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My Life as an Innovation Consultant: What Will 2016 Bring?

It's the start of a new year, and I'm re-organizing my professional life, setting goals and reflecting on nearly six years as an independent innovation consultant.

People often ask what I do and the answer is complicated. I have many professional interests revolving around innovation, educational technology,  social media, and global education. Perhaps the best title to give me is non-traditional educator.  I am an advocate for students and teachers, yet I am not employed in a traditional school setting. Instead, I partner with a variety of people, schools, organizations, and companies to lend my expertise and to promote educational change. Often educators are considered out of touch and less relevant if they leave school settings for consultancies. I would argue that my knowledge base has been greatly expanded because of my experiences.  I love what I do. 

Here's what's going on for me this spring and this may give you an idea of my current projects:

  • I attended FETC last week, gave a presentation on global project-based learning, and participated on a panel moderated by the US DoE's Zac Chase on closing the access gap.
  • Check out my blog post  on Participate Learning (formerly Appolearning) that highlights their unique Participate Chats feature. I've worked with this group off and on over the last years. 
  • The Waukegan Public Schools is hosting their annual Google N'More conference. I'll be there Saturday to talk about global project-based learning.
  • I began working with Edmodo to help guide their thought leadership around connecting to teachers. Stay tuned for more artifacts from this work. 
  • The annual Student Technology Conference run by Marymount of New York students takes place on January 30th. Proposals are still being accepted from students in grades 6-12. All are welcome to attend to learn from a great group of young technology leaders. 
  • Project Tomorrow runs a career exploration program for high school students in California and I'll be designing flipped modules for these students to learn about technology integration this winter. 
  • The Illinois Computing Educators conference takes place at the end of February and I'll be there as a conference committee member and as a presenter. Join us! It's really a fun and engaging professional development event. Note that there is a pre-conference free EdCamp After Dark event on Wednesday evening of the conference week among other special activities.
  • In March, I'll be attending the SxSWedu conference in Austin, Texas to learn and network. This conference has proven invaluable during the last few years.
  • The CUE National Conference takes place in mid-March and I'll be reprising my role as the official #notatcue ambassador. This means that I strategize with CUE and virtually monitor social media for this event. I've done this for their past two conferences, and it's really fun. I learn a lot and get to help out with an incredible conference. 
  • Don Buckley, Brandon Wiley, and I will be conducting a workshop for NYSAIS at Rye Country Day School in New York on April 16. Entitled Developing Global Connections in Your School, this experience will help participants apply the design thinking process to coming up with a plan for globalizing their school. We are also doing a mini-version of this workshop at the CoSN annual conference earlier in April. 
  • Finally, Steve Hargadon and I are gearing up for another round of  Globaled Events, pushing the global education agenda beyond our annual Global Education Conference. We are starting a publication on Medium and a webinar series in February. Soon we will announce Global Leadership Week which will take place at the end of April with a face-to-face event in Silicon Valley and a virtual mini-conference focused on inspiring action in the global education field. We also will be reprising our Global Education Day at ISTE meetup in June. All of these events are free for teachers; if you're interested in connecting to highly motivated, tech-savvy educators through our work, consider getting involved as a sponsor. Contact Steve Hargadon at steve@hargadon.com for more details.

The aforementioned list of activities shows the range of workin which I engage. I really enjoy this variety as well as getting to know people through these projects. During the last few years, I've had the opportunity to serve as an innovation coach in several schools including Mercy High School in Michigan, D230 in Illinois, Falconer School in Chicago, and the Dwight School in New York and I've conducted several customized technology audits at schools for Educational Collaborators (EC, by the way, is a great community of ed tech leaders who can be deployed for any project). I really love helping schools strategize around innovation and this work has been immensely professionally satisfying. It's exciting to see schools move forward and tackle pressing issues, and I can help with providing resources, connections, and ideas for infusing innovation into their culture.

During my last innovation gig, I partnered with Don Buckley, formerly of the School at Columbia and now with Tools at School, to tag team the innovation process. Don turned out toe be a great thought partner; he worked with faculty using the design thinking process and advised the school's leadership team while I focused on professional development and overall management of the year-long project. This school is now positioned to take on this work themselves, and it's exciting to see new growth within this school. 

A new experience for me in 2015 was working with the startup Remind conducting teacher outreach. I love this tool, learned a great deal how it can be used in classrooms with surprising creativity, and had time to think about what teachers really need. Partly because of my work with Remind, I've also started to network more and I've particularly enjoyed a Chicago Hive meeting and two dinners with the Chicago DOLS group. I'm looking forward to continuing those activities.  And, perhaps the most out of my comfort zone experience I had in 2015 was attending an IBM data analytics conference as a social influencer and representative of the education field. This event was so different for me and expanded my interest on how data is used and perceived in the education world. I'm hoping to explore this further during 2016 and become a more active and aware data citizen. 

At any rate, I'm grateful for 2015 and am looking forward to what 2016 brings to my professional life! As always, I hope to continue to learn from and by inspired others around me, applying this knowledge to new projects. Professional generosity makes the world go around, and I look forward to working with people who share this vision on initiatives that matter. What's on your plate for 2016? 


This is a Remind Reminder!

This is a reminder to try using the Remind app! This seemingly simple, free tool can transform your classroom or organization. 

In early 2012, I was introduced to Remind co-founder Brett Kopf as I was leading CoSN's mobile learning initiative at the time.  At the time, I was intrigued by his story and impressed that a local Chicagoan had gone on to make his mark on the world. 

If you're not familiar with Remind, it is an immensely popular communications platform for educators. I encourage you to sign up on the web for it or download the app for iOS or Android. Experiment with it from the teacher perspective (creator of a class) and the student perspective (person receiving messages). Remind is currently being used by 1 out of 5 U.S educators and it is a safe, simple and secure method for educators to communicate with families and students over the age of 13. From the web, you can schedule announcements and add attachments; on the app, you can also attach photos and voice memos. Recently, Remind announced that multi-owner groups a great feature for co-teachers; translation in six languages another feature being rolled out this fall.

Since August, I've been contracted to conduct educator outreach with Remind in the state of Illinois. This means that I'm available to meet with anyone interested in using this tool through the end of October 2015 and can provide no-cost training to teachers, administrators, coaches, parent groups, after school programs,  childcare workers and park district employees who are curious about using this tool to improve home/school communications. I'm willing to work with you and your colleagues to find the best method for supporting users in your school, district or organization. Email me at lucy@remind101.com if I can be of help! 

During the last couple of months, I've been very impressed with Remind Connected Educators, a group of Remind power users, who continually demonstrate creative ways to use Remind. Many of their ideas are inspirational and would have never occurred to me. These teachers have gone beyond using Remind for basic class announcements and homework reminders. Recently, we held a Twitter chat on this topic, and you can see some of these ideas on this tagboard. I love how teachers are using Remind to send celebratory shoutouts to kids and parents, to communicate with families on field trips and student travel excursions, to participate in Twitter chats and even to engage students in class scavenger hunts. Administrators are also finding Remind to be invaluable for sending resources and morale boosters to faculty and for hosting "Asking Me Anything" chats for their school communities via Remind. 

I've been using Remind to share innovation resources and global education links on a daily basis. You are welcome to join either group, and you can see them embedded at the bottom of this blog post. 

  • To join my Illinois Ed Tech Innovator class, follow this link or text @iledtech to 81010.
  • To join my Global Education News class, follow this link or text @gecnews to 81010.

Here are some links to get started and I hope that you'll experiment with Remind and share potential uses on Twitter with the hashtag #RCEchat. 

 


What's New at Lucy Gray Consulting

In May and June 2015, I'll be at the following events. Hope you'll join me at one or more of these!

Registration for Global Education Day at ISTE is filling up; we're at 50% capacity. Sign up soon for this free event if you'd like to attend. This is our fourth year of hosting this event, and many attendees have remarked that it's one of their favorite events at the ISTE conference! 

Global Education Day is going to be our kickoff event for all activities related to the 2015 Global Education Conference. We're planning on announcing some additional events and changes at ISTE to our annual online conference, so stay tuned! 

For more summer professional learning opportunities, check out the events I've curated and bookmarked in this Evernote notebook. 

I've been also writing for the Ed Tech section of About.com along with Ken Royal. Here are our articles for April:

In March, I took on a new project which was fun and enlightening.  I virtually assisted with social media efforts for the 2015 Annual CUE Conference. Using a variety of tools, I kept tabs on CUE's social media streams, responding to queries from attendees and pointing to various resources. I also ran a badging pilot for this event, working closely with BadgeList and CUE Inc. to develop a learning group. (Note that BadgeList is also teaming up with the Global Education Conference to expand on badge offerings for the 2015-2016 conference year.) As many readers know, I enjoy social media and I think I've found a new aspect to my work, working with organizations to boost their social media productivity and presence. Thanks to Mike Lawrence at CUE Inc. for suggesting this role at his conference this year!

Also, in March, I spent about a week visiting 15 Chicago Public Schools to interview teachers for the CPS Ones to Watch award which is presented at the district's annual Tech Talk Conference. I've done this off and on for the past few years, and it's wonderful to see how this program has grown. There are many more tech-savvy teachers and administrators in CPS than when I initially did work with them, and much of this is fueled by the adoption of Google Apps and the CPS Computer Science for All program. 

Finally, I'm wrapping up two long-term coaching projects this June. Along with design thinking expert Don Buckley, I've been working with a great international school in New York City this year to help them develop a road map for innovation. We conducted a comprehensive assessment for this school, wrote an extensive report detailing next steps and providing resources, held design thinking workshops with faculty and provided customized professional development. We see design thinking as an incredibly versatile tool for problem-solving within schools from strategic planning to re-thinking school policies to encouraging critical thinking with students. Our hope is that this school will continue to apply this strategy moving forward as they continue to cultivate a culture of innovation. 

The other project has been a Kajeet mobile learning pilot with Chicago Public Schools; information about this project is available here. I've been coaching teachers at Falconer School for the past two years as part of this. With both projects, it's been wonderful to see growth in the ways innovation takes shape at each school. 

I've found in the past few years that I deeply enjoy innovation coaching as described in the projects above. I've had several long-term projects where I've worked with schools, and I appreciate this process as it allows me to build productive relationships with administrators and faculty.  If you know of any school or district that is looking for this type of solution, I would appreciate the referral!

Up next... a rebranding of GlobalEdCon and my professional website. Stay tuned for my next update! 


Crossposted at EdSurge: Think Before You Buy Edtech

This post originally appeared in EdSurge.

News alert! Here's some breaking edtech news:

  1. There is no magic piece of technology or other silver bullet that will transform education;

  2. There is no laundry list of technologies that you should have in your school if you are trying to create new learning environments;

  3. Buying technology first and planning later will likely ensure a struggle--if not a flop.

A principal recently approach me about what should be on her school’s "edtech wish list."  Her teachers were already using interactive whiteboards and document cameras and eager to expand their work. A new building was under construction. The school’s architectural team was pushing the principal to make decisions about tech implementation, even though the building would not finished for almost a year.

What do to? It as bad as trying to pick out a living room rug for a house still under construction.  Worse actually. There was no technology plan in place. No one had talked about how to tie technology to the school's missions and goals. The principal was running out of time. A "wish list" of techie toys would amount to little more than bolting some gadgets and software onto the learning process and hoping for the best. My prediction: a whole lot of unhappy teachers and students.

Sadly that principal is no exception. More recently, an educator in another country reached out to me via Twitter. He wanted to know how to use educational technology in his country’s schools--in bursts of 140 characters, no less!

“How can teachers in my country use Apple technology to teach in classrooms in comparison a Promethean Interactive Boards and Classflow?” he tweeted.

Talk about a (seriously) apples to oranges comparison. Even via email, I couldn’t begin to answer his question. I wanted to take him back a few steps: Where was the planning process--the focus on teaching and learning? Only then can we legitimately ask how the technology can support learning goals.  

These well-intentioned questions also demonstrate to me that as education professionals, we have a long way to go in providing resources to schools that are just beginning to think about edtech. Schools and teachers throughout the US are all over the place when it comes to being prepared to teach today’s students, much less students of the future.

First things first: our schools need to implement a systematic process to modernize teaching and learning in their schools.

My advice? Start with what you want to achieve with the learning process and let everything else follow from there.

Yes, this process takes time. Ideally it should happen as organically as possible, giving all community stakeholders a chance to buy in.

Take a look at the steps outlined last year in the Consortium on School Networking’s Leadership for Mobile Learning initiative and the Guide for Administrators. Here's more on mobile learning programs:https://sites.google.com/site/lmlguide/home/implementation-steps-for-a-mobile-learning-program. This framework could be applied to any edtech initiative in your district.

Mike Muir of the Auburn School District in Maine recently keynoted the annual Illinois Computing Educators Conference, and shared some of his resources that can help in planning and implementing education initiatives.

Among them: this post on creating a shared vision, a foundational element to the implementation of educational technology. He also made a great case for teacher empowerment and including various stakeholders. (If this interests you, make sure to check out his work with the Maine Center for Meaningful Engaged Learning and on Distributed PD as well.)

I can’t stuff recommendations for schools looking to innovate into a tweet, email or even shortlist. But, here are the steps that need to happen for a school to become a place of innovation. And yes, all the steps really matter!

  1. Find a way to truly listen to all stakeholders in your district. Run focus groups, hold meet and greets, conduct surveys in order to gauge the needs and concerns of teachers, students, administrators, parents and community members.

  2. Based on this data, invite a select group of stakeholders to serve on a committee tasked with conducting a deep dive into educational innovation.

  3. This group should analyze data collected in step 1, participate in group readings of relevant books and articles, and go on site visits to see the programs of exemplary schools that match your school’s culture.

  4. Once this innovation committee has had time to digest the aforementioned information, then the process for designing a thorough plan can begin. Starting with the creation a mission statement that reflects your district’s goals for teaching and learning and create a related vision statement specific to ed tech.

  5. With a working understanding of educational innovation, mission statement, and goals in place, proceed to develop a timeline for implementation over the course of three to five years. Review this plan continually and iterate on this plan as needed. The plans should change and improve based on your school’s experiences.

  6. Determine mechanisms for evaluating your teaching and learning plan, both qualitative and quantitative. Don’t wait for outside researchers to produce evidence that technology improves teaching and learning. Figure out how to measure the progress of goals as determined in step 4, reporting regularly to community stakeholders. If you’re expecting test scores to rise because of technology, you are barking up the wrong tree: it’s the quality ofteaching and learning that will improve test scores. Think about evaluating the impact of technology on other areas such as attendance, reduction of student discipline issues, and student engagement.

  7. Consider making your school improvement efforts transparent by blogging about your district’s work so that others can learn from you. Use this blog to showcase student work as well.

  8. Host site visits for other schools and even a mini-conference in which to highlight the work of your colleagues and to establish your school or district as a local leader in education.

One school that I've seen that really gets this process is Mercy High School, an Apple Distinguished School in Farmington Hills, MI. Last year, I worked with their school leaders to enhance plans to transition to iPads and to upgrade their use of technology in general. Entitled Mercy 2.0, this was a dream project to advise because the school leadership team shared a deep understanding of the issues at hand and had a united vision for what this project could do for their school. And they came together to listen to each other (and yes, to counsel from others including me.)

The Mercy leadership team made its thinking and efforts transparent through a blog, starting a student leadership team around tech, and held a local conference to showcase their work and to invite collaboration with other local schools. Read more about the work via various publications and courses that they’ve published in iTunes U.

 

It's fascinating to see such projects come together. I'll be looking for (and working on) other examples in the future along with  as my fellow innovation coach, Don Buckley. Let us know other schools that have followed some sort of process focused on teaching and learning that has resulted in exemplary education below! Where else would you direct people to look for examples of innovation done right?


I Love My Work!

image from www.flickr.comFor the past couple of years, I've been working as a consultant, traveling to various locales to generally help others think about innnovation in education. This work has included running an online global education conference, delivering presentations at conferences, conducting one day workshops, curating news, writing curriculum and offering insight to individual schools, school boards, and established companies. Interestingly, I'm increasingly getting more inquiries from ed tech start ups on how best to connect to educators as well. 

I've been inspired by many places I've visited and by many people I've met along the way; one project has stood out to me as particularly ideal. Since last Spring, I've worked with fellow Apple Distinguished Educator Larry Baker to think about customized professional development as part of his school's "Mercy 2.0" initiative. Mercy High School is located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and is currently transitioning its one-to-one device program for students from PC tablets to iPads. All faculty members and freshman students have iPads; upperclassmen were given the choice of sticking with the PC tablets or purchasing an iPad (approximately 200 students did so, interestingly enough). 

It's important to note that Mercy has an amazing leadership team (comprised of the head of operations, tech director, dean of students, principal, department heads and president of the school)  that has been thinking and planning this transition for a significant period of time begininng with two briefings with Apple. The admin team is all on the same page in terms of believing in the power of technology to transform learning and also in their shared goal of creating a more robust digital culture within their school. For Mercy's leadership team, using iPads in the classsroom is not an optional choice for their teachers and they fully understand that they need to provide the support and professional development necessary to help their faculty become more successful. This leadership team is also very willing to listen to feedback from their faculty and alter plans as necessary in order  to meet faculty needs. I think the role of this leadership team has been invaluable to Mercy 2.0 and I've encouraged Larry to document the digital transformation process. You can read more about what they've been up to in his blog, and  Larry will also talk more about his work during a Mobile Learning Explorarations webinar for EdWeb this coming spring.

Because Mercy has been a digitally-oriented school for a number of years, Larry and his admin team colleagues have felt that that Mercy faculty needed specialized professional development focused on teaching with the iPad specifically and thinking through how to fully utlize iPads on the classroom.  I've been contracted to spend 5 days at Mercy over the course of this year in order to help make this happen. I spent two days there last Spring, meeting with each department and conducting informal intake assessments and then returned in August to lead workshops with another Apple Distinguished Educator, Cheryl Davis. Mercy also held drop in sessions for help with specific workflow apps and workshops on using Google Apps over the late spring and summer, and required teachers to complete 10 tasks related to using the IPads and post about this to Moodle. New teachers and students attended an iPad bootcamp as well. So, by the time fall and the acutal rollout to students arrived, many teachers felt that they had had enough professional development and need time to actually implement. It was a good  time to re-think about how best to use my time at Mercy.

Larry and his team then came up with the brilliant idea of inviting me back to work specficially with students. Imagine that! I was thrilled with the idea of helping Mercy iPad "wizards" come up with a plan to create a student-run tech program. During our planning meetings, I emphasized to Larry that this group should really be student-owned and that the adults would be there to facilitate, not co-opt, this group. 

Thus, last Friday, I met with 26 enthusiastic and articulate young women to help them think about how they could establish a tech group at Mercy and serve as leaders within their school community. To see what we discussed, take a look at our agenda which is a little messy, but you can see our course of action for the day. You can also learn about other student-run tech programs linked to in this document and shared by colleagues from the ISED-L listserv.

We started off getting to know each other by sharing our favorite apps and tech super powers. The girls also gave us postive constructive feedback on how well the iPad program rollout is going. We then dove into a list of links and did some preliminary research on other student-run tech programs. Steve Hargadon happened to ping me while trying out videoconferencing on his phone, so we chatted with him for a bit, and also held Google Hangouts (of which one is recorded) with Jason Markey and Kern Kelley. Jason included one of his students in our conversation and they discussed their for credit student tech help desk; Kern talked about his Tech Sherpas program. Make sure to watch Kern's video and to read Larry's reflections on the day for more details. At the end of the day, we brainstormed ideas for the structure of our program, started an outline and joined a Ning created by Mercy tech director Tom James in order to faciliate group communication going forward. 

Friday was an incredibly satisfying day for me, most notably because I spoke my piece, and then let the girls explore, discuss and brainstorm ideas for THEIR group. I was really impressed by their poise and enthusiasm and I was also stunned to realize how much I miss teaching. There is nothing like working with students and having synergystic moments when you know you are reaching them.

At any rate, working with Mercy High School has been such an amazing experience. We've mutually learned from each other and I've grown to really admire the leadership and teaching exhibited at this school. I can't wait to see what these tech "wizards" come up with as they continue to form their group, and I hope that I'll have the opportunity to work with others schools in a similar fashion in the future!    

 

 

 


The Rockford Files

Here are my presentation files for virtual sessions I'm conducting today for Rockford Christian Schools. The PowerPoint files may not reflect the intended formatting as I originally created these presentations in Apple's Keynote program. 

If you cannot see the files below, try going directly to this Box.net folder: 

https://www.box.com/s/e9dc0952c095cfc454c7

 


My 2012 Singapore Report

I've hugged my family,  unpacked my bags, given my kids gifts (which included a Singaporean version of Monopoly),  run a few loads of laundry and am now settled in to write a bit about my trip during this past week to Singapore. Thanks to my friend, fellow Apple Distinguished Educator colleague, and now Apple employee,  Pav,  I was first invited to work with a new class of Apple Distinguished Educators for the Asia region back in 2008. That was a life changing trip in itself..... I had the opportunity to visit several Singaporean schools, including the School of the Arts and Singapore Sports School, and also to work with amazing Singaporean and international school educators for a week during the 2008 Asia Apple Distinguished Educator Institute.  A year later, educators and students from Maris Stella High School in Singapore came to Chicago over the course of two visits  to the U.S,  intent on forming  foundations for global collaborations. I was priviledged to spend time with Maris Stella teams on both visits.

Consequently, I've thought a great deal about Asia, and specifically Singapore, and was really pleased to be invited to return again this spring. On this visit, the city/country itself seemed to not have changed much, although it did seem like it was more populous. There were still many buildings under construction as evidenced by a plethora of construction cranes, established buildings and streets were in pristine condition, and the weather was still hot, and perhaps a bit more humid. Two huge Singaporean projects were finished since my last visit.... the Universal Studios theme park on Sentosa Island where I stayed last time, and the amazing Marina Bay Sands casino complex with a ship-like structure and pool on its roof. I stayed near Orchard Road, a main high-end shopping district, and again, was amazed by the mass amount of attention devoted to brands and shopping. Marina Bay Sands also sported a very high end mall which was astoundingly huge. To me, the focus on consumerism was a bit overwhelming, but also a sign of a vibrant economy. We also drove by Singapore's port which reportedly is the largest in the world and never closes. Not much is made in Singapore and it is a gateway to the rest of Asia. Human capital is its best resource and this is evident in the careful planning that pervades this society.

As an aside, I think Singapore would make an excellent topic of study in a interdisciplinary global studies program in middle or high school. Studying its very intentional government would lead to fascinating debates regarding how much control governments should or should not have. Singapore is also a go to country for many financial institutions, so studying its economic forces and impact on the world's economy would also be of interest. And, examining its highly competitive educational system would also lends itself to thinking deeply about the purpose of education.  The possibilities would be endless here....

Continuing on with details on my visit, I spent four days holding workshops for Asian educators, mostly focused on the iPad. For the first two days, there was an emphasis on accessibility and our third day focused more on general use of Apple technologies. The format of the workshops really worked well and kept participants busy and engaged. Pav served as an emcee extraordinaire and kept the mood light. He's really come into his own working for Apple, and I was so impressed with his leadership and knowledge. Working with me on various days were several ADEs including Jane Ross, Jane Harris, Dawn Hallett, Tyler Sherwood, and Rob Newberry and Greg O'Connor of Australia's Spectronics which runs this conference on inclusive learning technologies. This team was absolutely delightful and I learned a great deal from our conversations. I'm excited to have made some new friends!

The daily format of these workshops usually started out with various welcomes followed by a keynote and 5 25-minute breakouts on various topics. My topic was on planning for 1:1 success, and I'll talk about that more in a follow up post. This speed dating style of presenting was challenging, but it really helped me to gather my language on this topic. Afterwards, reflection time was given to participants and then lunch. After this break, we kicked things up a notch and offered 15 minute app sharing time. Each group of 5 or so educators moved from table to table to learn about our recommendations. I chose to focus on content creation apps, and again I'll provide more details on this in a follow up post. After this activity, another keynote followed and participants were given a short amount of time to present a rough plan for next steps. These plans were presented to the larger group, and everyone left with a sense of where they wanted to proceed. I really admired the schedule as it promoted colleagiality, discussion and movement. Instead of talking at people all day, we were truly engaged and better able to understand their concerns and needs. 

I visited some extraordinary schools for these workshops, Pathlight School and the School of Science and Technology, Singapore. I couldn't take pictures at Pathlight due to privacy concerns with its special needs population, but I did take a few of SST and other places visited. More importantly, I met many extraordinary educators and it seems like counterparts in this part of the world are very thoughtful and knowledgable about best practices in education. This was particularly evident in their final presentations to the group at large. While I haven't had the opportunity to work with a majority of Singaporean and international educators, it seems like they are all on the same page with a committment to teaching inquiry as foundation to learning subject matter. Interational educators largely subscribe to the thematic International Baccaleareate curriculum and the Singaporean educators seemed better versed in various approaches to learning and will travel to learn more about best practices. For instance, one vice principal mentioned that his colleagues recently traveled to Chicago to attend a Lesson  Study conference. If you're not familiar with this Japanese approach to teaching, check out this Wikipedia entry.

Interestingly, I had many conversations with educators over the course of the week of the competitiveness involved with Singaporean schools (and a bit around the international school world as well). The national exams are paramount in Singapore and basically determines the future paths of students. Students, parents and schools all feel the pressure, and each group thinks the pressure comes from each other. The parents think the schools are pressuring them and many turn to outside tutoring agencies and after school programs for extra support. The schools believe that pressure comes from the parents as well.

In order to understand all of this in its proper context, I think it's important to read material on the Ministry of Education's web site that explains its vision. Yes, standardized testing is incredibly important in this society, but they support and invest in their schools and teachers in order to provide their students with the best possible teaching force. Everyone understands that human capital is their only and best resource and they seem united in their quest for excellence. Would this approach work in the U.S? I honestly don't know, but I think our own national agenda is not shared by all constituencies, is fairly negative in its approach to attempting to get results, and does not do enough to support teachers and to build effective and engaging learning environments.

On the topic of learning environments, make sure to take a look at my photos of SST. I wish I had photos to show you of Pathlight, but I'll attempt to tell you what I saw. This school had a traditional Singaporean school footprint... sort of shaped like the letter E, with various cooridors branching out from. There was air conditioning in the rooms where we worked, but generally, Singaporean schools do not necessarily rely on A/C. Lots of fans and ventilated windows and doors seem to be the norm. Pathlights had student art work exhibited and even sold some pieces,  and generally provided support for their students in the form of extra signage (whiteboards by the bus loading area indicated who was to take the bus that day and who wasn't). Their library looked inviting, and they even had a room set aside as a design studio.

The School of Science and Technology was even more amazing as it is a recently completed campus costing around $49 million dollars (Singaporean dollars). It is the most state of the art STEM school I've had the opportunity to visit, and it provided incredible work spaces for both students and faculty. Teachers had individual cubicles in a large office area that was adjoined by an open faculty lounge with several meeting spaces. Rooms for every purpose you can imagine were present including professional development spaces with flexible walls,  science labs equipped with high end equipment, a huge theatre, and a studio for film production activities. The overall look was very modern with bright, bold colors, inspiring phrases were painted on walls, and modular configurable lockers in the halls. One detail that I especially appreciated was the long unobtrusive power strips embedded in lab tables where multiple students could share power.  Most importantly, this school had a vision clearly understood by its principal. Over the course of his tour of the building, it was evident that he understood what it took to provide a 21st century (and beyond) education to his students. In hindsight, I'd like to know more about what Singapore does to cultivate its leaders because this gentleman certainly got it, and I believe that we should be focusing more on leadership in the U.S. 

On Friday, I capped off my week spending time at Chatsworth International, a for-profit international school led by a team that includes ADEs Tyler Sherwood, Mark McCallum and Rob Newberry. They have a common set of a values and are incredibly colleagial. While at Chatworth, I worked with the English department, discussing topics for infusing technology into their curriculum. These teachers asked great questions, shared their own knowledge and were able to experiment with various tools as I led the way. I think they were probably overwhelmed to a certain degree by the possibilities, but hopefully, our session will inspire them to explore ideas and tools of interest as they will soon be on summer break. The kids at Chatsworth were lovely, too, asking me interesting questions when introduced and I'm glad I got to see where kids were present... most of the Singaporean students were on holiday from their schools as was the case when I visited in November 2008. 

Friday night included dinner with the Chatsworth leadership team and I plied them with questions about international school life. It intrigues me, and perhaps one day, I'll take the plunge. They definitely have a unique culture and set of challenges, quite different from US public and private schools. Generally, I think there's more accountability involved (sometimes applied fairly and not so fairly) as many of these schools are for profit and they have an excellent and large pool of teachers from which to hire. There is an intentional revolving door of students and teachers as both educators and families in these schools tend to move fairly quickly for a variety of reasons. I'm also very interested in learning more about the International Baccalaureate curriculum, and would love to get trained in this one day as I think it would benefit my work. 

Thanks for reading my ramblings thus far. My intention was just to get a few of my thoughts  down abou this trip before the whirlwind of the June conference season fully takes effect. Many, many thanks to everyone who helped with my trip and with whom I interacted. I'm so grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to continuing conversations over social media, etc! 

 


My 2012 Singapore Report

I've hugged my family,  unpacked my bags, given my kids gifts (which included a Singaporean version of Monopoly),  run a few loads of laundry and am now settled in to write a bit about my trip during this past week to Singapore. Thanks to my friend, fellow Apple Distinguished Educator colleague, and now Apple employee,  Pav,  I was first invited to work with a new class of Apple Distinguished Educators for the Asia region back in 2008. That was a life changing trip in itself..... I had the opportunity to visit several Singaporean schools, including the School of the Arts and Singapore Sports School, and also to work with amazing Singaporean and international school educators for a week during the 2008 Asia Apple Distinguished Educator Institute.  A year later, educators and students from Maris Stella High School in Singapore came to Chicago over the course of two visits  to the U.S,  intent on forming  foundations for global collaborations. I was priviledged to spend time with Maris Stella teams on both visits.

Consequently, I've thought a great deal about Asia, and specifically Singapore, and was really pleased to be invited to return again this spring. On this visit, the city/country itself seemed to not have changed much, although it did seem like it was more populous. There were still many buildings under construction as evidenced by a plethora of construction cranes, established buildings and streets were in pristine condition, and the weather was still hot, and perhaps a bit more humid. Two huge Singaporean projects were finished since my last visit.... the Universal Studios theme park on Sentosa Island where I stayed last time, and the amazing Marina Bay Sands casino complex with a ship-like structure and pool on its roof. I stayed near Orchard Road, a main high-end shopping district, and again, was amazed by the mass amount of attention devoted to brands and shopping. Marina Bay Sands also sported a very high end mall which was astounding huge. To me, the focus on consumerism was a bit overwhelming, but also a sign of a vibrant economy. We also drove by Singapore's port which reportedly is the largest in the world and never closes. Not much is made in Singapore and it is a gateway to the rest of Asia. Human capital is its best resource and this is evident in the careful planning that pervades this society.

As an aside, I think Singapore would make an excellent topic of study in a interdisciplinary global studies program in middle or high school. Studying its very intentional government would lead to fascinating debates regarding how much control governments should or should not have. Singapore is also a go to country for many financial institutions, so studying its economic forces and impact on the world's economy would also be of interest. And, examining its highly competitive educational system would also lends itself to thinking deeply about the purpose of education. 

Continuing on with details on my visit, I spent four days holding workshops for Asian educators, mostly focused on the iPad. For the first two days, there was an emphasis on accessibility and our third day focused more on general use of Apple technologies. The format of the workshops really worked well and kept participants busy and engaged. Pav served as an emcee extraordinaire and kept the mood light. He's really come into his own working for Apple, and I was so impressed with his leadership and knowledge. Working with me on various days were several ADEs including Jane Ross, Jane Harris, Dawn Hallett, Tyler Sherwood, and Rob Newberry and Greg O'Connor of Australia's Spectronics which runs this conference on inclusive learning technologies. This team was absolutely delightful and I learned a great deal from our conversations. I'm excited to have made some new friends!

The daily format of these workshops usually started out with various welcomes followed by a keynote and 5 25-minute breakouts on various topics. My topic was on planning for 1:1 success, and I'll talk about that more in a follow up post. This speed dating style of presenting was challenging, but it really helped me to gather my language on this topic. Afterwards, reflection time was given to participants and then lunch. After this break, we kicked things up a notch and offered 15 minute app sharing time. Each group of 5 or so educators moved from table to table to learn about our recommendations. I chose to focus on content creation apps, and again I'll provide more details on this in a follow up post. After this activity, another keynote followed and participants were given a short amount of time to present a rough plan for next steps. These plans were presented to the larger group, and everyone left with a sense of where they wanted to proceed. I really admired the schedule as it promoted colleagiality, discussion and movement. Instead of talking at people all day, we were truly engaged and better able to understand their concerns and needs. 

I visited some extraordinary schools for these workshops, Pathlight School and the School of Science and Technology, Singapore. I couldn't take pictures at Pathlight due to privacy concerns with its special needs population, but I did take a few of SST and other places visited. More importantly, I met many extraordinary educators and it seems like counterparts in this part of the world are very thoughtful and knowledgable about best practices in education. This was particularly evident in their final presentations to the group at large. While I haven't had the opportunity to work with a majority of Singaporean and international educators, it seems like they are all on the same page with a committment to teaching inquiry as foundation to learning subject matter. Interational educators largely subscribe to the thematic International Baccaleareate curriculum and the Singaporean educators seemed better versed in various approaches to learning and will travel to learn more about best practices. For instance, one vice principal mentioned that his colleagues recently traveled to Chicago to attend a Lesson  Study conference. If you're not familiar with this Japanese approach to teaching, check out this Wikipedia entry.

Interestingly, I had many conversations with educators over the course of the week of the competitiveness involved with Singaporean schools (and a bit around the international school world as well). The national exams are paramount in Singapore and basically determines the future paths of students. Students, parents and schools all feel the pressure, and each group thinks the pressure comes from each other. The parents think the schools are pressuring them and many turn to outside tutoring agencies and after school programs for extra support. The schools believe that pressure comes from the parents as well.

In order to understand all of this in its proper context, I think it's important to read material on the Ministry of Education's web site that explains its vision. Yes, standardized testing is incredibly important in this society, but they support and invest in their schools and teachers in order to provide their students with the best possible teaching force. Everyone understands that human capital is their only and best resource and they seem united in their quest for excellence. Would this approach work in the U.S? I honestly don't know, but I think our own national agenda is not shared by all constituencies, is fairly negative in its approach to attempting to get results,  and does not do enough to support teachers and build effective and engaging learning environments.

On the topic of learning environments, make sure to take a look at my photos of SST. I wish I had photos to show you of Pathlights, but I'll attempt to tell you what I saw. This school had a traditional Singaporean school footprint... sort of shaped like the letter E, with various cooridors branching out from. There was air conditioning in the rooms where we worked, but generally, Singaporean schools do not necessarily rely on A/C. Lots of fans and ventilated windows and doors seem to be the norm. Pathlights had student art work exhibited and even sold some pieces,  and generally provided support for their students in the form of extra signage (whiteboards by the bus loading area indicated who was to take the bus that day and who wasn't). Their library looked inviting, and they even had a room set aside as a design studio.

The School of Science and Technology was even more amazing as it is a recently completed campus costing around $49 million dollars (Singaporean dollars). It is the most state of the art STEM school I've had the opportunity to visit, and it provided incredible work spaces for both students and faculty. Teachers had individual cubicles in a large office area that was adjoined by an open faculty lounge with several meeting spaces. Rooms for every purpose you can imagine were present including professional development spaces with flexible walls,  science labs equipped with high end equipment, a huge theatre, and a studio for film production activities. The overall look was very modern with bright, bold colors, inspiring phrases were painted on walls, and modular configurable lockers in the halls. One detail that I especially appreciated were the long unobtrusive power strips embedded in lab tables where multiple students could share power.  Most importantly, this school had a vision clearly understood by its principal. Over the course of his tour of the building, it was clear that he understood what it took to provide a 21st century (and beyond) education to his students. In hindsight, I'd like to know more about what Singapore does to cultivate its leaders because this gentleman certainly got it, and I believe that we should be focusing more on leadership in the U.S. 

On Friday, I capped off my week spending time at Chatworth International, a for-profit international school led by a team that includes Tyler Sherwood, Mark McCallum and Rob Newberry. They have a common set of a values and are incredibly colleagial. While at Chatworth, I worked with the English department, discussing topics for infusing technology into their curriculum. These teachers asked great questions, shared their own knowledge and were able to experiment with various tools as I led the way. I think they were probably overwhelmed to a certain degree by the possibilities, but hopefully, our session will inspire them to explore ideas and tools of interest as they will soon be on summer break. The kids at Chatsworth were lovely, too, asking me interesting questions when introduced and I'm glad I got to see where kids were present... most of the Singaporean students were on holiday from their schools as was the case when I visited in November 2008. 

Friday night included dinner with the Chatworth leadership team and I plied them with questions about international school life. It intrigues me, and perhaps one day, I'll take the plunge. They definitely have a unique culture and set of challenges, quite different from US public and private schools. Generally, I think there's more accountability involved (sometimes applied fairly and not so fairly) as many of these schools are for profit and they have an excellent and large pool of teachers from which to hire. There is an intentional revolving door of students and teachers as both educators and families in these schools tend to move fairly quickly for a variety of reasons. I'm also very interested in learning more about the International Baccalaureate curriculum, and would love to get trained in this one day as I think it would benefit my work. 

Thanks for reading my ramblings thus far. My intention was just to get a few of my thoughts  down abou this trip before the whirlwind of the June conference season fully takes effect. Many, many thanks to everyone who helped with my trip and with whom I interacted. I'm so grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to continuing conversations over social media, etc! 

 


Summer Learning Opportunities for Educators

Summer is quickly approaching and it looks like it's going to be a busy one. I'll be presenting at a slew of conferences that may be of High Techpectations readers . Read on for more details!

June 18-20 The Connections Conference at Sidwell Friends, Washington DC

Visit one of the nation's leading independent schools and engage with colleagues during three days of breakout sessions and full day workshops. I'm excited to be presenting at this conference along with colleagues from Educational Collaborators!

June 25 - 27  ISTE 2012, San Diego, CA

Stay tuned about a possible Global Education Conference in person summit! I'll be also conducting a presentation during the conference on Exploring Instructional Uses of YouTube and  Podcasting and Mobile Media Learning and Teaching along with Julene Reed and Larry Anderson. 

June 28 - July 1 The Asia Society's Partnership for Global Learning Conference, Brooklyn, NY

The Asia Society has been on the forefront of global learning for many years, and I'm thrilled to be presenting at PGL12  along with my Global Education Conference co-conspirator, Steve Hargadon. Anne Mirtschin, an Australian educator who has been very active in our online conference, will also be traveling to NYC and I can't wait to meet her in person! 

July 10 -12, iSummit, Atlanta, GA

I'm thrilled to be returning to the Coalition for Lighthouse Schools' annual conference. This is a fabulous event for independent and international schools with 1:1 Apple deployments. C0-chaired by my fellow Apple Distinguished Educator and friend, Julene Reed, this conference is a sure hit!

July 21, SDE Midwest Conference on Differentiated Instruction, Chicago, IL

SDE is one of the nation's premier providers of professional development, and I'll be presenting several sessions that be of interest to educators at their Midwest event.

August 2-5, Blackfoot ETC, Missoula, MT

After a two week sojourn with my family in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I'll be keynoting this conference for Montana educators. I'll be focusing on mobile learning and can't wait to travel to the West to spread the word about best practices in educational technology.

Hope to connect and learning with many of you at these events! 

 

 

 

 


What's new and exciting?

What's new and exciting in your classroom and school? Well, relatively new and exciting as most US schools are on summer break!

I'm looking  to refresh some presentations/workshops and am interested in telling stories related to the compelling things going on in my PLN's classrooms.  Please share any relevant links, too!


These topics are of particular interest:

- anything related to PBL supported by technology
- mobile learning with any sort of device
- bring your own device programs
- Android or iOS apps related to global collaboration/awareness
- Using iOS devices to differentiate instruction
- social networks in schools (Not many schools seem to be going in this direction, but are you building a social network for your students to use in house or have you purchased a solution? Or, are you leveraging Facebook instead? Anything related to using SNs for educational purposes would be interesting.)

Some of the above relates to my work with the Consortium for School Networking on a mobile learning initiative and to a iTunes U global guide I'm developing with ADE colleagues. The rest are related to workshops I'll be giving in August... I'll be sure to share everything when I'm ready. 

Thanks in advance!