Friday, July 29, 2011

Innovative Education Forum–Judging Day

Wow! Just WOW! I spent yesterday judging teacher projects as part of the US Innovative Educator Forum in Redmond. It was absolutely inspiring. In fact I would go as far as to say this was the most encouraging day in regards to American education I have ever spent. And yes that includes learning about some great things at various ISTE conferences. Yes, that is strong but I mean it. There were 70 some projects (read a brief on each of them at 2011 U.S. Innovative Educators Forum Day 1–A Brief Summary) with teachers from kindergarten through high school, public schools, private schools, charter schools, rich areas, poor areas, and all sorts of geographies. The common factors though were dedicated teachers doing innovative things to improve learning for their students. Knowing there are teachers like this who are sharing their ideas with others is very encouraging to me.

Clearly all these teachers love their students, they love teaching, and they are fearless in trying new things. Another common factor is putting some trust in their students. Even second grade students (a couple of examples come to mind) have teachers allowing their students a role in decision making. The results are impressive. The one question that always comes up is “will this impact standardized test scores?” As anyone in education knows standardized tests are far from a great way to judge learning. But as one teacher told me “just because it is on the standardized test doesn’t mean it has to be boring.” So true. Good teaching is not boring. In fact I would argue, and I think many of the teachers here would agree, the less boring the more learning goes on.

So what else is going on? The day yesterday started with an opening keynote by John Medina author of

John also gave a keynote at the most recent ISTE conference. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak you should take advantage of it. He is dynamic, funny, and informative. I bought a copy of his book and had him sign it for me. It is my airplane reading for the trip home tomorrow. He talked about two of the 12 “rules” from his book and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of them. I think there are lessons for educators (and others) in that book. It was a great start to the day.

Then we had the judging. I visited nine assigned projects and several others. I only wish I had had time to talk to all of the teachers. I also wish we could have had a lot more people in to hear these teachers talk about their projects. From conversations I had with teachers it appears that most of the teachers here (including the educators who are judges – which is most of them – list here) did a lot of networking and learning from each other. The thing I heard most was “I have learned so much.” People are going home with many more ideas then they came with.

The judging team meet first in small groups and then as a large group to discuss the projects and highlight those that were on the tops of people’s lists. Note that all of the projects were great so we are looking for the best of the best not separating wheat from chaff by any means. All of these teachers are amazing! I don’t know who the winners are yet. We’ll find out that tonight. A total of ten teams in several categories will be headed for the worldwide event in November. I need to get me an invitation.Smile

Later today we will have a closing keynote by Jane McGonigal, director of Game Research and Development, Institute for the Future and author of

I have heard her speak before and I am sure she will be both interesting and thought provoking. After that we have some more social events with the awards gals closing the day and the event. I’ll post links to the winners once I have them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Are your students entered in the Windows Phone app contest

This Summer, build Windows Phone 7 apps and you could earn exciting prizes to catch a movie, eat ice – cream, buy camping gear and more!! This special competition is especially for students. It’s a great incentive to get creative and do something interesting and possibly win some prizes and make some money. The software is free through DreamSpark as well!

Lots of chances to win:

* The first 1,000 students to publish will receive a copy of Halo Reach®, Fable 3®, Dance Central™, Kinect Joy Ride or Kinect Sports game for the Xbox 360®. Each week we will randomly select 2 winners from among all entries received to win one $25 gift card. At the close of the sweepstakes the student with the most approved apps published to the marketplace will receive a Windows Phone 7.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Interesting Links 5 July 2011

Wow! What a week it has been. I came home from ISTE in time for the Fourth of July holiday. I’m still mulling over all I heard and learned at ISTE. If things ever quiet down I’ll try to write some of them up. As it was I spent a lot of the long weekend doing work around the house. Yes, we computer geeks do things other than play with computers and the Internet. I installed kitchen cabinets for example. And some yard work. The best of the weekend was spending time with family though. I am putting this post together from Rapid City, South Dakota where I am visiting the SD Schools of Mines and Technology and their wonderful program for native American students. I will be judging some software designed and written by the students. Should be fun. And now a few links.

First off it was great to see Note-Taker, Imagine Cup finalists, win an IDEA Design Award  These students are not just doing software that is for a contest but are writing software to change lives so it is great to see them get even more recognition. Speaking of the Imagine Cup, have you voted for you favorite Imagine Cup team today? Come on - you know you want to. The teams from the US need some more love. They have great projects and we should all show them that we are supporting them against the rest of the world.

And Andrew Parsons has some updates on the Imagine Cup game competition:

Over in the UK they had a big Kinect for Windows event and the team put up a great blog post with lots of videos. Be sure to check it out if you are interested in where this Natural User Interface device is going.

Speaking about Kinect, visit the new Microsoft Kinect in Education web site to see what we are thinking about in that space.

One last link, this one from ISTE, they have released the new NETS for Computer Science Educators (pdf)