About this site

I was a Governing Board Member of the San Carlos School District, elected November 2007 and again in November 2011. This site was originally used for the purpose of communicating with school district constituents, however now it is used for surfacing ideas and expressing opinions on various subjects in education, politics, business, or otherwise.

Please note that any opinion express here is purely personal and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of anyone else or any organization with which I am, or have been, associated.

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May 2012
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Hands-On 21st Century Learning

Last night the San Carlos School District held its third and final meeting in a series of community forums scheduled this spring to discuss 21st Century Learning (here are links to information about the first and second meetings). This session was designed to give participants (which included mostly parents and staff) a first-hand look at some of the methodologies and tools the district is looking at related to curriculum. In the prior meeting, much of the attention was focused on the physical environment — the design of schools and learning spaces, whereas this meeting was more focused on teaching and learning itself.

Everyone was divided into groups and rotated through three “stations,” each demonstrating a methodology and tool set:

  • Flipped Learning — This was a hands-on demonstration of the Khan Academy, including how students can watch “lessons” at home prior to coming to class and then take assessments on that knowledge. They also reviewed the approach from the teacher’s point of view, with a dashboard of individual student performance that better allows the teacher to tailor instruction to individual students. (For more info on the Khan Academy, check out Salman Khan’s 2011 TED talk).
  • Design Learning — The “students” were given a design challenge to build a working electrical circuit, working in small groups, using a set of materials provided. It demonstrated a way to teach certain concepts and solve a problem in an engaging, hands-on, collaborative way. The adults came up with some very creative solutions!
  • Computational ThinkingComputational Thinking is a problem solving method using models based on computer programming to approach problems in an analytical way while allowing creative solutions. At this station, the computer program Scratch was demonstrated to show how even young children can use the methodology of computer programming (using a tool that allows them to do that without knowing computer programming per se) to find solutions.

From my observations, attendees were very engaged in all of these activities which effectively demonstrated a fun and productive learning environment. In the group discussion that followed, attendees talked about the potential for many of these approaches, but also about the amount of work required to ensure we have the resources to do it well across schools and grades. It was properly noted that SCSD is already doing a lot of these approaches now in our schools (FOSS Science, Scratch pilots in some classrooms, and many examples of project-based learning), but it’s clear that there is a still a significant investment needed in professional development and overall curriculum design (across all subjects) to make these approaches a natural part of all students’ experiences. And of course, these ideas go hand in hand with the changing of the physical design of our schools discussed in the prior meeting, so there is a great opportunity with our upcoming bond measure to fund new schools and renovations throughout the district.

The district administration is also looking to partner with a number of organizations that can provide the resources to help us pilot and/or extend many of these 21st Century approaches, including organizations such as Khan, Google, and the Institute of Design at Stanford.

For more information and resources on these topics, check out these sites:

Flipped and Adaptive Learning
Salman Khan’s 2011 TED Talk

Design Learning
An Interview with David Kelley of IDEO and the Stanford Design School
Design Challenge Learning at The Tech Museum

Computational Thinking
Computational Thinking: A Digital Age Skill for Everyone
A talk by Mitch Resnick of MIT

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