Google Apps for educators

Last night, Brendan Madden and I facilitated a workshop on using a range of Google apps for teaching and learning for some of the nice folks from The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT). JALT has been hosting a learning series to help enable their members to develop their knowledge and use of technology. It was a fun evening with time for sharing, demos and practice. Several people received certificates from JALT in recognition of their commitment to attend five sessions. Some members are also preparing to take the Google Educator exams to gain further recognition for their learning.


JALT workshopRather than dictating the agenda for our session, we began the event with a Dotstorming activity. Participants voted, and we then rank ordered the apps we proposed to explore. Guided by participant choice, we spent time looking at Google Maps, Google Drawing, Google Photos, and finished off with Docs. The evening was a nice reminder for me, that not everyone uses or is familiar with some of the Google tools that I may now take for granted. My favorite part of gatherings like this is hearing and sharing ideas of how technology can be used in innovative ways.

Google Opps

You have no doubt heard of Special Ops. Well, this week we kicked off our own version titled Google Opps. What’s it all about? Creating and supporting opportunities for staff, faculty and students to dig deeper into all things Google. Why? Because ASIJ is very excited about hosting the Google Apps for Education Tokyo Summit on February 9-10 and we want to build momentum and anticipation for that great event.

How are we doing that? For starters we are sharing information about some of the upcoming opportunities for Google related PD.  Google Apps Training online material,  Google Teacher Academy in December at Mountain View, CA, and Power Searching with Google. (Thanks for your help with this effort @edueyeview!)

And what a great start! This week twenty plus enthusiastic ASIJ faculty and staff have signed up to form study groups to learn more about the suite of tools we have as part of being a Google Apps for Education school.

More Google Opps to come!

Tokyo Earthquake – from the school play field

Kichijoji on a normal weekend

Kichijoji on a normal weekend

24 Hours on
I won’t forget two things about yesterday’s earthquake; first – that awful feeling of the whole place rolling under me with the sound of the buildings straining from the force of the ground movement. Second – how helpless, yet weirdly connected I felt sitting out on the sports field with the rest of our school community.

2:30 PM Friday
I happened to be meeting with our Assistant Principal with my laptop when the quake began. When we moved outside I took it with me. People on phones, iPad and laptops were stranded, yet strangely meshed into what was going outside our immediate situation. A few of us huddled around my screen and watched pictures and listened to an interview of an Australian guy who had called into a radio show being streamed live (3AW in Melbourne – my home town.) The guy was somewhere in a high rise in downtown Tokyo and had rung in. He described what he was seeing out the windows just minutes after the shaking had stopped.

Cell networks were down. Someone heard on the emergency radio that the high-way was closed. Some else said trains had stopped – this was confirmed on the JR webpage which had a big red exclamation mark on all the lines. The Japan Meteorological Agency site, which posts earthquake information, had a map up with the epicenter marked with a big X – 300 kms north. They were also posting Tsunami warnings.

So much information, so much live coverage. We could tap into it all because we had access to the wireless network from our school’s sports field. Disturbing images but at least we had some sense of what was going on – and we knew that down-town Tokyo was still standing…a fear some people had initially had since no one had felt a earthquake this big that they could remember.

2:28 PM Saturday
I live in a funky part of Kichjoji which is normally teaming with people on the weekend. Starbucks is closed and a lot of shops are shut up around town. It’s eerily quiet. Skype has kept me in touch with friends and family – not all cell phones are working yet. Facebook messages and emails from people in other countries keep arriving checking to hear if we are safe. I find myself checking online for up-dates. I feel connected to the families and farms affected just a few hundred kilometers north. Can the age of instant information also enlist immediate action?
Japan disaster: How you can help: Reuters

Art meets New Media

Ian Potter, Melbourne

I was interested to read the article Museums 2.0: What happens When Great Art Meets New Media?  in the Huff Post debating the costs and benefits of Museums getting into social media.

There is something delightful about visiting a museum. Seeing artworks up close and in reality is vastly different from looking at a picture in a book or online. I associate particular works with places I have visited; Amsterdam and Van Gogh are definitely anchored together in my long term memory. Every time I come home to Melbourne I spend some time at the Ian Potter Museum being inspired or reacquainting myself with favourite paintings.

However my experience of being able to access information and visit works online via mobile apps and museum sites has had a very positive influence. Earlier in the year when I was in London I spent a full day at the Tate Modern. I was already familiar with the museum because of Tateshots. The online experience ensured that I set aside a longer visit for that institution in comparison to the others I went to.

But if museums forget their DNA and get their heads turned by every new tech hottie that shimmies by they will undercut the point of their existence. Too much of the wrong kind of connection can actually disconnect us from an aesthetic experience.

Does the technology deepen the experience, or does it diminish it? Do we control it, or does it control us? Art is not simply information, pieces of data composed and arranged in a certain way, like blogs, tweets, Facebook postings, and YouTube videos are.

Read the article; it tackles some interesting ideas and poses worthy questions for this global Conceptual Age that we live in….and the role of art in it.

Face-to-face art

There is something delightful about visiting a museum. Seeing artworks up close and in the reality is vastly different from looking at a picture in a book or online. I also associate particular works with places I have visited; Amsterdam and Van Gogh are definitely anchored together in my long hippocampus.

2 Books Blog post

On Friday I was handed From Fear to Facebook by Matt Levinson, and Disrupting Class: How disruptive Innovation will change the way the world learns by Clayton Christensen. ‘Oh good! Some light weekend reading’, I thought as I settled in on Saturday morning.

Both books challenged me again about how ‘school’ as we know it is being, and will be, changed by technology. They also addressed in different ways the topic of teacher-uptake of technology and professional development. Here are a few highlights from my personal notebook:

From Fear to Facebook –

The most effective and lasting way for teaching to change is when one teacher shares with another, grows inspired, and experiments with a new application. Force feeding through workshops can sometimes backfire and actually slow growth. p. 108 (2010. Levinson)

When something is designed on the outside and pushed into the organization, there’s often a lot of resistence. But when you involve the people themselves, then they already own the new solution, and it’s so much easier then to get the change to happen. p. 32 (Levinson)

Disrupting Class has much to say about the challenges organization face in implementing new models.

…unless top managers actively manage this process (implementation of the disruptive innovation) their organization will shape very disruptive innovation into a sustaining innovation – one that fits the process, values and economic model of the existing business – because organizations cannot naturally disrupt themselves. p. 75

Schools have crammed the computers into the existing teaching and classroom models. Teachers have implemented computers in the most commonsense way – to sustain their existing practices and pedagogies rather than to displace them. p85

People follow charismatic, visionary role models only when they want what the leader wants. People who want something different would treat the same leader with indifference, defiance, or disdain. p.232

Effective Leaders will be aware of, and skilled at, managing the invisible forces that for understandable reasons of self preservation are at play. Christensen’s ideas about Leadership in varying organization climates are worth serious pondering, along with his diagram that visually describes the Tools of Governance that can elicit cooperation (on p.230).

Perhaps an alternate title for this post should be: FACE the DISRUPTION.

3 ‘New’ Challenges as school starts

What is it about ‘new’ that is challenging? Why do some of us find ‘new’ easy, and others stress out? Here are three ‘new’ challenges (or changes) that I’ve been thinking about as the school year approaches:

1. New Technology

New versions and updates always get rolled out at the start of the school year (which does make sense.) Our Blackboard course has been updated and I’m glad we have the new version. However, right now I just want to update and add new material to my courses, and the new version has presented an extra barrier to getting ready for class. When we are coming to terms with new tech I’m sure our tech department must think we look like this….

How does timing impact the way ‘new’ learning challenges are perceived?

2. New Students, New Teachers, New Admin

colored ink painting

There’s usually some anticipation associated with introductions and getting to know new classes, new colleagues we’ll work with and new leaders. Will we connect? (Will they understand my accent?)

School is like a glass of water. Add a new person and their distinctive color does add a new dimension to the whole color scheme. Established systems have a familiarity and security that can be very comfortable but new people bring new ideas and fresh insight.

How can we embrace the new and honor the past?

3. New Educational Horizon

From individual challenges to school challenges to the biggest challenge for our whole profession; the relevance of the school system as I am part of it is most definitely something I know I need to keep thinking about. From The Partnership of 21st Century Skills.

The 21st Century isn’t coming; it’s already here. And our students have the opportunity and challenge of living and working in a diverse and rapidly changing world…schools must prepare our young people to understand and address global issues, and educators must re-examine their teaching strategies and curriculum so that all students can thrive in this global and interdependent society.
Global Competence is a 21st Century ImperativeDennis Van Roekel, NAE President.

As I re-examine what and how I teach, how much will I need to change to be relevant in this approaching new horizon?

What’s my standard?

I’ve been working on updating my Blackboard courses in preparation for the start of school. As I have been considering what I might do differently and how I can ‘update’ my curriculum units to personalize and differientiate learning, technology has been much on my mind.

So the piece in Education Week on the new draft  Teacher Standards put out by CCSSO was nice confirmation of my pondering.

…they’re meant to guide teachers at all levels of their career, with more-experienced teachers exhibiting the practices in more-sophisticated ways.

In addition, the standards put more emphasis on teachers’ ability to use assessment data to support instruction, to address cultural and linguistic diversity in the student population, and to harness technology as a tool to support learning.

Continue reading

Personalizing and differientiating learning in AP Art

Here is my challenge:

  • 2 classes of AP Studio Art.
  • 4 variations of the three exam types offered in AP Studio Art (Drawing, 3D Design, and 2D Design, 2D Design-Photography.)
  • the exam requires a large body of work to be produced specific to the exam type so at ASIJ students have the opportunity to take the class over 2 years and submit the exam in the second year. (16 pieces of work for 3D Design, and 24 pieces of work for 2D and Drawing.)

This means there are potentially up to eight different groups of students for me to teach in 1 class period. Here is a diagram created in Gliffy to illustrate.

Call me crazy but I am actually quite excited about the problem this creates. It compels me to find new ways to help personalize Continue reading

Curriculum 21

I’m reading Curriculum 21 in between holiday ficition. It’s a collection of writers led by Heidi Hayes Jacobs on preparing students for our times…and their future.

Here is a snipit I read this morning over breakfast in Chapter 7 Making Learning Irresistible by Tim Tyson from Mabry Middle School in Georgia, USA.

If digitial technology is used in low-level ways–to do the same things we have always been doing in schools, just doing them now with computers–then we have failed to grasp the metamorphosis this technological ecosystem offers.

After a week in London thinking, talking and exploring ways to integrate ‘Technology in the International Classroom’ at the Teacher Training Center this sounds like very useful and inspiring revision.