Sunday, November 9, 2008

Election Blog Posts

Just wrapped up my weekend by commenting on 8th grade blogs. Ms. Johns had the students post Election Reflections.

If you're not sure whether the kids are jazzed up about the election, you should check out some of their posts:


An Election We Needed

The past few weeks at the school have been electrified by the buzz of democracy. Even though our students aren't even close to voting age, they have been very excited about the Presidential election.

On Wednesday, November 5th I headed to the 7th grade lunch period to check in with the kids. On the way back inside, several of our students asked why there hadn't been any announcements regarding the election that day. I thought about it, then told them to stay tuned for 8th period.

At that time, without any heads-ups, I broadcast the final couple of minutes of President-elect Obama's victory speech from Chicago.

I then said the following to the school:

As everyone knows, yesterday the United States of America held an historic election.

It was an election that inspired millions and millions of people to vote, and millions of students, including CIS 339 students, to learn about important issues and participate in our democracy. We can all be proud to be Americans today.

I am extremely proud to be the principal of a school where teachers took the time to discuss this important election with you in your classes, and I'm proud that so many of our wonderful students learned so much about the country we live in and the choices we face.

Leading up to the election, Hundreds of you have asked your teachers and adults in the building who they were planned to vote for. Today, you're asking adults who they voted for yesterday. You are excited about what is happening, and that is exciting to us.

What I would like to remind you, our young citizens, is that our democracy works--if we use it. So until you turn 18, keep on discussing the elections with adults. But when you turn 18, we hope that you continue to celebrate democracy by voting yourself.

Finally, based on the student elections we've held, and from conversations with many members of our school community, I am sure that is fitting to congratulate our new President-elect, Barack Obama and wish him a terrific presidency.

There were cheers from around the building.


Just wrapped up my weekend by commenting on 8th grade blogs. Ms. Johns had the students post Election Reflections.

If you're not sure whether the kids are jazzed up about the election, you should check out a couple of their posts:


The 2.0 President

I've been following President-Elect Obama's transition team's moves. Of particular interest will be his appointment of Education Secretary. I've also learned that his administration will feature our county's first Chief Technology Officer. It sounds like this position will be charged with ensuring that the Internet stays fast and accessible for all Americans, and that the Federal government becomes more transparent.

These are two distinctly different components to technology leadership: connectivity and creativity. The CTO will need to shepherd tremendous investment to infrastructure, broadband development and the logistics of a national grid which connects all Americans. In addition, the CTO will need to bring 2.0 web tools to an antiquated bureaucracy. It will be interesting to see which team of innovative Americans will have the pragmatic ingenuity necessary to both 'wire' and 'wow' the electorate.

At 339, we've learned that web 2.0 tools can transform teamwork and transparency through real-time collaboration and streamlined communication. It is invigorating that we've elected a President who understands the potential that technology offers to those who would further perfect our Union.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Blogging: Reboot

I was at a meeting over the summer and I ran into a technology coach who told me that he'd been following my blog.

This shocked me. Someone was following my blog? It hadn't occurred to me that even though I'd been subscribing to RSS feeds via Google Reader, maybe my own blog's URL would be plugged into someone else's must-read list.

So I resolved at that meeting to blog more. Only I didn't.

Then at the Tech Forum Palisades conference a couple of weeks ago, I co-presented with Zac Chase, a talented SLA teacher. He asked me if I was coming to Educon in January and told me that he'd checked out my blog.

Then I felt guilty. I hadn't posted in months! So once more I resolved to post more often. And now I am.

I realize I can't have it both ways. I can't encourage my staff and students to blog if I'm not blogging. And I can't maintain a digital footprint that is only occasionally updated.

So if you're reading this post, thank you. If you subscribe to my blog, I appreciate it. I will try my best to keep the posts coming.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Using Google To Transform a School

This is our presentation from Nashville, Tennessee:

Also, here is our Professional Development Google Site, with presentations we've making.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Small Learning Communities

I went to a meeting down at Tweed today to discuss Small Learning Communities. The city is thinking about expanding Small Learning Community work to a handful of middle schools next year, and and exploratory panel wanted to hear from several principals who are at different stages of this work.

Two years ago, our school divided into teams for the first time. This year, we began to deepen the work of the teams. We saw the beginnings of inter-disciplinary planning and saw our math and ELA content teams form common assessments, rubrics and criteria.

Many schools have "teams" in name only. At 339, our teams function at a high level, yet we still are eager to continue to delve into academic rigor, differentiation and student engagement. I hope that the city decides to invest in a cadre of middle schools that can examine the work of small learning communities. SLC's can transform middle school practice, and we would love to participate.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Quality Review

Last week, we had our School Quality Review for two full days, directly following Memorial Day. I'm happy to report that we jumped TWO levels, from "Underdeveloped" to "Proficient". We've made a lot of progress, and the Quality Review allowed us to demonstrate some of our best work so far.

We spent time at the end of the week debriefing the feedback we received (still in informal form) and reflecting with our staff. It was great to celebrate the progress we've made with our hard-working teachers and support staff. I think our staff realizes that the Quality Review process examines the efforts and perceptions of all stakeholders at the school. This is what makes the process so valuable.

Everyone was able to point to important lessons learned from the Quality Review process, as well as make some helpful suggestions for next year. People were proud to hear that our reviewer had identified our school as having one of the best instructional technology programs she'd seen.

Here is the Google presentation David Prinstein created based on our SQR feedback:

Saturday, May 31, 2008

339 and Google

On Friday, May 23rd, we presented to Empowerment schools down at Google's NYC Headquarters. The city is looking to expand the use of Google Apps into hundreds of schools, and we were invited to present on our practices this year.

Here's our Google presentation we gave at the Google headquarters:

You can also click here to see our presentation published to a full screen.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

1000 Words

What was the feeling when the Wright Brothers' first plane lifted off the ground? How did a brand new way of travel, of seeing the world make them feel? How scary was it? How rewarding?

Many days, I feel like we're lifting off...

Kitty Hawk on Webster Avenue.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Today's Lesson Was a Hit!

Ms. Wolk and I have been working with Class 602 on The Giver. Today's lesson focused on how character mood changes depending on their circumstances.

We started by gmailing students a link to a "How do you feel today?" chart, and matched that with a "How do you feel today?" quiz. For the quiz, we used a Google form:

The student quiz results went automatically from the form into a Google spreadsheet:

From there, we modeled how to quote the book and identify character mood in a Google Document.

Finally, we broke the kids into groups so they could use body language to show how Jonas's mood might change over the course of a chapter.

More Than A Team

To Our CIS 339 Tech Tigers:

I write this letter to you from a downtown D train. I just left the gym where I watched you come within three points of our first playoff victory. I’m still jittery from the final few seconds, watching the last three-pointer come down heart-breakingly close to the rim. When I got to the sidewalk outside that school, it seemed impossibly sunny for such a sad day. But as I made my way toward the subway, my sadness faded, and I had to smile.

I had to smile because of what I saw today. So many things for you to be proud of. Your heart. Your effort. Your teamwork. For four quarters, you passed the ball selflessly. You called out to help each other against presses and picks. You didn’t boast when your shots dropped or brood when they didn’t. And you worked. Even during halftime, when the other team rested, you ran drills on the court. By the end, as the opponents were gasping for air, you were still grasping for one more shot, one last shot. In a hostile gym in a foreign part of the Bronx, you gave your best, and that counts.

I had to smile because of your sportsmanship. When other players muttered things, or taunted, you stayed focused on basketball. When the ref blew a call, you kept your cool. When Mr. E pulled you out, or called your name, you knew it was about becoming a better player, a better team. You put your head down and you kept working. When your teammates made mistakes, you clapped it up, showing that what mattered was the future, not the past. And when the final scoreboard wasn’t tilted in your favor, you congratulated the other guys and walked off as men, with your heads high. You had your dignity, a true sign of a winner.

I had to smile because of what you’ve taught us all. That your reputation with teachers and school staff matter when you’re a student-athlete. That books come before ball. You’ve shown that kids from all races and backgrounds and learning styles can come together for a common purpose. You’ve put the team first, and you’ve gone to battle for each other. You lead by example, by teaching each other, by holding each other accountable, by having fun with each other. As a team you are stronger than the individuals, stronger than even you may realize.

I had to smile because of Mr. E, your outstanding coach, a born leader. Demanding the most of you. Expecting the best. Preparing relentlessly. Building pride. Mr. E and you, a group of committed student-athletes, establishing a respected sports program. I see diligent, mature and bright young men ready to take on high school and the world beyond Webster Avenue. There are many, many reasons for us all to smile.

Thank you for all that you have done, for how you have grown, and for the way you will continue to set a positive example by your actions. On and off the court, you have blazed the trail for future Tech Tigers.

Truly yours,

Jason Levy
Principal, CIS 339

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Get On The Bus

There was a "Making a Difference" story on NBC nightly news about an amazing program that was started in Arkansas. Rural students who commute an hour each way now have Linux computers, thanks to Vanderbilt's Billy Hudson.

Hudson's idea was to wire a "magic school bus" for Internet access, and then provide students with Linux-based laptops. Now, two hours each day become powerful learning opportunities. The students are called Aspirnauts.

For too many students without adequate technology in their schools, education has become an endless bus trip through a rural area. At its best it might be pretty and safe. But at its worst, it can be mind-numbingly boring and non-productive.

This is one more example of why we need to all get on the bus.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Update on Asus EEEs

Just a status report on where we are with the EEE's:

Our original order was denied by the DOE, as this new product is Linux-based and due to its newness, has no track record. Fortunately, Peter LaBarca and Steve Vigilante were kind enough to let Jesse Spevack, Christina Jenkins and myself pitch the idea of allowing us to purchase these machines for a 6th grade pilot. Needless to say, after hearing Jesse passionately demonstrating how a 1-to-1 environment will narrow the digital divide, DIIT agreed to give it a shot! It is great to work in a system that encourages a can-do spirit for teachers, principals and schools.

The Asuses (sp?) arrive on Tuesday the 26th! Jesse already has a unit ready to go, and is excited to launch cloud computing with his kids. I can't wait to see what happens.

In case you want to know how to pronounce the laptop in question, you can watch this video.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday at Educon 2.0

This is being called an "unconference" and is planned to be a series of 'conversations.' The traditional professional development workshop involves one presenter (expert) and several attendees (learners). Apparently the "unconference" means that everyone is learning from everyone, and the goal is to stimulate thought and action through discussion.

Here are the sessions being offered:

Session 1 - Saturday
  • Influence without authority: Finding Common Ground to Frame Innovation and Change
  • The C.E.S. 10 Common Principles and the 2.0 School
  • Advisory: The Soul of School
  • Little Green Schoolhouse (or School 4.0)
  • SLA's Use of Moodle as a Classroom Tool
  • Professional Development Using Social Software
  • Meaningful Mentoring: The Individualized Learning Plan
  • Harness Visual Learning for Critical Thinking, Writing, Presenting and Thinking
Session 2 - Saturday
  • Personal Learning Networks and the Demands of Schooling
  • Claiming What We Imagine
  • Learning to Teach: First Year in a Progressive School
  • Tearing Down the Walls: Practicing What We Preach
  • Online Collaboration 101: Using Twitter and Skype
  • Promoting Open, Reflective Teaching and Learning in Elementary MST
  • Public Partnership: The Science Leadership Academy and The Franklin Institute
  • We're All Student Teachers
Session 3 - Saturday
  • What does good teaching with computers look like?
  • Extreme Makeover Edition: How to Pimp Your Library
  • New Media Literacies for the 21st Century
  • Knowledge in a One-Size-Fits-All Classroom
  • Building School 2.0--New Tools and Dewey's Dream
  • Authentic Learning
  • Engineering: The Constructivist Curriculum
  • Student Empowerment: Constitution High School's Government

Friday, January 25, 2008

Arrival at Educon

Pat Wagner, David Prinstein and I are here! Thanks to David 's Garmin, we arrived at the Educon 2.0 Conference here in Philadelphia just past noon. We will spend the afternoon visiting classrooms and meeting with teachers at Chris Lehman's Science Leadership Academy. Tomorrow, we attend workshops and then on Sunday we present.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One Laptop

Do you remember the scene from "Cast Away" when Tom Hanks's character is frantically trying to create fire? Exhausted and desperate, he gamely scrapes two pieces of wood together, enduring blisters and cuts, hoping for a lone spark.

We've found our spark. Maybe.

Enter the Asus EEE Micro Notebook. From what I understand, this is a Linux-based machine, stripped down for Internet utility. Since our school is looking to move to the Web 2.0 world, this machine sounded promising to Jesse Spevack, one of our Team Leaders. He brought it to my attention a couple of weeks ago. We ordered one model, to "play" with.

It arrived on Friday. Our tech team gathered around in Jesse's room at the end of the day. Dan Ackerman (technology AP) keyed in the wireless codes and we were online.

In the palm of our hand, we held a $300 sparkplug with a 5-inch wide keyboard. Seeing the Internet on the scaled down monitor, holding the small-yet-sturdy machine in my hands, I felt like we were about to ignite our school. Maybe we'd found an affordable option to get us the 1-to-1 environment we needed to realize our School 2.0 vision.

We sent Jesse off for the weekend with the assignment to test the EEE. I'm hoping that it makes for a viable classroom tool. If so, we'll pilot with a couple of class sets, get teachers developing 2.0 classrooms and push our technology model.

Time will tell, but this Linux laptop might light our way.