Flipped My Keynote

Tech.it.U is a premier educational technology conference (and Penn State grad course) designed to inspire and generate practical classroom ideas that “will help you teach with power and focus to impact students’ futures.”

“Thank you for making us think. You taught by example.”

I was asked to give the closing keynote on my Taxonomy of Reflection at this year’s, week-long conferenceKeynoters typically show up, explain their model, answer questions, etc. If all goes well, folks leave with an understanding of the ideas you pitched to them.

Transfer of content is easy in the digital age, it’s processing the learning that’s the challenge. So I elected to flip my keynote. Why not use one of the strategies I recommend to teachers? (My slide deck on flipping your class)

To flip my keynote, I gave Tech.it.U participants some advance reading about my taxonomy. Then I used my two hours – not to present, but to put them through a variety of experiences to provoke their reflections. For example, we studied a mid-19th century primitive painting to see how students “feel” when they are asked to construct meaning when they lack background knowledge. LearningCatalytics, a BYOD-based response system, made it possible to harness the power of peer instruction and compare our reflections. 

So how did “flipping” my keynote go? I asked participants to reflect on the experience. Here’s a few of their responses:

  • What a great end to the week. You had me engaged throughout the presentation. The hands on activities with partners, the discussions or arguments with peers, and the videos were perfect. Each of these items had me analyzing, applying, understanding, and evaluating information.
  • Wow! I loved how interactive this keynote was. My brain is on overdrive trying to think of all the amazing things I want to try first. You bring a plethora of fresh ideas and thoughts.
  • I truly appreciate that throughout your presentation you modeled the kind of instruction you proposed we use with our students. That is my favorite way to learn!
  • Very inspiring presentation. Great thoughts on ways to flip the instructional model. … My head is spinning with ways to implement some of these strategies.
  • What an engaging presentation! Learning catalytics is wonderful! I had so many “aha!” moments and it triggered many engaging lesson ideas.
  • I wish more people would champion the idea that students should be responsible for their learning and that teachers should be the facilitators of or catalysts for this to happen.
  • Wow, what a great thought provoking presentation. I love the idea of turning the responsibility of learning over to the students. I am going away with multiple ideas on how I can recreate myself as an educator for my students.
  • Thank you for making us think. … You taught by example.

Free Webinar on Higher Order Thinking – the Student Perspective

Update 2013: The free pilot has concluded – but click here for info on my $275 webinar.

One of this year’s resolutions was to begin offering webinars. (not that I don’t enjoy airports) I recently completed my first pilot (description below) and I’m looking for three school sites who would like to try a free pilot webinar and offer me some feedback. More details on my free webinar below.


Live Meeting – My “teacher” view with presentation, video, audience, Learning Catalytics

I piloted my first webinar with a group of instructors from Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. (Hat tip to SWTC’s Kristal Davenport) We used Microsoft Live Meeting as a platform. Participants at SWTC were gathered in one room. We maintained webcam contact with each other throughout the workshop. (I’m not a big fan of watching webinar presentations delivered by a disembodied voice.) I pre-loaded high-quality video in advance that ran smoothly during the webinar. The webinar went very well and I think we were able to create the level of interaction that I strive for in my on-site workshops.

For years I’ve used a TurningPoint audience response system (ARS) in my on-site keynotes and workshops. When an ARS is used in a Socratic manner it fosters great conversation and reflection. So a key component I wanted in a webinar was a “distance version” of an ARS. I was pleased to discover Learning Catalytics. While it was designed for on-site classroom use, it was just what I needed to enliven the webinar.

Learning Catalytics is a web-based response system that allows participants to answer from any web-enabled device – computer, tablet, smart phone. It was easy to input questions (it even provides for copy / paste of text) and using it during the webinar was a breeze. It allows the teacher to ask a wide variety of questions. Not only the usual questions such as multiple-choice, priority, and ranking. But also some unique questions for an ARS where students use their devices to – draw vectors indicating directions, indicate the points on an image, and even aggregate student text into Word clouds. Imagine your students generating real-time Wordles from their devices!


Learning Catalytics: Teacher view and iPhone view

Learning Catalytics was designed from the ground up to foster student discussion. It most notable feature is peer-learning tool (which unfortunately, I did not use – my pilot group was too small). In advance of class, the teacher inputs a seating chart of the the class. Students log into their seat locations. After posing a question, the teacher can use Learning Catalytic to automatically create student discussion groups that direct students to talk to specific peers based on their response to the question. “Peter turn to Nancy on your left and discuss the thinking behind your answer.” After the peer discussion, the teacher can repost the original question and graph the changing responses.

I like to continue piloting this model so I will offer a free live webinar to the first three schools (or sites) that follow through with my registration process.

I think professional development should model what we want to see in the classroom.  So I’d like to start with an 45-minute experiential webinar called: “Higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) - What’s that look like in the classroom?”
We’ll watch a few short video clips, do a few activities to model instruction at different levels of Blooms and then reflect on the experience. Our instructional goals for the webinar:

  • Develop a working definition of HOTS
  • Clarify how the tasks we assign students define their level of thinking
  • Leave with 3 ideas for fostering HOTS with your students

A few stipulations:

  • Participants: Minimum 15 / Maximum 30. Could be teachers or admin.
  • You’ll use with a single webcam at your end, so they will need to be located in the same room.
  • Webinar length – roughly 45 min. Plus about 10 minutes for webinar feedback.
  • Timing: Sometime between 8:30 AM and 5 PM (PST – Pacific Standard Time)
  • Feedback: Since this is a pilot. I will expect you to assist in evaluating the webinar, gathering feedback from your participants and helping me “document” the user experience.
  • Technical details: More to follow if you get a webinar. But for starters – ability to run a WebEx Meeting (web access), LCD / sound for display, webcam / microphone to record your end, participants with web-enabled devices, designated coordinator to manage your end.

If you are willing to meet these stipulations in an efficient manner, fill in the request below. Remember – this is just a request. I will select from requests that demonstrate you’ll be easy to work with.

After the pilots are completed and my webinar model is refined, I plan to offer a series of (paid) webinars. I think there’s a need for short, inexpensive, engaging webinar-based PD that can foster reflection and professional growth. Something you can use with admin, faculty, department or grade level to foster local capacity.

Studio H Classroom: Design. Build. Transform. Community

Studio H: Design. Build. Transform is a new exhibit that just opened at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft. It offers visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the design process.

While touring the exhibit, I was struck by how the Studio H exhibit embodies the key elements of project-based learning. The PBL approach engages students with the chance to think like professionals while solving real-world problems. Studio H gives PBL added impact by inspiring and empowering student as change agents in their community.

High 5 Studio H
High 5 Studio H

Student-designed solutions that empower people, communities, and economies.

In contrast to PBL, the traditional classroom conditions students to listen to teachers lecture – a one-way flow of information from teacher to passive recipient. And then, if there’s time, students might have a chance to “apply” what they’ve “learned” in a “canned” project (often over-managed with worksheets and a teacher-defined product). But that’s not how we experience life. We encounter challenges that become the catalyst for us to “figure things out.” Thus problem fosters research, analysis, solution, and reflection.

The MoCC’s Studio H exhibit re-imagines the gallery as a laboratory and teaching space. Visitors get to see how students were taught a non-linear design process in a more authentic learning environment that grows out of a dynamic interplay between research, ideation, development, prototyping and building.

Farmers Market prototype
Farmers’ Market Prototype @MoCC

Educators will find the exhibit to be an inspiration and template for using the PBL approach to motivate students with challenge, autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Studio H: Design. Build. Transform
Research: Gather relevant contextual precedent and sociological information.
Ideate: Generate large amounts of seemingly crazy ideas in quick succession.
Develop: Refine promising ideas using functional requirements real-world constraints.
Prototype: Build working versions and test their feasibility.
Build: Execute and test the prototype in real-world conditions for human interaction dreams.

Farmers market
Farmers’ Market – Complete

“A piece of me in every part of this building” ~ Erick
“I’m proud of the market and myself.” ~ Jamesha
“In 30 years, I’ll say I helped build it.” ~ Colin

The exhibition asks viewers to reflect on how that process can teach the next generation of designers to transform the world for themselves. Artifacts from the studio classroom in rural Bertie County, North Carolina (where Emily Pilloton, and Project H partner Matthew Miller, teach design thinking to high-school students) are on display and illustrate how a socially engaged design process can result in significant and positive solutions.

Farmers Market in operation
Farmers’ Market – In Operation

The MoCC exhibit highlights the products and process of the first year of the Studio H program. It features two design challenges – chicken coops and a farmers’ market pavilion. Both projects required students to design and build for real-world human (or chicken) interaction. Each project was firmly rooted in the agricultural context of Bertie County, but each looked closely at the local economy and fostered a more sustainable food solution – in one case offering an alternative to the local Perdue-scale chicken agribusiness and in the other, facilitating the production and sale of fresh local produce.

Emily Pilloton exemplifies an emerging generation of designers who believe that design has the power to positively change the world but that new design strategies are required to effect those changes. Pilloton is the founder and director of Project H Design (design initiatives for Humanity, Habitats, Health and Happiness), which connects design to the people who need it most and to the places where it can make a real and lasting difference.

Pilloton and Miller moved to rural Bertie County, North Carolina in 2009 to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. Through a design/build high-school shop class called Studio H, Pilloton and Miller exercised both minds and bodies while bringing design strategies and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state. In August 2010 they began teaching their first class of 13 students.

We need to go beyond “going green,” Pilloton says, and enlist a new generation of design activists. We need big hearts, a bigger business sense, and the bravery to take action now.

The Studio H website is loaded with photographs, videos, student reflections and great curriculum ideas. The site describes the curriculum as follows:

Studio H is a public high school “design/build” curriculum that sparks rural community development through real-world, built projects. By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and industry-relevant construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.


Over the course of one calendar year, students earn high school and college credit, and are paid a summer wage to build the community project they have spent the year designing and prototyping.

Studio H is a different kind of classroom. We design, build, and transform.

The Museum of Contemporary Craft is sponsoring a Craftperspective Lecture by Emily Pilloton at ZIBA Auditorium 810 NW Marshall Street in Portland Ore on Dec 2, 2011 at 6 PM. Arrive early – it will be packed! More info

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Note from Peter: I’ve had some discussions with the folks at MoCC about offering a January teacher’s workshop. “Studio H and Getting Started with Project-Based Learning.” Stop back for more information.

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Image credits:
High Five by Studio H
Farmers’ Market Complete and In Operation by Brad Feinknopf.
Prototype @MoCC by Peter Pappas.

Rigor, Relevance, and Project Based Learning

Solar Sprint 2010 Chicago
Solar Sprint 2010 Chicago

I’m giving a daylong workshop (pdf) at the SW Wisconsin Business and Education Summit at the Lenz Conference Center at Southwest Tech in Fennimore WI. My workshop notes and resources are available here. For more of my posts on PBL click here.

Your students explore their world with an expectation of choice and control that redefines traditional notions of learning and literacy. Increasingly educators are discovering that they can motivate students with a PBL approach that engages their students with the opportunity to think like professionals while solving real-world problems. This workshop gives participants the why, what, and how (to get started) of PBL.

I’ll focus on six reasons why PBL can build skills and engage students.

  1. Traditional instruction is based on “teaching as telling.” PBL creates learning experiences.
  2. A new information “culture” demands a new literacy. PBL can build those skills
  3. We need to increase the rigor in the classroom. PBL moves students to higher levels of Blooms.
  4. PBL makes learning relevant – student take responsibility for their progress.
  5. Usually the audience for thinking is the teacher – PBL shifts the focus to real world application.
  6. Now that life’s become an open book test, memorizing facts and performing routine tasks are devalued.

You can follow the #PBL tweet stream at the visualizer below. Direct link to my visualizer at Wiffiti.

Image credit: flickr/Argonne National Laboratory

Solve the Problem

Solve the problem
Solve the problem

This problem was inspired by an advertisement I saw in Wired Magazine. (Modified for this blog post). When I first saw the page, I realized I was looking at a puzzle, but I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Then I “got” what was going on and I figured it out.

The key to solving a problem often lies with finding a pattern. That’s a very human skill. Even newborns can soon recognize faces. As Jon Medina has said “We…are terrific pattern matchers, constantly assessing our environment for similarities, and we tend to remember things if we think we have seen them before.”

It’s a pity we don’t do a better job of teaching pattern recognition in school. Uncovering an underlying pattern is essential to constructing meaning. In school we typically “teach” patterns to students as “facts,” rather than ask students to discover the pattern for themselves. Of course this strips the activity of its real value as a learning strategy, and turns into just another thing to memorize. Asking students to file some pre-selected information into a graphic organizer isn’t analysis – it’s just moving stuff around. True analysis involves doing the challenging work of trying to make sense of information. Powerful learning occurs when students have to answer questions like - Is this a sequence? Is it cause and effect? How would I organize this material into categories? Could I explain my system to someone else?   Exactly the type of skills that are demanded by the new Common Core standards.

Enough commentary, have you solved the problem yet?

Credit: Inspired by CenturyLink ad in Wired Magazine, October 2011 p. 148

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