited?
  1. Opportunity to collaborate with the Berkman Center and participate in their innovative work and contribute to the center’s ongoing research
  2. Means to stay up-to-date on current ways that young people interact with digital media such as the Internet, cell phones, and video games, harness associated opportunities and address media challenges
  3. Opportunity for the Middle School students to develop as leaders
    • Shape MS technology policies (rules/norms)
    • Design and develop two units for the 7th and two units for the 8th grades and facilitate the instruction.
    • Student-driven teaching is the most effective. Students teach each other what is most important to them (with adult framing of the conversation). A sample of student-driven topics of interest we envision:
        • Privacy, reputation, and social media;
        • Safety; Online relationships;
        • Creativity and strategies to make student’s work more visible;
        • How to use the Internet as a tool for empowerment - how the Internet can teach students anything they want to know more about;

For some quick background on the Berkman Center:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

6th Grade Technology- September in Review

6th graders have gotten quite a bit done so far this year in technology class.  They have read the "Technology Use Policy" and read and signed the "iPad Rules and Consequences" document.  They have completed their iPad 101 training and set up their iPads for the year, creating a folder for all of their google apps and setting up their BB&N Gmail accounts.  They have also set up a folder for each subject in google drive to organize their 6th grade work.  They have created two private blogs- one for Language Arts, which they have shared with Mrs. Huff, and one for technology, which they have shared with me.  Their technology blog will be used for reflecting on their experiences using the scratch programming environment this year.  Lastly, they have explored the scratch website, created a scratch account, and read the scratch community guidelines.  6th graders will spend the next several weeks learning more about Scratch programming.

5th Grade Technology- September in Review

5th graders have had a very busy year so far in technology.  They have accomplished so much already!  They have read the "Technology Use Policy" and read and signed the "iPad Rules and Consequences" document.  They have completed their iPad 101 training and set up their iPads for the year, creating a folder for all of their google apps and setting up their BB&N Gmail accounts.  The students have also spent some time in the technology lab setting up google drive folders for all their subjects to organize their 5th grade work.  Lastly, they have begun their journey with the "Out of Eden Learn" project.

4th Grade Technology- September in Review

4th graders are off to a great start!  So far they have read and discussed the Technology Use Policy, started using their brand new Google Drive accounts, and logged into their new QwertyTown touch-typing accounts.  In Google Drive, the students have created a technology folder that they shared with me, typed up their hopes and dreams for the year in a google doc, collaborated on a shared google slides presentation to let me know more about them, and some of them have started using google sheets to enter data for creating graphs.  This is a big week for 4th grade technology- touch-typing homework begins and the Lehner Center computer lab will be open for optional early morning touch-typing practice.

Friday, October 3, 2014

5th Grade Technology- 'Out of Eden Learn' Footstep #1

5th grade students have embarked on their "Out of Eden Learn" journey!
     5C are partnered with schools in: Listowel, Ontario, Canada; Buffalo Grove, Illinois, USA; Richmond, Virginia, USA; and Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
     5M is partnered with schools in: Listowel, Ontario, Canada; Buffalo Grove, Illinois, USA; Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA; Seattle, Washington, USA.

Below are the activities students participated in for footstep #1:
Footstep #1: Setting Off
Part 1- Engage with Paul’s Journey
     listened to a welcome message from Paul, recorded in Turkey in August, 2014.
     watched a video in which Paul explains why he is taking a 7-year walk around the world
     read an article, called a dispatch, by Paul on the National Geographic Out of Eden Walk website: Sole Brothers
     and responded to a quick survey, answering What caught your attention or interested you about Paul's article?  What questions or wonders do you now have?

Part 2- Setting Off
     picked an avatar
     and wrote a few sentences about themselves: Write a few lines about yourself and describe three things that you enjoy doing.  What's the story behind your choice of avatar?  What do you find most interesting or exciting about Paul's walk from what you have learned about it so far?  Is there anything in particular you would like Paul to look out for or pay attention to as he walks?

Part 3- Interact with your walking partners
     read others' posts
     left detailed comments and questions for three students who were not in their class
     responded to any comments or questions other students left for them

Monday, September 8, 2014

Summer Inspiration from HGSE

I took part in two learning opportunities at the Harvard Graduate School of Education this past summer that I would like to share with the BB&N community:

1) I was asked by a professor at the Ed School to help edit their updated Scratch "Creative Computing" Curriculum Guide, a design-based introduction to computational thinking.  Working closely with the Scratch curriculum guide gave me a new perspective on MIT's scratch programming language, particularly the value of reflection in the classroom.  Because of this experience, I have decided to modify my Scratch unit slightly and have my 6th grade students create a scratch design journal this year as well as make it a priority to give them more time in the classroom to think about and talk about their projects with one another.

2) I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend Project Zero's "Future of Learning" conference and while there became aware of their recent "Out of Eden Learn" project to accompany Paul Salopek's travels around the globe.  Learning about the "Out of Eden Learn" project was such an exciting end to my summer, as it brings together a number of experiences that I think are so important for our students in this day and age- students involved in the project are using technology to connect with people around the world, and they are communicating in meaningful ways.  For those of you who are not yet familiar with the "Out of Eden Learn" project, it is a platform created by Harvard Graduate School of Education's Project Zero.  They partner schools with 4-6 other schools throughout the world in what are called "walking parties."  Every two weeks the waking parties take part in "walking steps," together completing six steps.  Along the journey, schools learn about Paul's experiences around the globe as he travels on his "Out of Eden Walk."  Stay tuned to hear more about the walking steps our 5th grade students take this year...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Launch Recipients for the 2014-2015 Year

Maria Elena Derrien Carol FineLSMakey Makey Science Exploration
Aaron KellnerLSDigital Media in the Second Grade Classroom
Rachel StevensLSmath subscriptions
Leila Huff and Louisa PittLSGrammar Site
Rachel JamisonMSEvernote
Wendy SvatekMSTinkering
Stephanie MoonMSCircuit Sticker Drawings
Mariah NapenasUSDeveloping Instructional Videos
Allison KornetUSFlipped Classroom for Vanguard trainees
Gabriela GonzenbachUSGoogle Expertise with Haiku influence
Lisa ConwayUSiPad Integration
Amani AbuShakraUSBlogging site

Monday, June 23, 2014

Web software used by Upper School math

Upper School math teacher Chip Rollinson uses a variety of web-based tools with his students including the Desmos graphing calculator. This free website allows anyone to create and manipulate mathematical functions that are also displayed in a corresponding graph. For example, here is the equation and its result for an ellipse:

Doing this kind of work used to require expensive software or a graphing calculator. Now it is accessible online for free. Anyone with a web browser can get to it. Tools like this are a great example of why students should have ubiquitous access to computers and the internet.

Here is a link to Mr. Rollinson's presentation on this tool that he put together for a summer workshop of mathematics educators.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Exploring the "Makey Makey" in the Upper School Faculty Lounge (Part 2)

This is the second post in a series about the use of the Makey Makey for faculty professional development in technology, design, and creativity. The first post is accessible: here.

As I described in my last post, the first incarnation of my Makey Makey project, was a relatively inelegant "instrument" I hacked together using some fruit, kitchen utensils, and a Google Coder project. I left the project out in our faculty lounge for a few days, in the hopes of garnering some interest in attending our first "play day" coming up next month. The project seemed somewhat of a success, since I observed several instances of tones, laughter, and what I interpreted as "contemplative silence" emanating from the lounge while the project was up. A few folks even emailed me either thanks or excited exclamations of "that's cool!" Thus, at least in terms of garnering attention from my colleagues, the Makey Makey project was turning some heads, and encouraging some play. The project seemed also to inspire a little bit curiosity with regards to electrical circuitry, mostly around how people did not get "shocked" when holding the electrical leads. Some people also began experimenting with different conductive materials, swapping out spoons to pencils or other fruit.

For Phase 2, I decided to up the sophistication of the project, creating a conductive "board" to replace the dangling fruit and wires, and rather than using simple tones on the C major scale, to embed some free loops from GarageBand. The browser I'd be using to display the project is Google Chrome, which can read and play .mp3 files. This created a minor obstacle, because GarageBand loops come in a completely different file format. To work around this, I added each loop to a separate GarageBand project, and then exported each project in .mp3 format. Problem solved. I then found some copyright-free images online (thanks Wikipedia!) to match the GarageBand loops I used. After a couple of more tweaks to the user interface, I had a web page that looked like this:

For the board, I used the underside of a printer paper box, aluminum foil, scotch tape, and an exacto knife to carve out and affix some conductive "pads." For each of the five pads, I used a wide strip of foil, stretching from the bottom of each pad to the top of the "board," where I could easily attach the leads from the Makey Makey. For the ground lead, I made an aluminum foil strip at the bottom of the board.

I then uploaded the site to the computer in the faculty lounge, and left a little flier of instructions, with a small plug for our "play day" in June. Fingers crossed that this iteration will pick up where the last one left off...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Intersection of Art & Technology

Every now and then on the web, one comes across a brilliant example of using technology to support an artistic effort. The following video by the dance troupe Enra in Japan is a great example. Its use of projected light adds a unique visual element to the dance performance. I wonder how they created the projected images. To me, this video exemplifies the approach we strive for with technology at BB&N. We want to extend and enrich the curriculum using technology tools that add new meaning, enable new functionality, or enrich the meaning of the learning.

Monday, May 19, 2014

First Stab at the Makey Makey

[In this blog post Upper School Academic Technologist Nick Wilson describes his exploration of "Makey-Makey" technology, and how he is sharing it with the upper school faculty.]

So I've had a Makey Makey sitting on my desk for a few months, and until last week, I hadn't even opened the box. After seeing a video of the Makey Makey's creator Jay Silver on TED back in the winter, I felt inspired and compelled to get one. But as they so often do, work and life get in the way of things, especially creativity. And so the Makey Makey sat on my desk, all but forgotten, until a couple of weeks ago, when my colleagues and I decided to schedule our first technology professional development workshop devoted entirely to "play."

Rather than simply send out the all-too-commonly unread mass email announcement, or post fliers above the copier machines, we decided to advertise our workshop with whimsical crafts, making use of the same tools we wanted to bring with us to the workshop. Finally, I had a reason to unpackage my Maley Makey, and start playing with the very serious intent of doing "work."

The Makey Makey is a very simple device, reminiscent of the original Nintendo Entertainment System game controller, but with sharper edges, more holes, and exposed electronic components on the back.

Image  Image

It runs off of USB power, and acts as a sort of modified "keyboard" (without any obvious keys). In fact, it would be like having a keyboard for your computer that only consisted of the four arrow keys and a space bar. The sixth input on the Makey Makey functions like a left mouse click. Super simple. The Makey Makey comes with seven colored alligator-clip leads, which you use to create connections between the designated buttons (keys) on the Makey Makey and other conductive objects (spoons, fruit, coins, aluminum foil, etc.). There are also six "ground" input/output connections on the Makey Makey. The "ground" connections serve to complete the circuits you'll end up constructing to control the buttons (keys) on the Makey Makey. By building these mini circuits, you can control your computer's interface, such as scrolling up, down, left, or right, entering spaces between text, or clicking on objects. In the video above, Jay Silver shows some examples of this being used to create things like pianos and drums on the computer, but of course, with just a little bit of imagination (and a little bit of computer programming experience), the Makey Makey can do much more.

To advertise for our workshop, I decided to make my own five-key "piano" with the Makey Makey, and the process was made MUCH easier by using some HTML5, Javascript, and some help from Google Coder. The Google Coder site lists a bunch of easy-to-hard web-based projects that are specifically directed towards use with the Raspberry Pi, but are easily adapted for regular computer use. I chose to use their "Music Boxes" project for my Makey Makey for its simple interface and use of HTML5, which I have some experience with.


HTML5 is great in that it lets you use media "tags" in your HTML code, rather than fussing with overly complicated syntax or plug-ins like Shockwave. To make a long story short, the Music Boxes project provides you with some basic HTML code and instructions to help create the site picture above, and associate various musical tones (which come with the Music Boxes project download) to the individual colored boxes. The result is that when you click on a box, the browser plays a tone. With a mouse, this means you can play one tone at a time.

Using a combination of HTML and Javascript, however, you can associate the various tone files with keyboard keys, turning your QWERTY keyboard into a virtual synthesizer. Enter the Makey Makey. Using the five Makey Makey buttons (keys), I was able to take the Google Coder Music Box code and write my own little program and create a real-life "synthesizer" that my colleagues and I could play together in our faculty lounge. Here are some images of the result. Not an elegant first stab, I'll admit, but I have plans in the works for the next iteration already!




Sunday, May 18, 2014

Technology in the World Language Classroom

Last Tuesday (5/13/14) Lower School Academic Technologist Jen and I attended our monthly MEMSET meeting at Tenacre Country Day School in Wellesley. We were pleased to meet Mercé Garcia, a Spanish teacher from The Chestnut Hill School.  Mercé Garcia's presentation was on the use of technology in teaching foreign language. Mercé has a wealth of creative ideas (and energy!) on how to incorporate technology in education. Below is a list of tech-tools she is using in her classroom. Although the examples she shared with us just use technology to teach language, the same tools can easily be applied to other subject areas. Please let myself or Jen know if you would like to learn more; we would be happy to chat with you about your ideas.

World Language Tech Tools:

Friday, May 9, 2014

8th Grade Science Journal

The BB&N 8th grade class of 2014 designed and conducted field studies at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA. The Knight Science Web Journal is a compilation of all of those reports. Here is a link to see it:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Exploring the Maker Movement

Perhaps you've heard of the Maker Movement, Design Thinking, Fab Labs or tinkering? They all refer to an educational movement embracing an iterative process of solving problems. This is nothing new in educational pedagogy, but what is new is the enthusiasm and energy circulating around the connection of this process with new technology devices such as 3D printers, rasberry Pis and arduino circuit boards. These devices give designers ways to create new artifacts or tinker around with simple programs to create an effect or some kind of output. Here are some links and a video to explore to learn more!

Monday, April 21, 2014

4th graders part of a world wide Scratch project

The first Saturday of each month, there is a meet up at the MIT Media Lab for those local, Boston-area educators who are interested in sharing idea about Scratch.

At a meetup this past winter, I met a teacher who linked to a World Music project page which includes songs from students in many parts of the globe.  This has been a wonderful way to link students from many backgrounds and to help promote world peace.

BB&N 4th grade students learned a song in English and Swahili called, "Together", made a recording and they are now included in the project.  Fly over the world and have the dove descend over Boston and you will find us!

Debbie Slade, LS Music

Monday, April 14, 2014

Brief Redux of AERA 2014 and Participatory Learning

I was at the American Education Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, and in addition to meeting a whole slew of amazing scholars, particularly in the field of the Learning Sciences, I was greatly encouraged by the research and work being done with technology in support of student learning. Interest in educational technologies is growing fast, and is gaining a lot of momentum due to large philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Macarthur Foundation, both of which seem to be fueling a rapidly innovating field. This is exciting. In years past, it seems that much of the research being done in education technology surrounded behaviorist theories of cognition and learning, and focused heavily on the concept of “transfer” - being able to apply the knowledge gained in one domain in other areas. Nowadays, it seems that “learning as participation” has garnered a lot of attention, placing a much-needed focus on student autonomy, authority, and the production of learning artifacts. These form much of the basis of student-centered pedagogies, and are part of the growing popularity in interest-driven learning, such as maker-spaces and digital media hubs, and even “gaming*”.

*I put the word “gaming” here in quotes, because typically, the term “educational game” inspires a lot of suspicion and skepticism, and belief that “gaming” is synonymous with “entertainment”. A lot of media attention and venture capital have been given to educational games that fit this description, and while this is great for Silicon Valley, such games have questionable value for education on the whole (test preparation, maybe, but critical thinking, collaboration, civic action?). But while these entertainment games seem to dominate our perception of gaming in school, there has been considerable research done on what aspects of games actually foster learning, and promote engagement, persistence, and reflection. Anyone familiar with James Paul Gee’s work for instance, will tell you that education has a lot to learn about gaming, without watering down content, or sacrificing rigor, in favor of entertainment.

A great primer on the “participation as learning” approach is Henry Jenkins’ work on “Participatory Culture”. Basically, this approach to learning suggests that by engaging in community-based practices, such as collaborating on a media project together, contributing to the knowledge of fan forums (such as the Minecraft forum), remixing songs or other cultural artifacts, we are in a sense, learning by doing - coordinating distributed knowledge resources (people, tools, websites, etc.) across multiple multimedia, jointly solving problems (especially community-based problems), appropriating materials to remix them for an audience, apprenticing people into the valued practices and ways of thinking about the world around us.

A central part of this type of learning is developing literacies across multiple domains, and applying those literacies in ways to empower our students and ourselves. Nichole Pinkard, whose work focuses on youth-based programs for developing digital literacies. Through the use of mentors to learn various digital tools, students in Pinkard’s Digital Youth Network who develop a strong passion for a medium can then go on to mentor younger/less-experienced students with similar interests.

Another significant aspect of this type of learning, and one is seems to be just finally gaining some legitimacy in schools, is social networking - building connections across settings to access knowledge resources. Facebook and Twitter come to mind as obvious examples of social networking, and these have largely been used for un-academic purposes. But that does not mean they are not powerful tools for things like mobilizing political action (remember the Arab Spring?), or building connections with professionals and experts in a field (see Jen Lavenberg’s post on Personal Learning Networks).

These areas of participation and learning are invaluable for our children, especially since many of them are already doing these things. The trouble is that many children might not see the connection between participating in digital ecologies and “what counts” as learning in school. The question we need to start asking, is how we can legitimize their participation as a valued part of learning, and how we can incorporate the vast range of resources we now have access to into ways of teaching that actually empower students.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Professional Development For School & Life

Being an educator today is not only about preparing lessons for your next class; it is also about staying in-tune with what tools might excite your students and prepare them for the future. As this may seem like an overwhelming task, the question becomes how do you keep up to date with all of the latest ideas, innovations, and tools to use in your classroom?

Building a personal learning network (PLN) can help educators stay in-tune with new ideas and tools to use in school and in their personal lives. A personal learning network is a community of people and organizations that help you learn about the latest and greatest news in your profession. Below I have listed my top 5 PLN recommendations for teachers and for life.

#5. Common Sense Media has so many great resources for school and personal use. The organization's mission is to improve the lives of kids and their families by educating learners of all ages about what it means to be in a world with an abundance of information and technology. Common Sense posts many articles about internet safety, new media ideas, and has a large database of  reviews for apps (iOS and Android), websites, and games.

#4. EduSlam is a great website where users can listen to what best teaching practices educators are doing around the world in just under five minutes. These videos as short and sweet, helping educators think outside the classroom.

#3. EdTechTeacher & Edutopia Blogs are my go to places for inspiration. Whether I am reading about social/emotional lessons, integrating technology into the classroom,  or lessons that lead educators to change the way we teach, I am never disappointed.

#2. Twitter is a great way to get an assortment of links if you follow fellow educators. I like to think of Twitter as the community bulletin board. If you find a great link, article, or idea you pin it up on the board for your teacher friends to see. You can get a variety of information just by following 3-5 people. Below I have listed 5 "movers and shakers" in the education field I recommend following on Twitter.
1. Edutopia (@edutopia)
2. Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne)
3. Kristen Wideen (@mrswideen)
4. Beth Holland (@brholland)
5. Edudemic (@edudemic)

#1. TED Radio Hour (Podcast) is a great way to listen to "ideas that are worth spreading." Each week the show has a theme, and NPR will collect a few TED Talks that relate to the theme. The TED speakers' do an amazing job storytelling different ideas and opinions. For someone who looses interest quickly, I find it very enjoyable because each story is about 15 minutes long. I really enjoyed listening to January 17th's theme Disruptive Leadership.  As an educator it helped me process new ideas, take risks, and reflect on my practice. I would recommend TED Radio Hour to anyone as a personal or professional development resource. This podcast can be found through the Apple Podcast app or through

Thursday, March 13, 2014

5 Key Questions That Can Change the World

My most recent 4th grade Internet Safety lesson on "scams and schemes," which was primarily about email and IM spam, and today's 5th Grade Internet Safety lesson called "Selling Stereotypes" reminded me of an article I read years ago about media literacy and the five key questions that we should be teaching our students to ask themselves any time they interact with media- whether it be a newspaper or magazine article, a textbook or another book, a print ad, a movie, a TV show or commercial, or a music video.  The "Five Key Questions that can change the World," as the Center for Media Literacy calls them, are as follows:
  1. Who created this message?
  2. What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
  3. How might different people understand this message differently than me?
  4. What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?
  5. Why is this message being sent?
The above questions align with the following core concepts of media literacy:
  1. All messages are "constructed."
  2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
  3. Different people experience the same media message differently.
  4. Media have embedded values and points of view.
  5. Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.
Teaching our students these questions and concepts encourages them to look at media content and the choices that were made in constructing it; the format of media and the way it is constructed; the idea that our differences can influence the way we interpret media; the subtle messages included in media that depict values, attitudes, and points of view; and the purpose of or motive behind media "beyond the basic content motives of informing, persuading, or entertaining."  Viewing the media from this perspective with a more critical eye gives students the opportunity to explore it on a deeper level.