Engagement is not a goal, it’s an outcome of trust and responsibility

You often hear people talk about how technology is so “engaging” for kids. But that misses the point. It’s not the technology that’s engaging, it’s the opportunity to use technology to create something that is valued by the community and by yourself. Yes, a new device can be entertaining for a while, but when the novelty value wears off, what are you left with?

empowerment cycle
Feel free to use — with credit!

Engagement is not a goal, it’s an outcome of students (or anyone) doing meaningful work. Meaningful to themselves AND to the community they are in. Meaningful because someone trusted them to do something good and they shouldered the responsibility. Trust engenders trust in yourself and in others. Joining as a citizen of a community, whether that community is a classroom or a virtual tribe, where you belong, and your voice is valued and encouraged. True citizenship is a two-way street, not a list of rules and punishments.

Engagement is not something you DO to kids or you GIVE kids, it’s the outcome of this cycle of experiences.

Podcast – No Such Thing: Learning in the Digital Age

No Such Thing podcast logo

Recently, I was a guest on the No Such Thing podcast hosted by Marc Lesser. Marc is Chief Learning Officer of MOUSE, a national youth development non-profit.

MOUSE designs computer science and STEM curriculum and engages students through the Design League and maker events.

MOUSE does similar work to Generation YES, where I was the president for over a decade. Both organizations support students as learners and leaders in their schools and communities. It was great to talk to Marc about my background in engineering, the 2nd Edition of Invent To Learn, how schools can be a glorious explosion of interesting things, and the (hopefully) lasting impact of Maker Education.

Be sure to check out other podcast episodes of No Such Thing. Marc has a fresh approach to K-12 education in the digital age, focusing on youth led initiatives. And to find out “why the ice cream truck?”

Direct link to podcast page if the embed above does not work.

Students as Digital Creators (COSN report)

ETN Digital Creativity3-31A_Page_01.jpgThe Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) just added a new report to their Ed Tech Next Series: Students as Digital Creators for CoSN members.  This report explores the ways in which K–12 schools everywhere are carving out space in their buildings and curriculum to empower students as storytellers, artists, performers, designers, engineers, coders, gamers, inventors, builders, producers, innovators and entrepreneurs. The report offers expert perspectives on why and how to foster digital creativity—and profiles leading districts, communities and educators engaged in this maker movement.

I was happy to provide CoSN with some quotable quotes, resources, ideas, and point them to some great maker educators for case studies and profiles. I wish everyone could see this, but it’s a member benefit for CoSN members.

Sneak peek:

“Design is the lever or engine for the T in STEM—the technology,” Martinez says. “Without design, there is no technology. Technology means anything in the designed world. Whereas in schools, technology has come to mean this very narrow computer literacy—using computers to do work, to look things up. We have to expand the definition of technology beyond how to use Google Docs and making the network run right, to this idea that you can change the world with the things you think up in your head.”

Q&A: How Students Can Help Teachers Use Technology for Learning

From Common Sense Media

A thirty-year veteran educator, technology trainer Lisa Hogan teaches students and faculty in Topsham, Maine to better use new digital media tools to transform learning as part of Maine’s innovative 1:1 laptop program. We talked with her about how technology is changing learning and her school’s student-led iTeam.

Common Sense Media: Tell me about your school’s iTeam. Who’s on the team and what do they do?

Lisa Hogan: They are a group of high school students that help me support teachers. They help with the deployment and collection of 900 laptops, which means they must come to school as early as 5:30 a.m. for deployment. They also attend professional development days and help me help teachers with projects they want to develop.

They’ve also created a video for faculty and students about caring for laptops, and have presented their work to international visitors from Sweden, Denmark, and Singapore. The kids actually give up their lunchtime to work on the iTeam. The iTeam includes everyone from athletes to musicians, and they aren’t even exactly what I would call tech-savvy kids, but they’re willing to learn. They keep me informed about what’s going on with the school network such as slow downs or blocked websites. They’re a good voice to have within the school.

Read more of the interview on Common Sense Media


Announcing – Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom

book coverSo some of you may have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet here lately. All my writing energy has been going to a good cause though! I’m happy to announce a new book: Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, authored jointly by yours truly,  Sylvia Martinez, and Gary Stager.

This book has been cooking a long time, fueled by our belief that many schools are heading away from what real learning looks like – projects that are student-centered, hands-on, and authentic. But there is a technology revolution out there that has the potential to change that. New materials and technology can be game-changers: things like 3D printing, microcomputers like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, sensors and interfaces that connect the physical world to the digital, and programming. At the same time, a vibrant “maker movement” is spreading worldwide, encouraging people to make, tinker, and share technology and craft.

Invent To Learn is for educators who want to learn about these new technologies and how they can work in real classrooms. But it’s not just about “stuff” – we explore teaching, learning, and how to shape the learning environment. By combining the maker ethos with what we know about how children really learn, we can create classrooms that are alive with creativity and “objects to think with” that will permanently change education.

Student leadership
One chapter of Invent To Learn is about how learning by doing also gives students a chance to become leaders in their schools and communities. Giving students access to modern creativity tools and technology is not about “jobs of the future,” it’s about real learning NOW.

Making for every classroom budget
Even if you don’t have access to expensive (but increasingly affordable) hardware, every classroom can become a makerspace where kids and teachers learn together through direct experience with an assortment of high and low-tech materials. The potential range, breadth, power, complexity and beauty of projects has never been greater thanks to the amazing new tools, materials, ingenuity and playfulness you will encounter in this book.

Check the Invent To Learn website for information on getting the print or Kindle version of the book, and also about professional development for your district.

Tips for student presenters at conferences

It’s educational technology conference time of year! There are so many educational conferences that you could literally attend 24/7. Hopefully some of you are taking students along with you to share their work.

There’s nothing more exciting than seeing students step up and hit a home run when presenting, and there’s nothing more excruciating than watching the slow-motion train wreck of a bad presentation by young people who are clearly unprepared or uninterested.

Here are some tips to have the “home run” presenting experience instead of the “train wreck”! (By the way, authentic student voice doesn’t mean they don’t need adult help.)

Ten Tips for Coaching Student Presenters

  1. Make it personal. Have each student tell their own story from their own perspective. It will be more engaging than a generic presentation of what the whole group did.
  2. KISS. Edit down to the essentials. As you practice, help them edit their story down to the essential points. Stick to a 5 minute rule – no one person should talk for more than 5 minutes at a time. Break up the presentation with videos or demonstrations.
  3. Practice, but not too much. Practice out loud in front of other students or teachers if possible. Try not to over-practice; it will sound forced and boring.
  4. Memorize the opening line. Practice the first line until they can do it in their sleep.
  5. Don’t use a script. Even a memorized script will sound stilted.
  6. Try it without notes. It’s a crutch that can be more of a distraction than a help.
  7. Look at the audience, not the screen. Don’t stare at or read from the screen, it disconnects the speaker from the audience.
  8. Timing is everything. Agree on a “secret signal” that means wrap it up. Practice this so they learn to complete a thought without stopping mid-sentence. Explain that you will interrupt their presentation if they go on too long.
  9. Audiences may behave badly. One very odd thing about conferences is that people may get up and leave in the middle of a session. This is normal – don’t take it personally. Be sure to warn students.
  10. Be authentic. Some people are serious, some are born game show hosts. Let them be who they are, use their own words, and show their own personalities.
  11. Rules are made to be broken. If you have one (or more!) exceptionally articulate students, give them more time, but make sure they can stick to the essential message of the presentation.

For more tips, check out this PDF – Sharing Student Voice: Students Presenting at Conferences (PDF). It also covers:

  • Balancing the needs of the audience with the needs of students
  • Research on student voice, 21st Century skills and student empowerment
  • How to plan and submit sessions with student presenters
  • Maintaining student ownership and authentic student voice
  • Logistics tips for bigger conferences and exhibit halls
  • The role of the teacher

Let’s get out there and share!


Infographic: Students have their say on online rights and responsibilities

Check out the results of the 2013 ‘Have your Say’ survey, the UK’s largest ever survey of young people’s attitudes toward online rights and responsibilities. Over 24,000 young people age 7-19 from across the UK responded to the survey, and a further 90 young people explored these findings in focus groups.

Two infographics below with primary and secondary results – these are large files, so why not make a poster! And ask your students what their top ten are to compare.



Powering Authentic Learning. The connection between PBL, design, technology, and empowerment

I keynoted the TiE 2013 conference in Western Massachusetts last week and presented on the topic of Powering Authentic Learning. I’ll post the slides in a bit, but it’s difficult to capture the whole presentation from just the slides.

What I tried to do is make the case for:

  1. Projects not just for younger students, but all ages.
  2. Projects as a way to allow multiple problem-solving and mastery styles.
  3. Playing the “Whole Game” (from Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education by David Perkins)
  4. Why technology has changed the design process, with an overview of the move from sequential design to spiral design methods.
  5. How computers support spiral design and also different problem solving styles and mastery styles.
  6. How spiral design can be adapted to the classroom and why it is so appropriate for children.
  7. Why all of this is important in the real world and jobs of today.
  8. How students can play a role in all of this, not just as objects to be changed, or workers, but as participants and co-creators of knowledge.
  9. How doing so actually supports teachers as they change to a more student-centered, project-based classroom structure.

I think I tried to put too much into the hour, but I’m so excited by all of these ideas and how computers can be used to really engage and inspire young people to do work that is powerful and meaningful.


The Kinder & Braver World Project

From danah boyd –

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is pleased to announce the publication of eight new of papers in The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series (danah boyd, John Palfrey, and Dena Sacco, editors) as part of its collaboration with the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), and generously supported by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series is comprised of short papers that are intended to help synthesize research and provide research-grounded insight to the variety of stakeholders working on issues related to youth empowerment and action towards creating a kinder, braver world.

The eight new papers focus on The Role of Youth Organizations and Youth Movements for Social Change, and were selected among submissions from a call for papers that the Berkman Center put out in June 2012.  They include:

I can’t imagine a better time for this to appear.


Holiday technology coming to your house? Parents and teens need these!

From A Platform for Good (PfG)-

For parents, we’ve created “holiday wrappers.”   These are small, personalized online safety cards for parents to include with their kid’s technology gift. We have five different items (smartphone, tablet, game system, cell phone, computer) for parents to choose from, print out and write in their own guidelines to fit their child’s age and house rules.  To emphasize a key PfG concept –that safety requires a partnership and conversation with your kids — the cards don’t just set rules for the kids to follow. They also provide a set of promises parents have to abide by (e.g., not overreacting, being willing to learn new things)!  Get your holiday wrappers here!

For teens, we’ve created printable (or downloadable) coupons that teenagers can give to their parents. The coupons entitle parents to 2 hours of tech training (such as how to use social media, how to set up the features on a cell phone, even 2 hours of tech-free time). Get your holiday coupons here!