Saturday, April 30, 2011

What's Popular This Week On The Innovative Educator?

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days.

This week the big winner is 7 Solutions for Educators Who Want 21st Century Students to Tune In. It seems this is a priority for many educators.  Bravo!  Next is a hot topic for schools.  Bring Your Own Tech (BYOT).  Schools doing this are having tremendous success.  The Contraband of Some Schools is The Disruptive Innovation of Others is a guest post by Tim Clark who is successfully implementing BYOT in his district.  The World’s simplest online safety policy comes in as number three. This post breaks down those scary sounding laws like FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA and makes it much more simple for those who aren’t lawyers to understand. Coming in fourth place is a post close to my heart.  I explain how Technology (not meds) Cured My Learning and Sleeping Disorder. Finally, rounding out the top five is a topic I speak about often.  Social media doesn’t “cause” unprofessional behavior it "catches" it.  

There are five more interesting posts rounding out the top ten.. I hope there's something here that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Find out why passion should drive learning at The Virtual Tech Conference this Saturday!

I'm excited to join some of the most passionate educators in the world in a panel moderated by Steve Hargadon as part of the Virtual Technology Conference Closing Panel this Saturday to discuss next steps for those who believe passion should drive learning. Passion driven learning is a topic I write about often and it's the topic of co-panelists Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold's fantastic book, "The Passion-Driven Classroom." Rounding out the panel is the creator of Connected Principals, The Principal of Change (as his blog is called) George Couros.

No one disagrees with the premise or that passion is a factor in both individual and organizational success. We just have a lot of questions about it and this panel has the answers! 

Questions like:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Inconvenient Truth About Education

We can stop "Waiting for Superman."  "We Are The People We've Been Waiting For" is here bringing us a film about the failure of the educational system to keep pace with a 21st century world.  The film focuses on the question of whether the current system provides young people the opportunity to discover and develop their talents.  It's no surprised, that test-driven systems fail at this miserably.  The film features celebrities, students and educators sharing different perspectives on the failure of many educational structures to prepare students for the world in which they live. 

Aligning school to the way we were born to learn

Born to Learn is a cool site I recently came across that was created because our current systems of education aren’t doing enough to unlock our true potential. On the site they feature several video animations (and they’re working hard on more) to sum up over 20 years’ of rigorous and complex research in a way that’s accessible and easy to understand.

Here is the sites intro video which is just a terrific conversation starter for educators, parents, and students.

Born to Learn from Born to Learn on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Social media doesn’t “cause” unprofessional or inappropriate behavior. It “catches” it.

Something interesting has been happening across schools and districts in response to online safety concerns.  Instead of empowering and teaching students how to harness the power of the internet and social media they are banning teachers from interacting with teachers in online spaces like Facebook. These misguided schools and districts like this one in Ontario tell educators, students, and parents that,
"The use of the Internet and social media, despite best intentions, may cause members to forget their professional responsibilities and the unique position of trust and authority given to them by society,"
Really?  Do policy makers really think the Internet and social media “cause" such behaviors or "catch" em? When we block and ban are we doing what’s best for kids or are we doing what is more convenient for those in charge who would have an easier time if they didn’t have to deal with such issues?  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Contraband of Some Schools is The Disruptive Innovation of Others with BYOT (Bring Your Own Tech)

Guest post by Tim Clark @timclark45 on Twitter

In New York City students who BYOT have it confiscated by police
and placed with other contraband like guns and knives
While cities like the one where The Innovative Educator works view student owned devices as contraband, I have found one of the most exciting disruptions to traditional teaching practices to be extending to students the invitation to “Bring Your Own Technology” (BYOT).  Last year, Forsyth County Schools in Georgia  modified their technology guidelines to do just that! They permitted students to bring their personal technology devices to school to assist in their learning.  

Forsyth County Schools has always pursued the use of technology to improve educational opportunities. The district’s vision for classroom technology after-all is “to engage students in asking questions and choosing tools to facilitate real world problem solving.”  Classrooms are each equipped with an interactive whiteboard, teacher laptop and four student desktop computers.  There are also student laptops available at each school and there are peripheral devices such as student response systems, digital cameras, scanners, and document cameras.  Yet, despite all this district-provided technology, the most impactful and influential gadgets are not any of these. Instead after 20 years in education I have found that empowering students to use their own personal technologies is the game changer when it comes to learning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

7 Solutions for Educators Who Want 21st Century Students to Tune In

"If your target audience isn't listening to you, it's not their fault, it's yours" Seth Godin
More and more I am reading articles like this one Colleges worry about always-plugged-in students. In it they talk about college professors and administrators who have or are considering unplugging student’s access to the internet or banning technology altogether so students will focus. These learning institutions are moving in the wrong direction!
When we blame or ban the technology,  we solve our issue temporarily, but we are ignoring the root of the problem.  
When it comes to learning, many educators know banning is the easy way out, but there are a number of reasons behind why students are not paying attention. Rather than taking away student rights and the freedom to use the tools they want, we must address the root of the issue that is causing the problem. My advice comes from someone who teaches adults and students in a “no ban zone.” These ideas work for me and they will work for you.  

Ideas for Educators Who Want 21st Century Students to Tune In

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tech (not meds) Cured My #ADD #ADHD & #SleepingDisorder

I slept through most of school.  I didn’t mean to sleep through it.  I felt really bad about sleeping through it.  Many of my teachers resented me for sleeping through it.  I tried a lot of things to combat this.  I got a good night sleep.  In high school I started drinking coffee.  In my first year of college, last year of high school I started taking No Doze until the day I got so sick from the coffee and No Doze that I stopped taking No Doze. From an assessment perspective, despite my sleeping, I was a great student.  I graduated in the top ten percent of my class in high school and college and did well on standardized tests.  The issue wasn’t just an issue in high school and college either.  Starting in pre-school, my mother got a call from the school concerned that I spent my days sleeping and they thought that perhaps I was retarded.  Yep, they actually told my mom that even though I was already reading and writing before I had entered pre-school.  My mom sent me out for tests at UCLA, and the results showed I was actually gifted.  So what was the problem?  If I was smart, cared about my grades and was doing well, why did I sleep so much?  

The answer is simple.  

What's Popular This Week On The Innovative Educator?

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days.

This week the big winner is Move Over iPad! Google Chrome Notebooks are Going to be the Game Changer I learned a lot about the Google Notebook when writing the post and even more afterwards from the great comments and the additional blog post it inspired by Steve Kinney.  You’ll also want to look at the links to comments from teachers who are piloting the devices in other cities.   The next most popular post was Have schools forgotten they were supposed to prepare students for the world?  This is a concern of mine as I meet more and more soon-to-be high school and college grads who are left with a diploma in hand but unprepared to find a job or career.  They have no resume or ePortfolio as a result of all their years of study and a GPA only tells a prospective employer so much about a student’s talents and potential.  Rounding out the top three is my ADHD post which has consistently ranked at the top of all my posts.  The pharma companies spend millions to get kids hooked on drugs and they reap in profits as a result.  Find out why doctors, parents, and educators are clamoring to get you to do more research before drugging your children. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I’m no better than a high school drop out

About 1/3 of the 95% of children who attend school (5% and growing are engaging in home education) drop out in America.  In large cities like those I grew up in: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York the drop out rate is about 50%.  Often teachers blame parents and parents blame teachers and that just pisses me off because it doesn’t deal with the real issue which is that public schools are just not designed to meet the needs of students.  You often find that those who graduated put themselves on a pedestal.  If they could do it, anyone can.  I am not on a pedestal.  I thought about dropping out often.  I graduated from high school and then college pissed off when I became old enough to realize it was a big waste of my time.  

During all my days in secondary school I wondered what the heck I was doing.  The classes were boring.  The teachers were boring. The kids weren’t nice to each other.  I thought, "people tell us these are the best years of our lives." I thought they were extremely boring and oppressive.  I was literally nearly bored to death and I did indeed think of suicide during those years wondering...”Wait. This is the best? Is that all there is???”

Sure, I finished school. Most of my friends did not. However, just because my body finished school does not mean my mind hadn’t dropped out. Few even knew I was even there.  I didn't attend any of those things people attend like prom or homecoming. One of the great things about the 80s was erasable ink.  I found (maybe stole) a hall pass.  I'd go around to classes helping others escape, delivering the pass with their name to get out of class.  The reality is in high school it was the drop outs that I had more in common with and I spent most of my time.

Here are the things I have in common with drop outs.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Resources and Ideas Shared on Unplugged Mom Radio Show

"Teachers are often just as oppressed as students are in
school environments as a result of test prep mania."
-Lisa Nielsen

I had the pleasure of being a guest on Laurette Lynn’s Unplugged Mom radio show which you can listen to below.  We had a great conversation where we discussed learning vs. schooling and how I am working to bring open source learning and child-lead learning principles into the school environment.  We also talked about how today's technology, internet and social networking can be useful in learning more and enriching our educational experiences for both children and parents!  We touched on internet apprenticeships, community learning, active parenting and more!  Lots of great info.  Many thanks to Laurette Lynn for inviting me to be on her show!

My interview starts at 19:00.  Following the interview you can see links to all the blog posts, people, videos, and ideas I mentioned.  You can click  “Contact Me” and find ways to connect to discuss the ideas further as well.

Student Driven Learning = Passion-Based Classrooms

I often speak and write about differentiating instruction. Unfortunately, when I go into schools I see very little differentiation occurring.  This is the case even schools who have bought "magic bullet" programs like Renzulli Learning who tout themselves as a "Differentiation Engine."  I have visited about a dozen schools using such programs but without a solid foundation in what differentiation means.  Instead, they have all their students working within the learning management system on the same thing!

When I dig a little deeper about why this is happening teachers confide that they can't possibly create 32 different lessons for each of their students.  When I hear this, I realize they're not getting something very important.  The students own the learning.  When we give up control and empower the students to learn the way they want with the tools they want, the results are terrific and the students are partners with their teacher in designing learning methods, tools, and environments that are best for them.  

Josh Stumpenhorst recently celebrated the results of this method of teaching in his blog in a post called, "Student-Driven Learning." In the post he shares the ways empowered students learned the literacy standards they were mandated to meet.  Here's what he did.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Advice for Choosing Pages, Groups or Profiles When Using Facebook for Education

Students have powered-down for school
I’m an advocate of using real world tools in school.  After all, if we’re not using tools of the world in our classrooms, then what world are we really preparing students for?  The one that is most convenient... or the one that is right for kids?  If you want to do what is most convenient, then you can work at a school where they ban, block, filter and restrict.  You know those schools.  Some kids heads are on their desks, others are facing forward listening (but are they really?), and others are engaged in the outdated skill of taking down the words their almighty teacher says or writes on the board. Paper, pencils, pens, outdated textbooks are plentiful.  In schools where we’re doing what is right for kids, you see engaged youth who use the filter between their ears to determine how to best access information. Students are empowered rather than restricted from using personally owned digital devices in school.  At these schools they understand that people, not tools, have behavior.  Fortunately, more and more often these schools that mirror the real world are starting to crop up in places like New Canaan High School in Connecticut and The School in Harlem, New York.  

When I speak about schools such as these, I often get a lot of questions like this one I received recently from a Twitter follower.
"Great ideas for Facebook, but would we be taking a social risk? Facebook is taboo for many admins and districts are frowning on FB because of the potential risk for unprofessional behavior ."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Join The Innovative Educator on the Unplugged Mom Radio Show this Friday!

This Friday, April 22nd at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time I will discuss the variety of ways that kids can pursue their passions and enhance learning with technology on home education expert, Laurette Lynn’s Unplugged Mom Radio Show.  Among other things, on the show we plan to talk about the detrimental effects of restricting children's freedom and stifling their growth through school policies that ban the use of the technology kids need to succeed in the world. We will also discuss how to apply ideas of home education to a school environment as well as alternative learning options for parents whose children attend school. Finally we plan to talk about the disconnect that seems to have befallen schools who rather than preparing students for the world are instead preparing them to become proficient at filling in bubble sheets.  

Be sure to tune in by  visiting Unplugged Mom Radio here or catch the interview in the archives!  If you have questions or comments please contact me prior to the show or post them on The Unplugged Mom’s Facebook page

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Do You Really Feel About Bullying?

By Vickie Bergman, who blogs about education and parenting at Demand Euphoria

This is a story about Mary.

Almost every day for a few years, Mary has spent many hours with Peter and his friends, who are very cruel to Mary. They call her terrible names, throw things at her, spit at her, destroy things that are valuable to her. She has started to eat meals in the bathroom when Peter is around, because it is the only place she can escape his torment. She believes she is worthless and has thought about killing herself. Peter has warned her not to tell anyone about the things he does to her or else he will only make it worse for her. He is much bigger than she is, so she has not said anything until now. Mary has finally come to you and shared her story, and she is afraid.

How do you feel about Mary? About Peter? What should Mary do? Do your answers depend on who Mary is, and what is her relationship to Peter? Let's think about some of the possibilities...

Monday, April 18, 2011

See what happens when students are allowed to embrace free range learning

If we allowed digital devices in school,
it would be chaos!
New Cannan High School is unique in that it provides a free range learning environment, meaning, what is contraband in places like New York City is embraced at this school. Students are free to bring their own personal learning devices (i.e. cell phones, iPads, laptops, etc.) and they are not blocked from gaining access to any website. In fact sites like Facebook and YouTube are embraced as powerful learning tools. 

Unfortunately, it seems teachers where the devices have been treated as the enemy, have bought into this idea, but where students are given the freedom to learn and create using the tools they want about subjects in which they're passionate, the school environment can move from celebrating success over scores on a bubble sheet, to celebrating success on the creation of a YouTube video viewed and commented on from folks around the world.

That was the case this week, when Michelle Luhtala's students created this video as part of American Library Association teen video contest, Why I NEED My Library! Contest winners can receive thousands of dollars for their library.  Not only do these students create a great video, but they also make a great case for school libraries everywhere.  The video was the result of what happens when teachers support (rather than control) their students passion-driven learning and allow them to use the tools they embrace in the real world inside schools.

Here's the video. Please watch and if you enjoy it, please "like" the video.

To read more about this project visit their librarians blog post, "What kids can do when they love what they do."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Have schools forgotten they were supposed to prepare kids for success in the world?

I’m helping passion-driven high school student Armond McFadden put together a resume, cover letter, and ePortfolio website so he can secure an internship, apprenticeship, and/or part-time job this summer in his area of expertise which is photography, videography, and transportation.  You can see some of his photos here and his video series on YouTube at this linkWhile I am happy to assist this talented teen, I’m concerned that this is completely absent from the curriculum of most high schools and many colleges. Instead politicians like this one and places like the board of regents believe the key to getting students ready for the world is more school, longer days, more tests, harder tests, increased graduation requirements.  

Why is it that artificial, meaningless-to-real-world tests and grades are the way we think we prepare students???  How about preparing students by providing real-world opportunities to explore careers through internships, apprenticeships, and/or part-time jobs?  Why not assess students on their experience and what they learned rather than test them in their ability to memorize and regurgitate facts which in many cases don’t matter and aren’t remembered?
School is torture because I am required to spend all my time doing menial tasks, worksheets, and rote memorization. This takes too much time away from being able to discover my hobbies, interests, or passions. I’m in 10th grade and I don’t foresee having the ability to do that before I graduate high school.
Honors society student . #1 in his class.
On the path to becoming valedictorian

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Innovative Educator’s Top Ten This Week

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days.

This week the big winner was Do You Have the Fluency of a Digital Native? Take this Test. Fun piece to write and there was a lot of heated Twitter conversations as a result.  In particular with @datadiva who also commented on the post.  She didn’t like the idea of “losing your accent” being a good thing.  After much back and forth, she suggested using the term “fluency” which I did in the updated version of this post.  Check it out and share your thoughts :-)

In the top three was Is your school like a prison? In this piece, I share many of the disturbing similarities between schools and prisons and give readers a chance to weigh in on where their school stands. Coming in at #2, my ADHD remains in the top since it's been written.  The pharma companies spend millions to get kids hooked.  Find out why doctors, parents, and educators are clamoring to get you to do more research before drugging your children. The ten no nos for using an IWBs also finds it's way to the top again. Hope to have those no nos become less and less and more and more people read this post.  

I had a series of posts that sparked a lively debate.  It started with Some Good Reasons Not to Go to School.  The comments sparked a follow up post called Some good reasons to go to school and those comments resulted in Vickie’s post What If They Choose School? There are more than 50 comments and counting about the pros and cons of schools and home education.  The posts are interesting and perhaps the comments even more so.  

There’s several other interesting posts as well. I hope there's something here that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

Do You Have the Fluency of a Digital Native? Take this Test.
Apr 12, 2011, 4 comments783 Pageviews
Cure ADHD without Drugs with These Resources
Feb 5, 2011, 19 comments750 Pageviews
Is your school like a prison?
Apr 10, 2011, 5 comments672 Pageviews
Some Good Reasons Not to Go to School
Apr 8, 2011, 22 comments574 Pageviews
Some good reasons to go to school
Apr 11, 2011, 17 comments554 Pageviews
The Ten No Nos of Teaching with a Projector or Interactive Whiteboard
May 10, 2010, 27 comments485 Pageviews
What If They Choose School?
Apr 14, 2011, 16 comments470 Pageviews
World’s simplest online safety policy
Apr 3, 2011, 10 comments364 Pageviews
Tuition Free University-Level Studies at University of the People
Apr 13, 2011, 1 comment259 Pageviews
Tri State Ed Tech Conference - Post Conference Rea...
Oct 2, 2010, 2 comments140 Pageviews

Friday, April 15, 2011

Move Over iPad! Google Chrome Notebooks are Going to Be the Game Changer in Education

iPads are all the rage in education.  I have my iPad and iTouch too, but after several months of exploration, I’m not convinced they’re the right device for least when it comes to secondary education.  Despite the protests of Apple to the contrary, I see them as great devices for consuming information and even drag and tap interactions, but for real creation, the full functionality of a laptop with flash access reigns number one.  Today, there’s a new device in town, and this one has me more excited for education.  

If you're like me and you already love Google for education (Apps, products, marketplace, than you’ll be excited to learn that Google is entering the educational computing market with Chrome notebooks which are built and optimized for the web, where digital natives want to spend their computing time. Because it is browser based, you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers. The devices come complete with webcam for video chat, a vibrant 12-inch LCD display, full-size keyboard and an oversized touchpad which let you enjoy the web comfortably. It weighs in at just 3.8 pounds, provides over eight hours of active usage and a week of standby time.

Here are some of the advantages it provides over other computing options:

Generation Z could be the key to driving change in an outdated educational system

Career advice guru Penelope Trunk explains that baby boomers changed politics, Gen X changed family, Gen Y changed work, and she predicts that Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010 will change education. Below are some of the trends Trunk predicts for this generation of students.  

Home Education will go mainstream creating a more self-directed workforce.
Trunk says what many parents, educators, and students already know but often don’t say out loud. The public education in the United States is largely terrible. While there are pockets that are exceptional, because of our new data (not passion) driven culture in education, they are rarely public. She explains that we have an education crisis on our hands but Baby Boomers were too scared to solve the crisis with home educating noting that doing so takes hem out of the typical ways to measure how well kids are doing in the competition. She explains because they wanted to work full-time and because they couldn’t handle removing their kids from the competition instead they got kids tons of tutoring and extra help after school.

Trunk explains that because Gen X is more comfortable working outside the system than Baby Boomers the Gen X women are fine quitting their jobs to take care of their kids. She says that  home education among Gen X parents is becoming more mainstream for parents who know public schools are broken and don’t have $20,000 a year for private school.

  • Implication:
    Gen Zers will be able to figure out what they want to do with their life

    The growing number of home educated kids who grew up with a largely self-learning, self-directed model will be more accustomed to figuring out what they like to do, and doing it on their own. Unlike previous generations, the
    crisis to figure out what to do with one’s life will not last so long because they know how to learn on their own.  

Alternative education children will be better prepared in life than traditionally schooled

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What If They Choose School?

By Vickie Bergman, who blogs about education and parenting at Demand Euphoria.

Two recent posts on The Innovative Educator blog, Some Good Reasons Not to Go to School and Some good reasons to go to school, gave reasons why a parent might choose or not choose to send their children to school and also attempted to dispel some myths about school and home education. One question inspired by some of the comments was, “Should we let our children decide whether or not to attend school?”  

For me and my family, the short answer is:  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuition Free University-Level Studies at University of the People

Here on The Innovative Educator blog, I’ve been excited about the implications of online learning in general and OER  (Open Ed Resource) in particular.  I’ve also shared insights from folks like Bill Gates who Says Tech Is The Key to Driving Down College Costs. Additionally, I’ve been critical of the "Generation Debt"-producing “College for All” mantra spoken at K - 12 institutions as I’ve written about in pieces like The College Myth: Why College isn't Worth the Cost for Many Careers Today.  

I love Will Richardson’s vision of learning who explains why it’s okay if his kids don’t want to got to college this way.  
More and more, all I want from my kids’ school is to help me identify what they love, what their strengths are, and then help them create their own paths to mastery of their passions. Stop spending so much time focusing on subjects or courses that “they need for college” but don’t interest them in the least. Help them become learners who will be able to find and make good use of the knowledge that they need when they need it, whether that means finding an answer online or taking a college course to deepen their understanding. And finally, prepare them to create their own credentials that will powerfully display their capabilities, passions and potentials.

While the entire quote is powerful, one part that I’d love to see come to fruition is students creating their own credentials that display their capabilities, passions, and potentials, rather than this being determined by a pre-packaged, expensive college program.