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Showing posts from December, 2011

RAFT wins first place in Bright Green Tree Contest!

RAFT has a lot to be jolly about this holiday season! RAFT has won 1st place in San Jose Christmas in the Park's "Bright Green Tree Contest".

This year RAFT was officially handpicked to participate in San Jose Christmas in the Park’s first ever “Bright Green Tree” contest to showcase eco-friendly Christmas trees and tree decorations in a highlighted section of the event!

The non-profit ‘Our City Forest’ provided potted, instead of cut, trees for the contest and will replant them throughout the community after the event.

The RAFT tree was decorated with clever. one of a kind, hand-made ornaments including test-tube “icicles” filled with thinly sliced strips of shiny mylar calendars, mini RAFT game boards, CD “snowflakes”, mylar spirals, sparkling “different color hand circles”, red spool cornucopias, cork reindeer, and more!

As the “Bright Green Tree Contest” contest winner, RAFT will receive a $350 grand prize donated by Garden City Sanitation, one of San José’s garbage a…

Middle-schoolers wowed everyone at the RAFT Citizen-School after-school program showcase

"Chromatography"
"Liquefaction"
"Regurgitation"

These are just a few of the amazing words that thirty middle school students used with casual precision during their presentations at the RAFT Citizen Schools WOW event, held at RAFT Redwood City . For the students, the WOW event marked the completion of a 10-week after-school program. For Citizen Schools and RAFT, it marked the beginning of a promising new collaboration to expand the use of ‘hands-on’ activities in after-school programs.

Students at Kennedy Middle School completed 16 ‘hands-on’ activities in the course of their "Crime Scene Investigation" program. The instructor skillfully wove together RAFT activities on fingerprinting, DNA, color analysis, and more. During the WOW event, students presented a fictitious crime, and challenged the audience to use RAFT activities to discover the criminal. For example, ink from a pen used to write a threatening note could be traced back to the writ…

EVENTS EXCERPTS

Big Idea Fest, 2011 - Day 4

The Wednesday presentation was a huge success for my Big Ideas Fest Action Collab design team. Our project was chosen as one of three that will receive funding from the Gates Foundation for Beta testing! Gates has provided ISKME with $50,000 to take the three most promising ‘big ideas’ from the Big Ideas Fest to the next stage of development. An additional $50K will come from matching grants secured by ISKME in the coming months. The total fund of $100K will be used to pay for non-labor costs, such as travel, design assistance, software, materials, etc. Everyone from my Collab, plus any other conference participants who are interested, are invited to participate in the follow-on.

The team came up with an amazing way to assess student performance in 21st-century skill areas such as teamwork, creative problem solving, etc. These so-called ‘soft skills’ are not currently assessed using conventional bubble tests. Our assessment tool is very simple, very hand…

EVENTS EXCERPTS

Big Ideas Fest, 2011 – Day 3

Yea! The Action Collab design team I am leading has completed its project at the Big Ideas Fest. Today, we pitched our 21st-century skills assessment concept to the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and a professor from the University of Ottawa. The team got excellent feedback and one suggestion to make the idea even bigger. Together, the team created a second prototype (again using RAFT materials) which incorporated the expansion idea. Tomorrow, the team will present their final concept to all 200 conference participants.

Other foundations represented at the Big Ideas Fest include Gates, Hewlett, Qatar, National Endowment for the Arts, CK-12, Sherwood, and Carnegie.

Today's Rapid Fire speakers presented cutting-edge programs:
> Common Craft (a 2-person company that makes short videos explaining social media tools, like "Wikis Made Simple")
> Valencia 626 (a very popular free tutoring provider that publishes its students' works)> …

EVENT EXCERPTS

Big Ideas Fest, 2011 – Day 2

The first full day of the Big Ideas Fest in Half Moon Bay included a "Rapid Fire" presentation by Barbara Chow (Education Program Director at Hewlett Foundation). Barbara talked about the importance of Federal policy and new school models.

William Ayres (noted educational activist) talked how the national "disrespect" for teachers is damaging the profession. His simple belief is "Good working conditions are good teaching conditions, and good teaching conditions are good learning conditions." He is concerned that some for-profit providers turn education into a product assembly line filling "inert heads with disconnected facts."
Enrique Legaspi, a young teacher, showed how he is enabling students to "curate" their own content on the web. He feels that "editors learn - so we should let students edit their own materials rather than doing it for them."

The need for "real time assessment" …

EVENT EXCERPTS

Big Ideas Fest, 2011 – Day 1

Sunday got off to an amazing start here at the Big Ideas Fest. My first conversation was with none other than Dr. Martha Kanter, the US Under Secretary of Education. Dr. Kanter is a visionary educational leader, and (thanks to many years spent in Silicon Valley) she is very familiar with RAFT. Later, she delivered her public address to all 200 conference participants. It was easy to see that the decline of education in America is as concerning to her as it is to us. Among the statistics she shared:
> 25% of US students never finish high school. The drop-out rate in some areas is as high as 50%.
> The economic impact of the high drop-out rate is equivalent to a "permanent recession."
> The US is #16 in the world in terms of college graduation rates. Just one generation ago, we were #1.
> Millions of jobs available in the US today are going unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants.

On a positive note, Dr. Kanter described many …

How Hands-On Teaching Helps the Learning Challenged Child

My daughter Aruna is all of 3 and half years old and she knows the sheet on our bed is made of millions of threads intricately woven together because she goes around pointing and peering through her huge magnifying glass at everything around her.

Aruna was diagnosed with Autism when she was 18 months. From almost no eye contact, speech or any other kind of non-verbal communication to a child who asks a million questions a day about everything around her and even the space above us... yes she has to know the phases of the moon and constellations too… well, she has come along a good measure!

Her way of learning however, is different. It is a bit repetitive. So if someone introduces a simple question like "what is this?" she takes the baton and goes around exploring and applying the same question to everything. While the curiosity is well taken care of, the challenge for us has been to introduce new questions and give her hand-on tools to discover the answers.

Children who strug…