What I’m Reading. What are you Reading?

I am interested in the conversation about where education needs to be in 5, 10, and 20 years.

Below are a few of the books I’m accumulating for summer reading.  What else would you recommend?

Daring Greatly — Brene Brown — Definitely check out her TEDx Talk too.  Brown tackles vulnerability and shame. Her work has changed the way I approach leadership teaching, and my family.  Engaging your family, colleagues, students from alongside and working to see what they see and feel what they feel.

The Secrets of Happy Families — A great book on parenting and being a better parent in our intensely competitive and over scheduled world.

Creating Innovators — Tony Wagner — What we should be doing/thinking about in education to prepare our students for their futures.

If you’d like to discuss what books you are recommending and how you are helping your faculty look towards the future, please let me know.

Future of the Book – eBook, eMedia or ??

Over my almost 15 years as an educator, I’ve always been on a search for the new textbook, or how to consolidate the textbook onto one device.  Right now, there are numerous eReaders out there.  How we use those devices in education is up in the air.  

Last Friday a group of educators assembled to organize resources that would help us all move closer to an truly electronic book model.  The group organized resources around Devices, Pay and Free Content, and Examples of eTexts.  We recorded much of the afternoon via uStream. 

There was a consensus at the end of the day that we direct our futures by building some examples of what we may see in the future, whether web based or specifically for tablets or eReaders. 

Since this is an ongoing project, I moved this wiki to OPuS1 – The Future of the Book and started a Community of Practice around the resources.  OPuS1 is a good container for this type of project.  Let me know if you ‘re interested in being part of this next work we’ll be doing via twitter or a comment on this post. 


Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wynnie/3881994177/

Tech 5 Digital Footprint Lesson

digital-footprintThe goal of this lesson is to give students awareness of what it means to have a digital footprint.

Ask the students, “What  is a digital footprint?” 

Definitions include:

  1. What can be found when you Google yourself.
  2. Data collected by different web sites you visit.
  3. Data recorded by email, social networking, cell phone and video game companies.
  4. Anywhere where you use a username and password.

Digital Footprint on Wikipedia

Pew Internet & American Life Research on Digital Footprints

I then show this video: 


I then ask them to think for a minute about their digital footprint and then lead a short discussion around the following questions:

  • Why would people Google you? 
  • What is your digital reputation?

At this point, I ask them students to take out their footprints (see link above) and list the accounts the have online: websites, social networks,  phones they text with, video games they play online, etc.

Once they have done this for 5 minutes, I have them enter this data into our homework submission site.  This is good data to start conversations about Internet safety in the future. 

How do you teach about Digital Footprints?

Memorizing or Natural Learning

Fred Bartels asked:  I’m really curious about your emphasis on memorization still being important. This came up in our meeting yesterday. When you get a chance could you elaborate on your thinking?

I responded:  There seems to be a statement that futurists make about not having to remember anything because it’s at your fingertips.  Traditionalists tend to say that kinds need to remember everything.

In my experience, to be creative, you need to have content knowledge, but if you’re naturally learning something, memorizing it is not a conscious matter, but one that comes naturally.  For example, when children move to a different country where a different language is spoken, they just pick it up.  This is a natural memorizing, not an unnatural one.

There are basic pieces of information that we should know and by using a more natural form of education, students will learn by doing.  I think that games are a great way to teach things like the multiplication tables.  For example, my kids teachers recommend different card games.  That works well.  Fun = easy memorizing.

I think that there is a balance between the obsessed memorizers and the folks who say we can look everything up…

Does this make sense?

Posted via email from Alex Ragone’s Posterous

The Bronx Guild: A Big Picture School and Q2L — The Future of Education?

I visited two schools over Spring Break.  One project based school based on the Big Picture model where teams of 15 students and 1 faculty member travel through the four years of high school together interning two days of the week and working on their core curriculum during their days at school.  The other was Quest 2 Learn, a school based around systems design and using games to teach and learn.

In both I saw glimpses of the future, but both made me feel uncomfortable too.  Letting go of teacher as the source of information is scary.  We have been doing this for a long time.

What both schools seemed to get was that it’s about personal relationships with kids and helping them grow up is critical.  Both had positive environments where kids felt supported and could ask questions about the system that they existed.  The kids were involved with making their schools better.  I think that is a key part of this equation.

We have a lot to explore here.

Posted via email from Alex Ragone’s Posterous

The TEDxNYED Challenge…

I could not have said this better…

This may be idealistic, but if I could talk about what I’d want for a TED Prize, it’d be to spend a year getting a 1,000 conversations going about what we dream education could be all over the country… and to record them all… and catalogue parents and students and teachers best hopes for school, so that we could have an action plan about where we need to go, because I don’t know that we, as a nation, know what we want or how to get there. But I’d love to find out what it might look like, and I’d love to think that the folks at TEDxNYED would have something to add to the discussion. (From the comments on Dan Meyer's TEDxNYED Metadata)

Chris' dream for a TED prize is in my mind, what each and every participant at TEDxNYED should be doing: Going forth and telling the 1000s of stories that will move education forward.  Let's do it. 

Posted via email from Alex Ragone’s Posterous

Disrupting Class —

Disrupting Class is definitely in my top few from the past few years.  The book has changed the way I think about education and education change.  It has provided a road map for the future.  Models to experiment with, and a clear way to test those models of change.

I want this post to be short and sweet, so here’s a quick list of highlights.

  • Christensen defines how businesses are displaced by disruptive technologies in the theory of disruptive innovation: The MiniComputer by the PC/MAC; The SLR camera by the The Kodak point and shoot camera; and the vacuum tube radio by the transistor radio.  Christensen sees that online learning that is customized by the learner style is the future and predicts that “by 2019, about 50% of high school courses will be offered online” (p. 98).
  • We should all be offering online courses to our students and testing alternatives in our existing schools is places where there is no competition such as APs and/or classes that are not offered already.
  • To truly see the change, we will need to have school created outside the dominant system, such as charter and private schools where schools can be left to experiment and define this new type of schooling, find success and then bring it back to mainstream schools.  His business example is the Toyota Prius that was created in an external business unit and then brought back into Toyota’s factories to be built.

When I look back, a number of books fit in the changing my lens on education: Good to Great helped me see the importance of leaders and structures of successful organization planning; Now, Discover Your Strengths helped me see my strengths and how to best use them; Cluetrain Manifesto and The World is Flat helped me see the power of openness and how Internet communications have changed the world;  In A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink helped me see that the types of skills traditional schools teach are the building blocks, but not the end game skills that our students need; and now Disrupting Class has has given me the lens of effective organizational change.  All of these books provide unique and simple ways of looking at problems, clear and articulate writing that include stories as examples, and significant basis in human development and psychology.

Christensen ends the book by stating,

“These technologies and organizational innovations are not threats.  They are exciting opportunities to make learning intrinsically motivating, that make teaching professionally rewarding, and that transform our schools from being economic and political liabilities to sources of solutions and strength.

Thanks, Clayton Christensen, for inspiring me.  I look forward to testing your theories.  Thanks to Vinnie Vrotny for the recommendation.

For all of you, head to Amazon and pick this one up.

US State Department: Chinese and Arabic Exchange Teachers

I received this e-mail today and thought that some of the folks who have attended my presentations on Global Collaboration might find it interesting:

American Councils continues to be privileged to administer the Teachers of Critical Languages Program of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  We are pleased to announce that applications to host Chinese or Arabic exchange teachers during the 2008-2009 school year are available and can be downloaded from either [ http://www.americancouncils.org/ ]www.americancouncils.org or [ http://www.tclprogram.org/ ]www.tclprogram.org.

TCLP is a great program that looks to build US schools’ capacities to offer Chinese and Arabic programs as these languages are indeed critically important for both the current and future generation.  Moreover, both China and the Middle East have rich, vibrant, and deep cultures and histories, and our students can learn a great deal from them.  Reciprocally, our exchange teachers can learn a great deal about American culture while improving their English and gaining experience in teaching methodologies.  All said, it’s a great cross-cultural program that really does benefit all parties involved.

From a school’s perspective, the program provides many benefits, as well as numerous opportunities.  Please find them listed below, forward as you feel best, and, of course, feel free to contact me directly with whatever questions you may have:

American Councils provides exchange teachers’ monthly salaries ($28,000), health care, round-trip airfare, visa support, and ongoing on-program support including in-person site visits

•    American Councils provides exchange teachers with two-weeks of integrated, scaffolded, and focused methodological and cultural training in DC before the school year begins; a four-day professional development workshop in November; and access to a professional development fund for exchange teachers to acquire training, textbooks, or materials as are relevant to their situations

•    American Councils provides host schools’ participation in a weekend sub-conference within their teachers’ Washington DC training.  Additionally, mentor teachers who support exchange teachers’ professional needs and cultural adjustment receive a monthly honorarium from American Councils

•    TCLP includes alumni grant opportunities for exchange teachers and host schools when they “graduate” from the program in June 2009 so that continued collaboration, cross-cultural exchange, and classroom partnerships can be supported

•    US elementary or secondary schools, both public and private, may apply

•    Applications are welcomed from schools with existing, developing, or planned programs

•    Applications are due May 16, 2008.  Awards and regrets will be sent by the end of May

Best Regards,
Ben Dunbar

Ben Dunbar
Senior Program Officer
Teacher Programs
American Councils for International Education
(202) 833-7522 / (202) 833-7523 (f)
[ http://www.americancouncils.org/ ]www.americancouncils.org


Much of the past six months I spent searching and hiring new staff members for my department. In what felt endless at times, we hired a Lower School Technology Coordinator, a Technical Support Specialist and an Administrative Assistant. The second two of these positions were new and/or redefined as well. They both add to the service side of our Technology Department, and move me into a position of Technology Integrator in our Upper School. A change that I am very excited about.

Here’s what the department organization looks like now:


All of this change has been hard work. So far, the results are great. I’m feeling that we have a strong team in place. Everyone is getting what their job is and moving learning quickly. All of these new hires were the strongest candidates and we did due diligence on the search processes.

Now that the people are in place, we need to reflect on and adjust our procedures so that we can provide first class support for our users, while providing more robust professional development in order to utilize the technology to its fullest potential. We need to communicate better with the faculty, staff and students at the school and share our goals.

Speaking of goals, here are the department goals that we agreed upon last Spring:

  1. To provide reliable and consistent access to technology to the school community
  2. To develop technology skills in students, faculty and staff that support the curricular goals of the school

Not the most glamorous, but clear, core goals.

Over the next few months, we will be assimilating these new staff members and creating new technology integration goals for our school. We’ll be publishing our updated AUP and doing our best to bring all of our communications into one place.

I’m learning a lot about managing, providing clear goals and coming back to these goals often. A blend of Getting Things Done, Good to Great, and Now Here are your Strengths. Our school leadership is doing a wonderful job providing clear goals and honest feedback. Leadership is critical for healthy organizations and I feel very lucky to be in the position I am right now.