Oct 2009

Learning on the roof

New City School's River Kids help plant the school's green roof in order to reduce water run-off. The school administrators want to save energy and provide a learning opportunity. Parents like the additional green space for their kids in an urban area. Looks like a winner all around. The segment by KMOV featured above provides some nice video of the plants on the roof. I like that the students worked on planting it instead of having it installed professionally. Kudos to New City School!

Cell phones help teach math?

photo by jtbrennan

Can educators really turn those ubiquitous cell phones into educational tools?

As the year got under way, Scott realized she'd be using her school-issued smartphone -- equipped with a touch screen, digital video recorder, and instant-messaging application -- for more than just solving homework problems with a stylus. She and her classmates had gotten used to passively absorbing teachers' lectures, but the new data-driven curriculum demanded intense participation. "We'd tape up big poster boards, write out how we got the solution to a particular problem, then video ourselves talking about it with the phone." After that, students posted their videos online to aid others who might be vexed by similar problems. ("Cellphonometry" Svoboda)

Whether educators use phones or other devices, I can see advantages to this approach. My daughter already asks her friends for help with her math homework as students have done for ages. Couple the socially driven method with the fearless use of technology, and I think you have a much more efficient update to the telephone. If a student has a question, they can send out a text to the class and ideally get a response right away.

Whether the content is math, history, science... the students could create protected class wikis with videos they make. Instead of using poster boards, the students could use the white board and save their work. If they are doing it at home, they can record their sessions on the computer, or go back to the poster boards or other creative means of communicating.

At Southwest High, every student in one Project K-Nect class notched a 100% proficiency rating in algebra; students in a non-Project K-Nect class with the same teacher averaged 70% proficiency. ("Cellphonometry" Svoboda)

Those are some numbers definitely worth following up.

Making Geek Cool Hall of Fame

Wired magazine believes that making geeks cool could reform education and gives some suggestions for schools. One of the main suggestions was "stamping out youth culture" by surrounding kids by adults. Some good ideas and examples to be sure.

I believe that our whole culture needs to make geeks cool. In that spirit I list my Making Geek Cool Hall of Fame. Since this blog is St. Louis centric, I've added a few local additions.

1. Mythbuster's Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman
2. Jon Stewart—when a late-night comedian makes it cool to follow politics, economics, history...
3. Bill Gates—as much as I want to hate Microsoft, he has shown how geeks do philanthropy. That's cool.
4. Pres. Obama
5. Steve Jobs—brought design to technology
6. Danica McKellar—Hollywood star and mathematician writing math books for middle school girls. Maybe every tween girl should be given this book, and she should be number 1.
7. SciFest
8. Chuck
9. Rex Sinquefield for bringing back chess to St. Louis
10. Mayor Francis Slay for bringing FIRST Robotics Championship to St. Louis
11. iCarly—any time a Nickelodeon show encourages tween girls to spend their time directing movie shorts and editing them on the computer, I will applaud it
12. Rick Riordan—any author that can get my son to read...

If they want to be fabulous and sexy and all that, great. There's no problem with that. But you don't have to give anything up for it. You don't have to give up your brain. (Danica McKellar)

I would love to add to the list if anyone would like to send me their suggestions. I'll also be composing a Hall of Shame, so if you have ideas for that, feel free to send them to me via comments, email or twitter.

Olympics? Who needs it—we landed the Robotics Championship!

Congrats St. Louis—new home of the cool geeks.