Category Archives: reflections

Off and running, er, scratching!

Wow! So my plan today was to introduce the new unit to our TechSperts: Internet Safety and Scratch. We began with ending our previous unit by giving out excellence in photography and photoshop awards to each student, as well as a color print out of their completed photoshop project. Then I began to show them examples of the Scratch projects that the TechSperts did last year, to give them ideas about what they will be making…and instantly…HOOK…we were in Scratch on the projector and a student stepped up to show her scratch skills she learned over the summer and next thing I hear “Can we try this now? I have so many ideas!! I know what I wanna do!” and each one was on their way. They played around with the sounds, costumes and scripts for about 20 minutes, and then ended with their first blog posts here.

I had intended to instead move into the Netsmarts UYN presentation and activities. We will begin the next lesson with that so by the end of Day 2, they will have internet safety tips to design their games about. I like the flow!

A TechSpert programs a ballerina to rap on stage using Scratch!

A TechSpert programs a ballerina to rap on stage using Scratch!

HOPE

Wow what a wonderful day and the staff here at Renaissance made it so super special for both the children and the faculty. T-shirts were made and given to everyone, an arch of balloons spelling out “hope” was posted in the front lobby for everyone to walk under, and our IT staff worked hard to pipe direct-tv into the classrooms and auditoriums for viewing it live, as well as a taped version later, for our 1240 kids!!

Our hosts at MIT also provided a memorable day for our small group of 6th graders. Ms Bloom and I helped these 8 children create their own movie about what hope means to them, and they presented it to MIT’s Comparative Media Studies and Urban Planning employees and students on campus. They gave us great snacks, cut-out Obama faces, and red white and blue beads, while we watched the live ceremony. MANY thanks to everyone who hosted us and appreciated the kids wonderful work! They were soooo proud of themselves. I will post the video soon…

Inauguration Day at BRCPS

Inauguration Day at BRCPS

The year in review

Actually no I am not going to torture anyone with a reflection on my 2008! But it does permit me to look forward into 2009, and comment on the future of education. Phew. Ready?

The phrase that closed out the year is “21st century skills” and it is certainly to be heard again in 2009. I heard it at MassCUE’s keynote and Apple showed the “rainbow” in its opening presentation at the road show. I have done work with BATEC and TechBoston and other local IT education organizations in integrating work-force skills with industry-standard technology curricula, both in an effort to align high school IT standards with community college IT coursework, and to simply get IT jobs for Boston teens. The efforts have been there for years, but now it has become a state initiative, and a framework has been developed.

The wake-up call to America that came from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) in November is that our schools are not preparing its students to be successful in today’s workforce, and a call to action was made to change the way we educate our students. This involves putting into place support systems such as professional development for the teachers as well as pooling projects and assessments that implement the standards. Governor Deval Patrick outlined Massachusetts’ mission in partnership with P21, as the belief that “people must not only master content standards but also possess technical/technological and employability skills and abilities that reach beyond traditional academic disciplines.” It is an ambitious agenda, and the Commonwealth’s Department of Secondary and Elementary Education is already looking for schools that are exemplifying the teaching of 21st century skills. There is a need for the documentation of these projects, for establishing partnerships with industry and collegiate leaders, and for sharing all of these resources across the state. Such a system does not even exist now for the teaching and learning of core content areas (math, science, english, etc.)! For now, educators are being asked to create an account at Route 21 (http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/route21) and submit their examples, and an Advisory Board has been named to oversee the mission.

So what are the “21st Century skills”? They are grouped into 4 major categories that make up the “rainbow” :

    1. Mastery of the core subjects interwoven with the themes of global awareness, financial, civic and health literacy
    2. Learning and Innovation
    3. Life and Career
    4. Information, Media and Technology

      Each category is further divided into strands, and within each strand, specific student outcomes are listed.

      As an example, in order to demonstrate a mastery of Learning and Innovation skills, a student must demonstrate mastery of the 3 strands : Communication and Collaboration, Creativity and Innovation, and Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. A student demonstrates mastery of the Communication and Collaboration strand by showing evidence of mastering the following outcomes :

        1. Articulating thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively through speaking and writing
        2. Demonstrating ability to work effectively with diverse teams
        3. Exercising flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
        4. Assuming shared responsibility for collaborative work

          A possible project for this strand could be : a team of students collaborates on a single writing assignment. But other 21st century skills can be demonstrated in this one project with a few tweaks to the assignment. The writing process addresses core English standards. If the topic is about a global issue discussed in class,  the 21st century theme of “global awareness” is integrated into the project. The document itself could be written in a wikispace, thereby addressing the ICT strand of Information, Media and Technology skills. Finally, any number of Life and Career skills can be assessed, such as Productivity and Accountability for simply meeting the deadline!

          But what would a rubric for this project look like? In many projects already assigned in classrooms, 21st century skills are being learned. The challenge is in showing evidence. Naturally, the term “mastery” comes into question : how is each outcome assessed? And this may be the greatest challenge of the initiative. What are the universal benchmarks? Who creates these common rubrics and how are they shared? Here is what Route 21.org hopes to facilitate by collecting assessments that exist and then providing universal guidelines and most importantly professional development to help schools develop their own 21st century projects and assessments.

          I think the place to begin is in the graduation portfolios. Here is where a school can look at the whole student and ask whether they have prepared that student in align with not only their own school’s social and academic expectations, but now with the state’s 21st century skills, and ultimately answer to preparing that student for successful life and work in the 21st century…for 2009 and beyond!

          Happy New Year!

          September in February

          Phew. This week has been super tiring. Grades were due and the semester changed so this week is like September all over again for me. Print out syllabi, go over expectations and policies, set seating charts and basically get to know a brand new set of 150 names and faces! In a way its a great opportunity to recharge mid year, and revisit the curriculum and refine it. BUT it can be tiring too and you never know what these impressionable freshman will come into your class with after a half a year of high school under their belt with a different teacher. I am super excited though to meet them and find out who among them is ready, eager, and willing to be a media maker!

          Here I go again on my own

          (Yes the title is a White Snake reference – in honor of the PATS)

          I attended the first of 2 classes at Harvard this week to mark the kickoff of semester #2. Tuesday’s Human Development class looks like it will be extremely interesting – the 2 profs are engaging and extremely knowledgeable. The only down side is that it starts at 7:30 pm! Makes for a loooong day. And the very next evening is the ProSeminar in which I will be refining my thesis topic and diving in deeper to the literature review. I am excited but weary, as I find more and more of my energy and time and money is being poured into my professional life, with little left for the personal. The apartment hunt is put on hold, the spa vacation remains a travelocity bookmark, and my view of the gym seems to be more of my monthly statement these days. I promised myself (and that Guy upstairs) that I’d take better care of myself this year in my “new age” bracket, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank! Keep on keepin on. I’m just one of those people (schmucks?!) who believes that hard work, sincerity, and passion will pay off some day.

          “Things been a little tight, but I know they’re gonna turn my way.”
          - the boss