Friday, December 12, 2008

Edutopia Article on Project Based Learning

Click here to read the article: Put To the Test: Confronting Concerns about Project Based Learning. While I enjoyed reading this article and it brought up many good points, I think there is something missing. As a teacher of project based learning, I have found that good relationships with students to be the most powerful dictator of success.

I have the utmost respect for the work that
The Buck Institute is doing, but I have never heard them talk about the relationships part of what makes PBL. While they have the two R's down (Rigor and Relevancy), they are missing the 3rd R (Relationships). After all, if PBL is implemented with the same, warehouse like school culture, the shift in the students may only be incremental. Their is so much talk about "investing in kids." Their is no bigger investment we can make than to get to know each individual student.

Now for praise... I am glad to see how much literature and information the Buck Institute is providing people. They have become true advocates for PBL and Inquiry Based Learning. I hope their influence can start to convince colleges around the country to train teachers in this curriculum and student centered approach.

I have to agree with the article though: once you go PBL, going back to traditional education seems unfathomable.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

MPR Piece on MN Charters

Star Tribune Letter (by a Co-Worker)

I am proud to say I work with Karen. As teachers, we need to be advocates for things we believe in. We need to stand up for our students and our community.

Click here to read: The Value of Charter Schools Goes Way Beyond Test Scores

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

KSTP "Investigative Report"

If you cannot view the video, you can go to the story online by clicking here.

Some comments on ideas or premonitions from this "Investigative Report" from my perspective:

  • "20% of Minnesota's Charter Schools should be shut down or restructured." - I don't tend to disagree, but would venture to guess that the same percentage, if not higher in traditional public schools are in the same boat.
  • There isn't enough over sight on many things, including teacher licenses at individual schools. - I think that there are people that get into the charter world for a wide variety of reasons. Running an effective charter school can be equated to running a successful business. It is a lot of work and isn't somthing that should be taken lightly. Charter Schools should follow the standards and laws regarding teacher licensing that the MN Department of Education sets forth.
  • If a few schools have problems, they must all have issues. - This is just simply not the case. The variety of charter schools differ by almost all of the 143 (or so) schools. This would be as logical as if you met one teacher who was lazy and then applied that label to every teacher (which certain people do). If you look around the country, the charter schools vary from state to state. Taking the "if you seen one, you've seen them all" viewpoint is short sited.
  • Lastly, I feel the the term charter school is almost pejorative. It seems like if anything bad happens within a charter school anywhere around the country, the term charter school is inserted. The headline will then say something like "Charter School Director Guilty of Fraud." Thus, whenever the general public discuss charters, they have negative thoughts. Again, I go back to the fact that there are many bad things happening in our traditional schools today (although there are many good things, but those aren't talked about unless it has to do with sports), and we don't blame the traditional model systematically for these events, do we?
Many of these issues are sure to come during this legislative session. While I am not an charter ideologue, I do think that the large, traditional, warehouse-like schools need to be changed. I am a fan of small schools (traditional or charter), were student are treated as individuals. Good public schools need to serve the community (students, parents and the locale) they are in, whether they are charters or traditional schools.

With shrinking government budgets and quickening pace of technology assisted learning (including online learning), it is time to start talking about what works for kids. If we are going to invest so much public money into educating the future of our country, we'd better spend wisely. Measuring progress by snapshot tests isn't going to give us good insight into what is working. I personally feel relying solely on academic testing data alone is a disservice to our kids. We need assessment tools that measure student growth over the long term.

I felt myself going into a diatribe. I am cutting this short at the risk of getting too political, but as always, if you wish to discuss, drop me line.

All the best,


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google Adds Voice and Video Chat within Gmail

I owe Chris Craft for this info:

I was looking at my contacts in gmail, and noticed a green camera icon by Chris' status. I asked him what was the scoop, especially since he is a fellow mac user. I came to find that Google has released a voice and video chat that is embedded right in gmail. After you download the file, you simply enable it in the chat section in your email preferences.

Previously, in order to make video and voice calls, you had to use google talk (which exists outside of gmail). Previously, mac version of the voice and video chat were not available for google talk. I believe that google talk first arrived when google bought Festoon (also used for Skype). It is interesting for me to look back on how quickly technology is progressing. This application is no doubtably competition for Skype.

Regardless, I will check out this new chat feature in gmail and get back to you. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think. For a more in depth article by Monkey_Bites, click here.

Or, you can check out this video that Google made:


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Microsoft Tools to Check Out

Rub your eyes, because yes, its true, I am blogging about Microsoft Tools that you should check out:
I thought I would try to explain all of these, but since I have only been to each site a few times, check them out for yourself. It seems that Microsoft is answering google's foray into cheap, web based apps. The big question is, how can microsoft support free tools, since they don't make their money off of advertising?

Out of these, I think that Live Mesh seems the most interesting. You can have a shared folder across many devices, no matter what platform they are on.

I find it odd that hard drives keep getting bigger on computers when more and more is moving to the web. More and more, you can see how this web based technology will fit seamlessly into the mobile world.

I hope you enjoy. If you use any of these successfully, especially in regards to education, please keep me posted.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Register to Vote

If you aren't registered to vote or have moved recently, you can use this widget to register in your home state.

Register to Vote: Rock the Vote, powered by Credo Mobile

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Camp St. Croix Adventure

We survived our school's 4th trip to Camp St. Croix in Hudson, WI. The weather couldn't have been any better the two days we were there.

We were lucky to have 25 students in attendance for a get together that included activities like: presentations/exhibits, a drawing lesson, a campfire, meals eaten family style, a game of predator/prey and a game of ultimate frisbee (with one injury).

In our closing proceedings at the end of the two day event, attendees seemed to overwhelmingly agree that the field trip was a great opportunity to come together as an education community. Students that attended did a great job in showing what bright, creative students we have at EOCHS.

I personally had a great time as I do every year. It helps that this field trip is in my favorite season: fall!

Enjoy some of the pictures taken on my camera and stay tuned for more.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Video Gaming, Technology, Teens and Learning by Doing

The following post is in reference to the following article: Major New Study Shatters Stereotypes About Teens and Video Games.

The beauty of my generation, is that I get to claim that I am neither a digital native, nor a digital immigrant (per Mark Prensky).

Three schools years ago, which would be the year of 2005-06, two students of mine did senior projects that followed the same premise of a study that was recently put out by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (emailed to me courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation). The students told me that their parents and I misunderstood what gaming was really like. I told them to quit talking and start proving their point, which they did by the way.

These two students told me that video games and technology could be used in a much more efficient manner for today's students, which would help them be more engaged in their learning environments and subject matter. I must admit, I was convinced three years ago and am even more convinced today that they were right. They told me about the strong connections they had online, but I didn't quite understand it.

I may comment on this further at a later date, but wanted to share the article with you. If this post bored you, you can check out "Did You Know 2.0" on the web.

Still Looking for Students at EOC

What the heck, I have a blog and people are looking at it, I might as well tell you that we still have openings at our school, EdVisions Off Campus, for the 2008-09 school year.

We are an online, project based school high school (7-12). Students must reside in Minnesota to be eligible, as we are a public school.

You can check us out here, email me or leave a comment should you be interested.


Eoc Powerpoint 2008 09
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: eoc powerpoint)

Plug for a Students Blog

Since I am reading it, I am hoping you will check it out too.

One of the students at our school is spending time blogging on current events.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back Home

I am almost over my jet lag after arriving home on Sunday around noon. I have lots more to comment on regarding this trip, but will let the pictures of our trip to the airport speak for me, for now.

In retrospect, we could not have asked for a better trip. We were gone from home a total of 8 days, but spent full day in the air. On Monday we had our sight seeing day, while working Tuesday - Saturday. We are looking forward to our Japanese friends visit in September 2009. I am still finding myself thinking of "good morning" and "thank you" in Japanese.

I should have some more pictures soon, as well as time to provide additional commentary.

I am off to our staff meeting. ;)


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 4 from Tokyo

As I type this, it is 9:30 p.m. Tokyo time, 7:30 a.m. in Minnesota. This is the earliest I have been back to my hotel room since the first night we have been here. We only have two days left of conferences, so I am beginning to think sad thoughts about leaving.

Coming to Japan has been an amazing learning experience. I have so many thoughts running through my head that it is hard to prioritize.

The pictures in this blog are many because they include both my shots, along with Mary's.

1) Honestly, I feel completely guilty about many aspects of American cultures. Since we have been here, we have been treating insanely well. I am growing fond of many Japanese traditions. Every supper this week has been in our (Dee, Mary and I's) honor, with many different venues and guests. Our hosts have taken such good care of us. It is hard to think being treated this well in another country.

2) Education is a universal language. Both Japan and American people have a need to educate the youth of their countries to the best of their abilities. The Project Based Learning Workshop that has taken place this week is as about education as it is about advocating for the future of our societies. The world is shrinking and I commend our Japanese hosts for embracing this educational philosophy.

3) Japanese cuisine is much healthier. During every meal since arriving here, I have been completely satisfied. Portion sizes are much smaller here, than in America. When we go to to a coffee shop here, a large coffee is the same size as a small in America. Another thing regarding food/drink that I am growing fond of is that it is against norms to eat or drink in public. It is disrespectful to feed your face in venues other than a restaurant or home. Think about how much Americans eat in public. It definitely saves calories to only eat when you are at a meal/restaurant.

4) Believe it or not, Japan has more advertising than America. Even though I don't know many of the companies, Japan has advertising everywhere and it is hard to escape.

5) Public transportation is leaps and bounds above what we have in America. Granted, Tokyo is a city of 13,000,000 people, but their railway is especially impressive. We got to every destination we needed to go this week by train or short taxi ride. It makes me dream of life without a car payment and insurance.

6) Tokyo has proved to be very technologically advanced. I am able to check my email and make cheap calls to home while being 14 hours away. Cell phones here can pay for many things and I have seen many laptops that are smaller in size.

Here are many, 390 to be exact from Mary and I's camera the past few days:

I hope there aren't too many typos, because I wanted to get this posted before heading to bed. This has truly been a trip of a lifetime and I am hoping to bring both Cain and Broden here to experience Japanese culture.



Monday, August 18, 2008

In Tokyo - Check it out

The pictures will mostly likely do more justice than I can, so look at those first.

Today we road at least 6 trains and ran our tour guides (Soshi and Kazu) ragged. We had views from 3 skyscrapers today: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Plaza at 9:30 this morning, Tokyo Tower (similar to the Eiffel Tower) and had a 7 course supper on floor 50 of another building downtown.

The true purpose, besides learning a ton about Japanese culture begins tomorrow. We will be meeting with Elementary students to look at projects they have completed.

I have a feeling the week is going to fly by and I am going to sorely miss Tokyo. Let me just say, after seeing the plethora of skyscrapers and shear population density, Minneapolis is the sticks. :p

We are being treated like royalty. Our hosts have been ever so gracious. I am amazed by how selfless our hosts have been, to the point of guilt. Honestly, I could not dream up better treatment from hosts. When our Japanese friends come back, I have some work to do.

This has truly been a trip of a lifetime.

I will keep you posted with the upcoming EdVisions Institute and Symposium that begins tomorrow.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Further Commentary on Technology's Role in Public Education

For an interesting read, check out the following article I was forwarded from EdWeek.

To read the article entitled: "Computer-Based Learning Could Transform Public Education within a Decade through “Disruptive Innovation,” Experts Say," click here.

I would love to know what your thoughts are on this article and I can give you mine. ;) I think that teachers need to be out in front of these changes.


EdVisions Cooperative 1st Annual Project Fair

I don't know why I waited until now to post this, but on Wednesday, May 21 EdVisions Cooperative will be hosting hosting the first annual Project Fair at Hamline University. For details of the event, click here. A special thanks to Cathy Diaz and Bonnie Jean Flom for making this happen.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

YouTube Video Hits Nearly 93,000 hits

Thats right, you are about to view a video that I posted on YouTube on Nov. 2, 2006. While it is no "Obama Girl," I hope you like it.

Just a shameless plug to get some hits. It has been interesting to watch the views increase exponentially. By the way, Broden (the kid in the video) starts Kindergarten in the Fall.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Growth in Online Learning: The Big Names Behind the Schools

I can't resit posting after reading and listening to the following article on Minnesota Public Radio: click here.

There is currently much debate around online schooling, as students seem to be flocking in droves to this new environment. The online world cannot be classified into a distinct learning environment, which is often classified as one in which students don't have much interaction. At our school, this is not true. As a teacher in the online world, communicating with people is not an issue at all. Just as before, I have to figure how to fit everyone in.

A couple of questions I have about this shift in students are:
  • Are the online providers responsible for the movement in students, or are do students feel like they have nothing to lose by trying something new?
  • Will this increase graduation rates?
  • Does an online environment inspire kids that haven't had success to get an education?
  • What will future online environments look like?
  • How will this effect our teachers in the future?
Currently, in Minnesota, we have three giant online providers either in the mix or will be full fledge players by next Fall 2008. K12 (MN Virtual Academy, based out of the Houston School District), Insight (adopted by Brooklyn Center School District) and Advanced Academics (part of the MN Virtual High School and Transitions Academy). To clarify, two of these are traditional districts, while the last name mentioned is a public charter school.

These online content providers are great at marketing. When I let my son pick the radio station, they are targeting the right demographic. Their message is on point... the marketing department knows what it is doing. When the individual schools or districts buy their courses, the marketing is usually a part of the package.

If you haven't made the connection, all of these are publicly funded schools, while the the providers of the educational content are private companies.

To further this interesting investigation, both Advanced Academics and Insight have parent companies that you may know well. Advanced Academics is part of Devry, while Insight is with the University of Phoenix (better know as the Apollo Group). (If anyone knows K12's Corporate parent, let me know) Thats right, the college providers have gone into the K-12 market. They don't even need to to through the PSEO paperwork nightmare to provide college credit. ?What will be the public sectors response

While I could just as easily chastise the public sector of education for not adapting earlier, it will be interesting to see where this leads. Online schools are often clumped into one big group, just like charter schools, no matter how different they are. In the end, I hope we truly do what is best for kids of our society. It is hard to argue that the current traditional educational institutions need to be updated, both at the K-12 and post secondary level.

At this point, I am begging higher education institutions to see the investment in K-12 that private business has. There is some momentum for developing a K-16 or K-20 model. Business has began to show us that it is possible to mesh K-12 and Higher Education. Let's innovate, shall we?

For the kids,


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Updating You with My Google Alerts

About a year ago, I started experimenting with Google Alerts. While it does continue the nonstop flood of email into my inbox, it has definitely been a useful tool to keep up with some of my interests.

For instance, right now I have Google Alerts set up for both the phrases "Minnesota Charter Schools" and "Aaron Grimm."

Having news articles and blogs posts come in about "Minnesota Charter Schools" have helped me to form a more national viewpoint around the Charter movement, both pro and con.

Having all web content that contains my name just seems to be a safeguard, but right now, most of the alerts are fruitless. It is entertaining at the very least, as as soon as I publish this post, an alert is soon to follow.

From now on, I plan to use a some of my alerts as content on this blog.

All the best,


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chat that takes place tomorrow on March 26 at 2 p.m. EST.

From an email from Education Evolving and EdWeek:

Want to think creatively and deeply about redirecting K-12 policy toward innovation?

Your chance to both think and act will be at tomorrow, Wed. March 26, 2:00pm EDT.

Please join Education|Evolving co-founder Ted Kolderie for an online discussion, organized by Education Week, on "The Other Half of the Strategy: Following Up on System Reform by Innovating with School and Schooling". You may submit questions today for Wednesday's chat here: Or, go to the EdWeek chat site during the hour-long forum and participate--or just "lurk"--in "live-time."

In this most recent E|E paper, Kolderie asserts: The system reforms taking place make improvement increasingly necessary; make change increasingly possible. But they are only half the strategy. To meet its goals this country must next undertake a serious effort to develop new forms of school and schooling. It is time, Education|Evolving argues, to redirect K-12 policy toward innovation. "The Other Half of the Strategy" also suggests how to approach this redirection, outlining barriers to innovation and ways to overcome them. For a summary of the paper's main ideas click here.

See you there!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Help a Student Out With His Senior Project...

Go to download page

I am giving a shameless plug for my student Jake, who needs to have 100 downloads of this album for his Senior Project.  Check it out and let me know him know at

If you are so inclined, you can see their show March 21, at Beaner's in Duluth.  

Get in touch with me if you have further questions.

Aaron (and Jake)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

EdVisions Summer Institute

Interested in Project Based Learning? Come to the EdVisions Summer Institute the last week of July. For more info go to the EdVisions Site.

Additionally, you can check out this recap from last year:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Google Maps Street View

I was completely shocked today, when looking up a local coffee shop on Google Maps to discover "street view." For fun, I put in my address, only to see my car sitting out in front of residence.

Not quiet sure if this is good or bad, but this does give fodder to the talk that soon Google will allow users to create avatars to walk the world at street view.

For some reason I had to share,