MAS.963 | Fall 2005 | Graduate
Technological Tools for School Reform

Lecture Notes

SES # Topics LECTURE NOTES
1 Introduction and Overview An overview of the course themes, schedule, and syllabus, with an introductory discussion of the current debates in school reform. In particular, we will discuss the recent focus on the debate on high school reform and the place of the No Child Left Behind Act in this debate.
2

General Context: Approaches to School Reform

Guests: Paula Evans and Rob Riordan

A conversation about the approach to school reform advocated by the Coalition of Essential Schools and how it has impacted the design of some of the most successful charter schools. In particular, we will discuss the key ingredients of the success of the High Tech High model.
3

Specific Context (I): Community Charter School of Cambridge (CCSC)

Guests: Rob Riordan and Robin Pringle

For the final project, students will develop new tools, materials and activities to demonstrate the potential of digital technologies to transform schools and their local communities to vibrant learning environments that serve every student. The final projects should be grounded in what can be concretely achieved in today’s progressive public schools. The Community Charter School of Cambridge (CCSC) will serve as concrete context for the design and implementation of the final projects. We will therefore dedicate two sessions to understanding this context in depth.

In the first session - The Road to 245 Bent Street - we will explore the motivations for founding a new charter school in Cambridge and the long journey from the conception to the opening day (August 31, 2005) of CCSC. The session will be conducted as a roundtable discussion with some of the members of the CCSC Founding Board and the current Board of Directors.

4

Specific Context (II): CCSC Design Principles

Guests: CCSC Faculty, Rob Riordan, and Robin Pringle

In the second session, we will discuss the CCSC school design and how the faculty and administrators of CCSC are realizing the ideas presented in the CCSC charter application. In particular, we will critically examine how CCSC realizes the new three R’s - Rigor, Relevance and Relationships - through a rigorous Academic Program, a strong Advisory Program and a rich Connections Program. We will pay special attention to assessment and evaluation issues.
5

The Role of Technology (I): Documentation for Reflection, Evaluation, and Communication

Guest: Glorianna Davenport

This meeting focuses on the importance of documentation as a tool for reflection by students and teachers, as rich material for a more textured qualitative evaluation of student work and school performance, and as powerful ways to communicate the culture and accomplishments of the school. We will discuss the affordances of different media for documentation. In particular, our guest, Glorianna Davenport, the director of the Media Fabrics research group at the MIT media Lab, will guide us through a discussion of video as a tool for documentation.

Specific topics include: Extending our visual memory - video as a technology for imaging the world, video as a knowledge medium, video as a messaging medium and as a medium to influence change; Video ethnography as a practice - aesthetics, technical and ethical issues in documenting real events; Technologies - handheld devices, tripod, multi-camera, automatic surveillance, common sense systems etc; Techniques - parsing, editing, shooting styles and opportunities, and interpreting the recorded moment.

6

The Role of Technology (II): Creating Deep Community Connections

Guests: Erik Blankinship, Mike Ananny, Leo Burd, and Stefan Agamanolis

First Half: The Many Faces of Community Connections

In this meeting, we will discuss how technological tools can transform what, when, how and where we learn. In particular, we will focus on the new domains of knowledge and practice that can become genuinely relevant to students in the context of work in their local community. The session will be conducted as a panel discussion of three specific projects with our guests: Image Maps, Creating Civics, and the Young Activist Network.

Second Half: Tools for Creating Distributed Reflective Learning Communities

In the second half of this meeting, we will discuss how technological tools can help create distributed learning communities. In particular, we will focus on three novel systems: iCom, DIVER, and E-mail Equations. We will discuss how a custom version of the iCom system would facilitate the creation on a distributed professional development programs for sharing best practices and seeking advice from across a network of schools that are built around common design principles. The same system would be used to connect the students in the network of schools to present their project to their peers for critique and advice. We will also discuss how an application of the DIVER system would allow for documentation and reflection on community practices by engaging the members of the community to identify and annotate areas of activity in the school environment that can be improved. And finally E-mail Equations system shows how mailing lists can serve as objects to reflect on and create new communities of practice and interest.

7 Final Project Proposal: Brainstorming Session In this session, students present their proposals for their final projects. The class, together with our guests, will provide critical feedback on each project. After this meeting, students develop Web sites for their projects where they will document the evolution of their ideas and their progress on the project.
8 The Role of Technology (III): Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology

First Half: Children as Scientists and Engineers

In the first half of the meeting, building on the readings and discussion of last week, we will discuss how technological tools can transform what, when, how and where we learn about and through science. We will discuss how a new collection of tools and material can enable: 
- exploratory science and mathematics learning through hands-on engineering and artistic design projects, 
- deep scientific inquiry and authentic mathematical analysis through designing and building scientific instruments for investigations that grow out of one’s personal interests and everyday experiences, and 
- representation and communication of findings to a broad audience from the local professional and non-professional community.

Second Half: Personal Fabrication

In the second half of the meeting, we build on the discussion of the first half by examining more deeply how to extend the tools that enable students and teachers to create their own material for engaging in deep scientific and mathematical: 
- inquiries and investigations, 
- model building and testing activities, and 
- representation construction for reflection and communication of ideas.

We will in particular discuss how a new generation of powerful yet accessible digital tools for design, fabrication and instrumentation can fundamentally extend our ways of understanding the world through invention.

9

The Role of Technology (IV): Media Literacy

Guest: Erik Blankinship

In this meeting, we will focus on technologies that help us (re)visiting and rethink literacy and media literacy in general. We will discuss our evolving notions of fluency in learning and thinking about advanced ideas with different media. In particular, we will introduce a number of projects that illustrate the unique affordances of well-designed tangible toolkits to allow students to learn about advanced ideas in more natural ways on their own or in a group.
10

The Role of Technology (V): Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology

Guest: Eric Klopfer

First Half: Computational Science and Mathematics: Logo, StarLogo, New Kind of Science

In the first half of the meeting, we will discuss how technological tools can transform science and mathematics education. Our panel will discuss how a new collection of tools and material enable exploratory science and mathematics learning through constructionist design activities in which students make deep connections to mathematical and scientific ideas as they create and reflect on the artifacts that are personally meaningful to them. We also discuss what type of constructionist material that we need to create to make the breadth of powerful ideas discussed in the New Kind of Science accessible to teachers and students and allow them to undertake and contribute to genuine research projects in this young field.

Second Half: Handheld and Wearable Computers

In the second half of the meeting, we will focus on handheld and wearable computers that are developed to bring science and math activities into the real-world and embed them in the daily life of kids. In particular, we will discuss group activities that allow students to construct, to be immersed in, to deconstruct, and to reflect on simulations of complex systems collaboratively.

11

The Role of Technology (VI): Learning All the Time

Guests: Sandy Pentland and Eric Klopfer

In this meeting, we will focus on arguably the most disruptive of technologies with a great potential for transforming schools. We will focus on the impact of powerful mobile devices (cell phone and handheld) that are wirelessly connected all the time and are equipped with GPS and camera on the curriculum, structure, culture of the school as what, where, when and how we learn is transformed. We will in particular discuss applications of wearable and mobile devices to monitoring, understanding habits and patterns in movement and their health consequences.
12 The Role of Technology (VII): Art, Music, and Technology

First Half: Art, Design and Technology

In the first half of the meeting, we will introduce a number of projects that serve as inspiration for developing a strong Art and Technology program in schools. We will focus on examples in visual design as well as physical computing. In particular, we discuss how the technologies, techniques, ideas, habits of minds developed through these activities connect to other intellectual and curricular domains. We will focus on examples that creatively integrate art, science, engineering, humanities, and social sciences.

Second Half: Digital Audio and Computer Music

In the second half of the meeting, we will introduce a number of projects that serve as inspiration for developing a strong interdisciplinary program for schools that introduces student to tools, techniques and ideas in digital audio, and electronic and computer music. In particular, we will highlight projects that engage students in the design of musical instruments, and creating music with novel instruments, composition tools, and electronic controllers.

13 Understanding the Role of Nonprofit and Volunteer Organizations in School Reform  
14 Final Presentations  

Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2005
Level
Learning Resource Types
group_work Projects with Examples