Those educators fortunate enough to attend Constructing Modern Knowledge 2013 will be greeted by an amazing faculty, world-class guest speakers, a mountain of LEGO, a plethora of electronics, piles of art supplies, a fully stocked library, assorted toys, tools and countless other objects to think with.

The goal is to have anything a learner might need within reach of every CMK participant.

In addition to ordering tons of microcontrollers, electronics kits and components from Sparkfun, Adafruit Industries, and Chinese LED sellers, the following is a sampling of the “stuff” one will find at the greatest professional learning event of the year.

It’s not too late to register!


Invent To Learn – Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroomby Sylvia Martinez and Gary S. Stager. 

The first book to capture the tools and energy of the maker movement for K-12 classrooms. (Kindle & print editions)


Afinia 3D Printer H-Series
$1,599This entry-level 3D printer has received stellar reviews.

Books by CMK 2013 Guest Speaker Deborah Meier

Books by CMK 2013 Guest Speaker Eleanor Duckworth

I Walked With Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath
$32.32

 

The autobiography of our legendary Guest Speaker, NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath


Brotherly Jazz(DVD) $18.99A musical documentary on Jimmy Heath & The Heath Brothers

 

Endurance
$14.99

 

The most recent recording by the Heath Brothers


Jazz Master Class Series from NYU: Jimmy and Percy Heath DVD
$17.96

In The Element
$16.98CD or MP3 

The debut recording by CMK 2013 Guest Speaker Emmet Cohen


The KnowHow Book of Spycraft
$6Lots of secret codes, tricks and disguises!

Visible Learners: Promoting Reggio-Inspired Approaches in All Schools
$21.36

The New American High School by Ted Sizer, Nancy Faust Sizer and Deborah Meier
$17.98″The late Theodore Sizer’s vision for a truly democratic public high school system.”

SunFounder 37 modules Arduino Sensor Kit for Arduino
$69.99This new 37 Modules Sensor Kit provides all kinds of funny and completed moduels for Arduino fans. These modules will output valuable signals directly by connecting Arduino boards. It is extremely easy for Arduino fancier to control and use these modules. This kit will help you control the physical world with sensors.

Ultrasonic Module HC-SR04 Distance Sensor For Arduino $5.18

Zoom Q2HD Handy HD Video Recorder
$179.99

Kodak PlaySport (Zx5) HD Waterproof Pocket Video Camera
$129I’ve lost several of these, one of my favorite cameras for little kids and shooting an hour of video on a charge.

GoPro HERO3: Black Edition
$399.99Gotta have it to capture all the fast-paced action!

Wacom Bamboo Splash Pen Tablet
$64Great low-cost drawing/painting tablet.

Akai Pro LPK25 25-Key Ultra-Portable USB MIDI Keyboard Controller for Laptops
$47.99

Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music
$13.50One of the best books about teaching and education reform I’ve read in many years!

microtivity IL185 5mm Assorted Diffused LED w/ Resistors (5 Colors, Pack of 50)
$8.99You can never have too many LEDs. We have thousands of them for all sorts of uses in Constructing Modern Knowledge and our new Invent To Learn workshops!

Post-it Self-Stick Easel Pad, 25 x 30.5 Inches, 30-Sheet Pad (2 Pack) $44.88

Hacking Electronics: An Illustrated DIY Guide for Makers and Hobbyists
$23.86The reference tool I’ve been waiting for!

Beaglebone Black Devkit
$45The new competitor to the Raspberry Pi in the sub-$50 computer market.

Raspberry Pi Model B Revision 2.0
$43.99The latest version of the Raspberry Pi computer.

Edimax EW-7811Un 150 Mbps Wireless 11n Nano Size USB Adapter with EZmax Setup Wizard
$10.97WiFi for the Beaglebone or Raspberry Pi

The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide (Now in Color!)
$18.51Indispensible!

microtivity IM255 Assorted Switches (Pack of 15)
$9.49

101 Things I Learned in Film School
$11.26An amazing little book!

Extech MN35 Digital Mini MultiMeter
$19.43You need a multimeter if electronics projects are underway.

IOGEAR 12-in-1 USB 2.0 Pocket Flash Memory Card Reader/Writer GFR209 (Green)
$7.99

Avantree Pluto Air Mini Portable Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker for Mobile/Tablet with Carrying Pouch
$29.99

On Stage CM01 Video Camera/Digital Recorder Adapter $9.95Turn a mic stand into a tripod!

ePhoto T69green/bag Continuous Lighting Green Screen Studio Kit with Carrying Bag with 6×9 Feet Chroma key Green Screen, 2 7 Foot Light Stands with 45W 5500k Bulbs and 2 32-Inch White Umbrellas
$129.99A complete inexpensive green screen studio in a bag!

Lexar Professional 400x 32GB SDHC UHS-I Flash Memory Card
$32.95My #1 camera needs some really big fast RAM.

Moby Dick: A BabyLit Ocean Primer [Board Book]
$8.99Moby Dick for pre-readers! 

Be sure to check out the rest of the series of “board books for brilliant babies!


SanDisk SDSDU-064G-A11 64GB Ultra SDXC UHS-I Card 30MB/s
$38My Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone projects might need a lot of RAM

Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder
$16.23

Photo Tent Table Top Studio Light Photography Soft Box Kit – Size 19.5-Inch Cube
$31Essential for stop-action animation projects and close-up photography. 

Everything folds up into a carrying case!


Behringer Ultravoice Xm8500 Dynamic Cardioid Vocal Microphone
$24.99A good quality all-purpose microphone.

Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion Project DVD
$15.85One genius controls an entire robot orchestra with a guitar!

The Little Rascals: The Complete Collection
$44.17Kids have always made stuff. The difference between the Little Rascals and the maker movement is computation.

Arduino Wearables $26.27

ProtoSnap – LilyPad Development Board
$59A brilliant way to get started with e-textiles! 

This set contains everything you need for simple wearable computing projects.


Epson POWERLITE 93 Plus 2600 Lumens XGA LCD Projector  

CMK needed a new projector!


Roland Cube Monitor / PA
$195A fantastic portable amplifier and mixer.

Bare Conductive ink Greeting Card Kit
$24.95Make interactive electronic greeting cards out of paper! A classroom set for 30 kids is available for $90.

Bare Conductive Paint and Conductive Paint Pens  

Paint and markers for paper-based circuits.


Copper Foil Tape (Conductive Adhesive): 1/4 in. x 36 yds
$17.91Conductive tape for all sorts of projects

Lots of inexpensive bulk LEDs 

50 PCS Blue LED Electronics 5mm $4.77

 

50 PCS White LED Electronics 5mm Ultra Bright $4.77

 

5mm Assorted Clear LED w/ Resistors (6 Colors, Pack of 60) $6.21

 

50 pcs RGB Full Multi color Flashing 5 mm LEDs $5.77


Makedo FreePlay Kit For One
$15.30 (larger sets are also available)

Wicked cool reusable connectors, hinges and child-safe saws for building cardboard constructions.


Rolobox Reuseable Wheel Kit for Boxes $13.95Wheel sets for cardboard boxes. You need these with Makedo!

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun
$15.67A zillion high and low-tech project ideas and suggestions for amusing yourself.

Super Scratch Programming Adventure!: Learn to Program By Making Cool Games
$13.92A full-color project book for learning Scratch programming. It even includes a chapter on using the external Picoboard!

The Big Book of Hacks: 264 Amazing DIY Tech Projects
$16.25Really cool and beautifully photographed tech projects ideas for kids and adults alike.

Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families $13.59 

The latest addition to the three book Geek Dad series for girls, their moms (plus teachers, brothers and fathers)


The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide
$18.97A new full-color guide to building machines out of LEGO Technic! Mechanical principles are explained clearly.

Make: LEGO and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics
$19.75

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution$13.98 

This recent book about the Maker revolution is by the former editor of Wired Magazine.

 

However, Neil Gershenfeld’s seminal book, Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication, does a better job of covering the “maker” revolution despite having been published in 2005.


Big Trak
$60 – 70My late friend, Steve Ocko, invented this programmable floor turtle (robot) for Milton Bradley in 1979. There has never been a more powerful easy-to-use robot available for kids since.The good news is that some lunatic bought the rights to the Big Trak and is manufacturing new ones 30+ years later.Kids from 5+ will play and learn with Big Trak for ages.

Makey Makey
$49.95 – $59.95There’s no adequate way to explain Makey Makey, “the invention kit for everyone,” but you need to own at least one of them!Learn more here.

LEGO WeDo
$129.95An early-childhood robotics construction kit that may be controlled via Scratch.

Sugru
various pricesMiraculous shapeable air-cured rubber, because “the future needs fixing!

Amazing book!Highly recommended! The Cryptoclub: Using Mathematics to Make and Break Secret Codes
$36.24 (and worth it!)This fantastic book makes real mathematics come alive for kids (and teachers) grades 5 and up through the exploration of cryptography. There is plenty to keep you busy for years within this book.

New York Street Games
$14.83A star-studded documentary chronicling the dizzying variety of street games invented and played in New York City, as well as the life lessons learned playing them.This DVD should inspire a great deal of play and creative “research” projects among young people.
The DVD

The book New York City Street Games
$14.95A terrific print guide to playing classic games including: Kings, Skellzies, Potsie, Stick Ball and Hit the Penny.The book even comes with bottlecaps, sidewalk chalk and a “spaldeen.”

Photojojo!: Insanely Great Photo Projects and DIY Ideas
$14.66This book is filled with insanely creative ways to turn your photographs into amazing products and crazy ways to capture photographs you won’t believe. Fun for the whole family!
Check out the exciting description of projects and photo techniques included in this unique book.

I love love love these LEGO construction books! Yoshihito Isogawa’s three magnifcent wordless books of LEGO Technic project ideas are like the holy books of LEGO construction. There are enough ideas contained within to keep you building for years!The LEGO Technic Idea Book – Fantastic Contraptions 

The LEGO Technic Idea Book – Wheeled Wonders

 

The LEGO Technic Idea Book – Simple Machines

 

$12-14 each


Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth
$7.98Legendary educator and education author, Herb Kohl’s beautiful meditation on life, teaching, learning, art and aging. 

This is one of my all-time favorite books. It makes a lovely inspirational gift for the artist or educator in your life.

For grown-ups

I’m in this book, along with Phillip-Seymour Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez, Bill T. Jones, Bill Ayers, Deborah Meiers, Lisa Delpit, Maxine Greene, Diane Ravitch and many others. The Muses Go to School: Inspiring Stories About the Importance of Arts in Education
$20.06Herb Kohl & Tom Oppenheim interviewed some of today’s most prominent artists about the educational experiences that led them to their creativity and then leading educators responded to each interview.

Surely, You’re Joking Mr. Feynman (Adventures of a Curious Character)
$10.85The first magnificent memoir by this Nobel-Prize winning physicist, raconteur and tinkerer. This is a must-read for anyone over twelve years of age. 

 

Feynman
$19.04

 

A fine biography in graphic-novel format. Appropriate for teens.

Books by and about the ultimate tinkerer and scientist

For the frustrated parents of young tinkerers Not With Our Kids You Don’t! Ten Strategies to Save Our Schools
$18.69Parent activist Juanita Doyon offers practical advice for protecting your kids from destructive school policies like standardized testing.

Read out latest newsletter for creative educators. There you will find other book reviews and recommendations for stimulating learning adventures!


Add your email address to our mailing list for updates on CMK and for information on the forthcoming Los Angeles Education Speaker Series!

 

Articles

  1. Alfie Kohn’s, “How Children’s Play is being Sneakily Redefined.” (terrific article – will inspire provocative discussion)
  2. Hard Fun” a newspaper column by Seymour Papert. (high priority read)
  3. Does Easy Do It? Children, Games, and Learning ,” Seymour Papert’s exploration of gaming, fun and learning.
  4. Vivian Paley, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play,” profile from This American Life. (12 minutes – audio)
  5. The Journal of Play
  6. I Wonder…” 2008 short article by Deborah Meier
  7. What Happened to Play?” 2006 short article by Deborah Meier
  8. Tinkering Resources compiled by Constructing Modern Knowledge

Books (click on author’s name for other books)

You Can’t Say You Can’t Play by Vivian Paley

Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground by Deborah Meier, Brenda S. Engel and and Beth Taylor

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by M.D., Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan

What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? by Susan Ohanian – Susan Ohanian’s web site

I’m in the Sierra Mountains skiing where the altitude has replaced sleeping with hallucinating.

So, unable to sleep, I read Will Richardson’s latest blog post at 4AM. Will expands upon a blog post by David Weinberger in which Weinberger asks breathlessly,

“Why did the world shatter at the touch of a hyperlink?”

Weinberger is a Web philosopher, so one can expect that in his world view, the universe is made of “the Web.” It is the answer to every question. He also makes the mistake (IMHO) in believing that human behavior, culture and institutions may be reduced to information access.

Weinberger, admittedly one of the smarter “Web philosophers,” nonetheless uses the bits vs. atoms analogy first expressed by Nicholas Negroponte in his 1996 book, Being Digital, not to predict technological innovation, but in order to paint a dystopian vision of the present in which “every discipline” is now “a fiction.”

Will Richardson expands on Weinberger’s theme and writes the following:

“And I’m wondering, deep down, have we known all along that this idea of an “education” was really a fiction, something we created out of necessity with the implicit understanding that in a world limited by atoms, it was never really the end all, be all, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances? And if we didn’t know that, can we admit that now?

The circumstances have changed. We’re no longer constrained by atoms. For 125 years we’ve been making the learning world small, and now the world is all of a sudden big…huge. All of a sudden, the walls have been obliterated. Learning is unbound, and “an education” is next.”

I fully appreciate Will’s impatience with the educational landscape, but I think I disagree with his thesis.

There was no omnipotent power forcing us to make learning small. Besides, some pretty great freakin’ stuff was invented over the past 125 years – including the World Wide Web. Diseases were eradicated and great social movements triumphed. The past century gave us Dewey, Patri, Papert, Malaguzzi, Piaget, Kohl, Kozol, Kohn, Sizer, Littky, Meier, Holt, Postman and countless others who reinvented education.

The 1826 book, “Last of the Mohicans,” was the most popular book in America at the time of its publication, but is barely readable by literate Americans today. 100-110 years ago, millions of Americans could read and play Ragtime sheet music on their piano. That feat surely “atomizes” the ability of a lot fewer people to demonstrate a whole lot less talent with a much simpler instrument like Garageband today.

We might turn President Obama’s recent proclamation, “We do big things,” into the question, “We do big things?

It’s weird playing the role of the conservative, but isn’t there a hell of a lot we (all) can do to make schools more productive contexts for learning? Can’t we teach interesting things in meaningful ways? Can’t we develop genuine expertise and share it with our peers and the next generation? Can’t we be receptive to the intentions of young people and learn from them – if not skills and facts, perhaps intensity?

It seems to me that the “blow up the past,” “extinguish everything that brought us here (good and bad)” stuff is really a cheap parlor trick – pure rhetoric.

Kids may discover how to play with a cello on the Web, but they’ll never become a cellist that way. We see how well factual knowledge is obtained when half of America is sympathetic to birtherism. We live in a society where most Caucasians don’t know someone of a different race, yet we embrace the “diversity of the blogosphere,” which is less diverse than a public bus. How does culture sustain itself and progress? Democracy?

So many questions…

Why do we congratulate ourselves for using Skype? Why do we limit children’s computing to keyboarding instruction, Internet research or burping into VoiceThread? Is nothing fixable? Do we need 21st Century skills to supplant time-honored intellectual processes?

Why do we so lack the capacity for self-correction. Why is it safer and more comfortable to behave in a way contrary to the interests of ourselves and the kids we are supposed to serve? Why has the slightest act of disobedience against the curriculum or administrative edict taken on biblical significance? What’s wrong with US?

Who can we trust to invent a future when so few of us have the courage to teach as well as we were instructed the first night of teacher-ed? The only reason for despair is if we are truly “the change we’ve been waiting for.”


If you’re interested in learning more from the wisdom of our predecessors about how to “educate” better, check out this collection of books provided by The Constructivist Consortium.

You should also check out The Daily Papert and Constructing Modern Knowledge!

I just read with horror that Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emmanuel has appointed Rochester, NY schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard to be the new Cathie Black of the Chicago Public Schools (the nation’s 2nd largest school district). This continues FOO’s (friends of Obama) full-scale assault on public education and teacher unions begun months before President Obama was even elected.

Apparently, large city schools superintendent is the only job for which references are not checked.

Jean-Claude Brizard is an Eli Broad disciple whose singular genius was creating in-school suspensions where kids waste time doing nothing in school, rather than outside of school. (video news report here) That’s some reform!

Since coming to Rochester in January 2008, Brizard has pushed for his own brand of reform: instituting a contentious in-school suspension policy, and moving problematic teachers out of classrooms into what some New York City teachers call “rubber rooms.” (Rochester City Newspaper – March 17, 2010)

In February, more than 95% of Rochester teachers voted no-confidence in Brizard. Now that’s quite a recommendation and cause for a promotion!

Just like Rahm Emmanuel used the “punch a hippie” strategy while in the Obama White House, his appointment of Brizard is a form of “punch a teacher.”

In an April 19, 2011 article Chicago Tribune article “Our Kind of Guy to Lead Chicago Schools,” they write the following about Brizard.

Can Rochester, N.Y., superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard pad a payroll? Skirt the rules? Spend frivolously? Distort statistics to make himself look good? Infuriate his constituents with a high-handed style?
Check, check, check, check and check.

Mike Klonsky has done some fine writing on the Brizard appointment and Rochester, NY television station WHAM 13 (ABC affiliate) reporter, Rachel Barnhart, has assembled an indispensable collection of articles about Brizard’s record in Rochester, so you may fact-check his record for yourself. It is too bad that Mayor-elect Emmanuel did not heed the advice of George W. Bush and “use the Google” before subjecting Chicago school children to Jean-Claude Brizard.

I wrote the following about Brizard in 2008 for my Good Magazine cover story, School Wars. Alas, it was cut from the article.

Where do they grow these guys?

The new Superintendent of the Rochester, NY Public Schools, Jean Claude-Brizard, has a dream. He wants to create “Dream Schools” in his urban school district. Here is how the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle News described his dream.

…the plan calls for bundling troubled schools together in a special group to be called “Dream Schools.”

Those schools would be mandated to teach a uniform curriculum, devote longer blocks of time to math and reading, offer after-school tutoring — and face closure if they fail to improve over time. Schools would be selected for the distinction based on state test scores.

“We are going to put them in a box and tell them what they need to do to get better,” Brizard said. “After intense intervention, if there is no improvement, guess what? We’ll shut them down.”

The Democrat and Chronicle news article later reports, with no sense whatsoever of irony of contradiction that new Superintendent Brizard’s plan, “would both strengthen and relax centralized control of schools.”

Right, you have all the freedom you want at the local school-level to treat teachers like robots and teach a standardized curriculum!

A few weeks later, Superintendent Brizard announced his plan to spend $1.2 million to save the Reading First program in Rochester. The announcement was made the very same week that the US Government declared that Reading First didn’t teach children to read.

As I read the news I could not help wondering to myself, “Where do they grow people who think like that?” The answer is simple. You learn that ideology trumps even common sense at the Broad Academy, an intensive program in which future school leaders are trained to think like their mentor Eli Broad.

In September 2008, District Administration Magazine published an article I wrote in which I explored how Jean-Claude Brizard appeared reality-impaired and driven by ideology. The text of that article follows:

Who Ya Gonna Believe? (2008)

The ongoing battle between facts and mythology

It has long been accepted that good teaching requires a mixture of art and science. Outstanding teachers possess a solid knowledge of learning theory, human development. That content knowledge is brought to life by personal gifts, creativity and craft. Sadly, education news stories suffer from a lack of critical analysis or follow-up questions and educators too often justify questionable practices on the basis of personal beliefs, even when such beliefs are contradicted by evidence.

There is perhaps no greater educational battleground in the fight between ideology and fact than reading instruction. In fact, No Child Left Behind went to great lengths to redefine “science” when it insisted that every classroom practice adhere to “scientifically-based research” to the exclusion of evidence that interfered with their belief system. The underlying assumption of NCLB’s Reading First program was that every child learns to read through a program of “highly structured, systematic sequential explicit phonics instruction.” Research and common sense challenges that belief system.

First of all, not everyone learns everything the same way. Second, if the only way to learn to read is this form of alphabet sound connection, how does one explain the billions of people who read languages such as Chinese or Hebrew that don’t have such written language systems? How do deaf people read?

The Department of Education’s May 2008 report on the efficacy of Reading First concluded, “Reading First did not improve students’ reading comprehension.” Wow! That’s fairly unambiguous. The creators, funders and enforcers of a national reading initiative announced that it did not work. Surely, a reading method that failed to improve comprehension would be tossed on the dustbin of history, right? Not so fast.

Let the spinning begin. “On the plus side, researchers found that Reading First teachers spent more time emphasizing phonics and other aspects of what many experts consider solid instruction — about 10 minutes more a day, or nearly an hour more a week. “Teachers’ behavior was changed,” Institute of Education Sciences Director Whitehurst says.

Fantastic! Teachers are spending more time doing what doesn’t work. Just as the program was declared ineffective and long since its corruption was made public, Rochester, NY Schools Superintendent Jean Claude-Brizard, proposed to spend $1.2 million dollars of local funds to “save” Reading First in his district. Truth makes some educators emotional. The Arizona Republic recently wrote about educators who “mourn” the passing of Reading First. Barbara Wright of the Casa Grande Elementary District told the paper, “This was good, solid, research-based information, and we implemented it in all our schools at the time, even though only two schools were funded.” She said that despite the probable death of the ineffective program that it will “continue to guide the district’s reading program.” I’m sorry, you should not be allowed to claim something is solid or research-based when it has been proven ineffective. Such claims are not scientific. They are religious.

It’s not just reading

In the April 2008 issue of District Administration, Long Beach California Superintendent, Christopher Steinhauser, proudly boasts of his use of grade retention. The Broad Foundation even rewarded him for it. Like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Jeb Bush, Steinhauser embraces making students repeat a grade as an effective policy tool in the face of an overwhelming mountain of evidence that it does more harm than good.

Other professions have a term for when you put your personal belief ahead of facts – malpractice.

Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Joe Biden have often said, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” This is excellent advice for educators who continue to eliminate recess, impose zero tolerance policies, cut arts programs, maintain agrarian school starting times, “teach algebra” at younger and younger grades and spend months each year testing or preparing students to take high-stakes tests. Conventional wisdom too often goes unchallenged and ineffective practices become myths. These practices are justified by personal beliefs.

The great philosopher Stevie Wonder reminds us, “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.” In education, adult superstitions cause children to suffer.

Published originally in the September 2008 issue of District Administration Magazine.

Gary S. Stager is Senior Editor of District Administration and Editor of The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate.

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