Monday, July 13, 2015

Out $marting the Interactive WhiteBoard. By Kenneth Willers

The transformation to 21st Century instruction is being dominated by the integration of interactive technologies. Over the past few years, classrooms, entire schools and school districts have been investing thousands of dollars into interactive technologies for classroom adoption. The most common device being installed in classrooms all over the globe is the interactive whiteboard.

The instructional benefits of the interactive whiteboard have been well documented and highly praised by many classroom teachers. The ability of a teacher or a student to interact with the classroom whiteboard, to view, manipulate and demonstrate content, to browse the internet with a single tap, to record lessons for web posting and to interact with educational software that engages the student, are all features of the interactive whiteboard that makes its use in the learning environment a valuable tool for 21st Century instruction.

So, why don’t all schools take advantage of this innovative technology? The answer: the prohibitive cost of purchase and installation.

If only there was a way to out$mart the Interactive WhiteBoard and still benefit from its type interactive technology. There is...

The School of the Madeleine recently invested in a tablet device for interactive technology—the iPad. Students and teachers both have the experience of interacting with technology in a manner that is engaging and educationally beneficial. But, this article is not about the is about interactive technology for instructional purposes. Let me explain, how the iPad plays a role.

The iPad presented a wonderful challenge to the Madeleine as we were considering the purchase of interactive whiteboards. With the iPad, did we need an interactive whiteboard? Although the individual student or teacher could interact with a device, the ability to share that experience for instructional purposes with the whole class, like the interactive whiteboard would permit, was eluding us. Once Apple updated the iOS for the iPad and updated their software for the Apple TV these two system enhancements opened up tremendous opportunity.

The iPad in conjunction with Apple TV is able to mirror its device to any monitor or projector that has an HDMI input port. The magical piece of this feature is that the iPad is now able to mirror its screen wirelessly. This capability enables the teacher to display any content or App from anywhere in the classroom. This mirrored image can then be transmitted to a flat panel television connected to Apple TV or projected onto the classroom’s existing whiteboard simply through a projection device connected to Apple TV. Since interaction takes place through the iPad-no interactive whiteboard is needed.

But this is not all, depending on the number of iPads at the teacher’s disposal, this feature creates multiple interactive whiteboards in one classroom. Every teacher and student who is using an iPad, has the ability to project their device and interact with their content via the Apple TV by simply tapping the Airplay button on the iPad. Imagine having the ability to demo something on to the whiteboard via the iPad and then asking students to share their content with the class with a simple tap of a button. No cables, no special software and no need to be up in the front of the classroom. Students can interact and share their content right from their desktops. Now, that is Smart. What else is smart is the cost savings.

Out$marting the Interactive WhiteBoard might mean thinking differently about the type of mobile technology the school invests in for student use. For us at the Madeleine, with the integration of the iPad the need for an interactive whiteboard is diminished. But, the iPad discussion is for another article. 

Running on STEAM

Science Technology Engineering  Art Math

“I can build a computer doing this with Piper.” said one of 7th grade students, “This is so cool!”

Piper, a start-up gaming company, is designing kits that allow students to assemble their working computers and begin their journey into creating lights, motors and DIY hardware. Piper is currently partnering with the Madeleine to bring engineering into the school’s STEM curriculum.

Mr. Willers describes Piper this way, “Think: Erector-Set meets Minecraft. Where you build in the real world and create in the virtual.” 

Mr. Willers met the co-founders of Piper at an EdTech Summit, hosted by BrightBytes (a technology company that measures the impact of technology on learning and education) this fall in SF. At the summit Mr. Willers commented when he saw the kits, “Our students would love this. So many of our students are doing Minecraft anyway, lets bring what they’re doing at home into the learning that’s happening at school.”

Wasn’t too long after, that Piper and the School of the Madeleine formed an innovative partnership. As Willers put it, “Think: Where beta-tester and student engineer become one. One of the parents remarked, “What a great opportunity for students to experience engineering while helping the developers create their product for launch.”

On November 21, 2014 Piper’s founders, Mark Pavlyukovskyy, 23, and Alex Stokes, 24, brought their ‘build-it-yourself ‘ engineering kits to the Madeleine for beta testing with our students. 18 Madeleine students, ranging from 3rd to 8th grade, formed cohorts of three to a kit.  Each cohort embarked on a collaborative and student-directed learning experience with out any instructions or guidance from the founders.

“I was amazed at the engagement levels of the students,” remarked Mr. Nagel, eighth grade teacher.

After the visit, one of the founders, Mark, sent the principal the following e-mail, “Working with your kids at the Madeleine actually really inspired us. Your kids not only completed the entire game level we were testing with them, but gave us really valuable feedback that we are currently incorporating into our platform. We really enjoyed working with you and Ms. Anthony and your children are really blessed to have such enthusiastic mentors.”

The Madeleine continues to partner with TechEd companies and Piper is the latest partnership to date. “If we want our students to thrive in the 21st Century, we have to provide them with opportunities of self-directed learning.” Willers believes, that TechEd companies like Piper, inspire students to own and initiate their own learning while developing the critical thinking skills around engineering concepts. TechEd Teacher, Ms. Anthony observed that, “With no instructions, our 3rd through 8th grade students moved through Piper’s entire sequence of challenges of building circuits and semi-conductors using only Minecraft and the collaboration of their classmates.”

The STEM curriculum at the Madeleine is literally, ‘out of the box teaching.’ “If these type of partnerships continue,” Mr. Willers says, “I’m confident our students will be building computers as part of our curriculum—and that is really cool.”

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Books and Wells

“Once Upon A Time, there was a man who said he wanted to search for deep Wells. Before he set out to seek his desire he thought it would first be wise to consult all the great books that had been written on the subject of deep Wells. The man read many books on where to find Wells and the differences in depth that they possessed. One day while he was strolling casually along engrossed in his reading of Wells he failed to notice a large deep Well right in front of him. When he bumped into the deep Well his book flew from his hands and fell quite far into the deep recesses of the Well. The man quite upset at the loss frantically lowered a near by bucket to retrieve his book but his attempt was in vain. The man went away very sad that he lost he book for he thought, without his book, how could he ever be able to find a deep Well.”

Excerpt From: Willers, Ken. “storyteller.” iBooks. 
This material may be protected by copyright.

Monday, June 1, 2015

My House

My House

by Ken Willers 
Once Upon A Time, there was a poor boy who had nothing he could call his own. He always relied on the generosity of others to live and he hated this dependence. So, as he got older he worked very hard,  saved his money and eventually became a very rich and self-sufficient man.
            Not long after his financial success he built himself a special house. Special because, when completed, his house would possess everything he would ever need and, that way he thought, he would never have to be dependent on anyone ever again. His house was splendid indeed, in fact it was the largest in the village. People from all around marveled at its size and grandeur and yet, wondered how he would afford its maintenance. 
            Remembering his promise never to rely on others again, he cemented his doors shut so he could never leave and he painted pictures over all the windows so no one could ever look in. He was very happy indeed because he thought, now he was self-sufficient.
            Because his house was so big it needed large amounts of electric power and fuel. As a result all the smaller homes in the town began to lose the little power they had to fuel his house. Because his house needed so much water to fill its pools and baths and to care for its plants and fields all the other smaller homes began to lose the little water they had to his large reservoirs. And, because his house needed so much food to last a life time all the other smaller homes in the town had to eat even less because of his needs. 

            As the man sat in his house with its unlimited power, endless water and ample food supply he thought to himself, “How Happy I am! Happy, because with MY HOUSE I will never ever have to take anything from anyone or be dependent on anyone ever again.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reflections on Mothers Day

LaVerne Antoinette Willers - October 29, 1939 - April 17, 2015
― Erma Bombeck once wrote:
“When your mother asks, "Do you want a piece of advice?" it's a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway.” 
My mom had another way of saying it…
she’d usually start out with something like, 
“Don’t get mad, but …”
and then she’d tell us what she felt we needed hear.
Speaking the truth.
Now, maybe it was my mother’s truth
—but, she loved us enough to tell us
…even if she thought it may not be easy to hear. 
My mom lived a life confronted by truth.
And I think
that is why she felt compelled to speak it. 
When I was 14 I wanted to understand my parents.
I wanted to know their truth.
So, I found a book called “Passages” it was about mid-life crisis. I thought what better way to figure out what was ‘wrong’ with my parents. 
That book truly influenced me because it challenged me to step out of my self
and reflect on mom and dad and their life journey.
It was an amazing journey into their truth.
At the age of 10
my mom and her little brother
lost their mother.
6 years later
they would lose their father as well.
I always wondered what impact this truth regarding life and death had my mom.
Perhaps it was this source of truth that
allowed my mom to have intimate bonds with her children and grandchildren
without clinging or feeling the need to hold on to them.
In June of her 18th year my mom and dad got married.
The truth of her love for my father,
although only in its infant stages then,
would bear itself out over 55 years.
A truth which transformed two individuals,
two I’s into a WE. 
I remember when little
asking her why we had to have a baby sitter?
My mom didn’t hesitate for moment,
“Your father and I,” she would say.
“We married each other, not you, and we going out.”
What an amazing truth about the love between a husband and wife. 
At the age of 28 my mom was facing medical bills
and the desire to send her children to Catholic school
—the year was 1967.
My mom was about to confront another truth-- 
being a woman-a mother
and needing to enter the workforce to support her family.
Taking the graveyard shift
so she could be home with us during the day. 
I remember many mornings before going to school,
entering into the bedroom where she was sleeping
and quietly trying to take a dollar or so from her wallet for lunch…
and my mom
would without opening an eye would say,
“Is that enough? Take what you need.” 
Providing for our needs. 
This truth of self-sacrifice and generosity
is one of mom’s most humbling truth.
If my mom was hosting a dinner or an event—
she would cover the entire costs
and would never even think it should be any different. 
After eating a meal at Joe’s of Westlake or at Nick’s of Rock-away—
she would always leave a generous tip for the server
and for the bus boy—
not to mention the tip she had already left for the bartenders. 
This source of generosity does not come from abundance,
but rather stems from the truth of living a life of self-sacrifice. 
At the age 40,
after 20 years of marriage
my mom revealed another truth about life and love with my father-
But this truth was not without challenge. 
At 18 I decided I was going to enter the seminary.
My mom was not happy.
“Why?” she would ask.
Once the dramatics were over, however,
she took me out to breakfast,
I think at the 'Doctors,' on Mission street
and she said the following:
“I don’t know why you want to be priest,
but that’s what you want and I want you to be happy.
But, if you really want it, you will fight for it.
There will be days you hate it,
and days you’ll want to walk away
…that is when you’ll have to fight to keep it.”
Then she said something to me I’ll never forget,
“I love your father, but it wasn’t always easy
—I loved your father so much
that I was willing to fight to keep him
and he fought to keep me.” 
Now, if any you knew my parents…
and were around them for any length of time…
you probably heard them fight.
But no one could deny how fiercely
and how strongly they loved each other.
What an insightful truth for anyone in a relationship. 
Which brings me to October 2013,
my mom is 8 days away from turning 74,
she has been receiving dialysis treatment
for the past 5 years due to kidney failure
and the man she has been married to for 55 years passes away. 
My mom’s physical frailty
is now crushed by the truth of a broken heart. 
A few weeks after
I recall calling my mom
or perhaps she called me as she was known to do.
Asking her, how she was doing. 
She simply said,
“The hardest thing for me is being alone.
Now, when I come home from dialysis,
there is no one waiting for me.”
Talk about a powerful truth.
“Mom, dad has been waiting you—
but the truth now
is that dad no longer has to wait-
you’re home .” 
you lived a life that taught your children three undeniable truths:
to love unconditionally –
to give graciously –
and to live fearlessly.
Mom, your truths will live on is us—I promise
in your children-me, Eddie and Debbie.
They will live on in your grandchildren, Jenny, Benny and Michelle
and in great-grand daughter Jada. 
Mom, your truths will also be carried on by all who knew and loved you. 
Happy Mother's Day, mom. God Bless!
Love you mom--Kenny, Debbie and Eddie

Monday, April 6, 2015

NCEA Convention Session: Proclaiming Your Mission and Creating an Annual Report

A charism is a living gift, a breath of the creator Spirit at the service of a dynamic history that is never simple repetition of the past.                                
-The Holy Family of Bordeaux

A Catholic School’s Mission is ‘incarnated,’ so to speak, within the ‘message’ of a Faith Community’s charism and is brought to life when the story and the traditions of that community are intentionally celebrated and proclaimed.

The School of the Madeleine’s Advisory Board and Parent community took an innovative and bold ‘marketing’ step, this past school year, when they became convinced to start proclaiming the school’s Mission and to stop merely producing promotional materials. As a result of this vision the parent leadership brought to life the ‘story and the traditions’ of the Madeleine’s Catholic Mission and has attracted many new families to community.

How? By publishing an Annual Report that embodies the school’s Mission and Charism.

The argument might be raised that annual reports have been around for quite awhile and therefore not particularly innovative. Yet, the Annual Report, the Madeleine is modeling for Catholic Schools, is very innovative. In fact, the leadership of the Madeleine has been asked to provide seminars to other Dioceses and has even facilitated workshops for the national convention of the NCEA on how to create an Annual Report for Catholic elementary schools, modeled after the Annual Report created for the Madeleine.

Why? The Annual Report modeled here captures the Mission of Catholic education and encapsulates it into an educative message framed by a single school year.  The Annual Report becomes the vehicle of proclamation, by highlighting how the school lived its Mission in the following areas: Catholic Identity, Founding Charism, Educational Significance, Parochial/Communal Service and Responsible Stewardship.   The Annual Report, then, celebrates the school’s commitment to Catholic education and shares that message of success with all its stakeholders as well as potential enrolling families. 

Just as the school’s Mission is ‘incarnated’ within our message, so to is our Mission alive in our annual symbol and theme. The image of the child reaching toward the star with the theme “From Vision to Reality” permeates the Annual Report for 2010-2011.

And although inspiring, that symbol and theme for 2011 was replaced with that of beautiful butterfly with the caption “Trust Your Source: Listen, Believe and Emerge” for 2012. In 2013, the symbol was that of Phoenix with the theme "Rise Above: Let Go • Break Through." This year our reflective statement is: Stand! Out-Together-Strong with our symbol of the Star. 

Each year the Mission of the school finds the best way to incarnate its message. The Madeleine empowers those who have been at the school the longest and who have experienced the Mission the deepest to be the ones to help create and fashion the symbol and theme—the students. As the class of 2014 entered into their final year, the class shared how they needed to grow and what they hoped to take with them as graduates.  The symbol and theme they generated reminds them of, this, their yearlong journey.

The graduating class then offers their symbol and theme to the whole educational community as point of reflection and this becomes their parting gift to the student body, the families and the staff. As a result of this innovative approach, the cover the Annual Report is a direct result of the graduating class. The same process will be done for our class of 2015 whose symbol and theme have yet to be realized.

Clearly the Mission and the Message are alive in the Annual Report. Therefore, what better tool to proclaim and to promote our Mission and our School? As a result, the Annual Report now replaces all ‘promotional’ materials. The cost to produce flyers, folders, brochures and other items is now focused on proclaiming our Mission. As marketing costs were reduced so to was our use of paper and the waste of disposing of out dated materials.

Now, when a family visits the school rather than leaving with ‘reams’ of promotional and informational documents, they leave with our beautiful Annual Report and customized flash drive (attached to a student created key chain) that contains all the forms and information needed to apply to the Madeleine electronically, if desired. More importantly, now all our visitors, family members, and stakeholders, as a result of our Annual Report, have the opportunity to carry, hold and embrace our Mission.

Yes, our Catholic School’s Mission is ‘incarnated,’ and brought to life because the story and the traditions of our Catholic School community are intentionally celebrated and proclaimed through the innovative process of creating and publishing our Annual Report.

To view the full report click here: 2013-2014 Annual Report or download the template of the Annual Report please from Dropbox. For a WORD.docx contact me at

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Minecraft - The Madeleine & EdTech

As thousands of video game developers pour into San Francisco for the annual Game Developers Conference, your school-age kids may have only one game on their minds -- Minecraft. The game is a global phenomenon. And now, an educational startup is using it to help inspire the inventors and game developers of tomorrow.

What could possibly have all so many kids anxiously staring at one screen? Maybe you've heard of it. It's a game called Minecraft.

When asked what Minecraft is, School of the Madeleine Principal Ken Willers said, "I don't know if i can explain it! Actually, if we call over one of the kids, I'll let them explain it."

"Minecraft is just very addicting because you can do whatever you want," said fifth-grader Aiden Kress.

Fellow fifth-grader Walter Acevedo added, "You can build massive structures and it's pretty much, you just let your mind create."

It's a virtual world that's been taking the real world by storm. Mark Pavlyukovskyy collided with it while developing a kit to teach electronics.

"We were testing our kits all over the world," he said. "And kids were always asking us, you know, 'Can we play Minecraft on this?'"

Well, now you can.

The $150 kit is called Piper. Kids build a machine that plays Minecraft, and have to build new parts for it to complete each level.

They build the buttons and switches virtually first.

School of the Madeleine students play with Piper in Berkeley, Calif. on March 2, 2015.

Then build them in the real world and use them to control the game.

"It gets you really excited when you put all the parts together and when you're done and it's starting to load," said student Sophia Curry.

Pavlyukovskyy wanted to teach kids that the gadgets they know and love aren't that mystical after all.

"It's something that you can take apart, you put together, and it's actually something that you can do yourself, right now," he said. "And that's a very empowering thought that we want to give kids."

Piper's creators were hoping to build a more productive way for kids to play Minecraft at home. But at least at this school, it may have found a home right here in the classroom.

"The first thing I saw was absolute engagement," Willers said. "I saw kids who immediately turned toward this box and were engaged."

At Berkeley's School of the Madeleine, Piper could become part of a tech class where they already teach kids to code.

At the launch party, kids got to video chat with Pavlyukovskyy's co-founder, Shree Bose.

"It's really a platform to get a lot of kids excited in engineering that wouldn't be otherwise," she said.

Shree's a junior at Harvard, and dreams of building a college version of Piper someday.

But first they have to fund this one. They're raising money on Kickstarter through April 3.