Monday, July 31, 2006

Web 2.0

Lenhart, A. and Madden, M. Teen Content Creators and Consumers. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project, November 2, 2005, states-“ more teens in urban USA with family incomes of less than $30k are publishing digital media to the web than any other group of kids!”

Dr Tyson from Mabry provided me with this interesting statistic.
This is important for our community… for me it says…

This is not about current economic status it is about leading the way for the future. It is about envisioning our students effective and successful in the world market place and WEB 2.0 levels the playing field so let’s get on with helping them discover the knowledge and use it to secure their place in the future! They already know it gives them a voice and they know they can create so lets help them with the purpose and vision..

Maybe reading the World is Flat should be part of the curriculum.

A Light bulb (of sorts)
Reviewing Will Richardson's notes from his Open Source presentation at NECC something struck me that may make a difference in how we blog at school and how we present blogging. In defining blogging and differentiating it from a more general concept of blogging he talks about “Real blogging”
Links with analysis and synthesis that articulates a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience response in mind. (Real blogging)
Extended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links and comments. (Complex blogging)

I think this is a key in understanding how to employ the tool and in teaching effective, responsible us of this technology.
If we reach the stage of blogging that is analytical and based on reading (aha web 2.0) then the issues surrounding social and personal blogging are significantly lessened. While there are still ethical issues and conventions of politeness to follow…the emphasis has shifted from me (and others) to the text, idea or concept. There is much less rason or opportunity to stray into the personal or social realm.

Metamorphosis

I was planning to spend a good deal of our opening year staff meeting on the question “What does it mean to educate students for the 21st century?” We say that is part of our purpose in our mission statement but we have never really considered what it means. It will be interesting to see where it takes us. We will spend a lot of time reading blogs and pre-meeting we will read the digital native articles.

But now the ah moment…as I was reading Karl Fisch’s blog I noticed a little box in the corner that said “….21st century teachers program” …to educate students for the 21st century we must become 21st century teachers. This along with the following quote from Karl's comments on the eMints presentation says it all…


“Quote 7: Refuse to think for your students.
I really, really, really (did I mention "really"?) like this quote. I think if all teachers read this to themselves before each class (and maybe even out loud to the class), it would help tremendously.
The title of her presentation (Fearless Courage) came from this quote from Andrew Powell of B.F. Goodrich:
Fearless courage is more than visionary. Many have the ability to look at events and trends and describe the future state. However, few are willing to take the risk of acting on that vision unless the current state is bad. To reform or change tactics when things are working, based on your vision of the future, requires courage.”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wikis

Wikis

How do we teach our students to evaluate their information?
How do we change prevailing attitudes (especially in institutions of higher learning) to them?

I had an interesting conversation at my family reunion regarding wikipedia. My cousin, a professor at a California State University, was rather outspoken about the fact that the university has banned Wikipedia. Any paper with a reference to Wikipedia can not receive a grade any higher than a “B”. His point was that as a “source” the information has not been validated. While I appreciate the need to verify information I am wondering about the impact of this policy. My argument at the time was that Wikipedia is a great source to review and use to move through to other references. I felt the university policy denied or at best discouraged access to a wonderful source of information and perhaps more importantly to the discussions which center around the creation of many of the articles regarding important topics of knowledge. By default the policy and accompanying attitude probably means that the university professors are not contributing their knowledge base to this growing information portal. So I am saddened and not sure how to answer the second question above.

What can I do?
First, I still need to understand more fully how Wikipedia works. In the meantime, since the conversation with my cousin, I have been viewing some Wikipedia articles and have found the discussion tab and the reference section are wonderful resources. As an educator I need to spend time deconstructing Wikipedia articles with students. As a person who cares about this wonderful source of information I have a responsibility to work in my own areas of expertise providing references for the articles.


Stumbling blocks

First, as an administrator I have a concern that I will face my stiffest opposition from parents (and maybe even from my immediate supervisors) as I incorporate Web 2.0 in the classrooms at our school. The most persuasive arguments I believe are the concepts of "half life of knowledge" and The Earth is Flat. The challenge is to distill this into a coherent explanation that will be presentable in 2 or 3 minutes and will be persuasive.

Another difficulty I am encountering is the speed of the current conversation. Sometime (maybe even most of the time) I feel like I can not keep up. If Web 2.0 is about reading and writing it is also about thinking and it is here that I falter. I am finding that it takes an incredible amount of time for me to assimilate and digest the information I am reading- perhaps because there are so many topics that are important and so much to learn. When I read blogs like Will's  I am often inspired to enter the conversation but after a day of thinking there are already 20 plus new comments to read and think about.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Necc06 Further Reflections

Necc06 Reflections of an Administrator- What do we need to create real change?
The true power of NECC depends on us.

I have read a lot of wonderful blogs from individual teacher practioners and I had some good conversations at NECC. I went to a number of presentation which were not only enlightening but which truly encouraged me to make a deep commitment to a vision for digital equity and to improve student learning by embracing Web 2.0. All of that said I feel a need to reflect on some of what I have read and the challenges of systemic change from the point of view of an administrator.
I have read in numerous places that some teachers struggle against district or school policies which deny them access and I sympathize with their challenges. I have also read about the need to involve those decision makers at the higher levels which is also important. At the ISTE institute which I attended at the end of NECC there was discussion of the need to develop a shared vision.. a daunting but important task.
I can not offer any explicit expertise but I can offer antidotal evidence from my experience and I can share something of my own struggle.

Although I hate to admit it I am one of those educators who was using technology to engage students 10 years ago and then I became an administrator and struggled mightily with how to get our staff to continue what I had started. Certainly it couldnÂ’t be legislated and the demands of my new position and the tyranny of the urgent outweighed my efforts.

In the last year I have rekindled my sense of urgency and through the tutelage of numerous bloggers , especially the encouragement of Clarence Fisher(http://remoteaccess.typepad.com/remote_access/ . I have begun to find a way to breathe life into my vision. Time and experience are key components to local implementation so a part of every weekly faculty meeting will be held in the computer lab to work with a variety of things. As I build a learning community through blogging I hope to pull the faculty into the community (and help them build their own- which will suit their needs). I hope to provide time and modeling for pod casting, finding resources and building lessons.

To build on the model of connector I have to connect my facuty with Web 2.0 and beyond. But to be effective I have to also build connections for all of our constiguents. And to do this I have to continue the conversationss of NECC because I do ot have the tineor resources to build the message from scratch. It is interesting to see that the best and most focused conversations may be growing out the brief connectionss I made with others through spotlight sessions or discussions at the poster sessions and the Open Source booth.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

NECC06 Reflections

NECC06
Now that I’ve come home and found a little time to reflect first and foremost I am struck by the fact that as much as I would like to deny it I am a digital immigrant and I have not fully assimilated into the new culture. Even now my head is spinning and I can not absorb information fast enough nor multitask well enough to keep my lines of thought clear.

NECC did help me by solidifying my resolve and sense of urgency. Because 4 members of the staff were with me it also helped build a shared vision and a common language so I am confident that we will move ahead.

What impacted me?

The Open Source presentations…
I went to several Open Source presentations and I saw and used thin clients. It was interesting to juxtapose this experience with a hike through the Exhibit Hall. How can one doubt that there are issues regarding equal access. Don’t get me wrong much of what I saw in the Exhibit Hall was great and not everything had a price tag. But understanding the potential for open source software made the hype of the hall less glitzy. One of the most immediately useful pieces of information from the Open Source presentations was the catalogue compiled of the wide variety of software available. Go take a look empower your families and your students without breaking the bank. Let's even the playing field for all students (and schools). (The price of licensing had almost made us put our plans on hold). Wouldn’t it be sad that we marginalized ourselves not teaching to the digital native simply for lack of funding.

For the Open Source catalogue go to http://www.k12opensource.com/

For more info on digital natives see http://www.twitchspeed.com/site/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.htm
And http://www.twitchspeed.com/site/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part2.htm

Will Richardson’s presentation(s)
I had read his blog for a while before I swept away from blogs by day to day life and I knew hearing him was an important step in creating shared vision for our staff and motivation. I was not disappointed! Will puts a face on the issues of digital native vs digital immigrant and he challenges all of us to action. But he also leads from a place of practice which helps us see the road and ahead and the possibilities. His talk on Web 2.0 has been blogged in more details by others but the a few things that will be important to me. The juxtaposition of the beer ad and a my space page opened my eyes in a new way. I have a my space account and I have seen plenty examples of accounts made by the digital natives but I had not made the connection between what advertisers know and we as educators have failed to grasp. Thanks Wil… it really is about connections and links not just on a web page but those links of understanding and insight in our minds. The other important idea for me was the concept of teachers as connectors…this is a powerful image and is different than the concept of facilitator. It conjures a collaborative model and builds on the idea of “work with others” rather than “do your own work”

Finally before this post gets too long I have to comment on the ISTE institute. What an awesome opportunity to set an intentional course for the future. This occupied the full day for us on Friday and Saturday and was worth every minute of time. The institute provided a nice balance between building knowledge and building practical plans. Moving forward is always one person at a time but true systemic change requires a shared vision and willingness to be accountable for your plan…The institute provides the structure for that and more. It helps us set a direction and the wonderful folks at ISTE provide us with the mentorship and support along the way. As we first try to change it is hard to make heads or tails of how to pull all this new information together and put it into practice but ISTE stands ready to help!

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

NECC06 Just back

I know I have been silent for a while....but you should hear from me much more regularly now. Not only did I have the opportunity to go to NECC but I along with four memebers of my staff were part of the ISTE institute. This has been quite a week!
Before I hit the highlights just a quick update on our school transformation. In Fall of 2006 we officially open the doors to three new Academies with Grades 6to 8 being a Informataion and Technology Academy. So at the end of this year every classroom was dismantled and reestablished as we changed the physical location of every classroom to facilitate the identity of the Academies! This ws an enormus undertaking not just physically but emotionally because it required a shared vision for the future. The wonderfully dedicated staff took a leap into the unkown and I commend them for their courage!

Returning now to this weeks events.... As a first timer it was a head numbing experience but it also brought focus and energy to the tasks before us. As a staff it gave us a common language and provided a vehicle for my vision to become our vision....for my sense of urgency to beome ours.....
My initial refelctions on NECC06are in a separate entry because of length..