Technology is Not the Answer

Originally posted: Medium – Hackley Perspectives – Technology is Not the Answer

Turn and Face the Strange – Hackley Perspectives – Medium

Each fall, I challenge the members of the current senior class to wrap their minds around the increasing rate of technological change by hauling into the chapel all the antiquated technology I have gathered in my lifetime — some of which I both implemented and decommissioned as a technician for Hackley School over 20-some odd years. I display the physical relics of the analog machine era and digital age forerunners.

I do this knowing that some in the audience will have never seen a phone with a dial, a slide projector, a pager or a black and white tube TV. The members of the class of 2019 were born at or around the turn of the 21st century — when the phones that are so central to their lives, and the services that support them, did not yet exist. As Franklin Foer describes in his book World Without Mind, the period of their birth around the year 2000 was one of “convergence” in which “with the Internet, all media came rushing down the same digital falls. The computer screen began to simultaneously take the place of the post office, the television set, the stereo, and the newspaper.” All the functions fulfilled by my chapel collection now live between their thumbs and in the palm of their hands.

Shockingly, I asked them to to leave their devices at the door and take a digital hiatus for twenty minutes. During our short time together, I asked the seniors to recognize the role of the their phone in their lives and the pace of technology change in their lifetime that brought on this “convergence.” I reminded the seniors that their life experience has made them uniquely ready for our ever-changing world. While recognizing that they were ending their Hackley learning experience, I implored them to never stop learning — as this skill will only become increasing more important as the rate of life change accelerates.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil, in his book The Age of Spiritual Machines, calls this rate of technological change the “Law of Accelerating Returns,” and he reflects on a unique human trait: “Humans are capable of innovation, which is the creation and retention of new skills and knowledge. Innovation is the driving force force in the Law of Accelerating Returns…So innovation turns [learning] into indefinite exponential expansion.” While I am often the first to scoff at the overuse the word “innovation” in education, I believe Kurzweil makes a salient point in tying innovation to human’s ability to adapt to change as well as driving the change itself. Because of this, our need to be open to continued learning is exponentially more important than ever before. As the writer Yuval Noah Harari recently noted in a blog post, “Humans as individuals and humankind as a whole will increasingly have to deal with things nobody ever encountered before…You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and learn to feel at home with the unknown.”

This parallels one central question in education today; How do we, as teachers, stay open and interested in learning new things even if we do not know what those thing will be, let alone teach our students the same skill? Teachers largely choose their profession out of their love of learning and their hope to serve as role models of lifelong learning. However, change is hard for us too, and we are in the process of examining conventional models of learning, opening ourselves to new methods compatible with this time of accelerating change. In a pursuit of that goal, Hackley School has been engaged in strategic planning and, as part of that process, produced its Portrait of a Graduate document — an aspirational document that coalesces the skill set that will help students face a future of increasing change.

Early this fall, I was invited to speak to Upper School students about one of the Portrait’s aspirations that resonates with me — and it pushed me to think about the connection between curiosity’s relationship to lifelong learning and the importance of embracing change. The Portrait challenges students to “Explore the breadth of intellectual curiosity, stimulate their creativity and pursue meaningful questions.” Curiosity is that which keeps us forever engaged in learning. Not just the curiosity of casual observers, Internet lurkers and gossips, but “intellectual curiosity” — curiosity with the breadth that uncovers the “and” in Arts and Sciences as intersection, not juxtaposition. This is the curiosity that drives learning for the sake of learning, and curiosity as engagement of the mind through asking meaningful questions about the connections and conflicts between ideas, questions that stretch us beyond our siloed interests, and questions whose answers do not simply satiate curiosity but lead to more questions.

Pursuing our curiosity through meaningful questions leads to understanding, understanding leads to inspiration, and inspiration leads to innovation. Curiosity drives the accelerating, never ending change of Kurzweil’s law, and the innovation/learning cycle he describes.

As my parade of obsolete electronics ably demonstrates, change is inevitable — and it now comes at an increasingly exponential rate. We cannot expect our learned skills to simply transfer over to each new set of challenges. As futurist Alvin Toffler is reported to have said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

I have made a career of observing and adapting to new technologies, and in assisting others in accommodating that newness in their lives. I believe I would have had to rethink my vocation had I not remained a student myself. Having to gather my thoughts to speak to students on these occasions highlighted for me the reciprocal relationship that links change and curiosity. For me the key to this process is insatiable curiosity that supports forever learning in a time of forever change.

Originally posted: Turn and Face the Strange – Hackley Perspectives – Medium

A Design Approach to Problem Solving in Project-Based Learning @ ATLIS Annual Conference 2018

Pentagon B

Computer Science education has long been focused on solid problem analysis and well planned-out solutions to problems. Design thinking is a systematic approach to design and has confluence with problem-solving analysis. Combining these approaches provides students with a more complete skill set to solve problems. What do these two approaches have in common, and how can the lessons from these disciplines be applied in education generally, especially in the area of project-based learning?

Track Teaching and Learning

The LEGO Dilemma

My childhood indoor playtime was consumed by construction toys — Lincoln Logs, Wood Blocks,Tinker Toys, an Erector set, and my favorite: the large collection of LEGO pieces that we kept in an old Charles Chips canister. My brother, sister, and I would dump the interlocking rectangular prisms on the family room carpet and proceed to create LEGO structures and vehicles, sometimes bringing in the wood blocks, Lincoln Logs, and our Matchbox cars to create an entire city.

LEGO sets with instructions were not yet widely available in the early seventies. I remember when I first saw the LEGO mini sets on the shelves of Eisenstadt’s Hardware Store and my first purchase: the Rescue Set, with instructions to build a helicopter and ambulance. The set probably had only 15 pieces in all for each item, but for once they were not all right angle bricks, and the set included a spinning rotor!

In the ensuing years, LEGO fully developed its instruction based kits, introducing the architecture series and themed sets drawn from pop culture franchises like Star Wars and Marvel Comics. Each new each kit delivered new oddly shaped and dynamic bricks. This combination of creative exploration and exciting, challenging construction kits cemented my lifelong relationship with the LEGO building toy.

LEGO now markets itself not just as a construction activity, but as a STEM education product, including its sophisticated Mindstorms robotics line. These packages challenge students to follow instructions to complete a sophisticated construction project, and in doing so, create a greater opportunity for fact-based, guided learning. Is this more educationally beneficial to students than simply allowing them to play and create with a pile of bricks?

This question exemplifies a central debate in education right now. Should classrooms be places where creation and innovation can thrive in freestyle guided environments, or should students receive instruction on basic skill sets providing them with tools they do not have?

Experts continue to debate and evaluate the subject. On the one hand, Manoush Zomorodi in her Podcast Note to Self investigates this “kit vs no kit” debate in LEGO Kits and Your Creative Soul. Her report on a study in which some students built instruction-guided LEGO kits while others engaged in “free building” suggests that while kits do succeed in teaching “concentration and persistence,” students in the “free building” group scored higher on creativity tests administered to both groups directly after the building exercises.

The podcast goes on to highlight another study that determined that students who scored high on standardized tests performed poorer in areas in of creative thinking. These experiments show what many researchers have concluded: cognitive processes transfer over to the next task, and the mind takes time to reset from one mode of thinking into another. Therefore, consistent emphasis on following direct instruction hampers creative thinking.

On the other hand, Daniel T. Willingham underscores the concept that creative thinking requires knowing facts. In his book Why Students Don’t Like School, Willingham recognizes that while environments in which children are excited to learn are most beneficial, it is also a “conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts,…critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving-are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is stored in long-term memory.” New knowledge builds off of old knowledge and knowing stuff helps creative thinking.

Are we better served to provide students with the structured instruction that guides their learning, or to provide the free space for experiment, discovery and creative play? MIT researcher Mitch Resnick’s work has been dedicated to providing environments for innovative approaches to learning, and he uses the two approaches to LEGO play to examine this very question.

In his recent book Lifelong Kindergarten, he introduces the “playground vs. playpen” metaphor and he compares open LEGO play to the “playground” where children “can build almost anything they can imagine,.. they can take apart their creations and make something new — in an endless flow of creative activity.” In contrast, he then likens LEGO kits to the “playpen,” a limiting environment where children are “learning how to follow instructions, but they aren’t developing to their full potential as creative thinkers.” However, he also he clarifies and validates the worth of the playpen approach as well:

“Sample projects on the LEGO box offer one type of structure, providing inspiration and ideas for children as they get started. By following step-by-step LEGO building instructions, children can gain expertise with the materials, learning new techniques for building structures and mechanisms.”

While he clearly argues the greater value of imaginative free play, he concedes that the value of kits as a vehicle that supports the journey toward effective exploratory learning. “If the goal is creative thinking, then step-by-step instructions should be a stepping stone, not a final destination.”

Where, then, do we as educators need to place our emphasis? Traditional debate often frames such quandaries as dichotomies, with stark “either/or” outcomes. However, the LEGO dilemma is a false dichotomy — as traditional debate also teaches, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Free building and open play place our minds into creative thinking mode, but the great ideas our minds develop in that mode are often built off of knowledge we have acquired and that which inspires us.

The lessons presented by LEGO learning suggest a framework that will support our efforts to adapt to the increasing rate of change we encounter each day — a model that sets us up as lifelong learners: be curious, research, seek inspiration,and make connections. Experiment and play, ideate and create. Refer back, revise, compare and remix. Build the kits, break them down, toss the pieces in a bucket, shake, dump the mix on the floor and release your imagination!

reposted from Hackley Perspectives

Top Ten Tech Tips & Tricks in Animated GIFS

10 – Flash on Safari


Is an Adobe Flash error message preventing your students from using the Safari browser? Simply have them use Chrome or Firefox instead to keep your class on track and report the problem when you have a moment.

9- Google Trap


Have you ever found yourself stuck between your multiple Google accounts and unable to get to your Google resources? Navigate to and click on your name in the upper right, log off, and then login to the Google account you wish to use.


Password not working? Check the caps lock key, also please check that you do not have a space before or after your username or password.

7 – Homepage look weird?


Do you have a mystery homepage in your Chrome browser? Or, is Chrome just acting wacky? You might have inadvertently installed a Chrome Extension you do not want. Click on the “three dots” in the upper right, click on More tools, then choose Extensions. Scroll through and trash any extension you do not want.

6 – Not Printing?

This is more a plea from IT than a tip/trick. If the item you printed does not show up in the printer you sent it to, PLEASE DO NOT try to print it again. Please double check all of your settings and submit a tech ticket if your job will not print. Printing multiple times simply backs up the printer queue and makes the issue more difficult for IT to resolve.

5 – Google Boxes

In the upper right corner of any Google page is a 3 X 3 set of boxes. Clicking on the boxes will reveal a navigation page to many Google apps.

4 – Need to get Hackley email on your iPhone/iPad?

Go to Settings, Mail, Accounts, Add Account, Exchange. Enter your email address and password and you should be all set.

3 – My desktop is not showing up on the projector!

This usually means that you do not have “mirroring” turned. On a Mac, go to Preferences, click on Display, choose the Arrangement tab and click the Mirror check box.

2 – No sound from the Smartbox?


You may have forgotten to turn on the amplifier switch on the bottom of the box or someone may have pressed the Mute button on Smart Box volume controls.

1 – The Restart!


Please remember that one of the most common remedies is to simply restart or power cycle your device.

Still stuck? please do not hesitate to submit a Tech Ticket!