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Laptop Program Showcase a Success!

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The Laptop Program Showcase was a great success with a strong turnout of interested parents and students. Demonstrations of technology use in the curriculum were provided by many disciplines including Science, English, Media Arts, Computer Science, History, Music, and the Teaching and Learning Center. Parents and students had the opportunity to ask questions of both faculty and the IT Team. 

For more information about Catlin Gabel Upper School Laptop Program visit our Laptop Program Page.

Laptop Program Showcase and Technology Fair

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Wednesday, May 16, 5 - 7 pm

If you have questions about the 1:1 laptop program in the Upper School, please stop by the our Laptop Program Showcase and Technology Fair. Teachers from many of the disciplines will be demonstrating how they use technology to enhance their classroom learning goals. Our award winning Upper School robotics team the Flaming Chickens will be putting their robots through their paces. Information Technology Staff will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about selecting or ordering a laptop through the school. 

The format for the Laptop Program Showcase is open house, so please stop by the Upper School library anytime between 5 - 7 pm. has additional information about this event. We hope to see you there.

Crash Plan Pro Selected for Faculty/Staff Backup Solution

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Getting regular, reliable, and restorable back ups for faculty and staff has always been problematic. In the past we trained users to manually backup their important files to our servers. Although we provided training and file space, this was less than successful. Users usually had one or two good backups but they were always out-of-date when a hard drive decided to crash.

We then moved to automated backups using a script and robocopy on the Windows side and iBackup on the Mac side. While these methods have improved things significantly we still found that there were many things that could go wrong with the backup including halting on a corrupt file, not finishing or restarting after user intervention, the inability to backup Outlook/Entourage archives and to backup off campus, and difficulty mounting the server so that the backup could begin.
After researching several options and testing a few, we have landed on Crash Plan Proe as our backup solution for faculty and staff. We tested the solution with users who had a large amount of files (50 GB), users with large Outlook/Entourage files (archives), and we had users interrupt the backup and backup from off campus. All our tests were successful and we feel confident adopting this solution beginning this summer.
Crash Plan Proe offers a central monitoring console for so we can see all of user’s last backup dates and when they were successful. We can also see errors if they occur and can proactively work with the user to correct the problem. If there is a loss of data, end users can restore their own backups on or off campus and be up and running without the intervention of IT.  We look forward to reduced data loss with Crash Plan Pro and to rolling out an enterprise-level product that meets the needs of our users.

Major Sophos Anti-Virus Update May 2012

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Sophos, the Anti-Virus software packaged installed on all desktops and laptops at Catlin Gabel will be significantly upgrading its software sometime in May. The new update will be approximately 85 MB in size and will require a reboot. Please plan on a longer download time for the update and a prompt to reboot your machine once the new software is installed. If you encounter any problems with this new upgrade, please email tech support at or stop by the IT Office in Vollum. For more information from Sophos on this update, please see

Catlin Gabel co-founds online academy

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New initiative expands student opportunity

Catlin Gabel has helped found a new nonprofit organization called the Global Online Academy (GOA), a consortium of ten leading independent day schools that will offer online high school courses beginning this fall. We are honored that our own PLACE urban studies class, taught by George Zaninovich, has been selected as one of the five inaugural courses. Lakeside School in Seattle led the effort to found the academy and will hire the director.

Students may choose to take an online class to pursue academic study in a subject that we do not offer, to study with students from other parts of the country and the world, or to experience a format of instruction that they are likely to encounter in the future.

We will explore the potential for online learning in a Catlin Gabel education, while investing modest resources and enrolling only a handful of students at first. Upper School department chairs will determine student eligibility requirements and course credit policies. We expect the academy to grow quickly, as new member schools join and more students enroll in classes.

Catlin Gabel will play a special role in the online academy by demonstrating our brand of experiential education, which we have honed over decades. “Learning through experience” may form the foundation of the best quality of online instruction.

Founding schools
Albuquerque Academy | Albuquerque, NM
Catlin Gabel School | Portland, Oregon
Cranbrook Schools | Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
The Dalton School | New York, New York
Germantown Friends School | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Head-Royce School | Oakland, California
King's Academy | Madaba-Manja, Jordan
Lakeside School | Seattle, Washington
Punahou School | Honolulu, Hawaii
Sidwell Friends School | Washington, D.C.

Thanks go to our faculty and staff who are leading the way
Lark Palma, head of school: GOA director search committee
Michael Heath, Upper School head: academic policy committee
Richard Kassissieh, IT director: GOA board member and Catlin Gabel liaison to GOA
Dan Griffiths, science teacher: curriculum and accreditation committee
Jim Wysocki, math teacher: technology and professional development committee
George Zaninovich, PLACE director: instructor of an inaugural GOA course
Lauren Reggero-Toledano, Spanish teacher: attended the academy conference
Paul Andrichuk, Middle School head: attended the academy conference

The mission of the Global Online Academy is to translate into online classrooms the intellectually rigorous programs and excellent teaching that are hallmarks of its members schools to foster new and effective ways, through best practices in online education, for all student to learn; and to promote students’ global awareness and understanding
by creating truly diverse, worldwide, online schoolroom communities.




Has Technology Changed How We Read?

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By Paul Andrichuk

From the Fall 2010 Caller
The scene repeats itself at coffee shops all over Portland; people staring at their computer screens as they move from site to site, document to document. It’s worse if you are a parent, watching your child avoid eye contact or other social cues as they “study, read, or research” (even as the music plays). We react as the cranky adults we swore we would never be.
That’s the emotional, personal reaction, but in the back of our minds we wonder if people are really reading and learning. Has Google made us stupid, as the Nicholas Carr article in the Atlantic suggested? He seems to come down on the side of believing the internet has rewired his brain, affecting his attention and ability to sustain reading:
“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, and begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”
You may be nodding to yourself in agreement, even as you curse technological breakdowns that suddenly make your life more difficult. You hate our reliance on technology and pine for the good old days without it, but it sure is great to find a restaurant when you are lost or Skype with your sister in Florida.
Here are my three basic thoughts regarding reading in a technological age.
* Books and computers are here to stay (short term), and young people will be reading from both.
* The brain is constantly evolving, including rewiring itself. Indeed, Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, argues that we are not born to read. The brain will continue to change in response to new symbols, the speed with which information comes at us, and the myriad forms it will take.
* Critical thinking skills transcend how and where reading is done.
The evolution of the brain
The brain has been changing and adapting since the invention of language. That’s reading the symbols, but more importantly it’s about how the brain connects the meaning of words to the experiences and imagination of the reader. If our brains were able to begin this evolution with the advent of written language 6,000 years ago, surely it can adapt to the speed and scope of information, especially language, available on the internet.
Reading begins at infancy
One of the best indicators of reading is how much time children spend listening to adults who read to them. The gobbledygook on the page are words, and words will make up your son’s or daughter’s universe.
This point has little to do with computers and reading, but it’s an important one to make for three reasons. Books are not going away. Reading is a great family activity. Students often say they have always remembered their parents reading.
Finally (and it is a related point), always remember that you are your child’s first and most important teacher!
Reading means independence
Socrates feared that reading would make people too autonomous and, worse, would retard the brain’s capacity to infer, analyze, and think critically. He was mistaken. Images of the brain during fluent reading light up areas that indicate all of these things are happening.
If Socrates was incorrect about literacy, then perhaps we are mistaken in our assumptions about reading and technology. Young people understand that there are different types of reading, depending on its purpose.
Questions for Catlin Gabel
Schools like Catlin Gabel can be explicit in how they teach reading and use technology. Computers are here, they are not going away, and they are great educational tools. So what does this mean for the young people in our charge? What does it mean for parents?
Critical thinking makes stronger readers
Catlin Gabel students are critical and independent thinkers. It’s an aspect of the school culture that is celebrated, but more importantly, it allows students to be careful consumers of all information. Reading skills are guided, modeled, and practiced, regardless of whether the information is on the screen or in a first-edition novel.
I connect critical thinking to reading, but it’s equally important to connect critical thinking to a careful assessment of the source, especially internet sites. After all, if what you’re reading is inaccurate or false, it tends to affect the educational process.
The value of time and reflection
Getting lost in a book is a luxury, so is getting lost after you’re done with it. Just as Goodnight Moon allows you to see the connection of words to a child’s world, so does connecting ideas in a book to our notion of possibilities in the world.
Youth should be “multitextual”
Students are naturally making judgments about how to read based on the purpose of their task. A general survey of the news on the front page of the Oregonian, reading four pages of a biology text, and reading an online editorial in the New York Times require different levels of attention.
I’ve meandered a bit through this discussion of reading in the digital age. I was prepared to subscribe to Nicholas Carr’s viewpoint, but I simply cannot. Computers and technology are no longer luxuries but necessities, both in terms of our quality of life and our education. In addition, books and computers can coexist— and we will read from both. Those who worry that the internet may be rewiring our brains are correct, and the evolution of this vital organ continues, just as it has responded to every other substantial change in human history. What remains at the core of reading—from books and computers—is that we continue to value and teach the thinking skills beyond the symbols.
Paul Andrichuk is the head of Catlin Gabel’s middle school.

Technology upgrades

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A lot happened during the summer

This summer IT and facilities staffers installed a completely new wireless network that provides improved speed and security. If you bring your own computer or handheld device to campus, just attach to the insecure network named “openwireless” for Internet access. We also installed new antivirus and network access systems, to keep unknown, infected, and out-of-date computers from accessing central network resources.

We provided a series of training classes for teachers and staff members, from required Windows 7 and Office 2010 trainings to elective offerings such as email strategies, Mac essentials, and social networking.

We made major upgrades to workstation software. We now run Windows 7 and MacOS 10.6 “Snow Leopard” on nearly all school computers. Windows and Mac users now use Office 2010 and Adobe Creative Suite 5 widely.

A terrific team of alumni and students helped us this summer: Kaitlyn Linehan '06, Max Baron '07, Eric Montague '08, Ryan Takahashi '09, Eli Skeggs '13, and two newcomers, Emily Eisert and Natalie Dukes.

The website offers a wealth of information and the latest school news. Did you know that the website receives 8,000 page views each day? Tabs on the right-hand side of the home page provide instant access to news headlines, calendar dates, and lunch menus. Look under Athletics for team pages, new this year. Also visit Catlin Gabel on Facebook and Twitter!

To find out more about Catlin Gabel technology, please visit the IT pages on the website or speak with one of us.

Richard Kassissieh, Daisy Steele, David Hirata, Johny Nguyen, Faith Baynes, and Mike Maynard

Robotics program director Dale Yocum named technology educator of the year

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Congratulations, Dale!

The TechStart Education Foundation named Dale Yocum Oregon's technology educator of the year. The award honors a teacher who is:

An effective, engaging instructor who inspires passion and commitment from her or his students while advancing their critical thinking ability, skills, and knowledge in challenging, meaningful ways.

An advocate for the study of information technology, making technology accessible to all students and building an inclusive culture.

A role model for colleagues, who is committed to ongoing personal and peer professional development and establishes, evolves and communicates best practices and pedagogy.

In addition to prestige and recognition, the award comes with a $1,000 donation to Catlin Gabel's robotics program.

Senior Yale Fan qualifies for 2010 U.S. Physics Olympics

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American Association of Physics Teachers announces the 2010 U.S. Physics Team Selection

Out of more than 3,000 students who undertook a rigorous exam process, Yale emerged as one of 20 students from across the U.S. who now make up the 2010 U.S. Physics Team.

The team training camp, which is a crash course in the first two years of university physics, is an integral part of the U.S Physics Team experience. Yale will attend the training camp for his senior project. Students at the camp have the opportunity to hear about cutting edge research from some of the community’s leading physicists. At the end of the training camp, five students will be selected to travel to Croatia for international competition, where more than 400 student scholars from 90 nations will test their knowledge in physics, competing with the best in the world.

The U.S. Physics Olympiad Program was started in 1986 by AAPT to promote and demonstrate academic excellence.

Read the Oregonian article from May 19.

Kevin Ellis and Yale Fan describe their award-winning projects

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Recorded at the upper school assembly of February 18, 2010.

Take Kindle for a spin

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Overnight checkout available through IT department

The Information Technology department now has an Amazon Kindle available to families for overnight checkout to evaluate whether or not they might wish to purchase one. The IT office is located in the upper level of the Vollum Humanities Building. Please email if you wish to reserve the Kindle.

At this time, we do not anticipate formal school adoption of the Kindle or other electronic book reader, but we would like to support families that are interested in them.

Some Kindle features

The Kindle and other e-readers use a new kind of screen called "digital ink." As opposed to conventional display screens, digital ink screens do not use a backlight. The screen is easier on the eyes than a laptop screen and remains visible in bright daylight. Because the Kindle is not backlit you can't use it in the dark without an additional light source.

The Kindle does a good job increasing text size, changing screen direction, and altering the number of words displayed per line.

The Kindle can store up to 1,500 books at one time. It can display documents in the Amazon, Word document, HTML,  text, and PDF formats. It can also play MP3 and Audible files. Some file formats require conversion through Amazon's email system.

The Kindle can read the text on the screen aloud but it does so poorly and really isn't useful as a text-to-speech tool.

The Kindle includes some bookmarking and annotation features.

Note taking was difficult. It was uncomfortable to use the small keyboard to add text.

The battery lasts a long time—up to two weeks if you don't make extensive use of the wireless browsing capabilities.

The Kindle includes a web browser and wireless connectivity that uses the same 3G network used by cell phones. There is no charge for the wireless connectivity at this time. The Kindle must be registered in order to use the wireless capabilties.

Books sold by Amazon for the Kindle are sold in a proprietary format that can only be read using Amazon software. Currently, that software is available for the Kindle, Apple's iPhone, and Microsoft Windows. Amazon is working on software to read Kindle format books on Mac OSX and Blackberries.

Once you register your Kindle device with Amazon, you may purchase additional texts with one click. This could be a liability if you lend your device to someone else.

Some colleges, including Reed, have experimented with using these devices in their instructional program. We do not yet know whether these colleges are planning large-scale adoption. Read about Reed's experiment.

Other e-readers include the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony eReader. Reviewers suggest that they each have their pros and cons.

The Kindle may prove useful to students who seek the convenience of an e-reader or benefit from the additional features such as changing text size. These devices are an example of an emerging technology, and we will watch their capabilities as the technology matures.


Thinking Critically About Facebook

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Middle School Workshop

What do middle school students need to know about Facebook? On January 13, Middle School head Paul Andrichuk and information technology staff members Daisy Steele and Richard Kassissieh led an afternoon workshop with Middle Students to encourage critical thought about personal information and the corporate entities behind the popular social network site.

Click on the links in this outline to see examples shared with the students.

What is a social network?

Facebook is the leader of social network sites, but many more exist. If we broaden our view to social media sites, in fact dozens exist. Social network sites represent a significant development, because:

1. Ordinary users contribute most of the content.
2. Companies have little control over site content.
3. They appeal to people's sense of community.

Adoption is widespread. Alexa estimates that 30% of their users worldwide visit Facebook every day.

So much about social networks is new. People and organizations are less able to keep tight control over their website presence. Even giant companies are still figuring it out. Individuals have gained the possibility to use social media to gain unprecedented visibility.

How will the use of social networks change how people communicate? Facebook's CEO thinks that it is changing social norms. Many disagree. How will students use social networks for good? What will Facebook do next? What will succeed Facebook?

The goal of today's workshop is to apply our critical thinking skills to our use of social networks.

Students proceeded into three breakout groups by grade level. They then participated in three sessions led by Paul, Daisy, and Richard. Paul and two upper school students introduced sixth grade students to the process of setting up a new Facebook account. Daisy examined privacy settings with seventh and eighth graders. Richard investigated how Facebook applications access personal information. Below, please find notes from the apps workshop.

All About Apps (seventh and eighth grades)

A Facebook application ("app") is a piece of software that adds functionality to your Facebook page. Most are games or information-gathering devices (e.g., polls).

Most apps are built by companies other than Facebook. Installing an app shares your profile information with that other company.

To view your list of installed apps and uninstall one, go to the Applications link in the lower left-hand corner of the Facebook interface and click Edit Applications.

You may recognize status updates generated by applications from their nonstandard icons, the "via" text, and phrases like "Click here to help."

Though I am sure you are a very helpful person, clicking on that link will lead to the installation of a new app.

Note that Farmville will gain access to your profile information, photos, and friends information, at the very least. Are you okay with this?

During the workshop, students completed a role play activity to learn more about the movement of personal information between a user, Facebook, and Zynga (the maker of Farmville). Download the handout.

After the role play, the group discussed the following questions.

  • What information does Zynga now have about you and your friend?
  • Did Zynga need this information for the game to work?
  • What else might Zynga do with your personal information?
  • What would prevent Zynga from doing something unethical with your information?
  • What could Facebook do to ensure that application developers keep your information safe?

The presenter then provided the group with more information about Zynga.

Clicking Allow indicates that you agree to the Farmville Terms of Service, which would should read and understand! Just one part of the TOS is fairly illuminating.

Section 4c

You grant to Zynga the unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual fully-paid and royalty-free right and license to host, use, copy, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, resell, sublicense, display, perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, modify, make derivative works from, retitle, reformat, translate, archive, store, cache or otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content [emphasis added] to which you have contributed, for any purpose whatsoever, in any and all formats; on or through any and all media, software, formula or medium now known or hereafter known; and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed and to advertise, market and promote same.

Can you trust Zynga with your personal information? Founder and CEO Mark Pincus speaks in the following video about the measures he took to raise money for the company. The video sheds some light on the character of Zynga, its founder, and its reasons for existence. This may help you make an informed decisions about whether to share your personal information with this company.

Other companies have come under scrutiny for their security practices. RockYou improperly handled and inadvertently exposed 32 million usernames, passwords, and email address. Another company produced a "Secret Crush" application that didn't actually reveal a secret crush but instead installed unwanted advertising on their computer.

We encourage student to think critically about Facebook apps and understand how personal information is handled when you play one of these games.

Teen Sex Culture and Technology

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Growing Pains

Our teens consider much of what goes on in the social lives private, not for parent consumption. Our youth are typically not voluntarily sharing with us the details of daily life, whether it is what happened in class at school, what happened on the soccer field, or what is going on socially with friendships. Adolescents especially do not let parents "in" on what is happening in the arena of teen sexuality or their personal crushes. While this is natural and necessary part of the individuation process, it often leaves parents wondering and feeling out of touch. Despite this neccessary progression toward independence, parents still need to make concerted efforts to stay connected.The goal of this article is to help parents remain proactive with their teens and to provide reliable information.

How Technology has Changed and Continues to Impact Teens

Technology is launching peer to peer communication in new directions, which has created a new culture of teen sexuality.  Students across the nation, and in our own community, have engaged in a variety of behaviors from sending naked photos and videos to their peers via cell phone, email, and Skype. "It is a 21st century version of  'you show me yours, I'll show you mine,'" according to a 2009 Reason article by Nancy Rommelmann. While the visual sharing of sexual imagery among teens is disturbing for parents, equally upsetting are the graphic written sexual messages. Texting sexualized messages from one teen to another is relatively common. In a December 2008 publication by Information Week (posted Dec. 11, 2008), a study of 1,280 teens and young adults revealed that one in five girls had sent nude or partially nude photos of themselves via cell phone or email. Of this group 11% were 16 or younger. According to the survey, one-third of all photos sent end up being forwarded and shared with other parties. Two-thirds of girls who sent nude photos said they did it to be fun and flirtatious. Another 40% said they did it as a joke. Most of the sexual content was shared with friends and acquaintances. Only 15% of photography was sent to a stranger.

Why Teens Need to be Well Informed

This article is not intended to alarm readers, but to help parents and educators understand possible outcomes related to impulsive teen behavior. The legal implications are far-reaching regarding sexualized content and electronic sharing of such images. Federal and state laws regulate the production, distribution, and possession of sexual images of underage subjects. These laws have been in place for decades to protect our youth from abuse and pornography. Because technology is advancing quickly, the legal system is trying to play catch-up. We have a young tech-savvy society, and in some instances youth unwittingly find themselves in the midst of legal dealings. Youth need to be aware of this. We certainly inform youth about the dangers of underage drinking, and they also need to be aware of online and cell phone communication hazards.

Teens and Impulsivity

The  gap between teens and adults in our culture is widening, especially with the technology available to our youth. Adolescents are eager for independence from adults and acceptance from their peers. When this is combined with developing hormones, and a brain that is not fully matured, impulsivity can lead to poor decision making. Teens cannot accurately anticipate the ramifications of their activity due to cognitive immaturity and lack of experience. In the world of point and click technology, impulsive acts can occur readily. Many adolescents do not grasp the concept that digital technology is permanent. Once a photo or written message has been sent and uploaded it can be shared with other cell phone users and email recipients.  "Once content is out there, it is out there forever," according to the Institute for Resonsible Online and Cell Phone Communications. For this reason parents need to take an active role. The safety issues are critical, from date rape, to STDs, to pregnancy and emotional harm. 

What Parents Can Do to Make a Difference

Parents gaining new information and educating themselves on such critical matters feel a natural sense of uneasiness and  discomfort. But knowledge puts parents in a position of strength and caring, which our adolescents truly want from us. Becoming informed shows that we want our children to be safe, happy, and healthy. It is important to seek ways to support, guide, and protect our children.

For the majority of parents, their sons or daughters have not engaged in such activities, but their teen surely knows a peer who has. The most important role of parents is to become actively supportive and involved in their teenage daughter or son's life.  Parents may find it difficult to begin a conversation, yet it is important to do so. This requires parents to think carefully how they can act as guides and when to initiate a point of entry for conversation. Finding a "natural" moment to discuss such topics is more seamless. It makes more sense to teens when the conversations mirror what is going on in the moment. Great launching moments are when you have just seen a newspaper article or TV news story relating to sex, rape, or pornography. Magazines are full of this content as well. Movies and TV shows provide a bounty of such material. Modern music and today's movies depict sexual behavior as a norm. Talk to your kids when the time is right about sexual pressures, friendships, and the difference between sex and love.

Please do not secretly snoop to find out what is going on. This is a significant breach of trust and will deteriorate opportunities for collaborating. Trying to shield teens from using technology is not realistic either. This is why collaborating with your teen and having a trusting relationship is so vital. Converse with them about what they have on Facebook, MySpace, and their cell phones and email. Let them know that you will listen to them and not pass judgment. One of the biggest fears kids face is that you will judge them harshly. Help your teens decide what is right for them. Many teens who become sexually active too early regret it. It helps for adolescents to know this fact.

Being present and involved in your teen's life is important. Even though our lives are very busy, take the time to be aware of what is happening and talk to your son or daughter.

Seniors Yale Fan and Kevin Ellis named semifinalists in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology

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Each student completed an original scientific research project and wrote an 18-page paper describing his or her work. Only six Oregon students were named semifinalists (4) or finalists (2). 

The Siemens competition is considered the nation’s leading original research competition in math, science, and technology for high school students. A record 1,348 projects were submitted this year. Three-hundred-and-eighteen students were named semifinalists along with 96 students being honored as regional finalists.


Technology Professional Development Day

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Ten teachers attended our professional development day today. Seven also presented! Interestingly, all but two were from the Upper School. We followed a model in which teachers did all the presenting and led the group discussion, which led to an energizing day that focused squarely on teacher interests. Here is a summary of content covered.

Tony presents at the tech training

Ginia King shared the sophomore English Moodle site, which is organized by type of assignment (tests, recitations, essays, etc.) instead of unit or week. Forum is more useful than chat for "decentered discussion." Encourages different voices to speak in the class. Art Leo reported that education research in modern language acquisition has found that success in written, online discourse has transferred to oral participation in class. Teachers differed on how firmly they held students to proper writing form, though people agreed on the desire to do so. The best tools allow one to print a single document from the discussion of the day. English teachers use the forum tool to set up a space where students may post essay drafts and other students may post replies and response papers. It can be difficult to compare three drafts of an essay posted to Moodle. Ginia reflected that students don't automatically think to check the website for course information. They appear to be more mindful of paper. Lisa and Daisy speculated that upcoming students will be more automatic about this due to online experiences in the younger grades.

Tony Stocks built on Ginia's presentation by showing the junior English Moodle site. He used one discussion forum for students to write and improve their questions in preparation for the upcoming Tracy Kidder assembly next week. The site uses the Moodle groups feature to keep section discussions separate. The site is most valuable to keep all of the drafts of the writing process in one place for the teacher and student to access. Can be a challenge for the kid who has a hard time staying on task, but teachers can help by monitoring computer use in the room.

Paul Dickinson commented that the English program may have led to students' higher comfort level with typing lab reports in science. While this has improved the quality of presentation, students are struggling to produce good diagrams in this format. This has led to a trend in which many students prefer to find an existing diagram and copy it into their document instead of drawing an original illustration. It's interesting that the use of Photoshop here is widespread, yet use of Illustrator is rare.

Lauren Reggero-Toledano shared a community service learning project with which her students are currently engaged. She won a small grant to fund this project, working with our development and communications departments to refine her proposal. Her class is creating an online presentation of the Hispanic presence in Oregon to complement a production at Portland's Miracle Theatre. Their project compares the Hispanic presence during the depression to the present day. The curriculum has evolved as opportunities have appeared to interview good subjects around town. They have found no interview subjects from the Depression era, but an author helped them understand that the lack of found information is useful information in itself. Contextualize this finding and move forward.

Lauren presents at the tech training

The theater director challenged the kids to make the site truly interactive. So far, they have decided to add a comment box to their website, in order to gather more stories. Also, students will be present at each performance in order to explain the project and potentially collect interviews on the spot! Students are collecting footage with Flip cameras, notwithstanding the lack of proper video lighting. The historical archives has commented that a serious deficit of raw material exists on this topic. The students' footage has the potential to become an important research source, especially if the site persists and continues to collect footage after the theater performances are over.

Students are using the course Moodle site to manage the project, including notes, interview forms, and links to web-based resources. The teacher has stepped back and left room for the students to plan and execute.

The class built and distributed a survey using our internal survey tool. They received 79 responses to a survey about Hispanic Heritage Month, including a giant collection of narrative comments, which were really useful in guiding their work.

Lisa Ellenberg shared new work she is doing with students to post book reviews into our Follett Destiny library catalog -- really exciting work. This has potential to change student perception of the library catalog from an external authority to a community resource. Already, fourth grade students are excited about adding items to this resource. They also rate the books on a five star system. We'd like to post audio reviews as well, and while Destiny may not support audio file playback, we may post them elsewhere and then post links to the catalog. Lisa also demonstrated how a teacher may create a public resource list of library items for students or other teachers to view.

Roberto Villa shared a long-distance correspondence between a Catlin Gabel alum in Quito, Ecuador, and Catlin Gabel students. Topics include poverty, energy consumption, and women's rights, among others. Spanish V students are using an online bulletin board for this purpose.

Roberto also underscored the value of his document camera, which he uses every day. It helps him save time and paper. Roberto uses it for flashcards, homework correction, and editing. Lauren has used it for coins and maps.

For two years, Roberto's Spanish V class has not used books. All of the resources are posted online. The Spanish I, II, and III textbooks have an online site that includes online activities and audio components. This has been especially valuable for students with learning differences or who want to slow down the audio to listen to it more slowly.

Pat Walsh demonstrated his use of the social format in Moodle courses, which transforms the course home page into a student discussion center. He also demonstrated the use of embedded images, YouTube videos, and RSS feeds within his course Moodle sites.

Dale Rawls showed how he uses the school website and email system to engage parents in narrative discussion about student artwork well before the semester reporting period. He posts photos of student illustration to the website and then sends an email message to parents with suggestions for what to discuss about the artwork with their children.

Snow Leopard

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Apple has released operating system 10.6, also named "Snow Leopard." Currently, Snow Leopard is not compatible with the Catlin Gabel wireless network, which means that computers running Snow Leopard cannot access the school's network, printers, or file server. We have ordered Snow Leopard and plan to test it in our environment but we cannot at this time support Snow Leopard until we know how well it's going to interact with all of our systems and applications. Thanks for your understanding.

In related news, Catlin Gabel does not support Windows Vista. We plan to acquire Windows 7 and test it on the school's network once Microsoft makes a release version available.

Kids in the Driver's Seat: Learning with Technology

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By Richard Kassissieh

Over the span of decades, the practices of good progressive education have changed little: focus on the individual, teach from each student’s experience, and encourage students to construct knowledge. Over those same decades, though, the tools of learning have changed enormously. New technologies help create learning experiences never before possible. How do Catlin Gabel teachers incorporate these tools to teach students to construct knowledge together? How do these efforts support entrepreneurship, creativity, and risk-taking, especially in classes in subjects other than the arts?


Peek through a classroom door on a typical day, and classes do not look so different from the progressive classrooms of John Dewey’s time. A teacher sits with his students in a seminar-style arrangement, discussing Martin Luther King. The conversation moves from one topic to another, following the students’ interests. One student asks, “What did King think of the Vietnam War?” The teacher bends over his laptop and visits YouTube. A six-foot image fills the wall at the front of the classroom. The voice of King fills the room. “The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. . . . ”

It is 7:30 a.m. on a dark February morning. Ten students in a Winterim class gaze expectantly at a dark screen. A friendly face appears, but it is silent. The screen goes blank again. The students and teachers look worried. Finally, a voice with an Arabic accent inquires, “Can you hear us? We can see you.” Thus begins a live video conversation with a dozen teenage students in Gaza City. Students in both locations dare to ask authentic questions and reply from the heart. For two and a half hours, they challenge assumptions and change their minds.

Two 8th grade students huddle around a laptop, giggling. “Look, they replied!” “What should we say?” The students are exchanging messages of greeting with their peers in Martinique, weeks before they will board a plane and fly there. One asks, “Can we record our voices?” With laptop computers at hand, the answer is “yes.” The lesson changes direction, and within minutes students are leaving voice messages for each other. When the students arrive in Martinique, they will be long past simple introductions and ready to make the most of their visit.

A 5th grade student sits in class in front of a computer with a builtin camera, staring at an image of himself. On paper, he has written his own original story in Spanish. He begins to read the story, tentatively, awkwardly, to practice his speaking skills. He stops and plays it back to see how he did. Fifth grade students love to see themselves speak and then perfect their presentations. Put these two ideas together with a computer, and you create a powerful learning environment. Twelve minutes later, we return to the student, who by now has memorized his story and recites with confidence. “How many times did you record it?” “Five!” the boy replies. He thrives on this stuff.

A student contemplates a set of triangles on a computer screen. Lines, angles, and measurements abound. She takes the mouse and grabs one of the vertices on one of the shapes and drags it. Suddenly, the entire diagram leaps into motion—the numeric measurements change fluidly as the student moves the vertex. A smile lights the student’s face. She now understands the relationship between the hypotenuse and sides of an isosceles right triangle.


Working on robot control systems

A junior in computer science class stands over a board filled with wires and lights. The pride in a complex task accomplished shines throughout her presentation of what the tool does and how it works. Catlin Gabel offers four levels of computer science, with only one an Advanced Placement course. The content-centric curriculum serves as the foundation for individual ingenuity later on.

Sixth grade English has just begun. The teacher says, “Tell us what topic you have chosen for your final presentation.” Three excited boys ask, “May we make a movie instead?” These boys will work together to explore the subject from a new perspective and overcome challenges unique to their chosen format.

Two 7th grade students prepare for their “teach-a-class” moment. One says, “I heard of this site where you can create a flipbook. Let’s use it!” Not only do they teach a great class, but they earn “top flipbook” honors on


The school is justifiably proud of its award-winning robotics program. Part business, part engineering laboratory, the robotics team meets a challenge put forward by the national organization FIRST. Build a robot that can win in a competition involving dexterity, speed, and strength. Produce a communications and marketing plan based on a team web site. Misses Catlin and Gabel would be proud if they could see the ultimate project-based activity and witness the successes this group has repeatedly achieved.

The last day of the 4th grade immigration unit has arrived. A student stands up to make her final presentation. She describes a person who arrives at Ellis Island, attempting to enter the United States. However, the story is not real. Rather, the student has constructed the details of her character’s life using primary and secondary sources provided by the teacher. A wealth of historical information stored on the web served to enliven each student’s experience creating these characters.

Two 7th grade students share their newfound knowledge of the planet Mercury with their classmates. A colorful, dynamic presentation serves as backdrop. Cross-sections, mythology, and statistics crisscross the screen. Several faces in the room brighten as the visual learners in the room immediately grasp the material.

The tyranny of the blank page no longer haunts English students in the Upper School. Teachers use a web-based writing environment to provide students with a series of questions to guide their writing. Ideas rise and words flow. When the draft is due in class, the student submits the work online to an audience of his peers. Within the web-based tool, students write, revise, and critique. They always write within a community of authors.

What technologies will arrive next to amaze and entice us? We don’t exactly know. But we can count on the fact that Catlin Gabel teachers will think deeply about the potential of these tools. They will create opportunities for students to experience, learn their own way, and construct knowledge together. These students will continue to confidently take risks and chart bold, new directions.

Richard Kassissieh is director of information services at Catlin Gabel.