Tuesday, December 10, 2013

California Here I Come...

Andrew Vorzimer / Creative Commons license
I am excited to share that my family and I are moving to California this summer. I am looking for a job at an independent school in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am open to both teaching and administrative positions, particularly as a curriculum director/dean of studies or as a middle school teacher. If you know of any openings or can give me any advice for my search, I would greatly appreciate it. You can find my resume and other pertinent information on my website: www.lizbdavis.com.  Thanks!

Friday, November 29, 2013

4 Things I Love about Design Thinking in Education.

You may be hearing a lot about Design Thinking lately (maybe just from me ;-). In my last post I laid out a Design Thinking lesson plan that I used in one of my classes. Here are a few of my favorite things about this process of learning and discovery.

1. Design thinking begins with problem finding. Learners might have a general idea of what they want to learn more about. However, it is only through interviews, observations and research that students discover what the problem really is. This makes it very learner-centered. It isn't the teacher asking students to solve the problem. It's the students coming up with the problem themselves.

2. Design thinking is not a linear process. Once students create a prototype and test it out, they may discover they actually have the problem wrong and have to go back to the beginning to redefine it. I think this is really an important element of the process because when a student encounters failure - it isn't the end of the line. It is just a faulty step along the way.

3. Design Thinking is fun. It gets kids off their feet. They use colorful post-it notes and sharpies. Who doesn't love a purple sharpie? They race to think of as many ideas as they can in a limited amount of time. They wander around like spies, collecting observational data on unsuspecting people. It is an active and exciting process.

4. Design Thinking is real. People in the "real" world really use this process in their profession. This is a skill that students can use throughout their lives, not just in the classroom.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Design Thinking approach to Digital Citizenship

Design Thinking is a problem solving methodology used by people all over the world to come up with new ideas. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how to integrate this approach into education. This summer I took two Online courses to learn more about the process. I am very interested in ways to use this approach in my own teaching.

This fall I decided to apply this approach to my 7th grade Digital Citizenship unit which focuses on cyberbullying. It worked really well. There are many approaches to the Design Thinking Process. I chose to use this process from the Stanford Design School.

Here is my lesson plan. If you are interested in giving this a try at your school, I am happy to answer any questions.

Cyberbullying Design Thinking Activity (for 7th graders)

  1. Present the idea “How might we end Cyberbullying?”
  2. Explain the Design Thinking Process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype,
  3. Tell students they are going to be interviewing each other to find out what their peers know/have experienced about cyberbullying.
  4. Divide students into groups of three. Students interview each other for 4 minutes each.
    • Student A interviews student B, Student C scribes
    • Student B interviews student C, Student A scribes
    • Student C interviews student A, Student B scribes
  5. Student share their notes and summarize what they have learned. What common themes did they see? (5 minutes)
  6. Each group shares with the entire class a summary of their discoveries.
  7. Individually students brainstorm 10 questions they still have about cyberbullying - Put on Post-it Notes.
  8. Put Post-it notes up around the room.
  9. Each student walks around and picks 3-4 questions to research before the next session.


  1. Students share with the class what they learned about cyberbullying from their research.
  2. The class uses this empathy map to take notes as people share.
  3. Groups generate 5 new “How might we" questions that are more specific (based on the research collected.)
  4. Groups share their new “How might we” questions with the class.
  5. Each group chooses a How might we question to focus on (It doesn’t have to be one of their own and it can be the same question as another group).
  1. Each group on chart paper brainstorms 100 ideas for solutions in 15 minutes.
  2. Post chart paper and all students look at all solutions.
  3. Each student has 5 post it notes and votes on the top 5 ideas they see (different color for each group).
  4. Groups pick one idea to work on.

We didn't have time to build a prototype. So instead students created a commercial for their product.
They had to address the issues of cyberbullying in the commercials in order to convince people to purchase their product.

Groups share their commercials.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Resistance is Futile... Managing Resistance to Change

Change is hard. Trying new things engages a fear of the unknown that makes most people uncomfortable. It has been my job to help my faculty and students to work their way through their discomfort to a place where they can see the benefits of implementing new ideas and programs.  

Here are a few of the ways that I have found success managing resistance to change.
  • Celebrate small victories and honor each step they take towards trying something new. As a teacher in the trenches myself, I understand that what we think will work in theory doesn’t always work in practice. 
  • Empathize with the logistical difficulties of making change and help people to find ways to balance both sides. 
  • Understand that not all change is effective. I encourage faculty and students to question change as long as they do so thoughtfully. 

Ultimately, I believe that if good pedagogy is at the core of the change, and there is enough support for new ideas, educators will move from resistance to acceptance over time. It is my job to help them through that process.

What strategies do you use to help people adapt and accept change?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

BYOD vs BYO iPad -

I began this year's iPad pilot fully expecting that we would be come an iPad school eventually. The term "pilot" when used as an adjective is defined as an "experiment or test before using something more widely." When used as a noun it is "the person who operates the flying controls of an aircraft." As the pilot of this iPad pilot, it has definitely been a wild ride. Over the course of this experience my opinion has shifted considerably.

There were three reasons that I thought the iPad would be the best device for us as a school.

1. We would all have common apps that we could use for projects.
Of these three, my biggest shift in thinking has been around number one. This became even more clear to me yesterday at a meeting of the AISNE tech directors. I thank Jeremy Angoff  for helping me to expand my thinking here. I wrote in an earlier post that I felt the iPad was getting ahead of the pedagogy and that the learning should come first. Rather than thinking about our projects as defined by the tool, I should be defining the project by the goals and letting the students find the best tool for the job.

For example, my goal with my Explain Everything project was to have students create a movie illustrating one of the Greek myths that we study. But this doesn't have to be done with Explain Everything (as awesome as that App is). If we focus on a goal  of creating a 2-4 minute video that explains the key points of a myth, the students can decide on the best tool for the job. I think we can still offer suggestions and support, but I know that students will also do that for each other and for their teachers.

From a technology perspective this approach gets kids thinking about the goals of the project and forces them to find the tool and figure it out. Those are key skills that we all need to have TODAY (see my earlier post on the term "21st Century"). In addition, it frees the teacher from having to know the tools, which is particularly helpful for our less technically comfortable faculty. Because each device will have a different set of options, the choices students make will be more varied, and perhaps even more interesting and creative.

2. The iPad has a low profile, making it less of a barrier to class discussions around a table.
Almost three quarters of my students have chosen to purchase a keyboard for their iPad, thus making this benefit moot. Admittedly the screen is still smaller than a full size laptop, but it still gets in the way.

3. The iPad touch screen and size allows for reading and annotating books and articles.
I don't have an answer for this one. The iPad is still better for annotating and reading. I would imagine that some students will choose to have two devices, an e-reader of some kind and a laptop (If they can afford it). Other students will read the old fashioned way and annotate using a highlighter and a pen.

We aren't quite done with our pilot. We are taking one more year to make this decision. It will be interesting to see where we land. At some point the plane is going to run out of fuel. (Couldn't resist the metaphor ;)

Friday, May 3, 2013

5 Things Learners TODAY Should Be Doing

     First of all, I have finally found another word for 21st Century. I have struggled with this for a while, "21st century" is such an overused term, especially since we have been living in the 21st century for 13 years. Then it hit me, the 21st century is TODAY, right now! By labeling it anything other than that, we make it feel like we have time to get there. We have no more time, we are here.

    I have also been thinking a lot about ways to simplify my vision of what schools should be doing(see my last post) and what learners should be doing. Last night I was sitting down with my cousin, who is a college professor, and my husband, who is a software engineer, trying to boil down the essential skills learners need to succeed in college and the workplace. This is what we came up with.
5 Things Learners TODAY Should Be Doing:


1. Inquiring
Asking questions about ideas and issues throughout the local/school school community.
Asking questions about ideas and issues throughout the world.
2. Investigating
Finding and researching answers and solutions using the people in the local/school community.
Finding and researching answers and solutions using the internet and other online tools.
3. Collaborating
Working and connecting effectively with classmates and teachers face-to-face and online.
Working and connecting effectively with people around the world face-to-face and online.
4. Creating
Building, Designing, Inventing and Producing solutions to local/school problems.
Building, Designing, Inventing and Producing solutions to global problems.
5. Communicating
Using writing, video, art, and other media to share solutions with the local/school community.
Using writing, video, art, and other media to share solutions with a global community.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Schools today should be...


Preparing students to interact in a global economy. 

In order to prepare students to work with an international community of colleagues we need to provide them with opportunities to interact with people from around the world. Teachers also need experiences collaborating globally. Online social networks, such as Twitter, and  Facebook, provide teachers with a way to meet colleagues from around the world and around the country. These Online relationships in turn provide opportunities for classrooms to connect.

Preparing students to navigate and sift through an excess of information. 

In order to prepare students to search for and evaluate information, we need to provide them with opportunities to do just that. We need to ask students to find answers to ungoogleable questions and then have them not only share their answers, but also describe their search processes and defend their sources.

Preparing students to contribute to and consume in a media rich market. 

In order to prepare students to consume and create multi-media messages, student should be both evaluating and creating videos, podcasts and blogs. Students need to learn to be both educated consumers and producers of these messages. 

Preparing students to tackle new innovations. 

In order to prepare students to face and conquer new technology tools, we need to provide them with opportunities to solve their own problems. We can't provide them with step by step directions, but instead encourage them to seek out new tools, figure them out and communicate their learning with classmates.

Preparing students to think creatively, take risks and come up with new ideas. 

In order to encourage students to discover new ideas, we need to create learning environments that encourage and support not just failure, but also recovery from that failure.

Preparing students for digital citizenship. 

In order to teach students how to interact online, we must openly discuss issues of privacy, copyright, and online behavior. Students need to understand the difference between private and public spaces and how to behave in each place. They also need to learn how to interact online in responsible and ethical ways.

I actually wrote the majority of this post back in 2008. What I said then applies today. Have schools made any progress over the last 5 years? I think so. Are we there yet? Not quite.

Is your school doing these things? Have I left anything essential off the list? I welcome your ideas, questions and comments.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Putting the iPad in front of the horse...

I know it is a mixed metaphor, but rolling out iPads this year has been a mixed experience. In some cases it has transformed learning, in other cases it hasn't. In many cases trying to make the iPad fit the curriculum has been like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Yes, I'm over doing it with the cliches on this post, but when the shoe fits...

Using iPads in my 7th grade English class has lead to some really interesting projects, and some great ways to make the classroom interactive. But at other times the iPad just isn't the right tool for what we want to accomplish. The bottom line is that the "what" has to drive the "how." Educators need to ask themselves, "What do I want students to know?" before they ask, "How will we get there?" Sometimes the "how" involves an iPad, sometimes it doesn't.

Where does this leave our iPad pilot? That is a good question. I wish we could find one tool to do it all, or that we could afford for students to have multiple devices. Perhaps there is a way to find that happy medium, but along the way I have to remind myself to ask the right questions.

Putting the iPad in front of the horse...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teachers Unplugged - An unconference inside a conference

For the first time ever, NAIS is offering two unconference sessions within their regular program called Teachers Unplugged. At these sessions attendees are going to have the opportunity to shape their own learning. We will have multiple round tables and a variety of topics offered for discussion by those who show up.

This is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. I am helping to facilitate the process, but the reality is that is totally out of my hands. I have run many unconferences, edcamps, and edubloggercons and I have the same feelings everytime. Thus far it has always worked out, but letting go of that control is always disconcerting.

If you are at the #NAISAC13 conference this year, I hope you will come by and help lead or participate in a conversation. Several of the organizers are going to be wearing t-shirts to encourage your questions. Please take a moment to stop us and ask. The sessions are going to run before and after lunch in Hall G.

Here are a few of the topics that people have suggested they might talk about.
  • Geometry, math, technology in math instruction, math courses beyond calculus
  • Plans for a maker space in their school to support STEAM initiatives? 
  • New practices best practices in STEM/STEAM initiatives
  • Public-Private Partnership models (school-school and/or organization/consortium)
  • Bridging Conversations re ""Diversity & Inclusion"" & ""Teaching and Learning"" (ie intentional cross-cultural competency goals)
  • Global collaborations in the K-8 curriculum
  • 1:1 laptop program
  • professional development
  • social media in the classroom
  • social media for educators"
  • How to build the Intersection of Rigor and 21st Century Skills"
  • Starting your own blog
  • Going paperless
  • iPads or Chromebooks
  • Making change in a traditional school
  • Getting the best out of middle school boys
Please check out this form to add your own topic.

If you are planning to attend, please take a moment to let us know what topics are most interesting to you.