Change knowledge and leadership

I am fortunate to work with principals that model leadership. An example from a few weeks ago was when writing consultant Penny Kittle ran a session for our 9th grade teachers about how to support reading and writing across disciplines. Both our HS principals joined in as participants, and continued conversations about the strategies we explored in the following weeks with individual teachers and the whole staff.

“understanding requires interaction”

One of the many insights I gleaned from Michael Fullan’s book The New Meaning of Change was what a powerful influence principals can have on change initiatives. Why this struck me as significant is because, although we expect principals to be leaders of change, the realities of their jobs means they can get swamped and side tracked by the day to day running of school.

Fullan points out that without visible, tangible support from principals for change initiatives teachers won’t adopt new practices. Yet, if administrators do some or all of the following, their agency for change can be huge. Do you know principals who regularly:
Visit classrooms to see what is happening?
Follow through on decisions?
Attend workshops and training?
Articulate challenges to show understanding of realities effecting implementation?


Three ways 3D printing is a transformative technology

How transformative is 3-D printing? There’s a lot of energy going into putting 3D printers in classrooms–which I am all for! Yet I have been pondering how we keep the focus on the inspirational end of what 3-D printing can do. Here’s a few ideas we might share with students:

1. 3D Printing is democratizing invention
Once upon a time if you were an inventor you either had to be wealthy, or you had to convince someone who was, to pour a lot of money into to creating  a testable prototype. Wider access and affordability is how 3-d printing is transforming the protoyping process of ideas. 3-D printers are becoming affordable and ubiquitous; Fab Labs and Maker Spaces allow designer-creators to now produce fairly high resolution inexpensive prototypes to test their concepts.

2. 3D Printing supports nimble and responsive design solutions
The industrial production model was all about scale; how much and how many people will want your invention? You had to find the sweet spot between cost and market size which usually meant thousands of a single version.

A viable idea was only viable if you could produce it cheaply enough to market it to the masses. Without scale the product might be too expensive or too niche. 3-d printing supports and enables entrepreneurs to work at small scales and to keep innovating in response to feedback instead of being locked into large long term timelines.

The 3D Printed Titanium bike is an example of design that is nimble and responsive, and a design that meets the unique needs of an individual. Which leads to the final way 3D printing is transforming design and invention…

3. 3D Printing enables customization
To me this is the most transformative aspect of 3-D printing, as it marks a complete departure from the old industrial model.  I am completely blown away by some of the ways 3D printing technology is helping people craft solutions to address individuals needs.

From medical applications like the Bespoke Hip Replacement to 3D Printed Shoes, custom solutions will continue to appear across diverse fields enabled by 3D printing.

As we are plugging 3D printer into schools it would be great to keep in mind some of the ways this technology is truly transforming people lives and ideas. This technology has a lot more potential than printing out a duplicate copy of a Harry Potter wand downloaded from <a href=”“>Thingiverse</a> How might we point kids towards the revolutionary end of the spectrum?



The art of empathy

ASIJ has been working with the NoTosh team this year on gaining and understanding of the design thinking process and trying it out in aspects of our teaching practice. I have been really interested in learning about how to develop in students a mindset of a ‘problem finder’ and how empathy fits into that.

In the Graphic design course I’m teaching for GOA I’ve tried to intentionally focus student on using a few phase of the design cycle with some success. So I thought I’d share my learning from a recent unit on ergonomics.

I usually frame a new unit with learning intentions and success criteria. In this case it was:

Learning Intention
we are learning about identifying and defining problems

Criteria for Success
we can say what we observe a situation and describe gaps
we can say what people in a situation are experiencing (developed empathy)
we can write a need statement

The Hook I gave them a scenario for conducting independent research into the situation I called Learn Safe: Ergonomics

“…investigate a growing concern about habits relating to posture. Many more schools now have 1-1 programs, and students spend long hours in front of screens, hunched over text books and may sit for long periods of time at desks. Your job is to research and investigate this situation, identify gaps, define a need and come up with possible solutions.”

I shared articles to stimulate thought and discussion before sending them off to observe and interview people in their own local environments. We talked about who to interview: an expert is very different from a ‘user’ or subject (I modeled this in a video); and suggested how to combine observation with interviewing to develop empathy for ‘users’. e.g Actively intervene during an observation & use open ended questions: ‘Show me…’Why did you choose…? What do you like…? What don’t you like…? What suggestions…? What issues do you consider when xxx…?

Activities–Students observed and recorded their local context with a partner and then compared and synthesize their observations. Artifacts they generated included video interviews with experts (doctors, coaches), friends, siblings, photos of people sitting, wearing backpacks, slouching on buses, leaning over computers. Their notes and sketches fill in the details and made the situation ‘visible’ to the whole class. It was great!

From all these observations partners then had to find and define a problem worth tackling. They crafted a needs statement that identified the user, their need and the underlying problem. I introduced them to the hybrid brainstorming model and pairs practiced that as part of generating 100 ideas to tackle the problem they defined. Every pair made the target number! Some were sure wild and crazy ideas but they were mixed in with some insightful ways to impact the situation.

100 ideas 1

It’s a design class so students presented their work as a graphic representation for peer review. We stopped at that point but students can choose this work as the basis for their major project which starts in about a weeks time.

Slouch_1 Learn Safe 1

Did they develop empathy for others in this assignment and see how observation and interviewing can lead to greater understand of a situation? I’m not sure, but I am trying to intentionally build these things–practice and applying things in different contexts help me ‘work stuff out’ so my hunch is that will be true for some students too.

How much time did we spend on this? Remember that this was an online course. We did this assignment over two weeks while another individual practical project was going at the same time. I was really impressed with what students achieved in that time.


Edcamp Tokyo

Edcamp Tokyo (held at YIS last Saturday) was a most rewarding day of conversation on inspirational topics proposed on the day but the 40+ teachers and administers who showed up. Having time, space and  interesting people who are open to sharing ideas, questions and resources made the event hit a sweet spot for me.

My favorite topics of discussions were ‘creativity’, ‘20% time’ and ‘interdisciplinary learning’ but the list of what groups talked about was broad ranging, and the notes we generated during each hour long session are evidence that they were each as equally engaging.

The day ended with a simple share out of technology tools and tips in the most relaxed demo slam I have seen; people just kept hopping up and offering more ideas. It was great! I’m already looking forward to another #edcamptokyo in the new school year.

Interdisciplinary learning Edcamp Tokyo - 3 Edcamp Tokyo - 2 Edcamp Tokyo - 1

Design Essentials for Educators

On the weekend my friend Joachim Castellano presented some ideas that we’ve been working on together at the Paperless Classroom Conference. Some time ago we started developing an iTunes U course called Design Essentials for Educators wondering how we might offer support to teachers wanting to raise the bar on the presentation of content.

Now more than ever, we have access to apps and software choices that have made it possible for the non designer to be creators of serious works of content. But having many different ways of presenting content, and easy access to more tools, doesn’t automatically translate into clearer communication. We thought we’d have a go at sharing our enthusiasm for design and interest in learning, and bring the two areas together.

We drafted the Design Manifesto for Educators; a lighthearted attempt to articulate what we strive for when we create content.

      1. Information shall be presented with elegance as well as efficiency.
      2. Visuals shall add clarity to ideas and not be mere decoration.
      3. Contrast & visual hierarchy shall guide the reader through content.
      4.Type, color and other elements shall be combined with intention to create a unified whole.

    The Paperless Classroom Conference was a great opportunity to get some feedback from educators if we are on the right track. From the crowd that showed up it seems that people are keen for examples and ideas.

    As well as the iTunes U course, which we will continue to develop, we have started a Google+ community where we hope people will share ideas and examples.

Digital Citizenship Week–Remix & Mash Up

Our high school is celebrating Digital Citizenship week with a focus on content creation, copyright and remix culture.

For Students: Student Council are sponsoring a Mad Movie Mashup designed to promote the message for students to be proactive about building a positive digital footprint; to be creative and responsible content makers.

For Teachers: In our CreateIT  sessions for teachers over the next few weeks we will be focusing on remix culture and how it relates (or not) to copyright and fair use. We’re also encouraging people to sign up for some of the seminars that Commonsense Media are sponsoring. (I’m particularly keen on this one:)

Teaching Copyright and Fair Use to the Remix Generation
Wed, Nov. 13, 1-2 p.m. PDT
(Hosted on EdWeb)
Click here to register

In preparation for the sessions we’ll run at ASIJ I have been bookmarking some sites I’ve been finding or have been pointed to by other educators. Rab Paterson opened his session at the NYU Technology in Teaching Seminar by contrasting two quite different remix examples. One of the pieces Rab shared, by Kutiman (below), is an artful synthesis of content that Larry Lessig said, in a blog post, you could watch and it would basically encompass all he tried to impart in his book Remix. It certainly is a good example!

Defining Remix

The following collection of voices have helped me get my head around what Remix culture and theory looks and sounds like.

“Generally speaking, remix culture can be defined as a global activity consisting of the creative and efficient exchange of information made possible by digital technologies. ” Remix Theory by Eduardo Navas

Read more by Eduardo Navas including an overview of the history, and an in depth definition. Then there is Kirby Ferguson’s work which includes a four part video series building the case that Everything is a Remix. In Part 3 where he discusses The elements of creativity–an particular passion of mine. Of course, Larry Lessig has been long time passionate advocate and authority on remix culture. His TED talks are worth every minute.

Thinking about this topic from a creators point-of-view is worth some contemplation. The following Pogo (Nick Bertke) talks about finding his own voice in the act of creating remixes from cultural classics.

While these examples touch on music and film there are voices addressing how writing culture in the remix generation is being reshaped too. Tanya Sasser’s blog post Digital Writing As Handicraft is an enlightening read.

“As the limits on who can create and publish digital media have broken down, and as those media have become part of an open collective commons, the ability to create, use, hack, remix, and hybridize cultural products has made manifest William S. Burroughs’ redefinition of the work of creating as a “process that occurs in collaboration with others” (emphasis added). Blogs are not the only form of digital writing that makes such a process possible. Twitter, for example, mimics the kind of mechanically juxtaposed form of composition that Burroughs emphasizes in his cut-up method. Like the cut-up method,Twitter encourages a mixed-media style of writing, as authors integrate images, hyperlinks, hashtags, and the tweets of others into their 140-character compositions–sometimes randomly, sometimes strategically, but always, like Burroughs’ scissors, “render(ing) the process explicit.””

It’s a deep and engaging topic–most worthy of delving into during Digital Citizenship Week!

NYU Technology in Teaching Seminar


Pages: Flair, Flow and Function

Here are the notes to my presentation on Pages: PDF version Flair, Flow and Functionality with Pages. To download the ePub version in iBook just click on this link from an iPad or iPhone. 

The iPad app I used to create some of my graphic for the presentation is Paper 53.

Made with the Paper app


Thinking Visually

This week ASIJ opened the new HS Library which includes a dry erase wall. Floor to ceiling in the IdeaXchange is now a visual thinking space.

IdeaXchange--learning space

A learning space in ASIJ’s new HS Library

For some time I have been wondering how we might encourage students and teachers to do more visual thinking. The unveiling of this space is a terrific opportunity to model and promote this as a valuable strategy for learning.

Over summer I was fortunate to attend a session on Visual Thinking presented by Lisa Kay Solomon and Patrick Vander Pijl, and supported by graphic recorder Giselle Chow, at the Nueva Design Thinking Institute. I was reminded of the power of getting ideas out of our heads so others can interact with them. Lisa shared ‘5Ms’–Maps, Metaphors, Meaning and iMagination–each with practical applications or inspiration to illuminate how thinking visually leverages communication and innovation. Patrick gave us a ‘drawing alphabet’ and some practical ‘how-to’ examples.

So, I’m now looking forward to putting some of their ideas to work in our new learning space.



Mapping With Google | Assignment 1

What’s summer without some learning. I signed up for the Mapping with Google online course. I hope to pick up some new tips and tricks. So for assignment one I decided to map my most recent adventure. Check out Tokyo to Shikoku below; an adventure by bike and train around southern Japan.

View Tokyo to Shikoku, Japan Bike & Train travel in a larger map

Essential skills: Image search

At this time of year a few teachers plan alternative final assessments instead of an exam. (I love that!) Some of the essential skills for projects involving multimedia include finding and appropriately citing content. Sometimes we take for granted that kids have these things in their ‘know-how’ tool kits. Below are a few tips we provide to emphasize quality and a culture of citation.

Learning about creative & intellectual property in a ‘share & remix culture’

Criteria for success

You can locate images that are licensed to share and reuse.
You can check sizes of images (pixel dimensions) so they are not fuzzy in your presentations.
You can cite the sources of images appropriately.

Your Work, Creative Commons & Copyright

Watch this 2.5 min video about for a quick overview.

Which search tools?

1. Creative Commons Search This is a good place to start:

Change the settings to look for something to Modify, adapt or build upon > Type in your search terms > then click which source you want to search. (I suggest you take a look in more than one! Try Wikimedia Commons, Google Images, and Flickr.)

Creative Commons Search








2. Google Image Search

Within Google’s Image Search there are some helpful tools well worth exploring that will help you narrow your search further to content suited to the project. Take a peek under each of the heading — Size, Color, Type & More.

Google Image Search

To refine your search terms you can also go to the Advanced Search > click the wheel on the right.

When does size matter?

No one enjoys looking at fuzzy images in a presentation. There are two things to consider; the ratio of the pictures you choose, and their pixel dimensions.

Most computer screens and TV monitors have a ratio of 16:9. (Also called High Aspect Ratio or HD – High Definition.) This diagram helps visualize this. (It is 16 units wide by 9 units high.)

  Pixel diagram

Pixel dimensions This tells you how big an image is. You will want to find images that have enough pixels per inch to completely fill the screen ratio.

Most cameras shoot 4:3 ratio which means images won’t fit neatly. As a guide, look for images that have dimensions that are between 2048  x 1536 , 1600 x 1200, or 1024 x 768.

(Images dimensions of 640 x 480 are borderline–they will look slightly soft not crisp and clear. Anything below this I would completely avoid!)

Look for landscape oriented images. (e.g. otherwise you will have to crop a portrait oriented image if you are going to fill the whole screen.)

my breadfast


Sizes smaller than these will mean you have to stretch pictures to fill your screen resulting in poor quality results that look fuzzy and pixely.

low pixel dimensions = fuzzy poor quality images