Thursday, December 12, 2013

Potential in the Hour of Code

It's 'Hour of Code' week, and there's quite a buzz about it.

Some tout 'Hour of Code' as a 'publicity stunt for politicians,' some others that it's a waste of time, and some still as the best thing since, well, (computer) code was invented... or something like that.

Of course, it's what you do with it after 'the hour.' Getting some hype and introducing things to youth (or adults) is a bonus. The hope is it's not a 'one hour and done' deal.

Start somewhere... and then keep the conversations going.

Grab whatever device you have access to use and give it a try, especially if you've never 'coded.'

The hope is that the hour can get people interested in thinking differently toward more experiments, peer grouping... and even shifts in 'computer' / 'technology' curriculum in schools. 

Combine coding with making... games, apps, machine to computer interface (Arduino, LilyPad Arduino, Makey Makey, Rasberry Pi, etc)... creative student exploration and projects? Now that's interesting.

"Hard fun"... Seymour Papert said that 30 years ago. Get kids involved in making things and solving tough problems.

Bring people with you and dive in.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tips for Crafting Presentations

Ever wonder how you can take better pictures?

Want to learn some visual design tips?

Need some ideas on how to conjure better presentations?

I've passed these tips on to many over the years... and here they are for you too.

Best way to view the presentation below? Click the icon to expand to 'Full screen' on the Google Drive toolbar below.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Keep Moving Forward...

It's been some time since I wrote here! Things have been pretty busy.

When my Spring sabbatical trip came to a close in mid-August, I did settle in for a bit (at Burr and Burton) to build curriculum in the scripted formats on the subject tracks that had been chosen (quite abruptly) just before I left in January.  I'd mentored so many student projects in those subjects over the last eight years and made incredible community connections therein... so it'd be pretty easy. 

But, it all wasn't sitting right for me. Nothing had really been built while I was gone on sabbatical over the Spring and Summer. The largest scope of development of this new curriculum was landing on me. Scripting things to that extent was a developing track I didn't have much belief in. Most importantly, I felt the need to continue lobbying for student topic choice in their education, expanding internships and the multidisciplinary work that can spin with it. I wanted to pursue even more discussions on shifts schools can make to open up individual and community learning opportunities... especially student capstone work.

So when a late offer came up to do just that, and after some soul searching, I decided it was officially time I moved on. I took a position at Burlington High School in Vermont in Technology Integration and to participate in the Partnership for Change Initiative.

Hey, I thought I'd do something with all that sabbatical research, right? ; )

I've been working on many great projects already in Burlington... designing new classes, creating opportunities for internships, promoting the school as a community learning center, reshaping approaches to web development, helping teachers explore the creative capacity of technology with students, and contributing ideas on the plans to build a new high school.

Looking back... my sincere thanks to the incredible students I worked with at Burr and Burton, so many peers, the project consultants - all the experts called on by the students in their project work, all the visitors to the Lab, the incredibly supportive communities that support the school, and to the school itself. I'm truly privileged to carry so many lasting friendships into the future.

The rLab (II) at Burr and Burton, 8/2005 - 8/2013

I like this picture of the rLab above... a little rough around the edges, minimalist, student designed diverse work spaces. It was truly a self-organizing system... as it's always said from day one on the top of the rLab blog, built on student and parent / guardian feedback. Students took on some great (and incredibly diverse) projects and made some forward thinking proposals that really opened up thoughts on how technology was used at the school. Promoting student inquiry into the process of education, I always felt at least, was a healthy goal... and still do.

It's tough to close up shop sometimes... but it's also exciting. 

I always did love the iconic signoff from the late CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite. I always felt it was a fitting sign-off the day, and in this case the eight years I spent teaching students at Burr and Burton Academy...

"And that's the way it is," (the close of my role in the rLab at BBA, back on...) Friday August, 23rd, 2013.

There are many articles in queue for publications coming up... my travels to High Tech High, an innovative school lunch program, and traits in school Leadership that fosters innovation to name a few.

I'll be writing as a guest blogger, and requests are coming in for presentations on opening up innovation in schools. I'm looking forward to all of them.

It's good to be creating and collaborating again. Keep moving forward, indeed.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dive Into the Maker Movement

Photo from

Here's a new article I wrote called Dive Into the Maker Movement for Edutopia. Love to hear what you think about it!

As I mention in the article, I think back often to that 'Fab Lab' conversation I had with my old friend Brian Gawlik back in the day. Merging disciplines into projects on a flexible schedule that allows immersion for students... just imagine what could be accomplished. Many schools have the space to do things like this already.

Thinking forward... I've been doing a ton of research on 3D printers of late, and also trying my hand at Arduino programming. Much more fun than watching TV (which I gave up two years ago now) ; )

I'd like to see many more schools take on a Maker style club, Fab Lab, class... and see where the experiment goes. It opens up new doors for cross-curricular activities and projects immediately.

It's fun stuff to explore. It's my hope to invest more time in conjuring more interest and resources on this for folks around the area and the State.

Off now to buy some gear!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Student Inquiry Into the Complex Problems

Here's a project I'd do with students based on an article (that I read today)... an analyze this sort. 

Watch this video from Dan Pallota called 'The Way We Think About Charities is Dead Wrong':

We'd debate.

Then read this article from CNN called 'The Worst Charities':

We'd debate, again.

I'd ask students to fact check the article. Could we find other sources? Contact the companies themselves? The IRS? All of the above? When would we have enough evidence to feel confident?

I'd ask students if they think we could contact Dan Pollata (from the video). Could we ask him to read the article from CNN, and enter into a discussion with us on his opinions and his opinions on the article citings? What are there thoughts on how this might go? What questions should we ask? What should (and shouldn't) we say?

How about contacting other non-profits to see how they spend money?

Then we'd debate, yet again.

Then I'd ask them to show... Based on what we discovered, what charity would you give money to? Why? What's important in making that decision? What are your thoughts on raising awareness vs how much money is transferred? Is there a balance? Which charities in your opinion are you most comfortable with in how they allocate their money? Give examples... find them and tell us why.

Stage it well. Class debates, small groups, individual research, etc. Assess to build skills in: Un-biased research. Build communication, collaboration, and presentation skills... as part of exploring something much larger, and very important.

At least that's my thoughts on it after thinking this over for 15 minutes and writing it up here ; ) Before I worked on it with students, I'd also run it by some peers and listen to their opinions. Add, move, and subtract based on what I heard. 

Nothing like a good challenge.

It's a complex world we live in. We must promote inquiry in education to help people understand it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

"School Time" in New Zealand

There's a different pace to "School Time" in New Zealand (and article I wrote for Edutopia).

Build in some serious collaboration time for students and adults... And you can unlock innovation, education and meaningful social missions.

How does the school schedule where you work or where your children go to school effect learning and socialization?

-- Posted from mobile

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance

A friend asked me today why I admired the work of the folks in Reggio Emilia so much. I sent on this quote by Howard Gardner to reply.

"As an American educator, I cannot help be struck by certain paradoxes. In America, we pride ourselves in being focused in children, yet we do not pay sufficient attention to what they are actually expressing. We call for cooperative learning among children, yet we have rarely sustained cooperation at the level of teacher and administrator. We call for artistic works, but we rarely fashion environments that can truly support or inspire them. We call for parental involvement but are loathe to share ownership, responsibility, and credit with parents. We recognize the need for community, but we so often crystallize immediately into interest groups. We hail the discovery method, but we do not have the confidence to allow children to follow their own noses and hunches. We call for debate but often spurn it; we call for listening but prefer to talk; we are affluent but do not safeguard those resources that can allow us to remain so and to foster the affluence of others. Reggio is so instructive in these respects. We are often intent to invoke slogans, the educators in Reggio work tirelessly to solve many of these fundamental-and fundamentally difficult-issues."

Howard Gardner

-- Posted from mobile phone

Friday, March 22, 2013

Reggio Emilia Article Part II Posted

Just got word from Edutopia that part II of the article on my trip to Reggio Emilia was posted. Schools as 'community learning centers...

Engage ; )

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reggio Emilia Article Part I

My new article posted on Edutopia, part I about my time in Reggio Emilia at the International Conference this last February. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

New Zealand to San Diego

It was difficult to shift gears from an immersive trip in New Zealand, shore up an Edutopia post about my time in Italy, and start exploring San Diego... 

but I've managed so far ; )

Fresh off (actually a little fried) after 15 immersive days in New Zealand, I've landed in San Diego to catch up with an old friend, a player of mine from my coaching days back at CVU named Jeremiah Cook. It's been too long since I've seen him in person. He's been gracious enough to let me stay at his house here. Cook is a successful DJ here in San Diego and we've had some great conversations about the past, future, the trials of the music business and the explosive growth of social media marketing he's experienced in his craft. I'm looking forward to seeing him practice his craft tonight at a local club.

I'm also here to visit to High Tech High, a school I've been interested in for some time. I'll visit the school either today or tomorrow. I'm very excited to see their work finally and interview some of the folks who've seen their system evolve.

Turns out, Dan French is in town as well at a conference in San Diego this week. Pretty funny to venture to San Diego and have dinner tonight with a person who lives in your neighborhood back in Vermont. As usual, I always look forward to seeing him and catching up.

With all the travel (and time zones)... Italy, New Zealand and now San Diego, I'm anxious to see my family, rest up a bit and ponder the future. We'll have about two weeks at home and then we're all off to explore Europe to see more schools and continue my research in Reggio Emilia.

Here's what I'm pondering this morning...

The keynote speech in at the Reggio Winter Institute was delivered by Carla Rinaldi. I found her speech to be nothing short of brilliant, and it's the focus of the article I just submitted to Edutopia. Rinaldi spoke in the speech about 'continuity' and how it applies to education. I've read over my notes from Rinaldi's speech more than five times since my trip to Italy.
"Schools must open up the dialogue of learning past it's own walls. Then we see how valued community involvement and professional development is collegial work and shared professional development. In this practice of coming together… people begin to understand the incompleteness of their professionality and we develop an understanding of interdependence on our colleagues." 
Carla Rinaldi

This ties in with a conversation I had the lobby over lunch with Will Richardson at Educon. Will explained his investigation into how schools and community should now / could now exist. The explorations I've taken at Reggio Emilia and schools in New Zealand have me thinking along the same threads.

"In a culture of continuity, the person who is learning is the subject." 
Carla Rinaldi

What I'm seeing reinforces my longstanding belief that schools in the US need to change their practices to be more rounded... and healthy. Our growing penchant for academic rigor, and standardized testing is not balanced in so many schools I've encountered. So many people from the US I've met in my travels have said the same thing. 

Without a doubt... I could explore education around the globe full-time ; )

I'm off to get ready for the rest of the days adventures.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Something is happening to me here...

Photo from Cape Reigna, New Zealand by Adam Provost

Tēnā koutou (meaning "hello" in Māori to three or more people... so I've learned),

Welcome from New Zealand! It's the first chance I've had to sit and write a bit since our arrival. Despite all the activity, I'm finding I'm truly relaxed here. There's a pace to the place and it's kind folk that I dearly like.

That sense of relaxation and belonging has certainly been enhanced by our gracious hosts along the way.

This far we've visited Blockhouse Bay, Henderson, and Takapuna Intermediate schools, and Lynfield College High School since we've been here. The receptions we've had from each couldn't have been finer. 

Students at Blockhouse Bay and Takapuna welcomed our group with variations of the Haka and Kapahaka and a variety of songs and dances. The student performances were quite remarkable, especially since school hasn't been in session long here in New Zealand this year. Melodic songs in Māori are something to behold, especially from students.

This group from Vermont I'm traveling with is a mix of older and younger folk in education with one Principal, three high school teachers, graduate students, and two University folks. As you can imagine, we've been approaching our work here from a variety of perspectives. 

We spent the first night in a hotel as an interim stop and then moved on to host families coordinated through the Blockhouse Bay educational community, especially the Principal there Mr. Colin Andrews. John, a high school teacher from Missisquoi and I are staying with Blockhouse Bay's Deputy Principal and his wife, Anand and Sonya Muthoo. We've had excellent meals, spirits and conversation. Anand has a wealth of experience in education and collaborative leadership. Sonya is an educator as well in a special needs school in Auckland. And no... we don't talk about education the entire time ; ) The couple has opened and introduced us to their family, their work lives, and the travels that brought them to New Zealand.

The most lengthy visit thus far came with over two days with the folks at Takapuna Intermediate School. The tech team there, Jackie, John, Eleanor, Carol, and Sylvia were very gracious with their time. I'd dare say we all hit it off fabulously. I had the chance through the generosity of the teachers there to talk with students in classes, discuss strategies, perspectives and share some history with the team during it's department meeting and have many laughs along the way. I even got recruited to teach some kids some softball skills... throwing and catching, fielding and batting. While drinking morning tea with the entire faculty over two days it's hard not to notice that our instructional ideas and philosophies mesh. Oddly... so does, for lack of a better term, our color palate. Sitting on the balcony of the faculty lounge and looking over the campus, the whole place is decked out in slate blue... the color of the rLab in Vermont.

All the environments I've experienced here are collegial, collaborative and supportive. The rapport the faculty has with each other, school leadership and the time built into the schedules here leads to great collaboration and camaraderie. That translates directly into great programs for students.

I'll confess... for a person who eats little to no fish, I've had it twice here already. Red Snapper with our host family and today Blue Nose Fish and Chips. Both meals were excellent.

I went sailing in Auckland Bay, and many thanks again to Owen Alexander for the opportunity.

Of course... despite my best efforts to reapply sun block I ended up with a good old sunburn today. The trials of swimming in the ocean and then boogie boarding down some sand dunes. Yes, you read that correctly ; )

There's more than a week to go here on our trip. I'm already sensing it's not going to be long enough.

Something is happening to me here.

Fun ideas to explore.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Off to my next trek

My time in Reggio Emilia was great fun. I met many great educators, made many excellent connections, and spoke to some folks who's work I've admired for decades. The keynote by Carla Rinaldi It reinforced my belief that inquiry based based education is essential. Schools should be supportive places, rich with collaboration to constantly improve things.

Early childhood education in Reggio is truly a stellar program. Finally seeing it up close was deeply rewarding. Without a doubt ill be headed back.

Still pondering a good many things, I collected my things and headed to the train station for my next trek.

On the train to the Malpensa airport from Milan Centrale (train station), I heard the couple across the aisle speak English and introduced myself. Turns out they were teachers from upstate N, and listening in two seats behind us was a grad student in education from DC. We had quite a discussion. Hearing what this couple was up against, the trials of their jobs, the trials going on in their school district… was a theme I heard many times by meeting random travelers… and likely will many more times.

Tired. Lots of time in the air coming up.

-- Posted from mobile

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Perfect time for a sabbatical to start... at last

Well, it's been a challenging start.

On the mend finally from the flu and pneumonia...

Five days before leaving for the EduCon conference in Philadelphia I was chomping down some food and felt a sharp pain in the back of my mouth. Eating or drinking anything hot and cold was immediately not an option. Applying any pressure to the tooth also proved unwise. Shortly thereafter, about 15 minutes or so, the ache in the tooth turned into a headache. 

A quick trip to the mirror revealed a filling in one of my molars was loose. Visibly so. Very handy tooth for chewing, molars. Most inconvenient too since I was gearing up for some heavy traveling.

It was a deep filling, the patch from some hefty sugar eating as a young child aka Calvin and Hobbes - 'Frosted Coated Sugar Bombs' style. I guess the filling just decided it'd had enough.

After a quick call and explanation to my dentist, I was penciled in short order to patch it up. 

Dentist offices have always been surreal places to me. Don't get me wrong, I like my dentist a lot. He's a personable chap with excellent skill. When I'm at any dentist office though, I always have flashbacks to the Bill Cosby, Himself comedy routine. You know, the shots of Novocain that go on and on, the dentist asks you questions while working on you and you answer in phrases with no consonants (and they understand you), and walk in the chair with your butt. I... find myself anticipating something painful when I'm in the dentist chair. It rarely happens... but a jolt does go through your nervous system under the drill on occasion. Laying down while someone looks in your mouth, picks at your teeth with microscopes on their eyes, all under a bright light. Surreal.

Turns out, as the dentist investigated this loose filling, he started saying things like 'hmmm,' and 'oh my, that's not good at all' as he probed around with picky things and mirrors. "The tooth is split," the dentist said. "Nearly all the way through." It's never ideal to hear such things while you're in the dentists chair. He then started to investigate further saying "looks like the filling had been seeping for a bit, meaning that the filling had likely broken some time ago and infection has started to set in. Inflamed nerves and such. That's why you're having discomfort. It's good we caught this now." By all accounts that all sounds a bit disgusting... "seeping" and "infection," and "inflamed." All descriptors of something more complicated than a quick patch job so I can hit the road. Excellent.

Now, admitting what you can do and what you can't is key, especially in the medical profession. My dentist was quite clear "this molar has a much better chance of being saved if an Endodontist I work with did a... root canal."

When you hear your dentist say 'root canal,' it echoes in your brain. I've never had one. Grim things start flashing through your mind because root canals are one of those things of legend and lore if you've never had one or, as I've discovered, even if you have. 

Talk to folks about 'getting a root canal,' and most wince. It's like playing a sort of 'tooth roulette' best I can figure. It's one of 'those' things. People's stories who've had them range from something like 'being curled up around the toilet in debilitating pain and losing limbs' to 'routine, no problem at all.' One person I told I needed one has had two himself. "The first one" he said, "was a breeze. The second was not pretty. Man, it took three appointments over a couple weeks and then I finally just had it pulled." I listened to the latter part and... you know, I could feel my eyes go wide. Another woman I told said, 'ah, no big deal. It was like having a filling.'

Having fillings is not difficult. It's just... not fun.

Having a root canal fail in multiple appointments and then having the tooth pulled, as in extraction... that echoed in my head a bit longer.

I didn't want to simply have the tooth pulled. I like chewing. 

So, no choice. So be it. Tooth roulette. Engage.

My dentist patched the tooth temporarily and told me they'd schedule root canal with this recommended Endodontist asap. The dentist gave me a prescription for Vicodin if needed as I left. Vicodin? Teaching the next day... on vicodin? Not a good idea.

The discomfort had subsided... until the Novocain wore off later that night. Lots of Advil got me about two hours of sleep.

The next morning I received a call from the Endodontist. My dentist is very efficient. Turns out, the only available appointment was the Monday morning immediately following the weekend conference in Philly. So much for staying in the city to talk to people, explore a bit, and do some writing and thinking.  Time does fly when you're having fun ; )

I know, it could all have been worse... but it was inconvenient. A common side effect of the the EduCon conference is cerebral overload. Looking toward the show while sporting a whopping headache was just... unfortunate. I'd been looking forward to Educon all year.

After a couple of quick days shoring up with family, life, school stuff, and nagging headache in tow, I set off to Philadelphia to the EduCon conference. 

About then things just got weird.

After about two hours of driving I heard a sharp 'CLINK,' and both wipers lifted off the windshield.

Both wipers. While I drove at 70mph.

Fortunately temperatures were super cold with no moisture in the air so I didn't really need them that much. Just dumb luck I guess. I was headed to a big city... I'd get them fixed in Philly. 

As I explored this now free floating wiper assembly at a rest stop in I-87... it was cold and very windy. Scheming potential fixes if need be, I hopped in the car and drove for another half hour and noticed... it was getting colder... in the car. I turned up the heat. And it kept getting colder. Unrelated to the wiper assembly seeking freedom from regular duty, the heater in the car had decided it would go on strike as well. Mutiny! I've since discovered the two failures are unrelated. Go figure. I decided at this point not to buy a lottery ticket on the trip.

Driving to Philly in frigid temps with no heat, toothache and headache, and the thought of no wipers... well, let's just say I've had more fun. Fortunately the temps remained cold and I didn't need to use the wipers that much all the way to Philly, a fact I'm still amazed at actually. The stops I took to warm up my legs proved a perfect time to pour windshield fluid on and hold the wipers down by hand. It's was comical actually... especially if you were watching me do this from another car ; ) 

Rather... ch, ch, chilled, I arrived at long last in Philly, had dinner, took a very long hot shower, and just went to bed.

Phone calls the next morning to get the car fixed were not fruitful. Every shop was booked that I called or closed. The trials of a weekend conference if you have car trouble I guess. 

No heat, no wipers, and I didn't want to cancel the Monday am root canal in fear of a long rescheduling delay. I figured out I could tinker a temp fix to press the wiper blade assembly down on the windshield if need be. I checked the weather and it looked to remain very cold when I would head North again. Could be done. As for no heat, I could dress warm and drink hot 'tea and coffee' I thought. Ok, couldn't do that with the tooth. Vegas Nerve control... Wim Hoff style then! May fate favor the foolish. Adapt.

As usual, the conference flew by. I'll admit, I was distracted with the nagging discomfort, and sleeping at night was at best sporadic. It was great to catch up with old friends and I met many new ones. I've got resources to read and ponder over the next few months. I've also got plenty of ideas brewing for return trips to Philly for school visits as part of this sabbatical.

Conference complete, I packed up, dressed to the nines in cold weather gear, and headed off for the root canal.

I'll confess, I had more than one good laugh about all these things twisting together on the way home.

I'm happy to report that the dread root canal wasn't bad at all. Well, so far at least. And so you know if you've never had one, it's not like getting a filling. It's different. Weird gear like a rubber dam with a sci-fi alien mouth that clamps over your tooth and prevents 'stuff' from going down your throat... needles, probes to remove (core out) the roots, multiple x-rays... and such. It was all painless save an occasional jolt that was remedied by yet more Novocain. Inflamed nerves are tricky, so I've learned. Yes, I could have toughed it out, taking the pain... but I've learned to say I'm uncomfortable in a dentist chair or an operating room at this point in my life. I don't see taking pain in such situations as proving or building my character... I just see it as unnecessary with today's technology. I'll save my energy and concentration for something else.

Root canal complete, the headache and toothache are now faded memories. Of course, to test if the root canal was successful, they apply another temp filling. Chewing very deliberately on one side, I'm in queue at my regular dentists office seeking any cancelation to grab a permanent filling before hit the road again North and overseas thereafter.

The car was in the shop already being repaired. Wiper assembly, heater, and a drivers-side window that wouldn't roll down (from a month earlier... I was waiting for the next trip to the shop to do it). I just got done telling my son "it's an old car, and previous to this thumping it's really given us no trouble at all over about 7 years." 

And just then... the phone rang and I learned the car also needed a new muffler. The whole muffler.

Thus far, between the tooth appointments and the car, it's over three grand well spent.

While all this unfolded, I've canceled three visits for the sabbatical, two North and one in Boston.

So, I decided to take a break for a day and celebrate no pain or headache, and my car repairs and do something completely unintellectual and without cost... like watch a couple movies. 

I went hunting in the basement for some cables to hook up the DVD player... and discovered a new crack in the foundation of our house. It was easy to find really because of the water I stepped in that had been seeping over the floor in that section.

Happily embracing another spontaneous project, we cleaned up the water, set up fans to dry things out, positioned towels as water barriers, monitored how frequently they had to be changed, and the phone call was made for basement foundation (injection molding) repair... likely another $600-$1000.

At any time, whether you can afford it or not I guess, you hate to see three or four thousand dollars evaporate... even if it's necessary. It's not the money per se, it's that the events bunched up and also led to three canceled sabbatical appointments

Of course, it all could have been worse. There was no significant tragedy of any type. It's all minor stuff. I'm safe. My health woes were easily repairable. The discomfort was endured. The car... is just a car. The bout with flu and pneumonia in late December - early January was actually a lot more challenging. I guess the anticipation of starting 'the sabbatical of a lifetime,' and having all this unfold was just... disappointing.

There have been things to shore up for school as well. Separating from the flow for a semester brings up it's own challenges, especially if you teach a couple year-long courses. Shoring up grades and narrative comments, helping folks smith exciting ideas brewing for possible curriculum and course shifts in the coming school year, and questions that surface on 'the way things usually work and why' all surfaced. It's tough to anticipate what people may need or the philosophies that might come in question when your leaving for a semester. Project-based classes and all the philosophical mess, assessing inquiry and learning rather than product is like putting together a puzzle while the picture changes. It's not a set curriculum per se. That's it's strength I think. I didn't handle it all as thoroughly as I'd hoped. I think, at long last though, it's all finally shored up.

I've been dedicating time to some philosophical and organizational shifts for VITA-Learn under my new role of President over the last couple months. I'm very grateful for the confidence folks showed in me in the nomination. The organization is moving through some philosophical shifts and it's gotten big enough to add a contracted Executive Director position. I have some experience with such transitions and have done my part to help that shift along. The structural shift will free up the board and officers to focus more on the future rather than the growing tasks of running the operations of the organization... and it's the only reason I accepted the nod as President. The folks who've done all that work to date, mostly on a volunteer basis for all these years have done a great service to provide professional development opportunities for Vermont teachers. Over the last few weeks we've been orchestrating some small shifts in how we approach our two major conferences. I've been trying to help get this in motion for the annual board retreat in mid-February. It's been difficult to juggle this in with all that's been going in, but some great new ideas and collaborations are opening up, and I think we're making some great progress.

Amidst this odd tangle of vines I managed to send my first article off to Edutopia about the EduCon conference. It was a very fun challenge (albeit with a pounding headache) to frame up the whole experience for folks who may be new to it and / or for those seasoned veterans. Hopefully it came off well. I think it's scheduled to be posted in a week or so.

I have a strange feeling at this point I guess, one I didn't anticipate. It's been a very weird 45 days. I feel a lot at this moment like I do after school ends in June. Drained. But also strangely unsettled.

Perhaps I've just been too busy. It's something I'll have to evaluate carefully over the coming months.

Perfect time for a sabbatical I guess.

I'm looking forward to taking this weekend off, watching a couple movies, watching my son's basketball game, carefully eating some good food, resting up, having a permanent filling early next week... and moving forward.

Lots of thinking to do about the future so I've learned.



Friday, January 18, 2013

I'm off on a sabbatical

To Boldly Go...

I'm off on a semester long (and into the Summer) sabbatical to explore educational innovation and 'student centered thinking' around the globe.


I'll look to chat with visionary leaders at these schools and explore their visions of school climate and culture... the future of what 'school' can be. 

This adventure will take me to 7 countries... France, Germany, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, Canada and throughout the United States.

Some of the schools...

Boston Arts Academy, MA
Urban Academy, NY
iSchool, NY
Calhoun School, NY
Science Leadership Academy, PA
Olin College of Engineering, MA
MIT Media Lab, MA
Harvard TIE program, MA
High Tech High, CA
High School for Recording Arts, MN
University of Tennessee, TN
University of Oregon, OR
University of Regina, Canada

Reggio Emilia Institute and community in Italy, two high schools in Vancouver Canada, Universities and high schools in Auckland NZ and Germany, a new school in Vienna Austria... France and Switzerland...

There's a long list of people I hope to chat with as well. More on that later!

The work in the semester sabbatical will certainly run over... perhaps for a lifetime.

What are the best practices out there? How are the folks in these places redefining 'school?' What are these innovative places in education doing now and where are they headed? Refitting our concepts of what education could be... is going to be a fun place explore in this fashion.

I've got a head start... the data from 21 Tech Research classes over seven and a half years where we've looked at how we could refit education based on student needs. I've read boatloads on the subject, and have countless interactions with folks from other conferences and chats to build upon and draw from too.

My thanks to Burr and Burton Academy and to the visionary thinking and support of Barry and Wendy Rowland for making this possible.

I'll be blogging for Edutopia and here on this blog as the trip unfolds. My hope is to stir up many conversations online and in person before, during, and after.

It'll be a wild ride... and I'm looking forward to the journey and all the collaboration.

Step out your door...

Keep moving forward...


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Student for a Day Project Thoughts (and full video)

BBA Student for a Day Project from Adam Provost on Vimeo.

In the Tech Research class I taught at Burr and Burton Academy we took on a large project each semester / year called 'Education Revisited.' The simple question... How is technology changing 'school?'

There were many layers to such a project. One of them is 'the school schedule.'

As the conversation on 'school schedule' evolved, a student asked 'wouldn't it be great if teachers could see this from our perspective?' After some spirited discussion I asked simply, "ok, how do we do that."

The idea took off to have teachers become 'a student for a day.' We drafted it up, proposed it, and the school eventually adopted a modified version or our proposal.

Students planned it all: Proposals, invitations, participant schedules - and asked potential teachers who's classes they'd sit in if they'd participate. They gathered materials (books, books, and more books), drafted interview questions (that were non-biased), built shooting schedules (pre, runtime and post interviews), and offered feedback on the video editing. One student, James Abrams, was the primary editor of the film.

The full video is at the top of this post... (just over 11 minutes), was presented through the words of the participants answering some simple questions.

The project stirred up a ton of discussions internally at the school, and as it turned out nationally and internationally. I've lost track of how many times it's been highlighted in other publications. We've also passed the production notes on to over 100 schools who were interested in running their own versions of the project.

Promoting student voice and inquiry into 'the educational process,' is essential. It's also great PD for adults as it turned out, too. Go figure ; )

Is this the best schedule we could have? Most often... no.

Is it the best for students? Adults? Families? Most often... no.

In all my travels about the world, I've heard many people say changing a school schedule can be, well, let's just say 'incredibly difficult.'

It really doesn't need to be that complicated.

Small adjustments can lead to very positive changes for students, teachers, administrators, and families.

My personal ideas on getting things moving... you have to start somewhere.
Just remember, 'status quo' never led to much progress… or innovation.


If you're interested in hearing more about this great project, just send me a note!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Study proves classroom design really does matter

We don't usually flock to places with bright fluorescent lights, uncomfortable furniture, and deprive ourselves of food and water... to do our best work.


; )

Some paint, intelligent furniture decisions, and some 
indirect lighting can go a long way.

Getting students involved in the design process, even better.