#HourOfCode activities around Unit 4

Stephanie Stuart (Unit 4 Director of Communications & Community Relations) has sent out quite a comprehensive list of #HourOfCode activities around the school district.


In celebration of Computer Science Education Week (December 7-13), and as part of the District’s ongoing technology and computational thinking efforts, students around the Champaign Unit 4 School District will be participating in the Hour of Code this week.

The District’s Educational Technology Coaches have coordinated a number of opportunities around this week in addition to their ongoing efforts and support of teachers.

Leading up to #CSEdWeek, students at Westview, Barkstall, and Bottenfield participated in Coding Nights, which invited parents and students alike to code together using the Foos Computer Programming Game. Volunteers from Yahoo and Wolfram were on hand to assist and students. Foos and TCBY sponsored these events, and winners will be helping fellow students to code throughout #CSEdWeek at their campuses.

The Central High School Library will be hosting a week-long event during 6th hour, in which kids can drop in during lunch all week to participate in the Hour of Code.  A programmer from Wolfram will visit this Thursday as a special speaker. In addition to the 6th hour activities, the library will also be open after school every day for coding activities.

At Centennial High School, the library will also serve as an open house location for Hour of Code on Thursday and Friday during 6th hour lunch.

Carrie Busey

*   13 teachers have signed up to participate
*   1 class is going to be special guests to help code at Siebel center’s open house Tuesday night
*   5 classes are working with buddy classes – student leaders older students supporting younger in coding efforts
*   Enrichment classes all coding
*   Enrichment classes hung advertisements around the building to get the school excited about coding.

Dr. Howard

*   All 5th Grade classes in library 30 minutes with Wolfram special guest
*   Kindergarten – 5th grade Classroom teachers have hour of code times blocked off in their schedule this week

Garden Hills

*   Kindergarten – 5th grade Classroom teachers have hour of code times blocked off in their schedule this week


*   Regular Coding Times – Special Activity – Coding a Computer Game – Products of Coding Experience on display at the mall 12/12 for community members to try out the Kenwood Games- and learn about CS/CT.
*   Some neat Unplugged activities are planned in addition to their regularly scheduled coding times during the week.
*   All library classes will be coding this week.
*   Maa and Meyer are hosting Code with Kid events. Parents are invited to come in the afternoon to code with their children.
*   Coding/ Computational Thinking practices embedded especially in Language Arts this week as well.
*   A small group of students went to code with the Mayor of Champaign Monday morning.


*   Allison Archer and Mary Anne Jusko will be working with 1st grade in the library working with all 1st grade students.
*   Enrichment is supporting 40 minutes of coding with kindergarten and grades 2-5, co-teaching with classroom teachers.
*   Wolfram special guest for 5 classes in grades 3-5.

South Side

*   All grade levels in Library for 30 minutes.
*   Kindergarten whole class Coding puzzles for Number Talks in math on the Smartboard.
*   Fourth grade has done Code.org in the math rotation.
*   Music is coding activities.

There are many more coding activities taking place around the District this week. Please contact the Educational Technology Director David Hohman (hohmanda@champaignschools.org) for more info.

Unit 4 earns “Sunshine Award”


Board Member John Bambenek and I have been working with the Illinois Policy Institute to audit the Champaign school district’s website as part of the IPI’s Transparency Project. Mr. Bambanek had contacted the IPI earlier in 2014, and then I followed up with both the IPI and Mr. Bambenek in September of 2014. At that time, Unit 4 scored 46.8% on the audit. In the months since, Bambenek has worked with the Unit 4 administration to augment the website’s transparency, and today the IPI has officially granted a “Sunshine Award” to Unit 4 with a score of 81.5%:



Of course, it would be nice to finish the last leg of the marathon and go for a complete 100%, but I am very pleased with the progress so far.


Here is a google spreadsheet showing the audit findings:



Kudos to Bambenek and the IT staff at Unit 4.

Thanks to Mr. Brian Coskin and Ms. Jonelle Lesniak at the IPI.



Twitter: https://twitter.com/hashtag/cu4techcon?src=hash


The 2nd annual CU4Tech Conference had a little bit of a rocky start as Krista Moroder attemped to facetime conference from Philly (tech problems on our end? Irony? *grin*). I think she did a great job of setting the tone for the conference, speaking to how technology is a but a tool meant to make the challenging task of teaching more efficient and more effective. Despite my own current revulsion at the mention of “efficient”, I begin to see how the whole point of a tool is to make something easier. My understanding of “Educational Technology” continues to evolve, and I begin to see that the infusion of current technology into pedagogy, curriculum and education is more about the way we do education in the first place that warrants the use of these kinds of tools. I mean, the pencil is a piece of old technology, but still a tool none the less.


The rest of the day was jammed packed with a lot of wise words, challenging insights, educational jargon up the wazoo (I didn’t go to Ed school), opportunities for networking, forming relationships and exploring the role of technology in one of the most empowering facilities of our society – educating learners. And a fair share of ongoing technical problems. 🙂 Mrs. Elizabeth Slifer (Carrie Busey) had an entire PBS presentation that just would not load up, so they adapted in real-time. Other presenters had slow videos or webpages to demo. Instead of pointing my finger and trying to complain, rather I use these as examples of imperfect tools and how people find dynamic, creative alternatives. We not only learn about the underlying tools and nitty-gritty details when we can (I just ask Dave Hohman), but we also learn to adapt. This is powerful. As we laughed about the technical difficulties later in the day, our lives are full of teachable moments and learning from mistakes – without which we do not grow.


Here are the sessions I attended, about 1/8th the total offering.


Google Apps in the Classroom (Erin Ludwick, Urbana High School)

classroom.google.com just came out, which Read the rest of this entry »

Cliff notes from the June 10th regular board meeting

As with my other cliff notes:

  • all errors are my own; keep in mind these are not authoritative minutes, just my own notes
  • all times are offsets from the video I link
  • if you spot any problems or inaccurate statements, please let me know
  • feel free to fill in areas I did not cover


Video link

{note: the video is from TiVo and starts at 5:30; the board meeting starts at 6:00pm so be prepared to fast forward. Also, there is quite a lot of dead space at the end of the video that I have not truncated}


Read Meg Dickinson’s NG article for another take on the meeting, and her twitter feed (you have to scroll back to June 10th, I don’t know how to deep link all her tweets as a group for the night).


Cliff Notes

00:00 – 09:35
Press conference about gun violence by several prominent members of the African-American community.
33:42 board meeting starts with recognitions and academic spotlight
40:15 Laurie Bonnett asks what credit/remunerance kids get for the summer entrepreneurship program. Marc Changnon says they get nothing, 100% volunteer. Except personal satisfaction. 🙂
41:55 Jamar Brown gives kudos to Marc, thanks Marc for thinking outside the box. Also notes how the adults in the program are growing as well.
45:16 Kristine Chalifoux asks for list of companies that are involved in the program so we can thank them.
45:41 Recognitions
49:23 public comment
Dan Goines (sp??): site director, expressing a concern about why MTD avoids Carrie Busey.

Financial accountability: one small step

Last week I was browsing for monies being spent on the “Educational Consultant”; the school district has been doing a good job of posting electronic check registers, but unfortunately, they were not organized at all, and only listed from respective regular board meeting agendas. So last Friday I asked for an index on all check registers, and this morning I was pleasantly surprised that they delivered one:





Thanks to Stephanie Stuart and David Hohman.

Relevant news articles

I have been stumbling on what I would term as interesting and relevant articles, both from the News-Gazette, Anthony Cody’s blog “Living in Dialogue” and even a techy news aggregator (slashdot).

Yes, Virginia, There Really IS a Billionaire Boys Club: This is Cody’s blog post. I like how he references a couple different view points, from Diane Ravitch to Alexander Russo (just to name two). Is big money really steering the course of education? Mr. Cody is no friend of the Gate’s Foundation take on Education nor the influence it is exerting upon policy-making. One of my take-aways (which will resurface again shortly) is that the common people are removed from the political process because they simply don’t talk the jargon. One wonders if all the money used for funding races was diverted to, well, education. Or what about re-writing the laws so we can at least understand them?

Three largest area districts spent $936,000 on legal bills: Speaking of money and legalese. Almost $1 million of money funneled into schools from our hard-earned taxes for 1 year of lawyers – this comes out of the same pot used to pay teachers. Wow. Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture? Meg responds to one commenter by spelling out the legal fees are “spent addressing topics like general school law, real estate matters, expulsions, tax objections, personnel matters, special education and student matters.” Our laws are so complicated that we need subject-matter experts to interpret and argue on our behalf, instead of paying teachers. Fun stuff.

Khan Academy Lead Developer Ben Kamens Answers Your Questions: Mr. Kamens takes us on a brief but intriguing tour under the covers of Khan Academy. The folks asking questions pose Read the rest of this entry »

Answering questions about the Feb 25th Special Board Meeting

Over the weekend, I posted a series of questions about the Feb 25th BOE meeting (tonight). Dr. Wiegand was kind enough to respond (and with comprehensive answers at that) and has given me permission to post her reply. The following has only been formatted so it looks better on this blog (a la “the following movie has been formatted to fit your screen”).

q For Paul Fallon: how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B? Similar question for question 20A and 20B.
a (from Paul Fallon) Judy, I will have to get that data file from my office, so I will try to send it to you tomorrow or Wednesday. Thanks, Paul
q How long as the Teacher Evaluation Committee been in place?
a The Committee was established at the end of last school year to address the need for a teacher evaluation system that would meet the requirements of PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act).  The committee began working this school year during first semester to collaboratively develop an evaluation document and process.  In previous years this was not done in a collaborative manner.  The Administration would develop a document and then present to the CFT for feedback. This is the first time a process was used that had both Administration and Teachers at the same starting point.
q Where are the meeting minutes?
a The work done during each session was documented by Pam Rosa from CEC.  Committee members were then charged with sharing this with the groups they represent to obtain feedback.  Since this work was ongoing and part of an internal committee, minutes were not posted publicly.
q Does the board agree with premises put forth by the Consortium for Educational Change? Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 25th Board Meeting

First, an announcement. Unit 4 is urging parents to take a survey from the ISBE that basically asks parents how welcome they feel at the school. I am curious if paper copies are being circulated. It’s a relatively painless and short survey:


And then the Board Meeting this coming Monday. It’s a Special Board meeting, which means there are more opportunities for comments. I am unable to go, but I encourage you to attend and ask some questions. Because questions need to be asked.

“Opinion Research”

First up is Paul Fallon (Fallon Research) in association with DeJong-Richter. In the BoardDocs agenda, the blurb only states that Mr. Fallon will be talking about the two 90-minute focus groups. However, I cannot see how he can completely skip the 400-person phone survey they did as well, which was the whole point of the focus group. I still very much dislike how the raw data is being held until it can be provided in all the glory of the “historical context”. I didn’t like how that went down the High School Siting options presented at the Community Discussions. The really major bad part of it is that folks will not have time to digest the data and formulate questions while the expert is standing right there. Yes, we can look at the summary reports we have now, and we can ask questions based on that, but the questions most pressing on my mind are answered by the raw data that I cannot see. For example:

how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B?

We cannot correlate 19A to 19B at all. We have to wait for the “big reveal”, and by that time I fear it will be too late to ask further questions. Hopefully Mr. Fallon will answer this question (and the related one for question 20) and any others the community has been asking. Lastly, I am still very concerned that the “research” really only touched some 430 people – that is less than 1% of the voting population. Not a good sample size, imo.

“Community Collaborations”

Marc Changnon has the pleasant task Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 28th board meeting

Video posted: http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=53


This was a monster meeting – about 3 hours. The video has about an hour of black afterwards because I recorded on Tivo and I didn’t get it shut off soon enough. Also, you might want to fast-forward the first 10 minutes or so, as it looks like the Board came back from Exec session a little later. David Hohman is working on making the Jan 7th and Jan 28th videos on Vimeo (soon).


I don’t have the mental stamina to comment much (watching that thing really taxes me). I’ll be brief. The preview I did also covers a bit of stuff.

[PS – Houlihans tomorrow]



Cathy Mannen gave a statement on behalf of the CFT. The CFT typically does not say anything at Board Meetings, so my ears perked up when she got up. Ms. Mannen shared about the need to focus on appropriate assessments as opposed to standardized tests. I felt myself very much agreeing with her statements. I have asked Ms. Mannen if she is willing to share the short survey they did.


I didn’t really get the talk by Dr. Rice; it was obviously just for the board’s ears, about how to be board members. I was a bit surprised when Stig segued into giving public acknowledgement to the board member candidates that were currently in the room; he had them stand up and he even introduced them (Stuckey, Williams, Bonnett).


The committee presentations (Parent Advocacy, Transitions and 504 plans) were pretty much straight from the documents saved on BoardDocs; I was tickled that Tony Howard highlighted the weebly website. The irony is that Joe Williams pointed out how much overlap there is between the committees, but the committees don’t even know what the others are doing (at least, as a committee member, I didn’t have a clue). I mean, there is lots of sincere and good intentions, but it seems to me that a ton of work and research is silo’ed. How many people will even become aware of these Committees? (you blog readers have a slight advantage, I like to think *grin*) Much less what they even do. If nothing else, this is why I jumped on the opportunity to create a public website and a public google group for the Advocacy Committee – I want people to learn more about it.


Ken Kleber tried hard to make his AEEOO report interesting. It’s just hard. Or maybe I have horrible attention span. It’s good stuff to talk about it, but the meeting is already long.


Having said that, Read the rest of this entry »

Champaign Schools now on Vimeo

I didn’t catch this in last week’s district newsletter (it’s mentioned in a little blurb on the lower left), but Unit 4 is slowly starting to spread the word that they have a presence on Vimeo. To make it bold and explicit, here is the link:



Looking at the Portfolios link, I even seen a Board meeting. 🙂 Woot. There are also other videos about Core Curriculum, Academic Spotlights and Grade Level meetings (not sure what the last is).


I also noticed on the latest “To the Point” District newsletter (4 pages) they are now including the Vimeo favicon along with facebook and twitter. The newsletter is an extremely upbeat take on all the recent changes going on, highlighting recent construction (Garden Hills, BTW, Carrie Busey and now Westview), massive deployments of technology (smartboard, plus training via Instructional Coaches), the Novak Academy and also some of the recent academic achievements, noting perfect scores on the SAT and ACT. And to wrap it all up, how the public engagement firm DeJong-Richter is helping the district to collect the communities opinion and how to address future growth. But read it for yourself. 🙂