Why Technology?

If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s Ted talk titled “Start with why” it is definitely worth a watch.  In it, he explains that most organizations know “what” they do and “how” they do it, but great organizations know “why” they do it.  Knowing “why” separates the great organizations from the ordinary organizations.  In the video below, I attempt to drill down to the core or essence of why we use technology in the classroom. It is my hope that this captures the rationale of what drives our program and brings a better understanding to our community about our technology philosophy at the Pike School.  If you have any “Why Technology?” thoughts please leave a comment or get in touch with the Tech Dept.

Evaluating Innovation

by Aaron Hovel and Jennifer Zacharis
Originally posted on Pike Perspectives

With any new initiative, it is important to evaluate and reflect on the progress. Over the past year, we embarked on evaluating the Upper School 1-to-1 iPad program that began during the 2013 – 2014 school year. We accomplished this through student, parent, and teacher surveys, as well as faculty focus groups.  After compiling all the data and pouring over the individual comments, it is clear that the program has been well received and is meeting the goals set out in the beginning.  As I stated in my previous post the workforce that our children will enter will require different skills and qualities, and we need to teach students to do work that computers can’t do.  The goals for the iPad program were developed to provide teachers and students with the tools to create opportunities to practice these skills, which we often refer to as the 4 C’s:

  • Curation – Develop skills that will help evaluate and organize vast amounts of information so they can retrieve it later.
  • Creation – Design and share information for global communities.
  • Collaboration – Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally.
  • Communication – Facilitate creative expression of knowledge and understanding through a variety of media.

When we asked teachers, via the survey, if they felt the iPad had enabled them to provide more opportunities for students to practice and demonstrate these skills, the majority of faculty reported yes.  Overall, we also found that parents are satisfied with the iPad program, value integration of technology into the classroom, and are looking for information to help them talk with their children about digital citizenship.  Students overwhelmingly rate the iPad program highly, they like the major apps that we use daily and a majority of them feel more engaged in class as a result of the iPad program.  Along with all of the positive news, we also know we have things to work on and we will use the results of the survey to guide our plans for the future, with issues like distraction, screen time and digital citizenship.
Now that we have all of this data, how is it guiding our future work? In addition to providing input via the surveys, faculty also participated in 2 departmental focus groups.  During the first meeting, they did an analysis on the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of the first three years of the program.  In the next meeting, faculty reviewed the results of the survey as well as their initial analysis and picked a major goal to work on over the next 2-3 years.

As we often see at Pike, teachers choose to take on big goals that can improve learning in major ways.  Some of the goals include making Global connections with other classrooms around the world, developing a portfolio of work that will help students evaluate and reflect on their learning, or looking for more ways for students to create as a part of their learning.  I’m excited about the direction already set for the next few years. Thank you to all who participated in the surveys and provided feedback.

Why Innovate?

by Director of Technology Aaron Hovel
Originally posted on Pike Perspectives

I’m currently participating in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Edx called “Launching Innovation in Schools” taught by Justin Reich and Peter Senge from MIT.  As you can imagine with the title Launching Innovation, there is quite a bit of talk about change.  But why innovate?  Often encouraging change can be seen as a negative comment on what we are currently doing, rather than recognizing that the need to consider change is because the workforce our children will enter will require different skills and qualities.  I highly recommend this video, where Justin describes the fact that over time jobs that are structured or routine will increasingly be done by computers.  He goes on to say that we need to teach our students to do work that computers can’t do. This falls into two categories:

**Solving messy or complex problems, which he calls “ill-structured problems.”
**Persuasive communication – communication needed to solve problems.

To prepare students for these tasks Justin Reich challenges us to think about all of the assignments we give in schools and consider how many of our assignments involve routine tasks. How many tasks ask students to solve ill-structured problems? How many projects ask students to engage in complex communication? My guess is that many assignments in most schools lean towards the routine task side, so we need to work to achieve a better balance with assignments.  What are your thoughts? Do you see this shift in your industry?  What types of skills are most important in the work that you do?  How do you see the needs changing in the future?

Seesaw @Pikeschool


For week 5 of our Learn | Try | Amplify initiative, we are sharing a couple of videos (4 minutes) about how 1st and 3rd grades are using Seesaw as a digital portfolio app to engage parents, teach digital citizenship, and encourage students to reflect on their learning. Seesaw is one of the best educational apps to come out in the last couple of years so, I encourage you to carve out some time to check it out. Are you using Seesaw? Share how you’re using it in the comment section.

1st Grade Seesaw Video

3rd Grade Seesaw Video

For more See Saw activity ideas in Grades K – 2 click here.

For more SeeSaw activity ideas in Grades 3 – 5 click here.

An Innovative Idea Sparks to Life

by Aaron Hovel and Jennifer Zacharis – originally published on Pike Perspectives.

At this time last year, a small informal committee of faculty and staff was formed to investigate ways to promote making, building, STEAM, risk taking, and innovative problem solving at Pike. This wasn’t a committee requested by the administration, it was a group of passionate educators with questions and an idea. We eventually found that a Makerspace would be a perfect place to foster curiosity and encourage hands on experiential learning and creative exploration. Our team realized that a Makerspace was a big idea that would take quite a bit of work to organize, and a plan that would require a budget to purchase supplies and equipment. At another school this might have been a moment where a good idea could have lost steam, but not at Pike.  We knew that Pike is a place where innovation in teaching is nurtured and supported so our small committee had the confidence to move forward with an exciting new concept.

First, we wrote a proposal for a Makerspace describing the goals of the space and how it supported the mission of the school (develop lifelong, independent learners with a creative spirit) as well as the need for a budget. The proposal and the budget was submitted to Muddy Waters, the Head of School, and the administration. This was another moment where a good idea could have lost momentum, but with careful consideration, the administration gave preliminary approval and a budget for a Makerspace and we were asked to submit a detailed plan for final approval.  Once final approval was obtained our committee was expanded to include at least one teacher from each division and staff from the Library, Technology and the Advancement Offices.

With the full support of the Administration, a larger Innovation Committee was energized to start researching and planning for a space that would come to life this school year at Pike. We read books, visited other schools with Makerspaces, attended workshops, developed a list of supplies and analyzed how students would have an opportunity to use the space this year. Finally, with all of this research completed we began the work of ordering the materials and setting up the new Makerspace.

Our pilot Makerspace is already off to a great start this fall.  Faculty were introduced to the space during opening meetings, and students in each division have had an opportunity to go to the Makerspace during elective, club, and choice times or with their classroom teachers.  The name of the Makerspace is Spark, because we felt that it was a fitting title for a new stimulating and inspiring environment located at the center of our school.  Upon reflection, Spark also feels appropriate for the journey that ignited this idea into a reality at Pike.  Like many new initiatives at Pike, Spark was fueled by faculty and staff who were willing to put in extra time and positive energy to improve the student experience.

You can find Spark in the classroom located in the rear of the Library.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Remember the choose your own adventure books? You can make choose your adventure stories using Google Apps tools like Docs or YouTube.  Click here to see a really cool choose your own adventure YouTube video.  Want to get the nuts and bolts of how to create these stories? The following Google Presentation has directions and examples of how to make and use choose your own adventures stories in your classroom. Here is an example created by a 3rd grade class.

Extend the walls of your classroom with Global Projects

Collaborating with other classes around the world is a great learning experience for students.  The hardest part is finding projects. Look no further. Projectsbyjen.com is a great resource for finding and participating in PreK -6 global projects. There is a wide range of projects both in topic and length. Some projects are 1 day long others are longer term.

Making a Makerspace

Over the last couple of days members of the Innovation Committee have been hard at work putting together Pike’s pilot makerspace called “Spark”. The makerspace now has tools like hammers, drills, and screw drivers as well as electronics like Mindstorms and KIBO robots and other tools like 3D printers, vinyl cutters and button makers. The committee also spent time planning the use of the space so that students and teachers in each division would have an opportunity to come to the makerspace. There is still work to be done before school starts but we are looking forward to all the making coming up this year.


Innovation @ Pike

Originally published on Pike Perspectives

In Tony Wagner’s recent book titled Creating Innovators, he writes about the fundamental economic change that is occurring now and that will continue in the future.  He emphasizes that we are no longer in a knowledge economy, where knowing more than someone is a competitive advantage.  We now live in a society where any information can be “googled,” and what you accomplish with your expertise is more important than the knowledge itself.  Wagner and many others indicate that our current innovation economy requires a new generation of innovators that will be essential to America’s future. Pike students will be entering a world where problem-solving, multidisciplinary solutions, creativity, and collaboration will be very important skills. Pike has always provided opportunities for students to develop these innovation skills and qualities, and next year we will be building and extending that effort by creating a makerspace in the library.

What is a makerspace? I often describe a makerspace as a combination of Art and Science classes, mixing with technology, Shop and Home Economics class.  This will be a place where students are encouraged to “Invent to Learn” with tools like 3D printers for fabrication, electronics (Arduino and other microcontrollers), robotics, cardboard, hammers, and conductive tape.  In this space you will see students working together to build elaborate cardboard cities or pop-up books, completing Lego challenges, building toothpick bridges, programming a robot, building simple and parallel electrical circuits, and many other hands-on science, art, and engineering projects that promote the joy of learning. This new dedicated space, blended with a deliberate focus and the access to tools, equipment, and supplies will provide countless opportunities for creativity and innovation.  Our makerspace will offer an environment that fosters curiosity, and individuals can engage in hands-on experiential learning, creation, and exploration.

Throughout this past school year we have had a dedicated group of faculty (one or more from each division), librarians, staff, and administrators working in partnership to procure funds, design curriculum, and order materials for the new makerspace, and over the summer this same group will be working to transform the Tech Office behind the Library computer lab for this purpose.  A makerspace supports and extends Pike’s mission to develop lifelong, independent learners with a creative spirit and we are very excited to launch this new innovation space in the Pike Community.