Friday, August 18, 2017

Jumping into Design Thinking in Spring Lake Park Schools. The 30 second version.

The past couple years or so I've been heavily focused on human-centered design thinking.

I have like, I dunno, the best job ever.
Except being a classroom teacher was also the best job ever.
I guess I've had a lot of best jobs ever.

Anyhow...It all began one super ambiguous summer day...

My colleagues and I decided to start learning. We had heard about districts and industries using design thinking to tackle challenges and opportunities, and leverage the infinite creativity of the people that make up their organizations. We studied those organizations. We read. We tried things. Iterated. We navigated the gray of finding the role that design thinking might play in the everyday creativity that is required of education, and thought deeply about the impact it might have on our learners.

And then...frankly...we just started doing it.

Step one was solidifying the methodology we thought might work best for us. After countless prototypes and iterations of an image to support the work, we landed on this:

Here's super fast version of what it all means:

  • Discover - Inspiration: Never again will we let a moment of inspiration pass us by. Whether it's something bugging us, something feeding our hearts, rediscovering the familiar all around us, or just itching to create. Capturing our aha! moments is a jumping off point for innovation.
  • Discover - Insight: Insight is everything. It's knowing deeply who you're designing for, and goes far beyond knowing likes and dislikes. It's digging deeply into latent needs and intangible desires. It's discovering the parts of the world that facilitate a user's life, and the bits that get in the way. It's never, ever taking for granted that you can assume what someone needs or wants without exploring all that might influence it. Seriously...insight is everything. 
  • Design - Ideate: Ideating is all about generating as many ideas as possible to improve the chances of finding a solution (or sometimes just the next best option). We are all creative people and have the capacity to come up with amazing ideas. 
  • Design - Prototype: Creating quickly. Trying quickly. Failing quickly. Iterating quickly. The faster you can try, get feedback, iterate, and cycle through what doesn't work before any of the work becomes precious or ingrained, the faster you get to the solutions that will work and can make a change.
  • Deliver - Implement: Pardon my language. Just f***ing do it. Honestly. The world of education has been a breeding ground for dead ideas for decades because perfection paralysis and the fear of the unknown has been the never ending inhibitor of try. Fear of failure keeps us from doing all kinds of great things.You'll never know what works or doesn't until you do something. 
  • Deliver - Refine: It's rarely going to be perfect right out of the gate. And it's rarely going to be perfect for all stakeholders. The design process is non-linear and forever overlapping. Refinements take place throughout, and cycling between the 3 spaces never stops. 

Ok. Maybe that wasn't super quick. Forgive me. But really, given all the nuances and intricacies, it was relatively succinct.

Within each of those spaces are about 50 hours of additional detail. The mindsets that facilitate the work. The methods that make up the work. The accelerators and pitfalls you might run into each step of the way. Identifying the very important fence posts that advance innovation rather than inhibit it. Human-centered design is so dependent on the human; it has to be imperfect, and messy, and ambiguous. And yet structured and methodical in its approach. And also fun. And scary. Invigorating. And exciting.

It's a lot of things. It's great.

We first tried our methodology with a team of 9th and 10th grade teachers. Our very first "design studio" with a group of willing and slightly confused guinea pigs. The design studio was our version of applying our 3D Design model to support teachers in designing engaging work and learning experiences for students.

I could lie to you (because hey, it's the internet after all!) and tell you everything went perfectly that day. It absolutely didn't. This was January of 2016, and I can tell you now in retrospect that we made so many mistakes as facilitators that were completely oblivious to us at the time.

It didn't matter. We were hooked. I was hooked. The teachers were hooked. So many hooks.

From then on I've had the incredible privilege to work with dozens and dozens of teams redesigning elements of our district to both deeply innovate, simply improve, and everything in between. Everything from our HR and Business office redesigning the way they communicate and work together, to teams of teachers entirely redesigning the school experience for their groups of kids. Small, "just do it" designs, to fundamental shifts that require us to rebuild from the ground up. It's still very much a work in progress how we scale human-centered design across our organization, day to day, to keep the customers and users and stakeholders districtwide at the forefront of our focus.

But despite the continuing work ahead, I couldn't be prouder of the progress our organization has made. Chief among that being the belief that no matter who I am in our district, I have the capacity to generate incredible ideas to meet the needs of my learners and users, and the responsibility to create meaningful change.

So that's the short of it. A fun, ongoing journey.

If you're interested in joining in on or learning more about our journey, don't hesitate to reach out and leave a comment or a message (@elizeducation).

I'd love to partner on the work I love.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Stop Mystifying Teaching

Seriously. Let's stop it.

Let's end all waxing poetic about the romantic notions that surround amazing teachers. Let's end all pounding of our heads against theoretical and actual walls wondering why in the world some can and cannot teach.

What good will that do us?

I believe every teacher can get better, every single day.

A colleague of mine sent me the following quote today:

“[B]etter teaching doesn’t come from imitating what star teachers do. Better teaching is built by steady, relentless, continual improvement – one lesson and one unit at a time.”
Bradley Ermeling, James Hiebert, and Ronald Gallimore, “‘Best Practice’ – The Enemy of Better Teaching” in Educational Leadership May 2015 (Vol. 72, #8, p. 48-53)

I love it. I think it might be even more important than this other quote that's, well, quotable:

"Adult learning is voluntary in all its dimensions - participation, acquisition, and outcomes."
Mary Jane Even (1987, p. 22), Why Adults Learn in Different Ways

Every time we chalk up great teaching to a series of intangible skills held by teachers who somehow waltz seamlessly into a classroom and capture hearts and minds, or fawn over great results from all learners and creating classrooms filled with valued, inspired, and committed students as a function of some special, caring disposition, we do two very dangerous things:

1. We scare the hell out of struggling teachers who worry whatever magic that teacher has is exclusive. 
2. We seriously disrespect our highly effective teachers by assuming their talents are inherent, and not the result of hard work, deep reflection, and a relentless passion to create opportunities for their kids. 

My day job is built on believing in these two quotes with absolute fidelity, and I do. On Thursday last week I started tearing up about the progress a teacher I work with has made, and it wasn't unlike the tears that welled up working with students who struggled. I was so proud of the work she'd done. She was so happy for her kids. 

We come to this job each day knowing it isn't easy, and we can tackle it by taking these two quotes to heart. We volunteer ourselves to learning. We remain open, adaptive, and recognize that no matter our strengths and areas of need, we can and will get better. 

We recognize that the work ahead is not easy. We break down our work each and every day, making the incremental changes that make up substantial growth. We work together to do this because we're infinitely stronger when we collaborate. We do good work, and we care. 

It's not a secret, or a recipe, or something out of a movie. It isn't easy or straightforward, but it isn't anywhere near elusive. 
I love that about teaching. 
I love knowing we are willing to work that hard for kids. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Case for Using Humor in the Classroom

This is probably the least funny post I've written.

*Cues Alanis Morissette*

(but actually using the word correctly)

If you're interested in statistics, I've conducted 606 walkthroughs in classrooms so far this school year. Somewhere in the ballpark of 100 hours casually walking into a classroom unannounced and taking a gander at what's happening. I'm like the omnipresent Telos of this middle school. Except generally good...and human.

I love this part of my job. I love being able to see what fascinating things teachers are doing and share in the experiences of our students. It makes me better at what I do because it's turned me into a repository for the collective expertise of our teachers, and I have the extraordinary privilege of then sharing that expertise with other teachers. In very professional terms, this is totally my version of nailing it.

There are a handful of strategies I've observed make marked improvement in student's ability to learn and grow. I see them all the time...masterful use of informal formative assessments that completely alter what the teacher was going to do next, and in turn, completely changes the trajectory for a group of struggling kids (in the right direction). An honest, heartfelt conversation with a student that improved their performance, and perhaps more importantly, their day. Feedback given that's so precise, forward looking, and filled with high expectations that you can actually see a student improving, right then and there. Hands on strategies that are not only engaging, but make students' internal thoughts visible. Moving beyond sharing with just the classroom to sharing with the world, and making a positive and relevant impact on that world. This stuff happens. And I get to see it happen. And it makes me really, really happy.

I'm going to make a case for a strategy that we don't spend any time talking about, but after 100 hours in classrooms of all content areas, I feel pretty comfortable attesting to its effectiveness.

You gotta be funny, yo.

I get it. There are a trillion research-based strategies teachers are expected to implement consistently within the realm of a million initiatives meant to support our students. Humor isn't anywhere in there, that I've detected. So I'm just going out on a limb here, but something I've noticed time and time again is that teachers who effectively used humor in their classroom seemed to:
1. Have a much better relationship with their students. They used humor to diffuse what might be a difficult situation, and were more likely to have honest, focused conversations with kids on a regular basis. Not claiming causation on the latter point there, but noticed a strong correlation.
2.  My brain was immediately enticed by what was going on in the classroom when a teacher was funny and appeared to be having fun. My face lit up, my attention was focused, and I wanted to be a part of what was happening. Sometimes I would be...I'd jump in. Kids appeared similarly engaged.
3. Humor somehow made difficult to understand concepts become more manageable. Not long ago, I spent an entire day shadowing a student who struggles in school (academically and behaviorally). This student shared with me that one of his teachers, who regularly uses humor as a part of her everyday, had a way of "just making everything easier to understand. I don't really know how to explain it. I just get what she's saying...she just makes sense. And I like her."
4. Teachers who used humor appeared to trust their students more, and in turn, kids were taking more ownership over their learning more often. I don't have a great way of describing this one. It's something like, my using humor with you shows that I understand that you'll understand. We're equals. I don't need to be dictatorial toward you -- this classroom is ours, not mine.

These are off the cuff observations, truthfully. That said, out of curiosity, I started to do some digging on the topic. There are several studies conducted on the use of humor in the classroom, with some positive correlations to learning.
This one talks about the impact humor has on activating the brain, for example.
This one was surprising -- there is far more research on the use of humor in the classroom than I ever would've imagined, and much of it supports the position that humor does indeed translate to learning (along with improving relationships, motivation, etc.). It does, however, caution that mixed results have come out of many studies, and that teachers need be very aware of the type of humor they're using, or if not comfortable with 'being funny,' then perhaps they shouldn't be using humor at all. In addition, not surprisingly, studies with mixed results suggested that humor needs to be used in tandem with other communication skills in order to achieve positive learning results. Further, the type of humor a teacher uses matters. Again, unsurprisingly, humor that 'picks on' students or is overly sarcastic towards students does not increase learning nor does it do much for teacher/student relationships.

In other words, this meta-analysis got super technical and non-funny about how best to be funny in your classroom.

So before I get too far in all this, let me say, I'm not here to tell you what to do. If you want to be free, be free. And if you want to be funny, be funny. Teachers are effective in a myriad of ways, and despite its relevance at the moment, I can't bring myself to use the phrase 'there's no silver bullet' because education says that all the time whilst simultaneously searching for and promoting all kinds of bullets made of silver.

I guess, in the end, I enjoyed my time immensely in those classrooms. I saw kids enjoying their time too.

If nothing else, make sure the kids know how much you care and appreciate their willingness to be a part of your classroom, and remember that humor has the potential to make both of those jobs easier.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why Would I Do This Without You?

In case you were wondering, Fishing with John is still the best thing to happen to television. Ever.

A public access-like fishing show, John Lurie (who knows nothing about fishing) takes many a famous friend on fishing excursions throughout the world. I cannot even begin to describe to you how enjoyable it is to watch the likes of Tom Waits, Dennis Hopper, and Willem Dafoe tip toe the perfect balance between playful irony and genuine sincerity with one of their best friends.

I can rarely watch it without crying from laughter. It's hilarious.

My favorite episode is, without a doubt, John and Willem ice fishing in Maine. It's expert, and adorable, and the single most entertaining thing I've ever seen.

One of my favorite scenes take place as Willem and John are preparing to sleep in their ice house built by "real men doing real things." Willem pops up, unexpectedly, and turns to John to tell him, "You couldn't do this without me, and you know it, right?"

John's reaction is perfect. Annoyed and tired, he questions, "Why would I do this without you?" Not in a romantic, gratefully dependent kind of way. He says it in a 'there's absolutely no way in hell I'd be out here if it wasn't because this is the frozen tundra you decided to go fishing in as my friend' kind of a way.

I love it.

Watch it. Out of context, totally. But still -- watch it.

I relate the way John feels about his fishing in Maine with Willem to the way I feel about working in public education.

The work would be meaningless and silly and painstakingly difficult if it wasn't for you. There's no way in hell I'd be working in this place that has the potential to be a frozen tundra of misunderstanding...that is, if it wasn't for knowing it's for the betterment of you, kids. Because of you, this work is passionate and fruitful and worth all the chaos and difficulty. Your brilliance and passion are without compare and totally worth fighting for. Your future worries me, so I advocate for your infinite potential. And I'm grateful that you let me. Also, you make me laugh. Every day.

Why would I do this without you?

I wouldn't.

Monday, October 27, 2014

23 Mobile Things: 23. Evaluate 23 Mobile Things



Alright, not the most efficient process I've ever gone through, but hey -- an accomplishment is an accomplishment.

So here I am. Thing 23 of 23 Mobile Things.

I've been asked to evaluate the process and experience. I guess I could do that. Here are my thoughts:
1) I learned about a few new apps. The person who challenged me to do this likely thought it would be more supportive of my work than my own personal use, but overwhelmingly my discoveries were related to my not-work life. Maybe I did it wrong, but I appreciate the discoveries.
2) I'd recommend trying this if you've thought about it. If nothing else, you have some decent topics to blog and share about. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.
3) If I had a critique, it would be exclusion of non-media specialists from the "official program." I mean, I get it -- you've got to be able to manage it somehow. It's all good.

Alright, I'm keeping this short and sweet because it's all I can manage at the moment.
Tack för att du kom med på resan.

Monday, October 20, 2014

23 Mobile Things: 22. Discovering Apps

When I was 22 years old, I discovered what it meant to finally have a big person job. I discovered it was cooler to be in college. I suppose 22 and discovery are inextricably connected forever.

So yeah, Thing 22 is all about discovering apps. This thing suggests I use one of their fancy search methods to discover new apps, and so I shall.

Internal dialogue: "Let's see, Elizeduction, what shall we search for today?"
Responding internal dialogue which is also named Elizeducation: "Hmmm...I don't know, what do you think?"
Internal dialogue: "How about apple orchards? You plan to go to the orchard tomorrow!"
Responding internal dialogue which is also named Elizeducation: "My god, you're a genius!"
Internal dialogue: "You too, Elizeducation. You too."

So, I used Quixey, an app search engine, to see what I could find out about Minnesota apple orchards. It didn't go well. My internal dialogue reminded me that something so specific is probably stupid to search for. Please note, I didn't intend for this to be a teachable moment or anything. I was honestly just being stupid.

Alright, topic: Discovering new music!

So after a quick search, I found a bunch of apps I already have (Shazam, SoundCloud, Soundwave), but also one I didn't -- Discovr.

So I tried it. It's rad. I found good musics. Recommended. Buy it.

That's all.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

23 Mobile Things: 21. Free-for-all

So, I'm not completely flaky.

After taking an extended 'break,' I'm returning to actually complete the 23 Mobile Things challenge! Let's chalk up my timeline to this thing called 'summer' and the old adage that slow and steady wins the race. Yeah...that's it.

Alright, so it turns out Thing 23 is a free-for-all. The description says I'm supposed to share about an app I love.

Whilst my relationships with apps tend to be more at the "hey, let's just be friends" kind of level, there are a handful of apps I just might qualify with love. While our romance is nearly entirely one sided (yes, I'm getting the most out of this relationship), the wonderful thing is that my apps never complain. They never feel neglected, worthless, or complain when I forget their birthday. I must not be such a bad partner after all.

So app, that I love...who are you?

I suppose the app I currently love the most would be GateGuru. I'm just coming off a summer and early fall full of travel, and GateGuru turned out to be a companion worth keeping. Time at the airport can actually be pretty great if you do a little research, and GateGuru does all the heavy lifting. You can find out specific amenities by gate, ratings on the available restaurants, detailed maps to make sure you find where you're going, and it also keeps track of your flights. My favorite part, however, has the be the "tips" tab. Users can post tips such as what to order at certain restaurants, which bathrooms are the cleanest or least busy, and which stands to go to so you don't end up spending $10 on a candy bar. All around handy stuff for the frequent flyer.

So there you have it...a love story for the 21st Century. GateGuru + Elizeducation = <3

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Is School an Inspiring Place to Work? guess is your first thought was, "yes." My second guess is it has something to do with your perception of this grandiose and oversimplified idea that working with kids is the single most gratifying thing you can do on earth.

And truthfully, I don't disagree. My time in the classroom was gratifying beyond explanation. No person I've ever tried to articulate it to (outside of fellow teachers) truly understood how much I loved being a part of my student's lives, and how damn hard I worked because of them. And that's fine. It comes with the territory.

That said, I'm not talking about the kind of inspiration teachers get from their kids. There's plenty of that to go around. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the inspiration that comes from above.

How do leaders create the conditions for teachers to feel inspired? To have a sense of belonging? To feel empowered and valued as the professionals they are?

Last week I had the privilege of attending the EdLeader21 conference in Atlanta, and Russ Quaglia was a featured speaker. Dr. Quaglia's work for the better part of FOREVER has focused on bringing student voice into the classroom, and the rich impact it has on learning.

He also touched on teacher voice.

Now, here it is. I've thought a lot about student voice and how critical it is. As a teacher, it was at the forefront of my mind every day. Exaggerate, I do not. It was something I decided early on in my career was a non-negotiable, and I made every attempt to get to know my students, take a genuine interest in their thoughts, passions, and dreams, and authentically incorporate them into the learning. It was fun. So damn fun.

Now that I'm out of the classroom, I've done a much crappier job of being so attentive to teacher voice, and the more I think about it, the more I realize how equally important it is.

While I'm beyond happy with the professional choices I've made, if I ever daydream about another career, it always involves working in some hip startup with open walls, convertible seating arrangements, rooms full of whiteboard, and sticky notes, and evidence of deliberation, the cliche pool table, and the prosaic bring-your-dog-to-work employee policy.

Why is it a daydream? No, it's not because the fridges are always stocked with quinoa salads and I can wear a T-shirt confirming my support for marriage equality (not to say those things aren't pretty rad).

It's because environments built for innovation and thought and positive deviants breed innovation and thought and positive deviants. And those breed ideas, and they're put into place, and the consequences of creative inspiration become tangible solutions.

Ok, ok -- I'll step back. I have many friends who work in the aforementioned types of places, and it's the not exactly the rosy picture I've painted. But it does speak to a concerted effort on the part of leaders to value the thoughts, ideas, and contributions of the professionals they employ.

How do we create similar opportunities and conditions for teachers? How do we lay the foundations for quality and research based initiatives whilst considering the voice of teachers who are the only ones who can anticipate what it will look like in their classrooms? How do we value new ideas and radical intentions within the constraints of countless protocols, standards, and six period days?

How do we afford the same respect, voice, and dignity to teachers that we require they exhibit to their students? There are lots of ways, and I think we've got many in place. But it's far from a finished exercise, and every educator who plays a part in crafting the teachers' everyday experience should be considering the question.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Can I Say...It's Summer...

...and I live on routines. 

When those routines become disrupted, or rather adjusted, new routines take their place. And what can I say? My most recent routines just haven't really included writing. Apologies. My blog is, well, pretty lame at the moment.

That said, I've been spending most of my time professionally doing all kinds of consuming and far less creating. I've been doing an awful lot of reading, which in turn has led to an awful lot of thinking. I'm sure at some point, that will translate into an awful lot of writing.

In the mean time, don't hold your breath. Enjoy the sun, and look for more consistent writing in the near-ish future.

C'mon now...I've got to finish my 23 Mobile Things at the very least. I mean, who stops at number 20? Not cool. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

23 Mobile Things: 20. Games

Fact: I've made it to 20. This is good.

Fact: I've ran out of steam to make clever or interesting number introductions as I have in previous posts. It might be 'that time of year.'

Anyhow, I've got four left, so let's get to it. This post is all about games.

I've got little to no interest in mobile games. At any given time, I have 1 or 2 games that I play semi-regularly. And by semi-regularly I mean before bed when I'm lying around and don't have much else to do.

Right now, that game is Ruzzle.

For this particular Thing, there is a nice long list of games recommended to try. If I had even a small amount of motivation to do so, I might just try some of them myself. That said...I really don't. I'm going to gracefully bow out on this one, and really rock it on #21. I mean, really rock it out -- you don't want to miss this one folks!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure #EdCampTC

You remember those books, don't you? Choose your own adventure? So great. Was I the only strange kid that immediately tried to choose the path that resulted in the most horrible things happening?

Yeah, I might be.

Anyhow, the selling point of the "choose your own adventure" genre was the ability to have control over outcomes. To tap into your own interests and give you as many pathways as possible. Sometimes the outcomes were desirable, sometimes not so much, but ultimately the choice in process outweighed the outcome anyhow. The process was user-driven.

The same appeal applies to EdCamps. If you've never been to an EdCamp or heard of them before, the basic premise is that the entire conference is user-driven. The content, structure and outcomes are all determined by the participants. Everyone is simultaneously an expert and a learner.

Here is a short video shared by Byron Public School's Jen Hegna from their in-district #EdCamp. It does a nice job of summing up how EdCamps generally work.

I bring all this up because this past weekend I had the privilege of attending #EdCampTC (Ed Camp Twin Cities). In the past, I've also attending #EdCampMSP and #EdCampMN -- All highly recommended events. Using what you learned in the above video, take a look at the schedule that was generated this weekend for #EdCampTC: SO MANY GOOD SESSIONS. So much learning driven by the interests of people in the crowd.

Take a moment. Think about the possibilities here. The possibilities when the people in the room dictate the direction of the day.

The possibilities for me are ones that I hold a high appreciation for: authentic collaboration, relevancy, inspiration, connections, and a whole lot more.

I'm sure many who read this blog are already familiar with EdCamps. This post isn't necessarily for you. It's for anyone who might come across this post who has never attended one. If you fall into that category, I highly recommend you seek one out in your area. You'll leave feeling invigorated, you'll likely make connections with people you'll stay connected with, and if nothing else, you'll definitely get your voice heard.

Find a list of upcoming EdCamps here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

23 Mobile Things: 19. Hobbies

Have you all seen that show 19 Kids and Counting? Whoa.

I mean, that's really all I have to say about that.

Thing 19 of 23 Mobile Things is all about hobbies. While having kids may not be a hobby of mine, there's no doubt that nearly any hobby has an app to support it. 

Knowing there are thousands of apps that could fit into this category, this Thing went ahead and chose a few random apps to focus on that support a wide range of interests. Let it be highlighted that two just happen to focus on wine as a hobby. I didn't mind. 

That said, none of the apps really piqued my interest other than Spotify, which I use all the time already. For that reason, I brainstormed 5 random hobbies of mine, and attempted to seek out a few miscellaneous apps that support them. 

Hobby 1: Coupons - I'm such a nerd about coupons, but it's amazing how long I've put off signing up for all the fun coupon-y and save-y apps. I finally caved and downloaded Shopkick. May the annoying push notifications and points obsession take over my life. 

Hobby 2: Roller Derby - Turns out apps related to Roller Derby are either timers for our illustrious refs (like this one) or games (like this one). Not much out there to support derby players themselves or derby as a hobby. 

Hobby 3: College Hockey - It's a weird time to be downloading college hockey apps seeing as my beloved Gophers just rounded out their season (in a slightly disappointing way). That said, that Fargo game during the Frozen Four made it all worth it. Anyhow, I'll be primed and ready for next season after having come across the College Hockey News app. 

Hobby 4: Organic, Sustainable Foods - I found 2 apps that I'm super excited about. It's just about CSA season, so I downloaded Riverford Veg Recipes. It works by having you enter 2 or 3 vegetables you have on hand, then generates recipes to match the combination. Super handy when you get odd veggies or an unexpected abundance of something in your Summer CSA. With summer also comes Farmer's Market time! Yippee! For that, I happened across Eat Local. It will help you learn what’s in season anywhere in the US and available at local farmers’ markets. Complete with directions by car, bike, foot, or public transportation. I'm hungry.

Hobby 5: Local Fun - I love to travel. I mean, I know people say that a lot, but seriously. I love to travel. When I do, I'm not super keen on the tourist destinations, but instead love to find local hotspots that give you a feel for the city. I didn't quite find what I was looking for, but I did find something awfully handy for international travel. In my searches, I came across the World Customs app, which gives you access to customs and traditions for 165 countries. I can think of many times in my travels when having a quick heads up on local greetings, gestures, and taboos would have come in very handy. 

Hobbies, hobbies, hobbies. Oh how fun they are.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

23 Mobile Things: 18. Education

Catch-22 was originally supposed to be named Catch-18 to represent the significance of the number in the Hebrew language. The author opted to change the name to 22 in order to avoid confusion with another novel, Mila 18.

I guess it's kind of a Catch-18 that the phrase Catch-22 became extremely popular while not maintaining the integrity of the author's original idea.

Oh well.

So 18. Thing 18 is all about Education. And here I was trying to apply all the other ones to Education :)

This things starts off by prefacing that there are a lot of apps in education, which we all know. The lists are endless and ever growing. This Thing then goes on to share a "mishmash" of interesting apps that spread across various grade levels and subject areas.

I've had a chance to play around with most of these, but a few were new. Therefore, I decided to jump in and check them out. The four apps that were new to me were artCircles, B-Rhymes Dictionary, colAR Mix and Show of Hands. Here are my thoughts:

artCircles: Great app for art or any time when using meaningful visuals would be a good idea. Offers various "circles" of categories such as Nature, Texture or Colors. Within each circle are various components, and each component is tied to a visual gallery. The interface is fantastic.

B-Rhymes Dictionary: iPhone only. The tag line is finding words that "almost rhyme," with the purpose being that students will find words that sound good together. When I search for "animal," the first three returns I get are "trigeminal, seminal, and sentinel."  A search for "orange" (intentional trick!) returns "lozenge, goldfinch, and scavenge." I see very limited though interesting educational uses, but it's a bummer that the process for getting to the actual definition of the returned words is cumbersome.

colAR Mix: This app sounds super cool -- apparently it turns drawings into 3D images. However, I couldn't figure out how it works. I might be dumb. Also lots of in-app purchases. I'll not so sure.

Show of Hands: A real time anonymous polling tool. At first I assumed this would be like a polleverywhere tool where the teacher could poll students in the classroom. Instead, it's an open polling medium wherein students could explore the poll results to various questions posted by users that are as in depth as "The UN Panel on Climate Change has issued a report calling for a 70% reduction in global carbon emissions within 30 years, and complete elimination by 2100. Do you think it's doable?" or as superficial as "Coke or Diet Coke?" While viewing each result, you can segregate by gender, age, income, state, and political party. Could lead to some interesting discussions.

Alright. I must know...what are your favorite Education apps?

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