Category Archives: Education

‘Safe’ Social Networking Tailored for K-12 Schools

This school year, the students in Robert A. Miller’s 5th grade class at Port Orange Elementary School in Florida have been chatting with historical figures. They’ve given Thomas Jefferson advice on how to write the Declaration of Independence and touched base with Benjamin Franklin. In early spring, they had conversations with explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as the duo made their way west. The explorers sent back detailed descriptions of prairie dogs and the sights they saw on their travels. Students had to restrain themselves from revealing to the explorers the pivotal role that the recent addition to their team—a pregnant Native American woman named Sacagawea—would play.

Students are having conversations with those celebrated figures (played by Mr. Miller), as well as each other and their teacher, using the social-networking site Edmodo, which is designed specifically for use in schools. “It makes learning more interactive” Mr. Miller said. “It’s a way to extend the classroom after hours, but I’m also using it to present lessons.”

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Filed under Education, Kids & School, Social Media

School Network Readies Students for College and Career

A great read about Linked Learning in the latest Education Week.

With a program called Linked Learning, California educators show that academics and career and technical education don’t have to be mutually exclusive

Porterville, Calif.

To the national debate about whether students should pursue career and technical education or college preparation, a California program wants to add an emphatic declaration: Yes .

The refusal to choose between one instructional emphasis or the other symbolizes the work being done to build career pathways in nine school districts as part of Linked Learning , an initiative cited as a national model of career and technical education.

One of the places the project is unfolding is in a cluster of high schools in a district that serves a predominantly Latino, low-income community here among the Central Valley’s…

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Families Matter: Designing Media for a Digital Age

Important information for parents and educators!

by Lori Takeuchi, Ph.D. | June 2011 | View Bio

DOWNLOAD: Executive Summary | Report

Families Matter focuses on two complementary studies that document how families with young children are integrating digital media into the rhythm of daily life. Results from a survey of more than 800 parents of children ages 3 through 10 reveal how parents nationwide feel about raising children in a digital age. In-depth case studies provide further insight into these statistics, probing how parent attitudes toward technology, along with family values, routines, and structures, are shaping young children’s experiences using digital media. This research assumes an ecological view of development and learning, which considers the many different spheres of influence — from parents to peers to the social and economic context — that a child now must navigate while growing up.

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Download the full report.

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Education Needs Remodeling not “Fixing”

Fast Company magazine published online an article on education reform How to Spend $100 Million to Really Save Education. An article I appreciate because it challenges the popular narrative around public education now such as “charter schools and strong MBA style leaders” are THE answer.

That same week I spent two full days in Los Angeles with committed teams of District and school site leadership from nine of eleven California Districts in the middle of implementing major transformation of their high schools as part of the California Linked Learning District Initiative. This initiative supports districts a system of college and career pathways in their high schools and is supported by ConnectEd The California Center for College and Career, The School Redesign Network at Stanford and The James Irvine Foundation.

The Fast Company article led to a Twitter conversation tagged #fixedu that I think is misnamed given the spirit of the article. The popular narrative is all about “fixing” and it frustrates me, especially given my time with these nine California districts this week. Here’s why. Continue reading


Filed under Change, Education, News & Commentary

‘Flash Mob’ Serenades Retiring Principal: Get Your Tissues!

Guaranteed to warm your heart, and maybe make you tear up. From the Sierra Madre, CA Patch.

As if I didn’t have enough to cry about at our daughter’s 5th grade graduation this morning, this retiring principal at another school in our district was my husband’s teacher. We have tons of friends at the school now. What an amazing tribute to an amazing educator – and a reminder of the importance of principal leadership, and of the fact that, in the midst of all the contentious debate, a lot is going so very right with public education.

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Nancy Drew: Shadow Ranch App for Kids

Thanks to this review from Common Sense Media I recently downloaded the iPhone version of the Nancy Drew: Shadow Ranch app from Her Interactive for our 10 year old daughter (There’s an iPad version).  She LOVED it! For several days she wanted to use my phone while we were out to continue reading and solving the mystery. We usually take a book with us everywhere; this gave us an interactive book in my pocket. Plus, I felt much better about her spending time with this app than I do when she plays Diner Dash or some other pedicure design game she found. One warning, she was using it in the car and it includes sound effects. Out of nowhere came a loud shriek and my husband and I both thought we’d truly run over a cat. Turns out it was a horse neighing. So the sound went off. It reminds me of the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I used to love. Now that she finished it once,  she can create a new user for herself and do it again taking different paths. She’s now eagerly waiting for the next one.

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Filed under Education, Kids & School, Recommendations, Technology

Learning From Hollywood Take 2: Role of Parents

This post is Part 2 of my debrief of the two days I spent at the Learning from Hollywood conference put on by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and held at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  I attended representing ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career. I’ve grouped my thoughts by theme rather than chronology, though please note this post expresses my own opinions and experience not ConnectEd’s. My five themes are:

  • Respect Your Audience
  • It’s the Participation, Stupid
  • Parent Attitudes Matter
  • Digital Media to What End?
  • Cool Stuff to Check Out

In order to respect my audience’s time, I covered the first two in the previous post and now for the other three. Here we go.

Photo from Common Sense Media website.

Parent Attitudes Matter

This would be the topic where my own thinking has challenged most. Frank Gilliam, Dean of USC School of Public Affairs, and Linda Burch, Chief Education Officer of Common Sense Media, talked about research on parent attitudes toward digital media.

Gilliam spoke about the mental models parents and the public have around digital media, around learning, and around early childhood education. (Great video clip here on Henry Jenkins blog.)

I’m big on the idea that unconscious mental models shape how we interact with the world. But I didn’t like hearing what his research had to say about the mental models the public – and parents – hold in these areas. To paraphrase…

  • For the public, digital media = entertainment, a luxury.
  • Entertainment = passive, artificial, dangerous, passive.
  • Therefore, don’t bring that stuff into our schools.

I had a visceral negative reaction. I don’t believe that! My fellow parents don’t believe that! We want more technology in our schools! Continue reading


Filed under Education, Events, Kids & School, Technology

Learning from Hollywood: Or How Twitter Made Me a SuperMom for a Day and Why it Matters

Last week I spent two days at the Learning from Hollywood conference put on by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and held at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The conference brought together approximately 200 experts from entertainment, academia, philanthropy, gaming, libraries, journalism and education to talk about how these sectors can collaborate to harness digital media in support of education. The eclectic mix of leaders in their fields made for a constant buzz – and my still-tired synapses. I attended representing ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career and with much thanks to their friends at the Pearson Foundation for securing a somewhat last minute invitation. Here are a few of my takeways grouped by theme rather than chronology, though please note this post expresses my own opinions and experience not ConnectEd’s.

My five themes are:

  • Respect Your Audience
  • It’s the Participation, Stupid
  • Parent Attitudes Matter
  • Digital Media to What End?
  • Cool Stuff to Check Out

In order to respect my audience’s time, I’m going to cover the first two in this post and put the other three in this follow-up post. Here we go.

Respect Your Audience

“Respect your audience” became a conference mantra we all could have chanted in unison by the end of our time together. We heard it over again and again from the most expert storytellers. Producer Marcy Karsey of The Cosby Show and Roseanne fame said, “The very very basic thing is respect the audience. It’s the first and most important thing.” Producer Don Hahn of Lion King and Beauty and the Beast fame said, “Trust the sophistication of the audience.” Producer Peter Gruber of The Color Purple, Rain Man and Batman fame said, “When you try to move folks, are you audience centric? Otherwise you have no chance.”

Several speakers and participants quickly applied that mantra to students as the audience. Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Education, Kids & School, Parenting, Social Media

Learning from Hollywood Forum on Education

For the next two days, I’ll be representing ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career at the Learning from Hollywood forum put on by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and held at the USC  School of Cinematic Arts. The subtitle of the event is “Can Entertainment Ignite an Education Revolution?” Given the list of speakers, I can’t wait to hear how they’ll answer the question – famous film producers, Cisco, Hasbro, Microsoft, U.S. Department of Education Office of Technology, professors, and more.

Of course, my daughter has given me her own assignment which is to meet Kari Byron from Mythbusters and hand deliver the gushing fan letter she wrote to her tonight!

If you want to feel a part of this invite-only event, there are plenty of options.

Can’t wait to share what I learn!

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Our Middle School Decision

Next year, after six years at our neighborhood elementary school, Longfellow Elementary, our daughter will be attending middle school at a private school, the Polytechnic School.

It may seem self-absorbed to be writing such a long (really long) blog post about why we made this decision. Maybe it is. But people have been asking me for months, and it turns out people have been asking our friends for months “what David and Kristin are doing for middle school.”

Why would anyone would care what we do or why? For the past 10 years, we’ve been deeply involved in public education in our community. Seven years ago, my husband and I co-founded with friends the Pasadena Education Network (PEN) to promote parent participation in and family enrollment in our public schools. In addition, I’ve served on local committees, donated my facilitation services, and worked professionally through a variety of foundations to support our District and others like it across the country.

As a result of our involvement, we know plenty of people are genuinely interested in our perspective on this decision. We’re not naïve though. We also know there are people who will choose to judge us for this decision. I decided I’d rather that both those groups have the story straight from us. So here it is.

From the time we started Kindergarten at Longfellow people would ask us, “But what will you do about middle school?” We always answered, “We’ll do the same thing we did for elementary. We’ll assume the best of our public schools. We’ll visit our neighborhood middle school and several other public middle schools. We’ll visit private schools if we feel the need. Then we’ll make a decision that is best for our family.” This is what PEN recommends all families do, and that’s what we did over the last two years with PEN’s help.

We’ve been visiting most of our public middle schools off and on for two years now.  The changes at our public middle schools over the last two to three years as a result of the Excellent Middle Schools initiative are remarkable. Literally every six months, I could see more progress – addition of an advisory period, advanced math options, the start of a foreign language program, new extra-curricular options, and a rise in test scores corresponding to the efforts.

As we visited, David and I both felt that this time around, we also needed to consider private schools. Continue reading


Filed under Education, Kids & School