Connecting Knowledge through Experiential Education at Greenhill: The History and Science of Our First National Park

9 02 2015

In the Classroom

By Chris Bigenho, Director of Instructional Technology

Take a stroll through any major university and you can find great halls and facilities dedicated to the teaching of specific disciplines. K-12 schools start to look that way as you move through the upper grades. You can find classrooms where the beauty of mathematics is shared with students. English and History is learned in their respective pods while Science and Art have their own buildings. In many cases, this is necessary because of the nature of the materials used within the teaching of these disciplines. However, one effect that stems from this physical segmenting of the distribution and manipulation of knowledge is the creation of knowledge silos where discipline specific problems are addressed.

These knowledge silos bear little resemblance to how we naturally learn and how the world works. Most of the world’s problems do not have answers that reside in any…

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Computer Science and the Birth of a New Core Literacy- Part 1

29 06 2014

Sitting in a session on the value of computational thinking. It seems we may be birds of a feather. Here is a post that I wrote back in January that looks at the possibility that Computer Science is a new core literacy. What are your thoughts?

Life in the Renaissance

A series of interactions, experiences and recursive reflections serve as the stimulas for this latest entry- How and when is a new literacy born? Like the birth of a star, I believe we notice new core literacies long after their initial birth often discovering their significance far removed from their initial impact on society.

There has been a lot of press lately about the need to teach computer programming or “coding’ is schools today. From “A Day of Code” to Code Academy to the potpourri of news stories and opportunities all extolling the virtues of “coding”. While not a new concept, there is even a resurgence of conversation about how learning a computer programming language can replace the requirement of learning a world language.

I am a fan of “coding” but feel that all of the conversation about coding really misses the point. We should really be discussing the idea…

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What is Trending on Twitter at ISTE 2014 Saturday at 2:00 pm?

28 06 2014
Bloggers Cafe

Bloggers Cafe

As a researcher, I love data. And when you bring together thousands of tech savoy educators, you have a fountain of data that flows at amazing rates across the digital ether. Rather than letting this data bounce off the walls of TweetDeck, HooteSuite or the aggregator of your choice, I set up a Tweet Archive to capture all of the tweets from this year’s ISTE. This tool also allows for some quick visualizations of the data as it comes in. While not sufficient to attach any real meaning without true analysis, it is still fun to watch. As of about a week ago, there were around 6000 tweets in the archive tagged #iste2014 or #iste14. As of about 2:00 pm on Saturday, there were over 25,000 tweets with these tags! Here are a few graphics representing the data up to this point.


Tweet Archive:




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Education is Big Business- What will we be sold this year?

28 06 2014

ISTE Expo SetupAs I sit here in the ISTE 2014 Bloggers Cafe overlooking the Expo, I am struck by the scale of the space and the work that goes into the set up of such a space. With each area being assigned a “zip code” booths are currently being assembled in preparation for the opening tomorrow. As I look at the size of some of the booths and banners, it is hard not to think about the impact that big business has on education. In fact, it is clear that education in itself, big business. How will the business of education interact with the business of “stuff” this year at ISTE?

While I am not in the market for “stuff”, it looks like I will have plenty to review and explore when the Expo opens. One of the things I like to do as see what is being pitched as the best for changing the way education is done and improving outcomes. Generally, I find most products being pitched in education run counter to my epistemic perspective of how learning happens, what is important to learn and simply put, what teaching and learning should look like. In past years, it was the Interactive Whiteboard, Office Software, Learning Management Systems, Clickers, and a massive amount of software that will drill kids in all they need to know to do well with all of the state mandated testing.

From the size of the banners from where I sit, it looks like the story is still going to be the same. Edmodod, Panasonic, Extreme networks, Epson, Blackboard, MA, Toshiba, Pearson,McGraw Hill, Smart are just a few of the huge banners I see out there. Yet, I am very skeptical that any of these companies will have the latest “stuff” that could really shake things up. This means that those items and ideas will likely be in the smaller booths that will require me to really dig below all of the hype.

This year, I will be on a search for those items that are most open, have the potential for the greatest impact, support the most creative forms of learning and are based on sound research. I will be looking for the items that are most likely to maximize intrinsic engagement in students and break down walls between disciplines. What will it be? What will I find? What will you find? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments as you explore the Expo this year and what you feel will have the greatest positive impact in education moving forward.

Blended Learning and Educational Technology

27 06 2014

Last month, I had the privilege and opportunity to spend two amazing days in an NAIS Think Tank of amazing people as we explored and brainstormed around educational technology and specifically blended learning. We each shared a brief presentation then facilitated a conversation around our topics. During our time in DC, we also shared some of our thoughts individually on film. NAIS is now processing those recordings to share some of the ideas with a larger audience. The following play list from the National Association of Independent Schools represents some of what was shared during the Deep Dive into Blended Learning and Educational Technology.



What do you mean by 21st Century Skills?

24 06 2014

There is a lot of talk about 21st century skills and what we should be teaching to make sure our students are prepared with the right skill set to succeed in today’s world. Any practitioner conference you attend today will have many sessions that will address the idea of teaching 21st century skills. ISTE 2014  is about to launch and there will undoubtedly be sessions exploring 21st century skills/learning/school etc. From social media with blogs, wikis and Twitter, to Maker Sessions to philosophical sessions, it seems many are trying to explain what and how we need to be teaching today. With that being said, what do we all mean when we are talking about 21st century skills, 21st century learning and 21st century schools?

I hope you will take a moment to complete this short, simple and open-ended survey to define these terms in your own words. What do you mean when you talk about 21st century skills, 21st century learning and 21st century schools? What do you hear when you hear others talk about these terms? The results of this survey are public so please consider participating and adding to our broader understanding as a community.

Please feel free to pass this around to any and all. This is a conversation that moves far beyond the teachers in the classroom and the administrators at the school. Parents and students also have an understanding of these terms. What is everyone saying and what are we hearing when we use these terms?

You can access the survey at: What do you mean by 21st century skills/learning/schools? OR use the form below.

You can view the responses at: What do yo mean by 21st century skills/learning/schools? [RESPONSES]

ISTE 2014 Preview

24 06 2014

ISTE2014Friday afternoon, I will hop on a plane and fly to Atlanta Georgia for the 2014 ISTE conference. I missed the last couple of conferences as I had multiple competing events. I am excited to see what this year has to offer. There has been much happening in the world of educational technology. It seems that the conversations for the longest time have been around 1:1, BYOD, Web 2.0 in the classroom, 21st century skills (whatever that means), PLN’s and other trendy marketing terms. I suspect that this year will see more of STEM and STEAM but my real excitement is for where the Maker Movement will land in the conversation.

While it also seems like a trendy term, and likely is, I believe it is one that really has possibilities for changing the way school is done in the future. For those of us who like theory, it seems that the construction of knowledge has been at the root of what it means to teach in a progressive classroom. Students construct understanding as they wrestle with real problems. This has been manifested in the forms of experiential education (Bruner and Dewey) and Problem Based Learning PBL which was born out of the field of medical education back in the 1960’s. While the Maker Movement draws on these theoretical constructs, it is highly informed by the work of Papert and what he termed constructionism- the idea that students actually produce objects of their understanding and knowledge is constructed and archived through the physical building of objects of understanding. For a great read on this history and the foundations of this movement, I highly recommend Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager. You will also find this book a great resource as you explore “making” as a method in your classroom.
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