Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spring Break

Earlier this year our guy engaged in a school-based challenge: how tall a free-standing structure can you build using only one sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper and tape?

As Spring Break approached, he had a burst of inspiration. “Mommy! I think I have a better idea!”

So he spent several hours and multiple attempts testing his idea, explaining to me why triangles are strong and measuring his results against his previous best effort:



I’d also told him about a challenge that had been used in New Jersey’s Physics Olympics a while back, in which students are asked to see how far past the edge of a table they can get a penny to hang over, using only other pennies as support. This resulted in another multi-hour commitment:


Curiosity for the win!

Games For Change Festival 2013

Did we have a good time? Take a look at this and tell me what YOU think:

(Here’s Miss T play-testing Privilege, the only tabletop game 
at the screen-dominated Festival.)

Miss T and I spent two days in NYC hobnobbing with folks who live at the intersection of games and learning… we had a GREAT time.

There were thought-provoking presentations 
about coordinated transmedia campaigns like Half the Sky.

Here’s Miss T playing the extremely creepy Nevermind, which includes a biofeedback element as well as a faceless cat… she had to step away!

We loved Lindsay Grace‘s talk on the verbs of games.

Here’s Miss T explaining some of the finer points of Quandary,
one of the demonstration games we liked the best.

The first night we caught the final preview performance
of Bureau of Missing Persons, which we really enjoyed.

Thanks to AirBnB, we were able to crash in the Village!

Day Two found Miss T checking out the amazing Blindside, a game which depends entirely on audio cues and motion-sensors for its game play. (Thus her closed eyes.) Later in the festival, Miss T had a lovely conversation with the co-creators of the game.

Jesse Schell‘s closing keynote, here featuring
a Dorothy Parker quote, was entitled
Sheep, Goats, and the Future of Learning” (link is to his slidedeck);
it was one of my favorites.

No Special Day is complete without ice cream.

And here are your victorious travelers on the train ride home!

(If you’re curious about the festival,
check out their site.)

Let’s Chat!

It is most definitely college application season here in the US.

Some things have changed a lot since my years as an Ivy League admissions officer (go, Quakers!), but some things seem not to have changed at all.

Let’s talk about how best to support students as they work on the one part of their applications they have total control over… at least theoretically.

* How do we talk with students about this process?
* Are there topics that are off-limits?
* How do you know if what you’re seeing represents the student’s best work?
* How can we provide feedback while still ensuring that the work remains the student’s?
* What advice have students found helpful?
* Who can and should students reach out to for support in this process? What can and should parents do (and not do)?
* With almost 500 college and universities members, the Common Application is increasingly US students’ first point of entry into this process. Is that good news? Bad news?

If you know of students, teachers, counselors, or parents who are “in the thick of this,” here’s your chance to listen, learn, and chime in! Thanks so much to Meenoo for this opportunity to help facilitate the #engchat conversation; I’m looking forward to it.

So fire up Tweetchat, keep an eye on the #engchat hashtag this coming Monday, October 15th, at 7:00pm EST, and jump on in!

Bonus points if you can help us get the word out… and please leave a comment if there’s a question you’d particularly like the group to address.

Shelley Krause



 (Thanks to Bill Gracey of  Flickr for use of this lovely, multi-faceted image.)

My new role within my school community is going to be multi-faceted.

I need to start with listening, and already in my first conversations with people outside the school’s community I can see that I’m going to need to to work on this. As someone who is rarely at a loss for words, I will need to find ways to make sure listening remains at the core of what I do. I will probably seek to find ways to continually reinforce the importance of that in my practice. It’s not just about telling the story — it’s about telling the right story — and there’s no way to do that consistently without listening.

Luckily, my “perch” in the Upper School puts me within easy range of most of that office’s walk-in traffic. Last week, as families were working through their back-to-school checklists, I heard a distinct undercurrent of anxiety.

Beginnings can be scary. Change is usually a challenge. The beginning of the school year brings our families and students new teachers, new routines, new classes, and, for 123 Rutgers Prep students this year, an entirely new SCHOOL! It’s all exciting, but it can definitely also generate anxiety. I have an idea for a media project that might help address that. I’m superstitious, so I don’t want to say more than that just now. But stay tuned.

So that’s the community-facing facet of my new work. Then there’s the work that is more directly related to my peers. On any given day, there are multiple people on this campus who represent our school to stakeholders and other interested parties. Together, we command a deep and impressive understanding of what makes this place “tick.” But we’re busy, and scattered across campus, and we can’t always connect with each other quickly. I want to work to somehow help enable our “hive mind” capabilities. A wiki, maybe? A Google Docs-based Brag Book? We’ll see. That’s the team facet.

And finally there’s me, standing at the bottom of a learning curve and looking straight up. For while there are ways in which I am especially well-suited to this work, there are some obvious, near-painful gaps. I need to get out of the Upper School. There are teachers here who I’ve never really had a conversation with and whose grade level I might be unsure of if I saw them in the Dining Commons. So that’s my very own personal facet of the work ahead. In the words of the Music Man’s immortal Harold Hill, “You gotta know the territory!”

Slow Thinking and Great Questions

“Close Your Eyes and Smile!”
Lisa Thuman & Liz Davis facilitating at EduCon2.4
(photo from Flickr, by Stephen Ransom, aka @ransomtech)

From David Jakes’ powerful “What if…” framing to Zac Chase‘s investigation of inquiry as a tool, questions ruled the day at EduCon 2.4 this year.

It was my third year attending live (the first year I had to attend virtually because I had a terrible cold), and once again I collected pre- and post-reflections from other attendees in a digital archive.

I attended great sessions again this year, most of which have already been reflected upon by someone else by now.

It occurred to me, while sitting in a fantastic session facilitated by Kirsten Olson, Chad Sansing, Christina Cantrill, and Paul Oh (via Skype) and thinking about contributing, that maybe part of the reason I like collecting others’ reflections on the experience is that I know it will take me a while to process my own reflections. That session was the first time I’ve ever “outed” myself as a slow thinker to a group of people. Later someone said to me, “You just need more processing time,” which I think might be true.

Since then, I’ve told several more people about my “drink deeply, process, then reflect transparently” pattern, and have had some great conversations come out of that. It felt like a risky admission the first time, but has felt less and less so with each subsequent re-telling. (You’d think I would have been able to predict this classic “coming out” pattern!)

Another thread I noticed running through the sessions this year at EduCon was the increasing emergence of the “how can we ask this of students if we’re not even willing to try it ourselves?” meme. I saw and hears more introspection on the part of educators about their roles… within their classrooms, their schools, and their learning communities.

Conferences like EduCon and the edcamps, coupled with Twitter, have changed how I think about thinking.

I’m more willing to share a thought that feels nascent and unformed, because I’ve seen others do so and been grateful for it. I’m much more interested in tapping into the genius of the room than I am in “standing and delivering” up at the front. (I’ve heard several people say that edcamp has “spoiled them” on traditional conferences… more on that in a future post.) I’m more aware than ever of who’s NOT in the room, partially because of the continuing challenge of inclusivity, and because I can always feel myself leaning in when someone is speaking from their individual, lived experience. And my inability to coax, cajole, or otherwise convince anyone from my current school community to join me at EduCon makes me wonder… about my own abilities as a leader, and about how many different guises resistance to change can take.

I continue to long for the opportunity to hear more student voices, and wonder how EduCon would feel if the call for conversations explicitly stated that proposals which included student perspectives would be given preference. (It’s a tribute to EduCon‘s focus on the idea of co-creation that I can even imagine such a thing; so many conferences seem to (rightly?) assume that students wouldn’t want to have anything to do with such an event.) And everywhere I go, sensitized as I am, I see and hear other people asking questions about who’s in the room:
So… I left EduCon determined to nudge my work in schools closer to something that feels like co-creation. And I came home feeling clearer about the fact that I am now more interested in asking great questions than in finding right answers. I find that I’m lifting others’ questions up for sharing more often as well. Questions like Bud Hunt’s, who in this post asked, “How do you build love and care into your systems and infrastructures and learning environments and experiences?” Or Shelley Wright’s, who recently asked, “What are you doing to fire up their curiosity, rather than just demanding their compliance?”

(I’m so pleased to be getting this post up!
It’s over a month since EduCon2.4 wound down.
I wonder if I’ll be the

140edu Post-Conference Report

(photo by @ShellTerrell)

Earlier this month, two RPS students and I participated as panelists at the “140edu” conference in NYC. This conference was the brainchild of Jeff Pulver, an internet communications entrepeneur with a passion for connecting people and ideas, and Chris Lehmann, the founding principal of the inquiry-based Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

The conference was a two-day event hosted at the 92nd Street Y, and the call for proposals included the following statement:

“The changes in the way we live our lives must create change in the way we teach and learn. The real-time web should create profound changes in the way we think about what, how and why students and teachers can do, create and communicate. The very nature of what we consider “school” should be radically different given the powerful reach of the communication tools our students have at their disposal. #140edu is dedicated to exploring and expanding that change.”

The best way to get a quick feel for the conference might be to take a look at the list of speakers. All sessions were designed to be introductory, and each clocked in at 15 minutes, max. I was pleased that my proposal to bring two students and talk about ways in which the internet and its affordances have enabled us to “change our default settings” as learners was accepted, and on Tuesday, August 2nd, I met Niki Kakarla and Mike Fedorochko in NYC after one brief in person planning conversation earlier. (John Miller attended the conference as well; it was so nice to connect with you there, John!)

Here’s the video from our session:



(I’ve put in a request to get my second “e” back.) smiley.gif

We DID get some good questions and comments, so I was a little disappointed that those didn’t make it into the video. Of the questions I remember, my favorite was, “Would you consider these students typical?”

To which I responded something like, “I absolutely consider these students typical in their passion and in their desire to do meaningful work. I think we all want to see ourselves as capable of making relevant contributions to our communities. But I think that Niki and Mike are probably ATYPICAL in the opportunities that have been given to them, and in the opportunities which they have created for themselves.”

I asked Niki and Mike if they would take a few minutes to share their thoughts as well…

Niki’s after-thoughts:

“Being a speaker at the 140edu conference as a student was an extraordinary experience for me. As an audience member, I was surrounded by a room full of brilliant people who were all open to each other’s ideas. As a speaker onstage, there were so many enthusiastic people waiting to hear what I had to say. After the conference I realized just how many people wanted to talk about our ideas and how to move forward with them. This was probably one of the coolest things I could have been a part of. I was able to network, learn about new ideas, and meet people from different backgrounds with different perspectives.”

Mike’s after-thoughts:

“Our group spoke at Jeff Pulver’s 140edu conference a few weeks ago to a crowd of wonderfully open-minded educators. Being one of the only real students at the conference was both refreshing and disappointing. On the one hand, I was given the opportunity to meet and pay thanks to the hundreds of extremely intelligent and committed individuals working to make the necessary changes in the way we approach education. On the other hand, the utter lack of student input and participation, even amongst such progressive and open-minded educators, was disappointing to say the least. As a rising senior, it’s tough for me to come back to Rutgers Prep for my final year and not be envious of the students who have been given the opportunity to learn organically in an environment like that of the much-lauded Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. It is my firm belief that our schools are forcing students to become risk averse, training students to theorize instead of apply, and disenfranchising creativity instead of empowering it. The reality of the situation is that schools, parents, governments, and many colleges are trying to quantify something that is sometimes extremely difficult to quantify. As teachers, I urge you to keep an open mind, experiment with newer and better methods, and recognize and work to mitigate as much as possible the frustration many students feel with their education. I have been extremely lucky to attend a school whose faculty are so incredibly committed, and I simply would not be in my current position without the dedication and influence of Rutgers Prep faculty members. Thank you.”

(Back to Shelley again.) I am grateful to have been able to attend and speak at this conference. Committing to presenting helped sharpen my thinking as I tried to figure out how to pull together something that the students and I could be proud to have shared. I’ve been exploring different conference structures over the past few years (I’m interested in the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of “containers” for learning), and it was a treat to be a part of this intense, engaging, and multi-layered experience and conversation. I’ve put in a proposal to facilitate a conversation at another edu-themed conference this fall, and if I get the nod, based on the positive feedback we received at 140edu, I’ll try to once again include students.

(The recordings of the other talks from the 140edu conference are here.)

Powerful Learning Experience: 4th Grade Poetry

Two years ago I got hooked on a project I had assigned myself. A teacher in my building has long led her students in an intensive exploration of the lives of the people living in Appalachia, culminating in student-led tours of all kinds of demonstrations of the depth of their understanding.

I signed up for one of the tours and was absolutely transfixed by the power of the children’s imagination. At about the same time, I had been seeing Google- and Slideshare-enabled embedded slide shows popping up in blogs I read. When I read the poems our fourth graders had written in the voices of the people they’d been studying, my immediate thought was for all the people who wouldn’t have a chance to marvel at their work, and this is what inspired what happened next.

The students had initially illustrated their poems with drawings, but these had not been converted into a digital format, so I set out to find images that would reflect the strength and deep engagement of the students’ language. This in turn led me on a whole exploration of issues of copyright and fair use in the digital age. Once I’d discovered the treasure trove that is the FSA/OWI federal photographic archive, I approached the classroom teacher with my desire to help share the students’ work with the wider world, and she helped me think through issues like parent permission and timeline.

Then I hit the internet. I dove into Google Docs and figured out how to generate an embeddable slideshow (not that difficult, as it turned out). I printed out a copy of each of the poems I’d been granted permission to share, and went image hunting. During this process, even though I wasn’t able to talk with the students themselves, I felt very much as if I was working collaboratively with them, since their words were providing the starting point for my research. Soon, I was completely taken over by the project. I got up early in the morning, I worked over my lunch hour, I saw images of coal towns in my mind’s eye as I was lying in bed at night.

There were some false-starts as I figured out how best to keep track of my research; early on, I found and then lost track of some great images because I hadn’t saved the url before moving on. I developed structures and procedures to help encourage more methodical record-keeping, and after a bit I got into a groove. I ask my students every year if they have area of interest or engagement that generates the state that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has termed “flow,” a state in in which your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost. Working on this project was truly a “flow” situation for me.

What made this a powerful learning experience?
  • I was working at the edges of my knowledge
  • I was inspired by the “raw materials” I had to work with
  • There was a collaborative energy contributing to the project
  • A strong desire to help shine a light on others’ creative work
  • A relatively defined window of opportunity (I had my regular work to get back to!)
  • I was drawing on both my artistic and technical skills
  • I had the feeling that I had identified & was fulfilling an unmet need

(This is the last of three stories
of powerful personal learning that I wrote up
with an eye towards contributing
to Sam Chaltain’s Faces of Learning project.
You could, too.)

Powerful Learning Experience: Backgammon

(Photo by Andy Schultz, on Flickr)
In high school, my best friend Claire taught me how to play backgammon. I had never even seen a board before; she had grown up playing her grandparents, and was really good. Once she taught me the rules, we went ahead and stared playing, but she was crushing me with dispiriting regularity – I didn’t have a sense of strategy. Then we played the way she’d taught me, with one major change – after each of my moves, she took a moment to tell me what she would have done, had she been in my shoes at that second. I learned fast. I could tell that I was learning because of the increasing number of times that Claire said, “That’s pretty much what I would have done.” Eventually I even started winning now and then, at which point Claire stopped giving me hints.

For a while, even after that, I could still sometimes hear her voice in my head. In the end, my own experience built on those early games and her advice, and I became a backgammon player in my own right.

What made this a powerful learning experience? Here are some of the elements that seem like contributing factors:
  • a strong, warm connection to my teacher
  • learning was in a one-on-one setting
  • immediate feedback
  • tapped into my competitive drive
  • “only a game” = low stakes
  • lots of little mini-failures on the way to the big success
(I am working on several of these stories
of powerful personal learning
with an eye towards contributing
to Sam Chaltain’s Faces of Learning project.
You could, too.)

Pocket Essay Editor

I finally finished my long-promised pocket essay editor. (Clicking on the small “square within a square” icon above will allow you to see the slides in full-screen and control the rate at which you move through them.)

Hope folks like it!

(If you have some oft-shared writing tips
that you think might have been good additions,
I’d love to hear them.)

Writing in Beta

.bbpBox8364747351134208 {background:url( #e00d6c;padding:20px;} p.bbpTweet{background:#fff;padding:10px 12px 10px 12px;margin:0;min-height:48px;color:#000;font-size:18px !important;line-height:22px;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px} p.bbpTweet span.metadata{display:block;width:100%;clear:both;margin-top:8px;padding-top:12px;height:40px;border-top:1px solid #fff;border-top:1px solid #e6e6e6} p.bbpTweet span.metadata{line-height:19px} p.bbpTweet span.metadata img{float:left;margin:0 7px 0 0px;width:38px;height:38px} p.bbpTweet a:hover{text-decoration:underline}p.bbpTweet span.timestamp{font-size:12px;display:block}

can one of my lovely followers read my college application essay! please! I have to write another one…but… than a minute ago via Tumblr

This is how some of us write, now.

1) Pull together a beta draft.
2) Post it publicly.
3) Call for reviews & feedback from folks in your community. (Will they be able to approximate the perspective of your ultimate end-reader?)
4) Re-write as needed.
5) Repeat until satisfied or deadline is reached. Hit submit.

I’m thinking about how this is different from how this used to go…
1) Ashten has followers.
2) She can communicate with her followers on an anytime/anywhere basis, as long as she’s connected to the internet and they’re willing to grant her their attention.
3) From the beginning, Ashten’s thinking about her essays is deeply intertwined with her thinking about her eventual readers.
4) Her process is transparent, and an interested reader could presumably see the evolution of her thinking/writing.

What do you think?

(Looking to embed a Tweet
in a post of yours? I used Blackbird Pie.)