Friday, December 13, 2013

Dayton, David

"How 'Flipped' Classrooms are Turning the Traditional School Day Upside-Down"

I just saw this in my Google news feed a few days back -- Newshour did a brief bit on flipped classrooms, interviewing principals and teachers involved in the process and highlighting some of the benefits.  The comments section on the page had me thinking, though -- some folks were drawing connections between this model and the traditional university seminar model, while others raised the question of motivation on the part of the students at home.

The only thing that disturbed me is that the presentation seemed to imply that there is an either/or situation here -- either a classroom consists of teachers lecturing in front of the class, and the class practices at home, OR the class reads/watches the lecture at home, then practices in class.  Logically, though, a well-designed classroom learning environment should have both direct instruction (the lecture) and teacher-assisted practice of skills (guided and independent practice).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Writing Text Adventures in the Classroom

Dayton, David

McCall, J. (2011). Student-designed text-based simulation games for learning history: A practical approach to using Inform 7 in the history classroom. Retrieved from

McCall makes the case that as games are engaging, they can serve as fruitful too in the world of education. However, McCall doesn't call for playing games – he calls for having students create games. Students used Inform 7 (a natural language text adventure scripting program) to create simple simulations of the ancient Roman world. Students had to work in groups to create a world framework, then expand upon it using their knowledge (and research) of the ancient Roman world. McCall notes that higher-level thinking skills were necessary for world development, as students had to determine how people of the period would act, what was possible, and what interactions were logical between the player and the people of ancient Rome. Students delved deeper into history by creating a textual simulation of it – students examined and attempted to understand history because it became meaningful to them in the creation of the games.

McCall's proposal is a rather good one – it appears that it took his high school history class, spent 2.5 class sessions (50 minutes each) teaching the scripting language and about three sessions with students working on the simulations. Engagement was very high (10 out of 60 even went on to develop additional simulations on their own), and the team aspect of the lesson appeared to have worked well. I'd like to try using Inform 7 with my middle school students at some point, although I'm not sure I can set aside the appropriate amount of time to properly teach the Inform 7 language. However, if the result in a greater appreciation of the subject matter, it would seem very well worth it – especially as this simulation can be extended to other time periods and subjects throughout the course of the year, potentially taking the place of other measures of assessment.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The New School Library

Abarbanel, E., Davis, S., Hand, D., & Wittmer, M. (2013). The new school library. Independent School, 72(4), 68-74.

In the article by Abarbanel Davis, Hand & Wittmer discuss what a new school library might look like and what role the school librarian would have in the learning commons at a school.  Their working definition of a Learning Commons is “a term that refers to a mixed-use space for research, study, collaboration, and global connection.” The authors also mention the concept of Makerspace where the library is focused on production such as using digital cameras and photo manipulation software (p. 70).  When transitioning a school library to becoming a learning commons there needs to be thought in how the school wants to use the space and setting up the infrastructure to support the technology.

The article also discusses the role of the librarian serving as a bridge between the information desired and the student who is searching for that information. No longer are librarians gatekeepers of volumes of books but facilitators that share tools to not only access information but also analyze it for credibility and reliability. The librarian is also not just doing a read-aloud to younger students but supporting literacy at different levels through planned activities with teachers.  School librarians are collaborating with teachers and working closely with teachers relating to curriculum.  Also mentioned is good libraries are not just quiet places of academic research but also students working together using technology as a tool to learning in different ways and accessing information.

There was a chart that impressed me on page 73 entitled “What’s Hot & What’s Not”. 
  The overall message given of this chart was what libraries are and will be vs. the old paradigm of a library.  This proved to be eye-opening for me since I am working in the old paradigm and am looking forward about changing my school library. Finding like minds and the time is difficult.  The big question for me is forming a team of people that that can guide this paradigm shift to a learning commons.

This article was a review of information I have come across before but at the same time was thought provoking in getting me to think about what my role is now at my school and what role I strive to have.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Difference Between the Ideal and the Reality of Tech in our Schools

Rene Hohls

Gates, Zuckerberg Pour Money Into School Connectivity Plan
"The recipient of those investments, EducationSuperHighway, will use the money to help train schools to use and manage broadband connections while cutting down on costs.... Most recently, the organization joined with Gates' foundation to lead $4 million in seed funding for Panorama Education, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company which creates and analyzes surveys for K-12 schools." So who is the real beneficiary of this philanthropy? That is a question we all should consider. Does the benefit to students justify the benefit to the investors and the future return on that investment that they are counting on. These non-profits will not "profit" by way of cash or financial gain in this transaction; the real profit will come from the positioning that will result and the increased leverage as these companies lobby the Federal Government for faster broadband across the country and easier and cheaper access to it.

Regardless of the financial in's and out's of bringing real technology solutions and infrastructure to our schools, two particularly chilling points come to light as a result of the research done in preparation for Gates' and Zuckerberg's seed money:

From the blog post:
   1)  Based on information it has gathered through partnerships with 26 state departments of education, the organization's research found that more than 70 percent of public schools lack the bandwidth required for digital learning.
   2)  While interest in 1-to-1 student-to-digital-device programs and other digital-learning efforts continues to grow, education technology experts estimate that 40 million students lack sufficient broadband access in their schools.

Doubling the FCC E-rate program funding (currently at $2.4 billion) is another option for increasing the connectivity in our nation's schools, but this funding is discretionary for school sites with little oversight and few standardized guidelines for universal tech spending. Schools spend it in what ever way they believe will work best at their school site - the opposite of good connectivity planning. The essence of the Local Control Funding Formula is one of the biggest pitfalls for student outcomes.

So while we have looked at the ideal of amazing possibilities of technology in the library and the limitless roles of the school librarian and physical and virtual learning commons that can be the heart of learning within a school, the reality is that for 70% of schools in the U.S. having a well-appointed school library and a well-trained and valued librarian ready to meet students where they are and help them find the resource that will open the doors of their mind may be the real ideal for right now.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Teachable Moments for Digital Citizenship

Rene Hohls

A Visual Guide To Teaching Students Digital Citizenship Skills

From Edudemic - Connecting Education and Technology
By Katie Lepi on November 23, 2013

This is just a quick little tidbit on Digital Citizenship. Using a fabulous infographic from Mary White, it illustrates the importance of teachable moments for modeling digital citizenship skills for students. By putting these skills into the context of real classroom and and everyday life experiences, digital citizenship becomes a usable and relevant skills rather than an abstract concept that sounds good but is often taught with no direct link to students' lives and experiences.

I do love my infographics and I especially love the approach here:



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Rethinking Innovation - An Infographic from Mia MacMeekin

Rene Hohls
Mia is the master of the infographic - she can visually organize and illustrate a tremendous amount of information in some of the most well-crafted infographics available for use with teachers for PD or with students in the classroom. I love her creative and innovative focus - and she and I share a professional inspiration in Sir Ken Robinson who so succinctly puts our educational system into focus.
What do you think?


And for those of you who have not met
Sir Ken Robinson.....

here is a brief introduction to his brilliant mind and some of his controversial ideas about education reform: