Thursday, May 31, 2012

Skip College, Go to Work in a Hot Startup

Guest post by Tom Vander Ark | Getting Smart
Skip College, Go to Work in a Hot Startup

The much vaunted American higher education system coasts on the reputation of the top three dozen schools which themselves gain much of their stature simply by excluding 85% of applicants.   Most post secondary institutions just don’t add much value and can no longer justify outrageous tuition.
As recent graduates of American universities, Shaila Ittycheria and Kane Sarhan came to this conclusion and they decided to build an alternative.  E[nstitute] is a two year apprenticeship program empowering young adults to learn from and work with top NYC entrepreneurs.”
“Higher ed is not working,” Kane said, “but internships do.”  Shaila and Kane are targeting 18 to 24 year olds with no bearing on where they are in formal education. The first class of 15 young people will begin working with 35 entrepreneurs in August.
Their geeky website explains that “In probability theory, E[x] stands for expected value, which is why E[nstitute] uses brackets in its name.”
Participants will start their two year work study at the bottom of totem pole but they will gain valuable experience and exposure to top entrepreneurs in fast-paced startup environments.  In their second year, apprentices pick a “major” and focus on building a marketable skill.
Kane and Shaila have been learning from two of my favorite people, Dennis Littky from Big Picture Learning, and Bror Saxberg from Kaplan.  If they can combine what Litkey knows about internships and what Bror knows about online learning, they’ll create powerful alternatives to traditional higher education for many young people.
Formed as a nonprofit organization, E[nstitute] seeks to create transformative learning experiences for young people.  Kane and Shaila are fundraising to launch and scale the program but think it can become largely self-sustaining in the future.
In the process, E[nstitute] may just redefine the higher education landscape by turning thousands of startups and small businesses into classrooms.
See the HuffPo feature on E[stitute]. Read more at The Next Web and PSFK. Read an interview with one of the partners of E[stitute]. Read why one innovative educator isn't impressed with E[stitute]. For more higher ed disruption, see Start Making: General Assembly Launches Online.
This post first appeared on Huffington Post and Getting Smart. 
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Note:  Applications for this year are closed. Applications for next year are expected to open in the fall.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Considering BYOT / BYOD next year? Get started with this sample policy & answers to FAQs

One of the best ways to prepare students to be prepared for the world is to help them use the tools of their world responsibly. Allowing students to bring their own devices is a terrific way to do just that, but even though some schools may have the wireless capacity and infrastructure, the admins / teachers may want to have a policy in place.  Below is the policy shared with me by Tim Clark who serves as the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County, GA Schools.  



What is great about this district is that they empower schools to modify the policy to their needs.  Standardizing a policy in a district that can be customized to the needs of the students in a particular school is a best practice that all innovative districts should consider.  

Of course the policy is just one of the ingredients needed for success.  Forsyth County Schools addresses many of the others in their frequently asked questions which you can find here.  
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Check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning for more ideas about thinking outside the ban to harness the power of student-owned devices for learning including policies, contracts, management ideas, and research.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Parents don’t look the other way

Written by Lisa Nielsen | Edited by Lisa Cooley, The Minds of Kids


“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones


Humans come equipped with a primitive defense mechanism aimed at reducing anxiety: "If I ignore it, it'll go away."  Very human, very natural, very understandable. We all do it. It may even have some evolutionary advantage. After all, facing away from a problem can lower blood pressure and keep stress under control.

But problems have a momentum of their own; they only get worse when they're ignored.

When we don’t face the truth because it might frighten and upset us,  we move to the place called Denial. But emotions have little to do with logic. (Article Source). If denial is a small dark room, joining with others and facing the truth together brings out the light of day.

But denial is where some parents are living. They are looking the other way. Ignoring problems or worse, justifying them.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Hottest Posts That Everyone's Talking About This Week

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.


May 20, 2012, 2 comments
2,314 Pageviews









May 23, 2012, 2 comments
2,029 Pageviews









May 22, 2012, 2 comments
1911 Pageviews








May 21, 2012, 15 comments
1701 Pageviews








May 18, 2012, 11 comments
1353 Pageviews








May 13, 2012, 25 comments
1248 Pageviews








Friday, May 25, 2012

The Key to Making Every Child’s Dreams Come True – Found at SAR Academy

~Guest post by Sharon Marson
Schoolwide Enrichment Program Coordinator, SAR Academy, Riverdale, New York

A teary-eyed parent says, "Now my child feels really successful. Thank you for what you are doing.” Another shared that Tuesday (the day our new program is scheduled) is “a day my child refuses to be absent. I'm not allowed to pull him out of school for a doctor's appointment and he has even tried pretending he is well when clearly he has fever, in order to not miss an E-slot." The children themselves ask, "How many days until next Tuesday?" and stop me in school regularly to thank me for "making" this program.  
 
What has brought such joy and excitement to parents and children? The Schoolwide Enrichment program. This has enabled me to bring to fruition the dream of providing every early elementary child with the opportunity to participate in an Enrichment slot (E-slot) during the course of their week. It has been an incredibly fulfilling journey. No longer are only a select few of those who are high performing in reading or math given the opportunity to participate in Enrichment. Now, more than 450 children are able to choose among seventy offerings that are aligned with their passions, strengths, and/or interests. The offerings, primarily facilitated by a talented faculty and parent-body, correspond with multiple-intelligence theory, engage children in project-based learning, and are built on the pedagogy of Dr. Joseph Renzulli, seminal thinker, innovator, and researcher in the field of Gifted Education.  
The program is based on the idea that we should apply the pedagogy of gifted education to enrichment opportunities for all students. The broadened conception of giftedness, allows children to explore an area of interest, talent, or passion in depth, while in a small multi-age group with other students and a facilitator who also shares this interest. Enrichment Clusters are a delivery vehicle for disseminating enrichment pedagogy to every student and is founded on the belief that everyone has the potential to demonstrate gifted behavior. They are organized around interdisciplinary themes and are built on inquiry and advanced content and methodology, which allow students to secure and then apply new skills to real-world issues that are personally meaningful. The challenging learning pursued is grounded in the production of a product, performance, or service for an authentic audience. Our ultimate goal with this broad enrichment initiative is to help children discover and take pride in the diverse gifts and talents with which he or she is endowed, develop their interests and strengths, and understand how they can share their gifts with the world.

What is success? 
Just ask the kids and you’ll find there isn't a child who can't tell you when he or she feels successful or which activity engenders a sense of accomplishment. That is what our program is doing for children. We are giving students the equal-opportunity to succeed. They are happy. They are defining themselves as gifted in multitudinous ways. They feel accomplished. That is why they can't miss a moment of it.
 
See what this looks like in action at the video below. You can help the school raise money to grow their endeavor to create life-long, impassioned learners with a vote for the video at this link.


Want to connect with others who are discussing the Schoolwide Enrichment Model?  Join us on Facebook here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Simple Ed Reform Solution - Connect School Life to Real Life

"Dennis Littky provides a setting where young people and adults can explore the world together, discover their passions and apply themselves to solving their own and the world's problems!"
- Deborah Meir
Many high school students complain they don’t like school for some very good reasons. They report it is boring, irrelevant, and disconnected from real life. They have a passion for life, but not for school. But it doesn’t have to be this way and there’s a place where it isn’t. It's called The MET and it is one of dozens of schools around the world that make up the Big Picture Company.

These schools are havens for public school students who have struggled in conventional classrooms. There is a waiting list to get in and once they do, not only do they have one of the highest attendance rates, but there is also a 98% college acceptance rate. What’s more, unlike many graduates of traditional schools, Big Picture graduates say they feel prepared for college and career success.

What’s their secret?
Connect school life to real life by doing things differently.

Here’s how

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's wrong to group kids by date of manufacture

Guest post by Teresa McCloskey

While at the park today with the kids, I saw a classmate of Mason's, coincidentally also named Mason and also in as much trouble with authorities as my own Mason.

Mason & Mason F. started kindergarten at the same time.  Their date of manufacture is obviously comparable.  They are both currently in 7th grade.  But Mason F. now stands nearly 2 feet taller than my Mason.  He's filling out.  Mason F. has very obviously hit puberty in his 12th - 13th year of life.  Mason F. was stealing backpacks from two girls then later blew them off to hang with a young lady dressed scantily in short shorts and a spaghetti tank top.  He escorted her out of the park looking every inch of a 16 or 17 year old if I hadn't known his real age.  Meanwhile, my Mason was happily climbing a tree and riding his bike up & down a hill as fast as he could.

Bradley was also along with us today.  He's now a couple inches taller than Mason, and his voice has started squeaking and cracking.  Bradley just turned 12 in February, so he's on the younger side, but still, puberty is making itself known as his jaw strengthens and he struggles between acting child-like and wanting to do more 'mature' things.

All 3 boys would fall in the realm of 'normal development' in terms of their physical growth.  Yes, my Mason's has probably been stalled and delayed a bit due to numerous issues, not the least of which is his stimulant medication for behaviors.  But what I found myself marveling about was the fact that any adult person would honestly and truly tell these 3 boys that they are ALL. NORMAL.  That their bodies will grow, change, develop, and mature at very differing rates, and that is NORMAL.  That puberty can strike anywhere from age 8-15 and nobody will bat an eye over it.  We will bend over backward trying to reassure a young person that it will happen for them, too; especially for those poor souls who do not physically develop until much later than their peers.  They endure such wonderful treatment from their friends by being called things like, "Smurf," and "Shorty," and probably a lot of names much crueler than that.  Each name surely hurts, though, and serves to remind that child that they are different, perhaps "less than" the others around them.

But if we adults work so hard to assure children that what their bodies are going through is 100% natural - as God intended - the way things are - beyond their control, why oh why do we not believe the same about the overall learning process? Why do we not trust that each individual's brain functions in a unique and individual manner which makes learning various skills and abilities come when nature intends?  Reading, math, writing - these are huge areas where kids are forced, pressured, and frequently demeaned, diminished, and coerced when they are not doing it at the same level as their peers.

Why do we do this to kids?  If we can trust their bodies to grow as nature intended, what on earth makes us think we know best when their minds should develop and exactly which skills their brains should be able to accomplish based on arbitrary timetables?  Why do we try to standardize their learning to be identical to every other child who was born around the same time rather than respecting that each child will fulfill their mind's destiny when offered a wide range of interesting information the way we offer a wide range of healthy foods?

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Teresa McCloskey is a mom of 4 boys, 'host' mom to countless exchange students from around the world, wife to one amazing husband, daughter of the King, student, life learner who no longer believes in time outs, naughty spots, spankings, shaming, or the compulsory government indoctrination institution system. John Holt, Alfie Kohn, Naomi Aldort, and Adele Faber are some of my heroes.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Using Cell Phones to Increase Student Achievement and Engagement with Reading and Writing





Cell phones are a terrific tool to support student engagement and achievement in reading and writing.  To follow are some ideas explaining how teachers are doing just that by using cell phones in the way they are most commonly used among youth -- for texting and group texting.  We will also look at a newly emerging trend...using cell phones to write novels.


TEXTING
Our students are reading and writing more than ever. In the 21st century, this reading and writing often takes place through the lightening fast thumbs of teens.  Although some parents and teachers complain that text messaging is ruining the language, research is showing that it is, in fact, a benefit to students phonemic awareness, spelling, and use of words (Yarmey, 2011; Plester & Wood, 2008,  Malson & Tarica, 2011; Fresco, 2005; Dunnewind, 2003; Miners, 2009; McCarroll, 2005; Elder, 2009). When we rethink and revision what is happening when our teens and tweens text, all sorts of learning possibilities emerge.  


Ideas for the Classroom
  • Texting has become the shorthand of the 21st century.  When writing first drafts, allow students to draft on their phone or laptop if they choose and use text abbreviations to get their thoughts down. Encouraging the quick, free flow of ideas in a format they prefer can help young writers capture, compile, and create new ideas. These can be translated as they edit and revise resulting is a final draft that is written in standard language.  
  • Translate difficult passages of poetry, classic literature, or even content heavy textbook passages into textese in order to aid students interactions with the material and understanding.  These create great summaries, which is a research-based teaching strategy (Marzano, Pollock & Pickering, 2003)
  • Have students journal through texting or answer each other’s discussion questions through texting, which results in more writing due to their preference of the medium.  When the audience changes to others then their peers, have them use standard English, which educates about writing for a particular audience.


Text Talk: Classroom Stories - Sandy Riggs, Biology Teacher "I never see this with hands," was Sandy Riggs response to all the text messages she received when she asked her freshman Biology students to text her what they thought DNA precipitation meant. Riggs teaches at Collegiate High School in Texas. Texting has increased her student's confidence and allowed them to participate without embarrassment.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Hottest Posts That Everyone's Reading!

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.
May 13, 2012, 23 comments                     3,818 Pageviews
May 6, 2012, 4 comments                        2035 Pageviews
May 11, 2012                                             1918 Pageviews
May 14, 2012                                             1872 Pageviews
May 16, 2012, 7 comments                       1772 Pageviews
May 15, 2012, 1 comment                        1581 Pageviews
Jul 15, 2010, 21 comments                       1192 Pageviews

Friday, May 18, 2012

What makes a great teacher? - A student says, "This!"

Guest post by Irene, High School Junior

My old Language Arts teacher never smiled. She kept the blinds closed to keep the sunlight out. She often professed her raging dislike for the art of writing, yet she droned on class after class on the correct format of an outline. I often entertained thoughts that she was an evil witch who fed upon the souls of children. Therefore, you may imagine that after my experience with her, my expectations of Language Arts teachers were, well, low. However, after I changed schools I was lucky enough to take Classical Mythology, as my teacher for that class completely shattered each and every one of my preconceptions.

My Classical Mythology teacher recently transformed his classroom into a temple complete with candles, incense, and offering platters and brought in a woman to pose as an oracle. He told us to prepare for our meeting with the oracle by washing our hair, opening our minds and bringing a relevant and significant gift. He then dressed in white, acted as sibyl and brought each one of us into the "temple". The oracle gave us each prophecies with which to begin our hero's quest.

We had been learning about the hero's quest for a while. Even though there were only five unique prophecies distributed to a class of eight, the assignment was the same. Discover yourself and where you need to go. Write about your own journey and perform it, whatever that means to you, in front of the class.

Although the entire rotunda smelled like incense for the next week, the entire class was energized and excited about their quests. I don't know about any of you, but this is the most epic way a teacher has ever given me an assignment.

My Classical Mythology teacher is one of a kind. He will sit and talk with a student if they come in and ask for his help. He genuinely cares about and connects with each and every one of his students and he commits so much of his time and effort to ensuring that we grow and challenge ourselves. With this oracle experience, he not only gave us an assignment but started each of us on a personal and intellectual journey.

I go to the nation's top arts boarding school. Almost all of the teachers I’ve had here have been extraordinary and inspiring in one way or another. If public schools were able to find teachers as dedicated, engaged and passionate as this one, students everywhere would have the opportunity to begin their own personal quests.



Irene is a junior at Interlochen Arts Academy. She is a composer, a writer and a filmmaker. She is originally from Sammamish, Washington.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Want interactive learning? Forget the Smartboard. Consider 3D!

Gaia 3D - Finally! An ed product that doesn’t kill
creativity, imagination, or critical thinking!
In school I learned to HATE many subjects. For example I hated history because strangers, strange lands, and strange facts seemed to have no place on the strange timeline I was told to memorize but for which I had no learning context. At the same time, one of my favorite (though admittedly, not safest) pastimes was to sneak into abandon homes and learn about the past through artifacts, newspapers, letters, magazines, and really anything I could find.  I could sit in a house for hours reading through and looking at everything. I was fascinated with looking at what prices were in the past, the sort of businesses that people were in and the language in the letters that people wrote.  I also learned to HATE science. Memories of a boring lecture followed by read chapter 6 and answer the questions at the end, still haunt me. At the same time, I was fascinated with the ocean and sea life. I loved snorkeling and later SCUBA diving and wanted to know all about the creatures of the sea.

School should not be a place that kills our love for that which fascinates us in the real world. Unfortunately, for many, textbooks, tests, and teacher lectures strip away the excitement and discovery of learning. 


Fortunately, things can be different for children today, with the introduction of Gaia 3D.  This innovative technology literally transports learners back in time to meander through ancient streets on an exploration of the past. Learning is brought to life as children can take a class trip to places like ancient Rome, through WWI barracks, or through 17th century London during the bubonic plague.  What is even cooler is that learners are not just exploring and discovering. As they develop interests in various areas they can do further research and then add their findings to the 3D content. For example, a student interested in the bubonic plague, could create a video about how the rats spread the plague and when clicking on a rat, the video could be programmed to play.  Perhaps a student interested in the ancient Rome practice of selling children into slavery or marriage wanted to create an audio script or poem of what a young girl felt. This audio could be added to the content. The options to add original content are endless. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Required reading for online learning educators

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning puts out many publications.  Here is a list of some of their more recent publications that will be of interest to online learning educators.
To see all publications visit this link.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dropping Out was a Great Idea

Editor's Note: I had the extreme pleasure of joining the author of this post, Nicholas Perez, as a guest on Paul Allison's Teachers Teaching Teachers. In the episode we discussed who drops out and why. I was invited on the show as author of the Teen's Guide to Opting Out of School for Success. Nick was invited because he was a teen who opted out of school to find success. I LOVED what Nick had to say and asked him to please consider sharing his story as I know it will be inspiring to parents, teachers, and teens across the globe. The following post is the result of several month's work. It provides amazing insights and lessons for every educator, administrator and parent. It also happens to be the most important post I've published. So, without further adieu, please read Nick's story. This is the first time it is being shared publicly.


“Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Some of you like Pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read.” - Frank Zappa

       
Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of questions raised about how innovations in technology will change education as we know it - Can machines replace teachers? Do internet resources provide everything needed to develop professional skills? What happens if you replace school with online learning? I’ve spent my life trying to find out, and the answers I have are both promising and a little horrifying.


The good news is that it worked. I’ve developed a wide range of interests and skills, with my lifelong field of choice being software. I have a software development job that I love, I have no student debt, and I feel secure about my long-term future. I’m pretty sure that this is what most students dream of. The path here wasn’t easy or well-traveled, but the experiment has been a success.

The bad news is that along the way, I discovered that public schools are not prepared to fairly compete for their students’ attention. This has resulted in a long series of slightly traumatizing events. From the prescription drugging, to the humiliation of being singled out from the rest of my peers, to the threats of litigation, it’s been a long road. I left school at the age of 17 after deciding that I’d had enough of my school district’s attempts to forcibly shift my attention toward the classroom, and away from my independent studies. This didn’t happen because of human evils, but because of old, rigid systems that have yet to bend and break under the pressure of progress.

One of the arguments in favor of schooling that I hear most frequently is that the diversity of curricula changes the way students view the world - it exposes them to things they never would have explored otherwise, and it’s the perfect recipe for a well-rounded individual. While that sounds great on paper, it is an obsolete notion. In the information age, exposure to new ideas is inevitable. The diversity of ideas being shared online and in the real world far exceeds the diversity of a single school’s curriculum, and it is highly unlikely that this will ever change. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs in tech, media, skincare/beauty products, marketing, and education. I’ve interned in a professional recording studio and written hundreds of my own songs.  I’ve had discussions and debates with people from all over the world, with passions ranging from evolutionary biology to international philanthropy to psychology to social activism to mechanical engineering to the arts. Opportunities to explore new ideas will always be incredibly abundant, but I’ve found it more important to focus on the things that I’m devoting my life to.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Hottest Posts That Everyone is Talking About!

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

May 6, 2012, 3 comments                       2,135 Pageviews
Apr 3, 2011, 15 comments                        1941 Pageviews
May 9, 2012, 2 comments                        1903 Pageviews
May 10, 2012, 3 comments                      1803 Pageviews
May 8, 2012                                                 1671 Pageviews
May 11, 2012                                              1231 Pageviews

Friday, May 11, 2012

Free Speech in the Digital Age –the Hive NYC 1st Amendment Hack Jam

Guest post by 


On Saturday, May 12th (tomorrow) from 1-5pm at the West Side YMCA there will be Hive's first 1st Amendment Hack Jam!  It’s a free event for tweens and teens to explore and exercise their constitutional rights.

We’ve partnered with The American Constitution Society to extend their Constitution in the Classroom program by taking it out of the classroom and examining at the First Amendment with a web-ified lens to help youth learn more about everything from fair use to expressive conduct in schools.
Every day we hear another story about a student whose statements or actions raise questions about where 1st Amendment rights end and school rules begin.  Can they get in trouble at school for something they Tweet on their own time?  How and where are they expressing their opinions, online and off?
Youth will explore the answers to these questions while also learning how to hack websites, remix videos, express their opinions on controversial topics, and more.

Why BYOD, Not Banning Cell Phones, Is the Answer



Check out my new article in T.H.E. Journal about why banning is not the answer when it comes to cell phones and other student-owned devices in school.  Here's a sneak peak at the seven strategies schools should have in place to ensure connected students will tune in when learning with cell phones and other devices they own and love. 


  1. Ensure the right building blocks are in place
  2. Update outdated classroom management techniques
  3. Give students time to socialize
  4. Connect with students in their world
  5. Use texting to connect more deeply with students
  6. Engage students
  7. Empower students with strategies to stay focused
To find out more about each reason and read the whole article visit this link.  


For more ideas about thinking outside the ban and harnessing the power of cell phones for learning check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning.
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