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Puzzle Day Rundown

In case you missed my posts about CS50, check them out from August. I finally got to put all that learning to IMG_1028practice this week when the students arrived at school. Puzzle Day is an event conducted by CS50 during the first weekend of school as an ice-breaker type of activity where people arrive in teams to solve a series of brain-teasers and word challenges as well as get to know each other. The intellectual goal here is to get students thinking algorithmically. After learning about this event, I thought that it would be awesome to do with jigsaw puzzles in high school, since students at that age need to learn by seeing and touching a lot more than college students. The benefit to this is that it wound up being an incredible way to visually show different problem solving strategies at work, something we often have huge amounts of trouble with as teachers. I’ve made a power point of that for anyone to use, which you can access here. Check it out, as it includes all of the lessons learned from this activity and a whole slew of pictures.

Enjoy!

Top 5 Teaching Hacks for 2015

It’s time for another exciting start to a school year! This is a big one for me, and I am personally too energetic for my own good this September. I think most of my colleagues are already sick of it.

I wanted to do a different kind of new year post: here are 5 teaching hacks I plan on using this year.

Churrascaria-Style Assessment

postits

If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you will have experienced the sheer joy of turning your red and green table card over to the light side of the force and watch trays of delicious meats be run by your table for sampling. While I don’t think most children will necessarily find much joy out of it, they will certainly find help, even the most shy students. Using colored post-its for this task is a clever way of quickly diverting your attention to those who need it most during class time on problems and writing exercises.

Wearable Reminders

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Even as a techy guy, I greatly appreciate low-tech solutions to important problems, and this one is brilliant. You can buy a sheet of those adhesive bracelets for around $2-$3 at party city. If you need a student to remember to do something, write it on a bracelet and slap it on their wrist! Sure, students should learn how to write things in their planner and remember to act on them, but as most of us know, that doesn’t always work and sometimes you just need the kid to bring in the field trip form so that they can go with you to the museum on the next day. This also eliminates any complaining about students writing things on their body, and what kid doesn’t love a cool neon bracelet?

Phone Jail

jai

I don’t like the “phone hotel” that people always post on social media because it discourages students from actually learning to control themselves with their devices, and instead just removes the distraction altogether. Spoiler alert: that’s not going to help the student. This, on the other hand, offers them the choice, and provides a fun but meaningful consequence when they choose wrong. I love it.

Vistaprint is Your Friend

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This is one that teachers really don’t use enough. You can easily print flyers and handouts at your school, however anything more premium generally requires either special machinery, or outsources. Fortunately, Vistaprint is here for you. Sign up for their Pro Advantage program for a flat 40% off everything in their store all the time. Adding a premium touch to special event flyers, making giant banners using HD photos, and bulletin boarding just got a whole lot more awesome. The best part of this program is that they have a lot of first-time deals, like the banner on our NSBA booth which I received for just $5.

Noisedown

I’m not sure if this is a hack, but I think it’s an awesome app idea and actually a subtle, “the teacher is not the bad guy” way of alerting students that they’re being too loud. The noisedown app lets you set a decible level and then leave your phone on your desk. When the room gets too loud, it releases an alarm. I know that it shouldn’t require an app to do this, but here’s the twist: have the students download it and use it to monitor themselves during group work. If teachers are generally aware when a room is too loud, kids rarely are, and this app lets students monitor themselves and also not be the uncool kid telling their peers to quiet down.

What are your teacher hacks for this year? Let me know!

 

CS50 Bootcamp Roundup

Overview

CS50 is Harvard’s introductory computer science course that has become hugely popular across the world as the exemplar of both an introduction to the subject at the college level as well as an outstanding blended learning product. Their new venture, CS50 AP, is a version of the course adapted to the new AP Computer Science principles curriculum which will begin testing in the 2016-2017 school year. I was fortunate enough to attend their bootcamp from 8/5-8/7. The bootcamp’s purpose was to explore implementing the course at the HS level and to get a closer look at the CS50 phenomenon.

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When I walked in the building, I knew where I was.

Takeaways

Aside from access to the course’s curriculum and resources, which are extensive, there were a number of key takeaways from the bootcamp. Most importantly was a detailed look at the infrastructure behind the most successful blended learning course today. The instructor, David Malan, has a tremendous staff: around 100 people, on top of resources the course procures from third parties. Much of this staff is put towards actually teaching the course: there are around 70 people who run recitations, conduct office hours, and host walkthrough sessions. The other 30 can be classified as marketing people, including a full-fledged video production team and a print designer. The result is that this course not only has a tremendous teaching staff, but marketing materials equivalent to a medium sized company. Seeing it in person was overwhelming and quite different, but the results are hard to argue with as it currently enrolls around 40% of Harvard and several thousand others through edX.

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Another key takeaway lies in the course’s three trademark events: Puzzle Day, CS50 Hackathon, and CS50 Fair. The first, Puzzle Day, is a first-week activity in which the whole course is invited to come and solve word puzzles. The goal is to foster problem solving and also for students to get to know each other. I think this will be fun to do with jigsaw puzzles, since high school students learn a lot more by touching things and it will accomplish the same goal. The second, the Hackathon, is something that would be logistically impossible to pull off in high school, as it is an overnight coding challenge from Friday-Saturday held in the Harvard library. The third and most interesting, the CS50 Fair, is the end of year showcase of student final projects from the course, in which the whole university is invited to attend. It’s a great event to replicate at the HS, or better yet, have students attend either at Harvard or remotely.

 

 

 

Cecil the Lion’s Avengers Teach Children How to Be Cyberbullies

In case you did not know, a dentist from Minnesota hunted and killed the famous lion from Zimbabwe: Cecil. The internet has been raging ever since this event, causing unbelievable backlash towards the hunter, to the point where I had to write an entire blog post about why all of this is so incredibly misplaced. Here goes.

The Animal Stuff

Whether or not you’re an animal rights advocate, you don’t care about animal rights, or you’re right in between and respect animals but also respect the tradition of hunting, the truth is that according to Zimbabwe law, this was an illegal hunt, since Cecil was collared and living in a protected reserve. He was allegedly lured out of the reserve into a legal hunting area to be killed. Who is to blame for this? The hunter? The guides? I think that if you’re someone hunting this kind of game, you’re well aware of the laws surrounding it, however I can’t possibly imagine this guy woke up and said “let’s go shoot an illegal lion today.” If he wanted to do that, he wouldn’t have spent the $50,000 to buy a hunting permit for the trip.

For more on the ethics of licensed trophy hunting, which I’m not here to discuss nor do I have a stake in, please see this rare item on the internet: a piece of literature surrounding the biological effects of this conservation effort. The short version is that the matter is highly complicated, but there is certainly enough evidence to support ongoing investigation of the effectiveness. In science words, that means that arguing against this practice without a few more years of data is irresponsible, but it doesn’t mean those against it are wrong. It just means that more data is required. Source: I’m a scientist.

Should these hunters have let the animal bleed out for 2 days before killing it? I want to say of course not, but maybe there’s a reason they did. Wounded lions are dangerous. I don’t know, I’m not a hunter, and if I was, I’d listen to the advice of my nationally certified and well-respected guide.

Bottom line: it was a legal trophy hunt, the type of which is endorsed internationally as a promising conservation practice, carried out on illegal territory with an illegal target. We do not yet know whether or not this was on purpose, and any statement to either side of that is just speculation. Worst-case scenario, this deserves legal investigation, with which our dentist has already stated he is more than willing to comply with.

 

"Be awesome to each other," says Cecil.

“Be awesome to each other,” says Cecil.

The Human Stuff

The backlash to this event has been more disgusting than the actual act. It’s perfectly reasonable to be angry that such an event could occur. It’s even reasonable if, according to Zimbabwe law, which I am not familiar with, the hunter is also liable in this case and is punished accordingly.

So it sickens me that upon his arrival home and the breaking of this news, that this man’s reputable, important, and locally run dental practice has been effectively forced to shut down due to a firestorm of media attention and armchair vigilantes. What these people fail to realize is that by attacking this man’s practice in the way they did, they’ve not only harmed him, but every employee there, as well as the community in which it resides. Does one man’s actions, which could very easily be an honest mistake whilst attempting to follow law while hunting an animal, as much as it could have been an intentional violation, warrant this type of action? Unequivocally not.

But perhaps the most terrible part of all of this is the link people fail to see between this event and the rampant cyber bullying in our country’s schools. I’ve written about bullying numerous times on this blog, because it’s an important issue in our schools. Would you like to know where children learn how to be cyber bullies? It’s from events like this, where a guy is set out to dry because he shot a lion with a longbow.

For whatever reason, this dentist from Minnesota will now be forever remembered as the guy whose life was ruined because he went on safari, not the guy who spent his life building a business that has impacted countless local families in a positive way. Of all of the people to be crucified for hunting, the internet has chosen this man, who at the very least attempted  to follow the laws in place for the benefits of the hunted animals, to make the face of their crusade against poachers and animal cruelty. Poachers are the enemy, and the Internet has taken out its rage against them on a hunter, which is different. It’s just horrible.

Finally, and I have many qualms about the media that I could spend days ranting about, but the language in some of these articles sickens the scientist in me. For good measure in their responsible reporting, CNN and others decided to throw in some biological information in their article:

“The saddest part of all is that, now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females,” Rodrigues said. “This is standard procedure for lions.”

CNN is not stupid, but it knows its audience. There is nothing sad about this. This is called nature. There are no emotions involved with nature no matter how much Pixar and Disney want there to be. Worst of all, humans did this to each other less than 800 years ago for the same reason, so I’m not sure why it’s all of a sudden relevant to this article and such a sad thing for lions to do it. It happens literally every day. Whatever sells ad impressions is what they’ll write. I digress.

Next time you see a cyber bullying incident in your school, go ahead and ask yourself how this is different. Let me use the professional lingo. Imbalance of power? Check. Is an individual a victim? Check. Is it ongoing over an extended period of time (24 hours)? Check.

Don’t wonder where our children learn to do this. Don’t wonder where they learn to spread rumors, bend truth, and collectively attack individuals who share different beliefs or ideas than them. Like every other behavior a child learns, we teach them.

 

Sack Lunch Productions & Lessons for Students

I’ll admit, I am late to the party with this unbelievably ingenious company who specializes in bringing the…party…to your home city. I’m writing this on the morning of Stamford’s first Slide the City event, a subsidiary of Sack Lunch Products who deploy not only the 1000ft water slide party, but also the Dirty Dash and Lantern Fest. They’ve picked up steam with media lately and for good reason. If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll know I am a huge fan of companies that make everybody involved a winner. I mentioned Campus Job as one such example, and SLP is just another. The biggest reason is their ingenious franchising model for their various events. To understand why this is so intelligent, and to potentially provide a lens to examine real-world intelligence for students, let’s dig a little deeper into how the process works.

slide

Infrastructure

SLP’s staff is actually tiny. They basically have a small sales team, a web developer, a materials manager, and a media person. For a company whose trade is to host enormous in-person events, this is unheard of. They achieve the goal by leveraging each host city’s local resources to deploy the events. The company scouts each location, choosing cities with enough local Parks and Recreation infrastructure to recruit volunteers and sponsors for the event. When it locates a city, it makes the pitch and allows the city to purchase a one-day franchising deal from the company. They provide materials, branding, and media support, as well as the actual slide, and the town does the rest. It allows them to keep their overhead costs incredibly low for an in-person event. It’s quite amazing.

Revenue Model

The way the company makes money is through a standard franchising agreement, which basically include a one-time fee and royalties on revenue gained through the event. With such a low overheard cost of operation, this company needs very little from each event to be hugely profitable. The events themselves charge riders between $15 and $45 for anywhere between a single slide or unlimited slides.

Everyone’s a Winner

Why is this such a great deal? It makes everyone a winner. The company wins because they make money doing something that makes people smile. The cities win because they also make money doing something that makes people smile, since they get to keep a portion of the revenue they earn through the event. Finally, the consumers win because they get to have an unforgettable experience for exceptionally cheap, and they also generally get to have fun at the larger series of events that cities tend to organize around Slide the City, like live music, farmers markets, and such.

I’ll be off to our city’s first event in just a few hours, but I have learned quite a lot already from examining their great model. I hope you did too!

BLC15 Conference Roundup and CS50

It’s time for another excitement-packed conference roundup. This time, I packed a bag that was far smaller than anything my fiance could possibly condone, and made my way to Boston for Alan November’s Building Learning Communities conference. Remarkably, there was no issue getting here. If you’ve read any of my previous posts on how fortunate I am on my travel adventures, this is quite a surprise. I think the curse must be limited to airplanes. That is, until I arrive to the hotel, which I was lucky enough to be staying in during a fire that broke out at 3AM during an National Science Teachers Association conference a few years ago. Minor hiccup.

After arriving at 11:20 and checking in as fast as possible, I made it to the Technology Leadership workshop run by Shawn Fortin who remarkably resembled a spartan-racing, probably more funny, Horace Mann principal version of Jimmy Fallon. I suggest that he create a version of his school’s morning announcements called “Early Morning with Shawn Fortin”. It even rhymes with Fallon. The session on leadership focused on a lot of big picture ideas that many schools forget about during large-scale implementations of anything, but in this case the lens was technology. At the forefront of these were these first two steps towards sparking change:

  1. Develop a shared vision – This is something that your staff not only understands, but also believes in and is willing to do.
  2. Share leadership responsibility – To get people believing in the same vision, it helps to involve them in its development (duh, but this is forgotten too often).

The rest of the steps actually don’t matter if these first two aren’t accomplished, because any great leadership initiative or plan requires execution, which is impossible without a staff that shares the vision and feels empowered with responsibility. I would have liked to see a few more details about how to make these things happen, as they’re difficult, but it certainly was a good thought-invoker.

After a quick lunch at the most confusing Au Bon Pain I’ve ever seen, Erin Klein’s session on inspiring creativity was next. It started with a reading of a children’s story which was remarkably well practiced. If you don’t know already, Erin’s work presenting at conferences across the country has rightfully made her a bit of a superstar at these types of events, and her presentation skills and delivery represent those of an outstanding speaker. While this session was geared towards elementary and middle levels, and I have a bile-inducing repugnance for teaching that age, I still think her advice was applicable in spawning curious questions in students who may have lost interest for various reasons. We eventually migrated to a dutifully heavy story about a discussion revolving around child abuse and the song “Alyssa Lies” which had maybe quite a bit of gravity to it, but furthermore proves the effectiveness and impact of a teacher brave enough to dive into such extremely sensitive issues like abuse, bullying, and others. As a series of anecdotes of students being creative, the session worked, however after around 30 minutes I think the point was made and as a secondary teacher, I was ready for some more content specific to that grade level.

Following this I began to search for places to eat dinner in Boston. After a Facebook query turned up great results, a quick google search revealed a place that specialized in my favorite charcuterie: The Salty Pig. After a short walk through the rain, I made it, and quickly took up residence at the bar. We have places like Barcelona in Stamford that will serve this type of food, but the Salty Pig was clearly a specialist in meat and cheese boards. The giveaway was the unbelievable compliments of their homemade mustard and pickles, which were amazing. I might go back for lunch.

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Yep, I took a picture. Yum.

After an uneventful evening in the hotel which threatened to extend my travel curse, I woke up excited for the main reason I came to this conference: the sessions on CS50 with Dave Malan. Before I even got to the sessions, I was blown away by Blake Copeland’s identical experience to mine as someone looking to learn how to code. The difference was he was in high school and nobody at the cathedral of learning he went to could help him achieve his goal. It was a fantastic talk.

Then came the main event: a three hour session on the world’s greatest blended learning product, CS50. If you don’t know, this is a Harvard introductory computer science course only in disguise: the real gem beneath it is the quality of technology utilization on display at all corners of this program. The online content supports are ridiculous thorough, comprised of full-length lecture videos, brief problem walkthroughs, relevant literature, a complete code reference on class material, and fully developed problem sets for each week of the course. The in-person structure is also as it should be. CS50 doesn’t echew the sage-on-the-stage model: it embraces it, turning the classroom into a stage for Dave Malan’s emphatic and energetic lectures, and settling for nothing less. Then, it takes these lectures, whose replays are all available online, and extends them through a robust office hour and recitation schedule bolstered by a teaching staff of over 60. Last, because of the quality and scaffolding present in the curricular material, enhanced by educational technology being utilized by this outstanding team, the course is able to treat the humanity in its content to multiple culture-building exercises, such as CS50 Fair, Puzzle Day, and Hackathon, all of which are in-person, all of which build social skills and all of which foster collaboration and interpersonal relationship building. In short, literally every single teacher on Earth can learn a thing or two from CS50, from technology novices to the most seasoned wizards. I myself will be off to the CS50 AP bootcamp in a few weeks to get trained on implementing this at the high school level, something I am excited for.

Oh, and I went back to the Salty Pig for dinner a second time. It was that good.

Why The Women’s World Cup Is A Victory for American Schools

It’s been a nice little break from writing on the blog here: always have to take some time to refresh after a school year is over. Now that July is upon us I’m back, and it’s time to talk about one of the most unbelievable performances I’ve ever seen on a soccer field. I’m talking about the US Women’s victory over Japan in the World Cup.

Congratulations to the US Women for their victory - via Reuters

Congratulations to the US Women for their victory – via Reuters

It’s not a secret that our Women’s Soccer Team has been one of the best teams in the world for a long time. While it used to be a very small field of competitive teams back when the Women dominated in the 90s, the scope is much more fierce now, with teams like Germany, Japan, Brazil, and England all fielding title challengers. The field was also recently expanded from 16 to 24 in this year’s event, another great sign. The reasons for this of course are both increased funding for women’s programs across the world as well as improving TV ratings for the event. The causes of both of those phenomena are not to be overlooked, because they signal a victory for both our country and specifically the American school system. Title IX legislation has been in place for 43 years now, and we are continuing to reap the fruits of that labor.

If you’re not aware, Title IX grants equal opportunity by law to women in education and sports. To oversimplify it: for every men’s athletic team there must be a women’s athletic team at a public school or university. While funding gaps do still exist with amenities and such, the truth is that the United States is a world leader in gender equality in athletics, if only because it’s mandated by law and completely ignoring the outstanding accomplishments of our women on the athletic fields. Since Title IX’s inception, female participation as increased 545 percent at the college level and over 1000 percent at the high school level nationwide. Focusing on Soccer for a moment: the United States have won the Women’s World Cup three times, the most of any nation. Comparisons to the men’s team are unfair, mainly because the country as a whole started late on what is truly the world’s game, but it does prove an emphatic point that as global leaders of the sport for one gender we’ve won three world cup championships, and as followers for the other gender we’ve earned none.

But there’s more about soccer that is not apparent to the average observer that must be underlined. First of all, unlike many sports, the rules of the game for men and women in soccer are identical. Unlike every other major sport, there are no differences between the men’s and women’s game. The effects of this are apparent when you watch the way the teams play on the field. In this year’s rematch of the last World Cup Final, Japan’s tiki-taka style reminds you of the $1B value of Barcelona FC. The Americans’ defensive and steely approach reminds you of this year’s English Premier League winners Chelsea. The point is these women are not playing their own game: they’re playing the game that everybody already loves, and when it comes to gender equality, that fact is crucially important and something our school systems directly address. They may not receive the same resources in many college-level programs, but women’s teams are treated the same way, celebrated the same way, and coached the same way as our men’s teams. Our schools make an effort to celebrate female athletes and the dividends are apparent on the world stage.

Perhaps most apparent is, once you understand that Soccer is identical for men and women, the level of pure skill displayed by the american team this past sunday was awe-inspiring. I’ve grown up playing and watching soccer: the third and the fourth goal scored by the american team are goals that the men’s team would simply be unable to do. Lauren Holliday’s volley looked simple, but it only looked that way because her technique in taking it was flawless. Carli Lloyyd’s performance resembled that of the legendary Diego Maradona, but her goal from half field is not only the greatest goal in women’s soccer history, but it surely lands in the top 5 goals every scored by any human. Her half-field lob was not an accident – and the fact that she executed it well enough to complete her hat trick was a feat I’m not sure anyone on the Men’s team will ever match. These two goals demonstrated that not only are women being encouraged legally and socially on the athletic field, but the time spent training and honing their skills are paying off in big ways for the United States.

Our country’s gender gap with professional sports is still pronounced, and personally I watch more men’s sports because they’re generally at a higher level of play than the women, or the rules of the women’s game make it more boring or tame. Soccer is different though, and if we proved anything last night, it’s that our women might simply be better players than our men. I’d love to see the women’s professional soccer league get a real boost, because the MLS is decidedly poor quality, but who knows what will happen there. What I know is that last night’s world cup win over Japan started 43 years ago with landmark legislation forcing gender equality on our athletic field. That legislation was targeted at the place it knew where it could take a real foothold: America’s schools. That’s why it wasn’t just a victory for the players on the field yesterday, but a celebration of everyone involved in the athletic training of our outstanding female athletes.

 

The Tech Expo Shines Again

For the second year in a row, my computer programming room had been commandeered for SBAC testing purposes for two weeks. For most classes, this wouldn’t be an issue, but when it’s a computer programming class being removed from the computer lab, and placed in a regular classroom…well it’s hard to teach students to program computers without computers. Teaching isn’t about finding ways to be inflexible, however, it’s about finding opportunities to grow and then executing. So for the second year in a row, I reached out to people in my network to see if they would volunteer some of their time to speak to our students about what it takes to be successful in the technology industry, how their stories shaped their companies and who they are, and to impart any pearls of wisdom to future startup owners. What we got was 2-3 weeks packed with unforgettable learning experiences for students aged 13-50. Here, in no particular order, are some reflections on what has been a great few weeks.

Exceptional Question Quality

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Elizabeth Wessel, CEO, CampusJob

Our first speaker, Liz Wessel of CampusJob, pointed out during her session that the students asked extremely good questions, better than many investors she has spoken to about the nationwide student employment service in the past. I didn’t realize how true this was until I found myself remarking on this fact during every presentation’s Q+A session. There are few things that catch me off guard like the inquisitiveness of student minds when given a chance to explore, but even with half a decade of teaching experience I am always astounded at some of the things students generate out of thought.  Without being coached to, students asked the key questions about the generation of revenue models, refinement of product ideas, and the first moments of a launch. But then there were the deeply personal questions, such as ‘what were you most afraid of when starting your company/now?’, ‘if you could go back and experience the same thing with your company, would you?’, and ‘what was the biggest mistake you’ve made during your company’s lifespan and how did you learn from it?’. Most of the speakers were astonished at these questions when they were asked, but it is rare that a student gets to fire away like this at a real life and successful human being. I’m sure they’ll never forget it.

Variety Show

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Gillian Morris, CEO, Hitlist

Something that both the students and myself reflected on was the sheer variety of people and products on display for a technology expo. While the presentations were all rooted in people at the helm of successful tech products, we had artists, filmmakers, designers, coders, CEOs, men and women between 23 and 50; there was every opportunity for every student to make a connection to at least one of these individuals. If students couldn’t relate to the individuals, the presentations covered products from innovative storytelling apps to job searching platforms. There were also presentations in varying styles from informal Skype session to rehearsed first-person narrative. There was something for everyone at this Expo, and seeing a different student each day make a connection to these people or these products makes the effort to put it together worth every second.

Senior Presentation

One moment I’ll never forget as a teacher was the presentation given by Ben Langley and Justin Fagella, graduating Seniors at GHS from our computer science program. These two built theassassingame.com, a platform to play the popular school spirit game, Assassin. It was the first major project they had built, and it was a huge success. They deployed it to their senior class to around 60,000 pageviews per month, and plan on expanding the platform to multiple schools over the summer. Aside from their success, the part of this I enjoyed the most was seeing the expertise and the ease with which they discussed their architecture, programming languages, and the learning experiences they gained during the course of the deployment of the game. It’s one thing to master one’s own work, it’s another to look right at home discussing it with the other role models we brought in during the expo.

Vindication or Confirmation?

The last thing I thought was particularly interesting about the Expo was the advice that every presenter gave to the programming students. Perhaps my most difficult job in starting our rich program here has been to convince people that we are successful because our approach is different. From the very first character I wrote on a syllabus, we’ve always been trying to teach students how to do one thing: “build stuff”. As I touched on in a post a few weeks ago, #StartYourOwn is a major reason why we’ve had tremendous success building this program from 30 to 130 students in just 2 years. This is strange to most because it’s scary to give students such freedom of choice and responsibility of action, but it’s vital to their engagement and their success. Just ask Angela Maiers of Choose2Matter; her main message is that students have a genius that they are responsible for contributing to the world.

So, it was to my gleeful delight when the main piece of advice given to the students by almost every presenter was just that; “build stuff”. Students were told to start now because nobody is going to say no to helping them and talking to them, because it’s important to fail early and often, or simply because if they never start building their idea, they’ll never finish. I thought it was a crystal clear validation of this credo that we’ve embedded into the students at GHS Comp Sci, and I hope they recognized it as well.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the speakers’ sessions, I’ve posted the videos on our GHS Comp Sci Youtube Channel. Feel free to use these with your classes or for your own personal viewing pleasure. The bit of advice I tell my students that was imparted to me by my partner, John Raffaeli, was that successful people are still just people, and what I love most about these sessions is that we got to see the human sides of many players in the technology space. This is an important facet that Steve Jobs was poignantly aware of: don’t lose sight of the humanity in technology, because without it the tech is just circuitry and lights.

 

Spotlight Design Blog #2: It’s Not Just An App

A few months ago, we talked about our new app, Spotlight, and how it allows schools to access the roots of social media with none of the negative side effects commonly associated with Facebook and Twitter. Since then, we’ve debuted the app at the National School Boards Association Conference, we’ve signed several new schools and organizations to put the app to use, and we’re satisfied with how the launch is going.

But Slate & Tablets is not just about making great technology to plop into a school and leave there. That’s what every other ed tech company does, and it doesn’t do any good. Since our inception, we’ve been about providing an unparalleled experience to schools that goes beyond just an app. With Planner, we provide a highly customized digital identity and experience for our clients. With Spotlight, we’re pleased to announce that not only will we create a private community for each school, but we’ll also run a free professional development session on social media best practices and how to use Spotlight to begin community building. pd

The rationale behind this is twofold. First, we want to be helpful. Plain and simple. We didn’t start this company to be the hidden tech company sitting in the office somewhere. We want to get into schools, interact with you, and help your staff grow. Do we get to do that by deploying a product and letting it do its job? Absolutely, but we understand that teaching is a human profession, and we want to make the people involved with it better for using our product too. Secondly, we have some pretty awesome partners, and they’re already doing outstanding events in schools. When brainstorming someways to work together, we figured that this was a way to make everybody win: allow our partners to do their magic in a school and let us train the staff on Spotlight to document it.

Interesting in learning more about these sessions and our new PD partners? We’ll be unveiling them at ISTE. See you there!

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