Thursday, October 25, 2007

Camp St. Croix Retreat for EOCHS

Here are some pictures from Camp St. Croix, Hudson, Wisconsin. There are a lot of pictures (over 120), but check out some of the good times we had with students, parents and staff at EdVisions Off Campus High School.

Special photo credits go to Rose and John. It was an awesome time to chat about our school community and project based learning.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Videos Worth Sharing

I would be interested in your thoughts on any of these. Notice that with each video, the coherence and professionalism gets better. YouTube is causing me to stay up way too late on a Sunday night, but at least now I have backup for conversation I have with people over an over. "19th Century system teaching 21st Century learners."

A Vision of Students Today

Information R/evolution

With a response by: Academia 2.0

EdVisions Coop Service Awards

If interested, here is video from October 18 at the EdVisions Conversation Day at Avalon Charter School in St. Paul.

Thanks for watching,


Friday, October 19, 2007

Minnesota New Country Hits "All Things Considered" on NPR

Above: Peter and Jim, two of my former co-workers at MNCS, working on preparing for presentation night.

For the National Public Radio story and audio, click here.

I got news that Minnesota New Country would be featured on "All Things Considered" today at approximately 4:37 p.m. Yes, thanks to my former co-worker Jim, I was anxiously awaiting the story about my former school. For me, this environment caused me to look at who I am and become a better person, along with becoming a better teacher.

As Larry Abramson of NPR points out, advocates for project based learning and different educational environments aren't claiming to be the sole answer to America's educational crisis. Rather, New Country offers and choice option for students in that vicinity that may have lost hope in their former educational environment.

One of the luckiest days in my life is when I walked into New Country for a clinical at MSU, Mankato. It felt like home. I still feel welcome every time I go back to visit. I am a bit nostalgic looking back on all of the stories that have driven me towards my goal in life as a kid; which was to make a difference in the lives of others. I have tremendous respect for the staff and students at Minnesota New Country. As a staff member at MNCS, we often laughed about the fact that people traveled so far to see us in action, when we had the same struggles that many organizations face. People are looking for answers and stories of success. The lesson here is that it is a fight to change convention.

I miss working at MNCS because we truly were a team (as is the staff I work with now). I hope that staff and students at the school realize how special the community is. I can't even count on two hands the number of inspiring people that I had the pleasure to call colleagues in this special environment.

The coolest thing that project based learning has to teach is that motivation and self awareness comes from within, for both students and teachers. Their is no secret formula to unlock what motivates all individuals.

Bless the innovators (including those who dreamed of MNCS and its new way of embracing learning). I believe in educational experimentation and
MNCS' modo: "Learning by doing."


Monday, October 15, 2007

Educational Choices Bring Hope

Time for me to admit to being naive. After teaching for two project based learning establishments (Minnesota New Country and EdVisions Off Campus) for the past four school years, I have been overly bias to PBL schools, especially high school. Understandably, I haven't gotten out enough into different educational circles. Recently, I have had the chance to mingle with the staff and students from Hiawatha Leadership Academy in Minneapolis. It has done wonders for me to step outside what I know.

Hiawatha Leadership Academy has done a remarkable job of getting the word out, enrolling over 200 students in their first year. They did this the grassroots way by hitting the pavement. The challenge of opening a school is truly a remarkable effort.

This extended day program involves an intense commitment from their staff. Hats off to them for taking on the challenge of tackling the achievement gap among inner city students.

If interested, check out articles by Minnesota Public Radio and the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

As an educator and citizen, I think it is important for students and teachers to discover their optimal learning environments. One of the main reasons I am such a big fan of charter schools is that they seem more willing to take risk and experiment with different ways of delivering education. Personally, I wish that I would have had so many choices when I was a student four score and seven years ago.

Getting ready to turn on the heat,

Aaron :(

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nintendo Wii

Thought I would fill all of this serious, education/technology talk with a little personal information about our newly acquired Nintendo Wii (still tech related, I guess).

Cain (my son) and I have been dreaming of getting a Wii after talking with friends that had one. He wanted a XBox 360, but I told him, "son, lets hold out for a Wii." We walked into a Game Crazy and asked "Do you have any Wii's?" one random Sunday before we headed back to school. We assumed the typical "no," since we had asked many times before with "get real" like responses at many different retailers.

Thus far, we have had our Wii about 1 1/2 months and we love it. It is a addicting and a great stress reliever. There are all kinds of extras that come with it, too many to list. A couple include the ability to download most old Nintendo System games, as well as an Internet browser (cost's point = $). We only have the game the comes with the system, Wii Sports (Tennis, Baseball, Bowling, Golf and Boxing). Cain and I both dig tennis.

If you get a chance to try a Wii, check it out. They are hard to find right now, but are quickly beginning to outsell PS3's and XBox 360's. The game play is more of what I was looking for.

And that concludes the video game portion of the program.

Enjoy raking leaves,


Monday, October 08, 2007

Over $1 Billion Invested In Virtual Worlds Over the Past Year

For those interested in what is next in education and communication, start paying attention to the research and development behind virtual worlds (Wikipedia link). I got this article from my friend Tom and it can be found here.

While I have spent some time playing around in Second Life, I feel like there will be much better possibilities ahead in future virtual worlds. SL (Second Life) is busy making its own improvements. I haven't tried out the new voice feature.

If you know of any worlds that you could personally recommend, leave me a comment. I may be looking at testing this out with interested students before the year is over. Web conferencing with students is nice, but being inside a virtual world, I feel, would be much more engaging.

This subject is of particular interest to me, because two years ago, I had two seniors (Rob and Seth) doing their senior projects on making education more engaging. They argued that they go home at night to play video games online, participate in actual learning and meet people from all over the world. Their ideas was to get education to be more engaging using technology. Two years ago, I thought this was still a long way off, but I was wrong. All we have to do now is reprogram those educators that proclaim that education = pain!

To a pain free, engaging education,


Online Networking and Other Ideas

While being on the Community Building committee at EOC (with my esteemed colleague Mike), I have been racking my brain, thinking of ways for students to get to know each other. We have a school newsletter, this blog (which will get rolling, I promise), email lists and an instant messaging client. None of them seems to be fulling that social need to meet others.

In comes our very own social network, that I got free of charge from Ning. There are many early adapters. Students, as normal, have been much better beta testers than adults. I would divulge our address to join, but we are keeping it for our community only, which is the beauty of Ning.

My positives are many. Students are used to this environment and many have taken great pride in how their profile looks (using html skills from MySpace and Facebook). The main gripe I have so far is that I don't have a way to control passwords and usernames as an administrator. Students forget their passwords and come looking to me to help them, but there isn't much I can do.

It has been fun for our students, who live across the state of Minnesota to use a Web 2.0 technology for school related work.

Keep experimenting,