Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age – Session III. New Learning Designs

Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age – Session III. New Learning Designs


>>MERROW: Last night, somebody said that
technology is as fundamental as a book. You couldn’t take books away. You can’t take technology
away. Jason ups the ante; technology is as fundamental as oxygen. You can’t take the
oxygen away. Jason, would you come, just say a few words about that turnaround process
for us? Thank you.>>LEVY: Thank you. Test. Hello. Good morning.
In August of 2004, I became principal of I.S. 339, which was then a very large public middle
school in the Bronx. We had 945 students. Now, we’re down to about 820. We’re about
70% Hispanic, 29% black. 25% of our students have IEPs and 28% of our students are English
language learners. The school building opened in 1974. It was immediately in trouble. It
was turned over by the state. It was shut down and reopened in 1991 and 2000. So when
I arrived in 2004, 339 had learned to survive to day-to-day by doing things like locking
students down in one classroom all day long everyday. Students were sent home, if there
was a problem. School safety agents routinely escalated conflicts with students and many
adults had adopted an aggressive approach. It felt like a boiling pot was about to explode
in any moment and, when it did, the melees were quite memorable. Ambulances and police
cars often fought school busses for parking in front of the school. I had pledged during
my first faculty conference to bring technology to 339, but every computer in 339 was from
1999 or earlier and there were no laptops. If I can trouble someone for a clicker, that
would be great. Or is this it right here? Thank you. Look at this. Google is amazing.
What few desktops we had were hoarded and were rationed in few rooms or offices. Two
people knew how to connect to the Internet and I was one of them. The school was offline
and it was out of line. Although there were staff members who cared deeply, they were
drowned out by those who didn’t. The language of lockdowns, consequences, and battle really
helped us to take on a prison mentality. On staff, we were disjointed and suffering in
silos. No one knew what was happening or why. I thought I was a visionary when I installed
a giant white board in our main hallway for daily announcements. This would solve our
problems. That is until 11 a.m. when someone would brush by with their jacket and wipe
off half of our key information for the day. At day’s end, our institutional memory got
totally wiped out when we erased the board. We were stagnant in too many ways. At the
end of my first year though, in the spring of 2005, we received hopeful news: Chancellor
Klein’s administration tapped 339 as one of 22 middle schools to receive 1:1 MacBook laptop
program. The light at the end of the tunnel just might be a laptop screen, we thought.
In year two, an influx of new and enthusiastic staff brought energy but not much stability
to our school. We continued to struggle, instructions suffered and student achievement plummeted.
I’ve read about Fullan’s “implementation dip,” but I never thought that we’d be living it.
Nine percent of our students were now on grade level in math–nine percent. The New York
State Education Department came by for the third time. They designated as a SURR, School
Under Registrative Review. They sent a team of ten to conduct a grueling three-day inspection
of the school. It was demoralizing at best. One official compared our staff to a band
where no one was playing the same song. I asked her if she’d seen the white board in
the main hallway. She wasn’t impressed. So in June of 2006, the first wave of teacher
laptops and one grade of student laptops finally arrived. In late June, after our eighth grade
prom, I saw one boy scrolling through his digital camera. He was deciding which picture
to post to his MySpace account. He–at the same time, he was sending and receiving text
messages on a cell phone that was vibrating with a different song, depending on which
friend was texting him. So, at that moment, I realized that our students were hardwired
for modern technology. Social networking spots like MySpace met a felt need for connecting
and collaborating and sharing; yet our school was still running like it had in the ’90s,
in the ’80s and in the ’70s. We arranged some of the deck chairs but our 1.0 band was indeed
playing many different tunes and none that our students wanted to hear. So, despite all
our fears, I was determined to get the technology into the hands of our staff and students.
Students were fluent in the language of the 21st century Internet. We, adults, needed
to catch up quickly. Year three, we created teacher teams who met daily for common planning.
Adults received training, and as Jim Collins predicted, technology became an exhilarant
for sharing best practices and building communication systems. Daily notes were now posted online.
We got rid of the white board. We migrated everyone away from the city’s e-mail system
and into Gmail. Teachers started using Google Groups to share lesson plans, to post units
of study and to discuss ideas. Connecting and communicating, teacher teams started to
quickly transform the work they were doing with each other and with students. In year
four–so, in that year, year three, we’re finally sharing with each other. In year four,
we used the Internet to advance from communication to collaboration. Our faculty signed on to
the Google Apps. In addition to Gmail, we integrated Google Docs, Spreadsheets into
all aspects of adult work in the school. From the main office to the dean’s office, to the
administrative offices, to the classrooms, we created network systems to share information,
collaborate in real time on initiatives and to track progress. For those who haven’t had
the chance to use Google Docs, they provide the ability for multiple people to co-edit
documents and spreadsheets in real time on the Internet for free so that other people
who are shared in can view their changes. By the way, I do not work for Google yet.
As teachers became comfortable with these tools, they introduced them to their classrooms.
Last year, we received the final laptops from the original pilot and we were finally were
one-to-one fully for the first time. We saw that our greatest untapped resource at 339
had been the creative imaginations of staff and students. The lightning-quick speed of
curiosity in innovation was now given voice through the 21st century tools. Teachers were
emailing assignments. They were co-editing Google documents with kids. Students were
finding answers to questions within minutes. They were posting responses online and participating
in our schools robust online learning communities. The Internet’s language was now being shared
between staff and students. While they once felt afraid, teachers were now proud that
their practice have been modernized and streamlined. Students felt motivated, professional, and
respected. They were using tools to compete–to prepare them to compete in high school, to
access better jobs when they grow up and to use their talents. We were fully integrated
across the board. If you can name it, we migrated it into the Google universe. By the end of
last year, our first full one-to-one year, we celebrated our best results yet: 62% of
our students were now on grade level in math; our New York City progress report have risen
from a D to a C to a B to an A. We were removed from the state’s SURR list and, most importantly,
the work we were doing in classrooms was giving students creative control over their learning.
In June, we hosted and presented a first of its kind global learning reception called
dot-to-dot. You could see the icon right there. 100% of our teachers and students posted 21st
century projects, including films and blogs and we streamed some of the presentations
live. One student made a documentary about how to create a Time Square-type hub in the
Bronx. He interviewed an urban planner to do that. Another class Skyped with Nicholas
Kristof about Darfur as part of their project research on genocide. The theme for all the
projects was connections. Thousands of Web site hits from around the world became dots
on our map and we started to redefine what school could be for kids. This year’s dot-to-dot
theme is going to be change and you’re all invited to attend, either physically or virtually.
So at 339, we really don’t see laptops as toys or as tools; we see them as megaphones
to give students and teachers global voices. The modern Internet isn’t an idea or a place;
it’s a language that we need to speak at all corners of our school. It’s a language that
has rapidly improved our school and can help transform schools everywhere. Thank you.
>>MERROW: And let’s get another school story; this time, the opportunity to start from scratch,
the Tabula rasa. Katie Salen, would you come up and tell us a little bit about your school?
Thank you.>>SALEN: Hello, everybody. Is everybody starving?
Not yet? There’s so many snacks out there but I haven’t gotten to partake it so… So
I’m going to talk about this school, Quest to Learn, a little bit. And the perspective
that I’m going to offer today is–my background is in game design. And the way that game designers
think about the design of experiences is that we’re always trying to think about what is
the space of possibility that we’re creating for our players? And so when I became involved
in this idea of designing a school from the ground up, we began to really think about
this notion of what are the spaces of possibility that we’re creating for kids. We came up with
a set of questions around possibility. We asked: What could be made possible for kids
if we found a way to conceive a school as one learning space within a network of learning
spaces that spanned in school, out of school, local and global, physical and digital, teacher-led
and peer-driven, individual and collaborative. What could be made possible for teachers if
their creativity around how to engage kids was deeply valued and they were supported
with resources like collaborating with game designers, to really understand what engagement
about learning could look like? We just saw some amazing examples of that. What could
be made possible for communities if a school became a catalyst for activating a network
of mentors, partners, peers, and leaders who are focused on helping kids figure out how
to be designers, innovators, inventors and problem solvers? What could be made possible
for kids if they were challenged to teach others to do things that they knew how to
do, and content was treated as an actionable resource rather than something to be memorized?
What could be made possible if kids not only use games and media as models and simulations
but learn how to draw–to make them too? What could be made possible for the world if we
could support kids to be curious, to have ideas and build theories around those ideas,
to fail often and early as a strategy for learning how things really work, to be given
an opportunity to interact with the larger worlds and ways that felt relevant, exciting,
and empowering? What could be made possible if we treated school not just a problem to
be fixed–we’ve heard about that a lot–but as a thought partner in the learning lives
of our kids, our parents, and our communities? What could actually be possible if we thought
in these terms? So as Joel Klein mentioned yesterday, New York City was actually willing
to kind of step up to the plate, hedge a bet, on allowing a school that was–that for a
long time was called the game school to come into being. Okay, so this was school of six
to twelve, proposed six-to-twelve school–public school that was going to be designed around
the intrinsic qualities of games and play. Okay. So this is a school that’s been designed
not to have video games in the classroom but to support something we call game-like learning;
and what this means is learning that takes advantage of what games do the very best:
They drop kids, players, adults, in a complex inquiry-driven problem spaces with scaffolding
learning to provide just-in-time learning and they give kids and players access to data
that helps them know how they’re doing, what they need to work on, and where they need
to go next. Games as well as the kinds of network interest-driven communities that Mimi
was talking about this morning became the basis for the curriculum that we developed.
And one thing that we discovered in listening to all of the research that’s coming out around
what are these spaces outside of school that kids are learning from is we found out that
there’s four really important conditions that have to be the basis of any curriculum that
we were developing in school. The first thing is that we had to create a need to know. So,
in school, when kids talk about things not being relevant, it’s because they have no
situated context for why on earth they would have to learn how to do quadratic equations.
So we found that in developing the curriculum, we looked again to games; games create a very
specific need to know. I get dropped into a world. There’s something 100 feet above
me that I really want to collect. Well, I have to figure out how to get up there, okay,
and I’m motivated and engaged to do that. So I began to look at like that as pedagogical
strategy for creating the key to know. I need to share something we’ve heard a lot about
today in the content of network spaces. We found that we needed to create for our students
a need to share information with one another, not just to share it with the teacher to kind
of turn in some kind of worksheet that they produce; but to share information, share what
they know, share what they’ve learned, even share what they don’t know so they can leverage
their peer environment. Now, from a design perspective, you can say, “Well, we’re going
to create a need to share.” But if you don’t actually create infrastructure and opportunities
for kids to share, it actually doesn’t matter. So this is where thing like social network
spaces come in: Google Docs, Google Groups, e-mail, even small groups in the classroom
where kids have an ability to share things that they have produced and thought about.
And then the last thing which is very much a condition of the kind of multiple networks
that many kids today are involved with is that we needed to find ways for them to export
stuff that they might be doing in the myriad learning spaces that they were involved in
both in school and around school into spaces outside of the more traditional institutional
networks. So when kids produce, let’s say, a video tutorial in their science class, they
need to have an ability very easily to export that out to their MySpace page or onto a Facebook
page or to on an anime site so that they’re able to share that information with kids in
spaces beyond because there’s all kinds of mentors in those spaces too willing and interested
in understanding what those kids know. So I’ll just give you some examples of some of
the curriculum that kids are involved in the semester. In their math and ELA class, we
have a class called Code Worlds. They’re working on a code-breaking mission. And what has happened
this past week is the kids have demanded to learn how to learn fractions; how to convert
fractions to decimals because they found a secret code hidden in a library book that
they needed to figure out how to break in order to get to the next quest. And so there’s
now work being done to help them understand, well, what does it mean to convert fractions
to decimals and they’re working to break the code. They’ve also been recruited by a TV
producer of a reality TV show to create a location guide for a TV series that he’s pitching
and this has caused them to now need to learn how to navigate an atlas, learn how to read
elements of a map, and learn how to create character portraits based on a novel that
they’re reading in order to create profiles for contestants that might be on the show.
Yesterday, we had several students come up to the teacher and ask for more reading because
they wanted to look at more characters that they might think about working into the show.
So they wanted to check out some additional books. They’ve also demanded to learn how
to create more professional-looking video tutorials because, in a math-science class,
they’re working with the fictional group of characters called the Troggles who are inventors
that make broken things. And so the kids are receiving their broken blueprints, figuring
out what’s wrong with them, and then developing video tutorials to send back to the Troggles
who live in this game called Little Big Planet. So, just last week, they were working with
flip cans to develop video tutorials to teach the Troggles why standardized measurement
is really important. And so this is something that they’re actually incredibly interested
in, incredibly engaged in, the notion that they are teachers for others, too. One thing
that we found is so important in the design of this school is this notion of building
feedback loops not only between classes but also between the kinds of spaces that may
sit outside of school. So we needed to think about the fact that we have an after-school
program, that we have an online social network and that there was–these were considered
redundant and overlapping spaces where kids had multiple chances to see the same kind
of content and skills. We understand that kids can’t learn something just having seen
it in one class. They need to have chances to see it in many, many kinds of spaces. So
I’m going to end there. Maybe we can finish up with some questions later. Okay.
>>MERROW: Well, thank you very much.>>SALEN: Yeah.
>>MERROW: Well, thank you, Katie. I’m going to ask–we need a math course here because
we’ve got five people coming up to fill these three–these three chairs. But I guess we–I
guess we can work that. Come on up, guys. I think you’re here. That’s–and I–all right,
put it there. That’s fine, wherever you want, as long as we get one. One thing, just some
numbers, how many kids in your school?>>SALEN: In our school?
>>MERROW: Yeah. Yeah.>>SALEN: We have 76 kids.
>>MERROW: I don’t know if mikes are on. 76 kids?
>>SALEN: 76.>>MERROW: And did you get to hire your own
teachers?>>SALEN: We did. So–we did. So, we had a
big recruitment process. We had to hire in-district because there was kind of hiring freeze this
year that you had to hire teachers from within district. Yes.
>>MERROW: And, Jason, you did not get to hire. You–so tell me–you inherited teachers.
>>LEVY: I don’t think I had inherited. The former principal retired over the summer before
I came in, and he had hired out the whole staff so I was only able to bring in two new
staff members out of about 60 teachers my first year.
>>MERROW: Okay. Let me guess that not all the teachers were eager to follow your vision.
So what do you do with recalcitrant teachers who can’t…?
>>LEVY: Some folks decided that they didn’t like the way we’re headed so they decided
to voluntarily transfer out at the end of my first year.
>>MERROW: You helped them packed, right?>>LEVY: I didn’t just–you know, people don’t
feel like this is something that they can do. Some people decided that they didn’t agree
but they wanted to stay. So, what we saw, everything, always, is a professional development
opportunity. And I think that the big misnomer in–the big fear about introducing technology
to veterans or to–or to people who just aren’t that tech savvy at any–at any level of their
development is that they’re just not interested or that they’re actually against technology.
What we found actually is that it is–it’s just a fear factor, and it’s just–people
don’t want to not know something that their children do know. People don’t want to look
silly in front of their classes. So if you really can adopt a–differentiate a professional
development program and look at everything as a learning opportunity, everyone will pretty
much buy in. And we have our staunches–opponents to technology are now fully integrated in
their classrooms, and it was only because we killed them with kindness and with outstanding
professional development on site with our great team.
>>MERROW: Yeah. Larry, you’ve been in this game, High Tech High. Have teachers been an
issue? I mean, this question of learning and the learning–it seems to me like the real
challenge is not so much the kid’s learning; it’s our trying to keep up with them and not
harness their learning to our ends. But what’s been your issue?
>>ROSENSTOCK: Yeah. Well, my last 10 years have been with founding High Tech High. My
first 20 before that were doing the I.S. 339 routine. And as complicated as it is for us
to do real estate financing and do something out of the ground, it is far more easier than
turning around a school. And I applaud you for what you’ve done. Obviously, everybody
has a one-year contract. We just hired 56 teachers out of 1,142 applicants. And that’s
partly a reflection on the economy that we’re in. A lot of very talented people–we hire
a lot of people with advanced degrees in math and science who ironically would have to get
credential even though they could teach at universities. So we created our own credentialing
program and our own grad school of Ed’s so that we can hire a more highly qualified person
than merely hiring a credential person.>>MERROW: Do you have some litmus test for
your teachers regarding technology?>>ROSENSTOCK: Well, we don’t have–they’re
all really young, actually. You know what I mean? It’s just–yeah. We just try to keep
up with them. I mean, they use social networking sites quite a bit. I’m going to show one too
many clips towards the end of this session where they’re using–meeting with kids just
in the same way as you saw right here. But, no, they’re quite–what we really want–what
I really want in a teacher is somebody who does have deep content knowledge and is able
to pursue inquiry passionately and engage kids in the pursuit of that inquiry in that
and other disciplines and work with their colleagues in a multi-disciplinary way. That’s
really what we’re looking for.>>MERROW: Rey, as you sit here and you got
three outstanding educators, a track record of success and exciting beginning, does this
give you a little more faith in schools? I know you are a skeptic. I billed you as our
skeptic here.>>RAMSEY: Is this on? Can you hear me?
>>Yes.>>MERROW: I can hear you.
>>RAMSEY: No, I know you want me to be the skeptic. But, no, I am–and this whole conference
has been really very inspiring in terms of hearing what’s going on. And the perspective
that I’ve always had toward education not as a formal educator is that there are many
and–many people are involved in the education process. And so we’ve got to, also, not only
improve what’s happening in the four corners of a school, but what happens outside of the
school. In the 21st century, we have an education and a learning ecosystem which is not only
the school, it’s what’s going on in the community and those institutions and also the home.
And so I view that technology opens up a world of possibilities to extend that learning environment
into many places, and we all know, you know, from experience where kids will lose some
of what they learn, particularly over the summer, and that’s why you see these movements
toward extended school years and those sorts of things. So technology opens up other opportunities.
And that’s been the work at One Economy that we’ve been involved in, looking at education
in a different way beyond what’s happening in the four corners.
>>MERROW: I looked at a couple of your speeches, and at least thrice, I heard you say, “The
challenge is overcoming the disbelief that poor people want technology.” The rest of
don’t believe–can you explain what you mean by that?
>>RAMSEY: Yeah, I think, you know, and having started One Economy from a basement, I had
more people say, “No.” So when we were saying the proposition that low-income people want
the technology just like anybody else, we still have a big problem in the county where
we have so many people who aren’t adopters to technology. So it’s low-income people themselves,
but it’s also people who put money into these resources. And, you know, you’ll hear from
the administration later today, folks from the FCC about their broadband plan. So if
we’re going to do this extended learning environment, we have to make sure that everybody can participate
in the home as well as in the school because that–you know, if you look at–we’ve started
a school actually, and it’s in Bertie County in North Carolina. And the school–the genesis
of the school is we have a service technology program for low-income kids called Digital
Connectors, young people between the ages of 14 and 21, and they have 150 hours to 200
hours of training using technology, applied technology, and then they give back 60 hours
of community service. These kids in the school–this is an alternative school that we started in
North Carolina–they were kicked out of all the other schools. The school superintendent
to my face said that the other schools were delighted to get rid of them, so were referred
to as the discarded boys. And I met one young gentleman who is 19 years old in high school
reading at a third-grade reading level. And what we did with the technology is almost
like the game theory that you were talking about earlier is it turned them on and they
built self-esteem because they were also providing service. And, now, we–the county is expanding
that school. It started as just 25 boys in the classroom and now it’s more than doubled.
We’re working with Teach for America. Technology is part of it, but we’ve extended into the
home…>>MERROW: Yeah.
>>RAMSEY: … and what’s happening in the trailer park where a lot of those boys live,
and that learning environment is beyond the four walls. And we all know we need one, at
least one dedicated adult who’s actively engaged in the education of that student.
>>MERROW: But it’s real work.>>RAMSEY: It’s real work.
>>MERROW: Yeah. And Larry, can I–Larry and I were talking last night about this challenge
of real work in dealing with kids who, you know, are you-aren’t-going-to-teach-me-anything
kind of thing, and you were telling me a story about, I guess, it was a math problem.
>>ROSENSTOCK: I want to say a couple things to feed up to that. What you want kids to
be doing is making and building and doing things. So we’ve got kids who are publishing
books Jim Goodall, E.L. Wilson writes the intro to these books using actually Google
SketchUp, Calculicious, Integration of Art and Calculus. And so we got kids making hovercrafts,
submersibles, just building all kinds of cool things. So one segregation that they…
>>MERROW: It’s real work.>>ROSENSTOCK: One segregation is the segregation
of the use of the head from the use of the hand which Dewey, in ’99, years ago, said
was a false dualism. MIT’s motto was “head and hand.” The other one, since we have very
few minutes, I just have to say since I’m in my 33rd year of doing this, you know, when
I taught carpentry right after law school, and the first–for 11 years to inner-city
kids, on the first day, I realized that those kids were every bit as bright as the middle
class kids I was just in law school with. And we had Plessy v Ferguson in 1892 which
says “Separate but equal.” We have 1953, Brown v Board. We’re now more segregated. What makes
me sad about I.S. 339 is not what the great work that this gentlemen’s doing, it’s that
we have apartheid schooling in this country, and there is no ethos about it. Scalia, two
days ago said he wouldn’t have even voted for Brown v Board of Education. That’s where
we’ve come to. So it’s really–so it’s–so that’s what–one of the things that makes
this so much harder is not that the middle class are more virtuous, it’s actually to
the better–it’s like Jefferson said, “The purpose of public education is to serve the
public. The purpose of public education is to create a public,” and this is really what
we’re not doing.>>MERROW: Excuse me. But I was asking you
to show a clip of a kid…>>ROSENSTOCK: I’ll show you that clip. Okay.
So, okay. Okay, so we want–so we want students to generate–so we’re mostly urban schools.
We happen to–we just are now building a village of rural schools in our north in the desert,
and we have this young man who is totally a disaffected learner, into music, into film,
and the mother didn’t know what to do with them, and the teacher said, “Hey, would you
do something on Ning to help some other kids because you’re actually kind of good at math.”
And so I just got this a couple of days ago; I asked him to put it on YouTube last night.
It’s two minutes long. And this is Nick explaining how to subtract polynomials, teaching the
students various things.>>MERROW: Teaching someone else?
>>ROSENSTOCK: Teaching kids. Teaching each other–peer-to-peer, some kids.
>>MERROW: Kids teaching kids? Can we see it? All right. We have to…
>>NICK: Okay. Subtracting Polynomials. This is easy. This is simple, a piece of cake.
I like cake. This is Nick again, and I’m here to teach you how to subtract two polynomials.
No, with cheese, lots of cheese, please.>>Got it.
>>NICK: Sorry. All right, we’re going to have 8X squared plus 9X plus 5 minus 3X squared
plus 7X plus 1. I have to note that these are two distinct polynomials. This one all
the way over here on the right is being subtracted from the one on the left. So, what we’re going
to do is rewrite this problem: 8X squared plus 9X plus 5 minus 3X squared plus 7X minus
1.>>Then, I’ll…
>>NICK: Shh, I’m reporting.>>I’m buttering the chicken.
>>NICK: And, now, if you watched my first video on adding, adding, adding polynomials,
what we just do is write it out and combine like terms. But when you write this out, there’s
a catch. See, you’re going to write out the first polynomials just as it says: 8X squared
plus 9X plus 5. But when you write out the second polynomial, you’re going to change
all the addition signs to subtraction signs. So it’s going to say negative 3X squared minus
7X minus 1. Trippy. All right. So, now, what we have to do is combine like terms. So we’re
going to find–8X squared is going to combine with negative 3X squared. 8X squared minus
3X squared is going to equal 5X squared. Then we’re going to combine the second like terms
which is 9X and negative 7X; 9 minus 7 is going to equal 2. So we have plus 2X. Now,
we combine the last like terms, 5 and negative 1, 5 minus 1, 4, yeah. So our final answer
would be 5X squared plus 2X plus 4. Like I said, piece of cake.
>>MERROW: You have to believe that he really understands it, right? And he did an effective
job of teaching it. He’s a participant in school. I mean, he’s an active learner and
a teacher. I mean, but–so I wonder how tough is it for teachers to accept that that’s part
of their role is to empower kids to do that? Do you–I mean, Jason you–or–anyway…
>>LEVY: If I could jump in. Am I–can you hear me?
>>Yes. You have the mike.>>LEVY: I’m miked.
>>MERROW: Yeah.>>LEVY: Okay. Technology, always gets us.
I think that it’s definitely–it was–it’s a new way of thinking about things. Very much,
when we grow up or when a lot of people grow up, it was–the teacher was the sage. You
know, they gave information; unless, you were fortunate enough to go to a school that didn’t
do that or had a teacher who understood. Nowadays, really, the power is with the child. The child
really has so much ability, so much creativity, so much desire to go out there and create
content that they can share with the world or use the influence of what’s going on. It
takes growth. It takes an adjustment on the part of the teacher and the school to realize
that the child is the most important person in the school.
>>MERROW: But at your school, you monitor the kids’ use of laptops.
>>LEVY: That’s correct.>>MERROW: And you’re sort of a big brother?
>>LEVY: Well, yeah. We–oh, wow, that’s tough. Is it 60 Minutes here or something? Yeah,
we believed it’s like a kite. You let the kite go up in the air but you still have the
string. You know, we want the students to have total access to technology. We want to
bring them to the Web; and we can’t do it in a scared fashion. We like to teach the
lessons to the students in the school using the technology. They’re going to make mistakes.
Let’s teach them how to learn from those mistakes in a school setting because, if we shut it
down, if we block it out, if we filter everything so the kids can get access to anything, they’re
going to find it anywhere. They’re going to find it at home. They’re going to find it
from their neighbor’s apartment. They’re going to find it from some unseemly influence out
there in the world. We would rather the children make mistakes in our school, in our presence,
and then we will help them learn–learn from those mistakes. So, yeah, we do have kids
who are sometimes off-task, they’re sometimes trying to figure how to get through the proxies,
but we see that as part of the growing process. It’s not a reason to give up and to quit and
to stop. It’s a reason to tighten our systems up. And, honestly, if the lessons are great,
if the projects are engaging, students aren’t off-task.
>>MERROW: Trust but verify.>>LEVY: Correct.
>>MERROW: So has that been your experience, Larry?
>>ROSENSTOCK: Well, you know, we had actually an award-winning plagiarism where a young
man using translation software for Spanish class submitted a paper in French. And I–and
he’s got an adopted brother, and I saw the brother later on, I said, “Do you know what
Josh just did?” He said, “I’m adopted.” But I don’t think the teachers are threatened
by this in our schools at all. They’re really–they’re young. They’re really into it.
>>MERROW: I wonder, and I want to open this up to questions from our audience, but I wonder,
where does technology–how important is technology to this? I mean, I read through Larry’s sort
of credo for High Tech High, and he says, “If you treat kids like adults, even the most
bruised and battered will play up to the role.” There’s nothing high tech about that. He says,
“Size of a school is one of the things that doom city high schools.” There’s nothing high
tech about that. “Students of High Tech High often teach each other.” There’s nothing necessarily
high tech about that. Understanding derives from activity, that’s John Dewey, pre-computer
John Dewey. The–and–I mean, technology is an essential. It’s almost as if–I mean, you
have game theory but you, you, it seems you have to have a mindset about the importance
of learning, the power, I mean, all that sort of stuff.
>>SALEN: You do but I think, you know, one of the common points that has come up again
and again today is that we can’t talk about the technology without talking about the social
practices that are coupled with that technology. And, in fact, I think we’re learning lots
of things from the social practices that have emerged around new kinds of technology that
gives us new insights and new opportunities in terms of how do we engage kids in learning.
So it’s not that technology, if you take out technology, everything would collapse, but
it certainly is contributing new ways of thinking about what is possible, in terms of advancing
our understanding of how to help kids learn better.
>>MERROW: But do you believe–do any of you agree?
>>LEVY: I disagree. I disagree with that.>>SALEN: I know.
>>LEVY: I think it’s a–and not with what you said. I disagree with your premise that
you can treat students like adults nowadays without giving them access to technology.
Why should teachers and principals check email; do their work online, do things quickly, get
information at any second that they want it, and why shouldn’t students have that exact
same opportunity? We do–we do infantilize our children when we don’t give them access
to technology.>>MERROW: What I was saying is some of the
attitudes aren’t dependent upon technology.>>ROSENSTOCK: The adult wants, I’m sorry,
the adult wants are more about privacy, control, command, and the kids’ wants are more about
networking and connecting and it’s really different levels of…
>>RAMSEY: And a quick point that I would add to that is it’s just a microcosm of the
changing of expectation in the 21st century. People want horizontal relationships and technology
facilitates a horizontal flat set of relationships versus a vertical top down. That’s what makes
it so important. But that same dynamic exist when if parents and other people don’t feel
like they can participate within the school and so there’s still needs to be much more
of an opening up of the sense of who gets to participate, who gets to make decisions,
who’s part of this whole learning ecosystem. People are yearning for some of that sense
of being horizontal as well outside of the school.
>>MERROW: Is it your sense that kids today, in fact, are different because of digital
media–they’re different from you or any of us, that their condition is absolutely different?
>>SALEN: Well, I think that we can argue that all of our conditions have been affected,
not just by technology but there’s a whole set of changes that have happened, cultural
changes, social changes.>>MERROW: But the kids coming into the school,
I mean, I spend a lot of my time in schools. And I, you know, if the kids are different
and they’re coming in and have to power down, I think, someone said, when they get to school,
the challenge then would be that–can schools adapt fast enough? If you’re taking about,
you guys are tiny…>>ROSENSTOCK: Look how many people–look
how many people over the last couple of days have talked about our own children and the
effects of our own children, right? My son is at Berkley. He’s majoring in astrophysics.
He’s a sophomore. He’s taking linear algebra. He can’t understand the professor’s English.
He went on his iPhone. He watched OER MIT. He got an A-minus on the final. He never went–he
went to one class, you know. And so he’s sitting in Berkley and he’s taking a class in Cambridge.
I know, you know, I watched–my daughter’s 15 and I watched her on the computer. I could
not be writing a paper, being playing chess with someone in Kazakhstan and be listening
to Bob Marley and to be iChatting with six people at the same time. I just couldn’t do
that. But I think, in that sense, they’re getting a little bit wired than we are.
>>MERROW: But we were asked to talk about, you know, the number of dropouts, 1.2 million
kids a year, leaving school, frustrated. I mean, you said…
>>LEVY: Or bored. A lot of kids drop out because they’re bored.
>>MERROW: Because they’re bored?>>ROSENSTOCK: And they have the right to
be bored.>>MERROW: Yeah, well…
>>LEVY: And if students–if schools, if children have all these ideas and they’re–they’re–and
outside of school, they’re running as fast as they can, how can we put them at a crawl
when they enter our school buildings. They are–they leave school and they are sprinting.
In all areas of our society, I mean, everywhere, with cellphones, with iPhones, with video
games, with online stuff–kids are sprinting. Why would we want to slow them to a crawl
in our buildings? It’s just doesn’t make sense. That’s not how they’re wired.
>>MERROW: But is it possible to not do that? I mean, you guys can do it in one school,
one school, nine schools–Rey is skeptical. You said you got a building…
>>RAMSEY: I got a school.>>ROSENSTOCK: But there’s really–there’s
also a multiplier effect because, first of all, as a result of this, the kids in my school
can connect with the kids in their school and our kids are connecting with schools from
other countries and the piece by Nick is going on to a ck12, Neeru Khosla’s open-source,
open-education resources, FlexBooks, all these books are going up there. So, now, people
are going to be able to access all over the world these tremendous assets for free and
having kids–having a kid videoed explaining–here’s a kid explaining how to do polynomials.
>>MERROW: Are you hopeful though–we talked about a crisis. You know, there’s a–the gap
will grow. Are any of you–are any of you hopeful that, actually, the public schools
can respond fast enough and in large enough numbers. You know, we have 95,000 public schools.
>>RAMSEY: I think we have to be hopeful, but I’m a big believer that you work on dual
tracks. You continue to do the experimentation. You continue to have these alternative mechanisms
for learning, while we work on the systemic issues, you know, at the same time. It’s not
an either/or, and, sometimes, you engage in that in communities or funding where it’s
either/or. And I think philanthropy that’s putting money in different things has to look
at it in the same way. We have to continue to experiment.
>>LEVY: If technology can succeed in my school, you know, at 339, it can succeed in any school
in the country. And I think that, you know, if we’re talking about scaling up, you know,
the only way you could scale up in this day and age is through technology. There is no
way to scale up without technology. So I think that we need to find some of the best practices
that are happening. I think we need to make technology readily available to every student
and teacher in the country. There’s low-cost Netbooks now. Within five years, we want to
have a plan. We should put a low-cost Internet device in the hands of every teacher and student
in this country. And we should train new people and understand that it’s not going to be an
overnight mandated thing. We have to have a growth plan, where people are going to be
able to learn at their right speed. We can’t just make technology, “by tomorrow, everyone
is going to be doing this”; that takes the fun out of it. But I think we need to have–we
need to be able to, you know, start with the equipment, but also continue with the training
and people are talking about it last night, policy. Our governmental laws, our school
board policies, our state curriculum are not set up to support the technology that we need
to undergird what we’re doing. It’s just not possible.
>>MERROW: And why do you expect that’s going to change?
>>LEVY: I think that, at some point, there’s going to be–there’s going to have to be a
tipping point, and I don’t want to monopolize the panel, but I think, at some point, there’s
going to be a tipping point where you keep getting people together who are from different
industries and you keep seeing us fall further behind other countries that are doing these
things. We’re going to have to innovate. We’re going to have to make sure that we move forward.
>>SALEN: Yeah, I was just going to say, I think that there–all this conversation the
past two days has all been about “schools are the only thing that they have to change,
they have to change, they have to change.” We have to take responsibility in other parts
of the sector to help lift up everything. So, you know, what–what Geoffrey didn’t talk
about last night is that the Harlem Children Zone is an ecology. It’s the design of a network.
They’re not just helping kids in the school. They’re working with parents. They’re working
with–in the after-school program. They have Saturday programs. There’s all of these other
sectors where work is being done to create, again, feedback loops that create multiple
opportunities to catch kids in all different kind spaces. If we keep saying schools are
the only thing, the only place where we’re going to hold kids accountable for learning,
it’s just–it’s impossible. So one of the challenges–and I think Connie talked about
this this morning–is that we have to understand how to develop translators between experiences
kids are having outside of school. What does that mean for our assessment measures, for
how kids might begin to think about moving into the workforce, how they might begin to
thinking about putting something in their college portfolio that may not look like something
standard and something that they’ve done in school? And so we have to begin to think about–we
talked about wisdom of the crowd, the distributed learning. We have to understand how to operationalize
that in a way that it takes the weight off of the schools as the sucking black hole in
this conversation because it is not their responsibility today to hold all that weight.
>>MERROW: I wonder if Rey is onto something when he talks about organizing a whole county
and so that school becomes one piece of it. Eric Schmidt said something very interesting
last night. He said, the way we learn is under attack, under attack. And it may well be that
this notion of school doesn’t realize the extent to which it’s a dinosaur, I mean, that
has been mortally wounded but hasn’t gotten up to the brain. I mean, you guys talked about
guide on the side, sage on the stage. But a lot of teachers today are forced to be ringmasters
to try to get those test scores up. I mean, is that–are you hopeful that–I mean, how
are you going to–how are you going to fight that?
>>ROSENSTOCK: Oh, I have a remedy for that. I think that any legislative body that requires
that a standardized test be taken and the aggregate results be made public should obligated
to take the test and make the results public. U.S. Congress, state board–that–and that
will change the discourse in one hour.>>MERROW: But it’s a–yeah, you know, what
we have here are a whole raft of ideas. We have run out of time. Let’s continue this
conversation…>>We have five minutes.
>>MERROW: We have five minutes. Okay, then, in that case, are there questions that some
of you guys–yes, please. All right, I can take three questions the boss says.
>>BEZETTAS: Hi, my name is Maria Bezettas. This question is for Katie. I wonder if you
can say something, Katie, about the question of kind of scale, and how you deal with the
sort of tremendous experimentation that you’re able to do in a very limited context, right?
How do you get it out, right? And what do partnerships mean to you and how do you go
about sort of dealing with that?>>SALEN: All right. So one thing that, you
know, we need a conscious decision to open a public school that would, in theory, over
time, be sustainable on public dollars because it’s not that we were hoping that there would
be a million of these schools in the world, but we did want to figure out how could we
create a model where at least pieces of that model could be taken up and used by others.
So the design of the schools has been very systemic. There are modular components. We–the
curriculum, we worked before the school opened with existing public school teachers to figure
out what could we bring, teachers from regular schools, into the model. Work with them, develop
curriculum; they went back to their schools and taught those classes to very good effects.
So the pedagogy is something that could be taken up. The–we have a professional development
program that we feel like could begin and I’m–and there’s other examples up here too
of things that could be taken up…>>MERROW: Are people paying attention?
>>SALEN: Well, I have to say we’ve only been opened eight weeks so…
>>LEVY: Give her a chance…>>MERROW: But Larry’s experience in San Diego
is not that, you know, people, the local district schools are not to be the path to reserve,
as I understand it.>>SALEN: No, no, no, I have to say there’s
great interest and we’ve had amazing partners in New York. And so I think one of the amazing
things about being in New York is that there’s a lot of work being done there around, you
know, how to support learning networks? So there’s cultural institutions trying to figure
out how do you connect the schools, the–my non-profit, we actually have a curriculum
lab staffed with game designers that sits inside of the school. That’s becoming kind
of a conduit for other teachers to come in and train and work with us and co-develop
curriculum; so the ideas that pieces of this school can be taken up and used by others.
And we’re very context-specific so we actually think that the model will look different wherever
it goes and that’s actually a very good thing, but–so that’s been our approach in terms
of scale. It’s not the whole school but it’s–the ecology of the school, hopefully, that can
be taken up and used.>>MERROW: Other questions? Yeah, please.
Yeah, I think, I’ll get you a mike.>>PETROLA: My name is Mary Ann Petrola, and
I’m curious to know a little bit about–this has been a great conversation about technology
and parents and getting them informed and the communication and stuff, but what about
the ambition gap? How are your schools helping students understand what they’re being prepared
for in the future? We’re here in Silicon Valley; we’re all about innovation. We know the future
could be anything tomorrow. But I don’t wonder if that’s not a challenge–a bigger challenge
for the average parent than the reality of using technology.
>>ROSENSTOCK: Well, my response to that–my response to that is to have a school environment
in which kids are behaving like scientists, behaving like mathematicians, behaving like
photographers, behaving like journalists. That’s the best way to close the ambition
gap for me. And then, there’s a couple of other mechanisms. I’ll give you a very quick
one, okay? You need to have a weighted average, again, just like good colleges, right? We
don’t want to segregate kids. We’re diverse. We’re–the kids are picked by zip code lottery,
through the zip code. So we made a deal with University of California that, basically,
someone could be taking honors, let’s say, over at the end, is taking honors and I’m
taking regular and we can be in the same class at the same time with the same teacher, but
that person is doing more work than I am. And, after awhile, I say, hey, you know, you
know, that could be me. You know, but I don’t go home feeling like I’m in the dumb class,
you know. We don’t have adult’s bathrooms and kids’ bathrooms. We have bathrooms. We
don’t have a PA system that makes you feel like a bus system. We do home visits of every
kid. Every college advising counselor has two qualities: They work–and it’s like the
college admission office–successfully for years and they’re the first member of their
family to go to college. I mean, there’s–there’s a hundred little things that you could do
that we–that are all very obvious and, surprisingly, are not done.
>>MERROW: But it has to do with–you don’t study science; you do science.
>>ROSENSTOCK: That is correct.>>MERROW: You are a scientist. I mean, so
a level of respect, you don’t–here’s a game where kids repair broken games. I mean, you’re
doing real work, which is a respect issue.>>SALEN: I think it’s also a part of just
exposing kids to lots of stuff. And one thing that having kids access to Web 2.0 stuff in
school is it helps them see lots of stuff and interact with lots of interesting, different
kind of people and that helps with aspirational things. And one thing that Cole talked about
earlier is that there are–true, they have sort of making mentally. Kids are able to
see that I can do that too. This pedagogy around kids teaching other kids. They can
see, “wow, actually. I know how to do math, because I just taught somebody else how to
do it, and I actually didn’t even know that I could do it that well.” So this way of kind
of constantly reinforcing for kids that they are experts, they can have expertise and there
are places to take that expertise so the technology stuff just–there’s just more texture, many
more opportunities for kids to be exposed to stuff.
>>MERROW: And final thoughts?>>RAMSEY: I’m about to say we have to be
intentional about the expectation issue and there are other intentionalities that we have
to build in, like making sure there’s cultural competency with the teachers and those sorts
of things. And having been a product of that on the side, of having been in remedial reading
myself and dumped into sort of the class for dummies, you-can’t-read, is you have to provide
alternative mechanisms that aren’t just in the classroom because, sometimes, that one
guidance counselor doesn’t care. And so you need alternatives to make sure that in that
support–and the final thing that I would say, in the 21st century, we have to think
in terms of not just schools but connected learning environments and that it’s not just
the school, that there is a connected learning environment that include other elements and
we make no investment in those other places and we need to start.
>>MERROW: And Katie said we have to take some of that pressure off the school to be
everything. We have to enable schools and teachers to give up control, to get over their
fears, as Jason did. Lots of food for thought for conversation during lunch; would you give
it up please for this marvelous group? Thank you.

9 thoughts on “Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age – Session III. New Learning Designs

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