Monday, September 18, 2017

Annual Minnetonka Site Visits: October 27, 2017 & April 5, 2018

For the past 15 years, thousands of educators have visited Minnetonka Public Schools, including the National School Boards Association which hosted its second visit to Minnetonka in 2014. Come see learning in action, witness proven programs and gather innovative ideas which you can take back to your school! This year's visits are on October 27, 2017 & April 5, 2018.
You can choose to start your visit at an elementary school, middle school or our high school. After your tours at a school, you will transition to our District Service Center for lunch and breakout sessions of your choice. Choose from a wide variety of sessions led by Minnetonka staff to learn how things work behind the scenes. Sessions include innovation, the Teaching and Learning Instructional Framework, online learning, coding, Design for Learning, assessment, the curriculum review process, gifted and talented programming, student support services, personalized learning, 1:1 iPads and more. More details on possible sessions from which to choose can be found here. Discover best practices for implementing meaningful instruction that will accelerate learning, have time to ask questions and head back to your own school full of ideas!
Availability is limited in order to keep sessions small. Lunch is provided. Register Today!
Learn more about Minnetonka Schools and Technology Integration:

    Monday, September 11, 2017

    Even More Minnetonka iPad Integration: Examples from Middle School


    Minnebytes: Multi Examples of 
    Middle School iPad Integration (One per week)
    Our instructional technology staff continue to collect the best practices, favorite ideas and tips for 1:1 integration in all curricular areas from our teachers. They take these and share them with our teachers and parents each week. Many of these middle school "Minnebytes" are device agnostic and in a wide variety of curricular areas. The middle school Minnebytes were started last year by Sara Hunt and will continue this school year, so check back often to see new ideas each week. You can access the high school Minnebytes which I wrote about earlier below as well.

    Middle School West principal Dr. Paula Hoff highlights these examples of technology integration in her biweekly newsletters to parents. She does this in the form of a TouchCast video. In this video, she explains how teachers are using the Minnetonka Framework and technology to deepen the learning for their students. Here is a past video in which she highlights technology integration and its connections to the Minnetonka Framework which gives you an idea of how she is using the tool to communicate with parents. 

    You can learn more about our 1:1 program, iPads, and use of technology for learning in the related posts below:

    Monday, September 4, 2017

    Digital Mentors Needed: Distracted Parents Disengaged With Children

    A recent article brought to my attention has me reflecting quite a bit on my ideas around kids' use of smartphones and technology and their ever increasing addictive behaviors and dependence. The article, Yes Smartphones are Destroying a Generation, but Not of Kids by Alexandra Samuel, was written in response to an earlier article in the Atlantic by Jean Twenge entitled, Are Smartphones Destroying a Generation? which stated that smartphones have placed today's youth on the brink of a mental health crisis. In the Atlantic article, Twenge stated that the advent of smartphones has led to today's youth being depressed. But Samuel explains how Twenge cherry-picked her facts. She points out that rather than just looking at a brief one or two year period, when one looks at the data collected over twenty years, it shows that there actually is no noticeable decrease in happiness. She even explains that "Teens report near identical levels of happiness regardless whether they’re on the higher or lower end of social media usage."

    What I found most enlightening by Samuel's response to Twenge was the fact that it pointed out at the root cause of smartphone problems might actually be parents themselves. The author explains that because smartphones distract parents, they spend less time with their kids. Furthermore, when their kids interrupt their parents seeking attention, studies have shown that parents respond negatively, seeking to quickly end the interruption so they can get back to what they were doing (such as surfing the Internet, checking Facebook, reading email etc.) Some powerful excerpts from the article worth reading word for word: 
    "...you know what smartphones and social media are really great at? Tuning out your children... Fellow parents, it’s time for us to consider another possible explanation for why our kids are increasingly disengaged. It’s because we’ve disengaged ourselves; we’re too busy looking down at our screens to look up at our kids."
    "My entire experience of parenthood has been lived in the tug-of-war between child and screen; my kids can’t remember a time when they didn’t have to compete with my iPhone in order to get my attention. Like many people, my constant screen interactions are a matter of professional obligation as well as personal taste, so I live life as a constant juggling act between the needs of my children and the distractions of social media."
    Samuel goes on to explain that what a parent really needs to do is to become a "digital mentor" for their child, modeling and supporting their use of technology. Again, an excerpt:
    Mentoring your kids means letting go of a one-size-fits-all approach to kids’ tech use, and thinking instead about which specific online activities are enriching (or impoverishing) for your specific child. Mentoring means talking regularly with your kids about how they can use the Internet responsibly and joyfully, instead of slamming on the brakes. Mentor parents recognize that their kids need digital skills if they’re going to thrive in a digital world, so they invest in tech classes and coding camps. And of course, mentor parents embrace technology in their own lives—but thoughtfully, so they can offer guidance on the human (if not the technical) aspects of life online.
    I have written about technology distractions in the past which I have observed in both my own efforts to limit distractions as well as those of others. I've spoken about personal struggles to spend time with my own kids rather than being distracted by technology. I love the idea of parents as digital mentors--it's not new. I first heard about it from Devorah Heitner at the 2015 DigCit Conference in Connecticut. Check out her Digital Citizenship Mentorship Manifesto.

    Related posts: 

    Monday, August 28, 2017

    The Hub: Minnetonka Makerspaces Launch


    Makerspaces are launching at Minnetonka Schools this year! Makerspaces are “are informal places or materials for creative production in art, science, and engineering where students of all ages blend digital and physical technologies to explore ideas, learn technical skills, and create new products” (source).  The Minnetonka Foundation has invested in materials and equipment at each of our six elementary schools plus our two middle schools. The Minnetonka Foundation has been raising funds for Minnetonka Schools since 1986 and has an Endowment Fund to support large, long term projects like this. (More about the Foundation) We are excited to get Makerspaces for the students in our schools.


    This process actually began a year ago with initial talks and a lot of planning and research. Staff at each site started meeting and brainstorming to decide how and where to begin. Staff who participated in this process included students, parents, teachers, principals, media specialists, design for learning representatives, Tonka Codes building leaders, high potential teachers, middle school STEM teachers, instructional technology coaches and district administrators.


    The initial site conversations narrowed down the scope, including the arranging the makerspace by themes: structural, electrical, digital media, robotics/coding, artistic. Each site’s makerspaces will primarily be mobile, with a wheeled storage cart (pictured) or a larger wheeled cabinet for each theme that teachers can check out from the media center for use in their classroom. Since most of our sites are tight on space, this mobile solution was the preferred choice. It will also encourage teachers to embed makerspace activities into their curriculum and have students demonstrate their knowledge in all curricular areas instead of view it as an add on or place students would have to go to experience.


    In the spring and over this past summer, staff began researching products available and deciding what to purchase. Teachers also began planning lessons and units for their students using the makerspace materials so these curricular materials would be ready to go for colleagues to get started instead of having to start from scratch. Over the past week before teacher workshops, teachers have been attending makerspace classes to learn more. The Minnetonka Foundation set up all the materials in a showcase room for teachers to explore who have been attending summer trainings.


    Minnetonka Makerspaces have been branded as "The Hub" and the carts have been wrapped with this logo as pictured. As part of their duties, two teachers will also work to support the makerspaces, guide the development of the program, provide teachers with professional development, research, and find innovative resources to enhance the program. Expanded Maker Faires are being planned for the coming year as well as other activities that will get our students tinkering, creating, designing, and more. It will be an exciting year!

    Monday, August 21, 2017

    Video & Voice Editing About to Make Fake News Even Harder to Decipher (& Change History, too)

    The topic of Fake News is certainly in The News these days. It's also a hot topic for educators as we reflect upon how and where we teach students about recognizing whether or not something is The TruthRecently Radio Lab, one of my favorite podcasts, dealt with the topic in an episode entitled Breaking News. I found the information they shared both fascinating and frightening, and believe it's important for all educators to be aware of these latest developments and future capabilities that will further alter our future and make it possible to edit history, too:
    Recent advances in technology have made it possible to edit both voice and actual video recordings more easily than ever. This includes the ability to say anything at all and have either the audio or the video (or both) be incredibly convincing. 

    First, audio editing:
    Adobe has a new product called Voco which enables you to drag and drop audio recordings, type in new text and nearly instantaneously press play to hear very real sounding results that are difficult to decipher as fake. With just 20 minutes of audio recording of a speaker's voice, such as a politician, celebrity or even you, the computer can pretty much create any imaginable recording from your script. More about concerns with this new tool.  

    Even more startling, video editing:
    As you can see for yourself in these videos, researchers are working on technology that allows them to map the facial expressions and movements of anyone from video footage and replace that with actual new edited footage created from a simple WebCam recording of another person. Basically this means anyone can be like a puppeteer. So you could take the video footage of a politician or celebrity and replace it with video of whatever you acted out in your recording. The preliminary samples demonstrating this technology online or certainly not seamless or indecipherable from something that would be authentic, but you can quickly realize the ramifications of this technology.

    As I wrote about last week, things are advancing faster than we can keep up with it so it's highly likely that within the next year or so this will be in use. As stated in the Radiolab podcast, not only will this technology soon to be made available, it will likely be available as an app on all of our phones, making it possible for anyone to use. Later in the episode they discussed the difficulty experts will have deciphering whether or not these files are real or fake, explaining how it can take days now to figure the authenticity of a single photograph thought to be altered with Photoshop. Audio and video will be even more difficult.

    This certainly has far-reaching implications for our future. In education, we need to be aware of these latest technological advances and inform students of it. I'm not sure exactly how we will teach students to know whether a current video or audio recording is authentic, or even whether a historical clip from decades ago is legit, altered, or completely fake. It will be necessary to teach them to research the source of something as well as the reputation of that news service, website provider, host, and/or company. A few weeks ago I wrote about the need to teach ethics within computer science. Teaching ethics and strong moral values are definitely needed with advances like these voice and video editing tools in our near future!

    Monday, August 14, 2017

    Accelerating Changes Needed in Education


    Technology is changing faster than humans can adapt to it. According to Thomas Friedman, humans need to accelerate in our abilities to learn and govern in order to catch up with technology's exponential growth, and I agree. As the graph pictured above from Eric Teller (CEO of Google's X Research and Development Lab) in Friedman's book, Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations illustrates, "the rate of technological change is now accelerating so fast that it has risen above the average rate at which most people can absorb all these changes. Many of us cannot keep pace anymore." 

    For example, Friedman explains that companies like Uber disrupted the market for traditional taxis and public transportation, "but before the world can figure out how to regulate ride-sharing, self-driving cars will have made those regulations obsolete." Friedman explains what used to take generations for societal or technology changes to happen now happen in about ten to 15 years. However, technology is changing at a rate faster than that, right around five to seven years. Since slowing down technology is not an option, one solution is for humans to "enhance our ability to adapt even slightly" which would make a significant difference.  


    So where do schools fit into this? Friedman explains that we need to be lifelong learners, not just K-12 or K-college learners. We need to be agile, "willing to experiment and learn from mistakes", quickly innovating and reevaluating to keep up with the speed of change today. We need to help our students learn this important mindset. It will only hurt us if today's students see their education as ending upon graduation. It is also imperative for today's students to learn to adapt and change faster than ever before in order to keep up with the technological changes happening both now and in their future. It seems like the easiest way to start making these mindset shifts occur is for today's educators to not only be aware of them, but begin addressing them in their instruction. Start including this in conversations, discussing it, and modeling it. Be a lifelong learner, flexible and adaptive, and instill the importance of this on today's students!

    Image Source: Radiolab
    Another great example from headlines and current events besides ride sharing is CRISPR. CRISPR is a DNA editing tool--learn more from one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab. It's actually a couple years old, but changing things faster than humans are ready to handle. Many people still even haven't heard of it. Last week I wrote about The Need for Computer Ethics to be taught in schools and cited many other great examples for powerful classroom discussions on the topic. With the rapid pace at which things are being invented, evolving, and adopted, it is more important than ever that we not only teach and discuss the ethics of these changes and inventions with students, but also help them learn to deal with all of it at an ever accelerating pace.

    Related posts:

    Monday, August 7, 2017

    Beyond Coding and Computer Science in Schools: The Need for Computer Ethics

    MIT's Moral Machine
    For the past three years in Minnetonka, we have been teaching computer coding in our schools starting in kindergarten. Last year we changed the curriculum from simply coding instruction to include computer science principles in our lessons for students. This year we are adding and integrating maker spaces with our coding (more on this in a future post). 

    Recent rapid advances in technology and stories in the news have got me thinking about what will be next in our coding program and needed in the future of computer science in schools. I believe that computer ethics will need to be added to and integrated in our teaching. Computer ethics is defined as a part of practical philosophy concerned with how computing professionals should make decisions regarding professional and social conduct. We need to start presenting our students with the complex issues and dilemmas that they will face in their future (if not already) to get them thinking about these problems and the bigger picture beyond lines of code. From advances in medical technology to robotics, today's students will be faced will all sorts of new problems that will require them to think about and figure out innovative solutions in entirely new ways we haven't dealt with previously.

    A great example to illustrate this instructional need for is the self-driving car programming dilemma pictured above: in an unavoidable accident, who should the car be programmed to allow to die? A morbid yet necessary decision. The nuances of this question and all the possible scenarios would make for great classroom discussions and debate. (Does the age and number of people involved change the program? What about the social status of the individuals involved? What if the pedestrian involved is jay walking? etc...) MIT has a great "Moral Machine" scenario website for this. Having students do their own research on this will yield more resources, such as this recent article, Here's How Tesla Solves A Self-Driving Crash Dilemma.
    "It is *because* some ethical choices are difficult, or difficult to understand as ethical choices, that they need to be taught to students." (Source)
    We need to have these discussions with students and get them thinking about these complex issues. They need to be become aware of these ethical dilemmas so that they can face (and solve) even more complex issues that they will come across in the future. One nice resource for this is the University of Notre Dame’s John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values. For the past four years, they have published an annual "list of emerging ethical dilemmas and policy issues in science and technology." Besides autonomous cars, issues include "robotics, neuroscience, education and medical management." (Source) Again, having students research and find these issues will result in countless options, such as The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics and this discussion board on Ethical dilemmas faced by software engineers. As they leave our schools to head out to the next stages in their lives and careers, we need our students--our future leaders--to understand and consider the ethics involved in their actions, decisions, and inventions. 

    Related posts: