Friday, September 29, 2006


I just read Will's article in Edutopia online. As always his article is both insightful and articulate. It is well nuanced for a wide audience and I plan to share it with teachers, students, parents, and other administrators.

I have wanted to put together a succinct piece to explain more about the direction we are moving and why we are making changes.Thank you Will, for pulling it together for me!

I have quoted chunks from his article below but please read it in context.…There is so much there and so much more of value. These parts are just part of my thoughts about the whys?

It is not our Father's Internet- things are changing

Will says…

It's amazing in many ways that in just a few short years, we have gone from a Web that was primarily "read only" to one where creating content is almost as easy as consuming it. One where writing and publishing in the forms of blogs and wikis and podcasts and many other such tools is available to everyone. One where we can connect not just to content but to people and ideas and conversations as well.

The world has/ is changing because technology has changed how we do business and how learn

Will says

This Read/Write Web, or Web 2.0, as some call it, is transforming the traditional structures of many of our most important institutions. How does business change when markets become lively conversations between the consumers who buy their products? What happens to politics when potentially every voter can give immediately direct feedback to elected representatives on important issues, or to journalism when anyone with a wireless camera phone can report on events both large and small?

Think Amazon with consumer reviews or our local Daily News with a call for citizen reporters

It is time to seek a new ways of doing school
Basic skills are important but we need to focus on creating life long learners.

As Will says

Most of us now live in a world where, with access, knowledge is abundant, yet we have yet to reconsider our traditional school model, which is based on the obsolete idea that knowledge is scarce. Take a look at the more than 1,400 courses available at MIT OpenCourseWare (see "Crack the Books,"
September/October 2004), which seeks to "provide free, searchable, access to MIT's course materials for educators, students, and selflearners around the world." It's an amazing array of syllabi, readings, even video lectures from professors that is out there for any of us to tap into, free of charge. It's just one of millions of places where we can learn on the Web, yet most of our students still expect "real" learning to take place only in a classroom.

The tools are available, the students are already using the technologies at home, the missing link is to connect the two and provide mentoring and guidance.
As Will says

This is a world where literacy is changing, where readers need to be editors. Now that anyone can publish just about anything in a heartbeat, checking for facts and relevance often occurs after publication. If you don't believe that, go to MartinLuther-, which comes up in the top ten Google search results for King yet is published by a white-supremacist group and is intended solely to discredit his work through duplicity and falsehoods. (See "Online, on Alert," page 16.) If our students don't know how to find that out, if we ourselves don't know how to do that, I would argue that we are illiterate."

We have a responsibility to become digitally literate and to ensure that all of our students are also.. Teaching digital literacy is perhaps one of our most critical tasks. With the world shrinking before our eyes and our knowledge base continually growing.. our students ability to navigate the world and remain in charge of their own destiny will be dependent upon their abiltity to evaluate information, construct meaning and think critically.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An In-Service to Construct Meaning

Starting to Read, Reflect, Write and Construct Meaning- A teacher In-service

Monday was an in-service day and we began to take the next steps in the world of Web 2.0. at the start of the year we considered the question of what it means to teach and learn in the 21st century. Our topics included, the Net Generation, the history of the net and The World is Flat.

Yesterday was about working with Web 2.0 and imagining the possibilities.

Benchmarks to help set a baseline- Where are we and where are we going?

The first thing we did was discuss the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S). These are in the process of being updated but they still serve as good starting benchmarks. It is important to understand that unlike other curriculum standards these do not define a “Class” to be taught but rather highlight for us important components of technology to be integrated across the curriculum. Because they are being rewritten and reflect thinking that is 5 years old the grade specific benchmarks define a minimum standard of technology integration which give us some concrete places to start. In reviewing the standards it also provided the teachers with a chance to self-evaluate their technological knowledge and capabilities and to ask for help or instruction to ensure they felt competent to teach to these benchmarks.

Networking as professional development-

Borrowing a page from corporate America as professional educators we need to find people who are already doing what we hope to do and associate with them to learn from them and to reach our goals. We have often talked about collaboration and professional conversations as important to perfecting our craft and to our own personal growth. As educators working in a small Catholic School ( 1 grade per room and a student body of about 270) our opportunity for professional dialogue with peers has been limited. Suddenly with Web 2.0 the world the world becomes our community and the possibilities are endless.

Here is where the fun begins. Every teacher now has a Bloglines account and to get them started everybody down loaded a feed for Remote Access and Weblogg-ed two of my favorite feeds. We spent time exploring these blogs and then used their embedded links and lists to branch out and begin to seek those voices which most resonated with each individual teacher. I am looking forward to hearing in future meeting what they have read and discovered.

Reading what others are saying is only one part of the conversation. What are students producing? This was our springboard to begin to imagine what our own students might do. We listened to First and Second grade podcasts, we reade a Blog from Clarence’s Junior High class(See entry from 9/17) and we explored a webquest by Anne Davis which was designed to get elementary students blogging. ( It even includes a rubric). The final student products which we explore were a segway into the next part of Web 2.0 which is participating in the conversation.

We read Jeff Utrecht’s post( see below)which empowered us see ourselves as part of the global community. Then we visited the digital art projected posted by the middle school in Shanghai where we posted comments on some of the students work. I also e-mailed Jeff and he said he will pass on to the teacher and the student’s that we visited there work. It really was quite powerful.

Jeff said....

A teacher in our middle school is running a digital photography elective. She came to me a week ago and asked about a place to host the pictures for all to see and to share with the wider school community.

Guess what? You are the wider school community. Their first project was to take 3 to 5 pictures that represent their lives and then manipulate them in Photoshop. Some great digital art that if you and your students have a moment could use a comment. :)

Our goal for the day was to enter Web 2.0 and begin our own journey of reading , reflecting and commenting. It was a great day and opened a lot of doors and opportunities …as with all change it takes time.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How native are the "technology natives"

How native are the natives?
The phrase technology is transparent for students took on new meaning today! I worked with the 8th grade teacher to introduce the students to digital literacy and we were surprised with what happened. We started with Alan Novemeber’s quiz on digital literacy our plan then was to dissect URL’s with them and then model checking websites for validity of information.
We discovered that technology was truly transparent to them but not in the way we had anticipated. It was more akin to them driving a car without any knowledge the traffic codes. Most of the class, (probably 85%) did not know how to answer question #1 Name three search engines. And it went down hill from there. It was not because they hadn;’t us computers or the internet it was because they new nothing at all about basic technical vocabulary or how things were put together. We built on what they did know…putting terms like Google and Ask Jeeves on the board and deconstructing the phrase “Search engine” Then did the same with Xanga, My space and Live Journal and deconstructed WEB/LOG

Okay the lights went on…then we went to the computer lab to do a little searching for information using noodletools and discovered that many of the students had some difficulty understanding the questions the web site asked to guide them in their research. All of this is important baseline data and tells us a lot about what we need to do. Technology is transparent, indeed but only in terms of its operation.

The students are generally excited about using technology but they are not quite so motivated to take charge of their learning and they lack some critical skill sets. But that is our job and so we look at this as both an opportunity and a challenge and we look forward to seeing the growth over time.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Keyboarding and basic skills are important

A recent article of Edutopia has helped confirm our instinct and vision for our Intermediate Preparatory Academy. They report on the often overlooked importance of addressing keyboarding in the early years. At least in our area the high schools no longer offer this class assuming the students have some level of proficiency when they enter. In our school with the advent of our Junior High Information technology preparatory academy we have chosen to make keyboarding an integral part of the intermediate grades. We are also planning to include it on our entrance exam and offer summer classes for new students who do not have basic proficiency.

I agree wholeheartedly with Patsy Lanclos who says “Once students learn to keyboard and learn basic word processing skills, the integration of the computer into all disciplines is much easier.”

Vignettes of opening a new year

Vignettes of opening a new year… first installment
I have been out of the loop but in the fray…

Telling the story started with a discussion of what it means to “educate for the 21st century”. I invited a guest speaker to our opening in-service – via the MIT lecture series we had a visit from Thomas Friedman. Our world has changed and so must we…
Borrowing and remixing from the many prolific story tellers key components of the story include: the exponential growth of the web in the last 15 years, the rapid changes in knowledge and the outdating of information, the changing face of commerce and its effect on the job market.

The other part of the story is exploration of how our students are different because of their status as digital natives. Most significant are the fact that choices are integral to all they do because of the access technology create to music, friends and information. The next is the recognition that technology is transparent for them. It is just the way they do other things. This is important because it is not a curriculum item for them (even though it might be for many of us) For them it is simply a way of doing whatever it is that needs doing from talking to friends to finding information.

What does all this mean for our students? Changing the way we think about learning and the way we teach

Recognizing their inherent skill sets and building on their intelligences---Hmmm Perhaps an important missing piece needs to be added to Gardner's Multiple intelligences- digital intelligence ---

Recognizing the skills they will need for the future job market-
The ability to access, evaluate information and to use it to solve problems and create knew knowledge
The ability to use technology in a ethical and responsible manner
The ability to communicate in a global market place which includes the need to respect and appreciate a variety of cultures

Next post will talk about what we are doing now that we have discussed the story.