Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Golden Rule in Cyberspace: My Christmas/Hanukkah Moonshot Wish 2016

"Is God in cyberspace?" is a question that was posed to Thomas Friedman which he addresses in his latest book, Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. He recently returned to his home state of Minnesota and spoke at the Westminster Town Hall Forum. I wish I could have heard him in person, but thankfully a recording of the talk is online. I've cued it to the part describing his answer to this question here. After listening to this talk while on a run recently, I bought his book.  

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century was the first book by Thomas Friedman that I read back in 2005. I love his storytelling/news reporting writing style and remember being amazed of the new technologies predicted that he wrote about based on his travels and research. This latest book is similar and provides an update on the rapidly changing world in which we live. Friedman outlines three simultaneous changes that are taking place all at an exponential pace: Moore's law, the market, and climate change.

Regarding technology, our interconnectedness, and the cloud (or as Friedman calls it, the Supernova) he explains that a lot of things in cyberspace like pornography, hate sites, gambling, and now even fake news make it seem like God is absent. However, he also points out that God manifests himself in us. If we want God to be in cyberspace, we have to bring him there by how we behave “with the moral choices and mouse clicks” we make. 

"Everything is now in cyberspace... We are all connected, but nobody is in charge... In this age of acceleration, we are standing at a moral intersection... One person can kill all of us and all of us can fix everything... What is naive is if we I think we are going to be just fine if we don’t scale the Golden Rule."

For almost the past decade as I have been speaking around Minnesota to students and parents about using technology appropriately, I have shown the image pictured above of the Golden Rule. As I do, I ask audiences if any of them see an asterisk at the end with any sort of note stating "*except when using technology." Of course there isn't one, and I point out that that we all need to follow the Golden Rule even when we are using technology.  As I've written before, I  explain to the audience the importance of using technology with empathy, compassion, and integrity. I was pleased to see that Friedman calls for this same thing to happen: as more of us than ever before are connected, the Golden Rule is what will ensure that we interact positively with one another. 

Friedman explains that future “leadership is going to require the ability to come to grips with values and ethics. We need to think more seriously and urgently about how we can inspire sustainable values like honesty, humility, integrity, and mutual respect.” His solution is that we do this through strong families and healthy communities. These communities aren’t just our local neighbors living nearby. Now our community is the entire planet. Mother nature treats us as one, says Friedman, and our interconnected technologies and machines all work as one, so we too must start to realize our communities are all one.” We have to work together globally in order to get everyone following the Golden Rule. My short summary here doesn't really do justice to how well he says it, so please read the book!

Two years ago I posted that my Christmas moonshot wish was for a marriage between Apple and Google. Although that hasn't happened yet, when I look back on that wish now it seems so shortsighted. Truly what the world needs is so much more than just a merging of two tech companies. We need a universal agreement for everyone to follow the Golden Rule as we interact with one another. Teach your children, your grandchildren, your students, and your community the Golden Rule. On this Christmas, let this be our hope and prayer for the future. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Beyond SAMR Ladders & Pools: A Framework for Teaching & Learning

Last week at the Minnesota state technology conference, TIES, I co-presented a session with our Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Eric Schneider, entitled "Beyond SAMR Ladders & Pools: A Framework for Teaching & Learning." The slide deck and a 4 minute video overview is below, as well as links to a draft Framework Overview document and the draft guide for Authentic & Real World Learning. For those of you who weren't there, here's a recap:

Although the SAMR scale has really gained popularity over the past few years, the concept of differing levels of technology integration and stages of use in education is not new. Back in 2003 when I first left the classroom and started in my instructional technology career, I referenced the ACOT Stages of Integration with teachers (Entry, Adoption, Adaptation, Appropriation, Invention). By 2011 when we first started our 1:1 iPad program, we began using the RAT scale (Replacement, Amplification, Transformation). As SAMR gained in popularity, we stopped referencing the RAT scale, but we never really shifted to SAMR. In fact, I don't believe many teachers in Minnetonka are familiar with it. Here is why: 

What's Wrong with SAMR?

There are many iterations of SAMR, from ladders to coffee to wheels and pools. Creating a catchy analogy helps, but the focus of each of these variations still is on the technology. I asked the attendees and now you to think about what is wrong with SAMR. What is it missing? How does it fall short? 

Around 2014 we stopped referencing the RAT scale and began evaluating the benefits and results of using these various scales in our efforts to help teachers integrate technology more meaningfully into their teaching. Each of these scales was helpful, but also left some voids. Sometimes the delineation between the levels was hard to pin down (is that use Amplification or Modification?). As we worked with teachers on how to use technology in their teaching, we didn't want the focus to be on the technology itself. Instead we found great benefit from and a need to reflect on many other areas of teaching and learning, too. Talking about how students are thinking critically, communicating, what they are creating, if their experiences were authentic, personalized, collaborative, and global in nature is just as important as talking about technology. It all fits together as part of the conversation and bigger picture of instructional best practices.

Each of these other areas of instruction and learning have their own levels and stages, too. For example, you can say that your students are collaborating, but is it at the basic level of talking with a neighbor about their answer to a problem or a higher level of collaborative skills involved in negotiating and resolving decisions about what information is most important for a group presentation? Because of this, we developed a larger framework for instruction overall. There are eight dimensions on our framework, and each has its own levels of complexity (similar to SAMR levels). 

As stated in the Framework Overview document, the Framework shows "how often modest adjustments to lesson design and learning environments can significantly elevate students’ opportunities to learn. It provides educators with a launching point for planning meaningful, engaging instruction for learners who already live in a complex information society in which the nature of work is rapidly changing. Teachers can create places of learning that engage students at high levels and lead to deeper understandings by intentionally planning learning experiences with these strands in mind."

The Minnetonka Framework for Teaching & Learning

To develop this comprehensive framework, our Director of Teacher Development, Sara White, coordinated the work and efforts of teacher and administrator teams who worked to identify and compose the definitions and levels for each level of complexity on the Framework, as well as write an overview document and create guides of about 10-15 pages that detail each of the Framework's eight dimensions. 
(View the draft Framework Overview document and draft guide for Authentic & Real World Learning referenced in the presentation.) Sara also scripted an overview video that we showed our staff this past August during back to school workshops:

Our Framework now guides our curriculum writing with dimensions and levels being identified in our UbD units. It also is the focus of our staff development, including technology. Our instructional technology coaches meet with teachers and do trainings focusing on strands of the Framework. Teachers meet in roundtables to discuss how they are designing instruction around different dimensions of the Framework and how technology integrates with these other areas. They also discuss the progress they are making on their technology goal for the year which is tied in with another Framework dimension. These goals are shared with the instructional technology coaches and their building principals. The Minnetonka Framework for Teaching and Learning has helped us move beyond SAMR ladders and pools to designing student experiences for meaning, engagement, and deeper learning. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

12th Annual Minnetonka Site Visit February 24, 2017

Annual Minnetonka Site Visit

Deeper Learning in the 21st Century

Friday, February 24, 2017

Register Today!

For the past decade, more than 1,000 educators have visited Minnetonka, including the National School Boards Association which hosted its second visit in Minnetonka in 2014. This year’s 12th annual visit is on Friday, February 24, 2017. Choose to visit an elementary, middle, or our high school. Small group sessions and classroom visits will provide direct interaction with teachers, staff and students. Come see learning in action, witness proven programs and gather innovative ideas which you can take back to your school. Breakout sessions with some classroom visits will provide direct interaction with administrators, leaders, teachers and students.

Choose from a wide variety of small group sessions led by Minnetonka staff to learn how things work behind the scenes. Sessions include innovation, the Teaching & Learning Framework, instructional technology support, online learning, coding, principal leadership, Design for Learning, assessment, the curriculum review process, Global Learners, gifted and talented programming, innovative student support services, personalized learning, 1:1 iPads, Schoology, and more. 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 groups small. Lunch is provided. View tentative schedules with breakout session descriptions below:
  1. Clear Springs Elementary School
  2. Minnetonka Middle School West
  3. Minnetonka High School

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Monday, December 5, 2016

More Than an Hour of Code: Tonka Coding & Computer Science Programs Now in Year Three

This week during the international Hour of Code, students everywhere will have the opportunity to learn and practice computer coding. It's not too late to join them! For some, it will be their first time doing so. For students in Minnetonka, this is now the third year that we have a coding program that begins in kindergarten and extends through high school. Last year students coded for 7,843 hours just during the first week of December for the Hour of Code.

The video above gives an overview of our coding and computer science program. A couple story features showcased in it to take note: One, the story of a sixth grade middle school student, Omar, who designed, coded, and is fine tuning his own hall pass application. Along the way he worked with his teacher Michelle Brunik, an older eighth grade student Jacob, and Paul from our technology staff to refine and see things through. Second, middle school students in Lisa Reed's STEM class created their own apps on Droid tablets and then visited a first grade classroom to test out their creations and solicit feedback on their products.
The Minnetonka Framework for Teaching & Learning

It's stories like these that highlight the wide variety of experiences our students have in coding. They continue to use 
TynkerKodableCode.orgScratch, Swift Playgrounds, Finch Robots (also featured in the video above), Bee Bots, Lightbots and more. Each of these experiences are part of the Minnetonka Framework for Teaching and Learning, helping students with critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, the use of technology and more. 

Some related posts and videos to learn more about coding in Minnetonka Schools are listed below:

Monday, November 28, 2016

High School ePortfolios Through Schoology

This fall all freshman students at our high school began creating a digital portfolio in their English classes through Schoology, our learning management system. This academic portfolio will be a collection of some artifacts of their best work in high school. It will include students’ personal reflections on their work and what they learned. This reflection will be reviewed and updated later in the year as well as in future grades.   

English teachers are tying in this work to their writing units. The work also fits nicely with personalized learning by giving students voice and choice in what they select as well as what they reflect upon in their writing. Students select three pieces of work related to their English classes (such as essays) and one piece of work from another subject of their choice. In addition to these reflections on their own work, students are also building an Academic Profile and a Personal Profile to include within their portfolio. These profiles include their academic goals, work and volunteer experiences, school activities such as clubs, music and sports, and students’ awards and accomplishments.        
During English classes, teachers work to help students think of their audience and other components of writing such as tone and purpose. Criteria identified for student reflection includes:

  • Why did I choose this artifact of learning (assignment) to include in my portfolio?
  • What process did you use to create this artifact?
  • What does this artifact show about you as a learner?
  • What is the best thing about this artifact? What is the worst thing about it?
  • If you were to change one thing about the process you used to create this artifact, what would it be and why?
  • If you were to change one thing about the artifact itself, what would it be and why?
  • What did you learn about yourself in the process of completing this assignment?

As students continue their high school education, the content of this portfolio will be revisited, updated, and added to each year. Students will continue to focus on who they are as an individual, how they have grown in their learning, and their future. This portfolio and its reflections will help them develop their professional identity and be easily transferred to college application essays, a resume, and/or employment applications. Students will be able to share their portfolios with the teachers whom they ask to write them letters of recommendation. A little over a year ago the Coalition, a group of 90+ colleges and universities, announced plans for high school students to submit an ePortfolio as part of their application in the near future, so our students will be in great shape for this. Portfolios can be exported from Schoology as needed. Also, as today’s students increasingly opt to represent their personal lives and interests online, it is important to help them understand the need to have a positive digital presence and represent themselves well. These ePortfolios are a nice step towards helping our students do this!

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Monday, November 21, 2016

An Easy Way to Weekly Inform Teachers & Parents of Great Technology Integration

Minnebytes: 100+ Examples of High School iPad Integration 
This Year (3 per week)
Sometimes teachers and staff travel long distances to attend technology conferences hoping to return with a few new, good ideas that they can take back to try in their own classrooms.  There are certainly some great conferences out there where this can happen. But often I think we fail to realize that we are surrounded by all sorts of colleagues who are doing great things in their classrooms every day. If we had a way to know what these ideas were and when they were happening, we wouldn’t even have to leave our building to get some great ideas.

Over the years we have tried out a variety of ideas and multiple ways to make this happen. We've had success having our teachers share their ideas and best practices for technology integration with one another in short presentations at monthly staff meetings, sharing ideas at “Roundtable” with colleagues during training classes they are attending as part of our continual staff development, sharing and/or recording teacher presentations of their best tips and ideas and making them available online for others, as well as running our own summer workshops and training conferences in house for our teachers. 

Most recently our high school instructional technology coaches have been putting together a weekly newsletter highlighting three ideas for integrating iPads in the classroom. The instructional tech coaches see these firsthand as they are out in classrooms working with teachers each week. They snap a photo, write a few sentences describing the lesson they observe, explain how the lesson fits in with our Teaching & Learning Framework, and then put each of them on a slide in a continuous Google Slide deck.

The high school instructional tech coaches send a weekly email out to all high school staff, so that not only do the 175 teachers see these ideas, but the admin, paras, and all other support staff do, too. This is a great way to further educate everyone about the possibilities and power of using iPads and technology in instruction. Rather than having the content and ideas in the email itself, they made a link with just an image teaser such as the one pictured, so that everyone has to click on this link to get to the content. This allows us to see how many views the content is getting per week by using the free analytics tools available through 

In addition to informing our staff and allowing teachers to see one another’s ideas without having to travel anywhere to get them, we also decided to share this information with our families, too. Each week in the parent email newsletter, we are including a link for parents to view: “3 Ways MHS Students Used Technology This Week to Maximize Learning.” So far we are averaging about 84 views/week. The Google Slide show is a live file that we just add to each week, so each time the email gets sent out there is new content for viewers. There is no extra work required and we have the added bonus of having our parents become more knowledgeable about how an iPad and technology are used by their child and the school as a whole, which is great! 

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Math: An Overlooked Subject in Non-Tablet 1:1 Programs

Education is changing and the way students learn math will never be the same. Technology in the classroom like the iPad allows students to organize and share their work faster than ever before. In Mr. Best’s Calculus class, these tools accelerate an already accelerated class. Students use Notability, Explain Everything and Desmos to explore topics in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Unfortunately math is often an overlooked subject area in most traditional non-tablet 1:1 programs. Yet starting in kindergarten, every student through their senior year of high school spends a good portion of their day in math class. Students can't do much of their work in math classes with technology when they are limited to a traditional keyboard and screen.
In most traditional 1:1 Chromebook or laptop programs I've seen, students have their devices closed during math class and use paper and pencil, because math requires handwriting. (For that matter, a lot of school subjects require handwriting.) Sure, you could type up all numbers and variables in the lines of your equations, change fonts to superscript for each exponent, figure out the special keystrokes for math symbols to insert, and come up with other workarounds,  but have you ever seen anyone take the time to do that?! It would be so cumbersome. And if you think writing in digital ink on a laptop is comparable, you likely haven’t tried for an extended period of time. Occasionally while touring traditional 1:1 programs with keyboards, I’ve seen math students who are using their device as an expensive calculator or have opened up an online textbook. Some teachers in these situations do try to harness the limited technology available for math by incorporating video instruction, YouTube tutorials, Kahn Academy content, and assessment tools.  
Because of the limitations of the device, students in traditional 1:1 programs are limited to consuming content in math rather than interacting and creating it. There is so much power in handwritten notes, sketches, and annotations. The availability and power of digital ink sets 1:1 tablet implementations on a level above that of traditional devices. Since so much of school is handwriting, the ability to use digital ink for note taking and math homework allows students to harness the power of technology for all aspects of their learning. Not only can they access content for learning, they can create it.

In Minnetonka math classrooms, students using Notability write in digital ink, which allows them to write, resize, relocate, change colors, copy, paste, manipulate, pinch, zoom, drag, interact and more with their own handwritten equations and notes. Research has shown that typed up notes aren’t as memorable or helpful and can even be detrimental to learning. The ability to create handwritten notes and so much more on a tablet should be a key factor for consideration not only in math but all subject areas. Math class can be paperless with 1:1 tablets. Tablets allow students to not only create handwritten notes with technology, but redefine what traditional note taking even is compared with paper and pencil in a traditional classroom or traditional keyboard 1:1 environment.
In addition to digital note taking and annotations, students frequently use the camera for both photos and videos which are added to their notes. They quickly snap a picture of the teacher’s example, embed it right within their notes, and then add their own writing and annotations on top of that image. Students in our math classes use Explain Everything to record screencasts to describe their thinking and processing. They can share these videos with one another to teach and reinforce concepts to classmates and provide their teachers with a deeper understanding of what they have learned. Further, visualization and manipulation of objects and graphs are routine in math classes thanks to the power of 1:1 tablets, enhancing students’ understanding of concepts. In the iPads in High School Calculus video, you can see Minnetonka students doing all of these things, including using Desmos for exploring patterns in graphs.

I have written in the past about the need to consider the overall ROI, return on investment, of a device for the life of the device. In the long run, we have found that an iPad provides a bigger bang for the buck than a laptop or Chromebook ($0.38/day). In conversations about device choice, it’s important to reflect on the value you place on all subjects. Consider if and how students could even use the tool you have in mind in subjects like math, art, music, physical education, science, world language, and more. Too often educators and decision makers forget to think this through and elevate the value of a traditional keyboarding device over the value of a tool that can be truly used to enhance learning across all subject areas.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Video Game Design and Computer Coding at High School

One of the first games that students create in the video game design class.
As computers become an ever increasing presence in our daily lives, there is a growing realization about the importance for students to learn the fundamentals of computer coding. Even for students who don't pursue a future career directly in coding, educators and many employers are realizing the benefits of having a coding background. Coding helps build critical thinking and problem solving skills. And for students interested in coding careers, there is strong evidence that points to multiple options and opportunities in their future based on both the current shortage of computer programmers and the projected increasing need for even more.

This is the third year Minnetonka has a computer coding curriculum that begins in kindergarten. Tonka<codes> starts in the elementary years and continues up through high school, with numerous opportunities for students to learn about coding and computer science. At our high school level, there are a variety of elective computer science and coding classes that students can take:

  1. IB Computer Science HL
  2. AP Comp Sci Principles 
  3. Game IT Video Game Design 
  4. Advanced Video Game Design (Semester II)
  5. Mobile App Design
  6. AP Computer Science A

Recently I went to each of these high school classes to talk with some of the 75 students enrolled and the two teachers of these courses. I met a range of students, from die hard programmers planning on a computer science major in college to students who were just exploring this interest as an elective. The courses and curriculum were all very engaging. Students were involved in simulations and creating actual programs, apps, and video games. The tools they use to learn to do this are so much more visual and seemingly easier to understand than I remember the limited coding experiences I had. It made me wish that I could take these classes myself!

Construct 2 screen showing students visually how code works.
For example, in Game It: Video Game Design I, instructor Nick Bahr has 16 students in grades 9-12 who are in the semester long class. The course description is as follows: 
In this project-based course, students will develop working computer games using Construct 2 software. Students are introduced to the fundamental principles of game design and development using an object oriented language. The content includes practical experiences in conceptualization, storyboarding, development methodologies, color theory, the use of math and physics in video games, audio/sound effects design, graphic design and animation, and implementation. Students will also research careers in the gaming industry. Instructional methods include entry-level use of Construct 2 software, to design, develop, and edit class video games. The class will also include classroom assignments, quizzes, tests and projects related to the video game industry. Students should be interested in video game design and have basic computer, math and problem-solving skills.
A screen shot of a custom shell
for an ambulance that Jacob was
making on his own at home. 
One of the students I spoke with during my visit was a ninth grader named Jacob. Jacob is an avid video gamer, and through our conversation I learned that he also really enjoys designing components of the games he plays, like GTA (Grand Theft Auto) and Emergency Responders. Jacob designs custom skins/shells for the emergency vehicles in these games as well as designs and textures the uniforms for the first responders. He was excited to show me examples of his work and is very interested in pursuing a career in video game set design. Another student I spoke with, Chloe, was an avid player of Minecraft, and she explained to me that she was also very interested in the scene design of video games. Until meeting these students, I hadn't even thought about this aspect of coding and video game creation. 

Besides video game design, I also spoke with students who were designing mobile apps, learning Java, learning how to code image compression and build user input forms. It was great to visit with many of our students and learn how these coding classes are offering them ways to further pursue their passions and interests!

Skins for police cars that Jacob designed.
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Monday, October 31, 2016

Minnetonka Hosting The Minnesota Conference Featuring Apple Teacher February 4, 2017

Minnetonka Public Schools is excited to be hosting the annual Minnesota Conference Featuring Apple Teacher on Saturday, February 4, 2017, at Minnetonka High School. This full-day conference features an inspiring keynote, world-class spotlight speakers, and local success stories. Participants choose from a full range of hands-on breakout sessions for various grades, subject areas, and skill levels. A complete strand of sessions will be available to introduce participants to the Apple Teacher Learning Center and support them in their efforts to earn the badges necessary to achieve Apple Teacher recognition. Additional sessions include popular topics such as editing video with iMovie, coding with Swift Playgrounds, visual storytelling, green screening, publishing, and much more. These sessions go beyond “how-to” workshops focusing also on meaningful application with students. 

The conference offers an opportunity to connect with a community of like-minded educators. Attendees share resources and answer each others’ questions – and also have easy access to the expertise of presenters from around the world. All participants are also invited to join EdTechTeam’s Facebook Community for Apple Teachers, where members receive ongoing support to continue their learning, earn their badges, and achieve recognition as an Apple Teacher. A photo booth, technology sandbox, and fun collaborative activities allow for an individualized experience at the conference. A continental breakfast and catered lunch are provided, along with conference swag and opportunities to earn additional prizes.

I hope you will join us! Early bird registration lasts until December 4, 2016. Registration, schedule, and further details

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