#ATL’s Urban City Studio: An concept for engaging with your community

The City of Atlanta has big plans for the future especially since they are projecting 2.5 million new residents over the next 25 years. The city has created a comprehensive development plan and one of the ways that they are increasing awareness and gathering information from Atlanta residents is through their new Atlanta City Studio. The lab has a variety of displays, many of which are interactive. This pop-up lab will be at Ponce City Market for 6 months and then move to another area of the city. During my visit I was greeted by a staff member who took me on a tour and explained all that the projects on display and the process they are using to engage with the Atlanta community.

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The goals for the urban design studio space are to:

  •  through a shared vision for vibrant urbanism, raise awareness about urban design and plan for a better Atlanta…one that will continue to advance Atlanta’s people and places;
  •  create urban design policies and enhance design sustainability and livability for the city;
  •  direct urban design services on projects throughout the city;
  • spark urban interaction amongst people who visit our city and those who live here;
  • engage residents and stakeholders in identifying goals for the City of Atlanta and create a new narrative;
  • enhance the socioeconomic, ecological and sustainable urban design form for the city.

My visit there this weekend got me thinking about how we could use a space like this at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. My first thought was that we can use it to gather information from our community that will guide us in our strategic planning process and to share information on our academic program. The space can also be used with prospective families who are thinking of attending your school. Visitors can maneuver on their own or be shepherded through by faculty members, students, parent volunteers or administrators. Take a look at what #ATL City Studio has and how your school can benefit from a pop-up lab.

Bike Network
Bike Network Plans



Character Areas Maps
Explaining Ideas and Asking Questions

Character Areas Questions


Imagine a student showing these panels to parents and having a conversation on the topic. Any community member who serves in a host role will have to truly understand these ideas and what they mean for the school.

Good Urbanism 1

Good Urbanism 2


Clipboards 2
Visitors can provide feedback by answering strategic questions
Let's Play
This interactive model allows visitors to redesign city blocks.
Kids Area
Younger children can also participate
Meeting Space
A meeting space for small groups
Work Plan
And a work plan with markers on glass. (These are really trendy now)

The journey can be exciting and scary at the same time.

Flickr by Edge of Space

In December 2009, I used this photo in my Leadership and 1:1 Bus post and last year I used it with the Graded faculty to describe our journey to provide students with a relevant education for today and the future. This journey includes going 1:1 in August 2012. For me the photo conjures up excitement and fear. And while some people are adventurous enough to sit on top or hang on the side, others feel more comfortable inside. It doesn’t matter where one sits, the important thing is that we’re all together on the journey.

When is it exciting and often magical?  When our students are using technology for learning, creative and original thinking, communication and collaboration, research and information literacy and critical thinking and problem solving.

When is it a bit scary?  When we are uncertain of what is coming next or when we have to step outside our comfort zone to try something new.

We have so much to be proud because we have traveled so far in such a short amount of time. This year we have done the following to prepare for a full 1:1 rollout in August.

  • Support professional development at conferences by providing faculty with the opportunity to attend the Laptop Institute at Lausanne Collegiate and Unplugged at the American School of Bombay.
  • Provided all of our teachers and administrators with laptops so that we all get used to working anytime, anywhere.
  • Using digital tools to help us with our work and our learning. The idea is that we will experiment and figure out what works as we do the same in our classrooms.
  • Created PLCs around assessment in today’s digital environment.
  • Reviewed and redesigned our curriculum in science and English with a 21st century lens.
  • Encouraged students to bring in laptops to ease the transition for August.
  • Defined our Information Communication and Technology standards that will be integrated schoolwide next year.
  • Provided teachers with a full-time academic technology coordinator to support them with integrating technology and professional development.
  • Developed our acceptable use policy and LARK guidelines so that our community members can be responsible digital citizens.
  • Developed a digital toolkit that will provide us with some software standardization in our bring your own laptop environment.
  • Upgraded facilities so that we have electrical power throughout the campus.

We realize that the journey is not over yet. In reality, we’ve really only traveled a short distance. The key is that we are well on our way to transforming the learning experiences for our students.

What I learned during my “Sagmeister” year

While I enjoyed every single minute of my sabbatical year,  I’m energized and excited about my new job as the High School Principal at Graded – The American School of  Sao Paulo, Brazil. I’m two weeks into my new job and I’m reflecting on the entire experience of this past year. In September I wrote “What’s it like to take a year off?” and I described the basics of my action plan for the year. The focus for this year has been on Stephen Covey’s Four Assumptions for Life:  heart, body, mind and soul.  Consider this post my end of the year report on what I learned.

1. Spending quality time with family– I learned the joy of giving 100% of my attention to my wife and children. I have never been very good at leaving my work at the office so even when I was spending time with my Jennifer and the kids I had work on my mind. With my children, it was a joy to watch their sporting events, coach their teams, take them with friends to play soccer, float in the ocean with them for hours. go on bike rides around town, etc. I enjoyed planning ahead and talking with them about things for us to do. I remember reading that Michael J. Fox has a rule that he says “yes” any time one of his children asks him to do something. I tried adopting this practice throughout the year and I have to say that it was a pleasure. There were many time where my first reaction was dread and I truly ended up enjoying my time. I hope to continue spending quality time with them for years to come. Jennifer and I were able to spend uninterrupted hours while the kids were at school during the day.  We also enjoyed the many activities with the kids. Those times we will treasure for years to come. We did have fewer dates since we didn’t have a live-in maid. I can only hope that our relationships are stronger based on the quality of our time together this year.

2. Taking the plunge was not as scary as we thought – There were many scary thoughts that went through our heads when we were trying to decide what to do this year. Things like, How will we afford this sabbatical?, What about health insurance?, What will others think of us if we’re not working?, What if we don’t find jobs afterwards?, How will the kids adjust to this new situation? It didn’t help that some of the people that we spoke to advised against it. Now I just chuckle thinking about how silly these fears were. What seemed like a huge gamble turned into an awesome opportunity. We found ways to easily deal with all of these scary subjects. Only time will tell if the year off turns out to be a good investment. It did cost money that we would have normally invested for retirement, but we do believe that there are financial benefits that will help us for the future.

  • We reconfigured our home mortgage to save money over the next 20 years.
  • We made improvements to our home that should increase the value of the house.
  • We have rented out our house for the long term and the rental price is much greater than we received in the past.
  • We are currently taking the time to develop an investment plan for the long term. We may/may not have taken the time to do this during our normal year.
  • My new position comes with a salary that is greater than what I was making in the past.

3. My learning and stepping outside my comfort zone – I decided that I was going to spend time learning how to build and repair things around the house. I tiled a floor, built a storage area in the garage, an outdoor shower, a walkway, planted bushes, cut down trees, power washed the house and stained the deck. With this projects, each morning there was a new challenge to be conquered so I would wake up a bit nervous about the new task ahead.  These challenges were due to my lack of skills and/or knowledge in the area of home improvement. I found that my teachers were the men and women at Lowe’s, my good friend Dave Lewis, the father of a friend of my son and the internet. They were excellent teachers who guided me along. They expertly took me through the steps by giving me just enough information for me to succeed. I was allowed to make mistakes and learned that in most cases the mistakes can be fixed easily. As time passed my confidence increased so that I was able to do more on my own. As far as I know none of my teachers had any formal training in education.

4. Seems like yesterday – The first 3 months of the sabbatical we spent traveling the United States visiting family and friends. It was so great to see family and friends that we have not seen for years. I learned that with good friends and close family members it is easy to pick up where you left off. Whether they warmly welcomed us into their homes or we laughed and told stories of old times it seemed that the connection was still strong. I’d like to thank all of those who took us into their homes over the past year. We realize that it’s not easy to have the Peterson Family drop into your lives for several days. You always know that you have a place to visit in Sao Paulo.

5. My body isn’t what it used to be – While I ran, cycled and lifted weights throughout the year, I learned that as I get older, my body is less willing to cooperate and I less likely to push myself. While I ran three half marathons I learned that my body is probably not up for a full marathon and that my times will never be the same again. There were sudden injuries and my body took more time to recover after difficult workouts. I also found that it was tougher to push myself. I certainly had the time but the desire was not as great as in my prime. With that said, I feel like I stayed in excellent shape throughout the year.

6. Where is home? – Answering this question can be difficult for expatiates and third culture kids. Consider that my two daughters were born in different countries (Ecuador and Malaysia) that that neither has lived in the U.S. All of us now understand that our home is Emerald Isle, NC. This is certainly our homebase and we developed stronger ties to the area. Since we typically only visit here during the summer time we weren’t aware of how strong the influence of the two nearby Marine bases is. We now know our neighbors and have friends come return to when we come back in the summer. I still remember trying to teach the kids the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner as we were arriving in NC in mid September. Thankfully all three kids learned it over the course of the year. Throughout the year we worked hard to do as many “American” things as possible and the final list is impressive: setting up a lemonade stand, going to the AT&T National Golf Tournament, exploring Washington DC and watching the 4th of July celebration, two  trips to New York City with stops at Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time Square and ice skating at Rockefeller Center, watching a Cape Cod League summer game, the Cubs vs. the Rockies and the home opener of the Charleston River Dogs, several college campus visits, hiking at the Air Force Academy, The Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody WY, the Cody rodeo, a high school football game in the Dallas, TX area, the National Scouting Museum in Ft. Worth, Walt Disney World, playing soccer and basketball in the area recreation leagues, taking the Penguin Plunge in the ocean on January 1, and watching a 400+ lb. Blue Marlin get weighed at the Big Rock Fishing Tournament.

The list seems pretty amazing to me and I can’t help but smile when I think about all the wonderful experiences that I had. It was truly a gift for me and my family.

Note – Sagmeister refers to Stefan Sagmeister. I learned of his life plan to take a sabbatical year every seven years from Daniel Pink’s book Drive. You can see his TedTalks online. He takes a different approach to his sabbaticals and he recommends that, if you’re considering taking time off, that you speak to others who have done it. Next time I will. I’ve already noted in our long term investment plans that we need to plan for another sabbatical year.

Assessing your 1:1 Initiative: Sharing Teacher and Student Surveys from Graded – The American School of Sao Paulo, Brazil

This is cross posted at 1to1SchoolsNet

In November, I wrote about “Periodic Dipsticking” to assess a 1:1 initiative. Graded – The American School of Sao Paulo, Brazil, is doing just that as they pilot a one to one laptop program in their sixth grade. The team used a variety of sources to develop teacher and student surveys to meet their needs and the data from these surveys will help them assess how the initiative is going and drive future planning. Hopefully these examples will provide you with ideas on how to assess your program.


Bebell, Damian. “Technology Promoting Student Excellence: An Investigation of the First Year of 1:1 Computing in New Hampshire Middle Schools.” Thesis. Boston College, 2005

Dalgarno, Nancy Jane. “Compulsory Laptop Programs: Teacher’s Responses to the Adoption and Implementation Process.” Thesis. Ontario, Canada, Queen’s University, 2009.
The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, North Carolina 1:1 Learning Collaborative

Grimes, Douglas, and Mark Warschauer. “Learning with Laptop: A Multi-Method Case Study.” J. Educational Computing Research 38.3 (2008): 305-32.

Bebell, Damian. “Technology Promoting Student Excellence: An Investigation of the First Year of 1:1 Computing in New Hampshire Middle Schools.” Thesis. Boston College, 2005

Grimes, Douglas, and Mark Warschauer. “Learning with Laptop: A Multi-Method Case Study.” J. Educational Computing Research 38.3 (2008): 305-32.

Lee, Talisha H., Dewey G. Cornell, and Joanna C. M. Cole. “Concurrent Validity of the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire.” Virginia Youth Violence Project 2001. March 2010 <http://youthviolence.edschool.virginia.edu/pdf/2006-APA-concurrent-validity-of-the-olweus-bully-victim-questionnaire.pdf>

Livingstone, Pamela. “One-to-One: The Student View”. March 2010. <http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?key=pqizg5fIDTBgGGGP2XSJmNw&hl=en>

Visioning and Monitoring Student Success

Check out this new post on the 1-to-1 Schools Net on creating a vision for student success in a 1-t0-1 laptop environment. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m working on it. It’s actually a very exciting project!

Periodic Dipsticking: Find out how your laptop intiative is progressing

I love the simple survey that Pamela Livingston shows in her latest post and would encourage all schools that are planning or implementing a 1-to-1 Laptop program to design their own to use periodically. The results will provide you with valuable information on how the program is going. Use them with teachers, students and parents.

Keep it simple and make it easy to compile the results. Even if the results verify what you know, it will be worth your time. While the data below did not come from a formal survey, just think about what your leadership team could do with this type of information from students. The following quotes from students were posted in a school’s student newspaper while the school was in the first semester of implementing their laptop program.

“Have Laptops Benefited [School’s Name]?”

“No, because we don’t use them, but we still have to carry them to every class along with our folders, which we were told we wouldn’t need anymore.”

– Anonymous Student

“Yeah, it’s a faster way to look up information, even though I only use mine for Skype and Facebook.”

– Another Anonymous Student

Cross posted on 1 to 1 School.net

Leadership and One to One Initiatives: EARCOS Presentation

I had the opportunity to give this presentation with David Sinclair from Taipei American School at the recent EARCOS Administrator’s Conference in Manila. David and I make a good team because he brings the perspective of a  tech director, while I bring the perspective of a principal. I have to admit that my thinking on planning and implementing a one to one laptop program changed during the course of our preparation.  I now believe that the leadership component in building and promoting  a shared vision and building coalitions is priority #1.  This may not seem like a huge revelation, but I finally was able to develop a model that works for me. I’ll share it later.

Leadership and One to One Initiatives
EARCOS Administrator's Conference 2009 http://prezi.com/akkqx3so9ntl/