Monday, October 30, 2006

From the classroom - Student Work

As promised, I am also posting about student work. I have been team teaching in the 8th grade and we are working on search techniques and the validity of web site information in preparation for a social studies project. ( There are some nice resources at Kidz Online)
Even though the technology of IMs, music downloads and My space are used frequently at home, the students do not have a grasp of how to make a search engine work for them or how to separate fact from fiction when doing research. We started with the basic exercises to prepare them to do some research for our current election propositions.

About two weeks ago now we went into the computer lab to apply the ideas we had learned about validating a web site. The students were put in groups and given random topics. Their task was not to write about the topic but to find three websites with information about their topic and make a decision about the validity of the information. Then they had to write a short paragraph for each site and explain whether it was a reliable source and explain how they checked its validity.

Well as with many lessons it did not go quite as planned. their search techniques were still a little primitive aand so most groups only were able to evaluate one or two sites. BUT the moment we all long for came from one corner of the room where a student tentativley raised their hand. "Mrs Barreda we found this site ( they had stumbled on Wikipedia) and we were wonder about it because it says anybody can sign in an edit it! Well from this point I will let their words speak for themselves...Following is thier paragraph...

"For our researdh we used wikipedia. We thought that this website was useful in some situations, but in others it was not. The reason we thought that was because if you have an account you can write what you think and change what the information is saying. We thought that the website was useful because it gave us links to other websites of where they got their information. Wikipedia is a type of encyclopedia that helps you find information on a lot of subjects that you want to research about. We also learned more about wikipedia and what it was all about. We found out other pages to research about and how wikipedia is used and what it is used for."

This is what it is all about.....

This morning I caught up with some more blogline reading and Clarence also has a post about website validity with a link to a nice worksheet he used.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Catching up with K12 Online

Catching up with K12 Online

I listened/ watched a number of presentations this weekend andnow I feel a little more like a conference participant. In the process I have learned a “new” online skill. I’m sure for most of you this seems obvious but it was a great delight for me to realize that with a word processor open I could jot notes as the presentations were made- kind of a first step to live blogging that I want to do later this month when I attend an Alan November workshop.

So here is a look at the points that resonated with me this weekend.

First I re-listened to David Warlick’s keynote address which I will view again with my staff this week. This time around I zeroed in on his discussion of the four types of people who will succeed as described by Thomas Friedman. The point that the future experts will be adaptable and able to learn, unlearn and relearn is particularly poignant. It points to the needs of our students as they prepare to participate in the global market place of the future but at the same time I think it is an interesting comment on our educational systems and on us as educators. To be able to learn , unlearn and relearn are essential conditions of our own success.

I also listened to Vicki Davis's presentation Wiki Collaboration Across the Curriculum. I did not get to take notes on this presentation because I was cleaning my garage a the time. It was a great presentation though with straightforward steps to utilizing wikis. One thing that was very interesting is the interaction she described between the high school students and the 8th graders…this put a local spin on the idea of learning communities. I also appreciated the rubric she shared, her guidelines for wiki entries and the explanation of how she sees the relationship/ purpose of wikis and blogs.

Clarence Fisher’s presentation, Globally Literate, helped to pull together the specific skill sets the students need. (Clarence I loved your introduction…I did move to a front row seat!) He also put the literacy issue in its historic perspective. One of the thing I appreciate about Clarence’s presentation was that he presented skills in a hierarchical which is particularly important in the K 8 environment when foundational skills are being taught. He outlines teaching access skills and all that entails, comprehension skills and moving into thoughtful responses ( which entails production skills). I also appreciated the description of the factors involved in reading a web page and a teacher’s responsibility to provide direction and instruction for the students. (Questions raised include the multiple representations of information , links to more information, comments etc.) It was one of those things I knew in an intuitive way but have never taken the time to consider implicitly.

I also go through about half of Mark Wagner’s presentation on Web 2.0 and 2 Way Teaching before life interrupted me. On a practical level I came away with several things that I want to look at more carefully. One was an off handed mention of Google scholar which I had never heard of and now I want to explore. I also want to explore the wiki hmtech because our primary teachers had been considering making a wiki for Reading First. I hope to get back and finish listening to this presentation soon.

Tomorrow I have some student work to share.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Dream and the Gap

I didn’t mean to let so much time lapse between my posts. I have been doing some co-teaching over the last several days and setting up a secondary mini computer lab for the intermediate academy. We have gone from a school where computers often collected dust to not being able to keep up with the demand.

The K12 Conference is offering some dynamic content. The challenge with this on line conference is that I want to “attend” every session and I am finding it hard to keep up. Plus because I am not in some strange city in a hotel all of the daily demands on my time keep me from focusing on being present to the conference. I know the beauty is anytime anyplace but you are all doing do much I get worried about being left behind.

I did find time to read David Warlick and David Jake in Techlearning regarding what I term the Dream and the Gap.

I agree with David Jake that the climb is steep and there is a gap. I think all of us in the trenches recognize this fact. What does this mean in practical terms? One of my favorite sayings when faced with difficult and overwhelming situations goes like this... Do you know how you eat and elephant? One bite at a time. And so I also appreciate David Warlick’s vision because I believe we can eat the elephant.

As I indicated above, between June 2005 and today we have gone from a school with computers collecting dust to teachers fighting over the available technology. This includes teachers who range in age from their mid 60's to their mid 20's. Some who have just started teaching and some who have 15+ years of experience. It is all about a vision for the future and someone willing to lead the way. David Warlick dreams big and that is what we need. Dreamers, leaders and visionaries who will help us work smarter not harder. When David writes…..

"Ms. S keeps a regular blog where she writes about everything from homework assignments to reflections on course topics, with a full description posted each Monday morning on the how, what, and why of course material to be taught in the upcoming week.”


I suddenly had an insight into the work smarter concept. Teachers turn in lesson plans every Monday and we all know that even in an ideal world, many times they are an empty exercise to complete a requirement. Several of my teachers are currently establishing blogs so what if I said no more lesson plans on Mondays I will just subscribe to your blog.

As an administrator I have a lot of hats to wear but I also have to set priorities and make decisions. This year curriculum and supporting technology are at the top of my list. Along with this comes the fact that I have learned to say “no” to many of the daily distractions that come my way.

Thank you, David J, for grounding us in reality. There is a hard work ahead and we need to be willing to stay the course. Thank you, David W, for giving us hope and encouraging us to try.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

K12 online, Skype and Cool stuff at School - Who can ask for more?

Okay this week has been a roller coaster ( in a good way)! ( gee its only Tuesday okay now its Wed. )
K12 online
Monday morning I was up early in anticipation of the David Warlick’s keynote address. I started it at 5:30 am but with life’s interruptions I didn’t finish until 2 pm. It was a a great introduction to the online conference interface. The only problem so far are the distractions of daily life…I need to mark out the conference time of my planner.
The image of learning as side trips was powerful. How does learning happen? What are the most memorable moments even in a traditional classroom. I would hazard a guess that it is often the side trips. The teachable moments…the moments that follow the students natural curiosity and interests. These are not random moments however they are often the product of a creative and skilled educator. In David’s keynote we get a renewed glimpse of the wonder of the early technology age and a sense of excitement about what is to come.
In writing about K12 online Clarence writes…

“I am trying to convince my division to download all of the sessions when they are available and put them onto CDs or DVDs as a professional development library. Free, high - quality sessions,…”

This is truly open source at its best… Professional development that every school can afford ,that is flexible and available across the limitations of time and space.

Skype
I also go started with Skype this weekend. One of the high points on Monday morning was a short skype call with Alan November who was giving a keynote in New York. What a rush to have my first ever skype call in this context! In that short call ( maybe 60 sec?) Alan gave me a great idea for using skype at school. We have an outdated intercom system and most classrooms do not have phones so we are now setting up every room with skype. Rather than spending thousands on updating the intercom I invested $9.00 per room in headphones with mics!

From the classroom and the Faculty meeting arena this week this was a great week too. The 7th grade began using a Flickr toy, trading card maker to define and illustrate vocabulary for their unit on poetry. Look for my pos of their public posting! Some are really cool and they wil love you comments. Most have you have probably seen Titltv (Teacher's Improving Learning with Technology)but in case you haven’t check it out. It is a nice site for some beginning tech skills for teachers. Episode 10 gave every teacher a positive experience in excel today and they are ready to use it immediately even in the primary grades. I think one of the challenges for digital immigrants can be setting foot on the land. Success always provides encouragement for more adventures.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tips for Writing a Good Blog- a resource for our classrooms

I just stumbled on this blog when I was wandering around de.licio.us. It is a list of criterea for writing a good blog entry. It covers among other things choosing a good title, using the pyramid format common in journalism and considering foriegn readers. I think the reason this post on how to write a good blog entry resonated with me is that it has a direct correlation with the needs of our students and ourselves to be able to skim quickly for information. As Clarence writes "Reading is different online. We need to teach kids to skim through vast amounts of information, marking off some pieces for later, more careful consumption, while clearing off everything we don't need." This in turn says something about how we need to teach them to write so that other will be able to skim their work.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Textbooks

David Warlick has been invloved in an interesting conversation regarding textbooks. In a recent post he asks....
The question is not, do I use textbooks or do I chuck them for the Internet. The much more interesting question is what will the textbook evolve into as the conditions of the information landscape change so dramatically? And, will the textbook industry have the vision and courage to drive this evolution/revolution or will it come, like so much else, out of the open source community?


One thing that struck me in this post was the parallel to an article from my local paper which I wrote about ilast week. It was about publishing scholarly scientific research online. One side felt that it would elicit more peer review and allow more information to be made available and broaden the number of experts who could weigh in on any given research project. The other side argued that the traditional peer review before publication was very important to protect quality.
Textbooks as a source of authoritative information have value. They are an educational tool but so is Web 2.0. As Dave said it is not either/or. However if the way we teach is changing then by necessity the tools must change. Will the textbook companies respond? I would guess the answer is slowly…..There are really very few textbook companies because they all have common parent companies. I agree with the scientific scholars who are pushing for online publishing. It will encourage peer review and allow for these wonderful tools (textbooks) to be remixed to reflect todays learning enviroment. I hope the open source community will push the envelope because we need that push to jump start this.
Textbooks are a big part of our yearly budget and so I have to seriously evaluate what we decide to purchase. The days have long since passed where the textbook was the curriculum. Many primary source are already online, as well as many authoritative works. Will it be the work of our students under the watchful eyes of the teachers who in the end draw on the vast store of authoritative sources to put in play a digital curriculum accessible to all ?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A great idea!

I just ran across this post from Susan this morning. WikiPlaces: the Essence of Your Favorite Places Check out this great idea for a simple but meaningful project that can be used in an age appropriate fashion from K to 12. It has all of the components I have been looking for to help get our technology integration rolling. It is teacher friendly - that is relatively simple. The concept works well with a variety of objectives. It allows for instruction in a variety of Web 2.0 skills. It is scalable. Finally, as Susan points, out it does not require parental permissions because no student names are used which makes it great for the primary grades.
Thanks again Susan!
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thinking about the mechanics of change

Where do we go from here? How do we get there?

In thinking about our new Academies and especially the Information Technology Preparatory Academy for our 6th, 7th and 8th grades I have been pondering next steps and the mechanics of change.

In an organic and almost spontaneous way many good things have happened throughout the Academies including a deeper sense of collegiality and professional learning networks among the teachers in each academy. As different people try things like the LCD projector they in turn share their new expertise with others. All of this is very positive and will provide a foundation for systemic change.

In the primary grades last year there was some major systemic change as they embraced the Reading First program. In reflecting on that experience I had an Ah Ha moment….

Believing in the vision while not knowing the particulars of the how too is the first step but then we must come to grips with the fact that….

New ways of doing thing are time consuming so it is not business as usual.

Some things have to be modified temporarily (like how much material you can cover) to allow for the learning curve involved in changing how you teach.

To that end this is what we are doing now:

Technology Integration Template/Plan

How can we better engage the students and teach to multiple modalities by employing “digital pencils”

Disclaimer: Lessons learned from the implementation of Reading First. New ways of doing things are time consuming. Our overarching goals are to engage the students, have them take ownership of learning , stimulate their ability to do critical thinking and to find and utilize information (knowledge).

These become our power standards and take a place of primacy in our curricular planning (coverage of content maybe temporarily altered).

Part One

What are we currently teaching?

What creative tools can we use? Are there some simple first steps?

(What traditional activity will this replace)

Part Two -To get the desired results

What do we need to discuss (concepts and directions) and model for this to be effective?

Do we (students and teachers) have clear criteria for assessment?

This is the best statetment of vision I have seen in a while! Thanks Chris for your profound words...It certainly speaks to our vision[ substitute IT Preparatory Academy]

From Chris Lehman’s ribbon-cutting remarks on Thursday…

There is another idea central to the creation of the Science Leadership Academy– and that is that schools can no longer exist in a vacuum in our society. We need students to be able to see beyond the walls of their school, beyond the boundaries of their neighborhoods to the see themselves and their learning as part of a much larger world. We live in an age of interconnectedness, where the global village has allowed us access to information at a rate faster than in any time in human history. We must give students the tools to critically analyze that information, to make judgments for themselves, to draw their own conclusions and then to join that debate as informed and impassioned citizens of this country and our world. Today, more than ever before, it is our task to prepare students to be involved in the world around them, to be content producers as well as content consumers, and to be active participants in their immediate community of Philadelphia and the world beyond our city limits. Our students must understand that learning is not limited by the walls of the school or the hours of the school day, but rather that it is a lifelong, 24/7/365 endeavor.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Scholarly Research goes Web 2.0

Did anybody else pick up this piece of news? Scientific community may take seriously the online posting of scholarly research and opening it up to a broad field of review. The article sites two points; one that the proceedure for getting research published in current scientific journals is very constraining and secondly that it leaves the power in the hands of a few. The article is just one more indicator of the way thinking is changing about how we do scholarly work. It really fits hand in hand with Jeff's post about citations. as the article notes there is some hesitation about this new development but my money is on the sucess of these online posts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Are reference pages dead?

Jeff writes an interesting piece in Techlearning which poses the following question.

As I teach my technology classes, I always make it a requirement for students to cite their work and give links to resources they’ve used. In this new digitally connected world is the way we cite information changing?

He suggests the reference page has died and that in line links are the new citations. I think his premise is right. As a reader it is very helpful to link through to the original sources of information ad it leads to much deeper reading. Let’s be honest even in graduate school I did not spend much time looking up the scholarly citations that were in footnotes or works cited primarily because the works were not readily available to me. The times I did use them were when I was writing my own paper and was looking for other sources. How much easier to do your own research, to grow your knowledge and construct meaning if all of those citations were links!. Isn’t one of of our goals to teach critical thinking and evaluation of the construction of knowledge? Bring on the links so we can acess and discuss the sources!

As for Jeff’s points about MLA and APA I can’t agree more. I too spent a great deal of time trying to get my citations right in school; time that could have been better spent on content. If you must follow the old format then use a citation maker. There are lots of them out there including one on the kid friendly Answer.com.

One commenter on Jeff's article stated that
“Even when links are embedded in a document, the reference page still provides a useful benefit. Maybe not so important at 7th grade, but at some point for sure.”

I am not sure what he had in mind and he does not suggest exactly what the benefit might be. If we are looking at the bigger picture which includes footnotes that are more than a reference and provide commentary which is outside the scope of the papers main body I would suggest that they also should be hyperlinks. Scholarly or just plain explanatory footnotes or endnotes are important in higher education but in our digital world if the work is posted electronically then the notes should be easily accessed through hyperlinks. It makes the presentation much more user friendly.

Ultimately I think we are talking about define good form in an electronic era. Just like we have to reconsider how we teach and how we asses we have to reconsider the norms for digitally written work.

My one concern as a K to 8 educator is that our students may be going off to higher education environments (High School and Colleges) which have not adopted “digital pencils” (to borrow a phrase from the Grandview Librarian) or who are using them as if they were traditional pencils. This is not meant to point fingers or imply that high school and colleges are not moving forward..it simply reflects the reality that if I change how we do things I also have to consider the next step in their educational process and make sure they are prepared. Change takes time.