Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trends in Post-Secondary Degrees

In his book "A Whole New Mind", Daniel Pink talks about how "a master of fine arts, an MFA, is now one of the hottest credentials". In fact he goes so far as to call the MFA the new MBA.

Data from the U.S. National Center for Education's Digest of Education Statistics does show a dramatic increase of Visual and Performing Art Bachelor degrees (top blue line) between 1980 and 2005.

Computer Science (green line) appears to be levelling since 2002 and engineering and architecture degrees have remained fairly flat over time.

In looking at trends in MBA and MFA degrees it does not look like Pink's claims have impacted the number of degrees granted in these fields to date. As of 2005, MBA degrees still far outnumber MFA degrees. However, it may be too soon to see the changes that Pink is talking about.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Designing the Sustainable School

In his book "Designing the Sustainable School" Alan Ford provides numerous examples of innovative school building designs that apply the latest stardards in green building design and construction.

Obviously green buildings are better for the environment, but they also tend to be better for the occupants with reduced levels of toxins and chemicals that can cause allergies and asthma. Even more than that I like the idea that Alan proposes in his intro that, "Green schools are also wonderful educational tools in and of themselvers, serving as living laboratories to engage kids in the sciences, building arts, and environmental stewardship".

In addition to sustainability, the designs in this collection employ innovative use of color, light and improving acoustical and visual quality--all elements that have been shown to be more condusive to learning. In fact, in a study done by CABE on the "Value of Good Design", they site research from Georgetown University that improving a school's physical environment had an average increase of 10.9% on overall test scores.

Interestingly, many of the schools in this collection are located in Oregon, Washington and Colorado. There are a few examples from California such as the Berkeley Montessori School and this school design (at left) for L.A. School of the Arts which I like more from the standpoint of interesting and futuristic design than sustainability.

On the sustainability front, I particularly like this design for the Chum Creek Outdoor Education Centre in Australia. Designed for "Earth Education" the centre focuses on hands-on learning and students control the building's heading, cooling and ventilation systems by closing louvers, pulling out awnings, etc. Waste disposal is minimized by on-site treatment that includes composting and a worm farm. This design definitely incorporates the idea of the school as a living laboratory.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Digital Storytelling Challenge

Digital storytelling is a great way for students to gain experience with 21st century skills such as creativity, innovation, communication, critical thinking, media literacy, and technology literacy among others. It is the art of weaving together digital content such as still images, video, voice over and music to create a narrative movie.

In the Davis Digital Storytelling Challenge students create and submit their own digital stories with the chance to win cash prizes of $500, $300, and $100, and also have their work published online at in May 2009.

Participating students sign up for a workshop to get more information about the requirements and process and also need a teacher or parent to sponsor them. The goal is to tell a personal story about an object, a person, an event, or a place that profoundly impacted you or someone you know. The final submissions can be no longer than two minutes total.

This competition is open to K-12 students with three different age levels of competition. Deadline for submission is April 15, 2009. For more information visit the website. For examples, view the the winning digital stories from last year's challenge here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Video Games Can Teach Us About Learning

This video clip is a great interview with Professor James Paul Gee about the the need for education to focus on creativity and innovation, and collaborative problem-solving.

What's really interesting is the example of video games as a learning mechanism and what we could take from that experience to apply to other disciplines. Paul explains that video games come with a built-in assessment mechanism where you get feedback immediately on how you are doing. Playing the game and wanting to improve your ability to play can inspire you to consult the reference guide and the game also provides you with "just in time" learning along the way that you are able to employ immediately.

What Paul proposes in this clip is that we need to look at subjects like chemistry as the "game of chemistry" with rules and a reference guide (a text book) that you use after you've established that you are interested in the topic.

For more on this topic check out his book, "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy" available from

No Child Left Behind is Leaving Kids Behind

There was an article in Tuesday's San Francisco Chronicle about the dismal progress of the No Child Left Behind initiative.

What's shocking is that California now has more than 1,000 schools persistently failing to meet these standards. That's more than any other state!

Schools in this category are now forced to undergo drastic restructuring. However, the study released by the Center for Education Policy, found that there have been few positive results so far from the schools that have gone through the restructuring process. In fact, in many cases there have been negative consequences such as the inability to find new teachers once a school restructures and eliminates existing staff.

It's seems that what's not getting addressed by NCLB is the need for more school funding and more and better-skilled teachers. Without these elements can restructuring be effective? Personally I'm not very optimistic.

For the complete report go to:

Books on my reading list

  • A Whole New Mind
  • Designing the Sustainable School
  • Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning & Creativity
  • Digital Storytelling: A Creator's Guide to Interactive Entertainment
  • How to Grow a School
  • No Homework & Recess All Day
  • The World is Flat