Our team is very excited to present at the next Google Apps Summit at the San Diego County Office for Education. We will be presenting at 10am on Google Scripts on Monday, January 28th. It has been an endeavor we have been working over the last few months. Leveraging the power of Google Scripting, we have developed or in the process of developing applications that support academic, operations, and administration systems in our Google Apps for Edu domain. Hope to see you there!
When I first heard rumors of the iPad mini, I immediately asked myself how much this device will cost. I definitely see schools jumping at the opportunity to bring iOS devices at a lower price point than the $499 and up regular iPad. However, when I read rumors on the suggested pricing on the new iPad mini ($249), it lead to another question, what will happen to the price of the iPod Touch. Currently, the new iPod touch starts at $299 (32GB) and can go up to $399 (64GB). Yes, the new iPod Touch will have the retina display and the supposed iPad mini will not, but does that justify pricing the iPod Touch more than the iPad mini. With the release of the iPad Mini, they will really be releasing an in the middle version of the iPad and iPod Touch. I just hope Apple strategically prices it as such…what I really want is the iPod Touch to go down in pricing to about $100-150. My elementary students and teachers would love that pricing entry point. Maybe Apple will make an 8GB or 16GB version of iPod Touch to retail lower. We shall see…
It has been awhile since I last posted an entry on my blog. It is one of those peaks in my workload where I am in full operations mode and have very little time for reflection. In lieu of my lack of effort, I would like to highlight a new blog that is providing valuable insight in education called TeachSupport. I highly recommend visiting the site. Happy Reading!
From the About page of TeachSupport:
TeachSupport facilitates reflection and collaboration around practical issues in pedagogy. Our mission is to support teacher development, particularly that of educators new to the profession, by supporting continuous improvement. We believe that the most meaningful professional development happens when teachers are (1) empowered to explore aspects of their own practice, (2) acquire new knowledge and resources, and (3) actively apply best practices within a supportive community of educators. Based out of a charter network in San Diego, TeachSupport delivers quality professional development to support teachers and students alike.
After listening to Dr. Yong Zhao this past Tuesday, it reinvigorated a concept I hold dearly in this 21st century environment: taking ownership of your own professional career. To quote Dr. Zhao from his recent ISTE 2012 keynote, “you don’t wait for someone to create a job for you, you go out there to create a job for yourself.” Spending the last four days at ISTE, I was further convinced that our innovative teachers are expanding their own horizons (theme of the conference) and creating 2.0 versions of their professional career. It is nothing really revolutionary, but it has been amplified with the rise of ICT (Information Communication Technologies). Some teachers are considered “Rockstars” and have become professional icons to many; in fact, I bet some are making more money on the speaking circuit than they probably make as a teacher back at their school district. I certainly know a few teachers who left the traditional classroom and branched into independent consulting. Many teachers have written books, produced educational videos, created hashtags used by many, designed software, garnered thousands of Twitter followers, developed global Nings and continue to deliver professional development around the world. I mean this is stuff that definitely was not in their job description originally as a teacher, but has become an entrepreneurial endeavor based from their classroom teaching. It is important to note that many are not driven by the money (being an entrepreneur doesn’t always equate to monetary gain) from these endeavors, although I am sure a little side money doesn’t hurt. I am impressed and support how these teachers have branded themselves and evolved their career to something bigger than they have probably imagined going into a teaching career.
As Dr. Yong Zhoa highlighted in his keynote, it is the rise of the creative class and people with unique specialized skills. The talented teachers I have met are as creative as anyone, and have unique skills of authentic teaching with the “entrepreneurial” spirit of sharing their skills in branded ways (whether driven by $ or not). He further describes in his keynote the need to move towards entrepreneurial-based education and that schooling needs to be product-oriented. From the many great PLN that I finally met face-to-face, I see educators who are truly modeling what Dr. Zhao has been preaching in his keynote and new book: World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. The next layer is to bring this mindset and culture into our classrooms and students.
Please DM at @socratech if you are interested in this position in Downtown San Diego.
High School Technology Teacher 2012-2013 School Year
King-Chavez Community High School is seeking a high level technology teacher to come work with us in downtown San Diego. Our mission statement is “We are a local school with a global vision that empowers people through education and love.” Moving into our fourth year of operation, we are a charter high school seeking dedicated and passionate educators who are committed to providing our students with an innovative and outstanding education. We seek a technology teacher who can deliver a dynamic curriculum in an effective, innovative way. Teacher must have a current, valid California Single Subject teaching credential in Computer Science. Computer programming skills necessary include: Java, C++, scripting, SQL, multimedia skills including Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator and Final Cut Pro. Teachers at King-Chavez must have strong communication and interpersonal skills, classroom management skills, and the firm belief in the potential of all students to succeed and go to college.
Please send applications to email@example.com.
It is unfortunately common to hear the following words from administration, “budgets are getting cut.” Again, again, every year, the same words are uttered with such regularity that we wonder how schools even operate in today’s economic climate. Yea, it might be a bit of an hyperbole, however, there are a lot of evident challenges our classrooms teachers face when trying to innovate in the classrooms. For example, engaging students in 21st century learning continues to frustrate teachers who are trying to procure digital access devices in their classrooms. And as we all know, technology is not like buying pencils and construction paper. In today’s financial environment, it is imperative that teachers find alternative ways to fund their innovations without going to their administration begging for money. Fortunately, with the proliferation of web 2.0, there are a growing number of sites that provide funding opportunities for teachers. Below are 5 sites that teachers have used to fund projects for their classroom:
Kickstarter: The fastest growing site funding innovative projects (not just in education) is Kickstarter. Kickstarter’s mission is to provide a funding platform for any creative projects. This site has been used by artists, film directors, entrepreneurs, and educators to help raise money for projects like making documentaries, turning a bus into a mobile greenhouse, and tshirts. Here is a great example of a Kickstarter education project: The Food Lab at Walker Jones
DonorsChoose: The most well known site funding school and classroom projects is DonorsChoose. I was fortunate to have been funded by DonorsChoose 10 times when I use to teach my engineering class. Here is my DonorsChoose page as examples of projects that were funded: Mr. Chan’s DonorsChoose Page. Whenever I facilitate professional development on DonorsChoose, I always recommend the following 5 tips in writing your first grant proposal. 1. Keep it under $300. 2. Ask for hands-on type projects 3. Share it with all your friends and family. 4. Research what match donors are funding 5. Brand your project differently than the ones similar to yours.
Support Your Teacher: Every school year, the famous classroom supply list is given to parents in hopes to get enough materials to last the school year. While some are successful at the beginning, most don’t get all their supply needs fulfilled. Support Your Teacher is a site striving to not to have teachers spend any money out of their own pocket, and let the greater community fulfill those lists.
Adopt a Classroom: Similar to Support Your Teachers, Adopt a Classroom provides teachers the opportunity to fund classroom projects by having donors adopt their classroom. It is a simple five step process that includes the following: 1. Selecting a classroom 2. 100% Donations given to the classroom (No Fees) 3. Resources ordered 4. Impact report on teacher’s part 5. Interaction between donors and teachers such as student work. Through financial support from foundations and businesses, Adopt a Classroom doesn’t have to charge any admin fees like Kickstarter and DonorsChoose.
Teacher’s Wish List: Another website that started orginally for schools in Ashland, MA, but now has been made available for all teachers in the US to use as a connection between donor and teacher wish lists. Teacher’s Wish List is a no frills, simple and free database system for teacher’s to create wish lists and sharing with the greater community.
Google announced recently the new Chromebox, which is a compact form factor computing device running Chrome OS. While the Chromebooks are gaining popularity with schools, I am intrigued with the Chromebox at the price point of $329. With 4GB of RAM, dual-band WiFi, display output ports (HDMI, DVI, VGA), and 6 USB ports, it might be a sensible option for schools who want to leverage existing desktop infrastructure. Since monitors tend to last longer than your computing devices, using the Chromebox might be a cheaper option to replace your legacy desktops. It has more processing power and memory than the $349 Samsung Series 5 Chromebook. Obviously, you will need to move to a Google and cloud environment. But if that is not an issue, than replacing your desktops with Chromebox while recycling existing monitors, keyboards, and mice might just be the right budget solution for schools. Oh btw…it will surely decrease technical support issues for the IT department.
CNET gives it an Editor’s Rating of 3/5 stars. Here is the full review: Samsung Chromebox Series 3
Another in depth review of Chromebooks, Chromebox, and Chrome OS: Chrome OS Grows Up
Recently, I had the unique opportunity to visit the country of Ghana and work with teachers and proprietors in how to integrate technology within their schools. It was inspiring to see passionate educators wanting to use technology in their schools. They persevered for 7 days learning how to use ICT tools and learned how to effectively integrate these tools in their curriculum. We ended with a culminating project where each group was given a specific technology tool and was asked to create a lesson plan how to effectively integrate technology with a Ghanaian education standard. While I was there to teach and train, I certainly learned more than I taught.
Here is the Edify blog post about the training: Teacher Training in Ghana
Here are some pictures from my trip:
It was pretty cool to see how the Ghanaians revere Barack Obama. His picture was on various notebooks and even on pencil boxes.
Sometimes you needed back up generators and prepaid electricity cards to power up the computer labs.
Students working on Khan Academy and other offline educational software.
STEaM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, is not simply a list of subjects that are to be taught, but more of an educational approach to teaching and learning. Although there are several models of implementing a STEaM program, we have developed a model based around the Engineering Design Process (EDP). Although the EDP is typically used in the professional field, we have formatted the process in the context of K12 education.
The Engineering Design Process is a five step cycle where teachers create an inquiry-based learning environment that stimulates students to learn through questioning and doing. The five steps are the following: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create and Improve. Within each of those steps, and transitions, there are teaching and learning strategies that help facilitate the process. Below describes the cycle in the context of K12 STEaM education.
Although the first step in the cycle is to ask the right questions before beginning any process, teachers often begin with step 3, the Plan. In K12 education, it is not uncommon to teach with the “plan” as the focus, and inadvertently bypass two important steps of what are we trying to do/learn, and giving students opportunities to imagine the topic/problem in question. When one skip steps 1 and 2, what often occurs is that teachers give away what we call the “formula” or “step-by-step” plans of solving problems. While understanding the steps are important skills, it is only one part of the process of learning. Students who are simply given the formula in the book are fixated on how to systematically solve an equation and not taught how to truly problem solve. Instead of developing critical thinking skills, the unfortunate outcome is that students are taught to memorize steps and practice rote techniques.
|Dan Meyer (http://perplexity.mrmeyer.com/) is a teacher who models how to engage students in math before jumping to the formula in the textbook. He offers several examples in how to introduce math concepts by allowing the students to ask the right questions, allow opportunities to imagine and formulate the problem (without giving it to the students), and leveraging multimedia tools to enhance the experience.|
The first step in a solid STEaM program is to build a curriculum established on asking the right questions. Fundamentally, we are trying to provide insight on common questions found in STEaM studies, such as “why am I learning math?” And if you are in middle school math or above, why am I studying Algebra? It is important to build curriculum that puts Algebra or other mathematical concepts in context of real-world applications. In helping guide those questions, a well-thought out socratic seminar will put the context around Step 3 (Plan) and give opportunities for divergent thoughts around the same topic.
It is in Step 2 (Imagine), that teachers give students opportunities to ask questions that will guide them to formulate the problem that needs to be solved. In this context, students are discovering the learning, and not given the answer. Strategically, a teacher will guide the questions and divergent thoughts into converging ideas, ultimately leading to Step 3, the Plan. The work and effort to get to Step 3 gives students the foundations and context of the formula, rather than searching for the formula in the textbook.
|Step 3 Differentiated: Using Blended Approaches
To provide more personalized instructional approaches to learning, a blended learning model can help facilitate Step 3 in a more efficient manner.
The first 3 steps of the Engineering Design Process remain in the theoretical framework of learning. In order to provide experiential opportunities, a well-rounded STEaM program will need to integrate the application layers of the model, which are Steps 4 (Create), and Steps 5 (Improve). Once students have established theoretical proficiency of content, teachers can elevate the learning experience by introducing project-based activities around the content. It is in Step 4 that students experience STEaM in its fullest by providing opportunities to transform the theory into practical hands-on experiences. In this level, students are building, designing, creating, and experimenting with the content in ways textbooks could never provide. It is important to develop a strong project-based curriculum that strategically brings together the theoretical frameworks into practical design applications.
The last step of the Engineering Design Process is giving students opportunities to improve upon their creation. In a test taking culture, we often create an environment of a pass-fail mentality. Step five is the opposite of that mentality, where failure is looked upon as an opportunity to improve the design. The ideal EDP fosters a culture of trial-and-error and that improvement is a sign of self-direction and evaluation. When students are in the improvement level, rubrics and portfolio-based assessments help guide the evaluation process. If designed correctly, students would be documenting the process right from the beginning in a portfolio that can be referenced, improved, and edited along the way.
The culmination of the Engineering Design Process can lead to three desired outcomes for any given topic. The first outcome is referencing back to the original question that the project asked and determining if it was appropriately addressed. The second outcome is determining that the original question was just the beginning, and that one has to ask a higher level of questions to get to the desired outcome; therefore going through the EDP again. The last outcome is what engineers call innovation, the creation of something new that addresses a problem. In K12 education, an important last step of the EDP process is providing students a platform called Mountain Top to share all their hard work, no matter the outcome. The Mountain Top can present itself in many forms, such as digital portfolios, competitions, debates, showcases, science fairs, videos, and more.
|Big Ideas Around the Engineering Design Process
Step 1: Ask to Step 2: Imagine
Step 2: Imagine to Step 3: Plan
Step 3: Plan to Step 4: Create
Step 4: Create to Step 5: Improve
Step 5: Improve and Beyond