Thursday, May 20, 2010

Course Descriptions

Image created by Morgan Lendway, class of 2010

Each semester students and alumni help carve out new paths for these courses. The revisions here are often a product of our class discussions, emerging trends, technologies and curiosities. Here's the current course descriptions below.

My thanks to all those folks, current students and alumni, who continually participate in these revisions. It's inspiring to work with you and a privilege to have your input. AP

1 credit Level 2

How many times have you said, “I’d like to try that?” Ever wanted to explore a topic but not dedicate a full semester to it? What if you had the opportunity to propose your own topic and bring that interest to fruition either working in a group with your friends or on and individual project? What if you could study alternative energy, technology in “green” buildings, hydroponics, how skis are made, or even something like how technology is shaping the future of education? That's the trick here: You choose the topic. You also choose the duration of your project. Take on up to three different projects in one semester, devote an entire semester or year to a project, take multiple sections of this course simultaneously, or extend topic tracks into successive years by repeating sections of this flexible course. With up to twenty different projects underway in the room at the same time it's a pretty dynamic atmosphere. Along the way, we explore how technology is changing the news, education, business, the cell phone landscape, the Internet, e-commerce, collaboration, computer gaming and entertainment, and even the future of medicine and aging. We incorporate modern web apps like Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Twitter, blogs, and aggregators like iGoogle. On top of it all we seek to polish up your project management, research skill, public speaking and collaboration skills. It's a chance to explore your own diverse interests, or even get a jump start on a career or major all while you work in an alternative learning environment. Traditional course offerings not spark your interest or something you read here make you curious? If so, Tech Research is the course for you.

PREREQUISITE: Sophomore, Juniors and Seniors or permission of instructor.

1 credit Level 2
Seniors (available to Juniors if there is space available)

Ever get worried about life after high school? Need advice on finances? Credit cards? Bills? Online banking? Health? College? How to deal with roommates? How about nutrition? Cooking? Cars? Aging? Retirement? What practical knowledge do you need to help you into the future? We'll frame up questions as a class, and we'll find answers. We'll invite guest speakers in to share their expertise with the class on themes we design and also to discuss their personal transition from high school and into life. Along the way, we'll explore and uncover a deeper layer of using social media. We'll help you sculpt your thoughts on how you appear online, what you should know about these tools, and help you learn to leverage them to help you in the future. You'll learn more about how to learn, and how to communicate in this hyper-fast world. You'll gain deeper technology and social media skill, and gain a wealth of practical knowledge for your future. It's a course designed by your peers and explores your new questions each semester.

1 credit Level 2

Rekindle your creative and experimental spark in this course and dive into the creative world of digital design and build your skill at the same time. Our project themes here range from the dark and mysterious to fun and whimsical. Rekindling your creative spark may prove more fun than you think. Students also design their own themes here with the intent of sharing their work with friends and family and publishing their work to the web. In the first half of this course students will explore and develop skills in digital design by experimenting with programs in the Adobe Suite like Photoshop, and various open-source programs like GIMP. In the second half of the course, students will learn basic and modern techniques of web publishing using a variety of tools including various blogs, wikis, through feature-rich applications like Dreamweaver and even on to mobile devices. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2nd Semester Presentations Begin... Today!

Three presentations kick off today in D block. We'll post some updates as we go. Engage.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Acceptable Use Policy Advice... and a Good Dose of Common Sense

A friend called me recently for advice. He works in a school district and they have been hammering out a revised Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). He described that the discussions on this new AUP been going on for over a year, meetings were now bi-monthly, in complete gridlock and the current draft they were working on had expanded to 11 pages.

I told him a quote from Phillip K. Howard's TED speech: "The constitution is only 16 pages long."

As you might imagine, the AUP draft he sent was loaded with restrictions on web access, programs, hardware, personal devices, restrictions on the use of social media and a long list of resulting penalties.

I told him I felt the document would lead to paralysis and that it was educationally irresponsible for the needs of modern students and educators. The perspective of out of sight, out of mind won't help. Denial of service on such issues is not educational... it's avoidance.

I encouraged him to pass on a series of drafts from other districts to the committee to help them gain some perspective on where neighboring schools were headed educationally. I also recommended that the AUP should be no more than 3 pages, preferably 1. The final that they decide on should be discussed with teachers across the school, and with parents. It should be made part of professional development initiatives to help folks understand the potential pitfalls and strengths. It should not lead to business as usual.

I also offered up that it would be a healthy shift to discuss what they wanted to do educationally rather than simply what they will prevent people from doing.

In sent him the link to Howard's speech below to watch and to pass on to the committee. Howard's speech speaks volumes about refining general principles and goals.

What do you think?