using social media to expand the classroom community
I have been fortunate to attend (and present at) the 2nd EdTechTeacher iPad Summit over the last two days. Much like the first summit in Boston last fall, the EdTechTeacher crew tried hard to create conversations more around the “why” of technology use rather than just the “how.”
Of course there were workshops where teachers could learn tips on good apps or workflows, but the most of the keynote speakers (in my opinion) dealt with creating the conditions for innovation that are necessary to have quality instruction using the device: Angela Maiers spoke about passion, Greg Kulowiec spoke about defining the problem (before using the tool), Justin Reich spoke about creating a culture for change, and Tom Daccord challenged attendees to define what learning looks like.
One keynote stands out, and that is the “Chicago Crew” (my nickname), the group of talented young educators from the National Teachers Elementary Academy in Chicago (names linked to blogs/class pages): Jennie Magiera (Digital Learning Coordinator), Autumn Laidler (Science teacher), and Anita Orozca (Director of Curriculum/Special Ed). They once again delivered a fast-paced prezi presentation chocked full of powerful examples of transformational teaching using technology (not just iPads). While Angela Maiers led an inspiring pep-rally on passion, these ladies modeled passionate teaching-bringing their kids into the room to explain projects with video clip interviews. As in Boston, they shared the work of Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, who developed the SAMR model for selecting, using, and evaluating technology in education. While they showed many examples of projects using the iPad and Apple apps, they always brought us back to the reason for choosing a tool and the metacognitive task the student would engage in when completing the project.
Learn more at their presentation Google site here.
Again, kudos to the EdTechTeacher team for putting practicing educators on the stage to illustrate passion and purpose!
*Here are links to my presentation Google Doc (with hyperlinks to my projects) and my slidedeck.
I am thrilled to be presenting at the second EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA at The Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center on April 11th. This is a revised version of a presentation from the first iPad Summit in November of 2012. The title is now a bit broader: From Possibilities to Practices: How iPads & Social Media are Changing Science Instruction.
My presentation in a nutshell-I am trying, once again, to show how this device and social media sites have helped create some shift in what were rather traditional science classes in a rather traditional school. If you have read other posts on this blog, I hope you realize that “it” is NOT about the what (iPad)–it is about the why (and some of the how). The EdTechTeacher crew has organized another conference around this idea.
Hope to see you in Atlanta!
Two years ago I was looking for a way to have students in my AP Environmental Science class analyze urban design during our unit on land use and management. I decided to ask students to go on a scavenger hunt of sorts, documenting examples of well and poorly designed areas in and around Charlotte, NC, USA using digital images. Flickr was the host site for our little project, and I wrote about that first experience in a previous post.
Over the last few years, I have tried to make the experience more authentic. This year, I invited a local urban planner to join our current flickr project group (see our pics in a slideshow-be sure to click show info) and participate. We did the project prior to her coming to speak to the class on urban planning issues. So, the students were front-loaded with examples around town and she knew what they were. Check out this exchange between the students and the urban planner or this one.
This little trick let us be very efficient with the 45-minute class period we had to work with that day. She gave a short presentation and then let the students participate in map activities planning the redesign/redevelopment of some actual infill sites in Charlotte.
Urban Planning Map Activity
What was even cooler was that we had a Chinese exchange student in the class. Since she did not know our community very well, I let her feature images she found online (or her sister sent to her) from her hometown. Check this out this urban planning dilemma from China:
How as else has the project changed in three years? Now I see students much more like to use Google Earth or Google Maps for aerial views or street-level views instead of taking the images with their phones in person. Not that one or the other is better, just different.
So, what do you think of our use of Flickr for a class project? Have you done one or seen other similar projects?
So I am just now getting to read Seth Godin’s Linchpin (2010)–reading for pleasure during the school year always seems to be a challenge…
While the target audience of Godin’s book seems to be business professionals, he has a number of very powerful points for educators. I was struck by one particular passage titled “The Job Versus Your Art (pp. 96-97) and these two sentences:
The job is what you do when you are told what to do.
Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it.
Those of us who have been educators for a while can reel off a list of work tasks that compromise the job: writing lesson plans, making seating charts, assembling bulletin boards, grading papers, ordering supplies, setting up lab, tearing down lab, authoring progress reports, etc…
We can also tell you all about the art of teaching. There is some art (and magic) involved in motivating a teenager to do something he or she just does not initially see any value in doing. There is also some art in getting a randomly assembled group of teenagers (your class) to collaborate and get something meaningful accomplished in 45 minutes. Just the other day I watched one of my science department members lead an amazing class. His students worked together so well conducting a physics lab that the only thing they needed him for was to get the rulers! That class period was a work of art, and it took a lot of work earlier in the year to get to that moment. If you were there that day you could appreciate the moment too, but you would not know all the time and effort he had put into building relationships with these students, showing them how to use the equipment efficiently, and getting them to trust each other as collaborators…
Godin calls the process of doing the art “the work.” So, in the end, he concludes the job is NOT the work.
I am a science teacher, but God please help me with my art…
Sometimes you read something and it is so “spot on” that you have to share it immediately. Well, I just stumbled onto this blog post about blogging by Alan Levine called “Blogging as Pointless, Incessant, Barking.”
I’ve been blogging for going on four years now. I don’t exactly recall why I got started, but I think it was due to the encouragement of some folks in my PLN. Now I can’t stop. I’m not blogging because I think I am a talented writer or because I’m building a brand or because my employer makes me. No, I’m blogging for many of the reasons Alan gives in his post, but mainly I’m blogging for me. This is an inherently selfish venture-a means for reflection on my practice and clarifying my thinking. This blog has also become a great digital portfolio for me, one that I am currently offering as a supplement to my resume for another position within my school.
I encourage you to read all of Alan’s post. It is a bit long, but worth it. I can’t say I agree with all his reasons. For example, I typically don’t blog (or tweet) personal stuff.
Finally, I have to share my favorite line from his post:
We have more than enough people writing about the top 50,000,000 ipad apps or the best tools for content curation.
Amen, brother. That is one of my biggest pet peeves from the blogosphere and the twitterverse…
Was it worth it? I am always interested in student feedback on my experiments. So, here a graph of the student feedback I got back on the SimCity Urban Design Challenge (see my previous post):
Click to enlarge
And here is their written feedback:
- I liked the project a lot and it helped me understand how city planning and managing a city works. It helped a lot since I’m a visual learner also.
- Christian Lucas Says, it actually really helped me understand how a city works. And I especially liked how it was interactive, you basically found out the hard way how a city worked and it was fun.
- I found this to be the most stressful assignment all year. I did learn from playing and it showed me how complicated managing a city is but I would never want to play this game again. For the future, I would somehow change this assignment either by making it shorter or by briefing people better on how to play.
- Even though the correlation to the unit is there, it didn’t really help much with comprehension and was really sort of frustrating.
- I thought the game was valuable because it reinforced many concepts and made me actually deal with a lot of issues that city planners have to do. But it was really challenging and frustrating as well and although I think it was beneficial to understand what city planners go through it was also stressful. Overall I liked the idea though and I think future classes should do it.
- It was helpful to a certain point. There were some things missing from the game that we went over, but many things in SimCity were helpful.
- Sim City was a good tool to use when we were learning about urban planning. While I understood the terms and programs that urban planners used before we played Sim City, the game just really reinforced how difficult it really is to maintain and expand a city.
- SimCity helped me learn zoning, and city budgets.
- I was never really that confused about what we learned in class, but the game helped explain it further.
- I thought it was a fun way of learning a lot like being involved.
If you want to know more about lessons learned from the game, you can read an account at our class blog.
Will I do this again? Probably. I just heard that Electronic Arts,the maker of SimCity, is releasing a new version designed for use in education! Check it out.
What would you do? Did any comments resonate with you?
We just wrapped up the first semester and I am trying to process the student feedback I received on three projects from my AP Environmental Science classes. This is the first of several posts about what I think I’ve learned.
This project is my first attempt to incorporate the popular video game SimCity into a unit on urban planning. I tried this in my one iPad pilot class for the current school year. I preloaded the SimCity Deluxe App on the devices for this year.
To give you some perspective, my students were involved in a 3-week unit on land use and management. Part of that unit was a look urban issues and urban planning. You can read about some of the lessons in this unit at our class blog. *Note-my students usually write the blog posts but I did for this unit as all of them had fulfilled their blogging duties for the semester, and because I also like to model blogging for them.
I’ve struggled for a few years now on how best to conduct a “lab” for this unit. Most students know nothing about urban planning, or how to go about how to make good decisions. A few years ago I started inviting an urban planner to speak. She would speak about how her planning department tries to guide local development and then she would lead the kids in a brief map activity to encourage them to think through planning challenges on undeveloped parts of our county.
Then, I added a activity where the students would spend a period playing a SimCity knock-off called Urban Plan 2001. The goal was to build as large a city as possible in 30 minutes. Between the two activities, the students developed a pretty good grasp of smart growth principles, zoning, and feedback loops. That was then. This year, I wanted to to try and push them a little further.
I had been waiting for this chance for a few years. Two years ago I found this guide about using SimCity 3000 (PC version) in education written by Margy Kuntz. After reading it, I was determined to use the simulation as a learning tool in my class. Unfortunately, my school did not use PCs…
Enter the iPad and the app. After my students played the tutorial, I challenged them to build the largest city possible with the least amount of pollution and no debt over a 5o year period (2000-2050). I gave them one day in class to play and another five to play outside of class. Students had to “turn in” their work by sending me screenshots of their total population, environmental advisor screen, and budget screen. Here is a shot of the winning city:
Our winning entry this year
So, why use a simulation like this? Well, to quote Margy Kuntz:
• Simulations encourage and require imaginative thinking rather than rote learning.
• Simulations give students experience in decision-making, and allow them to quickly see the consequences of their decisions.
• Simulations allow students to become explorers that create and follow their own hypotheses rather than mere observers reading what other people have done.
• Learning becomes student-centered rather than teacher-centered.
• Simulations are particularly appropriate when the inquiry process assumes that knowledge is cumulative and constantly expanding.
Was it worth it? That’s the next post…stay tuned for what the students say…
Back after some valuable time unplugged. I’ve written about the importance of unplugging before, and while it does not help build much of blog following I think it is critical for my mental health.
If you are new to my blog, I am wrapping up a semester of my 3rd iPad pilot class. In the coming weeks I hope to post some student feedback on using the devices. I also hope to share some lessons learned after an experiment with using a video game app to explore urban planning issues (SimCity). Stay tuned…
Hopefully, if you are just now visiting for the first time you have noticed the title, subtitle, and header picture at my blog. I’ve been blogging here for about 3 years now, but in all that time and in all the words I do not think I have explained what I am trying to do as well as this recent tweet by Grant Lichtman:
Next entries »
I was lucky to be a part of a stimulating Twitter #isedchat (hashtag chat) the other night. You can read the archive here. I really hope you do. Why? A group of really smart educators tried to decide what content and skills we could let go–I mean let go “extinct.”
You may not have time to pick through the conversation, but I was fascinated by the reluctance or indecision to let things go. If I keep accurate count, I think folks agreed we could let the following go: cursive, cookbook science labs or projects, dictionary skills, dewey decimal skills, research notecards, and (no joke), Algebra II. Seems to me that is a relatively short list of things to let go…
One traditional joke about education is that we are subject to the “graveyard effect.” If you have not heard this joke, it is the idea that tombstones (programs) are always added to a graveyard (education), but no one ever removes them. Is that true at your school?
If we do want to innovate in education, don’t we have to “make some room” for new content and skills first? What are you willing to let go?