We are in our second year of blogging in order to document work, connect with community and teach others what we, ourselves have learned. Staff is beginning to understand how to use the blog as a means for students to document and reflect on their learning and my fellow colleague who teaches Chemistry went for it and had her students blog about a recent PBL project. She then shared one of the student blogs on her twitter account, which was then retweeted by a local Administrator at another High School, which was THEN picked up by another person in the Napa Valley School district. Within one day, this students reflection post was read by over 300 people on the internet.
This is just one of so many examples of how having a digital presence can be so wonderful. How powerful that experience was for the student who wrote the blog...and for the chemistry teacher....AND for our whole staff here at New Tech!
Here's the blog post. Feel free to leave a comment for the student directly on your website.
With this case study in mind, let's talk about how I view transformational leadership. I firmly believe that leadership through example is the best way to make real change happen. If we want to effect change, in any arena, it's a constant job of building value. Blogging and talking about the value of blogging, making that value visible to staff, students and teachers throughout my personal learning network, is a way to change the way we do things in the world of education.
Lead by Example
Before I came to the teaching profession, I built a high successful video production company by blogging on a regular basis. I built a name for myself as an expert in my field and opened doors that would normally be closed. This is my hope for blogging at New Tech and I know that if I, myself, want others to establish a digital presence, then I need to do so for myself first.
Bias Toward Action
I understand that we are just at the beginning of the portfolio transformation process, and that this is a process of experimentation, iteration and refinement, but we must start somewhere. Even in it's infancy stages, our school wide portfolio process is off to a great start. We do not know what the outcome will be, but we have jumped into the activity of blogging with both feet. We are willing to try, willing to experiment and willing to get feedback and continue in the iteration process.
Working as a team
One of the most critical pieces to transformational leadership, beyond the willingness to lead by example and the willingness to jump right in, is the ability to reach out to stakeholders and get buy in. Last year, we created a portfolio committee made up of two teachers and 8 students. We went through the design process in order to come up with the very best process, taking time to do empathy interviews with students and staff and getting feedback from future end users.
If there is one thing that I have gained in this process, it's the understanding that although the process took a lot longer than I would have liked, due to the design process, the results were that we had great buy-in, clear reasoning as to the choices we made as a group, and a clear vision for what is possible with blog portfolios. Often, the choices our committee made were choices I would have made on my own, but the true power came in arriving at those choices together.
Three Key Elements to Transformational Leadership
In summary, what I have learned is that transformational leadership is most powerful and full of ease, when it includes these elements.
A few days ago I taught a Professional Development session for PBL teachers in the Napa Valley Unified School District. The topic: The Startup Classroom: How to Rock Your Classroom Like a True CEO.
The theory behind the topic: If we are teaching project-based learning in the classroom, wouldn't it make sense to look toward industry leaders and how they do business on a daily basis? The skills used in current project management in the tech industry, where startup companies reign supreme, include:
Having an Expert in the Field Makes All the Difference
The teachers who came to the training were really excited to have this information! They were grateful to have some systems and protocols that can help teach students to manage their projects, their time a and their work.
At the training, we brought in a real Scrum Master/Program Manager from a High Tech startup company (Leap Motion), Art Weisen, who added a whole other dimension to the conversation. He served to share his views on what works and doesn't work in industry, as well as provide the background as to why and how certain systems have been created and put into place. Interestingly, the next class in my series is on helping teachers to bring Industry experts into the classroom. There is huge value in bridging the gap between the world of education and the "world out there," for students and teachers alike. If we want students to truly be prepared for the 21st Century, we need to forge these sort of relationships on a regular basis.
Considering for Next Time
This was the first time offering this sort of subject matter to teachers, as I have only started implementing these ideas in the classroom over the last two years. I would like to be clearer with participants that, although we do an overview of Design Thinking, this is not a class on Design Thinking.
For many teachers, it might be the first time they are seeing the stages of Design Thinking, but covering the entire topic might take an entire session all on it's own. If there is expressed interest in going more in depth on the subject, I can certainly develop a separate curriculum for PBL teachers. I did provide a basic worksheet from the D School that helps a teacher see what the process of Design Thinking entails. It is simple enough for teachers to follow with their students and to adapt as needed. D School also offers incredible training classes for those educators who wish to pursue further training.
"You should consider offering this as PD to other teachers!"
It's perfect to hear this from an attendee at our very first offering of this sort. It took everything I had to not say, "Well, duh! That's the plan!" ;)
We truly have something wonderful in this class. When PBL was first created and implemented at New Technology High School twenty years ago, professional work environments where very different than they are today. It's time to take our cues from current work practices and find ways to adapt those practices into the classroom.
We get over 2,000 visitors to our school every year. As one visitor to my classroom said:
“Talking to Lisa's high school students as they explained their projects, I saw such clear passion, confidence, and command of their projects and processes: I could have been speaking to adults. The skills they’ve learned – like design thinking, project management, and creative thinking – are skills we rely on daily at Adobe. So I was incredibly impressed, and I’m thrilled thinking about what they’ll do next.”
– Tom Nguyen, Principal Product Manager, Adobe
This is the work I am most eager to continue in the world of education. These are just the first steps toward integrating startup company practices into PBL. As our work environments adapt, so too, our learning environments should be adapted so that we are best aligned with what students really need to know. PBL is innovative in and of itself, but must adapt as the world changes. I want to be a part of that adaptation.
Our lives have changes so much in the last 5-10 years due to changing and disruptive technologies. We can not think that we can continue to educate our students in the same manner as has been done for the last 100 years and expect positive and useful outcomes. My personal goals as a teacher include using the classroom as a lab for teaching in innovative ways that speak directly to the needs of 21st Century students. I would like to then take what I have learned to other teachers and administrators, so that others can deepen their practices and better serve the students they teach. I get so much satisfaction out of using the Design Thinking process to improve my own teaching. If we live in world where iteration is the keystone of our new technology-based world, it's imperative that we not only teach Design Thinking, but use it in our daily practice as teachers.
I love the hands-on, on-the-ground application of teaching ideals, by being in the classroom at New Tech High on a daily basis. I am given a great deal of freedom to try new ways of teaching and often involve my students in the process of improvement. This is the norm at New Tech, for all teachers and administrators to collaborate. Collaboration between staff and students is one of the biggest strengths of our school.
In that vein, I am working on establishing a robust curriculum and library of resources to teach students and staff the value of blogging and social media. Using the Design Process last year, a committee of two staff and ten students redesigned what used to a brochure-like academic portfolio. We opened up the concept to blogging and, instead of asking students to jump through hoops to create a portfolio that no one every looked at, we decided that it would become a living and useful document.
Students are now allowed to write blogs on anything that interests them. They are also expected to use the blog as a public forum to teach others what they have learned, to document their work and to reflect on their learning practices. Blogs can then be shared within the learning community and with the community at large. Last year we began the program with some basic tutorials on how to set up their blogs, as well as some videos explaining the value of blogging and the history of what we have done with portfolios and how we arrived at our new blog-based portfolio.
My goal this semester is to fill out the curriculum for portfolios more fully, while having those lessons be informed by learning models and theory, including Baggio, Clark and TPACK. I will be creating more tutorials, both written and recorded, so that different learners can access the information in different ways.
Having a digital presence on the web is so essential these days if you want to get a job, find professionals to network with, or to create a following for businesses purposes. Having every student understand how to use their portfolio to be successful as an adult allows ALL students access to valuable and incredibly useful skills in the 21st Century. In order to compete in the marketplace, either for jobs or as entrepreneurs, one has to understand how to use one's digital presence to create credibility, show proficiency and to show a sense of agency.
This has led me to, what in my mind, is an obvious inquiry question: How can students effectively participate in and contribute to a learning community through blogging?
Originally my inquiry question was: What is the effect of Digital Tools (Nearpod) on Reading Comprehension, Focus and Engagement?
Interestingly, these seemingly different inquiry questions are related, in that I have an active presence online and use my digital presence to keep my professional network informed about my work in the classroom. Last semester, I posted an article on my blog about my first inquiry question, and the news of my work got to the VP of Marketing at Nearpod. He contacted me about my action research paper. From there, he and I agreed that Nearpod would publish my paper on their website. I am excited to say that it looks great and will soon be made public. It has helped me make important relationships with folks in the education software field and will now further establish my credibility in the field of Innovative Learning. Powerful stuff.
So, although I did not stick with my first inquiry question, I do believe, that ultimately, my current inquiry question addresses a more broad and pertinent question that has a strong relationship to the first question. I have shown, through the process of my first inquiry paper being published, how critical it can be to success to know how to participate in the greater community through blogging. If students can harness the power of blogging, there will be no stopping them, as they go out into the world to get jobs, create businesses, and ultimately, to make a difference.
Every year I head up to an overnight camp in Calistoga called Camp Newman to work with a group of teen campers on a social action issue for a couple of weeks. At the end of their time up there, they will have learned about the issue, spoken with lobbyists and Congressmen in Sacramento, created live happenings, raised money, created social media campaigns, created artwork and poems and songs about the topic. Last year we worked on the topic of Mental Health. The year before that, Food Insecurity. This year we will be tackling the topic of Gun Violence. Every year the kids blow me away with their caring, their leadership and their creativity. This is a timely topic. In preparing to go to camp, I found last year's video and would like to share it here.
Camp usually reminds me of what being an educator is all about and inspires me to do better in my classroom next year. I usually walk away with some great new ideas and my cup is just more full for the school year ahead. Can't wait to start this coming week!
Hear from New Tech Network Teachers about what they think of the Innovator's Mindset.
Here are two videos about how, you, as a teacher, can get yourself out there, make connections and find professional opportunities. It doesn't have to take up more than 15 minutes at a time, and can open up new doors that you never knew existed. The key is, that blogging and social media go hand in hand and need to be utilized at the same time.
Blogging and Social Media Together
Why Blog in Education: 3 Case Studies
Today is the day that our final product from Game Design came to fruition. I can't believe that this actually happened. About six months ago, the curator from the Napa Valley Museum, Meagan Doud, called New Tech High, looking for interns to help with a future exhibit about Indie Games. They sent the call to me, thank goodness!
At that time, I boldly suggested that instead of recruiting a few interns, why didn't we just have the two Game Design classes I teach take on the exhibit as a school project? I had no idea how awesome it would be!
I took the idea to the students and asked permission to let go of the last project of the year, which was to center around coding and drones. Some were reluctant, because, hey, who doesn't love tinkering with drones? But most saw it as an opportunity to do something real and substantial, related to the Game Industry, a field that about half of the 45 students were interested in entering upon graduation from high school, or college.
We split the teams up into different sections, some covering music, art, 3D modeling, video, interactivity, early childhood educational components, game mechanics and game careers. Students picked their own areas of interest and away we went. We met with the curator every two weeks, either in person, or via Skype to review questions, status reports and next steps. Two students, one from each class, came to me and asked if they could be the overall project managers. Could they essentially be in charge of the exhibit? Um....yeah! They happened to be two seniors, one who is pursuing Game Design in college next year, and one who wanted to try on the mantle of leadership. Every team also had team project managers (PMs), who were responsible for communicating with the other team PMs, the Lead PMs and with Meagan. There were several PM meetings outside of class to make sure that everyone was on the same page with the project.
Students were asked to consider several target audiences, ranging from families with small children up to attendees from the Veteran's home on the same campus as the museum. Together, we learned about project management skills, from Gantt charts, to Scrum Meetings, to managing resources and deadlines, to using the Design Thinking Method to get clear about prototypes and deliverables. This was a hefty, real world project. It also turns out that we have a New Tech parent who designs exhibits for a living! At the last moment, he jumped in to show off his own work and help the Game Design students really think deeply about how to best engage exhibit visitors.
In addition, students learned about 3D modeling, motion graphics, 2D graphics, color theory, writing for signage and exhibits, research, game mechanics and game careers, prototyping, video filming and editing, presenting, and above all, collaboration.
I really do hope, that if you are in the area, that you stop by and see the exhibit. It turned out better than I ever could have hoped and I am SO proud of the work that we ALL did together.
"Down the Rabbit Hole" runs from July 15, 2016 through January 8, 2017 at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville, CA, in the Napa Valley and it features 10 Indie Games. There are some great movie nights and Family Fun Days offered, including a Retro Game Marathon, Model Building, Learning about Binary Code and Pixel Art. Look at the very bottom of the blog post for the info. on the show and activities.
For me, finding authentic learning projects is a personal passion, and I am convinced that they can not only be done, but done well, can give students real-world experience, and can provide the impetus for some amazing learning. If you have questions for me about authentic learning projects, you can always contact me on twitter @lisagottfried or leave a comment on this post and I'll get back to you.
I'm really eager to work on my Master's Program's capstone project. I have chosen to take my schoolwide portfolio project, just rolled out last year, and bring it to the next level. So far, we have taught students how to set-up and create pages in Weebly, as well as created clear guidelines for navigation for the website while allowing for flexibility and expansion of website pages, based on individual need.
But, following the TPACK model, that is only addressing the Technology piece of the puzzle and has not yet addressed how this will effect Pedagogy and Content Knowledge. I am excited to now address how students can best use their portfolio to explore three main goals, documenting work, personally reflecting, and providing teaching to others. I will be drilling down on technical skills, exploring how to best communicate to different audiences with different goals, how to use visual design to enhance the message and the learning, and how and why documentation can help students to think through their process, as well as get them connected to the adult world by showcasing their work and their learning processes.
I see that there is a HUGE amount of work to do this project, but I feel, that once complete, would be an invaluable resource that could be shared with other teachers throughout the district as well as throughout the New Tech Network.
The concept of creating a library of lessons around this subject matter that lives on google drive excites me, as how this information is delivered to the learner can be varied. The whole curriculum could be presented through a website, but it could also be presented as a poster that uses Augmented Reality to share the video content with smart devices that one can point to different icons on the poster. Or perhaps it comes in the form of a booklet with QR codes. Whatever delivery system I choose, the content still needs to live somewhere online and therefore, can be delivered in a multitude of ways, depending upon the needs to the learner. That's pretty cool in my book.
When experiencing or learning a new technology for the classroom, the first questions that come to mind for me include:
Why would I use this technology?
How does it make my students, better, faster, smarter?
Does this make life easier for me or the students or are there more obstacles than value for learning?
Would a more low-tech answer still get the same results?
Does the new technology engage all of the senses?
Is the technology just a "fancy pencil" or does it deepen learning or interaction?
If students use this technology, how will it change the interaction with the material?
What new paths will open up by using this technology?
Will student use of this technology better prepare them for their futures in college or career or is the technology becoming obsolete?
Will this new technology last and be adopted by others out in the world or is it a passing phase?
Virtual Reality: TPACK Game Changer or Passing Phase?
Recently, my high tech-hubby bought an HTC Vive, for business purposes. But, we've been having great fun putting it through it's paces and trying all the games that are currently available for the headset including a 3D painting program, a Myst-like puzzle game, a bow-and-arrow game, some shooter games and a fun game where you shield yourself from spheres of light as you rock out to the music. It's all a LOT of fun.
I have to wonder, though. Is this where education is heading? Are we going to wind up like the characters in Ready, Player, One, where the teachers are virtual, the students go to a virtual school and they take virtual field trips, all through their VR headsets? It's all going to depend on whether or not the audience for VR can grow past the current projected figures of 300,000 - 500,000 for this year.
Learning in a VR environment would certainly change every item in the TPACK model, from pedagogy, to content and knowledge to the very context in which learning happens.
I see so many possible applications for the VR headsets, but as of now, wearing the devices can only be done for short periods of time, (it gets sweaty) and it's not a social thing yet. You are using the device alone, moving through spaces alone and interacting with computer generated entities alone.
But I could see teaching people all about certain body movements through VR. It's the old wax-on, wax-off approach. Want to learn martial arts? Bat away a ton of sparkling balls of light in the right way, and you will soon have the muscle memory for defending yourself with out-blocks and in-blocks. Want to work out your body to increase muscle tone? What if you played a game that took you through an entire work out while you played.
In teaching more academic content, want to learn about Mars? Why not go there? Why not orbit for a while before landing on the surface to explore? Learning about history? Go visit the Palace of Versaille or a Medieval Castle, or better yet, live like a serf or a courtier. Fully immersive technology, if it does catch on, will completely change what, where and how we teach. Whether it's Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, if the technology progresses and is adopted, the future of our classrooms will be totally different than the way they are now.
I only go to conferences maybe once or twice a year, so how can I make that magic happen throughout the year?.....Social Media. Twitter and Facebook, are for me, a chance to dip into the gigantic ocean of people and experience out there and find those topics and personalities that attract me. And if I do the same, post what is happening in my professional life, I automatically attract those people who have my same interests or areas of expertise.
And the great thing is, I don't have to fly hundreds or thousands of miles to get there. It's all doable, from the comfort of my computer, at any and all hours of the day.
Connections I have made
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!