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Month April 2013

Shalom [Hello!] from Israel: Reflections from my Spring Break – Part IV

This is the final entry in my series of Israeli traditions and cultural aspects that I hope to integrate into my own life in New York. Click here for Part IClick here for Part II. Click here for Part III. Thanks for reading along!

#4 The Shuk… a community-based market with healthy food

The Shuk is an open-air food market and where Israelis buy their weekly groceries. It’s lively, colorful, and a lot less expensive than the supermarket. It’s also an important space for community, where you have “your butcher”, “your cheese man”, and develop relationships with vendors and stands. I love the open air, hustle-and-bustle feeling of this market, and I don’t quite get the same feeling standing in the 30 minute checkout line at my local Trader Joes. The standard Israeli grocery purchases are also a lot less processed- lots of vegetables, fruits, pita, chicken, eggs- basics that lead to a more healthy lifestyle.

I’d love to find a local farmer’s market to buy my produce from more regularly and also make an attempt to eat more “real” foods, something I’ve already been slowly transitioning towards. As a native New-Yorker I’ve always been sort of entranced and jealous of the relationships I’ve seen people have with their local butcher or bakery (mostly on TV or in my small college town) because I feel like that rarely happens here, but who knows- maybe I can find that with somebody too.

I invite you to incorporate any of these sorts of experiences into your own daily lives as well. Travel is a great way to get inspiration on how to do your own life a little bit better.

Shalom [Hello!] from Israel: Reflections from my Spring Break – Part III

This is the second in my series of Israeli traditions and cultural aspects that I hope to integrate into my own life in New York. Click here for Part I. Click here for Part II. Stay tuned for Part IV!

#3 Hiking!

While Israel may be a small country, it is not densely populated and contains immeasurable natural beauty in the Negev desert, blue seas, and ancient mystical towns and cities. Due to the mostly warm weather and ample open space, Israelis are outdoors a lot, and hiking is a pretty common pastime, with families taking kids of all ages on desert hikes, scaling mountains, swimming in springs, and enjoying nature. We literally saw parents with toddlers on their backs and 6-year-olds dutifully climbing alongside on some of our hikes.

In my week here, Laura and I hiked a trail up to Haifa, which is a city located both on a big hill and in a harbor, and we hiked Ein Gedi, a national park near the Dead Sea. Both hikes were exhilarating, beautiful, and a great way to feel more in tune with nature.

Living in a the concrete jungle, I walk a lot but I rarely experience vast open spaces and nature in this way. To take this tradition back to the states, I’d like to go on more nature-y adventures in and around NYC (e.g., North Fork of Long Island, upstate). I’d also like to make a great effort to walk to places rather than take the subway, especially as the weather gets nicer. The upper west side has Riverside Park, Morningside Park, and Central Park and I haven’t thoroughly explored any of these yet.

[Top and bottom right: Hiking in Ein Gedi. Bottom Left: The view of Haifa from the top]

[Left: Hiking in Ein Gedi. Right: Hiking in Haifa]

[Top: A small oasis in Ein Gedi. Bottom: a view of Jordan across the Dead Sea.]

 

 

Paddy Harrington on Starting with Desire, Designing the Experience & Thinking by Doing…*

 

Paddy Harrington on Starting with Desire, Designing the Experience & Thinking by Doing...* | rethinked.org

Slide from Paddy Harrington’s Creative Morning Talk

 

“For me, if we talk about art and technology, I think that those are the two parts of design but the design is in fact the technology of art. And so what do we mean by that?  I personally think that this is the definition, it’s a working definition, it’s a fluid definition because in fact we are designers, we like to live in a fluid world, but this is really the synthesis of the definition of art and the definition of technology with a little thing added at the end: “Design is the application of scientific knowledge, creative skill, and imagination for practical purposes”, and the piece that I’ve added is, “in service of better outcomes”.  And so, for me, there’s sort of the technical side of this which is how we think, how we operate, how we produce things that we make as designers but the exciting part is when we focus it on something, when we actually give it a purpose. Because you can design anything but if you do it with purpose, then that’s when I think we start to get into something really interesting and that’s when we start to see a solution to all the questions and the challenges that we face today.”

Enjoy this insightful Creative Morning talk by Paddy Harrington, Executive Creative Director at Bruce Mau Design. Harrington highlights the cultural gap between art and technology, briefly outlining the history of the split and its effects on contemporary wicked problems. He then offers design as a critical factor for bridging the gap between art and technology to bring the two into a harmonious whole that contributes to more sustainable and human systems and experiences.

“To me, what design can offer, in the end, is this idea of holistic thinking. We don’t think in columns and rows. We think about first of all the entire spreadsheet, but also what’s beyond the edges of the spreadsheet and so for me, that’s the kind of key thing for us to focus on, is try to encourage more holistic thinking because when you do that you start to understand how things are interconnected and when we start to think about things in interconnected ways we realize that every action that we take has an impact somewhere else and we can start to consider the whole system.”

Harrington puts forth three big principles that we should focus on in attempting to apply the potential of design as a bridge for more holistic thinking and living:

START WITH DESIRE ~ I think this is a key dimension of design. Most processes, if you’re following a more logical, linear process—Where’s the insight? What’s the audience? What’s the key performance indicator? What’s all that sort of stuff—especially when you get in the business world, into sort of MBA educated process, it’s a very linear structured process that doesn’t have a whole lot of room for things like beauty, intuition, magic. What I think design should do is actually kind of bridge that gap and the first thing to do in that process is to start with the desire. So don’t start with the sort of local immediate thing around you, start with the vision of where you want to go. And that, I think, is most likely to get you to a better outcome because it sets the ambition at the outset and lets you build to that place in a way that gets rid of things like feasibility and viability—Will it work? Can we afford it?—those things, frankly, are sidetracks when you’re that early in the process and so the idea is to start with desire.” 

DESIGN THE EXPERIENCE ~ “I think that design often gets tripped up by thinking very locally about what is the physical object—what does it look like? What’s the shape? What’s the material?—all those sorts of things. When it gets really exciting is when we start to think about what’s the kind of start to finish and go further upstream and further downstream. And so, for example, working on a stadium we did in NY, we talked about the street to seat experience, so what is everything that the user, or the human being, experiences from the moment they are standing on the street with their ticket to the minute they’re sitting in their seat. And that’s a different way of thinking, it’s not a conventional way of thinking but it really leads you to different places because you’re actually considering all the facets.”

THINK BY DOING ~ “What this means really is that again, if we follow the linear model– we put strategy and then we go into some research and then we do design and design has kind of a point downstream—that’s a way of doing things and it’s not that it’s invalid; I’m not here to say that Microsoft Excel does not have a place, because it absolutely has a critical place, it keeps us organized. But what I’m saying is there’s an alternative way of thinking about things that’s a little more integrated. Thinking by doing means that you can actually develop strategy by producing design. And so by making tangible things, you’re actually able to accelerate the thinking and so when you sit down and design a logo or a building, a space, a website, anything, we, naturally as designers, tend to produce things to think through them and that’s a skill that we don’t recognize as being quite valuable. It’s actually a very rare thing in business for people to think that way. They tend to think in words first, try to get to a point where it makes sense and then build it out when we all know that you cannot build some things out with words, you have to draw it and that’s a really critical part of the process for us.”

{2012 / 06 Paddy Harrington from CreativeMornings/Toronto on Vimeo.}

Remembering to Strengthen Your Memory

Ever since reading Moonwalking with Einstein last summer, I’ve become a bit obsessed with the workings of memory. Maybe not so obsessed that I’ve made great gains in my own memorization ability, but as I prepare to return to the classroom, I’m eager to teach my students how to improve their own memories. I know that a good number of educators today think that memorization is an evil word–the stuff of a bygone and regrettable era in schooling. But I disagree. For example, I teach Latin, and vocabulary words must be learned. Yes, you can learn foreign vocabulary words through context rather than through drills, but in a (mostly) unspoken language like Latin, you would have to endure frustratingly slow progress. Historical facts must be learned so that students can think and write critically about events, people, etc. Characters and details of novels must be committed to memory so that you can make connections between different works. We have to have knowledge before we can analyze it. Even in the era of Google, the knowledge we have in our heads goes a long way. Just ask cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham.

There are a few things that cognitive scientists have found to be especially helpful for committing information to long-term memory:

  1. the spacing effect – Study something, then wait a good amount of time, then study it again. That’s not meant to encourage cramming for an exam by reviewing a semester’s worth of material the night before. Rather, regularly revisit old material. Every time you do, you are moving it closer to long-term memory.

  2. the testing effect – We tend to think of tests as things that evaluate how much we know. Instead, we should think of how powerfully testing can enhance our learning while we’re trying to learn it. After you’ve studied something, take a test on it, or write down everything you remember about it. Short-answer tests work better than multiple choice tests, but any kind of review test helps. Retrieving information more often helps it stick in your memory. Flashcards essentially work on this principle, but flashcards, though effective, have a good number of shortcomings.

  3. interleaving – I wrote about this in an earlier post, where I focused on math and grammar. But it could help with learning just about anything. When you make your review tests, change the format of the test questions. It’ll help keep you on your cognitive toes while you’re learning. The more you have to concentrate, the more effectively you learn.

  4. elaborative encoding – Everyone had at least one teacher who encouraged the use of mnemonics. For algebra, PEMDAS. Or for taxonomy, “Kings Play Cards On Fat Green Stools” (Kingdom, Phyllum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species). Mnemonics are just one way of encoding information into your memory for later retrieval. Or you might associate information with images you create in your mind (as Joshua Foer describes in Moonwalking with Einstein). The more complex, specific, and emotional you make your memory cue, the more effectively you might remember it.



I mention all these things because there are two new websites that are trying to bring the science of memory to the masses. I learned about Memrise through a great article by Joshua Foer. It is designed to be a playful, fun place to learn new facts. It presents information, then quizzes you on what you just learned. The question formats are interleaved–sometimes they’re multiple choice, sometimes short answer. It also provides “mems”–its term for methods of elaborative encoding. Some mems are provided in different lessons, but you are also encouraged to create your own by uploading pictures, typing hints, etc. The process of committing information to long-term memory is based on a gardening metaphor. First, you “plant” new information (e.g., new Spanish vocabulary, the capital cities of foreign countries), by studying the information and being immediately quizzed on it. Elaborative encoding for each new item, followed by a series of questions to help you remember better. It uses some hidden algorithms to decide when the right time has passed for you to revisit your new knowledge and “harvest” it. You get an email urging you to revisit what you learned a few days earlier, so you log in and get quizzed once again–the spacing effect in action. From then on, you “water” your knowledge by going back again and again. If you miss a question on the quiz, the site drills that question and answer into your memory by bringing it up more often. The site essentially creates adaptive flashcards, but unlike flashcards, Memrise doesn’t allow you to sorta, almost, kinda get the answer and convince yourself you know it. It’s also set up like a game where you get points for studying and getting answers right, and each lesson has a leaderboard listing others who are studying the same material.



The other site, Cerego, is a little less warm (no gardening metaphor this time), but equally scientific (perhaps even more so, at least as the marketing suggests). It takes advantage of these same basic memory principles, but so far I haven’t gotten any email reminders to “harvest” my learning. It uses a cool chart to graph how strong your memories are and how much progress you’ve made. At the moment it’s in an invite-only beta phase, but it’s worth asking for an invitation if you’re interested. I waited a couple months to finally be invited, but I’m guessing that the speed is picking up. I concede that I’ve spent more time on Memrise than I have on Cerego, so I need to commit more time to Cerego before I evaluate it any more.

 

Most of what we think we know about our memories is, well, wrong. There is science to the way memory works, and these two sites offer not only ways to understand how memorization works but also ways to effectively commit things to long-term memory. Overall, these are very well-done websites with a lot of potential for teachers and students. They also stress the incremental nature of learning: it’s better to work little by little over a long period of time than to try to cram everything into your brain in one, last-minute cram sesh. Here’s hoping that my students next year will use these sites and stop with all the cramming. But I know as well as anyone that old habits tend to die hard.

Some Memory Resources from “The Literature”:

Butler, A.C. & Roediger, H.L. (2007). Testing improves long-term retention in a simulated classroom setting. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, 514-527.

Cepeda, N.J., Vul, E., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J.T., & Pashler, H. (2008). Spacing effects in learning: A temporal ridgeline of optimal retention. In Psychological Science, 19 (11).

Karpicke, J.D. & Roediger, H.L. (2008). The critical importance of retrieval for learning. In Science, 319, 966.

McDaniel, M.A., Howard, D.C., & Einstein, G.O. (2009). The read-recite-review study strategy: Effective and portable. In Psychological Science, 20, 4.

Pashler, H., Rohrer, D., Cepeda, N.J., & Carpenter, S.K. (2007). Enhancing learning and retarding forgetting: Choices and consequences. In Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14 (2), 187-193.

Rohrer, D. & Pashler, H. (2010). Recent research on human learning challenges: Conventional instructional strategies. In Educational Researcher, 39, 5, 406-412.

Schwartz, B.L., Son, L.K., Kornell, N., & Finn, B. (2011). Four principles of memory improvement: A guide to improving learning efficiency. In The International Journal of Creativity & Problem Solving, 21(1), 7-15.

Willingham, D. (2008-2009, Winter). What will improve a student’s memory? In American Educator, Winter, 17-25.

Friday Link Fest…*

 

READ

7 Design Principles, Inspired By Zen Wisdom ~  Primer outlining the main tenets of Zen Design. via FastCo.Design, published April 12, 2013.

Bruce Nussbaum: Creative Innovation Through Meaningful Design ~ Setting up design in terms of the existential takes you to a different set of concepts, like aura and engagement. via PSFK, published April 12, 2013.

The Next Big UI Idea: Gadgets That Adapt To Your Skill ~ How designers can use the fundamentals of video games and the psychological principles of flow to design enhanced user experiences. via FastCo.Design, published March 26, 2013.

Black Men’s College Success Depends on Grit, Not Just Grades, Study Finds ~ via Education Week, published April 12, 2013.

Your Phone vs. Your Heart ~ When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other. It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health. via New York Times, published March 23, 2013.

Go Ahead, Take a Failure Bow ~ via Harvard Business Review, published April 17, 2013.

The Joke’s on Louis C.K. ~ via New York Times, published April 4, 2013.

How to Be a Citizen Placemaker: Think Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper ~ via Project for Public Spaces, published April 7, 2013.

How Reframing A Problem Unlocks Innovation ~ Taking a different perspective can lead to stunning breakthroughs in any industry, writes Tina Seelig in inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity. via FastCo.Design, published April 19, 2013.

What the Brain Can Tell Us About Art ~ via New York Times, published April 12, 2013.

Why We Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow ~ Embodied cognition or how we make sense of abstract ideas by matching them to physical sensations and things our body knows. via Business Week, published April 17, 2013.

Transforming Education According to the Needs of the Human Soul ~ The most interesting questions do not happen under the rubric of literature, or indeed, of history.  It’s time to rearrange departments and academic teaching according to the issues that they are dealing with. via Big Think, published April 11, 2013.

Creativity in Schools: What Countries Do (Or Could Do) ~ via Education Week, published April 11, 2013.

WATCH

How to Create a Workplace People Never Want to Leave, by Google’s Christopher Coleman via Business Week, published April 11, 2013.

 

LOOK

Designer Creates The Idea Alphabet, An Idea In An Alphabet ~ via Design Taxi, published April 14, 2013.

The Imagination of Playgrounds ~ via Design Observer, published April 14, 2013.

Document Deep Dive: What Was on the First SAT? ~ via Smithsonian Magazine, published April 12, 2013.

Forensic Artist Proves Women Literally Don’t Know Their Own Beauty ~ via FastCo.Create, published April 16, 2013.

Shalom [Hello!] from Israel: Reflections from my Spring Break – Part II

This is the second in my series of Israeli traditions and cultural aspects that I hope to integrate into my own life in New York. Click here for Part I. Stay tuned for Part III.

#2 A day of rest

Shabbat is the weekly day of rest in the Jewish religion, lasting from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. Shabbat Shalom is the greeting you’ll hear between friends and family during this time, and my favorite translation of this is “May your wholeness be restored as you cease work on the seventh day.”  In Israel, Friday and Saturday comprise the weekend, and students are let out of school early on Fridays (they go to school six days a week, with only Saturday off).  While Tel Aviv is fairly secular, Shabbat is sort of an enforced break from the craziness of life because many stores are closed and there is no public transportation. Traditionally, Jews will have a big Shabbat dinner Friday night and spend Saturday in religious services, walking around their communities, playing games, or enjoying time with friends and family.

Friday night, Laura and I cooked ourselves dinner and had friends over for wine and a movie. Saturday, we walked down to the beach and people-watched for a few hours. We saw a giant group of Israelis doing traditional dances in a big city square (think a line dance, but Jewish dances usually go in a circle), people playing Matkot (a mix of ping pong and squash), and lots of kids out on their bikes and scooters with parents chatting nearby. We grabbed lunch (I had shakshouka which is an amazing egg, tomato, onion, cheese concoction served with bread), and we sat outside, enjoying the breeze and the peacefulness of a beautiful, relaxing day.

As the type of person who never stops moving (and a full-time doctoral student with two part-time jobs), I love the idea of incorporating a 24-hour mandatory relaxation into my schedule… or maybe a 12-hour mandatory relaxation period? Providing myself with a guilt-free respite from work could definitely contribute to my overall wellbeing.

[Clockwise from upper-left: Tel Aviv Beach, Shakshouka- a traditional Israeli breakfast, women dancing on the boardwalk, men playing Matkot]

 

Fonts and Thinking

We aren’t terribly good at judging how well we’re learning something. Part of that problem results from our tendency to believe that we are learning “better” when we can follow along with ideas more easily. If something seems easy, then of course we’ll remember it. Or so we tend to think.

It turns out that we learn better when we are having a harder time learning something. There are even some very simple things we can do to make learning just a little more difficult, and therefore more effective and long-lasting. What we want are “desirable difficulties,” as Time education writer Annie Murphy Paul says. She explains the importance of making lessons and material just the right difficulty in just the right way:

When we work hard to understand information, we recall it better; the extra effort signals the brain that this knowledge is worth keeping. This phenomenon, known as cognitive disfluency, promotes learning so effectively that psychologists have devised all manner of “desirable difficulties” to introduce into the learning process: for example, sprinkling a passage with punctuation mistakes, deliberately leaving out letters, shrinking font size until it’s tiny or wiggling a document while it’s being copied so that words come out blurry.

That last part is the most interesting to me. Chances are that most teachers pay little attention to the font they use in the materials they create for their classes. Or, if they do, they might just choose the most aesthetically pleasing (my favorite has long been Garamond–a “noble font” as my high school friend used to say). But as teachers, we can actually help induce deeper concentration in our students by choosing a font that is hard to read, but not too hard to read. Using an unfamiliar, hard-to-read font helps the brain remember text far more effectively than do italicized, bold, or large fonts.

Here’s Benedict Carey in a NYT article he wrote back in April 2011:

In a recent study published in the journal Cognition, psychologists at Princeton and Indiana University had 28 men and women read about three species of aliens, each of which had seven characteristics, like “has blue eyes,” and “eats flower petals and pollen.” Half the participants studied the text in 16-point Arial font, and the other half in 12-point Comic Sans MS or 12-point Bodoni MT, both of which are relatively unfamiliar and harder for the brain to process.

After a short break, the participants took an exam, and those who had studied in the harder-to-read fonts outperformed the others on the test, 85.5 percent to 72.8 percent, on average.

The same is true for studying material multiple times but spreading out your study sessions. You might think that waiting a long time between studying sessions–and the ensuing difficulty you have remembering things the second time around–means that it’s a waste of time. Wrong. Carey’s article again:

“For example, we know that if you study something twice, in spaced sessions, it’s harder to process the material the second time, and people think it’s counterproductive,” said Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College. “But the opposite is true: You learn more, even though it feels harder. Fluency is playing a trick on judgment.”

So try going for some seldom-used fonts on your next worksheet or outline. It might very well help your students in ways they won’t expect. Use Comic Sans or Apple Chancery or Noteworthy. Probably best, however, to avoid all the members of the Wingdings family. Some fonts are just weirder than they are useful.

 

 

A Trip Back to the Reflection Room…

On February 19, design educators from all over the country and outside came to Riverdale Country School to talk about design thinking for the classroom. During the workshop, attendees were invited to choose from a variety of objects and materials to create their own reflective profile about design thinking. Check out these photos of what they came up with!

Shalom [Hello!] from Israel: Reflections from my Spring Break – Part I

I spent my spring break visiting my friend Laura in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the week was a whirlwind of excitement, cultural immersion, and hummus. This was actually my second time in Israel- I went on Taglit-Birthright (a 10-day free educational trip to israel) six years ago and did the more typical tourist trip.

This time around, I enjoyed more of an authentic experience in Israel, specifically the more liberal, secular experience of twenty-something native Israelis and American ex-pats. Tel Aviv is on the Mediterranean coast,  small (population 410,000), and known for its party scene, youth culture, and importance as the business hub of Israel. Laura is actually making aliyah – immigrating to Israel- because she loves it here so much. It is easy to fall in love with the culture and natural beauty of this place, and many Jewish Americans make aliyah each year.

One of the principles of design thinking is seeking analogous situations and looking outside the box for inspiration when rethinking a how might we situation, and I feel as though I walk through life with the constant goal of how might I make my life more enjoyable/efficient/fulfilling. As I explored Israel and this amazing city, I was struck by many traditions and cultural norms that I wish we had in the states, or that I wish I had in my own everyday life. So, as my reflection on this trip, I would like to describe a few Israeli traditions and cultural aspects that I hope to integrate into my own life in New York. I’ll also include some of the photographs that I took during my trip. I’ll be blogging this in four sections, so stay tuned for more over the next two weeks!

#1 Standing weekly hangouts with friends

Israeli groups of friends develop standing weekly hangouts that they prioritize. For example, a group of men that Laura knows have a weekly brunch at this incredible hummus place at the same time, same place, every single week. Getting together with multiple friends at one time in NYC can sometimes feel like a crazy jigsaw puzzle, between hectic schedules and last-minute cancellations, and I really really love the idea of a pre-established weekly hangout time where I can catch up with friends.

[A variety of customers enjoying hummus at the amazing hummus place]

I’ve already put this one into action, establishing a regular Tuesday half-off sushi night with two of my friends and we plan to invite more people into our little group after we see how it goes. However, I’m away at a conference next Tuesday so I’m already missing our 2nd session, and I hope this isn’t indicative of how hard it will be to schedule a standing date with my sort of schedule.

 

rethinkED Project Summary

In our initial year, the rethinkED team has attempted to tackle a wide range of education projects. Please continue below for a brief synopsis of our previous and current work.

Chinese Language Reinforcement Project

The rethinkED team has worked with Betty Li and Lu Li, two Mandarin Chinese faculty members at Riverdale, to expand student exposure to Chinese language and culture throughout New York City. The project sought to meld language study, technology, and the diverse resources offered by the city’s boroughs and communities. The project began with several one-on-one meetings and on-site class visits. Our collaboration led to the creation of an interactive map, which students used to document their individual and group efforts to practice Mandarin and engage in Chinese culture beyond the Riverdale campus. The rethinkED team spearheaded off-campus engagement by organizing an outing for Riverdale students to interact with native Chinese speakers attending Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Alternative Assessments in Elementary Grades

Throughout the course of the year, the rethinkED team has supported fifth grade Riverdale faculty member, Meg Krause, in her efforts to forgo teacher-dictated grading and incorporate student-driven feedback as a guide in her classroom assessment. Project tasks have included weekly classroom visits, the exchange of relevant resources, and group brainstorming (ideation) sessions. The collaboration has resulted in opposite-page reflection sections in the students’ math notebooks as well as the use of exit tickets as a measure of student self-evaluation. Exit tickets require each student to select and explain the central piece of learning they received during the class session. Students can also identify a point of confusion from the day’s lesson. RethinkED is currently working with Meg to develop metacognitive prompt cards for her use during lessons, in order to help her easily integrate reflection in her lessons.

Student Engagement in Math through Project Based Learning

Several members of the Riverdale math faculty, across grade divisions, identified an interest in increasing student interest and ownership of their math development. As a mini-experiment, the rethinkED team collaborated with a team of teachers to investigate how project based learning (PBL) and meta-cognitive skills could lead to improved student learning. At the start, the rethinkED team conducted several in-person and phone interviews along with class visits to engage and learn more about the specific goals of individual teachers. Several but not all the projects focused on computer technology and software applications. The rethinkED team shared resources including academic articles, websites showcasing success technology products, and literature supporting the importance of real world based problem solving. The collaboration culminated in an on-site Riverdale workshop that provided an opportunity for faculty members to collaborate with colleagues across grade levels while also learning and discussing ways to implement technology and real world complexity in their respective coursework.

Project Based Learning and STEAM in Elementary Grades

The rethinkED team is currently working with members of Riverdale’s lower school faculty in preparation for this spring’s weeklong Project Based Learning initiative, centered around integrative STEAM education. STEAM is an educational push to incorporate the multidisciplinary teaching of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in place of siloed teaching practices. To facilitate a common understanding across the school, we developed a handout which summarized STEAM and PBL along with examples of how these techniques have been used in classroom setting. We are in the process of conducting interviews and ideation sessions with teachers to gain a better understanding of their needs and to help develop themes, objectives, and activities from rudimentary ideas.

Project Booster Day

Most recently on April 11, The rethinkED team built off the momentum created by an IDEO workshop on Design Thinking. The rethinkED follow up session provide faculty with an opportunity implement and practice the five-step Design Thinking process detailed in the IDEO presentation. After preparing their goals and “How Might We?” statements beforehand, the faculty participants delved into ways that they can redesign a lesson plan or unit. Workshop members collaborated with members of the rethinkED team and the Riverdale Technology staff to prototype solutions to their specific projects.

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