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4 Reasons 3D is Vital to ISTE 2014, plus SIG3D’s Webinar Video

26 Sep

With ISTE 2013 only just behind us, it’s already time to start thinking about submitting proposals for next year’s conference.  The ISTE 2014 Conference will take place in Atlanta, GA from June 28 to July 1, but the call for participation ends in just a week on October 2nd.

As you consider your submitting for next year’s conference, it has never been more important to consider including 3D technologies.  Why?

1.  The International Society of Technology in Education is an organization that represents the interests and priorities of educational technology leaders.  Each year, the conference program and exhibit hall reveal the both newest and more effective technologies and edtech practices to nearly 20,000 attendees.  In recent years, 3D technologies in design/modeling, 3D printing and stereoscopic 3D have represented the true cutting edge in educational technologies.  Including sessions, demonstrations, and hands-on offerings that allow educators to explore these technologies maintains the ISTE Conference’s reputation as the quintessential home for edtech innovation.

2.  3D technologies and applications are internationally relevant to educational best practices.  Stories, research and case studies of successes in teaching with 3D have emerged from countries across 6 continents, with applications spreading widely across the United States, India, and Europe.  With attendees participating from around the world, the ISTE Conference is the perfect venue for exploring and sharing emerging practices relevant to the global learning community.

3.  Knowledge and skills in emerging technologies lead to success in emerging careers.  With 3D applications exploding in design, technology, engineering and manufacturing industries, exposing our students to learning and creating in three dimensions prepares them for future success in college, careers and life.

4.  Teaching and learning with 3D technologies leads to significant learning benefits.  Research from case studies around the world are demonstrating that teaching with 3D technologies is good for students.  For example, when teaching with stereoscopic 3D video, interactives, and simulations, students demonstrate significant increases in learning gains, retention, abstract concept mastery, and more.  A great overview of these benefits can be found in my Stereoscopic 3D Enhances Learning infographic.

To get a better idea of the ISTE proposal process, ways that 3D relates to edtech’s hottest topics, and how to identify your own area of expertise to share, watch our SIG3D September 2013 Webinar archive video: How to Write a Great Proposal for ISTE 2014… and Why SIG3D Members Should!

And if and when you do submit your 3D technology-related proposal for ISTE 2014, I would love to hear about it.  Please, feel free to share about your ideas and approach in the comments below.  I look forward to connecting with you now and at the ISTE  2014 conference!

SIG3D ISTE14 Webinar

Growing School Gardens: An Eco-lutionary Move

10 Sep

Something “eco-lutionary” is cropping up at schools across the country.  While some students might be experiencing the start of the new academic year from behind a desk, others are embracing an expansive sense of classroom that reaches far beyond the schoolhouse walls and into the green.

At our public charter school, Lakeland Montessori Middle School, teachers and administration plan the year with explorations into green space in mind.  P.E. sometimes takes place running around a lake, field trips include environmental clean-ups and snorkeling, and studying biology means much more than just looking at pictures in textbooks.  In fact, during the last school year, the students at LMMS struck up an interesting partnership with one local restaurant, the Red Door Wine Market.  Synthesizing their learning of biology, weather, collaborative design, math, business and even presentation skills, the students designed, proposed and executed the implementation of a “farm-to-table” concept on the restaurant’s grounds.

The result of this entrepreneurial project is a flourishing garden that provides organic lettuces, peppers, herbs and other produce to be served to patrons at the Red Door.  Students were extremely proud to see the literal fruits of their labor… and ecstatic when they first saw “Montessori grown greens” appear on the menu.  Several of the students happened to be on site the last time I ate on the outdoor patio at Red Door.  When asked about the garden, they were eager to share about their project, detailing the various plants sprouting up around the grounds.  In addition to their pride, the depth of learning and retention from the project was also clearly evident.

According to Angeline Stoll Lillard’s book, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, working with plants, nature and environmental elements is an integral part of the Montessori educational model.  Maria Montessori went as far as suggesting that elementary classrooms should include ornamental plants, which the children could tend… and that middle grades education should include running both a farm and a local store at which to sell their produce.   Instead of preparing students for the “real world,” this type of project-based Montessori education provides students the present-day opportunity to be valuable contributors to their local community and economy.

Yet the school gardening movement is not limited simply to Montessori schools or even high school agriculture classes.  In fact, many communities and schools across the country are discovering the benefits of empowering students to plant and grow foods.  In his TED Talk, “A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx,” educator Stephen Ritz passionately talks about how growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers has transformed his community, starting inside the classroom and spreading throughout the city.  School gardening in the Bronx is improving both academic achievement and their standard of living.  The students in Ritz’ first cohort of classroom farmers were previously struggling in school with only a 40% attendance rate; with the impact of this program, attendance increased to 93% and all of those students are now in college and earning a living wage.  Ritz says he’s “growing organic citizens, engaged kids.”

Other TED Talkers also see student gardening as a means to economic prosperity.  Ron Finley, A Guerilla Gardner in South Central LA, says that “growing your own food is like printing your own money.”  With little exposure to green space and whole foods, inner city students in South Central LA suffer physically and economically.  A movement to garden in public spaces is changing this for kids in Finley’s neighborhood.  Finley continues, “You’d be surprised how kids are affected by this.  Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city.  Plus, you get strawberries… If kids grow kale, they eat kale.  When kids grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.  But when none of this is presented to them, if they’re not shown how food affects the mind and the body, they blindly eat whatever the hell you put in front of them… I see young people and they want to work, but they’re in this thing where they’re caught up – I see kids of color and they’re just on this track that’s designed for them, that leads to nowhere.  So with gardening, I see an opportunity where we can train these kids to take over their communities, to have a sustainable life.  And when we do this, who knows?  We might produce the next George Washington Carver.”

School gardening combines learning from all curricular areas into a real world application with multi-faceted benefits to students.  I have personally seen these academic and affective benefits first-hand in the students at Lakeland Montessori Middle.

So, how do you get started with gardening in your school?  Fortunately, there are several ways to learn more – starting today!

The School Gardens Community on edWeb.net is an active group of educators sharing free resources and discussions on growing school gardens.  You can join this community edweb.net/schoolgardens and gain access to their upcoming webinars on growing schools gardening, such as:

–  Inquiry in the Garden: Facilitating Student-Led Investigations for Grades K-8 in an Outdoor, Living Laboratory     Tuesday, September 10, 2013- 4pm / Eastern Time
Presenter: Whitney Cohen, Education Director at Life Lab

–   From School Garden to Cafeteria Table: How to Plan, Grow, and Use Garden Produce in a School Cafeteria Lunch Program    Tuesday, October 1, 2013- 4pm / Eastern Time
Presenter: Matthew Doris, Food Service Director & Chef, Tuckahoe Common School District, Southampton, NY.

The School Gardens Community also shares an e-guide about school garden planning and lesson integration by New Jersey educator, Dorothy Mullen, which definitely deserves a look.

One other way to introduce gardening to your students is with a new book by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.  Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table is a beautiful picture book telling the biography of a former basketball star turned gardener turned MacArthur Foundation Fellow.  In her review of the book, Elizabeth Bird praises Martin for masterfully portraying the connection between economic stratification and access to healthy foods “without getting anywhere near a soapbox.”  More than that, students learn how, with dedication and hard work, someone can turn a big idea into a meaningful reality.  The best part?  The book officially releases today.  And if one book isn’t enough, look for other books that with potential to introduce your deep classroom conversations about gardening, food, health, and economics on the International Reading Association’s list of leveled reading books on the subject.

By making gardening an integral part of project- and inquiry-based learning, we have a unique opportunity to provide our students with more than just academic knowledge.  Instead, we can empower them by developing practical skills for success, not only in math and science, but also in collaboration, problem solving and iterative design; we can raise them with a profound sense of capacity to create, to grow, and to succeed.  Plus, as Ron Finley would say, “you get strawberries.”

 

Nancye Black

Nancye Blair Black is an award-winning educator, author and educational consultant.  She also proudly serves on the Board of Directors for Lakeland Montessori Middle School, a free public charter school in Lakeland, FL.

More information about the LMMS gardening project can be found on The Ledger and WFLA News.

Sept 11 Reflections: Democracy, Citizenship and Education

11 Sep

CC License: Photo by Flickr @North Charleston

What should a good citizen do?

The question of “what a good citizen should do” in a democratic society begins with an assumption of a universal ethical imperative within democracy.  Perhaps this follows from the concept of democracy itself.  At the onset of American independence, the writers of the Declaration stated that it was self-evident that “all men are created equal” and that with that equality of nature comes unalienable Rights, such as Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  A democratic society could secure these rights through a government that derives its just power from the “consent of the governed.” 

Consent of the governed.  Perhaps, too often we overlook this essential democratic freedom, the Freedom of Consent.  The idea that democracy requires consent of the governed supports an imperative for the people of the democracy, the good citizens, to actively give a say, to give a consent or descent – through speech, voting, the practice of beliefs or religions, exercising their other freedoms – on the positions and actions of the government.

More than ever, it is vital that American citizens actively exercise their own rights and freedoms, while also working to promote the rights and freedoms of others.  Through both speech and actions, we must declare our consent or descent and encourage the equal participation of other citizens to do the same.  Howard Budin stated that “the heart of democratic action is collaborative decision making,” making “decisions with their fellow citizens to improve their lives and the life of the community or nation.”  In this way, all democratic citizens are benefited by the increased voice and involvement of others, even of those with whom we disagree.  To asymptotically approximate the ideals of democracy, citizens must have equitable opportunities, freedoms and rights to participate… and must actively exercise these opportunities, freedoms and rights within the collaborative society.

Too often in education, we speak of citizenship simply in terms of being honest, neighborly or kind.  Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahane call this the “personally responsible citizen,” though they warn that this concept of citizenship alone does not necessarily foster equality, justice and democracy.  “Indeed, government leaders in a totalitarian regime would be as delighted as leaders in a democracy if their young citizens… don’t do drugs; show up at school; show up at work; give blood; help others during a flood; recycle; pick up litter; clean up a park; [and] treat old people with respect,” they write in “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy.”

Somehow, the concepts of participation and activism are missing from much of today’s education on citizenship. In fact, when I asked, “What should a good citizen do?” to my twelve year old daughter at the dinner table yesterday, she responded with “don’t kill people,” even though she is active in community service and often engages discussions about social justice at her Montessori middle school.  She did not automatically associate those participatory practices with her responsibilities as a “citizen.”  Perhaps this is because what is often considered “good” behavior or citizenship at schools is not always aligned with the promotion of justice.  Frequently, the “good” child in class is the one who follows the rules, even when those rules are enforced in unjust ways.  It is important, especially in education, not to confuse the promotion of personal responsibility with that of standardization, compliance and obedience.

Instead, the good citizen needs to have the ability to transfer the qualities of personal responsibility to critical reflection, active participation (participatory citizen) and the promotion of social justice (justice-oriented citizen).  The good citizen must go beyond personal responsibility to participate in giving consent or descent, in effecting change and in encouraging equity.  In this way, the rights and freedoms of all citizens can be maintained and expanded in order to improve the quality of life for citizens and the collective life of the community or nation.

As educators, there are many opportunities to exercise our roles as citizens and to promote participation and social action in our students:

  • Register to vote, vote, and encourage others to vote, too!
  • Investigate educational issues being discussed in politics, not just in the Presidential race, but also at the local and state level.
  • Call, email and write letters to your School Board or Congressmen, supporting funding for education.
  • Provide community service learning opportunities to your students – serve meals at a homeless shelter; coordinate a canned food drive; raise funds to support cancer research or the creation of a local park.
  • Engage your classes in student-driven action projects and competitions that focus on solving real world problems, like Heifer International Education Programs or the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.

Today is September 11th.  Yes, we mourn and remember the lives lost and the bravery of so many Americans eleven years ago, but we also celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in this democratic society.  Freedoms that we shouldn’t take for granted.  Freedoms that were earned with blood, sweat and tears.  Freedoms that we should exercise and should harness to advocate for equal rights for all people… here in the United States and around the world.

Transforming Technology Integration for 21st Century Learners

9 Apr

Thirty-five years ago, the IBM 5100 and the Apple I circuit board were released, ushering us into the age of the personal computer.

Twenty-five years ago, computers began to enter the classroom… in the form of The Oregon Trail on the Apple IIe.

Fifteen years ago, teenagers took a break from typing their term papers to use a home cordless phone to “page” a school friend… and wait endlessly by that same phone to see if it would ring.

And five years ago, the iPhone, Wii, and eventually netbooks were released, changing everyday use of technology in and out of schools.

This fall, our kindergarten classrooms will be filled with children who were born that year. Children who only know a world where they have access to more information, games, and applications while playing in their car seat with their Mom’s cell phone than they often have when they enter the school’s doors.

These are not the same “21st Century Learners” we’ve grown to know over first decade of the new millennium. For these students, simply watching video and images during lessons, playing a multiplication Internet game, or even taking turns at an Interactive Whiteboard is no longer enough.

These new 21st Century Learners are highly relational and demand quick access to new knowledge. More than that, these students are capable of engaging their education at a whole new level. With the world literally at their fingertips, these students need us to re-envision the role of technology in our classrooms. In a revolution that began as academic technology use and turned to teaching with multimedia technology, we now need a new transformation to teach through technology.

So, what does that look like? For one, we must increasingly put the technology into the hands of students and trust them with more progressive technology objectives. Moreover, we must transform our pedagogy itself to prioritize student discovery, collaboration, and creation. Finally, educators must establish Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) to support their own learning and innovating. In this way, we will ensure that this next generation will not only thrive at our schools, but shine on assessments, establish the problem solving and technology skills needed for successful careers, and become the lifelong learners and innovators we desire to mold.

Are you an NAESP member, you can read this blog and link to others here: http://naesp.org/blog/technology-21st-century-learners
AND
If you are attending the NAESP 2011 Annual Convention, you can join me on Sunday, April 10th from 12:30 to 1:45 PM in Room 13 to find out more as we explore strategies and success stories for Transforming Technology Curriculum for 21st Century Learners.

MORE in RESOURCES: Technology Integration

Interactive Whiteboards Get a Closer Look

27 Feb

ISTE’s Tech & Learning recently posted a blog by ed-tech expert, Gary Stager, which began with the sentence, “IWBs [Interactive Whiteboards] and their clicker spawn are a terrible investment that breathes new life into medieval educational practices.” As you can imagine, this led to quite a debate in the comments section.  Economic value, pedagogy, and even the history of chalkboards is currently in dispute.

In the postings, both sides share valid points about whether to “get” or ” use” IWBs.  Both share valid, even moving, anecdotal stories. Both strongly take a side on the value or lack thereof of. And interestingly enough, both Gary Stager and primary counterpoint commentator, Alan November, were the keynote speakers at the last two Best Practice Summer Conferences for our charter school.

Yet, at my school (like many in the Tech & Learning audience), we’re not considering getting IWBs.  We already have them.  I’ve had a SMARTBoard in my classroom for the last six years and have enjoyed having access to the tool.  In his post, Stager takes issue with common comments used to support IWBs  – like “The students are so engaged!” and “It all depends on how teachers use it.” Seems like those who agree with him recommend sticking to a laptop and projector, basically the IWB user’s current set-up sans IWB.

So, this begs the question: What are teachers/students doing with Interactive Whiteboards that they could NOT do with just a laptop and projector?

And for those of us who already have them, what Best Practices have we discovered that will ensure we both get the most value out of this technology tool AND truly engage students in worthwhile learning experiences?