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Summer school for kindergarteners


Valerie Strauss said:

curriculum has been pushed down so much that kindergarten is no longer a time for kids to learn and socialize through play but rather for a lot of desk time with academic assignments. Sure, some schools break up the time so kids don’t sit there hour after hour, but the pressure on young children to learn to read and do math – even if they aren’t developmentally ready – and on teachers to ensure that they do learn – has become extraordinary.

Providing quality summer programs for young children is a laudable goal – and something school systems and city governments should offer. But requiring 5- and 6-year-olds to go to summer school so they can labor over academics is something else entirely.


Image credit: Kindergarten, Here We Come, Howard County Library System

5 minutes about transforming schools

Bob Greenberg has been videoing some amazing thinkers for his Brainwaves YouTube channel. People like Mitch ResnickAlan Kay, Jerome BrunerNicholas NegroponteNoam Chomsky, and Eric Mazur. I’m not exactly sure why Bob asked me too but I got to spend a few minutes with him at the recent ISTE conference in Philadelphia and of course was absolutely delighted for the opportunity…

The video is titled Transforming Schools. Happy viewing!

3 kinds of ISTE sessions


Not including the more informal networking events, there generally are 3 kinds of ISTE sessions:

  1. Tools, tools, tools! These sessions focus on software, apps, extensions, productivity and efficiency, how-to tips, etc. Little emphasis on learning, heavy emphasis on how to use the tools.
  2. Technology for school replication. These sessions focus on the use of digital technologies to replicate and perpetuate schools’ historical emphases on factual recall and procedural regurgitation, control and compliance, students as passive learners, etc. Behavior modification apps, teacher content transmission tools, flashcard and multiple choice software, student usage monitoring programs, and the like.
  3. Technology for school transformation. These sessions focus on deeper learning, greater student agency, and perhaps real-world, authentic work. Learning technologies tend to be divergent rather than convergent, foster cognitive complexity, and facilitate active, creative student-driven learning.

We need more of #3. Lots more. Right now these sessions are still a significant minority of sessions at ISTE (and most other educational technology conferences).

Which kinds of sessions did you attend? What does that mean for your ability to effectuate change back home?

Which kinds of sessions did you facilitate? What does that mean for your responsibility as a presenter to help others effectuate change back home?

We’re wasting opportunities to move our systems…

3 minutes with the ISTE Board

Yesterday I gave a 3-minute video presentation to the ISTE Board on What’s the next big thing in educational technology?

Happy viewing!

5 thoughts from ISTE weekend


Five thoughts from the first couple of days here at the 2015 ISTE Conference…

  1. If “it’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning,” then why are we centering so many of our sessions on the tools?
  2. Are there uses of technology with students that would offend the majority of us so much that we would stand up and shout, ‘No! We should never do that!’? I see things here and there that concern me but many others seem to be pretty blasé about them or simply accept them as inevitable parts of the landscape (for example, behavior modification software, draconian Internet filtering of children and educators, and drill-and-kill systems ‘for those low-achieving kids,’ just to name a few)
  3. The work of transforming school systems is difficult work. School transformation stems from personal transformation, not from devices or apps or software. How many of us can say that we’re truly transforming more than a small handful of other educators?
  4. The work of transforming school systems is slow work. Some of us have been at this for a decade or two (or longer). How do we invest in and energize both ourselves and each other so that the frustrations, sluggishness, and setbacks don’t win?
  5. We should have more babies at ISTE. Who doesn’t love babies?!

What does this say about us as learners?

A 2nd grade teacher told me – without any seeming embarrassment – that her students knew more about their iPads than she did. I thought in my head, ‘Really? They’re 7…’

As educators, shouldn’t we be embarrassed if we’re getting outlearned by 7-year-olds? (or 15-year-olds?)

See also Struggling with educators’ lack of technology fluency and “I’m not good at math.” “I’m not very good at computers.”

If the kids know more than we do


Robot alligators

Lego Alligator

I spent this morning at the Maker Tech Camp at Edwards Elementary here in Ames. Teresa Green is an innovative teacher who received a grant from the district last year to purchase various ‘maker’ resources. Since then she has been busy putting them and her students to work!

Today’s activity for the 2nd and 3rd graders was to build a Lego alligator and have it chomp down when it sensed a finger or pencil in its mouth. The students had to build the alligator – including the motion sensor – and then figure out how to use the Lego WeDo software to code it correctly. The Team Neutrino First Robotics student helpers from Ames High were of great assistance. My favorite kid quote from today was

We sent a message to the alligator and then the alligator said ‘Oh, I can do that!’

Other camp activities this week appeared to include making LED bookmarks, learning circuitry by playing with Makey Makey and other electronics, creating objects with the 3D printer, and goofing around with robots. Teresa and I talked about a lot of different things while I was there, including how to sell others on the educational value of this kind of learning, how to be less directive and enable the kids to explore more, and what ‘maker days’ have looked like at other elementary schools across Iowa. Teresa also shared with me that the Science Center of Iowa is hosting ‘maker chats’ on Twitter every other Tuesday evening this summer at 7pm CST using the #iamakerchat hashtag.

This is always good stuff. More of this, please.

When students develop learning objectives based on the standards

Steve Carroll said:

When we transitioned to Common Core we did an unpacking the standards process. More importantly, after we got through that process, we started a backwards design where we developed questions and learning objectives based upon the standards themselves and then translated that into assessment. Probably the biggest gains came after we let students start developing learning objectives based on the standards. We would actually give the students the standards and ask them, ‘What would you have to be able to do show mastery of this?’ The students themselves developed learning objectives.


When I understand it, why do I have to repeat it twenty times?

Again and again

Students said:

“The teachers used to talk at us all the time, non-stop, but they never actually spoke to us.”

“Can you remember what it feels like to sit at a desk for a whole class, just listening? Have you any idea how much I just want to scream?”

“So, I get the practice part of homework, but when I understand the concept or idea the first time, why do I have to repeat it twenty times? Who made that the magic number of knowing?”

Mike Crowley said:

The truth is that we intuitively know what the word personal means and we understand that in order to make learning personal we need to make connections with young people, we need to make learning meaningful in contexts that are relevant to their current and future lives, and we need to stop doing things that we innately know no longer make sense. Young people want to do math and science, not observe it; they want to write for real audiences on blogs, not write the autobiography of a pencil; they want to address real-world problems in society today, not memorise the past; they want to create, explore, build, move, and express themselves and, most of all, they want to grow in an unshackled environment. Being talked at, sitting passively, engaging in rote learning – the vestiges of a pre-digital past – are no longer acceptable. There is no need for debate here. Our students are no longer listening. For them, learning is only ever personal, and, in order to engage them, to really help them grow, we need to keep the words of Alice in mind: “No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”


If you’re good, you get to watch a movie. If not, you have to read.


Jennifer Bradley said:

The fourth grade classes also held an end of the school year movie and party. Students were allowed to choose between 4 classrooms with 4 different movies, but there was a catch. They had to pay for admission and snacks, and admission cost 10 ‘good behavior’ tickets. Students who did not have enough tickets were to be sent to a separate room to read.


Leaving aside for now the very idea of ‘good behavior’ tickets, why is this school sending the message that reading is what you have to do if you weren’t good often enough?

Image credit: Yellow, Sizumaru

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