Resnick’s Four Cs

This week I have been re-reading Mitchel Resnick’s “Lifelong Kindergarten” and thinking about the teacher’s role in the classroom or other kind of learning/collaborating space. In the “Peers” section of his book Resnick outlines four Cs that he envisions for classroom teachers and Computer Clubhouse mentors:

Catalyst: By asking good questions the teacher can provide the “spark that accelerates learning.” The teacher/mentor provides the conditions and resources for learners to follow their own curiosity.

Consultant: This is the oft-cited “guide on the side” model in which the teacher does not lead the learning through didactic teaching techniques but rather provides expertise and feedback as needed while learners experiment and explore.

Connector: No teacher/mentor has all of the knowledge and experience for all possible learning experiences (at least in truly open-ended experiences). Locating specialized mentors for learners, whether inside or outside the physical learning space, is a crucial role for teachers and mentors.

Collaborator: Excellent teachers and mentors follow their own passions and model this to their learners. Inviting learners to work together on a task, a problem, or even an entire project demonstrates the openness that we want all of our learners to develop.

More great ideas from “Lifelong Kindergarten” can be found in Resnick’s book itself and you can read more about the book and author as well as reader reviews in Good Reads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34889378-lifelong-kindergarten

Scratch 3.0 is here…በአማርኛ!

On January 2nd Scratch 3.0 was released by MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Program. This newest version of Scratch comes with some amazing new features:

  • an update to the user interface which includes a single, scrollable code menu,
  • the addition of Google Translate and text to speech, and
  • micro:bit support to the Extensions code.

I made a small remix to celebrate Scratch 3.0…and also the release of Scratch in Amharic translation!

Over two years ago in Addis Ababa I worked with a great teacher named Leulseged Assefa to organize a group of student volunteers to begin the work of translating from English to Amharic. The progress was slow but steady and was chronicled on the ECIS TID blog (At the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Code) and also in the April issue of The International Educator (ICS Addis and MIT Translate Scratch Into Amharic).

I am grateful to these great students for their work and proud that Scratch is now even more accessible to young people in Ethiopia and around the globe. 

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/276663935/embed

From CSM: Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Fortnite

Does your child or teen play Fortnite or have friends who do? Are you looking for information about the game itself, why kids and teens like it, and whether or not it might be a good choice for your own daughter or son?

Always a great resource for parents, Common Sense Media (CSM) have created a guide for parents that provides answers to your questions about this very popular game and the social phenomenon that is has become with young people. CSM includes a well-reasoned age recommendation for Fortnite and several reasonable caution messages for you and your student.

An open, ongoing conversation with your daughter or son about their gaming life is an important parenting tool. Being well-informed will help you to feel more comfortable with those conversations and can also help you to better understand your child’s interests and the peer relationships that make gaming so important to some of them.

Click on the link in this sentence to read the Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Fortnite on the CSM website. You can also watch their video synopsis below.

Outside the Skinner Box

The phrase “technology and education” usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way. Moreover, if the gadgets are computers, the same old teaching becomes incredibly more expensive and biased towards its dumbest parts, namely the kind of rote learning in which measurable results can be obtained by treating the children like pigeons in a Skinner box.
– Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon

With this quote, firebrand-cum-iconoclast Gary Stager kicks off one of his more nuanced articles about the amazing potential of digital age tools to promote revolutionary learning.

In “Outside the Skinner Box” Stager lays out a familiar list of woes like the following:

  • “low-levels of technological fluency”,
  • “student empowerment remain controversial”,
  • “hysterical policies and cumbersome network obstacles”,
  • “‘devices’ with less and less computing power”, and
  • “the low-hanging fruit of ‘information access,’ note taking, and purposes of even less value”

Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing Stager speak or read from his extensive body of published work will recognize these topics. Stager is quick to point out the shortcomings of modern education and its less than progressive embrace of technology, placing most of what constitutes modern teaching and learning firmly in the behavioralist category. (Overview of Learning Theories)

Stager posits educational technology two myths which are holding back schools, teachers, and students even as the world around schools hums along at the speed of Moore’s Law. Those myths are:

  1. Technology is neutral.
  2. Technology changes constantly.

With the first myth, Stager asserts that “all hardware and software bestow agency on one of three parties: the system, the teacher, or the learner.” By this he explains that tools and services can benefit one of these parties at any given time, but never all three. A student information system  or school-home communication tool primarily benefit the system; interactive whiteboards and plagiarism detection software primarily benefit teachers; a 1:1 device program primarily benefits learners.

With the second, Stager decries the prevalence of “Wordles, note taking, looking stuff up, word-processing essays, and making PowerPoint presentations on topics students don’t care about for audiences they’ll never encounter” as the lowest common denominator of educational technology.

What sets this article apart for me is that Stager moves beyond these troubling myths and tackles the challenge of visualizing true change: What would success look like in Gary Stager’s World? Using series of topics and short paragraphs, Stager spells out a  vision that includes personal fabrication, physical computing, and programming which are all familiar topics to Stager’s fanbase. He goes on, however, to add awareness, governance, vision and consistent leadership to this growing list of necessary ingredients.

The list concludes with professional development, high expectations, and learning by doing. These last three are the key, in my opinion, to bringing about change in any system or environment and I strongly encourage you to read Gary Stager’s entire article below to feel challenged and inspired to be a leader for educational change in your own school.

Stager, Gary. “Outside the Skinner Box.” National Association of Independent Schools, Winter 2015, http://www.nais.org/magazine/independent-school/winter-2015/outside-the-skinner-box/. Accessed 1 Sept. 2018.

Planning a Student-Led IT Helpdesk

Summer is here and I am working through some plans from Spring 2018 for Fall 2018. One of the ideas that I am most excited about is a student-led helpdesk in the IT Department to provide assistance and hopefully inspiration to our staff and students.

My first stop along this path was a visit with our CAS Coordinator to discuss the possibility of bridging our DP program and the IT Helpdesk. She was very happy to hear that students could work with us to provide this service to our school community and we had a very productive discussion about CAS itself and the ways that students activities can satisfy that DP requirement.

She also suggested that I immediately begin promoting the IT Helpdesk to students so that they can begin to make their plans for Fall 2018. I placed an information slide in our Daily Report, which is displayed on monitors around our school throughout the school day, and also sent an announcement to the HS student Google Group. I now have half a dozen student volunteers who are eager to help!

I sent out a brief survey to the volunteers to find out more about when and how they would like to help and found that most of them would like to work within the school day (as compared to before or after school or during a lunch break). This means that we will have to wait for scheduling to be completed before we know exactly when they will be available to work the IT Helpdesk, but at least the idea is taking shape: There will be a student-led IT Helpdesk available during the week sometime between 8:30 and 3:15.

The next step is to work with the volunteers to sort out many of the details in early August:

  • Where will the IT Helpdesk actually be? In the IT Workroom? In the cafeteria? In a hallway or the reception area?
  • Which services can we reasonably offer at a student-led IT Helpdesk?
  • How will we tell the school community (staff and students) about this new service?
  • What training or support will these students need from me and the IT Department?

As these discussions take place and decisions are made I will post updates here.

What do you think we need to add to our list of considerations?

What I learned from hosting Screenagers

A few months ago I was approached by a new parent at our school who wanted to know if our school community had seen and discussed the documentary Screenagers by Dr. Delaney Ruston. Although Kim and I had discussed this movie privately, I wasn’t sure our school and community had the interest or resources to bring this event and its ideas to our campus.

I was pleased to discover that our school had community and faculty interest as well as the necessary resources to make this event happen. The screening itself was a success and I learned some great things in the process.

  • Parents get things done: Our Parent Association was onboard with this screening almost immediately and provided all of the funding. They even opted to make the screening free to the community to maximize participation.
  • Let others lead: Our Communications Officer Katharine Mudra took the lead in promoting Screenagers to our community. She leveraged all of her skills and expertice to get the word out via Twitter, Facebook and our own WordPress-based Community Portal.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel: The Screenagers “package” includes a nice collection of collateral materials for promoting the film and also facilitating discussions afterwards. I adapted the materials (pulling the lists of questions into Slides presentations) and found them to be well-suited to generating the discussions we hoped for.
  • Open dialog is the goal: Parents loved the movie and brought many their observations and questions to the table when we discussed the movie both on the night of the screening and later at a Morning Connections event in our MS/HS Library. Students were apprehensive going into the week (“Here comes the bad news!”) but seemed happy that what we all wanted was balance (for all of us) and open dialog about how electronic media were impacting all of our lives.

https://www.screenagersmovie.com/

New Google Certified Educators

Last evening six of my colleagues sat down with me in the MS HS Library to take the Level 1 exam for Google Certified Educators. Four of them are High School teachers (two English teachers, geography, mathematics) and two are from our Early Childhood program (Kindergarten and Grade 2), including one Apple Distinguished Educator. These teachers passed with flying colors and will receive a certificate from Google and a badge to display proudly in the signature line of their email or in their CV or portfolio.

As Google Certified Educators, these teachers have demonstrated not only the skills required to effectively use G Suite services like Drive, Sites, Calendar and Classroom, but also the thoughtful application of these tools in their own teaching and learning. These teachers dedicated their own time to learning and preparing for the exam (half are in my Google Step Up course) as well as the necessary extra time and resources for the exam itself.

I am very proud to be working with these new Google Certified Educators and look forward to what they will do next!

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