Kenwood presentations

I had the opportunity to contribute (in an exceptionally small way) towards the work of an University class on Advertising that focused on Kenwood. I also received some of the cool products they generated, and am excited to share them.

 

PistolShrimp-KenwoodCampaign

Veer-KenwoodCampaign

TheAgency-KenwoodCampaign

FRESH-KenwoodCampaign

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Jails, computers and standards, oh my!

There have been many things brewing in Unit 4, and this post will only cover a small fraction of them. I believe the topics I have chosen for today are actually all related – let me explain as I go.

Jails

What in the world do jails have to do with a public school district? I am so glad you asked because that means you haven’t turned your brain off. Reading various materials from the CU Cradle2Career, the United Nations criticizing the US about high rates of incarceration, Dr. Wiegand’s own mantra of “reading at third-grade level by third grade” and a myriad of findings via google (I know…), something as simple as reading proficiency in the early years has a high correlation to whether a child will later go to jail or not. That freaks me out. Because if that is true, why the hell don’t we do EVERYTHING humanly possible to make sure that doesn’t happen?!?

Tomorrow a group of folks have provided an opportunity to listen to state representative Carol Ammons and participate in a public forum:

Build Programs, Not Jails is sponsoring a public forum on Thursday, April 30.  Carol Ammons will be the keynote speaker.  The title of her talk will be:

“Envisioning Future Directions for the Criminal Justice System in Champaign County”

Time: 6:15 p.m.

Place: Urbana Civic Center 108 Water St.

Also featuring performances by spoken word artists Klevah Knox and T.R.U.T.H.

Co-sponsors: Champaign County ACLU, Champaign County NAACP, First Followers Re-entry Program, Peace and Service Committee of the Friends.

Light refreshments will be served.

More information is available from the “Nation Inside” website and the News-Gazette (“forum set on criminal justice reform“).

Computers

Yesterday and today various administrators and tech team members are in Saint Louis at a “Future Ready Regional Summit” learning about the effective use of technology. The St. Louis Public Radio offers another take for those who are curious:

http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/school-superintendents-gather-share-ideas-keeping-pace-digital-changes

Having talked to a few people about technology in the classroom and the trend to go more and more hi-tech, I know there is a wide spectrum of perspectives on this direction. And this is where I can going to make my first connection, between jails and computers; rather, more specifically, it comes down to addressing the achievement gap and issues of equitable access, not just to technology, but skill building and attainment of knowledge. How? Is it possible to go beyond all the buzz and hype and show that all the money we are dumping into technology is actually having a positive impact on some of the deepest and most critical issues of our society?

Allow me to segue to a News-Gazette story in which Dr. Wiegand briefly mentions a desire to expand computation-thinking that is being pioneered at Kenwood. I have written about Kenwood several times, not to mention that they have a pretty public presence on social media if you want to follow them yourself (techtime blog, twitter accounts for Todd Lash and KenwoodStars, Ctrl-Shift’s website, U4Innovate website). Last night I learned that Kenwood and Dr. Wiegand are enthusiastically exploring the Mission Hill School model of a public school (referenced in a previous post).

Forget about the computers for a moment. Forget about all the hype wrapped up around Obama’s push for the reformed NCLB. The point I want to make here is that school can be fun. Or to use a different word, learning can be (and should be) fun. And by “fun” I don’t mean utterly undisciplined free time; I mean to imply something with a very definite structure and purpose, something that nurtures and develops a sense of awe and wonder about the world around us. Peel away the jargon, the buzz words, the fads, and what I want to find is the joint passion shared between teacher and student.

The connection between jails and computers? Give a child a love of learning, a love of books, a love of people, and she will change this world into a better place.

Standards

Dr. George Reese suggested I read Raymond Callahan’s “Education and the Cult of Efficiency“. I actually found the book to be rather depressing since he points such a drab and dire picture of how Education has evolved. Until I got to the last chapter. I do not agree with all of Callahan’s final conclusions about what we can do, but I do believe in what I think his intent was. We have idolized Efficiency; we have been on a quest to ever “do more with less”. There are thousands of examples where this is most likely a good thing. But when it comes to the unique position of a teacher and a child, “efficiency” is the enemy. To be clear, I am referring to the relationship-building aspect, the need for the teacher not just to understand the material, but to understand the child as well. Callahan seems to make an argument for “teacher as social worker”, which I have grown to respect. In the past I have mentioned Lisa Delpit’s “Other people’s children”; recently, I learned about Robert Putnam’s somewhat similar book “Our Kids”. After watching a video of a book discussion, I was reminded of how we too often look to protecting our biological children, and blissfully look the other way when it comes to other children.

And what does this have to do with standards? I am going to submit that we have standardized on the wrong things. Furthermore, who has set these standards? Why is it that the powerful and rich get to determine what is most important? And how has that worked out for us these past 50 years?

I am fully convinced that we do not need to raise academic rigor for the sake of being competitive in the global marketplace. In fact, I would go one further and say that is the absolute wrong direction to focus in. Our enemy is corruption, greed and hate towards our fellow humans. The News-Gazette recently ran a story about the “shooting epidemic” in Champaign. (epidemic: “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.”) Did the ISAT help any of the victims?

In all the controversy swirling around PARCC and standardized tests, I am hearing a lot of complaints. But what I do not hear that much of are feasible, practical solutions. To that end, I have some homework for you.

Get off your computer/device/screen. Take a walk outside, or sit in your favorite chair, maybe on the porch, visit a lovely coffee shop, have some comfort food, drop by the local barbershop. And think. Look around you. What are some of the biggest problems in our community today? If you need help to jog your thinking, try visiting the 1000 block of Northwood Drive. Or the Times Center (70 East Washington, Champaign), the Crisis Nursery (1309 West Hill Street, Urbana), or the County Jail (502 S Lierman Ave, Urbana).

What standards do you want our children to focus on in order to make Champaign a better place?

#ctrl-shift: small recap of 17-Feb gathering

This post is an attempt to summarize some of the discussions held over drinks at the Blind Pig on Tuesday evening, 17-Feb. I will only scratch the surface, so I ask that others who attended fill in the many blank spots.

 

First, the CTRL-Shift email list now has a public archive (woot!!):

https://lists.mste.illinois.edu/pipermail/ctrl-shift/

For those not familiar with the pipermail interface, I recommend you start with picking the latest month (in the second row, eg, February) and choosing the “Date” format (last option in the second column). You can play with different formats as you wish. Basically, this is an archive of all emails sent to the CTRL-Shift email list. If you hunt around, you can even find a list of all email recipients.

 

Also, for record, here is the CTRL-Shift website:

http://ctrlshift.mste.illinois.edu/

 

The first major discussion, a topic we would return to many times last night, was about the PARCC test (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). It seems the general consensus is that Common Core itself is a good thing, but PARCC is not serving our students, teachers or parents well. One person did raise the point that PARCC might actually be reinforcing the “good feelings” and confidence of those who take tests well in the first place, and for them PARCC might have some glimmer of benefit. But for everyone else, PARCC seems to do more harm than good. As tossed around in CTRL-Shift emails (for example), there is a fair amount of controversy surrounding the rapid Pearson-based implementation of PARCC, and so far we have not heard anyone who is really gung-ho for it. It is telling that so many states that initially supported the PARCC project have dropped out.

 

One of the many tangents/sidebars we explored was that of school board candidates and the leadership’s support of CTRL-Shift’s work at Kenwood. Obviously, those heavily involved in the programs at Kenwood are quite invested and want to see the fruit of their labor be sustainable going forward. There was talk of what various board candidates support, including the upcoming forums as an opportunity to learn more about the various platforms of each candidate.

 

Another related topic dealt with the work of curriculum development. As a parent and observer, I don’t really have any direct experience with such work, but one thing that was repeated is that this is very difficult, on top of the fact that there is no panacea, no “one-stop-shop”, no short-cuts to producing a curriculum; moreover, it is a process, as opposed to a product. Thus what CTRL-Shift is is not so much measured in physical output, but rather in how mindsets and learning environments are altered. Don’t be misled into thinking there is no output – check out the amazing TechTime @Kenwood blog to see what students are actually doing:

http://kenwoodtechtime.blogspot.com/

 

One very exciting report was that 15 Kenwood students are going to a SIT conference this weekend; what I personally find amazing about this whole experience is that, first, it is very project-based (which I absolutely LOVE), and second, to hear how students encounter and overcome challenges implicit in this endeavor; they have to not only come up with a topic, but figure out how to make it work and how to present it. From what I have heard, the actual presentation is just a small side-show compared to the bulk of the work these students and staff have been throwing themselves into at many after-school bi-weekly sessions.

 

Hopefully that gets your appetite going for what school can be. 🙂 It certainly made me want more.

 

I’m looking at you others that attended last night to fill in more details in the comments below.

Around the district

The Jan 26th special board meeting agenda has been posted, which reminded me to write a post about several items.

 

Stephanie Stuart has been sending out notices of some really excellent news this past week:

“Thirty-five Unit 4 students will be honored in the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. Creative Expressions Competition, including 12 winning entries and 23 honorable mention projects. Students will be honored at the Annual Celebration at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, January 24 from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. This year, 182 of the 207 entries to the contest were submitted by Unit 4 students.”

Additionally, “nine Unit 4 high school seniors have received scholarships from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Living the Dream” Scholarship Fund.” (Unit 4 news article)

Earlier today, Habeeb Habeeb dropped by Centennial to honor Aliyah Maldonado (Unit 4 news); I hear it was inspiration and emotional.

 

One of the items on the Jan 24th agenda is a presentation about Vision 20/20, which you can read more about on the IASB website; Dr. Wiegand serves on the Vision 20/20 Committee. There is also a short article in today’s NG about Tolono supporting Vision 20/20. I had an opportunity to chat with Unit 7 Superintendent Andrew Larson to better understand his purpose, and I was very encouraged to hear that others are getting sick and tired of the “same old same old politics” in Illinois, and want to take a stand against it, and stand for high-quality, truly accessible education for all children.

 

Nicole Lafond, Education writer for the News-Gazette, advertised the “first of many weekly school reports“. Among other things, we learn that Jefferson won a $5000 grant from Lowes to renovate the courtyard and improve the library, and mentions the “First Lego League Central State Tournament”, which sounds really cool to me. If you happen to attend, I would love to hear what you think.

 

Kenwood has been awarded $3500 to document the Kenwood brand of awesomeness; look for videos, tweets, demos and flyers that share not only what the Kenwood Stars are doing, but why they are doing it and what they are accomplishing. Along that line, CTRL-Shift will be at the first of two Schools of Choice Information Sessions showing support for Kenwood. I am sure the other schools will be showing off as well. 🙂 More info:

http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/10381

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 6 p.m. at Stratton Elementary School.

The Info Session will provide families with an overview of the Schools of Choice process, showcase each of the District’s 12 elementary schools, and provide the opportunity to ask questions of Choice staff members.

 

The DLR architects will be meeting with the folks at Centennial next Monday (Jan 26th) to discuss the recent changes to the proposed referendum and how that affects the expansion plans. You can imagine that there will be a lot of heated discussion. 🙂

 

Lastly, I have to give a final shout-out for the #edCampCU happening tomorrow (Saturday, Jan 24rd), 8:00 to 2:00 at the College of Education (1310 South Sixth Street).

 

a glimpse at what is going on

No doubt, most of you have read about several things in the News-Gazette recently, or heard things on the radio. I am not going to go into much detail, but do want to mention them because there is a lot happening. And this will just be scratching the surface.


TODAY: Craft Tech Fair Saturday at Kenwood (from Todd Lash)

I wanted to invite you to come play this Saturday from 1-3 at the Kenwood Craft Tech Fair. The event will include:

  • Widgets and tools showcase (Fab Lab-Jeff talking to parents)
  • Electronic cutters (Fab Lab-stickers, paper snowflakes, etc…)
  • Graphic drawing tablets (Fab Lab-Photoshop or PaintTools)
  • Raspberry Pi Mini-Computer Demo (w/ Adriana from Wolfram/ Tech Time)
  • Scavenger Hunt of the Champaign Urbana Wiki  (InfoCity)
  • Photography Station (Erin Knowles, Parent Volunteer)
  • Makey-Makey Music (Mr. Lash)
  • Computer Hardware (Tech Time Volunteers)
  • Scratch/Code.org Demo Station (Student Volunteers and Travis Faust (Tech Time Coordinator)
  • Minecraft Lounge – Creative Mode
  • Adult Computer Station w/ Printing
  • Foam bracelets
  • Holiday bookmarks
  • Kaleidoscopes
  • Scratch board ornaments
  • Holiday photo frames
  • Snowman puppets
  • Bags for decorating to take your items home ??

Equity and Civic Action at the high schools

First, some really good news: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-12-04/central-centennial-land-honor-roll-doubling-access-ap-classes.html

I thanked both Nicole Lafond and the school district administration/BOE for all their work towards this goal. This demonstrated an excellent collaboration to address real and perceived issues of access. These are not easy issues to deal with, and I am glad that Unit 4 is not shying away from them.

On that note, you have probably already seen/heard the news about the planned peaceful protest at Centennial, but just in case you have not:

Centennial Principal Greg Johnson sent a note to staff and parents that reflected these thoughts as well. There are obviously two sides to this coin; I am proud that so many students elected to voice their chagrin at the injustice in New York and Ferguson in such a manner as to convey a strong message while not resorting to needless violence and spreading more hate. However, on the other side of the coin there are those that take things too far for one reason or another. It is easy to repay hurt with hurt, but it is both better and significantly more challenging to respond with some form of love and/or forgiveness.

Imani Bazzell has been running a series called “Why Black Folk Tend to Shout” on WBCP 1580 AM. While I have not had the privilege of listening to this fascinating series, I appreciate that folks like Imani are getting these things out in the open and provoking discussion. Our prejudices damn us, and we need to learn how to live with each other.

UPDATE: Several related stories in WILL’s Illinois Public Media page, including a video of the car being driven among protesting students:

Additionally, Imani has responded to the City’s investigation into the student who damaged the vehicle’s window, and has posted this elsewhere (still looking for a link):

https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/misc/imani-bazzells-response-to-the-city-wrt-centennial-protest/


“Other people’s children”

At Thursday’s PTA Council meeting, three groups were featured that are proving assistance and aid to the needy in our school district. It was a heartwarming display of how people have a heart to reach out and provide essentials for those are lacking. The three groups were:

  • Helping Hands
  • Feeding our kids
  • His Kid’s Closet

I strongly encourage you to learn more about these efforts, or any number of similar work going on in our community. For those that are already involved, I sincerely say “thank you” for all your time behind the scenes and doing what you can to improve the lives of the entire community.


April board member elections

As mentioned previously, I was aware of at least two efforts to form a slate of board candidates for the April 2015 elections. I am still seeking permission to post a number of private emails (being sick has dogged my efforts) as there are many fascinating conversations revolving around why individuals wish to run for the board. One citizen has already made a very public announcement via the NG last week. What strikes me the most is that there is a wide array of specific issues that folks are passionate about, it is seems difficult at times to find the common ground we all know is there. Aside from the “unofficial” news, the PTA Council is making plans to host a board candidate forum in April. I hope all the candidates are able to attend.


Hour of Code

The official Hour of Code begins next week, even though technically speaking, anyone with a web browser can start coding right now, either as a guest or after logging in to track your progress:

http://code.org/

Kenwood has embraced Hour of Code as an entire school, and Mrs. Slifer’s 4th grade class at Carrie Busey will be participating as well. I am sure there are many other teachers/classes getting involved. The last time I visited Mrs. Slifer’s class (this past Thursday), we observed that the students are doing a great job of collaborating without even realizing it. For instance, a student will get an idea that will quickly spread like wildfire throughout the class, and pretty soon variations start popping up. It is really cool to witness. I must emphasize, the focus is not merely about using computers or “coding” per se, but exercising critical thinking and problem solving skills. The computers and the technology is merely a tool to help achieve this goal.

There is a lot more here, but I’ll have to save it for a dedicated post.

The 21st Century has arrived

According to wikipedia, the 21st Century “began on January 1, 2001.” So when I hear talk of a “21st Century Education” and ask people what that means, I am always a little amused that we are still grappling with how to define it and figure out what it looks like almost 15 years into the century.

 

CTRL-Shift has been doing a lot to make that a reality in Unit 4 schools. Granted, there are a ton of efforts and teachers all over that are working on ushering forward these changes, but I am going to highlight just a couple that I have some knowledge of.

 

First, there is Unit 4’s Innovate page, which opens the first page of this book and was discussed at the October 27th board meeting. Additionally, Kerris Lee (U4 Board member), along with many others like Todd Lash, has been working with district administration and staff to further integrate these concepts into district-wide curriculum and pursue funding via grants for crucial staff Professional Developement (PD), inviting partnerships with the University of Illinois MTSE and even code.org. Last Wednesday, WCIA interviewed Trevor Nadrozny and Wendy Maa of Kenwood and gave us a look inside how they are approacing “21st Century Education”:

http://www.illinoishomepage.net/story/current/d/story/u4innovate/21401/YB6a6AonCk-jBLATimYngA

 

Another example is Mrs. Slifer’s class at Carrie Busey, where I have been helping once a week. Just this past Friday, they produced a classroom video showing how students are actively using these skills to collaborate and work together on common goals.

 

The main idea is to get kids thinking about how to solve problems, no matter what the context is. These efforts encourage and immerse children in an environment where they ask each other questions, work together online (for example, using Google Docs or Google Classroom), and explore many different ways to answer questions about the world around them. They are developing critical thinking skills by being assigned a project and analyzing, conceptualizing and researching their way to a conclusion. Whether they use a tool like code.org, eToys, Scratch, google, wikipedia or something else entirely, the tool itself is not the object of the lesson, but rather just one of many possible venues to help guide the learner.

 

In light of all the controversy and talk (ad nauseam *grin*) of the Unit 4 referendum, I would absolutely love for the district administration to assign “the problem” of overcapacity schools and decades of deferred maintenance to our school children as a critical thinking project (*). What if students, parents and community members used an “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action” (The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking’s definition of critical thinking) to address these issues? I cannot help but wonder how many core curriculum concepts can be applied to such a case study; you pull in math, social studies, social science, history and language arts. And probably others as well.

(*) sidebar: I have traded emails with Ms. Stephanie Brown, a local AICP Project Planner with MSA Professional Services, Inc who sits on the board of the Illinois chapter of the American Planner Association (aka, ISS-APA), on the topic of conducting charrettes within the schools. The resources are there if only we can bring them together.

 

This got me to thinking, what does a “21st Century” classroom really require to accomplish these goals? Kenwood, the Unit 4 leader of the “computational thinking” crowd, is currently squished into the old Carrie Busey building on Kirby, along with the International Prep Academy. Even prior to moving to this temporary location, they had already opened the doors of the 21st Century at their pre-renovated home building at 1001 South Stratford. To me, it is fascinating that they are making all this “21st Century education” happen in a 20th century physical environment. Along that line, here is one infographic of a “21st Century Classroom”:

 

How will this change the face of classrooms? How will this change pedagogy and how we “do” education? The “Lewis and Clark” explorers of Kenwood, Carrie Busey and even Westview (as mentioned in the WCIA interview) are finding out.

 

One reader also asked how all this is being rolled into the current HS “programming” that is going on in regards to the new Central. I have asked around and so far the answer is “no”. Which absolutely boggles my mind.

 

A parting thought – only 85 more years until the 22nd Century…..

Computational Thinking on tonight’s BOE agenda

The agenda for tonight’s BOE meeting has a number of items, but my focus in this post is to concentrate on “Computational Thinking”. There is no attached document, so nothing I can link to from here, but the agenda item does have a lengthy description which I include at the bottom of this post. I have had many great conversations with Todd Lash, Kerris Lee and Dr. George Reese via Ctrl-Shift – there is so much exciting stuff happening with this group.

 

I will also say that I realize “computational thinking” can be rather hard to wrap your head around. In talking to parents and teachers, I have heard (and heard of) parents asking teachers “why is my child doing eToys? How is that part of the curriculum?”. I think one of the important things to remember about technology in general is that it is just a tool. Think about the root word in “computer” – to steal from the geek cult-classic Short Circuit “It’s a machine, Schroeder. It doesn’t get pissed off. It doesn’t get happy, it doesn’t get sad, it doesn’t laugh at your jokes. It just runs programs.” At one point, the pencil was a technological marvel. *grin* The idea is to use a tool that allows for collaboration, exercising critical thinking skills, and processing logical patterns. But read the “background information” below for more (and better?) details.

 

Kerris wanted to reiterate that even though he is involved with Ctrl-Shift (as are others from the University of Illinois), 100% of the money they are asking for is purely for teachers, subs and teacher professional development (PD).

 

At tonight’s meeting, I believe Todd Lash will be bringing forward some of the Kenwood students to present and show off what Computational Thinking is all about. I have asked Kerris to see if perhaps those of us who are unable to attend the BOE meeting can perhaps tweet questions to Stephanie Stuart during the meeting. I’ll update this post when I find out. I am curious, how many of you would take advantage of being able to tweet Stephanie with live questions? (regardless of whether or not the idea flies)

 


Background Information:

Kenwood staff and students will present their ongoing work on computational thinking and computer science. Cultural shifts made over the last year at Kenwood and future plans will be explored.

The use of technology has shifted dramatically in the first decade of the 21st century. The average amount of time spent on-line by Americans increased from 2.7 hours per week in 2000 to 2.6 hours per day in 2010 (Sheninger,2014). In 2011, 71% of students between 11 and 16 had their own game consoles at home spending an average of 1.7 hours per day using this technology. A recent national survey found that of those teens online, 73% used social networking sites while equal numbers of young adults also used social networking sites (Sheninger, 2014). The extensive use of technology by students and families strongly suggests that the practical application of 21st century literacy skills should be an important part of the school curriculum. However, in most cases technology and 21st century literacies have been taught in isolation from the rest of the curriculum. The importance of integrating these skills into the curriculum is an essential tool to help students deepen their understanding and increase their engagement regarding computational thinking, but also identifying its application in subject areas such as mathematics. The District proposes creating intentional connections between the newly adopted Everyday Mathematics curriculum and a computational thinking framework. During the past year and half, the University of Illinois has collaborated with Kenwood beginning the process of developing computer science and computational thinking (CS/CT) throughout the school. The Department of computer science has generously donated $40,000.00 during the 2013-14 school year to provide training and support for classroom teachers as they have continued to develop their CS/CT teaching strategies and in addition have worked with students and families through outreach during Saturday programs.  Kenwood and other district campuses and staff look forward to continuing this collaboration with the University of Illinois.

 

Staffing/Staff Development Needs:

The District will post and hire staff to develop up to five modules to connect mathematics content to computational thinking.  Possible connections include the following: Use one of the Common Core learning progressions in mathematics as a content template for development: K-6 Geometry, K-5 Geometric Measurement, K-5 Number and Operations, or Grades 3-5 Fractions are possibilities.
Participants may include classroom teachers (K-8), Unit 4 administrators, University of Illinois collaborators from the following colleges and departments; College of Education Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education, Center for Small Urban Communities, Department of Computer Science, Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences, Everyday Mathematics Collaborators and other community representatives.  If approved, the planning process will begin with positions posted in November. Curriculum writing work would be completed between December and May of this academic year.

 

Financial Implications:

Estimated costs of the project would be $37,340. These costs include teacher writing days to develop the modules, consultant fees for other providers, and materials.