How would you spend $50,000?

March 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am consulting for an academic program that is most likely going to be receiving a grant for around $50,000. Before they ask for the money they need to present a budget for how the money will be spent. I have my own ideas, but I am wondering how you would spend the $50,000 if it were up to you. Here’s a bit about the program:

40 Students
2.5 teachers
2 Americorps volunteers
1 director/teacher

The program is an alternative degree program for inner city at-risk students. Most of them have been in and out of school and are no longer eligible to receive a traditional degree. Many will go on to college, though others will enter the work force directly (construction and food service are among the industries). I can’t expect that they will have computers or Internet connections at home—or even homes.

The curriculum is an inquiry based, integrated studies, democratic/self-guided approach to education where the students are largely in control of their own learning. Learning can and will happen equally both in and out of the classroom; in the community, on the streets, in partnership with a local state university, etc…

Due to the constraints of the grant, we must spend the money before all of the teachers are hired and before the students are enrolled, so I unfortunately cannot ask these questions of the stakeholders.

This particular money will be spent on technology—salaries, non-tech supplies, professional development, and other start-up costs are already covered by other funds, so no need to include these.

How would you spend the $50,000?

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Teacher Time

February 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

It is my dream to help a school come up with a way to give their teachers a 20% bonus—a la Google’s 20% time (read a New York Times article about the concept or a firsthand account of how one Google employee used his 20% time).

What if teachers only taught four days a week and one day were reserved for teacher time: self-guided professional development, blogging, professional and/or personal growth, exercise, pet projects, internships, etc…?

How much would that cost a school? And how much would the students benefit?

But why stop there?

What if students had class a period or block free every day to do the same? What would this school look like?

This is the solution I have found to the biggest problem(s) that schools face: Teacher Time. Want my help implementing it in your school? Contact me.

How to end world hunger and the solution to other large problems

July 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

At around 3:30 AM in the middle of a sound sleep, I awoke to a moment of complete lucidity.

The Process of Finding a Problem

Process of Finding a Problem

I awoke so suddenly because I realized I had solved the problem of world hunger. No, really. I LITERALLY (by the literal definition of the word “literally” – see the recent Boston Globe article here) have in my own possession the tool that will CURE cancer.

Let me repeat that: I have in my possession the tool that will solve the problems of climate change!

No, I posses the tool that will end homelessness… This tool can even get the Republicans and the Democrats to avoid defaulting on the country’s debts AND agree on the best way to do it.

Well, maybe that’s pushing it.

But I CAN end the recession. I DO have the ability to resolve the energy crisis. End poverty, and war, and oppression. I can abolish slavery for once and for all.

The tool I posses tool is my own brain. I won’t do it with my brain alone, though. I have at my disposal the problem solving capabilities of the most amazing brains of hundreds of people… Thousands… MILLIONS (thanks to the Internet) – and those brains belong to our students.

Building Learning Communities Logo

Building Learning Communities Logo

This week I attended a conference in Boston called Building Learning Communities (BLC). I can’t do the conference any justice by writing about it on this blog – I will leave that to some of the awe-inspiring educators I met this week (Here’s a simple Google searchthat will show you some of the blog posts that reference the BLC conference as they are written over the next few weeks, but I will update this post with links to specific blogs as more bloggers post their thoughts.)

[edit: Here is a perfect example of a very eloquent blog post written by Brad Ovenell-Carter, head of Think Global school(@Braddo on Twitter): http://ovenell-carter.com/63074864]

But here’s the important part: At the end of the conference, the organizer, Alan November, put out a challenge he’s calling “Stand on our shoulders” [ http://standonourshoulders.com ]. I don’t think the site is even live yet, but here’s the gist:

Alan has put out a call to action. He has asked all educators to work with their students to find and address the world’s most difficult problems: locally, regionally, internationally – you name it. And the reason he has challenged us to take on this awesome task is because we CAN.

We have the ability to solve the world’s problems, and it is simply a matter of sourcing our students – and teaching them how to use the greatest tool at their disposal, their brains – to solve these problems together. Alan wants all educators to put out their hands and figuratively lift our students up onto our shoulders so that our students can take advantage of all of OUR accomplishments, and all of our parents’ accomplishments, and so on. From up on our shoulders, our students can reach even higher, lifted up by humanity’s history of accomplishments.

I am taking Alan up on this challenge. This fall, I will facilitate at any schools that wants to have me, a class on “Problem Finding.” In each of these classes we will find a problem of value to us, and we will spend the semester, the year… The rest of our lives, if need be, addressing that problem; attempting to solve it.

I will help students learn how to use their most valuable and accessible tool – their brain – and I will help teachers coach their students on becoming the best problem finders and problem solvers they can become.

Together, we WILL end world hunger! We CAN, and we WILL.

Thank you, Alan. I guess all we needed to solve the world’s problems was the right tool and the right inspiration.

(A little bonus inherent in this challenge: The best way to evaluate the success of this achievement will not be a standardized test, as so many politicians would have you believe (see this site from another BLC attendee, Angela Maiers or @AngelaMaiers on Twitter). The success of these students will be assessed by the actualization of the real change that these students enact, their ability and desire to repeat their results on future projects, and the benefits to humanity that will be accomplished. Maybe our politicians could learn something from this challenge, after all!)

That’s my take on it, anyway.

(Image credit: Image taken and posted by BLC participant Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches on Twitter) and linked here is a photo from @ewanmcintosh’s keynote presentation on Problem Solving

#TeachMeet + #edchat = #edchatf2f

May 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

Edchat Logo from edupln.ning.com

Edchat Logo from http://edupln.ning.com

This week while participating in the #edchat live chat on Twitter, a few educators (@dobrien917, @ittosde, @dgburris) and I came up with the idea of combining a TeachMeet with the live #EdChat on Twitter. I doubt we were the first to think of it, and I hope we wont be the last, but I decided immediately that I want to act on that thought.

Therefore, this week at a yet-unnamed bar in JP (in Boston, MA) I am going to pull together some interested educators from the area in the hopes that we can expand on the #EdChat and #TeachMeet themes.

If you are wondering what to expect… Well, SO AM I! But here’s what I’m hoping for: Think small-scale, impromptu TeachMeet or EdCamp – VERY small (we all have to fit in a bar, after all!) – involved in face-to-face and Twitter conversations around the same themes being discussed on #EdChat live from 7-9. While we follow along on Twitter, we will discuss and post our own thoughts individually and as a group.

Still confused? Follow these links to learn more about what a TeachMeet is, what an EdCamp is, and to learn more about #EdChat by reading about it on EdChat’s Ning site or by viewing last Tuesday’s live chat.

Interested in joining us next week or learning more about our #EdChatF2F? Message me on Twitter @MyTakeOnIt and we can take it from there!

School vision for technology

April 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

I had an interesting conversation with an educator the other day. We were discussing how I work with schools to create a vision for technology in the classroom and curriculum. I was asked something to the effect of:

“What technology and devices do you see in future classrooms, in the hands of our teachers, and in the hands of our students a year or two from now? When prospective families visit with the intent of enrolling, and alumni and donors walk through with the intent of giving money, what will inspire them to enroll or donate?”

I don’t quite recall if my reaction was immediate, or if I pondered the question before responding, but this was my response:

“The technology and tools change every couple of years. I can’t tell you definitively what will be visible in the classrooms, but I’m pretty sure the technology tools themselves will become less and less visible. In any case, it’s not about the interactive white boards on the walls, and it’s not about the iPads in the hands of students; it’s about what those tools help the students learn and produce. Wouldn’t it be so much better to have the prospective families and donors see the products of student learning? They would see the contributions and creations of the students online and on their iPads – in the form of websites, apps, and art. These are the creations without which the tools would have no value. It’s not sufficient to see the tools alone.”

If asked again, I would respond the same.

Incidentally, my company, OunceIT, specializes in Technology for Academia, and I am asked questions like this quite often.

But that’s just my take on it. The facts presented in my blog are correct to the best of my knowledge, and the opinions belong to those who state them. Don’t believe something I say? Look it up. Don’t like something I say? Let’s talk about it. Leave me a comment.

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