If you're an innovative educator, the news about teacher effectiveness having little impact on student achievement is no surprise. The Gates Foundation spent a whooping $575 million buckaroos, when they could have just been listening to teachers who knew better.
The work that is necessary to support student learning is easy to understand and hard to implement. It begins with Maslow's seminal work on human motivation. Any good teacher knows his hierarchy by heart.
Gates mistake was moving directly to the top of the pyramid. The foundation neglected to acknowledge that we are teaching so many children whose basic needs are not being met. First, we must address that. It is unacceptable that in districts like the one I work there are staggering numbers of homeless children. In every city, but especially one of the wealthiest in the nation, it is unacceptable that having a home is not a right. There are large numbers of children that are being raised without a father. The men need to step up. There are also many children not being raised by their mother or father. Hundreds of thousands of children bounce from home to home to group home to residential treatment center in foster care. Of course, children who live with their parents may be suffering from abuse or simply the high level of anxiety school pressure puts on many students today.
Help comes in the way of providing the basics for our students: Stable homes. Safe and security. Food. Climate control (i.e. heat and air conditioning). Time for naps if necessary.
It means revamping teacher preparation and professional development to include: Supporting children living in trauma. Guidance counseling. Psychotherapy.
But it doesn't end there.
Even after we do all the work it takes to provide the basics for our children, many schools still don't have it right. What's next is belongingness and love. Devoid of that we will continue to see kids in gangs and victims being murdered.
And, it's not just class size, but also class load. Research tells us that no teacher should ever have to teach more than five different classes. If they do, it is impossible for them to help students develop that relationship or belongingness.
Our students and colleagues should be our family. In Big Picture Schools they outline the keys to student success. Small size, intimate advisory system, and insistence on parent participation all lead to making the school feel like a family and several features extend these connections and family feel even after graduation.
It is not until we understand that as education leader Chris Lehmann says, "Our job is to teach kids, not subjects," we can begin the work we need to help our children succeed.
When you enter Dr. Lou Lahana's Tech Cafe at PS/MS 188, you aren't entering a classroom with a teacher preparing students for the future. Instead, you enter a space where social activists are working hard doing the real work of making the world a better place today addressing causes about which they are passionate. Lahana is a self-described passionate educator in search of technology to support talent development and social action in teens. Here is how he does that.
If students aren't sure about which cause they want to address, that's okay. Dr. Lahana has collected research and resources on numerous causes such as those below. The resources are always being updated by Lahana and the students.
Once they select their cause, they determine a course of action to address the issue using tools they chose. Here are some tools in the toolbox.
Once the issue and tool are selected, students use them to select their own project and tools to make real-world change. But how does Lahana manage to conduct a class where students own and lead the learning? Where every student may be working on a different project, with a different tool? The Key to DifferentiationDr. Lahana's key to differentiation is the students. In Lahana's class it is students who rise up as the resident experts. Lahana's job is that of a conductor and environment creator. He points the students to the right resources and experts in coding, jewelry making, clamation, music and movie making and more. Then he ensures students have the environment conducive to learning. This means there is a sound studio to make music, a wood working area, sewing machines to create wearables, a place to bake clay for claymation, 3D printers and more.
In short the students are empowered to own the learning and help one another to make the world a better place.
Here are some of the projects students have addressed. Gun Control
Gun Control March x
Students organized to march in support of those affected by the Parkland shooting and against the NRA. These 5th-8th grade students created compelling signs, marched, and listened to speeches. This movie which captured the event features a song performance by one of Lahana's students, Kayleen who used Soundtrap to create her song. Her track is available for free download at: soundcloud.com/techbrarian/sets/social-action-1
The Island School's Gun Control March from Lou Lahana on Vimeo. Building A GreenhouseThis student wanted to address animal cruelty in the food industry by creating a greenhouse that produces fruits and vegetables students at the school can eat rather than meat. He used a 3D printer to prototype the greenhouse. He used the woodworking tools to make planters for the greenhouse that currently stand in the school's schoolyard with plants. Tolerance for Wearers of the HijabThis student knew that other students didn't understand her and possibly misjudged her because she wore a hijab. She decided to make a movie inviting others to wear a hijab, explain how they felt, and she explained what it meant to her.
The Hijab Experience - Vimeo
The Hijab Experience from Lou Lahana on Vimeo. Deter Cigarette Use with a Smoke Detecting ShirtThis student wanted to address the dangers of smoking. He coded an Arduino to create a shirt that can detect smoke. When it does, it lights up with sayings to embarrass the smoker such as "stinky breath," "yellow teeth," or "lung cancer."
Cigarette Smoke Detecting Shirt - Vimeo
Your TurnWhat do you think? Are there ideas here you could consider using with your students? Are you already doing this type of work? What excites you about it? What challenges do you see?
While Internet Explorer has joined the "product graveyard," Microsoft Edge has entered the scene as more than the standard web browser. Innovative Educators will appreciate the learning tools and extensions proven to improve reading comprehension, strengthen writing, level the playing field for struggling learners and help teachers personalize learning in less time.
Learning Tools are built into the Windows 10 Edge browser. They allow your device to read aloud text using a voice of your choosing. The tools also allow for content to be accessed via "Reading View" which increases text readability by removing distracting content, adjusting font and line spacing, as well as identify syllables and parts of speech.
Here is an overview of some of the features and benefits.
Sustains attention and improves reading speed
Improves comprehension and sustains attention
Adjustable line and font spacing
Enhances reading speed by addressing "visual crowding"
Parts of speech
Supports grammar instruction and comprehension
Targets word recognition and pronunciation
Improves comprehension by an average of 10%
In the next several screenshots, I will share various ways students and teachers can use Edge to enrich teaching, learning, and make content more accessible.
When you add an extension like Grammarly you have a tool that will check spelling and grammar. It will also define and give synonyms for any word. Just double click.
Right click on any word to begin read aloud.
Customize Voice & Speed
Next you can adjust the speed and add voices.
This is the screen where you add voices. I selected Catherine from Australia.
Track Reading with Highlighted Text
It's important to notice when the screen is reading to you, the line it is reading is highlighted and the word it is reading is emphasized.
If you have students for whom English is not their first language, you can use the translation feature to read the text aloud.
We all know that machine translation is not perfect, and that's okay. It still helps make language much more accessible than without it. Do a lesson on this with students to help them do as good of a job as possible to make meaning of what they're reading.
Read with fewer distractions
Reading view, in the address bar, provides a clean and simple layout with fewer distractions. You can change the reading view style (light, medium, or dark) and font size to customize the reading experience.
Here's one view.
Here is another view. Notice also that as it reads in this view, the spoken word is highlighted.
You can help students limit distracting notifications by selecting "Focus Assist" in the action center.
View Syllables & Parts of Speech
Using the "Grammar Tools" accessible from the "Reading View" you can choose to have syllables and parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives) displayed.
Annotate a Webpage
Teachers will enjoy being able to be untethered from the board in the front of the room with the ability to annotate a web page right from Edge using the pen shaped "Write Notes" tool. The tool allows you to highlight, draw, add comments, and then save or share the screen with others. To unteather use Skype to share your screen (or that of a student or expert) with the projecting device.
This video highlights some student feedback on using learning tools.
Education and Technology: Helping students read in a new way - YouTube
What do you think? Are learning tools something that could be helpful to students where you teach? How do you see using this in your practice?
Join us for our monthly #NYCSchoolsTechChat on Thursday, June 7th where we'll be giving ourselves a report card: How do you think you did this year? Join the #NYCSchoolsTechChat as we discuss the good, bad, and the ugly from the 2017/18 school year.
The school year is ending and for many innovative educators that is when their own learning begins as they hit local, national, and international conferences and events like the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit, Building Learning Communities, or International Society of Technology in Education Conference. When they do, they share their learning with their social learning network. Social media is flooded with frivolous posts and you don’t want what you share to be among that. Here are some ideas to help ensure you are contributing quality content that will help you grow and strengthen your connections.
1-Be IntentionalBefore you post, think about what you are hoping for your audience. Know how they will find what you share valuable.2-Where’s The Beef? Share Quality ContentDon’t just post something like, “Took away great ideas I’m excited to use and implement in the classroom.” Your audience is left with nothing useful. They just know you know something they don’t. Instead share the actual ideas, information, and how and what you plan to do with what you learned.3-Foster EngagementPosts are more meaningful if they invite the audience into the conversation. Consider ways to do that. Did a presenter share an interesting or provocative idea? Share it and ask your audience their reaction. Did the presenter say something surprising? Share that and ask what others think of this idea. Posts that get conversation going are a win for the poster and the audience as everyone gets a little bit smarter.4-Meaningful PhotosWoohoo. Look at me at this event. I’m here and you’re not. These type of posts aren’t the best choices for social learning. What’s better is to snap photos that can help others learn or be inspired. Perhaps it is a photo of a powerful slide where you ask others for their reaction or experience with a concept. Maybe it is a great handout that promotes thinking and learning. Maybe it is a photo of someone speaking and you share a powerful quote they said as you shot the photo.5-Tag Your SourceWhen you quote someone or share their ideas, do your best to find their profile info and tag them. It is always good to point your audience to the source directly. They get the credit and kudos they deserve and you make a great connection.6-Share LinksDid you learn about a terrific program, theory, or concept? Do your best to provide a link for readers to learn more. 7-HashtagUsing a hashtag is a great way people can follow what folks are posting about a learning experience. Conference organizers should have this on slides, signs, programs, and more. This is a powerful way for attendees and interested parties can connect.8-Reflect A terrific way to process and internalize your learning is to write a reflection as a blog post, Facebook note, or wherever you like to capture learning. If you do, share that and spread the learning. #NYCSchoolsTech educator Sean Arnold did just that following his visit to the NYSCATE Digital Leadership Conference. The recap helps the writer to make meaning of what they saw and also lets others learn from the experience.
This is the time of year when the tests are behind students and the fun begins. Teachers are free to liberate their student’s genius and allow them to Choose2Matter by engaging in work that is worthy of the world. Angela Maiers says that learners who believe they have unique abilities early on will be more likely than others to:
Harness their talents more quickly
Develop self-confidence and a belief that they can succeed
Maintain their optimism and confidence under stress
Learn to rely on themselves more than others to get what they need in life
Live a productive and fulfilled life
Maiers reminds us that the world has been changed by ordinary individuals who were blessed enough to have been encouraged and empowered to become extraordinary. Innovative educators help students understand and believe that they are capable of the extraordinary. Maiers explains how in "Genius Matters: A Framework for Epic Transformation." In this book she provides 20 lessons that teachers can implement with students to do work that matters.
Now there is extra support for those students who Choose2Matter by volunteering their time and talents. WE Volunteer Now helps teachers help students organize volunteer activities to address issues and raise awareness about a cause they find important.
You can sign up for WE Volunteer Now to receive a free download that includes information on how to start a volunteer campaign at your school. You’ll also get access to grade-specific lessons you can use right away. Plus, 500 schools will receive a $250 grant to use towards their volunteer project.
The grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to all eligible schools/groups, to be used towards supporting your volunteer project! The eligible school or youth organization must:
The Volunteer kit contains ideas for teachers and students to brainstorm and helps students set goals. The kit also includes teacher checklists to help teachers keep students and themselves on track. There are lessons for all grade levels that easily align with your current curriculum. For high school AP teachers there is an AP® with WE Service Course that allows teachers the opportunity to incorporate service learning into their existing AP courses. This gives students real world experiences with AP content that traditionally has a reputation of being rather dry and tedious.
There are many reasons to join WE schools. Showcasing the wonderful ways your students are making the world a better place is a fantastic way to help your school stand out from the rest and garner community support. You can do this when students projects are finished educators have a great opportunity to celebrate and share the work on the school’s Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, website and other spaces.You can also share your results with WeVolunteer for a chance to earn your way to WE Day. It’s a stadium-sized event (there are 6 held annually in select cities across the country!) that brings together amazing speakers and performers. And YOU and YOUR students could be honored, or students can tune in and watch them live! You can see what this looks like below.
In this hectic world of achievements and grades, it is tough for students (and their parents) to make the time for giving back. Made possible by The Allstate Foundation, the WE Volunteer Now campaign make volunteering accessible to all.
This week the #NYCSchoolsTech Team brought innovative educators a chance to hear directly from “The Big Three: Apple, Google, and Microsoft” (listed alphabetically). During this day-long event at state-of-the-art #NYCSchoolsTech center, educators from across the city came together to learn first-hand which is best for their schools.
School Platform Preference
#NYCSchoolsTech leader JoJo Farrell got the day started by asking educators to stand up if they were primarily:
A) Apple school. B) Google school. C) Microsoft school.
Who do you think the winner was? Watch this video to find out.
The answer, as seen on video, is "D" none of the above. It turns out that schools tend to use some of each and that’s a good thing.
Special Adviser for School Technology, Jason Levy drove that point home. When Levy served as principal of a struggling middle school, he was able to turn it around in part by his use of technology. This was featured in a PBS Frontline story called, “How Google Saved a School.” However, he explained that the reality is it wasn’t only Google at his school. While the school used the Google Suite, they did so on Apple devices and with staff and colleagues Microsoft was the primary communication platform. As an informed school principal he knew the strengths of various platforms and resources and selected the right tool and device for the needs of students and staff.
At the "Big Three Summit" each vendor participated in a panel, had hands on demos at their booth, and presented to the audience to provide an overview of some of the highlights around how educators are using their resources for teaching and learning. A theme across the three was AR/VR is a path each will be pursuing in the education space. Participants were also pleasantly surprised to learn that when it comes to cost, Chromebooks are no longer the clear winner. Their sensible price point has finally resulted in Apple and Microsoft to drive down prices for students and offer less expensive devices.
There were some clear winners in other areas though.
Top Honors Go To:Apple
Accessibility and assistive tech
High end design and performance: Apple
Online communities for adults
Exciting news:#NYCSchoolsTech educators were also in for some surprises as they heard from each of the vendors. Apple
They have released a free “Everyone Can Create” curriculum that helps teachers weave creative areas like photography, music and filmmaking into their existing lesson plans using an iPad.
Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad starts at just $299 for schools and features enhanced cameras, advanced sensors and all-day battery life.
They are moving away from multiple versions of products so they will just look and feel nearly the same whether online or off.
With Microsoft Translations you can speak and in real time what you say can be translated to other languages. Check out the video below to see this in action.
Support from Our Elected Official
One of the biggest advocates for effective use of technology in New York City schools, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer attended to show her support to #NYCSchoolsTech educators and share some of what she is working on to advocate on their behalf. She said she is working to address increasing bandwidth in schools and she is also working to update what is allowable when upgrading tech in school with Capital funds to include tablets and Chromebooks. Brewer applauded #NYCSchoolsTech and “The Big Three” for doing the important work of creating public school / private industry partnerships.
Who’s the Winner? The Verdict:
#NYCSchoolsTech educator Lliana Villegas summed it up this way, “I came here today thinking there would be a clear winner as far as which of the “Big Three” is right for our school. I left realizing, it depends.” She went on to explain that you must consider how you plan to use the device or platform and with whom to make the best decision about what works. This event allowed her to do just that.