Monday, November 18, 2013

EdTechTeacher iPad Summit 2013 Redux

This year's EdTechTeacher iPad Summit has now come and gone, and like last year, it was a great mix of high-level discussion on the role of technology in education, and hands-on workshops involving a wide range of iOS apps for an even larger range of purposes. 

For anyone unfamiliar with the organization, EdTechTeacher grew out of a small summer workshop series about ten years ago, that centered on using internet technologies to teach History. The workshop series continued to grow, incorporating a wider swath of subject areas and teaching tools, and expanding to become a full-time venture. The group now works closely with a number of schools across the country on the development of sustainable technology integration strategies, which include a mix of face-to-face training sessions, and "blended" format professional development that span the course of the school year. In addition to serving essentially as a educational technology consultant group, EdTechTeacher have continued to organize workshops and conferences, most recently with a heavy focus on the iPad. The iPad Summit series began last year, and received so much acclaim, that the conference now pulls over a thousand attendees from a number of countries, and comprises three days of workshops and presentations geared towards everyone from district administrators to technology integration specialists to teachers, pre-K through higher education. That's a huge mix, especially as we in education tend to focus with laser-like precision on our own content areas and age groups.

Such high accolades, along with the exponential rise in the number of schools going one-to-one with iPads in over the past couple of years, bodes for a heavily corporate, technology-hyping, constant-sales-pitch of a conference, yet the event is somehow wonderfully little of those. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of this conference is the lack of any of such "corporatism" (despite the huge number of vendors and sponsor advertisements lining the meeting halls at the Hynes Convention Center). EdTechTeacher seems to do a great job of recruiting well-known, heavy-thinking skeptics to deliver each morning's keynote address, who just as often dispel the myths of "technology determinism" as they do laud the importance of technology in connecting students with meaningful curricula . This year's keynote presenters were David Weinberger of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, and Ruben Puentadura, board member of the New Media Consortium (best known for their annual "Horizon Report", which forecasts new technologies and their potential influence on education and learning) and father of the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) model of instructional technology integration. 

Both keynote presentations drove home the notion that, while iPads and the Internet have the potential to expanding learning opportunities into areas unforeseen even just a few years ago, that potential will not be realized unless teaching practices, and indeed in many cases, systems of education do not change to allow for more flexible, autonomous, student-centered learning to take place. Dr. Weinberger, for instance, spoke of the importance of "networking" resources - connecting students to collaborative communities that function to generate new knowledge on topics ranging from computer science (e.g., StackOverflow and GitHub) to social science (Wikipedia) to science and mathematics ( His point centered on the idea that the internet has created new media for constructing knowledge, which is no longer confined to the canons of academia, such as print-based text (papers and books), or esoteric, exclusionary communities (peer-reviewed journals). While these new media simultaneous create opportunities for "messy" knowledge, they arguably democratize how knowledge is constructed, shared, and accessed. Dr. Puentadura's presentation the following morning expanded upon this idea, offering a number of examples of the affordances of technology to extend students' action possibilities into new areas of production, assessment, and expression.

Throughout the conference, attendees tweeted, blogged, shared notes and ideas, and even asked follow-up questions to each other and presenters, creating a rich back channel of communication and collaboration. For a great synopsis of the Keynote addresses (as well as several of the concurrent sessions), check out Jen Carey's blog

Nicholas Wilson
Academic Technology and Digital Media Specialist (Upper School)
Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
80 Gerry's Landing Road
Cambridge, MA 02138

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gender Non-conformity in Children and Adolescents

Hi Everyone,

I attended a really interesting conference on Saturday about gender non-conformity in kids. It was geared more towards doctors and psychologists than teachers, but I still felt I took a lot of important information away from the day. Below are my notes and a few handouts I picked up there. There will be a similar conference for educators this spring - I'll let everyone know when they announce the date. I would highly recommend the spring conference.


  • Terminology defined 
  • Health Imperatives - Putting into place the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Guidance for Massachusetts Public Schools: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity
  • Resources for youth
  • OutHealth School Safety Assessment Tool

Irwin Krueger, LCSW of Connecticut author of "Helping your Transgender Teen: a Guide for Parents"
What has changed since 2004 when he started working in this area - major change in the pace of transition steps. More sympathetic media portrayal. Increased acceptance. Access to information via the web. Kids come in very well informed. Teens can feel increased pressure to start medical transition earlier. They can feel hurt if they are not able to progress with medical transition as quickly as they would like, because they are aware of kids who are progressing more quickly. Can feel like parents are holding them back. Parents are more well informed and sometimes more accepting. Professionals recognizing that transition during puberty in parallel with peers is best. Increased availability of insurance coverage. Laws and educational policies to protect trans kids. 

Educators/clinicians: Keep an open mind - kids won't always present as gender non-conforming. Listen to them. Be empathetic. Think about something important about you that you know some people won't approve of, how hard it was to be true to that. Handle any discomfort that you have with colleagues, etc. but don't let it affect the relationship with the child.

Intersex is not the same thing as trans - very small number of individuals with ambiguous genitalia at birth or external and internal genitalia that are incongruous. 

Transgender- people whose gender identity is discordant with biological sex. Cisgender- having a gender identity congruent with biological sex. Genderqueer now used by many teens and young adults to express not fitting into usual binary gender identity in some distinct way.

Best Practices for Clinicians 

Help trans youth sort out their identity.
  • Sense of self (how do they feel and for how long)
  • Sense of group affiliation (what group do they feel like they belong with)
  • How do they feel about their body especially gendered parts of the body? (not usually an issue until puberty)
  • How do they feel about how others see them? Happy when "mistaken" for gender they are, not sex they were assigned at birth. Feel dismissed when parents or other adults correct.
  • Who have they talked to? How have they tried to express who they are?
  • What are their hopes and expectations for the future?
Help parents understand and support their child. 
  • Feels as though for youth under 21, hope to engage the family at some point.
  • Parents concerned with child's safety. Sometimes react with disbelief. 
  • Parents want to know if it is real? Often little discussion between child and parent. Often need separate conversations with parents and kid to see where everyone is. In their understanding of the issues at hand. 
  • Sometimes parents worry if it is s reaction to trauma or loss. Talk to the kids and understand their reactions to those traumas or losses. Often the kids think the connection is ridiculous. Elements of being trans were there earlier and parents need to look at that timeline. 
  • Worried about the child's future. Not the case, at least in New England. Parents need to know trans adults who are living successful and fulfilling lives. There are challenges, but need to see that distress of not transitioning is worse than those challenges. 
  • Parents need to deal with their own shame and grief. This is not for the child to solve. Parents need to deal with these feelings with their supports. Parents need to be absolve of guilt about making their child trans, but should see how they may have hurt their kid though shaming them for gender non-conformity. Offer them opportunity to make up for it with support. 

Help them to be as authentic as possible. Doesn't need to be fully passing at first, but need to show that support and respect.
  • Name and pronouns
  • Clothing and grooming (can sometimes be tried out in different safe settings before being universal)
  • Group affiliation and bathroom use
  • Attention to safety 
  • Change school rosters - can be tricky but required to affirm gender at school but not in communication with parents if parents are resistant (legal requirement for public schools)
  • Legal name change
  • License or state ID change
How do you balance parents' need to talk about issues with child's need for privacy? Separate meetings and no sharing of information shared during separate meetings. Mostly sharing info about trans teens in general with parents. 

How do you advocate for the kids who do not have the parental and family support? Try to offer that support through school. Social workers, school mental health professionals. DCF can be supportive. Reassure them of options for once they are 18. 

What about starting a kid at a new school with a new gender? Sometime coming out as trans decreases harassment, when there is a group of friends to support and transition is clear. Going stealth dangerous because of connections online, etc. People might find out. Dating can be an issue. When do you disclose? Are you at risk of violence when you disclose?

Hormones: chemicals made by cells that affect other cells in the body
Trans people have the wrong organs, thus they are making the wrong hormones and changing their bodies in the wrong ways for their gender

Genetic sex established at fertilization. First six weeks of development organs undifferentiated. After six weeks sex determination happens and the testes and ovaries are defined and making testosterone or estrogen in different amounts. Female sort of the default, more testosterone and anti-Müllerian change to make structures. How do these hormones in fetal life affect things like the brain and gender identity formation? During childhood (pre-puberty) there are no sex hormones to worry about so focus can be on psychological and social issues and transition. 

Puberty: gonads make hormones in huge quantities. Kisspeptin in hypothalamus, GnRH released by cells in hypothalamus, affects the pituitary which then stimulates the gonads. Testosterone increases muscle, bone mass, vocal cords, shape of skeleton, larger hands and feet, decreased body fat percentage, facial and body hair. Slower fusion of growth plates increases height. Estrogen, increased fat in hips and breast development, menstruation. 
DSM V defines Gender Dysphoria as marked incongruence between assigned and perceived gender. Distress as a result.
Percocious puberty and delayed puberty already studied and treated. Gender Dysphoria can be treated as precocious puberty of the unwanted gender and delayed puberty of the desired gender. Amsterdam Study - Block undesired puberty entirely and then at 16 initiate the desired puberty. Never exposed to unwanted hormones, go through desired puberty only a little later, increase passability, prevent dysphoria. GnRH in a steady dose instead of natural pulses actually prevents puberty. Leuprolide suppresses. Runs 30,000$ a year if not covered. Histrelin implant in inner arm. Replace annually. Type approved for precocious puberty is called Supprelin (20,000$) plus surgery cost. Vantas for prostate cancer (4,000$) works (off label) and cheaper due to increased competition in prostate cancer market. Cross sex hormones more straightforward when puberty has been suppressed. Testosterone or estrogen, subcutaneous and oral respectively. Higher dosages required if puberty hasn't been suppressed, which increases chances of side effects, for example, blood clots with estrogen. 

How does transgender identity and sexual orientation develop? Hormonal, learned, genetic?
Probably not one right answer. 

Brain organization theory. Exposure to gonadal hormones prenatally permanently alter brain organization including behavior, sexual orientation, etc. Studies in rats do show brain changes and behavior changes resulting from exposure to different levels of hormones. Can't do these studies in humans. Can look at humans exposed to different levels of hormones for other reasons. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, in infant girls causes masculinization of genitalia. Altered play behaviors and increased preference for boys as playmates. Increased chance that they will not be exclusively heterosexual. Correlation between severity of case and homosexual identification. Doss not seem to correlate with transgender identity. 

Transgender at 11: Jazz (Barbara Walters interviews )
Available on YouTube. 

Psychological Evaluation
Intake. Ask about legal and preferred name, ask about sex and preferred gender. Ask about pronouns. Make no assumptions. Have resources available. 

Goals are to determine the degree of gender dysphoria and cross gender identification. 
Talk to parents about how to support the child. Deal with parental grief and loss. 
Help the child explore their identity. 
Help the family make decisions about various transitions. 
Provide a record to support future medical interventions. 
  1. Strong and persistent cross gender identification
  2. No major underlying and untreated psychiatric disorders 
  3. Family support
Puberty blockers: easier transition, buys time, less psychologically distressing.

Complex cases: suicidal ideation or attempts, self-harming behavior, psychotic, homicidal ideation, anxiety, depression, eating disorders. Must be stable within reasons. Difficult because some of the issues they have are a result of the dysphoria. Transition can be helpful but can also be destabilizing. Tricky balance. Mood shift as a result of hormones can happen, but often calming. Late onset can be complex. Asperger spectrum can complicate, is this a way to try to fit in? Need to figure that out. Another challenge is parents who aren't on board or want to wait. Parents who disagree. Parental anxiety. Parental trouble with gender fluidity, need to know. Parents annoyed by time and cost of process. Cultural and religious issues. Not conflating sexual orientation and gender identity.  WPATH can help. 

Issues to consider: do young people who want hormone treatments get it if they are genderqueer? What about young children who are very concrete who may later in life identify more as fluid? See these as one of the differentiations that psychologists can help them make. 

Medical Q and A Session
What if there is lack of persistence or ambivalence? Blockers or just psychotherapy? Case dependent. Breast development? Self harming behavior? Therapy is a must, make that a condition of blockers. 

Hormones don't change who these kids are. Studies with kids who are not trans but can't make their own hormones have shown that. 

Legal Protections for Transgender Youth with GLAD
Yellow booklets with info about legal issues for trans people available with Caitlin or Daisy.
Successfully litigated a case where a trans girl was told she had to wear boys clothing to school. Maine Supreme Court hearing a case about a fifth grade girl who was told she couldn't use the girls restroom. Schools and judges have a hard time understanding what it means to be trans. Think of a trans girl as somehow less than a girl. A key argument they have to make is that these girls are girls and boys are boys, not somehow less than. 

Antidiscrimition - in MA only public schools prohibited from discrimination on the basis or gender identity. Language of the law is important. Public school law MGLC 76 section 5: no person shall be discriminated against in obtaining privileges and advantages in courses of study on account of race, religion...gender identity. Covers sports and extra curricular activities. Covers bathroom use.  Consistent and uniform assertion or evidence that gender identity is sincerely held, and not asserted for an improper purpose. This is the no flinch moment. Then you just need to deal with the social discomfort. Student must be allowed to use whichever restroom they feel most comfortable in and IF THEY NEED a separate bathroom they must be given access to that as well (but can't be forced). Public accommodations are not covered. Can argue that it is sex discrimination when there is a gap in the TG law. Discrimination is based on sex stereotypes. Discrimination because someone is changing their sex is sex discrimination. Used as protection. Department of Justice can use title IX to go after public schools in states with TG law gaps. Letter from a provider to a school outlining what kids need. Refer to medical and mental health standards and use clear and unequivocal language. Make it about the student and be clear about the harm to the student when needs aren't met. Sports in MA kids must be allowed to join teams and extracurricular activities consistent with gender identity. Harassment actually difficult to litigate, but threat of litigation is a useful tool. 

Interfacing with Schools GLBT Youth Support Project of Health Imperatives
Make a plan with the student re: what, who and when
Records changed to preferred name. Don't need name to be changed legally to change school records.
Parents involved if child is under 14. Is it safe for parents to know? If not, what do we say to parents?
Family Acceptance Project
As part of initial meeting plan for future check-ins
There should be no threshold that students need to meet to be treated as they wish to be treated. 
No threshold for identity to be valid. 
Use the gender checkbox only when necessary and if necessary have an other or blank to fill in. 
Gender neutral bathrooms available but should not be the only option. Stories of some kids avoiding using the bathroom at school altogether when it doesn't feel safe. (There is an iPhone app for all gender neutral bathrooms in public places.) Cisgender kids discomfort with trans kids can't be cited as a reason to deny trans kids rights. Do we really need things like graduation robes to be gendered? Should not have two dress codes for boys and girls. Even for events like prom. Have trainings and professional development! Missy Sturtevant or
Schools want to make these changes and need to know that the law backs them up. Connect with aglys and pflag as resources. 
Can make all bathrooms one in at a time. Don't need to talk about any particular student to other students parents. About anything. Welcoming schools has lessons about teaching gender. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Visiting Brookwood School

Last week Demetri and I drove up to visit Brookwood School. Doug Foederman, school's Technology Director, shared some examples of  teachers experimenting with the flipped classroom concepts.  Teachers use Camtasia-screencasting software to create instructional videos and post lessons for nightly homework to the school's Vimeo account.  Here are the links to their 8th grade math and science videos

Brookwood has also redesigned an old PC lab into an Idea Lab. With an idea paint covering the walls, a colorful rug with a pinwheel design and a movable walls with castors it works as a new collaborative and creative space for any classroom projects.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

ATS team at Will Richardson workshop: Educating Modern Learners

On Friday, November 1st, the BB&N academic technology team attended an AISNE workshop at Walnut Hill School for the Arts facilitated by Will Richardson, an early educational blogger and thought-leader on how digital technology affects teaching and learning. Will's presentation encourages teachers and administrators to lean into the confusion of technology integration. He says it is natural to feel confused by the disruptive changes that technology is bringing to education. He says that our current time is the most disruptive period in the history of education--even more disruptive than the advent of the printing press. Whereas the printing press took almost a century to have an impact on education, digital technologies have infiltrated our lives in a plethora of ways in merely a decade. Will also says we're still at the advent of this change, He says it is a change from institutionally organized education to self-organized education

Our ATS team used a google doc to take collaborative notes during the session. Click here to view it. During the workshop Will mentioned a ton of resources, (e.g. Super Awesome Sylvia's Maker Show) which we linked to in the google doc. About half way through the day, someone asked Will if there was a bibliography of his resources and he said maybe we should share our notes, so we opened up the google doc to all the participants and posted a link in the back channel of the workshop.

One of the funniest moments of the day was when Will played this YouTube video of a child's own creation.... This boy filmed and posted himself using a piece of ancient technology--a bow drill fire starting stick. It is a neat contrast to see this ancient technology within our current technology of YouTube, and the best part is that the boy is using it as a way to solicit comments on his technique in order to improve upon it. He directs the audience of the video to "leave a comment below" [in the YouTube commenting interface] in order to help him solve his problem. What a great use of modern technology!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Notes from the OESIS Conference 10/11/13

The follow are my notes from the Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools conference on 10/11/13. 


Sustaining a Tradition of Excellence: The Eight Schools Association Online Consortium
Guiding principles:
  • tradition and innovation
  • competition and collaboration
  • mandated and organic evolution
  • replicate and improve the independent school experience
  • notion of learning toolkit

Speakers attended workshop at Global Online Academy → school needed something to engage in online education in boarding school setting

Used Choate's model of instructor PD, sent faculty to Choate for training.

Design thinking (IDEO) ("Design thinking for educators"):
Used "divergence" and "convergence" exercises to come up with initiatives to present to heads of schools:
  • Develop online summer courses (small reach- was already in practice)
  • Year long online course in a "less commonly taught" language (Arabic) - involved accruing credits, so this was logistically complex
  • Develop a hybrid course

Hybrid course:
  • Faculty-developed
  • Topic: water management
  • real-world issue
  • collection of data, propose solution to problem, refine proposal after feedback

Issues: funding, teacher resistance, logistical issues

What we know now: Blended learning pilot
Shattuck-St.Mary's (Minn.)

Problem: students often had to leave campus for various commitments, events, academic opportunities
Wanted to integrate more technology projects into daily instruction
Built model to mirror college experience more closely (than 6th grade experience, for instance)
Students work on independent projects (scale of pilot was small)
Platform: Moodle

Crafting a Vision: The First First Step
"With new leadership, a (relatively) new century, and an emerging body of literature and experience that makes it clear that there is a new educational paradigm unfolding not just in the U.S. but around the globe, we at Worcester Academy decided to make the cultural shift necessary to support teaching and learning in this new paradigm. Step one, establishing a vision and a lexicon, proved to be complex, invigorating, and essential. In this presentation we share our process, our emerging vision, our efforts at collaborative leadership, and our next steps."

School mission is "at forefront" of all decision making → 

Strategic vision: support innovative teaching and learning (what does this mean? what does this look like?)
Teachers looking for structure to program ("I'm all in, but tell me what to do.")
Involved teachers/community in finding language to describe innovative teaching (vision statement) → 

Portrait of a learner: school outcomes (mastery, self-directed learning)

Professional development:
  • Time for collaborating, time for "deeper learning" (online/blended formats)
  • Encourage faculty to collaborate on, and change curriculum based on new vision
  • School visits, summer programs with knowledgeable professionals, group of teachers take MOOC together
  • Workshop series
  • "Dinner and a movie"
  • Speakers

Burlington High Student Help Desk
Students run blog

Help desk details:
  • 11 students in help desk
  • Help desk is open 6 out of 7 periods
  • At least 2 students at genius bar at a time
  • Help with student issues, basic classroom technology problems
  • Student-generated mission statement
  • Geniuses help students take devices from "consumption" to "creation"

At school level:
  • Support a digital workflow!
  • Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Notability
  • Wordpress
  • Blogger
  • Gmail

  • course (for credit!)
  • Students have to contribute to blog (technical writing, documentation)
  • Syllabus (available on website)

Flipping the Classroom: Theory and Practice
Paradigm shift: from "what material will I be covering" to "what will the students be doing?"
Used screencasting software (Camtasia, Explain Everything) to turn PPTs into "videos"

Nicholas Wilson

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lizanne's Notes on the Online Ed Conference

I also attended the conference last Thursday morning and Friday afternoon: below are my notes from those sessions.  Apologies for spelling and grammar errors!

OESIS Conference 10/10: Morning Session – Keynote Speaker


Ed-x: MOOC for MIT and Harvard (rejected by Amherst)

Howard Lurie – "Blend, Don't Break – Thoughts on the Changing Instructional Landscape."

-Unbundled Schools

Disaggregation of schools and education: why now?

Erosion of the public monopoly on education: students can take courses online now.

Multiple pathways for school-college-workplace transitions.  Traditional four-year paths no longer.

Competency-based models rather than time-based models.

Social, emotional and knowledge growth: expectation has been on schools -  now spread throughout the marketplace.

Karen Cator: argues for an "LPS – Learning Position System".

Professional development: Peer-to-peer examples for teachers, e.g., Creative Commons for K-12 Educators.

OEC: Open education content – questions about accuracy etc., but also issues with proprietary resources.

What type of post-secondary experience should students have?

Unbundling of educational material scary for some, but it is happening.


-The Platform Land Rush

Which platform is going to claim key flags? EG: Coursera signed a deal with the MMA, EdX with the French education department. Explosion of this learning style.

K-12 market will be worth approx. $70 billion dollars by 2017.

MOOC world – Coursera, Khan, EdX, Udacity: a lot of venture capitalist backing, Gates Foundation etc.  Often a peak of inflated expectations as to what these can actually do.

EdX platform: first course – a foundation course in Elec Eng.

154,000 people enrolled in the course.  26,000 completed the first problem set.  7,000 certified in the end. Very high attrition rate!

"The Boy Genius of Mongolia" – press coverage of one student, now at MIT.

What does this mean pedagogically?

Variety of platforms – Blackboard, Moodle etc. 

Pedagogically – big questions.

Core instructional goals?

Does a platform lead to measurably significant instructional change?

What problems are you trying to address? What are the results you're trying to reach?

What is the research design? How will/can data be used?

What will be gained/lost?


-More than Rocket Science

Blended learning the new buzzword.

Tons of blended learning models.

Learning engineers – the new instructional designers.  Building a course, design technology yes, but also taking sequencing of learning etc into account. 

Research driven – still early days. 

The DNA of a Successful Online Learning Program

Presenter: Virtual High School

16 years as a platform, 1500 schools.  Work with approx. 700 schools at the moment, 120 independent schools.

Panelists – heads, site coordinators.


-Gail Corder- Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth TX.

3rd year participating in VHS.  40% seniors who graduated took an online course.

Why VHS? Broaden choice of courses available, media literacy, independent learning skills etc.

Teaches a VHS class.  Retained full-time French teacher despite elimination of French program.

Epiphany as a teacher – training and teaching of course were transformative – guiding rather than teaching.

Parent orientation important for students taking online classes.

Courses reported same on transcripts as online classes.

Obstacles: spring senioritis.


-Christopher Chew, Head, North Middlesex Regional High School

7th year with VHS.  Involved primarily to allow students to take classes that wouldn't be offered in the school – e.g., AP courses with low enrollment.

Over time, also due to conflicts with AP schedules (two different AP classes scheduled during the same block).

Also used to help students who have school anxiety, athletes that need time for extra training (creative solutions...).

Also now using KET for AP Latin, Johns Hopkins & Stanford Online: courses looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Summer online courses allowed as well – don't seem to be too selective about what goes on the transcript though...

Blended learning: 9th and 10th graders – math and humanities programs able to be accessed digitally online.  Using Engrade, Schoology and Moodle as platforms.


-Karen Achambalut, Site Director at Wellesley High School

5 years with VHS.

Stats re: achievement (private school analogy?)

Why VHS? Students looking for classes not offered, want to keep class sizes low.  AP driven again.  All students bar one got 4s, 5s, last year bar one.

Don't count VHS courses to GPA. 

Summer offerings – allow to jump levels.  VHS used also to help students with recovery (remedial?) math.

Let VHS classes count towards your graduation requirements.

Duplicate courses – allowed with departmental permission.


-Maura Tucker – Wilmington High School, teaching as an AP Gov teacher on VHS

Seems to be used more to encourage kids to take AP classes that aren't offered due to budgetary etc constraints.

Discussion boards – four post requirement each week.


-Emily Breakell – former VHS student, now at Holy Cross

Took VHS courses to avoid taking AP sciences (more of a humanities person).

Independence in learning – classes were spoon-fed.

Collaboration and team work. Heavy reliance on group work – contact, accountability etc.

No real sense of face time connections with teachers.  Acknowledges a lot of students taking the courses dumped their worked.  "The relationships are what you make of them..."

College and real world preparedness. Idea of standing out to colleges.


Q&A: 1. About money, budgetary constraints etc.

Counts as 0.2 of a teacher's load to teach.

2. Limited number of spots?

North Middlesex has 10 spots/semester.  Initially took a while to fill those spots – initial disconnect about how online learning would be received etc. Also allow students to take the courses if they foot their own bill...

3. As a teacher, when do you teach your class?

Log in numerous times during the day. 

4.  Pedagogical approach online?

Guide on the side idea rather than sage on the stage.  Try to get more innovative...seems vague though.  Pushed for an example: watch a video, pair up discussions (nothing too exciting though!).

5. Does VHS have a portal that heads etc can look at?

No – no adults allowed to access their courses.  Get a student to pilot.  Site coordinators do get to shadow.

6.  When doesn't it work?

Get out what you put in.  Students who are not successful are those who don't engage.  Burden is on the student to participate.


Online Learning & Its Impact on School Strategic Planning

Heads of Worcester Academy, Pingrey School NJ, Kiski PA.

WSJ article on MOOCS: "Online learning can be isolating...students lose interest when they're not engaged."

-How does this govern how you lead your school?

Kiski – part of Online School for Boys.  Real time interactions.  Individual interactions with small groups – best practices. 

Pingrey – overall completion rates for MOOCs – 3%.  Issues of engagement.  Students engaged online as it is – social networking etc.  How to find the right fit for online interaction?  Groups of similar values, or a variety.

Worcester: Isolation – can choose to make it an isolated space, or can make it complicated, complex and more rewarding.

-How do you assess these new ideas/initiatives?  How gauging if something his working for their schools?

Worcester – some teachers taking MOOCs online...

-Data: do you worry that your students just become data points if you go down this path?

Pingrey – school is at the beginning of their journey into online education.  Did not believe that you could replace independent school experience with an online learning platform.  Interested in online learning for outreach to other schools, new opportunities for students to connect with other countries, tap into courses they are not able to offer, and also as a potential source of revenue in the future.  Defensive perspective: don't want to be dictated to – be out ahead.  Refers to VHS model (previous presentation) – opportunities are there for students if they want to take them.  Independent schools – more of a constructivist model anyway.

-What problems were you trying to solve when getting involved in online learning?  Kiski model is internally based.  Started in 2008 as a potential revenue stream for the school: offer the classes to home-school students.

Limited pilot model – one student – who subsequently enrolled is Kiski as a full-time student.  Partnerships with local university as well to analyze the programs they are offering. 

-Online learning has to align with the school's value system: how does this manifest itself in your school?

Worcester – community a key core value.  How this has been interpreted over time.  EG cellphone policy.

Pingrey – as things change socially etc, we get challenges to our values in schools.  They should be welcomed though. 

-What are you doing in your school, and why are you doing it?

Kiski: Online School for Boys.  Offering courses online to international students.  Working with 8th graders in China, offering ESL courses as well.  Original vision – open Kiski courses to home-school market, but proved to be a difficult market.  Seems to be more profit-driven here – serving as a provider to an international market.

Pingrey: just beginning.  Lots of individual efforts going on though – students in Adv Comp Sci taking MOOCs as part of their curriculum.  Developing 3-day long courses on international films.  Teachers using Google Hangout for AP Latin review sessions etc.   Skype sessions with partner school in China.  Course facebook groups.  Using webinars with parents around financial aid etc.

Worcester: why are you doing certain things, and not doing other things?  Lots of teachers are trailblazers in the school.  Using Schoology – wanted to create a platform for blended learning.  Started to allow some students to take online courses – level of rigor is questionable though (what provider?).  Seem to be doing it in an ad-hoc way (not as thorough as our conversations!).



Fri Afternoon Session: Hybrid Learning Consortium – Building Community Through Online Partnerships

Kansas City, MO, based.

1:1 tablet program for over 10 years.  Primed as a school then to dive into online learning.

6/8 hours of program are on campus.  Have global connections: Tasmania, Germany, Japan.  Have a satellite school in China.

Not just a one-off exchange: have time to have students work online together.

Other schools have approached – now formalized into a consortium.

Fundamental premise: this should not be done alone.

Key goals – mission: globalization, breadth of content, digital citizenship, rigor.

Non-profit models: increased teacher interactions, niche class opportunities, chance to teach.

Idea of using to complement work going on already.

Scheduling issues for small group work across time zones etc.

Emphasis on shared values.

Importance of communication.

Institutional commitment has to be made for the support of the managerial side of the consortium etc.

Challenges: finances, accepting culture to foster student success, adapting to the constant need for change.

Successes: immediate rewards on campus, ability to share other initiatives with respective institutions, rigor and quality of courses.

Lizanne Moynihan
Upper School History Dept.
Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Online Ed Symposium

On October 10th I attended the Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools (OESIS) in order to hear from others' experience, and reflect on the challenges involved in accepting online learning within our existing concept of a BB&N education.

The keynote speaker was Howard Lurie, one of the people behind the Harvard/MIT EdX program. Some bullets from his address:

  • instructional designers with digital tools are "Learning Engineers" taking advantage of their knowledge of instructional design, pedagogy and technology to weave together blended learning experiences that use resources, data, and assessment to the advantage of the learning process.
  • Unbundled learning resources - open educational resources (OER) and other content being disaggregated from the traditional textbook and re-assembled inside learning platforms in pieces chosen by instructors.
  • There is currently a Gold Rush/Land rush mentality of schools rushing into platforms. We need to carefully evaluate our goals and philosophy when choosing tools.
  • Learning is more complicated than rocket science! It's a very complex process to teach students, and our expectations for learning platforms need to align with reality. Teaching is very much a human process. The digital tools are evolving and improving, but are not a panacea or replacement for good teaching.

One session I went to was about the experience of the virtual high school (VHS) collaborative. Their advice included:

  • bring parents into the conversation early
  • start students out supervised, then help them work independently
A student from the VHS who is now in college spoke about her experience of taking some online classes:
  • - "it really teaches you independence in learning"
  • - good preparation for college
  • - having had experience with eLearning tools (e.g. Haiku, Blackboard, etc.) is very useful in college
  • - "it made me a more interested learner"

It really strikes me that BB&N graduates would benefit from the experience of an online or blended learning class so that when they get to college they will be familiar with the format and the tools.

Lastly I went to a session about accreditation of online classes because I'm interested in what will will make schools more comfortable with accepting online classes onto student transcripts? My thoughts on this are:

  • successful examples of schools doing this will provoke others to accept it. 
  • when accrediting bodies establish instruments for approving a school's approach to online classes
    • e.g. NEASC has an instrument for this
    • iNACOL's standards are nationally recognized
    • the NCAA has been doing this for years
    • the NAIS Task Force on Online Ed (which I chaired) produced a good document on this
  • When teachers have the experience of a robust online course that is much more than just online discussion boards. 
  • When colleges appreciate seeing some online learning on an applicant's application

The highlight of my day was seeing former BB&N teacher Eric Hudson, who has been kind enough to share the notes he took at another session...

Online Classes: How do They Change the Environment of College Admissions?

Nancy Meislan: Dean of Admissions at Wesleyan
Matt McGann: Dean of Admission at MIT
Joe Fox: Assoc Dir of College Counseling at Barstow School
Chris Powers: Dir of Online Learning and Asst Dir of CC at Shorecrest Prep 

What does the landscape of online learning look like on each campus?

  • Allows students to increase rigor, pursue talent, or show grit
  • They do it all: MOOCs, 3rd party providers (CTY, Northwestern), blended
  • Member of Hybrid Learning Consortium
  • "Revving up" -- started Hybrid Learning Consortium
  • 20% students take an online course
  • 1-1 iPad from LS-6th
  • BYOD at US
  • Primarily classroom/lab setting
  • When we hear students take MITx class, we do not offer credit -- that's not the purpose of MITx
  • Elec and Magnetism Physics is taught in online modules
    • This was one of first MITx classes
  • Now, modules designed for MITx are working their way back into regular MIT classes -- esp required science courses
  • It's very early for that, though
  • We are venturing where other lib arts colleges aren't going
  • Part of Coursera
    • 8 coursera courses taught by most senior fac, including president
  • We think of it from a mission-driven perspective
  • What are benefits of a residential learning environment? If teaching is central to what we do, how can we expand our knowledge of teaching?
  • 2800 students, avg enrollment in MOOCs is 28,700, 205,000 in a social psych class
    • The Wesleyan education is reaching a larger audience
  • Pre college credit through continuing ed
    • certificate not a credit program
    • psychology, flash fiction
  • Now they give credit for certain online ventures for transfer students -- need to know content and context
How do online classes affect college admission process?

  • How do we put online classes on transcript and school profile?
    • Courses look exactly the same. We don't delineate. 
    • Fully embedded in course catalog, with explanation in school profile
  • Same paragraph as Barstow on school profile
  • Equal standing on transcript
  • Online students have additional paragraph in counselors letter, usually speaking to student's individual passion 
  • One page doc that summarizes online course work for those kids doing multiple ventures (Stanford, CTY, etc.)
  • Online class shows initiative beyond requirements
  • shows excitement for a particular topic
  • seeing a lot of high-flying math/science kids who hit brick and mortar ceiling early, and it's nice to see they pursue more advanced studies online
  • Shows gumption to do that in a school where that may be outside the norm
  • Not a member of common app, and we can have a self-reported transcript (which we refer to most often rather than official)
    • Gives a fuller picture of student's academic pursuits
  • MITx
    • That NYT Mag story about the guy in Mongolia is inaccurate -- we don't use MITx as a recruitment or selection tool. He was a great candidate aside from his online work.
  • Very uncertain right now
  • Visiting schools that are GOA or OSG members, we find that the numbers are so small.
    • We only know what you tell us
    • Reads GOA profile, says it's not enough
    • Unanswered q's: How many students take this? What are restrictions? How do the grades work? Is it figured in to GPA?
    • That's OK, but it's exemplary of where we are. These questions need to be answered. 
    • The idea that it's a hook is wrong -- it's more of a head-scratcher at this point. 
    • A paragraph in counselor letter would help. 
  • I asked admissions officers what they wanted, so I knew all of above. 
  • I'm all about local autonomy -- do what's best. Just tell me what it is. Make sure it's crystal clear. 

How do you ensure online courses maintain high standards?

  • Same way we evaluate brick and mortar: we work with professionals, review curricula and syllabi, students have to apply and explain reasoning after attending info session
    • They can't avoid requirements (PreCalc) at school
  • System of checks is strong
    • online allows us to track data for students AND teachers
    • more transparency

What are the pros and cons of Online Learning in your academic environments?

  • Con: misperception that online classes are easy or a bump in GPA
  • Allows students to pursue passions that set them apart from other applicants
  • Preps students for inevitable future online endeavors
  • The overzealous student--that's a big concern for us.
    • We may not look favorably on the kid who's taking three online courses on top of regular
    • Are online courses putting pressure on kids to do more than they already are?
  • Be mindful of how YOU talk about this opportunity with your students
  • Teenagers become exposed to things they wouldn't normally be exposed to
  • A GOA course opened this student's eyes up to something they might want to pursue later
  • The real plus here is that it encourages vibrancy in learning
Thanks Eric!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Scratch Day 2013 @ MIT

On Saturday, May 18, I attended the annual Scratch Day at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge.  The event was divided into 6 areas: imagine, hack, share, make, discuss, and reflect.  In the imagine area, children, parents, and teachers were introduced to the Scratch programming language, learning the basics and being exposed to the new features of Scratch 2.0, which was released on May 9.  In the hack area, people sat at computers and tinkered with the software, in a hands-on show-and-tell.  In the share area, 15 students stood up on a stage and showed off some of their projects.  One project that was shared was an interactive carnival.  In the make area, there was a makey-makey obstacle course, a 2.0 bubble project, and a collaborative add-yourself-to-the-aquarium project.  In the discuss area, members of the ScratchEd team met with educators and parents, discussing Scratch 2.0 in the elementary classroom as well as in after school settings.  Lastly, in the reflect area, scratchers shared both what they love about scratch and why they keep coming back in order to help MIT improve the software.  Common themes were making games and animations, using one's imagination, and the flexibility of the program.  Scratch users posted comments on the wall answering questions such as: what do you do when you get stuck programming?  Individuals were also interviewed by members of the scratch team.

Most importantly, I introduced my daughter to scratch, and we created our first project together.  She is interested in creating her own "TV series."  She has been asking me non-stop since the event whether she can play with scratch at home.

-Megan Haddadi

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

inRESONANCE training conference (May 1 - 3)

I have just returned from a three day training conference (May 1 - 3), hosted by inRESONANCE, the provider of our admissions, enrollment and registrar database products.  The training was tailored mostly for administrators who need to understand and use their Keystone, Generations and Portal products.  Like most training conferences, you have to pick and choose what you will attend, while wishing that you could be in three places at once.  I decided to focus on the Keystone product and then attended the more advanced developer classes.  I was impressed with how thorough and client centric the lessons were.  The technical classes were only moderately technical but valuable in that they demonstrated more advanced solutions applicable to real reporting questions.  I highly recommend this training for anyone who is looking for a thorough hands on introduction with moderately advanced training to help you address your evolving reporting needs. 

-Michael Hawkins

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Witnessing in Action: Developing and Sustaining White Affinity Groups

On Friday, April 26th, 2013, fellow Lower School teacher Maria Barton and I attended AISNE's "Witnessing in Action: Developing and Sustaining White Affinity Groups" workshop led by Shelley Tochluk, author of "Witnessing Whiteness" at the Phillips Exeter School.  Maria and I are both members of the BB&N Lower School's diversity steering committee this year, as our faculty reads Shelly's book.

At the workshop we heard from both Shelly and Jason David.  Shelly is "the author of Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk abut Race and How to Do It, a book about why race remains an essential issue, how race affects people's daily lives and interactions, and practical steps we can take to serve racial justice. Shelly's experiences with UCLA's NCAA Division-1 All-American Track and Field 4X400 meter relay team and her elementary and middle school, inner city teaching experiences shaped her personal dedication to confront issues of race. An educator, with a background in psychology, Shelly Tochluk spent ten years as a researcher, counselor, and teacher in California's public schools. She received her Ph.D. in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2005 where she investigated how white racial identity impacts friendship relationships. She now trains teachers to work with Los Angeles' diverse school population as Chair of the Education Department at Mount St. Mary's College." Jason David is "a co-founder of the Alliance for White Anti-Racists Everywhere - Los Angeles (AWARE-LA), a white anti-racist organization that provides resources and community space for consciousness-raising, alliance-building, and movement-building. As a facilitator of monthly dialogues through AWARE-LA, he has helped to carefully construct and navigate discussions on numerous topics related to race and whiteness. He is also a high school teacher at Wildwood School in Los Angeles."

As a group of independent school teachers and administrators interested in promoting anti-racism, we discussed the development of white affinity groups at our respective schools.  "White affinity groups focus on dialogue and support the development of healthy racial identity and effective anti-racist practices, both essential for building relationships across race. This session [began] by reviewing the model of Witnessing Whiteness, a foundational approach to developing white anti-racist identity that involves building knowledge, skills, capacity, and community."  We also looked at our individual schools and considered what steps we would need to take to create support groups on our own campuses and thought about potential setbacks, particularly resistance from various community members.  We even had an opportunity to practice dialogue around resistance, as these skills need to be practiced again and again to be mastered.  We left the gathering with workshop agendas created by AWARE-LA to support the creation of white anti-racist groups and their subsequent dialogue on the development of a white anti-racist identity and practice.

-Megan Haddadi

Monday, March 11, 2013

Al Coons Attends TI Calculator Convention

I attended the 25th TI - "T^3" Convention in Philadelphia Friday and Saturday.  Below is what I learned.


T^3 was again a very well run, accesible conference.  I would continue to rate it as among the top 3 yearly conferences along with Exeter and NCSSM.  Many of the most innovative and powerful thinkers/creators in secondary mathematics present.

 It has relatively few high school offerings but there was always enough to find something interesting.  I usually had to select between two or three sessions I wanted to see in each time slot.  

It serves both TI-84 and NSpire users, although there is increasing emphasis on Nspire.

What's New

  • Nspire for the iPad.  A lot of excitement here.  Consensus is that TI did a great job for a first implementation of software on a new device.  Unless you are a developer, there is not too much missing and it seems stable.  As I wrote to you last week, I find it better than the HH (hand held) version and often equal or better than the computer version as a result of it good use the iPad interaction metaphor.  
  • 3-D Plotting
    • There were multiple sessions on using the 3-D plotting features:
      •  I enjoyed two wonderful college teachers from Columbia who spoke almost no English present the basics of 3-D plotting and controlling it with sliders.  Made me think of the "Proof Without Words" section of the MAA Magazine.  
      • An incredible session with a university teacher from BC Columbia who used CAS and 3-D plotting to compute and visualize (plot) solutions (intersections) of function of multiple inputs.
  • In a recent Department Meeting I suggested teaching plotting in 3-D should begin with plotting individual points.  This can easily be done in parametric mode.  However, a point is displayed as an individual pixel in Nspire and so it is very hard to see.  In Mac grapher, an individual points is enlarged so it can be seen.  There are many requests for this to be done in the Nspire.
  • CAS
    • Not new, but lots of sessions on "How to Implement/Use CAS in the Classroom"
  • Availability of Nspire Documents/Apps
Personal Comment:  There are more and more great pre-made apps.  I believe Nspire does a great job (as do some other software) at supporting the goal to show the three approaches (analytical, tabular/data, and dynamic visualization) of given problems.  There are many great apps available, but like all technology we have to spend the time to find and share them.  Two great places to start are: