Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Failure + Learning = A+

Photo from:

There is a saying amongst the Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers:

"If a test works you get an A, if it fails and you learn, you get an A+"

Do we teach students that failure + learning equals an A+, or do they stop at failure?

NASA Embodies the 4Cs

I mentioned in my last post that I am at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena today as a kick off #NASASocial event for the Orion launch. The Orion launch marks the start of our journey to Mars; the next step for humans to explore the solar system.

I had the privilege of asking a question live during the event, which was shared on NASA TV. My question was about how the different NASA satellite locations, like JPL, contributed to the Orion launch. I won't go in to the answer, except to say that the different locations, with different expertise, provided some of the technological advances and component pieces for Orion.

Why is this important? Because it stresses the importance for students to learn the 4Cs. Obviously, collaboration is critical for NASA to undertake this important mission. Not only are they collaborating with their own personnel, but they are also collaborating with commercial flight companies, like Boeing and SpaceX, and local, specialized businesses to create the parts that are fabricated for the mission. Without creativity, Orion would not exist. What started as a dream and a question is now a reality. That's due to creative geniuses using their critical thinking skills to turn that dream in to an actual product launch. And communication? Well, I'm sure you can picture the amount of emails, phone calls, presentations, texts, webinars, etc that transpired between all of these entities to put this entire mission together. It's incredible when you look at the big picture that created tomorrow's Orion launch.

Our students today will be the astronauts that travel to Mars. Are you preparing them with the 4Cs for that jouney?

We're Going to Mars

Today I have the honor of sitting at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to share in the excitement for the Orion launch. This test flight is the first step in our Journey to Mars.

I will have to write a detailed blog later, but if you want to follow the excitement from all NASA sites, the twitter hashtags are:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Inside a Student's Mind: Google Docs Isn't Enough. Let Students Help You Learn

On Saturday, my daughter and I will be featured speakers at the San Diego Computer Using Educator's Tech Fair.

I'll write an in-depth discussion of our presentation afterwards, but for now, I am posting the link to our presentation for those who would like a copy.

(Sorry - working on my iPad so I can't make a short hyperlink)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I was lucky to catch the #SSDChat tonight, which was all about homework. 

I will admit - I don't find much use for homework at all. I find it only serves to reinforce the good, and further alienate the struggling. 

I bring this up here because I am worried that the push for digital learning is sending the (wrong) message that access to a device means teachers can expect students to complete more work outside the classroom. We've all heard it - "24/7 access to content," "classroom without walls," and "anytime, anywhere learning." What we need to remember is that access to a digital device does not inherently make the learning more relevant or accesible any more than access to a mechanical pencil might. Students have a life outside the school. For some, it's soccer, plays, music lessons, Boy Scouts, etc. For others, it's domestic violence, poverty, working parents not at home, or unsafe environments.

Equity is not just about access to a device. It's about access to opportunity; access to support; and access to meaningful and relevant learning. Without these, a device is just a device and homework is just another way to expand the gap between those who can and those who need support so they can as well.

Some powerful tweets from tonight's #SSDChat:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stop Drinking From a Firehose

So I'm sitting in a District Leadership professional development session and the presenter asks the audience to share with each other what his/her district is doing to inspire teachers to embrace and integrate the Common Core State Standards in their teaching.

Each district administrator shares a common theme: Professional development, professional development, professional development. The delivery varied. Some were using an LMS to provide just-in-time training opportunities. Others hired Teachers on Special Assignment to coach teachers in the classroom. All were providing pull-out sessions in which an outside consultant or district leader taught the teachers while a substitute taught the students.

And then one Curriculum Director said, "We're offering a lot of pull-out sessions. The teachers are overwhelmed and complaining, but one day when it's all done, they'll have an opportunity to use it and realize that it was a positive experience."

One day?

.... One day?

I know I read it somewhere, but isn't the rule of thumb that new ideas/trainings need to be implemented within 48-72 hours if they are going to be implemented at all? It'd be like teaching a kindergardner calculus and assuming that one day, when the time is right, the child will put it to use.

How much professional development, or professional learning as some are calling it now, can we shove down a teacher's throat before they spit it all out? Why are we forcing them to drink from a firehouse instead of a water bottle? Are we helping or hindering our mission?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Make It Work: Project BYOD Runway in the Classroom!

This post was originally published on my old blog (September, 2013). I think the content is still worthy of conversation:

As we move towards a BYOD program in our district, one of the questions that comes up is, “How can I ask students to do something if they all have different tools for the job?” It’s interesting how we assume every student must have the same tool.
I watch Project Runway every week (I know, guilty pleasure!), and each week the designers are given a task to complete. Last week they had to design performance wear.  After the task is described, designers are given 30 minutes to sketch an idea – some use an HP tablet, while others use colored pencils and a sketchpad. They are then given access to fabrics, but not the same fabric of course. Each designer chooses a fabric that matches their vision for the task. Once they have their materials, each designer must come up with a pattern, and then create their look.
At no point in this challenge are designers lined up at their cutting tables and given a pattern which they all must cut out together. At no point in the challenge are designers encouraged to use the same fabric, or the same hidden slip stitch. Each designer must find their own way to meet the demands of the task laid out before them. It’s 21st century skills in action – critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and yes, sometimes even collaboration!
So why do we make the assumption that our students cannot function unless all doing the same thing, at the same time, the same way? I challenge you to, in the words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work!” and give students the freedom to be learning designers.

Monday, October 13, 2014

An Open Letter to Students Returning to School

I think sometimes we have to remember that the world is moving forward around us, regardless of whether or not we keep up with it inside our walls. Education needs to be relevant, current, engaging, and forward thinking!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Change, Change, Change

The shift to Common Core has not only caused a change in curriculum and instructional strategies, but it’s also impacted every department in our school district. Funding has changed; assessments have changed; technology needs have changed; report cards have changed… and the list goes on and on.
As we navigate these changes, I am looking for ways to provide positive leadership that encourage and inspire, instead of cause fear and apprehension. Here are a few links I found that inspire me to keep going!
Why Leaders Matter – Key in this article is the reminder that district leadership is moving from “protectors of the status quo to change agents.” We can’t rest on what “has always been done” or “worked for us before.” We are navigating new, and sometimes murky, waters. How we do so sets the culture for the entire district.
What Makes an Innovative School District Leader? – This video from a school district in Canada, and the article attached, hammers home the notion that we have to provide “freedom to try new things.” There is no one answer. We need to establish the vision, provide the resources, and then be willing to adjust course as we move along the journey,
Managing the Digital District – A fabulous wealth of resources. Why reinvent the wheel or go at it alone when there are curated topics already at our disposal?
What other resources have you found that help you navigate through this time of change? Please share.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SAMR Sort: Getting Teachers To See the Bigger Picture

A couple months back I attended an executive briefing about digital learning and our 1:1 initiative. During the briefing, we were led through a SAMR sorting activity. Eight different classroom projects were shared with us. We had to sort the projects in to the SAMR level we thought it best fit. We then had to defend our decisions. It was an enlightening experience. Back at the district, my ed tech team decided to recreate that opportunity for our students. Using ISTEs Student Profiles for learning as a guide, eight K-8 grade scenarios were created.

On Tuesday, teachers attending the "New to Classroom iPads" professional development completed the sorting activity. It led to fabulous discussions about looking at learning from different perspectives. Teachers commented that most of the lower level activities could have easily been modified to advance in SAMR level.

With so much focus on using technology meaningfully in the classroom, activities like this one give teachers a better idea of just how to create that meaning.