Saturday, October 27, 2012

MIT's Scratch Educator Meetups

On Saturday, October 13. 2012, I attended a Scratch educator meetup at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge.  For those of you who are not familiar with Scratch, it is a programming environment that appeals to students of all ages because, according to Mitch Resnick, it has wide walls, low floors, and high ceilings.  The wide walls mean that the program is attractive to a wide variety of students, as they can build animations, games, or interactive projects in a range of topics.  It has low floors because it is easy for a beginner to use, and it has high ceilings because it is capable of creating advanced programming projects.  The best part of using Scratch in the classroom is that if offers students a venue for being creative, problem-solving, and collaborating.

MIT's Scratch Educator meetups are particularly helpful because attendees have a chance to meet other educators to discuss how they are using Scratch in the classroom.  In addition, there is always an opportunity to practice using Scratch in hands-on workshops.  The most useful aspects of this particular meetup for me were that I was able to play around with the new version of Scratch (Scratch 2.0), expected to be made available to the public later this year and I learned about a relatively new book for introducing Scratch to kids: Super Scratch Programming Adventure.

The reflections from last Saturday's meetup, including a list of participants, breakout sessions, announcements, and photos, are posted on the ScratchEd website.  For those interested, the MIT Media Lab will host a Scratch educator meetup on the 2nd Saturday of every month.

Shaping our Digital World

On Wednesday, October 3rd, we attended a professional development conference "Shaping Our Digital World: You Have the Power" hosted by Common Sense Media and The Good Play Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education, with the Brookline Parent Education Network.  The evening's discussion was centered around tackling the opportunities and challenges of media and technology.  One panel included Howard Gardner (Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Co-Director, The Good Play Project, Harvard project Zero), Karen Campbell (a member of the Brookline Parent Education Network), and Elon Fischer (a Brookline High School teacher and parent), while the second panel was comprised of five Brookline High School juniors and seniors.

Panelists discussed the pros and cons of technology in education, and an important take-away for parents was to stay connected with their teens and keep the dialog open.  Gardner pointed out that one of the benefits of technology is the ability to individualize education, yet he acknowledged that one of the pitfalls is the assumption that everything can and should be "technologized."  A theme that emerged through the panels was the desire for a balance between face-to-face and online communication.  Gardner referenced a study in which students rated face-to-face interaction as their preferred form of communication, reserved for close friends.  Texting, which they claimed to use for organizing their lives, came next, with FaceBook surprisingly lower in the ranks.

Towards the end of the evening, when addressing the topic of social change, Gardner also commented, "You'd be nuts not to use social media, but you'd be nuts to think digital media itself can make the change."

-Jen Lavenberg and Megan Haddadi

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Being on an Accreditation Team

On Sunday afternoon I drove up to Maine to participate as a member of a NEASC accreditation team at Berwick Academy. These teams spend 3 days at a school interviewing everyone, reading the school's self-study, and then writing a report. It's always a lot of work and late nights, but you get a lot out of it. Seeing how another school runs inevitably makes you ask yourself how you might improve your own practice, or you might come away with some ideas to share with others.

At Berwick the technology support center (both academic and repairs) was built into the library building. It was great to see close alignment of tech and library. This is something we're working on here at BB&N. Another neat thing was that they had local university students on work-study helping out. Seems like we might also have that opportunity here? Berwick also has a cool program they call the "Innovation Center" to which students apply. You can check it out on their website.

Being on an accreditation team is good experience. Everyone should do this every few years, kind of like jury duty.