Friday, March 24, 2017

TEDxNewarkAcademy 2016

In April 2016, Newark Academy hosted its second TEDx event. I initiated the process of bringing TEDx to Newark Academy in 2013, and I enjoyed working with a remarkable group of students and faculty to put on the second iteration. TEDxNewarkAcademy 2016 featured speakers from across the Newark Academy community who focused their presentations on the event’s theme, Between the Lines. I'm pleased to post the videos of the six talks. Watch, enjoy, and share!

Tiana Barkley '17: "Race and Ethnicity Through Hair"

Tess Callahan, Faculty: "The Love Affair Between Creativity and Constraint"

Kiran Damodaran '17: "Destigmatizing Mental Health"

Alice Fernandes '16: "Third Culture Kids"

Peter Lu '17: "Modern Electronic and Classical Music"

Candice Powell-Caldwell, Faculty: "A Mother's Story and A Child's Voice: Understanding Selective Mutism"

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Article: Middle School Reinvented

This spring Lumen, Newark Academy's (newly renamed) magazine for alumni and friends, published an article I wrote about the Newark Academy middle school. I encourage you to check it out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Article: Intellectual Power, Intellectual Play

This spring Outreach, Newark Academy's magazine for alumni and friends, published an article I wrote about members of the school community who exemplify the ideal of "Intellectual Power, Intellectual Play." I encourage you to check it out.

Monday, October 27, 2014

TEDxNewarkAcademy @ NJAIS Biennial Conference 2014

Today, I shared information about TEDxNewarkAcademy at the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools' Biennial Conference. Images of the handout I provided are below. Interest in the event among conference attendees, teachers and administrators alike, overwhelmed me and confirmed what I have long believed: TED is a compelling brand in the world of education. I hope that my presentation spurs independent schools throughout the Garden State to host TEDx conferences in years ahead.

Friday, July 11, 2014

TEDxNewarkAcademy 2014

In May 2014, Newark Academy hosted TEDxNewarkAcademy, an event created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading,” and licensed as an official TEDx program. I initiated the process of bringing the event to Newark Academy in February 2013, and worked for more than a year with a talented and committed group of students and faculty to produce it.

The event featured six speakers from across the Newark Academy community—five current students, a member of the faculty, and an alumna. The speakers focused their presentations on the event’s theme, Beyond Content: Skills for the Future, a topic stemming from the school's recent strategic plan that included a call for an expansion of program initiatives aimed at helping NA students develop "the skills and qualities needed to meet the challenges of a complex, rapidly changing global environment." Speakers at TEDxNewarkAcademy spoke about experiences which have allowed them to develop, to practice, and/or to teach these skills and about why they value these skills in themselves and in others. In this way, presenters addressed enduring skills for the future by moving beyond the particular "content" of their individual experiences.

Crafting and practicing the original and memorized talks was at times a challenge for the students, and they rose to meet it. I'm pleased to share the videos of the six talks. Watch, enjoy, and share!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Edmundson's "Pay Attention!"

University of Virginia English Professor Mark Edmundson has a smart essay on attention in modern education and life in the Summer 2014 edition of The Hedgehog Review. He writes, "the deep opposite of attention isn’t distraction, but absorption:"
Absorption is what occurs when you immerse yourself in something you love doing. The artist and the poet and the philosopher and the scientist become absorbed. The kind doctor becomes absorbed in her patient; the teacher becomes absorbed in his class presentation. The musician becomes absorbed in the fugue. When that happens, time stops and one lives in an ongoing present. One feels whole and at one with oneself. The little boy drawing with his pad on the floor, tongue sticking out from one side of his mouth, is a picture of absorption. He is not really paying attention. He is being absorbed. What is happiness? W. H. Auden answered the question quite simply: Happiness comes in absorption.
The entire piece is worth reading.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Amazon's Jeff Bezos on careful writing and close reading

In a recent interview, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reminds us that careful writing remains not only a powerful means of communication in the era of PowerPoint and Twitter but also an important way to clarify one's thinking.
Jeff Bezos likes to read. That's a dog-bites-man revelation if ever there was one, considering that Bezos is the cerebral founder and chief executive of a $100 billion empire built on books. More revealing is that the Amazon CEO's fondness for the written word drives one of his primary, and peculiar, tools for managing his company: Meetings of his "S-team" of senior executives begin with participants quietly absorbing the written word. Specifically, before any discussion begins, members of the team -- including Bezos -- consume six-page printed memos in total silence for as long as 30 minutes. (Yes, the e-ink purveyor prefers paper. Ironic, no?) They scribble notes in the margins while the authors of the memos wait for Bezos and his minions to finish reading.

Amazon executives call these documents "narratives," and even Bezos realizes that for the uninitiated -- and fans of the PowerPoint presentation -- the process is a bit odd. "For new employees, it's a strange initial experience," he tells Fortune. "They're just not accustomed to sitting silently in a room and doing study hall with a bunch of executives." Bezos says the act of communal reading guarantees the group's undivided attention. Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master. "Full sentences are harder to write," he says. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking."

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Universal Sound of Confusion

Another reason why linguistics is fascinating! From today's New York Times:
Are there words that are universally understood, across all countries and cultures? A team of linguists has proposed one: "huh."


In a paper published on Friday in the journal PLOS One, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands announced that they had found strikingly similar versions in languages scattered across five continents, suggesting that "Huh?" is a universal word.

The study, conducted by Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira and Nick Enfield, closely examined variations of the word — defined as "a simple syllable with a low-front central vowel, glottal onset consonant, if any, and questioning intonation" — in 10 languages, including Dutch, Icelandic, Mandarin Chinese, the West African Siwu and the Australian aboriginal Murrinh-Patha.

The researchers also looked at other words and expressions used to elicit clarification during conversation, a function that linguists refer to as "other-initiated repair." But only "Huh?,' they write, occurs across languages whose phonetic patterns otherwise vary greatly.
The full article is here. And below is a video of the variations of "huh" from around the world.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

OESIS East 2013

Last week, I attended the second-ever Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools (OESIS) in Cambridge, MA, a two-day conference "focused exclusively on the opportunities and threats of online and blended learning for independent schools." The presenters and the participants wowed me with their passion and thoughtfulness. While I continue to digest the experience, here are five takeaways from the conference I hope to revisit in the coming months:

1. Every brick and mortar independent school should consider how best to embrace networked technologies in service of teaching and learning. During the opening plenary session, Howard Lurie, the former Vice President for Content Development and University Relations at edX, spoke about the forces driving the "un-bundling" of schools: unprecedented access to digital tools, platforms, and services; competency-based instructional and certification models that are challenging traditional time-based models; the erosion of institutional monopolies in education; and others. These forces are not going away. Independent schools should consider their impact carefully and take the lead in shaping the future of education.

2. Every brick and mortar independent school should continue to value and to defend the important and enduring relationships upon which successful teaching and learning rests. Independent schools know that the relationships between teacher and student and between student and student that develop on a physical campus and over many years help shape not only intellect but also character, attitude, and spirit. Relationship-centered learning can be enhanced with technology, but it cannot be replaced. As they evolve, brick and mortar independent schools should acknowledge what they have done well and will continue to do well.

3. The SAMR Model—Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition—provides a useful guide for infusing technology into the craft of teaching. In recent years, some schools have rushed to embrace technology for its own sake, resulting, at times, in waste and frustration. The SAMR Model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, is a framework for guiding and evaluating technology integration. Here is a slide that explains the model and provides an example of how to apply it:

4. Embrace the backchannel. I had used Twitter only rarely before the conference, but during the event I became an active participant in the conference's Twitter backchannel. Over the course of two days, I published nearly 100 tweets and, as a result, engaged in virtual conversations that deepened my engagement with both the ideas offered by the presenters and my fellow participants—some of whom I may not have connected with but for Twitter. Additionally, during one session, the presenter shared how she uses TodaysMeet in her classes, and she allowed us experiment with this tool during her presentation. Having found so much value in the backchannel, I am going to consider how I might encourage backchannel discussions in my own classes.

5. Develop a Personal Learning Network. My experience using Twitter helped me realize the importance of developing a Personal Learning Network or PLN—a term introduced to me in one of the conference sessions. While Will Richardson spoke about this idea when he visited my school in the spring of 2011—in fact, I still remember the story he told about how his son had learned informally via Skype from someone thousands of miles away whom he had never met—I hadn't fully appreciated the value of developing my own PLN until the conference. I'm eager to continue to use Twitter and other resources to develop my network.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On Great Teachers

I finally made my way through this year's annual New York Time Magazine education issue, which is chock-full of articles on important and timely topics, including the teaching of emotional intelligence (an idea near to my heart as a TOK teacher) and the use of tablets to enable personalized learning environments (a technology which I hope to learn more about at the OESIS conference next month). Among the many great articles, I found one to be a particularly worthwhile read: "The Real-Life ‘Glee’ in Levittown, Pa." Ostensibly about the author's former theater teacher, Lou Volpe, the article is an emotionally gripping testament to the importance of arts education and to the enduring impact of great educators—those who expect the best from adolescents. An excerpt:
Even though he didn’t speak in the idiom of the movement, much of what I observed in Volpe’s theater program could fit comfortably within the muscular language of education reform — with its emphasis on problem solving, standards, “racing to the top” and accountability. Theater is part of the “arts,” an airy term, but the time his students spent with him was actually the least theoretical part of their day. With each production, they set an incredibly high goal and went about building something.

At a rehearsal one day, he told his cast, “You have become so good that every mistake you make has a spotlight on it.” That seemed to me such an economical yet elegant way of giving praise while making a demand.
Just as I finished reading the article, my father shared some good news with me about a great educator from my past, Rebecca Holcombe. Ms. Holcombe, as I called her when she taught me middle school science decades ago, has been appointed to the post of Vermont Secretary of Education. I doubt she would remember me, but I certainly remember her, as she inspired me with her passion for science and demanded the best from me.