City as Our Campus Website

December 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

In January I started working with James Acklin, a local designer, and a small group of colleagues and students to design the City as Our Campus website. We have come a long way since then.  I’m in the midst of readying content in order to make the website live in early 2012. As such I will not be posting to this blog so that I can focus on the website launch. I will be sure to announce when the website is public. Thanks to all of you who helped along the way!

Open Badges and Learner Memory

April 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Students everywhere are capitalizing on educational opportunities outside of the traditional schooling framework. Twenty-four hour access, virtual worlds, grassroots community centers, peer networks, and a student-centered Edupunk movement (in all its incarnations) have prompted the need for a new kind of accreditation framework that takes into account this expansive “connected learning ecology.”  I stumbled on this phrase when reading about the Mozilla Open Badges Project, which seeks to create a system of accreditation that would capture learning within informal environments.  An initiative of Peer to Peer University and Mozilla in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, the project promotes a system that allows learners to collect and display different badges online that demonstrate achievements traditional transcripts and resumes often leave out. The badges would capture both “hard” skills, such as programming, and “soft” skills, such as critical thinking. The idea is based on popular frameworks like the Boy Scouts or Foursquare, which have proven to spur motivation among participants. You can read the working paper here.

I found this all very interesting. Truthfully, I haven’t been considering badges in terms of informal or even online learning, but in terms of the community-based learning framework that my school supports through our City as Our Campus program. City as Our Campus is a K-12 initiative that connects the community and the curriculum, ensuring that each student is challenged by real-world issues and is exposed and responsive to their community. As we move forward with this program, we’re considering how to provide students with a way to reflect on their community-centered learning. The badge framework is promising and could highlight important learning moments that occur outside of the classroom, and therefore not usually summed up in a simple grade.

Significantly, badges are not top-down – meaning that what badges exist and how they are distributed could be determined by a larger community, including students and community coeducators in addition to faculty. What I find most interesting is that something like an open badge framework would give students a “fun” item (the badge) linked to an artifact (document, video, etc. perhaps in the form of a portfolio) that would evoke reflection as they move from lower to middle to high school. Badges could build on each other and connect the often separate learning experiences in each division. It could make for a more cohesive K-12 City as Our Campus experience. Obviously, this is a seed of a thought, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye on the research over at Mozilla.

NAIS Conference Reflections: PLNs, Speed Exposure, and Choices

February 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

No Weekly Roundup this week. We didn’t have school on Monday (President’s Day) or Tuesday (snow day!), and on Wednesday I traveled to National Harbor, MD to attend the National Association of Independent Schools conference. I attended several workshops, general sessions, and did my best to stay on top of the Twitter stream. Speaking of Twitter, personal learning networks (PLN) were frequently discussed as a great way to stay connected with new ideas in teaching and learning (one small step to being a networked school). You can create a PLN by joining Twitter and strategically choosing who to follow. Karen Blumberg, Technology Integrator at the School of Columbia University, suggested that PLNs are becoming “an industry standard” despite the fact that many administrators and faculty are not on Twitter. I think PLNs offer tremendous potential in teacher professional development, and I’m wondering how educational technology specialists are working to move their colleagues in this direction.

I was able to learn more about PLNs during the Speed Networking session, where I attended three mini-sessions from independent school “movers and shakers.” I loved the format for this session, which consisted of three intimate, 10-minute “dates.” I think this is a great way to expose educators to interesting ideas, and it would be a wonderful addition to a school’s professional development agenda. Fun too. In addition to PLNs, I had the opportunity to talk about disruptive innovation and design thinking (great topics for future blog posts).

Several other sessions addressed the power and difficulties of successful partnerships. I met several people I’m looking forward to connecting with more, including Jason Gregory, Director of Community Life and Public Purpose at Sage Hill School in California. We talked briefly about the need to create a network of educators in positions like ours, a topic I also discussed with colleagues from the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. Hopefully, we will see that develop over the next several months. As for partnership making, the necessity for independent schools to understand the needs of our partners was front and center. I have already shared my enthusiasm for this process here and here.

I enjoyed the general sessions by Sheena Iyengar and Dan Heath. Both made me think differently about how I approach faculty and community partners in terms of change management. Iyengar discussed the Art of Choosing and spoke about how some of us work better with many choices while others succeed with fewer choices — it is the job of a leader to know the difference. I never thought about how the level of choice affects our performance, but I certainly will as I move forward. Dan Heath reminded me about the role of emotion in change and made me consider how to simplify the goals of a program like City as Our Campus, which requires us to rethink the ways we teach, in a manner that embraces that emotion.

It is the difference between this:

and this:

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