Archive for the 'Education' Category

Chicago Ideas Week - Indoor Recess

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Yesterday, as part of Chicago Ideas Week, I went to the Chicago office of IDEO to work on an exciting brief: “How can we design for indoor recess? Chicago Public schools don’t have a lot of space for indoor recess and it could be used more efficiently. Students don’t have a lot of time so activities and space needs to be directed and accessible for group break-outs.” We went through the entire design process in 10 hours, using Mitchell Elementary School as a prototype, and came up with some great solutions for fun and safe indoor recess.

The lights in Chicago

Thursday, March 31st, 2011


Tonight I went to an event sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation: Re-imagining Learning in the 21st Century. It was at the Spertus Institute, which if you’ve never been, is nothing short of incredible. None of the floors touch the front, which faces Lake Michigan, so every floor has an incredible expansive view of the lake. Everything is glass and white and lovely. Even the food that they served was amazing. I’m still thinking about the cucumber slices with salmon roe and wasabi peas. Well done! It was the perfect setting for the event, which featured innovation in education. Big hitters like Karen Cator and Chicago’s very own mayor-elect, Rahm Emmanuel, spoke. Specifically, they featured what Jenkins (a MacArthur grantee) calls “participatory learning”, peer-based education that is shaped around individual interests that are shared and consumed. The buzz was mostly around ChicagoQuest, which “applies the principles of game design and systems thinking to teaching and learning.”

I was invited to the event by my good friend James, and afterward, his wife, Kami, picked us up. She asked us if we could drive by the Cabrini-Green housing project, which was on our way home anyway, and we agreed. Most people have heard of Cabrini Green, but for a lot of really bad reasons. It was built with a lot of hope for lower-income residents, but because of neglect and gang violence, it deteriorated into a difficult place for a lot of kids to grow up. Yet, it was still their home and community and it was a blow when the Chicago Housing Authority decided to demolish them and replace them with mixed income housing. The residents complained that the temporary housing they were placed in until they could be relocated was substandard and that there wasn’t enough housing for everyone who was displaced. Most tragic for me were the surrounding schools: as of now, only three of the five elementary schools that existed in the area are in use. One of the ones that closed down, Byrd Academy, used our Collaboratory Project while I was at Northwestern to fight their school closing. The kids showed the poor conditions in which they were supposed to learn, which included the lack of a lunchroom (they ate on the floor of the hallway), no gym (it was heartbreaking to see the first graders having to cross a busy street in the cold to use another school’s gym), and windows broken and dirty. In the winter, I saw the students work with gloves and hats on (because the heat didn’t work) and in the summer, scream over the old industrial fans that were in their classroom (because their was no air conditioning). The building was a mess, but the soul of it was was strong and the students fought to keep their community in tact, but with a new school. They received lots of national media attention, but to no avail. Byrd was shut down and the kids were transferred to other schools.

And now, Cabrini-Green was getting torn down. Kami wanted us to see an art project commemorating the buildings. It was amazing, and somewhat creepy. It brought the building to eerie life, and I couldn’t help but think back to the lights that illuminated the floor in the Spertus Institute earlier in the night.

Google Geo Institute

Friday, July 23rd, 2010


My annual pilgrimage to Northern California began this year with a trip to the Google Geo Institute. Aside from seeing the awesomeness that is the Google campus (Google bicycles to get you around! Google umbrellas everywhere in case it starts to rain! Great food as far as the eye can see! Tyrannosaurus Rex!), we were given an overview of Google Earth, Maps, Sky, SketchUp and much more! We also had an opportunity to see how teachers use the tools in interesting ways, Google Lit Trips being the obvious example.

Finally, the event was finished off with a Geography Bee hosted by none other than Alex Trebek (NSFW)! You can’t beat that! It was his 70th birthday, so we sang him happy birthday. He looks great for 70. (Though, I really wish he would grow back his mustache.)

GLS 6.0

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

On Saturday, I drove up to Madison with my colleague, Wendy Thomas, and had the good fortune to attend the 2nd annual Games + Learning + Society Conference Educator Symposium. Although GLS has been around for 6 years, the Educator Symposium is still pretty new. And for only doing this once before, I had to say I was impressed. In one day, they packed in a great panel of educators using innovative technologies, a roundtable with researchers, and a hands-on workshop.

Technology + Gross = Engaging

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
Today, Noah Swinney Stein and I went to Curie Metro High School to show them what was possible with the digital visualizers (document cameras) that CTC loaned the school.  Noah brought a bunch of compost and I brought the camera, and together, we zoomed in on what looked like a pile of dirt and exposed [...]

It’s a Gas at BETT!

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

It's a Gas

Remember It’s a Gas? Part of a commision for the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, It’s a Gas explores the cause and funniness of farting. I illustrated and animated it back in May of 2002. Anyhow, my friend Colin Maxwell is featuring it at BETT as part of a presentation on Flash and Education in the Adobe booth. If you’re there, check it out! Colin is a very entertaining presenter.

Get Your Read On!

Monday, January 5th, 2009

I am starting a Google Sites project for the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award on the iCollaboratory.

Bubble (pro)test

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
 image is modified version of Jeff Kubina’s (CC AttributionShareAlike license)

Wade Tillet, one of the many great teachers I have met over the years at the Collaboratory (he was the co-winner of the 2008 Project of the Year Award) has started a fantastic movement called Bubble Over:

This is the time to work for change [...]

I’m a GCT, Yeah You Know Me!

Thursday, September 25th, 2008
It’s true.  After spending a day eating free delicious food (Googlers told tales of gettting the “Google 15”) and cramming my brain with Google-Goodness, I’m Google Certified.  It was a great and intense day, and I met a lot of very innovative forward-thinking teachers that question everything.  I’m generally wary of being some sort of [...]

I’m Going to the Google Teacher Academy!

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Exciting news: On September 24th, I’ll be at the Google offices in downtown Chicago collaborating with a diverse group of teachers at the Google Teacher Academy! I was selected, along with 49 other educators to participate in an an “intensive, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment.”

Part of the application required a one minute video on “Motivation & Learning.” My submission was a minimalist approach using the look of the retro chalkboard.