Category Archives: E2 Exemplify collaboration within the school.

Need a Cross-Linked Standards Database, And Crowdsourced

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have a representation of the standards that is very technology friendly.  Which got me thinking…

On any given day, I’m writing a lesson that is touching on the following Standards:

In the business, a comprehensive analysis of how one standard compares to another is called a crosswalk.  But, that’s just another document you have to parse.  What you really need is the answer to this question:  “I’m focusing a lesson on XYZ standard, I wonder what other standards I’m potentially covering when I do that?

  • You want to find a related “standard”.  The word “standard” is in quotes because related concepts might not be called that, they might be called any of the following.


  • So let’s use a generic (thanks CCSS) term like statement.  You want to find related statements, which may start off as just a text search for common terms.
  • If search finds common terms the implication is that two statements are related, but you may want to walk the hierarchy of each statement
  • The hierarchy of statements is defined very carefully in a statements source document, i.e. “The PQR Standards”.

Here’s my implementation that would help solve this problem.

1. a relational database that contains the statements, all uniquely identifiable but also with their peculiar numberings, and tagged by what their source document was.

2. a table in the database that contains links between statements.  The link could also contain a rating for the link, e.g. “completely equivalent” to “keyword only”.  This table would be extensible and could grow very large over time.

The crowdsourcing comes in because I can’t as one person completely link CCSS (roughly 1500 “statements”) to NGSS (at least as large) and that would be just two of the many I listed above.  So I would put this database on the internet with links to appropriate forms and reports so that people could use it and add to it and refine the work of others.

Let me know if you think you would use such a tool.  Thanks!

An Excel Spreadsheet That Generates Randomized Chemistry Questions

Last year I fell in love with the “Infinite Algebra/Geometry/etc.” series of programs from KUTA Software.  If you haven’t seen them, they basically delineate a topic of study into regimes of problems that can be randomized.  Once you have randomized questions you can generate multiple versions of quizzes and stymie those in your classroom that are doing “unsanctioned collaboration” during assessments.

The basics behind my spreadsheet is a Periodic Table of the Elements Excel Spreadsheet designed by and copyrighted by the same.  It has a database sheet of all the elements and it is from that database sheet that I can generate random worksheets / quizzes.

Here’s the latest version of the spreadsheet and here’s a sample of the output, a multi-version quiz that I generated to test students knowledge of the Nuclide Symbol.

It has been very interesting using Excel as a quiz markup/generator tool.  I have sent this idea to KUTA and haven’t heard back.  I have sent this idea to Microsoft (, we shall see!

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-02-06 [24] (301 and 401 Exhibitions)

You may recall that the juniors and seniors at our high school are called the 301s and 401s, respectively.  This week was their chance to display their portfolios, learning plans, and describe projects that they are working on.  Next week we will give the 101s and 201s a chance to do the same.

There are two teachers (advisors) at each grade level, which means 4 teachers were coordinating exhibitions for their students this week.  Each advisor has approximately 17 students.  This week Mr. H., Mr. M. were holding exhibitions for their 301 students, while Mr. R. and Mr. K. were holding exhibitions for their 401 students.

The February exhibition cycle is the second of three cycles that occurs in each school year.  If students are on track to graduate (or level up from 301 to 401) then this exhibition has an easy message, however, if students are not on track to graduate, then this exhibition is a chance to issue a corrective message and put a procedure in place to come around that student and address the deficits well before the May exhibitions are upon us.

As I reflect on my skills at giving useful feedback and grades in student exhibitions, I am reminded that there is basically a rubric, which we are asked to follow.  Using concepts learned from EDU6172 at SPU, I ought to be able to augment the given rubric and help build some uniformity in the grades I have been giving.  Thinking deeply about the rubric we are using, and then adding to that rubric as I observe others giving scores will be very helpful for me next time around.  My key value in it all is to be fair to all the students on whose panels I sit.  My other value is to give a score that reinforces the key message which advisor, parent, and other staff are giving to the student.  I find that if my score is widely disparate from that of others on the panel, that I need to have concrete reasons for that, so that the student understands the message we are sending about the effort and work they have put forward.

I remain convinced that these weeks are central to the Big Picture model of education.  It is in these exhibitions that students show their true colors, and get feedback from supportive adults on next steps.

Rough Timeline (No need to evaluate)

Monday 2/6/2012:  Exhibitions for 4 students, results from my HOPE reflections, sent a copy of Video release form to Mr. H.

Tuesday 2/7/2012:  Exhibitions for 3 students.

Wednesday 2/8/2012: Exhibitions for 3.5 students, Dr. Algera visits Big Picture

Thursday 2/9/2012:  Exhibitions for 2 students.  Contacted CJTC chef.  Contacted a teacher familiar with Washington State Arts Commission grants. 

Friday 2/10/2012:  Exhibitions for 2 students.  CleanHarbors contact made.

How I Made the PDF Transcript

As of 2012-02-16 the most current version of the Big Picture PDF Transcript is 105.  (That link is to the location, here’s another link to a copy archived here on this WordPress).  Here are some features of the PDF Transcript:

  • This PDF is editable in Adobe Acrobat Reader (the free tool), and the user can save their edits to a new PDF file.
  • Since the field sizes are all locked, the pagination of the transcript is locked.
  • Since field sizes are locked, the font in the field reduces in size (points) if you type more than the field can hold.  NOTE:  to reduce font size by hand, merely type additional carriage returns or spaces.
  • It is easy to click a checkbox (or tab to it and press spacebar or use left and right arrow keys) to indicate level of proficiency.  NOTE:  there is also a hidden, tiny checkbox, so that you can “clear” a checkbox without clearing the entire form.  You use the arrow keys to get to the tiny checkbox.
  • The CADR column can only contain 2 characters.  Page 3 contains a key for the CADR values.
  • The title, and column titles can all be edited in the “College Transcript” table at the bottom left of the second page.
  • The largest fields on the transcript accept copy and paste from Word, if you need special symbols or more interesting formatting.
  • The keyboard tab-order is set so that you can easily tab between all fields on the transcript.
  • You can define the sub-categories under each Learning Goal (they are editable).  Also, each Learning Goal has a blank row for any additional criteria.
  • There is a spot on the transcript (bottom of the first page) where you can add a digital signature.  This doesn’t really lock the form from additional changes, but it is there in case in the future a more digital signing process is implemented.

I undertook this project to see if I could create a more durable Adobe form-based solution, since the original Word-based form had the following disadvantages.

  • fields would overflow and re-size causing pagination issues
  • checkboxes for indicating level of proficiency are always a little clunky in Word
  • Word just doesn’t have an easy-to-use form solution (my opinion), i.e. it is impossible to lock-down some fields, while allowing others to remain editable.

Here are the rough steps I used to create the final version, i.e. version 105.

  1. The entire form is mocked-up in Excel, including the titles, outlines of fields (boxes) and pages.  NOTE:  to get lightweight box outlines, use the dotted linetype in Excel.
  2. Using Adobe Acrobat X Pro, that spreadsheet is then imported into Acrobat used to define a form.  NOTE:  do not have the Excel spreadsheet open at the same time you import.  NOTE:  you can’t import twice into Acrobat Pro without hitting a bug, so always exit Acrobat between imports.
  3. Fields were then added to the form including checkboxes (this was very time consuming since each one had to be named and then the tab order set intelligently).  When that was done the form was saved.  NOTE:  this version of the form cannot be saved again from Adobe Acrobat Reader (the free tool), but it is where you would start when you want to update the form using Adobe Acrobat X Pro.
  4. In order to get a version that advisors and others can edit in Adobe Acrobat Reader (the free tool) and then save their changes to a new file, you need to do a  “Forms : Distribute” on the file in Adobe Acrobat Pro.  This will save a local copy of the distributed version or you can publish that distributed version to  Here is the link (repeated from the above) to the distributed version.  NOTE:  I recommend you save the file as the same name with “_distributed” in the title, so that you know which version you can give to others so that they can use.

IMPORTANT:  Each advisor should keep a copy of Student_A_Transcript.pdf which is fully editable.  However, when passing the Transcript to an Administrator  or outside party, the advisor should “Print to PDF” in Acrobat Reader, and thus pass along a copy that *cannot* be edited.

Future scenario A:  Suppose Big Picture moves locations in 2015, how should a new version of the transcript be created which has the new address?  Here are the steps I would use:

  • Download the version on the link in step 3 above.
  • Open that version in Adobe Acrobat X Pro.
  • Make the changes you would like (you can edit static text on the form in this case), and then save it as a new version, e.g. 106.pdf
  • In Adobe Acrobat X Pro, click the menu item to distribute the file.  A new filename is created, e.g. 106_distributed.pdf
  • You can now give 106_distributed.pdf to staff and they can edit in Acrobat Reader and save copies for students at will.

Future scenario B:  Suppose a more significant change to the transcript is needed, how should a significant revision of the transcript be made?  If the edits to the version in step 3 above are too time-consuming, then I would suggest a new mockup be made or a variation of the mockup in step 1 above be created and then the steps above can be repeated for the new form.

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-01-16 [21] (Snow Week)

January 16th was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I took my daughter to Microsoft, where they regulary have a celebration of Dr. King and his accomplishments.  The guest speaker was Spike Lee, who reminded us to not just pay lip-service to Dr. King, but to review his speeches and writings.  Finally Spike told us to remember reading and how important education is.  The Director of Community Affairs for Microsoft, Andrea Taylor, took up the theme about education and called it the civil rights issue of our era.

On January 17th the snow storm hit, and Highline was operating 2 hours late, while Federal Way was called on account of snow.  I stayed home for a while, hoping to drive in for the Professional Development meeting at 2pm.  However, that meeting was moved up to 1pm so I missed it.  I also learned that that you are not allowed to take a sick day on the first work day following a scheduled vacation day.  I had no idea about this rule, but I surmise it was put into place to avoid absenteeism and abuse of sick time.  I thus had to take one of my precious personal days of which I only get a few per contract.  Need to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

On January 18th and 19th and 20th* both Federal Way and Highline had no school, so we had a leisurely day at home on the 19th, that is, until our power went out.  We spent the next two nights at two different hotels which was fun.  We also took the opportunity to visit with family in Olympia, Benjamin got to go sledding, and we ran up to Bellevue to get the generator for my mom and sister.

Thankfully, power came back for us on Friday, but we were back in our home by Saturday.  School resumed the next week.

* Highline had an In-Service day on 1/20, so there was effective no school this whole week except for a 2-hour delay on 1/17.

ARC Program Requirement: “Observe a Minimum of 6 Extracurricular Activities”

I propose using student field trips that I have organized, chaperoned, drove or led as my Extra-Curricular Activities.  As I pull together reflections on each, I will put the links to the reflections below.

Past Field Trips:

To Microsoft Museum and Company Store, Redmond: October 20, 2011

To Criminal Justice Training Center, Burien: October 25, 2011

To DigiPen Institute, Redmond: December 1, 2011

To Seattle Police Department, Latent Print Unit, Seattle: December 8, 2011

To Bellevue College and Valve Software, Bellevue: December 15, 2011

To Pacific Science Center, Discovery Corps, Seattle: January 12, 2012

To Academy for Interactive Entertainment, Seattle: January 31, 2012

To The Evergreen State College, Olympia: February 1, 2012

Upcoming Field Trips:

To NOAA, Seattle: March 8, 2012

To Advanced Broadcast Solutions, Burien: March 29, 2012

Note: there is also a Spring Formal / Tolo / Dance coming up and I have volunteered to be a chaperone.

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-01-30 [23] (Visual Studio, AIE, TESC)

Spent a lot of time last week and this week getting Visual Studio (via DreamSpark) installed on machines in the media lab.  That exercise will help us be prepared for the Computer Game Design elective start which will use that room.  And it turns out that getting Visual Studio was very timely, because when students came back from the field trip the Academy for Interactive Entertainment (AIE) they were very eager to start learning C# or other programming.

The AIE ( folks gave us a great presentation on computer game industry and what to do at each level of high school in order to some day be successful in their program or in the industry.  The speakers were Dr. Earhardt (director, and veteran game producer) and another professor.  I learned that the game industry shows no sign of slowing down, and that the game-player we should all be designing for are 20-30-something soccer moms.

One Big Picture student, KE, was so excited when he got back from AIE that he wrote his first computer program ever this week.  In addition he shows no signs of stopping as he devours new concepts and enjoys seeing his ability to control the computer grow.  I have to say that has been a pretty amazing.

I also finally learned why the Academy of Interactive Entertainment has a campus in Lafayette Louisiana.  It turns out that many of the major studios have shops there and that many movies can actually be filmed in Louisiana.

Taking three students and college admissions counselor to The Evergreen State College was also quite an experience.  One student in particular, SD, is making TESC his first choice so he was quite excited to get an official tour.  I also took the opportunity to show this group around Olympia, since I went to high school there.

Since that was my second or third college field trip, I got a chance to reflect on the difference between work-site field trips and college field trips.  Both seem to have an extremely motivating impact on students, but also somewhat polarizing.  For instance a student that before the trip was ambivalent toward the college, either came back really excited to pursue that option or definitely decided against that school in particular.

I really appreciate the chance to drive the vans.  Since there is a shortage of people at the school that have clearance from the district to drive, my skills are in demand.  However, I with Dan’s (mentor teacher’s) caution against volunteering too much for those activities.  The benefits of driving are that I get to talk to students and staff in some depth, the disadvantages of driving are that I was pretty much not engaged with any other students for a whole day.  On this day in particular I, as I had to get to SPU for evening classes, I realized that I had spent about 2-3 hours in the car today.

Finally on Friday there were two special events.  First, I attended a guest presentation of the group Red Eagle Soaring which was coming by to meet students in Big Pictures Native Student Association.  Second, I attended an all school assembly called a Send-Me-Off where announcements are made, and demonstrations of student projects and interests.

Rough Timeline (no need to evaluate)

Monday (1/30):  milk carton collection continues, KN presentation on Worms, Helping out in 7th grade math, covering for Stan absence in his advisory

Tuesday (1/31):  field trip to Academy for Interactive Entertainment which is located in the Seattle Center House 4th floor.  Dan and I each drove a van, so we had a full crew.  Students were very excited upon return to campus.

Wednesday (2/1):  very early start to the day in order to get the van and drive some students down to The Evergreen State College in Olympia.  Here is Malini and three of our students in front of the native longhouse on the campus of TESC.


Thursday (2/2):  special teams meeting led by Dan.

Friday (2/3):  Working with students on their portfolios (LD) and autobiography (MJ).  Walked around a copy of a section of an SAT exam to try and get some students (JG, BV) more equipped for their preparations for the March SAT.

Got some good feedback from a student on my YouTube videos that I have created to help students solve the SAT Math Question of the Day (QOTD) which comes about every third day from the College Board.  My channel on YouTube is here:

From: John Weisenfeld GMAIL []
Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2012 11:27 AM
To: RK
Subject: Re: YouTube and SAT Math Problems

Thanks RK, some are more clear than others, so feel free to ask if you have some questions.

On Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 9:59 AM, RK <> wrote:

Hey John,
your youtube channel displaying the SAT questions of the day are very helpful.

On Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 6:08 AM, John Weisenfeld GMAIL <> wrote:

I’ve created some YouTube videos that walk through the solutions of some SAT Math problems, there are about 40 of them so far, and I intend to add more as time goes on.  Check them out some time…

John Weisenfeld
STEM Specialist/Intern
Highline Big Picture High School
206.631.7724 (work)
425.301.7404 (cell)

Here’s an e-mail I wrote detailing the progress we made on Thursday to student advisors.

From: John Weisenfeld GMAIL []
Sent: Friday, February 03, 2012 9:04 AM
To: David Levine; Jessica Rottweiler
Cc: MJ; LD; DP; KE; Dan Dundon
Subject: Status Report 2012-02-02 (Thursday)

All four of the scholars (LD, DP, MJ, KE) spent time in the media lab on Thursday 2/2 from approximately 9:30am to 2pm.

All four were given printed copies of the application for Summer Cyber Camp at the Academy for Interactive Entertainment.  Based on the copies left in the room at the end of the day, very few of those were actually taken home.  All four have expressed interest in the camp, pending finances and a firmer commitment from their parents and/or both.  Phil McGilton, Dan Dundon and I are tracking these applications.

KE spent much of the time before lunch programming in C#.  He has become more acquainted with "for" loops (which we had started on Weds) and also learned about "if" statements and "switch" statements.  We are working our way through a tutorial in C# which is on MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network).  The URL for that is here:

LD got signed up for DreamSpark, so he now has access to professional training in C# as well as programming tools that we have installed in the lab.  He spent some time on some games on the PC and since I brought the iPad, he also looked at some games on the iPad that were both familiar and new to him.

MJ spent a little time listening to some PluralSight training (which we get free for 90 days through DreamSpark) and a little time programming, and more time playing some of the other games that the other students were playing which he wasn’t familiar with yet.  I think Michael J was interested in Android app development.

DP also got signed up for DreamSpark, as well as PluralSight so he could also listen to some training.  He is interested in Windows Phone 7 development or iPhone. 

Popular gamed today were:  a iPad app that records peoples statements and plays them back via an animal avatar (this was quite a hit and does very well with pre-schoolers, too!) and a tower defense game  ( | Frontline Defense HD 2).  When we visited AIE this past Tuesday all of these students learned that the targets for game development for the near future are "Soccer Moms", which is not necessarily the games these students like to play, so if they want to work in the game industry, they should familiarize themselves with games they might not particularly like.  So occasionally I now ask these students if they have played a soccer-mom-game today.

I’ve asked all of these students to start a google doc that keeps track of the games that they have played.  I plan on using such a tool in my high school elective on computer games when it starts up after exhibitions.

Some interesting observations from these students:

"Wow programming is hard."

"Programming is a lot of work/math."

P.S.  Hey students, if you have other observations from yesterday just reply-all to get your comments heard.

John Weisenfeld
STEM Specialist/Intern
Highline Big Picture High School
206.631.7724 (work)
425.301.7404 (cell)

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-01-23 [22] (Unity3D in the Media Lab)

This week got off to a slow start when we found out that our campus had no power on Monday.  After that, however, things have been pretty busy.  As a preparatory exercise for the Computer Game elective that I will be teaching to high schoolers starting at the end of February, I have been utilizing some students to try out some software packages that we might use.  That also gives me an idea of what learning activities we might use during the elective.

It was so exciting to see a student immediately start modifying the sample video game that came with the Unity3D software.  All the students were excited to play the game, a few were playing it over and over again until they had “solved” it.  This is the magic of facilitating an interest-based curriculum.

At various times I am fascinated to see students pull back from a project or task, since they imagine that it is too hard, or too much work or too much math.  I interpret that as a lack of confidence, fundamentally in them, and a challenge to me as the teacher to it accessible, i.e. to differentiate the exercises so that they feel confident and can go from success to success.

I had some good discussions with a couple of students (DM, MS) over their projects and interests that mesh with the CSI (Forensics) elective that I taught for the middle schoolers last semester.

Rough Timeline of Events [my notes only no need to evaluate]

Big Picture campus had no power on Monday 1/23.  I took my conditional certificate to district headquarters (ERAC) to get it registered (stamp on the back).

Sent mail to Interim Superintendent about Outlook 2010 access to work e-mail over the internet.

I finally got proxy permissions enabled for Outlook Web Access to access email 24×7, it was a bummer to not be able to read my school e-mail when I was working late or early in the morning.

Participated in portfolio surges for 201 (Wed) and 101 (Fri) classes.  The purpose of these was to get student portfolios into shape with documentation and other content in anticipation of upcoming exhibitions (Feb 6-10 and Feb 13-17).

Thursday I helped with a student project to get milk carton recycling going at the school during breakfast, middle school lunch, and high school lunch.

Sent a rough diary of interactions with students on 1/24

From: John Weisenfeld GMAIL []
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 4:19 PM
To: Jessica Rottweiler; David Levine;
Cc: LD, DP, MJ, MS, KE
Subject: Rough Diary of Activities Tuesday 2012-01-24

Today KE helped me get Unity 3D game development software

( installed on 8 computers in the media lab.

He then helped me debug the usage of that software when signed in as a student. We spent most of the day in that game development software playing a sample game that comes with that package (AngryBots).

MJ joined us around 10:00 or 10:30 am in the media lab and figured out how to use the software to modify AngryBots so that certain features of gameplay would change. He also mentioned that he would like to take a sample SAT test, and I wanted to point out that he can do that online for free at

I went and got DP and MS from advisory at about 10:30a or 11am and they were also interested in seeing Unity 3D and playing the sample game.

LD joined us at about 11am, and also took a look at the sample game.

While a few folks were playing Doodle Jump (a vertical scrolling game), others were looking for other Unity-based games that we could download the source code for modification and future experimentation.

All-in-all I think this was a productive day, since I was unsure if Unity 3D would be suitable for use in the Gaming Elective that I plan to start this Friday. I appreciate the help these scholars provided today and look forward to more experimentation with this tool in the coming weeks.

If they participate in the elective I have some ideas about reports or projects they could do on:

1. game companies

2. topics in the game industry

3. topics in game design

4. journal of games they play, for how long, and what type of game

(genre) and what they like and don’t like about the game

All of these will inform our work during the elective as we talk about the roles needed to produce a game (Engineering), and what we personally like about certain games (realism, i.e. Science/Physics) and the tools it takes to produce a game (Technology/Programming).

I would love to add comments like this to individual learning plans in the future, but I need to be added to the most current learning plans for these folks, I will follow up with them, but it would be great if advisors could make sure that Dan Dundon ( and myself ( are added to current learning plans.


John Weisenfeld

STEM Specialist/Intern

Highline Big Picture High School

206.631.7724 (work)

425.301.7404 (cell)

I also wrote a small report of student interactions on 1/26

From: John Weisenfeld GMAIL []
Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2012 4:10 PM
To: Jessica Rottweiler; David Levine
Cc: Dan Dundon; LD; DP; MJ; KE
Subject: Quick Debrief on Today 2012-01-26

Hi Jessica, Hi Mr. Levine,

KE sent the day with us here in STEAM working on his Discovery Corps application.  His essays are looking good, he just has one more form that he needs to take home, get signed and bring back and I think we can postmark his application off to the Science Center by the deadline.  I had thought I might have a chance to get to some work in the Media Lab, but he spent a lot of time watching/helping with the pheasant dissection that Dan was doing today.

MJ spent some time in the Media Lab today working on Unity (game development software) and signing up for Microsoft DreamSpark.  I have been hoping that our students would take advantage of DreamSpark since it provides free access to Microsoft professional software development tools and 90 days of free access to professional training (on how to build apps for iPhone, or Windows Phone or …). We watched a few minute samples of those and although they are pretty high level do have some demonstrations that our more technically adept students should be able to follow along on.

DP almost got signed up for DreamSpark and got especially excited if he could access training (Plural Sight) to help him get better at writing applications for the Windows Phone (since that is what he has).  I worked much of the afternoon trying to get Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional installed on a couple of machines in the Media Lab, as I type the first one is still trying to finish…  Note that once these students have access to DreamSpark they can download software and install, or watch training from home, the library, etc.

LD, MJ and DP all discovered a new type of game that none of them had played before which allows for multiplayer basketball (third person, you are looking down on the court from midcourt controlling your avatar).   The game has been written in Unity 3D which helps students make the connection that a tool they have access to actually can generate games that they consider interesting or that they think have high play value.  We are still searching for a game that we can get the source code for so that we can tweak and hack and get some good learnings from, no real luck yet beyond the AngryBots demo that comes with the Unity 3D free package.

John Weisenfeld
STEM Specialist/Intern
Highline Big Picture High School
206.631.7724 (work)
425.301.7404 (cell)

Twitter as Log of What I’m Reading

A little while ago I started using Twitter as a log of what I was reading on the web.  Most of what I am reading has to do with education, and although it is intriguing to think about how to solve all of education’s problems, I should focus my reading primarily on getting certified and stuff I need for my classes at SPU.

So check out my Twitter feed to the left here on my blog, and if you want to follow me, click here

New Brochure for Highline Big Picture High School

We are working on standardizing the transcripts which we use at the school.  A snippet of the transcript and some more detail about this school in particular is in this brochure.

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