Category Archives: .H5 Honor student potential for roles in the greater society.

SnapChat Leak: An Educational Opportunity?

If you’re following this story, then you know that SnapChat, a super-popular App that a large number of my high school freshmen have on their phones, had a security problem that allowed a hacker to get the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million SnapChat users.

[Was your data leaked?  You can check using this look-up tool.]

I was eager to see if any of my students were in the set of leaked accounts.  I wanted to create conversation around why data leakers do this, and what appropriate responses would have been for the users and creators of such technology.

So I did some poking around.  I downloaded the data (46MB ZIP).  I to open it as a CSV in Excel 2013, but it couldn’t.  I opened it in Notepad+ and searched for my number.  Not found.  I searched for anything in 425 area code (Bellevue-Redmond).  Nothing.  I searched for anything in 509 area code (eastern WA).  Nothing.  So none of my students were in the leaked data.

It turns out only a select few numbers in 76 area codes were shared.

And it’s interesting that only 10,623 numbers in 206 area code (Seattle) were shared.  That’s only 1 part-per-thousand of the total numbers in 206.  Which is either a comment on the importance of SnapChat in Seattle or the underestimation of area codes to include from the hacker.

Or take a look at 815 area code in the picture above, if 215,953 numbers in 815 use SnapChat, that is 21 out of every thousand phones (or 2%)!  Not bad for a small App that doesn’t care about security.

So, can someone get me all the 509 numbers at SnapChat please?  It would help me in lessons at school next week.  Smile

How I Got Some Freshman Science Students To Read “The Economist”

Last week I was grappling with a way to teach the Washington State Science Standards, in particular the INQUIRY A piece.

As is often the case, inspiration came in the nick-of-time.  I would have my students

  1. gain an appreciation for the breadth of science
  2. practice some literacy skills
  3. generate some “scientific questions”
  4. work in groups
  5. practice some creativity

Here’s how it went.  The room is arranged in groups.  At the beginning of class, we review science as a pervasive quest for knowledge, which often looks like questions.  Define/Review scientific questions, and propose a form that students can use “How does ____ affect ____.”  (Is this Act 1 for Science, a la Dan Meyer?)

Tell students that there are pages from a magazine (suitably shuffled) on their group tables and that they are to get with partners and create a poster of 5 scientific questions which will be generated the following way.  Your partner takes a page and finds a noun on that page.  You take a different page and find a noun on that page.  You then come together and form a question “How does noun #1 affect noun #2.”  (Act 2, you have a tool/method, now apply it.)

Where this spins off into greatness is when students:

  • find themselves reading snippets of articles from the Economist for context, since they have been “struck in the curiousity bone
  • find themselves posing questions like “do bees affect cancer?” which might lead to a long and fruitful career in science for this 9th grader
  • realize that sometimes science questions look superficially quite silly but hide an incredible profundity, like “will dry ice slide down a sand dune?

Finally for Act 3, we have a wall full of questions, from 4 periods of science students, which we can now take to the next level of refinement of the question, and posing more questions.  Take a look:


WAS Day 5

Washington Aerospace Scholars, Day 5, Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday was the last full day of activities for Week 4 of the 2013 Washington State Aerospace Scholars program. Since Friday is the banquet, which concludes the program, students were busy today preparing presentations and poster boards for that presentation. There were also Impact Statements to write, wherein students describe how the program has affected them and their career plans. Those of us on staff also have our student evaluations due the next day.

Red Team is pretty well prepared for Friday, but I notice a little bit of complacency (hubris?) developing in some of the more influential members of the team. I’m going to have to think more about this, since I don’t want to gloss over it. What I am trying to put my finger on is a certain resentment that develops in highly performing students that they have worked so hard, when they see others around them perhaps not working so hard, but apparently having more “fun”. The perfect storm happens when high-achievers realize they have met all the requirements, worked really hard, and then see others perhaps doing better than them (on some arbitrary scale) but enjoying better morale or team esprit d ’corps.

One high point (literally and figuratively) of our week was the launching of rockets. After a quick briefing from our rocket expert each team got to press the button igniting the engine and sending our creations skyward. Red Team rocket launched, cruised and deployed parachute successfully for a safe return of the rock “sample” to earth. Way to go team! In fact, all teams had successful launch and recovery of their rockets.

After the launch activity, we traveled to Aerojet where we got a tour of their facility. I’m intrigued by the thought of standing in a place that has put together high reliability rocket motors that have traveled (or will soon travel) to *all* of the planets. Aerojet is an incredible story of business started near Boeing’s plants, then moved to Redmond, and today supplies rockets that have *never* been the cause of a NASA mission failure. Great job Aerojet!

After returning to MoF, teams worked on final preparations for our presentations on Friday. We also took part in our last Engineering Challenge of the week, getting a Lego Mindstorms Rover to visit as many rock samples as possible on a simulated Martian terrain and return to base. Red Team perfected a route to the first two samples but run out of time to perfect a path to a third sample. Folks on the team were disappointed. Our post-mortem analysis of our task raised a couple of questions. Why were our paths to the first two samples unnecessarily complex? Why was our rover design less than optimal for the terrain and mission requirements? It is a good question why sometimes bright people miss elegant, simpler solutions, while opting for more complex or complicated solutions that inherently have more failure modes.

Our final activities of the evening involved signing some pictures for distribution to WAS Program supporters. (Thank You Washington Aerospace Scholar Program Supporters!) We also completed some final housekeeping tasks for Red Team.

I was impressed by a presentation at the end of our day from the Team America Rocket Challenge which offers cash prizes for student competitions in the field of rocketry. It has been a constant theme this week that students need more hands-on experience in their lives and in their educational environments, and today was no exception. Can imagine what would happen if we had not only soccer-moms, but rocket-dads? What if participation maker-related activities such as rockets, robotics, and remote-controlled hobbies rivaled things such as sports and video games?

My takeaway from this day was the challenge it is to motivate those otherwise highly motivated students to go beyond the checklists (grades) that they have gotten so good at mastering. The real adventure lies beyond expending just enough effort to do just a little better than your current peers or “competition”. Push beyond a higher level of common mediocrity, go for it!

WAS Day 4

Washington Aerospace Scholars, July 17, 2013

Our day started with Mission Briefing, as usual. The teams are starting to get some urgency in their interactions, we don’t have a lot of time left. On this morning the Ethics Team is paid a significant compliment by their faculty consultant that they had a teleconference with, namely that their ideas/questions had a depth that was not often (ever?) seen by that consultant. (The consultant is a professor with space ethics experience at the University of Washington.) There was some confusion at the briefing related to issues that come from the structure of the projects which the teams are working on. Each team has a main topic and then can choose 2 subtopics from a list. When other teams don’t know which subtopics have been chosen, they are sometimes caught thinking that another team is covering a detail when in fact they are not. It seems like this could be a common problem in a project-based learning activity such as this, the solution of which would be to better align and inform participants about what to do when topics have *not* been selected. Completeness in covering one broad topic, but not going into depth on another subtopic seems to be a challenge for some of the scholars.

At 8:30a we met in a main auditorium at the MoF for a video conference call with NASA. Specifically, we were able to participate in a two-way audio, one-way video chat with Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas via a program called the Digital Learning Network. After a short introduction to some of the current space missions underway, e.g. the International Space Station (ISS) and the new Orion Spacecraft, we were able to pose questions to the Flight Director then on-duty in Mission Control. Our questions were pre-submitted but were then read live to the NASA folks who then answered them. The question and answer portion was carried live on NASA TV. Since I am a geek, I was able to bring up the NASA-TV feed on my phone and watch our session “live”, i.e. via NASA-TV and delayed about 1-2 minutes, instead of on the screen in our room. One of my favorite questions was “where is the International Space Station right now”, in answer to which the NASA folks turn around and look at the big map on the wall and give an answer.

It was a fairly non-routine call to Mission Control since just the day before, an astronaut on the ISS had experienced some water (coolant from his Personal Life Support System) collect in his helmet during a spacewalk. The Flight Director we spoke with described a higher level of excitement than usual during that event, which resulted in the safe return of the astronaut to the ship after an abort of the spacewalk. [Recall, if you are imagining a pool of water in the bottom of a facemask, that
in microgravity, water in the helmet is floating around, in either large or small blobs, getting in your eyes, nose and mouth, and you can’t reach up and into your helmet and do anything about it.  According to the report, the astronaut affected was willing
to continue the mission until another astronaut was able to come closer and look into the mask and recommend that Mission Control advise on an early termination of the spacewalk.  Much to be learned from situations like this and a timely reminder for scholars
in this program about the perils which still exist in space although it may seem routine.]

At 11:00am teams were to participate in the Design Review Board, which was mentors and assistant mentors and HQ giving feedback on Mission Project Work that each team had completed to date and also allowing them to get an overall feel of where all teams were on their projects. I did not attend that meeting, but hear from the Red Team Mentor that we were grilled on a few points, but were not the team most grilled.

Time is short, but to put that in perspective, teams have limited time to complete their presentations. Presentation drafts are due on Thursday (tomorrow) and they will be presenting them at the luncheon on Friday.

In the afternoon we went to the University of Washington to hear from Jim Hermanson at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and tour some research labs. All teams visited the Nonlinear Dynamics and Control Lab (101 AERB), the RAM (ramjet lab) and the ESS Plasma Lab (Johnson 275A).

[I would like to type comments here on how I think the visits to the lab went, but let me do that later.]

After the lab visits we had the Rover Request for Proposals (RFP) presentations in Johnson Hall 111. Each team presented their thinking for the design of a new rover and based on the quality and depth of information in their proposal they were awarded money for their team’s account. Red Team made a good impression on the 3 faculty/graduate research folks on the panel and came away with a total of $50 million for our team’s account. I must say here that HQ had warned us that we were not to produce carbon copies of the Curiosity Rover (currently on Mars) for this presentation and I think all teams more or less heeded that warning.

After dinner in McMahon hall, we took our schoolbus back to the MoF for our evening activities.

The staff of HQ, and other SR-AFs here this week had been saying all week that the “Payload Lofting” engineering challenge was the most fun to watch. Based on student responses to the activity it also appeared to be fun to participate in. Here’s the setup: a fishing line is attached to a second-story balcony and railing and the other end is on the ground. Students are asked to use balloons to move the unassembled parts of their “rocket” (another engineering challenge) from the ground below to the balcony which signifies Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Various monies are charged/credited to the teams for multiple balloons that they use, for successfully being the first team to get a part lofted, for being the first team to lift all their parts successfully, and for leaving any parts on the ground at the end of the activity. The results of our lofting exercise have not been published yet, but Red Team was the first to loft a part successfully and the third team to complete the lofting of all their parts.

The next challenge we completed or prepared to complete was the rocket-building and egg drop (lander) activities. Our team had designed both of those together, but it now fell to half of the team (we were split up) to construct the design for the rocket and the lander simultaneously. I stayed with the lander team, and I’m happy to say that we were able to successfully get our egg to the ground from a third-story railing. However, we were not able to land our egg within the safe target and so only collected another $40 million (I think, let me double-check).

Once again, a bunch of tired—but invigorated—students and staff returned to the hotel to tell a few stories from the day and turn in.

PS: I asked someone from HQ how hard it was to design the tasks so that an appropriate level of difficulty was achieved. In the payload lofting scenario, you would be surprised how high you can get parts of various weights on fishing line and a standard drinking straw with a 6-9-12 inch balloon. As far as the egg drop is concerned, eggs are much tougher than you think, and our team’s design while not flashy did get the job done. Again the implications for the educator and the classroom are: the projects teach so much in the way of problem solving and team work, you have to do them, and iterate as needed, and students will be engaged the whole way. What I take away is that doing something, anything in the real world will always lead to complexity sufficient enough to illuminate or demonstrate physical law. So get busy!

WAS Day 3

Washington Aerospace Scholars, Summer Residency, Tuesday, July 16, 2013

After typing this report on Tuesday morning for Monday, I went and found our System Manager and gave her some feedback over breakfast. I think that was an effective move, but it was made possible or necessary due to reflections on the prior day and where we needed to go for the day ahead. I am reminded that daily or regular reflection on my teaching can have the same effect, namely taking stock in what has gone well or what could go better, helps make future outcomes better.

We started the day at the MoF in our Mission Briefing. Each team got up and gave a status of where their team was in the performing of various tasks. I think our session went well except for one of our team members who contradicted or sought to clarify our status. I will talk to that team member offline about how unprofessional that looks, since they should have clarified their status internally before going before the other teams and showing that our team had some internal disconnect. I’m proud of my team having concise status, being mostly on the same page, and being able to communicate what they might need from other teams, e.g. red flags or warnings about where they might be blocked or need further clarification. Status meetings are valuable things despite the general revulsion (anecdotal? See Dilbert cartoon.) that people have for meetings in general. I found some of my memories from my former life at Microsoft flowing back about how teams posture and sometimes put up smoke screens about progress that is communicated more glowingly than it actually is. How could status meetings be used in an educational context? The answer is fairly straightforward if students are working on a clearly defined project with dated deliverables and interdependencies with other teams that they need to resolve. However, how could they be used in a classroom that isn’t doing projects? Is there a way to couch a quarter or semester of learning goals as a project that students need to make progress on, and give them tools for measuring their progress, reporting on that progress and taking corrective action for lackluster results? I think the answer might be standards-based grading, and I think it is something to try which will serve students well in a variety of future careers. I don’t think students are naturally project-oriented, or team-status aware, but I think all can improve on those basic job skills.

Over lunch we spoke with a Geologist on MSL, the Mars Science Laboratory mission that is supporting the Curiosity Rover on Mars. We did so over a Google hangout with video and audio. The video and audio quality were good, but it very hard to see what was on the screen, and I sat closer than any scholar. From a tech standpoint, there must be a way to share desktop or documents in higher fidelity, or there might have been a way to get scholars closer to the screen so they could engage better. (I think I will ask some of my students today for some feedback on that session, to see if they noticed this same thing that I did.) As a footnote to my comment yesterday about the usefulness of bringing experts into the classroom, today was proof that you can bring those experts in virtual ways (video, audio) and still get good engagement or deliver good content to students.

Red Team had a phone conference call with a researcher working on fusion drive at the University of Washington today which went very well. I’m told that students even pointed out some ideas that researchers had not considered, which is always exhilarating. I didn’t attend the conference call as a way to support other scholars who weren’t involved in that topic (Propulsion). Here again I was reminded of some management learnings that I have gained from my prior experience. Namely, as a manager/leader it is not leadership to spend time with those workers that are highly motivated and have the same learning style as you. It is more effective leadership to speak with your whole team, i.e. apportion your time more equitably so that all your team knows that you are supportive and eager for them to succeed. For example, in our preparation for our second Peer Presentation, I realized that I didn’t really have a good grasp on the Reflectance Spectrometers that we were supposed to be presenting. Furthermore, I realized that the scholar on our team also didn’t have a good idea of what they wanted students to take away from her part of the presentation on those devices either. I realized that this was a coaching opportunity and a teachable moment. Both teachers and presenters need to know what the main goal of their presentation as information transfer needs to be. When I was able to coach my scholar on some presentation tips, they were more confident, the material was relayed better, and the overall presentation went much better. A comment from HQ was “I have not seen Reflectance Spectrometers presented as clearly as Red Team just did.” Nice work! Overall, we got $40 million bonus for a 9.3 score (out of 10) on our presentation. That goes a little way towards reducing the pain we feel from getting -$20 million on our first presentation.

We took a grand tour of Boeing’s assembly facility at Paine Field in Everett. I realized that what we were seeing on the tour were mostly skilled (highly skilled!) labor jobs, and not really day-to-day STEM jobs at Boeing when we tour that facility. I’m not so sure that students connected these massive machines with the pile of STEM work that goes into producing each one. Do I want to buy stock in Boeing based on their production estimates? Yes. Do I want to ride in a 787 Dreamliner? Most definitely! Do I know what the engineers do tucked away around those assembly lines all day? Not so much… Oh and one more question that is teasing me: does the production of airplanes with a high proportion of carbon fiber do a net sequester of carbon and thus help reduce greenhouse gases? I know the plane is green, but how green?

After the Boeing tour we spent some time at the MoF Restoration Center where aircraft are refurbished or stored when they are not at the Museum of Flight gallery. After seeing the massive amount of spare parts and tools and high-tech tools used on modern planes it was a little depressing to see the mostly volunteer, somewhat duck tape and baling wire operation that restoration is. However, I can appreciate the value of working on historical airplanes both as mechanical and engineering history, and as a “maker” type activity for students. I just didn’t find a lot of interpretive information at the Restoration Center. Not to belittle the volunteers who are contributing mightily to the preservation of our aeronautical heritage in any way!

As mentioned above, upon our return to MoF we had a successful Peer Presentation on Spectrometers. The team was very supportive of each other and wanted them to succeed. I should mention here that we timed our presentation and had scenarios we would do if we were over or under time. When we were under time, our presenter had a few questions prepared to ask the audience, and he did so, but somewhat humorously cut off the reply from the student answering the question to stay on our time, which he did, and our final time was 7:07.

I should note that Scholars are starting to show signs of being tired. Quite a few took a nap on the traffic-slowed return from Everett to Boeing Field. We ended our work on Tuesday with a Lego Mindstorm Rover development project. I was interested to see that almost every student was engaged in that project in task, with the usual type-A’s driving key tasks and the other other scholars taking supporting roles. The hands-on power of these projects cannot be underestimated. Students had to reason about gear reductions, and power limitations of small motors, of the flex and unexpected behaviors of lego structures, and how to program and test robot code. I can’t help but think that this type of work can only hone student’s intuition and experience which can enlighten their classroom learning. We need to more robotics, more maker-faires, more hands on if we expect future STEM professionals to be able to innovate and create. The time-pressure frustrated some, and invigorated others, the team still lacked some integration of efforts, but I think even that aspect of team work is best learned and honed through more of these activities. I am eager to do more hands-on, project-based, and team-oriented activities in my class room, because like the students, I will only get better with practice.

WAS Day 1

Washington Aerospace Scholars, Sunday July 14

Yay! Red Team won the arrival contest (everything is competition this week) by being the first group to have all of their students arrive at the hotel.

We travelled to the Museum of Flight (MoF) for an orientation and then moon landing simulation (Challenger Learning Center, CLC), and tour of the MoF.

The students totally got into the simulation. They were engaged in their tasks (broken into teams like Com, NAV, Life support, Probe, medical, and Isolation) and they were engaged in the interactions.

Here’s how the simulation was set up. Red team and gray team worked together. For the first hour gray was mission control and red team was in the space ship (destination moon base). For the second hour red team was mission control and gray team was space ship.

Each student sits at a computer and performs tasks relevant to their role on the mission. On the Space ship scholars are doing robotics, or probe testing, or managing life support systems, very hands on stuff. At mission control students are working on worksheets related to tasks and interacting with space ship counterparts.

Periodically, the simulation is interrupted by emergency scenarios that a team has to deal with. We had an oxygen problem, a power issue and a meteoroid strike. The emergencies add some urgency to the activities and overcoming them is cause for some celebration.

Most telling was the oxygen problem where the life support team is working quickly (frantically?) and the rest if the teams are to to "continue with your regular activities". Good teams can probably handle that…bad teams probably unravel since our fate is in a small group’s hands.

One student I talked to felt like the mission control side if the simulation was less exciting than the space ship side. I took a look at the mission control worksheets and am thinking about ways you could use a team-based simulation in science/math class.

One aspect if the simulation that seemed essential was the idea of asynchronous communication. Each scholar’s counterpart in mission control or the space ship was communicating via email and audible commands through the Com role. One student felt good when their messages were announced via the com person for all to hear, I felt like it encumbered speed of communication, but will have to think more on what purpose it serves.

Next we toured MoF guided by a docent who was quite knowledgeable. In fact, since our tour guide was from Germany and since we were touring in the world war 2 airplanes section, he was able to add some personal information like "my father was a German infantryman and remembers seeing P-38s fly overhead". In other commentary he stated that "German expenditures on the less than successful v2 rocket program were a significant drain on war effort, had Germany not wasted so much on that one weapon, they might have been able to spend more on other weapons and the course of the war might have been very different"

After the guided tours we had a chance to do our own touring. I got "lost" in the red barn part of the exhibit and wound up being late to our pre-dinner rendezvous. This everyone had to wait on me for dinner.

Over dinner (qdoba) we went over the rules, had a mixing activity (snowballs) and determined the major parameters of the mission. Interestingly, when it comes to length of mission, very few people wanted a 30 day mission or a one-way mission versus a 500 day mission. Students voted on their choice and then shared why. Arguments weren’t very concrete. The same happened for size of mission as most students opted for 5-9 sized team. And here is the interesting thing…every week of scholars has picked the same mission parameters.

After that we wrapped up the evening at MOF took our buses back to the hotel and grabbed our rooms. Curfew check was no problem and I fell right to sleep.

Technology Investigations / Applications / Tools

I describe below some activities or tools I have discovered during the 2011-2012 school year around technology.  I argue that if a technology or tool helps the teacher / staff person save valuable time, then it has indirectly had impact on student learning.  If a technology or tool has been used by the student, then it has directly had impact on student learning.  At least, that is the case I intend to make below.


Description Student Learning Impact Teacher / Practice Impact
Student project check-in form (Google Form).  A method was proposed whereby a teacher could review and record student progress on a project.  Goal was to facilitate the capturing of current state and next steps in a student project. No evidence that student work on projects has been increased or become more rigorous as a result of this work. Was used in April briefly by Jessica.

Samples were given to David, Angie and Steve as well, but this idea has not gained any traction yet.

Field trip calendar (Shared Google Calendar). 

NOTE:  although I didn’t create this tool, my adoption has meant that others can find the tool useful.

Students who need record of field trips to prove hours have found this invaluable.

I would also argue that the list of field trips is P2, H1, H2 and H5.

Although originally created by Megan, the calendar has been useful to both Dan and me, in the tracking of our trips, record of activities, weekly planning, and even keeping track of van usage/reservations.
Big Picture High School Transcript (PDF Form).  How I Made the PDF Transcript. Creating a durable record of student progress is useful for students, parents/guardians and teachers.  Enables quarterly progress reports, helping students know where they are at. I’ve already heard back from our office manager, from a senior advisor, and from my mentor teacher on the usefulness of this tool.
LTI Timesheet (PDF Form).  This was my first conversion of a paper form to a PDF Form. Enabling students to report their internship conveniently and accurately is a significant impact on their learning. I already cited a reply from the LTI Coordinator (Megan) about how the form has been gaining momentum.
STEAM Contact Triage (Google Form and Google Spreadsheet).  At the beginning of the year, as Dan, Jeff and I were brainstorming people and activities that would enrich our students, we decided to create a Google Form that talked to a Google Spreadsheet. By keeping track of contacts that may want to host students for tours, shadow days, informational interviews and full internships, we are having impact on their learning.  Every contact is a potential internship site, is a potential mentor for a student.

Just two examples: 

Fernwood contacts have led to significant interactions with our students.

Criminal Justice Training Center has also provided an internship for our students.

By putting a process into place whereby staff can share contacts and meet to triage new contacts and strategize next steps, I am improving the efficiency of my colleagues, I am sharing information with them and in the end I am making them more efficient at their jobs and our school’s mission.

NOTE:  I do not have proof that Dan or Jeff are using this tool actively, but I am and therefore it is an immediate resource for anyone who cares to see it.

LTI Site (Google Site).  This site is owned by Megan and is being used to store and communicate BPHS processes around LTI.

NOTE:  although I didn’t create this site, I have helped Megan edit/customize the site.

Students are impacted by easier access to LTI documents and a repository for more standardized process that they and their mentors can follow. Helping Megan be efficient at her job in the helps the entire school, staff and students effective.  By unblocking her understanding of how to edit and make the site truly her own, I have unleashed her creativity.
YouTube Videos of guest speakers at Big Picture High School. Students are obviously impacted in the live events, and by having the video available for future events, there is potential for more students to be impacted. Staff sometimes cannot make a lecture, so I have filmed the lecturer and gotten their permission to post on YouTube.  Speakers I have taped include:

Roger Fernandes, Native Storyteller.

Josh Ginzler, Licensed Mental Health Care Professional.

Adele Mitchell, Forensic Specialist / Geneticist.

Google Cloud Connect (Google Docs Toolbar for Word PowerPoint Excel) Since our school relies heavily on Google Docs, this tool that allows native uploading, downloading and sharing of Office Documents has been essential.  Not very many students have discovered it. However, certain staff (Ed first) have been very enthusiastic for the tool and I believe it has changed his whole workflow.
MailChimp (bulk e-mail tool for students, staff and parents involved with SAT Prep course).  Here is an archive of recent e-mails sent for the SAT Prep course. When a parent of a student in the SAT Prep course wanted to be kept aware of what was going on, I created a MailChimp Account Since this tool allows you to track when e-mails are opened, read, forwarded, and *not* read, they would be invaluable anytime an advisor/staff person is sending out bulk e-mails.
BPHS SAT Google Site This was a web site used to communicate between the staff and the students for coordination of the SAT Prep course. By keeping a calendar of activities in the course, I kept students informed of what was happening when, what we had covered, lesson materials, and links to YouTube Videos of class sessions. This web site enabled better collaboration with staff. (SMS Polling Tool)  By creating an account on this service and using in the SAT Prep course, I was able to engage students in learning activities. Initial results from an Action Research paper that I am producing for EDU6173 is that students rated their mathematics self-efficacy higher on days that we did SAT sample problems (from a sample test) higher if there were engaged via SMS/Cell Phone polling. General opinion of staff is that this service in general and my application on SAT Prep in particular has been beneficial / fun. (Bulk SMS Sending and Polling Tool)  Used in the SAT Prep course. Similar to PollEverywhere but different, this tool allowed for students to register their mobile device in a virtual course.  Once they did that I could send them messages or take quick polls related to content / activities in the SAT Prep course. When I realized that students were not reading the class e-mails that I was sending, I was able to get them to register their mobile devices and thus have a more direct means of communicating to each of them en masse or individually.
YouTube Videos of me solving SAT QOTD (Questions of the Day) Similar to Khan Academy (person talking while solving a problem on a virtual blackboard / whiteboard), I created 20-30 videos of me solving some SAT Questions of Day, which the College Board puts out daily basis via e-mail. Making the videos was fun.  It gave some insight into Khan’s style and some of the technical challenges which he has solved to create his massive library of videos. for shortening URLs  
Fluid Math from Fluidity Software tool I used to create the YouTube videos for SAT QOTD. Let’s you do math on an interactive whiteboard or laptop projection by using a tablet.
Vimeo This is another video sharing site and one which I had used extensively for my CSI Middle School Elective until I realized that YouTube had more space and no weekly upload limits. I am big on archiving instruction.  I think I have video for almost every classroom + teacher session that I have engaged in, except the Video Game elective I did in the High School.

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-04-16 [34] (Week After Spring Break)

Although you might have thought teachers and staff would have been relaxed and recharged after the time away, many commented to the contrary.  Although students usually have fun during a break, for many school provides structure and an escape from the situation at home.  This is the classic dilemma of the American Worker, we have such little vacation time (relative to, say, Western Europeans) that we never get beyond the vacation-is-a-lot-of-work threshold, and really start to enjoy ourselves before we have to start getting back to work.

You may say, “but teachers get the whole summer off, why are they always complaining about the few hours society makes them work.”  To which I would utter the heretical, I would rather work all summer teaching, if I knew I was making progress with a student that would otherwise be making bad decisions, in a bad environment.

Investment Game Starts (Ends on May 31, 2012)

Last week the three students for which I am a mentor, started a game on  The rules are that the student who experiences the most appreciation of their $100,000 portfolio by May 31, 2012 will win a prize.  One student has taken a substantial lead, and the rest of us are struggling to catch/keep up.


I believe this activity has potential to demonstrate H1 and H5, if I can show that new learning has occurred.  I also feel as though this activity could demonstrate O1 and O2, if I do some work to connect this game to curriculum standards and content areas.  Other staff at school have said this type of learning activity does go in bursts at the school, the trick is keeping sustained effort.

The End of the Year is Coming

Like all schools, we are coming close to the end of the year, there are some standardized tests yet, both mandatory (MSP, EOC) and non-mandatory (SAT).  Since all students at our school are on individualized learning plans, there are also end-of-year exhibitions which are the culmination of the year.  Some students will have a lot to show, some will not.  For some this lack of effort or results will mean that they don’t move up to the next grade, and that lack-of-progress message, may be something new to them.  For some that have natural ability who have not applied themselves or have coasted through school, they were being carried along on the steady tide of our age-graded system, and regular clockwork of yearly promotion.  At our school, what you learned is about your interests (no boredom escape clause) and how far you took that is related to your own goals/motivation/drive (it’s all on the student).  There may be some students that are unaware of these consequences.  There may be some students that are incapable of dealing effectively with these consequences.

As staff, entrusted with these students for a few short hours each day by the state and by the parents/guardians, we feel acutely the shortness of the time.  These next few days are crucial, and will in some cases will result in messages that are painful, but they need to be honest, straightforward, and compassionate.

For me, I ask myself if I have exerted my influence as adult and parent in a significant way for my students this year.  Have I taken chances and risks, which could have caused me to look foolish, but for the sake of the kids, might have meant a real breakthrough?

There may be summer work ahead for some students, to help catch up.  But I worry there too, that for some, our chance at a more significant, life-changing summer activity is also slipping through our fingers.  Students should have summer learning plans that provide some continuation of learning during those months.

But, the end of the year is coming, and to confess, I have *never* liked that.

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)

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