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It has been a while since I have posted anything under the tag of “Science Saturday” but a new resource launched this week and I felt I had to mention. The resource is World Science U, and it is the brainchild of Brian Greene. It contains a number of short and long courses on different science topics. It also has easy-to-understand answers to many difficult science questions that can help students make sense of upper level concepts that they might hear about through popular culture (check out the questions about time). All the content is free, you just have to register; think of it as you might Kahn Academy, but focused exclusively on science topics. Dr. Greene has been working on this for a number of years, and the interface is beautiful and easy to maneuver. The university courses are certainly just that, but the short courses and science unplugged sections could really engage middle and high school students.

Check out the introduction video here.

Adam Provost, Burlington High School tech integrationist and Partnership for Change Fellow, talks about how to talk to students about potentially dangerous or illegal technologies, and what use of those technologies can mean in terms of privacy and digital citizenship.


I do teach kids what torrents are… how they are used illegally and also — as an example — how I’ve used them in a college course with students. I also show them anonymous proxies — the good the bad and the ugly — so students understand them. The advanced IT kids, anyway, have that chance.

There’s a lot of ground to cover in those discussions.

Engaging students in discussions of ethics, morality, copyright, law, etc along the way is key to success.

We test the limitations and configurations of devices, configurations, and systems. Most often technology isn’t the issue… it’s how you use it. Just like a car ; )jailbreak

I think kids need to see all that up close and not just in theory.

Seeing devices as programmable tools… and the advantages and disadvantages of those decisions therein is educational — much more so than denial of service or avoidance. If all you’d jailbreak a device for is to download illegal apps then you’re missing the point, potential and the richness of the discussion.

Of course there are limits to experimenting live… RFID as an example.

Now, I wouldn’t go the route of building a scanner (like the one in the video) with kids… but, showing them this as a security issue and exploring strategies to conduct digital commerce more safely has value; i.e. searching for credit cards with security features to check transactions (as in what cards offer what services… theft coverage etc and which strategy might be most effective), learning to monitor your bill more than once a month… it’s the new version of teaching people how to be aware of pickpockets.

All important stuff to know. Commerce is going to get a lot cooler.. and a lot more challenging.

Now building a scanner and having access to more conventional scanners and cards to test… and trying to build a card with more security features… that”d be fun to explore with students.

It’s outside the realm of most high school programs though… more likely a cool task for a collegiate (endowment funded) digital forensics program.

I get concerned with a digital_citizenshiplot ‘digital citizenship’ work in schools.

More often than not I find it’s a one and done style presentation usually with references to something like ‘don’t bully, protect your password/s, and don’t post controversial things online…’ then it’s back to teaching ‘the curriculum…’ at least until a problem / incident surfaces and then it’s discussed again.

There’s a lot more to this… and ‘Tech Courses,’ especially in high schools, could be considerably more advanced.

More students doing things than just listening is required I think. This all goes far beyond teaching kids to type, emailing, learning to build presentations, trying collaborative editing in Google Docs, and setting up a Twitter account to post in once a week during class… and watching a movie about bullying. Sarcastic, yes a bit… but true.

I think ‘Digital Citizenship’ discussions need to evolve.

I was working with a school recently in MA and discussing their tech curriculum. I asked “how many students get out of high school without learning how to make their home wi-fi secure? Is that as valuable as say… learning to type? Learning to give a presentation? How about learning to memorize all the US Presidents?” Some sat there looking blankly at me, and others nodded. I asked… “for those of you looking blankly at me… how many of you are concerned that you know nothing about your home wi-fi network?” A lot of hands went up ; )

If schools evolve their discussions on devices toward exploring the creative capacity and testing limitations, configuration and use (legal, ethical, and moral) then we’ll get further.

Insert some intensity and exploration.

There’s lots to discuss.


adam_provost_bioAdam Provost just signed on at Burlington High School in the Technology Integration and Partnership for Change Initiative. He recently took a seven month Rowland Sabbatical and visited seven countries to study innovative student programs and school leadership and systems that foster that culture. For over 20+ years he has served as a Computer Lab Aide, Network Administrator, Technology Coordinator, and full-time classroom teacher for eight years at Burr and Burton Academy in the innovative rLab classroom. Over this span he’s created many courses, innovative project-based learning environments, student-centered professional development, technology support, and internship programs. He currently serves as President of VITA-Learn, on the Board of Directors for the Vermont Baseball Coaches Association, and as Executive Director of the 643DP Foundation and blogs at creativeStir.blogspot.com.


As part of their celebration of Digital Learning Day, students at Edmunds Middle School hosted a “speed-geeking” session: they each had six minutes to explain a tech tool and how they’re using it in school. Here, one student explains how she’s using a Google form with lexile reading scores to keep a multi-level reading log.



Tarrant Institute professional development coordinator Susan Hennessey discusses the current and future possibilities of online badging and digital portfolios for alternative credentialing.







This morning we’re honored to be able to share a prezi by Currier Memorial School educator Susan Gibeault, on fostering students’ global awareness.

Gibeault has taught special education, speech and language and elementary education and received the  2012 BRSU Outstanding Teacher award.

This presentation is the culmination of a project she undertook with the Middle Grades Institute. Please enjoy.




Mark Olofson has put together an online version of the Aurasma presentation we gave at VTFest in November, including shots of the app in action, ideas for implementation and student feedback.

Let us know if you use this app in your classroom!





Brought to you by the inimitable Susan Hennessey, who shows here how you can use the Chrome browser extension Kaizena to add voice comments and link students to video resources on a sample writing assignment. Best part: you can assemble a library of video resources and shoot out your favorites over and over.

Anyone been looking for something along these lines?



Guest post by Lindsey Halman, facilitator at The Edge at Essex Middle School:

What is a system?  How are living things organized? How do the structures of organisms contribute to life’s functions?  Learners on the Edge team addressed these questions through a unit on Structure, Function and Information Processing in Living Organisms using the Next Generation Science Standards to guide their work.

To gain a clear understanding of the body systems and how these interacting subsystems work together, learners were engaged in a variety of activities.  One such activity was using the team’s iPad Minis to participate in a virtual frog dissection using the app Frog Dissection.  There are a growing number of interactive apps and programs that allow learners to better understand anatomy in a manner that is ethically and environmentally responsible.  Using the app felt like a strong fit for our team’s philosophy on learning.

In the app, a virtual scalpel allows students to practice the same cuts they would in a live dissection with tools like pins, markers, scissors and forceps to guide their work.


What was unique about this experience was the ability to “undo” and “redo” any aspect of the dissection.  This is something that can only be experienced virtually and it provided learners with a clearer and deeper understanding of the frog’s anatomy.  The level of engagement was incredibly high during this activity and no one was excluded because of their moral or ethical beliefs.  Therefore, using the app became an inclusive and strong learning experience for our community.

Lindsey Halman is a facilitator on The Edge team at Essex Middle School. She has previously written about her students’ investigation of the natural world outside their school for our Leading by Example: Wild City Project showcase. Images credit: Emantras Inc.




Some fantastic Friday reading: Over at AMLE Magazine, TIIE director Penny Bishop and associate director John Downes are talking about the power of teaming in supporting successful technology integration in schools:

Today’s middle school teams use a wide range of technology tools to achieve six important goals: to develop their teacher team; to design effective workflows; to establish a strong team culture; to involve families; to manage technologies; and to continue learning about new technology tools.

It’s a contemplative, well thought-out look at how educators, administrators and students can all support each other in making the most of the powerful new tech in schools and classrooms.

They also swung by AMLE’s middle school chat on twitter, and fielded some questions from the twitterverse on just what teaming for tech can — and does — look like. We’ve got the Storify recap here. Enjoy!



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