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Brainstorming: With Anonymity and without

I was reflecting for a moment on the picture here, where Design Thinking was in action, and was thinking about how we often ask students, teachers, parents, administrators, workers, and so on to add their ideas to a wall through a brainstorm method.  But I was also thinking about accountability.  I wonder if it would be better to create a system like this where everyone needs to have their name attached to their idea.  My theory is that it would help in two ways.

The first is that the overall architect(s) would be able to return to the brainstorm and see who’s name is attached to the idea.  This way, if there is a problem, they can quickly follow-up with that person to get a clearer idea of what they were writing about.

The second idea stems from the fact that I assume people will put more effort into an idea if they know their name is attached to it.  With anonymity could come sloppiness, laziness, or downright silliness.

Where I think it might squash some of the better ideas because people may not want to put them forth since their name is attached, to counteract this, people could be asked to come back to the wall or another wall for another turn at it.  This time, they could put any idea that came to their head, but could do it anonymously.

I would argue that using both methods would be most useful because most ideas would be well thought out and articulated from those who had their names attached, but the second method would enable out-of-the-box thinking and the bizarre ideas to flourish.

What do you think?  Has this approach been done before?

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Design, Education

 

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Has the IBO always gone overboard with criteria?

At the Nanjing International School, we use both the IBO curriculum and we are trying to adopt NoTosh’s ideas about Design Thinking.

I might argue that since we are trying to follow both the IB Design Curriculum AND Design Thinking we ask students to choose from at least one strand in each criterion.  In my teaching career with MYP, I have noticed most times every item from the IBO’s level 7-8 criteria does not make sense for students to complete.  They are not realistic and rather than student being informed by the process, they are bored out of their mind.

A case example:
If students would like to make a website, they might only choose:

Criterion A: Inquiring and analysing
The student:
i. explains and justifies the need for a solution to a problem for a client/ target audience
ii. constructs a detailed research plan, which identifies and prioritizes the primary and secondary research needed to develop a solution to the problem independently
iii. analyses a range of existing products that inspire a solution to the problem in detail 
iv. develops a detailed design brief, which summarizes the analysis of relevant research.

Criterion B: Developing ideas
The student:
i. develops detailed design specifications, which explain the success criteria for the design of a solution based on the analysis of the research (in this case, a website layout)
ii. develops a range of feasible design ideas, using an appropriate medium(s) and detailed annotation, which can be correctly interpreted by others
iii. presents the chosen design and justifies fully and critically its selection with detailed reference to the design specification
iv. develops accurate and detailed planning drawings/diagrams and outlines requirements for the creation of the chosen solution.

Criterion C: Creating the solution
The student:
i. constructs a detailed and logical plan, which describes the efficient use of time and resources, sufficient for peers to be able to follow to create the solution
ii. demonstrates excellent technical skills when making the solution. 
iii. follows the plan to create the solution, which functions as intended and is presented appropriately
iv. fully justifies changes made to the chosen design and plan when making the solution.

Criterion D: Evaluating
The student:
i. designs detailed and relevant testing methods, which generate data, to measure the success of the solution
ii. critically evaluates the success of the solution against the design specification based on authentic product testing
iii. explains how the solution could be improved 
iv. explains the impact of the product on the client/target audience. (IBO, 2014)

Following this idea, teachers would still have something to mark for every criterion, but it would be more succinct and we could enable the FUN back into the learning.  I would emphasize that we would want the students to choose and (verbally) justify why they have chosen those criteria.  Along the lines of Design Thinking, we want the kids to: “be immersed, synthesize, ideate, prototype, and then display” (NoTosh, 2015).

I think it is important that we follow the rules, but as educators we need to realize when the rules should be broken if we are ensuring that our students are not enjoying the subject matter.

Thoughts?

 

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From Tech class to Tech integration

A learning common

As a new tech integration specialist, moving to a school where they were changing from the tech class to the tech integration model there were certain things that needed to be understood beforehand.

Some of these key ideas I posted in a post called Technology Integration: a six-pronged approach.  Other ideas, however, had more to do with dealing with the emotions of colleagues and I will touch on this now.  I would liken these Kübler-Ross’ “Five Stages of Grief” to the emotions that many of the teachers went through when learning they were dealing with a new strategy for technology:

Denial: Most home room teachers who have been at the school for sometime, upon hearing that their school will be moving to this model will be in shock, and do not really understand what this means.  Some may decide that they do not have time to meet with or interact with the new ‘tech integrator’ assuming this stance as one where they can keep their heads in the sand as long as possible until they will have to deal with what has been given to them.

As a tech integrator it means you need to explain the process to teachers, knowing full-well that many of the words you say or write are falling on deaf ears.  It is of utmost importance that you have patience knowing that they are dealing with change, and are there to offer reassurance, help and support when they are ready to receive it.

Love

Anger: One of the biggest gripes from teachers is that they “have lost their prep. period”.  They do not see the big picture yet and feel like they have gained nothing, but definitely lost what most teachers treasure most – time.

As a tech integrator, this means that you have to be ready to act as the messenger, fully realizing that some teachers will be ready to shoot you.  Again, patience and understanding are key here.  Note that I am not saying, “push for your right to integrate tech”.  A tech integrators role, especially in the early stages, has more to do with empathizing and supporting than it does with integrating technology.  Be kind, be patient, listen, and support.

Bargaining: At this stage many teachers are still not ready to accept the role of the tech integrator and may decide that they will ‘leave for a coffee for the entire period’ while you teach the class in their classroom.  Although this may need to happen at first to ease into the transition there needs to be bargaining and compromise from both sides.  For instance, the tech integrator eventually needs to explain that his role is to be working with the teachers to integrate technology into the classroom.

The tech integrator eventually wants to work his way out of the job.  Essentially, he should be developing computer skills in all the teachers to such a degree that he can begin focussing his role more as a learning coach than a tech integrator.

Another worry from teachers is about how they will do the tech teaching themselves, how they are going to mark, who is going to mark, etc. These questions should all be explicitly focused upon over time with the tech integrator helping out along the way.  Remember, this is not a journey that will take a year.  In my experience and that of others, it takes between three and five years to fully move to tech integration.

Depression: There may be some hidden or some outright depression along the way.  Teachers may say things like, “I don’t know how to teach technology; I just don’t have the skill set; or Please, can you come and teach my class.”

As a tech integrator, the initial stage will mean getting to know all the teachers needs through regular meetings and setting up classroom visits.  However, upon you understanding the support necessary for different teachers, accommodation takes place at different levels.  For example, some teachers may want a lesson to be taught completely by the tech integrator.  Others, may want to team teach.  Other still, may want you there only as moral support or support when something gets tricky.  And finally, many may want you to teach them individually either for personal or professional purposes.  This is where the acceptance stage has started kicking in.

Acceptance: Not only is there a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a bright shiny light when everyone reaches the end of that tunnel.  Here are some reasons:

  1. The students have a higher chance they are learning technology through authentic means, and not in a separate class where the end goal is to learn technology.  The computer and it’s peripheries begin to be thought of as a tool to help a student come up with better or altogether new ways to create solutions to genuine problems.  Ideally, the teachers and tech integrators are integrating with the highest levels of the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model.
  2. Tech integration improves student learning processes and outcomes because teachers who recognize a computer’s capacity move from a Behavioral approach to a constructivist approach as noted in this article.
  3. Technology integration enables total engagement of the class with tools like Google Docs, Microsoft One-Note, Socrative, Edmodo, and one of my new favorites Todaysmeet.  Integration also allows for students to enlist the help of other classes, schools, or even experts in a field to find the answers to the questions that may be posed.  Students or teachers can post in blogs, on social networks, through ePortfolios and through so many other forms.
  4. As a tech integrator, your colleagues can learn from you in so many capacities.  As mentioned above, they can learn while you are teaching, while they are teaching, or by themselves at their own pace.
  5. Finally, another advantage for you, the tech integrator, stepping into so many classes is that you are gleaning best teaching practice.  I like to think of a tech integrator as a bumblebee pollinating flowers, or carrying best practice from one class to the next. This again is teaching teachers, but it has reciprocal advantages.

While the stages are not the same for all teachers, a technology integrator stepping into these shoes in a school where they are changing from tech classes to integration is unwittingly going to stumble across some, if not all, of the teachers in one stage or another.  He needs to mentally prepare himself for the situation and recognize that he won’t be liked by most upon arrival.  He needs to remember to support, support, support.  In two or three years he will be loved even more than the tech teacher who would take the kids off the teachers hands so they could have a break.  Eventually, he will become the most loved teacher through all the school, even more than the gym teacher!!

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Technology

 

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Connecting around the world (within Timezones)

One of the projects on the back of my mind for our school is to buddy different classes or grades with “sister school” throughout the world.  Where this most often becomes is through technology, authentic needs and projects, and through meeting synchronously at the same time.  To alleviate this last worry, I was examining the idea to limit the schools we would connect with to those within our own timezone (for now).

Time Zones

Time Zones

This would mean that we could still get a cross-cultural feel for how things are in different parts of the world, but never have mix-ups or hiccups because of timing.  I can envision it now:

“Ok, great.  We’ll Skype with your class at 2pm then.”

“Wait, 2pm your time or mine?”

“Oh, ours.”

“Oh, we will already be gone home.”

This preplanning could fix all of this hassle down the road.  Because I am in Istanbul, this gives me a wide gamut of places and schools to consider, for example, Finland, Kiev, Bucharest, Cairo, Lubumbashi, Pretoria, Cape Town, and the list goes on.

Asynchronous conversations would end this worry and could be done through ideas like: Edmodo, Wikis, Blogging, Google Docs, Twitter, Twijector, and more.  However, there is definitely something about connecting in real-time.   I am excited about the idea and will comment further about the progress and the new problems we may face.

 

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New ways to cheat at school

Attention:

This is a “head’s up” to teachers [professors, bosses, supervisors, etc].  Writing and bringing cheat sheets, copying off neighbor’s tests, buying essays online, texting answers to one another and plagiarizing are ways students use to cheat.  But now there is a new way to add a procrastination method to the list of cheating

…and it’s not Facebook.

Proof:

Document Corrupter, by Neddy Winter, does just what it says.  It corrupts documents.  Neddy totes it like this:

We have all been in the situation where we have half-finished work due tomorrow. You can upload a unfinished word document and this tool will modify it so that it cannot be opened. You can send the corrupted file instead to buy yourself some extra time.http://neddyy.net/docs/

So if dealing with cheating and plagiarism wasn’t enough, now teachers need to lookout for this awful new method that students are employing.

Strategy:

As a teacher or educator we are thinking to ourselves, “Oh no!  This is not good.  Is there any way that I can combat this new way to cheat?”  Initially, there is not a program or service that can tell you the file has been put through the document corrupter, but you can try some of these solutions:

  • Tell students you are aware of the Document Corrupter
  • Insist that students save their file revisions in DropBox – They can always go back to an earlier saved version
  • Tell students that corrupted files are still counted as late
  • Tell students they must send you two file formats: PDF and DOCx
  • Ask students to give you drafts or compartmentalized pieces of large assignments
  • Employ the use of Google Docs instead
  • If a document shows up corrupted to your email and you have your doubts, ask a student to immediately send you an print-screen image-file of the closing argument from their computer.  Also ask them to look in their Dropbox to get an older version to send you

To help fight against procrastination:

  • Help students to create an “un-schedule”

“a weekly calendar of all of your committed activities. It can help you accomplish your goal in two ways. First, in looking ahead to how much of your time is already committed, you will see the maximum amount of time you have left over to work toward your goal. Secondly, creating an unschedule helps you at the end of your week as you can look back and see where your time has actually gone” (Burka, Jane B, and Lenora M. Yuen. Procrastination. Reading: Addison-Wesley
Publishing Company, 1983.)

To fight plagiarism:

  • Use turnitin.com “The global leader in addressing plagiarism and delivering rich feedback”
  • Have students use this resource before they submit something to you, to see where they may not have realized they were plagiarizing

Good luck to you all.  Don’t come back to me later saying, “What can I do now? Students are sending me corrupted files.  I think they have figured out this method.”

Did you procrastinate yourself in getting them to set up a DropBox account?  I don’t want to get a corrupted file hearing all about it.  🙂

Note: I almost recommend strategies like this.  As a teacher, I like to allow ‘one post it note’ as a cheat-sheet for students.  It means the students are perusing the information they should be studying, making decisions about what is the most important information, and then rewriting the information, which is a good way to study.

 
 

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Computer Labs are made wrong. Here’s why:

Attention:

Get rid of rows of computers in your school!!

How many schools have you been to where the computer labs are a room full of 20-30 computers lined up in rows around a the room?

Lots?

Me too.

This is old school thinking and it’s wrong.  A computer lab should not be row upon row of computers. There is no need. We have wifi and students have laptops of their own (or they should).

More and more forward-thinking schools are implementing laptop programs.  If this is the case, get rid of the desktops. Put them in the library or put two or three computers in each classroom.  Donate them to the office staff or the underprivileged school down the road.  Be more savvy when you invest the money into technology.

Proof:

“Results confirm the hypotheses that [students] seated in circles engage in significantly more on-task behavior than those in rows and that [student] seated in clusters engage in more on-task behavior than those in rows but less than those in circles.” http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1985-18658-001

Yet most computer classrooms in schools still have row upon row.  The desktop computer no longer needs to be the standard.  The laptop, the tablet and the smart phone are smaller, useful technologies that need to be employed effectively.

Computer classroom designers might take a look at leaders in the field, Google’s and Facebook’s headquarters, to see what fun engaging design looks like:

GOOGLE

     

images from http://www.reactorr.com/blog/index.php/2009/08/google-land/

FACEBOOK

images from: http://freshome.com/2009/10/15/facebook-headquarters-in-california/

I wish schools I have seen or worked at looked fun like this.

Strategy:

Then what should the computer classroom of 2011 and beyond be?

  • Outdoors – Why limit the confines of classroom learning to a classroom?  Get kids outside experiencing and doing, with tablets and cellphones connected to the internet as supporting reference tools or better yet as creation tools for capturing, writing about, drawing and much more.  Take students on trips to the mall, the store, the field, behind the school, the cafeteria, and nature. Read more about outdoor classrooms here.
  • If educators have to works indoors, two words: Beanbag chairs (Swiss balls could also work– They are lightweight, movable workstations.  Put electric/data ports for charging and connectivity throughout the floor of EVERY classroom and put lots on the walls. (At least until they mass market wireless electricity)
  • Group centers and Circles can easily be formed by the teacher for collaborative physical meeting points.
  • With the new-found money in the budget, invest in specialized media centers: graphics tablets, video raid systems, video greenscreens, music stations and studios with sound editing capabilities. Computers aren’t just for using the Microsoft products.  Start thinking about how the other subjects like art, drama, phys ed, and science can be using them.
  • Fitness rooms with setups to place tablets are a must.  Make sure you have speakers to plug those iPods into.
  • iPads and iMovie are a must for drama class and why not for the sports field.
  • Wacom tablets are a new must for art class which can now also be called Digital Design class.
Administrators and educators:
Think outside the box.  Redefine the computer classroom.  Think Engaging. Think Useful. Think Fun! Invest more in your wifi.  
Good luck with the future.
 

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Online Learning: Good or Bad?

I was recently in a forum where Berno Nilssonasked asked the question, “What do you think about online learning?”

My response was:

I believe that online learning is a growing educational forum.  I feel that all educators need to consider this as something that is not an alternative but is considered necessary integration in education.  Students today are living online.  We need to meet them in the arena they know best.

Judith Hammock, another responder, wrote:

I believe that online distance learning will continue to build momentum in the future. It brings education to students who do not have access to colleges and universities and provides them opportunities they never had before. Online teaching, to me, requires some special skills. These include the ability to show your enthusiasm for your subject matter through writing, good organizational skills, and the ability to engage your students without your physical presence.

Having had experience with online learning both with teaching and as a student, I feel that the best instructors provide a caring atmosphere which keeps the students engaged.

Conversely there is the argument that online learning takes away from the personal, humanness that we should nurture as we grow.  We need to tread slowly in this journey into the digital.  For example C. L. Max Nikias writes:
…between the ages of 17 and 22, a person’s mind and spirit open wide, as she begins to explore her world, her place in it, and what she intends to contribute to her society. It is during this age that some of a person’s most intense bonds and affiliations take shape. Because of this, the best undergraduate college or university education should be experienced in community, so that shared social, athletic and cultural experiences can be as mutually transforming as the intellectual experiences inside the classroom, library or laboratory.
My argument is also that online learning does not need to be separate from learning at school, especially in earlier years.  Teachers should be guiding students through ways to learn online.  I have a blog post that talks about Searching beyond Google and a page that Explores ways to Collaborate Online.
 
 

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