Category Archives: professional development

Good Work Conference: Developing Responsible, Caring, and Balanced Youth

I had the greatest pleasure of attending a Good Work Conference: Developing Responsible, Caring, and Balanced Youth ( at the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham this weekend. The conference was made possible by Project Zero Perspectives ( at the Education School at Harvard University in partnership with CASIE Online ( The conference was also almost NOT made possible by the weather!! It too me 2 hours to drive my MINI through the unanticipated snow storm Friday morning from Southie to Dedham. But it was so very worth it, as I expected it to be!

The conference engaged me and about 200 other participants in discussions and reflections on how to help young people deal with the ethical and moral dilemmas they encounter in their digital world and how we as educators can equip them with the integrity, bravery, empathy, and power they will need to be good citizens.

I was especially excited to attend this conference because the Good Work Project was the foundation for my own Masters thesis in 2009 and I have incorporated Good Work into all of my curricula since. The mission – to help adolescents understand the power that they have to positively impact their communities by making new media, not just consuming it. Like many educators during the rapid rise in the use of social media, I also began to explore how to educate my high school students about the consequences of some of their online behavior. In one of my smaller Media Literacy classes at TechBoston Academy, a group of 11th grade students and I created our own Ning, where the students developed the acceptable use policy and behavior guidelines of the community and chose the consequences for “bad behavior.” We began the course looking first at ourselves offline by taking cameras into our homes and neighborhoods and writing “I am from…” poems that express our identities in the real world. Through classroom and online discussion, we then talked about the differences, if any, between their profiles, beliefs and behavior offline and online, and that of their peers. After that year, I began my career at the Boston Renaissance School as the IT Director, and so although my focus turned to more administrative tasks and leadership in education, I still had my group of students after school, called the TechSperts, with whom I could continue to explore these themes. I taught these 4th, 5th and 6th grade students Internet Safety skills and knowledge, computational thinking and game design, all under the umbrella of the mission to produce good workers who understand good play. The findings from the Good Play project, therefore, that are on a MUCH larger scale – over 100 students and 40 adults – have always been of interest to me.

I was able to meet Carrie James and Katie Davis, researchers at Project Zero and on the Good Play project, and attend one of their workshops, “Exploring Digital Ethics and New Media Literacies.” The class was extremely engaged and I think also shared my sentiment at the end that we could have gone on all afternoon with the activity! We discussed the kinds of online activities that raise moral or ethical issues and organized them into the five ethical fault lines in digital life defined by the Good Play project:
1) identity – when does the identity online cross over into deception?
2) privacy – what are the boundaries of sharing something public vs private?
3) ownership and authorship – issues of plaigarism, copyright, and piracy
4) credibility – how do you judge someone as credible online? Even if you know the person, how do you know that what they share is true or authentic?
5) participation – what are norms of behavior and how are they maintained?

Many of the workshop’s members expressed their concern about the immediacy of sharing online and the loss of reflection or forethought before posting to what could be a large-scale audience, especially if it goes viral. Speaker and civic education expert, Danielle Allen, had brought the “boundlessness” of action intrinsic to using digital media to our attention in her presentation on Day 1, and wrestled with how we as educators can prepare young people to handle that kind of response if it happens. Any one of our students could publish a video expressing their belief in something and it could go viral, so how do we help young people respond to the scale, power, and speed of that kind of action with integrity, bravery, and self-discipline? There are adults who can’t even handle it properly!

I was surprised to think more critically about mom’s blogs, too. One member of our workshop, who is a mom, expressed her concern about the lack of guidelines for new moms using digital media. So many moms (and dads) share so many photos of their children online, and although they may be posted within their private social circles, they are still being posted, and essentially, that parent has decided to begin building that child’s digital footprint. I was given an album of my baby pictures and then I could decide what to do with it. Today’s babies are having their photos shared, or even made into a viral video that ends up in a commercial, without their permission. So it was refreshing to hear a young parent recognize the dilemma. As one student from the Youth Underground quoted a parent from Betsy Bard’s book of interviews 6 Years Online, “Look at my cuuuuuute baby! But, wait, who IS looking at my baby? Doesn’t my son have the right to his own privacy? Who am I to make decisions about my son’s privacy?”

We were then given a moral dilemma and 3 responses from 3 different students in the study, and we were asked to reflect on their decision making process – How do youth think about their online lives? (and in relation to their offlinelives) How do they make choices online? How do they respond to dilemmas? Carrie and Katie described the three ways of thinking that each youth experiences:
1) consequence thinking: what will happen to me as a result of this action? Are the rewards worth the risks?
2) moral thinking: consider the impact of your actions on known others (other people’s feelings) and show empathy
3) ethical thinking: your actions can have an impact on a larger group that you had not considered, such as your school, nation, world.

It was clear that most of the young people interviewed had thought about themselves, the individual, first and the effects of their actions on others second. It was also apparent that no matter how many privacy settings we may put in place on our own social media accounts, there is a considerable lack of control of what others share. For example, I could go to a party the night before a big game and be snapped in the background of a photo that was then posted on Facebook, and even though I was not tagged so that my friends did not see the tagged photo on my profile, anyone of the poster’s friends who recognized me would know that I was there.

One post-it asked “Is it ok to break the rules if you don’t get caught?” My mother always told me “be sorry before it happened” and “you’re only sorry you got caught.” She scolded me for not thinking about the consequences of my actions before acting, but I was lucky that the effects of my mistake were contained within the context of the few people involved. In the digital world, however, my mistake could be amplified on a much larger scale. That would have made me MUCH more sorry I got caught, mom!

This is not to say, however, that all young people these days over share information, or can’t distinguish between what to share publicly and what to keep private, or can’t engage in respectful dialogue online. We had the pleasure of hearing from a panel of some high school students who very much had made thoughtful decisions about how they behave online, but it was also clear that they still have questions and will continue to struggle with the dilemmas that we all deal with in digital media. Some didn’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account while others create accounts in every new social media tool that comes along. Some thought social media helped them engage in deeper discussions about topics than they would offline, while others didn’t feel the need to post their opinions online. Some thought it was cool to connect with their teachers on Twitter – it “humanizes them” – while others didn’t like having to be more careful about what they shared because of being friends, or friends of friends, with teachers.

Founder of Design for Change, Kiran Sethi, wrapped up Day 1 with her inspirational message that is summed up in 2 words: “I CAN!” She was motivated to change her son’s educational experience in India when he came home from school one day suddenly saying “the teacher said I can’t.” She has made it her mission to instill the “I CAN!” attitude in young people all over the world to not only be what they want to be but to be able to help others be what they want to be, by making changes in the world now, as young people. The Design for Change curriculum is implemented in over 100 countries, and its web site is an inspiring community of sharing the good work that kids can do.

I was also able to attend founder, Justin Reich’s workshop, where we were asked “What does awesome look like?” Instead of focusing on what technology can ruin in a child’s life, ask instead what is awesome about it, and where do we want our students to be? We looked at to what degree young people are different and acknowledged that kids are not doing less stuff, they’re just doing different stuff. He asks educators to not see the loss of what kids used to do and don’t do now, but instead see the gains in what kids are doing now. Technology integration can sometimes lead teachers away from the learning goals of the lesson. One student on the panel later that day remarked that one of his teachers uses a chalkboard, “…and that’s awesome! I don’t want him to change that!” while in another one of his classes, a teacher uses a smart board effectively to help collect and distribute classroom notes. Justin posed two questions to educators: To what extent does technology allow us to create learning environments that are truly different? To what extent does technology allow us to do old things faster or more easily? I left thinking about how much more control of their own learning young people have these days, and realized that this is probably super scary for most teachers. BYOD models greatly increase the variety of and inequity to problem-solving tools that kids can have access to, so how does a teacher prepare an assignment that integrates with the unanticipated and ever-changing types and numbers of resources while still being a challenging and meaningful problem to solve? I also left the workshop with this declaration from Justin: “Our iPhone 5 will be their Commodore 64!” YIKES!!

We heard a panel discuss how to teach children not only to feel empathy but to translate it into action. Harvard professor Richard Weissbourd moderated the panel which included
Karen Campbell, Parent Proof blogger and Brookline Parent Education Network founder, Erika Guy, Nobles & Greenough Dean of Students, and Shelly London, Family Dinner Project founder. It was a pleasure to meet Shelly London, who co-founded the ethical video game, Quandary, that was launched last summer by the Learning Games Network, a spin-off of MIT’s Education Arcade. Quandary was developed by a team of experts across the fields of child development, social and emotional learning, moral development and game design. Scholars from Harvard and Tufts University devised a prototype that was tested for viability. Designers at the MIT Education Arcade and the Learning Games Network refined the game, which was produced by FableVision, an award-winning digital production and learning company. Quandary provides a framework for how to approach ethical decision-making without telling players what to think. I learned about Quandary last summer when I attended the Game Design Boot Camp and expressed my interests in teaching moral and ethical thinking through video game play. Peter Stidwill presented at the Good Work project and gained some great feedback from educators about the game and its application in the classroom.

We were all entranced by famous Finnish philosopher Esa Saarinen’s presentation (“I’m a famous guy in Finland. This is funny. But it’s a fact.”) where we were challenged to help our students achieve the “magical uplift” to an elevated state of thinking – thinking about love, beauty, empathy, justice…the bigger picture that too often is postponed in the face of the everyday task lists (what do I have to do?) and the competitive pursuit of the goodies (what do I want?). I heard the audience snicker when he posted a photo of Lady Gaga and her quote that she is trying to “figure out a way to make it cool or normal to be kind and loving.” But I think the eyes stopped rolling when he remarked that, when he saw her in concert and observed the way she approached two fans in her audience, “It is a possibility for a pop star to think on the upscale level and actually be…loving.” In our Good Play workshop we discussed the humanization of celebrities as a result of social media and the possible deterioration of hero worship that may in fact help young people understand and be empowered by the good work that is possible by the collective actions of a group of people, rather than be discouraged by the improbability of their own stardom, and thus feel a lack of individual efficacy.

Overall I thought that the Conference was wonderfully organized into a variety of engaging presentations – lectures, panel discussions, interviews, and videos – by some of the world’s leading researchers, philosophers, educators, philanthropists, and activists in education. It was a joy to meet in person so many of the researchers who have shaped my teaching and thinking and to meet so many people who are as passionate about increasing the incidents of good work, good play, and good citizenship in the world. You can check out my tweets live from the 2 days that I attended at lisakatesspace, #pzgw.

I am left with one essential question from Howard Gardner: how will you take what you have learned this weekend and translate it into action?

To that I say…stay tuned… ( :

Related Resources:

Boston STEM Collaborative for Girls launch party

Happy International Women’s Day!

Besides the fact that VAWA was signed back into law today (YAY!), I was also able to celebrate the launch of the Boston Area GIRLS STEM Collaborative ( at Microsoft’s NERD Center in Cambridge.

The Boston Area Girls STEM Collaborative is committed to increasing young women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) by creating programs that spark their interest and expand their knowledge of the multifaceted careers in these disciplines.

I learned about the Collaborative when I met one of the co-founders, Cynthia Brossman, during my work as a presenter at the Boston University RET Summer program for science educators in 2011.

The night was beautifully organized – it was a shame the weather was so bad!! But the attendees and I who braved the snow and wind were able to enjoy light bites and wine while listening to a panel of female executives in STEM careers discuss why there aren’t more women in STEM careers and suggest ways to increase the numbers.

The statistics are staggering…

Women own less than 25% of STEM jobs but make up 52% of the work force.

Less than 5% of members on an executive team of a startup company are female.

So naturally the question is why?

The consensus on the panel was that a network of ongoing support and mentoring is important once a female gets into the field so that they don’t leave, but that more female professors in STEM college pathways is necessary too. It is possible that a woman can go through an entire engineering education and never see a female professor – 13% of all engineering professors are female. Some education about what an engineer or a scientist actually does is also needed so that young women can understand and appreciate why pursuing a career in a STEM field is interesting and fun and rewarding and lucrative. Alright ladies, it is time to LEAN IN!

I was also able to walk around and visit the many booths set up with plenty of mentoring opportunities for women in Boston and learning opportunities for girls. Here are a few:

S.E.T. in the City: Career exploration for high school girls (

Science Club For Girls: Science literacy. Sisterhood. Self-confidence. (

WSW Web Start Women: Women teaching women how to program. (

Codagogy: Online web development courses for women. (

The Artem!s Project 2013: Rising 9th grade girls learn to program web sites, build robots, create games. (

Tech Savvy for Middel School Girls: Have fun with computers, engineering and technology. (

Summer Pathways in science and engineering at Boston Univeristy; (

GDI Boston: Girl Develop It helps women build web sites and apps. (

WEST: Advancing women in the business of science and technology (




Leading, learning the future

I spent the day at Holy Cross College with fellow Newton Public School colleagues at MASSCUE’s Leading, Learning the Future Conference.

Michael Mino (Contact: michaelmino.comgave a comprehensive overview of the many types of 21st century learning environments including social learning environments such as Ted Edmentormob, skillshare and instructables; open source learning management systems such as Moodle and Khan Academy Lite; cloud based environments such as Google Apps; and the ever-growing MOOCs (massive open online courses) such as those on Coursera, Edx, and Venture Lab. As more and more mobile devices populate K-12 classrooms, especially with the increased interest in the adoption of BYOD models, the question burns even as our eyes burn trying out so many different applications to find the right “fit” for our classrooms, schools, or districts: What will be the impact on K-12 learning at home, at school…or anywhere across the community?

I also enjoyed the keynote at lunch by Tom Daccord, co-founder of EdTechTeacher. He spoke about the impact of mobile devices, particularly the iPad, in the classroom and the challenges and affordances of a BYOD model. He emphasized the need for anyone implementing a mobile device model to stop focusing on the apps and start focusing on the activities! Educators should stop listing apps and searching for the “silver bullet” app that teaches a specific subject. Instead, use the creative and collaborative apps to enable your students to share and show their knowledge of a subject, and assess their creations  to find gaps in their understanding. I especially connected with this appeal given my experiences rolling out a set of iPads to special education teachers for the first time at an elementary school. It took some time for them to accept that there was no one “silver bullet” app for math, or ela, or science, and only in year 2 when the second ipad came our and had a camera, did we see the creative apps come out and get easier to use and collaborate with. A big challenge too was helping teachers plan activities that would work on these devices for a variety of subjects and students. So when he acknowledge a major challenge in a BYOD model for teachers is to ask them to plan activities that would work on a VARIETY of devices to ensure equity, I realized the possible intimidating and overwhelming feelings some teachers may indeed have! He showed us Inkling: a digital textbook creator…that actually turns the textbook into a social learning environment. How many educators are able and willing to take the time and know the materials to make their own digital textbooks that can be shared and manipulated like this, instead of the publishing companies digitizing and owning them, which could mean that students and teachers would lose the ability to manipulate the content…just like a textbook?! Tom ended with a buzzing reflection on a recent publication called Hacking Your Education, by UnCollege founder, Dale Stephens. With guidance as to the right resources and tools, anyone can create his or her own courses, to take and learn from. This would be the ultimate personalized and customized education that puts ownership more (almost 100%) on the learner, and less on the teacher! Now, isn’t that what educators have been yearning for? I do think I felt the audience sway a little on this thought!

Learn Launch 2013

I was able to attend the first day of Learn Launch 2013, Across Boundaries: Innovation & The Future of Education ( This was an opportunity for entrepreneurs in elearning to meet and discuss not only the impact of online learning on the K-12 classroom but to also engage in a dialogue about the challenges of making that impact on the K-12 market. The entrepreneurs present at M.I.T. consisted of over 400 investors, educators, students, and developers.

The overall feeling of the day I was there was that this is an exciting time to be involved and invested in K-12 elearning. With the ever increasing sharing of knowledge online, the Internet enables education to be free, open, remix-able and customizable to the learner. Students who can learn anytime and who can get immediate feedback are better learners. Teachers become the “experts” whose content is accessible anytime to more students that he or she could have ever physically fit into a classroom. And with the emergence of better analytics in learning management systems that tie student success in learning outcomes with the teacher’s learning objects, now teachers can get immediate feedback and become better teachers.


iPads for Administrators

Today I attended an ISTE webinar with one of my colleagues at Boston Renaissance, the Lower School Director, Mrs. Bestgen. We attended a 1 hour session presented by Chris O’Neal on “productivity apps for administrators.” The webinar was only $39 for ISTE members, and a recorded version was provided afterwards for replay any time as many times as needed.

It looked like about 40 people from across the nation had signed on with us. I was eager to learn what their experiences had been so far with the iPads, which apps people were using, and more importantly, to see how my school’s pilot measured up.

I was encouraged to see that the apps I had been sharing with our principals and directors were similiar to those presented: Dropbox, Evernote, and QuickOffice Pro were the top recommendations. Chris also highlighted a few social media apps like InstaPaper and FlipBoard to help administrators keep up with news and announcements in their field.

In the chat box, a lot of people were asking about walkthrough and observation apps, which has been the primary focus of our use of iPads in administration. So far, we have been using TouchNote with a stylus to annotate a walkthrough form and a Belkin bluetooth keyboard to type up notes. From the chat box, and from Chris, we learned about a number of apps and other methods people have been exporing: eCove is one we have looked at. Users in the chat room listed a bunch including: GoObserve, Observation 360, TeachScape, and ISTE’s iCot.

Most of these are out-of-the-box data collection apps, and so schools would not be able to customize the forms to match their evaluation forms. Google forms, however, allow users to make their own forms, however the data is saved into a spreadsheet that is not easily printed or formatted, with no reports that I know of to run through the data in a meaningful way. Still, I have found our current annotation system a bit too complicated in terms of the number of steps involved, and writing legible notes with the stylus has been challenging! It is clear that we and many others across the nation are still piloting their methods!

I did share my Pinterest boards of the favorite apps we have been using in both our adminstrative and special education student pilots. We have distributed 1 iPad to each Special Ed department (OT, SLP, Resource Rooms, and ESL), and 1 iPad to each administrator in the school. You can check out my findings here:

BTW…it feels good to be blogging again!! I admittedly havent done much more than tweeting in the last year. And I think it may be time for a new look to my blog, too!

Thank you for registering for the ISTE Webinar, “iPads for Administrators,” presented by Chris O’Neal. You can access the recorded Webinar at

Visit Chris’s wiki for lots of great information and resources at and the livebinder he created with Susan Brooks-Young at

He also recommends these sites:



You can reach Chris at